The room grows silent for a while. Suddenly, we both smile. A strange sight, 2 snakes smiling at each other.
There are many outside Dorne, and even those within, that believe my brother and I detest each other. The peaceful older brother, the king who only wants peace and prosperity for his people, and is willing to forsake his family to do so. The younger brother, renowned warrior, who wishes little more that to gut each and every one of the Lannisters.
They thought that civil war will eventually break out in Dorne. The vengeful Lords supporting Oberyn, the Loyal stable Lords supporting myself. An attractive thought for those who have reason to fear us, Dorne tearing itself apart.
Instead, not only do my brother and I love each other, but we are even able to understand and cooperate with each other’s actions. My brother understood the reason for my spies and people, while I understood his actions to help hide them. All because of our mutual desire to avenge Ellia.
This misunderstanding by the other Lords only allowed us to rebuild the strength of Dorne. They released the pressure off of us to try and ensure we fought each other instead of uniting against foreign threats. This mistake gave us room to grow to the extent we can contend with our neighbours again.
When we stop our chuckling, Oberyn gets a serious face. “Brother, I have always understood your actions, and know we have always had the same goal. Avenge Ellia.” I snarl at that. The mention of my sister is one of the few things that can break my façade. I try to keep it in check, but there are times, like now, when I forget to brace myself and reveal my fangs.
“You sent messengers to our bannermen. Asking to gather their troops and supplies and send them to Kingsgrave in the Princes Pass. However, you told them to gather only a third of their troops, totaling 10,000 men. The Lords close to the pass were ordered to send men to reclaim Vultures Roost, repairing the castle and prepare it’s defences?” My brother questions me.
“That is right.” I answer him.
*Bang* Oberyn slams the table, leaning across to stare at me. “Why? Our enemies are weak and divided. If we attack, we can deal a serious blow to the Lannisters. Instead you are preparing our forces and borders for a siege.To defend. Why would you let this opportunity slip us by?” My brother asks. For the first time in ages I can see anger towards me in his eyes. This means nothing. Because a second later he shrinks back when he sees what lies in mine.
“You are right brother. If we strike now, we could deal a great blow, scatter their forces, shatter the kingdom... Then what? The Lannisters will simply retreat to their keep in the Westerlands and we will never be able to touch them.” I grab the map to my side depicting Westeros. “I am not preparing to strike the Lannisters. I am preparing a war to destroy them.”
“We are separated from the capital and the Westerlands by the Reach and the Stormlands. If we truly want to destroy the Lannisters, it would require a long conflict which is impossible to do so with the other territories in the way. They would never ally with us to destroy them as they are our enemies as well.” The Stormlands have been our rivals for centuries, while the Reach betrayed us after the war against Robert. They would never allow us to send our armies across their lands to wage war on the Westerlands.
Oberyn thinks for a moment. “You want to wait until they are weakened before striking. The Stormlands are at war with the Lannisters. By only sending a portion of our forces to the Pass and appearing to focus on fortifications, we are preparing a false front. They will believe we plan to stay neutral. They will then focus on each other and neglecting to prepare against us.” Oberyn analyses.
The second interesting letter I received was from Stannis Baratheon. He wrote that the new king Tommen was actually the bastard spawn of incest. He is therefore illegitimate and Stannis is the rightful heir. Useful information, though I immediately dismissed the idea of siding with Stannis. Stannis is far stricter than Robert and would settle for nothing less than full submission. I won’t side with Stannis while there is a better option available.
Oberyn demonstrates his tactical senses, instantly seeing the plan that took me days to plan. Both the Lannisters and Baratheons are wary of Dorne. If they believe we have no intention of attacking them, they will fight among themselves, instead of reserving their strength for a potential attack from the south. My brother served as a sell-sword for several years in Essos, and has experienced many battles. His intuition when it comes to engagements is above mine, though his lack of experience in management leaves him insufficient foresight.
He is lacking an essential piece of information, in the form of the third letter. I needed to speak to him regarding this, so his entering is actually good timing for me.
“You are correct in that I plan to wait for them to weaken before attacking, but even if all our neighbours and enemies lost half their strength, we still wouldn’t be able to win” I tell him. We have recovered somewhat from 15 years ago, but so have our enemies, and they were less injured than we were. “Our forces are still the smallest of the southern kingdoms, and if we want to destroy the Lannisters, we need to be a match for all of the southern Kingdoms uniting against us. The only way to do this is if they are weakened to such a degree, or if we raise our strength.” Defeating one of our weakened enemies is possible, but facing 2 or even 3 is too much. Their foundations are all too great to collapse from this war alone, meaning they will still have strength to mount a resistance against us.
I pass him the third letter. It was sent from a mutual acquaintance of ours. The mother of Oberyn’s 4th daughter, Sarella, was a merchant and captain from the Summer Isles. She recently spent time in Slaver’s Bay and happened to come across a shocking piece of information, which she sent to us.
“Daenerys Targaryen is alive. Not only is she alive, but she has overthrown the Powerful Masters of Astapor and now rules the city as it’s queen. She commands the unsullied, and with them she declared there would never again be slaves in Astapor.And one day, she would sail to Westeros to reclaim her throne.” I reveal the key to my future plans.
Oberyn reads the letter, disbelief on his face. When he reads the rest of the letter, he questions me about the part I was sure he would.
“Dragons? 3 of them?” He questions. If this information didn’t come from his former lover, a woman he trusts, he would likely call it a false rumour being spread to mislead her enemies.
“Yes brother, dragons. Young ones, but already at the age where they are flying around ramparts and breathing fire. In a few years they will be at the age where the feats of Aegon may be replicated.” I say.
“What do you plan to do. Help her in winning the throne, in exchange for destroying the Lannisters?” He asks, still restricting his thoughts to revenge. Though that is one of my goals, I also have to think to the future and the benefits for our people. I cannot be like him and pursue only vengeance.
“In a way. I have gathered 2,000 of my most elite soldiers. I will use our fleet to transport them across the sea to Astapor. Trystane will go as well to act as our ambassador and negotiator. He will also attempt to win the new queen’s heart, and propose a marriage alliance with Dorne.” My second son is around the same age as the young Targaryen so it would be an appropriate match.
I considered sending Quentyn, my eldest son, however that runs risks. From my sources I have found that prior to conquering Astapor, the girl was unimportant, a strong name and pretty face, little else. A young child who so rapidly gains power is an incredible feat. However, she will have no intention of releasing that power. An older husband will bring risk of others looking to him as the real power, which may offend her even if we don’t intend to. There is also the difference in my son’s personalities.
My eldest child is Arriane, and according to Dornish traditions, the eldest child will inherit the family title, not the eldest son like the rest of Westeros. My sons were therefore never prioritised in learning to rule, but Trystane has prepared himself better than Quentyn. Trystane has spent more time with Arriane, and has trained to serve her in the future. He has the closer relationship with her, and the milder personality.
The Targaryen is young, and though conquering a city is impressive, keeping it is another matter. With Trystane’s support, her foundations will be stronger, and the likelihood of her marriage is more likely. Trystane’s close relationship with Arianne will also ensure a closer relationship with House Martell and the royal family.
“Our family rose to power when Nymeria landed on our shores and joined forces with House Martell. Together we conquered the other Houses to become the Royal family of Dorne. We will repeat those events. When Daenerys brings her army to Westeros, she will land on Dorne, and with our combined forces and her dragons, we will destroy our mutual enemy, House Lannister, destroying everyone in our way.” I remind Oberyn of our history, and how I intend to use the lessons it has taught us.
Aegon had a very small army when he first landed in Westeros, yet with 3 dragons he conquered the other kingdoms. With the other Houses weakened by war, while our troops are fresh, they may even surrender to us. From there it will no longer be a question of whether we defeat the Lannisters, but when.
My brother finishes his cup and bows to me. “I am sorry brother. I thought you had forgotten the debt the Lannisters owed our family. I thought like many of those other fools, that you were a coward. I am ashamed.”
“You have nothing to apologise for. I have kept my plans secret for so long, and am impressed you were able to guess so much so quickly. But, if you do want to apologise, I require your help.” I tell Oberyn. He lifts his head and nods to me to continue.
“I want you to take your eldest 4 daughters to Astapor and accompany Trystane while he is there.” Oberyn looks surprised. He doesn’t speak and instead waits for me. “You will command our forces as the general, while your daughters will be your captains under you.”
“Why? I can understand why you want me to go, and I will if you ask. I am used to Essos, have many allies and know the forces that reside there. Though I worry that this will draw unnecessary attention. Many people keep their eyes on me, if they know I am leaving then it will reveal our intentions to form an alliance and bring unnecessary trouble onto us.” Oberyn consents.
“But why my daughters? They are capable, I am sure of that, but there are many others who could take their place.” Oberynasks, hints of a fathers concern in his voice. Knowing how hard it is for me to send Trystane to a foreign place with conflict almost guaranteed, I am reluctant to ask this of my brother. But it is necessary.
“The first reason is as you already said, they are capable, both as warriors and intellectually. There are 2 others. The first is that they are our family members. As both our relatives and officers in our army, they will gain additional time to spend with the queen, strengthening our bonds.” The greater her feelings towards our family, and by seeing our capability, the greater the chances of a marriage with Trystane and positive relationship with Dorne.
“The final reason is as a message. The majority of the Lords of Westeros believe that only men should rule, and will use this as a reason to contest her. We do not believe this and must show it. Your daughters are capable officers, and will show we do not fear having a woman lead us. This will reassure her that by allying with us she will not just become a puppet.” I explain.
Oberyn thinks my plans through and eventually agrees. He even points out that with our fleet absent, our enemies may just lower their guard even more. Without our ability to strike from the seas gone from Westeros and our armies placed defensively, they will be certain that they are safe from us. I didn’t think of that, though it is a beneficial revelation that will raise our chances of victory.
When Oberyn leaves I take out my quill and paper. I write several letters to the relevant parties then seal them. Though I trust my brother, there are certain parts of my plan I didn’t tell him. Some things are best kept to myself. In case I fail at least Oberyn and Trystane will survive. Together they will have a chance to rebuild.