Hidden 12 mos ago Post by POOHEAD189
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POOHEAD189 Warrior

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A Sword Worth Using

[Markus & Celena post]

The wine was good. Usually he wanted something a bit stronger, but when it was freely given by people richer than he, the sellsword would gladly partake. He found his taxes were now paying for something worthwhile, at least. Just now the sun had begun to set, Markus watching it idly with his drink as he awaited his paymaster's return. The day had been uneventful for its majority, though he had no doubt all of the fine lords and ladies had gossiped and supped and traded quips like drawn blades. He really didn't care. They could play as they liked as long as he did not need to be subject to it.

Dunc had gone off to fetch more firewood and water, flustered by the errands of the day and finding solace in the simple task of manual labor. Markus had taken the boy around with him, speaking to guards and courtiers, trading stories and asking on the betting pool. A few of them had spoken lewd jokes and offered to take Markus and Dunc to the best brothels in the city. Tempting, but Markus had to decline, much to Dunc's relief judging by the lad's reddened face. At least it made the boy quiet, he had thought sardonically. Still, he liked the boy and felt sorry for him. However, Markus was pretty tame when it came to debauchery. If Dunc couldn't handle things with the sellsword as his guide, he was going to have a rough time.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw a lone figure approaching from the settlement of tents and pavilions. Soft curves and hair bright as a torch in the evening gloom told him it was the Lady Celena. He raised a cup to her and stood out of her way so she may enter her tent. She usually looked like she was focused on some task, as if she saw the future with those enchanting eyes. Rather than walk past him with a smile or a word, however, she stopped and opened the tent flap, inviting him in. Markus didn't even shrug, just followed her orders and walked in with her after the briefest hesitation.

A minute later, Markus had lit a torch and ignited the sconces perched from the tent's raising, illuminating the comfortable living space. Lady Celena was sat at the table when the light burst to life, as if she could see in the dark, or had memorized where to step even after spending only one night in the place. When she beckoned him to sit, he did so. The sellsword moved his weapon out of the way so as not to bump the seat, and he raised an eyebrow at her in a question once he properly sat across from her.

"How good of a swordsman are you, exactly?" The Lady Celena inquired, placing an elbow on the table and resting her heart shaped face on her hand. He noticed her nails were cut short, unlike most of the pretty ladies he had seen gallivanting about over the course of the day's festivities. Cut like a swordman's nails, in fact. Markus had always felt she was more dangerous than she let on, though in what manner he couldn't guess. Not his business.

"Very," he said in his cup, his malefic eyes never leaving hers as he drank the last vestiges of the cup away. She looked at him strangely, her eyes exploring his face and what body she could that wasn't hidden by the table. He could not tell if she thought him fetching or she was measuring him for a future request for a coffin. Somehow he felt it could be both. Placing the cup down, he cleared his throat. "What's this about? Need something done, just say it. You pay me enough."

"I'm thinking of my options," she vocalized ominously. At that, she smoothly stood up and stepped over to a cupboard, grabbing the greater jug of wine and pouring herself and Markus another two cups. "Would you be interested in joining the tournament?"

Markus gave an involuntary laugh, surprised. "If you pay and want me to win, sure. But I do have a catch," He said, taking the cup she offered. "I'll need a reason for asking."

"Would you like the proper one or the rude one." She asked him with the hint of a smirk.

"Rude works," He replied, giving a threat of a smile back. Both held their drinks, not sipping until the climax of their conversation in some unspoken agreement. Outside, a rural-accented voice raised above the chirping insects. Dunc had returned, apparently. He could manage for a minute by himself, and Markus awaited Celena's answer. The Agent of the Iron Bank's hair blazed like fire in the dancing light of the torches flames. All day Markus had avoided the Baratheon and Lannister tents. Baratheon because he was a Storm, and Lannister because he couldn't stand the bastards. His paymaster wasn't as insufferable, however. Lucky him.

"We're both outsiders here, and it would be nice to fuck things up a bit." She said plainly, holding her cup out. Markus regarded her carefully, and decided she wasn't lying. He was starting to like her more and more.

"I'll drink to that," he said, and their cups clapped together in a mutual understanding as they both enjoyed their wine. Dunc called out Markus' name again, stupidly to boot, in the sellsword's estimation. He finished his drink in a herculean three gulps, and then set the cup down on the table. Picking himself up, he gave Lady Celena a small bow of his head before he departed to see to the help with a curt farewell.


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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by KZOMBI3
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KZOMBI3 thuggy-lewd-dere

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𝕴 𝖓 𝕸 𝖊 𝖒 𝖔 𝖗 𝖎 𝖆 𝖒
𝕴 𝖓 𝕸 𝖊 𝖒 𝖔 𝖗 𝖎 𝖆 𝖒

interactions: Argella & Orryn @Sini reunited once more
mentions: Cyrenna & Gowen... the little shits | The rest of the Baratheons

There was a tempest of the highest calibre raging within Orryn Baratheon, its fury hardly matched by the weather outside. Winds violently thrashed against the crags and cliffs of Durran’s point. They conspired with the rain to beat and lash the waters of the bay into a foaming frenzy which crashed onto the rocks with all the force nature could muster. Gods were beating sheets of lead in the heavens. Grief-stricken, it was as if the elements imitated the seething emotions within him, threatening to tear him asunder.

By the Seven he had missed such weather. Even within Storm’s End’s smooth walls they could hear the howling winds and flogging rain. Not even the spells woven into the mortar and stones could keep the drumming skies out. It made for a heavy, laden undertone against the ephemeral chanting surrounding his mother’s casket. The wooden box, decorated with lightning bursting from clouds in honour of her House, served as a focal point for his agony.

He had arrived ahead of the blackening clouds rolling in from the south, on a darkness all his own. Argella had written him, telling him of their mother’s declining health. She’d spoken of how she was rapidly wasting away, one of her wishes being to see her second son before the Stranger finally came for her. Orryn had broken his contract and departed from Myr. Adverse winds had held him up, so after they had made landfall at King’s Landing Orryn had pressed his company hard, dreading the consequence of delay. Normally, a scion of Baratheon arriving in the capital would have called for an audience or celebration, but instead they had remained hooded and cloaked. News of Lady Amarei’s passing had reached them at Bronzegate where some Bucklers had joined them to pay their respects, and served only to strike more sparks from their horses’ hooves as they barrelled down the Kingsroad.

No happy reunion, but a funeral shroud awaited him in his family’s ancestral seat. Incense cloyed at his lungs, stung his eyes. The prattling of septons disturbed his sense, the dirges disrupted his sleep, and the attitude of mourners grated on his nerves. Orryn did not see it was himself he blamed, and so projected his bitterness outward.

The Baratheons were assembled in the small sept within the massive drum tower which jutted skyward like a gauntleted fist. Light shone through the mullioned east window, turning the dust motes dancing atop Lady Amarei’s coffin into flecks of gold. Orryn resented how beautiful and serene it all looked. Working his jaw, he glanced at his relatives, sensing nothing had changed. Lord Ormund, always emotional and theatrical, was in his cups and would wax hysterical soon. Perhaps he would declare he was to be buried with his lady wife in the same crypt. Royce, his heir and Orryn’s elder brother, would surely not stop him. Drink affected him differently, made him sour and prone to violence. Harlan and Argella, then, stood a little closer to one another - they were the youngest of Amarei’s children and Orryn suspected that after his departure it was Harlan who had filled some of the gaps he had left. When he raked his gaze across the other end of the room, he caught his uncle’s baleful gaze assessing him, and Lyonel’s sympathetic one. He could not stand either.

It was hard on her, hard on them all. The loss of a strong-willed woman, a wife, a mother, grandmother and mentor. Grief came in waves not unlike the ones outside, past the furthest point in Shipbreaker’s Bay. Shaking and wracking as thunder does the old walls of Storm’s End.

Though Argella imagined she looked out of place of sorts. No longer did tears stream down her face leaving tracks in their wake. Her eyes might have mist over but who was to say it was because of circumstances and not because dust motes danced through beams of light as if putting on a private show for only those in attendance.

Argie shed all the tears she had before, when the Stranger came to claim her mother. She had been there, speaking with her about the day how the little ones were spitfires and a handful, how she didn’t know if she could continue on with this duty of hers - it wasn’t like Lady Amarei could relieve her of said honor and Argella never expected her to; clasping her mother’s hand firmly yet with a certain grace to it. She had cried then. Sobbed. There was still a damp spot upon the linen sheets when she returned with her Lord father. A difficult time indeed.

Orryn moved closer to his youngest sibling, his boots scraping on the starry mosaic, and exchanged a somewhat awkward glance with Harlan. Gowen held his uncle’s hand, sniffling. “How was she in the final days? Did the Maester at least provide her with Milk of the Poppy for the pain?” There were many burning questions, but only so much he could torture into meaningful sentences. They must all feel bereft and numb right now, he thought. And as much as he wished to apologise… he simply felt blocked and choked.

Harlan nor Argella mustered up a rapid response, undoubtedly weighing their words. Someone small peaked from behind Argella’s skirts - a pale face with the biggest, bluest eyes Orryn had ever seen, framed by wavy hair the colour of midnight. She watched him with intense interest, and it felt as if the little one pierced his skull with the sapphires in her sockets. As if she laid bare all his shortcomings and sins, weighing him and thinking he might come up short. “Who are you then?” she demanded though whispering due to the gravity of the situation, like some curious sprite. Her forehead creased in suspicion as Orryn went down on one knee. “You look a bit like father… but not as big.” A tiny finger ran across his chin, pulling at his beard.

“Renna!” Argella hissed under her breath going to catch her niece by the upper arm as she tried to dart out from behind her skirts, a makeshift safe haven for the Littlest Storm. The young one just looked up between their faces, little fingers still buried in his beard, as if daring the older woman to try and stop her, before turning back once more to Orryn’s kneeled frame.

The middle son nodded sagely, strangely feeling some of the anger dissipate as if it dripped off his shoulders and sank into the mosaic floor. “That might very well be possible. I am his younger brother, and thus your uncle.”

“Lies,” she hissed as if burnt. “Ser Harlan is mine uncle. He is very funny, you know. Though, not that happy of late.”

“Yes, I can imagine. However, I am your other uncle.”

“Oh. The one who left? Grandmother did not like that. No, ser. She missed him.” Her blue eyes flickered from the coffin and back. “I will miss her too. She also left. Where did she go?”

“Yes, but I am returned.”

“I would much rather have Grandmother.” It was moot to reprimand her once more, instead Argella opted for a glare which seemed to help tamp down on her attitude. If only for a moment.

Honestly? So would I. Disarmed and exposed, Orryn scrambled for words. “And who are you then, gherkin? Are you Cyrenna?”

The littlest Baratheon drew herself up and puffed out her chest. “Aye, I am. But everyone calls me Renna.” She gave him a critical once over, inspecting him with her head tilted sideways. “You may also,” she pronounced her verdict at last, then quickly thought of a condition. “But only if you will carry me!”

“Always.” Orryn’s calloused hands moved as if on instinct, and before he knew it he had the blackclad Baratheon child up on his arm.

Argella could do nothing more than sigh and smile widely, the corners of her eyes crinkling at the sight before her. It was a rare instance where her siblings showed so much as attention to the little ones. Positive attention anyways. A wonderful sight for the youngest Baratheon to witness. “You give into her whims and you won’t ever be rid of her.”

Rustling from the other side of Harlan alerted Cyrenna to her older brother. Stoic in his place between his father and uncle, wild hair as black as night pushed flat in some areas where she had tried to tame it. Gowen had been looking forward with bright eyes for the entirety of the memorial, paying homage and respect to his late grandmother. It broke Argella’s heart to see him trying to grow up so fast, to be so much like his father. Though as he looked towards the three of them huddled together she couldn’t help but beckon him over shooting a scathing glare at Royce who tried to hold the boy back. “Introduce yourself, young buck.”

The young man shuffled himself over, eyes keen on his steps before him though his posture screamed of stern regality. Still just a boy of eight summers, Gowen tried to carry himself with all the knowledge and experience of his father. A difficult task for any child; to mimic a parent in any aspect let alone all. A firm hand to his back from Argella had him snapping his gaze to the man who held his sister in his arms, an almost sneer dancing across his face. “You must be Uncle Orryn.” A series of words that dripped with a sort of unimpressed quality to them.

“Behave,” Argella would have smacked him in the back of the head had they been somewhere else and instead pinched at the lessening baby fat around his midsection, earning a yelp from the Baratheon fawn.

Directing the glare back towards his aunt he muttered his name for present company, “Gowen, ser. Pleasure to meet you.” With a slight bow he turned back on his heels and resumed his position between his father and Harlan. Between the two Argella was sure to join her late mother sooner rather than later.

Sighing deeply she searched for Orryn’s free hand, clasping it tightly and refusing to let it go as they stood there, side by side for the duration of the service. “Things are going to start changing, aren’t they? A storm coming?” There was no gentle way of broaching the topic that seemed to cling to the Baratheons’, a topic the screamed of things yet to come. She could feel it, coating her like a second skin, weighing her down. It brought the hairs along the back of her neck to stand at attention; it was felt before at her mother’s bedside when she passed, anytime she caught the glances of Ser Balon. Something was on it’s way for them and she wasn’t entirely sure it would bring good tidings.

Orryn’s eyes glided over his assembled kin, nodding as his sister uttered her concerns. “Oh aye, but we will endure as we have always done.” A tempest was coming indeed, he felt it in his bones, but they had weathered worse and they would weather this one too. “Our House is not so easily blown down.” Orryn gave her hand a gentle squeeze and adjusted the littlest storm on his arm. We will endure, yes. No matter the cost.

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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Almalthia
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Almalthia Friendly neighborhood redhead

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Food, Wine & Flirting: Part I

Below a midday sun, the Redwyne pavilion continued to attract a fast growing crowd. Knights still donning their armor, nobles in their finest and travelers from across Westeros had found their way to drink and make merry. Groups were spilled outside the pavilion which had by now, filled far beyond capacity, though none seemed to mind. The wine still poured, and the atmosphere was lively with the sounds of cheers, songs and boisterous laughter. Amidst this, the young pair of Loreon and Nyla had found space at the edge of a table. They sat beside one another, rather than across, and shared the table with a group they had so-far managed to avoid interaction with beyond a few glances and smiles. Perhaps it was improper that the two sat so close. Loreon didn’t care.

They were enjoying their second round of Arbor Reds, with a third drink on the table before them, too, but not a goblet of wine - instead, it was a delicate and wide glass with clear liquid. A ‘dornish kiss’, or so they had been told when the wine-pourer insisted they also take a glass. They had agreed to share it between them, a strategy that was from now to be employed on all unique offerings at the pavilion bars. "You ought to try it first, you’re braver than me.", he spoke through a grin while raising a goblet to his lips. The wine was going down well, and their promise of pacing themselves seemed weaker by the goblet. The pair had spent the time till now catching up on their lives, and Nyla had no shortage of courtly gossip to spill.

"I'm only brave because you are by my side." She grinned before pulling the glass closer. It smelled like her childhood. Like water gardens and orange groves and the hot beating sun. Not home though. Dorne had not been her home for a long time. Eyeing Loreon, she shot him a playful smile. "If I die, you can't have my dresses." Nyla laughed before taking a generous drink. She felt a warmth spread throughout her body, racing across her skin, all the way to her fingertips and her toes. Her nose scrunched up at the strong hit of alcohol, ruining any attempt to appear unfazed.

A new bard, one she did not recognise, had begun strumming a jaunty tune, darting about the crowd as his voice began to rise over the exuberant chatter. How much she wished to dance. She laughed once more, eyes lighting up at the lively ballad before holding out the glass to her companion. "I believe it's your turn Ser Loreon."

Accepting the drink, the pair took the discreet opportunity to press their hands against one another. Her skin was soft to the touch, warm and unblemished by the labours of life - but, as were Loreon’s. Unlike many of his counterparts, swordplay was yet to leave his hands coarse or callused, and the blessings of youth still lay upon him. As the veterans of combat in the marches would disparage, he remained a summer knight.

Swirling the drink, Loreon brought it up to his eyeline. "They say the Dornish Kiss is sweeter than the fruits of summer. Impossible to forget.", he locked eyes with her thereafter, the curl of a smirk in one corner of his lips before his gaze snapped back to the drink. In one effort, he shot the remainder and set the glass down. His posture straightened immediately as the sudden warmth and strength of strong alcohol traveled through him. A contented sigh fell from his lips, as he folded his arms onto the table, leaning forward and into her. "I’ve missed this, Princess.", he locked eyes with her. Emerald green against the perfect shade of her own, dark eyes. "I should have made for the capital sooner and, in future, I will." He leaned closer still, "For now? … we’ve a lot of time to make up for."

Serenei was hounding her little brother who in turn sought refuge with Arystide and Finnegan. "Manny dear, come on, play me the Star of the Summer Town, you’ve been hiding yourself from me and you know you sing better than whatever that current fool is singing."

Armand however, had no interest in pleasing his sister at the moment. He wasn’t keen on making a fool out of himself for all those people and Sissi had always been too pushy that he’d rather not give her the satisfaction of convincing him now.

Arystide and Finnegan grinned at him, shrugging their shoulders as they drank. “She’s right, you know." Arystide told him.

Armand gave him a glare that told him to keep his blathering mouth shut and not give Serenei more ammunition than she already had. "I am my own person and I will decide whether I am going to play or not." He told them off, brushing past Finnegan, who tried to keep his wine in his goblet by rebalancing and adjusting his posture. Arbor Red left notorious stains when spilled. Casting a warning glare at Armand, he quickly took a good swallow out of it, to avoid further dancing around.

As the hours passed and the sun fell gradually to dusk, the low fires of braziers and torches lit the pavilion grounds which were, by now, impossibly full of drunken revelers. Wine was being spilled, dances had and rowdy laughter shared. A troupe of minstrels was performing a popular rendition of the Bear and Maiden Fair, with eager participation of the crowds at the chorus, “The bear! The bear! / All black and brown and covered with hair?".

Sat in the same spot as they had been for hours, Nyla and Loreon found themselves in one of the less well-lit areas of the pavilion, luckily for them. Lucky it was, for the fewer who saw their present transgression, the better. Their lips were pressed against one another, Loreon’s hand at the side of her neck and his other caressing her cheek - her own arms brought around his back. The spontaneous moment, driven by wine and years of restraint, lasted only seconds but felt an eternity to both. In that fleeting moment, the noise of songs and yells was silenced, their stresses and worries cast aside. For those precious seconds, they only felt one another.

As they broke the kiss and brought their foreheads together, any continuation of the moment was rudely interrupted by a call of Loreon’s name. They acted instinctively, releasing one another and shifting to a more respectable distance, though any worry was soon eased by the figure that approached. Ser Jon Heddle - a hedge knight and friend of Loreon’s - stumbled toward them. The rest of his words were spoken in a tongue known only to the drunk, and as soon as he had appeared, he had vanished into another crowd. A quiet laugh escaped Loreon as he witnessed the spectacle, and he soon after pressed himself up from the bench, offering Nyla an arm and invitation to wander the crowd.

By the time that the sun touched the horizon and the sky lit up like dragonfire Gwen and her Aunts, along with a couple of maids, had decided to go to the Redwyne pavilion again. As Luci pointed out, they had not placed their bets on who they thought would win the contests at the tournament. Gwen had decided to take a page from her Uncle and Aunties books and lay down. Sleeping she knew that she dreamed but not what she dreamed about. Gwen smiled, chalking up to normal girlish dreams about knights in shining armor and dashing young men.

The Aunties chatted with the maids as Gwen stayed silent marking phrases that set off her curiosity. Phrases like who was looking for a wife, who had come into a title, Ser Hogg. From what Gwen could tell the knight was not looking for a wife and so rolled her eyes each time that the Aunties and maids brought him up in conversation. There is no way he is better looking than either Arystide or Ashton. She blushed thinking of the two.

The pavilion occupants had swelled to at least twice, maybe thrice what it had been when Gwen had been there earlier. Looking around she saw a couple that looked as if they were deeply in love. The girl had a flowing beautiful blush dress that complimented her tanned skin. Gwen couldn’t help but compare herself to the girl. Her deep brown hair caught the colors of the candles and brought a warm glow of a golden hue. The man beside her was a handsome man and clearly taken with her. Gwen smiled and cleared her throat. "Hello." Granted it was simple but sometimes to meet new people, one she might be distantly related to if his belt was anything to go by.

As Gwen spoke, Nyla suddenly stopped in place, halting the pair's slow meander over towards the throng of dancers. "Oh hello?" She chimed back, mimicking the woman's greeting albeit with a greater, and decidedly intoxicated, enthusiasm.
People swum by them, each party too absorbed in their own enjoyment to pay attention to that of others. It was only the bard's music and the promise of more wine that led them in any meaningful direction at all. Some, despite this, had still managed to end up on the floor.

Equally oblivious to any outside their small circle, Nyla's dark brown eyes roamed over the strangers face. It did not concern her that they had not met before and she was not the type to worry over the proper formalities or civilities. "I don't think we have met before..." Nyla smiled. "But you are very beautiful! If you don't mind me saying. Though I already said it, so I suppose it's too late..." She gushed happily, a hand still resting easily against Loreon's upper arm. Her face was flushed pink, possibly from alcohol or possibly from their earlier indiscretions. Both were most likely to be the case.

Gwen blushed at the compliment. "Well someone as beautiful as yourself would be the authority on beauty. We have not been introduced sadly, but let me rectify that. My name is Gwendolyn Carmyne. My friends call me Gwen." She turned to her Aunties. "This is my Aunt Luci Carmyne." Luci smiled sweetly and nodded. Gwen then turned to indicate her other Aunt. "And this is my Aunt Quinn Carmyne. We are all of House Carmyne of Redfield." Looking back and forth between the couple she finished with, "I am the daughter of Mina Carmyne née Lefford and Bram Carmyne."

The smile took on a self deprecating twist. "Not that you'd have cause to note it. I'm afraid that I don't know my cousins on my mother's side as well due to being a Ward of House Stark."

Loreon couldn’t place House Carmyne, but vaguely recognised the name. So many nobles, how could he be blamed for failing to keep track? Instead, his attention was caught by mention of the Starks. "A ward of House Stark?", he asked wryly. "Pray tell what grievous sins you are guilty of, to have deserved such a wretched fate." He couldn’t mask the faint, condescending laugh. Nyla squeezed at his arm subtly, encouraging him to play nice.

“I know the Leffords.", he spoke through the shadow of a smirk that still remained. "Lucky thing that you haven’t inherited their looks." Inclining his head thereafter, the knight finally introduced himself. "Loreon Lannister."

Nyla was unable to suppress a giggle as her companion spoke of the Starks. "So cruel Loreon." She quipped teasingly before turning to address Gwen once more. "Do you not miss the sun in the north? I think I would be very sad without it! Even Kings Landing is not hot enough for my liking." The young girl shrugged her shoulders lightly. "Though I suppose that is a given for anyone born of Dorne….I'm Nyla Martell, by the way." She added as an afterthought.

Arystide couldn’t help but circle around the tent, spotting familiar knights, lords and certainly their ladies. Here and there he joked with lowly hedge knights and caused quite a ruckus when he asked an elderly lady for a dance, much to the chagrin of her drinking husband. Still aside from the silent threats, the Lord remained seated and Arystide behaved like a perfect host, his eyes catching sight of his sister dropping herself in Tyrell’s lap and seeing Armand enter with a young lady at his arm. Hightower? The spin had been too quickly to have noticed the sigil.

Still as he ended the dance, kissing the lady’s hand and thanking her for graciously accompanying him on the dancefloor, she in turn slapped his arm, stating he was a handsome devil that would one day be the bane of his lady. Arystide bowed to her before retreating like a grinning madman. A flash of red caught his eye. Instinctually he perked up, seeing the familiar face of the fair Lady Gwen Carmyne. With her stood the bronzed skin of what could only be a Dornish Lady, a Martell if his eyes did not deceive him and rather close to her was the familiar blonde of Lannister Lions.
Though this one was…this wasn’t the heir…then he had to be the second son and tourneyknight. If anything it was all the same to Arystide as a grin graced his lips.
‘Time to have some fun.’ He thought as he approached them.

“Well, well, well, what a merry party we have here, hmm?" He asked, slapping Loreon on the shoulder with a little more weight using it to come between them. “I thought I smelled Blood Oranges…or was it Lemons? Anyway…the sweet perfume of Dorne as always rises to the occasion." He said before taking Nyla’s hand and kissing it.

“I hope the man has not mistreated you, fair ladies." He said winking at Gwen as he released Nyla’s hand and moved over to her.

“I haven’t had the pleasure of dancing with you yet, my Crimson Lady." He stated, taking her hand in his and kissing it as well, though this time on the inside of her wrist.

“I am sorry sweet lady Martell, but alas I have but one pair of arms and one pair of feet. Whilst I would gladly offer you a dance as well, I am certain his blonde Lordship would not approve. Why as he glares at me I can only hope for you that the Lion proves less sour of a puss in when he kisses you." He asked with a good deal of cheek, grinning like a mad cat.

Gwen's blush deepened and her breath caught as Arystide kissed the inside of her wrist. She swallowed and cleared her throat smiling. "Captain behave." She allowed him to keep her wrist but stayed her ground rather than moving to his arms. Gwen quickly realized how awkward it would be to have her wrist captured while ignoring Arystide.

Fighting not to blush at the racing of her pulse when Arystide placed his lips there. Gwen was losing beautifully, and decidedly ignoring the awkwardness as she addressed Loreon. "Thank you for the compliment My Lord. My grandmother always said that I took after distant cousins. I assumed it was on my mother's side. Possibly very distant relations. I don't believe I have committed any grievous sins. My parents are dead and my grandmother was a Stark so perhaps it is that?"

Turning her head toward Nyla and grinning, Gwen stated. "We still see the sun in the North. But the sight of sparkling snow is worth all the cold."

“Both parents dead, and sent to the North? The Gods don’t like you, do they. It’s a wonder you haven’t followed your parents. I would, if I was cursed to that frozen waste." Loreon didn’t bother to inquire to the fate of her late parents. In truth, he didn’t much care - nor did he care for the redhead that had thrown himself into conversation with less grace than an auroch, who he had opted simply to ignore. The redhead was, in fact, a prime example of why he was never fond of socializing. Most people were just insufferable.

He ran a hand through his hair idly, with a look about for the nearest wine counter. That was their plan after all, before they found themselves intercepted. Now, his prospects had fallen from more wine - and whatever else - with Nyla, to being a prisoner of smalltalk. The Gods were cruel.

“And, I’m not a Lord. That’s my father.", he offered with some condescension. The kind reserved for northerners. His gaze moved slowly to Arystide, who was still clutching her wrist. "… what was that about no sins? Seems our Crimson Lady’s just found one."

Arystide kept a close eye on the Lannister, smiling politely. If the little snark wanted a fight he would give him one. "Assuredly, now you say so, I see you’re neither the old Lion nor his heir. Which brings you into my territory, a second son." He moved over to Gwen’s side, partly to put himself between them and also give himself some space should things turn ugly.

Turning first to Gwen again gently turning his grip to hold her hand tenderly in his.
“Please my lady, for you I would sail to the far ends and bring you the sun. But I beg of thee, a dance tonight. So people know, this poor, lucky sinner caught the notice of a star from the heavens." He spoke gently to her giving her his full attention and kissing her knuckles again, before lowering her hand a little so she could pull hers free if she so desired. His expression hardened, the smile turned sharper as he turned to Loreon, giving back what he received, without fear.

“Still, one would expect some polite conversation, no matter whether one is capable or not." He spoke with an air of lighthearted indulgence, before his tone of voice slowly grew more menacing, carefully balanced shifting from carefree to severe for those that paid attention. "I see you seem to find it particularly hard. Offering them naught but a slashing of your sour temper and veiled pretenses. Is it the lack of wine? Or are you suffering from painful bowel movements? Which I imagine can be tough if there is truth in your saying: ‘Lannisters shitting gold’." He clapped back, his eyes had turned as sharp as a sword edge and the glare in his eyes was prevalent, while his smile remained.

“Is that why you are so desperately glancing around? If you need directions, I am more than happy to oblige, wouldn’t want to cause a scene now would we? Not in front of the fair ladies."

At the mention of fair ladies Nylas attention was pulled back to the small party. It had not taken her long to become disinterested in the tense back and forth. Yet she did not deign to add to the conversation, simply offered a yawn and stretched her arms languidly above her head. It was men like this that made Loreons forthrightness ever more appealing. She did not care for silver-tongued speeches that, at least in her admittedly very limited experience, hid the true character lying underneath. There were many many men at Kings Landing who were full of soft and beautiful words. There were fewer still who seemed truly kind.

"I'm bored, Loreon. Will you come and dance with me? Or shall we get some more wine?" She finally announced, firmly taking a hold of his hand. The warmth of his skin next to hers was pleasant and she found that she would be happy to not let go for a while. "It was lovely to meet you Gwen. We should sit besides one another at the Tourney on the morrow. I think I would like to hear more about Winterfell and its sparkling snow." The young Martell shot her a bright smile before disappearing into the crowd, pulling the Lion along with her.

The tension between the men was thick enough to choke. Gwen tilted her head at Arystide. He is being rather protective. Not that I mind but I don't fancy a fight. Besides, drinking makes tongues lose and inhibitions even looser. I came to help Gryffith and place wagers with my Aunties on behalf of Uncle Tobias for the House. Eye on the target. Speak to Honora. Place wagers. Then a dance or two won't hurt anything. Right?

Squeezing Arystide's hand that was holding hers, Gwen smiled at him. Nyla yawned and spoke up inviting Gwen to sit with her during the tournament. Gwen catching Nyla's eye nodded eagerly, smiling as the beautiful Dornish girl spoke.
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Hidden 12 mos ago 12 mos ago Post by sly13
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Jornar and Janas Mormont

The sun hung high above the heads of the Mormont siblings as they continued on their path towards Summerhall and the location of the next Tourney. Though there was a small breeze that offered some form of break from the southern heat it was still slightly uncomfortable for the wandering bear. The temperature was one of the few things that Jornar had noticed had changed over his time wandering the southlands. Whereas before the change would have been unbearable, now it was only slightly inconvenient as he still enjoyed the cold days of bear island. Though it still did not hold a candle to the beauty that was their home, Jornar couldn't help but admire the land around him. It was almost picturesque with the sun bleeding through the trees as the birds chirped above them.

“So what is this Next one for?” Janas finally spoke up interrupting the slight humming coming from her brother.

“Who knows. Not like the great houses ever really need a real reason to show off their wealth and influence.” Jornar paused for a moment, taking a long drink from his water skin before continuing. “All the great houses are supposed to be present for this one though so I expect it will be extravagant. Even uncle is supposed to be there which will be a nice change.”

Janas smiled at the thought of seeing her cousins again after such a time. Though they weren't the closest of cousins they were still family and she enjoyed the days when they would visit their humble keep on bear island. “It will be nice to see uncle once again. I suppose it will be odd for some of the houses to see so many Northerners present.” She finished as she pulled beside her brother's horse. She thought back to her uncle's family and her lovable cousins. They had never been the closest mostly due to the long distance between Bear island and Winterfell but the rare occasion where they would travel was always fun for her. While Jornar was almost always in the courtyard sparring with Gryffith or the other boys, she was often doing her best to impress her aunt, uncle and father with her skill at the bow.

“Aye it must be an odd sight for the southerners to see so many Northman descend upon their tourney. I'm sure they're already running in droves to back out of the tourney knowing there is no chance of beating us. Those soft southern houses just don't make them as strong as the harsh north.” As Jornar finished he flexed his arm attempting to keep a stern look on his face though he was failing to contain his own laughter.

Janas simply rolled her eyes while letting out a disappointed sigh at her brother's antics. “You know only a fool underestimates their opponents before they’ve even met them. An even bigger one laughs at his own jokes.” she added as she gave him a look of disapproval mixed with a hint of amusement.

“Yes mom.” He replied in a mocking tone, eyeing his sister back who seemed to only roll her eyes and mumble something about him being hopeless. “Besides, I'm aware of what most of those knights can do. It just depends on who is actually signing up is all. Besides, no point in plotting too much about a fight when you never know how things are going to go anyway until the steel clashes. And regardless of the skill you just have to fight like you're going to win.”

The tournament grounds themselves were massive and on a scale that the two bears had rarely seen. Tents stretched as far as the eye could see each flying the banners of their respective houses. It seemed that all the great houses were present from their own Starks of the north to Dorne in the far south with everything's else in between. They continued through the maze of tents and patrons, nodding acknowledgement every so often despite the strange looks people gave to bear logos that adorned their clothing, finally coming to a stop at the lists for the competition. As Jornar looked over the other competitors of the list he smiled at the names that accompanied his. “Well it seems I may have some competition after all.” as he finished looking over the lists he stepped back for a moment before looking around for a moment. “I suppose we better find our uncle and tell him we have arrived.”

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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Apollosarcher
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Apollosarcher Knight with the Rowan Shield

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The Wolf who got into the Wyne

@Neianna86 and @Apollosarcher

Three years ago...

It had been a most wonderful tourney. Her father had offered her the chance to go and she had leapt at the opportunity. She was to accompany her brothers and her Uncle, to watch Arnaud and represent House Redwyne.

Despite her brother not winning, it had been an overall success. The Pavilion itself had brought a good profit already and the night was still young. Her Uncle had allowed her to excuse herself, her tasks as ‘Lady Redwyne’ done and finally being allowed to leave the Feasting Tent.
It was starting to get rambunctious, with a more rowdy crowd and frankly Honora was simply too tired of all the work and impressions she had these last couple of days that she welcomed the reprieve from duty and potentially watchful eyes.

The cool night air still held some of its Summer’s warmth, so that Honora had not needed a thick cloak to shield her from the cold. As she stepped across the pavilion heading into the direction of her tent, her feet stopped for a moment. She wasn’t sure why, but there had been a lure cast out by the nearby woods ever since their arrival.
Though the dark did make them seem taller and slightly more unnerving, the stars and moon gave off their pale but bright light illuminating the grounds and offering her a little more courage.

She couldn’t resist.

She had been curious to see what secrets those old silent trees kept and so with a slight smile, she stepped towards them.
This is a fool’s errand. Her own mind berated her as she cautiously entered the woods, her silks shifting almost silently with her.
What she met was all the sounds a night could make and a lot of darkness.
Of course upon her entering, all life grew even more quiet, destroying the magical feeling and leaving her with naught but silence.
She sighed as she rubbed her eyes, the darkness now truly starting to take her sight completely, she berated herself once more for being as foolish as Nadiya and Odette in believing in the more fantastical side to the tales of old.

The battles had been hard, the day was not won but honor intact and skill shown, Gryffith retired from the feast and celebrated having congratulated the winner. He was never one for big parties, at the Southern ones where they all sat and said polite backhanded compliments never saying what they meant or really meaning what they said. He’d taken his lute and found a spot in the Godswood of the keep alone from any eyes upon him he splayed out on the cloak he’d brought with him. He often sang to the Weirwood in Winterfell, he wondered if the gods ever got bored of prayers and oaths, he wanted to offer them something different. Songs, songs of the people they watched over, music was a way to the soul and perhaps the gods would enjoy to know the souls of those they could not see.

Honora’s ears pricked up as heard the man’s playing, luring her farther in, to be finding a figure laying in the field of grass, eyes shut, singing a slow and haunting tune.
It was a slow and sweet one she had never heard. The voice had startled her, making her heart jump and clutch the closest tree nearby for protection. That was until the true soothing melody filled her ears, making her catch her breath and listen on in silent reverence.
"Hear you now the sad lament of brave young Danny Flint. Whose parents died of sickness when she was not but ten."

A lute joined as it showed on the dark haired young warrior, a grey dire wolf shield at his side. Gryff lay there singing cool wind blowing across his body as his sword and shield laid off to the side and he had left off his gear. His shirt loosely hung over his frame, sack cloth pants held on with a simple leather belt as his hands held the lute strumming and playing slowly. He missed the cold and songs of home though the food and friends were good he felt the southerners could be so cold in how they regarded one another.

Her curiosity getting the better of her, she glanced past the thick trunk of her hiding spot and ventured a little further, her eyes trying to see where the alluring voice came from. Her feet carried her further until she reached the edge of a clearing.
There she spotted the source of her nightly singer, a lord of the North.
She recognized the sigil instantly.
One of the Starks of Winterfell.
Having not the heart to interrupt him she stood there, within the shadows of the trees, captivated and lost in the sad ballad. Her right hand found some support against the tree next to her as she was completely zoned in, perhaps it had been her own exhaustion, perhaps the more romantic side of Honora finally came out and claimed possession of her, but she kept silent. Her eyes transfixed upon the man’s face and her ears to the strumming on his lute.

He sang long and low the northern tale of a woman who lost her parents and then her maidenhead to her uncle; she then posed as a boy to take black. Only to later be accosted by her new brothers at the wall then murdered after the sickening deed was done to her. Yet though such a somber song it was mournfully sweet, almost one could listen to it for hours as they cried for the woman so long ago lost..

The song did not leave her unmoved. It struck a strange cord in her, one of melancholy and of dread. Honora never considered herself to be fair enough to be fought over by men of standing. Assuredly she was the daughter of Gorlois Redwyne and with it would come an arranged marriage to a stranger.
Such was the way of things.
A daughter’s future was to be the wife and mother of another man’s children. To strengthen alliances and be a graceful hostess.
She would not be sought out as a Queen of Love and Beauty.
She had fairer sisters and had no notable reputation to distinguish herself from the other countless noble women. Yet, what was she but spoiled when compared to the maid of the tale. The tale itself ended in utter tragedy, sung by a voice filled with such sweet sorrow, it made her eyes well up with tears as well as feel her breaths catch in her throat only to be released shudderingly, in a final desperate act not to disturb the scene before her. To keep her dream, just for a little while longer…

When Gryffith finally stopped playing he breathed slowly, opening his eyes now well adjusted to the dark of the Godswood, a trick Ashe had taught him. He froze a moment as his eyes rested on his watcher. He blushed furiously, half to run yet... He knew that hair, could see the tears... She enjoyed it? He knew if he thought for too long he’d lose the moment so then taking a breath began to play again. This one another, this one still soft and slow. One known across Westeros, The Maids that Bloom in Spring. A love song of even winters as long as they may be must end and their like that of maidens fair. A truly love struck song meant for celebrating weddings and feasts. Yet he sang it alone and just for her without a thought to anyone else, he’d chosen it in the hope she’d stay... He’d never once been able to properly face a beautiful woman alone and flirt, Ashe had all the skill with that, though no follow through according to his friends.

When their eyes met there was a spark of something that flew between them. And at the instant blush Honora realized she had been discovered only to see him change his tune and now played a merrier song of renown. She must have been tired, for a little while later she realized it was probably meant for her. Her cheeks flushed, chasing the tiredness away with its bright red blush. Her eyelids fluttered as she stepped back into the tree, stabilizing her as she looked down, feeling both honored and mortified for not having a graceful response.
She clenched her fist and told herself to stop fretting, lured back into the song and this time, being more bold. She stepped out of the tree's shadow and moved over to a nearby boulder and took a seat there, all the while gazing at her musician with great enjoyment.

Gryffith sang and played for a while for his lone audience, his eyes closed tight to keep him from staring as his voice went high and low, terrified in part he would open them and she would be gone. Eyes opening she was instead leaning on a rocky boulder next to where he lay. His eyes eventually coming to rest on her delicate features, the worn and bruised sword of the North smiled sweetly, it was rare to see a Stark look so happy.

He didn’t know how to speak to her, to say how he was feeling, to do anything more than stare and be awkward sod. So he did the one thing that came natural to him, the one thing he’d been able to do well other than swing a sword, sing and play.
However a faster more upbeat song came next, Two Hearts That Beat as One. A love song only ever heard at weddings and as passionate as they came.

At the end of it Honora raised herself up a bit, having felt ensorcelled by his promising songs of love and of loving hearts. Her soft voice cut in, for fear of losing the opportunity to tell him, before he would start playing another.
"You play and sing beautifully. Forgive me for disturbing what was undoubtedly something you kept for your own self." She uttered, her voice slightly hoarse from earlier.

Her silks glistened in the pale moonlight, as did the small silver jewelry she was wearing. Her mother's earrings twinkled beneath her long dark locks. Her bright eyes regarded him as she bit her lower lip in slight hesitation.
"I am sorry... I shan't intrude upon your good person any longer...I already made quite a nuisance of myself already." She offered.
It was propriety that made her say it. In truth, she never wanted to leave, but to remain here by his side forever.
If that was her fate, to be caught by some spell a Northern man laid upon her, she would gladly embrace it.

The young man's lips went dry, his voice half caught in his throat he had to speak now... Or she might leave, so he calmed himself and focused, be honest and say what you mean, if she really is for you she’ll understand. Gryffith shook his head; he spoke slow and carefully though as plain as any Northerner would.
"I don't sing for others much... Not a skill many Northmen care much for outside of parties and it's much less liked than sword play is... I sing to myself or the weirwoods often when I am away from home... I hope the Weirwoods across Westeros can hear me, I hope they can hear the song and know that though many are far from the sight of the old gods, people are still good and honorable." He spoke smiling again as he looked her over. "And thanks for the wonderful people that we might stumble across."

She couldn't help but smile embarrassed at that.
"I doubt I can be counted as 'wonderful people'." She uttered as she pushed some over her hair behind her ear in a nervous gesture. "Just a Southern Maid who strayed from her usual path." She turned towards him with a question. "You truly believe your old God's house in those trees?" She asked, never having understood much of the old Northern religion. "They seem to be frightfully haunting. Caught staring at the world from one spot only to watch on as both feast and war go by." She spoke softly, as she dared not risk them being discovered and to keep her own fears somewhat under control.

She rubbed her arms for a moment as the night's chill now settled in properly and her silks were hardly a proper shield against them.

He nodded a moment.
"The old gods aren't the trees. They are nature, the mountains, rivers, streams, and hills. The Weirwoods are just how they see us and know us. It's why we pray quietly to them alone. It's about us beseeching our gods... Not some priest to tell us how but us directly speaking our wants and needs from our hearts." He explained as he reached under himself he pulled the heavy fur bear Ashe had hunted and given to him for a cloak.
"Here, take it you must be freezing in something so light." He sat up and reached out an arm offering the heavy cloak to wrap herself in it, though the weight that showed it was more practical than fashionable but still good. "Though you do look gorgeous in it, we don't have such fine things in the north too often." Whether he meant women like herself or clothes was up to her mind.

Thankfully she took it before glancing back at him asking.
"But, what about you? Won't you be cold...." She stopped herself from stating foolish things further. Of course he wouldn't be cold, he was a Northerner, he probably thought of the night's chill the same way as she thought of the warm sea winds. Her cheeks burned again at his compliment. As she wrapped herself in the warm furs, its insolation instantly stopped the slight shivering she had been doing. She was caught utterly speechless. Which was rare. Normally Honora could easily converse, but there was something in his eyes, in his voice that threw her off. He turned her into some innocent 14 year old, blushing at the sight of real men. Finding her voice finally she returned the compliment.
The Southlands don't have wolven lullabies so mournful it makes maidens weep. We'd cast our gold, our pearls for but one of their songs of love or sorrow. She smiled back at him, her lips slightly parting.

"You have offered me your voice, your playing and even your warm fur...yet I have nothing to give you in return." She lamented.

"Perhaps... I could ask for a kiss? Or maybe just your company a while longer... I know you more than likely prefer some great knight or a tourney winner... But I feel happy sitting here with you, no words needed. Like I took the day in the melee, even as I lay here sore and bruised from losing the day." He added as he looked into her eyes with a warm deep smile he did not move to take or push, only asking for something she could give easily to him. Though he was nervous he still understood he had to try and make his intentions clear... This was the daughter of major nobility in the South. He knew there was etiquette but he always wanted to make true intentions known to her, that he would not sully her name.

Honora flushed again.

She attempted to speak, but no words came. She swallowed before asking nervously.
"A kiss as payment for the songs you sang, I will grant, but with one question...would you even remember my name afterwards?" She wondered aloud. She straightened a bit as she looked away. "I have brothers, I know men need to...to be with other women, flings for a night to be discarded come morning." She looked back at him. "I do not desire to be one of those..." she pressed.

Gryffith blushed something fierce as she told him that but he took a breath, he’d caught her name several times during the tourney, seen her too, he doubted he could forget even more so now. "I won't forget... I knew your name before you came over. Honora, of House Redwyne yes?" He spoke without a pause or thought.
"I had never wished I could joust before I saw you sitting out there, I wanted to offer you a flower. But I have no plate for jousting and few reasons to learn." Surprising her again no doubt.

Honora's breath got caught in her throat at his voice saying her name.

It all felt very surreal. Her wishes all come true, no lady was that fortunate, but for now Honora couldn't care about reality. Her eyes fixed upon his as she drew closer to him, moving over and kneeling at his side. She smiled more widely at his mentioning of the joust and the implications of it. "I do not need a crown of flowers. I have my songs. My wolven lullabies." She said softly as she rested a hand upon his chest for support. "You won't eat me...will you, Griffith Stark?" She asked so softly it danced in the realm of whispers. Her soft rosy lips moved over to his as her eyelids fluttered to a near close. Her breath sweet and laced with Arbor Red, now could touch his face as she drew ever closer, her body close to his.

He spoke before he knew he was answering, the nervousness gone only the joy of her touch and companionship driving him onwards. The beat of his heart ringing in each ear. "Wolves can be tamed, you know." He added soft gently, moving his hand to embrace her, sliding her into his lap. Slowly shutting his eyes leaning in a whisper. "I could never harm a hair on your head." He slowly leaned in the sweet scent enticing him further into her embrace as he held her alone in the night.

The kiss that followed washed her restraints away completely. As their lips locked the wave that rushed up and enveloped her was so powerful and dizzying that it left her longing for more.
Her breath tried to recover, but failed abysmally as she lost herself into it now only left with a fleeting remnant of a rush, and left needing it. Her fingers grasping his vest as her lips released his and her eyes hooked onto his as the familiar red blush graced her cheeks as her mind dared to dream further. "A tamed wolf...should never be. They are their own masters...though perhaps their loyalty could be earned." She offered instead.

He nodded and breathlessly answered as the passion of the still hung on his lips. "Perhaps... But they are honorable creatures... More so than man often is... This wolf would not dishonor you. I swear." He spoke, brushing her hair gently as he held her in the dark of the night moon shining down on the lone pair holding each other tightly.

"I want more I admit. But I'd rather not dishonor whom I care so much for." He added, taking her hand to hold and continue to embrace her without doing harm to her or her purity.

She kissed him sweetly and curtly once more before she put her head upon his shoulder, leaning against him enjoying his strong hand holding her own. "I doubt your father would approve of an alliance with us. We're not your bannermen. Though it has happened before, most lords shy away from such matches." She started showing off her knowledge in the matter and thinking ahead. "As for my father...with the grief of mother being too near still, I doubt he would let me settle." She explained things further to him. "I stepped into my mother's role when she passed. My father and uncle depend on me a great deal."

"Heh, my father would be off put certainly but he would not refuse me. He wants us to be happy more so than marry for advantage... My aunts married half the North." He chuckled as he leaned his head on hers. "All children must find their own path. I want it to lead to you no matter what it takes." He knew his father having had the chance to marry for love and caring so deeply for his bride had given him a unique opinion only Ashe had been pushed towards a match... Mostly due to his older brother's reckless disregard for rules and obeying them, their mother felt a strong woman ought to sort the boy out.

"I'll try to talk some sense into my father. He should be able to see the importance of a Northern alliance and if not to see his oldest daughter happy for all the work she's done." She laced her fingers with his, before pulling it close to press a kiss upon its back. "Though half of me wonders if reality is truly this sweet or whether I am still dreaming." She said as her other hand moved up to his face and allowed her slender fingers to comb through his hair ever so slightly.

He shook his head. "I'm wondering how I ever got so lucky to hold the fairest maiden south of the wall in my arms tonight." He added nestling her close and shutting his eyes letting them both drink in this quiet moment alone together. Something they might not have again for years to come.

Redwyne camp, shortly after Northern arrival.

Gryffith had stepped away from his father as Mathias took their horses off to get stabled and cared for. Griffith was helping direct the merchants while his father saw to informing others of their arrival and bringing gifts to their hosts. However, as he finished sending the brewers wagons along, he passed near the central tents where the Redwyne's wine was being unloaded. He couldn't help but stare at the now even more womanly Honora Redwyne... He could hardly turn his head though when caught his stare he looked to the wine trying to save face for her sake.

Of course it had been three years since that night... Since that kiss, he’d fought and trained for days and days, but did she still want him? Did she have some other who had come into her life, after all he wasn’t some pretty knight with gold and jewels to ply her with, he was from a Great House certainly... But the Starks were not famed like the others.

Honora had been giving Arystide and Finnegan an earful for their earlier antics. At the suggestion of just setting up a bachelors tent, she had exploded into a proper fit. "So you two can start a damn orgy in there? I think not. Listen. If you want to keep drinking I suggest that you for once keep yourselves out of trouble. If I even catch a whiff of something I will break all your fingers, is that understood?" The threat came with such venom that even the easy going Arystide knew not to test the waters any further.

"For the time being I will however grant you a 'boys table'..." She said easing up on them in the hope they would actually listen to her for once and not disgrace their house. With Arystide pecking her on her forehead and Finnegan patting her on her shoulder she watched them walk off to gods know where. But at the least they would hopefully be out of her hair for a little while. Exhausted she trudged off to find a quiet spot to contemplate, behind the feasting tent would usually do, but before she rounded the corner completely she recognized a familiar frame.
She wasn't sure what to feel. Horror, Love, Shame, Disappointment, Anger? It all seemed insufficient.

Gryffith bit his lip looking at her a moment before bowing slightly as he walked over, he was no Knight with chivalrous vows to uphold. Northmen had no need for special status to be warriors of great skill. He turned his head back and forth making sure no one was looking at the pair and gave her a smile, then mouthed. 'I'm so sorry', as he tried his best not to get them noticed. Of course she'd heard the rumors about the second son of The Wolf Lord being in love with a southerner, yet she never got a name. No doubt he'd be teased to death about it but he'd never said a word and even now he tried to make sure she was safe from accusation.

But her face barely betrayed her feelings. She had heard and whilst at first in hope of something to follow after it, silence had been her everlasting companion. More loyal than a dog and if anything stickier than a tarnished reputation.
Still she had felt slighted and she was going to let him know.
"Three years." She stated calmly, keeping her voice low and marking one of the wine barrels."Do you know what makes a good wine?" She asked. "Sweet water, Warm sun and the promise of spring. " She spoke in a businesslike manner. "Well, it seems this year will taste absolutely sour."

Gryffith sighed and scratched his head looking sheepish as he took a long breath then finally answered her. "In the North... We make beer. It only takes months but the flavor is more bitter..." He added, trying to answer for some of the time at least to give her something to try and understand. "I've always wanted to bring more wine to the North... Ciders and such too... My father finally relented when I said I love red wine and I recommended where we should get some. Though we are having trouble getting anyone to agree to let us take something so precious Northward.” He was trying to make it clear his father had been bickering with him over his intentions it seemed and only recently had started to agree in pursuing this truly.

She sighed. "Maybe it was foolhardy to attempt in the first place. Winter does kill the Winerank. Soon it won't matter where it will be planted. It will have to accept whatever circumstances it faces. Come rock, sand or soil. Father started betrothing us to different houses. The gameboard is being set and we are all but pawns upon it." She looked at him with a longing stare that held a layer of fear as she spoke in warning.
"A storm is forming over our heads, ripping out roots and stems."

"...My father plans to ask directly about our concerns while we are southward... And I intend to win the melee to prove I am worthy of what I seek as a Southerner born in the warmth of the sun." He explained with a ready stare, wanting to reach for her hand as he took a deep breath. "I've been training... A lot just for this reason after all your father would not part with such rare perfection as you so easily."

Honora shook her head at that.
"You'd be wrong to think that. Odette is his pearl. I am simply his eldest. I will marry to his wishes unless persuaded otherwise." She turned back towards him stating. "There are many flowers out in the field today, why be content with the withering flower that is mine own?" she asked as she put the chalk back in its spot, before resting as she leaned against the wine caskets.

“Because... I'd sooner save the withering flower then abandon it. I know what I love and I'll chase it to the ends of the earth... Us wolves don't ever give up... I'll win the melee... And I'll ask before them all for you my heart's desire." He added, straightening up knowing this was his chance... He had to do it for her. He walked over helping move a wine barrel to sit upright as he passed he whispered. "I love Honora Redwyne, I always will... And if I can't win today... I'll try again and again till I'm an old wolf." He added letting her know he was still as set as he always had been.

"Don't make a fool of yourself." She uttered, looking back at him, barely capable of maintaining her uncaring facade. "Do be careful." The whisper was soft and genuine. "I'd hate to see you pummeled into the ground, as my brother will compete into the melee as well. And as it would be considered unbecoming of a lady to root against her family, I at the very least shall look forward to this particular year's melee with renewed interest." She spoke and offered him the slightest of winks.

"I intend to make a fool of all who get between me and my heart's desire... And don't worry I'll be gentle on him." He added with a wink back then set off towards the tents, renewed hope that he might be able to do this. That she still wanted him and it could all work out... Oh little wolves know of the hearts of men... And dragons.

A little while later there was a young boy barging into the Starks encampment. With the child having been given clear instructions. "Are you the Howling Wolf?" Was all he asked until he was directed to Griffith to whom he handed a silk ribbon of a particular shade of red. Arbor Red in fact. "Favors given." was all he stated clearly having done his task and intending to return for the payment.

He nodded and took the ribbon before tying it around the arm of mail, to let her know he'd wear it with pride. He tossed the boy a coin from his purse. "Here, tell no one who you delivered this to if they ask, especially any northerner." He added sternly and coldly as only a Stark could. Melting a bit as he caught a whiff of her scent off of it, he wondered if she still kept that old bear fur cloak. No doubt it saw her through many cold nights he could not.

It would make him proud to know, it traveled with her everywhere, not that she traveled much, but that it served its purpose well. Honora smiled as she sat back in her own tent stroking its thick fur and allowing her mind to drift to other days and potential futures. At the least she had confirmation he still cared for her. Pouring herself another cup of Arbor Red she allowed herself to ease out of her confining clothes and slink back into her soft silks as she had worn that particular night. When they had met and he had claimed her first kiss.

Gryffith meanwhile took up his sword the runt and the howling wolf began their practice though he was by no means small, Mathias and his great sword were truly impressive. Gryffith ducked and rolled away parrying when he could and striking for openings as they moved around each other one after another. Every time he took a hit and wanted to take a break he remembered Honora waiting for him... And he got back up to try again, there were tougher men, there were better fighters, but he had to at least try to beat them all.

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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Danvers
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Danvers boo

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Interactions: Leyla Tyrell & Ryon Dayne
Mentions: Oak | Garrett Tyrell | Lady Dyanna | Ashton Hightower | Loreon Lannister | Redwynes

The gardens of Summerhall were like none she had ever seen before. Smaller than the ones that flourished about her home but styled after the Dornish water gardens, they were undeniably beautiful. Leyla had wept after she was told of the marriage but eventually she had forced herself to take one step after another, to leave the tent, to not go running after Garrett. It would not do to make a scene and that had never been her way. And somehow she had found herself here, sitting on a low wall, the pleats of her dress lying softly against the skin of her thighs and calves. The clear water next to her lay still, every now and then a passing breeze causing ripples to flow across its surface. It was peaceful. Surprising given how near the tents and crowds were. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend she was back home. In the days when she would sit atop her fathers knee, pointing out every flower and animal and tree that she saw.

Her brother's words passed through her mind, frustration and anguish gripping her heart. She was mad at Garrett for his heartlessness, mad at her grandmother for allowing him to be so, even mad at Leyton for leaving her to face this alone. A tear fell, warm against her flushed cheeks. She brushed it away. How desperately her heart hurt for her house. How desperately she feared marriage. If a boy had been so unkind to her...what could a man do? Looking down, she suddenly became aware of pain in the palms of her hands. She willed herself to loosen her grip, small wells of blood appearing where her fingernails had dug into her skin. No good. It was a habit that started after her father died but she'd thought it had stopped. Wincing, she leaned over to cup some water in her hands, managing to wash off the worst of it. You must stop this Leyla. After a while and ignoring the sting of the open wounds, she stood up. She had come here to calm herself not weep tears like a small child. She would not be so weak.

Leyla still wore the daisy crown Oak had made for her and she brought a hand to it with a small smile as she began to walk the gardens. The bard was a brother to her in all but name and she as much wished to protect him as she did the rest of her family. Hopefully he would watch out for Garrett. Pondering on this, she walked by flowers of such brilliant colors and scents that she couldn't help but stop by each one. There stood near the center a pomegranate tree, flowers fragile and of the brightest red, its scent sweetly delicate. She stood for a moment, looking up at its limbs stretching towards the sun, wondering about its slow but peaceful life.

Ryon had hoped that sparring would release the tension he had felt building since that conversation with his squire. He had yet to decide what exactly to do about it. His time in the practice field had given him no clarity, only sore muscles. He had only grim choices. Though Maekar would surely not be surprised that noble houses were hedging their bets - damnable Aegon had all but ensured it - it was something else entirely to approach Ryon in such a way. He had no desire to trouble Dyanna with his plight, neither did he want to see young Ash drawn further into the conflict. Yet…yet he could not sit on this information much longer without being complicit in some manner.

He was not ready to admit defeat in finding a solution. If violence would not shake loose a plan, perhaps the quiet of the gardens would be of assistance. Ryon had barely paused after his match to splash some water across his face. As he entered the Dornish gardens, his practice tunic still clung to him from sweat, his hair pulled back by a thin leather cord. The gardens were thankfully quiet, he mused as he slowed his gait to appreciate the beauty that grown here. So many people had descended here and yet they largely seemed more inclined to food and drink rather than quiet reflection.

He rounded a corner to briefly lived disappointment at seeing another to disturb his thoughts; a woman, her back turned to him. Ryon chided himself silently for his immediate appreciation of her form and long locks. He paused in the walkway and ran a hand over his chin. He had been silent enough that she had not yet noticed him and for a moment he considered turning back. Yet regardless of the internal chastisement, he found his legs softly carrying him forward.

It was, perhaps, rude of him to sneak up on an unaccompanied woman. Ruder still to reach over her from behind and pluck a flower from the tree she was admiring. It was, however, a more pleasant distraction than the sparring had been and his hesitation melted completely. "I see you already have a crown of flowers, my lady. Allow me to add just one more to it." His lips spread into a disarming smile and though he had drawn close to her, he immediately took a step back to extend the flower to her. As pretty a thing up close as she had been at a distance. "If any accuse you of poaching from a royal palace, please tell them to call for Ryon Dayne to bear witness of your innocence." He gave a small nod by means of introduction.

Leyla instinctively shied away at the sudden intrusion, her eyebrows narrowing into a wary frown. She had thought herself alone. Yet before the shock had even begun to fade, she found it replaced by warm amusement. "My thanks, it is very beautiful." She paused, taking the flower gently in her hand so not as to disturb the thin petals. "You would take the blame for someone you do not know? I think I would feel awful if I let you do such a thing." A smile finally found her lips and she twirled the flowers stem absentmindedly between her fingers. The knight was not known to her personally but by her mothers instruction she had learnt to be well acquainted with all members of the important houses.

Her posture relaxed as she took in the knight, he was undeniably handsome, even in such simple attire. But still, she was unable to feel completely at ease when alone with a man. "I was just admiring the garden here. It is so very different from the ones we have at home..." The failure to introduce herself was not an accidental oversight. She just could not bear to think of her house in this moment, it was easier to pretend she was someone else. Someone with no cares or woes. "But if I may ask, what is the Sword of the Morning doing here? I would think you'd be drinking with your fellow knights. It seems the Redwynes have brought enough wine to happily occupy the entirety of the Stormlands." She questioned, glancing up at him.

Ryon gave a small shrug, a roll of his shoulders as he took to reclining against a small stone hedge along the path. She had not shared who she was, it was not lost on him, but he would not press. She was clearly from one of the noble houses, perhaps one of the endless ladies that had been in and out to see his cousin. A bit strange for one to be alone, his curiosity peaked. “Ah so you know who I am.” He cocked his head with the same easy smile. “Well then you must understand the greater care I take to maintain such a lofty title, aren’t all knights called to defend and protect?”

He leaned back to his side, his weight propped to one arm, his legs kicked out and pulled one over the other in a misguided effort to soothe his muscles that still screamed at him. For all his effort to be smooth in his leisurely repose, he knew he had winced. “Not all of us want to drink with such abandon before a tourney start. Though the Redwynes have certainly lived up to their family name.” His cousins had certainly taken his advice to heart, he’d not be surprised if the duo were sick still. “But I prefer the quiet moments in preparation. And this garden reminds me of home as much as it was built to remind her of home.” He spoke plainly, it was the truth if not the full truth. He leaned his head back to the side again. “Do you need an escort anywhere, or would you like my protection from any others who would intrude on your contemplation?” He spoke softly, he would take no for an answer and be sent on his way, intrigued as he may have found himself.

"I think maybe I am not proper..." Leyla said with a smile, still strolling back and forth, "For I often forget that propriety calls for me to have an escort. I do so enjoy walking alone though." It was difficult to keep still at such times of unease and particularly now with the aching pain in her palms. The wounds would need a balm applying and though it was likely they would have the herbs in their supplies, she did not wish to show the maester. It would be too quick to get back to her grandmother.

"But no, please stay if you are inclined to." Leyla shook her head emphatically, surprised by her own eagerness for him to stay. It was unusual for one of his kind to shun the frivolities that came with such a tournament and she could not help but feel a hint of curiosity. "Now that we are speaking it seems preferable to standing alone. And you do not seem so frightening..." She reflected honestly, clasping her hands behind her back as she finally stopped moving, halting beside the knight. "I feel a distraction from my thoughts would be welcome. And maybe you a distraction from your pain?" The young tyrell noticed how he moved gingerly, not seeming in serious agony but enough to provide discomfort. "Though knights must often be in pain I suppose?"

How curious. Ryon attempted to pull his eyes away from watching the woman, but the combination of certainty, honesty, and concern kept his attention too well. He pat at the ledge next to him for her to join him. “I am only ever too happy to be a distraction.” A quick grin passed his lips, and he leaned forward, “I’ve pushed myself too hard today in vain hopes it would help me make a decision. I’m afraid it failed me in that endeavor, giving nothing but a few new bruises.” He shrugged, preferring to avoid thinking of it for a while longer. “You, though, have already proved to be a balm to the pain. Tell me what is it you seek a distraction from, or perhaps you would prefer wine and gossip? I’ve heard of a knight from Sow’s Horn causing no small amount of scandal among high and low born.”

A soft laugh escaped from her lips. Tempting as it was to gossip and hear of the frivolities of others, Leyla shook her head. "I may have heard of Ser Hoggs exploits. Many a lady seem enamoured by him." She said with a smile. "But as for myself, it is duty, I suppose, which distracts me. I..." Leyla hesitated for a moment before taking a seat beside him, hands resting neatly in her lap. They sat close but she was careful to make sure they did not touch. "I think I am very selfish." Her brows furrowed as she turned to face him, a look of earnest seriousness flashing across her features. "Do you think it is possible to marry someone you do not love and be happy? I have thought about this again and again, and everytime I come to the same conclusion...that the two are incompatible."

Duty, yes everyone had their duty, he thought to himself as his grin softened. She was rather proper and that combined with the sadness in her eyes and voice pulled at him. Had he not had a similar conversation with Dyanna years ago? "My family is large and there are few love matches I can think of in their marriages." It was a hard truth, but lies were a disservice. "Still, many of them found happiness together, in the life their marriage gave them or in their children." Not that he would know, but that was a privilege few would share. "It isn't selfish to want happiness. In Dorne, we just take lovers for that." He chuckled softly, "though that is not viewed so equitably here, is it. A great disservice to you northerners."

His eyes glanced down to where her hands were neatly held in her lap. It was likely nothing she wanted to hear. His cousin had not been happy with such truths either. She had been lucky though. As he fumbled to find some kinder advice, he caught sight of markings on her palms. In a thoughtless moment, he gently grabbed her hand and turned it over in his palm. He softly traced the markings. As if on a delay, his mind caught up to his actions, and he froze, her hand awkwardly cupped in his.

She was stunned by his words and by his actions. A deep blush flared onto her cheeks; this was a kind of closeness that she was unused to. The rough but gentle feel of his palms and fingers was surprisingly pleasant. She couldn't help but wonder how many hours had gone into making them what they were. "I-" Leyla found her own words were lost to her, carried off by the winds to be scattered elsewhere. Perhaps for someone more bold and brave to catch. She felt the tears that she had pushed back drawing once more to her eyes, spilling over and down her cheeks. Her free hand came up to wipe them away, in a manner that was entirely lacking in decorum. It was awful but she could not stop them, could not prevent what was unbidden.

"I'm sorry! I'm certain this was not what you intended when you came here." She finally managed to blurt out, ashamed by her overflowing emotions. She glanced up at him, wondering why he had not fled already. So far she had not been a very good companion at all. It made that well of curiosity ever deeper and she could not help but smile in spite of her tears.

"Though…" She started hesitantly, staring at her own unmoved hand, "I think you are maybe very lucky in Dorne. It seems like such a…a free way to be." The blush came rushing back again as she spoke of things she knew she should not.

You fool. He chastised himself silently as he watched her tears overflow. The poor thing in front of him, how many more were there like her - just tokens bartered by fathers or brothers in exchange for alliances and wealth. It was the way of things and it was unfair; a burden normally carried in silence or perhaps among a woman’s circle of friends. “I chose to intrude on you and then made you cry. I think that makes me the villain here, certainly not you.” He teased lightly, hoping to at least elicit a small grin.

He brought his other hand to cover hers, rough and calloused over her delicate yet broken skin. “It is a freer way of life, perhaps more genuine.” But there were cages still, duty and responsibilities he had no desire for and that he had refused to participate in. “Not for the faint of heart, maybe.” He teased again, though there was truth beneath the jest. Marriages and alliances had not swept away centuries of distrust or wariness, he knew too well. “Would you like to run away to Dorne? Perhaps my cousin, Arron, would strike your fancy. He is of an age to you I think.” He felt his own age at odds with the flights and fancies of a young woman, but the boy would strike a compelling image with her; and he was considerate albeit reckless. “Everyone deserves a bit of young love before having to bear the duty of their family.”

Leyla smiled but shook her head. She found herself disappointed by his offering of a younger brother. That she had expected anything else, or even that, was ridiculous. You truly are hopeless Leyla.. "Thank you but you would not offer me such a thing if you knew my family." She laughed lightly, "I could not hurt my grandmother so. I do love her dearly." She would do anything for her family, she supposed including marrying someone not of her choosing. A Lannister was an extremely good match though she knew little of Loreon himself. Yes, I would do it for them. The young Tyrell paused in thought, absentmindedly brushing away some lingering tears that were beginning to cool on her cheeks. "But we have spoken too much of me and too little of you. May I return your kindness by helping with this decision of yours? If I can at least..."

The knight smiled softly and lifted his hand off of hers to cup her cheek lightly before tucking a tendril of dark hair behind her ear. “You are too sweet, my lady. You must make your family proud.” His caress had been brief and he withdrew his hand quickly. Habits were hard to break, but he couldn’t help but feel it was a friend the girl needed. “My decision…ah. Perhaps not so different from yours.” His smile faltered briefly, there was no way to actually lay his burden at her feet; innocent and eager though she seemed to help. “Not marriage, I’ve avoided that for years.” Ryon gave a short but rough chuckle. “I know what I must do, but it will hurt someone I do not wish to hurt.” His smile broke completely, his lips pressed tight. “I had hoped to think of some other way but it is family and duty before all else, isn’t it?”

"Well…" Leyla pondered quietly, "Yes I do think that's true. Though mine is not really a decision I have much sway over, I am sure you have more say in yours." She frowned at the sudden serious expression that he bore, so different from the lighthearted smiles and graces he had so far donned. "But if you save someone from hurt forever then they are living a life of pretense and I do not think that is of any help to anyone…at least, that's how I see it." She stood, letting out a deep breath as she did. Leyla felt better, still terrified, still unsure, but better nonetheless. The young Tyrell smiled down at Ryon and for the first time in their conversation it managed to reach her eyes. "I will give you my favour in the tourney tomorrow. Whether you want it or not." She jested, "It is the only way I can think of thanking you. That and perhaps my bard can play for you sometime, he is extremely skilled with his fingers."

If only that were true. But Ryon had little say over what to do, he would try to spare the messenger as much as possible. The decision still rested uneasily, but he was resolved with what he would do. The girl had been more of a balm than he had any right to expect. How curious. He met her eyes, her warm smile a crack of sunlight. The knight could not help but to return it. “Only a fool would turn down your favor, and I am no fool, my lady.”

He stood slow, ready to give her a small bow, but it was mention of a bard that caught him. The warm smile turned a wry grin that he tried to smooth away. He felt a surprising heat creep across his cheeks. “Perhaps you can bring him to play for Lady Dyanna and I” Ryon bit back the chuckle that tickled the back of his throat when it was clear that she had stated her bard’s skill with total innocence. “Until the morrow, then.”

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by LadyRunic
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LadyRunic The Laughing Raven

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Collab with @Vanq@Sini

Dinner and Drinks - A Lady and a “Bastard”

Dyanna’s eyebrow quirked up as the woman departed hastily. She turned to watch Alys disappear into the masses of people that swarmed around her. She had learned to anticipate Maekar and did not jump as she felt his fingers lightly set about her waist. “You scared her from twenty feet away, my love. She won’t survive dinner if you think to join me tonight. Perhaps your brother can keep you entertained.” Dyanna’s voice was soft, as she tilted her head back to rest on his chest. She’d not listen to any questions or complaints about her plans. Certainly, by now, the Prince knew better than to ask. There was enough duty ahead of her, one night speaking with the curious bastard would be an agreeable diversion. “Come, you best return me to our rooms so I can be appropriate to meet our guests. Who is it this time?”

“Our good sister’s kin from the Stormlands: Lords Baratheon and their train.” The prince squeezed her side appreciatively. “I [i]infinitely[/i ]prefer your impropriety over Baelor’s quixotism,” he said with a hint of uncharacteristic mischief. Dyanna forever brought out the worst in him. “Yet you are right. Baelor wishes to discuss these Dornish raids out of the Red Mountains. One would think wedding and bedding more than one of you would be sufficient to put an end to that.” Maekar’s remark was mostly for his wife’s benefit, for she enjoyed being teased - or so he had convinced himself over their years of marriage. Despite the peace between King’s Landing and Sunspear, and its subsumption into the writ of the Iron Throne, brigands and bandits continued to operate out of caves and mountain fastnesses to predate on the Marches. Maekar felt his pulse quicken as Dyanna leaned into him. “Our rooms, yes,” he agreed hungrily. “Mayhaps there is still some time to be inappropriate…”

Last-minute dinner plans had been easy enough to arrange, at least for Dyanna. Servants brought a small selection from the main dinner’s courses. She had called for several different bottles of wine, though hers again was watered and honeyed. As much as she sought to be supportive of Maekar, it was a true relief to be spared another dinner with yet another great house or with Baelor in particular. The tourney had not even fully started but she yearned for it to be over so she could return to their quiet life.

“My lady, your guest has arrived.” A woman entered the doorway looking only slightly frazzled.

“Bring her up then, thank you.” Dyanna returned her attention to the small table in her sitting room that had been set up. She had changed, following her adventures of the afternoon, into a simple dress of linen, loose in a Dornish style, lilac and secured with the broach gifted during her betrothal some years ago; it had remained a favorite. It was blessedly less extravagant than what had originally been selected for the evening.

There was a sway to her hips as Alys slipped into the room in a gown that was deep green silk. Not something a common woman could afford and cut in the fashion that would befit any court with its sweeping neckline of cream and sleeve that fell in long billows after her elbows. Though her hair was ever in that long braid as it twitched and swished behind her like some form of a tail. A friendly smile to the frazzled servant, and a press of something into the woman’s palm as she passed, and Alys was dipping a well-practiced curtsy to the Princess of Summerhall. “I have arrived even as I said I would, My Lady. How could I refuse to dine with one of such renown? Though I must admit, my poor knight was beside himself with my neglect as to proper courtesies.” Which would be for her to mind his own needs and stay far away from a noble house he hated with a passion. Flipping her braid over her shoulder, she gave a fox’s grin to the other woman, she had no trouble with her. Let Dannel worry himself as he would, she would carry none of it here. A nice, free dinner and a chance to gather and offer a bit of news. There was always information to be bought and sold especially in high society, she told herself with an amused tone, her like of the woman had nothing to do with it.

“Alys, how wonderful that you made it. I hope the -“ she waved a hand in the air as if to gesture to everything and nothing, “ - chaos of this was not too much to sort through.” Another mention of this mysterious knight set Dyanna’s lips to a quirk. She hadn’t been able to track down any of the men she had sent to the woman’s camp to find out more. If they had even taken notice. “The septas from my youth would admonish me sharply for it, but I prefer familiarity rather than formality. Join me at the settees for a drink while the last of our dinner is brought in?”

The sitting room opened into a small balcony overlooking the now hundreds of lights that dotted the land surrounding the castle. Settees lined the entire area, with pillows and soft blankets needed as autumn airs threatened to chill the night. Dyanna situated herself, soft slippered feet pulled up under her as she sunk into her favorite seat. She had been serious about a lack of formality. A goblet of her wine waited for her on a nearby table. “I was not sure what you may favor. The Redwynes gifted us enough wine to last a year I think - take your pick of the red or the gold - though,” She added with a mischievous glint, “I’ve always preferred our vintage from my family’s vineyards.”

“Last a year with every knight in the region camped on your doorstep?” Alys noted with a smile as she joined the woman on the balcony. Sinking into the chair with an easy grace as she neatly crossed her ankles. Habit taught from a young age when wearing a dress. Her own hands poured a goblet of the gold as she settled into the chair more fully. For all she sat with a great lady of the realm, the woman seemed to take Dyanna at her word, a dangerous thing in the game of thrones. “Rhllor’s Pleasure. An Essosi I met on the dock of King’s Landing was selling it. An interesting twist of flavors that I have come across since.” Taking a sip of the Arbor Gold, she sighed in bliss. “Sweet with a bit of gold in it and costing enough I did not spare more than for a single glass.” She mused and shook her head in mock despair. “I shall mourn the loss forevermore. Though it was my more foolish escapades.” She had been thoroughly drunk and young, how she had not been picked up by the Gold Cloaks was something she still suspected was a narrow thing.

“We all have our youthful indiscretions.” Dyanna laughed with her, the story a welcome diversion as she had hoped. She was certain they had a bottle of that vintage saved somewhere, or perhaps it was Dragon’s Breath or A Dornish Kiss. They had been rather taken with some of the names the house had fashioned. “King’s Landing, I have not been back there in years and I was not able to take in much of the city. Truthfully, I appreciate the countryside far more. Open land to run and hunt.” She sipped her drink, in King’s Landing she had not been allowed to take off exploring nor have the boldness than to do as she wished in such a foreign place. “Will your knight be competing in the lists? Perhaps we should set several rumors milling if you were to join me for his contest.” Dyanna raised a hand quickly, “but if your answer is no, I must insist you mull it over with more wine and think on it til after dinner.” At the mention of food, a set of servants entered with a final few plates. Dyanna waved them over to set up the selection - roasted duck and boar, flaky vegetable pies, cheeses, and summer’s fruits.

“Youthful indiscretions?” There was a throaty laugh from the redhead as she chuckled. “My life is one indiscretion after another, My Lady, and I delight in them. It is merely a shame I do not remember all of that particular one.” Looking over the platters of foods befitting a meal for ladies, she sighed and there was a ravaging hunger in her eyes at the sight of boar. An arrow did little to its hide, and she had no wish to fight those savage tusks. “Aye, Ser Dannel means to compete.” Alys saw no reason to not give the name to the woman. Perhaps it might reveal why her knight was so irked against the Daynes. “A good man, though if you were to join for his contest with rumors he might fall off his horse in shock.” She chuckled gently and swirled the goblet. “A good knight, but do tell me, Lady Dyanna, what would a noblewoman know of discretions? Aside from that story, I scrounged up about your proposal which sparked an interesting love story out of the two of you among some women.”

Ser Dannel. So at least she had a name to go with him being of House Bushy. A small house certainly, of which there were countless wandering her home. The name meant nothing, but she could barely conjure up more of the house than its simple sigil or that it hailed from the Reach. “I would hate for a man to fall for such a trifle.” Dyanna would think on it regardless. There was something that prickled at the back of her mind over the oddity of it all. Or perhaps she simply needed to be kept busy with less pressing matters.

“I’ve heard that my story of that tourney is told as a warning or as a true love story depending on if it’s repeated by men or women.” She chuckled easily at that. “I was young, with too much confidence and luckily too little sense. You know - I knew he had to be one of the Targaryens. But I hadn’t a single idea which one. When I returned home, my friends and I took to calling him Prince Growl.” A wicked smile crept across her face. “But I must swear you to silence on that. Seven knows I’m allowed a few secrets from him still.” She twirled a slip of her hair between two fingers. “What about you, is Ser Dannel your knight?”

“I shall be agreeable to silence on that. His growl is not worse than his bite towards those other than yourself.” She noted with an amused noise that could have been a giggle. Then it became a chortle as Dyanna followed the route of conversation. Taking a sip to bide her time and compose herself, Alys shook her head. “No, he is my sword and shield. My heart is yet my own and there is but one thing to claim it. The challenge and amusements that can be found throughout Westeros.” And in particular, the things that were renowned though she saw no reason to be so pointed. Giving a broad smile, she knew her eyes were dancing with amusement. “If I offered to give myself to him, my poor Ser would be horrified. The man is sometimes too good, or that could be too stubborn.” She shrugged nonchalantly, her pale eyes sliding sideways to fix Dyanna with a wondering look. “I attract the strangest of people, from knights to Ladies it seems. But I must ask, what do you know- or think of- Prince Aelor? I heard from several mouths he was seen with a young woman of House Lothston across his lap riding back to Summerhall?” Indeed she had, and while she was not sure she approved of it in a Prince, Alys disapproved of Elayne being treated in such a way. “A serious question perhaps, but we are women, and my knight worries though I am not near the beauty.”

It was an entertaining way to view the man she traveled with. And while some women would protest too much or too little at the suggestion, Dyanna found herself believing this one even if she had many questions still. “It is very likely stubbornness, it is a common trait in men. A reliable sword arm is worth its weight in gold, though, don’t lose him on your adventures.” She spoke playfully and took another small sip of her wine. Her fingers tore at some bread, a smattering of cheese on top of it. Though she was reluctant to think about it, the smell of dinner was overwhelming at times. Dyanna listened with interest, another layer of mystery to the woman before her.

“Prince Aelor? Ah, well wherever he is, Princess Aelora is not far behind.” She spoke evenly now, her eyes betraying her curiosity. “Or perhaps it is the other way around.” She shrugged her shoulders loosely. “I’d heard some whispers of this on my way back, he has always been…different, but honorable.” Dyanna adjusted. “The Lady Lothston is surely safe within these walls.” She thought to ask if they should call for her, but paused. “The woman will be safe here of that I am certain, and certainly should fear nothing from my nephew. I don’t fault you for worrying, we often face dangers both hidden and overt, don’t we?”

The pig was something a delectable source of savoring for Alys and she sighed in appreciation of the well-cooked meat. Leaning back in her seat, she paused and gave the Princess a stern look. The mischievous glint in her eyes was far sharper. Alert or dangerous even. “I do not doubt the general safety of the women under Prince Maekar’s knowledge.” Her answer was soft, if a bit circumspect. “I approve of ruthlessness against men who commit so foul an act, though your words will give relief.’ Traveling alone in the world had been dangerous and Alysanne Lothston had been well forged in the ruthlessness of people who would take whatever they could from others. Just as she was careful to say the relief was hers and not Dannels. “Forgive me my musings, Princess. It is not every day that rumors come crashing through a tournament camp of a Prince and young noblewoman riding off on the same horse without a wedding between them.” She swirled the wine in her cup and gazed at the surface.

Alys doubted this was a game of Danelle’s. A Prince and heir to take Elayne for wife? No, her sister would have no lover or husband if she could help it. Elayne would be the Lothston mother for the next set of Lords and Ladies to carry on Harrenhal. Though Manfryd? Could he have set aside his growlings? She traced the rim of the goblet, her smile not faltering even as her attention eased back to Dyanna as she carved another slice of the pig. “But we speak of dark dealing when the dinner is heavy enough.” She chided herself. “Tell me, who shall win the tournament? Will Maekar set a wreath of Love and Beauty on your head?” She smiled with that wicked mischievous smirk again.

Dyanna nodded in agreement. “Maekar has a taste for swift justice with these matters when they are brought to him at least.” It was a stark truth how often vile acts could be swept aside. “But with how much wine is flowing now, I would not be surprised if more audacious things were to happen. There is at least opportunity for light gossip from it all.”

As Alys turned her attention to gossip of a tourney winner, Dyanna stood and gave a pre-emptive wave for her dinner companion to stay where she was. She moved just inside from their balcony seating, searching for something to satisfy a sudden craving. “There are many strong contenders. Perhaps I should say that my husband will out-perform them all.” She paused as her eyes landed on a plate of delicate pastries stuffed with honeyed cheese and some sort of deep purple fruit. “Perhaps you shall take the archery contest and cause all sorts of new scandals.” She twisted in place to peek back around to Alys before grabbing the plate to return to her seat. As she settled back to the settee, a pastry already in her mouth, flakes fell to her dress. She laughed, almost a giggle. “These are divine, I don’t know how they make them.” Dyanna nudged the plate forward. “However, I have sworn Maekar to not deliver such a courtesy to me if it is his to give.” A sly grin pulled her lips up. “Perhaps that is the real reason I hope he does not best them - I’d hate to see him crown anyone else.”

There was a small, if curious, smile on Alys’s lips as she studied the Princess. Not a woman she would have expected and she was glad of it. This woman was indeed a curiosity and one she was very glad to have met. Even if they had left the etiquette of their stations, or supposed stations, in tatters behind them. It was good for society, she thought in a whimsical moment of amusement, to keep the rules forever changing. “How could he crown anyone else? You are his wife and mother to his children and do not think I did not spy the look in his eyes when he came to you after our first meeting.” She sipped some wine, unsuccessfully smothering the final comment on that matter. “Though it’s a wonder you only have two children.”

Dyanna had devoured half the pastry, sweet and sour. “It would be some entertainment to see if he followed my wishes or risked offending me by naming some pretty little thing.” She chuckled again, how long had it been since she had just relaxed with a friendly companion? “Creating the children is a joy, and they are once they arrive. That middle part though -” Dyanna took another bite of the pastry. “Well perhaps it is the nature of maesters, but they seem to think I can have no fun at all while pregnant.” How they chastised her for everything, Maekar had put an end to their heaviest restrictions at least.

Carving off another slice of the boar, Alys nibbled it as she smiled with wicked delight. “You or I will suffice, so long as we take the lead I think. But then, my bow skills are more used to taking a bird on the wing or a hare.” She shrugged, “If my bow were not my match in height, I would use it a horse.” She admitted and sighed in delight. “Ah, I’ve missed a well-cooked boar.” She declared with an incline of her head to Dyanna. “Though as to those pastries… Dare I risk my fingers to your knife for trying one?” She asked with a tease as to the possessive delight that Dyanna was devouring the treat. “I’ve not come across them, which is saying something.” Swirling the wine, the woman gazed across the rim at the Princess of Summerhall and seemed to nod more to herself. “Tell me, who all is in attendance at Summerhall? I think I saw about four Princes walking here, and heard the name of several more being called.” The question was leading and perhaps was far less than proper, but she found it rather interesting. Her list of people to avoid would be more easily maintained if she could know for sure who was in residence and who was not.

“That would be a true match. I’m afraid I’m not quite so skilled as that, though I do love a good hunt. You’d enjoy Starfall I think. If it wasn’t for my brother, I’d say it was time for a visit again after the tourney.” Dyanna chattered away with only a slight wince when she mentioned her brother. They had never been close, but her marriage had ended any hope of sibling friendship. “Please, eat two. I will finish the plate if you do not.” She pushed the plate a little closer to Alys. “I think they are some fruit from one of the Free Cities.” The last bits of her pastry disappeared between her lips.

“It may be easier to say who is not here.” Dyanna swallowed the last morsels with a sigh. She reached again for her goblet, staring into the liquid for a moment before continuing. “Though at least of Maekar’s family, Baelor is the only of his brothers that came. Rhaegal and Aerys remained in King’s Landing with the king.” Of course, there were the others, the bastards. “And it seems Bloodraven has arrived.” Dyanna stifled a shudder, the man disturbed her regardless of his allegiances. “Though none would call him a Prince I hope.” She swept the last few pastry crumbs from the top of her dress. “You’ve a keen interest in the going-ons here. I can’t say I blame you.” Dyanna smiled with contentment. “Would you prefer to take a walk about and see who we may run into?”

The redhead plucked one of the pastries and nibbled it, finding the treat delectable if not particularly a favorite. Yet, how could she refuse to aid Dyanna? Listening to the woman chatter about whom was not attending, she felt a small twinge of relief. Too many dragons in a room was something of a disaster in the waiting. Not a bad thing, but the currents in Summerhall already felt troubled. She had been on the road for years and there were always whispers. It was something of amusement for her to see which were true and which were not. Leaning back in the seat, she felt her fingers stiffen on the goblet as the mention of the sulky Brynden was brought up. So Bloodraven for certain was in Summerhall, and here she had been hoping to have been mistaken. A foolish thing, but she was allowed her foolishness from time to time. Realizing a question she switched her gaze to the Princess and arched a brow with her best mischievous smile. “I take a keen interest in the going-ons, a horrible thing gossip. It amuses me greatly.” She sketched a bow of her head and considered the woman’s content enjoyment. A walkabout? What was the worst that could happen? “Very well, if you so wish. Let us walk, and you could tell me your thoughts.” There was a small smile as Alys finished the last of the wine. "My eyes are sharp, My Lady, as are my ears. My words are kept close and you are interesting. Quite so. A rarity for one of such prestige to wish to dine with a woman such as I."

Dyanna stretched out of her seat again. “I’m afraid I prefer to hide away from such gossip. It only ever seems to bring dark moods.” Or at least, she attempted to will away hearing of such things. It was the cost of who she had married, she had been reminded more than once. “I would not want to actually interrupt my husband’s dinner with his brother - Prince Baelor - or the Baratheons. But there will be so many wandering about that I’m sure we’ll be stopped for some favor or another.” Dyanna provided a small smile again, surely there would be something of interest for her companion. “Please though, any prestige of mine is simply borrowed from Maekar. I was destined for little but for a twist of fate.” She spoke plainly, without self-deprecation, as if it was a simple fact.

A loud knock interrupted her mid-step. “Enter.” It was nearly time for a maid to come to check on their dinner. Yet it was not a young girl who entered.

“Dy, I am sorry for intruding.” He used the familiar name he had used on her since she was but a child. “It could not wait, I need your advice before going to your husband with a…serious matter. I fear I’ve already waited too long.”

Ser Ryon stood before her looking rather haggard. His face was downcast, his hair pulled back as if he had just come from sparring though his clothes showed no sign of it. She had not seen him in such a state before.

“I’m afraid now is not a good time.” She spoke sharply, her tone unusual to his ears and he, at last, glanced up and behind her. Realization dawned slowly.

There was a look of similar kinship in Alys’s eyes at Dyanna’s words. Pain flared in her face as she recalled the death of her twin and the path she had been forced down. Had she not run, she would be dead like as not. If she had stayed to be Lady of Harrenhal after her father? The knock interrupted her thoughts and she sat as still as a statue with her fingers straying towards the knife that was used to carve the boar, til she noted the familiarity between the two. Watching the man, slip into the room and cocking her head at the sharp tone the lady took, Alys arched a brow. A smile graced her lips though her eyes were dark with thought.

“And who is this handsome fellow?” She fluttered her lashes and sliced into the boar to carve off another piece of meat. “Is he on the menu as well?” She teased the man and the lady both. Her head cocking as she nibbled the bite.

The cousins froze for just a moment. With her back turned to Alys still, Dyanna gave a stern look typically reserved for one of her children. A flicker of a grin pulled at the knight’s lips. He was but a simple creature, and the woman he had not immediately noticed was now all but impossible to ignore. Were it not for his cousin’s sharpness and his own blunder he’d have felt rather confident of himself. And then there was the matter that had actually sent him to her chambers. Somberness returned quickly, in a blink of an eye.

“My apologies, my lady…” He inclined his head, for the second time that day at a loss for who he spoke with.

Dyanna cleared his throat. “Alys Rivers, please allow me to introduce my cousin - Ser Ryon.”

“Sword of the Morning, and sworn protector to my most beloved cousin.” He finished for her with a small flourish. He was glad he had stopped to at least don a more formal coat and not the simple practice tunic from earlier in the day. Though Dyanna dining with a bastard from the Riverlands left several questions to be answered.

Dyanna turned at last, with what she hoped was a good attempt at smoothing the concern and disapproval from her face. “Yes, and ever humble in disposition.” She pointedly ignored the flirtatious question. Ryon would be too likely to accept such an invitation.

She tried very hard to keep a straight face, though she knew she smirked like a cat in the cream as she watched Ser Ryon’s bow and flourish. “Oh, only the best of knights can be humble when so well bred.” She agreed, her eyes dancing with mirth as she slightly regretted not being able to go by her proper name. Having seen the bat of Lothston in the city of tents had put the notion firmly in her head that risking going to the archer contest would be bad enough. “An august and prestigious pairing of titles. You, my lady, seem surrounded by handsome men.” She cocked an eyebrow at Dyanna and flipped her braid over her shoulder, the tail curling about her waist. “Do try to save some for the rest of us.” She remarked with a chuckle, standing to give Ryon a graceful and well-practiced curtsy.

Perhaps it would be well of her to leave, Alys thought with a pang of sadness. She had enjoyed speaking to Dyanna and this news that the knight had brought might well be worth listening to could yield fruit. Still, it was hardly her place. “Hm, you have news to deliver and I would not wish to keep you from pressing matters.” Her throaty voice dipped as she gave Ryon a saucy wink. “I shall beg your leave, Lady Dy, and if you have need to send someone to find me… Send him. Of course, he might need a club to beat the women off him.”

Dyanna could hear Ryon stifling a chuckle behind her. He would enjoy this far too much, but his proclivities had never been something to bother her. Her cousin was who he was, and Alys in many ways seemed like an even match…If it weren’t for whatever pressing matter had driven him to her rooms. “I will be sure to send Ryon for you before the tourney is over. I believe I am still owed a few stories or two of your adventures. I am sorry we could not continue our evening, it was truly a pleasure, Alys. If you have need of it, I will be happy to arrange an escort back to your camp.”

“An escort for little me?” She shook her head with a chuckle. “Oh, that would give Ser Dannel some hope to accept his aid more fully!” As if he did not aid her enough in her schemes! Dipping a curtsy to the woman, Alys turned on her heels to open the door and slipped through it. Ah, the simplicity of life, if she was wise she would listen at the keyhole but there were too many people wandering the halls. The servants, the guests, someone would notice. Taking a moment, she paled as she spied a familiar stiff back and reddish hair that would almost match her own. If the owner was not taller than her by a solid head. Darting back through the door, Alys shut it firmly behind her as she saw Danelle pause mid-step and look over her shoulder more fully. Had her bloodthirsty sister seen her? Swallowing hard, she gave Dy an apologetic look. “I believe I shall take that escort. The crowds are impossible!” She declared, trying to cover the fact her heart felt as though it was about to burst from her chest.

What on earth was Danelle doing in Summerhall? Manfryd had been there as well and that was something she had never expected in all her years. Had she drunk too much and perhaps seen things? That would make more sense, but she was not drunk. Alys felt her jaw tighten, she would need to find out what Danelle was scheming. Something most likely in concert with Elayne being said to have been riding in the lap of a Targaryen Prince. Smoothing her gown, she considered the best option to figure out the details going on with her sisters. Seven years and now she was having to delve into the business of Harrenhal to avoid the deadly curse! She wanted to shoot something, ideally picturing Danelle’s face over what she shot! Her smile was fixed on her face but her eyes blazed as Alys thought of how close she was. How easy it would be to slide a dagger through Danelle's ribs. Murder, perhaps, and perhaps that hunger dwelled in her eyes but the woman her sister had become was a troubling one. Worse than the whispering and dabbling girl who often haunted Alysanne's shadow.

Dyanna had gotten but two words out to her cousin, a chiding statement, before the woman burst back into her chambers. Her surprise quickly shifted to concern. Ryon’s intuition prickled at something and both sets of Dayne eyes again landed on the bastard woman. She had, Dyanna thought, been very keen to know who was in residence with them, though with there being hundreds of people of note there was little clue for her there. The cousins shared a sideways glance before Dyanna gave the briefest of nods.

“Please allow me to at least take you to our gates. I’ll have one of the men take you back to your camp from there.” Ryon stepped forward, concern in his eyes mixed with guilty relief at having a bit more time before having to unburden himself. The look in Alys’ eyes nearly gave him pause, but whatever had caused Dyanna to dine with her would hopefully go to explaining it. His cousin’s own expression had given little away.

“Send him back to me in one piece, Alys. He is my favorite cousin.” Dyanna offered a smile that no longer met her eyes. Something was afoot, though what exactly would require her to seek out resources she preferred to ignore. For nothing more than a curiosity, but now it was piqued, and it would need to be satisfied.

“A shame then,” Alys drawled, recovering some of her ease as she dipped a curtsy to the Lady. “, for me. Any woman with sense would want a piece of him and half the other knights that wander this tournament.” She remarked with that foxy grin. “Though, he shall have to call on me in your presence for you to have those stories. Of which I am sure this will make the list.” Tossing her braid over her shoulder in a far more assured flick of her normal behavior, Alys could not believe that Danelle would loiter about this palace as she had. “Your hospitality is something of a legend, Lady Dyanna. If you have ever need to call on me, I merely hope I can have the opportunity to show you some of the same.” A small thing, she thought, but Alys had to admit she did like the woman greatly. Respected her even, a rare feat amongst the noble houses. Gesturing to Ryon, she patted his cheek brazenly as she swept out the door again. “Come along, Ser, and fear not. I’m skilled enough with my own knife that you won’t have a need to worry about having to use that oversized cleaver. As if you could even draw it in this press!” Her tone was a mocking smile as she teased the Sword of Morning.

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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by LadyRunic
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LadyRunic The Laughing Raven

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Domeric Redwyne | Manfryd Lothston

-Around the time of Elayne becoming lost-

The morning was bright and early, the sort that spoke well of the weather for those that attended the tournament in Summerhall. It could have been raining or snowing and the mood of perpetual grimness surrounded the Lord of Harrenhal. Dressed in somber black with trim of gold and white, his vest was of plain leather and boasted the bat of House Lothston as he crossed the tournament grounds. Two guards with him, not as any real measure of protection the Lord would agree, but more as to give them something to do aside from the drinking and flirting with pretty maids that would certainly be out of their reach. Stopping as he walked through the tournament ground, he spoke to several lords and their sons, though the tones were often tense. It was well known that Manfryd had no love for the King and Princes of House Targaryen and were it not for the fact he had two daughters to wed it was known he would not have attended even if the invitation as proved an insult.

There were the Freys who drank a cup with him and spoke in agreeing tones about trade. The Moontons, the Paeges- to whom Manfryd had no love but they held lands near his own and the Lord of Harrenhal was determined to make his social rounds as duty bound him-, and many other Riverlords. Some had sons aplenty, others had sons spoken for, yet he breached the topic and found most were regretful that they would not marry a son to Danelle that would take the Lothston name. There was scorn in some voices, others showed sympathy, and still, others offered sons and daughters and discussed the Realm and the various potentials of the Targaryen Princes.

Finally, he came to the House in truly wished to speak to and paused as one of their manservants rushed by. Waving over the loitering man, he spoke with sharp words and a passed groat. “See to it that Lord Gorlois Redwyne is notified that I wish a word with him, or his brother Ser Domeric is notified Hop to it, man.” He had written letters of commiseration to the House before about the ire of the Targaryen’s missteps, and the possibility of marriage between their houses, both rich for their own reasons. Gesturing to his guards, he left them to roam like faithful hounds as he sparked a conversation with a large and brutish-looking Hedge Knight he recalled from his years past when he did joust. Ser Hamil was a large man whose hair had gone and an angry scar gave what remained of his nose a snoutish look. Topics turned to banditry and the tournaments and travels of the knight.

The man had looked at him with some internal conflict, before shaking it off and finding his lord, it was after all not for him to question such things.
It only took a minute or two for Lord Domeric and his Lady to appear. They had been enjoying a courtly stroll together as ‘the children were handling themselves and had been given orders. Honora would see to it that they were obeyed.
The woman was part bloodhound after all.
As they approached Lord Manfryd they halted and offered him a welcoming smile.
Lady Cyra Peake bent low in her courtesy offering the man a little warmer welcome than he would be used to.
“Tis a good thing to see the bat of Lothstone amongst all these Northern knights.” She offered. “I almost believed I truly was up above in the Neck at this point.” She started with a gentle laugh.
“I assume you will want something to drink? What pray tell, may I fetch you?”
Domeric himself was a taller man, slightly portly as the years and the wine had settled well, particularly a bit around the stomach, but such was the case with age and prosperity.
His dark hair had started to show some graying and his darker blue eyes were fixed on Manfryd’s as they attempted to read the man’s expression.
Nevertheless the man offered him an equal warm smile through the well maintained black beard that was gracing his face. His nose bore a scar, a memento of a skirmish with some pirates some 20 years ago, a particularly nasty event that also cost him one of his eyes. Whilst the damage was not so horrible that it left a great deal of scarring, the eye had been ruined. So he wore an eyepatch to cover up the replacement he had put inside of it, leaving many to wonder what exactly was behind it.
Some spoke of a crystal eye, capable of seeing the future. Others swore it was similar to that of a black candle, so black that it would swallow all the light and offer the man his sight back.
Domeric never unveiled it, so it was and remained a mystery and he himself enjoyed it being that way immensely.
The coat he wore was stitched with silk and gilded thread and the cufflinks were little trusses of grapes and the padded silken shirt beneath it showed off their wealth with its cleverness of the stitches and embroidery as well as the material that was used.
Cutting to the chase he turned to Lord Manfryd and spoke in a more serious tone.
“I doubt he came here for leisure Cyra…I believe he came here for business. Is it not so, my Lord?”

Manfryd gave a bow and a small smile at the woman. While he would grumble and grouch, the man was not without manners. “The bat of Harrenhal indeed. I come for business, thought your offer of wine is generous and I would hardly refuse a woman her will.” There was a reason that Calera had accepted him as her husband and though time may have embittered him, Manfryd could not help but try to give Cyra Peake the courtesy he saw due to her. Privately he wished he had kept to Domeric’s aging and not his own balding head, he knew his age hung about him as his frame seemed in decline but the spirit was strong and he would see Harrenhal kept as it should be. A lordship of note and worth in the control of House Lothston. Turning his cold blue eyes on the Ser Knight, he gave a firmer tone that spoke of business. “Shall we move this talk to more shaded quarters, we are not the youth to let the sun stew us in silk and armor alike.” He also did not want to speak so openly that others might take up an interest.

Domeric laughed and nodded as he patted Manfryd on his shoulder.
“Come, I’ll see us both seated. This year’s Tournament is proving to be a rather good and profitable year. As all Gods know, when bounty is a-plenty one must return the favor. The Gods will otherwise take their share and usually are far less cordial then.”
He led him to the Feasting hall, but helped him up towards the Redwyne’s own table as he instructed his own household guard. “Keep a clear eye on trouble makers and allow us to have our business in private. Anything that cannot wait you will call upon the lady Cyra, she’ll keep the peace for now.”
With but the shortest of nods in accordance, he gestured for Mandryd to sit himself down at the well dressed table. Food was always present or refreshed for those who desired to eat and goblets stood there ready to be filled with whatever their guests desired.
“Anything you fancy, Lord Manfryd?” He asked.

“The red wind of the Arbor. Your drinks hardly lack.” He stated what to him was bland truth and sat easily when Domeric did so, not wanting to be too presumptuous so soon. Glancing about the tent with a smile that was tired, if not easy, he swirled the goblet and watched the guards keep a discrete ring about the noblemen. “Far finer than Dornish swill, I need not worry about choking on poison or sand.” Giving a shrewd look to the Reachman, he decided to cut to the chase, they could talk more of politics later. For what he spoke of did not change his footing there. “I have two daughters, you have two sons Ser Domeric. If we cannot find an acceptable match between the two,” The thin man shrugged his shoulders in dismissal. “I might have to see if your brother will be agreeable to giving one of his daughters for my wife.” Considering the wine, he looked across the pavilion and gave an almost sad smile. “I had one once before, taking another would not fill that void, yet no woman would find Harranhal a horror.” The man for all his snarls and sour nature dearly missed his first wife and something had snapped in him to reform into anger over everything else.

Domeric poured him from the decanter Lady Cyra had brought them, catching Domeric’s eyes for a moment before stating.
“If you have need of me, you need but call for me, Husband.
Domeric smiled before waving her off.
“Go on, I know you’ve been eyeing that Lannister goldsmith ever since we passed them, buy the bloody things.” He said before adding. “Just, keep in mind to tell Honora to keep watch.” Knowing the glint in his wife’s eyes all too well.
As he watched her leave with a smile spread from ear to ear, he took hold of his goblet and toasted.
“Let us drink to good business and taste.” He offered allowing the red liquid to please and soothe his worries.
“Aside from the fact that the bat has always been a well respected sigil, your own visits to Tournaments have been rather rare have they not?” He asked. “Or perhaps our paths hardly ever crossed during those times…Whom would you aim for if you were a betting man?” Domeric asked as he swirled the wine in his goblet.
He eyed him more seriously this time.
“I doubt few houses would honor the bat and offer it its due respect. Perhaps it is fear that drives them or simply because they’d rather not part with sons or daughters.” He gazed about the room.
“You sent out a letter I believe to my brother. Whilst I have heard him about the desires regarding his House I did not hear him mention your name amongst them.” He told him matter of factly.
“You’re in a bind, my lord. You have no sons to carry your line and with your own age increasing I doubt few Lords would offer up their daughter for fear of what the lowborn call: the curse.” He told him as he took another sip from his goblet.
He allowed the silence to speak for itself.
To ponder and consider his next move for a moment longer.
“I would offer you my sympathy as well if I did not see the opportunity that lay within.”

“I have seen time better off tending to my land.” The man said stiffly, “Tournaments are for those who care for such foolishness as to risk their necks getting broken. I rode the lists in my youth and with no son to take my place, I saw little reason to join them again.” Leaning back in the chair, he drank deeply of the wine and forced himself to relax. Ser Domeric’s words struck close to the heart of the matter and Manfryd waited patiently. “It does seem that even the Highborn find themselves fearing nonsense, the only ghost that haunts Harrenhal is that of Jeyne. I was gracious enough to allow her a place to stay after her husband’s children turn her out when the Stranger took him.” It irked that Gorlois did not see him fit for even consideration, but Manfryd held firm against the insult.

“A bind? If I wished to relieve it, I would take another commoner for a wife.” He pointed out with a bored expression. “They are plenty enough and a young woman would be eager to be spared working the fields. That is no guarantee of a son to carry my line, however.” He would give some ground to gain a husband for Danelle, though it made his pride quiver in outrage. “Though the lad who married the heir to Harrenhal and took the Lothston name would find himself a man with rich lands and a wife well interested in tending them properly. For all my daughter has her eccentricities, she is capable and is familiar with the land and would not begrudge a husband free reign with his own amusements.” That he was certain of. Danelle would care less about the man so long as they upheld the Lothston name. “Let us cut to the chase, Ser. You have two sons who are not like to inherit. What is your price? Gold? Land? I will be loathed to part with the latter. Harrenhal is vast and needs that vastness.” He arched a brow. “Or would you seek to marry a son to Elayne? I would not be discouraged by that notion if it was your younger son.”

Domeric waved his hand in a gesture of appeasement.
“You mistake my meaning. I meant I had expected you sooner, where Gorlois children were concerned. At present I doubt his daughters would please you and his sons whether they were paired up or not, would have done for your children.
As all good gardeners know, a good wine needs more than just water and sun.” Domeric turned to him more as his features turned serious. Gone was the jovial smile, sharp was the glint that came from the blue eye as he placed one leg over the other leaning forward a bit.
“As you stated I have two sons. You need one to carry your name. Whilst we both know Harrenhal is vast, it is also capable of crushing families with its expenses. We both know this, so why not seek to provide ourselves with a better outcome of the matter. I’ll be frank and you’re not deaf either. The rumors regarding your daughter have made it difficult for you, you cannot deny that Manfryd.” He spoke father to father.
“I’d happily give you one of my sons if I knew that it would be a union that would bear some fruit. If only to offer you some solace from this.” He held up his goblet.
“My sons need not inherit, I did not inherit either and yet we have not suffered for it. I married upon my brother’s command and learned to live with my lady wife, finding her agreeable and capable to live and bear children with. Who is to say this could not be true for your daughter and my son. Provided they agree to it.” He stated refilling their cups and explaining his thoughts to Manfryd.
“Poorly made marriages never last, when lovelessness grows into disgust all you will reap is more sorrow. If the girl agrees to the match, I’ll see to it my son will take up your mantle. To ensure we sow a good field. Half of your castle cannot be manned or used, I’d say it should be repurposed for the wealth of your line. An orchard perhaps. With its more central location it could even be used as a retreat from the world. Alas my business mind is thinking ahead…pray tell me one more thing. Why would you rather have my younger son for your daughter Elayne?”

“Harrenhal will stand, there are plans already in the works and repairs being made.” Manfryd sighed, crossing one leg over the other. “As lovely as an orchard would be, we have several around Harrentown. I would not be averse to expanding the industry or adding new to it.” Studying the knight the man gave a chuckle. “As for not coming sooner. Elayne was hardly a girl and too young for me to allow her to marry or even be betrothed, I had held out some hope to find a wife myself.” Shrugging as if it mattered little to him, the Lord continued. “Poorly made marriages, I had one myself. Danelle will doubtless find your elder lad well enough,” And she would if the girl knew what was good for her. “Tell me though Domeric, if your wife perished bringing a young daughter like Elayne into the world, would not see her set with the best match you could? She needs a husband who can keep harm from her. Not one with ambition and with a secure seat to properly provide for her.” He shook his head and gave the man what could almost be called an apologetic look if there wasn’t pride in his eyes for the youngest of his children. “Elayne will go to someone who is worthy of her.”

Taking another drink from the wine, Manfryd decided to steer the topic away from ‘an agreeable match’ and see what could sweeten Domeric to the idea. “As for turning Harrenhal into a resort…” That brought a bark of laughter from the man. “Every war that crossed the realm has found a battle at Harrenhal that I can recall. From the Conquest to the Dance. Dorne never came so far North, but can you say we also did not see fighting on our shores around the God’s Eye from skirmishes as well? I have allies I can call for aid, married into that aid to secure it, and with reason. Perhaps I am being over cautious but Harrenhal has never been a Summerhall.”

Domeric smiled upon hearing Manfryd bark with some laughter.
“It is good to see you smile and laugh, Lord Manfryd. I confess Harrenhall is hardly anything like Summerhall, but as you said it had seen its fair share of conflict. With its location and size, where better to camp, where better to supply those doing battle.” He eyed the room.
“With all this excitement and happiness one would almost forget the potential troubles that stir in the air. If you pay close enough attention then you can smell it, like you can smell rain coming.
It's good that Harrenhal is speeding up its repairs, though I would do more than that. For if my hunch is correct we’ll have Dragons stirring again.” He told him before sipping from his goblet.
“I can understand why you’re protective. I would be as well if I had had any daughters. I know Gorlois has his favorites, but above all I know that the twins would have hardly done for you. They’re…our own little issue to deal with, I would not risk offending you with one of them. Regardless, I am certain we will find an agreement regarding one of your daughters.”

"I must admit that our harvest these last few years have been more fruitful than I have let on. It is wise to hold back some stores against possible disaster." Though a thin smile crossed the man's face. I do believe that one of them would do well if placed down south. I hear the family ties of the Reachmen are strong. Why not let one’s seed fly wide so your roots may run deep?" There was a level of suggestion in his voice and his posture was too relaxed to insult as he suggested that Gorlois marry his twins to Dornishmen. From what he had heard, the whispers, the girls would do well there and could easily send news back in letters to their father. "There is an old village on the West Bank that has suffered some from recent years. Perhaps your son would take up a winery in it. Though, your knowledge on such things exceeds my own." He admitted and cocked his head in consideration. "Shall I bring my daughters by tonight? For them to meet your sons?"

“I fear the Dornishmen hold little love for our wine or our family.” Domeric laughed before giving him a curt nod. “The day they do I will praise the Seven and stop drinking.” He vowed. “But I expect they’d cause some scandal and be known as the Arbor Reds that ruin men and salt their fields.” He said in amusement, before agreeing.
“You may bring them. I shall ensure my sons are here to greet them. What will come of it, we will have to wait and see, but I am certain we can press upon them the importance of meetings such as these, can we not?” He asked.
He raised his goblet once more. “To the future…” He offered.

“I am certain we can.” And he would, even if he had to drive Danelle to the septon for the marriage by the threat of disinheriting the girl. Raising the goblet, he suspected that this would be agreeable to his eldest daughter. Domeric’s son would be allowed his vices, the alliance between houses would be beneficial and Danelle would be wed off. A good thing all around. Perhaps this tournament would be of some benefit. “To the future.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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Dorne, The Water Gardens

Some Time Earlier

“I hope my presence does not offend you, Prince.” The sun beat down endlessly on Ser Gwayne Corbray of the Kingsguard, thankful both for the reflective white of his cloak and the intermittent shade cast by the blood orange trees lining the pathway he walked with the Prince of Dorne. The Martell had little and less difficulty with the scorching Sun, but Gwayne could hardly believe that it was still far from the zenith of Summer. He already understood how much a relief the construction of the Water Gardens would have been for the Northern ladies sent to accompany the Princess, and appreciated the gesture from their host in their stead. "The King means no offence to your own household in sending me to accompany the Princess on her Northern journey."

"Of course not, Ser, I well understand the traditions of the Crown and their importance, just as King Daeron has shown respect to us, so we shall in turn." Maron Martell's bearing did not possess a heroic charisma, but even Gwayne felt the coercive honey of his tone, a subtle performance next to the grand standing so common among the great and good of the North, but no less effective. "And if I may say, Ser, even here in Dorne we have heard of the nobility and skill of Ser Gwayne Corbray, it will do me no disservice to think such a blade protects my lady wife. Even in peace the roads can be dangerous." In truth, it was not the roads that made Daeron fear for the safety of his sister, but the destination. The great unspoken truth was that the peace of the realm was fraying, and gatherings such as the tourney of Summerhall were ideal ground for those last threads to finally snap.

"I shall make sure your faith is not ill placed, Prince, shall any of your children be joining her highness?" Over the near two decades of Daenerys marriage to Maron, they had already been blessed with three children, two of whom were of age to manage such a journey without too much additional observation. It was unusual that a Princess of the Targaryen dynasty would have grown children not yet introduced to the wider court, yet that was far from the most unusual aspect of this particular marriage.

"If you can find Saeria, I imagine she will do so. I do not know if she recalls any of King's Landing but it is rare she does not desire an opportunity for adventure, the only risk is she has found a more tempting one already." Maron laughed shortly, a warm personable turn of affection for the eldest of the three Royal children, whatever her wild character. "The others will remain here, perhaps I shall be able to pry them away from their mother's lagoons for half a moment to discuss the matters of the land they may one day rule." Maron did not speak of the true reason the Martell family was not travelling in full, that the vultures of Yronwood and Dayne circled as closely as those of Blackfyre did further North. Daenerys was a prize protected by both realms, the Martells themselves could rely only on Sunspear to shield them.

"I recall your daughter, your highness, I am sure the trip will be more eventful for her presence." While Corbray's tone never shifted from the respectful, it was enough of a jest to bring another laugh from Maron, and amused mumble of a "Perhaps," of agreement. As the pair moved, the sound of gently running water became louder, and soon the narrow walkways through the Blood Orange trees gave way to a courtyard, one of the great spaces which houses the various pools of the water gardens. Flowing plants and drooping leaves surrounded the space, casting great shadows over the high walled yet open space, fed by the same channeled streams of water which created the great central pool of freshwater. Thanks to the kind spirit of the Princess, much of the water gardens were open to children of any standing, but here was one of the spaces the Martell family controlled more restrictively. A space to find solace from the heat of both Dorne and the Dornish.

Enough of the Sun still reached through the awning cover of palm leaves to send the water sparkling, golden pinpricks of light atop the slight crests of water. It was almost enough to disguise the slightly different shimmer of spun-gold that crested gently through the water. A flush of light that might have remained a mystery were it not to begin steadily rising from the water.

When Daenerys Targaryen had been at court, the young woman had already been known as one of beauty. Minstrels had likened her to Rhaenys reborn, and while that was quite a common claim among those seeking to earn the favour of a High Valyrian lady fond of her looks, for once there was little dispute as to them being right. Even younger, she had born a striking resemblance to the paintings and tapestries that adorned portions of the Red Keep and now, a woman grown, it was only more obvious. Despite the shade within the Water Garden, years within Dorne had clearly touched her, the naturally pale Valyrian skin turned to a tone closer to bronze. Most distressingly to the Kingsguard Knight, the swimming Princess was entirely naked.

With a quiet exhalation of concern, the famously chivalric knight turned his eyes to the ground, although his words managed to not waiver as he spoke. “Your Highness.” Daenerys smiled warmly, not that the Knight could see, as her bare feet padded over the gentle bank and onto the pavestones to draw closer to her husband, greeting him with a kiss to the cheek.

“You see, Ser, you should tell your Daemon Blackfyre that he need not hate me, if he still convets the sight of my lady wife’s breasts, he is welcome to join us here in Dorne.” Maron grinned, even through the Princesses’ light slap to his chest in reproach. “Although he may find them larger than he remembers.”

“Maron, you are being awful, such a terrible impression you are making on Ser Cobray, he will think you as wanton as they all say about Dorne.” Daenerys tone was stern, even if her eyes glimmered with reluctant amusement.

“I do not think it is anything I say that is causing his sudden shyness, My lady.” Maron’s words caused Daenerys to stop for a moment, a flash of confusion on her features, before she let out an amused laugh.

“Oh…of course, I am sorry Ser, I have been too long in Dorne, and it does become terribly hot…I may require your cloak, if you are to not to spend the walk back to the chambers glaring at the ground.” While her tone had been teasing with her husband, the Royal Princesses’ voice flowed easily into the soft authority she had wielded so well at court, already her hand extended to accept it without confirmation he would proceed. As it happened, Ser Corbray, ever vigilant and dutiful, was already removing the white cloak, handing it over for the Princess to drape around herself, to which he finally met her now apologetic smile. “Good, now, let us get in from this heat, although if you had expected to find Saeria I can only offer you both disappointment, I am quite certain she has flown away for some time, you shall have to do with me alone.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Vanq
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Vanq The Chaos Ladder

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A Lover's Quarrel

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Power was as much posturing as it was abstract. One could not hold it, yet one must be seen wielding it. Tourneys, such as Maekar now organised, came close to that, Brynden Rivers knew. An event as high profile as that required his attention, personal touch. There were strings to be pulled, leashes to be tightened, and collars to be fixed. And thus, the red-eyed white dragon had alighted on Summerhall accompanied by a score of his Raven’s Teeth. They had hung back as part of Prince Baelor Breakspear’s suite, letting King Daeron’s heir and Hand soak in the plaudits and praises of the people. A star-studded assembly the tourney was – with celebrities and infamous rogues alike attending. And none were more infamous than Bloodraven.

Daemon and Aegor were built like true warriors, but Brynden was gaunt. Not that he had to be ashamed of his prowess as a swordsman, the fruit of his stubbornness not to be outdone. None could shoot as well as him. Instead of his brawn he had grown up relying on his wits and cunning, and had sharpened his mind so it had a murderous edge. Though he had spent his life working not to be put in the shadows, it was where he thrived. He even dressed in the colours of smoke and coal, forever watching with his crimson eyes. Already his half-brother the King and his Small Council depended on his particular skillset to remain informed. Things were going his way, were it not for the disappearance of his most beloved. None of his watchful ravens had reported on her whereabouts, though Bloodraven had his suspicions as to where she had gone. Thus, over the weeks his mood had grown as dark as reputation.

Black-clad, with the weirwood longbow unstrung across his back, one of his guard brought him news dreadful and cold as midwinter. Brynden had remained seated behind the desk in the room provided him, begrudgingly, by his royal cousin. There were no expletives or curses vile enough to fathom his anger and regret. Yes, Shiera was not the most loyal of lovers, nor was he especially possessive. Aware of her straying, and mindful of his own jealousy, Bloodraven had worked hard at developing a way to allow her her liberties and make peace with it. Being envious, let alone displaying it, only encouraged her appetites. But this? This was no straying, no fad, no craving. This was betrayal and an insult. He spent agonising moments, which seemed to stretch out like prisoners on the rack, pondering her motivations. Why would she do this to him? In Bracken livery no less… Did she understand nothing? There were better ways of asking for attention. Had she finally taken leave of her senses? I ought to have never indulged her interests into the arcane and occult.

“Fine,” he grated out with all the feeling of a millstone. His red eyes rested on covered cage. Slowly, Bloodraven stood up from the high-backed chair and made his way over to it, his guardsman staying put in the doorway. He knew better than to leave without dismissal. “She is not the only one capable of employing symbolism.” Pulling back the cloth revealed a tall construction of mahogany and ivory, and silver bars. Colourful shades flitted inside, like bursts of dye, and erupted into song. Deft movements of practiced hands unlocked the little door as Brynden uttered soothing noises. Ever so gently, he wrapped his long fingers around one of the fine-feathered creatures. There were two of them: one red and white speckled with black, the other blue and green. They represented everything Shiera loved about the Summer Islands, whence they hailed. There, they were used to harvest feathers for those famous cloaks, or erotic ceremonies which so captured his lover’s imagination. Bloodraven squeezed, and the red and white little bird popped and cracked, then dropped lifeless to the bottom of the cage. The other one, the survivor, let out a plaintive and sorrowful flurry of notes. When Brynden had removed his hand from the birdcage, it flew down to hop around the crushed corpse. The captain of the swan ship Brynden had acquired them from had told him they mated for life. “Gift this to My Lady Seastar and tell her to set the living one free.”

By the time the Raven’s Tooth had collected the cage, Brynden was already sat behind the desk again, going through reports about happenings in Sunspear and the Planky Town. “Oh,” he said, just before the longbowman shut the door, “and find the oldest most decrepit stallion to carry it. Make sure to wish joy of it. She shall be easy to find, soldier. Simply follow the smell of horse shit.”

Shiera was alone in the tent, or near enough to being alone. Aegor, much as he had since they arrived, was at their brother's beck and call. She knew to not expect him until well after she would crawl into their bed, alone. She would surely wake to him already gone again. This had not been what she had planned when she first went to Stone Hedge. She had thought to travel with Aegor, yes, but she had planned to leave his side immediately. She had expected to be received differently.

Arriving with Aegor, in his family’s sigil, she had felt the eyes on her - eyes who recognized her on sight or by rumor. There had been desire from men who thought themselves worthy of her for a night, judgment from men and women alike, hatred and distrust. She had been at court long to know how others viewed her, or at least she had known it when she had been by Brynden’s side. This was markedly different. With great disappointment she was again forced to face the truth that her value was dependent on whose bed she claimed.

Yet it was not the return to solitude nor depressing truths that overwhelmed her now. Pathetic cries had filled the tent for the past hour. Her gift from Brynden. Shiera stood in front of the cage, arms folded across her chest, her gaze flickering between anger and despair. This was not what she had anticipated. Her poor little bird flung itself against the cage, its song full of sorrow for its dead mate. She had avoided looking at the crumpled body, yet her eyes could not help but dart towards before she again turned her head away. A cruel fate, and yet it was Brynden's bird that lay dead while hers cried for its passing. How much easier it would have been to fully turn on her love had it been hers that lay unmoving on the bottom of the cage.

Had she wounded him so much? Did he think his own pain would hurt her, as if hers hurt him? She hugged herself, uncertain of her own response. Part of her desired nothing but to take to Summerhall immediately, throw herself before him in an act of absolution, beg to feel his suffocating embrace again. Perhaps she would even promise to never leave him again, to make herself his wife at last. But she stood unmoving instead, the bird’s cries dimmed from exhaustion. She recalled telling Brynden of the first time Aegor had stated his desire for her. It is only his jealousy that desires you. She had believed it at the time, had rejected Aegor cruelly. Yet their journey together, born of her own despair, had shown a glimmer of more. Had that been an outright lie, or had Brynden been blinded by his own hatred? It clouded her mind with uncertainty.

They hated each other equally, perhaps the only thing they could both agree on other than a love for her. Could they not learn to accept the other for that alone? Foolish thoughts, she chided herself. It was an impossible situation and yet, she realized with panic rising in her throat, the first time she had recognized what was always there. She would have both or she would have neither. Perhaps it would be better to abandon them both before fate forced her hand, for they would never choose to set aside hatred over love.

The tent was suddenly silent, the din outside as if it was miles away. Her ears rang with the sound of blood rushing through her veins, she gasped for a breath, her fingers dug into her arms seeking a steadiness she did not have. Her mismatched eyes darted back to the cage, the silence was complete. Her little bird had given all it had and joined its mate; two lifeless forms huddled in death.

Their hatred was greater than their love.

At last her resolve broke and she fell to her knees, her hands steadied her for a moment before she had no choice but to cup her face behind them as tears welled up and spilled over. Her shoulders shook with each despairing sob that wracked her body. She had not intended to need them both, Brynden had been her world, though one she had needed to stray from. How long had she avoided Aegor? Perhaps she had always known it was a line once crossed she could never return from again.

She knew, in the end, she would have to abandon both of them. She felt hollow at the thought. Though it was the only course left for her, in a moment of pure denial, Shiera dried her tears. Perhaps after the tourney she could flee to Lys. Maybe she would be wrong and they would join her. Maybe she was wrong about herself and she did not need them both. It was tenuous hope, but it was hope. She could confront the truth again, when all of this was over.

Jeyne had entered to find Shiera still on the ground, staring emptily at the quiet cage. Before the maid could ask any questions, her lady was ready with instructions. "Burn the birds and have the cage returned empty to Summerhall. Have a message delivered with it. One could not live without the other." She was not sure what he would make of it, but she hoped she was wrong about her own fate.

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by LadyRunic
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LadyRunic The Laughing Raven

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The dawn light trickled through the cracks in the shutters that kept the night out and the noise of the waking sprawl of village houses, and the man looked sadly down at the woman who lay staring up at him. Rosy was as beautiful as she had ever been when he returned after his mother’s death. Her face was speckled with freckles and her hair cascaded down her in dark waves that matched her dark eyes. A raven of his own heart, but the knife twisted as she smiled that sad smile up at the young knight. The Young Steward heard her smile and laugh as she had called him that when she hailed his return from Raventree Hall. A return from the seat of his family, Robert wanted to sigh. It should not have been like that, had he his way Rosy would have been crying her joy from the airy solar. The golden light from the glass dappled her dressed in silks and delicate furs to protect her from the winter chill.

A slim hand, roughened from work, caressed his cheek and the stubble that formed a small beard. “Don’t, Robert.” The voice was soft and firm, if he had not known better he would not suspect Rosy of pleading softly with him to leave the question unasked. His eyes shut as he leaned down and press his face into the woman’s shoulder, letting his lover hold him as he felt the pang of rejection cut through him again.

“Will you never admit what we both know?” He whispered, knowing his agony was shared by her. That it was inflicted by her. That she would never agree for her reasons. Reasons he had no wish to pry from her, the one time he had she had wept and refused to see him for nearly half a year. Oh, how he had felt like such a monster for inflicting that upon her! “Rosy-”

Her fingers pressed against his lips as she moved and pressed her forehead against his. “No, love.” Her eyes, dark as pools of night, were glistened with tears of stars Robert thought. “We love each other and we’ve had fine children. Yet, if we were to wed. Robert, I do not want a life of worry and fear for my children. I’ve seen your great games between houses.” She had never explained that and Robert had not asked. He knew she had seen some horrible things, heard worse perhaps. Never mind how he had protested that as a second son he would not likely inherit with Bennifer young and strong and his wife having given birth to a son. Yet there was a nagging thought in his mind. How simple life seemed and yet how easily could the Stranger pluck away the lives of those about him! Robert knew that he could be heir to Raventree Hall and called to make a marriageable alliance. Rosy knew it as well and did not want her children forced into marriages and used as pawns.

“They would not.” He didn’t add what they would not. The list was too great and to speak of the worries aloud would leave things between them that were best unspoken. Kissing her fingers, he wrapped his arms around her and knew she was right. Just as he knew that he would not press the matter with her. Roland had been furious when he had returned from being a ward of the Freys, a shield all new upon his arm, and himself in fury at finding his brother in the bed of a harlot with a gaggle of children that could only be his. By Roland’s morals the proper thing would have never bedded the woman at all, the next thing was to marry her despite her wishes. That Robert had done neither? It was an affront to his younger brother and it was blind luck that Bennifer had been riding through as well. Had he not? Blood would have been drawn that day. “I’m to go to the tournament at Summerhall. Let me take Gran as a squire, the boy is old enough to begin learning. Being a knight is an honest trade.” It would also allow him to keep the boy close as he grew and even arrange a proper marriage for the son he could not acknowledge.

“Robert.” He heard the refusal in her voice, the fear. “The Brackens will be there if the Blackwoods are and how simple would it be for them to start trouble with a bastard boy?” She was right and Robert pressed a kiss to her shoulder as he gave a small groan of protest. “Let Gran go to the maesters as you did. He is bookish enough and has learned to read. Let him go to them in another few years.”

It was true the eldest of his sons was a clever boy, but he was also tall and strong. It would be a waste as a maester, but Rosy wanted her son away from fighting and Robert could not precisely disagree with his lover. Knowing she would ask for his word, the man sighed and nodded. “I will, Rosy. My solemn word upon it, but fair lady? Give me your favor for when I joust?” There was a laugh as the woman twisted about to give him her favor. A sound that was sweeter than any bard he had heard.

“We will be fine,” Melissa leaned against the horse and smiled up at the giant of a man who cradled the small form of his infant son. As Benjicott was handed down to his great aunt, Bennifer gave a dubious look towards Raventreehall. The tall roof spreads its protective eaves over the family’s ancestral home. The poisoned weirwood tree, dead and roost to a host of ravens, reaching its white branches over the wall. It had stood for centuries and would stand for more, yet he still felt unease at leaving his wife and son to go off to Summerhall. His father had sent for his sister, a mother to three herself, to help make sure his son was assured that all would be well and Bennifer knew his presence was needed.


“If you say so, aunt.” His words were dubious as he turned back to his father, a looking being cast over the large knight’s shoulder as he gazed at the bundle that was Benjicot Blackwood. Melissa smiled in amusement. Soon the knights and their entourage were out of sight and the woman mounted the stairs up into Raventree hall. All would be well, of that she had no doubt.

The woman draped in a chair was dark of hair and tall stature, though still a head shorter than her husband. Olyria Blackwood, formerly a Frey, smiled at her caretaker and sighed as her robust son was returned to her arms, the needlework set aside. “He is a good husband. A better father to be so worried about so healthy a son.” The husky tone was soft as the woman sighed. “Though I do hope they will not run into trouble at the tournament.”

“They will, but they shall be able to deal with it.” Melissa pointed out reasonably and settled herself in another chair under the vaulted ceiling, the hearth before them crackling away in merriment. “Roger and Roland would be to the two to worry about.” The former lover of King Aegon IV admitted and pressed a finger to her lips. “Roger is expected but Roland’s…”

“He has a lance up his arse and frankly getting it dislodged would be a healthy outcome.” The tart reply from Olyria, but it was within reason. Roland had been a ward of her father and she well knew the man’s ramrod stiffness with the rules and his honor.

Pouring some of the wine into a goblet, Melissa watched her great-nephew play with his mother’s hair and smiled. “I would not put it so blandly, but true. Something which causes endless problems if he decides one way is right against another.”

“The old rumors?” The newborn’s mother sighed as she waved away the offer to refill her goblet with less than wine. “King Daeron, long may he reign, has done well bringing Dorne into the realm. Yet, I cannot fault that I too harbor some dismay that he may not be the King’s trueborn son, the trouble those mere thoughts- With Blackfyre granted to a bastard over the heir? Either way, I would rather not have another war to drive brother against brother setting my husband into danger.”

Melissa tilted her wine goblet and studied the gilded ravens about the cup’s rim. “You speak far too openly, but with the honesty of a wife and mother.” She admonished the wife of her nephew, though she could not fault the woman. She had seen the trouble brewing over the past twenty years and heard her father speak in muted tones of the great Dance of Dragons. The horror that had gripped the realm. Thankfully there were no dragons to score armies by the hundreds. The swords in hands of warriors did enough of that. Yet, she leaned back and sighed. “I do not fault you, Olyria, but do not speak of such things.” She warned the woman, her fingers stroking the fur of a doe Quentyn had gifted her.

The mother nodded and seemed lost over the marvel of her new babe. Taking a sip from the glass, Melissa stared into the low flames and considered the whispers she had heard. They would not do to speak of. Not unless she wished to lay trouble upon an already troubled mind. “Ah, Bennifer will be well. His only worry will be his own for you. A good marriage.”

“A match of necessity, not love. But he is a good man.” She agreed with a small, fond smile. “He worries more for the child I think. Five years married and this is our first, and a son.” Melissa was not so sure Bennifer felt the same, but there was no fighting the constructs of their noble rank. Love, lust, wealth, power, and all of it wrapped up to further the ends of those who said to jump. Some were good men, good women. They cared for the happiness of the people under them, not the overwhelming power they could grip. Happiness is so rare a thing. Contentment was more often found.

Melissa heard Olyria keep talking, now about the tournament and her regret about not going. It wasn’t possible of course, Olyria was still weak from childbirth, and traveling with a newborn was hardly a wise thing. The septa and maester would be having apoplexy over the mere thought had it been suggested so it had not been.

Her thoughts turned and as they did she looked through the years of her life and remembered Raventree Hall as it had been in her father's day. The tapestries lustrous and the place was full of laughter and delight. Calera had been as a sister then, eager to join Melissa in any adventure the two saw fit to embark on with Quentyn undoubtedly returning them to the good graces of her parents. Soft spring days of their life before the game of thrones had taken her up as a mistress to the king and before Calera's horrid first marriage. She felt some benefit that the man would not cause another woman the same worrying agony that had been inflicted on Calera and had been a worry of hers unto her final child.

Melissa kept her face a mask of polite interest, not wanting to spoil Olyria's mood or explain the troubles of their family. Troubles best left in the grave. Calera had always feared childbirth, or rather the pain and possible death that would come with it. Her marriage to Manfryd had been a good union and having twins seemed to have cured the woman of that fear, but Melissa could still recall that final letter from Calera, just weeks before her death, worrying that this time felt different. That she did not feel as ready for the child, though she was pleased and eager for a second son. Two daughters already had been born to their union and a second son would cement Manfryd's line with heir and spare. Melissa smiled sadly as she heard Benjicot laugh in delightful innocence. His hands tangled in his mother's gown as he played with the light that reflected off her jewelry.

Innocence. So pure and sweet and it never lasted long enough. Privately she turned the worrying matter of Manfryd Iverson in her mind. She had no love of the Lord of Harrenhal and the man was nothing but a brewing cauldron of trouble. No, what worried her were the two daughters of her childhood best friend. Danelle had become surrounded by rumors and cold and Melissa was worried that the cold fingers of Jeyne Lothston were pulling strings. She had known Jeyne from the woman’s time at court with her mother and had seen the flirting favor with which Aegon had set eyes upon her. Manfryd had his reasons to dislike the Targaryen King, though the Lord had taken it too far perhaps. Having to watch one's sister and mother become favored playthings of a king then be dismissed and find yourself mocked and out of favor? It was a bitter pill. Worse for Jeyne whoever had born the bulk of Manfryd's shame and had been pawned off.

Perhaps there would be luck, Quentyn had two sons who would take a wife gladly. Perhaps one would agree to marry Danelle or sweet Elayne. There was little hope Manfryd would find a son of a notable noble to take Danelle and the Lothston name, but perhaps a cousin with ties at court would suffice? Roland was as firm in doing the right thing as any other man. Perhaps he would not do for Danelle, but if she were to set up the betrothal in favor for Calera it would be to pair the third of Quentyn's sons to Elayne. A man to do the right thing would find a soft-spoken and gentle wife easy to live with. Roger and Danelle however would prove to be more of a… struggle. The boy was as arrogant and sure as any young knight and desperate to prove himself, not material she would put as the Lord of Harrenhal. Yet for Danelle to marry Roland? There was a match to make the North seem as warm as Dorne. Chuckling softly, she took the offered child as Olyria stood and slipped from the room to attend to her needs and crooned at the little lad.

There was always time to ponder but she would not play games except if she could forge some decent marriages for Calera's two surviving daughters.

Perhaps even three. She had her suspicions that Alysanne was not at the bottom of the God's Eye as many suspected or in some ghostly brew in Harrenhal. The girl had vanished all too cleanly. Too practiced, planned, and carefully enacted. She had heard little of the twins or Danelle before Calera's death but the woman always seemed to dote on them. After her death, all Melissa had heard had come from Quentyn in letters from Danelle and softer ones from Elayne. Each seeming to have a shadow over them, which could be expected from Calera's death and the disaster that was Manfryd's second marriage. Still, there was something not right about it and daughters did not just up and disappear from nobles houses.

A gurgle and horrible smell from Benjicot distracted her.

Bennifer sighed and leaned on the sword that was braced against the dirt of the practice ring. Practice, the big man, decided was something which was more amusing when you were being watched by my ladies, wed and unwed alike, and happily married. There was a certain lack of worry that one may wish to tarry into your father’s tent and suggest a betrothal you were not all that interested in while you were tarrying in the tent of another maid. That being said, according to his father, he was to be keeping Roger from doing just that. With more success than how Elayne’s situation was turning out.

A pang of guilt went through the knight at the thought of his younger cousin but he had heard of no lechery done by Prince Aelor, and it would be good for the tiny little flower to get out of the shadow of Harrenhal. Privately Bennifer did not know why his father bothered to hear Danelle out. The woman gave him chills along his spine, it was like walking through those haunted halls. Having paused by the castle when he had traveled into the Vale for other tournaments, Bennifer could not help but feel the smallfolk had some truth in the idea that those ruined halls were haunted.

“Will you stand around all day or fight!” The challenge rang across the practice field and Roger glared at his brother. Dark of eye and light of hair, Roger was drawing just as many stares though his form was less tall and leaner than Bennifer’s bulk. Taking the silence of Bennifer’s slow thought for an answer, the young knight charged and was knocked aside with ease as Bennifer swung his sword like a hammer to knock the shield aside and then sent a kick into his brother’s stomach.

Walking over to the gasping lad, the man rested his sword on a shoulder and smirked. “I will get around to it.” His voice was a deep and slow rumble as he offered a hand to the younger Blackwood.

Roger grasped it and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. Still wheezing. “You mean to take me from the lists lest you joust against me!” He accused his brother with some heat in his arrogant jest. The answer was a peal of deep belly laughter from the man that boomed like thunder.

“Your arrogance does you no favors.” That voice, the very definition of detachment, flickered through the practice ring the Blackwoods had taken and dispelled the laughter of their eldest brother. Roland was a beautiful singer and poet but he always left the words with a sense of longing. As though there was a great sadness or righteous fury that could only lead to doom. The youngest of the brother glared and would have whirled to challenge him had not Bennifer’s grip turned to iron.

Among other things, Bennifer had been chosen to keep the two from fighting. The big man sighed and gave Roger a disapproving look. “Why not go change and see what enjoyment can be found at the Redwyne tent? They are said to have brought a fair bit of drink.” The scroll on Roland’s fair and lean face gave truth to what the man thought of that. Bennifer always thought that Roland looked a fair bit like their grandfather Benjicot. His hair ranged between a dark blonde to black and framed a face set above a form that was lean and ready with sword and shield.

“You encourage him to drink and sin.” Pious is a good word for the boy. Bennifer felt his feet move and soon the two sons of Lord of Blackwood were circling each other like cats.

Shrugging his large shoulders, Bennifer knew he should end this soon so he could catch up with Roger before the boy got himself into trouble with the Redwyne daughters. Though a betrothal to that House would be as good as anything, he did not want it with a Redwyne with a bastard in her belly for Roger. A wife to tame him would do the lad good, but a child? That would drive Roger into taking the Black if they were lucky. To Essos if they were not! “We all drink, Roland. We all take our pleasures. Shall you go to Old Town and become a Septon?” He had thought their father might insist upon it when Roland had first returned with his shield, three white weirwood trees. Oddly enough when asked, Quentyn had said no. Bennifer had not understood why until his father had opened his eldest son’s eyes to the potential war that brewing. Wars brought death with them and there would be a desperate need for knights if things boiled over.

“Septons may speak from the book, but men fear a sword and will heed their betters through it.” Harsh words, though not untrue. “Lawless brigands are not brought to heel by the Book of the Seven.” The Blackwoods had kept the Old Gods and Bennifer felt a twinge of dislike at recalling that Roland had taken up worship of the Seven. There was no real reason for it, but it irked the large man that his brother could be so callous towards their family. Noting that Roland had lowered his weapons, the big man did the same and chuckled to break the tension.

“Not going to fight?”

“I’ve no need. We shall prove our skill later in this tournament.” Ah, so there was the ire. Roland did not enjoy his skill for show but to be of use. This tournament irked the man and Bennifer had overheard their father order Roland to participate. Shaking his head, the large Blackwood turned away and sheathed the sword at his waist. Giving a wink and a wave to a few ladies that were watching while he retreated to his own tent for a better tunic and then…

Then he was going to get wonderfully drunk while keeping Roger in line and out of bed with noble ladies.
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Food, Wine & Flirting: Part II

Serenei meanwhile had been rather bored, she hadn’t seen her twin for a while now, last she saw her she was talking to one of the Fangs. A wolf of the House Stark. Well, if that was up to her taste then who was she to deny Rowenna her fun. She on the other hand wanted a little more Southern pleasantries, as her eyes fell upon the hunched form of a Tyrell lad who had a couple of cups surrounding him, his aura oozing gloominess. Such things would not do.

She took a good look at her approach and made sure she timed her stumble just right, scooting up the bench and practically draping herself onto his lap with a suppressed giggle and laugh. "Oh dreadfully sorry." She laughed looking up at him as her head rested in his lap. "But I am glad you were there otherwise I might have bruised something or worse." She said breathing heavily for a moment, as she tried to catch her breath. "Thank the Seven for such a handsome rescuer." She teased in good nature, giving him a sly wink.

The Tyrell in question glanced down at his lap, gaze slowly drinking in the girl who had draped herself so gracefully atop him. He bore the expression of someone who had experienced such inconveniences before. He raised a dark eyebrow, even darker eyes passing over the striking red hair and pretty face. A Redwyne. They were not difficult to spot amongst a crowd and he appeared to have attracted one, despite his attempts otherwise. He could not help but ponder mirthlessly on whether such an encounter would please his sister and grandmother.

"I suppose I should feel blessed that you chose my lap to fall into." He replied nonchalantly, taking a long drink from his deep cup, idly pondering on the beauty of an arbor wine. "Though I have no desire to tell you to move. Will you stay here all night perhaps or did you have some other intention when you stumbled over here?" Garrett smirked, "I am determined to wait here idly and watch what you shall do."

Serenei grinned smiling as she took his cup from his hands gently. "I was actually eager to find a new partner to twirl with across the dancefloor. So pardon my eagerness to snatch a flower from his flowerbed. You cannot spend the entire evening languishing in our wine and yet never take a turn yourself. After all I was told you dance a volta rather well." She replied. "So if you would be so kind as to accompany me, I know one person, at least who would be most pleased. You would save me from an evening of brutes and other hungry eyes." She added in a conspiratorial whisper.

Garrett leant closer as she spoke, noting the feel of her soft breath against him, everything about her speaking of a simple ease and grace. A hand came to slide down her arm, gently caressing her smooth skin, moving as if to take her hand, to entwine their fingers together. His lips were close to her ear, her scent pleasant amidst the throngs of warm bodies surrounding them. "Such a tempting offer." He muttered, his words only just audible above the sounds of laughter and singing. "But..." He paused to smile down at her. "I'll pass." It was rude and haughty and mean. But Garrett did not care, for he had earlier seen something that had piqued his interest and he was unwilling to divert from this current preoccupation. With this thought in his mind, he nudged the Redwyne to her feet before finding his own. "I must say though. You old beggars do make a splendid wine." He smirked, before making his way through the crowd in a manner that only a Lord can.

Serenei's face fell as her smile disappeared. She stood quickly enough, letting the Lordling talk as he more or less pushed her to her feet. She eyed him icily, having a mind to pay the Lordling back in kind. The smile she gave him was as fake as could be before she watched him saunter off leaving her with nothing but a veiled insult. "Too bad we can’t drown you in it." She whispered, before her eyes scanned the crowd for a new target.

Deciding that her input verbally was not necessary Gwen watched as the couple, Nyla and Loreon, walked off. She caught Luci and Quinn already dancing but keeping an eye on her. The maids that the Aunties had brought were sitting with some men giggling and Gwen rolled her eyes knowing that her Aunties had brought those two because they wouldn't be a real deterrent. Roze and Tansy were not the best chaperones.

Looking back to Arystide who still had her hand Gwen raised an eyebrow a teasing twinkle in her lavender gray eyes. "Do all Southern men jump like frogs in the Neck whenever they think a lady is in trouble, or was there an underlying motive for you inserting yourself?" She gasped playfully, her free hand coming up only to partially cover, highlight really, her mouth. "Oh dear there was a motive. Something about a dance? I think I should be careful lest one of the many fair ladies I see gets jealous of the Northern girl occupying her Captain."

Pointedly looking at Arystide's hand still holding hers, Gwen smirked at him. "Dare I say, I shall have to add your name to the list of all the Northern boys whose hearts I have won." There was no such list, if there was, Gwen was unaware of it. Though Ashe's comment about breaking hearts seemed to have fallen too easily from his lips earlier. Perhaps there was a ring of truth in there somewhere but Gwen refused to really believe it. Had Mathias, Gryffith, Sasja or even Beylee said it then she'd believe it.

Gwen had decided that any interest in her was because she was so unusual with her bright hair and obviously Valyrian eyes. Odd. She was just odd that was all. Add in her height and she stood out. Her height and pale skin said Northern Lords. Her hair coloring said Riverlands with a touch of the Westerlands gold. But her eyes said Valyrian. Her family was distantly related to probably every kingdom, save for Dorne, somewhere down the line. A melting pot that had molded her physically.

Arystide laughed heartily at her accusations, amused with her wit. “My Lady, I fear I am too warm blooded to allow some conceited fool to insult any woman, regardless of their standing. When one travels between both worlds you tend to see the world more nuanced in terms of ‘worth’. Just because he attempted to veil his deceit in order to gain some more self worth by belittling others, does not mean he should be allowed to get away with such things." He easily plucked another cup from a tray, gaining a laugh and a smile from the serving girl at his antics.

“Here…if you will not dance with me, then drink." He offered. "And for the record you need not add me to your lists of conquests though perhaps should I go up to young Hightower and demand satisfaction or should I congratulate him for stealing such a fine Lady?" He asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. “Oh and my lady I have eyes and ears everywhere. If I find something of interest I tend to keep a close eye on it and you certainly are always a lovely sight for these eyes of mine. The heart however is another matter..." He spoke offering her some wisdom.

“Whilst I am a passionate man, I find that the love for one’s heart is deeper than most affections. It surpasses reason and reality. It causes oneself to submit themselves to the other, without thought. To jump into the deep unknown and face whatever odds, only for the other half of their being." He took her hand and kissed it again, longer this time, before eyeing her somewhat melancholy. "Answer me now truthfully…could you proclaim your heart was mine?" He eyed her seriously knowing that such a thing was impossible after so short a time.

"Why my Captain, you sound positively melancholy. If my heart was fully won then you'd find me boring and quite dull. I intend to take my time getting to know any suitor before I choose. After all, if I fell at your feet I'm sure I'd be unremarkable and utterly forgettable. And I would be heartbroken." Gwen shook her head. "I never said I didn't want to dance. I do have a purpose for coming back though. I do wish to speak with your sister."

Swatting Arystide on the arm, Gwen narrowed her eyes on him. "I'm not a prize to be won! Satisfaction indeed! Shall I ask you how many women you've kissed and judge you by the same stick? If your affections were so engaged why did you not say something humm?" She was worked up now. Her eyes snapped, her breathing quickened and she flushed a becoming rose pink.

Arystide smiled at her, warmly allowing her emotions to be outspoken, raising a quizzical eyebrow. "I could answer your demands, but would you truly want to know? Neither did I ever compare you to a prize. Such is for men that play in tourneys and care only for wealth or prestige." He told her.

“Also I would not allow you to fall at my feet, as a dress so pretty as yours need not be stained." He had allowed her to swat him, he was used to women expressing their anger or displeasure. Such was the way of jealousy and vibrant emotions. They needed an outlet and a punchbag.

“My lady, you are hardly forgettable or boring, all I am offering you against my better judgment is some wisdom not to sell your heart too lightly. Not even to me. Say what you will of my intentions, but at the least I have always made mine clear to those I took to bed. Much to the chagrin of their husbands to be." He told her honestly as he straightened a little.

“Yes I am a passionate man who enjoys the company of beautiful ladies such as yourself. I hardly consider that a crime, but none have yet ever attempted to capture the heart within the man, nor did they try. Can you confess otherwise?" He asked honestly.

Gwen looked at Arystide thoughtfully, pausing. "Firstly, my intentions are, as far as I know, the same as any other girl my age. Secondly, I have no intention of selling myself lightly. Thirdly, I truly wouldn't know how to capture a man's heart. Is it a crime to want romance, affection, love and friendship from the one you want to spend your days with?"

"You wouldn't know how to capture a man's heart?" The amusement was audible in his voice. He shook his head at her final words, taking a moment to take her small hand in his. "It is no crime, but in this harsh world such things are not always a given and rarer still with those of standing. It was not my intention to anger you my lady, the opposite in fact, but I fear I will have to contend myself with the fiery twinkle in your eyes instead of the radiant smile I hoped for, for my undesired rescue attempt."

He laid a hand gently against her cheek caressing it with the lightest touch. "May you stay ever vigilant my lady." He offered before adding. "My sister can be found in the back, I believe, should you still wish to converse with her." He told her before releasing her and bowing graciously. "I shall not taunt my lady with my presence any longer. Say the word and I'll take my leave." He said offering her a choice whether to remain or leave.

"You don't have to physically carry me to the pavilion you know! I am capable of walking." Ashton's voice was resigned and annoyed, almost like a parent who walked in on their child doing something they knew they shouldn't. His companions, the young Daynes of Starfall, simply chuckled and ensured that Ash was placed into a chair and given two large cups. With a sigh, the Hightower squire realized he was going to have to drink what was put in front of him. His Knight quite literally ordered it of him. As he moved to pick up his cup his eyes began to move about the room, catching glimpses of various sigils, and various servants all rushing about. Ash wasn't terribly good at the sigil game but he did recognize a good few. Lannister, and Redwyne at on- oh there was Gwen

Just looking at her took Ash's breath away and he coughed into his wine cup as he saw her speaking to a Redwyne who seemed quite dashing and sure of himself. Ash slowly looked down, trying desperately to not compare himself and instead took a long swallow of wine and nodded. Made more sense why people liked it so much.

Gwen muttered after Arystide made the comment about his rescue attempt. ”I can handle myself.” She blinked at Arystide,as he touched her cheek, confused at his comment. Tipping her head Gwen watched Arystide bow as she blushed.

Glancing around Gwen saw Ashton with his head hung. He’d seen her talking to Arystide from the melancholic look he had poured over his face. She wanted to cheer him up. Arystide had mentioned dancing earlier before he’d trotted out what sounded suspiciously like jealousy. Dancing couldn’t hurt, unless someone stepped on your toes. Maybe Ashton would ask. She loved to dance and would with anyone.

”Even if I knew the word I would not speak it. You’re welcome to keep me company at any time as is Hightower. I will not deny anyone the ability to come to know me nor I them. Otherwise how am I to make the best decision for my future?”

“Now I do need to talk to your sister but someone said something about dancing.”

Arystide crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at Gwen’s response, amused by the foolish attempt to appear grown up.
“How will you make the best decision? My Lady, that question would be answered differently by all. The more romantic would cry out to follow your heart, the wiser would advise caution and the opportunist would seek out the most advantageous match with the most to gain. If you expect me to push you towards potential competitors then I am sorry to say that I am not that noble or that generous.” He told her before adding. “If you wish to dance I will most happily offer myself as a dancing partner. Provided of course you wish to dance with me," He offered. “And did you wish to do this before or after you have talked to my sister?” He inquired.

Liquid courage was a funny phrase when one thought about it. Liquid giving anything other than sustenance didn't make a lot of logical sense, but, as Ashton finished his second full cup he would be lying if he wasn't feeling braver. Gwen was still talking to the Redwyne lad and seemed animated. His eyes had never left her and as his hands placed the mug down he took a deep breath inwards, and then out before standing, and making his way straight towards the duo. As he arrived Ashton gave a soft smile to Gwen and then a polite nod to Arystide. "Excuse me for interrupting but I was hoping to ask the stunning lady here to dance."

About to answer the question posed by Arystide, Gwen was stalled because she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Her eyebrows rose slightly as she realized he was headed toward Arystide and herself. She blinked and smiled slightly. She had thought she would have to approach him. The soft smile Ashton gave her was contagious.

As per normal with Gwen she could never fully contain any sort of happiness and she smiled broadly. "My cup runneth o'er'" was every sort of positive emotion that she had at any given moment. She'd never really had to deal with any truly negative emotions and apparently desire baffled her? Pushing that realization to the side to examine much later Gwen looked over her shoulder to see the "stunning lady".

"I see many stunning ladies, Ashton. Which one do you mean? You know, all stunning ladies love to dance." Trying not to grin lavender gray eyes sparkling with laughter. Keeping her eyes on Ashton the question that Arystide had asked was answered. "In answer to your question Arystide, before and after."

There came a rustle of wind, as the tent flap opened slightly standing in the opening was the form of a stocky, well built woman. Her hair pulled back in a tight bun, a frown crossed her face, arms folded across her as slowly stepped into the tent. A low, soft voice controlling its anger with the woman in question spoke up. “Gwendolyn Carmyne, I do believe we need to have a talk about heeding your elders...” Sylvara Stark, the wife of the Wolf Lord, a she-bear, known for the fact that she had fought side by side with her husband in brawls and battles. Bear island women were like that, as Sylvara put it they were all more woman than any southern born man could handle.

She stepped in at a jog behind and entered her two of the Wolves, Griffith Stark, one of the finest swordsmen the North had produced, glancing around the room he had come running over from training. His chest bare save for a vest loosely pulled over it, skin glistening, the two had been washing up after getting dirt kicked all over them. Mathias unfortunately hadn’t had time for even a vest or jacket, the more impressively muscled young man stood. Both had their practice swords, though Mathias’s more resembled a shaved down tree trunk for the size and weight of it were based off of Ice. Gryff’s choice in blade was a more reasonable bastard blade meant to pair with a shield or used alone. The pair are clearly unaware of the purpose of their visit, only being summoned by the matriarch to help ensure Gwen went back to their camp.

Sylvara goes to speak, once again when rolling in through the tent trying to stay ahead of the rather irate looking Wolf Lord himself is Ashe Stark, the infamous Knights Bane. “She’s just exploring a little... Hell I’m sure she didn’t mean to end up back here... Oh maybe someone talked her into I mean...” He turned only to see Gwen’s situation. “Gods dammit Gwen...” Came the sound from the shortest of the Starks presents though his arms gave away his strength as an archer, a sling at his side and his bow string hanging across him he’d clearly been at archery practice. He had quietly hoped to do well enough to give Raelith something... She had to be disappointed marrying into the least noble of the boys in the family.

Brandon didn’t say a word he stared into Gwen’s eyes a moment then raised a hand slowly waved for her to step towards him. The Wolves of the pack were here with one intention to bring back the wayward pup it seemed. Unlike Sylvara he wouldn’t degrade Gwen where others would hear it or humiliate her but she had to learn to mind the intention of the words, not the letter of the damn thing. Too many times she had done this and gotten away with it, she had to be reminded she was his ward not his daughter. No matter how much he treated her like his own she was not and she had to learn to respect the difference in it.

Gwen froze for a moment, her eyes flying wide at the voice of Auntie Syl. Momma Bear was pissed. She wondered if her Aunt would turn into a bear just like Ashe told her when she was eight. She did not want to see that, besides she’d be a small bite size to the massive bear that Auntie Syl would turn into. Turning around Gwen’s eyes went wide as she noticed how pissed her Aunt really was.

Looking at Gryff and his state of undress nearly made her eyes pop out of her head. Jerking her head away while turning crimson only to have them land on Mathias. “Good Gods…” Pulling her eyes away from the obscene amount of extremely attractive male flesh on display to see Ashe. Gwen’s hand flashed in quick sign. ‘What happened to clothes?! Are you insane? Why didn’t you warn me?’

Then Gwen caught Uncle Bran who held her gaze and motioned her to him. Stubborn temper flashed in her eyes and she straightened. She had reasons that she was there and neither of the men at her back were the reasons she had gone back. But now no one was going to listen to her because she’d been out of male sight for less than three quarters of an hour. She might not be a bear or a wolf but she was a swan. People underestimated how dangerous a swan could be. Just because they were pretty didn’t mean they were defenseless. “I’d be happy to talk at length about heeding my elders Aunt Syl as a matter of fact I was here to do just that along with my Aunt Luci and Aunt Quinn. My Uncle Tobias asked that we place a wager for him on the tournament.”

Luci and Quinn were close enough that they came up to the group. [color=#]“Hello Uncle Bran and Aunt Syl.”[/color] The women raised their eyebrows at their cousin's lack of dress. [color=#]“Looks like they feared for your honor niece. Must have pulled them from practice to storm in here.”[/color] Luci offered up.

Honora had been warned by one of the serving girls that a group had entered in a rather unusual manner and that she had seen Lord Arystide near them. Fearing the worst, Honora had quickly moved into the described direction, having no real trouble finding them. As she broke through the crowd and found the familiar redhead that was her brother, the scene that she stumbled into nearly made her turn around and run.

She angrily eyes Arystide and mouthed. “What did you do?”

Arystide however frowned back at her and snarked back. “I didn’t do anything THIS TIME.”

It cooled her ire somewhat as she gave Gryff a speculating look. The question was clear in her eyes. What on earth were they all doing here? Realizing she would not be getting any answers unless demanding them she thus straightened her spine and took up her mantle of duty once more. “Now, what is all this?" She demanded to know, pulling the attention away from the young woman, a Carmyne, she believed.

“Lord and Lady Stark to what do we owe….” her words trailed off realizing Mathias and Gryffith were bare chested, though the latter had at least attempted to find something to put on. She flushed bright red for a moment before attempting to find her tongue again. “...this particular pleasure?”

She made a courtesy to the both of them before stating. “Though next time if you please, when you visit us, I simply ask you to come ‘fully clothed’, we don’t have any clothing regulations as of yet as we believe they are simply unnecessary, but this should not be the norm, I hope?”

She watched Serenei practically do a mad dash towards the brick wall, that was Mathias Stark.
A groan escaped her lips, she felt another headache come up. “Now if there is any way I could be of assistance I would be most happy to help." She suggested as she stepped towards them placing herself in between the young girl and the Stark elders.

Meanwhile Serenei eyed poor Mathias like he was covered in diamonds. She fanned herself as she leaned against him. “Oof, is it hot in here? Or am I just lucky today? Hellooo, big boy. You look thirsty…how about we get ourselves a glass of red or two? And if I am not mistaken, this gorgeous body has been put to work..." She said as her hands touched the muscled stomach.
“But then you must be hungry too. I know where to get some proper food to satiate your appetite and perhaps afterwards, you can satiate mine." She said with a wolfish smile and a wink, quite ready to drag him off.

Honora hissed soft, but threateningly. “Serenei!"

That hardly impressed the twin, she quickly, teasingly licked her upper lip, before offering Honora another cheeky wink as her hungry eyes settled on the poor man again.

Ashton had only had time to affix Gwen with a smile and murmur, "if there are other stunning ladies they must be hiding behind the brilliance that I see when I look upon you." And then everything went Stark raving mad. For his part, Ashton simply remained quiet, standing respectfully near Gwen and offering small nods of hello to all the figures that had suddenly just assembled. And while internally his heart had suddenly begun a rapid military March, outwardly he did his best impression of his older brother when in court. Attempting to keep his face neutral and only give bits away. He paid close attention to everyone and applied names to the things he had heard about them and took away what observations he could on their own reactions. In all reality, he was beginning to see a lot of similarities to court and the art of the blade.

Sylvara answered before husband, staring daggers at Gwen. "Gwen... You could have asked or perhaps let us know. After one incident already, you are smart enough to know better if you had legitimate business. No, you're here to circumvent rules as usual and claim innocence." The woman from Bear Island knew Gwen's particular brands of half truths well. "Now, wanna try again or shall we continue Ashe's little game you are so fond of?"

Brandon meanwhile pinched the bridge of his nose. His headache was returning, a nap had not done anything, the headache was still there, it had a name now, Gwendolyn. "Gwen. Please, I am not in the mood for you and Ashe's games please." He was mad but he had a hundred other things to do. This was not where he should be right now. "Humor me, for a change of pace please." His wife's anger and his own growing exhaustion were seen easily.

Gryff for his part did his best to avoid looking at Honora; he wore a light blush, his fingers dancing along the hilt of the practice blade. Of course for the more observant they would see his eyes wander the room only to dart back to Honora and stare a few seconds.

With his father more occupied with Gwen's continued antics, that would no doubt lead to him getting an ear full later. The bad influence and heir spoke up, Ashe Stark the 'Knights Bane'. "Lady Redwyne... Sorry for the intrusion. See my father plans to welcome all of friends, bannermen, and champions from the north in our camp and Gwen is expected to help so we were just retrieving her." The troublemaker acting as the diplomat.

Mathias poor, Mathias the bastard son the Blacksword himself was blushing like a child. It was the first time he'd had to really deal with flirting. He'd never found himself in that position in Winterfell and he'd never pursued a real lady before. He never thought one would want a motherless bastard from an unmarried Northern Warden southerners thought of them all as barbarians. He was redder than an apple as he tried to turn away, turning to look away from the woman. The runt as he was called was far from the practiced flirt barely muttering an answer. "I... I am alright my Lady... Please don't trouble yourself over me."

Brandon paused then did something unexpected, he bowed to Honora slightly. "Sorry to intrude but I require my niece. My son is correct, in fact I planned to offer an invitation to your father." The Wolf Lord sighed looking at his family. "Sorry to bring my family matters to your door." He gave a sad smile as if he hoped the apology would be enough.

Sylvara for her part looked the part of the angry bear treeing a raccoon. The woman was clearly the rock of the family who kept order, Mormont women certainly different from their southern counterparts. "Aye my husband is right... Gwen, maybe we should see a little more practice?" She wore a smile that some would call sinister. "Please forgive the boys, Lady Honora, I forget the southern are easily caught by men's good looks."

Honora had listened quietly and had kept her smile for most of it. Cordially acknowledging Ashe and Lord Brandon. “Well if that is the issue, then maybe we can help matters along. No need for such a display, Lady Gwen wishes to place bets, we can arrange such matters for her. In fact I shall see to the matter myself, if only to accommodate her. As for the matter at hand, you can drag her off now, but this would set a poor scene regarding the young lady’s reputation. Would it not be better if her brother escorted her later when business was concluded? I am certain such matters need not take long and they both should be back at your encampment for the celebration."

She offered to try to soothe the tensions and make an agreeable outcome for everyone involved. “And unfortunately Lord Stark, my father will not be able to attend as he is not here. He was too ill to travel and I speak truly as the matter of giving away ‘the apple of his eye’ had been something he had wished to do himself. Alas, he would have for certain accepted your invitation, knowing of your good name and standing, so my apologies for not being able to accommodate you in this." She had kept a warm countenance and a smile that had never wavered until Lady Mormont’s final words. It was instantly wiped and a very dangerous glare had settled on the shebear.

“Serenei. Leave the poor man be. He isn’t up to dealing with ‘our Southern ways’ you might break the poor boy." She spoke icily.
Serenei moaned in protest. “Oh but Nene, I love a tight man, one with cast iron pecks, thighs that could choke a bear and a butt you could eat breakfast off." She teased with a laugh, hanging onto Mathias for dear life.

“Now." The words were spoken so coldly that the Starks must have thought winter had come.

“But Nene…” The depths of the frozen waste stared back at Serenei who knew never to test Honora when she was like that. “I’ll be seeing you on the field, pretty boy." She whispered, slinking off rapidly.

“Begging your pardon, our Southern hospitality must have unnerved you, young master Mathias." She offered though there was a dangerous edge in her voice. “We usually try to be cordial at least, avoiding the more unbearable behavior. After all, Northern manners always seemed quite cold and grizzly. But perhaps that is just an Islander thing."

Gwen watched the two go back and forth, nearly seeing red as Serenei moved on Mathias. Gwen nearly snatched the girl but Honora spoke to her and Gwen let it go. What started out as wanting to talk to and get to know Honora and possibly a bit more about Arystide as well as fulfill what her Uncle Tobias asked of her would be easy. An hour and back to the camp. Now there were accusations and insults were flying. The emotional roller coaster that was this trip.

She. Was. Done.

Tears welling up born of frustration and anger in Gwen her vision blurred. She hated getting angry so the more she tried to shove it down the more she got angry and more tears in a vicious cycle. Nothing was going right and she knew she was partially to blame but this extra hounding wasn’t normal. This wouldn’t have happened in Winterfell. What was it about being here that suddenly everyone in her family lost the ability to remember that she was trained by them to handle herself. It was as if the last 10 years never happened.

Taking a breath that shook Gwen blew out a breath and raised her face to her Aunt. “Thank you for coming to get me Lady St-Stark. Allow me to accompany you back.” She did not turn around but addressed Honora. Gwen did not want anyone else to suspect she was as upset as she was. “Lady Redwyne my a-apologies I had no idea that you would make it as e-easy to place a wager as all that. I would have just sent someone in my stead rather than drag my… family from their duties much less attire than normal, So very sorry that your father was too ill to attend Lady Redwyne we will be sure to share any curative recipes to help speed him along to health.” Keeping her eyes downcast lest anyone, namely Honora, Ashton, Arystide, Luci or Quinn see how close she was to tears spilling down her cheeks.

Turning to Honora and placing her 30 silver moons that were in a black velvet bag in Honora’s hand. Gwen kept her voice low. “I had hoped to ask you who you would favor to win but it seems that I would leave it in your hands to place this wager for House Carmyne. Again my apologies and my thanks.”

The respectful courtesy was made smoothly but the low tone belied the fact that Gwen was having a hard time keeping it together. She waited for Honora to acknowledge her and release her from the formality hoping that this would soothe things. Once Honora released her she had every intention of walking away and damn any of her family that decided to talk or touch her before she calmed down. She knew she wasn’t going to make it far before her frustration and anger spilled down her cheeks. Maybe it was dark enough that no one would notice.

Not bloody likely.

As the slights continued to be slung, Ashton said nothing. There were multiple reasons why, the first being that he was able to tell much more and to come to far more conclusions while being silent, and the second being that he didn't really have anything to say nor the capability of verbally sparring with anyone present. So, his eyes just continued to watch. Finally when Gwen started to move, Ashton stepped forward to walk with her. "Allow me to escort you to the tent opening Lady Carmyne." He glanced briefly at her family as he did so, a respectful nod of his head given towards the Stark delegation.

“This is what I attempted to prevent." She spoke softly, her voice warmer and more soothing, noticing the Hightower lad’s gaze, but shook her head slightly in an attempted warning. The last thing the girl probably wanted or desired was for them to see her in distress.

Honora took the bag, noticing her downcast gaze, recognizing the attempt to save herself more embarrassment and sighed. “I shall make the wagers for you, Lady Carmyne. And also please know that you are always welcome to return to the pavilion. If only next time as an honored guest of Lady Honora Redwyne, for I am certain I would enjoy our conversations very much."

She gave a well hidden soft squeeze to her hand as she took a step back and addressed Lord Brandon. “I believe you best escort your lady back, I assume not the entire family will be necessary to bring home one wayward ward? Especially not when the same display is used in the treatment of criminals and I hardly doubt one would wish to gain this particular comparison, as it would cast a nasty blemish on both Housebanners.”

The fact that Honora was willing to even speak so kindly to her made Gwen all the more frustrated and angry at the Starks. But even angry she noted the exchange between herself and Honora and her estimation of Honora rose. Gwen reached out and accepted Ashton’s escort to the end of the tent.

Gwen could make this work. She could. The fact that it was already commented on that it took a whole host of Starks or Northerners to get a single Riverlands girl would give more weight to any interest to anyone who took notice. They’d see a Northern house wanting to hang on to an eligible woman and wonder why. Gwen certainly had no clue and typically Uncle Bran didn’t play politics so she had no idea if he knew what to do with this situation. She was not going to relish that conversation. Mostly because he won’t see it the same way that a Southerner would. Gods dammit I am going to have a headache to rival the size of the North.

Brandon spoke first, with a slow answer as he released his temple. This was not his idea, but wolves had little say in the anger of bears. “Lady Redwyne, thank you for your attention. However, I may stay a moment longer. Your father is not present but I have matters to discuss that you could perhaps deliver to him on my behalf or at least arrange a meeting with us both after the tourney?"Gryffith turned to look at his father a moment raising an eyebrow, his father turning giving him a curt nod. Without a real look or hissed word they understood each other. “Gryffith will come with me for the time being."He shed the cloak he wore and passed it to his son who wrapped it around himself covering up what the vest did not.

“Ashe you will see our encampment is prepared for tonight... Time you took on your duties as my heir more seriously. You will see to Gwen's safe return and finally introduce your siblings to your bride to be." He spoke turning to the usually roguish and roughspun heir, yet his voice was steady and he showed no shock in being given the task.

“Understood, I’ll have everything done by the time you return." He bowed before his father, another shocking turn from one known to so openly cause trouble. He turned and left the tent, of course as he did he ascended on to the side of a passing cart then jumped onto crates.

Sylvara spoke next, she had not truly caught the more harsh insults woven into Honora’s speech. Northerners spoke plainly, ignoring the double speak of the courts and their games they had little use for. Grievances should be laid bare not hidden in speech or muttered in between niceties she looked at Mathias jerking her head back towards the entrance. “Come on Matty, if the little Wolf wants to borrow your training partner I’ll spar with ya! Too bad they don’t let women into the fights here. Bear island women be down here adorning men with pretty flowers and knocking southern lads into the dirt." Her culture and people were very different from many others.

Mathias however, his eyes wandered back to the woman who had clamored all over his body. He felt strangely wrong but excited as he repeated her words trying to understand why she might show interest in some bastard son of a barbarian northerner... Perhaps they didn’t see bastards the same way down here? “I... I thank you for the hospitality of your house." Mathias gave a deep and long bow before turning with his training sword and leaving.

Gwen might hear the wind rustle in trees or occasional out of place footsteps not in time with the rhythm of traffic. Knowing Ashe was following not trying to push but keeping her in sight and safe from shadows, or above, or elsewhere.

Honora curiously nodded in acceptance at Lord Brandon’s words. “For certain. I shall offer father your words as soon as I am able."

She turned to Arystide who stepped up and handed him the purse of coin. “Hold onto this for a moment. I trust you won’t take advantage of this rather opportune situation, if only because I will let slide the fact that I saw the sinister glare you cast at the poor Hightower lad. Be a good brother so I may depend on you for now." She demanded.

Arystide did nothing but nod with a low bow taking the bag over from her so she might focus on the remaining Starks, he stepped away nodding in acknowledgement to the Stark men, before leaving Honora with them.

“Well, you have my attention Lord Brandon. What words do you wish me to confer to my father?”

Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Vanq
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Vanq The Chaos Ladder

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Another Skagosi Approaches

The Shivering Sea gave way to the Weeping Water, or at least, that was what their reluctant guide had told them. They had started with ten, but accidents, misunderstandings, and ineptitude had reduced that to the final man who guided them to a safe harbor. Yrsa had led her men ashore, their guide bound and dragged behind them. He was silent at least, he did not wail or sob as those before him had. The woman was not sure if it was resignation or defiance. He seemed to know he was a dead man walking, though he would last at least another few days. “We follow the river inland, surely we cannot miss a castle called The Dreadfort.”

“Yes, Tvisal.” Her captain snapped his fingers at the men behind him. Two-souled. The title they used that melded reverence and fear. Yrsa’s father did not understand the nuance of the term and had seemed content that it meant they respected her. Yet Torwynd’s daughter was more Skagosi than either Westerosi or Wilding. There was a depth to the word that was difficult to articulate in the common tongue. Much as the Skagosi themselves were too easily dismissed as just brutish heathens. They were brutish. They were cannibalistic. They scorned the mainland and their soft ways. Their lives tended to be short and hard. But there was something more to the people of Skagos, something ancient and true. She felt a kinship to them her father never would, even if she would never be fully Skagosi either.

“Keep him alive until we reach the fort. He betrayed his people, we will offer him to House Bolton in their custom.” She shifted from foot to foot, her lithe body still bundled beneath layers of leather trimmed with fur.

Yrsa had ordered the majority of her men to stay back in the forests that surrounded The Dreadfort. She had kept only a dozen men as an escort for the final approach. Surely they would not have been missed but Torwynd had been clear that they should not appear an outright threat. They were not there to seize the castle. At least, not yet. If all went well they would have a few more weeks before they raised their weapons in battle.

Initial forays towards the castle returned unexpected news. It seemed most of the men had gone far south to attend a tournament. The words felt utterly foreign to the Skagosi. What opportune timing for their rebellion, to have so many men distracted by soft war games. Clearly their advance was favored by the gods. At night with a fire roaring, they agreed that Torwynd would likely have encountered the same. Their main force must have certainly been victorious. Yrsa knew her father considered himself their king, though she also knew the title there was also not so literal a translation. He was stuck in the terms of his birth. She knew better. They would follow Torwynd for as long as he could maintain control. They would follow him for as long as she submitted to his wishes. She could hear it in the way they spoke of him now. He had achieved much, but he was and always would be one wrong step from losing it all.

"We begin at dawn.”

They were a people of few words, the dozen men grunted their agreement before settling into the pine beddings they had pulled together for the evening. They roasted the bits of small creatures they had killed that day and passed around skeins of their fermented milk. Yrsa took a long, deep drink, dragged her hand across her mouth, and leaned back to stare up to the night sky.

It was quieter here, gentler, easier. It was unsettling, and she knew her men felt it too. Torwynd had promised them much with this rebellion, yet now that their boots were on these shores, Yrsa felt a shift in the men’s attitude. They would gladly plunder and kill, but to stay? She questioned how her father would achieve that. It had taken nearly her entire life for him to bring them to these lands. She felt their discomfort in her bones. Still, she had been charged to bring House Bolton to their aid, and they had a reputation that reached even the island of Skagos. Yrsa looked forward to testing their mettle to see whether it was truth or exaggeration.

She was up before dawn, awake even before her men. Sunrise was not far off, but for now, the sky was dark still. They had bound the guide to a tree, cloth stuffed to his mouth though he had been silent for days now. His clothing had become barely more than scraps, his body bloodied and bruised. Even if they were to cut him loose, he would not last a fortnight.

“You will die today.” She spoke harshly, deeply, rugged edges around each word.

The man lifted his head, but his eyes remained as empty as they had been days ago. She would have guessed that he was older than her father, face worn and rugged, stringy hair fully grayed. He had lived enough of a life, perhaps he would view his impending death as a release.

“It will not be a gentle death.”

He dropped his head down, his shoulders sagging as much as the bindings would allow. Yrsa thought she heard a stifled grunt or sob, but it passed so quickly she questioned whether it had been a trick of the mind in the dark twilight hour.

“You’ve accepted this, then. How unexpected.” She cocked her head in thought, her hand resting on the obsidian axe at her waist. Behind her she heard movement at last.Her men would be waking now. “You’ll be flayed alive. Slowly, to keep you alive as long as possible.” Yrsa approached the man and roughly grabbed his chin, pulling his face up so his eyes would meet hers. “The Boltons flay their enemies, or so we were told. But we are Stoneborn. Once you have been flayed and your last breaths leave you in excruciating pain, we will slice you from chest to groin.” She pushed his head back, her lips caressing his filthy ear with a gruff whisper. “We’ll rip out every last organ from your body.” Yrsa pressed her cheek to his in a cruel tease. “We’ll leave your carcass for the scavengers. Your wife or children, they’ll never have a body to bury.”

She stepped back, the man held his head even, staring at her still. For a moment she thought she saw a spark of fire, but it was quickly extinguished. Emptiness returned to them even as he maintained her gaze. Yrsa barely heard Wull behind her, but she had been trained by the best. And her game had offered her no entertainment. “You’re ready to move out?”

Her captain grunted his answer. “And this one, he ready for us?” The short warrior spoke, his voice heavy with blood lust.

Yrsa gave him a short nod. “We break camp as soon as you are finished with him. We’ll reach the Dreadfort by the evening. Make sure this gift stays fresh for the offering.”

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Apoalo
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Apoalo Harry potter Nut

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A Mummer’s Farce & A Reunion Part I

Leaving behind the Wolves and the Grapes had been easy, Ashton cared little for petty squabbling and even less for politics overall. He could stomach it, sure, and was even starting to get used to it but it remained a fact for the young man that if he could be anywhere else? He would. And to his great excitement he had upon his arm the most beautiful woman in Summerhall OR its grounds.

He escorted her dutifully to the entrance, eyes that were used to watching minute movements of his opponents now watching Gwen. She was upset, that much was certain and Ashton couldn't really blame her. He shuddered to think what could have been if the Hightower clan had suddenly all walked in to retrieve him. Not that such a thing would ever occur. For one, Ash wasn't that important, and secondly his father had a rule that no more than three of the immediate family, along with their own families, could be in a location at one time.

Finally Ashton simply looked over to Gwen, pulling her gently to the side and away from the people entering. "I'm very sorry that this happened, and if I can do anything that would help I would do it in a heartbeat." He offered a genuine smile to her, not one of pity or reassurance, more one of understanding and support. "Perhaps I can take you to the Stark camp myself, that way I can have the honor of your company a bit longer and you can have a companion." He did NOT add 'that's not of your vast family' to the end of that phrase out loud but did think it. It was so strange…

Clearing her throat softly Gwen swallowed and smiled wobbly at Ashton. She didn’t want to take her temper out on him. He barely knew her and he was being so wonderful. Clearing her throat yet again Gwen nodded. “Yes. That would be wonderful. Yes please."

Squeezing Ashton’s arm Gwen wanted to lean her head on his shoulder. But that would be too personal. Far too personal, but it seemed right. Still no matter how right it seemed she was not ready to have more people stare at her for more reasons.

With a nod, Ashton mentally made a map through tent city to where the Starks had made camp. He giggled softly as he thought about going through the backs of those tents again, and navigating the ropes where he had met Gwen earlier. But no, that wouldn't do, he was officially escorting a Lady now, and he was going to do it correctly. He smiled brightly at her and then set off on a comfortable pace towards the Starks.

"Guess I'm not the only one that has family drama. I mean I suppose it could be seen as a positive AND negative at the same time. At least they obviously care, perhaps a bit more than you would want, or well anyone would want, but yeah. Could be worse!", he winked at her and stepped closer to her to sort of playfully nudge her. "Either way, it's behind us. Literally in this case and now we can just enjoy the fresh night air."

Blinking away the tears as her frustration and anger faded Gwen gave Ashton a true smile. “The sun must always shine in your world Ashton. Are you sure you’re Westrosi? Seems more like you’re a fable. You must be that prince that catches a maiden’s eye and runs off with her heart." A teasing smile flashed dimples at Ashton. Gwen giggles quietly, stepping closer and winding her arm more closely with Ashton’s arm.

Raising an eyebrow and furrowing the other, Ashton looked at her and just shook his head. "I am certainly not a Prince, though I do hope to make a decent Knight. From my observations that in of itself is becoming more and more rare. But it's impossible to stay angry or upset when I'm near you, so I guess you just make it easy for me. I'm not usually this cheery unless I'm watching the sunset, I have this really nice spot on a hill close to the Castle that I found one day while exploring." He gives a shrug and when Gwen stepped closer he beamed even brighter if that was possible and his cheeks turned a bit more crimson.

Gwen noted the blush and the grin. “You should smile more. It makes you even more handsome."

Ashton can't help but turn even more red, now resembling the hit red wax the Maesters use to seal various messages. "Well thank you, so long as you're at my side I foresee a lot of smiling in my future.”

Sighing Gwen pouted teasingly. “Too bad this tournament is merely a blink. Truly I wouldn’t mind this mild weather at Winterfell and the company is sublime." Ashton was so attentive and sweet. Gwen was reminded of the old bard tales of knights and their lady loves. Impulsively she leaned up and placed a kiss on his cheek, her lips lingering there.

And then her lips connected with his cheek and his entire world stood still. It was nothing, not really, sure it was a sweet thing to do but in the grand scheme of things it was a simple action. And yet, Ashton's brain had shut down; all systems offline. He stood rooted to the spot and blabbering like some sort of fish that found itself unable to get back to the water and now couldn't breathe. His cheeks were fiery red and his arm clenched unconsciously around Gwen's own. When his mouth did some blabbing it opened and shut twice with no words coming out. Abandoning such things, he simply gave her the widest smile she would have seen yet on the Hightower lad and then leaned down to place his forehead on her own and look her straight in the eyes. "Well, that was something." His words were breathy, but at least he didn't have stinky breath.

Perhaps it had been some luck of the Maiden for her to have stumbled upon the blissful pair, perhaps another god entirely. Her own mind, however, was on other matters. Matters of survival and utter importance. Having slipped from a distracted escort and into the city of tents after being escorted by the handsome Ser Ryon, Alysanne Lothston was just as ready to get thoroughly drunk as she was to get a knife in the ribs. Courtesy of Danelle. Had her sister seen her and, if she had, had she known whom Alysanne was? That was a name she had not thought of herself as, in many years. Alysanne Lothston, buried and forgotten in the mires of trouble that ran around Alys Rivers. Her lips left their thinned grimace as she paused in the shadow of a tent to watch the two young love-birds kiss. Nobles, she thought, by their cloth.

“I’d say." She agreed with the young man, he had the look of a Reachman about him. Her? It was hard to say. Desperation, recent tears and now this? Forbidden love most likely. An interesting tidbit and one she would have to pass on to buyers sooner or later, but for now? Best that no one else sees and that tidbit loses its value. Leaning against a barrel, the woman small though she was gave the two a stern look, though a smile played about her lips. “Unwise too, but perhaps an explanation might sway me from raising a fuss over such a lady being taken advantage of?"

Gwen groaned softly, laying her head on Ashton’s shoulder. “And of course..." She looked at the girl who could practically be a shorter version of Gwen herself. Taking in the slight little female Gwen couldn’t help but smirk. She felt that this little one would be a bigger spitfire than even her. It was obvious that she was a redhead and couldn’t be too much younger than Gwen herself. However the way she spoke was someone who knew how much trouble she could indeed make. “He earned it. He did cheer me up and he couldn’t be sweeter even if he was covered in honey."

Ashton normally would've jumped when a random person speaks without him realizing their presence. He startled easily when he got distracted but he was so enraptured he simply frowned and looked at the newcomer. He smirked as Gwen spoke her piece and then added on. "Nor would I ever take advantage of anyone, least of all her. I would say well met but if I'm being totally honest, I was not quite ready to give up my free time with the Lady here, if there ever truly was a free moment. I am Ashton Hightower, and you are?"

Alys had to smile at the fondness she saw between the two. So he had been a Reachman, and a Hightower at that. The Lady, for lady the girl must be, was yet unknown. Still there were manners to be had and Alys considered the best option. “I am Lady Rohanne Webber of Coldmoat." She stated with all the formality of one of rank. It would be easy enough to pass for the woman in these shadows and with her own red hair much similar to the young girl’s. It was best to keep an eye out for those nobles you might take the appearance of, Alys thought with wry amusement. “And you are Lady…?" She gave the woman a pointed look.

Gwen smiled at the pointed look. “Gwendolyn Carmyne of Redfield. We are headed to the Stark camp if you’d like to join us, Lady Rohanne. I’d love to know how Coldmoat got it’s name." The Reach household was one that she had read about since it was close to the Riverlands in the northern section of the Reach. Gwen wondered if the Lady had grown up there or married in. Gwen tapped her nails in a four count on Ashton’s arm absently.

Something tickled her memories. Gwen’s eyes lit up. “Oh Coldmoat is the Osgrey’s. Ashton the Osgrey line crosses the Hightower line. Why you might be distant cousins!! You have to come with us Lady Rohanne. How could you not recognise each other?"

Of all the schemes to have hit a snag! Hightower, of course. She was mentally kicking herself and hid it with a cold smile. “No. Though for not recognizing a Hightower, I for one blame the lack of lighting." There was an answer easy enough to explain the mistake. Shadows could make mistakes. She could not afford one, not right now. Alysanne ran a hand over her braid, playing with it as she had heard the Lady Rohanne played with hers. “Though I dare say, I may be married but it is not a match desired on my part." If it had been, Alys would eat her boots and Dannel’s. Now she had to slip away. She had what she came for, the names of the two love birds and she need not linger. More subtle measures could find out if they were promised to one another or no. “Lady Gwendolyn, a pleasure I must say. Though I fear I will have to decline your invitation. I need to return to my husband," What had been the fool man’s name? She knew there had been talk of it. “Lord Uffling, actually." She curled her lip slightly, an artful display of distaste she thought.

"Lady Rohanne, I must say you look very much different than when I saw you in Oldtown previously but I suppose we all grow differently. As for declining our offer I must insist you take it. I will speak with your husband and let him know how you helped a son of Hightower. In fact, I'm sure my brother and Aunt would like to thank you and him themselves. Perhaps breakfast tomorrow morning? I can set it up very easily, and of course Gwen you are invited as well." He smiles brightly at the girl still close to him. He fully felt like he had been channeling his older brother Leo at that moment and Ashton felt proud himself, perhaps he really was learning.

“Having children tends to change a woman." She stated simply, praying it would be the case. “Though I shall take you up on breakfast should I find myself able to tomorrow, I must decline tonight. It already grows late for me." She shrugged and considered if they would seek out the woman tomorrow. Perhaps, and perhaps not. Drink and lust could make a mind wander and forget and with any luck it would be so here.

Gwen grinned, catching on to the game. “Of course I’d be happy to break my fast with you both. Ashton you might be getting ready for the tournament tomorrow or helping your Lord Dayne. I’m sure the Sword of the Morning will need some assistance and you’d be far too busy to escort Lady Rohanne and her husband. Lord… I dare say I have forgotten his first name. No matter, I will come to your camp on the morrow. Uffling you said right?" Gwen nodded.

“Yes it is decided I will come and get you tomorrow. Besides, I'd love to meet your family Ashton." Gwen had caught the suspicion in Ashton’s questions and Lady Rohanne was being rather dodgy. Dodgy people reminded her of the fact that Ashe was in the dark somewhere like a slinky little lizard just waiting for the right moment to jump out and snark at them or scare someone to death. Well maybe half death.

Alysanne was less than pleased by that, but there was no help for it. Smiling, she chuckled and was about to say it was not necessary when thunder crashed through the camp.

“Little Cousin!" Bennifer was as loud and obvious as a bull. Gwen, willing or not, would find herself plucked from Ashton and whirled about in a giant’s embrace before she was set down on the side far from both the strange woman and Ashton without a by your leave. Grinning, the man hardly looked like a grim Northman. Hair that had slightly darkened from blonde with age, the large man looked between the three. The Lady Rohanne stiffened from where she leaned against a barrel, her blue eyes narrowed as Bennifer, one of the last people she wanted to meet, took stock of the situation. “Ah, cousin. I saw what happened in the tent and would have come sooner had I not been making sure Roger did not pinch too many a bottom. Come introduce me!" He patted the Carmyne lady on the back with a hand the size of a dinner plate.

“Benni!!" Gwen shrieked as Bennifer twirled her around. “I haven’t seen you since Auntie Mya’s wedding." She hugged him quickly, making a face by scrunching up her nose cutely. “Roger. Is he still as ugly as a duck’s butt? No, I take that back, ducks are adorable."

Gwen giggled and indicated Lady Rohanne. “This is my new friend Lady Rohanne Webber of Coldmoat. We’ll be breaking our fast on the morrow with her. If I can pull her away from her husband and children. May-hap we can take them as well? We shall see. So exciting!"

Blushing slightly, Gwen reached out and put a hand on Ashton’s upper arm. ”Lord Ashton Hightower, may I introduce you to my cousin by marriage. Lord Bennifer Blackwood Heir of Raventree Hall. Though no doubt I couldn’t ask for a better one so I think he might have arranged it because I was too adorable to be left alone." She smirked at Bennifer. “You’re words not mine Benni."

The large man nodded, his eyes narrowing at the Lady of Coldmoat. “A pleasure to both. Though might you have been in the Vale over the past few years, fair Rohanne?"

“You flatter me, My Lord." Alysanne nodded, her eyes cold as she gave a small incline of her head towards the man. “I have not had the opportunity." Taking a step back, she made her motion to leave clear as day and knew if that giant tried to stop her, family or no, she would stab him where it hurt. “I have felt unwell of late, so I take my leave. My Lords, My Lady." Taking the dismissal for what it was, Bennifer sketched a bow towards the familiar, yet not woman before turning her gaze towards the two who had been crossing social morays mere minutes before. Allowing the smaller woman to slip into the shadows to Alys’s grateful delight.

“Ugly? He grew up looking well enough, though Mother’s death put a marr on the boy." The giant shook his head and gave Ashton a searching look. Weighing him as other opponents had been measured on the field of battle. “The Squire to the Sword of Morning, a pleasure." He slapped the man’s shoulder and grinned. “Perhaps you shall be knighted on the morrow! Tell me cousin, do you mean to give him your favor? Make him your Florian?"

Ashton watched the Lady Rohanne closely, and as such totally missed yet another large person come up towards them and quite literally sweep Gwen up off of her feet. Now with her in the air and moved out of his reach, he couldn't help but narrow his eyes at the person. When Gwen did introductions he did relax, if but a bit. Somehow, yet another relative of Gwen coming to check on her. But at least Gwen seemed to be content with this one.

"Lady Rohanne, if you would let me know the answer to the question my father asked you via Raven? No doubt you and your Lord husband discussed it, as it was quite serious and my father can get a bit paranoid when replies take too long." Ash had watched as Rohanne had attempted to leave and of course stopped that. He had a few questions, the first of which being why the girl was being so shady.

He turned then to Gwen, still keeping Rohanne in his sight, as he was introduced and gave a nod of respect to Bennifer along with a flashing smile and tilt of his head. He could tell Bennifer was sizing him up. It was a look that Ash himself had used many times before to many other people. "Pleasure is all mine Lord Blackwood. If you'll permit Gwen to return to my side, I have given my promise of an escort to the Stark encampment and intend to keep my word."

Alys was going to scream. “Surely that can be discussed over breakfast with my Lord husband?" Whose name she could not for the life of her place! Alys was going to set herself to shrieking obscenities. There was no reason for sighting Danelle, her oh-so-beloved sister, to make her lose her wits! Now she was to pick up the pieces and be the shadow that slipped with this conversation with none the wiser, but they would be wiser! Toying with the notion of killing the three, she dismissed it as foolishness. Something she had used up over the last few hours. “Let us speak of that in private, if we are to speak of it at all. Lest I take insult at your suggestion of tardy replies!" She growled, alone she could get this youngling to be silent and see reason. “Your lady is in good hands and will find herself busy enough on the morrow." She gestured to a dip between two carts. Shadowed and well devoid of people. She was going to have to indebt herself and it galled Alysanne.

"I have but one thing then till the morrow. When you visited Oldtown and the Hightower, what color doublet did I wear? You mentioned it quite fondly and stated how much you loved it, and I told you I got it from a merchant stopping in from Volantis. Do you remember?"

Rolling her eyes, the small woman seized the squire by the arm and said in a voice that dripped with absolute irritation. “Green. You were in love with the red and black gown I found, as I recall." She drawled, her tone dipping as she hissed in words said only for Ashton’s ears alone. “Ser Ry and Lady Dy were most fond of my current gown." Her voice jerked upwards slightly to more normal tones. “Squire." A demand in waiting.

Ashton narrowed his eyes even further then as he was seized. He would jerk his arm away with a training yard twist and then placed his hand on the hilt of Vigilance. "Wrong, black with gold trim. Now reveal your true identity and stop with this mummers farce before I have the guards come and take you."

The unfolding drama between Ashton and Rohanne made Gwen tilt her head. She didn’t particularly care for the way that the two were hissing at each other. It felt rather familiar and a bit hostile. Gwen looked at Bennifer then at the two arguing heatedly. Rohanne put her hands on Ashton and Gwen sucked in a breath.

Recognising the feeling of jealousy hot in her belly and much stronger than she ever had prior to this moment. Like dragonfire it burned in her. “Allow me to point out Lady Rohanne that if he takes this to a guard that this could be dealt with by Prince Maekar who has seen fit to enact swift merciless punishments these past few days. As the Heir to Redfield I suggest you provide irrefutable proof for Lord Ashton as to your identity. I will vouch for you if you speak truly. I’m sure that Lord Ashton and I would be willing to overlook a jest and let you be on your way. Come now, the proof or the truth." Gwen’s temper made her snap out a fact of which she didn’t want to spread around.

There was a glare as the woman drew herself up to her diminutive height. Short though she was, as the languid air of Rohanne drifted from her. The woman sighed, not in defeat but exasperation. “I see, shame. I thought we’d have a nice lovely time of lying to each other and each be on our way. I hardly wanted to watch the two of you frisk like fools down a side alley." She cocked her head, hands on hips. “That being said, I shall have to mention this to Ryon. The man seems to be one who would find this amusing as the seven hells." There was a wicked grin on her face as she decided cock and sure was going to get her out of this. Plus? It was all true. “Ser Ryon." She corrected herself with a sigh. “Handsome man, would love to go riding with him." She mused more to herself than the other three.

Bennifer looked between the pair, who were far too familiar with each other, and the strange woman. Woman, who was awfully familiar yet not. But it could have been the ale. Probably was the ale, he had drunk a lot. Deciding that two youngsters on the edge of temper versus someone who was probably a lover of the Sword of Morning, the giant shrugged. “I heard Ser Ryon is a man of… appetites." He turned his question on, not the woman, but the Squire Ashton. “Some women, do not like to have their affairs in the view of the public eye." He advised. “And some young people should not have theirs aired so openly." He noted the familiarity between the Hightower and his cousin and gave Gwen a pointed look.

Alys inclined her head to her cousin, though she doubted he knew such. “Young people are so incredibly jumpy."

“They can be when they have something to hide." Bennifer agreed, “I have younger brothers."

“My sympathies, Ser. Are you as of yet unmarried?" Hating herself, Alys forced herself to keep that lascivious smile and glance at the man, handsome yet utterly unattractive to her, up and down.

Bennifer grinned, “Aye and with a young son!" Turning his beaming eyes on Gwen, he looked like a moon eyed fool. “Benjicot Blackwood! Just born a month before we left Raventree! Olyria, my wife from the Frey’s, is well and the lad is so small. Would I not have come except for Aunt Melissa being willing to look after them." For a man of his size, Bennifer looked distinctly worried and sighed. “I still worry, not being there. The lad is just so… small." The man looked like he might actually start wringing his hands like a worried midwife.

Glad that Bennifer was distracted, the woman sighed and shrugged slightly. “I’m a bastard and friend to your knight master. Alys Flowers. From the Bushy’s. Though beforehand, I was in Starfall. Before your time, boy. Your lovely knight master was of… interest and a great riding partner. Simply ask him when you see him next. My Ser knight, and brother, is here to compete and I decided to come and call on an old… friend. My deepest apologies for the misunderstanding. I simply did not want to have you two think to start trouble with me in case I did come upon you so unawares. Some nobles get far more… sharp and heavy handed when they think you know their secrets." Giving a sigh, Alys shrugged and winced. She had felt that heavy hand from other men and could well recall it to her own ends.

The more the girl talked, the less Ashton was alarmed. By the end he sighed and relaxed fully, shaking his head and eyeing her up and down. "Look, I don't know what kind of 'relationship' you have with my Knight and frankly… I don't want to know anything, ever. I'm glad that you ended up telling at least a better lie and one I can't prove. I did not wish to accost you so harshly but what you did was against the laws of the realm and had to be addressed. I may not be a Knight but as a noble I still have that right."

He ignores the back and forth between her and Bennifer. He didn't need any other people how to live his life, he got plenty of that from his father and that man did it enough for the whole realm. "I will say… I didn't know Ryon had such young… Friends, and I'll be sure to mention I told you hello. Now, if you'll excuse Gwen and myself, I have an escort to finish and then a Knight to serve. I wish you both a good evening."

“Oh, do mention me. It’s a shame he was too busy tonight. Perhaps he’ll call on me tomorrow." Alys giggled, and sauntered off. Slipping into the shadows and cursing herself a fool. She would have to have Dannel send the boy flying a few times and scramble his skull a bit so he would forget her.

"Right… perhaps he will." Ashton rolled his eyes and moved back to Gwen's side.

Gwen’s eyebrows climbed at the suggestions tossed around about the Sword of the Morning. This woman was laying to on thicker than a novice mason. And if she wasn’t then the debauchery that Ser Ryon practiced was never intended for her ears. In fact she was sure the word friend was used with no less than three different inflections used each different than the last.

Gwen’s head snapped up at Bennifer’s comment about Ashton and herself. Narrowed eyes hopefully conveyed the message of ‘Not a subject we need to harp on…’. In reality it did convey that message, the males in her family typically ignored it.

Gritting her teeth at the fact that Alys and Ashton basically circled each other growling and finally settling down as they both realized that it wasn’t worth it. Gwen picked her nails as the little Flower verbally sparred with Ashton. Was what she noted true? That they seemed to have some sparks between the two?

Narrowing her eyes Gwen studied the girl. She couldn’t be much older than Gwen’s own eight and ten. The little Flower could give Ashton things that Gwen couldn’t. If there was one thing that Gwen knew meant as much as her life it was her virtue. Smallfolk had it easy in the department of choosing your own spouse. A noble maid that was no longer a maid wasn’t worth anything.

These thoughts, and lack of attention, turned Gwen’s thoughts to Arystide. Confusing was one way to explain that man. Handsome, no, beautiful. But he was confusing to her. She wasn’t sure if he did or didn’t want her. Or if he wanted her for more than someone to warm his bed. Him telling her that she needed to protect herself from everyone himself included,

Gwen blinked as the motion of the Flower girl walking away brought her back. Ashton got a little high handed and she raised an eyebrow at him as she took his arm again. She also reached out and did the same to Bennifer on her other arm. “Shall we?"

Of course Bennifer would be coming. Ashton gave a small smile and nodded to Gwen and took a moment to fully calm down. That situation could have been handled far better but it was a learning opportunity and Ash was certain that he would replay the events many times over.

"Of course let's continue if you wish. I apologize for my temper. Blatant disregard for the rules and posing as someone else for some reason just makes me angry. Illogical as my brother would say. Would you like to visit anywhere else?"

The giant grinned down at Gwendolyn and chuckled. “Feisty as ever, though..." He cocked a brow at the Hightower and gave the young Lady a skeptical look. “Should I skin some wolves for you tonight or tomorrow?" There was a grin on the man’s face but a wicked gleam of delight at showing those Starks where true might lay.

“Illogical? Perhaps. Foolhardy more like. And the Prince doesn’t seem to be in a mood to suffer fools. More like you saved the woman." Gwen shook her head. “No where else. It seems I have pushed the boundaries of House Stark tempers. Best to let things cool before I press my luck again."

Gwen raised her eyebrow at Bennifer leaning away from him slightly, in turn leaning more toward Ashton, her unbound hair sliding over his arm. “The wolves need me down here more than I need them. I may have been in the North for most of my life but I was born in the South. You can take the girl out of the South but you can’t take the South out of the girl."

Nodding Gwen tipped her head and her silky long hair shifted over Ashton’s arm softly, teasingly. “I would never deprive you of matching your prowess against another. How are you going to get better if you are not shown how to lose? I make no promises since the last time I saw you were a mere Squire. If you fancy skinning a wolf I’ll not stop you Benni."

Ashton laughed then, a full laugh that Gwen may have only heard once before. He smirked over to Bennifer and shook his head rapidly while holding onto Gwen. "No need to skin any wolves for me. I'm quite capable of skinning them myself if the need arises. But I don't think it will, but I will happily take your friendship. Perhaps we can spar and teach each other some things at some point."

The lad had a new respect for the Blackwood, and could see why Gwen liked him. When the ladies hair brushed across his skin though he blushed again and tried not to cough. All the other symptoms were present though. Rapid heartbeat, wide eyes, beads of sweat suddenly on his forehead. This girl could stop his heart and Ashton would only thank her for it.

"Er. Right, to the Stark encampment then."

“Ale and mead!" Bennifer grinned and clapped Ashton on the shoulder. “Though if you two don’t mind, I’ll see you there. Lest I find people speaking ill of my little cousin’s virtue with her suitor! Ha! Father and Lady Melissa will be delighted!" The giant guffawed and chuckled. “Boy, do you mean to make an honest Lady of my cousin? Or shall I have to use your pretty, red face for target practice?"

Gwen almost stumbled over her own feet. Surely he isn’t speaking of marriage already?! Yes he is!! She didn’t know Ashton’s mind on it. Most men his age… she had never asked his age. See we don’t know each other well enough for him to even entertain the idea. He can’t be thinking that far ahead he barely knows me. Even the word suitor would be stretched at this point. Surely not…

Her mind went a mile a minute and Gwen swatted Bennifer playfully to hide her insecurity. “Benni! Really you know that is the easiest way to drive a potential off. Having the males in the family interrogate them sends them packing. Besides being as wonderful as Lord Ashton has been I am sure that he is very popular with his easy manner and sweet chivalry. He likely has many admirers no matter where he goes. I just happen to be the damsel in distress at present."

She would be wrong. Not only did Ashton not have anyone else, he had NEVER had anyone else. Not one single time other than attending various girls that his parents forced him to dance with or talk to in the Hightower. Until Gwen, Ashton was terrified of being even close to a girl. But of course they couldn't know that, he really liked Gwen and the thought of her knowing just how much of a loser he was was not an option. He glanced at Bennifer and then down at the ground as they walked, taking his time to answer. He heard Gwen, but he was distracted and didn't quite catch everything.

And then he counted to three so he wouldn't overthink things and stopped abruptly. "I have never connected with another person other than my twin in my entire life like you. And while my honor dictates that I tell you that we hardly know each other, the thought of getting to know you brings a smile to my face and sets my heart beating faster than I knew possible. What comes in the future I know not, but if you would be willing I'd like to explore it together. In whatever way makes the most sense."

Nodding in agreement to the words of the squire, Bennifer nodded sagely. “I shall speak to Lord and Lady Stark alongside my Lord Father. Surely they will see reason that Gwendolyn is betrothed to such a charitable young man. Though it would go better if you got yourself knighted at this tournament and better still if you found yourself crowning her Queen of Love and Beauty. Though do not think I would go easy on you for that honor!" The large man laughed again and patted Gwen on the head, gently for all his size. “There you go, little cousin. All sorted! If you change your mind, I shall speak to mine aunt and see if a knife cannot be spareds to drive a knife between the young squire’s ribs if he displeases you." And to the giant? So it was, even if he had to impress on this young man that Gwendolyn had connections though slightly distant they might be. It would behoove him to treat the Lady Carmyne well, very well.

It was a hard thing to not shriek in equal parts frustration and happiness. Gwen cleared her throat. “I think that getting to know you would be a wonderful adventure Ashton. I, unlike Bennifer here, know that there are more than one side to speak to. You can’t just betroth someone instantly. Benni and Ashton is far too sweet to displease me." She had diverted her attention to Bennifer to speak to him and looked back at Ashton.

His bright blue eyes shone with emotion that made Gwen blush. Excitement and worry shot through her. She blushed and studied his tunic rather than meet his eyes and blush all the harder. “I… your family will have to approve of the match. My family would have to approve and I think Uncle Bran might be an obstacle. Possibly. Just don’t want to move so fast that I get dizzy." Gwen looked back up into Ashton’s eye and her mouth opened then closed. The emotion that was there rendered her enthralled by him. “I… uhhh..."

Ashton jumped in quickly as Gwen's words left her. Bennifer was more or less entirely ignored. His words meant nothing, the well meaning threats meant nothing. The only person that mattered was the girl before him. He nodded a few times. "I know, and I don't want to get close and then have either of our families decline. But the thought of not at least trying hurts itself. My brother, Aunt, and sister are coming tomorrow morning. I will set up a meeting with them tomorrow evening, after the first day of games. If we can get them on board I think my father will be convinced. And then I will make my way to whoever can make such a decision for you and speak my intentions plainly."

He took her hands in his own and smiled brightly to her, still staring directly at her. "If we want this we have to fight for it, and I'm not afraid of doing just that if you're not. But as you said, if this is going too fast. I understand, I get it. Whatever you want to do, however you want to do it. I'm yours."

The smile that Gwen graced Ashton with was that smile she got from her grandfather. The famous one that grew a beauty from the North to a River Lord. Her dimples deepened and her eyes sparkled. “Mine? I rather like that."

“Just make sure you don’t get your cock and balls lopped off in the melee!" Bennifer bellowed in delighted laughter. “Come, let us drink to the good news!"

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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by KZOMBI3
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KZOMBI3 thuggy-lewd-dere

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𝓐 𝓦𝓮𝓵𝓵 𝓓𝓮𝓼𝓮𝓻𝓿𝓮𝓭 𝓑𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓴
𝓐 𝓦𝓮𝓵𝓵 𝓓𝓮𝓼𝓮𝓻𝓿𝓮𝓭 𝓑𝓻𝓮𝓪𝓴

mentions: The Baratheon Boys @Sini | Garrett Tyrell & Oak @Danvers

It had been some time after the memorial that the Baratheons piled into a carriage or mounted their horses and began the trek towards Summerhall. The Tournament was rumored to be the biggest and best yet, that was for Argella to decide. Though it wasn't like she had many to compare this one to, too busy raising someone else's little ones keeps her busy enough as is. She shared the cart with her nephew, making sure that he was still conducting his lessons, regardless of the trip they were taking, before being let out to ride with his father.

The trip wasn't as quick as Argie would have liked, but she was grateful to be out of Storm's End for a change. It was nearing nightfall by the time they arrived and as soon as they reached their destination Argie jumped from the carriage, wanting to stretch her legs after not being allowed to ride saddle back alongside her brothers - it was befitting her or some such nonsense according to Royce. “It isn’t befitting to dump the responsibility of raising your children onto the shoulders of your baby sister and yet…” words she longed to shove in his face but the point would be moot.

So instead she settled for a glare shot his way any chance she got. Earning more than a few stifled chuckles from the others.

As her feet touched steady ground, Argella of House Baratheon began walking towards the Redwyne’s tents of red, purple and blue. That was until she was caught by the upper arm and turned around rather fiercely and came face to face with an annoyed Royce. “Where do you think you are going?”

“Going to partake in sampling some wine from our dear friends. It has been a long and arduous trip, Roy, I do believe I have earned some me time.”

He sneered in the direction of the Redwynes and looked about as if the environment were to give him a sign to refuse her her leisure. His eyes soon found the face of his son and thrusted his sister towards him, “Your duty lies in taking care of Gowen, and seeing to it that we are settled in.”

“Father! I am not a child–“ but the young buck’s words were lost on the heir of Baratheon.

“Quiet, boy. Attend to your aunt,” Royce said, ascertaining whether or not his little sister was going to make this into a contest of wills. “Once we are unpacked, check on the horses and come find me to report. You can have your fun then.” A noble’s horse or a knight’s mount was part of him. A certain mark of distinction from the smallfolk, and a lesson Gowen was being taught every day.

Biting her tongue Argie clenched her fist tight enough to dog her nails into skin, crescent shaped indents bringing blood to the surface. He was too stubborn for his own good. It’s where the children get it from. How had Cyrenna ever dealt with him was beyond her. With a subtle nod she curtsied and took Gowen to their lodgings muttering under her breath as she went. “Oh I’ll tend to the horses alright… mount one and run off I will… see where that leaves you with your seedlings…”

Tending to her duties took longer than she wished; rather overseeing the rounds that Gowen was in charge of took longer than she wanted. Why she needed to loom over him like a shadow was beyond her, he was more than capable of handling his daily chores without her, why should it be any different now? "Most like for Roy to exert whatever control he still harbors..." she found herself muttering as she leaned against the post of the makeshift stalls where the horses were contained, a tuft of black hair running around as he filled their troughs with water and their buckets with hay. "Come Gowen, the sun is long set."

He popped his head up from around the front of his father's horse, a look on his face that screamed not for him to be in trouble. A younger version of Royce if ever Argella had seen. Smudges of dirt on his cheeks, hair wet and sticking to his forehead, "But I need to finish. Father will be-"

"My brother will not know if you do not tell him," her words were playful yet her tone was concrete. Not a word would be spoken to him about the shirking of one's duties. Not by her at least and she hoped that he would catch on to her meaning and keep his lips sealed. At least til the morning. Motioning for him to come join her at her side they took off back to their camp, musing about what it was they could eat for the evening. As the night wore on and Gowen fell fast asleep atop his cot Argie slipped out of the tent and, after announcing to the household knight of the young buck, she made her way through the throng of peoples towards more lively areas. Though she was supposed to find Roy after all was said and done, Argie found it within herself to care not. She'll just chalk it up to not being able to locate him, should she get caught.

But that was a thought for another time.

Waltzing into the pavilion she was greeted immediately by the warmth radiating off the bodies of the crowded tent. At first she attempted to get by with politeness, something her mother would have been proud of, however when she wasn't getting much further than a foot from the entrance it was then that she began to push her way through the throng of pompous drunks before her. "Move out the way you cumberground." Huffing and tossing her elbows out in order to burrow her way past Argie eventually made it to the other side of the tent, ordering a goblet as she did.

There was hardly a place to sit, the place was so popular, but what did she expect with the Redwynes. It was a pleasant feel, the environment and Argella oddly felt a sense of belonging. It was no wood nor forest, or shore along the coast, but it was bustling and lively and free. Something she desperately longed for. Now that she was here she was going to enjoy it for all it's worth.

Sipping on the Arbor Red that flowed so freely among those gathered beneath the Redwyne cloth the Baratheon beauty was offered a seat and company, chatting and laughing while those around sang and danced away to the music drifting into the space around them. Company she knew not before that very moment. She even locked eyes across the way with a handsome fellow, a familiar face, dogged by an eccentric character that didn't fail to pull a laugh from her. She turned quickly back to present company in time to learn of the games they were about to play. It intrigued the young doe enough for her to want to try her own luck; resulting in her doing quite well. Most of the time. "Oi! There is no way this time is your first!" A burly man, drunk off his arse, sloshed his drink across the table towards her as he gestured.

"But it is! I swear it," Argie laughed him off easily with wine flowing through her and face flushed with the heat from the bodies crowding around. The night had been going smoothly, new friends and acquaintances were being made without hassle. It was hardly the first time she had found herself surrounded by drunkards and rowdy civilians and she felt she was well equipped to handle whatever situation came her way. What she wasn't prepared for was the same man to snarl and grip her wrist - second time this evening - and twist it hard. He yanked her to her feet, kicking her chair out from beneath her and raising her to level his gaze, as blurry as it must have been. "You're cheatin' me outta my coin and I demand recompense."

Sucking on her teeth in feign concern the Baratheon doe shrugged as best she could, "Best I can do is a sprig of mint," an air of sarcasm mingling with the bubbly persona the wine gave her. His eyes turned hard and his hand gripped her tighter yet. A look about him that screamed for her to be a little more concerned with her company and well being.

"You little bitch-" his free hand that had been raised back was let loose and came towards her. To the dark haired beauty it felt almost slowed. As if time were coming to a halt. Argella hadn't the foggiest of ideas as to why she would believe such a thing. Clearly had nothing to do with the fact that the handsome man from before had closed the gap from earlier and found himself closer to her - their proximity shortened. No. Definitely not that. Nor would it have anything to do with a foolish bard come stumbling onto the scene and into the arse holding her hostage.

"What's going on here? A party? How about some music?" Either he was too drunk or thick headed to notice the tension, regardless Argella would have to thank him properly once she was released.

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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by LadyRunic
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LadyRunic The Laughing Raven

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Aelor & Aelora Targaryen | | Manfryd, Danelle & Elayne Lothston

The chair was old, but her lavender eyes judged it firm enough for her, even sitting with something resembling confidence in the seat after a thorough dust off in the cellars of Summerhall, quiet spaces with not but an ever-present chill to the air and the scent of damp dustiness as numerous as the cobwebs. Brushing off her hands before flipping white hair as safely behind her ear as she could get, readjusting in the chair with a repressed sigh even as the figure shouldered into the small space.

And it was a small space; besides the chair in which she sat, there was a chair with no back and a profound wobble, a square of wood and four pegs that maybe, if you were both destitute and desperate could be used as a table. The visitor smelled of the road, sweat and dirt, bidding she forgive his current state as he entered with his near-nasaly pitch.

The man was average, at best, in everything: height, weight, appearance, voice…but none of it seemed like an accident. An utterly average man rarely stands out, and is even more rarely recalled even by those who might have seen their face before. “Did you enjoy the finds?”

“I did, thank you,” Instinct brought a small, polite, smile to her mouth as she thanked the man. The books were rare, and highly insightful so far, though Aelora hadn’t gotten so spend as much time as she would have liked with them yet. “Any words from you?”

She had never seen him closely shaved, she realized, as he looked down at the sitting Princess, his eyes clouding from the thoughts at work behind them before he nodded his head, finally, and answered, “Yes. I do appreciate the purse, Princess, it certainly never hurts the efforts. Uh, as to those efforts…several noteworthy bits.”

The tone was somewhere between concern and joy, and, frankly, just left Aelora a little confused until he provided further depth: “The comings and goings of your bloodline, Princess, especially those upon the fringe…best to be watchful. Blackfyres and those with attachments.” She nodded, solemn, understanding, before he went on, “The Reach is so bountiful, how could those within be expected to not want more? Potentially problematic. The North bleeds, and a cousin of yours freezes.”

Her head tilted. The Reach followed mostly what she had heard before; that there was an unusually high amount of muttering between the Bannerlords. The North, though? A cousin? Of hers? The only one that…”Princess Saeria?”

The spy nodded, and Aelora’s face brightened. Half the time Aelora thought the man just made up the stories of Saeria. The other half the stories just made her feel as if her own life had been all but wasted within the walls of the Red Keep. “She was supposed to be here. She was supposed in King’s Landing—instead she gets drunk and decides to purchase passage to White Harbor. She nearly died the first fortnight she was there, nearly freezing to death before being helped by a commoner.”

“…who told your people all of this for exchange for a gold piece.”

The man’s very average, non-distinctive nose wrinkled with amusement, “My Princess, that you believe that is the price paid to such lowborn says much and more about you.”

Lavender eyes narrowed at the man, but she pushed it aside and focused, shrugging, “Saeria is madness and glory in equal measure, but above all is a wild thing. She’ll be fine.” Aelora had met the cousin twice; once she entertained herself at a feast seated next to Aelora by playing with a dagger all evening, going to bed early. The second was years later and Saeria never made it to the feast; Aelora ran into her leaving the Feast for bed. She’d been climbing the Red Keep most the day and expressed sadness Maegor’s was so separated from the rest of the Red Keep as they met and talked on the drawbridge. “And you save the best for last, so?”
“Avoid visiting any Westerland camps.”

Aelora blinked, “More Bannerlord muttering?”

His round head shook, the shadow of what was becoming a second chin exaggerated with the angle his face took as he looked at her in a sterner gaze. “Assassination. Sourced from our own shores, no Faceless Men but skilled if unpolished killers in that guild all the same.”

“How?” Poison was a worry of any noble, there was always a reason you could talk yourself into believing for someone to poison you. Or not you; Aelora lost count of how many stories she had heard from old noble ladies of poisonings that killed someone they weren’t intended for.

“Who can know, Princess?”

Her face twisted, “I should hope each golden coin helps you know more and more. If a Lord of Casterly Rock is threatened I would hope to know something more than that.”

His pause was profound, but not cruel, since Aelora knew when her measure was being taken. When he did respond, it was gently, “You wish to intervene. You wish to know enough to prevent. You wish to help. This is admirable, Princess, as admirable as thinking a gold coin for a commoner’s tale a fair price. This will not be stopped, they will die. Yet take comfort; it’s no Lord of Casterly Rock, but a minor Lannister branch that is the unfortunate dead soul.”

More was said, but it all just seemed to twist and dance in her mind like smoke caught in the wind. He offered guardsmen and cooks and the like, but her head shook, as she simply didn’t care. He knew her rule: either people were getting hurt that might not deserve it, or family, or large matters of the realm. Aelora hated most of all that he was right:

She wanted to help. She wanted to intervene. And, as admitted to herself, she had been embarrassed. Too naïve to know the price of a payoff. She would have snorted in anger, stubbornly diving into the shadows of Shadowblack Lane to learn this harsh reality that the spy found adorable she was so ignorant of.
But she was a princess in a palace, and now wasn’t the time. Yet the thought never left her, even as she stopped by the kitchens on her way and talked to Luci and Stoffer. Ducks roasted in lemon and honey, mutton cooked in a thick broth of ale and onions, baked apples with sharp yellow cheese, salads of turnip greens, red fennel, blue cheese, pine nuts, and sweetgrass. Honeycakes baked with blackberries and berry tarts rounded out the meal. Aelora would admit it was meager, but Aelora was undoubtedly the chief food taster in the Red Keep, spending so much of her youth with the stewards of the Red Keep, learning the importance of being lord commander of a host of servants and cooks, men and women, stores and inventories.

She was harder than most to impress.

The hardest detail to smooth out was the location. The Palace was madness, every usual spot taken by a pre existing commitment to hosting Lords and Ladies. Or it would have been difficult, had Aelor not apparently solved the issue with uncle earlier in the yards, practicing for the tournament. According to Aelor the older Prince stared, shrugged, and told him to pick whichever room he wanted that wasn’t chosen. It was exciting only because it meant a rarely used site; both because it was never necessary and because even when it was it was rarely allowed. All in all, the Great Library wasn’t a bad spot.

He was dressed in black tunic and breeches and boots, chest sporting a red Targaryen dragon in large cut ruby, trails of fire along shoulders and down the sides of his boots in matching ruby red. While she dressed, he would see to the rest of it, parting with her outside the kitchens with a quick hug. He even managed to find the Lady that Aelora had sent for clothing for Elayne, and directed her to the right place with hours to spare.

Most of what was left for him was sitting in the Great Library and having a drink as he read a book about old battles by a Maester long dead to time. It was Helene, the Lady from before, that came in after the table was brought in, candles were lit, and most of the table was already set. Helene was from a House close to King’s Landing, though which, at the moment, he could not recall. There had been drama between Lady Samatha of House Rykker, Aelora’s last Lady in Waiting, and…closest friend? Former closest friend? Former friend? It wasn’t in Aelor’s nature to pry when Aelora was clearly disturbed, and whatever had happened, Aelora had wanted nothing to do with taking him through it. She had just wanted him to hug her during the fallout.

“She used your room, we dressed her, she’s ready and awaiting you, my Prince.”

It was dry, distant, however polite the words the girl used. Aelor had no history of grabbing any of Aelora’s ladies and hauling them off, and Aelora never did say anything to any of her Ladies, but they all acted the same way about them: either at odds, or vowed to silence. Lady Samatha once explained it was because, while no one said it, all the Ladies knew: Aelor and Aelora were all but betrothed.

A dreadful thought in some ways, but it explained why they treated him so politely, so coldly. It wasn’t fear of him, or fear of her, it was fear of them—of intruding, of doing something that would get in the way of what many in the Red Keep saw as one of the purest romances, and easiest matches, within the Targaryen dynasty.

He wasn’t so sure, but Aelor had long ago resigned himself to the distinction between duty and the rest of his life. His twin had done just the same. He met her with nothing but a dagger on his simple but polished black leather belt and silver buckle. It was borrowed, as was the long dagger in a black sheath. His own hair was combed out but retained a slight wave to it, a small braid falling from his head behind his left shoulder.

At the door he nodded to the house guards on duty, one of which simply opened the door and said something. A moment later she appeared, wearing a long cut gown in black satin that bared her porcelain shoulders hinted at the bright red satin lining, most notably at her chest. The young woman’s hips were dressed with a braided bejeweled black leather belt, seemingly every type of gem with every color, dazzling and sparkling as she moved.

Her Valyrian hair was combed fine and straight and let to fall about her back and chest and shoulders. He smelled rose petals when was anywhere close to him, alerting him that they’d met Elayne there. The twins met the Kingsguard Knight outside the Great Library, he along with six other Targaryen Knights that had traveled with them from the Red Keep would be posted on either side of the table, far enough back to be forgotten unless looked for, but close enough to act quickly if necessary. The white cloak would stand behind Aelor, who would take the head of the table. Lady Elayne and Princess Aelora on one side, the Lothson’s on the other.

The meal was splendid, not overly done as Elayne had feared. Nor was the gown that had been collected from her tent out of taste. The dark yellow could have been gold if not for the actual golden panels, taken from one of her mother’s dresses, but it the white lace and undersleeves were pristine. A series of black bats and towers were patterned across the plain brown belt and golden buckle. Suitable, though the neckline was hardly anything Elayne found proper. It had been commissioned by Danelle before they had left Harrenhal, one of the dresses to attract the eye. Smoothing the peerless gown, she gave the twins a smile that she hoped hid her terror at the mess this could well turn into as she tugged at a stray lock of hair.

Sweet pear wine and Arbor Gold were already awaiting at the set table, the smell of food making his belly rumble as he turned away from the table to the door, finding her looking at him for a second before looking back to Aelora. The wine would wait as Aelor made his way to the door and smiled, admiring the view, “Lady Elayne, you look beautiful…and terrified. Why is she terrified?”

Aelora smiled, “Because she’s not slow, Aelor. I was just telling her to take a deep breath, and come in! Look at the library, the table…and the wine. I’d suggest the sweet pear wine. It’s softer on the belly, but makes EVERYTHING better. Shall I fetch you a glass?”

Sighing at her failure to keep that terror hidden, Elayne tugged harder at the curling lock that fell over her shoulder. “The library is wonderful, books are wonderful.” She agreed though there was a strain in her voice. It would be a miracle if nothing untoward happened thus far. Though it was lovely to get a chance to see the twins in splendor, they were lovely and would look more still if she could just figure out how to make black stand out from black. Sheparding her mind back to the course, she found herself nervously pacing. Giving the twins a nervous smile, Elayne tried not to let the frown she felt through the mask and have it aimed at the Prince. He was such a good man for trying to help her, even if he seemed a bit a fool with his question. That he made more problems was simply a by product of such. “Please, Highnesses, I must apologize before hand. My father has- He doesn’t have the best of temperaments and is quick to assume.” Was she pacing again? Her feet seemed to be moving and she felt her hand tugged at that stubborn lock of hair. “This is going to be a disaster.” She whispered in utter horror of what was going to happen. Perhaps she might knock a candle over and spare disaster one way with another one? She knew herbs! Elayne mourned the too late thought, if she had thought it earlier some herbs in her wine would allow her to feign illness and put a stop to this madness! “Danelle is sharped tongue, but she means well. There’s a lot placed on her as heir.” She was fretting, wasn’t she?

Aelor’s face brightened, even as the light of the dying sun flooded the library chamber gold, a smile to match nearly upon his features, “They hate us and prefer the Blackfyres. We know. Treason, and all that.” He seemed amused by her, more than the topic of his own words. “It’s okay, Lady Elayne.”

And Aelora barely seemed to notice he said anything worth hearing at all. She was distracted, eyes on the table, worrying over little imperfections, asking a passing steward to make sure the fireplaces were lit, but along the first and second floors. It seemed to get more and more chilly with each passing night at Summerhall.

“Thoughts are hardly treason when they are less than words.” Elayne answered diplomatically, with a smile that was more teeth than the demure one she wore. “Highness.” That hesitation before adding his title was just as pointed. “I would ask you not to barb my father with such talk, Prince Aelor.” Her cheeks were positively flaming that she dared to say such to him, while a small part of her grumped that it was the man’s own fault for insulting her family. Not that he was wrong. No, he was far more correct than she cared for. The problem was treason by her father and sister would hardly spare her. Her hands at least had stopped tugging and smoothing. “Please?” She glanced towards the door, her brow creased though a small smile still masked her face.

“…what? What happened?” Aelora returned to the conversation, left lost by Elayne’s plea, eyes bouncing between Lothson and her twin.

Aelor said it flatly, like he was repeating some dull fact, “Treason, all that.”

“Oh, yeah.” All the sudden excitement from the mystery of what Aelora had missed in the conversation was gone the moment she heard the topic. For once, she looked more bored than Aelor. “Honestly, this might be our…twenty-and-something dinner with a Lord or Lady that’s treasonous in one way, or another?”

“Close to that number, I imagine,” Aelor nodded.

Aelora shrugged and smiled to Elayne, “We don’t care. You don’t feel that way.”

“I promise not to broach the subject.”

The other twin nodded, once, twice, “Yes, of course, myself as well: I promise not to broach the subject with your family.”

“…if they bring it up, however,” Aelor shrugged, slowly, as he turned on his boot and headed for the table.

Targaryen madness might be more common than she had first through, Elayne sighed and looked between the twins with the same lost expression she first had. “Thank you.” She whispered, and stiffened as she heard a servant open the door. Her hands moved to fold before her and her face became a beaming smile, a mask slid over all else. Taking a hesitant step forward, she watched at the servant brought in Manfryd and Danelle Lothston. “Father, Sister.” She paused as if a hand had been clamped over her mouth.

Manfryd had dressed well in a coat of black with a white and gold bat stitched across the chest. His face was a thundercloud that only dimmed slightly as he gave his youngest daughter a fond smile before turning his cold eyes on the Prince and Princess. Danelle observed the room as she and her father mad their bows to the royal twins. A finger lowering to lay with the rest of her hand.

“Oh, Elayne. Sweet sister, we were worried for you when you wandered off, on your first tournament going too.” Danelle’s husky voice could not be called soft but there was concern there. For her own plans, Elayne knew. Embracing her sister as Danelle seemed wont to do, the younger stiffened as Danelle’s voice dipped to a more private whisper. “Fool girl.” A snarl as she felt the woman’s thumb dig in slightly into her side, tucked away from their watchers.

Elayne kept her smile and observed for all of Aelora’s disapproval Danelle had chosen well. Wearing her own gown of creme with dark embroidery over it. “My apologies sister, I must have been caught up in all the excitement.” The threat was clear and she was to play along if she hoped to see another. “If I may? Allow me to introduce Prince Aelor and Princess Aelora of House Targaryen, who gave me such assistance. My father, Manfryd of House Lothston, Lord of Harrnehal. Lady Danelle, his heir.” It would be foolish to leave that out and probably earn her a sharp pinch to add it if she did.

Manfryd had turned his gaze from his wife’s greatest gift to him and glowered at the Prince. Seeming eager to want to demand answers as to the situation. “And why is it a Targaryen Prince, raised in decorum, would not see a lady returned to her family?” Elayne winced, even as she spied the small smile on Danelle’s lips. Had her sister been planting her seeds into their father’s mind about how her rescue by the Prince had gone?

Aelor had stood when the Lothsons entered, a pleasant enough smile upon his face introduced. At the Lord’s question, Aelor didn’t hesitate: “I confess to being lost outside the walls of Summerhall, Lord Lothson. You must recall this place I’ve spent so much time, transformed into a city of tents and pavilions as far as I can see. Lady Elayne spoke so highly of you both, I felt I had to invite you to Summerhall, and being I knew where it was…the choice was more practical.”
Princess Aelora found back teeth biting into her tongue to keep her from saying the wrong something. Finally, the pious and pure Princess spoke up, “We meant not to offend, my Lord, but to honor your House. There are five meals taking place right now in Summerhall. All small, all private, all invitation only. We sent a large party to immediately inform you of Lady Elayne’s situation, as well as to deliver the invitation.”

The point was unspoken but left bare for the Lothsons to see: they would be talk of the tent city. Some would mention Lady Elayne and the Prince, most would focus more on the dinner. What did they speak about? What petitions were spoken of? This is why there were stories of Aelor and Elayne?
Aelora knew the outrage to follow, the trap she stepped into, but she was confident in the fact that today had been a good day for House Lothson, and Lord Manfyrd in particular.

“Was the party sent to inform you and deliver the invite below your station, my Lord?” Aelora asked, visibly frowning, as the brother of the Kingsguard shifted uncomfortably at the sight from the far end of the room and the sudden silence became profound. It was no accident; unbeknownst to the Lothsons there was a harpist waiting to be brought in, and a minstrel with lute awaiting upstairs.

“It was fair enough.” Manfryd’s voice was not an inch warmer, but he could see the reason of the Prince taking Elayne to Summerhall. It had seemed nothing untoward had happened, but still.. There had been as many whispers saying nothing had happened between King Aegon IV and Jeyne, more were the whispers of his mother and sister sharing the same bed as the Targaryen King and each other. Danelle had suggested that it might be a ploy of some sort to take Elayne as hostage to make sure Harrenhal would remain a ruin. That all his plans would be to the tune played by the Targaryens. In truth? He had just as little love for the Blackfyres, but King Daeron he was sure was a bastard. A king with so many children and his wife only bearing one? Aegon had as well as named Daemon by bestoying the man Blackfyre, the ancestral sword. A sword this youth’s hand would never touch though by rights his father or grandfather ought to have it, if they were King Aegon’s trueborn heirs.

There was a shift of skirts as Danelle rose from a curtsy. “Fair enough, indeed. You honor us inviting House Lothston to dine with you.” It seemed that any urging Manfryd required Danelle was eager to give it. Elayne wanted to feel relief but she knew there would be hidden pitfalls.

Taking his cue from his daughter Manfryd continued. “Yes, it is indeed welcome that you arranged this” His eyes noting the Kingsguard skeptically. Elayne could imagine the man thought this to be a trap. Some scheme. He was hardly wrong, though it was more of Danelle’s making she mused. “Honored even.” He grated, and Elayne stiffened as she felt Danelle’s hand on her arm. A puppeteer. “Though one wonders why you could not send my child back with that party and invitation?”

All Aelora did was look at a certain Knight, and one of the Targaryen men-in-arms stepped back and away. Soon enough the minstrel with the lute would start in the background, descending from the spiral staircase.

Aelor looked, in an instant, emotional. There was a hard edge to his eyes, and his shoulders seemed to stiffen as he straightened to his full, impressive, height. His chin tightened, in anger, possibly? He nodded, several times, as his voice sounded, and the mystery was lifted:

Aelor wasn’t angry, but he did look and sound emotional the more Lord Manfryd pushed, “Lord Lothson…Ladies, apologies for the unpleasant nature of what must be said in your presence,” he walked as spoke, first speaking to Manfyrd, then stopping as he got close to Aelora, while looking to Elayne and Danelle and apologizing for what must be said. But what must be said wasn’t said, not until Aelor was within a foot or less of the Lord of Harrenhal. His voice quiet, intense. “I know what House Targaryen has done to your good House, Lord Manfyrd. I had not thought…I made a mistake. Once I realized it, once I arrived, I knew what had to be done.”

He moved, opening up to the rest of them and taking a step back, his voice louder but his tone the same, gravely seriously but more vulnerable than he was clearly comfortable with, “I had to bring you here. You had to see your daughter, well and untouched, kept company by my sister, while I practiced in the yard,” his voice lowered again as Manfyrd became Aelor’s only focus, the Prince once again stepping close to the man, “You had to see no harm was meant. You had to see a simple mistake was mistake, Lord Manfyrd, that House Targaryen knows the delicate nature of this situation and that we take it seriously. I needed you to see it with your own eyes…who else would you believe more than your own eyes?”

Elayne stiffened and would have taken a step into the fray had not Danelle’s resting arm turned to iron. “Elayne…” The voice spoke softly. “Be a dear and let him set his foot, or need I remind you?” The whisper never rose but Elayne’s eyes flickered between the men worriedly. Danelle had a plan and she was to play the empty headed doll, that Danelle expected.

Manfryd frowned a the Prince as they stood close to each other though he did not back away. Perhaps a fool, but Manfryd was no coward. Perhaps there had been some truth in what the Prince said and certainly there was sense, but lies were said as easily as wine was drunk. “A simple mistake? Perhaps, boy.” There was insult in that word as well, a pointed insult. Bristling slightly he was cut off as Elayne stepped hurriedly forward.

Ignoring the fury in her sister’s eyes, Elayne smiled and hurried to take her father’s hand. To save him from himself and this debacle if nothing else. “All is well Father. Truely, I must apologize for being so scattered.” Her meek voice never rose and was just as lost as she had been when the Prince had found her. “The Princess has been most delightful and gracious in allowing me to gather myself at Summerhall while the Prince was about his business. Please, allow us to dine and forgot this dark talk.” She smiled, beaming between the two men and tried to ignore the icy chill she could feel run down her spine. How had simply slipping around a tent turned into this mess? Smoothingher hand over her skirt as she dropped’her father’s hand at his curt look, she felt Danelle’s hand about her shoulder. Putting the strings back on the puppet she supposed.

“A simple mistake.” He repeated himself and glanced at Elayne before continuing far more carefully. “It seems simple mistakes have led us to here. You speak boldly for one so young and my daughter seems well off with your aid.” There was an edge still in the man’s tone and he seemed distinctly thrown off his first thought of challenge from the Prince’s and Elayne’s words.

Aelor heard no insult. A healthy respect for elders was beaten into Aelor in the Royal yards at the hands of cousins and uncles and Kingsguard. To a man the age of Manfyrd he was a boy, and fair enough. Aelora presented the seats to the Lothsons, apologizing for stealing ‘her new friend’ to the other side of the table with her.

It wasn’t long after drinks were poured and food was served. Aelor didn’t hesitate, asking before he even had a bite, “How is Harrenhal, Lord Manfyrd? How goes the town? I imagine a busy time with harvests near.”

He was interested in what the Lord of Harrenhal had to say, and Aelor knew few Lords who weren’t eager to talk harvests and stores and prices and castle, especially one like Harrenhal. Aelor knew its scale. He didn’t want to imagine running it.

It was the right way to steer the conversation and Elayne relaxed as she found herself sitting across from her father and sister. Had she sat by Danelle, her elder sister would have made her look the fool. As it was, Manfryd nodded easily and spoke of the repairs he had paid, per the laws written out by King Jaehaerys, for to restore parts of Harrenhal. The towers and the great hall, not that they were in disrepair, but they did require more refurbishing after neglect from former Lords. The town was a bustle with the harvest and not only the harvest coming in. Fishing was prevalent on the God’s Eye and the running of Harrenhal was fit to keep any man busy. A litt wonder, Elayne thought with a sigh, that he failed to notice the strife forming amongst his children.

Danelle for her part was listening pateitnly, and carefully. Her words adding in a thing that Manfryd mused over or nudging some idea before the man. Elayne felt the pinch to her side and hid her wince in her goblet. Danelle was going to be pleased to have her back, but unhappy about how easily she could have taken the favor of the Targaryens by fixing Manfryd ‘mindless blunders’. Though her words turned Manfryd from a topic every so often. Turning her words to Aelora the woman continued. “I do hope Elayne was not too much trouble getting under your feet. The girl can be a bit mindless at times, but then… Well, I fear you understand all too well. Having found her wandering about on her lonesome.” She added simply. Elayne merely smiled, though she tasted the hurt as she bit her tongue to keep from doing anything that would upset Danelle still more. Her hands folded in her lap, clenching neatly.

Aelora was mid-drink when Danelle began, lavender eyes bright and big and alive with a happy warmth as she listened, “Not at all. She was a great help, worked with palace staff and my own Ladies in Waiting to get tonight’s meal off the ground, allowed me to see to a very important visitor. Did some light reading on the Greater Mysteries of the Valyrians and the Rhoynar, too, since that was the book I left open.”

“Elayne will be speaking High Valyrian before we know it.”

It was a toast, as Aelor said it with goblet in the air. He said first in the way that came naturally to him, in High Valyrian. He said it again in the common tongue, for all present. Aelora repeated the High Valyrian, and held her own glass up. “To new friendships.”

Elayne felt roses bloom in her cheeks as her father looked with smug satisfaction. He had always thought highly of her, even if she forever seemed to fall short. But the praised heaped on the young woman by the twins made her clench her hands for another reason. “Surely not, forgive me Princess but I did not wish to disturb over much and reading is a small comfort.” She joined in the toast even as her family did. Her smile less of a mask and more true.

Danelle settled back into the chair and Elayne knew that the Princess thwarting her words would not go over well. Her sister did have her reasons, it was hardly easy being heir and her father would not understand that Danelle had no wish to marry a man. Still, the woman would be a fury for this. Elayne sighed, she feared she was getting far too beyond her sister and outshining her. Something that could not be allowed. “A doubtful thing.” Danelle stated cooly. “I’ve no time to spend finding her a tutor, the septa and maester do well enough. What need does a wife to learn High Valyrian? Perhaps if she planned to take an Essosi husband or a Valeryon, but I doubt they would look so inland for a wife.” She remarked with a small bitter laugh. “The men would terrify her with their strange ways!”

“No need, she has Targaryen friends now.”

Aelor’s smile and tone were sweet things in the moment, even if Aelora knew far better. But she smiled along, her tone never wavering from the warmth, “Indeed. We will visit, and you must visit Elayne! Come help me navigate the suitors with me, perhaps we’ll both get fortunate matches. A blessing you haven’t to worry about it, Lady Danelle.”

The tall woman tightened her grip on the stem of her wine glass and her eyes narrowed at the Prince and Princess. Aelora found her foot being thoroughly trodden, as much as a soft slipper could, on as Elayne saw the warning sighs of Danelle’s anger breaking through the surface. But it was Manfryd who spoke.

“Visits,perhaps.” He granted with a sober look of slight annoyance. “But Elayne will remain at Harrenhal while a suitable match is found.” Where it would be lords coming to him over the match. “More over, perhaps a match will be found tonight.” He remarked, Elayne knew she was now blushing for another reason than Aelor’s declaration alone and looked in alarm at Manfryd even as Danelle’s eyes slid sideways. “The Redwynes have two sons of their House that might be suitable.” He remarked. “A good rich house, though I would rather see you, my dear, married to an heir and not some run of the mill cousin.” A marriage for Danelle then, and the woman was looking like viper. Elayne swallowed heavily.

“It would be a pleasure.” Her tone was soft but there was no sweetness in it and her hands smoothed her gown. “I shall wish for all to go well Danelle.” The look from the martial woman made her skin crawl.

“As do I.” Danelle agreed with a vicious look. “Of course, these are matters for later and not this lovely dinner.”

“Talk of Banner rebellion in the Reach, Lord Manfryd. Pick the wrong match there, and you may never see Lady Elayne again,” Aelor added in, almost casually, confident in his information—he always paid attention to what Aelora relayed, even if liked the pretense that he didn’t most the time. That and a long sip of his wine, as Aelora found herself chiming in, the wine making her head a little warm, and fuzzy.

“Besides, Redwynes? They’re alright, but you’re the most powerful Bannerman to the Riverlands. The Crown knows Harrenhal is close should we need assistance, Lords of Harrenhal have a long history serving Royal councils, even Hands of the King. You have Harrenhal town itself, Lord Harrow’s Town, the lake, not to mention the largest structure in Westeros…this is a significant ally. You need an ally equally worthy. Perhaps you could offer your wisdom on our own potential matches, Lord Manfyrd?”

Aelor nodded, firmly, “YES. You’re an experienced man of steel and political prowess, Lord Manfyrd, we would be better off with your wisdom.”

The Lord of Harrenhal frowned slightly, puzzlement though not outright hostility. “The Redwynes have a son to take the Lothston name by marriage with Danelle. Though, I must ask, your own matches. Are not the two of you to wed each other as is your… custom?” Danelle took a long sip of her wine. Elayne looked startled and perplexed. A feeling she felt was all too common around the twins.

The twins just laughed, with Aelora finally being the first to admit, “An option, of course, but marrying to secure strengthened bonds with noble houses has worked well for House Targaryen most recently. It would be foolish for House Targaryen to not at least look into the possibilities that present themselves.”
“…you sound like our grandsire,” Aelor remarked, smirking at his sister.

She shrugged, “Yes, but he’s right.”

“He is.” Aelor wouldn’t dare pretend otherwise, leaving him to turn back to Lord Manfryd, “You know the kingdom as we do not, Lord Manfryd. You are…closer to certain aspects that we are not. You are cautious regarding your own children’s matches, so again I ask: what wisdom would you offer us were you an advisor to House Targaryen?”

Danelle could wish the two were stupid and in truth? She did most feverently. It would be so much simpler then, she could have her power. Harrenhal and her women to love and play with. Why did Elayne have to wander off? To be scoped up by some brat of a conqueror two hundred years in the past? “Very wise and tried and true notions.” She answered simply. Though she contemplated switching Elayne for this trespass upon their plans. Manfryd was rising too high too soon. It would draw attention when he died, and worse? He might well die with an heir if the other Houses sought to ally themselves with a marriage directly to the Lord. Of course she had taken precautions a bit of hemlock, a bit of night’s bane, a few other herbs in his mead. Something to loosen the bowels, to strain the heart. A bit to deaden the interest in women. But this?! Danelle was going to see him fall from the rampants next time he toured the repairs to Harrenhal!

Elayne leaned into the chair and watched as Danelle’s finger ran along the stem of the wine glass as though she wished it was some dagger. She those movements before and sighed. “How would I?” Her father’s voice was certainly off balance and his irksome nature was uncertain if this was some mockery of him or something to brag about later. Musing it over, the Lord of Harrenhal nodded seemingly in thought. “I would repair relations, in truth. Taking husband and wife those lords in key positions. Martial and commerce points of interest.” He words were careful and he looked rather thoughtful. Elayne felt her heart flutter slightly at the thought that there might be some chance, but the young woman stilled it. She was of a small House, in a ruined castle. Their lands were large, but hardly of interest.

“Marriages in Dorne and the Stormlands are always useful. Though I could hardly see why you’d look to the North. The Starks and loyal if nothing else and to be frank? Their uses are slim compared to the rest of the realm. They are vast, yes. But hardly rich and their military might can hardly face down the rest of the Six- Seven Kingdoms.” He shrugged seeming more in his own mind as he considered Aelor skeptically. Amused if nothing else. “I myself have a fair young daughter.” Elayne flushed as that thought came far too close to her own thinking.

Aelor looked to his twin, and nodded, slowly, “It’s good advice.”

“Right about the North. Plus dragons and cold…”

The Prince took a long drink, thought about it, shook his head, “I suppose you’re right.”

“He’s right, too, Lady Elayne is a potential match. We will have to inform our father.”

“His father?” Aelor asked, in a voice that wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the answer.

Aelora pondered it for a moment or two, before laughing, “I’m not sure. I’m always hesitant to bother him…better to let father if he decides it requires it.”
On that point, the twins agreed, and toasted to letting their father confront the King for an opinion on the matter, as Aelor explained to Manfryd, “We just recently opened up any kind of courtship. Summerhall is our first public appearance in such a capacity. Any potential matches we report to our father. I presume the Small Council may weigh in, the King himself, possibly.”

“Likely, in your case,” Aelora said, referencing the line of succession, as she downed what was left of her drink. The food was as eaten as it could get, neither twin being able to eat much more. “I fear the night grows late for me, you have a tournament soon?”

Aelor chuckled as he stood, “I did join those lists, didn’t I? Thank you for coming, Lord and Lady Lothston. Lord Lothston, I shall likely see you around the tourney field, same to both you Ladies.”

Elayne coud have happily died there in that chair rather than be subjected to the conversation of the Targaryen twins and her father. Her face turning into a red banner as she swallowed a gulp of wine.”I do.” Manfryd agreed, seeming much in better humor than he had before. His mind was rearranging plans and ideas, new ones and less tainted with the irritation, were being noted as they came. Moving to stand, the man bowed to the royal twins and looked to his two daughters.

Danelle was as serene as a ocean and it was just as much a lie, for within her a maelstrom was unfurling and her anger flashed in her eyes as she considered Aelora. The woman had power of some sort, some skill that had turned everything against her. Just as her twin did. Standing she crooked a finger at Elayne in a gestured that would drop the girl’s bright eyes to her shoes as well it should. “Come sister, let us be about to our tents for you to rest.” She commanded, not bothering to deign her younger sister with a glance.

The youngest of the Lothstons stiffened, her face paling slightly though her smile became more fixed. Standing, she hesitated and pressed a small strip of cloth into the Prince’s hand. “My favor. Wear it if you wish. I am sorry, I wish I could do this a more proper way, but…” She shook her head subtly, and gave both a smaller, far more apologetic smile. “Your hospitality was most welcome, Your Highness.” Dipping a cursty she moved to join her sister, her form becoming stiffer as she eyed Danelle warily. Anyone with sense would with the woman’s towering temper.

It was the white knight that had moved to the door, as the household guards stood sentinel just outside the doors of the library. He had said something about luck and the tournament to Manfryd, as Aelor thanked Elayne politely, and the mass of people moved for the door. Aelor stood behind, but Aelora stayed with them until the doors, until Manfryd was out still talking to the knight, and Danelle had seen Elayne go in front of her, to keep a better eye on her?

Aelora didn’t think about what happened next, she just acted: taking the four to five steps to reach the door from where she had stopped, reaching out and taking Danelle’s shoulder, leaning her neck forward so that her lips could be so close to Danelle’s ears the vibration of Aelora’s lips would be enough for Danelle to tell what was whispered, even if she didn’t hear it:

”I’ve seen your end.”

Lavender eyes smoldered at the woman as Danelle’s eyes shot back and over her shoulder at the Targaryen Princess, only for the Lothston woman to watch the Princess change completely on a dime, smiling and bidding them farewell, waving and thanking Lord Manfyrd for coming once again as the Kingsguard knight escorted them home as sort of parting honor guard.

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Almalthia
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Almalthia Friendly neighborhood redhead

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A Mummer’s Farce, A Reunion & A Dance Part II

There was a cough and rustle nearby, as Ashe Stark stepped out from the shadows. “Alright, alright I believe that’s enough of the things Gryff sings about in long laments and whines. Howling Wolf he is... Ashton! Gwendolyn! We have a party to get to. I've got more beer than you could drink in a Dornish desert. Not to mention Gwen, it’s time to introduce you to Raelith... Also the She-bears have already gotten into the beer and started arm wrestling. We should hurry before they break everything." He explained rather quickly walking up and clasping both on the shoulders. “After all... Father should know about your betrothed dear Gwendolyn~” Ashe gave in a sing-song tone, his bow traded for a lute trailing behind Beylee with a violin skipped in, she could hear Gryff picking at his Viola in the distance.

Clasping Ashton’s hand Gwen narrowed her eyes at Ashe. “Your wife will need to repeat herself often for you to absorb anything she says. You have selective hearing and it only gets worse with your decrepitude. I’d love to see you tell Uncle Bran about it and see how far he tosses you. Shall we place bets?"

Gwen pulled Ashton along and motioned Bennifer to sit with them at the table she indicated. She pushed Ashton down into a chair and sat next to him so close that her right side pressed to his left.

Ashton followed along dutifully, his attention almost entirely on Gwen. He did chuckle a bit when she addressed Ashe but for the most part he didn't do a ton. The closeness was intoxicating to the young man and instead of awkwardly sitting shoulder to shoulder his arm moved around her to side hug and he smiled over to her.

Rolling her head toward Ashton as he moved his arm around her more comfortably Gwen grinned at Ashton. “They’re about to play and you still owe me a dance, Hightower. What say you can you keep up? Cause I will wear those shoes out." She leaned in and tapped him lightly on the nose, winking at him.

Ashe chuckled as he took a seat across from them, with a grin as he stretched. Faiel came over placing mugs of beer on the table for the boys. As from behind Ashe appeared two She-Bears eyeing Gwen’s suitor. Ashe for his part had drawn his knife playing a game of jamming it between his splayed out fingers getting faster and faster, passing time of his looking away from it as he spoke at Ashton. “So I heard Hightower here is a Squire?" Ah the Knight’s Bane was at it again, she could hear a snicker of laughter from Junara, one of the She-Bears. “You fight any campaigns for Hightower or them Dornish bastards?"

The Stark tent was massive; laid out with rows and rows of tables. Each one had a keg of beer servers, sometimes even highborn helped bring out platters of food. Feasts of meat, chickens roasted with veggies, boar haunches cooked whole in their own fat, and even fried sheep stomachs stuffed with a mix of veggies. All of it would make you fat... Or keep you alive through harsh winter with calories to burn. The northern diet it seemed was different from the southern by a wide margin, few greens were even noticeable among it all.

Ashton for the most part ignored the looks and chuckles. He had heard them a lot growing up in court. He wasn't the best at making friends and he was whispered about and teased quite often. Though it usually stopped when his sister found out. As such, he just kept his eyes on Gwen and smiled at her, enjoying the time he had. Even when he was addressed directly by Ashe, Ashton simply shrugged and nodded. "Still a Squire, yeah. I could have gotten it after a raid a year ago but I don't mind it, plus the more actual experience the better Knight you'll be. No sense in rushing it, and I want whatever action I do to get Knighted to mean something."

He finally averted his gaze to peer at the woman, unimpressed really. I mean, certainly they were large women but to Ashton they were simply fellow warriors. If anything it made it easier. "I've had plenty of practical experience if that's what you're asking."

“Knighthood bah! Never needed a title to kill a man. Only thing it does is tie you to that damn church of the seven." Ashe muttered as he buried the knife in the table hard. “I never understood that idea of virtues, honor, and holier-than-thou shite. Knight’s a title for a man who murders bunch a folk for their lord. Why should we honor a man for doing what’s expected of them, loyalty is loyalty and shouldn't have to bribe and lay gifts at their feet to get it." He answered leaving the knife there in the table as he leaned back taking up a mug of beer taking a long deep drink. “I’ve been dealing with wildling raids and organizing the troops for my uncle. I would have liked to stay, meet this ‘Skag King’ myself sounds like a right proper bastard. I put arrows in bastard's eyes, and can even hit the slit in a helmet... Or when it comes to wildlings, split their cock down the middle with an arrow." He chuckled.

“You know, you want proper practice for the tourney and ought to find Gryff! Little brother’s swordplay is unmatched by North men, could even be a match for your Sword of the Morning." Ashe knew far more and played far dumber, “He’ll be in soon... Got your blade with you lad? I’ll make the introduction then you can let some steel sing us a few ballads!" He spoke adding a cheer, what Ashton didn’t notice was the crowd that had gathered when he cheered plenty of the Northmen cheered too clearly enthralled by the idea of seeing the two duel.

Gwen narrowed her eyes at Ashe. “I swear… you know what no." She had prepared to launch into a speech and instead reached over and popped the bottom of Ashe’s mug spilling the ale all over him. “Back off. He’s got guest privileges."

The room burst with laughter then went silent as Ashe was soaked. “...Alright that’s it Gwendolyn Carmyne." Ashe stood up and stared. “I challenge you!" Ashe yelled in over dramatic fashion tossing down one of his leather gloves onto the table. “For I demand satisfaction!" Gwen knew the tone, as serious as it sounded she had played this game many times at Winterfell. It was mocking Southern traditions of how to ask for duels, of course only the Starks knew that. “I shall choose the weapons, for you have mocked me the last time!" He dramatically pointed the finger at her, something dawned on her... Ashe wasn’t doing this to be mean, he was doing this to get Ashton accepted in with the rest of the northerners here to try and get everyone feeling more open and talkative. For ale to flow you need good entertainment after all.

Gwen smirked. “There are plenty of women here who can attest to the fact that you always get yours but they very, very rarely do when it comes to you." She knew he was kidding and being dramatic. The laughter made her grin all the more. “However I accept."

Turning her face up to Ashton she batted her eyelashes. “Be my champion?"

From the crowd they heard one of the She-Bears yell. “That is if Gwen knew what was satisfying heard she got her first taste of man today!"

Gwen’s head snapped to She-Bear, her eyes on fire. “Or maybe my source was just jealous because she can’t seem to give as good as she gets? He walk away from you one too many times for someone else, humm?"

The Ursa Major, Eyrna Ord, herself stood up throwing back her entire tankard then looking at her charges then Gwen. “Gwen... You cut with words, it's true... We cut with fucking steel and I can’t stop them all." She added glaring at the other bears who suddenly found interest in their mugs. “Now... Ladies, leave the little river twerp to her man or I’ll wipe the floor with the lot of ya!" She snarled and threw her tin mug into the ground hard enough to break the base of it. They all had their warning from the Ursa Major herself... Who stalked over to stand next to Ashe taking his mostly empty mug for herself as he smiled at her.

“Thank you darling, do drop by later to meet my betrothed." Ashe’s teasing got a single middle finger back as she walked away, the resident babysitter for Sylvara and Brandon’s brats... Even the adopted ones.

Gwen inclined her head to the Ursa Major as if she had asked Gwen something casually conversational. She was nipping at Ashe. They should know better than to get involved. With anyone else blood would flow. With Ashe they might bruise each other but they stopped shy of real blood. Besides, any rumors like that would ruin any more chances of her getting a good match, including Ashton. She smirked good naturedly at Ashe but her heart wasn’t in it anymore.

Ashton sighed, keeping his calm and simply giving Ashe a smile and shrug. "I have yet to insult your ways and beliefs. Why did you presume to insult mine own? Worship who you want, fight who you want, but who is anyone here to tell anyone else what they should do or judge them because of it." Ashton didn't raise his voice whatsoever, his tone more questioning and curious. "Like with any other type of person there will be terrible Knights but also very good ones. They're supposed to be more than a simple soldier or butcher, and the ones that are tend to be well remembered and spoken of. Empathy, understanding, and understanding why you draw a sword is far better than drawing it without cause. Something even I am struggling with."

He nodded to Ashe, the heir of House Stark and then to the she-bear who spoke. "Regardless, I have no desire to fight anyone tonight. If someone wishes to cross blades with me then tomorrow would be the best time, I will be looking forward to it. Until then I will be sitting here enjoying good company, a truly amazing person sitting beside me, and good food." He then watched the rest of the back and forth and sat contended, though his eyes took everything in. Every voice was assigned a mental picture of their appearance and more important people were even given some extra details. He learned quickly, and he was finding attributing things to sword lessons made things a lot easier. Too bad the Maesters didn't know this back when he was growing up.

When things settled down, Ashton squeezed Gwen a bit and chuckled. "Hopefully meeting my family will go a bit easier and with less threats of violence."

Gwen looked up at Ashton. She had noticed that he was even taller sitting than she was. She’d never realized that she had most of her height in the length of her legs. “It’s a compliment in the North. Plus it is a game. One that Ashe and I excel at. A mummer's farce if you will. It is entertaining."

She looked out at the crowd. “Well we have an answer, no blades but perhaps some dancing? Will that do?" Looking back at Ashton. “Does that satisfy?"

"I see, well I suppose I should be thankful for the compliment then. And I am, it will just take me some time to adjust to these things. But I guess it's sort of nice in a strange 'I never know when I should be ready to fight or laugh' kind of way." Ashton chuckled and then sighed, closing his eyes and wondering just how all of this had happened. The night prior Ashton would have never expected such a thing could ever happen, except in the stories that he had heard. But here he was, sitting beside a truly amazing girl who seemed to like him as much as he liked her. Suddenly even the tourney didn't matter anymore… Oh!

Suddenly all of the past year spent training came rushing back to him. He had been dead set on some day joining the Kingsguard and serving as best as he could. But even the realization didn't spoil Ashtons mood and if anything he was able to move on quickly, so what he wouldn't be a Kingsguard, he could still strive to be like Aemon without that title. Who knows maybe he could form a group of Knights that wished to do things the right way and form his own thing. He chuckled to himself, anything was possible if the last ten hours were any judge.

“I’d offer a groat for your thoughts but I don’t currently have one on me. Any idea what I could offer?" Gwen blushed prettily and bit her lip laughing silently; the shake of her shoulders gave it away.

Realizing he had zoned out Ashton looked to her and shook his head. "I was thinking about how quickly life tends to change. This morning I was laying in the grass, staring up at the sky and dreaming of becoming a Knight of the Kingsguard and now I'm sitting beside the most amazing person in Westeros. Now, you owe me a dance. Come on! And sorry in advance for any toes stepped upon. I'm a fighter, not a dancer. You have been warned."

Gwen grinned. “I’m quite light on my feet. You won’t step on me." She pulled him onto the floor and when the musicians decided to play a reel she almost rolled her eyes. They wanted to see the Southerner try to keep up.

The song had started out slow with the fiddle in a cyclical melody which Gwen led Ashton in a back and forth easy step and was rather romantic. Then the fiddler started ad libbing and flying over the strings. The claps and stamps of feet kept time as the pace quickened. She grinned as he kept up with her.

Tossing her hair Gwen grinned and had Ashton spin her and as the music ended he bent her low, leaning over her with his hand supporting her off the ground. Gwen had never had someone do something so daring during a dance. She clung to him as he held her suspended and off balance.

The dance was exhilarating, Ashton had never been big on it since it usually required a partner and well… Either way he wasn't an experienced dancer. But what he was, was a very good fighter and his footwork was just as good as a dancer, perhaps even better in some aspects. And so he watched Gwen for cues and let her lead him.

The start was nice, Ash clinging to the Carmyne and shifting occasionally as he rested his head against hers and stared into her eyes. And then things got faster, and it took all of Ashton's perception and dexterity to keep up. His sword cranked against his thigh as he moved and by the end of the song he was out of breath. But still he held Gwen suspended and as he stared down at her he suddenly didn't care who was watching. He leaned himself down and moved in for a proper kiss.

They were both excited hearts pounding and his eyes deepened and Gewn’s breath caught. He was looking at her a bit differently, no this was very different. An exciting difference. His eyes went to her mouth and she started to say his name when he kissed her.

Gwen was still off balance so she clung to him with her eyes closed. Her hands slowly shifted from clinging to his shoulders to behind his neck. Her finger curled into his hair. His hair was soft. Softer than she expected and she sighed contentedly.

Did it suddenly get hot? The winds of Dorne blow into Summerhall? It certainly felt like there was suddenly a fire raging right beside him, enveloping him, making his breathing erratic and quick. His kiss was by all extents a quick affair as he needed to breathe and so as he came up for air he opened his eyes and smiled that smile that you can only see when a person has had their first real kiss. He was practically glowing, his tanned skin now looking like some sort of God like energy was being emanated from it. His eyes somehow shone brighter and his smile widened.

"Wow." Was the only word he breathed out.

It was over too soon. Gwen made a small whimper as his lips left and she opened her eyes. Ashton’s smile made her heart skip and she felt a flame with a tingle as if she had lain on her whole body and it was waking up. She knew she was blushing and ducked her head into Ashton’s neck. Her breath quick soft puffs across his skin.

"And the proof proves out truth!" Perhaps there was some philosophy in the great bull of a man's words, as he laughed in a fairly victorious fashion. “Let all the North see this man was favored by their ward and who was to gain say an honest youth and his lady love?" Bennifer's own marriage had been something less than pleasant at the start, now? He held a fondness for his wife, though perhaps it was more their son that had brought them together. "Hah, I'll speak for the Blackwood cousins to support you lad if you have to take them to duels one and all under the weirwoods!" He slapped a measure fist on the back of a she-bear speaking of the Starks.

Ashe would have raised concern if not a moment later entered Brandon Stark, causing silence to spill across the room. As he glanced at Gwen, then at Ashe then jerked his head towards the table at the back of the tent. Where the Starks would sit along with their honored guests, they both knew what this meant. The Bannerlords, their children, and the many houses who had made the long journey were all going to be here in a moment. They needed to be united as a family together at the table. Sylvara enters with roasted boar freshly made on a serving tray... Two of them, one each supported by a single hand. Behind her Mathias with two full size kegs the runt barely strained as he supported them.

Finally Gryffith entered with a stunning variety of flowers from the glass gardens he began to lay out in vases across the tables to decorate the room. The smells reminding the northmen of their homeland... And on the Starks table a small bundle of Winter roses.

Pulling back from Ashton to look into his eyes Gwen saw the movement of Uncle Bran and was distracted from Ashton. She saw the head jerk and swallowed. “Set me upright. I have to attend my Uncle." If there was an inopportune moment it was now. As Ashton set her upright Gwen smiled at him. “Did you want to stay a while or did you need to leave?"

Having been lost in such a nice world it was almost a case of whiplash to be brought back to the real. His eyes followed Gwen's own and he noted the various Starks all congregating. His curiosity had been piqued and he gave a smile and nod to Gwen when she asked her question. "I don't have to go anywhere quite yet, but I'll need to head back to the Palace here in a bit to rest for tomorrow."

Gwen’s eyes lit up at Ashton’s response. "Well this is fate working it's magic. My Aunties and I are staying at Summerhall as well. I'm sure we'd be in need of an escort." She squeezed his hand and smiled warmly.

Making sure Ashton knew that she was reluctant to move away Gwen’s hands lingered and she sighed as she had to let go.

The She-bears formed a guard for the Starks and the Ursa-Major walked up to Gwen. “Gwendolyn you're expected at the table... And for the rest of the trip myself and two bears will guard you round the clock. What shit did you step in, girl?” Asked the veteran She-bear as she moved to walk Gwen up to the tables. To escort her up as the announcements came from the many lords arriving, Gwen realized she’d be meeting the Bolton girl Ashe had been betrothed to and the Mormonts family through her aunt.

"Then an escort you shall have My Lady. It will be as you wish." He gave her a quick smile, loosening it as she let go and moved to walk off. He followed behind, glancing at the woman who had formed a protective formation around her, a sort of awkward triangle. He said nothing, did nothing, other than walk politely, arms crossed behind his back and away from the pommel of Vigilance. He seemed quite at ease at this point, and didn't seem like he was going to leave Gwen's side unless she asked him.

Raising an eyebrow at the Ursa and smiling, Gwen tipped her head. “I did no more than what you or any other She Bear does when they need to make themselves understood. Rather than a point of a blade, a fist or spilling blood my weapons were words. Sadly for us, rather than send out a single shepard for a lost lamb they sent out the whole of Winterfell to find a single lamb." Gwen tried to express how it wasn’t exactly her fault but she stopped and shook her head. No one would believe her anyway. All the guard was going to do was draw more attention to her. “Never mind. You’ll refuse to see it anyway but your own way. And that’s not your fault."

Turning toward Ashton she smiled and shook her head. “If we wish any sort of illusion of privacy then we cannot push my Uncle farther than this. I will be the good little girl he doubts I still am. I would appreciate it if you kept mine kinsman Bennifer company until I come to you. If that is alright?"

Ashton gives her a soft smile and then bows. "As you wish. I am yours. Until you are finished I shall remain here and await your return so that I may accompany you to the Palace. And until I see you again my heart will ache for just a glance of you."

Gracing Ashton with a smile that would warm and thaw the most frozen hall of the North. Turning Gwen made her way to the table and sat in her normal seat next to Mathias.
Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Ruby
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Ruby No One Cares

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The sky looked like the shadow of a shadow to her, a never-ending voice of grays and lifeless pale blues that threatened the world with snow all over again. She took slow, painful, breaths and focused her eyes on the haze upon the horizon. The first two weeks in the North had been, by far, the worst in her young life. It wasn’t winter. It was barely autumn. She checked, twice, with Maesters before leaving.
Tell that to the North.

She had wandered to nearly every corner of the Seven Kingdoms, save the Vale and the North. The North just sounded more amusing than being boxed into a valley with a bunch of steep mountains all around. First men, Andols, First men, Andols…the First Men won. And, really, all things being equal, it was Winterfell and the Wall that had won.

And in her few days out from White Harbor, she had never been so cold in all her life. The last night she could fully recall had been such a misery, she had come to terms with wanting to die. Not actually dying, the girl was just too stubborn for such nonsense, but the desire to let it all end, quietly, in the dark and cold like so many before.

She understood the urge, now.

Sheer willpower saw her another few nights. The days and nights blurred, pooling in her mind as one long grey and white and painful stain. If it weren’t for her well bought clothes, the voice told her, she would have lost toes and fingers. Instead, she just needed rest. She understood the voice to belong to some god. She didn’t believe in your gods, or their gods. She could see gods having been a thing, once, long ago. But to her…it would just be some god telling her to make sure she closed the door on her way out for the last, final, time.
It was half a day before she realized the voice belonged to no god, but a man who cut and sold wood. There was a cabin, there was a little boy, hiding behind things. It was nightfall before she could speak to the man, ask what, how. He explained it was the wet that did her in. She had been too exposed to snow, she had clearly fallen in snow, and she had never properly dried off. Staying dry, he said with a puff of his pipe, was the key to staying alive in the North. “You’re an archer? Keep yourself as dry as your strings up here, girl.”

He noticed she didn’t look like any woman he had seen when he changed her, dried her clothes. The amount of near strangers that had seen her in her nameday pride, between being dressed by ladies of court and the water gardens all her life, it frankly wasn’t that strange. It was honor that forced her hand in the end. She knew he might not accept it, so she smiled big and sweet and gave the gold coins to the young boy, and told him to give them to his papa when she was gone.

Reginald was beside himself when he saw her again. He looked, he snorted, he looked away. “I MISSED YOU TOO!” The horse might have bolted, had he not been tied. Not that it mattered, eventually Reginald always found her. Eventually, Reginald always returned to her. “I love you too, I’m an idiot.”

She spent a few days not far from the cabin, accounting for everything from various pastes to salt beef to small blocks of steel, strings, jigs, feathers fletched and unfletched, and a variety of shafts in firmness and size. Small saw, various small blades, bow, leather wraps and casings. The bedroll she kept upon Reginald, but sleeping under the stars was ill-advised if the clouds looked stormy, and if they didn’t, it would just be freezing cold. Fire became necessary, a large wineskin of Dornish Red, but true freedom came in the map Wendal had given her. A hunter’s map that highlighted trails, and more importantly, every cave and hunter hideaway between the south shore and the Wall.

The next few weeks just rolled together. She adjusted to constant freezing, even spending the evening two nights ago wild and naked in the snow and moonlight. Possible, of course, because of the natural hot-spring she had discovered nearby under some of the largest, oldest, trees she had ever seen in her life. They had been her favorite few days in the North, so far, outside Wendal’s cabin.

Her mind and her eyes seemed to focus on the horizon, again, at the same time. The synchronization of their focus allowing her to see past the haze of travel in the wilds of the “autumn” North. That haze on the horizon became something else entirely; it became a horse, it became a rider.

It became a danger as she watched from under tree line upon a ridge. And a danger made Princess Saeria Martell focus like nothing else in her earthly trials. There was new life to the girl as she disappeared where she had been standing just moments before. She had seen him first. In the wild, that could make all the difference. She returned to Reginald, removed the thick cloak and pulled up the hood of the layer just under the thick cloak; hooded tunic, woolen and lined with fur.

“Fade away, Reggie, I’ll be back.”

That was nearly noon. It was nearing sundown when she found the danger again. The man was, by quick looks behind trees, a scout of some sort. He busied himself with a camp, which meant a fire. She understood his concern, she had been regretting the shedding of her heavy cloak for hours, but it was more than enough noise cover for her to make slow and careful movements. He was hacking away at a tree nearby when she got to his camp. She soothed the horse the best she could before a quick pick through. Steel and salted fish and wools to keep warm. Nothing Stark, or any other noble house she recognized.

“Wha’ th…”

The voice grew quiet as his dark eyes surveyed her. When they met eyes, she knew trouble was coming, she'd seen that look in the eyes of many men before the violence came. He let the wood of the tree he had hacked at fall to his feed, thick chunks of wood for a long, slow burning fire to get him through the night before he went back looking for smaller bits, before the sun set.

She knew the schedule. Anyone who lived out in the wild did.

She’d seen the look in his eyes before. When he lunged forward, she was took his own dagger up from the neat pile he had created in order to make camp. She went back when he went forward, moving awkwardly in the snow under the tree he had picked. He lunged again, she circled around, keeping in mind the obstacle he had created. When he swung back around and gave a short shout, his eyes were narrowed on her, and the next lunge landed his foot awkwardly on one of those pieces of firewood, rolling the ankle and sending him to the snow. Another piece of firewood smashed the back of his head before he could recover. A hand gloved in rotting leather squeezing at her neck, and her hand brought the dagger down.

The scout howled, screamed—he wanted to make noise. Who was around? How many? She’d have to make a quick escape, thoughts she thought as she kept stabbing. When the noise stopped and the man’s twitching mostly died off, she caught herself standing there, removing the hand from her neck, panting as her mind dazed and her eyes narrowed to a tunnel.


Panic struck through her heart like steel as she moved for the tree she had originally hidden behind to watch him. The tree she had left the bow at. The snow seemed thicker here, like a sludge she had to struggle through, sweating and freezing in equal measure. The doeskin cover was in her hands, then the bow itself, stringing it, and rearing around with arrow notched just in time to see another man, on a horse, ride up with a blade in his head.

She nearly felt the pressure fall and the string release, until the horse spun in place, and she noticed the shield. Grey, with a direwolf. She rested the bow, all but panting again as her heart raced. “Stark?...Princess Saeria of House Martell…really, really,” she said through huffs, catching her breath, “hope you’ve got a camp around here, somewhere.”

The scout snorted at her when she gave her name and her house, to no surprise of her’s. “Disarm. Lead me to your horse.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by SunsetWanderer
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SunsetWanderer woke moralist

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𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖑𝖎𝖔𝖓𝖘 𝖔𝖋 𝖑𝖆𝖓𝖓𝖎𝖘𝖙𝖊𝖗
𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖑𝖎𝖔𝖓𝖘 𝖔𝖋 𝖑𝖆𝖓𝖓𝖎𝖘𝖙𝖊𝖗

𝖘𝖎𝖝 𝖒𝖔𝖓𝖙𝖍𝖘 𝖆𝖌𝖔

mentions: Garrett & Leyla Tyrell @Danvers

𝕿he Ocean Road has long been a vital link between the Westerlands and the Reach. Stretching from the gates of the Lannisport to Highgarden, it winds alongside the western coast with striking views of the Sunset Sea, the edge of the known world. It was on this road that, centuries past, the two kings of Lannister and Gardener had met to form an alliance against Aegon Targaryen. While dragons had been their doom all those winters ago, and occupants of Highgarden changed, the strength of such a union remained obvious. Between them, they could command more gold, grain and men than most other regions of Westeros combined - and now, there were no dragons. It was in pursuit of this alliance that Lord Tytos Lannister rode the ancient Ocean Road, the thundering of their hooves disturbing an otherwise peaceful winter's morning. His party headed for Highgarden and the funeral of Leo Tyrell, the late lord.

Yet it was not respect for the dead that brought Tytos to Highgarden but opportunity, for Leo had long resisted a joining of their two houses. Small-minded, and craven, Tytos had thought him. He would not be missed, and his early passing had been welcome news in the halls of Casterly Rock. With his eldest son now in the early and most impressionable days of his lordship, the opportunity to secure an alliance between their houses was ripe. An unequal alliance that Tytos had every intention of leading.

In the distance, as the morning frosts melted and gave way to a midday sun, the white towers of Highgarden came into view. The group, of no more than two dozen or so, found themselves on an elevated rise by the Mander, and looked upon the impressive seat of House Tyrell. Sunlight danced across the myriad gardens laid outside the walls, and waters of the Mander snaked peacefully alongside.

As they rode toward the gates, the Lions of Lannister brought their jaws around the Roses of Highgarden.

Even in mourning Highgarden was beautiful as ever. Nature did not care for the follies of man. Naught but winter would halt its slow but steady progress, and it would bloom even as tears were shed. Servants milled back and forth, preparing for a funeral that none had been ready to hold. Even with the prolonged illness of their Lord, they had never considered that he would not survive. They bowed their heads somberly as the small entourage passed, some brave eyes glancing up for a sight of a lion. It was not a familiar one to many of them.

They were led through the gates, past the maze that would foil any attack and the rising gardens that seemed endlessly bountiful. The air was heavy with floral scents, almost perfume like in its intensity. As they moved through the final wall they were led deeper into the gardens, through archways and under ivy that concealed passages barely even visible at first. They were to be taken to a place that the Tyrell children had always loved, for it felt secret and quiet and only for them.

The new Lord sat alone under a large pergola, servants waiting quietly and stood still in the background. His body was slung casually atop a chair, arms hanging languidly on its sides. When the lion arrived he looked up but did not make to move, instead offering a simple nod.

"Ah Lord Tytos, welcome to Highgarden. You are looking well for one who must be travel weary. I do hope your journey was not too unpleasant. Please take a seat..." He waved a nonchalant hand as he spoke, "Tea? Wine? Something stronger perhaps?" Dressed in dark clothes of mourning, there was no question that Garrett had still taken the time to carefully tend to his appearance. A light smile played on his lips and the heir turned Lord looked ready to laugh at any moment. His deep brown eyes watched Tytos slowly, waiting. Highgarden welcomed the lions jaws and hoped it would forget that roses have thorns.

Tytos strode through the garden with purpose and pace in his step, emerald eyes cast over the figure of a young lord awaiting him. It only took him a few moments to get the measure of the man. Inexperienced, cocksure and, he was willing to wager, not as smart as he thought himself - a dangerous combination, and one to be exploited. Some of his companions had bristled at the immediate summons to business after such a long ride from Casterly Rock. The young rose had not even thought to meet his party at the gates - a disrespect that betrayed his inexperience and, in truth, Tytos did not much mind. It was in his interests to have this business concluded with haste.

He lifted a hand to his shoulder, unbuckling a golden clasp in the form of a roaring lion, releasing a crimson riding cape and folding it across the back of a chair. The smell of horse clung to him, still. “Water will be fine.”

No sooner than he had sat himself opposite Garrett, a serving girl had a goblet filled and set on the table. “I was sorry to hear of your father.” He reached for the goblet now, his gaze scrutinising the conceited man across him. First impressions were made quickly, and Tytos had already concluded that it was unlikely he would be fond of the new Lord Tyrell, though for reasons entirely different to the last. It did not matter. The strength that their alliance could hold was reason enough to suffer the man’s company. “I did not know him well, but I can at least say he was a man of strong convictions.”

Setting down the goblet after a welcome drink, Tytos wasted no more time on hollow pleasantries. It had been easy enough to see through the black veils of mourning and discern Garrett’s ambivalence for the death. Perhaps he disliked the late lord even more than Tytos had. If Reynald was to be believed, that may well have been the truth. “But, for all my respect of your late father, I am sure you know it is not a funeral that has brought me this far from the Rock, no. I am here because of those convictions. Convictions that, I hope, you do not share.”

Garrett shrugged noncommittally, his face one of peaceful indifference. "No, I did not suspect that it was respect driving you here on the morn of his funeral. Far be it for a Lord to wait a single day before encroaching on territory that my father would undoubtedly be uncomfortable with." He smiled insincerely; it did not reach his dark eyes. "But you are correct. We shared little in common if I speak truthfully. He was very fond of pleasing others and there is no doubt that he will be severely missed..." Some may have mistaken Garretts words for a form of wistful sadness, a son grieving for a father that he had known for all twenty-eight years of his life. Yet the shallow disingenuity of one who likes to play with others had always made him hard to truly read.

Taking a sip from his wine, Garrett placed it on the table before leaning towards the lion. His chin rested atop his hand as if he were simply meeting up with an old friend. This particular area was secluded, unlikely to be encroached upon, especially by those with ears and eyes as sharp as any thorn. "I suspect you are not one to pussy-foot around an issue and I am apt to become easily bored. So please, tell me more of your purpose here."

The stony expression remained, but even if he would not show it, Tytos felt a wave of relief at the invitation to continue. Reynald had advised that the man was not one for mincing words, and this guidance had now borne fruit. Already, he could feel his ambition starting to be realised. With a soft incline of his head, he began to describe his offer. “I am here because there is an opportunity that lies before us. One that your father could not see.”

He interlocked his fingers, resting his hands on the table before him. “When Aegon first landed on these lands, it was the combined force of Highgarden and Casterly Rock that met him on the field. My ancestors knew then the power of our combined lands. Now, you know the histories and the dragons that overcame them. But that truth - that power of our combined houses, of the Rock and Highgarden, remains." His pale green eyes glanced about, contenting himself that they were unheard. “There are storms brewing, and with it treacherous days await both our houses. I propose that together, our houses can not only weather this coming storm, but conquer it. We have the opportunity to command more gold, and more men, than most of Westeros combined.” He fell quiet for a moment, allowing the thought to linger in the head of his opposite, before explaining the obvious means for such an alliance. “I have a son, and you have a sister. Together, they can hold an alliance that will overcome any foes. So.”, he brought his hands apart, his palms facing toward Garrett. “Does this bore you, Lord Tyrell?”

The young lord let out a loud bark of a laugh. For the first time he seemed more than lethargically disinterested, his eyes glimmering wickedly. "Surprisingly not. I'll give you that." Thoughts, of his own power, of his own desire to maintain his position, ran through his head. Yet he had been to all of his fathers meetings, listening even when he did not wish to; the curse of a keen mind perhaps. It was this unfortunate consequence of his upbringing that made him acutely aware of the Tyrells current position in the Reach. His father had seemingly been too preoccupied with extravagant festivities to give little care. Or at least that's what he had thought. "I have two sisters, though only one of age so I will presume you mean Leyla. And you do not just have one son…" He trailed off, leaving his question unsaid but open to be carried by the soft wind. "And I can not deny that gold and men are tantalising offers, but I wonder whether I can truly trust a lion..." He raised an eyebrow, his words as blunt as the dull edge of a blade.

A wry huff escaped the Lannister. “We would not be discussing a marriage alliance if you could trust me.” His thin lips creased into the shadow of a grin. “If I might offer you advice, it is that you do not need to make formal alliances with those you trust. That is the purpose of this alliance - to join our interests.” He relaxed against the chair, and the brief display of amusement faded. “And you are right, I do not have only one son, but only one is unwed. Loreon, one of the finest knights in the kingdoms and a fair match for Leyla.” He brought a hand to idly stroke the greying beard at his chin, as he was often wont to do. “Together, they will hold our alliance - and when wed, your interests shall become mine and mine yours.”

As the lion spoke, Garrett stood, striding to a nearby rose bush. With deft fingers he plucked one of the white flowers, easily avoiding the thorns that dotted its firm stem. "Yes, yes, you are old and therefore wise." He smirked, the insult passing over his lips as easily as water over rocks. "But I see no qualms in marrying my sister off to your kin. I can't deny that it would be a pleasing match…though she may be angry at me for the decision." The young lord replied idly as he walked back to his decorated seat, standing behind it whilst he twirled the rose between his forefinger and thumb. "Will you tell me of these interests of yours? Or are you as secretive as the rest?"

“You’ll find my interests quite plain. By vesting our houses in one another, we strengthen the holds on our lands, and discourage disloyalty in any storms that may come.” The inscrutability of Lord Tytos had always made him hard to read and while his words were honest enough, it did not take a political savant to recognise when the whole truth was not being told. Every lord in Westeros was out for themselves and their kin above all else, after all. It was not dishonest - rather, the game they played. He quickly moved the topic on. “But I am glad you have seen what your father could not. We’ll announce the match at Summerhall. My son will be there, have your sister be there also. Once the tourney is resolved, my host will travel to Highgarden for the wedding, and we’ll have this business concluded in a fortnight. Loreon will remain at Highgarden thereafter, as symbol of our joined families.” With a curt nod, Tytos pressed upwards from the chair, his brevity an intentional manoeuvre. “Good.”

"You have cast a ray of light on a very dark day." Garrett answered, smiling at the Lord of the Westerlands as he placed the rose gently atop the table. "We will be sure to make Loreon more than welcome. I must attest that we rarely get complaints from those who stay at Highgarden - excepting the few who get lost in the maze." He picked up his goblet once more, idly swirling the deep liquid but not moving to take a drink. "But I hope he is not so foolish." He added with a smirk before standing from his chair. "Now I sadly have more sorrowful matters to attend to but please, rest and refresh your party. My servants can advise you on some interesting parts of the garden that would be good to take a turn about." Garrett nodded to a group of servants who remained put as he took his leave, waiting not for the lions reply.

Tytos watched as the lord took his leave, the whisper of a smile curling at the corners of his mouth. The words of his ancient house were ‘Hear me Roar’, but in this, nothing would be heard. His influence over Highgarden would grow in the shadows like a weed in their garden, choking out all other seeds of ambition. It was to become his, and the Reach would answer to the Lions of Lannister.

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Lord Talbert Tarly and Ser Aegor Rivers

By mid-morning, Talbert was already striding through the tourney grounds, a pair of bannermen at his back to serve as his guards for the time being. He concealed a grimace as best he could, though the bags under his eyes belied his state. Dinner with the Redwynes the previous night had resulted in him drinking far more than he would have preferred, if only to keep his hosts and potential allies happy. As a result, he was nursing a particularly onerous hangover, though Talbert powered through it as best he could and got on with business.

Said business brought him to the Bracken encampment, where he announced himself to the men-at-arms and awaited permission to be led forward. When said permission was given, Talbert strode forward, following after the guardsman who eventually led him to the tent of Bittersteel. After being let in, the lord of Horn Hill would incline his head towards his peer in a show of respect.

"Ser Aegor." Talbert greeted, waiting to be granted leave to take a seat by his host. "I received your raven before I departed Horn Hill. Everything is in order, then?"

Despite the jovial nature of the event, the Braken encampment was ochestrated as if it were at war, men-at-arms in the prideful yellow of the house standing guard with no sense of levity throughout the microcosm of the camp. Despite this, the process of Talbert was smooth through the process, admitted with efficiency and no lack of greeting for the anticipated ally of the house.

The reception that the man recieved from Aegor himself was more muted, a careful studying of the potential ally, his intense violet eyes lifting from the missives on his desk to regard Talbert. Papers aplenty spread across Bittersteel's desk, the man standing, not sitting, behind the light wooden frame.

"Fetch Lord Talbert some water." These were the words the man first heard in greeting, as Aegor supped from his own cup, his eyes casting back down to the papers as a servant scurried to perform the task, as military in their precision as Aegor's armed men. "Matters proceed as they should, soon Daemon will be willing and able to claim what is his." He spoke in the brief windown between the servant leaving and the drink being provided, then dismissing them from the tent with a nod from his head. "Can House Tarly be relied upon?" Aegor spoke in a manner which suggested the question had as much to do with the current meeting than any grander sense, those same cold eyes boring into the man before him.

Talbert took a seat at Ser Aegor's offer of water, taking the cup when it was provided to him. He matched Bittersteel's gaze with his own, unfaltering.

"Of course we can." He stated plainly, sipping his water. "I bring all the swords of Horn Hill and my bannermen, both of which you've campaigned alongside before. You know their quality. Between our houses, we possess some of the only battle-tested forces available in this age. So long as Blackfyre is willing to do what is necessary, he has House Tarly's support."

Talbert studied Aegor for a moment, as if musing over his next words. When he spoke, it was quieter.

"I bring word from others as well. House Peake is fully behind this venture, and have brought me into their alliance of Reach houses so as to influence the other two. I mean to marry my heir to a Redwyne girl, and my daughter to a Hightower to bind them into the fold. I trust this is acceptable?"

"Have a care with who we approach, matters are progressing swiftly and we must control when those against us become aware of what we are capable of." Aegor mused in reply to the Lord, his attentions still on the table before him.

He took a short, brief, sip from his own cup, before he once again matched gaze with Talbert. "But we are not in a position so strong as to turn down such aid, feel out the potential of their support, or at least, their willingness to stand aside for when Daemon acts. Of that, it can be sure to be soon, once he arrives I shall have the full measure of his wishes." It was not like Bittersteel to not be made aware of the entirety of the Blackfyre cause, yet Daemon was playing cards closer to his chest of late, it made Aegor uneasy, and yet, it would mean he was finally close to pressing his claim. It had to.

"Would there be anything else?" The final question was blunt, but with no additional sense of dismissal, simply the words of a man who did not waste time when it could be spent effectively.

Talbert waited patiently, showing no sign of offense at the abrupt bluntness of Bittersteel's last sentence. After all, he'd prefer to conduct himself in much the same way most of the time. Still...

"Nothing else of note on my end at this moment." He confirmed, taking one last sip of his water. "Your brother hasn't made the full extent of his plans known to you yet? I had been led to believe you were among his closest confidants." Talbert stated neutrally, not intending for his words to be a challenge or accusation. "Do you foresee this to become a potential problem?"

"There are matters that are not safe for ravens." Aegor's response was terse, but it was not entirely untrue, even as his attention drifted back to his missives. "When he strikes camp, we will know all."

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