Archive for September, 2015

A Game of Votes – Part III

September 29th, 2015 No comments

Burning SandsIt was early autumn, the most beautiful time of year in Maplerun, before the start of the northern snow. Burning Sands strode on foot up to the heavy doors of Maplerun’s great hall, flanked on either side by his two dire wolves, Truth and Justice. The kennelmaster’s son came running out with a leather couple for the lord’s hounds, but stopped dead and stared when he saw the powerful beasts: Truth with his majestic coat of snowy white, and Justice in her bristling black. Both of the wolves were larger than the lad, with height to spare. They eyed the couple in his hand skeptically.

Burning Sands chuckled and sauntered over to the lad. “Take a deep breath at look at me, my boy,” he said, putting his hands on the young one’s shoulders and lowering himself to eye level, “Do you strive to be honest and just in everything you do?”

The boy stared at Burning Sands, examining his wispy white hair, fur cloak, and ginger-root nose. “Yes, my lord. I do.”

Burning Sands stood up, smiling, and gave the boy a hearty pat on the shoulder, “There then! You have nothing to fear from these two!” Pulling the leather couple out of the boy’s hands, he added, “Although you won’t be needing this. Here, stow it away. Just put your hand out like this, palm down, when you want them to follow.” He demonstrated, turning to the wolves, “Truth, Justice, come here. Go with my friend now and do what he says.”

The boy looked nervous, but he copied Burning Sands and the beasts followed him dutifully. Burning Sands grinned at one of the guards nearby before entering the hall.

The lords Deane and Laehy of House Vyrrmont (or Howler Deane and Patchwork Laehy, as Burning Sands used to call them growing up) were waiting for him with ale around the old oak table. Laehy slid a tankard toward Burning Sands, winking. Deane belched, then bellowed, “Bernhard! Take a seat, you crazy old man!”

“Or should we call you Burning now?” Laehy teased, winking again.

Burning Sands complied, lowering himself down with a sigh. “Ah these old bones! I wonder what father would say if he knew I were fighting for the White Throne at this age.”

Deane waved his hand dramatically, responding, “He’d say, go get ’em Bernhard! Stand up for what’s right!” Deane took a thoughtful swig, adding, “There are no more dragons left to slay, only wicked men.”

Laehy eyed his brother shrewdly, before pressing, “You brought up father for a reason, Bernhard.”

Burning Sands smiled coyly. “You know me too well, old Patchwork. Indeed, I did not come here just to reminisce, although I miss our talks. I wanted to ask you about my relationship to House Vyrrmont.”

“Finally tired of being a bastard?” Deane offered playfully, “I thought you like being independent! Flaunting your basterdom with pride! Bernhard Sand!”

“I do indeed. You know I despise how the kingdom revolves around the rich noble houses, with their lineages and their gold. I hate watching farmers starve while the Butches and Clintanes dine on suckling pig and gossip about the King’s court. But you know I also can’t change it all from the outside. I seek to unite the Bluelands, and the important houses therein will be more likely to support a true lord of the Bluelands than a Sand with an army.”

Laehy raised an eyebrow, probing, “I thought you were just trying to convince the great houses to follow your ideals. Now you speak as though you might be King of Amerikos!”

“It is a little scary, isn’t it? But every month my bannermen grow in number. Many Bluelanders are worried that The Hill used dark magic with her ravens, and they are becoming more receptive to my message. The North is beginning to rally behind me. One day I woke up to find that knights who once laughed at me were now waiting outside my tent on bent knee to pledge their loyalty. They imagine a court beholden not to gold, but to the people, like we’ve always talked about!”

Deane raised his tankard. “To the Bastard King!” The other two raised their drinks, chuckling.

“That will be the day,” Burning Sands mused, taking in a long quaff of the bitter brew. “Did father ever say why he named me Sand? As a bastard of the North, I ought to have been a Snow.”

Laehy shook his head. “He never talked about it, you know. Any of it. Maybe it had to do with your mother, but who am I to say?”

“Maybe he just didn’t like the ring of Bernhard Snow,” Deane chimed in, “He could be a bit giddy in the head at times.”

“Well, Sand or Snow, my problem is the same. If I want the Bluelanders’ support, I need the name of a respected Blueland house.”

“Well, I’m afraid we can’t help you there!” Deane guffawed, sharing a mischievous look with Laehy, and the two had another good laugh at Bernhard’s expense. Deane was joking, as usual. Though small and not very powerful, House Vyrrmont was a stalwart defender of the Bluelands, and its members were held in high esteem.

Laehy met Burning Sands with his eyes, and spoke earnestly, “In my mind, Bernhard, you have always been a part of our house. As the reigning Lord of Maplerun, I will be proud to welcome you into House Vyrrmont as my full brother. I will meet with the maesters tomorrow to draft an official decree and make sure it is binding. I will adopt you myself if I have to!”

Lord Deane rose out of his chair, pulling out his sword and thrusting it forward, point raised up over the table. “House Vyrrmont!” he bellowed.

Laehy and Burning Sands both stood up and raised their swords aloft, meeting Deane’s in the middle, and together they chanted, “House Vyrrmont! Cold winds, hot blood!”


Marcus Ruby bolted upright in bed, startling his wife awake as well. “What is it my dear?” she whispered, afraid that someone had come in the night to threaten her and her would-be king.

“Something that I saw before I awoke.” Lord Marcus rose slowly as if in a trance and went to look out the opening of their tent. Rain continued to pour down outside as it had the whole night and the day before, but his guard stood vigilantly.

“A dream?” Lady Jehanne pressed.

The White WalkerMarcus continued gazing into the rain, but answered his wife, “No, a vision. A vision of things now happening and those that are yet to come. I saw the White Walker shriveling in the dirt in Ayoa, his frozen army whittled away by the same warm winds that carry the Trumpet’s ships to shore. I saw the Trumpet himself, moving onto land with an army of Tea Folk and disgruntled pirates, beset on all sides by the other Redland factions. I saw Kharson, the maester-turned-warlord they call the Quiet Warrior, marching with his own army. I saw wave upon wave clashing, the dead everywhere. But then I saw something else. I saw a leader reaching into the dead White Walker’s chest and pulling out the Kogh Stone. The crystal forged by the warlock Kogh brothers that funneled their dark magic into the White Walker, giving it life. I saw the crystal glowing in his hand, with all its power flowing into him, and then the other lords rallying behind him. I saw the Trumpet sailing away in defeat, and all of the Redlands united behind this one southern lord.”

Jehanne could barely move, listening to her husband’s vision. “Who was it… this southern lord?”

The head of House Ruby turned to her and looked deeply into her eyes. “It was me.”

His wife was out of bed and getting dressed. “Then we are going to Ayoa to find this Kogh Stone,” she said simply. She was out the tent door, yelling at the guard outside. Marcus snapped back to reality. He began to dress quickly. His wife was already back inside before he was done. “Your men are being roused to march,” she informed him.

He moved closer and brushed her cheek with his fingers. “I love you.”

 ~~~~~ To Be Continued ~~~~~


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