I am faced with a dilemma. I walk along the corridor and back to my room, the meeting that lasted hours has finally ended.
In the meeting I told the small council of the current threat to the Lannister rule, one that could either be the kingdoms saviour or destroyer. Daenerys Targaryen.
It seems the princess not only survived her trip across the Red Waste but has even found herself some unlikely allies. The first is the Black Dragons of Qarth, named after the unproven sightings of dark coloured dragons that roam the plains of Asshai.
They are a not nobles, merchants or even sell-swords. They are a criminal organisation that specialises in assassination. When one speaks of the top assassins guilds, the first one will always be the Faceless men. Situated in Braavos they worship the god of Death, the God of many Faces, and are known for both their high price of purchase, and exceptional method in which they carry out kills on even the most guarded targets.
The Faceless men are considered more famous in Westeros and the Western coast of Essos though, and the further you go past the ruins of Old Valyria the less they are heard and used. The second group that were particularly famous a decade ago were the Sorrowfull men, whose base was actually inside Qarth. They were famous for saying ‘I am sorry’ just before killing their targets. Their connections with the Warlock and other so-called sorcerers has allowed them to use a large number to poisonous and flashy methods of assassination that allowed them to compete with the Faceless Men.
What few outside of Qarth know is that the Sorrowful men are no more. An upcoming group challenged them for supremacy and they began a month of killing and counter killing. The people of Qarth were terrified,and believed that it was the cause of spirits and demons, as the people that died were both known to few others and died in especially gruesome ways. The 2 groups attempted to intimidate the opposing side with their own unique methods, and it initially seemed like the Faceless men were victorious with the ones identified dead belonging overwhelmingly to the Black Dragons.
There was one they could never catch however, and that led to their downfall. The leader of the Black Dragons and its founder, was a man of mystery who until a short while ago was known only as ‘Dusk’ due to his killings only happening at night. Every night another of the Sorrowfull’s top men would fall. It didn’t matter how many of the Black Dragons they seemingly killed, as they could never get the leader.
In the end they lost so many of their core members that they tried to involve outsiders. They offered sums and favours to the 13 Merchants that ruled the city of Qarth, hoping to use their influence and power to flush Dusk from hiding. The result was that one of the 13 was killed the next night with a message written into their bodies with a knife. The 13 only had to stay neutral and let the assassins fight, otherwise he would start targeting them.
The 13 have always been good at picking the winning side and knowing who offers the better deal. Compared with just staying out of the way and using huge amounts of resources to save a dying and weak assassins guild, the choice was obvious. In a few days, the remaining Sorrowfull elements fled from the city and the Black Dragons took over. Their ranks filled with amazing speed and they soon replaced the Faceless as the prime assassination organisation in the region, involving themselves in not just Qarth, but the surrounding towns and cities that lined the Straits.
The Sorrowfull still had several bases scattered around,such as in the Slavers Bay and East of Quarth in YiTi and Asshai, but with their leadership either dead or running they soon fell to disorder as well. The splinter groups either changed their names to become new organisations, or they declared themselves to be the new Sorrowfull Men, throwing off the old leadership.
For 10 years the Black Dragons expanded with reported numbers reaching over the hundreds. They started to spread beyond the border cities of Quarth, where their businesses included not just assassinations but other disreputable activities. This all changed 6 months ago, when Daenerys Targaryen arrived in Qarth. She tried to get support from the 13 merchants but she was refused. One of the 13, Xaro Daro attempted to wed her so that he could get control of her dragons, even staging a coup in the city to try and take power.
Daenerys was saved by the unlikely arrival of Dusk. She apparently negotiated the help of the Black Dragons, and with their help she fled from Qarth with her dragons and they made their way to Astapor. I am extremely curious to what she offered, because not only did Dusk offer to help reclaim the Seven Kingdoms, he also stepped out into the light for her. For the first time in 2 decades since Dusk first made his mark in Qarth, he revealed his face and true name, Ajax.
It was with the help of Ajax and her now loyal knight, Jorah Mormont, that she made it to Astapor and acquired her second set of allies. The Unsullied.
Though they are looked down upon by the nobles and Masters of both continents for being slaves, no-one can deny their skill on the battlefield. Since their victory in Qohor against the unstoppable Dothraki Hordes they have been purchased by rich men all over Essos as private protection and elite foot soldiers.
Daenerys set the Unsullied free and earned their loyalty. With them Daenerys conquered the city of Astapor and now resides there as it’s queen. It was until this point that I informed the rest of the Small council. Any less and they would think I was hiding information when they eventually came to know of it themselves.
What I did not tell them was that The Targaryen has started recruiting additional forces among the freed slaves to expand her army. She also publicly declared that she will be returning to Westeros to reclaim what belongs to her family. If I told them this then despite the lack of funds they would stop at nothing to rid the world of her.
Tommen is a good candidate for a king. Despite his age he has great promise, comes from the most powerful family in Westeros and will soon be married to the second most powerful family, with Lady Margery being one known to have the people in her heart. He has the greatest support in Westeros and if given time he will grow to be a great king.
The problem is that he might not be given that time. When this war ends the Seven Kingdoms may not necessarily unite again. Even if the Lannister army is victorious in the field, if the victory comes at too great a cost, or it takes too long, then we will be facing chaos comparable to the Age of Heroes.
It is called the Age of Heroes because of the countless amazing figures that arose during the time, men and women who performed feats thought impossible. What they neglect is the countless innocents sacrificed in the wars these heroes started. What the kingdom needs is not someone that does amazing things at the cost of their people, but a ruler who will put aside their ambitions and pride for the sake of the peoples prosperity.
Unfortunately, that requires a firm foundation that Tommen lacks. If he is not successful in putting down the rebellions, then we will be faced with constant dissent for the next half a century. In that case it is perhaps a ‘hero’ that we need. One who will intimidate the unruly Lords and would be kings into submission.
If that comes to be, then Daenerys is perhaps the better option. She has the right name, her family ruling Westeros for centuries, so she has the birth-right. She has the will, bending the Dothraki hordes to her cause, surviving the schemes of assassins and merchants in Qarth. Going on to conquer the city of Astapor, one that has remained in the hands of the Powerful Masters hands for centuries, ever since the fall of Valaryia.
She has the might to crush her opposition. A powerful army that is regarded as the most disciplined force across 2 continents, and one of the most feared organisations in the world. And she has 3 dragons.
The only problem is that there will be another war to fight. With the Tyrell declaring support for Tommen, Deanerys has only Dorne to support her. The other kingdoms will not throw their weight behind the child of the Mad King, one they have never met and who leads a foreign army. It could be another Aegon Targaryen all over, where entire cities and landscapes are burned to ash.
Now that I have a choice between the 2, I want to leave it open until it is clear which is the right one. I downplayed the threat of the Targaryen, stressing that she was on the other side of the world and lacked the troops to be a significant threat. I highlighted that we had closer threats that were more pressing, that we could deal with her when the current situation was resolved.
This war will decide who I need to support. If Tywin successfully wins the war with enough of his power remaining, then Tommen will be allowed to grow and with time we may see decades of peace led by a kind king. Unfortunately, Daenerys will have to be dealt with, before she can grow to be a threat. Though she has strong guards, can they defend from poison and a knife from behind? The whispers in the dark that tear her supporters from her side and leave her exposed?
On the other hand, if this war goes poorly, then I will need to speed up collapse of Tommen’s reign and secure other allies for Deanerys’s eventual return.
When I reach the room, I begin to write several encripted notes, a set of codes I devised when I was still in Pentos and send for my steward. “Erich, could you please inform the servants that I wish to bathe at 9. I would like to have rose scented lavender added to it, please.” I inform Erich Brax.
My steward is a spy put in place years ago by the Lannisters. What they don’t know is that he was a spy that I manipulated them into sending. Afterall, there are few spies more vulnerable than little Erich here.
Erich is the 3rd son of House Brax in the Westerlands, a small House in the Westerlands, and his mother had him with a man other than Lord Brax. Lady Brax was the second wife of Lord Brax and has only Erich as a child. When she failed to produce a child with the Lord, and was suspected of being barren, she made love to a stable-hand in secret, which produced my steward.
Lady Brax tried to have the real father removed, and failed, causing the man to flee and go into hiding. When Erich was assigned as my steward, I sent a detailed picture of the father, a chap that now goes by Harry in Wendish Town, to Lady Brax. She then confirmed with Erich that the man was his father and that her husband could never know or they would both be killed. Having an affair and impersonating a noble heir is quite a serious crime after all.
Erich begged me not to tell anyone, and what he could do to ensure my silence. I told him he only needed to do what he was supposed to. Pass information about me to the Lannisters, though only the information I wanted.
My request for a bath has several messages. The mention of ‘rose’ indicates I want him to contact my broker in the city who has information on the Tyrell family. The Lannisters will pay attention to my movements, but my intentions with the Tyrell are not only expected of me, but they are entirely beneficial to the Lannisters, as they can use my connections through me to better look into their new adversaries. The message that I want hidden is contained before that.
The request for a bath at 9 indicates i want him to contact one of my birds among the kitchen staff, a lovely young girl called Ira. Ira will find my notes in a hollowed wood by the stables, and will transport the notes outside of the keep to one of the drop boxes in the city. Another of my birds will take those notes and bring them outside the city where one of my trusted agents will be waiting.
They will read the message. The message is constructed in a way that it gives 2 messages depending on what method youn use to read it. The first way gives only the recipient and when it needs to be received, the second contains the instructions for the recipient. Even if my enemies discover one of the primary chains, it will take time to follow the path to the actual agents, and by that time I will have discovered the slip and warn them. Even if the agents are found they will have serious trouble getting them to reveal information.
My agents are all former birds that have grown up, and they were ones found to be intelligent and fiercely loyal to me. They were taught to read and write, as well as methods of interrogation and how to resist them. The final stage is that they will have their tongues cut and swallow a toxin that destroys their vocal cords. This is done to prevent them revealing information accidentally. I comfort myself that they were all in worse situations before, that without me they would have died anyway on the streets or fields of wars. In the end the greatest solace is that their sacrifice serves the greater good, that their actions will help to save countless others from filling their shoes.