(122-07-18) The Scorpion Strikes
The Scorpion Strikes
Summary: The tension between the Crownlanders and the Dornishmen comes to a head.
Date: 18 July 2015
Related: Seeds of Peace; No Ex-Sept-ions; Aftermath

It is dusk in the training yard. Aelyn Targaryen, accompanied by other young knights from House Targaryen and their Velaryon cousins, arrives in order to tender the apology that has been demanded of him. He finds Manfryd Qorgyle easily enough and as the Sandy Dornishman watches with crossed arms Aelyn begins. "Ser Manfryd. I would beg your forgiveness for my insults." It is a half-assed apology that is accompanied by a flourishing bow that has an edge of sarcasm to it. He has made it very clear that his apology is forced, and not sincere. He rises from his bow and stares at the Qorgyle with a slight sneer on his lips.

Manfryd Qorgyle is young, too, but not so young as the Targaryen, an accomplished raider with several campaigns in the marches under his belt. He and some of his friends had been sparring with their spears in the practice yards, and the whole lot of them have gathered around to hear the apology Ser Aelyn has come to deliver. The false bow, the sneer, all of it prove hard to stomach. The words of Prince Torren serve as the fragile tether on his temper, and even though he has a half dozen Dornishmen who'd no doubt reach for their own spears if he did his, he hesitates. The Qorgyle is no diplomat, and he must force himself to summon the words his Martell liege would want him to deliver in this instance, even in light of the insincerity of the apology.

Aelyn Targaryen bows once more to the Qorgyle before he turns to walk back to the guest tower to gather his things and ride to Plankytown to catch a ship. He may have made it if he could have kept his mouth shut. Instead he says out loud as he walks way, "Not that I should have to apologize of what the Seven have proclaimed was a justified and good killing."

A choir of hisses go out around Manfryd Qorgyle, as if in unison, when the Targaryen makes that remark. The young scorpion had been just on the verge of forcing out an obliged acceptance no more sincere than the apology itself when Ser Aelyn turned on his heels. And now? A half dozen hands all shift on the hilts of a half dozen spears, except that the Qorgyle does not give them delay enough to make good on those intentions. He is the first cousin of Princess Emira through her father's line, and they are alike, at least, in their common ferocity. Quick as a flash, Manfryd reaches over his shoulder for the whip slung across his back, rushing after the Targaryen and striking at him with the bladed leather lash. It takes the young knight by the calf, enough to make him trip if not stumble and fall outright. And while he's still reeling from the impact, the Qorgyle has thrown the weapon to the side, catching a spear tossed his way by one of his men. Deftly, he encircles the Targaryen, looming over him with the point of his mighty weapon aimed to kill. "Find your feet and let's see what the Seven will say once I've spilled your coward blood on this sand."

Aelyn is used to being a Targaryen Prince in a land where Targaryen Princes can say as they please with no repercussions. He does not notice that the Dornishmen are shifting their hands to their spears, although his more experienced companions have, and they have begun to grip the hilts of their swords in a similar manner. He is surprised when that barbed whip hits his calf hard enough to knock him over. As he is wearing armor it does not open up his leg, but it does send him to his knees. He stares up at the Qorgyle with anger and an annoyance that only the truly spoiled could effect, and then he stands to draw his sword. "What's a matter? Did you and your friends lose your favorite whore in the Red Rookery?" He turns his head to the side to spit before adding. "Excuse me. You call them paramours, here."

It is tense. The Targaryen and Dornish Knights are beginning to move with that nervous energy that heralds a skirmish between opposing sides. The cooler heads leave to retrieve Prince Torren and Prince Rhaegor. Hopefully they can end the hostilities before they boil over.

Already the scorpion is skittering around the sand in a deadly, predatorial half-circle, keeping his back to his companions rather than to the Targaryen entourage where it would be vulnerable. Manfryd is elegant with his spear to hand, tracing it through the air with a practiced ease. Aelyn's words prompt him to spit in the sand, at the Targaryen knight's feet. He laughs, one, two, three, cold and forced and mirthless. And then he says, "No, but your friends are about to lose theirs." And just like that, he lunges in to make the first strike, aiming for the jugular in a manner reminiscent of the creature that is sigil for his house. The princes ought arrive quickly, if they are to prevent bloodshed.

Aelyn Targaryen, barely eight-and-ten, is slim and fast even in plate mail. He turns out of the way when that spear is lunged at his jugular, and lifts his sword to push the spear to the side so he can get closer to Manfryd with it. Speed is his only advantage generally and Manfryd is fast. This makes the Qorgyle knight the opposite of what Aelyn is used to fighting. He is unable to get close enough to the spearman, but the end of his spear is surely close enough to do damage to him.

Aelyn wears his full suit of armor, but Manfryd has only some light leathers atop his sandsilk robes, and he has the advantage where speed is concerned. He relies on it now to avoid the sword's edge, lest his opponent have the advantage of dealing him more damage than he is suited to withstand. The members of their respective entourages have yet to intervene; the ones that remain are in a state of suspended animation, watching each other with suspicion and hostility, while also keeping watchful eyes on the two men encircling each other. The Qorgyle, who has perhaps four-and-twenty years to his name, toys with the Targaryen like a cat does a mouse for sport, darting in to lunge and strike, then skirting round to shirk the blade, again and again, the tip of his spear finding flesh to rend more often than not. But then once he's had enough time to observe his opponent's weaknesses, he tires of playing with him, and begins a relentless assault in earnest that's aimed at one thing: Spilling dat blood. There's no time for taunts now. The scorpion will not stop until it has disabled its prey.

Aelyn is cocky when he first begins this fight. By the end he is cut, overwhelmed, and afraid. He knocks away the first blows that the scorpion sends his way, but when he misses it happens so quickly that it is a surprise and shock to all despite it being very predictable; Manfryd Qorgyle's spear hits the young Targaryen's neck and continues through. There is a widening of his lavender colored eyes, a gurgle of bloody spittle, and then he drops his sword and falls, dead.

It seems that the more cool-headed of the Dornishmen have done their duty, though alas, too late. It's just as the spear thrust takes Aelyn's life that Torren appears in the yard, flanked by those who went to fetch him. For a second, he just stands there in what might be shock, though his face is unreadable. Then, he starts across the yard, shoving aside any of the onlookers who are in his way, and backhands Manfryd Qorgyle across the face. Hard. He's not huge, but he's got plenty of strength, and he uses it now. "Did you think I was not in earnest?" he hisses through gritted teeth. "Now you shall see just how serious I am."

The Targaryen's countrymen had hesitated too long in coming to Aelyn's aid, but then he had seemed to be keeping the Qorgyle at bay well enough until it was too late. When Manfryd's spear slips past the sword's defensive parries, he does not hesitate the way he did when struggling to find the words with which to respond to the false apology. Instead, he delivers the blow he'd dreamed of delivering since the first occasion he'd ever had to lay eyes on Aelyn Targaryen. The men around them have no time to react as they might otherwise have, had Prince Torren not chanced to arrive at that very moment. The Dornishmen have all looked past Aelyn and Manfryd to the Martell prince, and the Qorgyle himself has only enough time to retract his spear and look over his shoulder to see what draws their attention before the satisfaction of his kill is robbed from him. He absorbs the backhand with a look of confusion and, too, something of betrayal flickering in his stony stare. Throwing his spear into the bloodied sand at his feet, he seems poised to protest but thinks better of it, clenching his jaw and biting back the words. He has the grace to stare at his feet and bear the wrath of his liege lord, but not enough to apologize. Not just yet.

The Targaryen entourage has descended upon the corpse of young Aelyn, his eyes already having gone vacant while his blood, as predicted, stains the sand beneath his lifeless body. It's enough that Prince Rhaegor cannot see, exactly, what they're all hovered around when he comes out into the practice yard from the opposite direction, having missed Torren's initial reaction. He is flanked by the men who had come to retrieve him, and it takes only a calculating sweep of his gaze to discern what has happened. He pushes through to the fallen knight, taking a knee in the blood and sand as if there might be any chance that he still clings to life. He doesn't, even in spite of Rhaegor's best intentions.

It's too late for apologies at this point; they wouldn't do much good, and probably especially not coming from the one who has just killed a Targaryen prince in the middle of the yard of the Old Palace. So, instead, Torren turns to some of the men who had come to retrieve him, and says, "Take him to the Spear Tower where he can await justice." He looks back at Manfryd, and continues, in a deceptively calm voice that might have been chipped from a block of ice, "You may contemplate whether or not this was worth what is coming to you now."

He turns away, trusting his orders to be carried out, and instead moves toward Rhaegor and his fallen compatriot. "Prince Rhaegor," he says. "I know it cannot make up for a lost life, but rest assured, he will be dealt with most harshly."

Rhaegor lingers at the side of the fallen knight, and though he hears the words of Prince Torren and the resulting flurry of activity that accompanies the Qorgyle being taken off as prisoner, he does not move until the Martell comes over to address him directly. The Crownlanders all seem to watch the Targaryen prince, deferring to him and the manner in which he will respond to the slaying of their companion. Rhaegor rises, his expression giving little hint at the torrent of his internal reaction to what has transpired. He says, "We must see to the boy, and then I shall want to take accounts from each of my men." Always forward thinking, always distilling everything to a series of steps that must be taken. "And then I think we ought meet." He pauses, and then he looks from Torren to the men still gathered around. "Has anyone sent for his mother?"

"Yes," Torren confirms, "that would be best. I shall speak to mine as well." He turns to watch as Manfryd is led off, and his jaw twitches as he struggles to hold onto his impassivity. Or, at least, more or less impassivity. He does not answer the question of the slain man's mother, but instead turns to the Dornishmen and starts to give orders of where and when to go to give their versions of just what had happened. Perhaps he will be speaking to the actual culprit last.

It's as if Rhaegor's words have summoned the woman. By the rushed manner in which Visenya and Princess Halea arrive on the scene it appears that someone has sent for them, but clearly it is to stop the bloodshed before it can occur. It is a tragedy, then, that they are too late.

Princess Halea, in her thirties and still stunningly beautiful, catches sight of Manfryd Qorgyle just as he is taken off to the Spear Tower. And then she sees Aelyn in the sand. "My son." She says, and for a moment it seems as if he legs will fail her. Visenya slips an arm under the older woman's, and holds her up as best as she can manage while she regains control of her feet. The two women step closer to the corpse, and Halea repeats those words again, but they seem like a lament more than a question. "My son." She knows he is dead, and not just injured. And so she says it a third time before pulling away from Visenya to collapse onto her knees next to Aelyn's fresh corpse.

Rhaegor pulls aside one of his men, sending him off to retrieve Silent Sisters to tend to the body. The others are sent indoors with instructions similar to those Torren gives the Dornishmen, only there's the commotion of Halea arriving that puts a wrench in it all. Rhaegor seems relieved at Visenya's presence, offering her a look that telegraphs the same sentiment as she attends to Aelyn's mother. He goes to her side, and says, "Cousin," kneeling once more in the dirt in a gesture of solidarity. He isn't the sort to utter empty platitudes, and cannot give her the comfort of assuring vengeance or righteousness or ascribing meaning to her son's death. He merely lends her his presence, and his silent vigil over the boy's body.

The Dornishmen disperse quickly, in various states of mind, considering what Torren has promised for Manfryd. There are many amongst them who agreed with it; in fact, those in agreement probably well outweighed those who were not. However, though the Martell prince is not known for a hot temper, he is known for his immobility once he has decided something. His anger is generally slow-burning, and it lasts.

When Visenya and Halea join them in the yard, he steps away from then and back, though doesn't leave yet. He senses, of course, that his presence at this moment is not a welcome one, and this is not the time to offer his apologies to a grieving mother, but also that he should probably not just disappear as though he condoned the act. So, he just stands away and silent.

Visenya kneels down on the ground next to Halea on the side opposite Rhaegor, and puts a hand on the top of the sobbing woman's shoulders to provide whatever comfort could be gained at this moment. Not much, she reckons, but it is all she has to give. She leans her head over to whisper, "I'm so sorry, Halea."

Halea reaches down to touch Aelyn's blood-spattered hair, and continues to weep for some time before finally she says to Rhaegor. "Cousin. You will…attend to him?" She stands up shakily as if she has suddenly been given a mission. "I must go pray…" And when Visenya rises to go with her she waves her off. "Alone. Thank you." And then she practically dashes away from them. Visenya watches her go with a puzzled look on her face before she asks, "What happened? I thought he was going home?"

Rhaegor finds his footing swiftly, the better to help deliver Halea to her feet. "I will. Of course, I will. And I will come and speak to you tonight." But she's already more or less turned to flee, and the words likely fall on deaf ears. Visenya's question prompts him to glance in Torren's direction, but he nods tersely and says, "He was meant to offer a formal apology and leave in the morning." He seems as though he might say more, but thinks better of it on account of the Martell prince being within earshot.

Torren still says nothing, letting the Targaryens speak amongst themselves, though when Halea departs, he looks after her momentarily, then back to the other two. "We shall see what exactly transpired once we are able to speak to all the witnesses," he comments. "Then I shall be able to better judge how this should be answered." He inclines his head to the both of them, "I should not delay. I am aggrieved that it has come to this."

"As am I," Rhaegor says, perhaps superfluously, but just the same. Neither of them intended for this series of events to unfold, and it's for the best that Rhaegor is left to reflect on his own failings as he stands over the corpse of the slain knight, waiting for Silent Sisters that seem to take their time at coming. But then, minutes have begun to feel like hours upon the sand of the training yard. He seems to invite Torren's departure. There is nothing for them to discuss until they are each of them armed with information.

"At least." Visenya says softly as her eyes trace over Aelyn's wounds and his blood spilt in the sand, "He did not suffer overly long. It seems such a waste. He was Knighted just last year." She looks up at Rhaegor then and reaches out to put her hand over forearm briefly, "You helped train him in the yard when he was young, didn't you? I remember watching once or twice." She looks into his eyes a moment before she says, "I'm sorry, cousin." A light squeeze is given to his forearm. She turns her head a bit to give Torren an equally sympathetic look when he addresses Rhaegor.

Rhaegor shakes off her hand. Subtly, almost imperceptibly, but there's no way for her to mistake him doing it. Torren may not even notice it's happened, though. He nods affirmatively as he looks down upon the body of his kin, kin he'd indeed had a direct involvement with over the years, stooping briefly to pass a palm over Aelyn's brow, closing eyes that no longer see. Once he's risen again, he gives Visenya a tilt of his head in Torren's direction. As if to tell her it's all right that she go with her Martell prince rather than remain behind. But still, he says, "Thank you," when she gives her apology.

There is nothing else to say, and so Torren does not, just starts to turn away. However, before he can quite finish, his eyes meet Visenya's for a second, and there's a flash of something within them. It's very brief, so much so that it's hard to tell what it was. That's all he does, though, before he nods once more and turns, starting out of the yard.

Visenya gives him a slightly hurt look when he shrugs her hand off of his arm, but she does not argue with him. Instead she says, "If you have need of anything or I can do anything for you at all please ask." And then she does turn to follow Torren as he starts out of the yard. She has to run a little bit to catch up with his long strides, but soon enough she is walking by his side.

The practice yard, so full of life only a little earlier, is now stark and silent. Rhaegor serves his vigil over the corpse until the Silent Sisters arrive to tend to it, and he observes that, too, waiting until it is done and young Aelyn is removed from the field to go indoors and collect the accounts of each of his men, whom he'd instructed return to their individual chambers rather than wait together and have the opportunity to conspire.

Torren can't exactly miss Visenya catching up to him, but he doesn't say anything for a minute or so. He doesn't try to shake her off either, though, and eventually he does speak. "I fear I will not be very pleasant company just now, my princess," he says, his voice quiet, still with a hint of that tone he'd been using earlier, as much as he tries to dispel it, since it's not directed at her.

"I do not expect you to be." Visenya says in a conciliatory tone. She does not reach out to touch him as she did Rhaegor, but she does stay at his side to provide companionable silence. After what feels like several minutes of silence she says, "I recognize that this puts you in a difficult position, my prince. Tell me how I can help you with it."

"Mm." Torren is certainly content to walk in silence for those minutes. Well, 'content' is probably the wrong word, since he is not at all content at this moment. When she speaks, he turns to her, and at least he looks a little bit less like it's taking all his effort to keep his composure. "I would welcome suggestions of appropriate consequences for a man who did what I wished very much to do." Perhaps not very appropriate, but there you are. It's been a day.

Visenya considers him for a moment or two and tries to decide if he is genuinely asking her for what he ought to do. "I don't know what I can say." She finally says, and then she looks away from him. "I shall leave you if you like."

"That may be best," Torren agrees, and he doesn't say anything for a long moment, just watching her. He may be about to let her go, but finally, he continues, "There are not many in Dorne who will agree with what I have done. There are not many who agree with this match. This will certainly not appease them. I fear this bad feeling will trickle down to you, and I do not wish you to bear that burden." He lets out a little breath, "However, I find I also do not wish to bear it alone. Selfish of me, but there you are."

Visenya nods her head once at his first words, but she doesn't go just yet. Instead she watches him with a thoughtful expression on her face. When finally he speaks she says, "I know. I remember the sentiments made in Oldtown by some of the Dornish I met." She shakes her head softly, "Nothing can be done about it. They will hate me regardless of what I do or do not do." She shakes her head, "It's not selfish." She purses her lips together, "If you kill him you risk your vassals rising against you. If you send him to the Wall it will seem like you are agreeing with his words, and that Ser Manfryd was not justified."

Torren's expression softens a little as she says this, and he shakes his head. "They will come to accept you," he says. "Not right away. But they will see that you are attempting to accustom yourself to our ways, and do not look down on us as some of your kinsmen do." His hand clenches at his side when he says this, but other than that, he doesn't move. "Yes," he says. "There is nothing I can do that will be acceptable to everyone. There is not much I can do that will be acceptable to anyone. I shall need to speak to my mother about it. But I find myself a bit at a loss."

"You only need to make a show of punishing him." Visenya says quietly. "Exile him. Send him to Essos for a year or two, and then allow his family to recall him once things have blown over. The King…he values peace too much. He will not risk a War over a minor cousin. So, you are safe in that regard. And it appears you are not taking the Targaryens seriously, but you are not outwardly defying them. It will be a token enough gesture for the King, and it will appease your vassals somewhat."

Torren listens to her plan, letting her finish, his head canted a little bit to one side. "That might answer," he says after a moment or two. "Not to the most vocal. But to many." He sighs again, reaching out to lean a hand against a nearby wall. "Once I have all the versions of what transpired, I will make my decision." But he seems to be in favor of what she's suggested. "I am sorry for your cousin," he says, as an afterthought. "I should have been more cautious, had someone watching Qorgyle more closely."

"Rhaegor should have had a better eye on Aelyn. This is his mistake as much as it is yours." Visenya does not deny that Torren has /also/ made a mistake. Just that he is not completely culpable. "I will speak to Aelyn's mother, Princess Halea. She is a gentle woman, and I do not think she would be moved to call for the Qorgyle's blood."

"Prince Rhaegor is a guest," Torren says with a shake of his head, "and I am the host." Perhaps to absolve Rhaegor of whatever blame Visenya has laid on him. "Thank you," he continues, at Visenya's last words. "Convey to her my deepest apologies, and sympathies, if you think they will not be ill-received." He turns to look down the hall, then back to her, "I should begin inquiries." He looks like he might step toward her, but at the last second, he does not. "Thank you, my princess."

"Rhaegor is a diplomat." Visenya points out with a small little twist of her lips. He may not step towards her, but she takes a step towards him, and places her hand on the same wall he rests against. "I will." She says of Halea. She doesn't reach out to him, but she is closer. "I am sure this will occupy you tomorrow. So that means I will not see you until the wedding, most likely."

"Most likely not," Torren agrees. "I had hoped for us to spend some time together, but as you say, it looks not to be possible." He watches her as she steps closer, and he doesn't reach for her yet, but neither does he step away from her. "And as you see, you have already been of great assistance to me, before we have even wed." It's only then that he reaches out to take her hand.

"I wish I did not have to assist in this." Visenya says, and she doesn't sound like she is scolding him. Only that it is sad that a man's life has been ended. When he takes her hand she entwines her fingers with his, and squeezes lightly. "I'm sorry." She takes another step towards him, "I can only imagine what feelings hearing about that place must stir in you."

Torren doesn't answer her first words, but he does nod in agreement. It is not exactly what he had expected or hoped for. He still doesn't speak when she offers the apology, looking past her for just a second. But his eyes do return to hers, and then he says, "Thank you. It is not something I enjoy recalling." He hesitates, then admits, "It is difficult to know one's duty, and also wish to ignore it."

"He was my kin. I wish he were not dead." Visenya says, and it seems that she thinks he needs to hear this from her. "But he did you and yours a grave insult. If what is being said is true." She must have picked up on what was being said while she supported the weeping Halea. "So I understand. Or, at least, I think I understand." She holds onto his hand for another moment in silence before changing the subject because she senses he no longer wishes to speak of it, "If you have the time I will meet you for a goblet of wine tomorrow night in the garden."

"I know," Torren replies to her first words, "and that is also something that pains me. I should be unhappier." But he doesn't say anything more about it, and when she moves off the topic, he looks grateful for it. "I should like that," he says. "I shall make the time." He leans forward then so that he can kiss her forehead, "Goodnight, my princess."

Visenya would ask him to elaborate further, but it's clear that he is done talking about it. At least for now. "Thank you." She says when he says he will make time to meet her out in the garden, and she smiles. His kiss to her forehead earns a kiss to the cheek from her, and when she is so close to him she is surprised at her reluctance to pull away. "Goodnight, my prince."

She is not the only one who is reluctant, because it's a second or two that Torren lingers there, before he breaks away. When he does, though, he turns away a little bit more quickly and starts away without looking back. As though if he does not do it quickly, his will to leave and go on with the very unpleasant task ahead of him will fail him.

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