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The Story So Far


Part 1: Rise of a Dragon

The newly forged united Westeros veers towards uncertainty. A rebellion of the Faith Militant grows more bold by the day and King Aenys is no Aegon the Conqueror. Having exiled his only brother to Essos for taking a second wife, he angers the Faith by marrying sister to brother. Their progress across Westeros is brutally cut short. Aegon, heir to the Iron Throne, and his entourage are attacked by a group of Poor Fellows not far from Casterly Rock. At the same time, in Dragonstone, Aenys falls ill and is barely saved by Queen Dowager Visenya.

Across the Narrow Sea, a renowned courtesan forges an unusual alliance with Princess Alys, the Whore of Harroway. Prince Maegor and Vhandyr Balaerys bring vengeance to a Dothraki horde that threatens the Free City, Volantis. Within the opulent city, House Rahl plots and begins to forge new alliances with houses both ancient and fledgling of the nascent kingdom across the sea.

Turmoil is not reserved for just the Crownloads. A long lost son returned triumphantly from strange lands, bearing a long lost sword. He returned to love and adoration, but ruling is a much different beast. The lords of the Westerlands watch and wait to see how their Lion will weather the coming storm. In the reach, the heart of the Faith, divisions grow. A summit is called but the line between Faith, crown, and family is stretched to a breaking point. Princess Ceryse is put under protection of her brother, a Warrior’s Son, following her father’s death. The Ardent Maiden’s fate is unknown, and her younger sister Mina Tyrell, unaccounted for. House Tyrell clings to their new power while Hightower moves in strong support of the Faith Militant. Dark rumors reach the gathering, though nothing is known for certain.

From the Stormlands, a small force approaches to escort a troublesome woman claiming to be the Sword of the Morning from loyalist lands. The Baratheon heir leads his forces to escort the troublesome Faithful from his father’s lands. Davos Baratheon instead finds himself pulled into the Reach’s machinations.

In Casterly Rock, vengeance for the attack is quickly delivered in a vain attempt to spare the young heir’s life. It is for nought and word is sent Dragonstone of Prince Aegon’s death. Within a few days, King Aenys succumbs to his illness upon hearing the news. While a funeral is planned, word of the death is kept within the island except for a lone figure on dragonback eagerly racing to Pentos. Visenya brings news of the death, but also of the need for Maegor to take what is his. Westeros will not last with a child on the throne. The prince is exiled no more and returns not only with his wife and mother, but also Tyanna of Pentos.

House Rahl finds themselves in uncomfortable territory with their outreach to Westeros. In Dragonstone they arrive not to fanfare and warm welcome but grieving and treachery. They land in time for King Aenys’s funeral and the unexpected return of Prince Maegor, only to see him crowned king at the funeral feast. In the reach they encounter dangerous waters when the Princess takes special notice of one in particular.

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Lady Lorelai Lannister

Sunset spanned endless across the horizon of the sea, crashing ocean waves charmed into gentler, rolling, waves from the seafloor at the bay. The wooden pier warmed by the sunny day now setting made warmer by the feel of her body resting backwards into his, as they watched the ships set out across the expanse of blues, purples, pinks, and golds burning with the setting sun, the happy day slowly winding to an end.

His voice was a ghost in her head, but she remembered laughing all the same, “What?!” She asked, incredulous and almost not believing what he’d just said.

“Oh, yes,” he began to explain, the sound of a smile in his whimsical tone, “If our children come to me asking to go on some grand adventure, I’m proposing they pack immediately. It’s a win for them, it’s a win for us: they get to go find the better life they don’t know they don’t need, and I get you all to myself. Bye children! Guards,” he mimicked the lordly tone of his own father, she recognized, “make sure to lock the gates after they’re gone, and leave the Lady and I alone for the evening!”

Strong arms squeezed her body even closer to his as twilight and the sea collided all around them. Yet, she couldn’t help herself but laugh. He was ridiculous. He always had been. When you meet your betrothed for the first time as he crashes through solar doors, falling on his back, dressed in the cushions and mock armor of a training dummy…it was hard to keep track of the twists and turns that took them from intended to friends to lovers counting down the days until marriage.

“Let’s do it, Lor,” he whispered it, a secret hushed thing that touched her ear like a secret language meant just for them. The way she turned her head, it was as if he knew the curious expression on her face, “let’s runaway. Let’s get married by the kind of Septon who won’t even ask our names. Let’s have these children so we can set them free and enjoy the rest of our days laughing at each other. Please.”

In a way, she had been eternally grateful her back was nestled into his chest, that he couldn’t see the stupid smile on her face, or the way she bit her lip, truly tempted. “Our parents,” she said through suppressed laughter, “would murder the both of us. Our children would never get to be born.”

“I’ll take my chances,” he said, as she turned in his arms, to look at him. To feel his lips touch hers. The endless starlight above resting in the haze of the twilight sky darkened as her fingers brushed his face, taking his face in her hands, as his arms pressed her closer than she could ever actually be.

“I need you so much closer…”

The world was black, silent. It happened so fast, the story about two ghosts in love, forever, as the dream of the memory cut out like a dagger to her heart, the chilled night air of Casterly Rock reminded her of where she was, and what she’d lost, all over again. Even as her body curled up in the bed, even as her eyes clinched shut and her hands into shaking fists, even as she begged it not to, the next memory that always came after the dream, came again. There he was, on that stupid horse, in that horrible armor.

”Don’t.” She begged him. “Let’s do it, Jules,” her voice more desperate than his had been, “let’s runaway. Let’s find that Septon that won’t even ask our names. Please.”

The way love softened his eyes as he looked down at her. The way his head tilted, the hint of mischief and warmth mixing as he tapped his index finger on her nose, threatening to make her laugh, “C’mon. I’ll be back. What would you ever do without me?” He asked, and she smiled.

Through the haunting, the world didn’t matter, she didn’t know where she was. She never stopped to think. She never bothered to look. She just opened her eyes, and the sharp gasp came out of her, as she stood on the railing of the balcony to her bedchamber, carved out of the same stone of the Rock as all the rest of it.

Jump, she thought, What can you ever do without him?

A deep breath like a chain reaction of gusts through mountain passes sent chills through her, the sea and the night darkened by clouds broken like stained glass as the tears pooled in her emerald eyes.

“Step down, dear Lady.”

She nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound, bare feet stubbornly holding onto the very edge of the thick stone rail, her head whipping to the left to trace the sound, finding it as the thick of her palms pushed salty tears from her eyes, alerting her to the strange foreigner standing on the balcony that once belonged to her brother, when he was still her brother, before whoever he was now came back with all the strange and eccentric foreigners.

He didn’t look scared, only sad, “Please.”

Blood rushed warmth back into her cheeks as she felt herself blush, as she suddenly felt embarrassed, trembling as she stepped down, and turned, terrified, shutting the slender double doors that led from her bedchamber to the balcony behind her, resting her back against the cold glass of the windowed slender doors, her body sinking as she only wished she could feel his warmth on her back once again.

Please. The word echoed. In Julien's voice. In her voice. Face burying in her hands as she felt herself break, as she felt the sobbing start again. Nothing ever stopped it. She would just find herself awake, still crumpled down on the floor of her bedchamber, sunlight flooding through the doors behind her. In the pitch darkness of her bedchamber, she wished for that sleep, for that sudden unconsciousness.

“Please,” she thought she heard it say, when the sound it made was different: CAW! It screamed at her as she spread her fingers just enough to look, and see it perched on the foot of her bed. CAW!

It screamed at her again, and her body jolted in shock, as she heard it say Please again. The shock was nothing to the confusion she felt when she realized the big, black, bird was staring straight at her…with three eyes. She gasped herself awake, still crumpled on the floor, still leaning against the slender double doors that led to the balcony, sunlight streaming in to flood her bedchamber with light.

A bedchamber with no one else but her, not even a bird with three eyes.

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Hidden 12 mos ago 12 mos ago Post by LadyRunic
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LadyRunic The Laughing Raven

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Elayne Rivers, the Ghost of Harrenhal
The bitter wind off the God's Eye carried the hint of a storm as it whipped about the ruins towers that Harren the Black had once speared the sky. Now they stood like melted candles. Dragon fire had melted stone, seared flesh, and burned all within. It had not even been half a century later that life had come back to those haunted halls where ghosts still walked. Ghosts did walk them, those of regret and past pains. The soft music filtered through the heavy oaken door that led into the solar of Lady Catelyn Harroway, the wife of the Lord of Harrenhal.

Her mother.

Not that she could call the woman such, Elayne had learned that quickly as a child under the woman's switch. Though she was of noble blood on both sides, a child born out of wedlock was nothing but a burden. A bastard. One of the many Rivers that dwelled in the Riverlands. Her footsteps were quiet as she carried the basket of cloth to the laundry for the maids. Rightly she should have been in the solar, at needlework or mending for her mother and sisters, but the minstrel had been doting upon her and in response, Lady Catelyn had banished her from the room.

Dressed in the cast off from Alys, Elayne had taken in the form to fit herself better, but the skirt of the gown still bared too much of her ankle to be seemly with Alys being a tad shorter than the slightly younger woman. Perhaps it was her lot in life, a tool to the Harroways. The ever-loyal, ever-scorned servant. She didn't want it. Not really, but what choice was there? There was no life for her outside of the generosity of her mother and the Harroways, so she would make the best of it. Even if the best of them had been sent away. For all his bluntness and sharp words, Elmo had been the kindness in the last two years, along with his aunt Minisa

Minisa, Elayne considered the woman. The fragile Butterwell woman had turned into a ghost herself after the birth of her son, Alton. The boy seemed to grow stronger while his mother grew weaker. Minisa had nothing but scorn from the nobility, her husband was often gone over sea and it was common knowledge among family and servants alike that he was hardly faithful to her. A few servants had dallied with the second son of Lucas. Elayne, herself, had narrowly avoided the man when he was drunk and looking for someone to join him when Minisa had been heavy with child. Her lips thinned as she recalled their last encounter.

The wall at her back was cold and the thunder boomed outside, the man who cornered her in the stairway had the stink of wine on his breath and the flush of a drunk across his cheeks. His nose pressed against her neck and Elayne pushed at his chest, cringing at having to touch the man. "Ser, you are drunk." She had whispered, desperate to find some escape. This was not the first time he had cornered her drunk, but this was one of the worst. There was no Elmo to distract his uncle, nor was her mother around to scold her for his actions. Terror and fear coursed through her veins. If she was not so aware that she stood no chance. Elayne would have slapped the man.

"Not yet." His husky voice, roughened by shouts at sea, washed over her shoulder as he press an unwanted kiss there. Her skin prickled in an eerie way. "Stop it, girl." He growled as she tried to pull away, one of his large hands wrapping about her waist. "I would not ruin an investment." That was worse than his touch, and Elayne wanted to weep hearing it. "After all, there are plenty in Essos who like a beautiful maiden of Valyrian blood, no matter how diluted." The sneer in his voice was audible and the woman sighed in relief as she felt him pull back. A small respite before a hand fastened about her neck. "The Lyseni would pay well to display you in one of their Houses, perhaps even in Elyria I might find a good price? Volantis?"

"Ser," She dared not call him Damon, it would only earn her worse if he took it badly. Which, given Damon's state, he would. "Your Lord-Father="

"He wouldn't lift a finger." She was pulled to her tip-toes as she felt the man tilt her chin up, those cruel dark eyes looking amused. Like a cat playing with a terrified mouse who knew there was no escape. "For a bastard from his lawfully married wife? It would solve the problem of your embarrassment." She was shaking, it could have been cold or fear. Then she felt him release her and Elayne stumbled, falling to the stones. Damon's steps moving away as he called back over his shoulder. "Take care of yourself, dear sister. I have every intent of finding you a worthy husband." It had been long seconds before she stood from the floor, feeling bruises forming on her delicate skin. It had been long hours more she had emerged again after sequestering herself in a small cubby, left from the original building for some unknown purpose that most seemed to have forgotten about, her eyes red from weeping. For Damon would be as good as his words. She would have a husband and it would be to Damon's benefit, even if he had to steal her away from a lawfully wedded Lord in Westeros.


Drawing herself away from memory as one of the muscled laundry women pulled the basket from her hands, Elayne said nothing to the sourfaced woman. Turning instead to go about her tasks, things that could not leave her mind idle. Action would force that dreadful promise away. Yet, she still felt its shadow haunt her just as the remains of soot seared in stone, a few looking too much like human figures when the candles flickered late at night, haunted the melted castle.

The courtship she had seen had not been sheltered. Though she had been kept mostly to Harrenhal Castle, ignorant of the rest of the world, Elayne had listened to the talk. The whisperings kept the walls from crumbling in on them. She was aware of what went on, just as she was aware that the servants saw her as untouchable. The noble among them. The Harroway family saw her as a bastard. Cast out of both worlds, kept to herself. Elayne immersed herself in books when she could. Languishing away when there was only mending that a noble lady could do, yet unable to enjoy the full pleasures of a noblewoman for Lady Catelyn would not allow her to entrance, as the Lady-Mother had put it once, the local minstrels.

Plucking a basket of her own mending to do, an embroidery that Hanna wanted for a gown, the silver-haired maiden moved to settle against the narrow window that opened into her cell-like room. A bed, a small chest, and table. Her fingers flicked the needle in and out as her eyes scanned one of the books that Elmo had recommended to her. It was about herbs and their different properties, something she might find useful if she ever was in need. A stab of pain lanced through Elayne's heart as she recalled the eldest of Lord Lucas's grandsons. Though a cripple, Elmo had been sharp of mind and had taught her what he had read. Be that a smattering of languages, herbs, medicines, or poisons. It had been she who had brought Elmo the herbs he needed and helped him to brew the concentrated forms he desired. A small blessing the Maester was a tight-lipped man who seemed to have some small amount of favor towards her.

Turning the page, she settled against the tapestry at her back. Turning her mind to the task and reading at hand. It would not do to dwell. Life never went backward, the river ever ran towards the sea. Just so, what would come, would be and she could only endure it.
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Vanq The Chaos Ladder

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A Royal Progression

The night was unseasonably chilly for being so well entrenched into spring. Rhaena hugged herself, her arms bared to the elements, the silken night shift offering minimal warmth. Night, but dawn was not far off, hints of light played along the horizon. The Princess was exhausted but sleep had escaped her yet again. She had had to disentangle herself from a cluster of arms that had cradled her. Aegon had been softly snoring but had not stirred at all. Samantha had nearly woken but rolled over into Alayne instead. Rhaena had paused for just a moment to smile sadly at the sight before pulling herself to the small sitting room outside the bed chamber. The window looked out over the road they had arrived here on, rough and unfinished.

Their time at Sarsfield had been cut short, a courtier had advised their kingsguard to make haste for Casterly Rock, their journey could no longer be a meandering, leisurely tour. It had, in many ways, been an unnecessary warning. No one in the party could ignore the growing tension and animosity that met them in each village, in each castle. Lords welcomed them but cautiously, some with clear distaste to be hosting them. It was shocking to not just Rhaena, but Aegon as well. Their father was beloved. Or so they had thought. Worse still were the simpering lords and ladies with unabashed greed in their eyes. Alayne had cautioned her to beware that type the most.

Nothing in King's Landing had prepared them for this. The village mayor at Oxcross had offered up his home, a finer - barely - establishment than the inn was. The man was clearly displeased about it but one look from Darkrobin had quieted the man to one final grunt before vacating his residence. The smallfolk in Oxcross had crowded the road when their train arrived, some eager to ogle the pretty princess and her ladies, others to scowl. They had heard some of the insults no longer uttered just in hushed whispers. Abomination. A few tears rolled down her cheek at the memory of it. They had jeered, some had begun to fling rotten waste, and a strong smell of excrement had followed them into the village proper. Ser Robin had worked quickly with the other knights to push back the crowds, but it stung to be received in such a manner. They stood guard around the mayor's home, she could hear the soft neighs from their horses, the occasional snort, the jingle of metal. Gods, all she really wanted was to no longer feel the constant, prickling fear. Surely Casterly Rock and the Lannisters would be a reprieve. A blush spread across her cheeks as she wondered if Melony Piper would be there. Her last letter had indicated as much, and it had been so long since she had last seen her.

Eventually the sun broke over the horizon and Rhaena was given cause to return to the bedroom when she heard Alayne and Samantha beginning their day. In King’s Landing it would have been unusual for her to be out of bed before them, but here on the road it had become a common occurrence. The Princess stood in the doorway, leaning against the rough frame, hand to hip and a smile forced across her lips.
"Aegon being a lazy oaf again? Do I need to get Ser Robin to scare him awake?" She spoke quietly, lilac eyes darting between the women and Aegon, who was now sprawled across the otherwise empty bed. Dearest brother, friend, husband. It was not unwelcome but the word turned round in her mind, twisted, uncomfortable. Two sons and then done. No one could ask any more of her, then they could return to the way things had been.

Samantha paused her morning ministrations to giggle softly. She turned, her face dripping with water.
"Oh no, not again, I don't think I can listen to him moaning about it all day." She wasn’t wrong. The last time Aegon had refused to get out of bed, albeit, it was after a night of far too much wine, the kingsguard took to shaking the prince awake. Ostensibly it was in fear that he had slipped into a coma. Neither man was pleased with the way Aegon had vomited from surprise and motion.

Rhaena playfully pouted and plopped herself into a chair, triggering a heavy scowl from Alayne in mock disapproval.
"A prin-cess must -" She was cut off briefly before a trio of voices joined in to finish the admonishment, "be delicate in all matters." The women giggled, for a moment the heaviness lifted and mirth filled the room.

Aegon stirred at last and propped himself up to his elbows, a bit of drowsiness still in his eyes.
"Yes, Septa Lorra would be very disapproving of you still si…" He paused, how to address each other had not eased any since their wedding. "Rhae." The Prince gave a small shrug and impish grin. "I have manners unlike the rest of you, excuse me while I see to nature." He slid out of bed, yanking his trousers about him and pulling a tunic over his head. It had become a common scene on their progress, when their accommodations had allowed for it anyways.

"He's worried." Alayne spoke when they heard Aegon leave with one of the knights. “He was muttering in his sleep.”

Rhaena sighed, serious again, too quickly. "I know. It's still three days to Casterly. Two if we ride ahead with a smaller group. Seven hells, if only I’d been permitted to bring Dreamfyre." How much safer they would be with her. How much more secure she would feel on wing than steed. Neither woman responded, it had been a common refrain but there was nothing to be done now.

"Come, let's get you dressed." Alayne took action, as she often did, a nervous tic, better to do something than nothing.




Aegon had yet to return inside. He had not wanted his sister, his wife, to see him worried. It had been a restless night. He had woken, not long after Rhaena had, but fell back to dark dreams. Sleep had provided little rest. Ser Robin found him in the stables, other knights were preparing their horses for the day’s journey, and though he did not need to, the prince found brushing his mount a better way to gather his thoughts than to sit idly by.

“Have you sent word ahead to Casterly Rock?” He kept his voice low, his head barely turned towards the whitecloak now beside him. They had sent word ahead from Sarsfield, but they rode faster now, aiming to arrive many days sooner than originally intended.

“Aye, we should expect a Lannister party to join us along the way.” He shifted his weight, a small glance over his shoulder as his men began to form up. “Still, it would be wise for us to move out quickly. A group of Poor Fellows arrived in the night. Likely nothing to be concerned with, of course. They have a group of pilgrims with them, on their way back from the sept at Highgarden.” So they said. There had been a lot of them, and not so many pilgrims remaining.

“Good…good.” The Prince barely focused on the words. He hoped the girls were less aware of just how precarious things felt at the moment. They were so close to Lannister aid, just a few days more. “The Princess and her ladies should be ready soon. Is everything else ready?”

“Yes, my lord. Including the Princess’...menagerie.” It hadn’t been quite so annoying at the start of the journey, Rhaena’s insistence in bringing her pets. Only my favorites. She had said, but her favorites included the damnable squawking bird and a gaggle of dogs useless for anything other than keeping laps warm.

“She will be pleased. We’ll ride ahead with you and however men you think necessary but we want to meet the Lannister party ahead of the train.” His horse stamped impatiently, Aegon had been brushing the same spot for far too long. He dropped the brush to the ground. “Have someone finish up for me, ser? I should prepare myself for the day.”




Not an hour later, while the rest of the train finished packing and organizing, the smaller party was on horseback. Rhaena had caused a small scene, unhappy that her pets would not accompany them, no matter that they were trying to move quickly. A compromise was reached in allowing the bird out of it’s travel cage to travel with her. The kingsguard did not like how delayed they had been. The whole village was awake now, and no matter how much his men worked to keep them at a distance, a crowd had formed to watch the royals leave.

Worse, the Poor Fellows had gathered.

Princess and Prince, Ladies Samantha and Alayne, a whitecloak, and their honor guard took off down the road at a royal pace. They maintained a look of indifference even as the crowd closed up behind them, the road back into the village fully blocked. They kept their blank expressions even as they saw the Poor Fellows following parallel in the fields surrounding the road. Always at a distance, but always there menacing. Ser Robin urged the group to a gallop, they were on horseback and the faithful were not. A bit of speed to create distance and all would be well.

A few hours later, the knight saw his error too late. A group of men clad in the gray robes of the Poor Fellows blocked the road ahead. He called the group up short, their horses were tired now. The princess and her ladies were clearly weary as well from the hard ride.


“Seven’s blessings to you on this fine day.” The kingsguard called out to them. The men directly in front of them bore self-inflicted scars on their foreheads, the seven pointed star. They were rough looking, their hands rested on their cudgels, menacing.

“We seek nothing more than -” Hushed murmurs increased in volume and the kingsguard was silenced in shock.

“Abomination. Your sins must be cleansed. Abomination.”

They did not move but more men appeared before them, the air crackled with potential violence.

“Abomination. Dragon-whore.”

Rhaena, ignoring furtive looks from both Aegon and her ladies, urged her horse forward. “Please, my good men we mean-”

“Abomination, whore!”

Rhaena’s expression hardened once more, before she could speak again, a hail of dirt hit her and those behind her. At least, it did not smell foul enough to be anything worse than dirt. She glanced down at the stain across her woolen riding jacket. When she looked back up, her lips had curled into a sneer, her normally pleasant demeanor now cruel. “You would not dare to be so bold should I return on a dragon. Move. Now.” The girl was gone, replaced with the rare confidence of her dragonblood.

A sound pierced the air, horrid, anguished. Her bird, brilliant white, had been flying overhead and sought to perch on her shoulder. Rhaena could not see what happened, but Aegon behind her saw it occur, slowly, unbelieving. One of the Poor Fellows near the front had a sling and his aim, true or not, was devastating.

Blood, crimson and hot, splashed across Rhaena’s face.

The princess’s response was feral, her horse reared as the bird fell lifeless to the road. It was chaos unleashed, Ser Robin Darklyn called the escort to attack, Aegon urged his own horse to action, his sword clumsily unsheathed to meet the mass of the faithful.

Rhaena couldn’t make sense of it at all. She looked about frantically as her horse took off on its own, no sign of Samantha or Alayne. She saw only a mass of gray and metal, the sound of steel meeting flesh, the sound of men dying. Gods, please let it not be Aegon. She gripped the reins, unsure of where to urge the horse towards other than away from the horrific sounds of battle.

And then the world was upside down. The sky was now beneath her, brilliant and blue, the sun blazing warmth on her face. For a moment she felt as she did when flying with Dreamfyre, free and wild.Then, suddenly, she couldn’t breathe. She gasped, choked, grasped and felt only pain, saw only red. Blood. Not again. She looked beside her, blinking violently to clear her sight, her horse flailed on the ground, yes she was on the ground, beside her. No. She tried to roll over, right herself, stand. Run. She couldn’t, her legs refused to obey. Pain shot up her side. All she could hear were screams. Her head rolled, she felt sick. Sick as when they had drunk all that honeyed wine. She tasted metal.

Bare feet stopped in front of her, brown and red. Then they were gone with a guttural thud, replaced with metal boots. Her eyes slowly focused beyond them. A flash of silver streaked with red.
“Aegon.” Her lips moved but she couldn’t hear if she made a sound. He was here for her, here to save her.

He wasn’t moving.

Why wasn’t he moving.

Why.

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Hidden 12 mos ago 12 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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“Hae se mele tubis iksos se lektos cracks se jēdar.”

It was never truly cold within Dragonstone, the thermal forces rising from the depths which had made it the ideal outpost of the Targaryen lineage searing the cave systems with heat. However, when she spoke those words, the same heat seemed to leech out of the air, rushing into twin wooden effigies, their wicker forms soon lighting with a fire which robed the rest of the room of colour.

“Hail to you, Aegon Targaryen, King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, known to us as the Conqueror.” The speaker knelt on both knees before the twin fires, watching the steady progress of immolation rise up the figures within. As the magic she worked pulled its power from the land around it, it also pulled on her, the age in her bones beginning to ache with pain. It was not a regular sensation for her, but for these moments she had to allow the ravages of time to steadily march on.

“Hail to you, Queen Rhaenys, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady of Dragonstone.” It had only been in recent years that she had lit this second candle, the faintest of hope remaining that she might see the true face of its image again. But then, the fire had lit, and her hope had failed. The speaker was silent for a moment, keeping her head dipped, before she made to rise. Despite the pain that flared through her, she managed it in one motion, as defiant against that as any other she had faced in her life.

“Fair Eve, my loves.” When she spoke again, some of that strength rushed out of Visenya, standing before the images of her siblings as equals, rather than the subservience the nature of the spellwork required. The figures were carved as she remembered them, Aegon in his advancing years, still bearing the strength of his form, but still, slowly, collapsing into the softness that even athletic men of advancing age can rarely suppress entirely. Rhaenys was still as she had been when she had been stolen, taken in the prime of her life. It had been many long years, but she could recall every curve and line of her smile, and worked it into the wood which steadily burned.

“I need your guidance….or perhaps simply your company. I am sorry to trouble your rest beyond with such things, but you cannot begrudge me this.” Suddenly, a small amount of the warmth returned to the room, rushing through her. For a moment she thought the ritual had failed, but then she laughed, a rare noise. The warmth was not the fires of Dragstone returning, they were with her. “Thank you.” She breathed softly, a hand brushing over her own features.

“Your plan to have these people accept us is failing, Aegon, these men of Westeros and their Seven Gods, that you both cared to placate.” The King himself had taken to working some of the devices of the Seven onto his own arms and armour. When she had recreated his effigy, she could not bring herself to do so, bearing only the three headed dragon which was their symbol. The only symbol which mattered. “I warned you, the only way they would learn was through our way, Fire and Blood. That is how we could save this world. We gave them slackness on their leash, and now they have turned to bite us…. But it is only me of us who will feel those teeth.” Her tone was sorrowful, as opposed to condemning. She wished they had been right, or more, she wished they were will with her.

“How much longer must I linger here, my dearest? These long years without you both, living among Andal Savages, who have the arrogance to call our blood abominations? This land, it has tainted our children. I took Maegor away, perhaps there is some hope for him, but your son, he is more of this land than ours, he does not act.” Something of the warmth in the room receded again, yet the fires grew brighter. She felt judgment there, rebuke from those who watched from the great flames of the Beyond. “Do you not think I have tried? That I have not given council to him? If the time of the Song is coming, this land will fall. All the dragonfire we can muster could not save it.” While she might look a woman of almost half her age, in the moment she felt all seven decades of her long life weighing on her, a life where those she fought most to protect had often ignored her council, no more so than now. “Please…It would be so easy to join you…the Song may come to pass, it may not, I do not care. What is this land but a reminder that I alone still stand to hold true to your vision, brother?” The fires flared brighter, forcing her away, even as the wood consumed itself at a greater rate. She had never feared heat, but she could not withstand this assault. With a paniced gasp, she relented.

“Then I will do what I must. The King must be strong, for what is to come.”
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@LadyRunic, [@Amorian], Ruby.


The small pavilion crowned the tallest hill to be found this side of the northern Reach, a modest thing with three sides to it and a rough wooden table in the middle, only one simple camp chair assigned to it. A scattering of locked trunks lined the walls, and a few stuck outside on a wagon that rested next to it. Two Knights wearing the Golden Rose of House Tyrell stood sentinel outside the entrance. The only noise was the song of a camp, and the mixed voices of men and children a heavy stone’s throw from the pavilion.

Lady Vittoria Tyrell’s eyes glazed over as she set the quill down, her left hand gripping the wrist of her right, as the fingers of her right hand curled and stretched, curled and stretched, and curled and stretched. Sudden as a snake, her right wrist flicked—once, twice, and then thrice. She had read and written more letters than was proper, and her eyes, nevermind her poor hand, required reprieve.

She found it with a soft sigh as she stood, straightening out the green boiled leather armor with gold enameled plate at shoulders and chest, worn over a simple green dress, black leather riding boots, well made but simple, on her small feet. Her long auburn hair was dark without exposure to the sun, yet she brushed it away from the armor with a single brush of her left hand a backward dip of her head as she passed the sentries. There, in the early afternoon light, she watched Lady Mina and Lord Garrett drill with Knights of the Order.

No sooner did she smile at the sight than her smile was dashed as another sight caught the corner of her hair: Lord and Ser, Dennet Tarly of Horn Hill, approached with haste upon her position on his dirty brown courser. She waited until he was close enough hear her, his dark features and intense eyes flashing at her immediately.

“What is it, Den?”

His throat cleared as he swung off his horse and approached her, nodding a greeting to his brothers of the Order standing sentry outside their Lord Commander’s pavilion. “You ordered us to include your sellswords into our outriders—”

“—to get them acquainted with us, and us acquainted with them, yes.”

He grunted at that, but just moved on, “Well, they found something. A lordling with two men-at-arms for escort. The escorts are dead. They were searching the lordling when your sellsword captain and some of his men came upon them. They tried to make for the nearest treeline, but…”

Her smile returned. Say it, Den, she thought, as she tried to hide just how pleased she was, waiting for him to say it.

“…well, their horseback archers did their job.”

Oh? What was that you said? Instead, she hid her smirk from the large, sweaty, broad-chested son of Savage Sam Tarly that she had known since the Vulture Hunt. She turned to one of the sentries, “My palfrey, please, Ser Ronnet.”

The sentry moved with quickness, as Den turned his head in response, and unleashed the thunder of his booming voice to the group taking time with Lady Mina and Lord Garrett:

“WE’RE MOVING. SMALL ESCORT FOR THE LORD COMMANDER.” Den’s dark brown eyes smoldered in intensity even as his voice lowered and quieted to match the reduced distance between he and the other sentry, “You too. Mount.”

Most of them immediately moved for weapons and horses, while a half dozen from a nearby campfire moved for the same. She only sighed. It was enough to make Den snort. “Yes, M’Lady, we are.”

She walked close enough to the small opening and the two men left tending to Mina and Garrett, holding up a left hand, palm out, to her siblings, “I’ll be back soon. It’s nothing to worry about.” Then she turned back to Den, to the smoke gray palfrey that was brought up for her. Once out of camp, she instructed them to make a line, and encircle once they got closer, with their fourteen horses, including her.

Light clouds interspaced between pale blue sky in the early afternoon sky of the northern Reach, low hills rolling between vast plains of grass and wild flower, straps of wooded area surrounding the numerous creeks that woven in and out of the area. They had been headed south to Oldtown when they stopped for the night, before it was decided by Ren they would send outriders during their trip south, despite them being in the Reach with no known threat or conflicts to worry them. There was, she knew, too much energy in them since they had taken their vow as Knights of the Golden Rose just two nights before.

It also gave her an excuse to start incorporating the sellswords she was paying for. And that, she liked quite a bit. That it was Garin and his men that had found the highwayman at work only pleased her all the more. Eyes were on them as the sound of their procession announced their presence. The line breaking out in alternation behind Ren and she, making a loose encirclement around the dead men, and the living lordling.

She expected, given the term lordling, a little lord. What she found was a thin, pale, grown man on a thick, modified saddle. Crippled, she thought, immediately, knowing the handiwork of a Maester of the Citadel to accommodate a broken lord when she saw it. She and Ren stopped some ten long paces from Garin and his men. Ren stayed, and she slowly approached on her palfrey to come up next to Garin, her eyes on the dead, their horses, and then the mysterious broken Lord.

She looked off, to the tree line, and found two highwaymen held at sword point by Garin’s men, horses dead. Their horses were a rounsey and a dray. Finally, she looked back to the broken Lord, and saw no obvious heraldry. Her face was blank, her pretty green eyes narrowed. It matched well-enough the expression of her escort: stern, but otherwise detached.

Like Watchman coming upon criminals bungling a crime scene. Finally, she turned to Garin, and her expression changed in an instant. Her eyes warmed, drinking in the scattered sunlight of the valley, her pink lips breezed into an easy smile. “Well done, Captain. What do we have here?”

“Instead of asking your captain, who I assume he is, why not ask the one who happened to witness the matter?” The voice was dry and languid. The ‘lordling’ folded long pale hands over the pommel over the saddle, his pony looking grey about the muzzle and was missing half of it’s teeth. A beast merely to see him to the Citadel and then be sold along with the saddle per his grandfather’s orders. Of course, Lord Lucas had not expected his eldest grandson to be set upon by brigands, nor this rescue. “Though why a woman is leading a host…” Elmo mused and his thoughts flickered through that very short list as well as the heraldry he could see.

His two guards had been slain quickly as they had tried to run, there was no point in protecting a crippled son after all, and Elmo had better sense than running as the men had. In fact he was more than willing to go along and be ‘ransomed’. His grandfather would probably not have paid it but there would have been a rescue mounted by his father and uncles, perhaps there was some luck to be rescued by this woman. It was some how less humiliating. Still Elmo Harroway sat in his black tunic and leggings, looking like a crow if not for the trim of gold and silver that hemmed his clothes. The subtle keys and links of chain his mother had made for luck at the Citadel. The color did nothing to offset his pale skin or hair, making him appear all the more sickly. The choice of clothing had been his own and black suited his mood, it also made people pause and think him perhaps the Stranger, giving the young man some amusement.

Bowing slightly in his saddle lashed in as he was, Elmo arched a brow. “I presume I address the Lady Vittoria Tyrell? I can think of no other maiden with your colors and a company of… men.” His tone turning ‘men’ into something close to brigands, or the way some said Dorne.

Garin’s studiously blank expression remained unchanged. Beneath the silk-wrapped steel of his spired helm, his gray eyes were as cold and as dead as something from the depths of the roiling seas. He raised an eyebrow and turned to his new employer.

He had played this game before, many times in Essos. Whether you were a captain or some new addition to the company, a noble was much like any other, no matter where you went. Nobles could be an source of money or a foe, or both as was so often the case across the sea.

Vittoria’s smile stayed right where it was on her lips, as a tiny laugh of amusement escaped her. “The end of royal lines to the left of us, rebellion and bandits to the right, dragons over us, and women leading hosts about us…strange times, no, Lord…?”

“I would hardly call it strange. Rebellion and bandits are as common as rivers in the Riverlands.” Elmo intoned in his dry voice, sounding rather irritated at the fact. “Nor would I call myself ‘Lord’. Elmo of House Harroway, and as of current- sent off to study at the Citadel. As you seem not of the type of woman to simper or flutter about pathetically, I am sure you can see why.”

“Ah, well, welcome to the Reach, Lord Elmo of House Harroway. You will find a noticeable lack of bandits in this country.” She said as matter of fact, her head turned back to the bandits, then back to Garin.

“Please, Captain, have your men lead them just down the road. I’m thinking they stalked Lord Elmo and his escort for some time before striking.”

It was all done in handful of heartbeats. Garin stood in his stirrups, turning the small black mare he rode with a slight touch of his knee. The little sand steed turned in place as her master lifted the recurved bow he held lightly in his left hand. His standard bearer lifted the crimson banner high and waved in a circle three times. Five men in plated mail and orange silks turned and rode towards the captain at a steady canter, each gripped a heavy bow like that of Garin’s and had a quiver full of javelins hanging from their flat, high-stirruped saddles.

All rode in a loose line, their eyes constantly scanning over the rolling fields and the wood-shrouded patches of land around them. Vittoria smiled, these men seemed quiet, capable the sort who carry out a task with a minimum of fuss. So far her investment had proved well worth it. She turned back to Lord Elmo, her smile gone, her tone having changed to something with less mirth, a stricter thing. “You will provide the names of your escort. I will conduct the letters to their families. You will be coming with us. Do you have any weapons or correspondence on you, Lord Elmo?”

“Do I look like I have weapons? Unless you mean to take my mind, and I do wish you luck with that, there is a distinct lack.” Elmo drawled, his green eyes cast up the wide sky. “May the Seven save me from suspicious women with fluff between their ears.” He muttered in a undertone to himself, more than anyone else. In truth, the only weapon Elmo had was a dagger and eating knife. Neither he would be useful with in a fight. “My Lady,” His voice more audible. “I am tied to the saddle of a horse that would see it’s better days roasted on a spit. Do you think that I, even if I did may the Seven forbid, have weapons that I would have the ability to use them?” The disapproval in his tone could have drowned the God’s Eye.

“More to the point. No, I do not know which men were sent with me. I hardly saw a reason to care. Guards against my return I would think. The names I did catch were something along the lines of Royce and Sherd. My book,” His green eyes flicked to a book, now trample into the mud of the road by the bandits and horses, “, was far more appealing than conversation with men who rattled when they thought.” Perhaps he could be more polite, but Elmo was a realistic sort of man. He was a cripple and, more to the point, one who had been put under guards to go to the Citadel. Politeness was pointless in the general sense since the world was constantly going to dismiss him out of hand for a lame leg and a bad arm. As it was, he had been forced to squint as Vittoria approached to see her symbol. Yes, the manners of the gentle lords and ladies and their quibbling games could go and rot in the deserts of Dorne for all Elmo cared.

“Discipline and training are important things to an effective fighting force, Lord Elmo. These Knights would look for weapons and correspondence on any man of suspicion they came across. How do these men know what man may hold some choice scroll with valuable information? Daggers, knives can be used to cut more than flesh. They can be poisoned. Unlikely as it is, I do grant you, ‘fluff between my ears’ aside, I do expect my men to do what they are disciplined and trained to do. You can cooperate with me, or they can conduct their business in a much rougher style. I have spent quite a lot of time at the Citadel; I assure you they are even less patient of such a disposition as I am being.”

She looked to the dead escort, and heard herself sigh, a genuine sadness fresh on her face as she looked back to Elmo. “Truly, I am sorrowful for the traumas of the day that have befallen you and your escort. You are angry, resentful. Let us not make it worse. Declare what you have, you will be searched when we reach our camp, either way…Den?”

She said, turned in the saddle, twisted to look at him.

The large Knight of Horn Hill pointed to the two Knights closest to the dead men. “Take only their weapons and anything that might explain them better. Take them to the village down the creek, bury them there.”

“Here,” Vittoria said to get the attention of the two Knights, removing the purse from her belt and throwing it to the nearest of the two. The catch was far superior to the throw, but it made it into the Knight’s hands, just the same. “For their eyes. Get yourselves food and drink, there’s a small inn in that village.”

“Yes, Lord Commander.”

Elmo watched as the men were searched and then carried off, coins given by the noble lady for their eyes in a proper burial. A grudging respect was granted to the Ardent Maiden for the act. Even for her words and she was right to demand to know or else, to search, him. Relenting, Elmo’s expression was still cross as he sighed. “I contain several vials of willow bark and sourleaf, in my bags on this flea bag is a flask of milk of the poppy. On my belt is a dagger and my eating knife. I only carry a correspondence of my father and grandfather for the Citadel to admit myself.” Ruefully, he hesitated before adding in a more quiet voice. “I also have a vial of concentrated sweetsleep in my boot.” He did not wish to admit that, but it would be better to say such lest they think him some kind of assassin upon discovering it later. As the Lady Vittoria had said, it was a troubling time in their land. Chances were better not taken. He gaze was steady on her own, his hand twitching as he wished to rub at the ache in his leg. “Need I tell you of the cane, you can see strapped behind me?” It was a handsome thing of carved wood and ivory, brought from Essos by his Uncle Damon.

Her eyes had narrowed, again. This time, however, it was the intensity of trying to see what was not plain just to the eyes. The escort to guard against his return. The surly nature. Admittance to the Citadel to be presented on arrival. The sad horse in which he sat… Just then, her head tilted, as curiosity hit her, her eyes returning to their normal gaze.

He was being discarded.

“Do you wish to be a Maester, Lord Elmo? Truly?”

There was a bitter laugh from the man. “Truely? I wish for their books and knowledge. I have no wish to be locked away in a tower playing politics with slackgraced men who comb their beards and lose their wits.” He admitted, leaning back in his saddle and studying her over the flopping ears of his mount. “The answer you seek is not so straight forward. I would willingly wear a chain, but chains tend to bind and are quite heavy.”

There was nothing on her face in terms of reaction. Only a quick nod, as her mind moved onto the next thing: “Lord Dennet Tarly of Horn Hill will see you to our camp, Lord Elmo.” She didn’t, this time, turn around in the saddle to look at him, instead tilting her head back, and in a far more casual manner than had been thusly observed, simply threw her voice behind her, “Please be accommodating, Den.”

Den smiled, big, and sarcastic. “Northeast, Lord Elmo,” he said, pointing ‘that way’ with his thick gloved finger so the direction could not be mistaken, “after you.” Den’s eyes looked around once more, before turning his horse after Elmo once he passed by.

“As you say, Lady Ardent.” Was the ever dry and languid reply. His head inclining to Lady and Lord as he gave a sharp whack to his horse’s rear with his reins. The beast slowly plodding off as Elmo grimaced as his leg was wrenched by the movements. After passing the Tarly of Horn Hill and being sure the woman had turned away the man reached into his tunic, a small glass vial being pulled out. Wedging the cork in his mouth, Elmo pulled the stopped out then spat it into the grass off the road. Corks were easy enough to make. Pulling out the willow bark he slipped the now empty and drained vial into this tunic, chewing at the bark. “How long?” He asked the man shortly. His green eyes sharp as he grunted around the mouthful.

She could feel the pleasure in the man that she hadn’t had anyone else go with him and Lord Elmo. He wanted the escort to stay with her. All of them, now that two had been assigned away to burial duty. It irritated her, but she refused to let him sense that. Now, however, her attention was back on Garin. “Captain, ride with me. Let us go speak to those bandits.”

Garin bowed slightly in the saddle. “As you say, Lady Vittoria.”

He turned his little mare again and rode ahead with his standard bearer and two horsemen in tow. He held out a hand. “Squire, attend me.” The youth was big for his age and his dark skin and hair were reminiscent of a Dothraki. He lifted the polished steel of a great helm from his saddle and took his master’s lighter casque. Garin, his helm under his left arm, his bow sheathed in its case and with the plain hilt of his longsword hanging from his saddle, suddenly looked less like some foreign mercenary and more like the epitome of chivalric arrogance.

He gazed down at the beaten and filthy brigands, one hand on the pommel of his sword. “My Lady, in . . . my own land,” he refrained from mentioning Dorne at the last moment, “we’ve dealt with many bandits.

“If you like, we could hang them upside down from one of these trees. A man will tell you everything he’s ever done wrong in his life, it doesn’t even take a day.” He gazed down at the prisoners.

Garin’s words were as cold and empty of life as the winds beyond the wall. “I am knight milady. High justice, middle justice and low justice sleep in my scabbard. Say the word as these dogs will trouble you no longer.”

Though such a thing was cruel, even to think, much less say, it was all calculated. Garin had no real desire to kill them. Truth be told, he felt a certain pity for them. The difference between a loyal soldier and a bandit was often a matter of the last time a man had eaten. But on the other hand, a terrified brigand would happily turn on his compatriots if they thought it might mean a chance of mercy.

Once they came to a stop near the brigands, Lady Vittoria Tyrell just stared at them. They were dirty. Their clothing and armor, such as it was, amounted to little more than riding leathers. Their heads were bowed as Garin’s men hovered over them. After a rather brief, but intense, study of the two her eyes flickered back to the Captain speaking to her.

If any of what he said surprised or disturbed or pleased her, it would have been easier to read the future than read her face. In the end she, actually, softly, smiled at him. “These are hard times, Captain, I thank you for your capabilities in the unpleasant.”

Her head turned back to one near dozen knights of her escort. One had slowly gotten closer than the rest—as if this wasn’t the first time, and he knew what came next. When she nodded at him, he made up the ground between himself and the Lord Commander quickly, dismounting as she did.

He handed her the blood red leather pouch, cinched tightly. She spent a moment loosening it, her slightly longer fingernails making the task a little easier. The bag inside that was a brighter, blood red, dye in appearance.

From there, she walked to within five paces of the two men, the Knight wearing mail and leather, his blade at his hip, his half-helm kept on, became her steel shadow. His voice was no thunderous boom like Den’s, but it was deeper than her own. “Look up at her.”

They did, and she watched the eyes of one, before watching the eyes of the other. The younger, skinnier of the two was first. He simply spat in her direction, and had he not undoubtedly been dry of mouth, he might have reached his target. His hair was short, cut rough, like with a dagger. The other’s hair was longer, black, his pale skin reddened by exposure, his small eyes hardened, but not lost.

Her eyes stayed on the one with black hair.

“Do you know who I am?”

He looked first at the mercenary closest to him, then to the Knight that was her shadow, and then, finally, to her. A long look, before his head simply shook. “No, m’La—”

“—it’s Lord Commander,” she said, her voice trampling his own like a war horse on a charge. His eyes took new life as they stared at her, realization dawning upon him, the other, the spitter, suddenly snapped his head up and stared, too.

“…yes, you chased us across the bloody Riverlands, like the Stranger himself. Led the Hand straight at us.”

Ah, Harren the Red men. “Take that one to the camp,” she nodded to the spitter, before her eyes returned to the other one for good. “Tell Maester Etarin to begin his work with him,” she said it to the men around, even as she stared into the eyes of the other, older, brigand. She waited until two of her escort took the man away. A prolonged pause that seemed to stretch on and on as they grabbed the spitter up, slammed a mailed fist into his skull to leave him without consciousness, and tossed him over the back of one of their horses before taking off.

It was code. Maester Etarin was not fond of torture, and she did not relish forcing an ugly business on the Maester. She meant simply take the man out of sight and execute him. There were times she did not want it done in front of another prisoner, there were times she wanted the other man to imagine what Etarin might do. Death from a Knight? Known, expected, easily imagined. Death from a Maester? Unknown, and nothing scared men like the unknown. Their imaginations ran wild.

When they were clear, Vittoria knelt, and presented herself closer to eye level with the man. “Do you have a family?”

The longest stare she had encountered in a long while was stuck upon her by the brigand. Finally, he nodded, “Boy. His mum and her family. They live in a village near the God’s Eye, small farm.”

As he answered, she had opened the red dyed pouch, and retrieved from within it the small glass vial manufactured by Etarin. When he stopped speaking, her eyes flashed from the pouch and vial to his eyes once more, “What is your name?”

“Karl.”

Was he lying? She thought not, but it could be hard to tell in such moments. “Do you know what Sweetsleep is, Karl?”

He shook his head, his eyes on the vial, and her. As if he had completely forgotten the near two dozen men around them. When her big, bright, brown eyes kept staring, he gave a quick nervous stutter, realizing his mistake, before correcting it, “No.”

“You drink, you go to sleep. It’s peaceful, it’s fast, and you dream of the things you love on your way out. Do you believe in the Seven?”
It took him a few, long, beats to fully understand what she had just said. She could tell, as pure truth came from him on the question of his belief: men distracted by the former usually gave instinctive, honest, answers on the latter. It was a technique she had picked up from a book the Archmaester of Higher Mysteries lent to her.

“..I don’t believe in anything anymore.”

She nodded, smiling, and smoothed her skirts as she re-settled to sit upon the grass with her legs tucked neatly under her. “Do you know your son’s name, Karl?”

“Thom.”

“Was he born from love, Karl?”

“No,” his eyes drifted away from her. Skyward, this time, instead of downward to the grass. He sniffed, before going on just when she thought he might not, “just youth and wine.”

“Drink this, Karl,” she said, staring at his face, “Since you do not believe I will spare you prayers, instead I will sit with you and talk.” Though her tone had grown warm and her eyes were bright, she was intently studying what happened next. If he looked around, if he looked for the prospect of hope, it would be telling. But if he simply took the vial and drank, it would be all the more telling.

After a few dramatic, loud, beats of her heart, the man took the vial, sniffed again as emotion threatened to take hold of him, and threw his head back to empty the contents. The vial and cork dropped to the grass as he simply let go, and relaxed his body back.

This man has lost all hope in the world.

“Tell me about Thom?”

When he looked back at her, his eyes had become glassy. The absolute certainty of death now working on the man much harder, much faster, than a rope and a tree. He spoke of Thom, he spoke of the boy’s mother, Hella. He gave unimportant details that seemed to mean something to him. He spoke of his parents. He spoke of hard times, harder times. He asked her about her youth, he asked her about Highgarden. He had wanted to see it, one day, he said. So she described it for him as he cried.

His name was really Lyam, he revealed, with his first big yawn. They spoke of the days he spent with Harren the Red, war stories between veterans of the same campaign. They shared laughter at how Harren the Red cursed the ‘damnable girl’ during her chase of him across the Riverlands. She had them all scared, he admitted. Her men were everywhere they tried to go. No village or farm would willingly help them, always her men had been their first, with kindness and gold, while the Hand’s men had always just demanded and threatened.

It wasn’t much longer before he was laid down, curled up, asleep on the grass. He fell asleep talking of Thom, and his father, and asking her to look after the boy. When it was over, she straightened her body so she stood straight on her knees, pressed her hands together, bowed her head, and gave him prayer to the Father, the Mother, and the Stranger. She prayed to them for forgiveness for Lyam. She prayed for his soul. She prayed for Thom.

“Goodnight, Lyam,” she whispered, as she climbed up to her feet and walked back to her horse and Captain Garin. This time she accepted her steel shadow’s hand when it came time to remount her palfrey, looking at Garin with a side glance.

“Do you disapprove, Captain?”

The big mercenary shrugged his mailed shoulders with a metallic rustle of riveted links. In truth, the fate of the brigands was far kinder one than anything he or his men would have done to them. Especially if they had been given over to the handful of Dothraki he had under his banner.

“I once saw a man spitted on a spear near Slaver’s Bay and turned over a fire like he was a boar hog. You wouldn’t believe how long it took him to die, Lord Commander.” He said.

Garin’s tone was even, polite, as if he’d been discussing the weather with an acquaintance. But as he glanced down at the dead mercenary, something like pity shone in his eyes for a moment.

“In all honesty, I’ve seen far worse than you . . . and I took their money just the same.

“So I suppose, it doesn’t really matter what I think. Great lords and ladies can do as they wish. That’s the power of coin. It’s just a matter of how much you have.”

He turned his little mare, his eyes roving over their surroundings and nodded approvingly as his scouts continued to patrol around their position. Like any knight, he relished the chance for great deeds that storming a citadel or a massed charged afforded a man. But light cavalry allowed a commander to dictate the terms of a battle and set the stage for those great deeds.

“Signal them push further out, but not so far they can’t return by dusk.” He said to his standard bearer.

Signals were relayed and soldiers turned and moved off the rolling hills or down the narrow paths through the clustered stands of woodland that broke up the grassy land.

“The rest of you, fan out and set up a screen, but stay within sight.” He said to the soldiers who’d ridden with him. The largest among them, a scowling Dothraki nodded, barked out a single command and rode past with an arrow nocked on his great bow.

Her eyes never moved from their forward facing position. But her time changed dramatically; it became softer, tired. As if, in an instant, the Lord Commander was gone and the girl of Highgarden who spent most of her life on the road was all that remained. “It matters, Garin. Either that matters, most, or none of it matters at all. The war table will meet shortly after sundown at my tent to discuss tomorrow.”

The palfrey took off, the Knights of her escort picking up their pace to try to match her, at a distance. They were learning when it best to give her space.
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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Espada Emi
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Espada Emi

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Espada Emi, @Ruby.



The last note of the war table was that those who stayed to bury the brigands had returned, while those who went to the nearest village to bury the escort of Lord Elmo had not. Camp was mostly packed up while they dealt with Lord Elmo, while those men who had proven to require the least amount of sleep would carry the last sentry posts before morning. Vittoria thanked Garin once more, gave Ren a gentle shove that he laughed at, and finally, she was alone.

She took the chance to pour herself a pewter cup of Arbor gold. She heard Ser Therry Oldflowers and his lute as she drifted out of the small pavilion atop the highest hill where the pavilion had been set. Brown eyes examined the beyond; the thirty or so camp fires around as the spring chill of the northern Reach settled upon them for the night. The tents, the loaded wagons and the horselines. She saw shadows of roving sentries along the perimeter.

Ser Therry’s lute was low, melodical, his voice just above a husky whisper among the night’s breeze and the crackle of the fire:

“Cinder and smoke, so whispers around the trees.
The juniper bends, as if you were listening…”


Black sausage, roast squirrel, and a bean and bacon soup with a tear of brown bread had been the evening’s feast. A few stumps and a fallen log had been dragged to her campsite for her, an unusual move doubtlessly made by the Knights of the Order. Most nights, men congregated around her campfire, but with her siblings, a certain space was allowed her. The sentry outside her pavilion was young Ryam Redwyne, their cousin, and she saw him finishing at a bit of bread as she passed him, and smiled.

Vittoria sat herself on the log, next to Mina, as Therry and Garrett took the stumps. She placed the pewter cup of wine by her feet, and cradled the warm plate and picked at roast squirrel and sausage and bread. Her eyes stayed on the fire before them, or at times, wandered to the brilliant blanket of moonlight and starlight above them.

“When we get to Oldtown, you and I are due at the Hightower. Lord Manfred wants to hold a little feast for us.” After a swallow of squirrel, she added, as she reached for the cup of Arbor Gold, “We will have to be on our very best behavior, Mina. Oldtown is the hornet’s nest right now. And we will have to find gowns. No cutting them,” she said, as she took a long drink through a grin and side-look to her little sister.

Mina rolled her eyes and stabbed her eating knife into a chunk of roast squirrel, stuffing it into her mouth and deliberately speaking between angry chews. “As if I’ve ever been known to kick a hornet’s nest, Vitta.” She swallowed and sighed, grimacing “Fine. If you really want to sit us down in binding silk deathtraps in the Hightower, I s’pose I can sit pretty and play the delicate flower. But do we really have to? I can’t move at all in those things, let alone protect myself!”

Vittoria actually chuckled at that, as she took another drink, seeming to prefer the wine to the food as let the dance of campfire flame entertain her, the sting of smoke threatening her eyes until the wind shifted back the way it had been moments before. Her shoulders rose, and slowly dropped in half a shrug.

“I have returned the Reach’s oldest Knightly Order to service. I have won every battle I’ve led men into. I’ve won every campaign I’ve ever been part of. I have been celebrated in the last city of the Freehold of Valyria. Showered with gold, favors, and flatterers. Do you know?” She asked, turning her head to look her sister in the eye, her lips settling somewhere between grin and smile, reserved and resigned as it was, “…I still must wed and have children. It’s my duty for our House, Mina, as it is yours. It’s important. House Tyrell tries to survive, wolves at our Highgarden door that would love to take our place.”

She sighed, a return to her favorite vintage of Arbor Gold, and moved her eyes from Mina, to the knight playing the lute in the background, the young Lord Garrett half asleep staring into the campfire, and back to her sister. “Our best defense is to propagate; we cannot deny that. Should our eldest brother and heir fail, it is on us; you and I. The boys aren’t ready, yet.”

She exchanged wine for plate once more, picking at more bread, and some sausage. “To say nothing of, there is power in those gowns. Learn the beauty given to us. Learn to wield it as you would any weapon. In the end, it can do far more good for your life, and those you love, than any blade.”

Mina’s mouth twisted up like she’d just been fed something sour, but for once she didn’t protest or fight. She glanced at Garrett near drowsing on the stump, tensed and stared hard into the flickering flames, as if casting her own thoughts into the fire. She took a long sip of watered down wine, and when she looked back at her elder sister the tension was gone and there was only determination on her face. “I’ve seen it too, you know. How some of the other bratty little lordlings treat Garrett when they think they can get away with it. Bullying him and telling him that it will be their fathers that are Lord Paramount when they’re grown.” Her mouth quirked into a hard little slash, eyes steely. “So, if this is part of how we fight them, then I want to fight. Even if I hate it. For our family.”

She watched Garrett, and smiled, “He’ll be okay. Only he can defend him, but I think the Gods gifted him all he needs to be alright. Our position isn’t great. After our grandsire lost the host in Dorne, the voices were very loud that we were stewards, not lords. We knew nothing of lordly duties. Aegon’s biggest mistake, they called us…Bertrand may turn out, but right now, he is no boon to our family’s struggle. May King’s Landing be good for him.”

Given the reports she got from the Flame of Lys, however, she was less than hopeful…but this was not a fact she let slip from her lips. If Mina had trouble accepting what Bertrand was, if she had trouble seeing the power in silks and laces, then informing her they owned a brothel and the woman who operated it was a whisperer of more skill than anyone seemed to realize would have been no help to the girl.

“I do what I do to help our family. The Reach needed to see us lead. I am lucky, the Gods have been kind to the men under my banner and to me. I cannot do this forever, I know that. I will lose. My army will be taken. My titles will be taken…I will need a good husband and healthy children. Let them jape at Garrett, or laugh at you, or talk behind my back and the backs of the Knights who believe in me. They’re not talking about how we’re stewards, they’re not talking about a ‘lost host’ anymore. That’s a victory.”

Mina just did her best to listen carefully. She’d rarely seen Vittoria in such a somber, almost defeated mood before. For all her usual stubborn wildness, the importance of the situation and the trust she was being given stuck with her. Here she was, sitting around a campfire among a host of knights with her sister the Lord Commander just as she’d always wanted. It was a dizzying truth, but this was its own kind of battle, with its own kind of war council. Her sister was asking her to fight, even if she didn’t like the battlefield. She gave Vittoria a more genuine smile and half-jokingly lifted her drink in a toast. “To more victories, then.”

Vittoria decided she was done trying to force her appetite any further, setting the plate down just in time to take up the cup of wine once more, and grin as she gave Mina’s toast a clank and a firm nod, “to House Tyrell’s survival. And to my sister, who I’m very glad is here with me now.”

After the longest drink of the night, long enough to finish her cup, Vittoria was left with a smile still, watching Garrett fade. “Let’s get us all to bed. Early rise on days of travel, and I still have to go talk to our newest guest.”
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She entered to find candlelight, and a plate of half-eaten food; he ate some of the roast squirrel, none of the bread, and most the sausage. The strong red Arbor wine looked a quarter gone, and the small camp bed was a matter of multiple bed rolls, and a wooden frame with leather straps in support.

She had used it during the Vulture Hunt, she knew it wasn’t that bad. She came in with just the green dress and a cream colored great cloak nearly completely covering her but for a few inches of her body. Leather riding boots had been replaced with more mundane leather slippers, and her hair was now tied with a cloth-of-gold ribbon behind her.

The tent had belonged to Ser Wyatt, but Ser Wyatt was one of the lucky fellows who drew the overnight sentry, and thus had packed for the departure to Oldtown due in the morning, leaving the tent all but empty so they had a place to Lord Elmo. The tent was in a ring of tents, across from Ser Dennet Tarly, with a single guard outside, a squire named Pate who smiled big at her as she passed him to enter.

She held up two candle sticks after walking in, “A gift, Lord Elmo, in case you want to stay up reading.” He seemed, to her, like the type of man who might just do such a thing out of habit, more than anything else. “Our Maester came by to do what he could?” she asked, staying just a few feet inside the tent’s entrance.

There wasn’t much room in a tent of this size, and she tried to be polite.

Elmo was sat on the camp bed, his frame not so hidden in the black tunic. It had been shed to reveal a cream lighter shirt beneath the stiff jacket. In one hand the man had a tankard, which he was in the process of setting aside with his left hand. A small tremor showing it had been through some strain causing the wine to swirl. The other held a book just as the Lady had expected to find. A battered thing talking of Essos and the various illnesses there of the title was aught to go by.

"A more welcomed sight I would be hard put to see," The young man drawled, squinting at the woman as she entered. Lines of that constant creasing etched about his eyes."Your Maester is a capable man, though there was nothing new he could console me on." From his tone it seemed bitter, but accepting of that fact. The said leg stretched out across the tent, in the limited light Vittoria could see the way it twisted under his leggings. The foot looking clubbed at an angle that was not natural. In truth, Elmo could sit and stand with it looking normal under long robes. It merely cost him pain and aches. Now, he let the leg rest, the muscles he had kneaded to relax. His cane set near his side. "I've more than enough medicine to dull it, and your Maester had a interesting concoction. Don't touch the wine." The advice was not quite an order but it was not idle. The pain dulling dose had been mixed with the tankard, a potent thing."Sit if you wish, Lady Ardent. I would bow, but getting up in this small a tent would be impractical."

“No one bows to me in this camp, Lord Elmo.”

The tone was as far from declarative as it could be; merely a casual statement of what was known. She nearly said that she had ‘seen worse’ in the Citadel, but she was no fool: it would have been no comfort to a man grown like Elmo. Maester Lyonel, though not the Archmaster of the silver link, was still the best she had known in the field during her time at the Citadel, and she would never forget the one time he remarked on such a thing:

”Broken men are still men. They will never forget their misfortune, but they would also rather everyone else did most the time.”

Vittora smoothed her skirts as she sat in a small chair near the entrance, setting the candlesticks aside. “We depart for Oldtown tomorrow. Your horse and saddle, or one of our wagons, it’s up to you. We got nothing from the brigands.”

A tired sigh came from her as she leaned her head back, her right hand going up to where her left shoulder and neck met, rubbing at it absently, “I will deposit you at the Citadel if you still want. Although, if so, I will walk you in myself. Women can’t be Maesters, or I’d be one. Still…they were kind enough to give me something for my time.”

Her right hand left her shoulder, as her left hand went to her right sleeve, and folded it up. In the dim light it was hard for him to see, but she removed it, and ably gave it an underhand toss to fall where he could easily retrieve it: a bracelet of Maester links.

“For the Initiates and Acolytes, it’s often back-breaking in the early years. I remember one scene, in particular, with the silver links…they were cutting flesh, and part of it was rotten and…” Her right hand came up, palm out, as her face twisted and eyes snapped shut. Her voice strained, like even here and now, she might vomit at just the memory, “Less said, mayhaps. I was just present, an observer, and yet the Maesters just said to me: ‘Then vomit, girl, there’s work to be done and you can clean it up later.’” Her voice mimicked the cold, dismissive tone the Maester had used that day. “So, I did, on both accounts. I think the Acolytes were grateful I returned to clean it up myself.”

A laugh, even if a hard-fought one. “I meant to ask,” she began, pivoting even after her laugh faded from her lips, “is there anything you can tell us about Harrenhal? Anything beyond the ordinary? Quite a castle, even in its melted form. I know next to nothing about the family that acts as its overlords…despite helping to clear it of Harren the Red.”

The bracelet surprised Elmo, for women were generally not welcomed in the Citadel. They may be amused and humored but they could not be Maester themselves. “A wagon.” He spoke evenly as he examined the links, his brows neatly raised in surprise. For whatever he expected from this woman? This was not it. “For while I do enjoy the mobility of riding, it is not worth this ache.” His words were absent as he let the links run through his fingers. There was a greed in his eyes, not for the links and chains a Maester wore but for the knowledge that he gained. The books, the scrolls and aught else.

“Harroways of Harrenhal…” Elmo’s gaze moved away from the bracelet and back to Vittoria, reaching out with his stronger hand, the book set aside, he offered the links back to the woman. “And while I know more than even they would expect… Tell me, what would make it worth my time to tell you more than the public faces?” His lips curved into a mocking smile as he took a deep swallow from the goblet, grunting at the sour taste that even with wine was not hidden. “Foul concoction.” He swore, coughing heavily into his arm. “Maester will either see my dead of their ramblings or their brews.”

Her mind traveled to the secret vaults of knowledge she should not have. That she was unsure should even exist, let alone wind up in her possession. She fretted the reaction to it more than she did the Faith Militant or the High Septon. Her momentary distraction broke only as she leaned forward and retrieved the bracelet. Her brow perking when he posed his question, as she slipped the bracelet back on and lowered her sleeve over it.

She leaned back into the small chair as her mind weighed the question as it might the timing to strike on a battlefield. Too early, and you risked exposing your own lines to a fault. Too late, and your host might lack the strength and will to execute as required for victory. In the end, she shrugged, “One cannot reasonably offer a price without knowing the value of the product of service in question. You ask a question there is no equitable answer to, Lord Elmo.”

“The fact I am the firstborn son to the heir of Harrenhal, Jon Harroway. The grandson of Lord Lucas Harroway himself and retain informants in the castle itself?” His languid and dry voice was humored as he revealed exactly who he was, or would have been if not for his deliberating accident. “Had a horse not fallen on me, I would have been Lord Elmo of Harrenhal in time.” He pointed out reasonably. “My price would not be a small thing, my Lady, but I am not so greedy as some I could name.”

The stillness ended not with a sound, but with a motion; her body raising from the back of the small chair, the top of her leaning forward, the only thing keeping her long dark auburn hair from spilling forward as she rested her knees on her thighs was the cloth-of-gold ribbon restraining it into a loose ponytail.

“I suppose, then, Lord Elmo…it comes to this: do you think me capable and willing to properly appreciate what it is you might say, compared to others you might say it to, given the limited opportunities to put two people in the same quiet room together that life naturally offers? That is your decision to make.”

Her back straightened, as her pretty features tilted to the right, and the slowest shrug seen in a day full of them rolled about her slender shoulders, “Such judgment calls can be difficult to make with limited information. What do you think of me, Lord Elmo? Am I that one noble that you will meet in your life, at the right time, with the right appreciation of what you might say, both capable and willing to pay whatever price it is you desire most?”

For a reason known only to the ghosts of Highgarden and Harrenhal, both, in that exact moment, a tiny shadow of a smile crept over the pink lips of the Ardent Maiden.

“Your family holds sway with the Maesters and the Citadel. It is perhaps that we could achieve what we both desire. I desire for those lovely links without being bound to the Citadel by the Maester’s Vows as is expected.” His head cocked to the side, his pale hair and sallow looking features looking perhaps a bit more grim in the faint light. “You want information on the Harroways, Harrenhal, perhaps other places. If I can stay outside of those irritating orders while seemingly to comply with them as is expected of me, there need be no worry about a bastard taking the seat of Harrenhal’s Lord.” He did not wish to reveal that, but it would be a tasty tidbit for the woman to chew on.

If the Maesters don’t have me assassinated for what I already know… Her head dipped to the left, back to the right, before again to the left, and a pause…then the second child of House Tyrell nodded, firmly, as if she had debated it and come to a firm conclusion. “This can be done. There is precedent for going nearly to Maester and leaving. Rarer still, some examples of full Maesters leaving the service…but this requires mitigating factors, and is far more rare and difficulty done. Either way, once you leave, you will be exposed: it is doubtful House Harroway would welcome you back. Doubtless still any reputable Lord or even merchant would support you. The alternatives are dark, and unsafe,” she thought of the former Maester she found mutilated about Saan’s ship, immediately. “You sound half-whisperer in this night, already, Lord Elmo. Learn what you wish, and yes…I will make a full whisperer master out of you. Truth be told,” she admitted, her smile widening, “there are few things I value in this world half as much as whispers.”

His smile to some would be sinister, but it was often lopsided and rarely met his eyes. “Oh, then we understand each other. I have one important line I will not cross, my Lady.” Now flint was in eyes and voice and he spoke firmly. “No harm is to come to the maid in the Harroway House going by Elayne Rivers. She’s outside their House, despite being apart of it. Do you find these terms suitable? That you will leave this woman be and take her out of harm’s way if possible, that you shall aid me in this forging of my chain without being a Maester myself, and in return I shall give to you whispers and the full extent of my knowledge?” He offered out his hand, the grip strong and ready to accept the bargain if she was.

“Lord Elmo,” her voice took on a deeper, harder, sound than he would have ever heard from it before, “I am uncertain if there has ever been, will ever be, a Lord Commander in this realm that would be more apt to take a girl out of harm’s way than myself. These are terms I accept.”

Her smaller hand reached to his, and sealed their pack with as firm a shake as she could manage.

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The Eyrie


“Where is my son?”

Lady Ryella’s words were softly spoken, her voice full of grief that threatened to spill out into sobs. The Crone studied her sister-in-law silently. The woman had been a good wife and mother, blessed by the Seven with six healthy sons, but still the gods sought to test the faithful.

The women were not alone in the solar, Lord Hubert sat next to his lady wife, across from Elys. Maester Tybald had woken his lord in the middle of the night, he had woken Ryella out of duty once hearing it concerned their son and word was sent to his sister, his closest advisor. Instantly the Lord had felt regret at not heeding her original counsel to have his son return home immediately from Storm’s End. He needed her now, there was no doubt.

Maester Tybald was a man of indeterminate age, his hair was white and his face creased, but his voice was solid, his gait steady. He had been sent to the Eyrie when Ronnel ruled as Lord Paramount, but not as King. He had seen much death in his time serving House Arryn, but Hubert and his sprawling family were still new to the man, their religious fervor required he change his tact from how he had advised Lord Ronnel. Lady Elys was an obstacle, much as he was to her, he suspected.

The solar had barely warmed from the fire that blazed to life, the thick Myrish carpet softened the chill slightly, but to be called on at such a time indicated nothing favorable. Lady Ryella’s lips quivered no matter her resolve to hold herself together.

The maester shifted in the heavy oaken chair and cleared his throat. “We’ve received word. Lord Artys and Lady Sharra boarded the Silver Sphynx as arranged. However, there were some…difficulties encountered.” He flattened the missive before him. The Eyrie’s rookery had received a raven from Gulltown who had received the message from Pentos by way of trade ship. It had been months since the young Arryns had been expected back with no word at all.

“Maester, please.” The lady was nearly begging, Lord Hubert covered his wife’s hand gently beneath his but hushed her sternly. The crone’s gaze passed from brother to sister-in-law, her arms folded across her chest. Her sister-in-law was a good woman, a good wife, a good mother. She had been blessed by the Seven, even as the gods tested her. Lady Elys would need to guide her through this.

“There was a spring storm in the Narrow Sea, the cog was forced into Tyrosh.” Maester Tybald paused again, his head raising to meet Lord Hubert’s gaze. “The information we received is not clear on what exactly happened in Tyrosh. There have been other reports of a man declaring himself King of the Basilisk Isles and attacking any ships making their way further east.” He shook his head. “Bad for trade, the Cities cannot abide by it.”

Hubert grew impatient, Elys could see it in her brother’s eyes. “They are not in Tyrosh then?” The crone spoke at last, leaning forward towards the maester.

“No, no. They joined an escort of ships that sailed further south; we believe they’ve landed in Volantis. There are men on their way, this missive was sent to Pentos when they landed in Lys. We should know more within the next few weeks.” The man cleared his throat again. “It is not complete news, but I did not think you would want to wait for the morning to hear it regardless.”

Volantis. Lady Elys closed her eyes and leaned back in the chair, she could hear her brother’s wife sobbing. So far from where they had been meant to go. It was a test, but for whom? She could not discern anything now, though the image of a single falcon in flight with vicious creatures clawing to the sky below it, set a crease deeply across her brow. .



Volantis Docks



The red-haired beauty paced across the captain’s office. Her dress had long ago been stained through with sweat and salt. Her hair clung to her scalp and neck, oiled and damp. She had thought their time at sea had been terrifying but the docks were pure torture. Her nephew had proven useless for days now. When he had at least stirred from his sickbed, their continued presence only barely tolerated, it was only to complain of the heat, of the smell, of the great misfortune that had found them. He insisted they could board a small ship and take their chances.

“I will not set foot on another ship without an escort.” Most of their men had gone into the city to try and arrange temporary lodgings until the Volantene leaders could provide ships to guarantee their safety through the Stepstones.. “It will be a month, or so the captain said yesterday. Please nephew, we have outstayed our welcome here, we must go into the city.” She was begging, desperate and exhausted.

Lord Artys, heir to the Vale, rolled over. He had lost weight, his face was gaunt but slick with sweat. He no longer felt as though his innards sought to escape his body, but nor did he feel any hunger. “Fine.” He was tired of arguing, he would deal with her insolence later. Two years of travel with the woman and he still didn’t understand why his father had sent her along. Ostensibly she was to find a husband and yet she had spent most of the journey and time spent in court in complete silence. Any potential matches shriveled and ravens from his father had continued to urge him on to their next destination. Their peers must have thought her mute. Now though she had found her voice to criticize every decision he had made since they set off from Storm’s End.

Sharra sighed, anger and annoyance boiling in the oppressive humidity. She was not certain that she was even breathing air, and though there was barely a breeze outside of the chambers, it was better than being stuck in the room any longer with Artys. She left, the door slamming loudly behind her.

Outside she found one of the men that had stayed behind with them. One of the men-at-arms from House Corbray. A tall man, lanky, but he seemed to shrink in the heat as well. They all did. “My lady?”

“He is in agreement.” At last. She spoke quietly, anger still just below the surface but it was not this man’s fault. “Has anyone managed to get word sent back home?” They had sent several missives, some to Storm’s End, others to King’s Landing, Pentos, Gulltown, but it was uncertain how quickly those messages would be received. Travel for man or word had become difficult.

“We’ve done all that we can, Lady. There is little left to do but wait.” He grunted. “And sweat. It is like we are in the seventh hell.” He seemed to suddenly remember himself and looked ashamed.

“Perhaps only the sixth hell, ser.” The smile she attempted was incomplete. The pair stood in silence wishing for a breeze that never came.

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Vaera Balaerys, dragonrider


Shadow fell over King’s Landing at the late morning hour. Wide, though not as wide as half by other shadows that had surely been sighted across the city before, with a blue and purple color if a person managed to look up fast enough. It was fast, and it flew low. Saeryx made little sound but for the motion of it’s wings and the beating of air to gain speed and momentum before it spread and glided again. The pattern repeated from Blackwater Bay, to over the site of what, she had been told before departing, one would day be the keep of House Targaryen.

To Vaera Balaerys, from her view, it just looked small as it blurred by. As soon as she passed it, Saeryx turned and dipped to round about for another pass. By the time it moved on, the dragon and it’s rider made another three passes to get better and better looks, going lower and lower each time, until workers on wooden scaffolding went to their bellies in fear of being hit—which she laughed at as wind whooshed about her as Saeryx climbed again, moving on.

As if we’re clumsy enough to hit you fools. I thought these ones had dragonlords of their own?

Down and northward, Saeryx and its rider found nothing of immediate interest, just an endless daze of low rooftops that seemed, to her, pressed too far together. There was barely a clearing to be seen, just little canyons between where streets obviously, probably, were laid out. There were few public squares, few fountains. The worst of it seemed to be creeping up the northern most high hill of the city, like a bad weed growing up the side of a shed. There was a long, mostly stone, structure atop it with little brown ants scurrying all about, pointing up, shouting. She thought she saw some of them…throw things?

A temple, of some sort, with priests more irritable than the red ones from her city. And, at least, her priests appreciated the flight of a dragon. They certainly didn’t bloody throw things. Even still, Saeryx gave no noise, just a side glow and a little back-and-forth shimmy of their shoulders. Vaera laughed, and loudly, patting the blue and purple scaled creature, “It’s okay, Saeryx. Let fools be what they will be.”

Westeros is less friendly than I was led to believe by that Maegor Prince.

Or maybe the brown priests were just foul. Best not to judge a realm by it’s holy men, she thought, neverminding the exception she would always make for Qarth and their bizarre Warlocks. Open-handed as the Warlocks had been with some of their knowledge, getting anything beyond that out of them had been a long, long task. And they did so only thinking they played her in a long game.

So she disappeared, leaving under pretense and just flying away, never going back. She’d gotten some curses and some petty threats, but outside of Qarth, itself, the Warlocks weren’t at all what they claimed to once be. If they ever were at all. Their very nature just reminded her of the shadowbinders in Asshai. A cold, creepy, feeling down the spine that was best moved in opposite directions of as quickly as business allowed.

Still, she had learned enough. Enough to see a quickly constructed city that was already starting to fill up with all sorts, below here. It lacked the grace and careful considerations in design that Volantis had. Clearly, Aegon and his sisters had not been schooled in the ways of Freehold city building, a thought she thought with a smirk and a chuckle as Saeryx seemed to pick up speed. She saw a few squares, at least, this time. She smelled fire and baking bread during one of Saeryx’s lower swoops over the city below on her way between the second, northern-most hill, and the third western-most hill. Much to her dismay, she saw another bloody temple being constructed, and frowned.

Just how pious were these Westerosi? My, Gods.

The old, Valyrian, gods she kept were still just as good as the Seven that the Westerosi prattled on, and on, and on about. And that was even after the Doom. She doubted the Seven could handle a spell of sickness, let alone a Doom. The thought was less than amusing, however, as Vaera had seen her fill of sickness sweep over cities. Every time it started, she departed, quickly, on the leathery wings of her dragon. Maybe she’d been lucky. Or maybe she’d just been quick enough to escape, each time.

She returned to the highest of the hills, the one next to the water, the one in which Targaryens were building their hold upon. She admitted a certain appreciation of the view. True enough, give the city another twenty years and it was likely to smell of shit more often than it smelled of salt from the sea, but at least, for now, it was mostly salt and pleasant enough views as she circled, letting Saeryx slow with each lap, until it landed as gently as a cat upon the empty dirt clearing that looked like it may one day be a square before the castle, but for now just housed tents, wood, stones, and other sort of material.

It took them little time to come ‘greet’ her. It was a term she used quite loosely, given the unrest they seemed to have. Again, she couldn’t help but wonder what the devil had them so spooked—it was a dragonrider. Had they not seen them? Often? What did the damn Targaryen do, ride around on palfreys so the smallfolk could pelt them and jeer them? How depressing that must have been for them.

Some old man wearing robes and a chain waddled up to her and started saying…something. She smiled at the poor thing, before turning and saying something just to Saeryx. The dragon slid it’s tail between her and the man with chains, as it saw other men approach, it’s head beginning to raise…until Vaera bopped it’s chest and laughed. “Stop that, they’re scared enough in this land without you doing that.”

She gave a simple wave to those who looked to stand behind the one with robes and chain, before she climbed up on Saeryx just enough to retrieve the blade in its jewel-blue scabbard, affixing the belt around her waist, as it rested on her left hip, opposite the two daggers sheathed on her opposite hip, one longer than the other. Leather and mail sounded as she moved, but less than someone used to the sound would expect, as it had been a gift from the forgers of Qohor, after Saeryx and she had assisted them.

The blade was Valyrian steel, and was light on her frame, a bastard sword with numerous names over the years. It’s original was named for a Valyrian God, and had been renamed after the Doom, as was the decision of her ancestor. It’s second name was a private thing among their House, a remembrance, the name of their home in the Freehold. Their parents hadn’t worn it, and Vhandyr didn’t want it, though he was kind enough to name it for her: Ascendant. She knew it as well as it knew her, as well as she knew Saeryx, though likely not as well as the dragon knew her. She wasn’t sure such a thing was possible.

She needed food, and down the hill, towards the river, the Blackwater Rush, so the maps had named it, was her best bet. The other direction was the hovels and streets too tightly packed, and surely, there was ever very little good that came from such streets, in her experience…and she had quite a lot of experience in such things.

“Leave the dragon alone, and it won’t bite you,” was her parting wisdom to those gathered, before departing, glad she had worn her boots that went half up her legs, given what she was bound to step in on the streets of such a backwater.

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Location: Off the coast of the Iron Islands - 41 AC
Prologue: The Ironborn Inquisition



The salt and spray of the unforgiving waters of Ironman’s Bay were refreshing to feel against the face of the ironborn commander. Rowan Greyjoy, commander of the Iron Inquisition, stood at the bow of his ship and watched his destination come closer into view. He and his detachment of two longships had been sailing around the Iron Islands for months now taking on his fathers mission to bring the Drowned God back as the only god worshiped among the ironborn and their thralls. The sharp wind seemed to whip and whirl around him as his hair which he had thankfully tied back for just such an occasion.

The heavy sounds of boots along the deck of the ship made him aware of his second in command approaching him. The tall reaver, longsword at the hip, stood in an almost casual half-cocked stance, looking out over the same direction as his captain.

”Weather’s holdn’ out, were gonna be there before midday. So how many do ya’ think this place is gonna have?”

”Ahh, it’ll be enough. We could circle the islands three times over and they’d still find a rock to hide under. Like the insects that they are.”

The awkward pause in conversation let the captain know that what he said had struck a chord,

”Does that bother you Harlaw? Does the idea that these traitors to the Drowned God are like insects?

”No sir, it’s just that…these people are still Iron Islanders aren’t they? It seems strange that we would be wantonly cutting down our own people?”

At the sound of his rebuttal Rowan turned and faced the young reaver. A fairly good looking who looked more green than he should be at his age, the boy was knowledgeable around a ship and could hold his own in a fight but his ideals and thoughts are ones that shouldn’t be uttered on a Greyjoy longship. A look of mock surprise spread across Rowan’s face as he sarcastically expressed disbelief,

”Well I’ll be, now that is a fancy word from a fancy lord. I’ll tell you Harlaw I’m glad I brought you along so that you can show us simple Pyke boys the power of words, let's give Harlaw here a round of applause.”

The sailors on the deck of the ship all gave an uproar in sarcasm as the Harlaw man began to shift and look around in irritation. The obvious look of embarrassment couldn’t be hidden as he looked around as his crew pointed and laughed at him as the preparations for landing was made,

”Ya’ see Harlaw, these people have chosen the faith of the greenlanders. They chose to abandon not only the Iron Islands but the Drowned God himself. We are born and shaped by the sea, the Drowned God has blessed us with the strength to take what is rightfully ours. This ’Faith of the Seven’ filth is nothing but a way to make hard men soft and soft men deserve nothing. Weak men deserve only to be thalls on our islands to draw from the land while the strong go out and take what is deserved. Gather your gear men…our quarry awaits.

The island came within a stones throw and the men moved and scrambled into action. A wave crashed against the bow as a blast of salt water covered the unmoving captain,

’I will send them all to the Drowned God…one way or another.’






Location: Iron Islands - Harlaw - 41 AC
Prologue: The Ironborn Inquisition



The hunt wasn’t as exciting as Rowan had thought as most of the fight came from the minor houses on the island while House Harlaw watched from a distance. The collection of septons and septas were lined up along the beach on their knees, blades at each of their throats as Rowan paced back and forth in front of them. All of them were fattened noble types who hadn’t spent as much as one day on the sea let alone pay the iron price for anything that they owned. This is exactly the weakness that his father sought to drive out. The Iron Islands pride themselves on their strength and their willingness to do what was necessary to take what was theirs.

”You all know me, if you don’t then your lords have done you a great disservice. My name is Rowan Greyjoy, first of his na….”

”We know who you are Iron Inquisitor, we know….

THWACK


The sickening sound of axe splitting head sent a residual wave of blood across those that were in attendance Rowan, at its epicenter, stood still for a moment as large trails of blood ran their way down his face. This was a moment that needed to happen for those that remained, a true reminder of who it was that they were dealing with.

”...it’s rude to interrupt someone when they're speaking, as you now know.

Letting go of the handle and allowing the corpse to fall limp to the ground, Rowan cleaned his face the best that he could with the exposed sleeve of his shirt,

”Now…THAT was not part of the plan. I wanted to go about this the proper way, letting you get to know me and explain how this was going to go, but THIS bastard had to be rude and interrupt a speaking lord. Now you all have me in a bad mood, now I’m thinking that we simply carve off you arms and legs and let the crabs eat at you and never send you the Drowned God to make up for your weakness. IRONBORN…”

One of the septas cried out in fear which drew Rowan’s attention, tears streamed down her face as she threw herself towards Rowan screaming at the top of her lungs,

”I RENOUNCE THE SEVEN, WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE!”

The somewhat stunned captain walked over towards the hysterical woman, each step crunching against the gravel of the beach in slow methodical movements. Reaching down to gently cusp her face to hold her gaze to his, she would have been a fairly decent woman save for the rivers of snot and tears,

”There now was that so hard. You get it now don’t you this life in these ’new gods’ makes us weak. We are ironborn. We have to be stronger than these greenlanders. They offer us these loving and weak gods thinking to placate us and make us like them; soft, weak, loving. We draw our strength from the unforgiving sea not from the light above. I am glad you get it.

A soft, comforting smile spread across his face as she calmed down to the point of silent sniffles. Any one from the outside would assume that Rowan was showing some sort of kindness, some sort of peace and good measure. This of course was a fallacy.

”Now, go and meet the Drowned God in his court. Ask for his mercy there.

The hopeful look on the womans face slowly faded into horror as two reavers carried her away binding her hands and feet and drug her on to the ship,

”You will all meet the Drowned God this day, line them up at the water's edge. The tide is rising soon. They will meet him on this day. Oh and take Harlaw here as well,”

The shocked reaver attempted to rebuttal but was quickly cut off by his fellow reavers stripping him of his armor and weapons,

”, your weak mindset will not stand on my ship. Go and ask the Drowned God for the strength to harden your resolve.”
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Dragonstone







Dragonstone. With no Rhaena or Aegon. It is not fair. Princess Melyssanthi pouted in the garden. She sat amidst beautiful growing things and pouted.

Samantha and Alayne went with her and I am stuck here with the littles and Aunt Vinegar. Ugh I despise that woman. I wish her dragon would eat her! Melyssanthi looked around to make sure that her Aunt was not near her, convinced that even the thought was enough to summon the woman.

Relaxing when she did not see her Aunt she stood and felt a weight on her chest. Looking around cautiously, Melyssanthi turned her head and listened. Something is not right. Rising from sitting Melyssanthi made her way from the garden to mope to her older sister's room. It will not be her room once she gets back. Or not just her room. Will things be different? Will they still want me hanging around? Or will I be in the way? Melyssanthi walked slowly toward the Stone Drum, planning to flop in the center of Rhaena's bed. She sighed and wrapped her sleeves around her hands.

“I should return to King’s Landing tonight, love.” Aenys brought his cheek down against the top of Alyssa’s head to a soft murmur of annoyed agreement. “I fear that Melyssanthi is too beside herself, perhaps we should have let her go with-”

Alyssa pulled herself out from beneath her husband’s embrace. “No, you cannot give her permission to fly out to meet them. We have spoiled them long enough, they must each fulfill their own responsibilities now.” She chided her husband, her king, but it was with an ease that spoke of the mutual love and respect they held for one another. Besides, given the choice she too would have her way and command him to stay with her rather than return to his own duties in the capitol.

"You are a cruel mother, as I’m sure she will remind you of frequently.” Aenys returned with a laugh as he rolled over and stretched for the glass of wine beside the bed. The bottle had been a gift from his aunt. He frowned as he swallowed the last dredges of the glass. It was not a good wine, an opinion he would not share with the woman. “I should go find her, gather the rest of the children to see me off?” The girl had been beside herself, perhaps he could ease the pain a little before leaving.

Aenys wandered the halls that lead to the children’s suites. He sang out Melyssanthi’s name in a strong, sweet voice. “Melyssanthi, sweet dragon of mine…” He stumbled and paused, his voice echoed against the walls. Perhaps he had had more wine than he should have. He pressed a hand to his forehead and lightly shook his head. Foolish man, Alyssa will have words if you try flying off like this.

He turned a corner and saw his daughter, heading not for her room but Rhaena’s. Ah, poor child. I should send her off on Fyresong, I’ll be forgiven eventually. "There you are! Come, fly with me before I return to King’s Landing, I hate to leave seeing you with such unhappiness on your face.”

Hearing her name sung by the sweet tenor of her father King Aenys the Princess grinned her heart swelling with love. "Papa!" Turning to him with a warm, loving smile she embraced him with the enthusiasm she'd always expressed to her family. No matter how upset with them Melyssanthi was she always let them know she loved them, hence why she was so crushed when she'd been told she would not accompany her siblings on their tour.

Pulling back to see her father’s face after her unabashed display of affection Melyssanthi pouted. "Papa, you cannot make up for not letting me go by letting me win one race." She looked him in the eyes scowling with a twinkle in her eyes. "However, it will go a way to soften me up, but Silverwing will not appreciate it."

Aenys smiled down at his daughter, he had wrapped his arm about her to return the embrace. How lucky he was, the gods - whichever ones - had truly blessed him. Even if they tested him with Maegor’s folly and the Faith’s intractableness. His eyes shone bright, even as his wife’s words prickled in his mind. Melyssanthi would need to do her duty for their family soon enough as well. He and Alyssa had been wed with Rhaena already born by the time they were her age. Perhaps in the next year he would arrange a good match, a happy marriage to one of the sons of the great houses. She would love the Reach surely, or perhaps they would strengthen the bond with their cousins in the Stormlands.

Now, though, was not the time for that discussion. "Silverwing will show me her displeasure when I am halfway across the Bay, certainly. But that is for me to worry about.” He left his arm around her shoulder as he turned to guide them out of the Stone Drum. “A race around the island it is.”

Aenys led them out at a leisurely pace though it was not entirely just to enjoy time with his daughter. He had begun to sweat lightly, he felt off in a way he couldn't quite place. The king tried to ignore it, he had often been sickly growing up and memories of it triggered a panic from time to time. Surely that's all this was, mixed with discontent at having to leave his family. "We should be careful though. One of the men saw that wild dragon take flight again. He'll be a mighty one, perhaps even to rival Vhagar." He smiled, knowing how his children felt about his aunt's mount. "Perhaps when Aegon returns, he will manage to bond with him." It would be an especially good omen, if Aegon were to tame the wild one.

"Papa, you would never let Silverwing do such a thing." Melyssanthi slowed their pace even more when she noticed how pale her father was and that he'd begun to sweat. "Papa? Is something wrong?" She ignored the comment about Aegon being without a dragon. Others in her family, cousins on mothers side, did not have dragons. Her brother's lack of one did not mean he was weak, just different.

Her voice pitched low so that others could not hear, she turned in her father's embrace. Melyssanthi cast a worried eye over him. He really does not look well.A sense of dread fell over her as she felt that sense of something that was not right. Instead of hearing what was around her; her ears were full of a rushing sound that roared upon her. Then a mob so loud all shouting over another. Sounds of fighting then a soft murmur of anguish in her sister's voice as she said her brother's name. The sharp caw caw of a raven, far too loud, snapped her hearing back to where she was presently. "Papa…something is not right. Something is wrong. I am afraid."

Aenys stopped, his other arm raised and pressed to his chest at a sudden, piercing pain. In the haze of it, he attempted to look down and comfort his daughter that all was well, but he faltered before being able to utter a single reassuring syllable. He dropped, one knee catching him on the floor, but most of his weight now supported by the arm around his daughter. His pale lilac eyes widened with untempered fear. He sucked in a breath but felt no air.

He saw the look on her face, a fear mirroring his own. A groan of anguish passed his lips as his vision blurred and was filled with blackness. He slumped, his body falling away from Melyssanthi. A fleeting thought fluttered through his mind, a plea to the gods. Not yet.

Melyssanthi saw the look of pain that carved her father’s visage into something that terrified her. He twitched and his lips opened as he suddenly went slack, his weight nearly toppling them both. Melyssanthi could not hold him up but he did not have to crash to the floor. She knelt with him as he went down.

Tears coursed down Melyssanthi’s face with a shared fear. He groaned heartbreakingly and she began to sob. "NO!!! PAPA!!" She moved to arrest his fall; to hold him in the world with her as he fell to the floor slipping out of her hands like water.

Everything seemed to move like the last drop of honey on a spoon in winter. Melyssanthi watched as her father fell to the floor and she let out an anguished scream. The scream sounded like that of a mortality wounded dragon, those that heard it said it raised chill bumps and brought tears pouring forth. It was followed by the heart wrenching sobs of a daughter that very clearly loved her father. Echoing cries rose from where the dragons resided when on Dragonstone as if they too heard Melyssanthi’s heartbreak.

Sobbing Melyssanthi clutched at her father’s tunic, the only word between sobs was father in different languages falling into Valyrian and staying there until guards came around the corner. They froze weapons out only to put them away. Ser Raymont of the Kingsguard reached down for the girl. Sobbing Melyssanthi held on tighter to her father. As fast as a dragon she turned her tear stained face to the Kingsguard and the excruciatingly raw sorrow evident on her face as she screamed. "Renigon issa daor! Touch me not!"


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Volantis




The oppressive heat that melted anyone not Volantene was wasted on Aster Rahl. Instead he took no note of it and made his way in the palanquin down to the docks. He was meeting with his Overseer who had recently arrived perhaps a half hour prior, as well as an unannounced check on a few warehouses. There was a crush of bodies but Aster saw a flash of flame red. Intrigued Aster gave a soft command and the palanquin advanced toward the commotion.

The palanquin halted as Aster gazed upon a sight that struck a chord within him. Thankfully he was in shadow and while people were watching hopefully they were not watching closely enough. He composed himself and reached to move the sheer white fabric that covered the openings in the palanquin.

Aster smiled slightly and in an exotic accent he spoke to the stunning woman with flame red hair. "I couldn't help but notice you seem rather out of place gevie mēre. Do you need assistance, my lady?"

Gods, it is the seventh hell here. The Corbray man had been right, a continued thought that had hung with Sharra the rest of the day. So far it had seemed that not even night offered a reprieve, but at least tonight they would have a proper place to lay their heads and sweat. The thought sent a flicker of something between a laugh and grimace across her face.

It took a moment then to register that anyone was speaking to her. Truthfully, for most of their brief time upon these shores most gave them a wide berth, except for trying to sell them something. Volantis was truly like nothing the Arryn maiden had ever seen. The man before her was like no one she had ever seen. It was an unbidden thought, one quickly banished as only caused by a severe need for water. It seemed to sweat out of her faster than she could replenish.

“No, thank you.” He was in a palanquin, so obviously of wealth, but no one here was altruistic. Surely her men would return soon to guide her and Artys to their arrangements. She tried to divert her eyes, making eye contact for too long seemed to be understood as an invitation. Yet her eyes flicked back to the man half concealed behind the sheer fabric. It probably wasn’t, but she imagined how much cooler it would be to be in shade, carried about rather than stewing from the exertion it took to stand. Seven help me, I’d jump into the sea about now.

He wasn't moving, her eyebrow arched up. “I am awaiting word for where accommodations have been arranged, but thank you for your offer.” She chewed at her lip, caught herself, and released it from between her teeth. What was that phrase he uttered? She had never paid much attention to her Valyrian lessons, and though she recognized it as Valyrian there was something different about it. It doesn’t matter, he will wander off soon enough.

“You are welcome, gevie mēre.” Raising an ebony eyebrow in response Aster held back his smirk and inclined his head then met her sky blue eyes. He was used to unruly, opinionated, willful and hot tempered females; namely his younger sisters, cousin, Aunt and mother. Weak was not in their vocabulary. At times feminine was not either. However he knew that people normally like to fill silence and he knew eventually it would get to her. So the wait began, though for the sake of the servants he hoped it was not that long.

She grew deeply uncomfortable, the knowledge that he sat there, visible from the corner of her eye no matter how she turned her head. How foolish she must look but the proper etiquette for the situation was a mystery. Her septa, bless the woman, had perished the storm that first forced them from their intended path. Sharra thought that a likely blessing, the woman would have been beside herself in this strange city.

Seconds slipped into minutes and Sharra's resolve weakened. After spending two years trying to stay out of sight while on her nephew's tour, after feeling little reason to engage with those whose eyes passed over her except in thought of whether her brother deserved a marriage alliance through her, the Maiden faltered. "Do you really have nothing else to hold your interest than staring at one foreigner upon your shores." Blue eyes narrowed in irritation as she addressed him, sweat dripped down her face, into her eyes, only adding to her growing annoyance.

Aster had her. He almost smiled but that would be rude. "Perhaps, gevie mēre. But as you have so correctly stated I am local… which means I know my way around. I could show you to your destination. Come now where are you staying?"

Knowing where she was staying previously was unimportant. She was coming home with him. Aster's rich deep voice turned velvety. "I consider it my very duty to get you where you're going gevie mēre. Come before the sun bakes you like a lobster."

Well now she was in a situation. Admit that she hadn't a clue where she was meant to be going? Lady Sharra wavered in her annoyance. It was a bad idea, her family barely tolerated the Pentosi traders and visitors they received in Gulltown. She didn't know him, her luck he would be wealthy from owning a fleet of pleasure boats and seek to add an exotic Westerosi noble to his stable. Maybe it would be worth it if it meant getting out of the sun. She was briefly reminded of the summer where she ignored her septa's pleas to stay in the shade and had indeed returned to the Eyrie with skin the color of her hair. The pain lasted days, Sharra did not want to repeat the experience.

"I cannot leave without my nephew." The Lady paused to watch his reaction, cautious. They had been warned of flaunting their name. "Lord Artys, from the Vale of Arryn. We're waiting here for news from our men of a place with suitable accommodations." Her brow furrowed, suitable had been difficult to find as her men had meant secure and spacious. Neither seemed available no matter their Westerosi status. The difficulties broke down her guard at last. "I couldn't even begin to tell you as I don't know myself." Her voice hitched in her throat though no tears flowed through, there was no moisture left in her to waste on such frivolities.

Nodding slowly Aster murmured and the palanquin was set down. The young virile man that emerged from the palanquin was tall and well built. His clothing was a light smoke color. Long ebony hair was left loose to fall over his shoulders; which it did as he gave her a deep bow. "My apologies for teasing you Lady Arryn. I offer you use of my home for the duration of your stay. I am Aster Rahl of House Rahl. My father is Triarch. I would be honored if you and your companions would accompany myself out of this heat that I am certain you cannot be familiar with. I would not be surprised if you wished to take up rooms in our cold storage."

He gestured to the palanquin. "Please by all means sit in the shade." He motioned to a passerby and spoke quietly and quickly. The passerby ran off and returned with another palanquin and a large white horse saddled. He leaned in his pale slate blue eyes sparkling. "I was not going back in the palanquin and did not think a pachyderm was warranted for one person no matter how much Tanza loves my family." He smiled fully, showing his dimples and winking.

Somehow, the Lady Arryn managed to pale considerably even in the heat. While the name was only like a vague memory of a fact, she understood what Triarch entailed. "My lord, my apologies." Her head bowed when she found herself slightly more composed. It was likely not correct to address him as such but her tongue tripped over itself to find what was appropriate. "I am Sharra, sister to the Warden of the East. It has been…an unintended journey to your city. I thank you for your generosity." She half hoped that the suggestion of staying in cold storage was a genuine offer.

She had to gaze up, her head tilted slightly to meet his eyes again. Her face returned to a deep crimson. What a fool she was making of herself, and she felt the familiar pull to hide herself away. At least she had the option of the palanquin for now, though she felt herself awkward at trying to enter it with grace. It was not the sort of litter she was accustomed to using. A basket to to be winched up to the Eyrie? No problem. The small, but seven blessed shade of a palanquin? In a sweat stained and perpetually damp dress? She gulped and made the best of the situation.

"My nephew, he is heir to the Vale, but this journey was not kind to him. He will require assistance, but discreetly, I beg you." Artys would be livid but there had been more than one worried discussion amongst their men of how best to travel to their accommodations once sourced. He was on the mend, but considerably weakened still. The seas had not been kind to his stomach, nor the food he had been offered. Though he had settled at last once they came ashore, he was only slowly regaining his appetite in the oppressive heat.

"Of course." Aster became serious and bowed his head. Looking back up he called over some dock workers and the Westerosi men who looked like they were with the Arryns. He explained what was going on and when he got push back from said guardsmen his countenance was cold enough to freeze even in the Volantis heat. "Are you questioning my honor?" The question was delivered in a tone that seemed to cool the air, the deep rumble of a fast approaching powerful storm. "I suggest that if you do not wish to find if you can swim in armor that you retract that statement." It was no threat, but rather a promise.

The guardsmen in question swallowed and apologized. That done and everything and everyone gathered up, the Lord Artys placed in the second palanquin and Aster mounted their journey began into the city. Aster moved to speak to Sharra. "Are you comfortable gevie mēre?"

She watched with interest as he handled her men. Surely she should have offered her own commands but she feared they would not have been so quick to listen to her. He was confident, sure of himself, but in a way different from how she had ever seen Osric or Artys present themselves. It was effortless, it just was. He was as at ease with his position as he was in the insufferable heat.

Whatever had been said to Artys had been done so masterfully. She nearly detected a smile across his lips. As Aster returned to her side in their journey, she nearly asked him what he kept calling her but she found herself too embarrassed to ask. He knew the Common Tongue well, and she, in their city, knew so little a child would have been embarrassed to converse with her. She barely found her tongue, “The shade is a true relief.” Sharra spoke, her head dipped to avoid his gaze.

Lady Arryn had thought she understood Volantis’ scale from the docks but as they at last moved away from the harbor, along the western shore, she saw her error. It was massive, unending. The docks had seemed impossibly busy but as they made their way towards the Long Bridge - she thought she heard it called that when Artys asked - the throng of people pressed in ebbs and flows all around them. Men and women of obvious wealth, tattooed slaves, merchants, dangerous men, bare-chested women, children…and yet they all moved out of the way with little prompting. Sharra saw the way some looked up to Aster, mounted beside her, she saw eyes try to peer into the palanquins. What rumors would swirl in their wake or were they just a passing curiosity?

The shops on the bridge seemed to sell anything any man or woman could ever desire. She smelled spice and meat, fish and flowers. Fine silks and delicate laces hung enticingly displayed. There were stalls with cages stacked of animals she had never seen outside of sketches in a maester’s tome. Her head swung side to side, eager to see what each side of the bridge held. She felt the sense of being watched, but could not restrain herself to more ladylike disinterest. There was just so much. Perhaps in a day or two she would have the courage to ask her hosts for an escort to walk the bridge and see the wares up close.

Soon enough it was not trade but the massive black walls that overtook her. How. They rose massively before her, growing larger and more domineering with every foot forward. Her jaw dropped when she realized they were headed directly for it. She could feel the age of it, the shift in type of person who surrounded them now on this part of the journey. This was where Volantis’ power resided. Sharra gulped. The Eyrie had been daunting, this was something else entirely.

Aster watched the city he grew up in through Sharra’s eyes and his smile reflected her wonder. He had not become complacent, well not exactly. Perhaps cynical was a better term for it. He found himself drinking in her expressions and while wanting to get to know her he was happy to observe. I likely won’t get a chance later.

As they passed sites in the city that were common to him Aster watched for little things to interest Sharra. His mother always said that paying attention to a woman was the way to her heart.
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Lady Vittoria Tyrell and the Order of the Golden Rose
Location: The Order's camp outside the walls of Oldtown // Port Market Street, Oldtown


“Two inns, the Last Cobblestone and the Lord Pennifer, separated by a chandler. The Chandler and his family have graciously accepted a stay at Highgarden, his eldest boy will stay behind to run his shop on the first floor. His name is Nate, seemed to want to be anything but a chandler when I talked to him, so he should be no thorn in our side. The family hasn’t been sick in the past year, which might be a miracle in Oldtown. Den will have his Lady Wife and young son, they will be at the chandler’s second story home.”

There was a chorus of immediate chatter that snapped Vittoria’s eyes shut in an instant, as she took a long, long, sip of her morning cider from the short cup. “Yes, yes,” she began, trying to calm the clatter. A normal council was five to six men. Today, there were over twenty. They had met at the baggage train. Her eyes opened again, and her smile pressed onto her lips like a dagger in her hand come a fight, “I understand nearly a quarter of us are bringing their wives and children in. Some of you will stay here at our camp outside the city walls, a few of you will be inside the city at various other inns, and a few at the Hightower. The Rose Garden has enough room for the rest.”

The Rose Garden was her favorite inn within Oldtown; it had a private courtyard, it was surrounded by old stone walls covered in thick vines that flowered in Spring and Fall. It had also been owned by House Tyrell for all of living memory. But it was too far from the main stretches of merchants and markets, and too far from the Hightower to be of ideal use. As an inn that almost only served highborn and wealthy merchants, it was ideal place to house the men of her Order with family that didn’t want to stay in the camp and didn’t have a better option.

“WHERE EVER,” she shouted as she began again, to talk over the reemergence of chatter amongst themselves, only continuing when it died down again, “If you are not in the camp or at the Cobblestone or Lord Pennifer, report to the Pennifer by mid-day, each day. The Maesters and the Squires will be there to relay any information or orders.”

“And the Lost Alehouse?” Ser Brenden Cuy asked. He was his father’s third son, a squat, barrel of a man. His arms seemed as thick as his legs, and that was by far a compliment to both. Few seemed to take him serious in a fight, until the fight began. He talked little, usually, but when there was fun to be had he almost became a different name.

“Ah, the Alehouse,” Vittoria tried to keep the smirk off her lips, but failed, and a loud mix of holler and cheer went up among those assembled, even to the ring of men beyond them that were just trying to overhear. “The Lost Alehouse is in an alley behind the two inns. There is no sign, there are no windows on the first floor. If you’ve never been, just follow one of your brothers. Our last night in town, we will all try to meet there.”

“DO NOT BRING YOUR WIVES”, someone from the outer line of eavesdroppers shouted, loud, to the laughter of nearly all present…including herself. Her hands waved high in the air, and the deafening clatter of men speaking was back again, council over. She caught Den saying something to Ser Ryam; her cousin had been chosen to be her Shield in the city, Vittoria didn’t have to hear what was being said to know what Den was telling the young Knight. Her attention turned to Garrett and Mina, both of them ready, both of them staying at the Chandler’s house with Den and his Lady Wife, Merna of House Oakheart.

When Garrett asked why they couldn’t all be in the same place, Vittoria explained that there wasn’t a suitable place in Oldtown’s walls that could house a hundred Knights, and members of family. She said nothing of the other reason: there was no way she would insult Lord Manfred by bringing a hundred armed and armored Knights into his city without his leave. He had allowed half of them, she considered it a gift. Both her siblings, to her, seemed sad that the journey was over and their time with the Order of the Golden Rose possibly over, though nothing had been absolutely decided. She knew, however, their father was on his way. The decision would be his.

The ride into the city was more spectacle than she had wanted. None of them wore armor, except, at Lord Manfred’s request, herself. His written message to her had been plain and blunt, not unlike the man himself: ’Damn your caution and care, girl, this city won’t shut up about you, I am told, so I plan to give them the Ardent Maiden.'

Worse, the armor he had made for her was silver, covered in the flowers of the Reach, each enameled and bejeweled, a golden rose in the center of the breastplate, prominent and larger than the rest. Her great cloak was cloth-of-gold, shimmering and shadowing as the morning son touched it. She wore no weapon but the dagger of the Order, with it’s green handle and golden rose pommel. Her hair was brushed out; as much as Mina seemed to spurn the life of a Lady, her hands were incredibly efficient and practiced at some of the more useful aspects. Garrett and Mina would rise beside her, Den and Ser Ryam flanking them, with the rest of the fifty man column behind them. She forced Garrett and Mina to practice, a few times, the art of stopping their horses and letting the rest of their column envelop them in case of danger.

Den said nothing, but the idea was his: his Lady Wife reported that her sister had overheard Lord Oakheart saying he and Lord Rowan were less certain of the Order and their ‘Lady Commander.’ Then something about the Faith Militant being less than pleased about them, even as his own counselors stated Lady Vittoria had always been a true friend of the Faith. That kind of talk was dangerous. The streets were lined with smallfolk, the noise was near deafening, but she tried to appreciate it all the same. Perhaps more than normal, Vittoria kept her smile, her eyes and hands busy by looking and waving, engaging the crowd.

Towards the end, they saw Poor Fellows and Warrior’s Sons, looking less than pleased, but not appearing hostile, either. The moment she saw the Septon, however, she was off her horse and forcing the column to stop, suddenly: “PATER!” Vittoria rushed to him, best she could in the horribly heavy armor, and knelt on one knee when she got to him. He was older than he was last time she saw him, gray sneaking into his beard and his hair. There were a few new wrinkles about his eyes, but he was still her Septon Pater.

The moment she knelt to him, the gathered Faith Militant cheered, though she noticed Pater seemed less than joyous, yet his smile didn’t abandon him as he forced her to her feet. “Look what the Mother and Warrior have done with you! Where is the little girl that would argue the Seven-Pointed Star with me all day and night?”

She couldn’t help but hug him, before quickly, waving Garrett and Mina forth. “Septon Pater of the Most Devout, this is Lord Garrett of House Tyrell, soon to be Squire Garrett, and Lady Mina of House Tyrell.”

“Lord Garrett, Lady Mina, may the Seven bless you, your family, and keep you both safe. May I accompany you all?”

“Yes,” she said, smiling, even as Ren was at her ear from behind, whispering about the break of their column as men began to filter to their lodgings, that the Maesters were setting up at the Pennifer. When she turned around, she found Lady Merna behind her husband. Vittoria could have screamed at the woman in joy to see her; if she ever had an older sister, it would have been Lady Merna, Den’s wife. Ten years her senior, shy, but always kind and caring and giving. And, above all, always understanding.

“Be careful!” The shorter woman all but squeaked, “I’m not wearing armor!” They laughed, though Vittoria was careful in the hug she gave.

“You look like you’re dying in that.” Lady Merna began to wave with one hand about Vittoria furiously, taking Vittoria’s hair up with other, to fan the beads of sweat falling down her neck.

“It’s awful, I need to change clothes.” Vittoria made a groan, or a whine, or a pout, or some alchemist mixture of all three, and turned to find Mina telling Septon Pater all about the trip, and the training, and the sparring. Pater listened intently, his gentle warmth ever present as he knelt down to be eye-level with the girl.

“Don’t worry, girl, we’ll have the horses ready and make sure she doesn’t run off, go change.”

That Merna knew what she wanted, what she was thinking…it was a blessing from the Gods to have her back around. The moment her parents parted, she saw him.

“VITTA!”

Vittoria threw herself at the largest boy she had ever seen. They said he was four years of age, and Vittoria could have called them liars. For as large as Savage Sam and Dennet Tarly were, Lord Rycherd Tarly, Dennet and Merna’s first born, was destined to be larger. The child nearly knocked her off her armored feet as he rushed into her like a bull. Had it not been for Den just behind her, she would have found herself on her butt, careful to wrap the child up and squeeze.

“You little wild thing! Have you met my sister Mina? You’ll like her,” she grinned, promising. Lady Merna shoo’d the boy off her, promising he could ambush her later, and Den helped her back to full balance.

“C’mon, I’ll show you where we had your dresses put, and help you out of that armor. I like the cloak. It’s pretty.”

“Do you want it?” Vittoria asked Merna, as Den’s Lady wife led her into the Chandler’s Home.

Merna laughed. “It would be a blanket on me. You forget how tall you are.”

“I don’t feel tall.”

Merna was having none of it, “You’re surrounded by Knights all the time. Of course you don’t feel tall, fool girl.”

Inside the door, Merna introduced her to Nate, the chandler’s eldest. Vittoria thanked he and his family as graciously as she could, covered in sweat and feet hurting from the sheer weight of the armor Manfred had sent her. She had helped his family, he explained, by ridding the seas of the Pirate King of the Basilisk Isles. She was cheery and warm as she gave her happy surprise, thanking he and his family again, before Merna cut in and asked him to lock the door behind them, and pushing at Vittoria to stop being so nice and MOVE. The short woman helped her out of the worst of it, though she asked Nate’s help for a few pieces, the buckles stubborn and plate heavy.

She nearly laughed as Nate did so, sheepishly, closing his eyes as he did it. The two woman held their giggles until she was light enough to go up the backstairs, where Lady Merna could help her out of the rest.

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LadyRunic The Laughing Raven

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King's Landing was a a mud hole.an interesting mud hole to be sure, but sat between the three crowning hills the shit of human existence collected neatly at the bottom. Jeyne had been less than pleased that her father thought appearing in King's Landing to discuss some trade deals was a good chance to drag herself and her sister with him to show them to potential suitors. Hanna had been over the moon about it, hoping as she always did for a wealthy young lord of some rank. Their sister had married high, how could she not? It irked Jeyne who had no thought of marriage. There was so much wonder jn the world and she wanted adventures like their older brother Damon had.

Which had led her to avoiding her lessons just in time to see the most beautiful creature winging over the capital. A dragon that put any other to same with blue shadings of some sort she couldn't name. Unlike her sister, Jeyne only cared enough with thread and needle to please their mother, not to natter at it all day. Her feet scrambled down the steps and into the street. Dressed in clothing she had bullied a young servant out of, she thought she made a passing lad. Never minding no lad was so clean as she and her brown tresses stuck out from under the cap she had tucked them under. It was an old trick of hers when she wanted to go back to her days as a child in the town, not then a young lady of Harrenhal. Soon she was dodging down streets following the talk of 'dragon woman' and the whispers of Valyrian either in awe or curses. It took her far longer than she would have thought, her boots dusted by mud and dung and other things that rotten in the foul streets. She hardly paid attention, after ducking behind a stall and glaring at the peasant woman who protested her being there. "Why would I steal your wares?" She snapped scornful of the rags hung about. As she peered after the woman dressed as a man with a sword at her side and boots so elegant and tall. Jeyne wanted boots like that. Her fingers itched as she began to follow the woman. To her, she was a shadow. But to all else she was as obvious as if Vaera had brought her dragon behind her. Pots clattered, she argued with vendors, and insulted a browsing pig that wondered the streets after it stepped on her foot

In no way, at all, was the ‘master spy’ behind Vaera her concern. Around every corner she turned there were just more of the bloody gnats—in brown roughspun, with little more than metal sticks and rope about them to do any kind of threatening with. Not that they did any outward threatening to her. Instead, their dark glances gave away their intent, and she found none of them filled with the warm light of love so many gods promised.
Her own gods numbered a thousand, and the history and stories passed down to her, that she would further pass on to her siblings, was that no one gave a damn if you adhered to this god or that god. It was your choice, in the Freehold of Valyria. The only thing that mattered was power and influence and wealth. She knew of the Targaryens that abandoned Valyria, selling everything in exchange for Dragonstone and enough to bring some of their hangers-on along, namely Velaryon and Celtigar, but there were a few others, too.

Westeros was not, at all, the Lands of Always Summer. It wasn’t close to the Freehold, in more ways than she could rightly count just by glancing around. To start with, their capital, this King’s Landing, was little more than a war camp that had overdeveloped and overgrown without so much as a single plan for the city’s growth. It was a sprawling, stupid, mess. Each of the three hills, she learned talking to a merchant of tiles, was named after the King and his Sister-Wives: Aegon, Visenya, and Rhaenys. Aegon’s Hill was the taller, where she landed Caeryx.

The big temple, ‘sept’ she was corrected by the merchant, was the Sept of Remembrance, and it was Rhaenys’ Hill. What she thought had been another temple, that was actually a little fortified manse compound, was Visenya’s Hill. That hill, not the hill with stones and stilts being turned into a castle, was where the King had lived until most recently. For the hundredth time since landing, Vaera of House Balaerys was glad to have been born and raised in Volantis, despite the things about the city she had started to dislike, which oddly measured up with the things her brother hated about the place.

At a wine merchant, where she purchased a skin of something strong and red, she learned the gnats had a proper name: The Poor Fellows. What’s worse, those she assumed had been some kind of heavily armored watch of the city were not at all…they were Knights of an Order sworn to the Faith: The Faith Militant. Or as some of the common folk had called them, the Stars and the Swords. Too many of them looked at her with darkened gazes, adding a tension that she hadn’t been expecting.

Maegor is either a fool, uninformed, or both.

She had to send word to Vhandyr, was her thought, when her spine froze at the sharp sound of a squeal…until she realized it was a pig, followed by the cursings of the master spy that had been following her for a little bit of time, now. The presence of the gnats and a few of the silver, shiny, Faith knights kept her from pulling a dagger and killing the fool girl…though in truth, she likely wouldn’t have, anyway.
But it added restraint as she sighed, turned sharper on her heel to turn around than most dancers could muster,
and leveled her lilac eyes on the girl as she quickly closed to the distance between them.

“YOU.”

The girl seemed to turn this way, that way, somehow certain the dragonrider wasn’t talking to her. Though she only occasionally shouted, there was dragon fire in the eyes of the Valyrian dragonrider as she got loud, and confronted the girl.

“Yes, fool girl, YOU. Shall we draw steel and have our contest for life here and now? The only reason I can imagine being followed in such a way is if you’re an assassin, or a spy, and both are not but enemies to me at this moment SO YOU TELL ME…which is it?”

The shout had caught Jeyne off guard. Surely it could not be her to be so scorned, but oh it was. The woman called her assassin and spy, both which made her pleased even as she squirmed at the unwarranted shouting and anger that was being directed at her. "I? Neither!" Her voice was sharp with alarm and offended dignity. "I just- I saw you fly over and…" This was not going how it was supposed to at all and Jeyne knew she was blushing as she fumbled for something, anything to say. "It was astounding." She finished lamely, knowing it could not give full meaning to what she felt to see that living jewel. "Why would I spy or try to… You have a sword!" She pointed out, that quite correctly Vaera indeed has a sword and the upper hand.

A sweet smile came over the pretty features of the Valyrian dragonrider, her voice dipped itself in honey, and lowered its volume as she grew closer to the girl, and closer to the girl, until she was a dagger’s distance away. The height of the dragonrider neared six feet, prompting her to lean down in order to get closer to the girl still, enough that they neared something close to eye-level.

Vaera could smell the fear. The girl would smell a hint of brimstone and jasmine; which belonged to the dragon, and which the rider seemed obvious enough. “I’ve killed enough men and women to lose count. I’ve flown so far that I’ve seen parts of creation that no other living soul can claim to have seen. Do you want to know what the demons of Sothoryos look like? Can you imagine how shadows whisper in the mountain passes of Asshai?”
She moved, but not away, if anything somehow she achieved the impossible of getting closer as their shoulders brushed, Vaera Balaerys encircling the girl like a predator in the dark, cutting steely glances to the bustle of bodies around in the street that were beginning to stop and look, the icy shock of her voice no more than a whisper, sneaking in from behind, her lips close enough to the girl’s ear to touch, “You’re too clean for those rags you’re wearing, you have the subtlety of a zorse, and you have made a spectacle of me in a city that doesn’t seem to like those like me very much. I should tie you to a bed and…”

Vaera paused, and let the single, small, sigh escape, rounding back before the girl, not facing her, but keeping her to the left of her body. The tone had changed; honey had dripped away to reveal Valyrian steel: “You shouldn’t be out without escort, you never know the types of people you might run into on the muddy streets of such a place.”

Lilac eyes cut left, catching the girl’s eyes, “I’m sorry your life is stuck in a pious, gilded, cage. Pray to the Valyrian gods your next life is kinder to you. Your gods,” she said, lilac eyes drifting around those looking on, “seem as dense as they do cruel,” words finished with a chuckle.

Jeyne was trapped in horror as the Valyrian woman looked her in the eye and spoke of what she had seen and tying the young Harroway to a bed. Those thoughts made the young noblewoman quiver in concern. Her mother had always been clear about what awaited a despoiled daughter. A daughter made useless and sullied. “I’m not stuck!” Jeyne protested with a stubborn thrust of her chin, her eyes flashing as she gave a challenging look to Vaera, awe for the woman still on her face. “I can do whatever I please, escort or no!” Though she did recall how correct this woman was that she should have a guard, and she had slipped from the halls of the nobles and king to avoid just that.

A hand, slim and long-fingered, gripped Jeyne’s shoulder as a third woman with a guard in the black and orange livery of Harroway joined the pair. Giving a deep curtsey to the sword-toting woman, the silver-haired newcomer was dressing in clothing that had seen better days and was slightly out of fashion. Her curling silver locks framed a gentle face with sea eyes that turned on the youngest of the group. “Lady Jeyne, your lady mother is searching the halls for you, it would be best to return.” Her voice was meek, mild, as she entreated the youth to return to her rightful place. Endless patience that explained this had happened before. “My Lady, I apologize for any trouble that might have been caused.” Elayne, was oblivious to the origins of Vaera and with reason. The woman, so armored and so clearly Valyrian was most likely Targaryen and thus of the ruling House of Westeros. It would not be wise to raise their ire, even if their sister was married to the brother of King Aenys. “Please, my Lady, your mother will worry about you.” She turned her attention back to Jeyne, concern and worry in her face.

“I am talking with her.” Jeyne protested, her eyes flashing with annoyance at this interruption. “You know not to interrupt your betters. Mother will be furious!”

“Yes, she was busy showing me how she can do whatever she pleases.”

Vaera barely got the words out before her elbows were brought closer to her sides, her hands clasping as her waist nearly bent at the sheer depth and width of laughter that overtook her in that moment. She was still mid-laugh when she saw the guard, and held up a single index finger at him, a motion to come no closer.
“This is funny enough without my getting a giggle out of how fast my Valyrian steel would cut through your armor, flesh, and bone.” The man-at-arms seemed to only see getting laughed at. She noticed a puff of his chest and set of his eyes. In a second, her laughter was gone and her body straight as a steel blade. Fire seemed to set her lilac eyes ablaze as she pointed right at the man. “…I will not fucking warn you again. STAY.”

Her eyes pivoted, finding the girls yapping at each other. Finding the first girl, and narrowing her gaze, as the volume of her voice dropped. “Gods, has the Freehold been gone so long? Look at her.” One step and she was behind the sneak and the spy wearing clothes that barely fit her, let alone hid her. Vaera didn’t touch the girl. Yet, all the same, the girl seemed to know better than to so much as twitch without Vaera’s leave. “That is Valyrian blood,” she began, pointing at the other girl. “Do you see it? My dragon would eat you like a snack without me with you. Her? Because of that blood she would at least have a chance. You cannot IMAGINE the power in that blood. Betters?!”

The moment she heard the noise beside and behind her, the sword was out: the blade was dark, hints of blue and green lapping with the dark blackness that seemed to simply contain the magical steel of the blade along the edges. It seemed, in her hand, lighter than a feather, the guard’s eyes immediately drawn to it and the way the color in the steel seemed to dapple and darken even as the sun of the day hit it. In a beat of her heart the blade was drawn and it’s point nearly at the man’s chest.

“I. Warned. You.” Staring at the guard she could kill with a flick of her wrist, she spoke now to the other girl, the new girl, the one who ought to mind her ‘betters.’ “Valyrian girl apparently worth nothing to these people—this guard, here. Is he a good man to YOU? Not to anyone else, but TO YOU?”

Jeyne had a look of alarm on her face, her brown eyes huge as she hesitated on taking a step away from the woman. Yet she couldn’t help the protest that slipped from her lips, despite seeing how quick the woman was with her sword. “But she’s only a bastard! A Rivers. So what if she has some special blood, it’s not like she’s my father’s bastard- at least then she might be useful.”

The older maid flinched at the words it was subtle. Something she had learned to hide, but she cringed either way. Hesitating, she stepped delicately forward and gently laid a hand on Vaera’s sword arm. “Please, My Lady. You draw a scene and infringe upon your image. Lady Jeyne is but a girl, though she is correct in her words. Though I am Valyrian on my father’s side through his father, I am a Rivers. It is naught but truth.” Her hand quickly fell away and her gaze was fastened low as she shivered at her own daring. “Please, don’t injure our guard. It would only earn the ire of our Lord for this scene and bring his wrath on all of us.” A pleading note entered her voice as it shook slightly. “Lady Targaryen, I urge you if there is a problem, please take it up with Lord Lucas Harroway.”

“Two noble Houses survived the Doom; Targaryen, and Balaerys. One rules your Seven Kingdoms, the other the last outpost of Old Valayria; Volantis.” Her voice shifted like the color of her blade, instant and in strange ways, this time becoming more that of a tutor teaching a lesson. The blade dropped, it’s length replaced in it’s scabbard with a motion so easy it looked like she might, actually, literally, do it in her sleep.

This time, smiling, she repeated herself to the guard: “Do. Not. Move.” Finally, to the man’s visible relief, her eyes moved away from him and to the ‘Rivers’ girl. “How did you come to be born, girl? The full story.”
It was a relief to the group that Vaera had relaxed to sheath her sword. Yet it was her question that caused Elayne to truly shrink within herself. Her eyes turned haunted and Jeyne flinched. It was not tale either girl liked to know, hear or tell. “You are aware of the Westrosi’s Right to the First Night?’ Elayne’s voice was barely more than a whisper as her gaze fastened on her slippered feet. “The Lord of Harrenhal at the time was Gargon Qoherys, he claimed the Lady Catelyn from then Ser Harroway as was his right. I was born of that result.”

“A stain on mother’s honor and father’s. Mother should have drank moon tea.” Jeyne sneered, her eyes snapping as her temper came up to be her shield against the shadow between her parents. “So you’re a Balaerys then? Come to wed one of the Targaryen Princes?”

Her face twisted, as if she had caught a whiff of the worse smell known to men and beast, “Marry a…? No. Be serious, child. Only a fool would marry into that ruin.” Her head shook, her fine Valyrian features still looking confused, even as she shook away the stench of the question posed. Everything changed in the woman. Her posture, the intensity. When she looked back at the girl, there was sadness in her light purple irises. “Qoherys were always high on ambition and low on much else…hey.”

Vaera called out with a careful, measured, tone. The same gloved hand that a minute before held Ascendant now delicately touched fingertips in impossibly soft leather to the chin of the Qoherys spawn, and raised that face until she could see that girl’s eyes. “I’m sorry, girl. Lord Gargon was a monster, but sometimes we come from
monsters.”

You should hear some of the stories of my House.

Vaera let go, her eyes looking around once more. The crowd was thicker. The pious fucks looked confused. She liked that, enough for a tiny little chuckle to escape her body as a snort might, “Lord Lucas, you said? Yes. I think I, or my brother, ought to have a chat with this man. And you?” She turned back to the brat, “you live in Harrenhal. You see the wraith of dragonriders every day of your life, and yet this is how you act? Be glad I
don’t take you with me. What are your names?”

She twisted her body, and her neck, to smile at the guard. “You too, M’Lord.”

The Valyrian whelp froze as she felt fingers pull her chin up to look into violet eyes. Shivering, Elayne blinked owlishly in confusion. Yes, the man who had sired her had been a monster, she heard the whispers of the maids and saw the glares cast her way. She had been branded his bastard from the day she was born. Scorned for wrongs she had never committed and never could commit on her own sex. When Vaera let go, Elayne let her gaze fall to the ground once more, though she did not move away. She couldn’t move. Her feet felt frozen as she longed to disappear from the crowd gathering about them.

Jeyne for her part was quite furious, but she had the sense to remain polite. Her gaze lowering at the mention of the fire that had ruined Harrenhal not so long ago. Still her chin was strong and proud as she kept it raised and her shoulders firm. “Lady Jeyne Harroway, I am. That bastard, is Elayne Rivers, and the guard…” She paused as the man gruffly added. “Thom Cooper.” The young lady repeated such. “And our sister is wife to Prince Maegor.” She declared proudly, ignoring Elayne’s flinch or the loud whispers of the ‘whore of Harroway’, ‘Maegor’s whore’ around them.

“Maegor? The one with Balerion, warring against Dothraki victims with my brother?” Her head snapped to the peasants of Faith and poor clothing choices with even poorer weapons as she heard their loud ‘whispers’. Vaera’s face illuminated with understanding, and something that bordered on pure joy, “Aaah, that’s why Maegor is in Essos. I didn’t care to listen as he explained it. How long until your sister is thrown away like his first wife?”

Vaera asked, starring so deep into Jeyne’s eyes that she might have seen a hint of the girl’s soul. “Be seeing you again, girl.” Vaera couldn’t have denied her grin even if she wanted, her body backing up and turning on a heel as she simply walked away. With blood hot and stomach angrier now, Vaera had an idea of where she needed to go now. Somewhere fool girls wouldn’t follow.

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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Almalthia
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Almalthia Friendly neighborhood redhead

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Volantis







The Lady Lyra of House Rahl looked out over the inner-city of Volantis and sipped the wine that the Westerosi man Damon Harroway had brought as a gift. Having let it breathe had settled the flavor to a sweeter red that was not unpalatable but it was no Volantene red. Swirling it around in her mouth she held a few drops testing to see if it changed the feeling of her mouth or that it tasted odd. Finding neither happened and deeming the wine safe, Lyra swallowed and turned her attention to the maid that was in the room with her. Lyra’s knowledge of poisons and toxins had saved her family more than once and she passed this knowledge down to her children. She was proud of all of them for their diligence in education. “If you would please make sure that you bring up the fruit from the cold storage, some cheeses and cold meats would be excellent. Oh and that wonderful spiced sauce that we received from that Dornish merchant that practically robbed us and some of Cook's famous pocket bread. Thank you Myrna.”

The maid smiled as she bowed and left to fulfill Lyra’s request. Turning Lyra placed a carafe of the wine only about half full and another carafe of cool water. Hearing the door open she watched her husband, Darkin Rahl, and Damon enter the chamber. She marveled at how her husband had only grown more handsome the older they grew. His hair had lightened to a silver from the deep shadowy ebony that he once had. She thought it brought out more of his Valyrian heritage and the color suited him. Issa jorrāelagon. Lord Harroway. I have sent for refreshments and there is some wine that was gifted to us by our guest, as well as water.” She indicated elegantly her gown a beautiful lilac color that was light and airy perfect for the weather.

"What is wine but poor fare against your beauty?" The charming rogue bowed to the woman. His movements and words are graceful in the games of flirtatiousness that bordered on the edge of courtesy. In truth, he could see she cared for her husband, something his father's second wife and the wives of his sons lacked. Not one to turn down the offer Damon poured a second goblet and offered it to Darkin Rahl, before taking his own. Dressed in clothing that was fine, if holding the scent of sea heavy about it, Damon knew he was a striking figure. He enjoyed being so. Let Jon handle his priggish nature, Damon was a man of the sea.

"My Lord, My Lady. It is ever a joy to see good fortune and health has favored you both. Though perhaps it could be presumptuous of me to assume such? Tell me how Volantis fairs? I heard our exiled Prince came past on the Black Dread with an intent to burn that dread into the hearts of the Dothraki." He mused, "My dear sister's husband. A mighty man."

Striding through his manse, Darkin Rahl, the Patriarch of House Rahl and Triarch of Volantis turned just slightly as he reached a door and allowed a polite smile to cross his lips. His visitor, a charming rogue named Damon Harroway passed by him and spoke to Darkin’s wife, the ethereal Lady Lyra who still controlled and held his heart. The man's words did nothing to cause Darkin to feel jealousy or disdain. He simply accepted it and filed it away as a notation on Damon’s personality. One of the many notes the Triarch had on the pirate. He accepted the glass that was offered and politely gave a sip which he did enjoy but Darkin never liked to drink during or before business.

“Your words are welcome, Volantis is as profitable as it ever was and the Rahl family is thankful that that continues. But as with everything it still takes hard work and good decisions. I believe we have come to one of those decisions. As for the Prince, he and our Dragonlord are old friends and I’m certain that what they get up to will be for the good of Volantis in the long run. But we are in a position to talk about you. Please, remind me again of what it is you’re searching for and be plain.”

Darkin’s eyes found Lyra and silently communicated that he wished for her to take the lead. It was common, Darkin preferred to sit quietly and judge responses.

Smiling at the men Lyra launched head first into the conversation. “So Damon,” She focused her sharp edged charm on him using his first name with a cavalier attitude that was meant to flatter him with the intimacy. “Now that you’re here and enjoying our hospitality…” She with a look to the servants who discreetly appeared brought the requested vittles. She loved it when Mryna made her look magical, granted the servants were all trained to be light on their feet. Her children rarely got things past herself or their father, too many ears and eyes that moved as silent as cats. “Have we satisfied your curiosity and are you ready to discuss business?”

Indicating the provisions Lyra offered him bread and salt as an opening to denote and invoke the right of hospitality. “I recommend coating the pocket bread in the Dornish pepper sauce and adding cheese and some of the meat into it.”

Damon did as instructed with a chuckle. "Indeed we shall." A Knight of the Seven he was sworn to the faith, the son of the Lord of Harrenhal he was sworn to the King on the Iron Throne. Yet to many he was simply a trader and adventurer. To himself and others he was a terror whose words held the weight he wanted it to. Leaning back in the seat, the second son of Harroway, sighed in pleasure. Chasing the bite with wine. "Always you have the finest of choices, but I shall spare you my humble words and direct myself to business."

Business. It was so very simple. He wanted wealth, land, fame, power. Damon wanted more and higher than he had. "To business, I am looking to invest in land, titles, the like in Essos. There are two Uncles and at least two cousins set in Harrenhal. For a castle so large, it has been getting crowded." His smile was lopsided, and he hooked one leg over the other. Letting the wine swirl in his goblet. "Of course, I do not ask for charity. I have my trading fleet. A sister who could be offered in a marriage. Gods know, I'm the only one in the family who would look for a good husband for the poor woman. My ties… There are benefits." He raised the goblet to his lips, sipping at the wine now.

Inwardly Lyra smirked. “Titles are easily bought as well as land. Depending where you go you would possibly be welcome but you would be new. Which has its advantages and disadvantages. My recommendation is to marry into an old family.” She let him digest that bit of information as she pulled apart a piece of pocket bread dipping it in the Dornish pepper sauce. “I will warn you that no matter how much you are liked you will not truely be accepted. If my guess is right then you do not really care. Which my friend is lucky for you because we have the means to help you.”

Leaning in, Lyra reached for a slice of cheese and popped into her mouth enjoying the creamy texture and nutty flavor. “You mentioned a sister? We could sponsor her and introduce her and yourself into Essos society.” She looked over at her husband. Gevie mēre, what say you? That is quite a responsibility matchmaking between a Westerosi woman and Essos man. It could work. You would need to marry as well. Afterall family is more trusted than a stranger.”

Before Damon would be able to speak, Darkin would then cut in. "The offer is as follows. House Rahl accepts your ships into our shipping fleet, allowing them the same safe passage as afforded unto us. The profits go entirely to you on the condition that if we need to use your ships for our own products that profit is ours. None of your ships may partake in… Illegal activities while flying our flag or while carrying our cargo. After a time your ships will slowly integrate into ours as you find more and more success here. Let's say some ten years? You will be expected to support us in Westeros affairs and assist in alliances that we attempt there. In return, I offer the following. There is a stretch of land outside of Volantis towards the old Ghiscari lands. Close-by is our property, it would be simple for us to purchase it and then give it to you. The land, along with a hundred slaves, whatever household you wish to bring, whatever guards you wish to have will be yours to rule. House Rahl will take no profits from this land, it will be entirely yours. This will make you a property holder within Volantis and will give you the right to vote."

After a brief pause, Darkin continues gruffly as if an afterthought. "You are free to court and consider one of my daughters but it will be their choice in the end. Your sister if you wish to bring her will be given a similar choice in one of our sons but again. It will be their decision. If, however, you wish to move things further along and not start at the very bottom. My sister is a widower and might take you. Our arrangement with the ships and trade will remain but you will simply be family and your profits will be our profits."

As he finishes, Darkin discreetly shoots a rapid glance to Lyra and the corners of his mouth twitch. "Thoughts thus far?"

Damon listened to the opportunity. His face a polite mask of interest. It was not a overly bad idea, though he found it lacking in his favor. More reins to tug him about, the man thought with minor annoyance. But he had been ignoring such all his life. Why stop now? So long as he kept his less than legal affairs on the down low, possibly let the Ironborn men take the blame for what his little pirate fleet did… It was possible.

"Intergrate after ten years you say? I like my ships, Lord Rahl. I'm not of the mind to give them up, why not a joint interest? I keep my ships, while I aid you in your endeavors. I will even suggest you speak to the Arryns, the Lords of the Eryie have possible suitors for alliances.” He considered the option of the man's widowed sister. Perhaps she would suit for an Essosi wife. His own did not need to know, nor did the Faith. If in the end he managed to wed the Lady Vittoria Tyrell? Damon smiled. "It is the only part of the plan I see issue with. Though I could concede half my number to integrate with yours." If he got land out of it? All the better. If he married the woman? Well then, he would have to modify his plans. It would be no qualm. Though getting Elayne into position would be. Here she was a beauty and his sister. A pawn, despite Rahl's words. Elayne would do as she was bid.

Darkin's polite smile remained on his lips as Damon spoke and honestly only those used to dealing with the man would know just how offended and infuriated he was. The temptation to seize the man's ships himself crossed his mind and then perhaps to simply buy out his crew members and leave the westerosi with nothing but empty ship parts came to mind. But no, Darkin merely tilted his head and leaned forward. Ever so slightly.

"You Westerosi are all so confident. I admire this in you. Coming to a strange place so far away from home and making a living selling to such powerful people that you know nothing about. It takes courage and a will to survive. The docks can be such a dangerous place as well, but your crew I suppose is quite the seasoned bunch, they like to stay at the pig and whistle isn't that right? Usually drunk until about noon when you begin patrols up and down your property which I'd located in a few nondescript warehouses until you manage to sell it." Darkin's eyes were playful as he spoke then, still leaning forward and tilting his head. Not a single other movement was given.

"Lucky for you that you have such a good ally in the city. Someone who has sold your goods, funded some of your expeditions and considers you a friend. So much so that he offers you a very large piece of their plans. A way to earn a place and become a Lord. Even offered a shortcut to get there. What a good friend hm?" He chuckles a bit and shakes his head. "But, alas that ally can't abide by pirating, especially if they were to be funding so much. So, are you certain you wouldn't like a few more moments to consider the deal offered? The generous and exceptional deal given to such a good friend?"

Taking note of her husband’s disposition Lyra sat back and focused on Damon. His facial features, body language, his breathing and his eye movements would all tell a tale she was read to hear. She did not need a dragon to get the truth from a man. They shouted it loud and clear, if one listened. It was bold as brass that Damon thought he could go up against a House that had been playing the game for over a century.

Giving him the benefit of Westerosi arrogance she doubted he did his due diligence in researching just whom he was dealing with. She on the other hand had been more than busy looking into Westeros for most of this boy's life. She knew about the pirating and while they, Darkin and herself, had decided that was not to be turned over to Maegor or anyone else who would string the boy up; as of yet, they still held the information. Perhaps it was a youthful mistake since his crew were stupid enough to open their mouths to whores and tavern keepers in both Westeros and Essos. Damon really did need some friends.

Lyra had pointed out to Darkin prior to dealing with Damon that it was probably something done to toss in the eye of his father. Hearing him negotiating cinched that opinion. If he were younger they would not have been as harsh. Sadly indulged and neglected little boys still needed to know the harsh reality that no one was above the law.

Darkin was livid when she had revealed the pirating. They had lost ships to pirates, such was the way of the sea. While they both knew that, it still made it a blow since they were the ones that had to inform families that their loved ones had not survived. They always took in the sailors' families and provided for them. Some, like Myrna and her three children, stayed with the Rahls and others took their support for as long as their pride could stand. Lyra understood but she kept an eye on them still. Sometimes an otherwise rare opportunity presented itself to the families and at other times perhaps they came back from market with more than they anticipated; small little windfalls that made sure they were taken care of. Again Lyra thought of the fact that she did not need a dragon to make significant changes in lives. Let the dragon riders keep their beasts. Gods know if Cassie ever got a hold of an egg. The things that keep me up at night. Besides my husband.

Placing a piece of fruit in her mouth Lyra watched Damon casually. "We take care of friends and family who make rash hot headed decisions so that they can keep those hot heads. Especially our family." The intensity of her silver gray eyes with a touch of blue was so powerful it was like looking at a queen she-dragon. This woman knew that if he chose the wrong path that his fate would be sealed. She let him know it in that look. A look that brought with it a full conversation with a mother that was disappointed but gave you the opportunity to correct your mistakes, but with one option and one option alone.

The words were not lost on Damon. He did not even blink though there was a tightness in his jaw and hand. His confidence shifted before it was restored by his own force of will. So, his men apparently had talked? When he had given specific orders for them not to? To impress the wenches? Other sailors? Well, in the end it would not matter. Weighing his choices he knew the opportunity out weighed the petty game he played. It was time to be the good lad and come to heel. He was young. He had time.

"You just forgive me, it is ever the merchant to seek a better offer." He shrugged with nonchalance and to loosen stiff muscles. "Of course, refusal would leave me out of such a good bargain. What better option than to agree?" And what choice did he have? This would give him land, some good management of it and he would have the wealth needed to convince Lady Vittoria to marry him. Once done, he could take his three wives and enjoy life. Though, absently the man felt a pang of sorrow for Minisa's pale form. She had never recovered from the birth of his son. "I shall accept and pay court to your lovely sister, praying she will find my humble offerings acceptable." And if she was acceptable to him? She would come with Rahl family and Rahl money, she could look like a pig and still do. "A good woman can cool a young man's hot head." He amended with ease and gave a smile to that ice queen sitting across from him.

Damon had already made his mistake, Darkin no longer trusted him. And one didn't do business with someone you didn't trust, at least not real business. He would inform his sister of the slights the man made and make sure she kept a good eye on him. Damon could still be useful but he had lost his chance to ever be a true ally. His sister, or others? That was still up in the air.

"Glad to hear that you've reconsidered, as before you are welcome to stay here as a guest. Thank you for your time." It was a colder dismissal than usual, and Darkin made a mental note to make a few of the Damon's crew who talked disappear. They would be useful to his cause if Damon did decide to try something very stupid.
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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Espada Emi
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Oldtown




“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR WITS!?! MOVE, BOY. NOW!”

The roar was heard through the walls and doors of the inn, the Last Cobblestone, right before they saw the squire of Merryweather’s come scrambling backwards into the main room of the inn’s first floor.

He stood, he blinked at Vittoria, and began to say something…before he was pushed aside by a slightly hunched, bull of an old, towering, man. His shoulders were still nearly as wide as his belly was big, his head spotted and bald, but a white whiskered mustache was still thick and bushy. “Oh, shut up and move, she knows who I am.”

She knew who it was when she heard the roar, but her lips didn’t bend into a smile until she actually saw him with her own eyes. Around her sat Pater and Merna, with Mina and Garrett and Rycherd off in the far side of the room, as the two Tyrells regaled the young Tarly Lord with tales of the road.

The moment he saw her, his face changed utterly: from wrothful and contentious to infectiously happy and amused. He wore simple clothing, nothing that immediately gave him away, except for the boots and the belt and the fact that all of it looked perfectly made and new. It would be a teaching moment for the young squire, later, when the flush of emotion and the moment of chaos was well past him.
“There she is! You’d make an old man wait?”

To her credit, Vittoria Tyrell looked at him with exhausted eyes. Both from his antics, and the day she had already had…yet, as always, the old burning fire of a man in human tower form burned straight through her outer walls with his bullish affection and pugnacious demeanor. She smiled, rose, and went to him as he held his arms wide. He took her up and spun her like she was still a child of eight, her dress of green linen with dagged sleeves to show off the gold satin lining beneath swaying in the air as he spun her, making her laugh.

“I am NOT eight anymore, my Lord,” Vittoria tried to protest, even if him spinning her still made her laugh no matter her mood just as it had when she was eight; he ignored her, looking at Pater even as he held her close to him.

“Pater! How could you let them do this to her? She’s TALL. She’s a bloody damned WOMAN…this is a disaster!”

Pater’s laughter was far softer and restrained, the wise Septon, obviously quite familiar with the old Lord, feigning a good fluster, “I admit, Lord Manfred, it would seem the Seven had their own plans for our little Lady Vittoria of House Tyrell.”

Finally, snickering, grinning, he looked back to her, his voice becoming a gentle thing, no matter the stone it was made of, “How is your father? Still scared as shit of losing Highgarden?”

“He is good,” was all she said, even if her golden brown eyes said something much more pointed to the old man, that only seemed to leave him cackling as he turned to face the others, keeping a large arm around her shoulders.

“Lady Merna. How is Horn Hill surviving without you?”

She laughed, “It’s probably little more than a hunting lodge at this point, your Lordship.”

“Hot damn, I oughta be there, then.” He nodded, firmly, even as Vittoria rolled her eyes. “Your youngin’, Lady Merna?”

She smiled as she looked over, her own dress a simple cotton thing with the sigil of her new house at it’s chest. Well made, even if Merna had made it herself. “Yes, that is Lord Rycherd. Rycherd!”

The younger ones followed the youngest, as Rycherd kept close to his mother, eyeing the old man, warily. To his credit, the old man let go of Vittoria, came close, and with a menacing tone, arched his head down to be close to the four year old’s eyes, “Rycherd, hmm? And are you to be a strong man of the Reach, Rycherd? Or a boy who hides behind his mother?”

At that, Lord Rycherd moved past his mother and stood, legs wide, hands on his waist, big blue eyes staring a hole through the old man’s face, “I am Lord Rycherd of HORN HILL!”

Merna, Vittoria, and Pater laughed. Lord Manfred smirked, and nodded, “Aye, boy, I think you are, indeed. Well done, Lady Merna. And these two?...” The Lord of Hightower offered an exaggerated double-take at the sight he saw: “GARRETT TYRELL? IS THAT YOU?”

Garrett laughed, but at least, held his ground in the face of such a loud, thunderous, man. “Yes, Lord Manfred. Ready to defend the Reach.” The time on the road with the Order had done Garrett’s confidence much good, was all Vittoria could think in the moment.

“You…” he pointed at Mina, gruffly snorting, “you’re the Tyrell girl who forgot they’re a girl?” There was the very real threat of judgment or mockery in the air as Lord Manfred pointed at Mina. Lord Manfred was known for many things, but these days, he might most be known for saying anything he pleased. The moment passed as Manfred chuckled, loudly, and nodded again. “Gods be damned, cut your own path in this life, girl. Take it from an old man, your time is short, make the most of it.”

He stood, turned, and feigned the confusion of the old, “What was I going on about?” He asked her, Vittoria, and her smile widened.
“I believe you were tormenting a poor squire with your ‘disguise’ and imparting wisdom to the youth, Lord Manfred.”

He looked at her suspiciously. “You were always too smart for your own damned good.” His head turned to the member of the Most Devout, and sighed, “This is your doing, Pater. I told you, years ago, not to encourage her.”

Septon Pater balked. “Me? If I recall, my Lord, it was another who—”

“—let’s not get carried away, Pater.” Manfred waved his hand at the Septon, suddenly not wanting to get carried away with blame on such trivial, historical, details like who encouraged her the most. “My steward brought your dresses. Ceryse picked them out, so don’t be expecting anything half as nice as your armor.”

Vittoria missed Ceryse. “That armor left me sweaty and sore, Lord Manfred.” Her tone was as pointed as her look, a soft scolding…
…that he also waved away and dismissed, “It’s armor, girl. What the Seven Hells did you expect?”

Merna’s eyes seemed to roll for Vittoria, even as Vittoria remained too polite, “Will Ceryse be there tonight?”

“She’s around. There, here, Hightower, Oldtown…” He shrugged.

She pressed. “Is she okay?”

“HER?” He balked. “What about old me? If I could get my hands on that little pricked Prince. Between him and my cursed brother—”
“—His High Holiness,” Pater deftly, softly, added.

“I know who my brother is, Pater: he’s Melwyn, my fool’s ass, hard-headed little brother.” Vittoria nearly died next to the man, even as he elbowed her ribs ‘gently’ in amusement, and snickered, more than enjoying himself as the only man on the planet who could so casually say such things about the High Septon, and cackle about it. “I brought the, uh…’other thing’, too. Well made. Had one of those little Braavosi men instruct the smith. The shit made the smith re-make it three times.”

On her tippy toes, Vittoria wrapped her arms around the trunk of a neck of the old man. “Thank you, my Lord.”

“…sure, sure, easy girl. You’ll get the Faith rumor mongering.” The room laughed, Lord Manfred near looked offended, “I’m a bachelor, I’ll have you all know. Heh. Don’t make me wait too long tonight, girl, and bring your other sort of armor…I may be one of the ‘agreeable’ ones that bends your ear tonight. Merna.” He said, blowing the woman a kiss, “Pater…good luck with your horse’s ass of a High Septon. Heh.”

As he walked out, he stopped, sudden, next to the squire. “…good lad.” He massive paw gave a loud slap of the squire’s chain shoulder, nearly stealing the squire of his balance. Quiet, head down, he began to follow Lord Manfred Hightower before Lady Vittoria interjected.
“Talbert? Can you bring the items from Lord Manfred to my room upstairs?” When the squire nodded and moved quickly after Lord Manfred,
Vittoria’s eyes hit her sister, “Mina, may I borrow you for a moment upstairs?”

Mina was still grinning slightly after Lord Manfred’s tacit approval, a bit stunned by the boulder of an old man’s energy and bluster all the same. The mention of smiths and Braavosi had her perk up even more, and as she fell in step behind Vittoria she was practically boring holes into her sister’s head with her gaze and bouncing up and down in place.

“Did he mean what I think he meant?”

Vittoria ignored her and moved to the room that had been set aside for her. It was a small thing, with one bed size enough for two, a chair and a wash basin, with a few extra cups and a bottle of wine just for good measure, let alone a small trunk of books on the floor beside the bed. Most of her quill and parchment had been left in the chandler home, where there was a desk, and room to move about a little.

On the bed were two gowns; one gown of silk and Myrish lace, with satin linings, gold and green in color. The other was green with a lacy bodice that covered all but the arms themselves. Vittoria spent a moment making sure the latter would fit her sister before the door sounded Talbert the squire’s return. A quick diversion of opening the door and Talbert set the trunk down just inside, off to the side of the doorway, before returning to his front door responsibility.

The wooden chest was just large enough, a dark cherry wood. A quick unlatch and opening, and Vittoria took out the blade. “The scabbard is walnut, carved by hand to match the blade, wrapped in a dark green leather. There are steel pins on the top, and one on the bottom, but that’s for support and not for ornament. There is no ornamentation on this. The green leather matches what wraps the handle. The slight hand guard is there for defense, according to the Braavosi, and little else.” The steel gave a smooth sound as it released from the scabbard, a thin blade with a natural balance, that Vittoria placed right back in the scabbard before ever taking out. The accompanying belt was black leather, simple, plain, but a high quality just the same.

Without another word, she handed it over to Mina. “Lord Manfred made the Braavosi think he’d have to fight for his own life as champion in a trial with such a sword, to ensure it’s as perfect a bravo’s tool as we could manage. Enjoy it, but no cutting yourself, and be ready by the start of sunset. The smaller gown is yours, the one with the lace bodice. And there’s little use saying anything but the truth if father asks; Lord Manfred and I made the gift happen.”

Vittoria leaned over, dared a kiss of her younger sister’s head, and took her own gown with her. Merna had offered to help her ready herself at the chandler’s house, and that’s where she was going to head. “Good luck. See you soon.”

Mina stared at the sword in her hands as if she’d just been handed her own dragon and told she was the next heir to the iron throne, mouth working open and closed in elated shock. Before Vittoria could walk out the door Mina threw her arms around her in a quick, tight hug. She let her sister go, rearranged herself and examined the sword again. She drew it out carefully, feeling how it released from the scabbard, then testing the balance and bringing it up smoothly into the Water Dancer's first guard, side-on, point out. It was perfect so far as she could tell, and resheathing it and setting it down to focus on the dress took all of her willpower.

She stared at the lacey behemoth and set her shoulders, clenching her fists. This was just another type of battle, like Vitta had said. Besides, she would wear a thousand useless dresses if it meant that sword was really hers to keep.
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Hidden 12 mos ago Post by Vanq
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South of the Wendwater



Lady Ellyn Dayne and the Poor Fellows


The village on the outskirts of the ancient forest could barely be called a village. It was the first settlement of any sort the group had come across since first entering the woodlands. Hunters and fishers, there was little land cleared away for proper farming. The people here said they were sworn to House Fell, they spoke of how their forest had been burned when the dragons had started their conquest. An old man who had been a young man at the time, recounted how Lord Fell had fought to turn back the bastard dragon only to be repaid in fire. Tragedy had not ended there for his son too had been murdered by the savage Dornish because of the dragons’ avarice.

Lady Ellyn’s Poor Fellows were welcomed, though they found Lady Ellyn herself to be a true oddity. Clad in armor with the rainbow cloak of a Warrior’s Son, carrying a pale sword that seemed to glow in the light of the sun. They shared a meal. The people here knew that King’s Landing lay north of them, but to reach it would be an arduous journey if they opted to travel through the forest. It was not a forest to be traversed but to be circumvented. All sorts of unsavory characters used it to hide from the laws of man and gods.

As her people bedded down for the night, in tents for those who had them or on beds of foliage beneath the pure night sky, the Sword of the Morning found no peace. Vice and sin had found her, yet again, no matter how much she prayed to the crone and the maiden. Her armor had been carefully laid out in the corner of the tent, she sat up on the pallet bed atop old, ratty furs. She stared at the man before her, guilt and remorse replaced fleeting lust and desire. Her eyes, deep violet, narrowed in anger. He had tempted her, he had not said no to her invitation, he had encouraged her in sin again and again.

“Get out.” She needed to atone.

“Now? Surely you’ve not had your fill of me yet.” The man was daft, thinking the anger in her voice a continuation of the games they had played. He approached her, dropped to his knees before her and over her. He leaned in as if to again nestle his face to the bend of her neck.

Ellyn was unrestrained in her response, her backhand across his face sent him rolling off her. He landed on his back, staring up with a dazed look in his eyes.

“I will not say it again, get out.” Some men would have grown angry, some had in the past to the point of violence. Ellyn had learned to keep a dagger close for when commands did not suffice. “Pray for forgiveness…for yourself and for me.”

When the man had finally roused himself, he dressed in near silence. He muttered, perhaps thinking she could not hear the slurs lobbed against her, but she would not correct him, he was not wrong in his assessment. Hypocrite. Whore. Bitch. She was all those things and more. A thief, a usurper, a pretender. To cleanse the land of the Targaryens would be her path to redemption.

She dressed herself, tunic and leggings, a long vest, a tattered coat. She would find no sleep tonight but perhaps the septon would absolve her of her worst guilt. Ellyn found him, awake as well, at one of the few fires still burning this many hours into the night. It was not the first time they had talked under these circumstances. The wandering septon had joined them back near Highgarden and had quickly become her closest confidant. It was better to travel with protection, and Lady Ellyn was more than pleased to stop at small villages for him to minister to the faithful. He motioned for her to join him.

As dawn broke, the pair departed. The worst of the guilt and shame had passed, the remainder would serve as a reminder that she knew would fade too quickly. She could resist only for so long. Around her, her people worked to break their camp, tents packed, food stuffs sorted. They had some small bits to trade with the village for dried goods and to refill aleskins. The Lady avoided the village, avoided the possibility of seeing the man who had shared her tent. She packed her own tent. One of the Ashford ladies helped her into her armor.

They set off while the morning was still young, heeding the village’s advice, they did not venture further into the forest and had to turn south first before they could resume their travels north.

They were not alone in a journey, a young man made his way south, past Felwood and to Storm's End. He brought news to his lord of traitors in the land who spoke of treason and threatened violence. He bore proof of the madness, his face marred for speaking out in favor of the Lord Baratheon and his support for their cousins, the rightful ruler, on the Iron Throne.
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Almalthia
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Oldtown






Stepping off the ship Hespaerys Rahl, referred to as Hes by his friends and family, rolled his shoulders and neck to get the kinks out. While he did not mind traveling by ship it was damned inconvenient when one was tall. His hair caught the sunlight and made the light blonde of his hair shine despite the fact that he desperately needed a real bath. He shuttered thinking about the state of his being. He wanted a bath and fast. The salt water bath was inadequate and left much to be desired. His dusty lavender gray eyes expressed his frustration with everything for but a brief moment in time then bored indifference slipped on like a second skin.

Hands on hips Hespaerys sauntered over to the side as he watched the complement of soldiers they came to Westeros with. Men and women made up the group and they numbered twenty eight. The plan was to divide into seven quads and find the woman the twins were supposed to talk to and see what all this fuss was about. Hespaerys looked at it as a reconnaissance mission but knowing his twin she'd get involved and he could not just abandon his sister, even if he wanted to sometimes. Lunaerys was a hoyden and he was not surprised that she taught his other sisters how to take years off a man's life just by getting into situations. Situations that he swore were what made his father's hair silvery white like his mother's.

As twenty nine other souls got off the ship Hespaerys looked for Lunaerys. Spotting her, Hespaerys moved over to her. “I am getting a room at the Rose Garden. I am getting a bath and I am getting food. Have everyone else find rooms and keep in touch.”

"Hah! Don't you ever think that you can take me on again Dev! I got your number, you swashbuckler!" Lunaerys Rahl, known by far too many names to count, laughed loudly after yelling after one of the crew of the ship that was slowly making its way into Port at Oldtown. Holding up an arm, Lunaerys makes a muscled pose and then picks up a large mug of ale and downed it in one go, throwing it at the head of the loser who had dared challenge her to a contest of strength. Her action received great cheers and laughs before a whistle suddenly was heard and the crew all began to run off to get ready to make Anchorage at the docks.

Lunaerys wiped her mouth and then wiped it on her sea-salt stained pants which were stiffened already at this point. Her dark hair was wild and needed a serious soak in some soap and regular water, but the bodacious and boisterous woman didn't seem to care. Instead, after wiping her hands she leaned down, secured three daggers back to her person and then made her way to the top deck just as the ropes were thrown to the dock workers to tie down.

It was then that she saw her brother and her grin widened. She pretended not to notice him, even as he spoke to her and then when he turned after the word 'touch' she suddenly dived at him and went for a tackle, which would also get him soaked in a mix of seawater, ale, and who knew all else that had soaked into her jacket and clothing. "Hah! Gotcha Hes. Gotta keep those eyes open!" She giggled and rolled off her twin and then spread her arms and legs to begin making a dirt angel.

Hespaerys vision went red for a moment as Lun tackled him. He winced as he squelched into his sister’s filthy jacket. “Oh Gods of Old have mercy! That sham of a jacket you have on is fit to walk away and you… you … I think I might be sick." For the first time in their trip Hespaerys looked green and like he might actually be sick. “Oh sometimes I hate you. Nix would never do this." He got us as she got off him and watched in horror as she made a shape in the dirt. With her whole body. He was horrified, stunned, and mortified. Swallowing he realized there was more saliva in his mouth than normal and his stomach turned as he watched her play in the dirt.

Gagging Hespserys turned away then turned back as people were starting to stare. “Get up!!" He hissed at his sister. “Diplomatic. You got the same education as me so I know you have the definition of the word rattling around in your brain.”

Giggling, Lunaerys finished making her dirt masterpiece and then rolled onto her stomach. She began to speak, each word seemingly taking longer to huff out as she unceremoniously began to stand. "Oh. Hes. I just. Know how. Much you. Missed. The land!" As she finished speaking she had made it upright again, and as Hes looked at their onlookers, Lun lunged for him again to bear hug him close to herself, AND the dust truly flew. "So I figured I'd get you some. Aren't I the best twin you could possibly have?" Lunaerys giggled again and then continued dusting the rest of the dirt off herself, waving and winking to various onlookers who of course were laughing as well. Luckily for Lun she didn't care and simply laughed with them, whether they were laughing at her or with her. "Now! What are you standing around here looking like that? Don't we have a Tyrell to find? Shouldn't be slacking on the job Hes."

You will not be meeting her like that. Nor will i be meeting her in my state of disarray. We shall clean ourselves up and find out if she is in town or if she is speaking to the Hightowers. Hopefully she is two birds with one stone." Hespaerys started off to find someone who could tell him where the Rose Garden lay. He got his answer only to have to stalk past his sister in the direction of the establishment.

Lun batted her eyes at the local who pointed them towards the Rose and blew a kiss of dust towards them and winked. She got a blushed and shy look back. But instead of having fun she was supposed to instead go and be legitimate. No fun really, and Lun simply placed a strong arm out towards her twin as he passed her and used his momentum to swing herself around, then using his other arm to keep Hes from falling. "By the Old gods we didn't sail all the way to Westeros to be boring. Besides, what kind of name is 'the rose.' Doesn't give me a lot of good vibes. I'd much rather it sound more intimidating, besides do you really want to go to a place that sounds pompous looking as you do? You look like you just rolled around in the dirt."

Gritting his teeth Hespaerys counted to ten. Then back down again. “Yes jorrāelagon mandia dear sister you are quite right. Except you forgot one thing. She is Tyrell. Which means…?" He left the question hanging over his shoulder as he walked toward the inn.

Lunaerys pretends to think for a moment. "Oh! Oh I know! Pick me! Please!" She began jumping up and down randomly, her daggers jostling and clinking gently. "Is it that she will absolutely be disgusted with how you look and so we should go shopping for new clothing before going to 'The Rose' which might conventionally be a more upper class tavern that wouldn't take well to your outfit? I mean really Hes, you should be ashamed of how dirty you are."

You love your sister. You love your sister. You. LOVE. Your. Sister. Seeing the inn come into view Hespaerys began to get the feeling that the inn was full. The people crawled over the place like ants on a mound that was disturbed convinced him that it was in truth full. Walking in Hespaerys went straight to the innkeep and asked where the nearest decent inn was. He was informed and pulled his sister over to one called The Lark and Spur where he ordered them three rooms. The last three rooms. He asked for a bath and food for all.

After bathing and eating Hespaerys felt much better. It was almost midday as Hespaerys quickly came down the stairs and went out the front door. Looking around he saw a crowd and looked over at his sister and pulled her with him. The disappeared into the crowd was smooth and fluid. His small smile as he was in his element and felt more like himself.

It took the children of Oldtown watching the pair of foreigners walk half a street before they both took notice, and overheard what they wanted. Cissy and Dake were the first to overhear, though Dake thought he was really first, but Cissy said she did. They ran to tell Big Bill. Big Bill was nearly ten, and he knew almost everyone in the northeast of the city, from walls to river, Big Bill liked to proudly say. Big Bill told Cissy and Dake about the knights coming into the city. He’d even been thrown a flower by the Ardent Maiden, herself.
When Cissy begged to see the flower, Big Bill just shrugged, and said it was just a dumb flower. Who kept that kind of thing? Of course, she threw a flower to Big Bill. Everyone knew Big Bill, from the river to the wall. Big Bill even knew where the knights stopped; Port Market Street, around a couple of inns. Some of the rest of the Knights went to the Rose Garden, thems Knights that had wives and kids. They could hear the kids playing in the courtyard even from outside the tall walls of the Rose Garden.
Not that they let kids like them into the Rose Garden, but Big Bill says he’d been invited into the Rose Garden once before. Walls called Big Bill a liar, once, but Big Bill punched Walls straight in the teeth, and Walls never called Big Bill a liar after that. Dake explained all of this to the two foreigners.

“For a coin or two, I could show you to the inn where they keep her, but you can’t get through to the inn without me. Big Bill says the Faith Miltent is stopping traffic, and Knights. There’s all them Knights protecting the Lady Vittoria." That’s how smooth talkin’ kind talked about ladies, an’ such, THE Lady Vittoria. “Anyways, I’m kinda busy, what with Big Bill giving me so much o’ his business, but I guess for a few coins I could show you how to get to her.”
Dake said, impatiently eyeing the pair as they walked through the market tents near the city, on the backside of the Citadel, along the Honeywine, far from Port Market Street, like they wasn’t even knowing where they was really going, anyway.
Nodding Hespaerys handed over a few pieces of copper. “This now and the same if you get us there quickly, unseen and in one piece." He told the boy his face was serious as if dealing with an adult who was running a shop. They’d expected that they would need to use the universal language of coin once in a while. Beckoning to Lunaerys to follow, he hoped his sister would take this seriously for once in her life.

Granted they could have tried to get past the throng on their own but Hespaerys found that pushing his way through people normally was like trying to roll a boulder out of the path when it was easier to go around and keep walking. Besides this afforded them the opportunity to see what this whole situation was like from the viewpoint of the small folk.

Dake gave a look like he’d seen this ol’ song and dance before, giving the coin a bite of his teeth, “Can’t be foolin’ me, Big Bill taught me the tricks…real enough. Sure, Dake can show you the fast way.”

Dake had been around the city more times than a stray cat. His mother worked at a tile maker’s shop, some old mean fool who didn’t like kids around the place, so he only saw his mother later, usually after the sun gone down. He spent his time with his friends, getting to know the city, trying to make a little coin here and there, he explained as they walked.

Through the market, skirting the edge of the Citadel and its walls hugging around the Honeywine. The more south you went, the wider the streets got, the different things started looking. Good news was, he told them, the southern, older part of the city had more merchants with real coin, and some nobility, too. And the City Watch, the blue cloaks, got a lot more serious around the Whispers.

That’s what they called them, but them high fancy folk called it Old Port. The rest of the city just called them Whispers, on account of the Honeywine widening into the Whispering Sound. He didn’t think that name was a good one, as the sound didn’t whisper anything, it was just the end of the river, so that was a dumb name. Maybe a Maester named it, he joked. Dake told them about Cissy, how her mum said she was related to the Hightowers, but not the Hightowers that lived in the tower, but one of the other Hightowers, like a bastard sister of one of them other Hightowers. Branches, they called it, but Big Bill said Cissy’s mum was full of it. Dake laughed at that, because Big Bill was funny.

After the fourth bridge, and sixth market, Dake led them down an alley. The alley seemed to get smaller, and smaller, as they went, until it was only wide enough for them to pass single file. Dake told them not to worry, he knew where to go. No one even knew about this short cut, he told them, as they passed through what had been an alehouse, before a fire had charred the place, leaving kids like him to knock holes through the walls to allow the short cut. No one knew about it, he said again, until they went out the other side and saw a blue cloak.

“Oh, uh…I’ll handle this.”

Dake went up and tugged at the cloak. Dake seemed to know the guard, a young, tall, lanky sort who leaned lazily on a spear.
“The Lieutenants have us surrounding the street. No one in or out.”

“Can’t be, Tin. My Lord an his Lady friend need to talk urgent with the Ardent Maiden. They got big business. Big secrets. They’re from Pentos. Big merchants, just LOOK at ‘em.”

Tin casually twisted his body as he leaned on his spear, taking a dull look at the pair behind him. The initial glance stretched into an up and down look of both, before he turned his half-helmed head to Dake. “Bill set you up to this, Dake?”

“It’s Big Bill, Tin, you know that. Everyone knows Bill, from the river to the walls.”

The guardsman snorted. “Yeah, know he’s a little shit…”

“C’mon, Tin, who helped you out last fortnight? Who warned you about the highwaymen at that tavern?”
Even with his back turned, the twins would be able to hear the twisted expression of irritation and defeat on Tin’s face through his tone, “Fine, yeah, I’ll lead them. But you ain’t going.”

“…I want to meet her, too, Tin…I didn’t get to see the march this morning. C’mon, Tin. Please." Dake looked back at the twins even after he lowered his voice, as if to convince himself they hadn’t heard him.

Tin stood up straight, and turned, again, to the twins, “Your names?”
The boy reminded Hespaerys of his younger brothers when they were that age. Following along he let the lad prattle on paying attention to what he was saying and not interrupting yet marking the side streets in his memory. When the boy talked about the Sound Hespaerys smiled and nodded. The boy had a point. Sometimes things were named for odd reasons that were just sentimental. He laughed at the joke the boy made. Not bad for a boy of eight.

When he got on to the part about Hightower by-blows Hespaery’s interest sharpened. It happened but he’d like to look into that information, if only to see if it panned out. Filing that away to examine later he hung back as he let the boy speak to the man in the blue cloak. The conversation was faintly amusing and it seems the boy was a little scamp. This Big Bill character didn’t seem like the greatest influence but perhaps Dake would realize that on his own.

Lifting a hand when Dake indicated them Hespaerys waited until the guard caved. “Hespaerys Rahl and Lunaerys Rahl. Pleasure to meet you Tin." He looked down at Dake and held out his hand to shake. “My honor doing business with you Dake. You can call me Hes. I will be staying at The Lark and Spur for a short while. If you hear anything good or if you need anything you come find me or leave a word and I will find you. Agreed?" He shook hands with Dake and passed him the coppers owed plus a few extra.

Dake stared at the hand for a moment, his face smudged with dirt on his left cheek, his lips a bit chewed on, his brown hair long enough to nearly have its ends stab into his eyes instead of just stop at his eyebrows. He shook the hand, though, or how it thought he ought to. Two hard shakes, a take of the coins, and a nod. “Thanks, mi Lord.”

Tin told them to follow close. They went down the little alley, until it crossed a larger alley. Here, at the alley crossing, there were smells and sounds coming from nearly every direction. Meat was being cooked, ale was being downed, bawdy songs were being sung, and the song of men talking at high volumes seemed to pass through every wall that surrounded them now. Along the way they passed no less than four other lines of blue cloaks of the Oldtown City Watch, their mail gray, their cloaks blue.

Where the bigger alley met a wide street, there was a wall of blue cloaks, and an officer among them, denoted by his heavier cloak and plate armor, sword on his hip instead of just a spear in his hand. Tin talked quietly to the officer, who eyed the pair of Volantese, and nodded. The officer took them the rest of the way into the street. Both sides of the street were men-at-arms, squires, pages, horses everywhere. Maesters walked in and out of buildings.

Eyes followed the twins and the officer of the Watch. But the excitement came from behind them, as the sound of wood cracking broke the otherwise even hum of noise on the street, giving way to the scream of a child; a boy. A boy in dirty clothes of gray and pale green tunic had fallen from a wooden beam on a second story above, now where a clothes line of white underlinens sat in the dusty cobblestone road.
“Get the rat!”

The Watch moved to intercept, but it was a Knight who got there first. A towering man, with arms and legs the size of small trees, and a chest like a boulder. His hair was dark, his eyes fierce, and his voice like a thunderclap. He took the ‘rat’ up with one hand, and it was then that Dake squirmed until he came face to face with the giant, plate armored man, holding him up like a sack of turnips. The man’s cloak was dark, red, the sigil of Tarly of Horn Hill upon it.

“Bad choice, boy.”

He panicked. “..I-i-i…juswannatedtoseeher, ser.”

Lord Dennet Tarly glared. “It’s Lord, boy," the plated man said, as he dropped him roughly. Copper coins went spilling out of the boy's pocket. Some of the knights and squires and pages sitting casually up and down the street laughed.

Others cried thief at the sight of the coins.

“You dropped these," came the voice from behind the big Knight. The boy stared. “Who is it you came to see?”

Dake scrambled to his feet, and stared at the big Knight, before daring to look past him, at the hand that held out his copper coins to him. “..I just wanted to see her..the Ardent Maiden. The Lady Vittoria.”

The laughter was warmer than a happy childhood’s summer day, the voice sweet as the scent of lavender and wild roses that seemed to fill the air. A young woman with shining auburn hair, and golden brown eyes, big, and round. The woman wore a silk gown, thick straps over her shoulders, a dramatic cut down her chest, but with a decorative lace in the style of roses that kept it from being improper, a lace cape flowing from her shoulders nearly down to the back of her thighs. “And who are you?”

“I’m..I’m Dake, mi Lady." He barely got out, taking the coins.

“Hello, Dake," she kept smiling, like this was her favorite part of everything she ever did, “it’s nice to meet you, I’m Lady Vittoria Tyrell.”

Dake’s eyes spread to the size of saucers. “For real life?!”

The sound of laughter filled the entire street, even as her tone seemed to soften all the more, “For real life, Dake. Where is your mother?”

The question caught him off-guard, but the boy who looked like he felt as if he might float away barely hesitated, “At Ol’ Orlo’s tile shop…she’s one of the tile painters. She comes home after the sun.”

“She must be a very hard working woman. Do you know the Sailor’s Sept, Dake?”

He blinked. “Of course, the Lady Vittoria. Everyone knows that. From the river to the walls.”

“Can you go there the day after tomorrow, for me? Ask for Septon Pater. It would mean a lot to me if you could help Pater out there, Dake. Please?”

“…of course, yes, of course, the Lady Vittoria." Dake grinned as he turned, saw the twins, and pointed right at the woman knelt down in front of him, beside the large Lord and Knight. “I found her for you, Lord Hes.”

Vittoria Tyrell’s brown eyes followed Dake to the pair of people she didn’t recognize. There was but a moment’s curiosity on her face, before the sweet look returned and she whispered somethings back and forth with Dake. The boy nodded, waved back to the twins, and followed the Watch officer as Vittoria asked the officer to, kindly, see the boy back to the perimeter. “Goodbye, Dake.”
Her eyes were back on the pair of unknowns as she walked towards them, towards the Last Cobblestone. Her smile was gone, but the softness was still on her expression. “Please, come in." She went past them, as the squire Talbert moved to open the door and she entered the main lower room of the large inn. It was there she stopped, and turned to face the guests.

Lord Dennet Tarly followed them both in, far more wary than Vittoria. But, then, Dennet hadn’t heard the whispers between her and Dake—and the boy had said the two were kind to him, so that made them worth her time.

“What can I do for you both?" She thought merchants, probably, as she forced her mind to slow down and her ears to listen.

Hespaerys saluted Dake as he pointed out the obvious and smiled, mouthing a thank you to him. The woman was striking. Father had not told them that. Though he preferred them shorter, nevertheless, he admitted she was attractive but he doubted that she had the following she had if she had just been attractive. The twins followed her and Hespaerys smiled. “Well Lady Tyrell I would like to commend you for your kindness to Dake. I do not know what I expected exactly when meeting you but I hope that was just a start to the kinds of things we shall see from you. We would like to ask you just a few questions and see if working together is worth your time and ours. Are you agreeable to that, my lady?”

Hespaerys found it odd that she had not asked who the twins were. Perhaps the guard had already told them. However he could have given a false name, not that he would. While the Rahl name held no overt sway in Westeros merchants knew of them as well as the network that fed his family information. They had run across a network deeply established here in Westeros and his father was curious to work with the head of that network. His mother was utterly thrilled that it was the woman before him and wanted her measure.

He had promised his mother he would get it. He never let her down. Never.
Kindness? She wanted to ask. She was partially educated by Septon Pater. She had seen him teach countless Dake’s to read by reciting the Seven-Pointed Star in Septs to the blind all over the city. Learn to count by helping him with inventory of grain and fruits and vegetables in Sept kitchens to feed both the Faith and those the Faith cared for. Learn to serve others by taking time to serve the sick in hospitals, clean Sept basements, and help the old Septons who had work to do, but bodies too old or frail to do it alone any longer.
Pater was the kindness. She was just the path leading Dake to such kindness. Instead, Vittoria gave a small smile at the polite words, and thanked the man for them. At the point of working together, Vittoria’s head tilted, just so, to the side, as curiosity came back to her, and her mind began guessing at the details. “What kind of work? I’m afraid I am little more than the High Marshall of the Armies of the Reach. Your accent seems…..Volantene?" She offered her best guess, having been there not too terribly long ago.
Hespaerys tipped his head in acknowledgement of his accent. “Volantene and Valyrian; my lady has a good ear." He raised a brow at her claim that she was no more than a High Marshall but let it go. Perhaps she does not want others to know. “My Lady Tyrell you move with an army at your back. Lethal shadows that would do anything in your name in Westeros you are a legend. We hear tales of the woman, the Rose; the Ardent Maiden of the Highgarden. What you have done is something not all women would be able to do in this backward land. A land that would have your menfolk count your breaths and quote the Seven at you if you so much as take more than your fair share of their air. Especially since you are a woman. It is impressive.”

Leaning in and lowering his voice Hespaerys whispered so that only Vittoria heard him. “Lady Tyrell I refuse to believe you are in any way dim-witted. Your family is the Westeros equivalent of Triarch in Volantis. I doubt they would breed stupid children. You listen to the… what is it here… small folk? Yes you listen to them. A noble should listen to those who feed him, else he could wind up poisoned.”
Vittoria’s eyes drifted past the foreigner, to Den Tarly. When he shrugged, she simply blinked, and looked back at the pair before her. “A Lady does not become High Marshall of the Reach without wits. I lack a dragon, and I’m no sister-wife of a Valyrian blooded conqueror, but I have spent a lot of time learning everything I could. I have also been incredibly fortunate. I listen to information…it doesn’t matter to me where that information comes from. Would that I had an informant that would tell me the true purpose of your visit…for example.”

She said, smiling.

“My family is tired of the merchants they are working with demanding more for less. We are seeing complacency and would be much better to cut the ties and look for a better avenue." Hespaerys smiled at Lady Tyrell and inclined his head. “We have gotten by without dragons since before the Doom. I believe we can make it just fine. Not that my mother has not tried to see if any of her children were interested in the Balaerys House. None of us were more than very good friends, much to her chagrin.”

Vittoria Tyrell, in a rare peek behind the armor, balked at those words. “Did they SEE Vhandyr Balaerys?" Though she took a moment to widen her eyes and shake her head, and her mind of such thoughts, the message before the end of the man’s words really caught her attention more. “My Lord Father reaches the city tomorrow, as well I am meeting Lord Hightower tonight, I can relay your interest to both and see to an arranged meeting?”

Hespaerys grinned and bowed his head to smother a low laugh. “Met him and know him quite well. His sister as well. And I would be very appreciative to have you relay our interest." Looking around Hespaerys tried to spot Lunaerys. “I do not see my little sister. I was sure that she would be over the moon to meet you.”
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The Sheath and Dagger was just starting its day as the commotion started. The Flame of Lys, Leandra, though she did not go by that; leaned out her window as the majestic beast passed by. That is not a dragon I recognize. Interesting. Vittoria will love this. Moving to dress to meet the day and see who flew in. Leandra had always been curious and just because it might be dangerous did not mean this was not the most thrilling thing that had happened recently. Because it was.

Pulling on what would be considered a conservative dress for her profession Leandra hummed under her breath. It was just a scattering of sweet notes that the young lordling in her bed currently had shared with her. Looking over at him and admiring the firm flesh on display Leandra sighed with regret. Why is it that the young ones always have to be woken up? Give me a nice firm middle aged man who knows his place and mine any day.

Leaning over the lordling Leandra trailed her soft pale hands over his back, her nails lightly trailing down his skin waking him. Upon waking up he attempted to pull her back into bed. "My apologies my lord but I have errands to run." Leandra smiled as she looped her arms around his neck and ran her fingers through his blonde hair. "Will I be late?" She purred, pressing herself against him and rubbing her body against his in an undulating motion. She was clothed while he was not as she kissed him. The lordling was not bad in bed but it was about him not her. She preferred older men but there was something to be said about youthful vigor when it was used decently well. She had had so many men and one thing about men is that an overwhelming majority of them liked to brag about their prowess. Both in and out of bed. So getting information from them was not hard. Filtering the information, now that was the challenge.

Pulling away from the lordling she replied with, "It was a dragon. Perhaps Maegor has returned?" The lordling sprang up as bare as the day he was born and Leandra hid a smile. He quickly dressed and ran out the door. The lordling had already paid handsomely for the pleasure he received the night prior. He'd whispered a little extra to her so she was pleased.

Watching from her window while combing the hair she was known for Leandra hummed softly. A pale head of hair caught her eye. Neither of the Princess would be without an escort nor would they be on this road at all. Interesting. Who-

Her thoughts were interrupted by a raised voice that came from that pale haired woman. For it was a woman and while the tones were not deep enough to be male they brought to mind smoke and shadows. Someone was getting the sharp end of that voice. Leandra’s eyes found the young girl and she shook her head. Foolish child. Leave the spying and following to those who excel at it.

Leandra could hear not but vague murmured tones as she watched the Valyrian woman stalk the girl like a predator. They spoke at length and the girl took on a mulish expression and Leandra wondered if the fool was worth saving. Thinking that another girl came up with an escort appearing to salvage the situation. It was the Harroway tikes. So a fool and a savior that happens to be of Valyrian descent. Now who could that be?

They were drawing quite a crowd especially when the Valyrian woman laughed. Leandra raised an eyebrow and swung the window open farther positioning herself on the sill firmly. Looking around she noticed a few of her informants and they took the hint to pay attention knowing that if they brought her good information they would be paid for it.

The Valyrian woman warned the Harroway guard with a sharp word then snarled at the foolish chit. Then things got really interesting as the Harroway guard decided that he was cut from the same cloth as the foolish chit. Valyrian steel sang as it was drawn and the promise of retribution hung in the air. Even from a distance the blade was beautiful.

Words floated up to Leandra "Bastard… Rivers…" feeling sympathy for the Rivers girl Leandra watched her wince. The loathing could be heard in the fool chit's voice as Leandra sighed. Just as suddenly the sword was put away and the conversation between the Valyrian women continued. I wish I had been down there at the time but someone will have heard most if not everything.

The crowd murmured and shifted as Leandra clearly heard "Whore of Harroway…Maegor's Whore…" and then shortly after the Valyrian woman walked off. Leaning out past the window Leandra captured the latch on the window and unabashedly watched the Valyrian woman walk away. Now this. This Vitta and the Rahls will love to hear about.
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