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A Dangerous Game

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Petyr hated the elegant canals and gleaming white houses of Braavos.  The city was admittedly beautiful when compared to the crowded slums and noxious stenches of King’s Landing and it was, like all cosmopolitan cities, a good place in which to do business.  However, the elegant porticos and bridges and canals also reminded Petyr of his failure.  I should be sitting on the Iron Throne with Sansa Stark as my queen, he thought.  But rather Jaeherys Targaryen is King of Westeros, the Iron Throne destroyed in some egalitarian gesture, and I am stuck here in exile.  Petyr silently sneered at the thought of the Rhaegar Targaryen’s son and the aura of fate that seemed to protect that insipid young man.

However, fate is a fickle lover.  One of these days it will turn on Jaeherys Targaryen and I will be there to profit from his fall, Petyr mused as he walked along the elegant canals toward his well-appointed house in the center of Braavos.  That insipid king’s downfall was inevitable.  All he had to do was watch and wait for the inevitable to happen and be prepared to profit when it did.

When Petyr finally arrived at his gleaming mansion, a timid servant greeted him at the door.  “Milord, there is a man waiting for you in your outer study.  He said that he had a proposal that you might be interested in.”

“Did you ask him what this proposal was?” Petyr asked sharply as he glared at the servant.

“No Milord, I didn’t think it my place to pry,” the man answered timidly.

“So instead you just let a nameless stranger into my house without asking his business?” Petyr growled as he grabbed the servant by the collar of his threadbare linen shirt.

“Sorry Milord,” the servant replied meekly.

Petyr grimaced.  He should beat the man for his disobedience but he was feeling generous today.  The prospect of making more money always made him feel more generous than he should be.  He loosened his grip on the servant, pushed the man aside, and walked to his study.  He was greeted there by a man in his mid-twenties with classic Valyrian silvery hair and purple eyes.  Petyr rolled his eyes slightly when he saw the stranger.  Doing business with those who insisted they were descendants of Old Valyria always annoyed him.  They were arrogant to a fault but didn’t have any particular intelligence or gifts to justify their high opinions of themselves.  However, money was still money so he would hear this man out regardless.

“My Lord Baelish,” the stranger said with a quick nod as he remained seated.  The man eyed him up and down.  It appeared he was as unimpressed by Petyr’s appearance and demeanor as his host was by his.

Lord Baelish’s eyes narrowed and his lips pursed into a slight scowl.  This one was so disdainful of him that he couldn’t even properly hide his contempt.  Never mind that, Petyr thought as he stared into the young man’s purple eyes.  The more arrogant these Valyrians were the stupider and easier to fool they were.  Perhaps taking this one for a ride will be enjoyable, he mused silently.

After a moment of tense silence, Petyr spoke.  “My servant said that you had a proposal for me, sir,” he observed calmly.  “My Lord –“  He paused and walked to a deep mahogany side table to pour two glasses of Braavosi red wine.  “I’m sorry but my servant didn’t tell me your name.”  He handed the young man a glass of wine and sat down in a chair facing him.

The stranger took a tentative sip of his wine.  “That is because I didn’t give him a name.  I thought that your servants would reject me as a fraud if I told them who I was.  Few seem to believe me,” the man stated in a haughty voice.  “And the proper title of address is ‘Your Grace’, not ‘My Lord.’  You see my name is Aegon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar Targaryen, and I am the rightful king of Westeros.”

Petyr sneered at the stranger.  “I thought that you had a proposal for me, My Lord,” he replied sharply.  “I am a serious man of business.  I have no time for small-time charlatans peddling outrageous fairy tales.”  He got up and motioned for the man to leave.  “If your proposal is based on a fanciful lie of you being the rightful king of Westeros, please leave now,” he growled, “before I have my guards drag you out and throw you onto the street.”

The stranger glared at Petyr.  It seemed like the young man was shocked that Lord Baelish refused to believe him.  “How dare you!” he snapped.  “I am your rightful king.”

“My dear Aegon,” Petyr replied pointedly, “even if you are who you say you are, we are currently in Braavos, not Westeros, and last I checked the duly anointed rulers of Westeros are Jaeherys and Daenerys Targaryen.”  He grimaced slightly as he mentioned his hated nemesis’ name.  Petyr then walked toward the study door and motioned for his unwanted guest to leave.  “Now if that is all, I am a very busy man.”

The stranger’s face fell as it became clear that Petyr wasn’t about to be ordered around by him.  “Wait,” he stated pleadingly.  “Perhaps I can provide you with proof.”  He pulled a sealed parchment out of a satchel he had placed on the ground and handed it to Petyr.  “That is a document attesting to my identity as Aegon Targaryen.  It was witnessed by the Sealord himself.”

Petyr pursed his lips and began to examine the document.  It did contain what appeared to be the authentic signature and seal of the late Ferrego Antaryon.  The two other seals on the document were even more intriguing – those of Jon Connington and Oberyn Martell.  While Petyr still doubted the stranger was who he said he was, the document made the young man’s story at least seem believable.  Perhaps I can use him as a pawn to sow chaos across the Narrow Sea, he mused as he continued to examine the document.

The stranger’s smug smile returned as he watched Petyr examine the parchment.  “So My Lord Baelish, you believe me now,” he observed confidently.

“No, My Lord,” Petyr replied as he sat back down in his chair and handed the parchment back to the stranger.  “I am a cautious man by my very nature.  People lie in documents, even documents signed by the Sealord of Braavos, and any good businessman is aware of such frauds.  However, this document is intriguing enough to me that I will allow you to explain yourself further rather than having my guards escort you to the streets.  Perhaps if I find it credible, I will agree to help you with whatever you want.”

His guest glared at him silently.

“It is your choice, My Lord,” Petyr stated plainly.  “Provide me with a compelling reason why I should believe you are the rightful king of Westeros or you can enjoy the hospitality of my guards.”

The man continued to glare at Petyr but he began talking.  “I was raised by Jon Connington.  He told me when I was seven that I was the rightful heir to the Throne of Westeros and he raised me to avenge my family and to rule as a good and just king.  He said that our allies, especially the Martells, would help us when the time came.  However, Lord Connington died of grey plague when I was eighteen before our plans were finalized and I had to learn to fend for myself.  I have made a living first as a sellsword and then trading slaves in the underground markets.”  He sighed and took a long sip of wine.  “I have heard that the son of that Northern slut who seduced my father was crowned king while I toil away here in Essos.”  He spat out the last bit with a great deal of passion and contempt toward Jaeherys Targaryen.

Petyr smiled broadly as he watched hatred emanate from his guest’s body.  He doubted that the man sitting across the table was really Aegon Targaryen, but the stranger did seem to truly believe that he was the rightful King of Westeros.  And more importantly, it seemed like he hated Jaeherys Targaryen as much as Petyr did.  That twin delusion and contempt would make this Aegon character a useful pawn.   He looked at his guest and bowed respectfully to him.  “My King, I am sorry for my suspicion of you.  You are the rightful king of Westeros.  Will you forgive a poor servant his impertinence?” he asked with a simpering voice.

Aegon smiled arrogantly.  “If My Lord Baelish gives me what I want, I will,” he ordered blandly.

Petyr continued to smirk.  What a gullible fool, he thought but he continued to play on Aegon’s ego, bowing his head in a subservient stance with his eyes focused on the ground.  “And what does His Majesty want?” he asked solemnly.

“I want my throne,” Aegon snapped.  “I heard that you had contacts high within the Iron Bank that can provide me money for the sellswords I need to take what was rightfully mine.  I’d like the Golden Company.  I heard they were the best.”

“I heard that as well, Your Grace,” Petyr replied.  “However, the Iron Bank won’t lend you money as long Daenerys Targaryen possesses three dragons which can be used to burn any sellsword armies to a crisp.  The Bank is quite protective of its investments like that.”

Aegon’s eyes filled with fury at that suggestion.  “I am the rightful King of Westeros.”

Petyr smiled slightly.  “The Iron Bank doesn’t care, Your Grace,” he replied calmly.  “They might not like the King and Queen of Westeros.  In fact, I have heard the bankers curse Daenerys Targaryen for disrupting the slave trade in the south of the continent and mock Jaeherys Targaryen as a Northern country bumpkin.  However, the Crown of Westeros always pays its loans in a timely manner and money is what matters to the Iron Bank.  Right now, you are too risky an investment.”

“I should destroy the Iron Bank,” Aegon snapped as he placed his glass of wine on the table with a loud thud.

“I admire your spirit, My King,” Petyr replied massaging the young man’s ego.  “But perhaps destroying the dragons would be more practical.  I have some contacts in the Citadel that may help us.  I also know from my sources in Westeros that Dorne remains unsettled.  Lady Ellaria Sand and her daughters will be willing to help us, especially once they see Prince Oberyn’s seal.”

The young man smiled widely.  “I am glad to have you as my adviser.  We will go tomorrow and propose your terms to the Iron Bank.”

“I didn’t agree to help you with the Iron Bank yet, My King,” Petyr stated cautiously.

“But you acknowledged me as your king,” Aegon stated.

“Indeed, I did, Your Grace,” Petyr acknowledged.  “However, I still have some demands in return.”

“I will restore you to your old positions, My Lord Baelish,” Aegon replied snidely.  “What more can you want?”

“The Riverlands are hard to defend, Your Majesty,” Petyr stated coolly.  “I want the Reach instead.  I want to be Hand of the King.”  He smirked as he thought about his last demand.  “And I want Sansa Stark as my wife.”

“Sansa Stark is a traitor to the true King of Westeros.  I understand that she has done quite a bit to stabilize Jaeherys and Daenerys Targaryen’s rule.  She must be executed along with her siblings and her cousin,” Aegon commented darkly.

“Do whatever you want with the rest of them, My King, but Sansa is mine,” Petyr snapped.  He smiled knowingly as he looked at the angry young man in front of him.  “You may be the rightful king, Your Grace.  But in Essos you are nothing, a fact of which you are well aware.  You need me more than I need you.  You will agree to all my terms including the last one.”

Aegon frowned.  “Fine,” he finally stated curtly, “I agree to your terms.”

Lord Baelish continued to smile broadly.  “I knew that you were a wise man, Your Grace,” he stated massaging the young man's considerable ego.  Petyr got up from his chair and went to pour two more glasses of wine.  “Let us toast our partnership, My King,” he said after offering his guest a glass of wine and raising his own glass.

“Indeed, I will have what is mine,” the young man continued to smile happily as he raised his glass and took a sip.

Yes, indeed you will, Petyr thought.  I will use you to vanquish my enemies and then destroy you.  He imagined himself on a newly forged Iron Throne with the horrid Jaeherys Targaryen kneeling before him and pleading for his life.  Perhaps I should force him to watch his children murdered and his Dragon bitch wife raped in front of him before I kill him, he commented to himself contently as he took a long sip of Braavosi red and stared at the idiot pawn seated across from him.  Petyr would finally get the vengeance owed him, but of course, he always knew this day would come.  Fate was, after all, a fickle lover.  Those with patience would always win in the end even against those favored by the gods.  And Petyr Baelish was a very patient man.