hello @semper-eadem and @roses-are-roses HERE IS A STORY please be warned it is very long and there is no jon snow involved but i just wanted to put a picture of him there... yes that is all.
The differences between Riverrun and Folly did not disturb Ava Doran. A cooler breeze, a river in place of a harbour, people of a more serious nature.
All the comforts of the lords of the Riverlands were afforded to her. She had handmaidens to dote on her every whim. Cooks presented the best foods of the region to her every night. She was attended to by her betrothed, perhaps to the point where it vexed her slightly.
Ava sought a moment of peace alone with Ser Lochlyn, her most trusted knight.
“I think the Lady was not quite prepared for the duties of marriage,” he hinted, a rare wry smile crossing his lips as they walked through the camp of wolves and trout.
She returned his jest with a sharp look. “My duty is to Folly.”
“As is mine. And I remind you, Lady Ava, be cautious with the wolves. The Dorans do not have a good history with forging alliances...”
“Which is something I mean to change, I remind you. Unless you feel that our army can somehow overcome the rest of Westeros? We may think ourselves giants, but our lands are small and the Reach is large.”
“Aye, you do not need to remind me,” Lochlyn muttered, shaking his head slightly.
The sounds of the camps surrounded them as they moved through, men bowing their heads as they saw their queen-to-be pass by.
“I want to see the prisoner,” she said suddenly.
Ser Lochlyn eyed her warily. “What do you want with the Kingslayer?”
Ava didn’t respond, but followed her knight through the crowded camp until the brushed along the fringes. There they kept the prisoner inside a cage of wrought iron bars, barely recognisable through the mud caking his face. He watched them as they walked.
“So nice for you to grace the small folk with your presence, Ava Doran,” he called, grinning as she approached.
Lochlyn touched his sword. “Her Grace is known as Queen Ava now, Kingslayer.”
“She has not yet married the wolf,” Jamie tutted. “Though I did not expect you to be so eager to hand her over, Ser Lochlyn.”
Ava gave Jamie her warmest smile, crouching down beside his iron bars.
“How did you end up getting yourself caught, Ser Jamie?” she asked quietly.
“I best not let my secret slip, lest you wish to catch me again in the future.”
“That is wise of you, Ser.”
Jamie raised his eyebrows. “Ser, is it? Not Kingslayer?”
“My family never had much love for the Targaeryans,” Ava smiled.
“Aye, and I recall you never had much love for the Starks either until you saw Robb’s army. Big enough to conquer Dorne, is it?”
“It may suit.” The warmth slowly drained from her smile, but she did not flinch. She would not allow herself to be tested by the knight.
“You will not make many friends in the south this way.”
“I need no friends in the south. And I will never bend the knee to false kings and bastards.”
She watched as Jamie held back a snarl, inching closer to her, but she felt no fear.
“Maybe it is time to talk truths, Lady Ava. You a chasing a false destiny. Folly was once powerful, aye. Adenis was a great knight and the red army was as big as any other. But your ancestors put far too much stock in their poppies.”
“The poppies have made us the richest house in the Seven Kingdoms,” Ava retorted.
“Aye, at what cost? You turned over all your lands to growing the stuff, and forced your people inside the walls of Folly. Too many people, too much fighting, too much disease. It was before your time – before my time – but the plagues wiped your strength. Now your fighting stocks are smaller than ever, and you have not yet been tested. The strength of King’s Landing could wipe you off the map forever. And it will, once we have finished with the wolves.”
“I fear you underestimate the wolves, Ser Jamie.”
“And I fear you underestimate the predicament you find yourself in by joining with them. You say you need no friends, but you do not need enemies, either. Dorne will crush you if you don’t watch closely.”
“Dorne has never, will never, breach the walls of Folly.”
“How little you know, Ava Doran. Dorne’s army outnumbers the residents of the Scarlet Hills twofold, yet they have not attacked. Why? Surely they are not scared.”
“Folly is mighty, our warriors are feared –”
Jamie laughed loudly, drawing the eye of the guards nearby. Ser Lochlyn glared at them until they averted their eyes once more.
“Little otter, you roar like a lion,” he said to Ava, not unkindly. “Dorne grows rich off your weakness. Half the taxes that Kings Landing takes from your poppies go straight to the pockets of the Martells, to keep them from breaching your boundaries. The king needs the rest of those taxes, and the Dornish do not grow poppies half as well as the Dorans, so keeping the boundaries has found favour. But if the Scarlet Hills were to rebel, we have an army willing to skin the otters alive. You may ask Littlefinger, next time you see him.”
“I fear the next time I see Petyr Baelish, I will have showed my sword through his mouth as he opens it. Such is the way of an irrational woman like myself.”
“Irrational is not what I would call you,” Jamie laughed. “Headstrong, proud, vain, yes. You have more in common with Arianne Martell than you care to realise.”
Ava smiled, feeling the warmth return to her face, but a hand of fear was beginning to clutch around her heart. “Thank you, Ser. I hear she is brave and beautiful. Sleep well, Jamie Lannister.”
“You also, Queen Ava.”
She glanced at Ser Lochlyn quickly, sweeping up her skirts as she stepped through the mud surrounding the cage. Her knight followed close behind.
“The Kingslayer tells it false,” he assured her. “Dorne does not have the strength...”
“Do they not?” she asked. Her head swam. The armies of Dorne were ferocious, and the lion did not lie about their size. But perhaps he was testing her pride, to see if she would bite. To urge her back to Folly and defend her people, withdrawing from the wars of the five kings. Maybe the Lannisters feared the wealth of the Dorans – they never did care for being second best.
“They have not joined their armies to the Lannisters, or the Tyrells. They pose no threat.”
“Dorne is an eternal threat,” Ava reminded him, the tone of her voice commanding silence.
If the stories that Jamie Lannister spun were true, how had nobody told her? Surely if Aelena knew that their money was going to Dorne, she would have shared the information. Adaris may know, but her father was far too weak of mind to be believed. Perhaps she should write her sister again. She had not yet received a reply from Aelena after informing her of the marriage.
No, it was false, it must be false. And if it were true... once they held the Iron Throne, the concessions would be the first law she overturned.
Sombre faces greeted her when she returned to the castle.
“Why is everyone so glum?” she asked Ser Lochlyn, uncomfortable as the guards watched her passing. Before the knight could answer, Myles Doran approached.
“My lady, there is news from Folly,” he said quietly.
Ava could read his expression – a blind man could read his expression. “What news, sweet uncle?” Black wings, black words.
“The King wishes to see you in his solar.”
Myles and the guards hurried Ava up to her betrothed, who sat solemnly surrounded by the Red Guard. There was silence when she entered.
“What is the news?” she asked breathlessly. Perhaps her father...
Robb stood, planting a kiss on her forehead softly. He pressed a letter into her hand. It shook as she cast her eyes over it, feeling the cold wash of dread crawl over her skin.
“Your Grace?” Ser Lochlyn asked. “What is it?”
Ava swallowed, her throat feeling like the pit of stakes outside Castle Folly’s walls. “The Dornish attacked Crimse,” she said quietly. “Aelena says the Martells burned the town, and killed the Red Guard there, including...” she let out a unexpected sob, covering her mouth with her hand.
“Ser Emmon Crace,” Myles Doran said softly.
The poisoned spear of Dorne pierced straight through Ava’s heart, and she crumpled the letter in her hand. Her knights looked as deathly white as she did, and studied her silently. The northerners looked at her with confusion.
“Has anyone seen to Ser Mander?” she asked. The knights shook their heads. “I will go, then.”
She found Ser Mander Crace in the sept, kneeling on the floor with his head touching the feet of the mother. Her oldest knight was crying. Ava knelt next to him, placing her hand on his shoulder.
He looked up slowly, and wept again when he saw her. “Your Grace is good to come.”
“I weep with you, Ser Mander.”
“You loved my son too. Tell me true, Lady Ava, was he not the most handsome man in the Scarlet Hills? Was he not the most brave? Did he die defending his men?”
She nodded, her brown hair falling across her face. “Ser Emmon was a knight of the most noble order. He will be mourned in Folly until the end of days.”
Ser Mander would stay in the sept all night, Ava knew. There was only so much comfort she could give. She prayed for Ser Emmon’s soul herself, her tears falling at the feet of the Mother, the Warrior, and finally the Maiden, for her lost love. But once her final tear touched the ground, she drew herself up and returned to King Robb.
“I wish to speak with the King alone,” she told his guards. They glanced at him, but he waved them away.
He gathered her into his arms, stroking her hair as she sat across the lap of her betrothed. “You have been crying, my Queen. This news troubles you.”
“I do not always cry for the Dornish,” she assured him. “They have attacked our borders many times. But I must tell you true, my King, though you will not like my words, I urge you to remember what we are fighting for.”
Robb seemed confused, but only momentarily. His concern returned to his face. “What is it, Lady Ava?”
“I once loved another, when I was young, and not wise. His father was a knight, and he grew up in the castle. We were the same age and natural friends. But children do not remain innocent for long, and... I thought I would marry Emmon Crace, you must believe me.”
His face was grim. “You lay with him.”
“Aye, I did,” Ava nodded. “I thought he was my only love. But then my mother died, and my father lost his wits. Once I realised I would have to rule in Folly, I knew that I could not marry a lowly knight’s son. Emmon knew it too, so he asked for a place beside his father. I granted it to him, and sent him to rule in Crimse. He did, so well, for so many years, until the letter you read...”
“You have lost a love.” Robb’s voice was quiet. He looked disappointed, but brushed her hair from her face caringly and pressed his lips to her cheek. “Tell me, my Queen, what would you do now?”
/I will do what everyone expects Ava Doran to do, she thought, and I will do what Aelena told me in her letter/. “I will avenge him, my King. I will crush Dorne. Once we have the Iron Throne, the wretched Dornish will be mice between the feet of our mammoths.”
And she would write her sister immediately, and tell her to stop paying taxes to Kings Landing.