Avatar of Arnorian
  • Last Seen: 10 days ago
  • Joined: 10 mos ago
  • Posts: 11 (0.04 / day)
  • VMs: 0
  • Username history
    1. Arnorian 10 mos ago
  • Latest 10 profile visitors:


User has no status, yet


User has no bio, yet

Most Recent Posts

@Vanq, @Ruby

Ser William

William and his company rode on through the day and into the night. At last, as the thickening clouds began to obscure the moon, William gave the order to halt. His exhausted men dismounted and began a quick watch in woods to the east of the road. There they formed a loose circle in the cover of the woods and thickets. The horses were picketed in the center of the cold camp and seen to. That task done, those on watch were relieved and the soldiers dug wearily into their rations.

Once the last man had curled up beneath the shelter of his cloak, William set aside his armor and took what sleep he could. He was used to the harshness of life on the campaign or hunt. But damn if the night didn’t seem unusually cold. Still the thickness of his gambeson should be enough.

He leaned against the moss-covered bulk of a fallen tree and found what comfort he could. At last, he drifted off to sleep. The moon shone weakly through the clouds, its light filtering down the skeletal branches of the bare trees. The wind seemed to whisper as it passed from the mountains and over the marches. But to William’s mind, it seemed eerily familiar.

He was standing in a great field of white and snow fell thick and heavy all around. No matter which way he turned, the endless cold stretched on in every direction. He drew up the hood of his cloak and started to try and find shelter, but there was a familiar crunch as he moved. He glanced down and saw that he did not stand on old snow. But rather, he was gazing upon an endless field of bleached bone. The falling snow rapidly filled his tracks and he felt as though his heart would leap from his throat.

The wind seemed to bite and grasp at him with claws and talons of frost-covered iron. Beyond, through the veil of the swirling snow, he caught glimpses of shadowy things moving in the darkness. Hoping perhaps they were friends and might offer him the promise of shelter and warmth, he staggered towards them.

There was something farther, so vast that even the storm and darkness couldn’t fully obscure it. A great cliff or bulwark, made of white stood before him. It seemed to reach up beyond the clouds and into the heavens. But its intimidating presence offered no solace, merely the same terror of a foe pouring through a breach in a curtain wall.

Again, William halted with a thrill of horror. He had come upon a short rise in the bone-covered earth. Before him stood thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of men and women. Or things that had once been men and women. Their flesh was black and blue, covered in frost, like something buried for a long time under ice. The snow-covered horde stretched from horizon to horizon and beyond the great white of the ancient bulwark.

Here a half-starved peasant shambled forward in tattered rags. There a portly merchant stalked heedlessly through the snow. Once proud knights now rode on skeletal mounts, bearing rusted blades and the shreds of ancient banners. Bony apparitions in bronze and fur-lined garments milled about, clutching stone and metal axes.

Creatures like giant spiders made from ice skittered over the frozen land and chittered as if in cheerful mockery. But for all their differences, William saw that every single one of them had eyes as blue as ice in a winter sea. And all were fixed on him.

Screaming in terror and hate, he drew his sword, but then he saw that his fingers were little more than bones attached by withered sinew. The lifeless flesh black as a moonless night. William stared at his notched blade and in the rusted steel, he could see his own lipless grin. One eye socket in that rotted visage was empty. But the other stared back, bright blue and cold. The howling winds rose, like the cold and mocking laughter of a world inhabited only by hate-filled wraiths.

William surged up from his blankets, dagger in hand, his chest heaving. He looked wildly around, his heart racing so fast he feared it would burst from his ribs. But all was quiet, his men slept peacefully or stood at watch. The horses stood asleep or quietly grazing on the sere grass, within the grove their masters had claimed.

After another moment, William slowly sank back against his cloak. But he would find no more sleep that night. The night gave way to a silvery dawn and William was glad for even that pale, weak light. His men rode on in silence, perhaps discomfited by their lord’s dour countenance.

For another nine days, it went like that. The men rode hard and fast, pausing only to change horses and check equipment. The mountains and tree-shrouded hills fell away from the marches. The terrain slowly turned to the misty expanse of moor and bog. Gradually, the land became one of gentle hills and stirrup-high grass. Small villages, cottages of stone and thatched roof stood from the rich earth. Grapevines and orchards stood thick amidst the farms and homes. Short fences of piled stone marked fields and pastures. Here and there, a cloaked and hatted figure raised a hand from plow or staff, to wave at the column of riders. Most simply fled or kept their distance.

Ser William paid them little mind, though he did return their greetings. After all, it didn’t do to let the smallfolk display better manners than a knight. But besides the troubling dream, no, that didn’t do it justice. Nighttime visions of horror aside, he had other tasks to attend. William drove his men as hard as he drove himself. Sleep held no refuge for him and being one of the first knights to arrive at the summons, would stand him in high favor. As his father once said, he was worth the most who did the most.

At last, they paused their headlong ride and waited a half-day to rest both man and horse. Equipment and clothing was washed, brushed and dried by small fires. The horses were curried and soldiers bathed quickly in the cold flow of the surging Honeywine. Once William was satisfied, he mounted up and signaled the column of riders forward. He led his men back south and east to the Roseroad, and Oldtown.

The day was bright and not a cloud in the sky. Birds sang and cattle lowed in the fields. A gentle breeze rolled over fields of golden wheat and the river ran like a stream of molten silver in the morning sunlight. Nonetheless, William found himself vexed by a nameless fear as they rode past a gibbet. A flock of ravens took flight from the creaking wood, their raucous cries filling the air. William turned away from the empty gaze of the eyeless corpse that still hung there, though he could not say why.

He forced his mind from troubling thoughts of half-remembered dreams and turned in the saddle to survey his men. Though it was a small force compared to what some other lords could raise, it would do. Their harness gleamed brightly and the banner streamed back over their passage, its colors seeming to burn with an inner fire. As he rode on, he could see banners and pavilions across the land. Columns of riders and footmen grew ever more present as the different companies closed in on Oldtown.

Well, he would never have arrived before those lords who dwelt closest to Oldtown. Nonetheless, his long and swift ride would no doubt garner the recognition that it deserved. Moreover, there might still be room left in town. An inn with a decent wall and courtyard would be far better than a camp out in the open, surrounded by the rest of the army. Some lords were better than others, but more often than not, camps bred disease like dead and dried timber fed wildfire.

William and his column of riders snaked through the narrow, cobblestoned lanes. Though they had started preparing to leave before dawn. It was past midday when they made it through the crowds. Travelers, camp followers, merchants and traders lined the streets and air smelled of spice, dung, woodsmoke and cooking meat. Whores and beggars stood nearly shoulder to shoulder as they plied their trade.

But what stood out most to William, aside from the clinging moisture of the summer heat, was the scent of flowers. Everywhere he looked, flowers. A riot of brilliant blooms grew high and thick along the lanes, from clinging vines and hanging over the sides of high pots and stands. In the distance, the proud bulk of the Hightower stood above all, like the elegant trunk of a mighty stone tree.

No doubt it had been this way centuries before and no doubt, it would be so when William’s descendants had long since crumbled into dust. If such a fate was still possible. Again, the nagging memory of a skeleton, staring at its reflection in the rusted half of a broken sword, tugged at his thoughts. William shook the thought away and halted before the pillared entrance to a small bank.

Now the real work would begin. Before he or his men even caught a glimpse of the foe, they must be provided for. That meant water, medicine, the services of Maesters, fodder, horseshoes, equipment, boots and a host of other things men at war needed. And all that meant money spent.

Carrying a chest full of coins was one thing, but William had considered such an eventuality and brought writs with him. Now those sealed scripts served him well. From bank to merchant, to lender he went. At last, he had what he needed.

The inn was a place known as the Blue Hart. Its prices were far above what it merited, due to the influx of travelers and soldiers. But it was near the main gate and the lane was wide. It had stables aplenty, a handful of guards and a high wall all around. William oversaw his men’s needs. Though he didn’t know or care that his men saw him as a right cold bastard, they also knew that they’d never starved under “William the Ice Dragon.”

Horses were stabled, groomed, fed and watered. Hooves were trimmed and shoes replaced. Weapons and armor were inspected and maintained. Newly acquired pack mules and carts were fed and checked for any flaws or injuries. Cots and beds were readied. At last, the men fell on the evening meal with gusto. It was plain fare, a stew of roasted barley and oats with chunks of lamb and onion. But bread, cheese, ale and apples, it would serve well enough. Most of all it was hot and filling. Soon enough, a song was struck up by the fire, as guests and soldiers alike joined in.

William, after a hot bath, donned his finest clothes, strapped on his longsword and rode out from the inn with his squire, two archers and as many billmen. He halted long enough to inspect the men who’d finished eating and replaced those who stood first watch. Satisfied with his company, he turned his horse toward the keep and his lords. After leaving instruction for the night’s tasks and ensuring his men were ready, he rode out from the inn. Though he doubted he’d merit much of their time, it would still be prudent to make his introductions and hand in his report.

So it was that William and his escort rode down the winding lanes, working their way through the milling crowds, hooves ringing off the cobblestones. Despite whatever shreds of fearful dreams might plague the back of his mind, he looked the part of a nobleman of Westeros. Splendid in the richness of his garments, proud and haughty as he looked down on the world from the back of his horse. Most of all, cold, aloof, supremely arrogant and always conveying the imminent promise of violence. For all its deadly elegance, the gleaming length of the blade at his side had only one purpose.

— — —


The shop, a generous name for the room shoddily built on to the back of an inn of ill-repute, displayed nothing to identify itself. It didn't need to, word had spread - of both its efficacy and its discretion. The little business of curiosities had only taken root a year past and yet it saw a steady stream of clientele. Men and women of coin, but also of desperation.

It was barely past midday and already Young Jas had seen to a knight with a cursed itch, a young lady afraid to ask her family's maester for moon tea - again, a merchant's courier seeking an ancient relic from the time of the children of the forest. From time to time, a young man of similar age to Jasper would enter, poke around and then slink out. A challenge, undoubtedly, from his friends. The shop of curiosities carried a reputation. The sandy haired man paid them no mind. It was the novices from the Citadel who piqued his anger unabashedly. Those men, so frequently treated poorly by the acolytes above them, saw in Jasper a target. Until they needed something from him, of course. Rates for men from the Citadel ran double or triple.

His partner in the shop, a woman of an age with his mother, found his distaste for the maesters-in-training amusing. He had met her the night he had left the Citadel, just a few months after his arrival. Branda the Bat, some had called her. The young Arryn had no idea where she had come from, and though she was not always fully lucid, he found her a pleasing companion. At least she normally did not judge him as his peers did, nor ignored him as his family had. She was the first person he felt could be himself with, to share the darker things that had fascinated him since childhood. Things he thought the Citadel would appreciate but had not. At least, not as a novice.

As the sun began to dip downward, a finely clad man entered their little establishment. Anger seemed to envelop him and Jasper groaned, audibly. It was not the first time someone had shown up to blame them for something some woman in their life had done. Or perhaps they had sold a relic or some magical trinket that had not quite lived up to its fabled promises. Branda, so very skilled at self-preservation, was suddenly no where to be found though she had just been whispering in Young Jas’s ear. That woman would be the death of him.

Hands were around his neck and shoulders, lifting his stout body out of his seat before he could think of even meekly asking if something was wrong.


Jasper felt the sting of a wealthy hand snap his head back.He felt a trickle down his lip and slowly realized it for blood. Blue eyes narrowed in anger at the crude handling. “Good ser, surely - “

“What seven-forsaken swill did you sell to my daughter!” The man’s face clouded his vision and in a stupor, Jasper took notice of odd pustules formed about the man’s lips. He grimaced, much to his aggressor’s disdain.

“Only what she would have asked for, perhaps to rid herself of an unwanted ailment?” The young man gasped between words. “We only seek to help, here.”

— — —
Ser William

William had continued on, riding through the milling crowds, past other retinues, lines of wagons and herds of livestock. In a way the crowded bunches of city-dwellers, travelers, soldiers reminded him of a some living organism.
He paused and cursed under his breath. As the Hightower drew near, its black stones reminded him of nothing so much as the cold peaks of ice-shrouded mountains, glinting in the light of a fading sun. The bustling streets had brought to mind another kind of teeming swarm. William was not a superstitious man, but these half-remembered vespers in his mind, like pieces from a dream within a dream, would not let him rest.

He drew on a narrow side street, one lined with vines, hanging pots and great stone planters full of sun-kissed blossoms. His looked at him curiously and he shook his head. No doubt they’d wonder even more. But he was their lord, let the smallfolk gossip if they liked. A falcon cared little for the bleatings of whatever it had caught in its talons.

He sent two of his men to see what they could learn from the various travelers and vendors. The sun began to lower and the midday heat became sweltering. William’s remaining men dismounted at a nearby tavern and filled their bellies on cheap ale, lentils and pork. At last, his two scouts returned, with answers. They weren’t the first men to have been sent to answer strange questions for a noble master and a place as big as Oldtown, there was always someone who could render the right services.

They had learned of a few places and one that both men had heard of was a small shop behind a certain inn. Well, it would be a start. If it led to nothing, William could eliminate it and move on to another. Or at least someone that could help, would learn a lord that needed their brand of aid.

If he was lucky, he might be able to resolve these foolish half-memories and be at the Hightower. Perhaps he might even be able to stay for a feast. Such an occurrence could and often paved the way for a lesser lord to be a greater one. He’d never find a wife of good standing out in the marches. If a nobleman didn’t advance himself, he stagnated. Contentment was for smallfolk who could never conceive of anything more than their lot.

With thoughts of personal glories and expanding holds in his mind, William rode back through the ruckus, to halt before the ramshackle old inn. For a moment, he was glad he’d spent the extra coin and found accommodations that were less . . . well, the place liked the kind of spot where many a poor fellow had been stabbed in his sleep, or worse.

He swung down from the saddle and stalked down the narrow alleyway, a hand on his sword and one eye on the densely packed layers of dripping cloth that hung over the trash-strewn lane. Two of his men followed, falchions loosened and ready for anything. His remaining soldiers dismounted and formed a loose circle near the mouth of the dank street and waited.

William was pleased he hadn’t needed to say anything and made a note to award his men for their hard work later on. He ducked inside the squalid little shop and straightened to see a large man, holding who he presumed was the shopkeeper - a blonde man with blood trickling from his mouth - by the collar and screaming at him.

For his part, William leaned back against a cleaner-looking section of wall and smirked slightly. If a man wished to brawl with the lower orders, like a peasant wrestling swine, it was hardly for him to judge. He raised an eyebrow with the kind of aristocratic disdain that came from a lifetime of examples and practice. The two men William had brought along paused and stood near the door, watching the scene unfold and waiting for their lord’s command.

“My good, Ser . . . If you wish to make yon shopkeeper pay for his sin, of which I’m sure they are many, I certainly will not stand in your way.

“Though, I would ask that you leave him able to talk. I may have a use for him.” Ser William’s drawl was the epitome of noble hauteur.

But for all his acting the part of a dillenate nobleman, William’s dark were as cold and hard as stones in a frozen river. His fingers were never far from the hilt of his dagger. For while he truly had no regard for someone he deemed lesser, the man with the strange growths around his mouth was a large sort. Ser Marston had not survived the marches and the Dornish by taking needless risks. A man accustomed to violence would have noticed the slight shift in the knight’s weight and the way both of his blades stood a finger width from their sheaths.



Jasper looked beyond the man who spewed spittle in his face. A minor lord of some sort, or landed knight by the look of him, by his posture, by the condescending manner in which he spoke. Not the easiest clients to deal with, but a welcome reprieve for the current situation he found himself in. Where had that damnable woman gone though? It was only because the disgruntled man was distracted that gave young Arryn a moment again to wonder at her absence. Perhaps it was for the best, she tended to put off those of better breeding.

The man’s grip loosened, barely, and Jasper pulled himself the rest of the way to freedom. He brushed at his neck and shoulders with great indignation at his clothes - once fine looking - crumpled and wrinkled, speckled with drops of blood. “If your daughter is the client I am reminded of,” and surely there had only been one other person who had entered with such markings on their face in the past week, “it was no moon tea or some other dark potion. Only a balm to soothe the irritation you seem to have as well.” He cleared his throat with a grumble. “A silver moon and I’ll have a dose prepared for you, ready in the morning.” Nevermind that he had only charged the daughter a mere silver stag.

The angry man took a moment to think over the situation, nodded brusquely, and tried to exit with a look of disdain for the whole ordeal. Jasper struggled to keep the string of curses from spilling out. It seemed unlikely his new customer would take kindly to it. “Now, with that settled, what can I do for you?” He grabbed an off-white linen and dabbed at his lip with a wince.

Marston considered his next words carefully and tried to think of a way to explain things without sounding a fool or a madman. He stood from where he’d leaned against the wall and moved closer. At last, he decided to say what he thought would give away the least amount of information. Careful to keep his voice and expression neutral, he stepped closer to the shop’s proprietor.

“I was told that you might understand . . . visions. Or that you know of someone who can.” William said at last.

“I see.” Jasper flopped himself back into the stool that he had been sitting on quite comfortably before being so rudely interrupted. “Hah, well, perhaps I see. Visions are a fickle thing.” He smiled, caught himself at the pain from where his lip had split, and settled into a thoughtful expression. He hated anything to do with this sort of thing. Telling a person what they wanted to hear was damn near as likely to leave them unhappy as telling them what you actually thought it could mean. And unhappy clients could prove far more violent than the one who had just left. Worse, this was Branda’s expertise, or so she claimed. And occasionally even seemed to be right about. Seven, why did it have to be a vision and not some moon tea for a mistress or manticore venom for a rival.

Perhaps a more straightforward tact would be best. “What do you hope to do with knowledge of what your vision means? Avoid a dark future, win a hefty sum of coin or land?”

William ran a calloused hand through his course, dark hair and shook his head. He was beginning to wonder what he was doing here. There a great deal many things he to complete and this mummer’s farce was . . . well, just that. But he didn’t leave, though he wasn’t sure why.

“I-I don’t know,” he said with a harsh sigh, “it’s like- I can’t truly describe it. It’s as if I can halfway remember something I overheard a stranger recount, from across a tavern room.” William smirked grimly.

“I suppose that makes little sense, but . . . oh seven hells, man. Here: I can remember a skull-faced warrior staring into a broken blade and the horror he felt at seeing his own visage in the steel. There was a great bulwark, like unto a snowy mountain. But below it were shadows moving through a storm of snow and icy winds.”

Even with such a broken recounting William felt an unfamiliar thrill of fear travel down his spine and a part of him felt as though he’d said too much.

Well, that was unexpected. Jasper cocked his head in a moment of true curiosity. Normally those who came in about their visions were, well, different. Dreams mistaken for divine signs or nightmares for dark omens. How interesting that this seemed to be neither. More investigation was warranted, beyond just drawing out a hefty payment.

“Are you of first men blood, m’lord.” It was not Jasper who spoke, who’s face suddenly turned downward. The voice belonged to a woman who appeared silently at the client’s side. Her eyes were wide, and in the moment Jasper again understood why so many found her off-putting with her hair unkempt and clothes off kilter though there was no one thing particularly glaring. All the little things that added up to feeling uncomfortable in her presence, to feeling as if your eyes could not hold her gaze or even cast upon her for long before wanting to slide off, anywhere else. His luck was dire today.

“Memories of these things are strong in that bloodline.” She sucked her teeth. “And of the children, but they are long dead, yes. Long dead.” Jasper watched as she drew far too close to the man for comfort.

“Yes, well, blood of the first men or not, it is an interesting vision. And now you’ve met Branda as well, my...co-proprietor.” He gave her a look, half-pleading, half-reproachful, to back away. “Have you had this vision more than once, lord…” He let the statement trail. He nearly never asked for names, not in this line of business.

William shook his head. “No, no, just the once. As for my family, I am an Andal.

“But I will say this, whatever that . . . thing was, it was no dream. Or at least, it wasn’t purely that. I could feel something out there in the darkness. It saw me and reached out for me.” He said.

No matter his interest, Jasper offered only a shrug in response and another sideway glance to Branda. The woman tutted at him in response, he took the swift shake of her head to understand she had nothing more to offer, for free, at least. “To dream once and be so moved is an…unusual occurrence. There is always talk of prophecies and portents - that we only need to find a key to unlock the meaning. I’m afraid I have no key nor potion or poultice to solve your mystery. The young falcon cleared his throat for overwrought effect. “I don’t know how heavy the cost will be to uncover the meaning. In this line of business as well, I’m sure you understand, we do not trust in ledgers but in coin - arrange to have this sum delivered within two days and we will begin looking into this matter.”

Jasper pushed a slip of parchment indicating the amount he spoke of and waited to see the man’s reaction, waited to see if he had a correct read of the lord’s standing - low - and of his funds - better than most who entered the humble shop. He knew already where to start, a new novice, but one who the young Arryn was sure had connections beyond his rank or years.


Ser William

After a moment’s tense thought, William nodded shortly.

“I shall return to my inn and one of my men will be along to ensure your payment.” He nodded shortly and turned to leave. The knight paused and turned back at the door.

“Mark my words, boy. Should I find you’ve taken my money and taken me for a fool. I will exact a price from you, that you’ll be ill equipped to pay.”

With that, William stalked back out onto the city streets, his mind awhirl with thoughts and possibilities. Still, perhaps he had found something.
Marston had attempted to go back the way he came, but the swell of traffic forced him to turn aside with an irate sigh and he found himself riding through Pot Market Street with the five men of his escort. As he rounded a bend in the cobblestoned lane, he drew up and immediately turned to find another route.

Before him stood men of the Faith Militant, knights of the Golden Rose and what had to be none other than the Lady Vittoria. Though he’d only ever seen the Tyrells from afar, at a tourney once, he’d been trained in heraldry like any other knight.

It was then, before William had a chance to try and find a way out of what experience and instinct told him were nothing less then disaster waiting to happen, there was the familiar sound of a bolt tearing through the air.

Several things happened all at once. The Lady Vittoria fell, vanishing from sight in the press of the men around her. A woman with the clear look of Valyrian descent and the blade to match, stormed into the melee and the city watch came pouring in like a swarm of ants.

In the blink of an eye William considered all that was happening and made a decision. He and his men were lightly armored at best and carrying only their arming swords or longsword, in his case. But they were on horseback. So William signaled his handful of soldiers to form up in a line and charge head on into the swirling melee.

Ironshod hooves rang and sparked off the street as Marston and his men rode to the aid of the Tyrells. Smashing into the flank and rear of the watchmen and soldiers of the Faith, their few horses shattered the loosely grouped crowd of surging men.

Men flew back and screamed from the impact of charging horses. A man in a watch cloak twitched as a plate-sized hoof caved in his face with a gout of blood. Another ran a few more steps, his head sailing through the air as William’s blade swung back in a crimson arc. William and his men struck with a desperate speed born of fear and desperate rage. Steel flashed and rang in the sun.

In the space of a few heartbeats William’s sword was notched on both edges and caked in dripping gore. At his frenetic signal, his soldiers turned and ride in a circle around the Tyrell knights, clearing a rough half-moon space, lined with mangled corpses. Though William hadn’t taken his warhorse, the courser beneath screamed her fury and lashed out with hooves and teeth.

A man swung a billhook at the legs of the man riding next to Marston. Ser William raised his blade up, over and punched out the tip of his blade. The watchman staggered back, screaming pawing at the gushing ruin of his nose and eyes. A man in the heraldry of the faith grabbed at his bridle and then reeled back, clutching at the spurting stumps of his wrists. One Marston’s archers took his head as he rode past.

William drew up behind the Tyrell men and his horse scrabbled for purchase on the blood-slicked pavers before she found her balance. In that brief moment, William and his men stood in an island of calm amidst a sea of chaos.

The Watch Commander strode forward against the dragonrider and from where William stood, it looked at though that fight could go either way. Near that duel was another man in armor, who had to be none other than Morgan Hightower.

William made up his mind and spurred his horse forward from the ranks of the Tyrell men. He couldn’t reach the Lord Commander of the watch. But doing something about Hightower might just turn things to advantage of the side he seemed to have suddenly taken.

Morgan Hightower had time to turn and see William’s blade flash towards his eyes. Though he flinched back, Marston’s blade still bit into the side of the man’s face. Morgan Hightower fell back, supported by his men as they dragged him away from the swirling melee. Though his eyes and nose were spared, Ser William’s blade would leave the man with a deep scar over the bridge of his nose and under his left eye. And William saw the hate glittering in the wounded man’s eyes as he was borne away. He knew then that he had made an enemy for life and it would only end when one, or both, of them were dead.

Before the press of bodies could halt his charge and the soldiers of the Faith could drag him from the saddle, William turned his courser and spurred his way back to friendly lines, jumping the sprightly little mare over the formation of Tyrell men. She landed with her hooves splayed and sank down to her rump. Though William lurched in the saddle, he was able to maintain his seat.

There was a rush of air and William looked up in time to see something he’d never once seen as more than a small figure against the sky. The dragon Saeryx had landed and the beast’s head reared. William cursed and urged his men to follow him. A feeling of dread formed a cold knot in his gut and he rode with his men to the front of the retreating Tyrells as they sought to flee what was coming.

Marston and his soldiers had time enough to form a loose wedge and outpace the retreating Tyrells before there was a rush of air.

Then, fire and fury. A great gout of surging flame poured down the street like a river from the blackest hell. Wood splintered and exploded with thunderous cracks, cloth flared like lightning bugs on a warm summer night. Men screamed, ran and fell as flesh was charred to the bone and steel ran like water.

In the ensuing pause that followed, Marston turned his men and tersely ordered a halt. So it was that Ser William threw in his lot with House Tyrell as he and his handful of men covered their retreat. While a dragon bore its rider away and the Lady Vittoria was carried back to safety.
<Snipped quote by Arnorian>

I am hurt

I much sorry (insert crying Pepe emoji here)
Hey long time since I've been on the site, any chance you guys are looking for a small time villain to briefly unite some houses?

So, your best bet would probably be to hit up either Zeke or Ruby, our GM and co-GM, respectively. They should be able to hook you up :)
The Duel


By the time he reached the open field to the east of the camp, it seemed as though nearly everyone had arrived. Formed around the green sward in a rough square, the crowd of mercenaries, smallfolk, travelers and townsfolk made a crude sort of tournament field. Garin smiled grimly behind his visor, he’d fought in worse.

In the distance, he could make out the faint, but unmistakable shape of a dragon against the midday sky and it seemed as though fingers of icy fear had dug deep into his heart. He was only a child then, but he still remembered the horror of the Hellholt and the King’s Wrath. He’d once seen Maegor fly into Pentos, when his oldest was a small child. Rylla had been awed by Balerion and even asked if she could go and pet the fearsome thing. Garin had felt only terror and he was not ashamed to say so. Only a fool would ever willingly go up against a dragon and he was thankful that so far, he’d been lucky enough to avoid such a thing.

Opposite his position, the crimson knight stood in a suit of gleaming plate that had been chased with gold and filigreed in silver around the edges of the different plates. Perhaps not quite the mix of fine artwork and good armor that a Targaryen prince would have, but certainly a fine harness nonetheless.

In contrast, Garin looked almost drab as he turned his warhorse and sat waiting on the western side of the field. A hulking figure in black armor, with an evil-eyed brute of a warhorse under him. If this had been some puppet show, he’d have been the villain.

But this was Westeros and evil was often masked in beauty. To Garin, it seemed that in Essos, you knew where you stood. As a mercenary you could assume everyone wanted you dead. But here? Wanton cruelty was often carefully cloaked under fancy names and titles. Though he’d long since lost any hope of a name and title himself. His late father had taken an inordinate amount of delight in taking both of things from him.

Yet, if he had chosen duty and family over Martella, he would have never held Rylla in his arms for the first time, heard her first words or helped her to learn to walk. Little Myrna would never had cried tears of joy over that thrice bedamned cat of hers. Now he was here, as the Tyrells and Lord Tarly watched, with their retainers.

Garin’s family smiled as their lord father and husband rode past, but they remained silent and dignified, in a way that even the scions of a great house would have been hard pressed to match. Even little Myrna was very solemn, though she held her spotted cat close. The kitten for its part, bore its mistress’ grip with the patience of a born saint. Lady Vittoria, for her part, looked as grim and serious as any knight on the outset of battle.

More people, from the meanest peasant to great lords trickled in. Garin supposed it had been a boring few days and people had nothing better to do. The master of the lists droned on and some doddering old Septon croaked out a prayer. All because some fool boy had made a joke about the wrong person.

Well, if a man only defends what he loved when convenient, then he doesn’t truly love, I suppose. Garin thought.

The master of the lists stepped back and looked at the two knights, one clad in black and the other in darkest red.

“Garin Sands and Ser Jorin Upsley, I hereby give you one final chance to set aside your grievances and reconcile yourselves in the eyes of man and the Seven.” He said.

As he spoke, a woman in a green and blue gown stepped forward and tied a red ribbon around Ser Jorin’s rerebrace, just below the crimson of his surcoat. As she stepped back, Garin saw the hopeless look in her eyes as she stared his way before turning and stepping back into the onlookers.

Garin had seen that look before, usually in the eyes of a town’s citizens after his men had stormed the walls. Unbidden, his thoughts turned to what Lady Vittoria said and he swore under his breath. The Dornishman raised his visor and glanced at his onlooking family, where they stood next to the Tyrells.

“Milord, if Ser Jorin wishes to make peace, then I will not stand in his way.” He said, his voice carrying on the gentle breeze.

Ser Jorin looked back at the woman who had gifted him her favor and then slammed his visor down and raised his lance to the gleaming steel of his cuisse.

I imagined so, Garin thought as he closed his visor and took his own lance.

The master of the lists raised a burly hand and brought it down with grim finality.

As one, the two opposing knights raked back their spurs and their warhorses exploded into motion, churning the black earth under their ironshod hooves. The grass rippled in the wind and birds sang as they soared overhead, against a cloudless sky. Surcoat and caparisons rippled back from armor as the warriors rode full tilt. It was a beautiful moment, more so for the contrast against what came next.

This was no ordered duel or joust with all the pageantry and splendor of a regulated tournament. Both men rode well, and it seemed to all present that master and steed moved as one. But that skill was not there for spectacle or to please the crowd. It was a moment that would have fit seamlessly into the most brutal battle. There was no chivalry to be found on that field. Just two grim killers doing what they had been trained since childhood.

Ser Jorin set his lance into place at the last moment and Garin, in a feat of great strength, rolled the heavy length of ash up and over Jorin’s own. But Jorin was no novice and he’d learned his brutal craft in a school as unforgiving as Garin’s. At a touch of his knee, his warhorse side-stepped mid-gallop as he leveled his lance at the eyeslit of Garin’s helm.

There was a breathless pause.

The two knights slammed together with force that bordered on divine wrath. Both the heavy war lances bent and then shattered into clouds of splinters. Garin reeled from the shock, stretched almost prone over the high cantle of his saddle.

Ser Jorin was knocked to the side, so that at one point, his helm was almost level with his stirrups, as he flailed and scrabbled for purchase. The shattered crest of his helm went arcing into the crowd and landed in the plump hands of a very surprised merchant, who had been trying to protect his face more than anything else.

It might have almost been comical, had the two not been fighting in deadly earnest. But this was no tourney, where a man might ride to the end of the lists and reset for the next pass. Their destriers bugled in fury as they spun on their hooves and then reared, striking with their teeth and hooves against flesh and barding. Their ears lay flat against the steel of their chanfrons and their nostrils flared crimson, as they fought with the same unrelenting brutality of their masters.

Despite the tremendous impact, both knights were veterans of many such clashes and hauled themselves back into their seat. Garin ignored the roiling pain in his skull with the skill of long practice and caught up his warhammer from his saddle. He pushed against his stirrups and leaned forward as his mount reared again, screaming in rage.

As Ser Jorin’s bay leapt to meet the attack, Garin brought his warhammer up and over, seeking to crush Jorin’s helm. To all present, it seemed like a whirlwind of steel and horse. Sparks flew from clashing weapons and dented armor. Torn caparisons and surcoats whirled as knight and rider fought with no mercy asked or given. In the blink of an eye, both men had given, parried and dodged nearly a dozen different blows.

Neither one showed any kind of restraint, warhorse and warrior alike were struck where the opportunity presented itself. At one point, Garin’s dagger flashed in the sun as he grappled in the saddle with Jorin. For a moment, it seemed like the fight would be over as quickly as it had begun.

But then, Jorin snagged the cuff of Garin’s gauntlet and whether by luck of skill, was able to break the Dornishman’s hold and had nearly dragged his foe from the saddle. Garin, for his part, pushed off his own saddle with his free leg and hauled Jorin over the right side of his bay horse and into the churned up earth.

Their warhorses continued on, snapping and striking at each other with their hooves like a man might box. The crowd rippled back as the two destriers almost barreled into them. Unable to keep a hold on Jorin, Garin rolled away from his enemy and to his feet. Jorin had leapt upright and charged, his dagger clutched in a reverse grip. Garin, dagger and hammer lost, drew his longsword and struck in one smooth motion.

Jorin might have died right there, but his left foot slipped out from under him on the slick grass. Garin’s blade rang off his helm, in a shower of sparks, instead of piercing the eyeslit. Jorin surged upright again as Garin set his shield and sprinted to meet his enemy’s charge.

Garin nearly fell, as Jorin levered his shield up and nearly upended him, before Garin kicked his legs and regained his balance. His shield lost to him, Garin reversed his grip on his blade. Holding the gleaming steel of the longsword halfway down the blade in a gauntleted hand, he struck like a Dornish adder and managed to foul Jorins next attack.

By then his lungs were burning, every muscle in his body had moved past feeling as though it was on fire and to the point where they felt like they belonged to someone else. Garin planted his feet, as Jorin grappled with him. With all his might, he lifted the armored bulk of the red knight with a titanic roar. As the dagger nicked his eyelid, Garin took a breath and exerted one last burst of the battle fury that still gripped him.

Even for a younger man it would have been a tremendous strength, though he only lifted the crimson-clad warrior a handbreadth into the air, it was enough that he was able to lever and then throw the armored bulk of his foe. Jorin landed with a crash of steel, his dagger pinwheeling away into the crowd where people frantically dodged the falling blade. Garin half-straddled, half-fell over his enemy and wrenched the man’s visor open.

Jorin’s face was pale and at some point, the exertion of the fight had caused blood to run from his eyes, nose and eyes. Garin placed his gauntleted thumbs next to the red knight’s eyes.

“I have strength enough left, to crush your head, lad.” He said with surprising gentleness.

Jorin blinked and then set his jaw, clearly expecting the worst.

Garin nodded shortly. There was time, he would have never have even thought about what to do next. He’d certainly done far worse. From the corner of his eye he could see that the two warhorses, their rage spent, had wandered off to different ends of the field and were quietly grazing on the thick grass.

“But if you yield, you can see the woman who gave you that favor again.

“You fought well, no one here can deny that. Let’s leave it at that and we can go our ways.” He said.

Jorin blinked and then nodded slowly. “I yield.” He rasped.

The red knight rolled to his feet and slowly limped to the woman who waited for him. She took his armored arm over her shoulder and if his plate-clad bulk caused her any pain, she showed no sign of it as she helped her man to their pavilion.

Garin stood up slowly and then tottered over to his family, while his squire led his exhausted warhorse. The master of the lists pronounced the matter settled, but Garin didn’t hear him. Not wishing to injure them, with his armor, he carefully patted his wife and daughters on the shoulder. Myrna smiled and then tottered off with his great helm on her head, where it rested on her shoulders. Though it had been a solemn day, he couldn’t help but laugh at such an absurdly delightful sight, the damn thing was nearly as tall as she was. Even Rylla smiled, before she ran to help her sister extricate herself from the helm, when she walked into someone.

Martella simply nodded, her expression both relieved and . . . pleased? Proud? It was hard to say really.

Garin set aside his gauntlets, ran an aching hand through his sweat-plastered hair and bowed slightly to the Tyrells.

Lord Theo said a quick word to his eldest daughter, before nodding to the men around him, and departing the field under the accompaniment of men-at-arms. Vittoria Tyrell wore no armor, only the green wool dress with the high collar and the full-length arms, the skirt of it falling to her booted ankles. Next to Lord Theo had been Vittoria, Davos Baratheon, Thaddeus Rowan, Dennet Tarly, Ryam Redwyne, Lord Elmo and Garrett Tyrell.

But they hadn’t been the main focal point of the little group. Even most of the eyes assembled that looked to their group weren’t on Theo, but Vaera Balaerys. At one-point Vaera had put a hand on Vittoria’s shoulder, and leaned in to say, “Breathe, Lady.”
Vittoria chuckled at Vaera’s gentle jape, but there was seriousness to it, Vittoria would admit. Plate armor might have made her appear more comfortable than she currently felt watching the stupid, silly, childish affair.

Towards the end, all she heard was, “Ow,” though that came from Davos Baratheon, whose arm she had taken and started to dig fingers unknowingly into out of the stress of the moment.

When it was over, a wind of relief exhaled from her body, and her shoulders visibly relaxed, “Thank the Seven that madness is over.”
Vittoria walked over and spent some time speaking with Ser Jorin and his people, who to her surprise, actually wanted to speak with her in a matter that was almost pleasant, given the circumstances of the moment. It was only after that did Vittoria make her away across and greet Garin and his family.

“Myrna, caution being a girl who puts on armor—it tends to stick with you longer than it probably ought to,” she gave Martella a tiny hint of a smile before giving large, exaggerated, eyes of relief to Rylla, “This was fun,” she said to the woman her junior, but not far behind her, “let’s not do that again.”

Before she left she leaned closer to Garin, and whispered something short, before taking a few steps away only to turn back, remembering something else, “Sunset. My father’s pavilion,” she made sure to inform him, before continuing on to find Lord Elmo, and proceed to the Citadel, while Rowan and Tarly went to gather the rest of the Order and get them out of Oldtown.
The Dornish Marches - Castle Larkwood


The sun was sinking over the jagged expanse of Red Mountains, as the shadows lengthened over the valley. William stood quietly atop the keep, leaned against a merlon. He read through the missive once again and nodded to himself.

It was war then, House Tyrell had called the Banners and every landed knight would be expected to follow his liege into battle. Therein lay the dilemma, a man could not afford to send a token force, but neither could he afford to leave his hold undefended.

Especially as whoever had handled those would-be raiders was still somewhere to the north. Still Larkwood had stout walls, a strong keep, its own spring and two trebuchets behind the curtain wall. Before an attacker ever got that far, he’d have to cross a moat and a barrier of stakes that lay before the castle.

He smirked, one good thing about his little spit of land’s rocky ground was that it meant a place like Larkwood would be damned hard to try and undermine. Harder for a tower to make its way over the boulder littered earth as well. As his small castle was built into the lichen-covered granite of the foothills, a besieged force could only really come at it one way.

Still he’d need to leave behind a competent enough force to maintain patrols and keep any would-be marauders off his farms and villages. He turned at last to his steward, a paunchy man with greying hair and rheumy eyes. The old man bowed and the mail-clad armsman next to him, followed suit.

“Donal, Beric,” he said, “I have been summoned to war, so . . . I will take four score bowmen on horse and mules with me. I will take two score billmen. Donal, as my steward, you will administer my lands until such time as I return.
“Beric, you will serve as my Captain and see to the defense of my land. Should you both serve well, I will grant you knighthood upon my return.”

In doing so William hoped that he could keep power divided between two men who competent enough at their roles and hopefully keep them from trying to take power for themselves. Though he was fairly certain neither of them knew about the sally port below the old garderobe in the eastern tower. Beric and Donal had never given him a reason to district them, but no March Lord took unnecessary risks.
The two men took their and William turned to his squire.

“Harlyn, you will ride with me, should you prove yourself in what’s to come, I will knight you and grant you lands.” He said.
Harlyn took his leave and William turned back to valley before him. Fields of amber grain rippled in the wind and he nodded approvingly. This year’s harvest would be good, his smallfolk would prosper and he had another good year to see him through the winter. All the more vital now that he didn’t know what exactly what was to come.

Why had the banners been called and who were the Tyrells looking to make against? If the king was truly dead, as it was rumored, then that meant that Maegor would be to the one to return and take the throne. And who would contest such a man? Only a fool would march against something like Balerion the Black Dread.

But there was more than Targaryen with a dragon . . . William lay awake the rest of the night, turning the possibilities over in his mind. It was one thing to hold to an oath, another to suffer the same fate as those who fell at the field of fire.
As before, the dawn had yet to break when William finished his morning routine. He donned his armor and strode down to the rough-hewn stone of his courtyard. William surveyed the waiting column of riders for a moment and nodded shortly. A little over a hundred men on horseback, some on mules, most with remounts. Many of which had come from the ambush of the Dornishmen.

He vaulted into the saddle, ignoring the ache of tired muscles and turned to his men. “Lads, the Tyrells have called that banners and that means coin and loot for each and every one of you.”

The waiting archers and billmen cheered at the prospect. A cold and early morning could always be brightened at the thought of extra pay. There was never a soldier who didn’t relish the thought.

“We ride light and swift, we stop when the horses are done. If all goes well, we’ll reach Oldtown in under a fortnight. There, I’ll buy you all good tents and provisions for what’s to come.”

That brought another cheer and William donned his helm and raised his gauntleted hand to the waiting sentry. The portcullis slowly rose with a groan of metal and the darkened wood of the old drawbridge fell into place with a dull crash.

The column of riders filed out of the gate and a moment later a second column under Beric rode east, where they would slowly ride north and then turn back to the castle. William ensured his shield was ready, where it hung from his war saddle and that mace and sword were loose in their sheaths. Then he urged his riding horse onwards, steadily increasing the pace until the riders were moving a steady canter over the rolling hills, as the first light of dawn slowly made its way up over the swordlike crags of the Red Mountains.

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.


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?”


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.


“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 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.”

Family Members:

© 2007-2023
BBCode Cheatsheet