Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Arnorian
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Arnorian

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Garin:


Garin rode back to the camp, taking a long and circuitous route through surrounding lands. His little mare liked to travel and she bore her armored rider with an endurance that would done a destrier proud. The sun shone through the lazily drifting clouds, the breeze was neither too warm nor too cold and the leaf-shrouded boughs of the groves waved gently in the wind.

Garin and his escorts rode from picket to picket, checking in with different detachments as his cavalrymen rode out, occupied key places or rode back in from their different assignments. All in all, the reports were what he’d expected. Throughout and field, all was quiet. Not a foe in sight. Still, he wasn’t paid to operate off assumptions and knowing something for a certainty was a far better thing to be able to tell one’s employer.

The grass ripped in the wind as he rode around a small hillock, scanning his surroundings with the unthinking practice of long years of experience. In places the emerald grass was up around his sand steed’s girth, like a sea of green, and he smiled slightly. Dorne was beautiful land in a harsh sort of way, but only someone who had grown up among the red sands and the jagged sheerness of the northern mountains could truly understand how precious green grass and good water were.

In truth, he wouldn’t mind settling here, it was a lush and lovely land in many ways, the kind of place a man could raise his family in peace. His slight smile faded, somehow he doubted that peace would ever be his lot. But perhaps what he did here could earn enough gold that his children would never have to try and eke an existence like his. And Martella, for all that she was a tough peasant woman, born of farmers, deserved better than this.

He didn’t regret the night he had asked her to play his favorite song. And he had never once bemoaned the births of his daughters. But while he was hardly decrepit, he wouldn’t get any younger. His family needed something more than what he had to offer and one day, time would take enough of a toll that a younger and stronger man would be the one to deal the death blow.

As the sinking sun turned the horizon the color of molten gold, he turned his horse back to the rode and rode in a steady trot. A big dothraki and his companion rode out to meet, the challenge and watchword were rendered and Garin passed on. He swung down from the saddle, his squire leading his horse away.

It would soon be time to meet with the Lord Commander once again and he would need suitable attire. While he hardly cared a whit for the pretenses of the nobility he had once belonged to, he saw no reason to give his employer any misgivings. People went off what they saw and he was no better.

As Garin neared the center of the camp where his tent was located, a dull cacophony slowly sharpened into the ugly rhythm of raised voices and harsh shouts. He rounded a tent to see a young man in a crimson and white surcoat, backed by a group of hard-faced men, all bearing the belts and spurs of knights. The youth’s face was mottled red and white with fury, the veins standing sharply from his neck, a drawn dagger clenched in his white-knuckled grip.

Before the young knight stood Martella, her eyes narrowed and her nostrils pinched with that silent rage she sometimes gave in to. Behind her stood Rylla, clad in man’s hose and tunic, a dagger of her own held in a reverse grip, her feet planted in the stance Garin had taught his daughter so many times before.

Thankfully little Myrna wasn’t there to witness what had happened. Between Garin’s wife and the enraged knight lay a youth who couldn’t have been much older than Rylla. A squire was clad in crimson and white, like his master, a dagger lay in the dust next to his outstretched arm. The boy's eyes were swollen shut and his sword arm lay in the unnatural angle of a clear and brutal break. Blood ran from his broken nose and his pale features were puffy, the way flesh will before the bruises have had a chance to rise. He lay there, an animal sound like a sob and a muffled scream rising from his pulped lips.

Around the whole disaster stood a score of Dornishmen and a few Dothraki, all gripped javelins, swords, spears and axes. Some bore the stoney looks of men who had killed so many times that they no longer felt anything. Others had a glint in their eye, of the unholy joy some men find in carnage.

“Quiet!” Garin roared above the tumult.

He stepped forward, glaring mercilessly at both sides, the way a master might stare down a particularly dangerous hound. If he didn’t act quickly, this would turn into a bloodbath that would spill over through the whole camp and there would be no winners, just survivors.
The shouting died to an ugly mutter and Garin marched between his family and the furious knight.

“I will ask this only once. I will hear the truth, you will speak one at a time.” He said with deadly calm. “What the fuck happened here?”

Rylla


Father was long gone by the time the first silvery strands of sunlight had began to creep over the horizon. Rylla rolled from the small wooden bedframe in the tent her family shared and turned to see Myrna’s tousled hair and bright eyes peeking up from the nest of blankets. Rylla smiled, made a motion for silence and rose. Tea, a thick slice of bread, butter, cheese and a couple of eggs made for simple but filling breakfast. By the time Mother had risen, Myrna was fed, her hair combed and she’d reluctantly scrubbed her teeth with hazel twigs.
Martella had glanced around the neatly organized tent and smiled in quiet approval. True, there were enough lemans among the mercenaries and a few squires for such tasks, but Martella had come from a peasant family and Garin Sands was never one to demand something from his people that he couldn’t do himself.

Rylla helped mother dress and braid her hair, though Martella was never one to put on airs, a captain’s wife had to project a certain image. Rylla herself felt no such obligation, however. She had thrown on an old gambeson and a pair of hose and boots. Father had taught her to fight and ride. With time, she was sure, she’d be just as dangerous a blade as he was. These Westerosi seemed to have odd notions about women in armor. Though the lady that Father served now, seemed to be of a different sort.

She let the thought go with a mental shrug. Once she had her own armor and enough money, she’d head back to Essos. True, some places were just as foolish as these men of Westeros, but in other places, a woman with a strong sword arm and a quick mind could make her own way. Perhaps one day, she'd be the master of her own sellsword company. An estate and servants of her own and a squire to do her bidding. She might never have the titles and bloodline of someone like the Lady Vittoria, but what she had seen the difference between smallfolk and great houses was a matter of gold.

Her head full of future glories, she made her way through the narrow lanes of grass between the brightly colored tents. She came at last to the small pens of rope and wood that held the company’s horses. Though an even greater number grazed in the rolling fields beyond the encampment, under the watchful eye of Dornishmen, Essosi and Dothraki alike.

She led her little palfrey out, laughing quietly as the horse tossed her head and greedily gobbled down the apple Rylla had brought along. After carefully combing the little black mare’s coat and mane, she slung the saddle into place.

She had started to swing into the saddle when she had a snicker and turned to see a two pages and a squire dressed in crimson and white. The boy strutted past, arrogant as a fighting rooster. Rylla smirked, this wasn’t the first time some fool who thought he was already a man had let his mouth run away with him. But then one of the pages roared with laughter and she caught something about whether or not she was a man or a woman.

“You have anything you’d like to say to me, you inbred-looking little whoreson?” She said, loud enough for near the whole camp to hear.
The squire’s eyes widened in shock and then he drew himself up to his full height.

“I do not bandy words with peasants and bastards.” He said.

In truth, Rylla found his attempt at hauteur to be more that of a little boy clomping around in his father’s riding boots.

“I-I do not bandy with peasants and bastards.” She said in a very close approximation of the squire’s own tones.

“If your father hadn’t “bandied” with every swine-herding serf girl from here to Dorne, you might not be here, little lord. Perhaps you ought to be a little more grateful.” She said.

The youth’s eyes flashed and he went white with shock and rage.

“Touch a sore spot did I?” She smirked in her most infuriating way. “It’s alright, little lord, your father doesn’t want you. Most of them don’t.”

The squire’s face turned dark red and he looked like he was about to cry. “He’s dead, you fucking bitch.” He ground out.

There was a split second where Rylla almost stopped. Where she almost swallowed her pride and apologized for what she’d said. Almost. But youth and vainglory where her bane, just as much as a boy, whose heart was still broken with grief.

“Ah, well, you should rejoice. No doubt he’s sowing bastards with your mother in the seven hells, you’ll have a whole family waiting for you.”

“You fucking-” He was so infuriated, he could barely draw breath, yet alone curse at her. His insult turned into an animal-like growl and he swung clumsily at her, any training he might have had forgotten in his fury.

Rylla turned past the blow, seized his outstretched wrist, took his dagger from his belt and slammed the pommel into his jaw with a speed like a striking snake. The squire staggered back, Rylla followed him to the ground, her knee against his upper arm. She threw her weight into the joint and drew back. There was a wet crunch and the boy howled in agony, before Rylla brought the pommel of the dagger down on his face. The screams faded into sobs and then wet moans of pain as he desperately crawled.

Some part of her cried out with the squire she was systematically beating, some part of her begged for a halt to the madness. But a red sheet had fallen over her mind and her eyes. All she really wanted was for the piece of meat beneath her to die. Father had said there were stories of such warriors, the old legions of Ghis had called such people the Killer of Men. Warriors so filled with cold rage, that they would rend and tear until their last breath. In that moment, she had some dim, animal understanding of what it meant to be such a person.

In the end, two heavily muscled Dothraki warriors managed to pull her off the brutally beaten boy. The two pages had fled in terror and their master, a knight clad in the same crimson and white as his charge, came running up, his sword drawn.
The knight, man near Father’s height and build drew his sword and leveled it at her. The Dothraki drew their own curved blades and the other soldiers that had come running up, followed suit. Rylla, released from the grip of her Father’s men, readied the dagger she’d taken and spat into the dust.

“Seven Hells, girl, what have you done to my nephew!” The knight roared.

Even then, perhaps the right words might have at least quelled the situation for a moment. But Rylla’s pulse was hammering in her ears and her pride burned as hot as the black rage that led to her beat a fatherless boy into a quivering pulp.

“I taught a whoreson some manners . . . milord.” She said with drawn out insolence.

Even the Dothraki around her paused and her gave an unreadable look. Rylla knew she was wrong but she still wouldn’t back down. Even when Martella came running up and the look of horror on her mother’s face was almost more than she could bear.

The knight screamed a curse and took a step forward. If another heartbeat had passed, the whole camp might have fallen into bloodshed, westerosi against sellsword, with carrion as the only real victors.

It was then that Garin arrived.

He took in the scene with one glance and the look he gave Rylla was . . . she wasn’t sure exactly what she saw. True, life in a mercenary camp was not a kind one, but there were rules still. Unwritten ones, most often, but even the Dothraki had certain strictures. In Garin’s eyes there was something like shock, maybe even regret? Guilt? Whatever played across her Father’s face, it was gone in a flash. But it was still just as hard to bear as the shock and sadness in Mother’s eyes.

“What the fuck happened?” Father said. Though he was the only man there who hadn’t drawn his blade, somehow he seemed more dangerous than anyone there. At his motion, a few pages made their way forward and swiftly bore the wounded squire away towards the nearest healer.

Rylla attempted to explain, her thoughts came pouring out in an incoherent, stuttering jumble. No matter how hard she tried to justify it, somehow it just to make things worse and at last she shrank away, turning from Garin’s implacable gaze.

“I . . . see.” He said, turning to the enraged knight.

“Ser, I fear this is the product of a misunderstanding, if you will accompany me to my tent, perhaps we can address the matter.”

The young knight, still flushed with anger, shook his head jerkily. “I will not parley with some Essosi. My honor is slighted, I will have satisfaction, one way or the other.” He growled.

The knight drew a deerskin glove from his belt and threw onto the bloody dust.

Garin sighed, ran a hand through his hair and then picked it up. “I accept your challenge, will the morrow suffice, Ser?” He said with all the formal courtesy of a highborn.

The knight nodded jerkily, spun on his heel and stalked towards the tent where his nephew had been carried.

Garin pointed back to his own tent and Rylla walked there, feeling like a puppet with its strings cut. Her heart was racing, her stomach churning and her hands had started to shake. Not a word was spoken between her, Father or Mother on what seemed like an eternity. Father pointed to a chair and she sat in silence. Martella stepped out behind the tent and Father joined. Whatever was said was spoken so quietly she could barely hear, but it was said with increasing heat until Mother stormed out of the tent, her eyes brimming with tears of rage.

Garin stepped back inside a moment later and sat heavily behind his desk with a sigh of frustration. The silence grew ever tenser between father and daughter, until, looking much older, the captain turned to his child and regarded her with something like pity.

“Why?”

“Because he said that I-”

He cut her off with a wave of his hand. “No, why did you really?”

Rylla suddenly felt much older and as weary as her parents both looked. She looked down at the dried blood on her hands.

“Because he made me angry, I didn’t like him and I wanted him to pay.” She said, just barely above a whisper.

“Oh, little one.” He said.

Somehow the unexpected compassion was even worse than his anger.

At last, he stood and knelt before her, his hand on her shoulder. “I know you’ve seen how men treat each other, especially among sellswords.

“But I have taught you to do and be better, have I not?”

She nodded slowly, afraid to speak, but then, “Father, you said justice sleeps in your scabbard.”

Garin:


Garin looked hard at his child and then shook his head, cursing himself for a fool.

“Aye, I have said that.” He sat again, wanting nothing than to just ride off and let this be someone else’s problem.

“Look at me, girl.” He said with all the kindness he could find within himself.

Rylla slowly looked up, her eyes full of shame and fear.

“It is true, I have said such things. But know I don’t blame you for this. I am your father, I have taught my child to be a killer, but I haven’t taught you anything else, apparently.

“Rylla, you can be a knight and a great name, but you can do so without being a monster. I have killed because I had little choice and I have killed because it fed you and your mother. But you are no common street thug, you have a noble’s blood and so certain things are expected of us.”

“But I am a Sand.” She said and it felt as though someone had just rammed a dagger through his heart.

He paused, trying to find some way of reaching her. The sweet, innocent creature Martella had blessed him with had become ever harder for him to understand and now he was reaping the reward for it.

“Do you understand?” He said.

She paused and then slowly shook her head.

He sighed. “Rylla, if you kill whenever you wish, men will fear you, but that’s all. That’s all you’ll ever be. Just another creature whose soul is dead and who has nothing in their future but damnation.

“You can put fathers and sons in the grave your whole life, like someone did for that boy, but there’s no shortage of men who can do that.
Or, you can be the reason sons don’t have to grow up without their fathers.”

She nodded slowly and reached out tentatively for a hug. Garin held her taught and rocked her back and forth while she shook with silent sobs.

“Your mother will be back in a bit, I’ve posted guards around the tent. I’m going to and meet with the Lord Commander.”

He left Rylla holding Myrna and swung into the saddle of his riding horse weaving his way through the tents with practiced ease. His escort, five horse archers, followed in silence. For which he was grateful. He was due to meet with his employer soon, but he hadn’t planned on having to explain the entire disaster that had just unfolded. Well, perhaps she could talk the enraged knight down from the challenge he’d issued. Though Garin had little hope of that. In truth, if it had been him, he would have done much the same.
His mind racing, Garin rode towards Lady Vittoria’s tent and tried to think of how he’d explain what happened. His horse and the gold belt around his waist meant that few questioned or stood in his way. Lady Vittoria’s mercenaries passed through the gate often enough that the town’s defenders rarely did anything more than a cursory check.

As the shadows lengthened and the light of the setting sun turned brilliant gold, Garin wove his way down the narrow cobblestones, until he came to the inn. He swung down from the saddle, and left three men to hold the horses. This part of Oldtown seemed safe enough, but it didn’t do to take chances. Moreover, there was no shortage of men in livery holding the reins of their own masters’ steeds.
Gritting his teeth and cursing the entire day, Garin strode into the candlelit confines of the inn, his guard right behind him and swore bitterly under his breath. Though the inn’s great dining hall was somewhat dim, he was certain he could see the Lord Commander at the head of a great oak table, clad in fine green . . . surrounded by scores of lords and knights.

He wove his way through the bustling crowd, the light, music and smell of roasting pig and spice lost on his troubled mind. At last he came to the table and bowed slightly, hoping that perhaps Lady Vittoria had a moment. She had to have already known what happened, but perhaps he could get a moment to cast things in the best light possible. Though at this point, the best light seemed to be that no one had been killed outright. Well . . . if that boy survived the night.

Vittoria Tyrell 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. Her face framed in small braids of her auburn hair, while the rest had been carefully brushed out and left to fall down her shoulders and upper back.
She looked ready for a night of noble society, and yet when Captain Garin appeared, with that look on his face…there was little more than concern and confusion left on a face that had moments before been smiling and laughing. His reservation caused her to stand, and motion for him to follow. In a beat of her heart, the smile was back, as she looked to the others at the table, and waved. “I’m not sure if I’ll return tonight or tomorrow from the Hightower, don’t get too rowdy without me.”

To Garin, she simply said, softly, “Follow me.”

One of the pages had her palfrey brushed and waiting her outside the stables of the inn, at the corner of the street and the alley behind it. He handed her riding gloves, and she began to put them on, slowly, thanking the page and telling him to go in for the night. It was only after he was out of earshot that she spoke again. “What happened, Garin?”

Garin bit back a sigh. Well, there was no point in trying to insult her intelligence. Still, it was best to phrase such things as carefully as one could under the circumstances. But nothing came to mind. Perhaps honesty was the best answer.

With a mental shrug he pressed on. “Lord Commander . . . a knight in one of your men’s retinues, crimson stripes on a white field, he has issued a challenge. My daughter- my daughter beat his squire into a quivering pulp. I have accepted.”

Well, Westeros had been nice enough to revisit. Garin supposed he could return back to Essos and see if he couldn’t find another war there. There was bound to be someone willing to pay to see others dead.

“Why did she do that?”

Garin sighed aloud this time and ran a hand through his dark hair. “She . . . well, Lord Commander, she didn’t like something he said. So she got him mad enough to take a swing at her.

“Once he gave her an excuse, she beat him like a drum. Because she didn’t like him and she wanted to, was what she told me.”

Vittoria looked away, to the palfrey, silent. It was a long moment of her gloved right-hand petting on the palfrey’s neck before she finally broke her silence, “Imagine, Captain, if I took every excuse to exercise my prowess and ability to the detriment of those lesser than myself?” Then, suddenly, Vittoria Tyrell looked right at Garin, still smiling. “And while you cannot know, imagine how gratifying that would be as a woman? To not live under a different set of rules, spoken and unspoken?”

Finally, the smile seemed to fade from her face, as her lips pressed together and a sigh filtered out through flared nostrils, “Such a break of discipline in my camp…would that I could ignore Lord Manfred and the High Septon to see to this all myself. Tell Lord Tarly, I want to know the condition of the squire. Tell our Maesters if we can move him, to take him to the Citadel. If we cannot, tell them to ask the Conclave to bring the Citadel to him, that I would consider it a personal favor…your poor wife.” This sigh came deeper, and lasted longer, as her brown eyes drifted back to the horse.

“I will visit your family. Your daughter isn’t under my employ, but she wielded weapons in my camp, therefore she is subject to my justice. A warrior without discipline is a danger to all, like a Valyrian steel blade in the hands of a man who can’t properly wield it. Tell Tarly to post guards. They are to keep her under arrest at home, but in truth, between Tarly, you, and I…they are for the protection of your family. He will know the Knights to pick for such duty. Do these things and then go home, Garin. I cannot stop a duel of this nature, but I can try to keep it from descending to madness. To your wife, tell her…I’m sorry I allowed this to happen in my camp. To you? I would ask, if you are victorious, that you show mercy. And I would ask we all pray that this squire lives.”

Vittoria Tyrell finished her thoughts to her Captain as simply as possible, saying sadly, “Go away, now, Garin.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by SunsetWanderer
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SunsetWanderer woke moralist

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Casterly Rock
The Seat of House Lannister






Casterly Rock loomed before them, an answer to their prayers, something to give the princess hope. It had been hell, several times over, and the young Targaryen had no time to make sense of it. Her time on the road since Oxcross had seen her sob uncontrollably then shift into stony, vacant stares. Alayne and Samantha had suffered minimal injuries, physically at least. Out of the trio of women, Rhaena had suffered the most, the side of her face was bruised horribly and it seemed likely her arm was broken. Large bruises had formed across her chest and torso. She winced whenever she moved.

Rhaena could not recall the events, or at least, struggled to recall them in order. There were flashes that would overtake her, freezing her in place or waking her when sleep briefly visited her. Aegon, unmoving before her. When Lannister men had arrived she had wailed, mistaking them for Warrior's Sons and not their saviors. A knight, blood splatter on his armor and face, had gingerly lifted Aegon before a maester had begged them not to. It was hours before they left the battle torn road, only once the maester was certain the heir to the iron throne was stable enough. Most of the Poor Fellows who attacked them were dead. Some had managed to flee. Others were corralled into a prison line to be escorted back to the Rock for judgment. Rhaena had screamed for them to be burned alive, forgetting that Dreamfyre was not with her. Her voice remained hoarse and rough.

The prince was unrecognizable. The maester kept him sedated with copious amounts of milk of the poppy, necessary, he explained, to keep the young man still for the remainder of their journey. Aegon's face was swollen, even if he had awakened Rhaena wouldn't have been able to tell. He was bruised and bloodied, his skin battered with angry purple splotches and red gashes. Worse was the giant gash along his side. It wept, no matter how the maester tried to bandage it. They all tried to hide their concern from the princess but even she knew enough to know an infected wound was a grave danger to any man. She feared for the worst and cursed her father's name for leaving them defenseless.

Had their escort arrived any later, surely they would all be dead. Ser Robin's relief was palpable. To lose the heir under his protection would have driven the man to suicide. More than luck had been on their side by the way the men talked of how they had been dispatched towards the village.



Ser Olyvar Estren had been afforded comfortable lodgings within Casterly Rock. Not large and with only spartan decoration but for him, it was enough. It was early morning still, with streaks of sunlight only just starting to pierce through the solitary window - the birds beginning to sing their early songs. After a quick splash of water to his face, he gave himself a once-over in the cracked mirror. Between his sharp jawline, straight-nose and dirty blonde hair, he cut a handsome enough figure - even if he gave pitifully little attention to his appearance. Good enough, he figured. Olyvar grabbed for the studded leather doublet, the same he’d had for at least five winters now, and tied the sheath that held his longsword about his waist. He was ready to face the day.

Winding his way through the many corridors and halls of stone within Casterly Rock, he took his time to reach the great hall. He liked where his room was - just beside the servants' lodgings. Here, where the Rock still felt like the Rock, like it was when he was a child. Before they returned from Essos. He had sworn his blade to Loreon Lannister on his sixteenth nameday, and been with him ever since - including throughout all the travels of Essos. They had seen wonderful and terrible things together, undertaken feats worthy of song and seen half the world. Truly, he loved Loreon as his own brother - and that was precisely why he worried for him, more than most.

As he neared the great hall, the thick smell of fragrant spiceflower and sandbeggar oak began to fill his nostrils. Exotic incense candles were burned day and night, both to remind Lord Loreon of his days across the narrow sea and, perhaps more importantly, to cleanse the smells of the night's activities. Drawing closer, the scent of incense was joined by the sight of men and women laying on makeshift beds from large, velvet and silk pillows. They were laid about the hallways wherever they could find comfortable space - some warming near fireplaces, some laying in the arms of whomever their companion at that time happened to be, and others only starting to recover the litres of wine consumed the night before. ‘A Lyseni whorehouse’, the Castellan of the Rock had decried it - though, there was far more than just Lyseni. Olyvar wagered those from every corner of Essos now called the Rock home.

Finally reaching the great hall, he pushed open the great doors of dark oak. The doors that were intricately detailed, enamelled with gold and jewels - while carvings in the wood depicted the great lions of lannister, proud images of Casterly Rock and the stories of Lann the Clever. The scene within hardly matched those ancient, proud doors.

Servants scrubbed furiously at stains of wine on the stone floors and dornish carpets, yet naked men and women lay about the tables - many in the arms of one another. Where some were clothed, they wore translucent, silk robes that clung to their bodies and accentuated their figures. The ancient portraiture and artworks of House Lannister that proudly adorned the walls for generations had been long taken down, replaced by maps of the continent beyond the narrow sea and foreign artworks. Plates of armor were thrown about the ground from a display by the resident mummer troupe. The stinging fragrance of incense, sweat and wine smothered him. Yet despite this chaos, there was one notable absence that Ser Olyvar immediately picked out - Lord Lannister. His eyes picked out an olive-skinned man with hair of ocean blue, with golden robes and similarly golden jewellery adorning his face. This was Xhondo, a beast tamer from Tyrosh and friend of their Lord, there was no doubt.

“Xhondo. Our Lord Lannister - have you seen him?”, he asked on his approach. Xhondo’s eyes were glazed with the relaxing effects from the milk of the poppy.

“The lion… has left for his quarters.”, he managed to answer - barely, but it was enough.

With a curt nod of thanks, Ser Olyvar made his way over the piles of cushions and intertwined flesh to the more peaceful quarters of Loreon Lannister, the Lord Paramount of the Westerlands. Two guards were posted outside the open door, giving a nod of recognition to Ser Olyvar as he approached.

“What do you think, is too much?”, a smooth, masculine voice from within echoed. “I want to suggest divine without actually wearing it.”

“No. The gold will be louder in the light.”, came the reply in the purring, softly spoken tones that could belong only to Kinvara, the lover of Loreon Lannister. The pair had met in Pentos, not even a year into Loreon’s great expedition. If Olyvar remembered proper, she was from a once-wealthy mercantile family that fell destitute through some scandal or other. He had always been suspicious of her intentions to begin, and to an extent remained so - but even he had to admit, their love seemed as true as any.

Entering the scene, Loreon Lannister was in the process of trying outfits for his ‘Golden Triumph’ soon to be held in Lannisport - a lavish display of Brightroar, and other treasures and riches brought back from across the narrow sea. It had been near a year in planning, and was finally set to begin in the coming days. For Loreon himself, even with the dark eyeshadow and tattoos across his hands - he still looked every bit a Lannister. Perfectly pale skin that glistened in the light, straight hair of true gold that fell to just below his shoulders, and a lean, athletic build. He looked more like a statue, or portrait, than a true man. As for Kinvara - she was perhaps one of the few that matched his beauty. Warm, hazel eyes were complimented by tanned, freckled skin - her petite form covered with an unusually modest dress of pure white, cut short at the ankles and with the arms exposed.

“Olvyar”, Loreon turned to his sworn sword with a familial smile. “What do you think?” He wore a suit of entirely golden armor, with the faces of roaring lions as shoulder plates. A slim white cloak was bundled loosely over his shoulders, falling behind his back - it had a delicate, golden trim. The sworn sword could only give a huff of amusement in response as he folded his arms across his chest, relaxing against the doorway.

“Something amuses you?”, the smile on Loreon’s lips faded, though his tone remained good-natured. His attention darted occasionally to one of the myriad servants fussing over his outfit. Everything had to be perfect.

“It is amusing, isn’t it?”, Olyvar brought his hands from his chest to open his palms, gesturing at the wider room. “All of this.”, a nod then to the balcony that overlooked Lannisport below. “Dressing up for them, parading about the streets, playing at being a God.” The whole idea of a ‘Golden Triumph’ had seemed unnecessary to Ser Olyvar from the start.

“Playing?”, the usually light-natured tone from Loreon fell then, as did the shadow of a smile still left in the corners of his lips. “I’m not playing. This is not a game.” There was no hint of jest in his words as he took a few steps toward the knight, his emerald green eyes locked intently with those of his sworn sword. Olyvar waited, expecting his lord to burst into laughter - but it did not come. He bowed his head in reply, “As you wish.” Could his lord truly believe the words he spoke? Olyvar hoped not, and concern flashed across his eyes.

Loreon seemed content at that, the tension immediately breaking as he spun around on his heel, throwing off the white cloak. “Something with more gold - and have the banners now been laid out in the streets? They hadn’t last night.” One of the many servants confirmed they had, and the discussion carried on. Loreon, whilst few could call him the most attentive lord, did have a tendency to fixate over the minor details of something he cared for, and he cared for the Golden Triumph. Almost more than anything.

Ser Olyvar took a breath, and moved away from the door to the dressing room to join the two guardsmen outside. His day had begun.



The world had been dark when Lorelai Lannister rose and left the Rock. The streets were quiet pre-dawn, near empty as Lorelai and her escort moved. Sometimes their trip took a short time, sometimes a longer time. Rarely was Lorelai’s route the same from one day to the next. That would have been an error in judgment and security. Wes was no Knight; he was a killer. The man was tall, ribboned in muscle, with lighter skin that got dark, fast, with too much sun. He was excellent at his job exactly because of his former profession of assassin across Essos and the eastern coast of Westeros. He had come to the shore of the Sunset Sea to disappear. Her whisperers had discovered him, and she had offered him a role.

To her surprise, he took it. In the four years since, he had become one of the precious few she trusted. Even if the Rock was filled with famed fighters, she knew Wes could hold his own with any of them. She had seen the men fight, or rather, she had seen a blur and then heard the bodies hit the ground. She accused him of blood magic, and he had laughed at her. This morning, his dark eyes were at every window, at every roof, at every corner. But, as most mornings, nothing was there.

Lannisport had decided Lorelai Lannister was one of their favorites. Even her whisperers admitted as much; there was rarely a bad word said about her from anyone. The worse it got, she was told, was one of the pot shops at the southern side of the city, run by women who looked to gossip. And, according to the report, Lorelai wasn’t alone. Any pretty, younger woman was a potential target. Honestly, at her age, Lorelai could understand. And it was nothing even half as bad as her own mother had said about other women.

She spent a few hours at the docks and the Admiralty House. She checked barrels and chests, double-checking the rolls made by the overnight dock master. Between the dock-master and storeroom, there were a few hands with access. Yet it had been over two years since they caught Young Irv stealing from a chest that had a bad lock. Nothing, and no one, had done anything of the sort since. There were easier opportunities for men like Irv to skim in other storehouses in the city. Lorelai had garnered a certain reputation.

She stayed just long enough for the pre-dawn meet between captains setting sail. A few trips to Oldtown, a few to King’s Landing, one to Braavos, and five to the Arbor. “Five?” She had asked, not sure she heard the number right. Everyone turned to the back of the room—it was rare Lorelai said anything at the meetings. Let alone ask a question.

“Wine demands from the Rock.”

Rarely was she called Lady or M’Lady in the Admiralty House. She was Lor, or Lorelai, or if strangers were around, Lady Lorelai. The captains liked their nicknames and informality in the Admiralty House; outside of it they were captains, with all the pretense and discipline that required to do correctly and not suffer fools, the greedy, or greedy fools. Inside, they were just a group of men who had been too long to sea, comparing their days at sea, jealous of those spending more than a week home in Lannisport.

She stopped at the North Silver Street Counting House on the way back to the Rock from the docks. The cool darkness of pre-dawn spring was exaggerated by chilly winds as the windy season drew its breath onto Lannisport for the past month. Somehow, it did little to affect the fog, which seemed ever present at the docks but by the time she was all the way to North Silver Street, the sun had started it’s dawn, and the streets had taken a pink glow to them, burning the fog away from the cobblestones and the building filed neatly up and down the city. She did little at the Counting House but take messages and speak to Darwyn. He muttered under his breath about something, and she wished him a fair morning…to which he chuckled, bitterly. His apprentice, Heath, was half his age and had left the Citadel to tend to a sick mother who died a year ago. Lorelai had been at the funeral, Heath had never forgotten it. ‘My mum,’ he had said, with pride, ‘a real Lady of the Rock came to pay respects. I’ll tell my kids of that, they’ll tell their kids of that.’ She gently reminded him he needed to HAVE a wife, and HAVE children first. He simply sighed at the reminder.

This morning, however, she had something special for him. “This,” she said, sliding a badly drawn black bird with three eyes onto his small desk in the corner. “Ringing any of your bells?”

His face was twisted in puzzlement. Finally, his head shook, “I’m sorry, Lady Lorelai, but no. Would you like me to dig around for you?”

“Please, send it to the Citadel if you have to. Anything you spend on riders I’ll repay, so don’t be shy about it.” That seemed to perk him up. She was nearly to the door by the time she saw the shadow pass in front of it. Just a casual walk across the door of the Counting House…that had half a dozen guards around it and Wes outside, plus the other five of her escort. That meant one thing: a shadow of a whisperer. When she stepped outside and closed the door behind her, Eustace was there, a tall and boney man with a middling merchant’s garb. He dressed differently every day. She’d even seen him in purples and laces and gold-cloth, once. His hair was uncut, puffed out, gray and white, his pronounced chin sticking out even further than normal.

He had beady, mean eyes, but he had never been anything but true with her. “Good morning, fair Lady.” He said with a stiff bow of his head, and handed her the small roll of parchment with such a smooth quickness and precision, you would’ve missed it if you blinked. She read it as she was helped onto the horse, nodding to Wes, who had been staring at her. “Fast. Let’s go.”

It was near mid-morning by the time she returned through the Lower Gatehouse that led to the streets of Lannisport. It took her and Wes some quick walking and a quick stop in the lower level in which she had the Maesters stored for the night to let them sleep, telling the guards to gently wake them, before heading up.

“Ser Olyvar,” she greeted the man as she passed, a honeyed tone, walking to the middle of the room and leaving the scent of lavender and rose water in her wake. Loreon got a bright, but less warm, tone. Or maybe it was the words, less than the tone: “The heir to the Iron Throne is either seriously wounded or dying after a confrontation with the Poor Fellow near Crakehall. I dispatched a sizable escort to retrieve them, and they near. I had every Maester within a reasonable ride come here overnight. Most are here and being awoken now. Some are still arriving, our own Maester has been alerted and his quarters are prepared to receive the Prince.”

She paused, before thinking to add: “His name is Aegon. Princess Rhaena, his intended, and some of her ladies are coming as well. I’ve had rooms set up for all of them near my own.” That was noteworthy, as no one from Loreon’s guests were housed near her. The entire floor was her mother and her, and a few ladies in waiting. “That’s all,” she finished, before smiling brightly to Kinarva, “Good morning,” she said with warmth, before starting out of the room as quickly as she had come in. Wes was just…there, as he always seemed to be. “Make sure my Uncle is told immediately.”



Rumors out of Casterly Rock, of the strangeness of the returned lord and the wildness he brought with him had originally excited Rhaena. She had heard of the wild beasts that now wandered the castle halls and courtyards. She had hoped to see the wild zorses, the lions, perhaps he would even have a troop of little Valyrians. Now, as they had been settled into well-appointed chambers, she cared for nothing except to see her brother. Her friend. Her arm had been set, the Maester who saw to her was pleased with it being a simple break. It pained her, but she had nearly become numb to the persistent pang in it. He had given her a small amount of milk of the poppy but she had pushed it away.

It took much begging, but at last, she was led to where they had placed Aegon. The room was large, and though they burned herbs, the smell of sickness was already present,permeating the air. Maesters seemed to fill the room, some stopped and stared as she made her way towards the bed. They bowed their heads in respect before returning to their trays of metal instruments, of poultices, of stark white bandages. He looked so small.

His chest rose and fell slowly, the movement barely perceptible. She felt a hand on the shoulder of her broken arm, fingers wound through her good hand. Samantha and Alayne had been sent to her. They said nothing, but their presence gave her enough strength to not drop to her knees with silent sobs. The young woman’s face, marred but the bruises yellowing now, crinkled up in grief. No noise escaped, her tears had long since run dry. Her head dropped, Samantha’s hand moved to rub her back softly, reassuringly.

After several minutes of unmoving silence, Rhaena took a few steps forward. She gave one look to the maester that was bent over the bed, inspecting the gash on the prince’s side, and then crawled into bed on the opposite. She was afraid to disturb him, afraid that even the lightest touch would pain him. And so she sat curled towards him, her broken arm cradled against her and the other outstretched, barely brushing against his silver hair.



Loreon didn’t make an effort to stop his sister as she turned to leave, having promptly delivered her information. He’d always meant to set aside time for her, but things had a habit of getting in the way - or at least, that’s what he told himself. He knew the truth was deeper than that, but he wasn’t brave enough to face it, to face the regret he still felt for leaving her when he left for Essos. They were so close, once, and in many ways still were - but it was different, he was different. There was so much he needed to say to her. One day, he’d find the courage. But not today.

The following hour went in a flash as advisers made their way to him, giving constant updates and offering input whether it was asked for or not. It was in these moments he found himself most overwhelmed. Now, he was striding at pace through the halls, making his way to the maester’s quarters in which the royal siblings were held. He hadn’t been there to meet them at the gate, consciously staying clear to let the assembled maesters work. It was only as he neared the room that he realised he still donned his ceremonial plate.

“Erwin”, he addressed his Captain of the Guard as they walked. Ser Erwin Vikary was headed toward the unkind side of his forties, and still bore the scars of his battles with the forces of Harren the Red. “Dispatch my cousin Cerion with fifty men to Oxcross. I want the wretches involved on gallows.” The veteran only grunted in agreement. “And send word to the watch. I want the guard doubled for as long as the prince and princess are here.” Word would spread of the royals arrival quickly throughout Lannisport no doubt, and Loreon wanted to anticipate any unrest from the poor fellows within the city walls - and, crucially, to ensure nothing would upset his upcoming Golden Triumph. “And of those in the dungeons?” The Lannister force sent to relieve the royal party had returned with a handful of poor fellows. “Oh. Have the-“

Loreon was silenced by the sight that greeted him within the maester’s quarters. The prince, Aegon, lay still - his skin a deathly pale. The sheets below his body were stained a dark red, and a bucket of bloodied bandages sat near him. The heavy smell of blood hung in the room. But it was not this that shocked him - no, he had witnessed death before. It was the princess, lay beside him stroking his hair. He imagined if she were Kinvara, and Aegon him. “…hells.”, he whispered in the doorway.

“Seven, to be exact,” she added, as she appeared from behind her brother as casually as his own shadow might have, her slender body in crimson silk taking up the other side of the open doorway. “Those primarily responsible will not be caught by the men you sent—I fear they’re already on their way to King’s Landing.”

Her voice was lower, slower, the warmth of her heart evident by the pain she wore as she watched the two dragon siblings suffer. Her green eyes stayed on the two siblings a moment longer, before shifting like shadow over gold, to her own brother, that hidden little smile he had seen so much so many years ago making a reappearance to him, now, “we have a chapter of the Warrior’s Sons here in Lannisport, though, fortunately, they are the smallest of the chapters in Westeros. The watch can manage them, but you’ll want to close most of the city gates but one or two, and allow not a single Poor Fellow or Warrior’s Son in beyond those already in the city for your parade.”

Then the ghostly smile was gone as she looked back into the room, her voice reduced to a whisper meant for him alone, “This will not end well. For them, and I fear, for you. I’m glad you’re back, I’m glad you went. I’m just sorry you came back now, to this,” she said, not just meaning what was going on inside the room before them. Fear forced her forward, to sniff a sharp breath, and lean over to him. She hugged the side of him closest to her, her face against his upper arm, took a memory of his warmth and scent, and tried to smile again.

Nothing came, but that whisper, again, “Remember, Loreon…we always had an escape plan, for every adventure.” I still do.



Time passed, though the princess had no sense for how much. Aegon's eyes did not open, he did not stir except for the occasions where his muscles twitched in response to some unseen stimuli. The learned men talked in whispers but Rhaena would not have heard them even if they screamed. She tried to pray to the Seven but images of the Poor Fellows filled her mind and her fist would clench, sending a wave of pain up her. Instead she silently called upon the ancient gods of Valyria to somehow return Aegon to her.

A hand jolted Rhaena from her silent prayers. She blinked rapidly, her eyes struggling to focus. When was the last time she had slept for longer than an hour or two? She twisted, a poor choice, to see who had laid hands on her and relaxed at seeing Alayne. "The maester wishes to speak to you…and Lord Loreon is here as well." Her companion lifted her head and nodded slightly in the direction of the door. Rhaena looked him over, younger than her father but not by much. Looking at him, she briefly wondered how many of the stories were true. But then her pain quickly reminded her it did not matter.

She sat up, Alayne helped her move off the bed, her heart threatening to rupture at leaving Aegon's side. She could not turn back to him again or she feared she would not leave the bed until her brother did. The maester bent his head and whispered briefly in her ear. He placed a consoling hand on her shoulder, but Rhaena pulled away. Her eyes glazed over at what he told her, the silver-haired princess shook her head with a tremble. Her lips parted as if to speak but nothing came out. She walked away, to meet the Lord Lannister, the maester behind her in confusion of what to do.

"Lord Loreon." It was a simple statement, not a greeting, only recognition that she knew who she stood before, who's castle she had invaded with tragedy. What could she say? A hundred demands screamed from within. One demand called to her the loudest, her ears hummed with rushing blood. Justice delivered by fire. She'd burn Oxcross, she'd burn all the villages and castles that had even sneered at them. She'd burn Casterly Rock if it would appease the gods and give Aegon a long life.

The maester's words roared back to life in her head and the demands that she wanted to shout were washed away in a wave of fresh grief. "He will die here, in a day, maybe two. There is no hope." Rhaena felt her legs beg to buckle beneath her. She turned her head up to watch the lion lord's reaction. Against the grief, against the danger and fear, she fought with every last reserve to be the dragon, not the girl.

Instinctively, the man bent a knee slightly and offered an arm to the struggling girl - for it was a girl that Loreon saw before him. Despite all tales of magical blood, the command of dragons and unrivaled power, he saw that Rhaena Targaryen was as vulnerable as any man or woman - though whether or not she’d admit that was a different matter. In his eyes at least, it endeared her. “Princess.”, he spoke softly through a sympathetic smile. “You needn’t stay up on my account, please. I only wanted to…”, his eyes drifted to the crippled Aegon lay on the bed behind her as his words fell quiet. He pursed his lips apologetically, “I am sorry for this attack, and I promise that these disgusting fanatics will be caught. Justice will come for them.”

His eyes glanced to his sister momentarily, and then back to Rhaena. “You are welcome in my halls for as long as you need - and… some of your pets will arrive soon, I’m told. I will have them brought here, if you like.” His words were earnest, if uncertain. This was yet another moment that life had not prepared him for.

She hesitated only a moment before gripping the arm offered her, her fingers gripped deeply through fabric to the muscled arm beneath. His promise was empty. What good would it do them now to care about the zealotry that had been allowed to flourish in his land. Nevermind that his men had saved her life, and that of her ladies. A sickening realization settled in that no matter her love for them, she would exchange their life for his, hers for his. If only Melyssanthi were here, there would be one who understood.

“The ones who were brought here alive. I’d burn them myself if only I had Dreamfyre. By royal decree they are not to be hanged but burned for their crimes.” She bit at her lip, stifling a sob, willing herself to composure. “And if you have any other healers, I want them brought to me now.” She broke, her voice cracked. “These worthless maesters offer only death and pain.” Anger flared in her eyes, her hand pulled at Lord Lannister’s arm as if to force him to his knees before her. “They say you have been across all of Essos and her mysteries, surely you have something.”

There was a flash of confusion in eyes of gold and emerald as the princess pulled at his arm, his brows furrowing. His footing held steady, and in that split second, the natural arrogance born in one praised daily as a hero broke through the surface. He knelt for no one. Then, as quickly as those emotions had flared, they passed. His brows relaxed, a warm and sympathetic smile tugged at the corners of his lips. Slowly, he set his other hand atop hers, and leaned forward - his words falling to little louder than a whisper. “All you have heard is true, and I… may have something for your husband, our prince.”

He hesitated as he voiced the thought. Lysara - the Red Priestess that had accompanied him to Casterly Rock - was an unpopular figure at best, and a damned heretic at worst. The Septon had insisted on her removal more than once, not to mention the protests of his uncle. Every time, Loreon had refused. He’d seen her power across the Narrow Sea, and he knew the value of her as an ally. Could she save the dying prince? She’d performed similar feats before, but he’d be lying to say he was confident of success - but as he imagined if it were Kinvara who were injured and not Aegon, he knew that he would turn to Lysara also. Who was he to deny it to the girl, desperate to save the one she loved? He understood. Even if the rest of Casterly Rock wouldn’t.

Lowering the arm that she gripped and lifting his hand from hers, he affirmed the thought. “Yes. There is something - someone - we can go to. I’ve seen her power, and she may yet save him, but we must be quick.” He turned on his heel to leave, hastily walking down the hall. “Come if you wish to, else I will return with the one we need.”

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It had been years since he last felt cold, truly cold, and even now as they lit a fire to drive away the cold he had to fight back a biting laugh. “Ha. Cold. You milk drinkers don’t know what Cold really is.” he said as he drank from his mug. “Cold, real Cold that is, drives the heat from your body the moment you step into it. It sucks the very heat from your blood, it slows you, your heart begins to struggle to pump the blood through your veins.” he said as the fire licked at the air. The yellow and red flames looking like tongues baying for food. The memory of ‘Cold’ surged within his mind.

True Cold came from the mountains, carried on the winds as the gods sought to bathe the world in Frozen White. It was a curse that claimed the lives of the weak, and the stupid, sending them to early graves where they might rise up one day to prey upon the warmblooded survivors. It was a tale told within the people, spoken to children to educate them on the dangers of the Cold. You needed to survive, and to survive you needed to be smart.

“True Cold. It will freeze your balls off.” Tytan spoke heavily, as another man chuckled. “Aye, and how do you keep your balls from freezing off then Tytan?” one of the men said as he was getting deeper into his cups leaning on the massive man, before one large hand palmed his face and sent him sprawling with a ‘light’ push. “Easy. You move. You keep moving, keep the blood flowing, keep yourself warm. Walking is Good, Fighting is better.” he said as he sipped his drink. “And Fucking is best. Not that any of you sods could get deep enough into a woman for any meaningful heat.” he let out before letting out a roar of laughter. Many a man took offense to it, barking out how they were experts in the art of pleasing a woman, insisting they had more maids than the man next to them.

“A bunch of soft meat like you, you don’t know what it means to lay with a woman. Your dogs, the lot of you.” head said while picking up a rucksack and humping it like an animal before tossing it aside and sitting back down. “Rutting without a care in the world, your only desire to get your satisfaction and be done with it. But that is what the whores are for I guess, to dip your little peckers into.” he said, holding up his pinky and wiggling it around. “But we are getting away from the point. True Cold, you wouldn’t know what True cold was until your fingers and toes turned black, having to be cut off with a hot knife before it kills you. That is what True cold is.” he said as another more sober member of the Order sighed. “Yes Yes, Tytan, we know. You're a Bastard of the North, I am sure we wouldn’t last a moment in your backwater homeland. Might die from boredom first.” he said as others chuckled and laughed. “That or a knife to the back, or a sword to the gullet, or even preyed upon by a great wolf. There are many ways to die in those lands but I will admit you lot are handy enough with a blade.” he said as the night continued on. Laughter and merriment continuing, even a song or two was had when enough of the men were drunk enough. As Tytan sat on the bench staring into the fire, reminding himself that he was no longer home, and no longer among his people. He would have to make better efforts to get along with the Kneelers.

Time whittled by, more and more men retiring for the evening or being dragged away by their less drunk brothers, or even escorting a barmaid or whore to their room for a more entertaining night. But not Tytan, he sat there, and stared into the flames before looking at the few runs he had on his armor. Each one telling him of his trip, of his choices, reminding him of what he gave up to be here. To be a true son of the First Men, and to set out upon the world.

The sky was caught between night and day, the hour so late, or so early. Even the largest, oldest, city in Westeros seemed asleep. The only movement came from the Watch stationed around their strip of Port Market Street, and they, themselves, seemed half-asleep as they stood in small groups. Throughout her youth, she knew there was life to find: the fishermen down at the ports, the bakers rising early.
But here, there was little more than darkness and the chill of Spring’s pre-dawn. Mina had only gone to bed after talking to her about Ceryse, about the Hightower, and more than anything, about Godric. To Vittoria’s big brown eyes, her younger sister’s excitement came as little surprise. The conversation with Dennet after Mina retired was short, but meaningful. She reported some of what Mina had said, and Dennet had reported some of what Godric had said.

And, together, the two shared a quiet laugh at the sweetness of the two youth. She wished him a good sleep, short as their sleep would be, if either of them were to get sleep. She was still in the thin silk gown with its lace and deep cutting neckline, the green that shined and darkened as she passed before fires. Now she found herself outside the Chandler’s home, staring up at star and sky, her ears drinking in the pure silence of the moment.

Her body begged her for bed, but her mind stubbornly refused. It replayed the words of the High Septon. The threats of Lord Oakheart and Rowan. The relief of getting to put her arms around Ceryse and tell her how sorry she was. The excitement of seeing him. The gratification that came with how his eyes looked when he saw her. And then, sighing, rubbing at the back of her neck, her body began to move on its own as she thought of Garin. His daughter. His wife. The squire. The squire would live, and seemingly recover well. If there was a miracle in the night, that would be it.

There was relief, there was rage, there was sadness, joy…there was a maelstrom of every emotion she had felt through the night, descending on her poor mind in a torrent of emotion and realization. In the face of such an onslaught, she did what she always did: she reverted to the escape of thoughts far, and safe, from the madness of emotion. She checked one inn, and found only a Knight asleep at a table and a Maester reading a book. She checked the other and found a Squire going through sword strikes and footwork. He never saw her, and she slipped out without notice.

The only other place close by was the Nameless Tavern. She rounded the corner between the street and the alley, finding the windowless building with its single door not far behind the back of the Chandler’s house. She entered with barely a noise, and found only one soul in the place, nursing a mug and a dying fire. Vittoria took up sentry beside and just behind him, her own eyes letting go into the flames as her mind wandered through the night she had just had once more.

My life began as a Lady of Highgarden, all pins and needles and prayers. It would end with swords and daggers.
It was a thought she had thought so many times before, it had become part prayer to her. A thought she never, not once, doubted the prophetic certainty of.

He lifted the mug to his lips, but he stopped when he finally felt it, the presence behind him. At first he wanted to go for one of his hidden knives, but it felt familiar. So he turned his head, the red hair parting as he gave her a look through one eye and then a soft smile. “My little Lady, little rose.” he said before inclining his head once in a nod. “What brings you out here this fair morning.” he said, as he finished his mug. Putting the cup down, he gestured to the bench where he sat and she would see there was room for her next to him. “Join me, tell me your mind.”

“…are visions and dreams not but lies, Ser? Are we really so often consistently fooled by the present that we must mystify the past?”

Her voice was like nothing the Knight had heard from her before. There was no sign of the Lord Commander, no ease of command, no righteous confidence, no hint of the High Marshall of the Reach now. Just a girl who sounded as far away as she could ever been for standing just feet from him, arms crossed over her chest, eyes a thousand yards into the fire before them.
When the voice and tone he recognized her for returned, when her eyes drifted to him, there was no comfort in it—for either of them. “Where are you from, Ser? Truly?”

He chewed on the words she gave him, where normally he would be dismissive of those digging into his past, he felt the little rose was far more than he gave her credit for. She had, at least to this point, earned a fair bit of his trust. “Visions and Dreams, should not be discarded so easily.” he stated as he looked into the flames. “They come in many forms, provided by the Gods both new and old or by drink and memory, but they always have meaning.” he said as he tapped a rune on his left gauntlet. “This means ‘Remember Yourself’ but it can hold many meanings. Remember who you are, remember where you came from, remember why you chose a path.” he said as he stood up and turned to face her. “I dream of my old home, of the frozen ice that would choke the rivers. I remember the storms that could cover entire villages and freeze a man solid standing up. That is what life was like in the North, the greatest enemy we faced was not man but nature and the gods. I chose a path that led me away from all that, and brought me down here beyond the wall.” he said to her.

“I am Thenn, one of the Free Folk but your kind called us Wildlings. Barbarians. Savages. We of the Thenn however were the only ones that participated in Trade with you Southerners, we gave you wares and goods only found in the True North and you provided furs and foods and various other things.” he said as he revealed himself to her. “I have fought at your side, and I know you to be a logical and strong willed woman. You decide for yourself, you make the choice. Be your Dreams or Visions that trouble you, have heart little Rose, and decide what you think is best.” he said as he looked into the fire. “If the fire shows you things, they have meaning, but don’t be consumed by it. Decide your own fate.”
Lady Vittoria of House Tyrell…just stared in silence at the man. She never moved to respond, she never came close to cutting in; she just let him talk. When he motioned to the runes of his armor, she didn’t look. She didn’t have to; she could have sketched them out on parchment from memory. Her mind hoarded details like Maesters hoarded books. But the man, himself? This was cut from a different sort of cloth.

Vittoria liked to think she could read men, but the truth was far less certain. She could, usually, gain a reading. Sometimes the narrative she crafted was accurate, usually it was close enough, but sometimes? Sometimes she felt as if she were blind to the obvious, or too trusting of those from her past. I’m still angry at the High Septon. At Oakheart. At Rowan. She thought she should be, on some level, angry at the deception of the man before her when they met. He took vows.
…yet, something inside Vittoria told her that this man, this Wildling, would hold truer to a vow taken compared to nearly any man of the Reach. It was enough. In the end, her only response was, “This will not end well, Ser. We are between the Faith and the Crown, and neither side trusts us…I hope it even matters, at all. Any of it.”

She said, sniffing, her eyes dropping down to the ground as her crossed arms seemed to hug herself all the more.
He looked at her, before he felt himself moving, his hand coming out to be placed on her shoulder in a small measure of comfort. He knew she was strong, she was like steel when she needed to be. “I knew my presence in this land would draw the wrong eyes, aye. It is why I decided to tell my tale as I did, because I did not want to encourage any men to cut me open from groin to neck and make me hold my guts.” he said with a laugh. “Do understand little one, I did not hide myself out of spite, but for the need to survive so that I could experience this world. And does it matter where I am from truly? What about what kind of man I choose to be? Am I not a Knight of your own laws? Did I ever stop being that man simply because my land of Origin is a bit further North?” he said as he raised an eyebrow at her. “I will still eviscerate a man the same, whether I am from Beyond the Wall or beneath it, all at your command my little lady.” he said as he sat back down.

“The only trust I need is yours, damned be anyone else. It is only your friends and those you love that matter. Hold onto those, because they are all you have.” he said as he tossed a log into the fire, watching the embers kick up and burn away.

Vittoria blinked. Some of her men had complained of the man before. How he talked to them. How he boasted. But, mostly, how he talked to her. She had decided long ago it didn’t matter. Tytan knew how to communicate with her. How he talked to her around a campfire was different than how he talked to her on a field, armored and ahorse, true enough, but he proved his ability and his loyalty.
The benefit of the doubt was won, as far as she had been concerned. “If I didn’t understand, Ser, we wouldn’t still be talking.” Though the tone was firm as the High Marshall often sounded, the words, themselves, were soft as the silk hugging Vittoria’s body. “Be ready. I fear this place is not as welcoming to us as it would have been years ago. The realm is lost in a madness, and I won’t let us be swallowed up by it. And…get some sleep, Tytan. You will need it to be at your best for all that ‘eviscerating’, you know.”

Her brows flickered like the flame before them, a gentle tease for the giant man, and a layered amusement, as they could both be certain that Vittoria Tyrell wouldn’t possibly allow herself the recuperative rest she insisted her own men took.
He stood up and walked towards her, patting her back once heartily. “Of course, I will be fine but I can see that you need some sleep as well little Rose. How about this, you get some rest, and then you can bark at us full of vigor tomorrow. I feel the men might need it after how deep into their cups they swam, it will be amusing to see them fighting off the herd of mammoths that shall be stampeding in their skulls.” he said with a grin that looked almost shark like. He enjoyed seeing the suffering of the men, it was character building to have such a thing.

Despite the joviality of his tone, he took her words very seriously, because it was one thing for a normal person to feel ill at ease. But when his Little Lady felt it, she was typically always right, there would be something happening and he would make sure to keep the Brass Axes sharp just in case he had to send some poor stupid fools to the Warrior early. “Where will you be resting Milady, just to put my mind at ease. After all a proper nights rest for my little lady is very important. A rose does not shine its best out of a proper garden.” he teased before he spotted a couch, and decided to lay down upon it and stare into the ceiling. He had no desire to return to the room he shared with another, because he knew it would reek of vomit and cheap women and given his propensity for the ‘fairer and more firm’ of women, he had no desire to see a man in rut with a lesser one. He blamed his lady, for raising his ‘standards’ as the men called them.

There was something about a strong willed woman, that made him hope to find one on the night the Red Wanderer met the Moonmaid.
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Cast: Ser Ryam Redwyne - @Apoalo / Lord Hespaerys Rahl - @Almalthia / Princess Ceryse Targaryen nee Hightower - @Vanq / Lord Davos Baratheon - @Ezekiel / Lady Mina Tyrell @Espada Emi

Arriving to Battle Island was a glow of purples and pinks and oranges as sunset turned to twilight over the Whispering Sound that led to the Sunset Sea. They took the ferry, as the vaults weren’t something she wanted to risk, dark and dank as they were, let alone as utterly unknown as they had become unless you spent part of your childhood trespassing and sneaking around the ancient base of the Hightower.

The halls of the Hightower were alive with music and a bloom of spring flowers every direction she looked, a mask for an otherwise drab and dreary series of corridors of solid black stone. Tapestries hung, candelabras were everywhere you looked, yet the base of the Hightower was always just going to be the base of the Hightower. Impressive, ageless, but not beautiful. Especially when you grew up in Highgarden, or the Arbor.

Mina asked questions about the ancient fortress, and Vittoria answered what she knew, or what she was willing to share with her younger sister. Most of the men, young and old, seemed dressed in doublets and breeches of various shades, materials, and liveries. Some spared themselves the doublet and went straight for the tunic. Most of them wore various jewels, and too many rings on too many fingers. Vittoria had a necklace of golden roses, and a ring with the symbol of the Order’s Golden Rose, her sleeveless gown of thinly cut rich green silk with the kind of neckline that seemed to plunge down her chest to a nearly Myrish degree of cleavage, decency allowed her only in the golden lace from the bodice styled with as roses to the top of her breasts, and no higher.

The dress was certainly Princess Ceryse’s selection, though undoubtedly with a prodding from Lord Manfred. Rarely had Vittoria ever felt more ‘on display’ than she did this evening; worse came from their entrance and the realization there were few other Ladies present, and very few even close to her age, or younger. Lord Martyn, Lord Manfred’s eldest and heir, nearly ten years her senior, was the first to greet her. She hugged him easily, feeling him more an elder brother than her own.

Yet the way his eyes drank her in, the way his hands held her own after their embrace…she had never noticed his eyes look at her like that before. “You look like a maiden of song and story, Vittoria.” She smiled as much as she could, and quickly pivoted to introduce him to Mina. Yet he seemed little interested in Mina, and despite a polite greeting, kept his eyes on Vittoria. At least, her chest. “Save me a dance. Perhaps a union of Hightower and Tyrell would finally solidify House Tyrell.”

She promised, trying not bite her own lip off as she walked further down the corridors of well lit black stone with her sister, her cousin Ser Ryam close behind. When they reached the High Hall of the Hightower, Vittoria could smell the food, of which her dress would allow her to eat very little, and the music, which was at least high in tempo and played by younger minstrels. Lord Manfred looked too pleased with himself when he greeted Mina and herself. Past him, Vittoria saw mostly those in attendance were Lords, and their heirs. Some were even her own Knights, or men she had commanded before, and in no particular order:

Oakheart, Bulwer, Florent, Ambrose, Fossoway, Hunt, Peake, Ashford, Rowan, Crane, Beesbury, Appleton, and more. “Nearly every major bannerhouse of the Reach,” was all Vittoria remarked to Mina as walked in after their greeting from Lord Manfred. Other lower houses were present as well, from Wythers to Bridges to Oldflowers to Redding and more—the gathering was as political as it was focused on her.

At that, at least, she could be grateful. She spotted the High Septon in the far corner, Lords Rowan and Oakheart speaking to him. Lord Rodden complimented her appearance, and joked of his three sons by his late wife. In a short conversation, he said ‘late wife’ at least thrice, before complimenting her again on her appearance. Especially, he said, her ‘excellent hips.’

“As many sons as I have, Lady Vittoria, I know when a Lady has hips meant to bear heirs when I see them.” He grinned, toasting her. Vittoria managed to laugh and smile, even as Mina looked pale, and sick, and begged Lord Rodden’s pardon as she was famished, and didn’t want to risk the tables without her sister.

Vittoria thanked her younger sister, quietly.

Lord Meadows spent a long drone of a conversation about his smallfolk and their drilling for combat, asking what she thought about this knight and that, and if she would change their training at all. Only towards the end did he finish his strong red wine, let his eyes look her up and down, and comment, “Nice dress.”

“I want to die,” was all Vittoria admitted to Mina once they were out of ear shot from the man. Mina laughed, even as she agreed. Ryam however merely leaned forward slightly. "Please do not, that would make me a poor sworn shield indeed."

Young Edgar Sloane talked to her about the Faith, and the Targaryens. His younger brother was a squire in the Order, and, according to Lord Edgar, said many a good things about her. But, he noted, “I doubt he’s ever seen you dressed like that.” Vittoria held her smile as she might hold a dagger in defense. Edgar meant well, but he was awkward.

Mina tried to ‘quietly’ make a gagging sound as she sipped wine. Ser Ryam tried not to laugh. Sers Alec Woodwright and Miles Middlebury entertained her for nearly half an hour, both of them Knights of the Order, both of them assuring her they wouldn’t further her ‘discomfort’ of the evening.

“Is it that obvious?” Mina blurted, to the laughter of the two Knights.

Ser Alec’s head shook, slowly, “No. You just never seemed like the sort, Lord Commander.”

It was meant to make her feel better? Perhaps? Instead she found herself nearly frowning, and tossing her hair with a laugh and a slight arch of her back, threatening the lace of her gown’s bodice as she felt the bare skin of her breasts press hard against the thin cut of silk. After both Knights grew quiet, it was Mina who chided her after they walked away.

“What was THAT?”

Vittoria took a deep drink of wine from her glass, and said, unsmiling, “It’s not that I don’t want marriage or children, Mina.” Even though, she would concede in her own thoughts, it wasn’t the wisest course of action, that Ser Alec and Ser Miles had meant well. She didn’t want either of those things with her Knights, so Mina wasn’t wrong to chide her.

…not that Vittoria didn’t enjoy the hush and widened eyes that came over both the Knights before walking away. Fortunately, it was Lord Dennet Tarly and his younger brother, Ser Godric, that appeared before her next. “You look…” Ser Godric started, staring, but before he finished his older, larger, brother snorted, and finished.

“…like you’d rather be shot with an arrow. Ceryse picked this out for you?”

Vittoria tried not to laugh, only managing to stifle it. “Let’s pretend Lord Manfred didn’t give her sharp instructions on the purpose of such a gown.”

“Impressive enough. I’ve not seen this many lords so assembled and ready to bid since that Dornish horse trader with the large group of sand steeds year before last.”

Vittoria blinked, “Thanks, I think.”

“Make sure you eat something,” Dennet insisted.

This time, it was Mina who blurted it out, “In what she’s wearing?”

When Dennet just looked confused, the two Tyrell sisters snickered together at him. The long tables of the High Hall were well packed, though there were no chairs. Knowing Lord Manfred, he wanted no one getting complacent, or unfocused at the task at hand. Vittoria couldn’t help herself but wonder just how much of this was solely Lord Manfred, and how much her own father knew about.

And if her father knew all of it, could she blame him? That was the thought that warned her more. Godric had complimented Mina’s archery and knife skills, and had already started talking to her about hunting and the story he heard where she saved Garrett from a boar, when Vittoria thought she saw a face she did not expect.

“I’ll be back.” She was picking her way through the crowd and trying, politely, to keep moving towards the face she thought she saw when the man in white robes and crystal crown with a fresh shave on speckled and aged skin blocked her path.

“Lady Vittoria,” the High Septon said, offering her his hand. There was no hesitation in her, taking the hand, kissing his ring, and lowering her body in the small bow.

“High Septon, how are you?”

He didn’t sneer, but he seemed as if he might. “We will talk later, I am told, with some of the Lords of the Reach. You have been very busy, no? Still a loyal servant of the Faith, I can only hope…”

It stung. She’d be lying if she said otherwise, but her smile and widened eyes were all that met such a remark, “Yes, your High Holiness. I am, as ever, at your service.”

“Hmm. We will see. Later. I suppose my brother is to blame for the scandal that is your gown?”

“Yes, your High Holiness.”

When Mina approached, the High Septon merely looked elsewhere, and moved away. Vittoria just smiled at her sister, “…don’t worry about him. He’s old.”

"So, what is it we're all gathering about? I appear to have lost my invitation." His voice carrying across the chamber in the easy way of a Stormlander, shot through with no small amount of Valyrian regality, something no doubt at odds with the nature of the others gathered. In fairness, Ser Davos Baratheon had begun the night in more subtle attire, practically snuck into the celebrations in Tyrell livery, but that hadn’t been the case for long. He stood in the company of two of his mind, similar veterans of fighting along the Marches, and the both grinning almost as much as their lord, now regarbed in doublets bearing the crest of the Stag. Surrounded by houses that one could quite comfortably suggest to be at odds with the Crown, the men wore the defiance of their presence openly. “Seven’s blessings.” He followed up to a passing Septon, looking ever more aghast as he hurried along.

Mina gently tugged on her sister’s sleeve and stretched up on tiptoes to whisper to her, smirking pointedly at the blustering Baratheon. “Seems we’ve got a party crasher. Does this mean I can call him out for a duel and kick him out? Seeing him beaten by a little girl would give everyone here something to focus on apart from you, at least.”

Vittoria Tyrell could feel the High Septon broil in an outrage from where she stood, even though he was long behind her, back in his corner with Lords Rowan and and Oakheart. Yet not even the High Septon, or the black smooth stone of the Hightower’s ancient vaults, could stop the light from filling the eyes of the older Lady of Highgarden in that moment.

She didn’t even look at Mina when she responded, “…it’s him,” was all she said before she found herself moving away from Mina, across the High Hall of the Hightower, across the dressed tables filled with food and drink.

Ryam had smirked at the idea of Mina dueling Lord Davos, and was so filled with thought of the idea he almost missed Vittoria moving. He caught up easily enough and as he leaned forward to make sure the way was clear he could see her eyed, staring right at Davos. The young Knight couldn't help smiling then, well it seems like the dress might be more useful than Vittoria expected.

It wasn’t hard to sneak up. It wasn’t hard to catch Lord Dennet Tarly’s eyes, and his smirk, and simply KNOW what was going on. She laughed, seemingly to any that watched her, at total random…yet there was nothing random about it.

“I knew I saw you,” her voice was quiet as he sounded from behind him, yet her frame felt as if it could barely contain the excitement she felt.
The tall man turned at the familiar voice, the only voice in the room he truly cared to hear, no matter how quiet it was. The two men with him were facing in the direction of her approach and so their own expressions of mirth warned him fractionally before hand.

“I almost didn’t, but I think the ghost of my father would haunt me till the Wall melts if I had not.” He spoke as he was still moving, which was a fortunate thing as no doubt his voice would have caught had he still been in mid sentence. He had loved the Ardent Maiden for some time, certainly longer than he would care to admit, but they had only met on campaign. Even his father’s funeral had been a martial affair, and Argella had of course insisted Vittoria Tyrell be allowed to stand with and garb herself among the Knights who had fought by his side. He had kissed those lips, a fleeting chance, but never seen her prepared for a Ball rather than War.

Davos recovered quickly however, holding her his eyes with her’s as he lost himself once more in the pools of her emotion. When he smiled the lines of his face caught the length of his scar, earned the last time they had fought together, but all that served to do was to add to the twinkle of roguish charm in his dark purple eyes. “Your man was most helpful, I’m not sure me asking kindly at the door would have worked this time.”

Mina’s troublemaking smirk turned into a more genuine if confused smile as her sister practically lit up like a bonfire and drifted towards the newcomer. It was clear this was some old friend of Vitta’s, so maybe she would find a match at this stuffy party after all. She debated sneaking through the crowd to eavesdrop on their conversation, but instead she walked back to Godric. Maybe she could convince the younger Tarly to spar with her tomorrow morning. At least that would be fun.

A woman stood at the edge of the room, watching with hungry eyes as men of importance stopped and stared. Not at her, not anymore, but it was her work they appreciated. She had not even been certain she would make an appearance. Her own father had seemed to not wish for her presence. But after days and weeks of planning, of ensuring that Lady Vittoria would make all the right impressions, she had to see that her work was a success. She had to see it with her own eyes.

What did men whisper about her these days? No, they were silent now. She no longer served a purpose for them. She was past the age of offering children, her years wasted on a man who could hump but not put a child in her belly. A man who had cast her aside, subjected her to all manner of whispers and rumors. She hated that she longed for him, or may just the life she had had, even as she wished for him to be burned by his own fucking dragon. Preferably after he watched the beast devour his whore.

She was Maegor’s only true wife, Princess of the Iron Throne, and she would be recognized as such. She entered the room standing tall, her head held high, a woman who in approaching middle age was only more secure in her body. Age had softened her, but still the gown clung to her chest and hips in a way not entirely appropriate. She wore the colors of House Targaryen, black silk and chiffon that was just opaque enough to hide her form unless it was in direct light. Crimson embroidery climbed the skirt in fiery swirls, ruby encrusted flames that exploded at last across her chest. The neckline plunged so low that if her lord father caught sight of her, he’d threaten to send her to bed with no dessert as he had when she was a spiteful child. As if an afterthought, she had nestled a delicate crown of dark steel and rubies among blonde curls.

It took only a moment for her to lay eyes on Lady Vittoria Tyrell. She loved the girl, but gods, she was jealous. She came up behind her, a dour look to those around her. “I certainly chose well, the dress is beyond perfection for you. How many men have you wanted to lash for paying you their compliments?”

Ryam tilted his head as he began to mentally count the number and then winced slightly as Vittoria greeted the Princess to whom Ryam had already bowed.

“CERYSE!”

The Ardent Maiden felt like a girl again as she went from shock to screaming and jolting forward and hugging her arms fiercely around the neck of the older woman who taught her everything she had ever known about sensual politics and the world of noble women in an age of men. The elder sister she could only try to be to Mina now.

“I’m sorry.”

The two words were a secret whisper, Vittoria’s lips right next to Ceryse’s ear as it passed like a coded message between the two, a beat before Vittoria squeezed the hug a little stronger, then hands still on the woman’s arms, leaned back so only a foot or two. Vittoria was still beaming with a silly smile on her joyous features, stammering as she took a step to the side, opening up to stand next to Ceryse, and introduce the woman.

“Princess Ceryse, this is my little sister, Lady Mina of Highgarden. She likes stabbing things, I bought her a sword that your Lord Father had made specially for her.” Vittoria explained, chuckling. “Lady Mina, this is Princess Ceryse, still the most beautiful woman in the realm.”

A half beat of her heart later, and that star-shine returned to her features, as the spellbound look returned to her. Her voice lowered, softened, like she was letting her surrogate big sister in on the biggest secret she had. “Um…this is, uh…this is my, well…this is Lord Davos Baratheon. We campaigned together against the Vulture King.”

She said, looking to Ceryse, eyes begging the older woman for mercy. Vittoria Tyrell knew when she was utterly exposed. Quickly, her wits kicked in, and she was able to pivot, “Compliment me? You mean in the few moments they can look me in the face?”

She smirked, hard, and tilted her head just-so to the left, accentuating just how acute the problem had been. All. Night. Long. “Your BROTHER included.” She added, trying not to giggle, or keep looking at Davos.

Ceryse’s head snapped with a steady glare to the man Vittoria indicated, a boisterous fool. She gave a look to her girl, eyes softened just enough as if to question, really, him? But she let it pass, saving it for a time when they would be able to converse more privately. “Then I have truly done my duty exceedingly well, for once.” A faint smirk formed across darkened lips, “Martyn is going to like me less than usual once I corner him about such behavior. Much as I love you as a sister, Seven save you from that fate.” Being home in Oldtown had been like rubbing salt in the open wound of her abandonment.

In one of those moments where Vittoria kept her eyes away, or at least hopefully so, Ser Davos slipped a small palmful of golden coins to the man on his right. Ser Gwayne Tarth was another younger brother, and a close friend from youth. The blonde man grinned in even greater amusement as Davos muttered to him, “Your warnings were insufficient.”

“My apologies, Lord Baratheon, shall I extend your disappointment,” The whispered reply was dripping with both sarcasm and good humor, the pair only barely mature enough not to descend into physical shouldering as they moved a step behind Vittoria as the joy to greet Ceryse overcame her. Their muttered words of amusement earning a brief sigh from the third of their small group of troublemakers.

“Behave, the two of you, this is a dignified crowd.” Lancel Swann, even darker of hair than Davos, although much more closely shaven and cut, struck the figure of propriety next to the more boisterous pair. Nevertheless, he still held out a hand, accepting a similar collection of coins from Davos, who turned briefly to shake his head at his companions, mouthing a curse.

In the next moment he had spun around, however, and the rebellious, childish streak was replaced with charm and sensibility almost the match of any of the Reach lords around them, dipping his head to place a kiss of greeting to the fingers of the Princess.

“Hail, Good-Cousin, may that we have met sooner, but I feel whoever sent out the invitations for this even must have been too stunned by the pair of you, and forgotten to address mine.” He did not speak obnoxiously loudly, but there was a bass character to his voice that caused it to travel wider than it should, an effect he made no effort to suppress.

The Princess mostly suppressed her grimace, only sharing the judgemental squeeze of her brows as she traced Davos Baratheon from head to toe with her eyes, head cocked to the left in her review. Her gaze lingered too long, purposefully. She could see the hints of it in him. Of all the men. He had the look of a Stormlander, mostly, but the Valyrian touches were insidious until it was all she could see in him. She blinked once and the glimmer of it was gone. “Save your flattery for one who wants it, good-cousin.” Ceryse gave an empty smile as if it would soften the sharpness of her words. “I am certain now, though, that your presence will certainly liven matters here. Please, enjoy everything my family has put together for our friends and family in the Reach.”

The Westerosi people had tame parties compared to what the Volantenes could think up. But tongues were just as loose here as in a Lysine orgy. Well on some people… Watching the crowd Hespaerys leaned against a wall out of the way but able to hear and see people. He has put together who was who, catching on quickly and as most of the guest list was Reach lords He made his way through dropping the hint of doing business with a Volantene Triarch merchant house. He found quite a few interested parties and rather than pushing the subject Hespaerys decided to meet with them when the party was not in full swing. He shrugged inwardly and his eye was caught by none other than one of the more beautiful women he had seen to date. Her dress was just this side of scandalous all black lace and blood red flames. She wearing Targaryen colors obviously familiar with Vittoria. Ceryes? Interesting.

Hespserys’ father, and mother, would tell him not to think with his loins; but some acquaintances just needed to be made. Pushing off from the wall and setting his glass on a table he made his way toward the group of people that were around the lady he was fascinated with. Stormlander lords' voices fell on his ears like crows rattling caws while the woman’s voice low and sensual was effortlessly divine. He smiled, lifting one corner of his mouth and chuckled at her rebuff of the Stormlander lord. He could wait until he had her attention… he most certainly could wait.

Mina managed an awkward courtesy once she was introduced to Ceryse, grinning in spite of herself. “Your Lord Father’s gift is my most prized possession, My Lady. I can’t thank him enough. It’s a pleasure to meet you, too. Anyone who’s earned the praise and admiration of Vitta has my admiration as well!” She was doing her very best to be courtly and polite. After all, her sister had impressed on her that this was a battlefield and success here would determine the future of their House. Even if it was abominably stiff and boring. She glanced over at Davos and her smile became more mischievous again. “I don’t believe we’ve met. So, why is it that my sister can’t help stumbling and mooning over you, My Lord?”

Ceryse’s smile turned warmer at the young Tyrell’s attention. “Little Mina, though not so little anymore. I think the last time I saw you, you were still on a wet nurse’s teat.” She gave a quick wink, before adding in a softer, more conspiratorial tone. “And I do hear you’ve caused no shortage of mischief. I expect no less from Vitta’s little sister.” The girl’s accusation against her sister, while clearly true, was a bit too far even for Ceryse. She stifled the scold and laugh that fought within her, and turned away from the group. She’d really need to talk to Vittoria about all of this, later.

Mina noticed the man lurking at the edge of their conversation and waved him over as well. Surely, more of an audience couldn’t hurt the situation further.

Noticing the motion from the younger Miss Tyrell and playing along, even though Hespaerys had younger siblings and knew this was trouble, he advanced to be included. He had overheard her making comments about Vitta that made his dusty lavender gray eyes twinkle. “Hello Ladies Tyrell.” He gave them a very nice bow then decided to call Mina’s bluff. “Lady Mina by all means please introduce me to your lovely companions.”

Mina laughed “Well, I’m afraid that’s quite impossible my Lord, as I’m only just now being introduced to some of them myself! But for your benefit, everyone this is Lord Hespserys, of the Volantene House of Rahl, correct? Where is your amusing sister? We met a bit earlier.”

Hespaerys smiled at everyone, his eyes lingering on Princess Ceryse longest and reluctantly left her to address Mina. "She was getting dressed and realized that all of her dresses, which had been on the ship, she'd set to be pressed and cleaned. The odd thing was she sent them all at once. But to her credit she doesn't like large crowds. She's headstrong but we love her. She's likely out practicing her sword forms." His love for his exasperating sister was clearly evident.

“She is a fortunate soul, Lord Rahl, the luckiest among us” Vittoria tried not to smile too large, and failed.

Uninvited Stormlanders and now Volantenes? What a wonderful way to further spite her uncle. The princess felt eyes on her but ignored them other than a very brief glance at the Rahl man and an unnecessary sway to her hips as she shifted to tap Vittoria’s shoulder. The glance told her everything she needed to know about this Lord Hespserys. She whispered, her voice stern, “Don’t linger with one too long, you will have others you need to meet.”

Davos’ grinned almost as widely as the younger Tyrell daughter at her question, lost then amongst the string of introductions to the Volantene arrivals, even as he prepared to answer her, his own eyes settling on Vittoria again, simply being lost in the sight and sound of her. He was used to seeing her at least passingly guarded, ready for the pressing realities of war. Here, he could notice new things about her, like how the slight dimples of her cheeks deepend when her smile was for her younger sister.

“How terribly rude of me to not say so earlier, Lady Mina Tyrell, I am Ser Davos Baratheon, your sister had a habit of saving mine and my father’s hides in the Mountains of Dorne.” He dipped his head to the younger Tyrell, before speaking in a mockery of hushed tones, “And in truth, you might think she looks foolish, but she has far more practice making me stumble on my words and forget it was I was meant to be doing, probably well before she even remembered who I was.” His grin eased into more of a smile at the memories, many, but sparse among the years. “So I just have a little practice over her right now.”

The sight of the Princess adding a bit more sway to her step after she had been introduced to him was not lost on Hespaerys. His smile deepened and the half lidded glance he shot Ceryse made his eyes darken in intensity. He stuck to only a glance though. His attention was brought round to Davos as he spoke. It was obvious that he was smitten with Vitta and Hespaerys thought that was rather heartwarming. He looked at Mina with a raised brow then back at the two that were very much in love and tipped his head as if to say ‘well there you go’.

Gradually he eased around the others to stand next to Ceryse. “You look stunning in that dress, your highness.” Hespaerys let his eyes roam appreciatively. “Myrish lace never looked better.”

“Lord Baratheon is too kind. The command was Lord Sam Tarly’s.” Vittoria’s smile tightened, her tone clear and loud. If ever Vittoria Tyrell would take credit for a successful campaign, it would not be in the High Hall of the Hightower, with so many older Lords amongst her. She wasn’t stupid.

Behind her a man with a deep baritone could barely be heard as he muttered, “No one who was there will ever believe that.” Vittoria blinked, and turned, to find Lord Rennet Tarly standing next to her Sworn Shield, Ser Ryam. Dennet leaned in for a hard, quick, shake of Baratheon’s hand, offering nods to his companions. “Lads. Good to see you all outside battlefields." His throat cleared, as he greeted Lord Rohl quickly, before uncomfortably moving his eyes to the Princess. “Princess Ceryse.”

Vittoria blinked between Dennet and Ceryse, pink lips just parted. Oh. She had never seen a woman make Dennet Tarly uncomfortable. There wasn’t a moment Dennet left his eyes on the Princess, just quickly to her eyes, then quickly away, to Lady Mina, Vittoria noted.

“Lady Mina, your presence has been requested.” The towering Lord Tarly motioned for the younger Lady Tyrell to follow, his eyes hard cast iron and impatience, even as Mina waited for a non-verbal cue from Vittoria, which she gave, quickly. Dennet marched her to the entrance of the High Hall, and on the other side of the doors was Godric, with two wooden practice blades.

Dennet’s voice lowered as he eyed them both, “Break nothing irreplaceable, especially each other. Now go. Be young and unbored,” he said, snorting.

Vittoria tried to see what exactly was going on, but instead nearly blurted out an ‘ow’ when Ceryse poked her side. “Wh—oh, right. Lords, please excuse us.” Vittoria leaned into their little circle, loudly whispering, “I have to go visit others before they become jealous.”

The first was Lord Rowan. Not Lord Rickard, the Head of House Rowan, but his son and heir, Ser Thaddeus, one of her Knights of the Golden Rose. As she heard, Lord Rickard was furious with Ser Thaddeus for his decision to join the Order, instead of the Faith Militant. Thaddeus was a funny man, and a tall man of a lean strength, like stone. He’d been around her campfires many times during their campaigns, and had earned great renown in the night time raid on the King of the Basilisk Isles.

But his eyes were on the Princess. Apologizing for the Prince and his dishonor. Asking how she liked the Royal Family, besides the Prince. They were questions Vittoria might have asked, and after Thaddeus and she spoke of camp business. The ugly business with the Garin and the Knight. The likelihood of light cavalry vs heavy cavalry.

Ryam’s eldest brother, Lord Robert, was their next stop. Since Robert was much closer in age to Ceryse, Vittoria wasn’t even surprised when the entire conversation was spent with Robert speaking to Ceryse. He invited her to the Arbor. He mentioned there was a particular vintage of Arbor Gold they would love to name after the Princess. He offered to tour her on his personal ship. He, towards the end, thanked his cousin Vittoria greatly for introducing them again.

Vittoria turned to Ryam, and smiled, as Robert and Ceryse carried on. “Fun for you, too? You want me to ask her if she likes younger Redwynes?”

Luckily, Ser Ryam held his laughter to a low chuckle, and his response wasn’t heard by Robert or Ceryse: "No thank you. I only plan to marry my oaths and to keep to them as best as possible. I have a feeling they will take up most of my time. But I appreciate the offer nonetheless."

As Ceryse excused the two of them, Vittoria couldn’t help but lean in and whisper, “You’re right, this IS fun,” as she smirked. Lord Robert actually waved after them and shouted he’d see them later. Vittoria bit her lip nearly enough to draw blood as her body fell into Ceryse from contained laughter. Laughter that quickly left her as she noticed the High Septon’s dagger glance on them in the moment.

The heirs of Ambrose and Florent were next. Ambrose was nervous, awkward, and the conversation was stale as soon as it began. Vittoria actually found it odd when he stared at her, not Ceryse, and wished Lord Robert could come back. Lord Florent was silver-tongued, but distant, and seemed uninterested in either of them. The conversation was short, and mercifully cut short by Lord Dennet Tarly, with Lord Rahl hanging to his side.

Dennet spoke of Lady Mina and Lord Godric, and ignoring any reports of combat in the halls. Dennet leaned in and spoke to her of the injured squire. It was good news, but before they were done, Ceryse and Lord Rahl were already back to chattering.

The men of the Reach had less sense in their heads than she had thought. An attempt to wed into House Tyrell - for altruistic love or practical political reasons - and she had tongues wagging at her. Regardless, Ceryse played nice, if for no other reason than to set an example for Vittoria. Lord Rahl materialized behind Dennet - now that man sense enough to keep his tongue in his head - but the Volantene was something else. It took one devious grin, one slow tracing of her lips with her tongue and she had pulled him to her side.

Her hand went to his arm, and though she did not shout, she made no attempt to lower her voice or hide her conversation from those around them. “Lord Hespaerys Rahl of Volantis was it?” She traced her finger over his arm, took a step to the side and looked him over top to bottom, she pursed her lips in thought, gave a few tut-tuts. “You have good taste in clothing, Lord Rahl, even if it is not of standard Westerosi tastes. Such a fine fit indeed.” Her eyes lingered on his rear before drifting back to his face, a hungry contact with his dusty lavender eyes. “Tell me though, are they terribly difficult to remove?”

Without batting an eyelash Hespaerys’ smirk turned sensual. “At the moment they would be unless you used your teeth, your highness.” Looking down at her Hespaerys found that unless he spoke to Hightower before Ceryse left he would not be doing so for a long while. He was not sure that he really minded. “I do not suppose that you might have been on the receiving end of that particular talent? There are brothels in Lys that specialize in it, your highness. They teach, sometimes.”

"My sweet Volantene child, I may allow you to demonstrate talents you think you possess. But you'll need to do more than use your teeth to impress me." Ceryse pushed her arm through his and set them off on a slow meandering path as if to ensure every single man in the room took notice while they continued their conversation. "Are you game for a little fun? You seem quick-witted, let's hope you can keep up." A devious grin grew across her face as she set her eyes on her target. Her uncle. The high septon of the Faith.

"Your Holiness." Ceryse approached with almost an appropriate curtsy to the head of their faith. "What grace the Seven have provided me, to return my wayward husband to me from across the sea." She feigned innocence, cast a look of utter devotion to Hespaerys. "And look he returns to us looking as youthful as the day we were wed when all the realm rejoiced for it." The princess leaned into the Volantene, nestled into his side. Her fingers wound through his as she brought their hands down the side of her body to rest atop her hip.

Curiosity piqued Hespaerys let Ceryse guide him around like a trained horse. She brought him over to the High Septon and Hespaerys smiled down at her slyly. He looked down at Ceryse and stroked her hip as she put their linked hands there. His mind shifted to a more Westerosi accent and smiled at the High Septon. “Your Holiness.” He kept the words few so he could get the feel of them. He had spoken to Maegor maybe twice but his accent was generically Westerosi and it was deep enough to be on a range with Hespaerys’ own.

Suddenly the High Septon wasn’t looking at the pair before him, but past them, his face red, his voice dangerously low, “Is this cruel jape your idea?”

When the Princess and her escort looked behind them, they would have seen him. Bellied but barrel chested, shoulders wide, face strong with wrinkles and white beard, and grey-blue eyes the color of Oldtown fog. His doublet was Hightower blue, and fit him perfectly, despite his age and belly. His hair was combed, his beard clean. He had made effort. He had cared about this night. Behind him stood Lady Vittoria, eyes down, looking as if she begged the Hightower to swallow her whole.

He said nothing, until both of them had turned to look, and even then only quietly, “Rahl, if you want to leave peacefully, leave now and maybe I won’t invite every competing family in Volantis to take up your father’s trade agreements so you can explain why to him.”

When his eyes hit his daughter, there was some kind of pyro-alchemical reaction, some mix of love and anger, the kind that only wildfire and other disappointed fathers would ever truly be able to relate to. “If your goal was to prove the prick Prince wise and sabotage our chances at keeping Vittoria in the Reach so she wouldn’t face similar humiliation by a Valyrian blooded shit, you’ve done wonderfully.”

“Lord Ma—”

It was the quickness in which the old man turned to face Vittoria as she tried to interject, and the intensity behind his eyes, that truly told the story of how close to violence he truly was as he looked at Lady Vittoria. Yet his voice never rose, it only stayed low, simmering, shaking with thawing rage, “—get your asses in my solar. Both of you. Now.”

“Brother, this will not st—”

Lord Manfred Hightower turned his head back forward, past his daughter and the Rahl, to the crystal crowned brother of his, “—save it. Get your Lords, meet us there.”

To everyone watching, Lord Manfred simply turned towards the room, glared about, and growled, “DRINK AND BE MERRY OR GET OUT!”

When Ser Ryam moved to follow Lady Vittoria, Lord Manfred stepped in front of him. The anger shaking his otherwise solemn tone. “Boy," he began, before his mind set in over his emotion, "Ser, go back to your inn. I raised her like a daughter, she needs no shield here.”

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Hidden 11 mos ago 11 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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The Dothraki had struck in the early afternoon, once the city had failed to capitulate.

The battle had lasted but a few hours, if you could even call it such, but for miles around, the lands outside the city of Volantis had been plunged into a darkness as thorough as the depths of night.

The acrid tang in the air spoke of its cause, the choking swirling patterns in the great deep clouds of onyx flared and spun in a way that could have no celestial origin.

The ground crunched beneath the heavy tread of Maegor’s armoured form. Already ash had settled over the destruction, the earliest to be inflamed falling down to cover the more recently deceased.

There would be little loot for the Free City, little that could be reclaimed from the Dothraki's vast train of plunder, no doubt bound for their sacred tent city, had the last city on their journey of plunder not been Volantis. The city had been weak ever since the Century of Blood, since his father had sided with Pentos against their expansion. Maegor considered that to have been the stronger action at the time, but now the Three Daughters were growing strong at the expense of Volantis, it did well to even the scales.

In all honestly, he had simply been bored.

He came to halt as a distressed animal moan rose from the ground, a few meters from his feet. It would have been a whiney of pain, no doubt, had the damage not been too great. He paced forwards through the ash, coming to halt behind the stricken form of one of the Dothraki's fabled horses. The dragon fire had claimed its hind quarters and much of its flank, but it clung to life, no longer strong enough to even thrash. Maegor regarded it for some time. A waste of a fine breed.

He did not delay in his granting of mercy, but he provided it none the less. Placing one boot down on the beast's head, his tread barely registered the end of its life as he proceeded through the burning maelstrom that had once been the Khalassar. There was no real reason to have landed, it was not his task to scout the land and ensure the Dothraki had been driven off, but one never knew what you might find beneath the forge of battle.

Their warcries broke out of the ash the moment he had cleared the remains of the steed. The warbling screams of Dothraki as they burst from the ash cloud. Three of them, barely more than youths, for the greatest of their warriors had all died in Balerion's first descent. They rode no steeds, no doubt having to abandon them in the process of survival. Here, perhaps, was a chance for them to redeem such cowardice by their peoples' merit.

Beneath his helm, Maegor's hard features split into a momentary grin.

"Come and take it." He snarled in their own tongue. Those who knew him passingly might mistake Maegor for a simple brute, he had always preferred martial and physical pursuits. In reality, he was singular. He could learn and focus on anything that brought him closer to his ambitions and that which he excelled. He felt it only fitting the enemy might understand him when he claimed their lives.

The first, and youngest, fell swiftly. He barreled towards with Prince with all the hot headed energy of youth, arakh posted to strike at the Valyrian. As was so common of the Dothraki, they underestimated the flexibility that plate of Westeros design allowed. Maegor ducked low under the blow, Blackfyre held even lower and pointed up in a thrusting motion, he took the young man in the gut, before rising with his own natural motion, splitting him in two from waist to temple. The resistance offered by the ending of this life slowed him no more than the death of the steed prior, literally stepping through the still disintegrating remains of the first man to get at the others.

While still young, they were no doubt more experienced than the first, and were moving forwards together. They must have seen at least one battle prior, even if it was simply a sack of a village, for they did not start at the sight of the foe appearing to simply burst through their prior comrade.

Usually, Maegor would fight such battles with a shield in hand, but he had left the protective implement upon his saddle. Against two opponents he would then have to rely on speed, force and the superiority of his weapon. Their first strikes met Blackfyre only a moment apart, the valyrian steel rebound on one arakh to throw back into the other. Their swords were back up too fast for Maegor to push hard on either. They were not fools, after the failure of their first strike they backed away, creating greater distance between themselves so that another combined parry wouldn't be possible from a second attempt.

Their first mistake, however, was to hesitate. Maegor's ability to fend off both blows put unnecessary caution in them. In their place, he would have pushed immediately. The pause could only benefit the outnumbered party.

"When you ran, was it your horses' or your mothers' screams that shamed you?" Maegor spoke again, perhaps the limits of complexity he had in Dothraki, but it was a phrase he'd learned deliberately for such a moment. It worked as intended, baiting one of them a moment before the other prepared to strike.

He entirely ignored the one slower to act, switching Blackfyre to his left hand, he took the arakh's furious blows on the weapon and gave them back in turn. The arakh was a weapon of great design for downward strikes from horseback, but it had a singular weakness in extended combat on foot. Turning the blade of his weapon, Maegor looped the bind of their blows through the curved hook of the weapon. Before the Dothraki could even realise what had occurred, Blackfyre had ruptured through his right eye.

The other man was not slow, and struck for Maegor. Even with the cutting edge of Valyrian steel, he would not be able to pull the blade free quite in time. With a desperate lunge, Maegor's right gauntlet caught the blade in motion.

The Prince emitted a howl of battle rage and pain as the force shuddered through his palm, but this gauntlet was that which held the reigns of Balerion, it had been reinforced against the pulling might of the world's greatest dragon, and one swipe of the blade would not cut through. Caught by surprise, the last Dothraki stumbled backwards as Maegor advanced towards him, driving him away and downwards, even as the motion pulled Blackfyre free from its previous kill.

As the final youth staggered and fell to his knee, still attempting to drive back against the force Maegor was applying, the pommel of Blackfyre came down atop his head. While the other two deaths had been clean, this was a brutal affair. Enough of whatever resided within the Dothraki's shattered skull clung on to life to still wrestle with the Prince, and so he hammered again…and again…and again. Only on the fourth strike with the blunt end of the weapon did he finally slump free.

Prince Maegor let out a satisfied grunt of victory at last, pausing only to wipe both ends of the ancient weapon upon the scorched rags of the final kill's clothing, before kicking him aside.

A moment later, and one of the vast clouds of smoke billowing around him seemed to rise. Balerion himself lingered close to the Prince, resting in the burning embrace of the carnage he had sown. The great beast stirred only to emit a roar, his vast head turned upwards towards the sky. For all the bone chilling horror such a roar could provide, it was not a roar of challenge, but of greeting, followed only shortly by the heavy beat of wings.

Vhandyr Balaerys watched in silence as the western prince let out his frustrations on the youth of the horse lords. Misguided and foolishly prideful, he thought, regarding the Dothraki youth…though he supposed there were moments the quick of such a thought could have pressed in either direction of the melee.

The towering, stoic, Valyrian dragonrider was now mounted, having shifted from Terrax shortly after Maegor had. Terrax busied himself behind Vhandyr and his warhorse, landing near the giant black dragon and giving a roar that was more playful than it was terrifying. Vhandyr understood it on a level deeper than his own bones.

Fly. Fly. Fly!

Terrax wanted flight more than he wanted meat or war. For the first time since the Doom, the dragon felt he had a partner in flight. Vhandyr felt only bittersweet joy for the two beasts, certain of the parting of the two, knowing how much of Maegor still stayed focused on the slights and shortcomings in Westeros. Perhaps he would take the Prince up on his offer and tour the Westeros continent. His sister had already been dispatched, as wayward a traveler as their ancestors had always been.
Wisdom was to wait for Vaera’s dispatches before he decided, however.

“Shall we retire to Casmus Valelyx, Prince?”

Blackfyre was returned to his swordbelt before Maegor turned to regard the other Valyrian. For all their visual similarities the pair had more differences, but in many ways that is what allowed the bond of their friendship to function. Much akin to Balerion and Terrax, the differences turned what would be the competition of rivals into the bond of companions.

"Little and less still to do here. If the fire was less consuming, I imagine we'd have cut more victory braids here than any since the Doom." As Maegor spoke and approached Vhandyr, a whiney of distress roused the nearby dragons, snorts of curiosity more than hunger, as a single rider approached. It was an impressive feat of both husbandry and handling that allowed the rider to bring his steed so close to the Dragons.

"Hail my lords," The rider sweapt down from the saddle, his accent and bearing marking him as one of the few that lived within the city that hailed from Westeros, or at least seemed so. In Maegor's sparring visits to Volantis during his exile he had moved a small portion of his household to Volantis, such that he was not entirely reliant on the whims of Vhandyr's people to remain informed and housed. The rider, clad in the red and black of the Targaryen household, waisted little time in approaching Maegor, handing over a bound scroll, set with a seal in the shape of the Citadel. There were few among their order that regarded Maegor with anything but scorn, but those few he had cultivated well. With a swift motion, Maegor broke the seal, before his eyes fell to read the letter. After but another few seconds, he cast the letter away and into one of the sputtering fires that had once been a Dothraki steed.

"I will return to Pentos, the Blood of the Dragon has need of their exiled son."

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by SunsetWanderer
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C A S T E R L Y R O C K
Seat of House Lannister





Light from the flames of a brazier flickered, reflecting in the eyes of deep purple. These were the unnerving eyes of Lysara - a woman, though petite, who stood taller than most men. Her long hair of jet black came to just above her waist, and she wore a translucent robe of burning orange with a blood-red dress beneath. Her figure was instantly recognisable, and had become an increasing controversy in the halls of the Rock as her following grew. What was about to happen would only further stoke the flames of the devout.

They stood atop Casterly Rock, at the peak overlooking Lannisport below. The skies above had darkened as daylight started to retreat and there was a calm wind in the air. The rest of the scene was anything but. On the edge of the Rock, seven wooden stakes had been erected, with bundles of straw at the base of each - and being tied to these were seven, bald men in robes of grey and black. Some bore the seven-pointed star knifed into the flesh of their forehead. These were Poor Fellows, those that had been unfortunate enough to have been caught after their assault on the royal troupe. Gathering in a semi-circle before this, a large crowd was assembled - a thorough mixture of both Westerosi and Essosi. At the forefront, still in his armor of polished gold, stood Loreon Lannister. Beside him, the Princess Rhaena.

It was only a few hours prior that Lysara had heard the pleas from Loreon to save the life of the ailing Aegon. She reluctantly agreed to try - but knew the boy drew closer to his last breath, and no visions had told her of the need to prevent such. It was another reason entirely that had driven her to agree.

“Lord of Light, look down upon us!”, Lysara began her prayer. Her words were loud, yet pleasantly melodic - entrancing, even. Those assembled fell quiet. “Yours are the stars that guard us in the night. Yours is sun that warms our days!”

A distinct unease lingered in the air, brought by the Westermen gathered to observe the sacrifice. Most had heard the prayers of Lysara in passing, but none had ever seen this - a human sacrifice, endorsed by their lord. Ser Olyvar Estren stood among them, his hand brought tightly around the hilt of his blade - not from fear of harm against his lord, though perhaps it wasn’t all too unlikely, but from habit. It was his clearest tell when uncomfortable.

“Lord of Light, look down upon the Prince Aegon Targaryen! Shine your light, and lead his soul from darkness! We beg our Lord to share his fire, and light a candle that has dimmed!”

Hobbling up to the side of Ser Olyvar came an elderly man, a veteran of no less than six and seventy winters. With his robes of brilliant, pure white and a seven-stranded belt of varying colours, this man was instantly recognisable as Septon Alfyn. His thick brows of grey had not been clipped for far too long, and it was a surprise that he was able to even see. The rest of his wrinkled face was bald - with a mouth crooked into a permanent frown, and a back that hunched forward from the weight of his own body. The man had known the last King of the Rock, was present for the births of all his children and remained a permanent fixture at Casterly Rock. “We must stop this, Ser.”, he hissed through what teeth remained. Olyvar said nothing in reply.

“From darkness, light! From ashes, fire! From death, life!”

The prayer by Lysara reached a crescendo, and the torchbearers were gestured to light their respective stakes. The sacrifice was to begin.

Princess Rhaena Targaryen had heard stories of the Red Priests and Priestesses, of the followers of the Lord of Light. Her belief, or lack thereof, mattered little at the moment it had been offered as one last hope. When Lord Loreon had insisted they had power to restore men to life, Rhaena would have agreed to nearly anything. And this? This was justice. These men were savages. Traitors. If she could not burn them herself she would watch them burn in offering and pray to whatever gods that would listen.

She knew others did not share her comfort with this. Even amongst her ladies, when she shared what they would attend this evening, they seemed aghast even if they did not openly speak against it. The Lord of Casterly Rock had proven himself so far, and she would see to it that he was rewarded when Aegon was returned to his health, though that was likely to be offered in the way of men and dragons than gold and jewels.

Standing tall, no matter that the pain in her arm had come alive again from insisting on changing into something she felt more appropriate for the occasion. Her women had helped her into the ceremonial armor that was meant to call up the memory of her grandmother. The black and red metal against the flames before her cast her as far older than her years, ferocious, nearly feral in her unabashed anger at seeing the men before her.

She heard the Septon approach. Rhaena had hoped that the man would show his face, before the torches could be set to the pyres, the princess stepped away from Loreon, towards the Red Priestess. In a clear voice, she called for a halt.

“Septon Alfyn.” Perhaps the man thought her to be taken with sudden reason. Perhaps he thought the Seven had heard his prayers. “Septon, you argued that these men could only be condemned by the Faith. Do your duty to the crown, and condemn these men to die.” When he did not immediately respond, she pantomined that perhaps he could not hear her and quickly closed their distance, her lips pressed to the old man’s ear. “Condemn them to death or I will have you burned for treason, you pathetic cunt of a man.”

The aging Septon stood firmly as the Princess gave her ultimatum. His body shook from the tremors of old age, his back could no longer bear the weight upon it, and his pains grew by the day. In this moment, none of that mattered. He moved forward to stand before the crowd, his steps small and labored.

“All of you-…”, he was racked by a cough as soon as he began, his voice struggling to find the power it once held. “… All of you were named in the Light of the Seven!” Gradually, he found his strength. “You were shown the Mother’s Love, and the Father’s Justice! Will you now spit on their memory?! Are you so eager to blaspheme!?”

Behind him, the Poor Fellows began to find some courage. Most had been muttering quiet prayers on their pyres, sweating profusely and awaiting the coming flame with terror - but behind Alfyn, they began to rally with hollers of abuse to the Princess.

“WHORE!” / “ABOMINATION!” / “YOU ALL HAVE SINNED!” / “MONSTER!”

They made a chorus behind the words of Septon Alfyn, who continued his appeal to the Westermen in crowd. “We must end this, and pray for forgiveness!”

“Ser Robin.” Rhaena watched with a growing rage at the chants coming from condemned men. But one kingsguard was more than sufficient for one pathetic septon. Rhaena would have done it herself, were it not for her arm. No, she would need to rely on her white cloak for some of this, it was his duty surely, charged to her command.

The Kingsguard had not been pleased to leave Prince Aegon’s side, but there was little he could do to protect the man anymore, especially not when the Princess was insistent on placing herself in this dangerous place. Robin Darklyn stepped forward, and though he knew what would be commanded of him, he waited for his Princess to speak it. He was a man of the Faith, seeing these men set to death in such heretical practices pricked at his conscience. But, he had sworn his holy orders to protect King Aegon and then King Aenys. He had promised his king to protect his children and he had failed. And the Poor Fellow’s attack had been brutal, beyond brutal, no matter his own private thoughts on such things. It was not his place to question.

“Bind him to a pyre and fetch me a torch. I will exact justice myself.” Rhaena turned back to the crowd, her voice raised again. “This man is a traitor, he is found guilty of treason in the eyes of man and dragon and will pay the price.” She ignored, with great effort, the insults lobbed at her. They would pay for it, soon enough.

Lysara stood quietly, patiently, her hands clasped together. She had watched the scene unfold from the sidelines, more than content to let the man dig his own grave - or in this case, build his own pyre. He had demanded her leave from Casterly Rock more than once, and she found his prattling and pathetic prayers to be insufferable. Now he would join his brothers on the pyre. She sensed his fear building as the Kingsguard dutifully - if reluctantly - marched toward him.

She chose this moment to approach, gliding toward him with her dress of burning reds and orange trailing behind her. She spoke lowly at first, taunting him alone. “You reek of fear, old man, but do not worry…” and now her voice was raised, taking control of addressing the crowd once again. “For the night is dark and full of terrors, and the flames will burn them all away.”

Several members of the crowd agitated as Darkrobin neared the Septon. The Lannister men-at-arms drew their blades halfway, and all eyes fell upon Loreon Lannister - waiting, no, expecting him to give an order to halt this. He was their defender, the Shield of Lannisterport and the West. Alfyn, for his part, called to him directly. “My lord, I held you as a babe - and your brother and sister, both! I have loved you, as the Mother does us all! Stop this! Stop HER!”, his feet moved to stumble backward a few steps, but by then the knight had already grabbed his arms. His struggle made him an object of pity to most. Alfyn writhed as much as he could in his advanced age, but could conjure no real resistance or strength. His speech fell from the powerful prayer only moments before into garbled begging and pleading.

In the crowd, Lord Westerling - a gruff man of dark hair, and the veteran commander of their armies, spat on the ground. Some had opened their palms to the pyres, standing in subservience to their Lord of Light, but most shifted on their feet, uncomfortable and unsure of what they were expected to do. What had become of Casterly Rock? Ser Olyvar Estren, the man who held Loreon as his own brother, broke from the mass of observers and hurried to his lord. “Give the order, brother.”, he whispered urgently. “Have them end this. It is too far.”

Loreon gave no response - his body fixed and unmoving, his eyes glazed with the clear reflection of burning flames. He was entranced, taken by a vision in the flames that had finally come to him. For years, he had gazed into the embers and seen nothing - but now, finally, the Lord of Light had revealed himself. It was mesmerising. Loreon saw himself holding Brightroar high, the valyrian steel of the blade covered with hot flames. He heard the cheers of a crowd below, shouting his name with adoration. He felt pride and heroism swelling within him. Lysara had told him, but he had never believed - not until now. It had become clear to him, clearer than anything before. He was the savior of Westeros - the one to be their champion against the coming darkness of the long night. He had been chosen by the Lord of Light.

Stuck in this trance, no order came to save the Septon or the Poor Fellows already on their pyres.

Rhaena watched the pleas go unanswered. She wasn't sure what had overtaken Lord Loreon, but it was sufficient that he would not interfere, even if an overt condemnation would have served her better. The septon was as pathetic as she had initially judged him. A dark grin, nearly a grimace, formed on her face and she flicked the hand of her good arm at Darkrobin, a command to finish what she had demanded of him.

The septon could do little but go limp beneath the Knight's strong grasp. His feet dragged in the dusty earth below him, scraping across small rocks. He looked frantically for anyone to save him, if not Loreon then where was Tytos or Lyman to see sense. Where were the proper lords of the westerlands to end this madness. His desperation was nearly enough to elicit a vicious laugh but the Princess suppressed it into a snarl instead. He was bound to a pyre with ease, the fight seemingly gone out of him.

Rhaena approached once he firmly lashed in place and Darkrobin had gone to secure the torch for her. She held it, the heat and flames licking at the air around her. If she closed her eyes she could nearly imagine it as Dreamfyre ready to set the man ablaze. Instead, she turned towards the Red Priestess, Lysara, and nodded that she was ready.

"Dracarys!" It was a command for herself and for the rest of the men to have their justice served. She touched the torch to kindling, watched it hungrily envelop the dry wood of the pyre. She wanted him to suffer but in his state she was certain he'd be dead of shock before truly feeling the flames blacken his skin and render fat from flesh. Rhaena pressed the torch to the man's chest, watched the pain overtake him, before at last, she felt strong arms on her, pulling her away.

"You will be devoured by it, Princess, come a few steps back." Darkrobin was in her ear, pleading with her to move so that he would not need to pick her up and risk injury or a greater scene. She obeyed, with great reluctance, for each step back her body urged her to lunge forward and spit at those who had wronged her so deeply.

The pained screams and agonied cries echoed across the mountaintop, finally breaking Loreon from his trance - immediately shocked by the sight of Princess Rhaena torturing the Septon he’d known from birth. Lysara, observing him, moved closer and set a hand on his arm. Her steady chant grew louder, and louder still.

“From darkness, light. From ashes, fire. From death, life.”

Some of the crowd, those few followers of R’hllor among them, began to speak as one.

“From darkness, light. From ashes, fire. From death, life.”

Loreon remained quiet, his eyes frantically darting from one pyre to the next. He felt the eyes of his nobles watching him, the presence of Olyvar beside him. Among this chaos, this frantic panic, it was Lysara who comforted him with the hand on his arm - and the vision began to flash in his mind once again. He calmed, and slowly, unsteadily, began to recite the chant.

“… from darkness, light. From ashes… fire. From death, life.”



Tytos Lannister was a tall, portly man. His belly round and his face soft, plump with red cheeks. The hair on his head had long started to recede, and his beard too was ever more patchy by the day - even if it did retain the golden blonde known to Lannisters. On his hand, a ring of solid gold moulded in the shape of a lion’s head sat on his ring finger - a sign that it’s wearer was the Castellan of the Rock, and second-most powerful man of the Westerlands. Many would say that it was he who ruled over the region, and they would not be entirely wrong.

It was Tytos who held the Westerlands together, assuring lords of Casterly Rock’s continued rule - and indeed, the scandals of his halls aside, their rule over the realm continued to be competent and steadfast. For those outside of the Rock itself, life had continued much the same as it had for the past four decades of Targaryen rule - with a generous programme of investment instituted by the late Lord Loren, his elder brother. Now he was left to clean up the mess made by his nephew.

It was this endeavour that had driven him to his latest act, as one of the Maester’s responsible for the treatment of Prince Aegon left his quarters. Tytos had been assured he was dying, that it would require an intervention from the Gods themselves to save the boy. Tytos wasn’t willing to leave his fate to the Gods. He would decide, and the boy would die. He had to die, if the widowed princess was to make a bride for his nephew, and a heavy dose with milk of the poppy would guarantee it.

His thoughts turned to his niece, the Lady Lorelai Lannister. Favored of Lannisport and the keeper of whispers. There was nothing she did not know, which meant she would be next. It brought him no pleasure to think of kinslaying, and of ending the life of the girl he held in his arms as she grew - but the fate of their family depended on him, not her, and she would surely discover his involvement with the death of Aegon eventually. Not to mention the threat she posed to his contingencies, his plans for ‘dealing’ with Loreon should it be needed. He had no choice, really. It was a necessary act, or at least, so he told himself.

Further scheming was interrupted by the hurried arrival of a courtier, yelling about the sacrifices currently taking place - an affair he had elected to remain entirely absent from. He would be cleaning this mess for months to come.



Rhaena trembled in place, anger and grief tearing at her, unsure which had more control. Melony Piper had been in Lannisport already; she had rushed to the princess’s side as soon as she had been found and told of their unexpected arrival. None of the three ladies could provide their princess any comfort beyond their presence. They huddled together, too young to have to know such anguish. Hope from the sacrifice had been quickly dashed. Men had burned but the Red Priestess’s god had done nothing. Aegon was dying still, more quickly than before. He would die that night.

There was no time, not even on dragonback for their family to reach them. Poor Melyssanthi, her grief would surely erupt in an anger like Rhaena felt boiling just beneath the surface. Viserys, who would now bear the weight of being heir. And the little ones, the ones who had looked up to Aegon with awe. Her father, she tried to empathize but could not stop her anger from tainting that either. The Faith and the Poor Fellows struck their blows but only because he had denied her Dreamfyre. Were it not for that Aegon would be alive and the pious men just burned corpses outside Oxcross instead of a few on top of the Rock.

“Keep him on milk of the poppy, maester, allow him the peace I am denied.” Her voice was raw, rough. “And have word sent to Dragonstone. My father, your king, must be told that his son and heir has been murdered most callously by the Faith we have compromised with for too long.” And if he does not act, I will, again, and far more than a handful of men will burn for it. With Melyssanthi and their dragons they could burn a path through an army. They could travel all the kingdoms, purging the land of the Poor Fellows. Scorched earth for any who harbored them. Perhaps they would even burn the Starry Sept and have their dragons rip the High Septon limb by limb.

Her women tried to place hands on her shoulders or arms in comfort but she shrugged them off. “A part of me will die with him, one of three has been taken.” Destiny had been robbed of them and any who held responsibility for it would pay.

Rhaena, first born of the first born of the Conqueror, crawled back into bed with Aegon, the boy who would have been king. She cradled his head, silver hair damp with sweat, against her bosom, and wept silently until the last, ragged, breath left his battered body.



“This is stupid.”

She said nothing.

“…I told you those Red Priests are dangerous.”

Still, she said nothing. In fact, truth be told, Lady Lorelai Lannister had said very little for nearly the entire day. She broke her fast in near silence, but for a greeting to her protector, Keeno Sylhan. At midday she spoke to the Old Man, the Crone, the Child, and the Maiden. The Old Man warned her about the heir’s death. The Maiden warned her about the Red Priestess and the sacrifice. The Child warned her about Faith Militant finding ways into the city, smuggled over land and by sea.

The Crone patted her hand and told her to watch her uncle. Other than a perched brow, Lorelai had said very little.

During the lead-up to the evening, Lorelai said nothing.

All the while, Keeno had said more words in a single day than he had said, altogether, in months. The Red Priestess. Burning people. Sacrifice. R’hllor. Don’t trust them. They can’t be trusted. They should be careful, even her brother, Loreon, could fall to, as Keeno so eloquently put it, ”their fiery bullshit.”

When Lorelai watched them burn the men, she sighed. When some of those present shouted in damnation and protest, she said nothing. When she watched them burn Alfyn, tears ran down her cheeks, but still, she said nothing.

Keeno had not been so quiet, always leaning into her, whispering to her, “No way your brother stops this. He’s bought into that witch’s lies. Probably thinks he’s the next R’hllor, himself.”

Part of her wanted to say something, to tell Keeno to stop. But why, she questioned herself? Because he knew the Red Priests far better than she did? He proved that when he leaned over and whispered to her that this was a farce, anyway, apparently only the blood of kings could buy the lives of kings.

“They’re all slaves, all the Priests. They work in a caste system like any other.”

Aegon was doomed to die. She failed to tell Keeno about the Old Man’s warning. It didn’t seem like it mattered, one way, or another, the heir to the Iron Throne was a dead man. Yet she had never seen Keeno so agitated. She was the only one in Westeros who knew what he had been; a Sorrowful Man. A master assassin. Had been? Still was? Could one just stop being such a thing, she wondered?

Could she just stop being a Lannister of Casterly Rock? At the moment, as the tears fell down her cheeks, she seriously contemplated the question. By the time it was done, Keeno didn’t move from her side, but she felt his restlessness all the same. She had been in the very, very back. Shrouded in cloak and hood. Most seemed to miss her, or not quite realize who she was. The cloak and hood were, after all, neither crimson nor gold, but an old gray. Something she wore to sea from time to time.

Yet one man, above all, found her. “This was ill done.”

The smile she gave was all that remained after such a day, Lord Westerling would simply have to make do with what was left of her, “I am sorry, my Lord.”

“Oh?” He sounded surprised, but not genuinely surprised—there was a harsh mockery to his tone, “Was this your doing, Lorelai?” The look she gave him was enough to make him chuckle. “I did not think so, and the tears on your face would certainly suggest otherwise…you know the conversations that will be had. I have heard the King’s…network, it—”

“—the Lord’s, Lord Westerling. I would not see you harmed for insinuating there was another King while there are Valyrian dragonriders full of anger and bitterness wallowing in their tragedy about.” His awkward silence was enough for her to simply sniff at one of her tears, and continue, “And let us not pretend those ‘conversations’ are not already being had tonight, Lord Westerling. We have always been very honest with each other.”

“…my oldest is six and ten, he is young, but…”

She didn’t cut him off this time. He just stopped talking when he saw the look of pure pain she gave him, both of them thinking of Julien Crakehall. “Thank you, my Lord. I know you mean well. I know some of you hope to take me from Casterly Rock, to protect me.”

Lorelai heard nothing but that three-eyed raven, now. Caw. Caw.

Help.

She sniffed again, shaking her head, slowly, draining the sound from her ears. “There is no protecting me from this, Lord Westerling.” Or anything else. “Go home, good man. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

When he was gone, she looked over to Keeno, who simply stared at her. “Let’s go inside.”
It was the softest, gentlest, thing she had heard him say all day.




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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Almalthia
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Almalthia Friendly neighborhood redhead

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Dragonstone






Queen Alyssa’s hands trembled, they covered her mouth, a valiant effort to stifle the sobs. Her body convulsed through the effort. She had been brought the news first, in private, while the other children kept their father company in his convalescence. Now the queen needed more strength than was left for her.

The gods were cruel.

Her husband’s collapse had been terrifying enough, only for a raven to arrive a day later with news of a vicious attack in the Westerlands. That Aenys had managed to begin recovery in spite of that had been a welcome reprieve from what had seemed certain tragedy. Visenya may have been a hard woman, but Alyssa credited her entirely with the fact that the king had avoided the Stranger’s cold grasp. Thank the gods, she had reiterated over and over, Aenys saved, her eldest children attacked but under the protection of House Lannister.

How could she tell her husband now? How could she tell the children? It did not feel real, no matter the gaping hole in her soul, the ache only a mother would understand.

A hand to her shoulder startled her. The maester, with pity in his eyes, wordlessly motioned to the door. The news had to be broken. There could be no further delay. Alyssa wiped at her face, a futile effort for the tears did not halt. She gripped the man’s arm with both hands, a heavy dread that deepened with every step that brought them to her husband’s chambers.

She paused at the door, no longer able to stop the grief from spilling over. A piercing wail broke free from the queen, shattering the silence of the corridor, halted the quiet murmurs she had barely noticed from within the room. The door opened, she was face-to-face with a maid whose look of pure confusion quickly turned to fear. Alyssa barely held herself upright as her eyes moved towards the bed where she could see her husband and children staring back at her.

The maester, one hand to the queen’s back to free himself of her grip, and the other to the maid to take his place, stepped fully into the room. “My King, with deepest regret I must inform you we have received word from Casterly Rock -" He was interrupted again by the sound of the queen falling to her knees. “Lady Rhaena is said to be recovering well, but Prince Aegon, he has succumbed to his wounds."

Aegon? What? Stunned, Melyssanthi was not processing exactly what the Maester was saying. "Aegon… you must be mistaken… Why would he be wounded?" The message started to sink in. "Who owes me a life?! So help me I will take a page from my grandfather's book. There will be fire and blood in the Westerlands."

Her temper burned within, making her vivid purple eyes dance with a fire that was born of rage. She looked down at her mother and snapped. "Get up. Your living children and husband need your strength." Turning to the Maester, Melyssanthi lashed him with her temper as well. "And you. Did you not think this would exasperate the King's condition. You who are supposed to be the greatest Maester in Oldtown. GET OUT BEFORE I DROP YOU FROM A HEIGHT INTO YOUR PRECIOUS FIRE IN OLDTOWN!" Melyssanthi bellowed with authority and a terrifyingly exquisite rage that heightened her color and deepened her breath.

Still in a beautiful rage Melyssanthi turned to the maid and in a less severe tone said. "Fetch my Aunt Visenya to me." She took a breath in and out. "Please. And be quick."

The maid left quickly, running, towards the Dowager Queen's rooms. Despite Melyssanthi's outburst, the Maester stayed firmly in the room, waiting for the king or queen to dismiss him. Alyssa stood, jarred to action by her daughter's words. It was Aenys she should go to, worried as she was about what this would do to him, what it would do to them. But her daughter needed her. Unsteadily she swooped onto her daughter, enveloped the girl in a surprisingly firm embrace. "My darling," she got out before sobs could overtake her again, "Rhaena will need you more than ever, do not be rash."

The king's gaze stayed on the maester though he struggled to see anything. He heard words, he heard cries and anguished yells, but none of it was cohesive. His son, dead? The little boy who had ridden wooden dragons? The sweet child who had trailed after his older sisters? The little leader who corralled his younger siblings? His heir who would have made as good a king as him, with time? "Impossible." He muttered it at first. Quietly, barely audible except to young Alyssane who had been curled up on his side. Her little face peered up to his, tears in her eyes though she too could not comprehend all that was said. "Impossible!" The king spoke again, louder this time, pain and fear in his voice. His fists tightened as he gripped the blankets laid over him, his knuckles whitened even against his paled skin. "IMPOSSIBLE!"

The treatments Visenya had worked on the King were effective, but taxing. She had delved into the knowledge saved from Valyria, both the mundane and the mystical, spoken the names and prayers of the ancient Gods into the flames and only just been rewarded with saving her ailing Nephew from the brink. She had rarely been shy in her council or criticism of Aenys and his reign, but he was still her blood. The son of the Dragon. She would have placed her own child on the throne in his place, but it was not the right of the Seven Starred barbarians to take him from her.

She had maintained the same chambers on Dragonstone for all of her long life. If any of her family had thought that the chance of title would have altered that they had been sadly mistaken, and none had voiced it. The chamber was the largest not reserved for the Lord of Dragonstone, high up in the spires. For all her reputation, the space was brightly decorated and well lit, the adornments were mostly in the style of the Free Hold, but there were a few scattering of trappings that originated from the peoples of Westeros and more exotic climes. The only truly ominous feature of the room was the vast reflective slab of Dragonglass, which she now stood before. She eyed her own reflection intently, pale violet eyes gazing back into themselves.

The Queen-That-Was regarded herself, clad in a gown that was part black metal, part red cloth, and allowed a slow breath to leave her form. She could feel the commotion rising through Dragonstone as if the citadel was an extension of herself.

"What now, old friend?" She spoke the words, gazing upwards as she seem to regard the place itself. "What more would they have of me?" The last words to leave her lips before she was interrupted were barely a whisper, a ghost of a sound. Then the maid entered her chamber, and the tidings she brought were desperate enough that even Visenya would not punish her for the break of decorum.

“Out." The next words Visenya spoke were to the whole room as she entered Aenys’ chamber, an unconditional and uncompromising command that came without panic as to the situation. When the Maester protested, something as to only being dismissed by the King or Queen themselves, the two of her footmen that followed simply dragged him from the room, the Dowager Queen having no time to settle the matter herself. She paused only once, a hand calloused with a lifetime of sword work placed with surprisingly gentle touch on the shoulder of the Queen, speaking softly; “Strength, Strength for your children." It was only a moment, her stride barely halted as she reached Aenys’ side. The emotional outburst of the King was rapidly turning into less deliberate convulsions, what little strength his form had from his last bout of illness being forced into the task of his own destruction.

The air cooled around Visenya, the vibrancy of her eyes rising as it did, perhaps a trick of the light, or the Sun dipping lower, the seabound air rushing about the chamber, or it could be more. There were few options left to her at such notice, but there wasn’t anything she would leave unturned here, willing the nephew she had always thought weak to find his last strength.

Relaxing a little as her Great Aunt entered the room and in the next moment defiance and rigidity stiffened Melyssanthi’s countenance as they were ordered out. She looked at her mother as the Dowager Queen spoke to her. All the pain, fear and rage boiled inside her and she stood rooted to the spot so that her mother had to drag her from the room. She did not fight her mother. She merely looked at her mother with all of her emotions playing across her face and as the door shut she shook with the force of them.

Shaking off her mother, Melyssanthi stood tall, her rage draped about her like a living breathing thing, her eyes bright with it. “I will hold her personally responsible if father dies. Just as I will hold all those who killed my brother personally responsible." Her voice was firm and confident as well as filled with an unquenchable anger.

Alyssa stood facing her second daughter, Visenya’s words pounding in the echoing void of her grief. Little Alysanne and Jaehaerys gripped her on either side, seeking her comfort and asking questions that she could not answer. Viserys behind her tried to be strong but his face was wet and red from crying. The queen stared at Melyssanthi and for one fleeting moment felt herself shatter. Her hand was raised before she knew what she was doing and the sound of her hand meeting her daughter’s cheek was sharp, vicious. “He is my son. I pray you never get a taste of my grief." Remorse quickly flooded her when she saw her daughter’s face clearly, the fresh redness of a handprint. “Come, we’ll go to the sept and pray." Pray that whatever it was Visenya had done to save her husband the first time, she would be successful again.

Within the bedchamber, Aenys found a moment of lucidity. His breath heavy and ragged, he felt as if a heavy stone had been placed on his chest. But he was able to focus on his aunt, to see her and to know that there was nothing she could do. Tears came to his eyes that he could no longer protect his family. “Aunt." He raised his arm, with frailty, towards her, beckoning her to his side.

The moment was shared between them, a brief flash of grief and rage as Visenya knew that their foes had succeeded. She had spent the last weeks caring over Aenys as if he was her own son, and even had she not relied on arts that perhaps only she could still master, she felt his strength flooding out of him as if it were her own. Only then did she allow the tension to flood out of her, giving up the fight in the same moment. The same weakness rushed into her, staggering as she took the step needed to bring herself fully to his side. Another fleeting reminder that soon even her supernatural ability to hold off the curse of time would come to an end. Just a few more years, there is still so much to do.

"Hush now, nephew, I am sure there are kinder souls to you than I that you would wish to share your last words with." For a rare moment, she took his hand in both of her's, stroking her fingers over the sickness-wracked heat baking from his skin. When she looked at him, a spattering of tears fell from her eyes, unable to ignore the likeness in his face.

So like Rhaenys, another who this land had taken from her. Perhaps no one else but the dying man before he could understand the ache her passing had left, the great chasm in their lives. How different, happier, they all could have been.

"Please, I need -" His lips were dry, his mouth struggled to form the words he needed to get out. Every syllable was a battle, and he felt the return of being a disappointment in comparison to his brother. He had always just been sufficient. A lark of destiny that he had been conceived first. But for his children, he could fight to at least ensure their future. The Stranger would have to wait just a little longer to claim him. Aegon gone, young Viserys would need a strong hand. "We named him for you. Protect him, make him a king like father was." Aenys fell back, sweat dripping down him, soaking the bed, from the effort and the sickness that ravaged him. His hand went weak in his aunt's embrace, but he kept his eyes on her, searching for her promise so that he could pass in peace.

"I will keep them all safe, Nephew, they will never harm your blood again." She did not mention that what he asked, in the way he meant it, was impossible. His second son was young, barely out of infancy, and for all that time seemed to rest only lightly on Visenya, she did not have the years left to forge a new King from such clay. She had tried, for so long, to guide her family. Even her beloved siblings had often ignored her council, while leaving the consequences of both their mercy and brevity for her to resolve. She leaned down, feeling more of her own strength returning to her with every passing moment as Aenys faded, the vitality she had worked into his recuperation left unspent by the failure of his heart for this final time. With another moment of tenderness that surprised even her, she placed a kiss to his cheek, pausing only to give her final words to the passing King, switching to the ancient words of their lost people as she did so, "The fires will dance with your mother's joy to see you once more."

As she pulled away, and her own tears fell on to the face of her departing Nephew, she spoke louder in Valyrian, enough that the sworn guards of the household pulled the doors reverently open, allowing the light to return to the chamber.

The slap jerked Melyssanthi’s head to the side. She'd never been struck before and she froze after her mother hit her. Slowly she turned her head and regarded her mother as if she were a stranger. Her mother's words rang in her ears and bounced around within her and faded into inconsequential noise. Of course she'd bury children. A husband. Friends. No one was immortal.

"You would not have a reason to if Dreamfyre had gone with them." Melyssanthi’s face was colder than the land of always winter. "You could have pushed for them to take her. You're the Queen and his wife. You alone had the right to press that decision. So while yes I may bury a child, husband, friends or lovers it will not be because I did not fight for their right to protect themselves to their fullest capabilities."

Melyssanthi stood firm and shook her head. "I shall wait here to receive word from Aunt Visenya."

The queen had been stopped fully at her daughter's defiance. The littlest ones began to wail, from confusion and anger and grief. It only served to enrage Alyssa further. The girl was selfish in her grief, so absorbed in herself she could see little else. And the queen, the mother, the wife, she could do little but stare open mouthed in shock. As if she had not been living lifetimes of regrets in the little time since news had arrived.

It was Viserys instead, who stepped around their mother, his hand scrubbing awkwardly at his face to clear it of tears and to steady his voice. "Do not speak to mother that way." His voice had yet to deepen, he still sounded like the boy that he was, barely out of playing with wooden swords instead of learning swordplay. And yet he knew that he was now heir. He feared that he was now king.

Looking down at her little brother, Melyssanthi's heart broke for him. He would never truly be king. Very quickly he would be something to represent a king but at his age would have a regent. Visenya and or Maegor would rule. Her mother was too soft. Rhaena would be remarried. Probably to their Uncle as was suggested earlier. She'd be stuck somewhere, gods knew where. Jaehaerys and Alyssane were young enough that they could be molded; maybe this let them fight for a place. That is if they weren’t all just killed. "Viserys. May you learn to listen and hear truths when they are spoken little brother." She looked at her mother. "Then when you are King you can make the right choices yourself."

Try as he might, the boy struggled to respond. He turned back towards his mother instead, seeking comfort from harsh truths or encouragement to act like a man. He floundered in both for the Queen had knelt to hug the two youngest to her. She sang to them softly, between gasps of trying to stifle sobs.

"The Seven Gods who made us all, are listening if we should call.
So close your eyes, you shall not fall, they see you, little children.
Just close your eyes, you shall not fall, they see you, little children.”


The doors swung open and Alyssa slowly lifted her head to look over the heads of Jaehaerys and Alyssane. She looked behind her to see Viserys with his head bowed, sniffling heavily. She looked to Melyssanthi, contempt and anger but a mother could see the grief it buried. Her heart ached for the loss of her son, her husband, her living children. Strength , Visenya had said, but where in seven hells was it to come from?

“Come, but quietly and gently, to see your father."

The King’s eyes remained open, his breath alternated between quiet wheezing and sudden, ragged gasps. He knew that his family surrounded him, but not all of them. His mother, he could barely recall her face, knew only the stories that had been told to him. She was nothing and everything. His father, would he be remembered the same? How could he be, he had done so little. Aenys’s eyes looked over those assembled. He wished he could stay, wished he could grow old and see his children have children. He wished that he had never sent Aegon and Rhaena away. Aenys’s strength faded, his mouth moved to form the name of his wife, the names of his children, but there was no sound except for the awful rasping breaths.

He closed his eyes, unsure of how much time had passed but so tired. He was so tired of everything, he wanted to see his mother like he sometimes did in his dreams. He wanted to fly on Quicksilver beside her on Meraxes. He wanted to see what he had only spoken of with maesters. He closed his eyes and felt a dozen hands on him, warmth, finally he was warm again. Aenys felt the warm sun on his face, land and sea whirl beneath him, and then nothing.

The white hot rage that burned like dragon fire sputtered and died as Melyssanthi viewed her Aunt's forlorn expression and she knew. The press of the Stranger was heavy and in a conciliatory gesture she paused and grasped her Aunt's hands. Grief threatened to suck her down into a bottomless abyss that she knew she would end up walking alone or it would swallow her whole. Her pause was brief but spoke volumes about her reigning herself in.

Moving to her father she watched as he struggled to breathe. Silent tears fell as Melyssanthi held his hand and gave him what comfort she could. She sang. Her voice was soft and unsteady at first as her broken emotions laid bare. Gaining strength her voice steadied and became stronger with each note.

She sang an old Valyrian lullaby that spoke of being the one that was called home. A home across swirling seas where you could feel the pulse of the land with the sun warm on your face. A place untouched by time where you wait for your loved ones with love and patience knowing that time has no meaning, that you would see them soon. She sent him off with the Stranger knowing that he was loved and missed but someday he'd see them just like he would be reunited with his parents.

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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Ezekiel

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Collab with @Runic, @Vanq and @Ezekiel


Pentos




The city’s night song was a seductive symphony of vice and violence. Men challenged each other for honor or greed, coin exchanged for thrill and drink, women to entice or be taken. It was the courtesan’s favorite time of day, as the sun finally dipped below the horizon and her day could truly begin. Her miscreants sought her out, a few words exchanged before slipping back into the shadows. She did not fear the night or those who claimed it as their own.

She was expected elsewhere, but there was one small task requiring her attention first. She turned down a small alley and ducked in through a rotting wooden door to a room that reeked of spoil. The woman barely noticed it, her eyes immediately moving to the form in a dimly lit corner. A man, slumped over, his breaths came in rasping wheezes. A dagger’s hilt was visible, the blade plunged between his ribs. He was in pain, panicked, but the poison she had dosed him with kept him immobilized. She had been curious if he would drown in his own blood or if terror would render him dead first. It seemed to be the former.

“You are an interesting man.” She paused as if to give him time to respond. Her voice was deep, but coldly smooth. “More resilient than I had estimated. Impressive, truly.” She smiled though the man would not see it, nor would it provide comfort if he could. “But I have no need for you anymore. Your house has fallen, extinguished. And your collection, well, I will safeguard it, do not fret.” The courtesan took careful steps forward, ensuring nothing touched the trail of blood leaking from her victim. She bent, breathed in deeply at the foul smell of fear and sweat and impending death. Her face nearly brushed against him. “Night will fall for all, for now it claims just you.” Long fingers wrapped around the hilt. In a smooth movement she twisted the blade and withdrew it from between his ribs. Blood spilled out and the man’s wheezes turned to gurgles.

Blood had splattered against her, with annoyance she checked if it had stained her clothing. She’d hate to miss her appointment, and was satisfied to find only a few drops on her wrist. She held her arm up in the dim light, admired the deepness to it, the way it seemed to drink the light. She pressed her tongue against her skin, lingered where the man’s life had stained her. She was cleansed, the dagger dripped next to her, small thuds as the thick liquid dripped to the stone floor. For a moment, Tyanna of Pentos thought to keep the blade, but it was far better to remove it from use by anyone else. She wiped it clean with the man’s fine silk tunic. When her evening was finished, she would dispose of it in the bay, a watery grave for she had yet to find a way to destroy Valyrian steel.

An hour later as the city truly came to life, she was given entry to the exiled Targaryen’s manse. She was known, now, to the servants, though they cared little for her presence. Prince Maegor had yet to return, but that suited Tyanna. Men were simple things and posed no challenge to her designs. Women, though, required a different approach, and she needed his lovely, besotted wife.

“Lady Alys, I’m so sorry for the late hour.” Her head tilted in greeting, long raven locks twisted with white lace and black pearls hung freely around her bare shoulders. She was a stark figure even in the warm light. The courtesan bordered on being pallid, only exaggerated by her preference for dressing in cold, inky, indigo.

Lady Alys, the wife of Prince Maegor, the whore of Harroway. Her dress was light silk that wrapped about her curvaceous form. Her hair styled in the tumble of curls found in Essos was being brushed by a maid as the Pentoshi woman entered, and Alys raised a hand. Sending the servant off. They had learned to obey well and not risk their mistress’s sharp tongue. “Not at all, Lady Tyanna.” She doubted the woman was a lady at all, but she had few friends in the city and longed for Westeros, even if her own would mock her for marrying a man with one wife already. So what if he did? His father had taken two wives, and she was not sister to Maegor.

“Bring a goblet for her and vittles.” She directed with a curt snap of her fingers. Imperious as any Princess, which was her right. The maid scurried off to do so, while two others remained in the room, tucked out of sigh and ready to answer her call. It was just as she would have it. Everyone in their place.

Except her husband. Maegor, Prince Maegor, should have been home with her and working on an heir and spare, and home would be across the sea in Dragonstone. His rightful seat as the Lord of Dragonstone. Let King Aenys and his children control the realm, had her husband the mind they could have controlled the dragons. Instead, her Prince was off burning off some barbarian horses for Balerion’s supper. Not a unwarranted thing perhaps and it could gain him good will. Gods knew it was better to have a man let his temper wear off in battle than bring it his home, but still Alys would not lie to herself. She wanted children, she wanted Westeros and by all the Gods she wanted to strangle the next person who called her the ‘whore of Harroway’. “I trust the city fares well? With all it’s ruffians and glamorous sights?” She reclined in her seat, a small basket next to her with fine embroidery. It really was nothing but something to pass the time. A musician played behind a screen a soft song that she had halted not too long ago. Perhaps she ought to have him begin again?

“One of these nights, I will convince you to join me for my journey through Pentos and allow me to show you all that she has on offer.” Tyanna gracefully lowered herself to a cushioned seat near the prince’s whore. Or so she had been called, it was at least alliterative. Her gown shifted with the movement, pooling in soft ripples around her legs, the neckline plunged deeply down her chest and cinched round her waist with white gold and silver chains. She was warmer to her companion, but just barely.

Food and drink was delivered and the courtesan enjoyed a long drink of the heady red. At least the Westerosi could identify a good vintage from time to time. “I have heard rumors of your husband’s exploits against the savage horse-lords. This is good for him, and for you. A battle won will increase his virility.” Her hand reached into folds of inky fabric near her waist. A hidden pocket, her fingers found the small vial she had prepared for Alys. Tyanna held it out in the palm of her hand, the liquid was an unsettling green color. “Drink it when he returns, but you must be sure that he beds you that night.” She spoke of fucking in a way that the prudish Westerosi seemed to prefer, euphemism and poetry. Tyanna had been introduced to Alys as courtesan yes, but also as a woman who helped women. She knew how to make women fertile, and how to end a life before it could begin. Or so some said.

Gray-green eyes, devoid of emotion, glinted as she watched Alys. “A child, an heir, what every rightful king needs - no?” For a price, always for a price and who would not pay for it if it meant a crown?

Alys was hesitant as she took the liquid, she had been married to Maegor so briefly, yet if she could quickly get with child? All the better, and better to insure it was a son. There was a flash of greed at the thought that Maegor could be king, she could be Queen and his marriage to his first wife could be put aside by his decree then. She would no longer be considered by the Faith to be a whore. “I shall remember and keep your words close.” Alys mused, her fingers holding up the strange liquid as she watched it before setting it into the small basket of her work. “But what could I offer for repayment? If it does work so well?”

“You are wise, princess.” Tyanna chose her words carefully, enunciating each syllable of the title. “I will not obscure that I seek something in return. But it is an easy cost, I only desire your continued friendship and passage with you to Westeros when you return.” The courtesan picked up her goblet, slowly tipping the glass before taking another sip. “You..intrigue me. You and your husband. You are destined for greatness, I know it.” She leaned forward, her arms crossed, the goblet held delicately to the side. “The Doom did many things, it weakened and sundered magic, is that not what your maesters teach? But I tell you, it is not gone, just hidden to most. Not hidden to your husband who can tame dragons.”

The private conversation between the two women was momentarily shattered by a crescendo of noise. The screeching roar of a dragon burst the air from on high, shaking through the manse. The staff, as used as they could be to such things from the previous presence of the Prince and Balerion, still recoiled in place from the surge of noise, as cries of alarm arose unbidden from the wider city. While Maegor had been in residence for some time, the common people were still not entirely used to the sporadic presence of a dragon in their midst.

The assumption among many, of course, would be that the Prince had returned to Pentos, back from his adventures to the South East of the continent among the haughty people of Volantis, but this was not the case. With a heavy tread that shuddered through the manse as much as the roar before, the large, but ultimately smaller than Balerion, form of Vhaegar landed in the great expanse of the courtyard, the dragon emitting another roar of challenge into the air, before lowering to allow her rider to descend. It was not the first time that Visenya Targaryen had visited her son in the East, and both the city and the staff knew to allow her entry, but that still did not prevent their pause at the arrival of the Dowager Queen of a continent.

It had been some years since Visenya had fully embraced the raiment she was most famous for. The dark plate armour and red flowing cloth of both tabard and cloak flowing in the air as she pulled herself free of her mount’s saddle. As if it were the day she and her siblings had landed upon the shores of Westeros, the silver-gold of her hair, still free of true-white despite her many years, was drawn into a tight but long braid, reaching far down the expanse of her back.

With force the armoured woman swept into the chamber, the cold intensity of her eyes falling on the pair of women, regarding Tyranna for but a moment, before refocusing on Alys.

“Where is Maegor? The matter is urgent.” Her tone was not entirely dismissive for the woman who her son had gone into exile over, who’s ceremony she had overseen, but it was direct. Time, of course, was of the essence.

The arrival of the dragon had brought Alys to sit upright, no longer lounging at her pleasure in the open room. It was a large enough roar to be Balerion, yet her heart stuttered as she felt a pang for who it was. “My husband is in the east culling the Horse Lords.” Her curtsy was deep as she sank back into her seat. “Along with the Dragonlord of Volantis. What is so urgent to call him back?” She gestured and a servant bowed, offering Visenya a goblet of wine. There were many who disdained Visenya, but Alys was not one of them. She was rather impressed by the woman. Having been through so much and still strong. She could understand the wear of time. “My Lady Dowager Queen Visenya Targaryen may I introduced Tyanna of Pentos.” She did not design to off the woman the title of Lady before Visenya. It was not so much a slight but a fact that she knew her mother by marriage would see Tyanna for what she was.

“A woman of skill and interesting conversation.” She smiled gently and cocked her head. “Yet, I must ask again. My Lady, what has brought you so swiftly? Are we called to return to King Aenys?” There was scorn in her eyes as she sneered the name, unable to completely hide her dislike. It was not as if Aegon had not taken two wives and yet Aenys had called out his brother for the same thing his father had done! Then went and married his son to his daughter! Hypocrite!

Tyanna’s eyes narrowed, if only for a moment. This was an unexpected visit, and for her, an undesirable interruption to her plans. She was not so quick to rise and bend herself before the woman. She may have been a queen in Westeros but in Pentos she was just a dragonrider. It left a bad taste in the courtesan’s mouth, like a swallow of wine that had been left to turn to vinegar. Still, she was a resourceful woman and it was not the first time carefully laid plans had needed adjusting. “Queen Dowager Visenya, what a fine pleasure to meet such an illustrious woman.” Her head bowed with respect, her face kept stoically blank even as she tried to put together the pieces of the impromptu visit, the urgency behind it.

“The matter is not for the ears of others.” Visenya’s tone was stern as she regarded the Pentoshi woman once more, but as previously, her focus did not linger, settling instead on Alys, a few of the hardest edges of her features disappearing as she did so. “I will call for Maegor’s return, until he does, none may leave.” She turned to leave, to be about the business of calling her blood to her, before she paused, willing to offer the Westerosi woman at least some measure of catharsis. “His destiny is upon him, and his chosen wife shall be at his side.” Without so much more as a brief nod, she swept from the room in full, the doors opening before her as she moved, without a hint of delay to her stride.

So the matter would have to be discussed later. Alys sighed and inclined her head. “As you wish it.” For it could be no other way. If Maegor’s destiny was upon him… Had something happened to Aenys and his children? A small seed of greed in Alys snarled in glee at that thought. “I shall be delighted to see Maegor’s return. He has been gone far too long.”

It seemed she was trapped tonight, how inopportune. Tyanna leaned back again, effortlessly letting her body sink into the chaise. Better to not let Alys see her annoyance. The woman was clearly on good terms with her mother by law. Visenya was much as she had heard but seeing the woman in person certainly put things in perspective. She twirled the goblet of wine, thinking quickly. “Lady Alys, it seems I must impose on your generosity for longer than expected.” Destiny. The word played over in her head. Destiny, for Maegor and Alys, destiny that called to Tyanna. Destiny, if only the queen knew of what she spoke.

“I am not often left alone for an evening.” A glint entered her dark eyes, a softer look than her clients received. “Whatever shall we do to keep ourselves entertained?’

“Denying the Dowager Queen is rarely something I saw attempted or wise. The woman is iron.” Alys commented with a dry tone, so like her nephew Elmo’s. “My apologies for this imposition. I shall see you compensated for it.” After all, it was reasonable to do. Tyanna had her own business to be about and Alys, thought a noblewoman, could understand that. “If you wish, I can have musicians, entertainment and other such amusemsent summoned.” She shrugged in a nonchalant way that made her voluptuous chest move. The weeks spent in exile with little to do aside from being entertained had left the ‘Whore of Harroway’ with a bit extra about her curves. “I have the benefit of being able to summon what I desire, without having to leave.”
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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Ruby
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Princess Ceryse Targaryen // @Vanq



Before the door to the solar was even closed, it had begun. Though the High Septon and Lords Oakheart and Rowan beat them there, it was calm until Manfred ushered the two women inside. For once, it wasn’t Ceryse, it was Vittoria.

“You’re not ‘losing’ me, Lord Manfred. That’s non-sense.”

Manfred’s response made Vittoria literally jump in the air, as the door to the solar slammed with such a force it thundered, and jolted even the older men who sat around the far table, near the fireplace. Ceryse and Vittoria sat upon chairs, Manfred content to stand—pace, in all honestly.

His tone followed the slamming of the door, thunder rollicking throughout the impressively sized solar of the Hightower. Books shelved on one side, his writing table nearest the only window in the room, his cushioned high chair behind it.

“ARE YOU DAFT GIRL!?”

Smug was the only impression she had when the High Septon spoke. When the High Septon anything, when Vittoria thought about it, “The entire hall saw you fawn over the Baratheon boy, girl.”

“I’m a woman grown, High Septon,” for the first time in her life, she addressed the High Septon with heat in her big brown eyes.

“Aye, past time you married, no less. Are we not allowed to mourn you?”

Vittoria balked, looking to Ceryse for a second, before back to the Princess’ father, “I’m not dying, Manfred.”

His fist slammed into the writing table that he just happened to be pacing by, “HE WILL STRIP YOUR TITLES, GIRL! YOU DO UNDERSTAND THAT, CORRECT? YOU CANNOT BE HIGH MARSHALL FROM THE STORMLANDS. YOU CANNOT COMMAND HIGHGARDEN’S ARMIES AS THE WIFE OF A BARATHEON! DO YOU GET THAT!?!”

“…nor should you,” Lord Oakheart added on, dryly, though Vittoria and Manfred, both, ignored it.

“Of course, I know that. It’s MY life.” Though she didn’t yell, there was an intense exaggeration on the word ‘my’ when she spoke it. As if to remind the Lords present that they were playing with a life that, will of the Gods, belonged to her and her alone.

“…will he strip her titles? Truly? Lord Theo has made some curious decisions in the past, let us all agree…”

Lord Rowan played at the bottom of his doublet even as he made the comment. Between the two, Lord Oakheart was a lean man, even in his graying years. Lord Rowan was nearly the same age, but shorter, squatter, with a scruffy beard than the well kept mustache of Oakheart. Vittoria wanted to order a cavalry charge on them both.

Manfred’s face twisted, his tone as weary of the nonsense as it was still loud, even if the thunder had left it. “Of course, he will, Rickard. Theo’s not a bloody idiot.”

“You do seem to take up for the man more than I recall, brother.” Before Manfred could snap back, the High Septon simply moved on, retrieving the parchment from the sleeve of his finely embroidered robe, holding the rolled parchment in the air to announce it, “We have word from Casterly Rock. The heir to the Iron Throne is dead. The Valyrian filth claims our own good Poor Fellows guilty of the deed.”

Torgen Oakheart snorted, “They can’t take an ounce of responsibility for anything, can they? As if the Poor Fellows were outraged for no reason at all?”

“You, Princess,” the High Septon began, finally leveling his small blue-gray eyes on the woman, “and your little sinner’s stunt has given the Targaryens cover. They will claim you are bedding foreigners. They will claim you are competing with Lady Vittoria for suiters.”

“Certainly looked that way,” Lord Rowan muttered, as he took a cup from the table’s center and poured it himself.

Manfred’s breathing labored as he, finally, sat upon his tall chair and grunted in disgust. “…so what, brother? You abandon your niece because of a bloody stunt?”

A look was exchanged by the two Lords and the High Septon at the round table next to the fire in the fireplace. The High Septon shifted his weight, even if just so, sitting up just a little taller than he had before. “Of course, I will not brother. We will call tonight a grieving, devastated woman in her cups.”

Oakheart shrugged, “Women are emotional, silly creatures. It is easily believable.”

Vittoria’s eyes snapped up at the man. They didn’t move, as brown eyes darkened into a hard stare.

“For the Lords of the Realm, certainly,” Rowan agreed, as he drank.

The High Septon swept a hand over his chest, flattening his robe as he considered, “This may be. There is word, as well, that the King is ill. Should the King fall, the next in line would be one of the young ones…”

“…Visenya’s tight arse won’t let that happen. It’ll be her boy.”

Manfred’s dark grumble was immediately seized on by the High Septon: “Indeed, brother, indeed! They will use tonight as an excuse. None that aren’t already on their godless side will consider it, sure enough, but all they need are excuses. They will want King’s Landing, they will need it. Yet after word of tonight gets out among the Faithful…it will be difficult…”

The High Septon hemmed, hawed, and Lord Manfred lacked any patience for it, “What will it take, brother? Name your price.”

The High Septon gave but a shrug, staggering his speech as he did, “I, well, I wouldn’t say there is a price to such a thing, brother. This is no negotiation—”

“—is it not? Has it not been since you became High Septon and I became Lord of Hightower?”

The High Septon’s beady eyes almost seemed to stop dead, until his white, bushy brows fluttered a moment, and he swallowed whatever discontent he might have wanted to say in response. “It will be necessary to prove that the Hightower is with the Faith, that the city is united, still. To this end, there is the matter of Commander of the Watch left unfilled.”

Manfred slapped the writing table, nodding, “Name them. I don’t care.”

“Lord Alaric.”

Manfred guffawed so hard, he nearly spat, “The man is MAD, brother. A fanatic! You cannot reason with him.”

The High Septon only appeared to smile, more satisfied than seemed safe, “I have no problem with Lord Alaric.”

“He’s not Lord, brother, he’s a commoner who thinks entirely too highly of himself.”

Lord Oakheart was, by now, filling his own glass, “I find Alaric to be a good man. A man of sharpened steel, no doubt, but of true faith.”

“Aye, exactly the kind of man the city could use,” Rowan nodded along.

For a second, Vittoria thought Manfred might launch himself at both of them. It was no secret how little Manfred cared for the opinions of ‘country’ lords when it came to the running of his city. Even her own father, the Warden of the South, typically got little traction on such matters from Manfred. Of these two, she imagined Manfred wanted to hear nothing of it.

“…fine.”

Ceryse allowed abuse upon abuse to be hurled at her and Vittoria. She would never forgive her uncle for what had happened to her because of his choices. Her father’s anger had nearly been enough to cause remorse, but that melted away now that they were in this room. And now that she saw the powers shifting yet again. Men, always men, seeking short-term gains with no regard for the lives they ruined or the chaos they set in motion. And then, as if she was no longer in the room.

The heir dead. Aenys ill.

She had been wed to Maegor for over fifteen years, had watched the family, seen their contempt for Aenys’s children. If their king fell, there was no doubt, Maegor would be back. With his whore. And what would these men expect of her then, return to him? Take her place by his side while he kept that woman in his chambers? Would they expect her to suddenly care about representing their interests again? Her hands gripped the arm rests, her knuckles white as they debated some foolishness or another.

“You fucking fools.” She bristled, her voice quiet but seething. Whatever her father had agreed to would undoubtedly come back to haunt him, hadn’t all their decisions.

She turned to Vittoria, ignoring the men’s anger at her speaking up - at her continued lack of decorum. “Escape from this wretched place, love. They will destroy you if you stay. They will use you and then discard you when you are no longer convenient. Let my life be a warning to you.”

Ceryse turned her attention back to men who seemed caught between stunned silence and sputters of rage. “Not a single one of you is innocent. But Uncle, oh Uncle - you are the worst of this lot. You sold me to the dragon bastard. Can’t have the boy marry his niece, no that sin against the gods is a step too far. Not after we all bowed and scraped our knees to the man who married not one but two sisters.”

She was snarling, ignored any attempt to cut her off, her voice rose with each accusation. “And you were so handsomely rewarded, were you not? Your life, gold, and lip service to the Faith. Of course, we cannot forget how much House Targaryen respects the Faith. They respect you so much, that they tasked one of your fucking septons to lay hands on me. That’s what they say in polite company isn’t it? Well I can assure every last one of you here that his methodology was far more intrusive. And when I had had enough? Did you welcome me back? No! You have treated me as if I had greyscale.”

She stood, her hands placed on the table, arms quivering from rage. “You think you see the coming battles and you worry that my reputation is what will ruin you? Fucking fools.”

Blood pounded in her ears and she couldn’t risk turning to see how Vittoria handled her outburst. “If you want a sinner’s stunt, I will give you a sevens’ damned sinner’s stunt.”

The High Septon was so quickly to his feet, his hands had to quickly reach to his crystal crown in place on his red and getting redder head as the anger nearly threatened to undo him. Such an act robbed him of first response. That fell to the slender, narrow nosed, Lord Oakheart’s pithy comments:

“Oh, this madness once again,” his eyes rolled, his dismissive chuckle unfurled in full, though those eyes of his double-backed to the stare still on him from the Lady Vittoria.

Lord Rowan stood to leave, “We will be calling banners to protect the Faith,” he said, to Lord Manfred, the Lord of Goldengrove’s eyes hesitating on the large Lord of the Hightower to see if Manfred would react, but found only a blank stare. Without resistance, Lord Rowan’s focus shifted to the Princess, “You were asked to do your noble DUTY. Gods forbid. And now you presume to talk to His Holiness as if he is some vile, ill-intended plotter?”

“We will not have this,” Lord Oakheart nodded, standing as well, “We will be calling our banners,” he might have said it to Manfred, but his eyes had stuck on the stare from Vittoria Tyrell, until he ripped his eyes away, and looked to Manfred.

The High Septon glared at his niece. “…you have done foolish things before, child…but this…”

“If none else will, we will protect the Faith from Maegor,” Rowan doubled down, all but glaring at Manfred Hightower.

The sound that came could have split ears. It was no righteous, thunderous, fury. It was higher pitched, a slap that came loud enough to see men wince. Slap. Flesh on wooden arm rest. SLAP. SLAP.

That it came from Vittoria Tyrell might have been the surprising part, had it not been for the eruption of loud, unbridled, laughter from the youngest person in the room. After the slap, the right hand that had rapped upon the chair’s armrest balled into a fist that bounced once, twice, in the air before her index finger was left pointing to the three men.

Her jaw tightened, her tongue rolling across her left cheek as the highest of humors left her eyes positively brightly wide. It was through the settling of laughter she spoke, after the briefest pause, “…you know he begged?”

When looks of confusion were their response, she leaned forward in the chair, her hands wiping across the space before and below her, above the floor at her feet. “Right there, at my feet. Begged me.” Another bit of laughter came out, a single chuckle, before it, too, settled into a tone livelier than any of these men had ever heard from her before, “Free Cities sent wave after wave. Champion, after champion.” The fingers of her right hand rubbed together, fast, like a soundless snapping, as her left hand brushed hair behind her shoulder, her head cocked just so to the side as she regarded the three men again. “The Hand of the King wouldn’t let me near his war council. Nearly a month of losing men, gold, smallfolk lives—only on the verge of embarrassment did he turn to me. I had Harren the Red cornered in less than a fortnight…you know the Vulture King wouldn’t go near Sam the Savage and I?”

Her lips tightened, her jaw locked as her head shook, once, hard, in exaggeration of ‘nope.’ “Wouldn’t let me catch him. Knew it was coming……” The pause that followed was so quiet, she heard nothing but the cracking of the fire in the fireplace, her humor and joy gone from her face as she stared at them, nodding. “Call your banners for the Faith. Nice of you to finally stir yourselves. I’ll call the banners of the Reach. To protect the Faith, to protect the Realm.”

Rickard Rowan looked as if she struck him. “…is that some kind of threat?”

“We are not scared,” Torgen Oakheart said it with a bark of contentious laughter, though his face showed no humor.

“This is madness—” the High Septon began.

“—the Hightower will burn blue tonight. We will be with you, High Marshall.”

The three men turned to Lord Manfred and protested as a chorus of bemoanings and outrages. To all three, Manfred Hightower simply stared, blank as before, “You all have a busy night ahead of you, then. Go with the Gods…and go now.”

“If she is to be Queen, brother, the—”

The words cut off the moment Lord Manfred turned his head and caught the gaze of his brother. “My daughter is home. My daughter will stay home until she wishes to leave so long as I live. Goodnight, brother.”

The three men all but flew out the door in a rage. Vittoria Tyrell never moved from her seat, staying silent as the men left. When they were gone, Manfred called in the guards at the door:

“Have them light the flame blue,” once they left, his eyes moved to Vittoria, “do not fuck this up. Daughter, see your tired father to bed, please.”

“We’ll talk,” Ceryse promised Vittoria. The High Marshall of the Reach didn’t leave the room until they were gone, Manfred looked…paler, smaller, somehow. Worry gave her enough pause to carefully take in the man’s solar before she left it, every scent, every parchment, the wines there, his tall chair…she almost didn’t notice the shadow at the door until it moved.

“Vittoria,” Martyn Hightower started, his face full of intent, “let’s talk.”


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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Archangel89
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Location: Few miles off the coast of the Reach - 41 AC
Chapter 1: Face to Face @Archangel89 @Ruby



The hunt in Harlaw had been successful to a point, a band of Faithful had escaped on a longship under the cover of confusion. The Harlaw boy had put up more of a fight than previously thought and in the ensuing fight were gone before they knew it. They had taken advantage of the couple of hours lead and prolonged the hunt. The fools would be heading towards some sort of sanctuary, some port to stow away in. There were only two that came to mind and neither would bode well for Rowan if they chose them. In the distance he saw their sails unfurled, catching the full breath of the wind.

”They’ve caught the wind, they’ll be pulling into Lannisport soon. If they dock there then there is nothing we can do. The Lannister’s will kill us as soon as let us leave.”

”There’s another port they could get to, it would depend on them thinking that they can out run us…”

Rowan’s face turned into a mischievous grin, his gaze never leaving his prey,

”...they’re going to Oldtown. They’re going to hope to outrun us and get down to the Reach and make a run for it. Bring the sails to half mast and give them some space, let them run, let them think that the Seven have saved them. Before we show them the true might of the sea.”

The sails raised and the Faithful took a slow lead as they started to edge further and further out. The other sailors looked on in a sort of confusion as Rowan stood there and watched them go further and further out. It had long been speculated that while it was ordered by the Lord Reaper to drive out the Faith of the Seven from the Isles, Rowan had seemed to take it overboard by tracking them down like this was excessive; though they dare not say anything to him, especially after what happened to the Harlaw kid.






Location: The Mouth of the Mander - The Reach - 41 AC
Chapter 1: Face to Face @Archangel89 @Ruby


The chase had gone on long enough, and an impatient captain began pressing the attack. It was true that the Faithful had chosen to forgo Lannisport and tried to make it to Oldtown like Rowan had said but his impatience pushed them towards the Shield Islands but they breached themselves at the Mouth of the Mander and took off. The forest was green thick, life teemed in every nook and cranny and it sickened Rowan. The weak had inherited such fertile ground and had to earn none of it, the greenlanders had to do nothing more than go outside and take from the earth. The tracks were sloppy and easily readable; they were heading towards the nearest village. He was going to bring them back.
“Signal fires, from the Shield Islands.”
The messenger was breathless, a soak of sweat and near panic as he crashed into her pavilion in their camp outside the walls of Oldtown, where she’d been removed to following the incident. There was little time, as badly as she felt, purple and black as her shoulder was, there was just no time for discussion. “Mount who we can. I’ll dress quickly.” Not even Ren argued. He’d stay behind, but from the camp and Garin’s men they assumed possibly thirty. By the time she was on her horse and meeting them on the other side of Oldtown, the number was thirty-two. Half were Garin’s men, half was her knights.
Ryam cursed mentally as the messenger simply had the worst timing possible. He knew exactly what Vittoria was going to do and he felt his duty to defend her rise up… But no, he didn't say a word. He simply left the tent while she dressed and secured his, and Vittoria's horse.
It wasn’t much, but they could easily be joined by men from the Shield Islands themselves, let alone the nearby villages and towns. She herself had gotten quickly into plate, the simple silver, with a thick wool cloak dyed emerald with the golden rose of Highgarden upon it, trimmed in gold.
They found other messengers along the way; Ironborn, for sure, possibly three longships near the mouth of the Mander. Another messenger had reported longships of the Reach dispatched from stations along the Mander, itself, heading down towards the mouth of the river. Messengers from Brightwater Keep found them last: the truth of it was a small force from the Shield Islands had chased the Ironborn who landed, though they had quickly lost the Ironborn after a quick skirmish.
Men from Brightwater Keep had found a band of fleeing men and women of the Faith, and there the story was finally learned: one, maybe two, longships of Ironborn chasing the members of the Faith. Vittoria had a sick feeling when she heard the news. There was little choice but to go as fast as they could, they had gotten a fresh horse for the Brightwater Keep messenger, and he rode point to guide them.
They were found by Garin’s men, between the mouth of the Mander and Highgarden. They crossed at the ferry near Orchardtown, a village, not a town, but the merchants of the village had always been a braggadocious, ambitious sort. By the time they found them, the men from the Shield Islands were gone. Dead, or lost, and only a handful of Brightwater Keep scouts in mail were found with the members of the Faith.
The moment they saw her ride up, they began to sob. She hoped in joy,


“They come quickly!”
Vittoria’s Myrish looking glass confirmed their story. Those were, indeed, Ironborn making a sprint through the rolling fields of golden roses, hot in pursuit. Garin’s men were split in half, one to the right flank, one to the left. The scouts of Brightwater had found a small grove of old oaks atop the tallest hill in the area. Two were left with the Faithful and told to lead them to Highgarden, the other three went with her, inflating the number of mounted men directly with her at nineteen.
“Should we charge?”
Vittoria saw no reason. Garin’s men were on their side of the ridge, not close but not too far for a shout to reach them. Two of her own knights had brought longbows, whereas Vittoria herself couldn’t move her left arm nearly at all without a good deal of pain. The milk of the poppy the Maesters had given her had all but worn away by now, leaving her with a splitting head and an aching body.
“No. We’ll wait for them here.”
The sun was red and sinking fast in the late afternoon by the time the Ironborn got close enough. The spyglass alerted her to a certain presence, one she openly cursed, hotly, without naming a name. The Knights around her stared, never before having heard their Lord Commander’s temper rise so hot, so fast. When they were close enough for the two longbow wielding Knights to reach, standing in front of the horses, Vittoria had them all move forward to the edge of the ridge, so those approaching the steep hill with the grove of old oaks could see the figures on the ridgeline.
“ROWAN!!!”
She screamed so loudly she shook, her shoulder throbbing hot, her left hand going near enough to numb, her head swimming,
“Let’s go,”
,was all she said, as her ears rang. Two of her own mounted knights carried tall, broad shields, flanking her closely as they went down the hill that was just kind enough to their horses. Near the foot of the hill they stopped, awaiting the Ironborn leader to approach.
She looked to either side of the ridge, and saw Garin’s men, both flanks, appear as they got closer, bows drawn. If he tried anything stupid towards her, he and his would be dead, and fast. It was either talk, die, or try to run. Honestly, Vittoria had no idea what the man would do.

That voice, that commanding presence that radiated from behind him, there was only one person in the seven kingdoms that could have that kind of presence. He knew that the Reach was her territory he wasn’t sure that she would even be in the area. Mirth quickly spread across his face as he turned to see the Ardent Maiden herself, Vittoria Tyrell. Rowan hadn’t seen her since their campaign against the so called pirate king but to see her here in force was something truly masterful to behold. Rowan turned and to his party with two of the faithful held hostage, his joy unable to be contained,

”Stay here and keep a blade to their necks, we wouldn’t want them to get to…anxious.”

As he turned back to his swarm of advisories and pointed his drawn axe to the object of his glee,

”VITTORIA!!!, IT HAS BEEN AGES HASN’T IT!!!”

Rowan stolled towards the collected armored knights, in the back of his mind he knew that this was a bad idea. He was strategically at a massive disadvantage. The divided mounted soldiers on either side of the ridge were staring with intent, simply waiting for their commanders orders. The knights behind her were also well equipped, Rowan could make out several longbows with arrows notched and ready to be fired. In any sane commander's mind this should be as simple as letting the prisoners go, getting in the longships and walking away to see another day. Rowan, however, was always known to push the boundaries of greenland behavior,

”Good evening Vitt, still traveling with those armored scarecrows is see, are their sticks still firmly planted or have you gotten them to loosen up?”
Lady Vittoria of House Tyrell, High Marshall of the Reach, looked anything but pleased,
“Lord Rowan the Reaver, so good to finally see you again, instead of just trading letters. Speaking of letters, did I mention to you I spent some time in the Citadel going over copies of the letters sent from the King to the Lords of Greyjoy? Did you know the King rather explicitly states in those letters that members of the Faith may be DEPORTED from the Iron Islands, but NOT killed?”
There was a rise in her voice towards the end of her words, with emphasis on ‘deported’ and ‘not’, without ever approaching the anger of her earlier shout of his name,
“We have most of the members of the Faith running from you. Where are the rest, Rowan? Give us the rest and your crew may live to see another day.”
Despite her straight posture in the saddle of her palfrey, someone who had spent time with her before would hear it—pain hiding under her tone. The sound was familiar to Rowan, the sound of stifled pain while attempting to be strong in front of a command. As he looked up under his eyebrows, staring with an almost hungry and malicious intent, Rowan grinned with an arrogance that he should not have in the situation that he finds himself in,

”Careful Vitt, your humanity is showing, wouldn’t want any of these fine soldiers knowing the great Ardent Maiden is anything less than impervious,”

With outstretched arms his voice rose to a roar, almost loud enough for all in attendance to hear,

”, AND I HAVE BEEN DEPORTING THEM, I DEPORT THEM TO THE TEMPLE OF THE DROWNED GOD, AS I WILL GLADLY SEND YOU ALL TO SEE! YOU FAITHFUL HAVE GROWN WEAK, BELIEVING IN THE SOFT AND FORGIVING SEVEN! YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN THE GODS OF YOUR FATHERS FATHERS! THE IRONBORN ARE STRONG, HARDENED BY THE CRUEL AND UNFORGIVING SEA! WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE!”

By instinct the other reavers behind him chanted in unison, the sound of their cries could be heard at least as far as those in immediate attendance as Rowan could see the nerves of Vittoria’s shieldmen waver just a little,

”How about it Vitt? What say you give this merry band of a******s the slip and be my stonewife? We could conquer the coasts taking all that we please and pay the iron cost for all of it?”

Her jaw clinched, and with her one good hand, she pointed at him,

“You are insufferably mad sometimes!”

She didn’t yell, but the heat from her was enough to lift her in her stirrups until the haze of her head and the weight of her armor immediately pulled her back down, again. To its credit, her palfrey simply snorted.

Vittoria Tyrell didn’t let her mind even entertain his proposal. She was enough of a bookish girl to know what a stone wife was. Deep down, she was flattered. Deeper down, far away from this moment, when she was very much alone, she might even think about the idea in some twisted thought.

But now? She wanted those members of the Faith alive. It took her long, long moments to calm herself, and wait until her heart slowed in her chest,

Gods, it hurts. All of it. Everywhere.

She sighed. Then, after a moment, she sighed again, deeper. Her eyes looking past him,

“Your people will never make it a hundred yards, Rowan. You’ve doomed them to death.”

He irritated her. He was at every war council. He was everywhere she turned. He was also, by far, the best man at sea she had ever seen. He was as a spirit of vengeance with an axe in his hand. He scared grown, veteran, men just with a shout and a charge. He was mad. His madness intimidated,

But not her. There were times she suspected that’s why he pushed her so hard. She sighed, for a third time, and just…looked at him,

“Rowan, give them to me. You will live. I will make you my prisoner. Don’t make me kill you.”

She said, as tiny beads of sweat started down her brow, as her head began to flutter, as her arm began to burn in a heat she had not felt before.

”You know that I can’t do that Vitt, as serious as you are about the Seven, I am about the Drowned God, these are not just ’faithful’, these are Ironborn from the Iron Islands. I have to send them to his temple for his judgment.”

Vittoria looked to one of the knights next to her, the one on the right; her sworn shield, Ser Ryam. Her brown eyes just started, but for a moment, before they slid away from her cousin and returned to the horizon,

“I suppose so, you’re right. NOW!”

It was yelled, loud enough to make her visibly wince in pain and draw her left arm ever closer to her body. Before she was even done with the short word both flanks were kicking up dust. Steeds between one thousand and two thousand stones picking up steam, drawing and readying arms,

"Move, my Lord, and they will gut you like a fish and sew the ground you stand on with your entrails. See how your damned God likes that,”

,she said, never even directly looking at Rowan. She had wanted all of the members of the Faith alive, but her patience was gone, exhausted by him. The mounted archers would make the first contact. If they tried to use the two members of the Faith they still had as a hostage or shield, they would be pinned with arrows by the missile cavalry, or ran through with sword or lance by the light cavalry.

“Bind him, we take him with us as prisoner. Have the Brightwater scouts locate the longships. I want them found and dragged onto shore and burned. I’ll be speaking to the others.”

She sounded as casual as a comment upon the weather as she turned her palfrey and headed off to speak to the members of the Faith they had rescued. The sound of approaching calvary was dim in Rowan’s ear as he watched Vittoria turn his back on him. In that moment everything fell away; his crusade, the faithful none of it but only the words burned rang in his ear.

TYRELL!!, HAVE I NOT EARNED YOUR RESPECT! DO YOU NOT KNOW WHAT A LONGSHIP IS TO AN IRONBORN CAPTAIN! YOU CAN HAVE THE D****ED FAITHFUL, YOU CAN TAKE ME HOSTAGE BUT BY ALL THE GODS BOTH NEW AND OLD IF YOU BURN MY SHIP I WILL REIGN HELL UPON YOUR SHORES AND BRING WAR TO YOUR HOME!!

Rage flashed in his eyes and foam gathered in the corner of his mouth as in defiance he roared in command. Until this point Rowan had been calm, he had been respectful in his own way, but the mere thought of burning his ships sent him into a whirlwind of anger that if he had not had some grasp of himself he would have made the wrong move and killed his entire crew,

”IRONBORN, RELEASE THE FAITHFUL AND MAKE IT BACK TO THE SHIP INFORM MY FATHER PERSONALLY OF WHAT HAPPENED HERE, GO NOW!!”

The Ironborn quickly turned from their prey and darted away running in haste back to the shoreline, as the mounted knights began to pursuit Rowan once again roared in command,

”NOW HEAR ME KNIGHTS OF THE REACH! I AM LORD ROWAN GREYJOY, FIRST OF HIS NAME AND HEIR TO THE IRON ISLANDS! I HAVE RELEASED YOUR FAITHFUL AND YOU HAVE ME CAPTURED BUT KNOW THIS! I AM THE PERSONAL CAPTIVE OF THE ARDENT MAIDEN, I WILL ONLY BE HANDLED BY HER AND HER ALONE! ANY MAN WHO DARES TO SO MUCH AS TOUCH ME WILL BE SLAIN AND SENT TO WHATEVER GOD YOU SO PLEASE!”

Rowan moved with righteous fury up to Vittoria’s palfry wrists in front of him in a bound position,

”Your move Lady Tyrell.”

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“Marshal, how fares the view?” The question preceded the arrival of Rogar by a few paces, the trot of his steed bringing up abreast with another, albeit considerably older, mounted man. Despite a reputation for boisterous living, the young heir to House Baratheon seemed to have no lack of zest for the early hour. Marshal Kerrick had seen him gambling and drinking in all of the various stops the Baratheon force had made on their journey from Storm’s End and yet he was ever among the first to be prepared for the next day’s march. There was a time in his youth he’d have envied such a thing.

“Well my Lord, sound asleep still, by the looks of it.” The older man, just a few good years in his position left, he reckoned, turned his eyes to regard the fierce pink light rising from the horizon, “Won’t be much more of that though.” He mused, even if the fellows they were tracking had no reason to rise so early, the more permanent inhabitants of the township would certainly soon be on the rise. The towns of the Kingswood had largely been free of banditry since the time of the Conquest and for the time it showed in how few sentries were posted across the town, few enough that the Baratheon host had been able to move through the surrounding woods unchallenged so far. This probably could explain how the town had also ended up hosting the mass of Poor Fellows’ currently bunked and encamped within.

“A good job then that the men are in position, I should think.” Rogar Baratheon pulled the long haft of his great axe free from the binding of his saddle. The weapon was large enough to still be effective from horseback, should it come to that. While the youngest of the surviving male Baratheons kept his face free of the renown family facial hair, his build still betrayed his heritage, a powerful form sitting atop the snorting destrier he rode. As he finished speaking with the Marshal, he turned slightly to address a new rider, drawing up beside the other two men. “How about it then Ser, let us signal the men to play us in.” The idea was Rogar’s own, although none of his party felt it a particularly bad one. They had mused how best to not lose the advantage of surprise without also ensuring that matters would turn violent, when there was still some possibility that might be avoided. The somewhat jovial plan was the solution. With the wave of Rogar’s axe, the signal passed down through the various subdivisions of the force.

With only a brief delay, a crescendo of noise sounded throughout the Kingswood. A great blaring of hunting horns, in tune with each other, crashed through the foliage. The first retort still echoing in the air, and the men-at-arms began to move forwards. Several hundred well drilled men spurring into action, even as the second blast of the horns sounded, beating down on the township below. The Baratheon force had the town surrounded, firstly by rings of foot companies, then a thinner, but not less intimidating, group of Knights. The horns continued to sound as they marched forwards in tight lines, filing out of the cover of both darkness and wood with the precision of well drilled combatants.

“Hail there!” Rogar called out from atop his barded steed, his powerful frame emitting a noise loud enough to signal the hunting horns to silence as he began his negotiations. “I am told we have guests who have been enjoying the hospitality of House Baratheon without leave!” The good natured tone of the Stormlander heir washed over his men, and there were more than a few chuckles from the marching party. “Now, while we have no need to get too angry with each other, we’ve been instructed by my lord father to tell you to, kindly, piss off!” The marshal beside Rogar gave a brief huff of disapproval, but it buoyed the men further none the less. “And we’ll be happy to show you the way!”

A woman flailed, flung to life with a great startle. She bolted upright, hand to her chest where her heart beat as though she was under attack. It took a moment, a minute, to place where she was. In her dreams it always started with a dragon overhead, black enough to blot out the sun. Or it was a company of Dornishmen sent to retrieve her for judgment and hanging. She blinked, she was in her tent, another small village same as any other. What was that godsforsaken sound?

Lady Ellyn launched herself from her bed, scrambled to get dressed. The cacophony faded as she donned a gambeson and riding leathers - though she hadn’t had a mount in weeks, traded instead for food and ale. Instead of the horrible noise, a voice carried to her tent. She grimaced, no Faithful house would purposefully force some Poor Fellows from their land. Surely there was confusion, or the corruption of the dragonlords extended to the bastardized Stormking line. Her grimace deepened.

She strapped Dawn to her waist then paused with her hand at the flap of her tent. Looking behind her, the tattered rainbow cloak was neatly folded by her armor. She may have been barred from entry to the Warrior’s Son, but she wore the gift with pride. Never one talented for mending, she kept it in as good condition as her skill allowed. Ellyn went back and secured it over her shoulders.

It wrapped around her in the soft breeze as she made her way through the camp. She hushed her people as they clambered to know if she had expected this. As they asked her what they should do. Dawn stayed sheathed, she urged them to calmness. Her Septon found her and joined her side. He wore the gray robes of the Poor Fellows, a seven pointed star sewn to the wool but not carved on his body. His cudgel was noticeably absent. “Brother Mal, ensure our people do nothing rash. But have them ready to scatter to the forests if need be.” He nodded his agreement, Ellyn did not stop to see it and he stood for a moment longer looking after her before turning to tend to her command.

“Hail, Ser Rogar.” She came to a stop several feet back from the man she assumed to be Lord Baratheon’s only son and heir. She looked left to right over the line of his fellow knights. “I am Lady Ellyn, Sword of the Morning, commander of these Stars. And we answer only to the High Septon who has given us welcome across any lands of those faithful to the Seven.” The lady paused, feet squared and rooted to the ground beneath her. Her hands rested on her hips, words spoken as simple truths. “But to have arrived so early, perhaps you would prefer to dismount and break bread with us before our morning prayers.”

Despite the rather decisive, if crass, nature of his initial proclamation, Rogar seemed to take the refusal by omission with good humour, a slight laugh tumbling from him, before he looked to the older man beside him. When he spoke he clearly addressed the other man, although her did not whisper to conceal his words, “Do remind me to suggest my Lord Father adds a flogging to that man’s confinement. Lying to your liege lord, shameful really.” That seemed to give the man pause, before Rogar continued, “She might be many things, but she’s certainly not homely.” The explanation only bringing an exasperated sigh from the Marshal, before, as planned, he handed over what appeared to be a large scroll the Heir to unfurl.

Taking a moment to let out an overacting clearing of his throat, with an added wink of his dark eyes to Ellyn, he began to read, “Lord Baratheon, the people of Helmford wish to report the theft of two swine by a band of fellows under the protection of the High Septon,” Rogar hardly paused before moving onto the next town, then the next town, and the next. A long list of complaints of hardly murderous, but certainly improper behaviour, each condemnation rising in volume from the young noble’s lips, “Oh, this is my favourite, “House Fell feels a duty to all good men and women of the faith to write in warning to House Baratheon of a band of wantons, a licentious group who allow a woman to lead them, who are corrupting our smallfolk with their deprivations.” With that, Rogar handed the parchment back to his marshal with a winning smile as ever, “Now, I might not be the most pious man, but I don’t think that’s what the High Septon meant by ‘free passage.’

The Seven truly sought to test her. Much as she tried to maintain her posture in the litany of complaints, she shifted uncomfortably before the knight and his host. Not homely, Maiden save her from herself that her own first impression had been one of despair to find the heir looking as he did. She should have had Septon Mal accompany her. He grounded her and he would have some passage from the Seven Pointed Star for an eloquent rebuttal.

As it was, she had only herself. Her lips pressed together tightly in momentary thought as the man japed at her. "We are all sinners, Ser. I will not dispute it. But only the High Septon may judge and punish us. You should send such charges on to him." The charges from House Fell wounded her the most, a charge that only she could answer to and that was not driven by need of hunger or warmth as her people's sins were. "If there's nothing else, Ser, I will see to my people and their needs." Ellyn Dayne turned on her heels, away from the mounted men and back towards her people. They had formed a semi-circle in the distance, curiosity brought them to see what would happen but fear had them keeping their distance.

"There was one other thing." Rogar called out as the woman turned, his smile turning to a slight grin at her incessant refusal to play the proper part in the situation. "On top of all of that, a light spot of treason." With that, Rogar raised one arm behind him. The previously jovial nature of the men at his command collapsed into cold discipline as they stood to attention, the haft of spears beat to the surface of their shields in a cacophonous salute. The force Rogar marched with would be considered a large hunting party, but a small force for putting down bandits, still, it outnumbered the poor fellows by at least a magnitude of five, and in all honesty, he'd have placed his coin on his men even if they'd had half the number of the rabble.

"By order of my lord father, Durran Baratheon, son of Orys Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End and Lord Paramount of the Stormlands, you are hereby to be expelled from these woods. You may not disperse and are to be escorted from the lands held by him, in the King's name. In his clemency we have been offered to extend to you the choice of Dorne or the Reach, the latter we shall accompany you far enough that immediate return shall be unlikely. Comply, and words of treason against House Baratheon and House Targaryen shall not be passed on to greater authority. Refuse, and we shall exact their punishment in the King's place." Despite the threat in his words, Rogar Baratheon retained his demeanor, his grin breaking back into a smile. "Comply quickly and we can even make a pleasant jaunt of it all."

No. Her fists clenched briefly at her side but she quickly waved her hands at her people in front of her, urging them again to take no action. She took a deep breath, her head briefly dipping in defeat, before calling out the order to break camp and be ready to leave. She could see Mal at the front, uncertainty overcome by her commands. He'd see to it, even if he did not know why.

Ellyn turned back to the Baratheon host, her face as emotionless as she could hold it. Returning to Dorne would be a punishment all its own, for a fleeting moment she thought perhaps it was time to end this farce. It left quickly, something deep from within that refused to be stilled. There was only one choice. "I will accept an escort to the Reach where I may provide witness to the treatment we have received at the hands of those who should be faithful servants of the Seven." Her voice wavered, betrayed her emotion. Ellyn cleared her throat, steadied herself again. "I'm sure you will offer a mount to me and to my septon. I'm afraid we sold ours to a village some weeks back. Perhaps they mistook them as a gift if they've since accused us of theft."

"Perhaps if the High Septon did not want a Targaryen as a King he should not have annointed one with sacred oil." Rogar mused aloud, before returning to a more decisive tone, "But of course, we have steeds spare for yourself and a few others, and rations aplenty for us all, I'm so glad we could reach a cordial agreement." There was a brief pause of inaction, before Rogar turned his head slightly to address his marshal once more, "Please find the lady a steed, her Septon as well. Should they have any injured among them, they may ride in the train." There was a wavering moment at the thought the Stormlanders might provide the rogue dornishwoman with a steed, but it was soon overcome and the order was set about.

"Oh and I wouldn't be too upset my lady, it is never an easy thing when what we believe to hold true is proven false. I am sure you will find the Reach much more inclined to your presence. We are a hardy and brutal folk, here in these wild lands." The Heir to the Stormlands chuckled, and the good humour once more rippled through his men. "ARMSMEN, PLEASE ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE TOWNS FOLK AND OUR CHARGES, THOSE WHO VOLUNTEER TO OUR CARE ARE NOT TO BE HARMED." He called out over the host, who, with another shield-bound salute, began to move into the town proper to ensure the order followed.

Most of Lady Ellyn's Stars complied when word spread that an accord had been struck. A few, there were always a few, had made an attempt to flee towards the forest, or had spat at some of the armsmen. None had the foolish thought to raise a weapon against the Baratheon men. Septon Mal had been able to calm the hottest flames of resentment. They had talked, as their people had been soothed and horses prepared for them, under watchful and distrustful eyes. Ellyn tried to apologize to the old septon, for bringing them so far and failing them. Mal offered her what comfort he could, they would be delayed for weeks now, to join up with a larger force and make their way back to King's Landing in a way to avoid the Storm lands completely. But the Seven would guide her, he promised. He had faith in her even when she had none left in herself.

She rankled at the allegation he laid against the High Septon who had capitulated to the Targaryen host decades past. Dire times had called for desperate measures and the Targaryens continued barely paying lip service to the true gods. If one could receive the blessing then one could see it withdrawn, an argument she kept to herself even as they mounted the offered steeds. Lady Ellyn was not a small woman, taller than most women even if of only average height for men. But she was glad to have a proper horse beneath her rather than the sad creature she had ridden for weeks.

It knickered at her softly as she pressed it forward, alongside a line of knights who gave her passing glances, judgemental glares, or some few who gave hungry looks they seemed to think she would not notice. One of the ladies had thought it more appropriate for her hair to be plaited back if she was to ride with the lord's son. Ellyn had thought it silly but allowed the woman to tend to her. Whether it was vanity or a just bit of common sense, she wasn't sure.

If she was not to be treated as a prisoner, she would demand to be treated as a peer. So she rode to the front of the column when none moved to stop her. Ellyn stopped next to Ser Rogar. She looked him over, that smile, the smugness, the confidence only a youth could have. She wasn't sure if it was hatred or jealousy that flared within her. Perhaps she stared too long, but all she offered in the end was a nod and turned her attention ahead of them both. "My people are ready, we await your signal."
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Prince Maegor Targaryen // @Ezekiel




Pale burning light had begun to creep over the horizon as Maegor rode out from the city. He did so, not upon the vast back of Balerion, but upon one of the steeds of his household, pacing out from Pentosh at great haste. The climate of Pentosh was hotter than Westeros, but still temperate, and the night beat at him with cold chill, steam rising from the heaving flanks of the horse beneath him.

It was a well trained beast, of Valyrian stock, or at least bread close enough to it, but even still, it whinied fitfully at the sudden stench of dragon as they crested the hill. It was not a foul smell, but it was pervasive with creatures as vast as they were, and it almost panicked even the well trained steed.

“Onward.” Maegor commanded, without doubt or pause, striking his stirrups into the horse’s flanks to spur it on. With only another moment’s doubt, it followed through, trotting down the hill towards the form of Terrax. From distance, the dragon’s rider wasn’t visible, but soon, even in the low light, Maegor had clear view of Vhandyr.

“Hail,” Maegor called out as he drew nearer, pulling the horse to a stop before swinging down from the saddle to approach him, giving a respectful nod to the towering dragon in greeting. “I have cleared you entry to the city, but we shall not be lingering long.” There was a pause as he stopped to draw the other Valyrian man into a brace of arms. “My brother and nephew have passed beyond, I will return to Westeros to ensure all my father has built does not crumble.”

Vhandyr Balaerys slid off the scaled hide of Terrax with the casual ease of a master horsemen dropping from the saddle, the sound of chain and leather boots hitting grass and dirt, his silvered long hair flipped behind him after the landing. The look of irritation only came when the large beast he slid off of ‘nudged’ him, nearly toppling the large, muscled, Valyrian man. Vhandyr found himself peering back, confusion and hurt on his face.
“I won’t make you go.”

The dragon snorted, and turned his head the opposite direction, away from Pentos.

Vhandyr’s eyes widened, a momentary disbelief, “Don’t give me that atti—” The side of the best again nudged his direction, though Vhandyr was quick enough to step away, this time, and shake his head as Maegor approached. “He’s mad he can’t fly to Westeros now.”

The man sighed, and shook his head, taking the skin of wine from his belt and pausing to brace Maegor’s arm. His lips looked as if they might frown, but instead, he just sighed again, lower this time, and handed the wine skin to Maegor. “I am sorry for your loss. Losing kin is hard, no matter the politics at play. Were you close to either of them?”

Maegor's eyes followed the dragon's, nodding in slight affirmation. Their motivation may have been different, but the drive was there. Onwards to the West. Terrax and Balerion were very different creatures, but the bond between dragons of such scale and rider were alike. No one could truly master beasts such as they, it was always a negotiation, a bond.

"My nephew I barely knew, my brother…Maybe there were times we cared for each other. He tried to be kind to me, as if that would change they never raised us to be brothers." There was an ache to those words, as if perhaps the man wished he felt more, but then he shook it away. "For all the warmth I did not have for him, I shall have plenty and more in store for his murderers." There was no growl to his words, just a steely promise of what was to come. "It is a time of great providence, that you will witness, should you still fly with us."

Vhandyr nodded, silently, as he watched the wine go ignored, only for him to take a long drink of it himself as he moved around the man near his size and come to a lazy flop onto the grassy hill overlooking the costal plain that led to Pentos, a haze of wall and city off into the distance, under the veil of rapidly approaching twilight.

“If someone killed Vaera…if someone COULD kill Vaera…aye,” he trailed off, nodding as he took another thirsty drink, “Immolation if I had to, though, I think I’d prefer just…pushing my hand through the flesh and bone of their chest, to rip the heart out directly.” He said it as his free hand curled into a claw and ‘jabbed’ forward, a dramatic example of such a thing to the air in place of an imagined murderer.

Then, his hand relaxed, and he took another drink, his deep purple eyes on the horizon where sunlight met starlight. “If they were to murder the younger ones, the children?...there would be no running. No hiding. No mercy. I would be the manifestation of the ancient Valyrian gods of destruction, and death would follow behind me.”

He shrugged. “If I didn’t go, Terrax would never forgive me.” He turned back, smiling back over his shoulder to the Targaryen, “and if I didn’t go, who would be there to force you to stop and have a drink?” He said, holding out the skin of wine to the man, again.

The man's words brought something close to a true laugh from the exiled Prince, an amused murmur of sorts and the ghost of a smile glinting in the low light. It was a surprisingly handsome expression, as rare as it was, etching, as if out of stone, some warmth that was not rage and ambition. "I have drank and feasted plenty in my time, even before I knew you." This time he accepted the wine skin, taking a few long, thirsty gulps, then offering it back and sitting down beside the other Valyrian.

"Perhaps if there had been more of us." Maegor mused, some of the gravel in his voice had eased, little shreds of the tension leeching away. Whether it was the company or the drink, or both, it was perhaps unclear. "I think only our father managed to approve of us both, everyone else has ever been for one of us or the other. It is his memory that calls me to act." There was another low rumble of a near laugh, before Maegor added, "There will no doubt be death and destruction to share in the future, but I will understand if you and Terrax are jumping off mountains and the like. Have a care though, the traitors who wish harm to my family will see you no different from us."

Vhandyr took the wine back with an absence in his eyes, listening, still, but his mind set on another truth. “We Valyrians…the Freehold…it shouldn’t have existed. Our destruction was always imminent. We became nature apart from nature, a violation of natural order. The Doom didn’t happen because of magic gone awry, or conspiracies of Faceless Men…it happened the moment we put ourselves above creation. The tragedy was made by the fathers of our fathers fathers fathers father’s…the parents of our parents were just the ones dancing on the strings when the fire finally ignited. We try to grasp onto what tatters remain. The others will always hate us for trying not to fall off, cheering the fires on and on until us, them…we’re all consumed in it.”

Without looking, Vhandyr reached into the small pouch upon his belt and retrieved it, the message that had come to him just earlier in the day, handing it over to the other man. “My sister, Vaera, warns me of dagger looks from holy men in your King’s Landing. Says the city is full of them. Says she believes they all have murder on their minds. Tells me to be careful in King’s Landing. In Westeros. What you say…yes, I should have care.”
Now he looked over, to the side, to Maegor’s face. All humor gone from his dark purple eyes. “We are no different than you. We are both just the descendants of fools, trying to hold on…I will be there to ensure you do not fall.” Then, a chuckle caught him unawares. “If I wasn’t, Terrax would never forgive me. And he deserves some joy, after all the loss and pain he has seen.”

Maegor's enjoyment of their time together wavered for a moment. He was unused to a peer close to him in ability and the scope of what they could do, and the man insisting on providing aid was something of a threat to his own position. It took a few moments of quiet reflection to ease that concern. For all they might be peers, Vhandyr was not him, and the same in reverse. Their callings were elsewhere.

"I don't much care for the histories, if what you say is true, then so be it, Valyria is lost to us, but it's fires did not claim us. There is freedom in that, this world is ours to claim." Maegor's eyes settled again on Terrax, studying the vast creature as its master spoke, "It is a rare Dragon that thinks much of pain and loss, but should the fates be kind there will not be need of more." With another grim near laugh, Maegor continued, "We should not linger long, there is room enough for Terrax at the Manse before we leave from there, and you may want the chance to rest before we fly on." He did not add that there would be no rest for him this evening, with the weight of what was to come pressing on him, but that need not inflict the other.

Vhandyr squeezed at the a large drink from the skin of wine, and set it down on his lap, “Terrax is no fan of the cheese mongers, and I think I would prefer the open sky tonight. I will follow behind after you depart for your home.” Vhandyr settled his upper half onto the grass behind him, his head warmer than it was before the last squeeze of the strong wine, “Thoughts for the victories to come, Maegor Targaryen. They will be upon you soon.”

Even laying flat, Vhandyr rose the wine skin high in the air, a toast to the man, to his future. It wasn’t until Maegor was well enough away that the endless sweep of starlight above obscured with the massive head. To Terrax, Vhandyr felt himself smile after a last drink for the evening, “I told you I wouldn’t make you go into the city. You’re welcome. Goodnight, Terrax. We will fly soon, old friend.”

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LadyRunic The Laughing Raven

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Pentose // @Ezekiel @Vanq


Not since the days of the Conquest had a single city hosted three dragons as great as those which descended on Pentos. Two great beasts, older than the Doom itself, made swift work of the Night air as low light of the Moon marked them out against clear skies. Terrax and Balerion swung around each other, the hot air of Essos allowing easier gliding than the colder climes to the West. For such vast and violent beasts, their riders commanded them with surprisingly gentle subtlety, wordless commands with the reigns causing the former dragon to peel away, steadily gliding lower to the ground well before the city itself. The Pentoshi may have welcomed the Targaryens and their dragons on many an occasion, but an uninvited arrival of the ruler of Volantis was another matter entirely.

The courtyard of the Targaryen manse was lit with blazing torches, identifiable among the affluent outskirts of the city’s hinterland. A design of relevance to the visiting dragonlords, the licking flame identified the presence of another dragon well before Maegor commanded Baelerion to land. A dragon he could pick out from afar as familiar to him as his own steed, that of his mother’s. With a simple Valyrian command, Maegor ushered Balerion towards the from of Vhaegar below, the command for a quiet landing, without the great crescendo of noise that would usually herald two dragons meeting each other. A few moments later and the vast, almost pitch black, form of the dragon touched down. A quiet rumble was all that passed between the two dragons, familiar as they were with each other.

Rather than crouch low, Balerion extended his vast neck upwards to the second level of the manse, allowing Maegor to dismount directly onto the walkways ringing the structure, before the vast beast settled to rest after the long flight, set at the grueling pace of his rider. While Maegor had not spend a great deal of time of his exile simply waiting in Pentos, preferring to journey where the whims of adventure took him, he equally did not wish to linger elsewhere, and in doing so abandon the ability to return to Westeros swiftly. The presence of his mother’s dragon had earned his curiosity, but as far as he was concerned matters of family could wait at least the small hours of the morning.

It was not exhaustion which spurred him to journey first to his bedchamber. Lingering thoughts of bloodshed and victory roared through him, a distracting ache that needed fulfilling. The pain across his hand from the spreading bruise did little to check him, only enflaming the furnace with its constant reminder.
His arrival, while quieter than it could have been, was hardly subtle, and so the guards across the manse were very much aware of the powerful form moving across the manse terrace, but there was little doubt as to his identity even in the darkness. Even among Valyrians he was distinctive, and no other dragons could entirely compete with the unsettling force of Balerion.

With force which echoed the storm within him, Maegor threw open the largely stained glass doorway into the master bedroom, sending a shudder through the chamber soon echoed by the onrushing night air, the moon and star light casting through the chamber as he moved without halting. It was thankful, perhaps, for those present, that Vhandyr had convinced the Prince to hold at least a short while in Volantis to appreciate the gratitude of the city. It had meant Maegor had changed out of the battle plate he had worn, instead in his fine riding leathers emblazoned with his crest. Still, he had ridden almost immediately on dragonback, and so the exotic aroma of Dragonkind clung to him, along with a fainter tang of Fire and Blood. He could sense it himself, and it only further emboldened him.
“Princess, I have returned.” His voice carried through the remainder of the room even as he strode onwards, his eyes adjusting, along with the spreading but soft celestial illumination, to reveal his own chamber. His wife, the second, always enjoyed the reminder that was her true title, and he was not above stoking that font of ego within her. Even so, he paused as he drew close to the foot of the bed, and the tangle of motion that was no doubt that of slumbering figures awakening to the sudden crescendo of noise that was his arrival.
Figures, plural.
In the initial moment, with thoughts of conquest and death lingering across his mind, assumptions were drawn in Maegor’s mind that he might otherwise have dismissed, and sudden thoughts of brutal justice overcame him, the creaking of leather from his closing fist audible over the wind still rattling the terrace doorway. With even greater force than he had entered the chamber, his glove closed around the sheets ot the mattress, simply casting it away without so much as a grunt or snarl. The quiet fury was beginning to rise upon him, and that was an entirely more dangerous beast.
What he saw in the gloom after gave him pause, his senses catching up to the unbidden emotion he was feeling.

“Interesting,” He mused, in a tone quieter than he had spoken before.
The kiss of startling night air had awoken Alys, rather than the arrival of Balerion. So worn had she been after a rather passionate night of lust. She had always known she could endure men, even enjoy them, but women… never had she known that she could enjoy a woman in such a way. There were always the whispers of Prjncess Rhaena, but she had dismissed herself from such nonsense. Now the touch of skilled hands and dark locks had unlocked that. Wooing the woman into the bed.
Awaking to snarl an the chill of the night air even in warm Essos, to find her husband at the foot of her bed? Alys froze her brown eyes soft and wide as she rose to sit upright, dismantling herself from the forbidden embrace sith Tyanna. "My Prince…" She crooned the word in that tone he liked, moving across the bed to him. A hand reaching imploring, pleading him to understand that the woman was a flight of fancy.
He was and always had been her true desire. Even now she could feel that desperate need for his son and heir. She was his chosen bride, the one he wanted. Thinking fleetingly of the potion, she knew there would be no time to get it. Not unless she wished to perhaps raise more questions or risk rousing the dragon of a temper her husband had.
Daring to risk kneeling on the bed before him, she wrapped her arms slowly about his shoulders, drinking in the scent of dragons and smoke. Battle and his steed. "Your mother closed the manse to all coming and going. It has been far too long, husband." Her gaze ran over his face and she drew a hand through his silver hair, enjoying the feel even as she whispered in her soft sultry tone. "I…" She trailed off hesitating as what to say. How to explain, lest he think she enjoy other men as well.
"I had not known, not before this night, and long have I hungered."
She had woken to the sound of a dragon, a sound not unlike when Visenya had arrived. Alys, next two, their limbs entwined, had not stirred. There were only so many possibilities of what this arrival meant and she was a betting woman. She closed her eyes, not to return to restful slumber, but to attune to her other senses. Sight would tell her little.
The entrance managed to startle her anyways, cool night air across her naked limbs sent a shiver down her back. Was it anger that she felt bristling the air, a typical response. And Alys had woken at last. Tyanna slowly sat up, her legs pulled across and beneath her. At least she had managed to bed the woman before her husband's return, even if she would have preferred more time to solidify the woman's affections for her.
She waited for Alys to throw herself at the dragon prince, pathetic. Powerful men, whether in physicality or money, shared enough traits from what Tyanna had seen. She chose the risky path forward, one done with quick calculation of the couple's brief interaction. "Fear not, she chose only a woman to satisfy her when it seemed you could not." Her voice would never be described as sweet, but strong with a seductive lilt her clientele craved.

The heady rush of adrenaline that still coursed through Maegor had returned, driving his actions as Alys drew near, one hand reaching out for her even as she spoke, ready to take the softness of her thin night gown, suitable for the Essosi climate, between his fingers. It was the words of the Pentoshi that brought him back. The pounding of blood through him did not cease, but momentarily the furnace of rage roared again, the whispers of vengeful madness twisting across his mind. Who was she to say such things to him.
But then again, even more simply, who was she? There were those who simply thought him a brute, but they were wrong. They was method to his brutality, the keen sense of those who truly hunt, and in the darkness of her eyes, perhaps there was the same.
"So it would seem." Maegor paced away from the bed, a slow tread of the metal caps within his leather bound boots, made hardy to survive the ravages of dragon riding. The cooler night air still swirled in the room, starlight gleaming off the silver-gold of his hair. He removed his gloves as he did, flexing his fingers. Where he had caught the Dothraki blade in gauntlets hand flared a morass of bruising across his palm, the thudding throb of pain continuing to stir him. His gloves cast simply aside, both hands gripped the rim of a nearby cushioned chair, dragging it slowly back with him, to set it down at the foot of the bed, within which he simply sat. Even lowered so, his towering frame brought him more than even with the women poised on the higher rise of the bed.
"Let us see what you do to my wife that I cannot." While he lent back slightly in their chair, hands steepled together, there was an intensity to his gaze which went beyond simple carnal enjoyment. It spoke the sense that any danger had passed to be a false one, the look of a mountain line who allows its prey to scurry before it finally bites down.

Big men, small men, they were all the same in the end. But even in the low light, Tyanna knew better than to let her brow furrow too much. He had accepted the barb and returned it with lust, she could work with that. It would be easy to give him what he asked, Alys would perhaps warm to it if it meant pleasing her husband, but there were other ways. "I think your wife has had her fill of what I can provide. Perhaps I can instruct you in what to do instead." The courtesan moved to place herself behind Alys, her arms draped over the woman, black tresses pressed against auburn. "Your dearest Princess needs your dragonseed and not just pleasure, no?"
Alys was not pleased in the slightest by the dismal of Maegor as he pulled up a chair, as if he wished for a show. Yet feeling Tyanna at her back, she shuddered at the feel of the woman. A worthy partner in her bed, yet not the one she desired. No, that desire alone was pulled towards Maegor. "What she can give me is only amusement. What is that compared to you? Compared to the joy of bearing your heir? Your son?" She decided to ignore Tyanna's offer. Preferring instead to try and eel her way into Maegor’s lap. To urge him to the bed, or to the activities that would ensure what they both desired.

The intensity of those violet Valyrian eyes only grew in intensity, surrounded by the dark of the night as the Prince studied both women. The express on his face seemingly held somewhere between cold fury and a more insidious curiosity. Steadily one hand moved down towards his belt, but rather than the more predictable of motions, his digits drifted to the side, taking hold of the hilt of his dagger rather than the buckle of the clothing.

Whatever Maegor had meant to do, the train of events were interrupted by the doors bursting open, bright light flooding into the chamber from the more well lit corridors before them. Still in the riding mail-gown she had arrived in, Visenya stood with the light of the fires behind her, the paler tone of her own Valyrian eyes falling first upon her sign, then those on the bed, and back again. A flicker of annoyance passed over her features and the failure of her message to be passed on, but she expected little better.

“How quickly can you be ready to fly? We must return to Dragonstone.” When Visenya spoke, she did so in Valyrian, speaking in the fluid manner of one who spoke it as their first language. It hardly was an assurance of privacy in Essos, but none seemed to speak it in the manner of the true Dragonlords.

“Mother, I am entertaining two interesting women, can this not wait?” Despite the retort, he leaned back further in his seat in interest at her words, the fingers slipping from his dagger.

“Your father always managed both.” Visenya snorted in contempt, her eyes falling back on the bed once more, before a more stern expression descended on her features. “You may have heard of your nephew’s murder, your brother has passed beyond as well, from his illness.” While the event had brought her grief in of itself, now she was as emotionless as the cold valyrian steel at her belt.

That had Maegor on his feet, the previous balance between chaos and restraint shattered at the news. The back of his chair was caught in one hand and thrown in the same motion, smashing and splintering against the wall disconcertingly close to the unmoving form of Visenya. The snarl that had failed to materialize at the sight of his wife abed with another now ripped from his lips.

“The progress Aenys made the Prince and Princess attend to, they were held up by dissidents in the Westerlands, Aegon did not survive the wounds he received in the attack,” Visenya spoke calmly, even in the face of Maegor’s rage. She was tall for a woman, but still his hulking form seemed to tower next to her.

“Dissidents? Aegon was killed by rabble!?” Somehow the Prince’s voice seemed both a deadly whisper and to rebound around the room. The Dowager Queen shrugged her shoulders in return.

“They did not have their dragons.” With that Visenya took a step forwards, placing a hand atop her son’s chest, not a warm gesture of affection, but instead grounding them together. “There will be vengeance, Maegor, but I need you to return with me if we are to achieve it. No one else is strong enough, there is only us.” She paused for a moment, allowing a few stinging motes of sadness to pool in her eyes, “Or two won’t be all they take.”

Maegor’s form seemed to ease, pacing away from his mother, but still only addressing her as he continued to reply in Valyrian. “Did my brother call me back on his death? Some last effort that I might resolve his mess lest it consume his son?”

“No, he asked me directly, but not for you.” Her voice did not hitch or halt at all, even if the words seemed to give Maegor pause, a dismissive grunt passing his lips that was perhaps the closest thing such a man would get to a sigh of sorrow. “I am not here to bring you home and languish as your infant Nephew’s hand.”

Maegor turned back to face her once more, as Visenya pulled her hands free from her cloak, holding between them a circlet of black Valyrian steel, studded with blood red ruby gemstones. Finally, when she spoke again, she did so in the common tongue.

“I am here to bring Westeros its new King.”

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Vanq The Chaos Ladder

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Elayne Rivers @LadyRunic || Vaera Balaerys @Ruby || Osric Arryn @Vanq || Roelle Baratheon @Ezekiel


Elayne sighed and slumped against the wall of what could not quite be called a castle. It wasn't grand enough, but it was far better than the ruins of Harrenhal. Jeyne had been delivered back to her studies, the Lord Lucas pacified with such though he raged at the scene when the guard had reported it. Slim fingers danced over the fabric of her gown. The neckline was a bit low, as she lacked the bosom of Alys, the skirt a bit higher from their difference in height. It was acceptable enough for a lady-in-waiting, the cast off of a mistress for a favored servant to explain the fine fabric. As it was, the other servants, even here, did not accept her and the nobles, once they knew who she was, dismissed her.

Harroway's ghost, a servant, a bastard. Lord Lucas had dismissed her after a stinging lecture that had scorched her ears. He had struck Jeyne, finding her in lads clothing too much especially when she had risked her purity among the lowborn. Animals, with only baser instincts as he would say it and had. The Lord of Harroway would not raise his hand to her however, she bruised too easily and was too fair. Plus it could be misconstrued as an insult to the Valyrian blood, that he would never do.

And so she wandered. Her feet treading into the various halls and gardens. Absently admiring a wall hanging or flower. Her fingers twisting with the lack of anything to do. Her mending was in the rooms she shared with her sisters, neither of which would take kindly to seeing her at the minute. Her books as well, and she did not think to dare the libraries here. So she finally found a quiet spot in the small gardens that pleased some ladies; it was a rather pathetic thing compared to the ones in Harrenhal that Catelyn kept tended. The small bit of joy the woman had torn from grey and melted stone. Sitting on a bench she leaned against the old tree that had been spared in the building, sheltered by hedges. Her eyes closing as she basked in the sun's warmth. At least it was quiet with the sea breeze, a lovely day and it would have been perfect if it had been just a tad warmer!

The day had started so pleasantly. The Flame of Lys more than met her reputation, and she had been more than worth the coin. His pocket was noticeably lighter, but nothing that couldn’t be resolved with a few wisely placed bets or brawls. Yet the sighting of a dragon had been enough to stir him to action other than trying to find his way beneath the Lyseni’s skirts. If Maegor had returned to Westeros, Ser Osric was certain he needed to be there to represent the Vale in greeting their Prince.

Alas, by the time had dressed and stumbled from the Sheath and Dagger into the light of day, there was only confusion around what had occurred or who had been there. The crowd of smallfolk seemed more concerned about some dispute in the street than anything else. His companions, those who had joined him at the brothel the night before, had long since cleared out as well. With annoyance, too much annoyance to return and see how much coin it would take to convince the Flame to enrapture him again, he made his way back towards the Red Keep and his lodgings there.

The knight’s mood had turned sour on his journey back. While the Red Keep, or formerly the Aegonfort, was nearly complete, much had been built up even in the past year he had taken up residence. His mind was elsewhere and he had taken a few wrong turns before realizing it. “Maiden fuck me sens-” He muttered to himself as he paused and leaned against a stone wall. He had been here before he was certain, was it the Rosby girl who had dragged him here for privacy? Or the pretty little serving girl who he’d let entertain him for a week? One of them, he was certain, had found themselves pressed against these walls. But he knew where he was, with some degree of certainty, and so he set off again, heading for what he thought would be a garden that he’d pass through to noble’s housing.

Osric turned a corner and smiled, he had been right. At least his penchant for remembering trysts proved to be multipurpose. It wasn’t abnormal for the gardens to be in use, but he was stopped suddenly short at the form he spied ahead of him. A slight, pretty thing, with silver hair, the Arryn knight pressed his lips in thought. Princess Rhaena had left some time ago. King Aenys and his family had been on Dragonstone, unless…Unless perhaps Princess Melyssanthi had returned alone? Or perhaps she was one of the Velaryon cousins. It was intriguing regardless and he found his mood shift back, just a little.

As he drew closer, he planted a confident smile across his face. He was handsome, refined in a roguishly handsome way. Or so women had told him. He kept his blonde hair cropped close, a beard neatly trimmed and almost golden in the sun. At this distance now he was even less certain of who the girl before him was, but she was still a very pleasing sight, if a bit sad.

“A lady as beautiful as you, how could you be here all by yourself? Ser Osric Arryn, at your service.” He spoke loudly, too loudly, and offered an exaggerated bow in her direction. His brother - half-brother - had always hated how he seemed to say their family name as a boast. Even before Maegor had elevated them to lords of the Eyrie. But it had always been so very effective at getting Osric whatever it was he desired.

There was a voice interrupting on Elayne's private thought that was nearing a doze. Green-blue eyes opened to an incredibly handsome man, a fighter by the look of him, bowing to her. Her gaze dropped as she stood, mourning the loss of the quiet she enjoyed. Dipping a curtsy to the Ser Arryn, a relation to the Lord of the Vale doubtless, the woman raised her hand to flick the tumble of silvery hair from her shoulder.

"You flatter me, Ser, but I am no lady of renown. Merely a handmaiden of the House of Harroway." It would be best to say such right off, lest he thought her to be lying as to her position. He was a loud man, boisterous. Watching him through the veil of her lashes, she folded her hands demurely. If he was merely passing by and mistook her, perhaps she could maintain the peaceful moment as of yet. "Is there aught I could aid you with?" Her voice was politely interested, even if her wish was to see him on his way.

His eyes eagerly took in her form as she bent in a curtsy. Her eyes were wrong to make her Valyrian, but she was entirely enchanting regardless. Particularly in the way the neckline fell away from her. She was a sweet one then, he read her instantly. A handmaiden she said, but something did not sit entirely right about it. House Harroway, that was a house he knew enough of to know there were too many to keep straight. Osric knew of Lord Lucas at least, though he was certain to have never crossed paths with the man. “Your sweet voice is all the aid I need, I think. I was on my way back to my rooms, but now I fear I’ll lose myself in the beauty of your eyes and never find my way back.” A sweet maiden could not be pushed too quickly, he approached her as delicately as he knew how. She was not the Flame of Lys, but she was at least a very pleasing distraction.

"You honor me with your words. If you were to tell me where the Arryns are housed, perhaps I could be of assistance. I have wandered these halls for some time." Considering she was often banished from Lucas's or Hanna's sight for some perceived slight. Perhaps if she guided this man back, he would then let her be to her own pleasure again. Yet his words made her cheeks turn a slight pink, such words were rarely spoken in a flattering tone. Damon always was scornful when he appraised her. "A Knight so handsome and skilled with words, I can hardly pay back the compliment without offering my small service in directing you on your way." Or she could leave. Perhaps that was the better option.

That was easier than I expected. It nearly took the fun out of the game, but she seemed so earnest in her offer, Osric stopped himself from overthinking it. “My lady is far too kind. My men and I were put in what I’m told has become known as ‘Lordling Row’.” His grin flickered, it was a long stretch of rooms with men much like himself. Second and third sons from respectable houses. Lord Hubert had yet to visit and would surely have found the atmosphere not to his tastes. “I’m certain it’s not far, but your kindness in this is not something I will forget.” He waited for her to guide him away so that he could get a better look of her from behind, certain it would not disappoint.

Elayne had been passing Ser Osric and paused in the entry way they now both occupied. She knew where the Lordling Row was and that her sister, and by extension her, had been forbidden to go there. "I see…" She turned her form meek as she twisted her finger into a strand of the silvery hair, tugging at it absently in thought. "I shall give you directions, it would be most improper if I were to be seen there." She sighed, almost disappointed she could not waste some time helping this Arryn knight. It would have filled the absent hours of the day. To the man it might seem a sigh of forlorn longing as her eyes looked distinctly sad. "I do apologize for the inconvenience."

A soft hmmph, he stopped it from being a grunt of annoyance, passed his lips. How innocent, for her concern at propriety. It did little to dissuade him, and more to encourage him. She just needed convincing that the risk was worth the reward. “I assure you, sweet Lady…” Osric paused for longer than needed. “You’ve not told me your name.” He let his smile diminish, crestfallen at the realization. But, for the first time, he drew closer to her, placed himself close enough that if he wanted to, he could barely extend his arm to grasp the hand that played with her hair. The knight’s arm flinched, as if he intended the gesture but thought better of it and dropped his arm back to his side.

Her eyes widened at her rudeness for not giving her name. "Elayne. Elayne Rivers." She whispered, hating that she was placing herself as the scorned bastard rather than a simple servant. Her finger was still twisting and twinning in that strand as her pale skin turned slightly more crimson. Dipping a very small curtsy. "My apologies, I should have said."

The name stirred nothing other than small joy in the minor victory. The smile returned but so too did a hunger in his eyes. He reached out this time, and took the hand that was tangled in her silvery tresses. “Elayne. No need to apologize. Nor to appear so demure.” He pressed and prodded at her walls to see if they crumbled in the slightest to his advances.

She blinked, startled as the man took his hand. Not be demure? No need to apologize? "But-" She hesitated, then gave the man a small smile. "You are kind, Ser Osric, to a humble woman like myself." She left her hand in his. There was no reason to protest, but she would if he continued holding it! Or Elayne hoped she would have enough of a nerve to do so.

She demurred still, but did not flinch or push him away and so Osric took it as acceptance, even eagerness. “I am not kind, just not blind, Elayne. We will leave your reputation intact, I promise.” He kept one hand holding hers but brought the other to the small of her waist and pulled her towards him. “Lead me to where my rooms are, and let us share a bottle of Arbor Gold when we arrive.”

Elayne blinked, startled as a hand wrapped about her waist. An uninvited hand that did feel quite good. But… She stiffened and blushed a deep crimson. "I- I do not think- Arbor Gold is a bit rich for a handmaiden!" She protested, feeling her form pressed up against this man, her hands pressed against his chest. "It would potentially lead to a lie to your words and my honor not in tactics, Ser." Did he- Was he suggesting to bed her?!

The sound came to the small garden as a surprise; it was guttural, yet strained at a higher pitch than any such sound should rightfully be. Its volume could have reached well into any nook, alcove, or corner of stone. Like a flame sparked in pitch, the sound blazed through walls and shattered narrow focuses.

Both the woman and the man in the garden stopped cold, and darted their eyes in the direction from which the sound emanated. Vaera Balaerys just happened to be leaned against the far garden wall, opposite the one nearest the man and woman, her arms crossed over her chest and lilac eyes burning a hole through the scene the two of them were making. She knew better than to believe it was pure chance; something inside of her was felt through her, and Saeryx reacted, calling out to her.

She had come back to the unfinished Keep to send a message. When the Maester protested, she dismissed him, knowing damned well that a raven could reach one of the Free Cities just as easily as it could the Citadel. Knowing that the Maesters of Oldtown had their footholds on Essos, even if they were temporary ones, meant for study. They had been very insistent, and she believed them. But did she believe no message could reach the shores of Essos from this city? She did not. Send the message, have the messenger get it to Volantis. She promised to owe the damnable chained man a favor. When he brought up asking her about Sothoryos, she only sighed, and nodded. Fair enough, but another day.

It was on her way she just happened to catch sight of the girl from before. And, this time, it wasn’t with one of her entitled half-siblings, but being approached by an actual little lordling of Westeros. So she stopped, still head to toe in black leather and shining mail, weapons, and all, to watch the scene unfold. Surely any woman would recognize the stress of the moment.
Not that she let on for a second, even as the two noticed her, her lips breaking in a playful little smile, “Oh, don’t mind me. Elayne and I were just talking about Valyrian blood earlier. Nice to see my words falling so close to the breast.”
Breast, she said, instead of heart.

For her part, Elayne looked horrified at the other woman. Now fully pushing to try and slip away from the presumptuous knight. That sound had caused her body to stiffen in terror, more than the concern she was already facing. "No, I- You are both mistaken. Ser, Your Highness. Nothing like that-!" She was saying words was she not? Yet it felt like nothing was making sense, and worse, why did know knights one and all have to be large men?!

He had assurances at the tip of his tongue for the woman he pulled against him. Honeyed promises of both joy and discretion that awaited her. Yet he was stopped short, quickly driven to annoyance for the interruption. The knight’s annoyance faded when he took in the sight of who was to blame. He dropped his hands from Elayne and put two steps between them quickly. Osric made a proper bow in the interloper’s direction. Silver haired woman in black armor, he didn’t know who she was exactly, but few would be so bold as to walk the Red Keep like that and not be of dragonblood. And somehow Elayne and this woman knew each other? The Arryn knight was dumbstruck, an usual event for the confident man. “Your highness.” He spoke at last, having found his tongue.

Vaera Balaerys smiled sweetly. “Do you like dragons, my Lord?”

Osric blinked, momentary confusion cast across his face. “Of course I do, your highness.” Still, she was so casual, so bold, so flippant, he found her rather appealing. And that was always his undoing. The confusion remained but the smirk returned. “Majestic creatures, and their riders put the rest of Westeros to shame in both power and beauty…your highness.” He bent his neck to her, a recognition of how very precise he was being in that assessment.

Elayne had felt shame at what had gone on and been assumed. Now there was snapping anger as she looked on at Osric. How dare he have been so presumptive of her! An honest attempt to give him aid and he thought to take more than she had offered! Damon would have sold her to the Lyseni if she had gone through with it. "They are majestic, Ser. Though only the bravest and those of good sense have the ability to dare attempt such a challenge." She snipped, her voice polite but cold, as she edged around the garden towards Vaera. Not wanting to leave even the sword-toting woman alone with this man.

For all the talk and bluster of the man, it was the girl Vaera found herself staring at strangely. The girl seemed to be creeping closer to her.

…what the fuck are you doing?...

Vaera understood it. Truly, she did. She wasn’t the tallest, most physically imposing woman in any land. She was tall, but she was more quick, lithe, understanding in full every weapon she touched and the leverage and angles to be as lethal as possible. A dragon and Valyrian steel were also two very effective equalizers.

And, yet…what the fuck was she doing? She had fought dark men wielding weapons she had never seen before, just out of the bush of Sothoryos. She had fought off ambushes in the Bone Mountains, days from Kayakayanaya. And this girl thought…that she would protect her, Vaera Balaerys?

So Vaera just…stared at the girl. Flat, confused. “You do know if I’m killed, my dragon will likely frenzy and burn everything in sight, make a nest of the rubble and bones and ash, then do it all again and again until its grief is sated by vengeance? Do you really think they want to kill me? We’re not Targaryens. Our dragons aren’t Targaryen dragons. They don’t even…”
Eventually, Vaera just shook her head, said, under her breath, “fuck it,” and returned her attention to the Lord. “Would you like a ride on my dragon, Lord? I feel my time in King’s Mudpit is at an end.”

His arms involuntarily flexed, was this woman serious? If she was not a Targaryen, then there was only one other family he knew who still tamed dragons; he felt rather emboldened by the knowledge. “My apologies for not seeing it sooner - you must be of House Balaerys.” Osric gave a smug smile. Free Cities nobility, as it was, though he thought little of rulers of cities when his family held a kingdom. What a match that would be. Nevermind whatever warnings she had given, “I would be honored to ride with you.” Pleasant words, but tainted by the way he said it, as if the riding with her was an afterthought.

Elayne did not like this man. Not in the slightest. Her eyes were worried as she glanced towards the noblewoman. Even with a sword and a dragon… Well this man was going to attempt what few dared. Perhaps he would be devoured by his hubris. A wicked thought but Elayne knew his type. The same type that would see her with a bastard in her belly and her skirts about her head.

She found it a desperate sense of entitlement. He was so sure what he saw and what he felt was the result of a trap of the life he was born into. Certain he’d be fulfilled, just looking at her, at the prospect of the dragon and destiny. So certain in the tale told to him by his birth of nobility, the capacity of self-delusion encouraged by that entitlement, walking around like it was some kind of fucking virtue.

Pawing Elayne. Drooling at her. Deep inside, the Valyrian blooded Balaerys began to boil. He was a fool. If she gutted him here and now he’d die on the ground, and in his eyes? Would be the certainty that he was someone, that his life mattered, that this was all for him. All his love and his hate and his want and all his dreams and all his ignorance…she had seen the finale of so many countless lives, and each of them certain there was purpose and meaning robbed of them by death.

Then after the fear came and went, dead or alive, staring at their eyes she would always see it…the release of that fear, the comfort of realization that life was little more than a dream of being a person. That it was so easy to just let go.
Instead, her blade stayed sheathed, and the man before her stayed consumed in his own futility of self. So Vaera Balaerys just smiled, and motioned for him to follow, “Good. Let’s go.”

It wasn’t far to reach Saeryx. A courtyard, a long corridor, a few turns to smaller corridors, than the main entrance of the Red Keep and all their bloody stairs. Everything was new, everything smelled new; mortar and paint seemed to fill every breath not filled with the salt in the air from the Narrow Sea and Blackwater Bay just beyond.

Saeryx waited, ready. The blues and purple hues of the dragon seemed to ripple together when it moved at all in the light of the sun above, an iridescence to its wings and large eyes of a molten gold freshly kissed by the furnace flame. The only sudden move it made was a jerk of its head as it regarded the man that accompanied Vaera. It made nearly no noise but for a quick snort, it’s shoulder lowering to allow Vaera the easiest path to the saddle of chain and leather.

Vaera helped the man up. She’d forgotten his name, or perhaps, actively forced herself not to remember it. It wouldn’t matter, either in the short or long run. He was uncertain, he prattled on about dragons, about Valyrians. As much as he talked about others, including the Prince that had irritated her so much just by being, all of it really seemed to be about him. His insecurities. His obsessions.

She smiled and asked him if he was set, before the dragon seemed to just read her mind, and off about it they went. Not that he could see it, but her face remained detached, unmoved, as they went. It wasn’t until they made a quick circle of Aegon’s hill and swept in a low, low flight towards the mud gate that she leaned back, over her shoulder, to shout words to him just so he would hear her over the rushing air.

“You really shouldn’t try to act so entitled. You terrified that poor girl in the courtyard. You looked at me like a prize to be won.”

Then it was, as Saeryx came gliding down near enough the top of the city walls to spook men manning the gate towers, heading for the river, that she twisted her body and took a hard hold of his clothing about the collar. “DO BETTER ONCE HUMBLED.” Her eyes alive with a lilac colored fire, as she did…something with her other hand, that was wrapped in the chain of the ‘saddle’, and Saeryx took a sudden, dramatic, change of direction straight up.

She both let go, and shoved, and given the steepness of their ascent…she just smiled as she watched him float away, trying to desperately cling to anything, and finding nothing but air. It made her happy enough that she even waved a farewell to the man.
The hunting party had been riding out for some time, returning in the buoyed mood of a successful excursion. It had been an affair of several days, a boar hunt, something to get the lively nobles of the Targaryen court excited for a little more danger than tracking fowl or hind. In the end they’d still claimed three deer and the prize they had set out for, a breeding pair of wild boar that had been ravaging some of the outer farmsteads. The small folk had been happy to be rid of them, and they’d make for a fine feast.

Roelle Baratheon didn’t think much of that, beyond perhaps a few trace thoughts of some fine boar sausages, instead she grinned from ear to ear as she raced at the head of the gaggle of nobility. The long tresses of her coal black hair whirling around her as she spurred her steed, a chestnut mare of lively temperament, into an ever faster run across the beaten path. While a boar hunt was achieved through spear, that had been left to the men, and so she was still garbed in the simple, but elegant, white of her archery attire, bow and quiver attached to the side of her saddle. Admitedly her eyes weren’t on the sky, not until the sudden rush of oncoming air from the fast pace of her steed altered slightly.

Was that screaming?

Roelle pulled back on the reigns of her steed just in time before the flying form of a man struck the water of the river infront of her, her horse neighing frantically first at the sudden impact then at the sight of dragon from above, swooping away. At least that explained the falling man.

Quickly Roelle cast her eyes to where the man had impacted, there was still a frantic amount of thrashing, but whether that was from the impact or a sign of life might have been unclear. She was still possibly a minute ahead of the rest of the hunters, and didn’t have a huge amount of time to act. A girl who had grown up in Shipbreaker Bay knew how to deal with the current of a river, but she had found that not many others at court did. Quickly, she extracted herself from the saddle, hopping down to the ground, pausing only for a moment to kick her shoes away, she then took a running start and dived forwards, bridging her hands together into a forward throwing dive that cleared her well over the shallows and into the deeper water the unfortunate temporarily-flying man had plummeted.

Roelle was a powerful swimmer, combined with her tall build, meant that once she had powered forwards and took a hold of the man, she actually had something of a hope of getting him to shore. It wasn’t as simple as trying to pull him back, that would be impossible, instead she waited, keeping them both floating, until the current of the river brought them alongside the next bend, then lunged for the shore.
She let out a cry of exertion which almost drowned her simply from opening her mouth, but with a force which made her shoulder feel like it was about to explode, she dragged herself and the man out, onto the brief rocky outcrop, then collapsing back onto the grass.

Panting, only then did she mumble the words, “Stupid day to wear white.”
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William:


The stars still burned in a sky like black velvet and the moon hung low and full. The first pale rays of the dawn had not even risen over the inky crags of the red mountains to the south. But in the courtyard below the single tower of Larkwood’s moss-lined keep, a man worked at the pell with a lead-weighted sword. Time and time again he struck with focused patience born from a life spent training. Sweat ran from his brow and his nostrils flared as he kept his breathing under strict control. The old gambeson he wore was soaked in sweat and every muscle burned.

But he forced himself to go on. He had already practiced at vaulting into the saddle, climbing a narrow space between two walls and going up and down a ladder. Then he had sprinted up the narrow stairs to the curtain wall and walked back down to kick and punch the old cloth-wrapped post that stood next to the pell. Before that he had lifted the thick iron plates he’d ordered the castle’s smith to forge some years prior. He knew his body’s limits and he had not reached them yet.

The man called William Marston continued to train in near silence, forcing his exhausted limbs to perform the different stances and techniques with perfection, or as near as he could get to it. At last, he halted. Careful setting the training sword down with shaking limbs, he forced his trembling legs to carry up the stairs to his chambers.

A fire roared in the hearth, a plate sat next to his table and a tub full of icy water sat near the fire. He nodded in approval, a servant who knew to stay out of sight was a fine thing indeed. He sank into the frigid water with a low groan and after a while he emerged from the water and dried near the fire.

He dressed quickly and stood in his arming clothes, a moment later the door swung and his squire strode in, already clad in his own armor. William nodded approvingly. He would have helped young Robert happily enough, but he was glad to see the boy could stand on his own. Strange, he wasn’t much older than Robert, but he still thought of him as a youth. Then again, he was a blooded knight of a half dozen different raids and skirmishes. Robert was a stout-hearted sort, but had yet to see combat.

He smiled grimly to himself as Robert strapped the sabatons and greaves over his mail chausses. There would be time enough for that. Life in the marches was never easy, but lately he couldn’t even go hunting or south to the little lake that bordered his holding to fish, without donning his armor. A fortnight ago, someone had even loosed a crossbow bolt at him while he was out riding.

Robert strapped his longsword to his side and lifted the mail aventail and hound-skulled helm over his head. A quick adjustment and helm sat securely over his arming cap and the mail collar under his plate gorget. William strode down the narrow stairs, taking his time in the dim candlelight. He reached the courtyard, where four score mounted archers in gambesons and coats of plate waited on their sturdy hill ponies. Behind them were two score billmen in mail and with thick kettle helms that shrouded their features from the dim silver of the early dawn.

William took a running jump and vaulted into the saddle without the use of either hand and settled there like one born to it. His squire handed up his shield, which bore the sign of a two-headed falcon over the thick oak. He checked to see the dreadful black mace he preferred was slung from his saddle and then took up the short lance his squire handed him.

Robert swung into the saddle behind him and handed the reins of his master’s remounts to one of the armsmen. William turned in the saddle and surveyed his assembled company for a moment before nodding shortly. He raised a hand and the drawbridge slowly fell into place with a rattle of chains and a dull thump. The portcullis slowly rose with a groan of metal and William rode rode out before the sunrise.

***


It wasn’t even midday and though the sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky, the chill wind rolled down from the mountains and over rolling fields of stubbled sere grass that covered the moors. The skeletal boughs of the ancient trees whipped back and forth in the wind. Below, the turgid flow of the river snaked its way through the forest, the deep water seeming to gleam like obsidian in the pale light of a spring still trying to emerge from a long winter’s cruel grasp.

Where the river had spilled its banks, thick stands of amber-colored reeds stood from ground that had turned into marsh. Between the flooding waters and the dense clusters of trees and thickets there was a narrow path that wound its way north and then east through the moors and woods of the Dornish Marches. Once a traveler left the treacherous path that fed through the pass of princes, such paths were the only real roads through that part of the land.

The road, such as it was, often narrowed to a series of ruts through the loamy soil or to a game trail as the forest deepened. Piles of dead leaves rustled in the wind as it roared through the leafless limbs of the slumbering groves. Here and there, they rose from the mulched earth to swirl in the air, before the ceaseless storm subsided for a moment.

Under the quaking boughs, the light was lost in the depths of the woods and a man would have had to shout to make himself heard. Between the undergrowth-choked woodland and the marshy bend in the river, it was the perfect day and spot for an ambush. Which was exactly why William had chosen the spot. Hillmen, fleeing peasants and brigands might have made their home in the woods, but a column of raiding Dornishmen would need to take the quickest way home. Especially if any of the lords north of William’s own holding were in pursuit.

His scouts had reported glimpses of men on horseback and the occasional fresh hoofprint. Whatever he might have thought of them, they were crafty veterans, trained in a merciless school and learned from generations of raiding back and forth between the Dornishmen and the Marchers.

They were no fools either, William let himself enjoy a moment’s self-congratulation. By allowing his smallfolk to keep crossbows and fortify their villages with ditches, stakes and earthen ramparts, the lands around Larkwood had become a tough nut to crack for any light raiding force. True they could pillage and burn, but they couldn’t take the land with them. Besides, war without fire was like sausages without mustard.

So now he waited, lying prone in a thicket, his armor and gambeson shielding him quite nicely from the finger-length thorns and the chill wind that snaked through the clustered trees with icy fingers. To his left and right, his men lay waiting as well. William focused on the fresh tracks and hoofprints in the damp earth before him. Someone's scouts had ridden ahead only moments before and there weren’t enough tracks for the three or four score men that were supposed to have been raiding up and down this part of the Marches.

So either they had found a ford through the deceptively slow-looking flow of the river or they had halted for the day. Well, it wouldn’t be the first time he had waited all day and night for a enemy that never arrived. Sometimes you ambushed the enemy, sometimes they ambushed you. Sometimes both forces tracked and evaded the other without ever actually clashing.

Such was life in the Marches.

Still, he hoped that the enemy would make a decision soon. He couldn’t afford to stay gone from his hold too long. His neighboring lords might start to get ideas. And one couldn’t simply hang a knight or landowner from a tree like a common bandit without . . . complications.

So he waited, partaking in the same struggle as his men. The age old one soldiers have faced since time immemorial. The fight between discipline and boredom. Old memories, jokes and snatches of songs ran through his mind while he lay under the leaves and brambles, waiting like some lion in the bush.

Then he heard, at first he thought it was simply the product of a bored and over-eager mind, trying to produce what it wanted to happen. Then it came again. A grim smile flickered across his patrician features before he slowly eased his visor close and kicked the leg of the armsman next to him.

All the line men checked their weapons, strung their bows and tensed, waiting for the attack. The next few moments couldn’t have been more than a few heartbeats long, but it seemed to stretch on into eternity.

A column of Dornishmen rode or walked, strung out along the path, their eyes dim with fear and fatigue, this was not the party of ravening wolves William had expected. Their horses were lathered and exhausted. Even the few sand steeds he saw walked with their once proud heads low and their breathing coming short and harsh. Their armor and weapons dented and notched from hard use.

One or two limped along on bare feet, a few had been lashed to their saddles and William raised an eyebrow. Their wounded bore clear signs of torture. Here a man with no hands, weeping silently at his raw stumps. One slumped in the saddle, his dangling limbs showing the marks of the rack as they shook with fever. Another man stared sightlessly ahead, raw red craters where his eyes had been.

More to the point, there were no carts of sacks full of plunder that William had hoped to take for himself. He cursed his poor luck and then shrugged mentally. Wounded prey was easy prey. Besides, a party of Dornishmen riding up to raid the Marchers and then never returning would send a very clear message.

He rose and surged through the dense undergrowth with a shout that rose above the wind, his squire followed him, lifting the red of the banner up high. The signal given, Marston’s soldiers rose from their positions, nocked their longbows and loosed in one smooth motion. After a year-and-a-half of relentless drills, Ser William’s men had more than met their lord’s intent.

Though the wind was strong, William had positioned his men accordingly and under the dark limbs of the trees that sheltered them, they fired with the wind and not against it. Though some shafts blew off course, the majority of the black-feathered arrows struck into their lightly armored targets with punishing force.

Men staggered or fell, the survivors screamed and clutched at the barb-headed darts that now stuck from their bleeding bodies. Horses reared and screamed, trying to bolt or simply charging into the icy flow of the river and being swept under the seemingly smooth surface.

The archers loosed once more and the survivors of the column were flayed. They turned in desperation. Some sought to try and avenge themselves on their hidden foes or organize a defense. Most, their nerves already frayed but whatever earlier ordeal they had endured, simply tried to run. But between the river and the woods, there were few options left.

Cowards died right alongside the few with any heart left to fight. Others were trapped by their panicked comrades and stampeding horses. Only then did William give the signal and the banner waved and then dipped twice.

As one the men of Castle Larkwood charged from their positions. The billmen led the assault, their mail and brigandine providing good protection. Behind them the archers unstrung their bows and then followed with sword and buckler in hand.

William led his men with a bull-throated battlecry that echoed over the windswept land. Before him a raider pitched from his saddle, two arrows sunk a hands-breadth in his spine. A man lifted a small pennon and raised an Auroch’s horn to his lips. William brought his mace up and around in a swift and brutal arc.

Blood spewed across the muddy earth and as the enemy standard bearer collapsed bonelessly to the ground. William slammed the iron-wrapped rim of his shield into the throat of another and then brought his sabaton-clad heel down the man’s face. His squire followed, Robert’s longsword flickering out with serpent-like speed.

A man reeled back, clutching at the spurting ruin of his throat, his wide eyes rolling in terror. William slammed his mace into the bridge of the man’s nose, pulping the front of his skull. A Dornishman tried to grab William’s shield and lever his arm up. William’s armored foot flashed out and the man howled as his knee bent at a right angle. A heartbeat later, the foeman’s skull exploded like rotted fruit dropped onto stone.

William brought his gore-smeared mace around and shattered the leg of a warrior in what had been a fine mail harness and helm. The man fell to his knees and tried to crawl away, until William planted his armored boot on the fallen soldier’s back.

As quickly as it had begun, the fighting was over. The surviving raiders attempted to run or surrender and were hacked down. The few who had tried to fight had been swarmed, dragged down and then hacked into pieces by the billmen. Archers milled among the dead, rifling through clothing, finishing off any wounded or slitting throats to make sure their fallen enemies were dead.

Maybe twenty attempted to flee into the river, those that weren’t swept under bogged down to their waists in the marshy riverbank. A few archers took up their bows again and shot into the trapped Dornishmen. Though they held up their hands and pleaded for mercy, none was given. Some fell where they stood. A few that manager to free themselves from the clinging mud were riddled with arrows and fell into the black of the river with a splash. At last, the screams faded away on the surging winds.

Corpses carpeted the gore-caked mud of the path and arrow-feathered corpses lay in the reeds or bobbed in the river, before they were pulled under. William turned to survey the scene and then snapped out orders. Men dashed back into the woods and reemerged moments later on horseback. Scouts rode up and the trail, while others brought the rest of the band’s mounts to their riders.

Though there was little enough to loot, William allowed his men a moment to search the bodies of their victims. His squire put their sole prisoner on a horse, as the men reformed. William swung into the saddle and led his troops back through the woods.

Only a fool ever took the same path home in the Marches.



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Garin // @Arnorian


He had bowed and left without another word. In truth, her commands rankled. But then what he could do? Take his men and ride away, unpaid and not fully provisioned for the long and costly journey back home? Strange, he’d never realized he considered Essos home now. But apparently he did.

This land was the Lord Commander’s and it was one thing to defy a minor lord, another to spit in the face of a great house. So he had done as she ordered. Tarly had been obliging enough and the boy had been moved to the care of the maesters. But the tension between Garin and all the men of westeros was deadly. Besides which, mercenary companies that got a reputation for defying their employers tended not to last very long.

Martella hadn’t spoken to him and slept with her face turned towards the tent wall. She’d barely acknowledge his existence when he rose. Myrna, as young as she was, knew full well something was wrong and she had stayed next to her mother the whole time. Rylla was even worse, her face locked in a mask of shame and regret. And she’d avoided him, like she feared him.
Now morning rose, but with the vague trepidation that Garin still felt before any fight. Breakfast was served but Garin and his family sat around their small table in a deadly silence. Even little Myrna was quiet and sat in the crook of her mother’s arm.

He hadn’t done anything and yet, he felt guilty as all the hells for everything. He forced himself to eat, ignoring the churning in his stomach and silent cursed the whole day. His squire entered and bowed slightly. Garin rose as Lady Vittoria entered.

Vittoria Tyrell found herself back in familiar wear. The simpler, though finely made, cotton green dress with layers of mail and leather. Like the dress, it was the result of artisans, but it was otherwise unadorned. This was not the parade plate of their procession into Oldtown, this was the everyday uniform of the Ardent Maiden.

She had left Davos at the inn he had found room at to recover his traveling companions, to gather his things, and relocate to the inns at Port Market Street, where the majority of the Order of the Golden Rose inside the city were stationed. Upon her arrival she spoke to Dennet, and swept through the Lost Alehouse, speaking with Tytan, learning more about the man than she had anticipated.

Dennet woke up riders and sent them to the Citadel. There ravens would be sent from the Citadel to most the Lordly and Knightly Houses of the Reach; Highgarden was calling it’s banners. By the time she was changed and down on the first floor tavern of the inn, the Last Cobblestone, the room wasn’t as dark as it had been. Early risers were beginning to stir. Ser Ennis Inchfield was drinking water brought by the innkeepers when she came down, asking her if it was true.

“The Hightower glows blue in the breaking dawn,” he explained, his eyes still heavy at the point between truly awake and half asleep.

She nodded, “It is. Banners are being called.”

Dennet and Thaddeous Rowan were next in. The three of them hovered near the center of the first floor tavern as squires and knights began shuffling about around them, innkeepers moving in and out, bowls of fire plums here, apples there, the smell of sausages put to flame filling the early morning air. Vittoria smiled at Ser Ryam as he pulled himself down onto a bench and began pulling on his boots.

“I bet you slept not at all,” her younger cousin remarked, sarcastic and half-conscious.

She merely grinned. She told the other two men that Thad’s father and Oakheart weren’t their concern. The heir to the Iron Throne was dead.

“What?,” came from Ser Ryam, as simply thinking he overheard that was enough to widen his eyes another smidge of awakeness as his boots were pulled on a little faster now.

The Faith Militant would be on the move, they couldn’t stay in the Westerlands in great numbers now. Vittoria bet their path would be across the Reach. She would reach out to the Lord of Casterly Rock about that. In the meantime, her more talented whisperers in King’s Landing were claiming the appearance of new dragonriders and a visible increase in Faith Militant, as well as a ‘sense of dread’ in the city.

The capital would be important. Dennet floated the idea of an advanced party, just the Order, itself, but Vittoria shook her head, “No. Now we wait for banners. Talk to our Knights, get those who can to talk to their Houses.”

Thaddeous chuckled, “I’m afraid I don’t think my House will be as receptive…”

Dropping her voice, Vittoria recounted to the two what happened in Lord Manfred’s solar. Thaddeous looked as if he might spit. “What about the squire?”

“He will recover. The Knight isn’t one of ours, but a friend of one of ours. The duel is going to happen.”

Vittoria listened to the two men speak of Garin and this knight, and she looked off to Ryam, mouthing to him something about horses as her poor cousin tried to finish a sausage and a cider. She was jealous of both. She’d eat when she got to camp, she decided, turning her eyes back to Den and Thad. “Get our people ready to move. Send word to the Rose Garden to do the same. We need to be out of this city by nightfall. My father should be arriving sometime today. I’m going to go visit Garin now, then I have to take the Harroway we found on the road to the Citadel. Then I’ll be back.”

So focused upon his sausage was Ser Ryam that he almost missed the nonverbal message from Vittoria. He gave a nod, shoved the rest of the sausage into his mouth, washed it down and then walked out of the door to prepare his and the Lord Commander's mounts. He was just about out of the doorway when Davos's form came into view. Ryam gave a respectful nod and retreated to allow the Lord to enter first and wondered if he and his cousin would have a plus one on their ride.

Heads turned when Lord Davos Baratheon shouldered his way into the first floor of the Last Cobblestone. Den and Thad simply gave smirks.

“…I don’t want to hear it from either of you…”

All three laughed and broke their conference. Dennet Tarly off to the Chandler’s house to ready his family and her younger siblings. Thaddeous Rowan to the Lord Pennifer to get those there informed and moving, then to send men to the Rose Garden to get that inn doing the same.

“Hey,” Vittoria smiled at Davos as she walked towards him, towards the door he just came in, “I’m off to our camp. Come with me?”

He was understanding and kindness. Their horses were ready, and the three of them were trotting through the early morning fog of Oldtown relatively quickly. She noticed a larger number of Blue Cloaks, but she wasn’t sure that was such a bad thing, assuming their new Commander wasn’t as bad as Manfred had feared. She did most the talking, giving Davos an idea of what was about to happen, as well as the news about the dead Prince.

While Vittoria and Davos spoke, Ryam was scouring the surrounding area for threats. It wasn't probable that the Lord Commander would be assailed right outside of Oldtown, but Ryam would take no chances. He took his role seriously, even more so after certain events. His right hand was expertly placed on the left side of his saddle, appearing crisscrossed, it allowed the Knight a rapid sword draw while keeping perfect control of his mount. Luckily, nothing wishing ill will appeared to them on the streets of the city or in the area just outside the walls.
Exiting the city, the ride wasn’t long until they saw the beginnings of their camp, wooden spiked perimeter and sentries riding, scouts and hunters, those coming back from the city after their own long night, those going into the city. It didn’t take her long to realize something was different. Not only was the banner of the Order of the Golden Rose flying, the Tyrell Golden Rose on white field, but so was the actual House Tyrell banner.

And the camp looked…busy, swollen, very swollen. “My Father is early.”

When Davos asked her whether that was good or bad, she didn’t know what to tell him. It could be hard to tell with her father, Lord Theo, she explained. Her wits, her mind…much as she loved her mother, and no offense to House Redwyne, as surely Ser Ryam knew his aunt, these were not things Vittoria got from her mother.

She got them from Lord Theo. The only High Lord to refuse Aegon the Conqueror an army was no fool, and, looking back, had been wise to refuse Aegon the First. The Dornish Wars were folly, few knew that better than Vittoria Tyrell. She had literally written the book on the subject, though not in her own name, something she admitted, for the first time, to Davos and Ryam as they approached the camp, and made their way to the pavilion of Captain Garin. A nearby Knight of the Order took their horses for them as they dismounted, and Vittoria asked them to give her a moment. She was nearly at the entrance to Garin’s pavilion when he came around the corner, wearing black riding leathers, and a green cloak with a golden rose pin.

He smiled his customary half smile, and she threw her armored body into him, into a hug. Oof, he said, melodramatically, before hugging her back. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too, father.”

The hug broke, but he kept a hand on the armored shoulder of her’s closest to him, “I was told you’d be here. You will have to catch me up on why camp is talking about a duel. Sounds like a minor madness. Your sister and brother?”

Lord Theo had never been much of a fighter, however able, it just never suited his style. How could she explain to him something she knew he would shake his head at? “With Lord Dennet and his wife in the city. Are you coming in with me?”

“…mm,” his darker brown eyes contemplated it, but, gently, his head shook, an undertone of humor to his voice, “Let us not scare the poor Captain and his family too much. They are worth their gold?”

“Very.”

His big hand clapped the armored shoulder he had held, “Good to hear, daughter. I have heard things about last night. We will talk soon?”

“As soon as I am done here.”

He kissed at her cheek, and took a moment to look past her, staring a moment longer than usual until he nodded to Ser Ryam from the distance of nearly twenty paces, and even to Lord Davos, that undertone of humor coming to his mouth, “I await you both. I have news for you as well.”

Both, he said, confirming he knew. She was, genuinely, relieved it wasn’t news she would break. Of course he knew. Vittoria had to work for informants and whispers, but being the Warden of the South and Lord of Highgarden meant people tripped over themselves to give him news. That was real power, he had taught her. Though news from him? Her father was many things, but a simple man wasn’t one of them. If he had news, on a day like today, it was meaningful. Later, though, she promised herself as she turned and asked one of Garin’s men keeping guard with one of her Knights to announce her, and see if she could enter.

Ryam had instantly taken to a knee as the Lord of the Reach and Warden of the South appeared. He remained in that kneeled position until Vittoria released her father from the embrace. The young Redwyne smiled softly as he watched and listened to the two and wished he had a similar relationship with his own father. There was a… Rocky relation, with Ryam wishing to simply be the best Knight he could and his father wishing to use him to further alliances or to even secure new ones.

Ryam had even been instructed to put himself forward as a potential offering to the Iron Maiden. An order that Ryam had promptly ignored, and as he glanced at Davos, Ryam felt he had many good reasons as to why he disobeyed. As the Lord Paramount addressed him and bid him forward, Ryam would do so with a slight bow of his head as a thanks for the honor that was being shown to him. He did however stop next to Vittoria, as her father may be the Lord Paramount, but it was his cousin to whom his fealty was currently pledged. He took up a position on her left as she waited to be announced.

“Lord Commander, to what do we owe this pleasure?” Garin said with an easy poise that belied the coiling tension he always felt before a fight.

Rylla and Martella both rose and bowed, Myrna for her part peeked around her mother’s skirt and waved shyly at the woman in green and leather.

The first set of eyes Vittoria Tyrell locked onto was Rylla. Vittoria’s face couldn’t hide the warmth in her expression, what with the big brown eyes, and the hint of smile on her pink lips, but there was the weight and tension of the moment that none could ignore. “Hello, I’m rather jealous of you for getting to beat a squire inside-out, but also…in my camp please don’t ever do anything like that again.”

It was gently said, but the Lord Commander’s tone was there, and there was undoubtedly the unspoken bit of if it did ever happen again, the conversation would be far less pleasant for all. But that was unspoken, hinted at only by the rigidity of her tone in the way she spoke the second half of her words, the first half nothing but one girl jealous of another getting to do something they wished they could do, too.

When she turned to Martella, there was no sign of the Lord Commander, just a radiant expression of excitement and happiness in getting to meet the woman. “Hi! I’ve heard very good things about you, I’m so glad you’re all here with Garin, Martella. I have SO many questions for you,” she admitted, laughing, “but just please, if you need for anything, have any questions about anything, I will always be here to help your family.”

If anything, it was like the Lady wife of the Lord Commander showed up to greet Garin’s family…except she was the Lord Commander, too. Vittora found herself transitioning between the facets of her own personality with ease, like a noble lady who had spent significant time in other courts, having to be charming, disarming, and approachable while still remaining genuine, and who she was, as a person.

Yet she felt no pretense. There was no act. She was genuinely excited to meet Martella, the woman was a genuine source of awe. Vittoria couldn’t imagine holding a family together with a husband busy doing things for some commander, staying back at camp. The difficulties. The frustrations.

Her biggest thrill came from the little one. Calm, but sweetly smiling, and honey toned, Vittoria lowered her body so she was as close to eye-level with Myrna as possible. Her fingertips wiggled in a child-like wave as she waved at the girl, “Hello, Myrna. I hope you don’t mind the camp too much?”

Martella smiled brilliantly and for a moment she looked radiant. It was easy to see why a man would have given up his whole life for her. She bowed with an easy grace that could have come years of practice and would have done any lady of the court proud.

“You have my thanks, Lord Commander, we are honored. I have bread and salt, if you wish. If not, something finer is easy enough to bring.”

Looking down at Myrna, she smiled again as her youngest ducked her head. “Can you say hello, my love?” Martella said.

Myrna raised her eyes to meet the Lord Commander and smiled shyly. “I’m four, father gave me a kitten, because I was very good. She’s black and white, her name is Moon.” She said, with a child’s casual disregard for anything resembling conversational flow.

For her part, Rylla nodded and kept her face as polite and friendly as she could. After everything, she felt it was best that she kept her mouth shut. Her mother had always been the more charming and well-spoken of the family. Still she felt her father’s eye on her and so she followed mother’s suit and bowed. Not nearly as gracefully as Martella, but a passable enough courtesy nonetheless.

“Moon? A fine name for a kitten, thank you for being so good, Myrna,” she said, still at the child’s eye level, still smiling until she stood—then the look that washed across her face was one of exhaustion. She was hungry, but there just wasn’t time in a day that had become far busier than she originally hoped it would be.

“I wish I could, thank you so very much, Martella. I came to offer your family a stay at Highgarden instead of our camp.” Her hands spoke with her, waving palm down as if to suppress worry and concern, as if to emphasize the innocence of the offer, “This would be as guests, it’s more than big enough to accommodate you, though if you’d prefer the Understeward has told me he could find work for you that would be fairly compensated.

“The Septas are always happy to have another face in their sessions, should you want Myrna to take part and do some learning. Think it over? Banners have been called, and we’ll be folding into the Army of the Reach, soon. That’s…probably around thirty thousand to start with.”

Vittoria roughly estimated, her brown eyes moving side to side as she did quick numbers in her mind even as she spoke, “Just very busy, and a very different kind of experience to the small, intimate camp we’ve had so far. So, talk it over, and let me know? First, though…” Vittoria turned sharply, to Garin, to Rylla, where they stayed, instead of Garin, “you two please give me a moment outside?”

It was on her way out that she turned to Martella once more, “Thank you again, Martella, and anything you need don’t hesitate to let me know. See you soon, Myrna,” Vittoria smiled brightly, waving at the young child as she stepped out, and waited for the other two.

Martella curtsied as the Lord Commander left and favored her husband with a significant look. The kind that people who’ve been married for a very long time can use to say a great deal without saying anything.

Her quick scan of the area revealed Davos talking to Ryam, and Tytan haunting the peripheral, as if he wanted to talk and was waiting for a moment. She turned her attention back to Garin and Rylla when they walked out.

Again, her attention was on Rylla first, “talked it over with some people, and we’d also like you, Rylla, to enter our household as a Lady in Waiting for my little sister.”
When she saw the confusion on the young woman’s face, she waved a hand dismissively in the air, “Not to worry, my sister Mina likes all the things you do—and that’s the thing. Put up the pretense of a Lady, like she has to, but in truth you’ll be tasked with training her, and protecting her. Gold can be exchanged for this service, just speak to the Steward or Understeward to get further information on that.”

Then, finally, she moved her eyes to Garin…and lowered her voice. “Beat this challenger. Do it convincingly. My father will be presiding over it. The Knight is the challenger, so you’ll pick the weapons used. It starts on horseback. Noon. Get Martella and Myrna to Highgarden, you’d be an idiot to pass up the opportunity. Don’t,” she gave a light push on his breastplate for emphasis with the word, and each that followed, “disappoint. me. Deal? Deal…and, Rylla, no more of this. None.”

Then Vittoria Tyrell smiled as big and bright as she had all day, “Everyone happy?”

Rylla bowed and before she could give herself a chance to hesitate, she spoke. Doing her best to emulate her father’s manners before an employer, she smiled politely but not insincerely.
“You have done my family many honors this morning, Lord Commander. I would be delighted to serve you in any way I may.”

From the corner of her eye she saw her father nodded approvingly and for the first time in what seemed an eternity, it felt like light had pierced the dark and she could breathe again. In truth, she was excited, a bodyguard to the scion of a great house? Her journey to knighthood could hardly have started with a better opportunity.

“I am of course, your humble servant, Lord Commander.” Garin had said before Lady Vittoria departed.

Like Rylla, he was relieved. Somehow he had fallen down a flea bottom jakes and come back up smelling like a rose. Martella was of course delighted and smiled at him for the first time since the whole disaster with the unfortunate squire. And Garin was happy enough to have his family behind the walls of Highgarden, surrounded by loyal soldiers and bodyguards. Who knew? Perhaps some of the Lord Commander’s kindness and patience would rub off on his eldest.
Stranger things had happened.

Silence fell once the Lord Commander had left. His squire kept his mouth closed, but by then, Garin was happy for the quiet. He donned his armor, his mind no longer churning, but now filled with a dread silence that was somehow even worse. Martella favored with a hug and quick kiss before she set to the myriad tasks that came with moving a household. Rylla grudgingly aided her mother and Myrna helped where she could, though Garin’s youngest seemed more occupied with throwing a ball of yarn for her cat.

He paused for a moment at the opening the pavilion and took the in the scene with a small, slow smile that vanished almost as quickly as it had come. One day, Martella would have others to do this sort of work. One day, she could have a real roof over her head and the days of the field and the camp would be nothing but old memories.

. . . And his children, no matter what path they chose, would have a place to call home, something he could leave behind for them. Honor demanded nothing less.

Garin stepped out in the brilliant sunlight and vaulted into the saddle of his waiting warhorse with practiced ease. He wasn’t the tallest man in westeros, but neither was he small by any means.

Clad in black plate, he looked the very image of knightly prowess. He lifted his great helm over his mailed head and took up his shield. The thick oak was black like his armor, save for the image of an uprooted tree in white. Under which was the word “disinherited” in Rhoynish. He rode to the field, reins held loosely in his gauntlet, visor down the whole way.


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The sea had always called to Pheynix, or Nix as she was called by those close to her. All bodies of water really. Her mother referred to her as a 'little sea dragon'; quite irritating now that she was grown. It made her feel infantile. She was twenty. Not an infant.

Sighing as she leaned against the ship rail watching the ship, Swift Lady, cut through the water. The spray barely reached her boots with tiny droplets that rolled off the oiled leather.

“LAND HO!!" The bellow came from far above the deck of the cog that Nix stood on. The consensus was that land was close since the gulls had started screaming at them. So the crew that had been impatient cheered to be relieved of their sea legs for a short while.

Nix straightened up standing so that the tips of her fingers were the last to leave the railing and she pushed gently swaying with the ship. The breeze picked up as the sun started to set and they would be landing in Dragonstone in about a half hour, possibly less if the breeze picked up and a cross current didn’t foil their landing. One could never be sure with islands.

A terrifying scream that was unearthly shattered the sounds of the crew who froze for a moment. The setting sun striking the stone molded to look like dragons gave off a menacing aura for a moment. Nix scanned the sky as much as she could to see the dragon that had made that trumpet. To her it sounded like it was grieving, but that must be Nix's imagination.

Men froze then scrambled to their duties of getting the ship ready to drop anchor and row in. Meanwhile Nix, rather distracted with pondering about a dragon, trance-like stepped out of sailors' way seemingly at the last possible moment. As the wind lifted the locks of hair that had come down out of the tight braids she had wrestled it into she pulled one of the braids over her shoulder. The heavy, thick braid shone ebony in the setting sun with a strand of snow white running through it. She stroked the reminder of her heritage and smiled.

Tossing her thick braid back over her shoulder Nix felt and heard it side across her back with a soft swish. The dress and jacket were the house colors, a deep ebony and a rich purple silk that had an iridescent shimmer. The collar was high and circled her long pale throat pinned at her clavicle with the house sigil of a shooting star blended with a bird that resembled a swan crossed with a raptor. The jacket sleeves were long and fitted to the wrist with an overlay of delicate smoke colored lace designed to look like smoke. The dress itself was fitted snugly to Nix's frame to her hips then spilled down like a waterfall, stopping mid calf in the front and floor length in the back. The hem covered the tops of the boots she had on.

A smaller childlike hand fitted in Nix's and brought the woman back from her daydreaming over what it took to build the imposing fortress. “Nixie was that a dragon?" Looking down at her sister Cassiopeia and smiling into her sea blue eyes, Nix leaned over and kissed the top of the child’s head.

“Yes." Nix rested her cheek on the girl’s head. “One of many. I hear that every one of our Targaryen cousins has one. And before you ask, we're not here to trade for a dragon egg. Mother would have my hide." She smiled as Cassiopeia pouted mockingly.

While Nix and Cassiopeia talked dragons, the two other Rahl children missed the dragoncall, as the sound of steel meeting steel was too loud. Below the main deck, Castor had deemed the area a practice 'field' during his and his siblings' journey. That was where he currently stood, clad in training weights to simulate armor and brandishing Shadowfang. His opponent was his younger brother Pyxis who didn't seem to really understand what he was doing. Pyxis simply stood, sword pointed upwards and outward and tried his best to slap at the Valyrian blade. "No, no Pix. You gotta move your blade where your enemy is GOING to move it, and not where it currently is. Try and think about the different attack angles and outsmart them." Pyxis simply shrugged and lowered his sword, walking over to his brother and placing a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm just not a fighter Castor. But that's OK, you got enough for the both of us. We should probably go and get ready to be presented to civil society, we'll be at Dragonstone soon and Nix will kill you if you show up in your fighting clothes." The younger brother had an easy tone about him, and a soft smile that seemed to tell you that he was right. Castor for his part just sighed and nodded a few times.

"You're right of course." Castor looked over to his various instructors and bowed toward them. "Gentleman, thank you for your training today. I still find something new to consider with every spar." The group of instructors just chuckled and shook their heads. They were a peculiar lot, with all different backgrounds. Ser Jeorry Redmont was a Knight of Westeros who had come close to being considered as a Kingsguard and who left the continent sometime after that to pursue new ways of fighting. Ilyro Saer was the opposite style, a water dancer of Braavos who had trained many fighters who eventually went on to compete and even gain the title of First Sword. Saavhos was a gladiator of the fighting pits of Meereen and had a more personal hand to hand style used with spiked knuckles. Zheirdas Shaqui, a Ghiscari Legionnaire preferring a spear and shield style and finally a native to Volantis who had been Castor's sworn shield since birth, Tychonos Orloris. The group began to pick up various weapons as Castor and Pyxis left, and would no doubt put the training area back to shipshape.

The two Rahl brothers made their way to their shared room and washed up as best as possible, each ignoring the cold water and then dressing in their family colors. Castor opted for a more elegant choice, his purple tunic made with the exotic and expensive silks of the East. A black leather robe-jacket was worn overtop, the buttons all gold and engraved with the Rahl sigil, the purple from his shirt peeking out at the neck. A heavy belt went around his waist, tied and knotted tightly to carry the weight of first the Valyrian sword Shadowfang, and then two separate knives. A gauche at Castor's right, and a more curved and wicked looking throwing knife behind his back. Castor didn't even bother with his hair, the cursed mess of pale blonde did what it wished and only got messier if the Rahl attempted to tame it.

The boys now ready, they walked onto deck just as the final approach was being made to Dragonstone. Finding their sisters wasn't difficult as the four of them truly stuck out from the sailors despite the Rahl colors and sigil being all too common on the ship. Castor moved to his eldest sister and smiled happily at her. "So, it seems that we've finally arrived in Westeros. The edges I'll admit, but it feels weird to finally be at a place you've only read about."

“True. We shall have to take the long boats ashore. Seems Dragonstone was made more for flying in than boating. Rather proud of those dragons are they not?" Nix rolled her eyes and Cassie giggled. “Alright we have a few things that the sailors can not fit into one trip. So multiple trips it is. We are all going on the first trip."

All four of the siblings climbed into the long boat and set off for the row into Dragonstone. As the shore came closer into view Nix scanned the sea and shore to see who had come to greet them. Upon seeing the singular Valyrian man with a couple of guards and a handful of servants; Nix looked over at Castor with her eyebrow arched in speculation. This was not the welcome they had anticipated, and the enthusiasm -or lack thereof- was rather disconcerting. The Valyrian man was tall and lean with long white hair dressed in black. His grave countenance made the Rahl siblings look to each other then back at the waiting party.

Edwell Celtigar watched the long boat pull up with the Rahl children within it. He silently admitted wryly that they were a captivating bunch and that he wished that he were a younger unmarried man as his gaze covertly roamed over the young woman with raven hair. The calm blank faces that gazed back at him were almost unnerving especially when compared to the wariness of the sailors that pulled the boats ashore. The two males had more of the Valyrian look with the silvery blonde hair. The younger of the two had sea colored eyes that were both blue and green, as if they did not want to be tied to one color. Coltish and lean the boy looked like he only had a few years before he would be close to his older brother’s height.

As Edwell set his sights upon the elder of the brothers, he saw the full force of the Rahl’s Valyrian heritage. The man, for that is what he was, was tall and graceful with a wiry build. The pale hair that topped his head was disheveled in a way that looked like he had just risen from the attentions of a young woman. Violet eyes were intent on Edwell’s own orchid color as Edwell greeted them. “My apologies to the House of Rahl. We have not had good tidings of late. I am Edwell Celtigar, Lord of Driftmark.”

"Indeed, our cousins always have liked their dragons. I can't honestly blame them but still I imagine supplying the island a nightmare with constant trips with longboats." Despite his words, Castor was deeply impressed with the formidable looking fortress that stood before them. Even from the sea it was imposing and Castor vaguely recalled the year of its construction. "We'll go first and take Guilermo or Seb so they can see where our rooms will be and direct our belongings." It was phrased as a question and as a statement, the way that Castor and his sister Nix communicated. Each knew that they could seemingly override one statement and suggest another. If agreed upon the matter was dropped, if not then it would go back and forth doing other activities. It was quite intriguing to watch but most of the time the two of them agreed.

In any regard, Castor and Pyxis found themselves being rowed to Dragonstone. Pyxis had a blank expression on his face but Castor could tell that the boy was impressed and taking in every single detail. Pyxis was the kind of boy that would look at each segment of the wall and try and determine which mine in old Valyria it came from all while silently being a beacon of calmness to everyone else around him. Castor envied his brother a little for that. Castor himself struggled to remain inwardly calm unless his sword was bared and in the middle of a fight. It seemed that only then was he truly alive. Though, he supposed that he did also like to just have fun, but it was different, almost like a thin sheet placed over top of Castor's true nature.

He was broken out of his thoughts when the ship landed and he almost revealed his true shock as he realized their welcome was quite Individualistic. Castor realized he had unconsciously locked eyes with this individual and as Edwell introduced himself Castor nodded respectfully and stepped off the Longboat. "I understand, while it is unfortunate that we could be greeted by our hosts, our family more than understands that at the end of the day family comes first. I thank you for introduction I am Castor Rahl and allow me to introduce to you Pheynix, Cassiopeia, and Pyxis Rahl." Castor indicated each of his siblings as he introduced them and then tilted his head to the right. "We have been traveling nonstop since Braavos, and are looking forward to having ground under our feet again. You mentioned bad tidings, what news do you have for us?"

Edwell sighed heavily as if the news weighed heavily on him, which it did. "The Crowned Prince Aegon, heir to the Iron Throne, and his bride Rhaena were attacked. Aegon was wounded and died. King Aenys has also passed."

Cassie's hand flew to cover her mouth as Nix turned her sister to cover her reaction. Stroking Cassie's hair in a soothing gesture, Nix looked up at Edwell, her large golden green gaze like a cat's in the fading light. With her raven hair and cat eyes Edwell thought she could be the picture of Nymeria from ages long past. Until you took in the classically pale complexion and angular features that screamed Valyrian which were only softened by her sex. She was almost an opposite of her brother, Castor, as if two sides to the same coin. One side in light, the other in shadow. Pheynix Rahl stood as tall as the Princess Melyssanthi or the Dowager Queen Visyena but rather than their svelte figures the Rahl girl was voluptuous and willowy.

As the Rahl girls turned to give Cassie a moment to compose herself Edwell also noted that the younger girl, Cassiopeia, would also turn out to be a real beauty. Her hair was a deep mahogany color and her complexion like her sister's was as pale as moonlight. Eyes that had shone with tears before Pheynix had turned her. Edwell could only say that they looked to be a deep blue. The family as a whole were striking each in their own way. He sucked in a breath at the dramatic streak of pure snow white that was divided and ran through Pheynix’s braids.

Looking over her shoulder at Edwell and noting the direction of his eyes, Nix recalled that she had wanted to wrap her braids around her head like a crown. Everyone was startled by her hair. She liked to think it was her mother’s stamp on her since she looked so much like her father’s side of the family. Ever the diplomat Nix rubbed her sister’s arms. “Lord Edwell, our condolences for your loss. We shall express our condolences to the family in person." Nix indicated the imposing fortress above them.

The things were gathered and the stairs were negotiated. Swiftly the trunks disappear to rooms that have been prepared. Nix nodded to Guilermo and Seb as they cast looks of question at both her and Castor. She knew that Castor had already spoken to the two of them and that they already had a plan. Cassie thankfully had composed herself and though mournful for their Targareyn cousins was not openly weeping. The quick spate of tears that the girl had was enough for the present. She would be better till she saw the family Nix was sure.

Ah, that would explain the lack of a large welcome and the overall somber mood that seemed to smother the area. Pyxis for his part nodded sadly and then kept his face blank. Castor didn't even nod and instead gave a sigh and glanced back to see if the second Longboat was about to arrive. He returned his attention just as Pheynix spoke and he quickly added his own words as was expected. "I share my sister's regrets and hope that our presence might be a small distraction and perhaps even offer some comfort if at all possible." Pyxis gave a nod of approval as if a voiceless echo.

The four were escorted up into Dragonstone proper, and then separated. Pyxis and Castor were taken to one shared room which seemed quite large and well furnished which meant it was obviously suited to noble visitors. Castor could only chuckle as he looked over to his younger brother and pointed to the larger bed. "That one will be mine." Pyxis merely plopped down on the other bed, having already thought what Castor was going to say. The two then looked to the door where a servant had curtsied and cleared her throat.

"Pardon me My Lords but did you require anything while waiting for an audience? Food? A bath?" The servant's eyes couldn't help but linger on Castor as she spoke and her cheeks might've even reddened a bit.

"Ah, for the moment I believe we are OK. Thank you, just let us know when we are prepared."

The girls had been escorted to their rooms just as the boys had been. They were also asked if they needed anything. Nix smirked at Cassie. "Baths. And no matter what our brothers told you they need one too. Sea baths do not get you clean." Nix grinned as they waited for their baths to be drawn.




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Oldtown was so classically named it was imaginative—an epitaph of the genius of modern man. The sarcastic thoughts of Elmo Harroway were bitter as he walked down the cobbled streets, his cane thumping the stones as he leaned on the wood and ivory. He, who once had been heir to Harrenhal in his own time, would now study under Maesters and scribes. Old men who had the imagination of dullards in political squabbles. The port had once been a trading town for the ancient Ghiscari, Valyrians and other fallen empires on Essos. It’s importance had not dulled with time. Here the Starry Sept held sway over the continent with the Faith of the Seven. The Hightower stood as a monument to the House that ruled over the city

A place of wonders and Elmo scorned the late King Aegon for not using this as the seat of his power. The Hightowers would have been strong supporters and it would have kept the Faith in constant reminder of the power of dragons. Yet that was all speculation that the young man knew better than to voice. Still, he couldn’t keep the sneer of disgust and irritation from his face as the dampness from the sea air made his leg ache.

“Port cities are nothing but an irritation.” He commented to his companion, Lady Vittoria Tyrell. A woman the man had come to respect over their travels together. Though how she had managed to learn enough to gain chains from the Maester left more to be wondered as to her possibilities. “I trust your meetings have gone well.” He offered, a small bit of conversation that would be considered the small talk Elmo had scorned so often. A pale hand moving as he paused to massage the muscle of his leg. “If those Maesters try to treat me rather than teach me, I shall be reduced to breaking heads.” The great sphinxes rose above them, green and impassive as they looked out at those so ignorant of the mysteries within the walls they guarded.

Vittoria found herself walking into the viper pit. Though she would silently scold herself, something in the back of her mind rose like a shadow—something that told her she wasn’t necessarily wrong. The Citadel had been better to her than she could have hoped in her formative years. Her father had been good to them. She had been better to them, oftentimes convincing Lord Manfred of their cause in one matter or another during her time in Oldtown.

Things were different now. Her voice came high and sweet today, even as she barely gave any thought to what she said to him in response, it just came on muscle memory: “Port cities are vitally important for the realm and wider creation, Lord Elmo—commerce, trade, art, the exchange of knowledge and news—all far worse without port cities.”

She said it even as she was preoccupied by those around them. Even getting close to the front great doors of the Citadel was a daze of people. She saw Maesters, Acolytes, and Novices. She smiled to a few as they marched past, her mind constantly reminding her body to keep her pace slow and deliberate for him…when all she wanted to do was race inside and get this over with.

“Banners were called, Lord Elmo, some of my father’s banner lords have decided to be defiant under the cover of the Faith, I saw the woman I consider my older sister berated and snapped to rage, and I’ve never wanted to hit a High Septon before.” That was a new impulse in her life, she could attest, not one she had ever had before. Despite the brightness of her voice, the tone under it was unmistakable: Does it sound like the meetings went well?

“Hello,” she offered as passed a group Acolytes and some of the Novices with them beginning to stare as she passed. She was recognized. She wore no armor, but the simple green thin woolen dress which she typically wore under that armor. The green cloak with a golden rose pin could have been a hint, too. When they entered she was met by a Maester that brought an instant smile to her face, “Why hello, MAESTER.”

The title was obviously exaggerated, a new spark of excitement to her as she said it: she knew this man.

“Lady Tyrell, they have been asking for you since your arrival to the city.”

A playful light struck her as her head tilted to the right and her voice lowered just-so, “Lord Elmo, this is MAESTER Theyln.” The man was of medium build, dark hair kept short, and just an inch or so taller than Elmo. His robes looked freshly made, and there was a shine to his chain. Details that made more sense to Lord Elmo as she continued, “Congratulations. When did it happen?”

Theyln’s eyes patterned between Elmo and Vittoria for a moment, before he decided it was safe enough to smile and indulge himself, “A month past.”

“WHAT?” She might have yelled it, but instead kept herself to a Citadel appropriate whisper. He all but blushed at her, “They made you wait that long?”

Theyln’s eyes danced into the air before coming back down to her, “It’s my fault, truly, Lady.”

“…was it Millin?” He shrugged, and nearly let a laugh past his smile to confirm it, “I’m not surprised. Archmaester Millin,” Vittoria began, leaning towards Elmo to explain, “is an Archmaester of the silver link—the healing arts. The nerves are an utter fascination to the man, and be damned the Acolyte who goes to test for his silver link that doesn’t seem as dedicated to the study as he has always been.”

“They really are waiting to see you. So many of them seem…anticipatory. What have you done?”

Vittoria Tyrell grinned, “Me? Tsk, you know of my innocent and obedient nature Theyln.”

“Ah, yes, the girl who was hiding in the library for three days before she was caught stealing food and sleeping in a restricted area she was small enough to sneak past the bars of.” His good nature laugh came again, easy, free.

“I was fine.”

“They couldn’t find the daughter of the Warden of the South!” He might have laughed harder, if not for the appearance of a man through a door to the back and right of the room that he seemed to sense, having a quick look back. An older man, of middling height but impressive broad, muscular, build and a set of robes that seemed a little darker than most.

“Good to see you, Theyln. And make sure you ask for an appointment within the Reach,” she reminded him, before she moved on to the older man, her lips reserved into what might have been a smile once, years ago, “This is—”

The older man just cut in, his voice deeper, gravel, tempered with time and age, “—Elmo, yes, we have heard. Did you bring it?”

“No.”

The man wore a ring of Valyrian steel, and regarded her carefully, as if her answer unlocked a chain reaction of thoughts and conclusions in his mind, “…smart.” Even his Maester chain, a mix of many various metals, was notable for two Valyrian steel links in the front center.

“What happened to the page I sent, Gerrick?”

His eyes flicked to Elmo, taking a quick measure of the man before the Archmaester dared to respond to the question of Lady Tyrell, “…they did what they always do. Talked a lot. Asked me to verify. How is something like that able to be verified? It seemed outrageous, but…well. Being what it is, of course it’s outrageous. Oh, but ho, worry not, after a fortnight they all agreed the handwriting was yours who did the copying. Where did you find it?”

“Saan, the pirate king, had it. When I went to Volantis, they asked about it.”

His dark blue eyes narrowed, just slightly, and he leaned in closer to her, “They?”

“Their dragonlord.”

His brows perked and one of his hands scratched, absently, at his three day old growth upon his chin. “The Balaerys boy?”

“Oh,” she began, eyes widening, “a boy no longer I assure you.”

He almost looked to frown at that, “We’ve heard. Great warrior, apparently. Poet, too. Not bad, if a little dark and morose for my tastes.”

“…I thought you loved dark and morose?”

He shrugged. “Go, meet with them before the Conclave comes to you. They’ll know you’re here. I will be behind you shortly. I will see Lord Elmo to the Seneschal. Anything I should know?” He asked, looking between them, a question posed to them both, as Vittoria turned and looked at Elmo, letting him take the lead now.
It was his life, after all.

The pale man studied the two Maetser and seemed to glance toward Vittoria’s reaction towards them. Friends of hers, allies, if he had a guess. Laying both hands on his cane, he inclined his head in acknowledgment to both Maesters. The younger of which seemed to have been here and studied with Vittoria. “Only that I am here to learn.” Elmo answered simply, his voice dry as he absently massaged his leg. He had lived with this leg for years, suffering through a few years at the Citadel to forge his chain would be nothing. “My Lady, your aid has been most generous but I fear I would only hinder the business you must attend.” He bowed to Vittoria, a cold smile on his lips and slightly warmer one in his eyes.

“Reach out should I be able to help, Elmo.”

It was the first time, ever, she had addressed him so simply, so informally, with a smile to match as she nodded to the Archmaester and moved past him, through the door in which he came, to face the Conclave of the Citadel and answer their inquiry about ancient Valyrian scrolls that laid out instructions on waking dragons from stone. When she was gone, Gerrick spoke to him, “You will be sore and exhausted from dawn to dusk. You will learn much, especially if you learn to stay silent unless asking a question. Everyone will think you Vittoria Tyrell’s man. Ignore it; it doesn’t matter, true or not. So, then, Novice Elmo…do try to keep up.”

Elmo grimaced and gave a cold smile. "Why Archmaester, that sounds like an average day amongst my family. Shall we continue on, rather than dwaddle here?" His dry and languid tone was in it's classic drawl, but his eyes were sharp as he gestured the man to lead on.
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Espada Emi

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Tytan stomped through the camp, pushing past those who got in his way, with a bowl of warm soup in one hand and a piece of bread he was dipping in it in another. His bulk made it easy for him to see well over the head of nearly every man there, and the crested emblem of the Golden Rose pinned to his fur short cloak ensured he was not molested by anyone that didn’t matter to him, not that he would have paid them any mind should they have tried. He chewed his food thoughtfully as his mind worked. “If I was the richest, and most important sod in the realm, where would I park my ass?” he mumbled as he looked for the gaudiest and nicest tent he could find. He finished his food with little thought as he made his way closer and closer to the goal of his little lady.

He threw his hand over the shoulder of another member of the Golden Rose when he saw them, feeling the man shake in fright at the sudden action before realizing who had done so with a blanched expression. “What is it Tytan? What do you want?” he said, almost sounding depressed. “Come now you sod, why the tone? You should perk up, the flame burns blue and it means we are gonna be in for a spot of fun! Who knows you might actually get your blade wet this time! I jest of course.” he said as he slapped the man's front playfully, though driving the wind from him a bit in the effort. “Now. Why don’t you point me in the direction of our Little Lady and I can be on my way. I can only assume that with all that is going on she will have a few things to say and do and it is our place to see them done.” he said as the man complied with a nod of his head and pointed him in the direction of Captain Garin’s tent. He moved forward, and bid his compatriot good bye, tossing the empty bowl on a stack of such dining wear as he passed a campfire where some food was being served. The large red knight had begun his trek towards his lord, simply bowling people out of his way as they got close.

Stretching in the saddle during the ride to the camp with Den, Mina glanced down at her clothing for the day, wondering if her father and sister would approve. Gone was the lacy highborn lady’s dress, since inevitably and against her sister’s orders she’d ripped the confining skirts to free her legs up for better footwork during her spar against Godric Tarly last night. Now it was replaced by brown riding breeches, sturdy boots and a green and white doublet with matching cloak. Mina felt more free and comfortable than she had in days, and Godric Tarly was as much a part of that as her change in clothes.

They’d fought up and down the halls of Hightower in bursts for the rest of the evening, talking in between bouts. The fighting was fun, she had the bruises to prove it, but it was the talking that really surprised her. Nobody had ever talked to her like Godric did, with no half-hidden disapproval or weighty expectation of who she should be in his voice. Father looked at her and saw the lady he hoped to shape her into, Bertrand looked at her and saw a joke, even Vittoria looked at her and saw the sacrifices they’d both have to make for their House.When Godric looked at her, it felt like he just saw her! More than that, rather than mocking or scorning her he’d actually seemed to like her. It was new and different and made her smile in spite of the grim atmosphere of the morning.

Still, the camp coming into sight reminded her of the circumstances of the day and sunk her mood like a stone. Den had abruptly woken her and Garrett up and rushed them all out of the inn. As soon as they were out the door, dark rumors of war swirled and hung in the air like flies buzzing around a corpse, just one of the many signs confirming something rotten. The Hightower’s flame burned blue and they were calling their banners, that much she’ld confirmed with her own eyes. As to the why…well, she didn’t yet know. More troubling still, Den had said her father was here unexpectedly early at the head of an armed host of a thousand men and that Vitta was meeting with him and Captain Garin already.

Mina had only been in one battle, caught above decks when some pirates had attacked a ship of the Redwyne Fleet. But the tension in the air, waiting for that ship to close in on them with its sails on the horizon, it had felt a little bit like this morning. She shivered, grateful for the reassuring weight and slight jostle of the water dancer’s blade at her side balanced by the dirk on her other hip. She reined her horse in closer to a still bleary eyed Garrett protectively as they entered camp. Whatever father thought of her being armed, whatever was really going on, she’d be ready today and keep her family safe.

Vittoria wasn’t surprised that her father’s pavilion had already been raised, or that it seemed to tower over every other pavilion and tent in the camp that was suddenly much, much larger than it had been, and was getting larger—the hill they had placed her father on gave her enough view to see the literal army behind it that was in the process of putting up more tents, more pavilions, some starting fires, some digging for trenches and other uses.

Everything stopped when people began pointing up, and a shadow streaked across the camp in the form of wings. A Targaryen? It was the last thing they needed as she walked up to Davos and asked him if he invited them, pointing to the bluish and purple dragon that streaked overhead.

“Uh, no,” was his half-chuckled, half-serious answer.

She went to take a step before she nearly ran head first into the former Wilding. Was he a former Wilding? Could one ever be a former Wilding? Were they always a Wilding? The academic debate of the term quickly left her term as she looked up at the man, and stifled her own little laugh.

“Do pardon me, Ser. I don’t suppose you could go see about that dragon?” She said, pointing to the dragon that circled once, twice, and then again as it descended onto the field between the walls of Oldtown and the Tyrell camp. “Just escort them to my father, you can’t miss his pavilion.”

Tytan blinked once, looking over the leg of mutton he had in his hand. “Uh? Me? Talk to the big lizard?” he said as his eyes moved over to the others and flattened. “Yea Me. The others might piss themselves when they see the Iguana.” he said as he tossed the leg to a dog nearby. “As you command Little Miss.” he said as he rose up, picking his twin axes up off the log he had buried them in and holstered them behind him. He placed on his Red Skull Helm, and moved out with purpose. The massive Wildling practically growling already as he marched out to the open field, the area most likely for the dragon to land closest to the camp. He stood there and waited, one hand on the head of and axe, as his thumb dragged over it questioning what he first move should be. It was clear Vitt was not looking forward to this, granted her tone, so he would do his best to make this as ‘Amicable’ as he could. The thought twisting a grin on his hidden face.
“You look fun. You also look nothing like a Westeros Knight.”

Vaera Balarys was all leather and chainmail and attitude as she patted the dragon of bluish purple scale, or as the dragon twisted, coiling, it became purplish blue, and other times nearly all purple, and it’s other side all blue, as hues danced and dappled across the body of the great winged beast. Eyes of similar shades stared hard at the big man that was a tiny ant to the creature.
Before she stepped away from it, Vaera patted its nearest leg, chuckling, “Relax, Saeryx. They’re scared because of Targaryens, not us.”

Her sword looked near black as she unsheathed it from the saddle-bound sheath, transferring the bastard sword to her back with a dip of her head and a nearly amethyst glow from the blade as the sunlight of the morning struck it. The long dagger she put on her hip was similar, her long silverish blonde hair tossed behind her shoulder, and her lilac eyes back on the oversized man.
Cutting him up would be easy, she thought. Men like that never expect Valyrian steel to slice through their armor, their flesh, like a hot knife. They were arrogant. Fast, but almost never fast enough. She motioned with her head past him, to the camp beyond, not the city and its walls behind her.

“I’m Vaera of House Balaerys, ruling house of Volantis. I’m to be fetched to your lord, is it? It’s always the same, really, no matter what continent I’m on. Eh, let’s get it on with then, ‘Ser’,” she said the title in exaggeration, a not-so-subtle jape of a tone as her lips played with a wicked little smile. “Don’t worry about the dragon, it won’t move unless I don’t come back or someone threatens it.”
Neither she would suggest.

Tytan scoffed as he saw the same look in her eye, the one born of confidence and arrogance, then again he held the same look. He knew of the magic metal she held, he was not a fool and he had been here long enough to know better. “Meh, I don’t care who you are. The Little Miss said come get you, so I came to get you. I’d much rather be eating but what the little miss says, goes. So yea, come along then little lizard I am sure his rosy greatness will love to see you.” he said as he stepped aside and began to walk back not caring if she actually followed. Though he imagined she would if only to try and throw more barbs at him.

“You see when the little men see your big lizard flapping through the clouds, their wee balls shrivel up to their throats and they start pissing themselves and asking for their mothers. I am sure that has the Lord all giddy inside, as if some had walked up and started giving his cock a nice stroke I am sure.” he said with the same humor in his tone that she had. “But I am sure you will be fine, after all what will they do? You have the flying death trap waiting, so I imagine it will be a short conversation.” he said with a huff. “They get their conversation, I get my food, and they don’t all die to an angry lizard and their balls can finally vacate their throats. Win Win all around I say.” he said as he began walking up the path to the High Lord’s Tent.

Vaera grinned, “That what she is to you? A personalized pet name? That’s cute. Adorable. I’ve met her, we hosted her with a triumph in Volantis. Smart woman. Pair of teats on that woman, pretty face like that? I think I’d give her a personalized pet name, too.”
She shrugged, “They know I’m coming. I don’t tend to make a habit of surprising cities and towns with a dragon. Killed an old Master in Mereen when I did that as a younger woman, just had a heart attack at the sight of Saeryx on the horizon. They were plenty pissed, but fuck them—she was old and scared. Maybe don’t live in tall pyramids surrounded by slaves who’d sooner kill you than serve you if you’re terrified of dragons. Where are you from?”

“What are you staring at girl?” Vaera asked as they passed two children unmounting from horses.

Mina had just swung down off of her sand steed and paused to look at the dragon rider trailing Vitta’s Wildling.It seems the Valyrian took notice and offense, given her derisive tone. “A whore’s fake pearls in an iron clamshell, apparently.” She half-muttered in her best and rudest Low Valyrian. Then she helped Garrett down from his mount and started on her own way towards her father’s tent to present herself.

Tytan couldn’t help but stop and laugh at that, the sound like a war drum being beaten, as he turned to face her. His eyes staring into her own, “I like you. You have balls, bigger than most of the men here at least.” he said as he eyed her up and down. “Tiny thing like you, will have them quivering as much as your mount. I am Tytan, I am from the North and that is all your getting out of me until we share a few drinks.” he said as he slapped her shoulder once. “You can’t tell a person’s true nature until they have had a few cups.” he said as he grinned.

“But you are right, my little lady is a very beautiful woman. I am sure many a young man here has fantasied about her at least once in their time in the camp alone. And as bountiful as her chest may be, I find her Steel far more beautiful. A woman is no good if she has no fire! The best lovers, the best women, the best mothers to strong children. A strong woman, there is no better gift from the gods.” he said as he felt something stir inside him.

“Consider me crazy, but it is the dangerous women that have value. The rest are no different than the woman you find on the street. Common or Noble, they have no worth hiding behind the skirts of others. You have one life, fight to defend it, stand up for yourself alongside the men. Sword, Shield, Spear, Bow, it doesn’t matter. If your at threat, or those you love, you take up your weapon and you murder the fuck doing the threatening.” he said as he stopped by a fire and took another cut of meat. Taking his helmet off, and holding it beneath one arm as he turned to face her again as he ate. His fire red hair shining in the sun, as his black eyes glowed in the firelight like smoldering coals. “Forgive me then, Little Dragon.” he said as he discarded the lizard title, out of respect. Resuming his trek as he ate, he spoke again. “I tend to ramble when I am stoked up.” he let out with a chuckle.

Vaera found herself chuckling, “I hate boring. And boring people, men or women, aren’t worth the fuck. They’re barely worth a blade. Enjoy your meal, find me after this and we’ll have that drink.”

It was a promise, and she tended to keep those whenever possible. The Lord’s pavilion was an obvious thing; wide, tall, green with the Golden Rose she’d seen Vittoria Tyrell wear so prominently when the woman had come to visit Volantis.

Guards stepped up, flanking the entrance, telling her to stop and relinquish her weapons. Vaera just stared, until another voice cut in, one from behind them—the pretty girl with the pretty chest, herself, Vittoria Tyrell.

“She can keep them. Hello, Vaera. A pleasant surprise after seeing a dragon overhead.”

Vera just grinned all the wider. Gods, I’d have fun with that… Only a moment’s pause for the thought, and her head bowed just a notch, “Lady Vittoria,” she started, stealing a sharp glance to either guardsman before moving forward and into the oversized tent with the woman, “you should lose the armor more.”

“Why’s that, Vaera?”

”More fun that way. For me, anyway,” she said, adding a little shrug as she looked around. Pelts and rugs covered the floor, braziers to keep away chills, she didn’t see a bed but saw several off-branching sections hidden by green canvas curtains, meaning it was probably hidden off in one of those nooks. A long table was on either side, with a wide and empty path from the front to the back, where the main pole of the pavilion was, and past the pole, nearly at the back, where the big chair was.
Where he sat, talking to Knights and Maesters huddled about him like pets.

Vittoria laughed out loud, eyes wide in some level of shock. “I’d forgotten just how direct you can be, Vaera. Are you here to see my father?”

“Came for the Citadel, but saw the camp, saw the banner. Had to say hello…and no worries on having forgotten, Lady Vittoria, I’m always happy to offer a refresher,” Vaera said, smiling, turning her eyes to stare at Vittoria’s big, pretty, brown eyes.
That Lady Vittoria blushed was enough to make the trip down south all worth it. “How is your brother?”

“Eh,” again, Vaera shrugged, “Overburdened by his own mind and emotions. Seems to have taken to that prick Maegor. I think he’s headed to Westeros, himself, maybe with Maegor. Who the fuck is that?”

Vaera motioned to the man that kept stealing glances of Vittoria and Vaera, even as he talked to a few others. Vittoria looked back at the man, and back to Vaera, smiling that certain kind of smile. The smile was enough for Vaera to groan, “Him? Ugh…I’ll have to congratulate him.”

“Be nice, Vaera,” despite herself, Vittoria grinned.

Vaera Balaerys looked utterly wounded, “My Lady, I will always be nice to you.”

“Lord Baratheon, too.”

Vaera’s eyes half-rolled, as if some great thing had been demanded of her by the Ardent Maiden, “Gods, sweet woman, you are demanding. No wonder you’re good at what you do…fine, fine. If I behave, can I come visit you later?”

Vittoria Tyrell laughed, and nodded, “Of course, Vaera, I’m always here for your stories.”

It wasn’t just stories that Vaera had in mind, this time, but it also wasn’t ripping the laces off that woman’s bodice and shoving her on a bed, either. Instead, Vaera had more serious things on her mind. Westeros, for one, and dragons, for another.

"That's my father, and brother now, I suppose." Davos corrected with a grin as he drew closer, managing to shed the various hangers on who seemed utterly enthralled with the ides that he was among them, although mostly in a negative sense. It was strange, he imagine for anyone, to hear the term Lord Baratheon and not think of his father. He was more than family to Davos, a near mythological figure, almost of equal renown to the Conquerors themselves, and a little less contentious in some circles. He doubted his brother felt differently, but he hid any sense of inadequacy well. "Davos will do just fine." The Valyrian woman was certainly a firebrand, in more of the literal sense than usual, an intensity of rebellious energy among the orderly and affluent Tyrell camp, a thought which provoked Davos's next words to Vittoria.
"Do you think someone should let your father know that to go camping you aren't supposed to bring your castle with you?" It was a lighthearted murmur of words, kept low, but despite the jest there was a real sense of concern to his voice. When dragons were about, marking yourself out by the largest pile of kindling seemed less prudent than perhaps it once was. That, and his own father would have laughed as the ostentation, but he kept such words to himself.

“It’s all power projection,” was all Vaera commented about the affair.

Vittoria took a different approach, “Different culture, different expectations. My father rules more smallfolk and banner lords than anyone other than the royal house. It’s a lot of a lot, and he’s always taken a very active, direct, hand in it all, despite all the stewards and maesters and septons hover about him constantly.”

There were times she understood Bertie, because there were times it was as if their own father was too busy for them.

Mina had entered the tent and was waiting for a good time to approach Vittoria and their Lord Father, though for now she just watched and listened as the different interactions played out. She couldn’t help rolling her eyes at the way the acidic Valryian woman seemed to act much more warmly towards her older sister, and note Vitta’s body language in kind. Another on the list of those apparently flirting with Highgarden’s steel rose, though Mina doubted she’d ever understand the point of it all. Seeing her opportunity, she slipped into the little group with a little flourish of her cloak to show off the Braavosi blade and dagger at her waist.

“In my experience, all you have to do to get the maesters and septons away from Father and grab his attention is sing a few bars of ‘Her Little Flower’ in public. I can demonstrate, if you like!” She grinned, rather pleased with herself over not having to act quite so demure as she did last night. She glanced at Vitta and Vaera and arched an eyebrow. “Will you introduce me? We met briefly outside but as usual it seems you know everyone already. Also, what is it we’re all doing here? All of Oldtown’s in an uproar.”

Vittoria lips curved in amusement, “Of course, La—”

The hand of Vaera Balaerys touched Vittoria’s unarmored shoulders with a quickness as the Valyrian woman stepped forward in the small space within their little circle. The act both silenced Vittoria, and made Vaera the sole focus of the moment with her step towards Mina. Vaera’s lilac eyes held the intensity of dragonfire in the moment, and though she was a shade shorter than Vittoria, it turned her into a giant of the moment.

“Introduce yourself, girl. Would you like an example? Very well: I am Vaera, of House Balaerys, one of the last scions of the Freehold. I offer no title or rank, for I NEED. NONE. I am a dragonrider, warrior, and adventurer….do you like the clamshell now?”
It wasn’t until the very end that Vaera let the grin slip on her lips.

Mina grinned back, truthfully more than impressed and enjoying the boast and the acknowledgement of her earlier insult. Though, if she were being challenged to introduce herself as well…

“I am Mina, of House Tyrell. I shuck clams and kill pirates off the coast of the Arbor in my spare time, My lady.”

“That’s a lady,” Vaera said, jabbing her thumb in the direction of Vittoria, “you would do well to learn the difference.”
“AT LEAST ON THAT WE CAN AGREE,” the shout came from the high chair flanked by men at arms in mail, the Knight of Ambrose, Ser Aldon Ambrose, an impressive figure in armor under the sigil of his house, standing just off to the side as septons, maesters, and stewards filed out past the assembled group. The loud boom of a voice came from the man atop the high chair, dressed in dark green leather, dagger at his hip—the dagger of the Order of the Golden Rose. His brown eyes took them all in, but when his eyes hit Vittoria and Mina…he finally broke into a smile.

“Lord Manfred armed you? Gods forgive him.” A short chorus of chuckles came from the assembled men-at-arms and lords and knights along the two long tables, and standing about the pavilion. “We are here, daughter, because the banners of the Reach have been called. The King is dead, his heir, Prince Aegon, is dead. There is no word from Dragonstone. Lords Rowan and Oakheart have decided to call banners for the defense of the Faith, I am told without my leave, or the leave of the High Marshall of the Reach.”

Dennet and Godric Tarly entered just then, Theo Tyrell’s eyes looking past the assembled group in the center at the sight of them, “Ah, good. Let us do this.”

“LADY MINA, LORD GODRIC, APPROACH,” came the command from Ser Ambrose.

Ser Dennet Tarly trailed Godric, as Vittoria nudged at Mina as their little group broke into a line, all facing the Lord Paramount of the Reach.

Mina half-stumbled at Vittoria’s nudging and approached her father, using her green cloak to approximate an awkward curtsey, eyes down, waiting and wondering what this was all about, her mind already reeling from the news her father had given her. Were they in trouble for sparring at the Hightower party?

“Dennet, I have received your father’s raven. You represent him here, now?”

Ser Dennet stood tall, proud, and serious as he nodded, “I do, my Lord.”

“Good,” Theo Tyrell said with the force and quickness of a man officially sealing a deal already agreed upon, “I am honored to receive the request by Lord Sam of House Tarly of Lord Godric of House Tarly for the hand of my daughter, Lady Mina, in marriage. With the authority granted in myself, Lord Theo Tyrell of Highgarden, by the Royal House of Targaryen, under the eyes of the Seven and men alike, I declare you both betrothed.”

Lord Dennet was the first to shout in celebration, even as Vittoria gave a cheerful whistle and excitedly squeezed the shoulder of her younger sister. Lord Godric a sturdy squire with a handsome, boyish face under a wild mop of dark brown hair, on the strong frame of a young man given to the barest hint of blush as he nodded and accepted the strong handshake of his eldest brother, before turning to Mina amongst the cheers all around. “We will fight together, Mina, until our last days, I swear to you.”

As soon as the word ‘betrothed’ left her father’s lips, Mina’s world suddenly started to spin. Not out of horror, in fact her own lack of horror was the cause. Betrothed to Godric! Godric, who saw her for herself, who just now was promising to fight together with her, not sit her at home dying of boredom.

All her life, she had expected to have to struggle against whatever husband life forced on her, give up who she was and what she wanted for her duty to house Tyrell, like Vittoria and her mother had both told her. She’d been braced for it, pushing against it, dreading it. Now that was gone, and like anyone who’d been pushing against a force that suddenly wasn’t there, she almost fell flat on her face from sheer shock. Vittoria’s hand on her shoulder steadied her and instead of fainting, she did something even rarer: The Thistle of Highgarden blushed bright red like the maid she was. She took Godric’s hand and smiled at him, almost shyly for a change rather than her usual cocky, troublemaking grin. “Right. Together for the rest of our days. I…Thank you, Godric. Truly.”

Mina was spun, fast, with force, coming face to face with the person with the strong hands that took her shoulders and spun her about: Lord Theo Tyrell smiled, wide, and hugged his youngest daughter tighter than he ever had before in her entire life. To break the embrace, Theo held her just a foot apart, just enough to look at her, “I am proud of you, Mina, truly I am. Congratulations.”

His hands patted at her shoulder once more, before releasing her back to his right, to Godric, even as his smile seemed to fade as he found himself face to face, now, with his eldest daughter. Vittoria felt her heart nearly stop, her breath slow, deep, in a breath to steady her nerves. Cheers had died down, and silence seemed to reign as Lord Theo moved his eyes from Vittoria, to Davos.

“Lord Davos of House Baratheon, I’ve no word from the Lord of Storm’s End on your purpose in the Reach. Why is that?”

Davos somewhat booming laugh, as he congratulated the newly betrothed, finally stilled as he was addressed, the long height of the man straightening as Lord Tyrell made suit to notice him.

"Well, if they'd have known I was coming, they wouldn't have let me in, my Lord." Davos spoke with the careful combination of proper respect and irreverence that his father had tutored him in from a young age.

You are the Conqueror's blood boy, don't let them forget it, but even Aegon had manners.

Without much flourish, Davos retrieved a letter from the inner chest pocket of his outerwear, pausing for a moment as he studied it, as he had many times on his journey over. He was often a man to give pause to words on paper, but few had meant such import to him, even as chaos seemed to sweep the realm. When did it not? Waiting for calm would be akin to trying to command the waters of Shipbreaker Bay.

It felt like a long moment for the Baratheon, but truly he barely hesitated, handing the letter, sealed with mark of the Crowned Stag, over the Lord Tyrell.

"I wish to wed your daughter, you'll find my brother's permission and request there, full of all the good reasons as to why our Houses should be joined." He stepped back away as soon as the missive was passed over, giving a look towards Godric as if to say 'don't worry, not your one.'

His attention turned swiftly to Vittoria, a smaller, gentler smile than normal, but one brimming with just as much emotion. "My own reasons are rather more selfish, and had she not been too busy making heroes of men who did little but watch her work, I'd have done so far sooner." He paused once more, before addressing Lord Tyrell once more, "Fear not, I'm sure she'll steer us through whatever dire portents lay ahead of us no matter what cloak she's wearing."

Vittoria stood straighter than a dagger, hands clasped together in a tense, nervous, moment. Lord Theo regarded Davos with a look, and though Ser Aldon moved to take the letter for the Lord Paramount of the Reach, Theo signaled with a half raised palm for the Knight to stand down, taking the letter himself.

I should’ve made sure this was done in private. Her father was different behind closed doors than he was in public, officious, moments such as this one. He would’ve taken the unusual way House Baratheon went about the marriage alliance better in private, she told herself.

Theo raised his eyes to Davos from the delivered parchment at the comment of being unlikely to be let in, his tone drier than before, “perhaps that makes two of us, Lord Davos.” He then turned and made steps back to his seat, reading through the document handed to him as he went, though once Davos broached the issue of the cloak she may wear, Theo turned once more, eyes straight on his eldest daughter, his tone as serious as it could ever be, “You understand what happens once those vows are made, girl?”
She nodded, slowly, “Yes, my Lord.”

His gaze lingered for a few beats of her heart, and then turned back to Ser Aldon, handing him the parchment, “Very well.”
Vittoria’s breathed deep, a mix of relief and tension, as she felt a hand on her back and turned to see Vaera, nodding at her. Back to his seat, Theo motioned to the Valyrian woman, “Vaera of House Balaerys of Volantis, as expected, will you stay the evening with us at our camp?”

Vaera gave a nod, as respectful and polite as she had ever looked in her life, “Of course, Lord Theo. I had hoped to speak with you in private.”

“So you shall,” Theo nodded back, before looking to Ser Aldon, “are we done?” Ser Aldon said something quiet enough to only be heard by Theo, something that made the Lord of Highgarden go ‘ahh’ and nod a few times, “Yes, thank you. Friends, thank you for coming. Food and feast and music at the long pavilion across from here, please enjoy. Would my daughters stay? Lords Davos and Dennet, you both as well.”
Godric gave Mina a smile that was far too big before he pulled himself away. Vaera left a grin for Vittoria along with a graceful tiny bow, before emptying out with the rest, striking up conversation with Godric about the quality of ale to expect. It wasn’t until they were all gone that Theo, back on his seat but leaning forward, elbows on thighs, spoke again.

“This duel is madness. We’ve talked to both men?” Dennet and Vittoria both responded that they had, to which Theo simply shook his head,

“The best we can hope, then. The squire is recovering?”

“He will recover in full, my Lord,” Dennet reported.

Theo seemed content with that news, at least, “Mina, the daughter of this Captain Garin…Ryalla?” He said, unsure of the name, looking to Vittoria for confirmation which she gave with a nod before he continued, “She will be a Lady in Waiting for you as of today. You will both dress as Ladies and act according when expected, but otherwise you both will train together, and she will likewise act as a bodyguard for you. We’re taking in the rest his family to Highgarden?”

“His wife, Martella, and their littlest, Myrna.”

Theo gave absent nods, “Very well. Get your people out of Oldtown. Before sundown.”

“Already ordered, my Lord,” Vittoria informed him, much to his apparent satisfaction. “I must deliver someone to the Citadel, but after
that I shall head straight to the inns. Lord Thaddeus is already rounding up those at the Rose Garden.”

“And we know why Vaera is here? Besides scaring our camp with her dragon? Her message spoke of her desire to visit the Citadel, is this all of it?”

Vittoria hesitated, as someone might if they’d rather not speak of a subject before other sets of eyes, “There is more to it…”
Theo’s lips pressed together and brows raised, but he let it be for now, “Later, then. We will meet for council at sunset. Lord Davos, we will, the three of us, speak more upon your return. Let us make this an easy day, all of you…okay, Aldon, let’s go.”

It was then Septon Pater snaked his way through the small crowd to Mina, “Lady Mina, could you do me a great favor? One of our newest lads, Dake, asked to see Lady Vittoria again before they depart the area, and she has graciously agreed. Could you retrieve him from the Sept close to the Rose Garden?”

Mina had let go of Godric’s hand reluctantly, but now kept her eyes down again as her father explained the situation to her. Though this time rather than just hiding her anxiety, it was also so he couldn’t see her excitement. In fact she had to dig her nails into her palms to look suitably pained. True, this new order to act and dress like a lady when appropriate was…restricting. But Rylla was Captain Garin’s daughter, the Dornish girl who’d beaten that squire, wasn’t she? She was going to teach Mina to fight! Not just daggers and water dancing, but the Dornish style of combat that had vexed her family and aided her sister! Besides, this was someone her own age and, judging by the way she’d put that squire in his place, maybe even similar to her? The extra restrictions her father had placed on her might just be worth it!

Mina glanced back up as Septon Pater addressed her. “I…well…yes Septon of course.” She was a little disappointed at being denied her chance to see the duel everyone had been talking about, but after all the good news she’d received today so far, she was practically floating. Besides, if she hurried up and fetched this Dake boy, maybe she’d get to see the tail end of the duel after all. She took her opportunity to dash out of the tent, pausing only to squeeze Vitta’s hand and whisper a congratulations to her before running out at full speed, grateful she’d chosen boots and trousers today and wistfully thinking that she’d miss being able to wear them whenever she liked after this.

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Hidden 11 mos ago Post by Almalthia
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Kings Landing



Collab with @Ruby & @Almalthia




The Flame of Lys started to straighten up her room. Leandra never let anyone else clean her room. She paid the girls to clean the other’s rooms that couldn’t afford it and kept a running tally for the girls so that they could pay her as they saw fit. There wasn’t much that needed cleaning besides her person and as she left her room she caught one of the girls. “Can you please run me a bath Mya?”

The slim girl nodded grinning. “The lordling sounded like he enjoyed himself.”

“Yes, more than once. Though if you ask me he was a bit selfish." Leandra smirked.

Mya blinked. “Really?”

Leandra shrugged. “Some are like that. When I come out weak kneed is when I’ll cut my prices if the man, or woman, returns." Mya laughed as Leandra waggled her eyebrows moving past her.

“Never seen you like that Lys." Mya commented with confusion.

“Exactly." Leandra looked over her shoulder and smiled as she walked to the stairs. Past the stairs was a common room where things that did not have to be hidden happened. Though that skirted propriety more often than not.

Unlocking and opening the front door Leandra leaned against the threshold and looked around. Kings Landing was the start of a massive city that, at times, she wanted to beat sense into those who decided to put a stick in the ass end of a drunk horse to mark the streets. The crowd had thankfully dispersed. Likely because the spectacle was over.

He was half awake when it moved. Just a click, when he went for the bottle at the top that said ‘pickled yams’ upon the neatly scrawled label. Was he drunk? Yes. Did he remember how drunk? No. ‘How drunk’ just happened to be Serenna of Duskendale drunk, and that had been at least a bottle and a nap ago. When he woke up, still drunk, all that mattered was singing with the Tyrell guardsmen out front to the sun above.

When was there sun? When was the sun? “WHAT IS THE SUN!?........why is there a fucking door here?”
He’d stared at it for time. How much time was to be debatable, but the point beyond contestation was the point of steel he held with the overhand grip within his right perfectly soft, supple, gloved hand. The bottle wasn’t a mistake, it was a confluence of fate and randomness, a true juxtaposition between what was and was could have been.

Did he always pick that bottle? Was it really random? Was anything random? Did any of them have a say in what happened in their life, were they simply mummer’s puppets on the ends of a string? The tip of the sword proved to him the door was real. Dust, cobwebs. “Why, hello…you have not been used in a very long time…”

The destination was infinite. A great expanse of the higher mysteries that echoed with the sole of his leather boots and the swish and swoosh of his dark green trousers as he walked through the hidden vaults between what he believed, and what he saw. These were the thoughts that kept Lord Bertrand of House Tyrell up through the night into the day and back past twilight, second star down.
“Are we reborn? Are we reborn into the same life?...how many times have I picked that bottle? How many times has it opened?”

His head tilted, eyes sharper, narrowed, in focus. There was only darkness, like a room with no door, no windows. On either side was stone, though of what luster, banding, layering, and grain size his other ungloved hand seemed to simply sputter at. There was no satiation of the underpinning unknown until he arrived at the threshold of light.

It was there, in that gentle glow of the ghastly guise that guided him that he saw it. Dangling, noiseless, entombed in dust but as tangible and functional as his own flesh and sinew ever were, in darkness or in light. The decision to take it, to feel it’s rusty ring, to yank upon it with the strength of equal parts fear and fearlessness…so it gave him the mirror of the sound that had begun the journey through what he could not, did not know, and where he was now.

The steel tip of that blade once more thrusted out, but to this end, it took more power than before. Wherein the scattered, dark, unvisited basement of the House Tyrell manse there was little but broken furniture and empty wooden barrels and a wall of shelves littered with bottles of various potent potions and picked parts, there was greater resistance here.

Here, at the end, or the beginning, were it up to fate.

Or up to him.

He stepped lightly, blade out, arm ready, mind stiffened for the great climax of conflict! HE WAS READY NOW! FOR THE BEAST, FOR THE BURDENSOME WRAITH!...but there was nothing here, he saw, blade ‘clanking’ about the stone floor of what…just a…
“It’s just another fucking basement.”

The basement door of the establishment erupted, and out of it like a man from the grave with heart and mind asunder Bertrand Tyrell entered the short hall that led to the common area of—

“—wait a fucking…I’ve been here before," he stated in confusion, puzzlement upon his fine, dark, sharp handsome features and parted mid-length dark brown hair. The very first person he saw, the tip of the blade came to point at, his eyes bubbling brown in intensity and the very hasty threat of violence. “YOU! Why does my door have your door…on the other side of the…with the chain…..”

The sword fell again, as he turned this way, that way, and back again, head cocked, “…what the fuck?”
The commotion of a muffled bellow in only semi-intelligible words turned Leandra's attention to her storeroom, cellar really. She went to investigate and a very, very intoxicated man stepped out brandishing a sword which was currently pointed at herself. He turned and Leandra shooed Mya back down the hall with a jerk of her head. “Good day my lord. Unfortunately I do not have any idea what you are talking about. Please put your weapon away and I would be happy to see what I can do to clear up your issue. After all, what chance can a young woman like myself, unarmed, and in no way martially educated have against a fine specimen of manhood even if you were to sheathe your sword?”

The slight accent made the words huskier than normal. Seductive to the ear. Her lips turned up at the corners ever so slightly as Leandra gracefully indicated with fluid gestures his sword, scabbard and person. She tilted her head and looked him up then down and tapped her cherry red lips waiting on him to put the sword away. She found that baiting men with honor separated them into two categories. Boring and dangerous or; interesting and dangerous. She had yet to see which one this man was.
“...day?”

The very idea of daylight, of just what state creation outside the walls were, seemed to give him a pause of confusion—if only for the precious few beats of a heart. Immediately thereafter, his eyes refocused and his head set in the direction of the woman who challenged him so publicly. Not him in the sense of the man that he was, but him in the sense of who he was, and the twist of irony and presupposition.
At her, this unnamed woman, his eyes narrowed, pride and love for the person some part of him hated more than any other bubbling to a surface, even as doubt and anger slithered beneath his skin, “The most dangerous woman in the Realm can’t swing a sword to save her life, do not play at that feint, for I will not succumb to it’s temptations.”

That secret, the one that burned through his veins like a sickness, that hollowed his heart whole, came to him as he carefully crossed the distance between them, blade still down by his side as he came closer, and closer, smelling like a drunken man recently doused in a fresh bath of rose water. Closer he came still, until there was not the possibility of anyone, or anything, else in all creation hearing what secret burst from him in that shaky whisper, “...they’re my little sister."

His hand became a steel trap upon her nearest upper arm, taking possession of her with the utmost of courtesy, “Apologies, nameless lady, but we must take this to the very center of the matter at hand," he said, even as his brown eyes scanned the room around, looking at the faces of uncertain women and a few men who looked poised, but ultimately did not chance the dice of destiny with her safety.

The cellar door closed behind him, as he ushered her firmly, but unroughly, down the stairs and to the same sort of shelf filled with dusty old bottles that was mirrored in the cellar of the fortified Tyrell Manse from which he had begun his journey through intoxication and mystery. He pointed, with the non-sword hand, at the open heavy door disguised as a shelf. “You’re lyingggggggggg," he said, his voice a sing-song of playfulness over an undertone of pure intensity, bordering on real anger. “The truth," he stated, in open demand, before his body forced out a deep breath, an exhale of intoxicants and a long blink of his eyes as his mind tripped from the haze only to find its feet again, to refocus on the woman, to come back to the purpose at play, and his read of the woman before him, thinking to add, “Please.”

The shaky whisper raised the hairs on Leandra’s neck. Danger sense was inherent in her profession if a fallen woman wanted to stay alive, and normally men do not like scars on their whores. The men that did were either Ironborn, Northmen or deadly, sometimes all three. This man, this man was either a guard or - hopefully not - part of Lady Vittoria’s family.

The odd way that he "escorted" her made Leandra think he truly just wanted some answers from her. The fortune that she thought to have smiled down on her by seeing the dragon and the argument. Finally having something to report other than the Faith and their grumbles. Which had been getting louder. Not something someone in her line of work could afford to ignore. The Faith were dangerous either before or after they had sated their worldly appetites and unless you were paying or fucking a guard then you stayed out of the way.

The fact that he had called Leandra a lady had raised her eyebrow and kept her silent. He really does not know or perhaps the drink impaired his vision in some way?

He did not force her unkindly through the tunnel that led to the Tyrell Manse revealing more of his drunkenness in the sing-song way he accused her of lying and demanded the truth from her. "Forgive my ignorance and impertinent questions but how are you gauging the truth? I do not wish to start off on the wrong foot and lose more than my morning."

“I’ll see the truth, as clearly as I see you dodging it." His head tilted, everything about the man’s body and face sharpened close enough to the degree of the sharpness of the short sword that he now raised into the air, towards her. “No more lies. No more half truth. I am Lord Bertrand of House Tyrell, future Lord Paramount of the Reach—you will answer my question, or your life will never be the same again, one way or another.”

His eyes darkened, his jaw set, and that blade never moved, tight and accurate as if it was an extension of his body, from mind to shoulder to forearm to hand to tip of that steel blade, it couldn’t have been more clear how comfortable and capable he was with the weapon. “...why is there a tunnel from my manse to your brothel, my Lady? What does my sister, Vittoria, have to do with it?”

He didn’t have to know, to know it in his bones. Vittoria was always ahead of him. Vittoria was always the one with the answer. She was always their father’s favorite.

Leandra dipped into a curtsey that would have done a court lady proud. “My apologies, Lord Bertrand of House Tyrell." She rose from her curtsey. “I find myself in a singular position of you having more information than I do. I did not know that the Lady in question had anything to do with it. I confess I had thought it was a smuggling tunnel or perhaps something more… salacious in nature. I have never personally been through the other door and thought we had secured it quite well. I stand corrected. I can only guess why it was originally created for if you notice I am not quite old enough to know the exact reason."
Bertrand Tyrell cocked his head to the side, and blinked at her in casual confusion, “…why would you apologize? You’re not the one holding the blade.”

And so it lowered, that steel, as he looked at her one last time. This woman who so clearly was part of a ‘we’ with his sister, he only nodded to, muttered an apology even as he moved past her, back into the tunnel of darkness, pulling the hidden door shut behind him, sadly, and leaving.

Perplexed by his sudden retreat, Leandra considered her position. As much as she was moved Leandra, The Flame of Lys, knew who buttered her bread. Lady Vittoria. She would die before that confidence was betrayed, even to the Maiden’s brother. She bit her lip and turned away, then back again. Walking into the darkness she made to open the door Bertrand had just closed.

Reaching for the door her hand stilled. Leandra was not going to give Vittoria away but she could at least assure the Lord Paramount of the Reach that the tunnel was not used for nefarious purposes. No. To answer more deeply will invite more questions. Prudence is the better part of valor in this case. Dropping her hand Leandra turned and walked away moving silently.

Shaking her head she headed for the upstairs so that Mya did not panic.
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