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4 yrs ago
Current What lies in the hearts of the drae if not madness? - Ma'doc
4 yrs ago
Replies will be coming out in a few days. Been down sick.
5 yrs ago
"Fly you fools!"
6 yrs ago
To everyone waiting on replies. They most likely will be out tomorrow or Saterday. I need to get a part for my computer!
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6 yrs ago
Sorry if replies are a bit slow. Dealing with a headache.


Hello! I'm LadyRunic! But you knew that...

I love most types of Role Play, but by far my favorites are those that are well thought out and worked with. Especially when you can find a group you can work well with. I love books- So many books. It's a running bet that I will become buried under a pile of said objects one day... I'm a tad busy, and when an Rp really catches my interest I'm inpatient for posts. It's like reading a good book and getting stuck on a cliff hanger.

You can generally expect posts regularly once a week if not more.

I've RP'd for the better part of fourteen years, so I can honestly say I have some experience and I've developed the understanding of what I expect of a partner in a one-on-one or a group. I'm also the sort who will speak up and point out something if it looks off or forms a problem to me. I spent most of a year once stuck in a Voice Chat Rp that was hell on Earth, so I'm straight forward when I need to say something. I expect this in return from my Rpers and DMs. I want to improve my writing and love constructive criticism.

Most Recent Posts


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A gurgle and horrible smell from Benjicot distracted her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not going to fight?”

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

Then he was going to get wonderfully drunk while keeping Roger in line and out of bed with noble ladies.
Collab with @Neianna86

Domeric Redwyne | Manfryd Lothston

-Around the time of Elayne becoming lost-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dinner and Drinks - A Lady and a “Bastard”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Lothston

It was supposed to be a simple thing, to find candles for the dinner. As to why she was to find candles rather than a servant who would know where the candles were was a rather apparent answer. Summerhall was filled to the brim with people and there were hardly enough to send one for the necessary items when they had numerous other lords and ladies and Princes and Princesses to tend to. Thus Aelora had asked that she, Elayne Lothston, look for candles. Which raised the more pressing question of why her precisely? Perhaps the Princess was not aware of the fact she had gotten lost ducking around the corner to avoid her cousin’s bloody words of glee about battles. Perhaps she thought thrusting Elayne into a turbulent castle would be most amusing, which Elayne could hardly place that cruelty upon the Princess.

Corridors that twisted and turned and stairs that led up and down. She dodged around servants, politely excused herself past parties that fill the hall in chatter or argument, and turned quickly around when she came across the scandal of a man and woman engaged in some enjoyment in a less than private stairwell. The sound of a startled scream and shouts of outrage from others also stumbling across the two had followed. Beating a flushed face, she paused in a window and took a minute to fan herself in the cool air. Her cheeks flushed from the press of people and her more recent embarrassment. Leaning against the stone, she wondered exactly where a storeroom was. Elayne figured she could go and summon one of her own servants to fetch candles but that would mean Danelle would tear strips from her hide and not allow her back which ultimately fail in the Princess’s request. That would not do at all!

Snapping open her fan, she sighed and took the slight quiet as respite. Summerhall was a grand castle, a place for lazy days to pass and watch as the years turned. Gentle compared to its infamous lord. Thinking of lords with tempers, led her down the trail of Targaryens and to Aelor. Her cheeks heated as she glowered at the silken fan as she recalled the predicament he had put her in! Well-meaning of course, Elayne could not fault him for that. A very lost young woman in a sea of tents, his help had been required. But to bring her here! Here in the middle of the tournament itself! Of course, that was going to drive her father to foam at the mouth in outrage, Danelle would be plotting how best to secure her in a marriage that would benefit the ends of the Heir of Harrenhal. Despite the Prince’s assurance that no one would speak on his honor, things were hardly so simple. She had tried to warn him and his sister. For what? Because for some reason they had shown her kindness and favor by their actions. Could she do any less than try to stem the fury her father would bring over the actions? No, she could not. It was simply the right thing to do. Just as she was doing the right thing by trying to find candles.

What was not the right thing to do was to find herself sitting practically in the lap of the Prince on a horse that moved slower than a butterfly! She fluttered her fan to banish the flush that rose to her cheeks. That had been far too bold even for one of his standings and Elayne had just accepted it! The woman knew she probably looked like a fluffed cat considering if she needed to repay some offense and smoothed her dress. And he had dared to handle her casually!

Well, she would give him what for! That was exactly what she would do, if he wasn’t the son of the Prince of Dragonston and future king in his own right. Perhaps he did have some rough edges as his sister had mentioned, but what man did not? Prince Aelor, at least, in some small way had a kindness about her that she had not seen among men. Not that she knew many men. Looking about the dark corridor, Elayne realized she had wandered in her thoughts and become hopelessly lost once more. Though it was remarkably not as cool as the shadows would suggest it would be, there was even the smell of cooking and that meant one thing.

There was a kitchen!

Slipping around the large door that was part of a servant’s corridor, Lady Elayne hesitated off to the side and snapped her fan closed, stowing it in her small pouch. Here servants bustled with trays, pots, pans, and whole spits of beasts. Rabbits, deer, hogs, and board to name a few she had seen. Having seen Harrenhal’s kitchen when her cousins visited she waited patiently at the side until a large man with a stout belly noticed the obvious noble. “Can I help you, M’Lady?” His voice was a battlefield roar over the din as he drew near. His tunic and apron were stained with sauces and flour. Elayne noted she had never seen a clean chef in her life. Gesturing the man to draw a bit nearer lest her voice not carry in the din, Elayne spoke in a firm, if apologetic tone.

“I need candles, for Princess Aelora. I doubt you could spare anyone with so many to feed to show me back to her quarters, but I would be much pleased for the candles, Chef…?” She offered no names and offered no more work than what could possibly be easily obtained. There was hardly any sense in disrupting his kitchen more than it was.

The big-bellied man nodded, seemingly thinking more to himself than as to why Princess Aelora would send a Lady. “Nir!” He snagged a small boy who was rushing about with a stack of rags and smell of someone used to fetching things. “Take this Lady to the store rooms and show her back to Princess Aelora’s chamber in the…” She lost the rest of his words in the din as a pile of plates clattered from two bickering maids. His orders delivered the man whirled on them with insults and snarls that made Elayne’s eyes widen.

Slipping out of the door as Nir skittered before her, she offered no conversation as the youth hardly explained where they were going other than pointing, leading her to the store room and then the rooms of the Princess. Pausing, she dug a groat from her pouch and clasped the boy’s hand about it with a cheery smile. “Thank you, Nir.” She whispered in her willowy voice. The boy only hesitated to give her a bow that nearly landed him on his face. His speech was a stuttering mess, explaining his silence, as he tried to get out his thanks as he scurried back off to the kitchen like his toes were held over the coals. They might well be if he was not back soon, she noted as she gave both guards a small thankful smile before slipping into the room. Perhaps she should have taken one of them, but it hadn’t seemed necessary.

Setting the candles carefully with the dwindled stock, she had enough for the night she thought. Sitting she poured a cup of the sweet cider and sipped at the drink. The kitchen had been sweltering compared to up here and Elayne let slip a forlorn sigh. Was she forever doomed to be sequestered in rooms and gardens? She had no real quarrel with it. The world was dark and full of terror if one listened to Danelle. Yet, from what she had seen there was beauty and wonder as well. Pulling the ribbon from her hair, she let the red-blonde locks tumble free down her back and shoulder without restraint to pool in her lap. Running her slim fingers through the locks, she hummed and picked up one of the books. Thankfully in the Westrosi language and not the other scribble that must be from Essos. She was not prying she reminded herself, it had been the twins in their Targaryen madness that had shuffled her off to this room.

Not that she had protested it. Dragging her fingers through her curls again, Elayne peered at the pages and hummed softly to herself. She should have brought her own books along to the tournament but Danelle had promised to burn one if she dared. ”You are here to look pretty and be seen. Listen to what is said. Learn who is who and seduce those who are acceptable.” Elayne cringed at the remembrance of the word. Seduce. How to move and allure a man, Jeyne had told her how and she must have some success still for men still watched when their Aunt walked by.

Seduce a man. Elayne took another sip of the cider and sighed as she basked in the sunlight that filled the room and set about reading. How could she seduce men when a particular man and his twin had secluded her and he had seduced her. Her lips twisted into a small sad smile. A fool she was. Elayne knew herself for true. She was a fool and while she might look favorably upon Prince Aelor. He was meant for another, a Princess or Higher Lady than she. It was best she found enjoyment in this small favor the twins had graced upon her before it ended and she was once again a pawn in the greater game. :Best to privately nurse the small care she felt for the Prince than allow her thoughts to wander into what could never be. How often had she dreamed as one of her cousins had come by Harrenhal? For nothing, it had been no real love then but a private hope that one of them might agree to a cousin for wife. Something which would be acceptable to both Manfryd and Danelle. ”Take the happiness as it comes and try to see some benefit to the sorrow.” She remarked more to herself than anyone else. Firming setting her mind to rights she sipped at cider and delved into the book as a leg tucked up underneath her.

The conversation had gone fairly well, though no direct aid could have been accepted. Certainly nine had been offered. Danelle felt her temper become irked at that thought, but she could not afford to show it as she stepped into the sun's rays as they came through the smokey trails of campfires. What had been calmness had turned into a frantic scramble of men, noble and guards alike. The two from Harrenhal looking as though their Graves might be met while the massive Bennifer had a thoughtful look.

A giant bear just as his father had been, Danelle thought absently before her attention snapped to the two men. Two men, and no sweet sister to be shepherd about. "Where is Elayne?" Her voice surely turned the summer to winter in those three simple words. A simple question, a simpler answer. The latrine, ducked into a tent to take a break from the sun, somewhere where the fragile girl might rest.

"Gone, M'lady." One man, the older, answered stiffly. "She left the circle of tents."

Bennifer Blackwood gave an apologetic look to his cousin. "She was feeling faint, and in the camp, cousin. I went to find her a drink and upon returning she was no where in sight." He shrugged, so unconcerned! Danelle felt her teeth grind as she bristled. "Be at ease, the Tourney is safe."

"Safe." She spat the word and gestured for the guards to follow her. "Safe!" She hissed and stalked like a hunting wolf through the streets of the city of tents. Her eyes flashing as she listened to word and chatter, for any sign of an unthinking chit who would wander about alone!

"It's true! Saw them meself!" She pause as she noticed a young lad, excitedly dancing on his toes. "A girl all in silk and purple! Hair like red gold!" She sized the young boy's arm and spun him from his playmates, his terror rising in peasant brown eyes.

"The girl, was she to my shoulder. Thin. Hair in curls with blue eyes." The questions came out in sharp statements, and the boy nodded in terror. "Where? Stranger take you boy, where?" She shook him like the rat he was.

His voice was high and reedy as he stammered out the reply. "In the Prince's lap! Goin' towards Summerhall proper, Milady!" Finding himself suddenly free the urchin turned and ran, his livery flapping with the smell of piss.

Elayne had been taken by a Targaryen Prince? The Prince, the boy had said. She considered summoning him back by force and then dismissed the idea. There were plenty of Princes, but she had gotten the lad's head nodding on the description. It was Elayne. Snarling, she considered walking up to tear apart the Hall itself. To find the Prince and drive him at sword point from her fool sister!

Her plans were not ruined, not yet. There had to be a way to salvage the girl, to get her to wed a more proper fellow rather than following Jeyne into becoming a Targaryen whore. Turning back towards her own tents, she figured as to find Manfryd. Her fury making the guards sweat and march in sync behind her. The one good thing, this might kill the man. Then she would bring all of Harrenhal to get Elayne back and marry her at sword point to some husband. "Worthless wench, I'll make sure she never walks again." She whispered, promising to see the girl bound in a room. How the hell had this happened?!

Collab with @Ruby

Aelor & Aelora Targaryen | | Elayne Lothston

Wake up before dawn. Dress in leather and mail, try not to need any help but quietly thank the Kingsguard for a hand when needed, making it faster and easier. Eat fruit, a bite of bacon, some dark beer in the working kitchen while the Red Keep bakers mostly run the place. Meet Captain Davik and his two men at the main gate just before the sun rises. Spend most of the early morning walking around Flea Bottom, listening to every word the Gold Cloaks offer about businesses and notable residents and orphans, an alley where a woman was murdered the night before their eventual focus.

The Prince watched as the three Gold Cloaks questioned residents. Someone heard some noise but thought nothing of it—it’s Flea Bottom. Davik knows an old woman who lives in the alley that likes to sit at her windows. The woman provides a vague description. Follow the Gold Cloaks across Flea Bottom, to another alley, breaking up a small gambling game and detaining one of the gamblers. Ichy, he calls himself, with arrogance. Aelor doesn’t blink when Davik puts a fist into Ichy’s ribs. Ichy, Davik would later explain, is someone who offers information to them from time to time. In return, he further explained, they allow Ichy to live.

By evening the Gold Cloaks are tired enough to let Aelor bust down a door, chase down a thief. The errands are small but better than the nothing of before. Over weeks Davik trusts him to do more, and more. By the end of the year, it wasn’t uncommon for the Prince to return to the Red Keep at dawn, collapsing into his bed after a night filled with patrol and long periods of tedium before explosions of chaos.

And, sometimes, it was just odd: like the raving madman who approached them, loudly proclaiming himself King Aegon the Conqueror reborn. Davik allowed the Prince the pleasure of dealing with that. Aelor remarked to the madman that he was no Targaryen and turned to face Davik. So, the madman pissed on his boots. He waited three hours for the sun to rise and a merchant Aelor knew through Maekar to open his shop so Aelor could replace the pissed-on boots.

One morning he came in, and Aelora greeted him. As much as Aelora loved to sleep, she was never awake at any point around dawn. The suspense didn’t last long as she revealed why she was so very awake, and so very busily active, telling him to sleep on the road; they were off to Maekar’s tournament to support their uncle and cousin. Aelor moaned about a bad night, Aelora reminded him that she had reminded him the night before, after telling him about it two days before that.

Aelor slept in the wheelhouse for most of the first day.

The trip took two days, and the night camped he spent wandering the Stormlands woods, because he was used to sleeping while they were about, and being awake while the Red Keep, King’s Landing, and his family mostly slept. His father encouraged it, even if his mother had begun to worry. The next day he didn’t sleep, but mostly rode a horse with Aelora or walked to stay awake. They arrived at Summerhall just before sundown, but after greeting his family, Aelor escaped with Aelora to sleep. She read him to sleep, a history of Essos, volume fifteen by some Magister.

When he awoke it wasn’t early, but it wasn’t as late as his usual awakening. Mid to late morning, he guessed, before dressing lazily in black riding leather trousers and a thin black linen tunic that went just past his waist, unlaced as the Summerhall sun warmed the skin of his chest that it left exposed as he rode about the various tourney campgrounds. When he was noticed he gave polite waves, nods, and simple greetings. Maekar had teased him the day before about being ready for the ‘marketplace’ as the family indulged in chatter about potential matches for the twins, knowing full well how much the twins loathed such dull conversation.

The thought spurred him forward. It was a nervous feeling that he was unused to. He presumed it a matter of facing the unknown, dismissed it thusly, and managed to snap out of his thoughts just long enough to keep the horse from hitting the woman. The girl? “My Lady, beg your pardon.” He said, once. He was sure of that, even if the woman or girl pretended not to hear him, or just didn’t hear him. Perhaps she was lost in her own thoughts, too, so Aelor tried again. Louder.

This time, the girl’s head snapped toward him, seeing him, as he saw her, and offered a polite-sized smile on his otherwise reserved features. Girl, not woman, because she looked younger than Aelora and he, even if not by over much. Aelor’s purple eyes swept left and right, noticing the number of heads turning when he looked.

Most heads just stared. He was a Prince, the son of the Hand of the King, and heir to the throne. And unlike some members of his family, Aelor and his sister looked like Valyrian Dragon Lords of old, which meant people stared. The heads that quickly turned away? Men. Not highborn, either, from the quick glance he got of them. In the back of his mind, Aelor heard only Davik, ” Men expose their guilt with every word and act, you just have to do this long enough to see it when they do it.”

His eyes returned to the girl, the noble Lady, as he suspected the guilt behind the faces that turned away from his glance. She wasn’t ugly. Her gown looked well-fitted to her. “May I offer you a ride home?”

The woman looked startled that she had nearly run into a horse, so worried had she been at the fact she could not remember how to retrace her steps it had taken a second questioning to make her blue eyes flicker to the rider. Her head tilted as she studied the man as though judging him for a portrait, her red-blonde hair falling in curls over a shoulder. Elayne Lothston was unaware of the men who had been approaching her and her worry was dispelled as she wondered how exactly she could capture the man before her with the stroke of a brush or needle. “My apologies, your Highness.” Her voice was breathless as her cheeks flushed in embarrassment at being woolgathering when the Prince had asked a question. For Prince, he was, a Targaryen, though which one was not exactly known to her.

Twisting about, she looked at the different banners and stalls all were very delightful. Something she had never seen before and if Danelle and her father laid their hands upon her after this, would be something she would undoubtedly never see again unless through a ring of thick men-at-arm with stout clubs. Tugging at a lock of her hair in agitation and worry for that fact, she gave the Prince a beaming smile that faltered slightly. “It is very wonderful, is it not? Though I admit, I am a bit confused as to where I am exactly. Danelle will see me never set foot out of Harrenhal again.” She trailed off as that thought came to her and worry, and fear flashed down her spine. Danelle would never let her out of the tent without her, let alone the searing tone she would have to bear, and only that if she was lucky enough to keep Septa Bessa close.

“Elayne Lothston, Highness. My apologies, I am trying to place myself.” She felt as though she must seem a fool, trying to preserve all she saw and her wonder of it while being utterly lost and now making a fool of herself in front of a Prince. Never mind that her father would be having that twitch in his hand, as he did when the Targaryens were mentioned. Perhaps having run into him would spare her some of Danelle’s temper? Dipping a curtsy, she tugged at the lock of hair again and her head swiveled to scan the banners. “Father will never let me leave the castle again. Lost at a tournament. Danelle will see me fed to hounds.” Elayne spoke more to herself, seeming caught up with how best to deal with the situation at hand and the reactions she would get for it, than the actual situation at hand. Such a fool was she, Elayne tugged her hair again.

His mouth barely hinting at the smile of amusement the girl’s ranting produced within his spirit, Aelor leaned in the saddle and offered her an open hand at the end of his long, strong, arm, “None of that. Come now, I’ll see you safe.”

She took his hand before she thought. It wasn’t really in Elayne to question someone so much higher. Though she blinked in shock and stammered slightly. “No, I would hate to be a bother. Surely you have things to attend to? The tents- They must be right around the corner.” Her words were almost running over each other and but she did have one reason as to why this was a very bad idea. “I’m wearing a gown.”

His face twisted at the issue at hand. A bloody gown, he could have sighed. It took some lifting with his legs in the stirrups, and the left hand to hold the bottom hem of the damnable gown down, but in a motion that strained most of the muscles of his body he brought her closer with their hands locked, then let go, reached out to hook her waist, and carefully lift her, setting her across his lap in the saddle, the right hand taking the reins back up, the left casually placed on the outside of the thigh furthest from him. The grey Rounsey only silently gave a shake of its head, Aelora’s nameless horse taking them at a careful pace back to Summerhall, picking its way through make-shift boulevards of tent town as they headed towards palace gates.

“Forgive me,” he said loud enough only to be heard by her as they went, “my name is Prince Aelor. What House is it you are from, Lady…?”

If Balerion the Black Dread could have come out of the sky and eaten her in that instant, Elayne would have been most thankful. As it was, she gave an indignant squeak as she found herself lifted and set across the lap of the Prince, her face most likely a match for any scarlet banner. It was indecent and if her father saw, he would be drawing steel. Nothing was made better as her planned apologies were cut off by an introduction.

She resolutely wished to throw herself from the horse and into the jaws of a kraken.

Yet a question had been answered and it was rude to not reply. “House Lothston. Elayne of House Lothston of Harrenhal.” She whispered in something more of a strangled squeak. The slow plod of the horse torture within itself. “Father will see me never leaving my rooms again.” She whispered in horror, “Highness, please. It’s quite alright. I can find my own way back.” Surely her voice wasn’t so high-pitched? She was a lady, a lady’s voice did not squeak. Then again, a proper lady would not be sitting so in the lap of the son of the Heir to the Iron Throne! “Danelle is going to flay me alive.” She whispered in despair, and Danelle would for Elayne slipping away, let alone causing this mess! Then again, it would be far easier to live with Danelle than feeling this amount of heat in her cheeks. Pushing slightly, she attempted to slide from the horse, “I beg your pardon, Your Highness. I do not mean to cause you such trouble.” She whispered, mortified by the situation.

Irritation seemed to flash by his face; purple Valyrian eyes narrowed as his lips pressed, head tilting as he watched move to slide. He simply re-acquainted the hold around her and slid her up and right again, balanced once more. Though he didn’t say it, the side glance he gave was a mild, ‘quit that.’ Other than Elayne, the ride was easy; not many horses were allowed down these paths. Horses and carts were kept to exterior paths, outlying the camps, not the internal ones. It would turn them into muddy pits.

Did Prince Aelor seem to care about that? Not particularly. Did anyone seem determined to shout him out and stop him? Not really. People moved, the Aelora’s horse moving at a casual pace that people didn’t have much trouble getting out of their way. And being they were the only ones on a horse…people got out of their way.

“Lady Elayne, well met,” he began, cheerfully, before his tone grew stern and absolute in its conviction of his following words: “You mistake the situation, Elayne. You required a ride, I happily gave one. You seem to have a unique charm, and I’ve not met your Lord Father, though I’ve heard of your sister.”

He kept it singular, though he certainly could have used the plural.

“What could be the matter? What front to honor? Do you think a man insane enough to suggest anything other than the virtuous occurred here today exists in all the realm? Do you know the price for making such wild accusations against a Prince?... I don’t either, but I can’t imagine it’s any good for the accuser.”

No good for the accuser certainly, Elayne was one to agree. Though tongues would wag and people would think as they would, speaking behind hands and closed doors. She was one to read every so often when she was trapped in the boyer of the castle and she had seen the result of talk. Even if that talk could not be proven. Jeyne, who taught her some arts that Septa Bessa would have squealed at, was proof of such, though the young lady said nothing in reply and tried in vain to think of anything other than honor and virtue and the fact the man next to her was incredibly handsome. Talking at least would have proved a distraction but she had learned well when to be silent, and the last thing she wanted was to offend a man who offered to help her. Let alone offending the son of the heir!

Once they crossed the gates of Summerhall, palace guards helped the Lady down, and the Prince quickly dismounted to follow. “You seem overcome, perhaps it’s the heat of the day or the dizzying nature of the large crowds in every direction? You must stay and rest, the understewards will find you a cool place to rest.” As he said it, he looked past her, motioning to one of the officious-looking men wearing Targaryen colors on their tunic, buzzing about the outer courtyard of Summerhall, before motioning to her. He seemed to understand and headed in their direction. “We will invite your Lord Father and sister to dinner.”

“Prince Aelor, how may I assist?” He said it with a bow, eyeing the Prince and the Lady like he dreaded what came next.

Aelor didn’t seem to notice, “Lady Elayne will require a room to rest in.”

Elayne began to protest, but it was the Understeward who cut in, “Prince, there are no rooms. The palace is past full, there are no appropriate accommodations for the Lady.”

“Alright,” he said, looking down and thinking, “She can have mine.”

Elayne’s terror was plain enough for those that knew what it looked like, and what sparked it in the first place. The voice that swooped in was sweetly pitched with a rich, warm, layer always there in whispers and more quietly spoken words, but now came across like a fanfare of trumpets announcing an arrival: “Place the Lady Elayne in my room, Qarltin, thank you.”

A gown of jet black samite with a tight-laced bodice with shining red lace came swooping into view as the source of the voice, baring shoulders and the tops of the breasts under a short span of similarly glittering red lace, sleeves and skirts settling from the sway of the young woman’s fast, flowing, movement to arrive within the group that had just arrived. A young woman of a beauty that seemed like it belonged to another time, in an age of heroes, before the Doom, the hair and eyes of a Dragon Lord, even if it was a term she rarely used. Purple Valyrian eyes set squarely on Elayne, awaiting introduction.
An arrival that seemed to please Prince Aelor just fine, motioning to the new arrival, then Elayne, “...better idea. Elayne, this is Princess Aelora, my twin sister.”

Aelora’s nature was warm, even disarming. It was as if Aelor had helped people before, and Aelora knew well enough to try to make the person he brought feel more at ease. In the case of Lady Elayne, that was easy: Aelora could relate to Elayne far better than Aelor could. If Elayne didn’t pass out soon from shock, Aelora would be impressed, giving a gentle nod and a happy little smile. “Lady Elayne of House Lothston, very nice to meet you.”
“We’re inviting her family to dinner. Think we can do the duck?”
Aelora chuckled, “With the cherry?”


She smiled large enough to contain the laughter she almost gave, instead, “We brought Rem and his wife with us. I spent an hour finding their kitchen space. I’m sure I could find duck…just your father and sister? So five total?”

In a snap, the twins had started planning dinner before even looking at Elayne, the kind of thing the twins were known to do, before Aelora stopped, looked at Elayne, and thought to ask just who, and more importantly how many, were being invited.

Blue eyes stared at the twins, her jaw held firmly close against the need to gap at how she had found her life jerked up into a saddled at sat before dragons. Hesitating, the woman, she was a woman, dipped a belated and rather elegant curtsy to Aelora. Her features were as open as any book as they settled in adoring thankfulness. "I-" Her voice shook slightly and she swallowed. She was not Danelle to demand answers, nor was she the stubborn, smiling girl she could remember of Alysanne. "I think I had best take you up on your offer, Your Highness?" How had that come out as a question? She desperately needed to sit down and think. Some place quiet, someplace where could awaken in her tent and find it all some strange dream and have Septa Bessa standing over her tutting.

Of course, her eyes took that skeptical look of judgment. Wide and innocent but weighing. They were both beautiful, the shape of their faces, their coloring, she longed for paint or needle or weft. Blinking, she pushed those thoughts away. "My apologies, I get lost in thought. Five. Lord of Harrenhal Manfryd of House Lothston, my father, and, my sister, Danelle of House Lothston." She agreed to the earlier question. Downright lost, and then snatched off a tournament street so it seemed! Her fingers pulled at a curl of hair in distress as she felt horribly out of her depth, and it was so much more than that.

Her father hated Targaryens, for their slight against giving his father a spoiled wife, then dismissing him from court with his father when mother and daughter have shamed the family. He would come to dinner, with the sword and demand to have her back and her honor restored. Never mind that she had lost none. In that Prince, Aelor was mistaken. Angry men would talk and use any chance to stroke their fury. She had seen her father do it often enough. Tugging the lock of hair again, Elayne nodded meekly. She could see the avalanche or horror that was coming and could only hope that Danelle would range their father in.

"It would be an honor to join Your Highnesses, though I must warn you, for the kindness, you have shown me, my father will take this badly." She whispered, "I would not like to bring you trouble, nor him." Danelle would contain herself, until later. Then she would demand answers and Elayne would have none. She tugged her curl again, looking distinctly worried. What on earth had the Prince been thinking? A unique charm? Her?

Perhaps there was Targaryen madness in him? She hoped not, he was a kind man so far and good. If perhaps stubborn but most men were. A slight flush crept unto her cheeks and she added a hasty, 'Your Highness'.

At the courtesy added with haste, Aelor just smiled and motioned for her to follow. The distance from that courtyard to her chamber wasn’t short. The halls of the palace were packed with servants, pages, squires, lords, and ladies. Aelor could almost hear her uncle Maekar grumbling about the number of noble children about. As soon as they stepped into the palace and turned into a long corridor they were having to press themselves nearer the walls as a small army of servants carried enough wine to flood a bedchamber to the ceiling.

It took so long that Aelor struck up a conversation with a Lady Laylah of House Erenford, stuck against the wall like everyone else, on the other side of a small table between Aelora and the elder Lady of Erenford, beginning the chat with a curious, “How many years has it been, Lady Laylah?” Before the white-haired and age-wrinkled woman responded with a pained laugh that it had been at least two since Aelor and Aelora had toured the Riverlands, and met so many, the elder Lady Laylah included. Aelora apologized for the inconvenience and promised to send her own Maester as purple eyes noticed Laylah’s hands gripping her left hip under her gown.

When the train of servants was gone in a minute more, Aelora helped the woman because every single eye in the corridor was on the Targaryen Princess, and they would move for her, and so long as she helped the elder Lady get started down the corridor they moved for Lady Laylah too.

Then there was a blockage in the eastern stair. There were no servants to blame here, they weren’t allowed on the eastern stair, just some lingering that had turned into some words exchanged which had turned into less appropriate words. Aelora laughed loudly, tilting her head towards Elayne, and saying loud enough to be heard, “It’s true. I really do pity any man who causes a scene in the Prince of Summerhall’s home. The things I’ve seen that man do…” Her head shook, sadly, in a jest so dry it would be impossible to tell where humor began or ended, and where truth began or ended.

The stairs started moving, a group of young Lords moving aside and insisting the two Ladies go ahead. They were polite enough with their words, but their eyes Aelora could feel until they turned the corner to go up the final bit of stairs. Two older men in finery were whispering near the stairs, pausing for the two young Ladies to pass. Targaryen men-at-arms stood sentinel almost everywhere they looked, including outside her door.

“This is Lady Elayne,” Aelora explained to Timm and Ed, left of the door and right of the door, before opening the door and inviting Elayne in with the formality of a Princess raised in royal residences all her life. The space was mostly bed with the outer wall lined with windows draped in delicate white that pooled on the floor just barely and a balcony beyond, lined with small trees and flower bushes grown in ornate clay pots, while the interior was a large bed and a round table room enough for six, at most, and a table off to the side for basin and her stock of candles. Just inside the door and to the left was a long, narrow, table hugging the wall that was covered in books, at least a dozen, as well as a seeing glass, and an empty space where books had been shoved aside that was covered with various parchments, with drawings in thick black lines of structures not familiar to any Westerosi, and letters half written, at least three, in three different languages; High Valyrian, Braavosi, and Volantene.

The bed was a mix of furs and linens and finer fabrics beneath, where the bed met the wall was a mass of pillows in a rainbow of colors and varying fabrics that reached no less than three feet from the bed itself. She motioned to the two bottles at the table’s center; with four empty cups standing adjacent. The blue bottle, she explained, was a rare sweetwine she recommended from Dorne while the red was a sweet cider. There were apples, oranges, and grapes littered around the bottles and cups, to which Aelora simply told Elayne to help herself should she want.

The look in Elayne’s eyes reminded Aelora that she hadn’t said anything to Elayne the entire way there. Her expression remained serene, her tone as calm and happy as the courtyard before, her lips curving to a rueful tiny smile. “I understand, Lady Elayne. Truly. It is a tale I’ve witnessed many times before. You may breathe. This looks like your first time in such a setting, with the people, and the politics, and the never-ending never-ending? I promise this is not my first day as a Targaryen Princess. You may believe that and relax. At least until we dine. I’ll send one of my ladies to go with our messenger to your family as they deliver the invitation to pick out a gown for tonight among your things. Your sister’s sense of style is infamous and insults the Gods, so I must send my own trusted agent.”

There was amusement twinkling in those lavender eyes as she reminded herself she had no time for such amusements. “Yes, well, if you need another thing ask one of the fine men outside. The cuter of the two is the nicer of the two, as well, or at least the one less nervous about speaking to us. They’ll go with you if you need anything or wish to go anywhere…yes,” she said, looking this way, that way, back again to this way, before issuing a little sigh and nodding to, apparently, herself, “Rest well, Lady Elayne.”

The whirlwind of Targaryen siblings swept her from her feet again and Elayne found herself led down halls and along stairs packed with an array of people she had never seen before. Of course, the cousins visited from time to time on their journeys about the realm, but Harrenhal's halls often echoed and rarely were so full. Still, Elayne followed and watched, helping Aelore as she could with the elderly Lady Laylah, giving disapproving frowns that were more curious than anything to the men who caused problems, and she watched.

The princess was skilled and practiced at handling these situations. A skill Elayne wished she could boast herself. Giving a small sigh as they're achieving the elaborate rooms, she could hardly believe these were borrowed and not her rooms in truth. Much had been brought along the road and it was befitting a princess. But then the woman spoke her bit and Elayne's stomach knotted. "Danelle has a well-thought-out sense of style." Which did not always suit Elayne's own tastes, but her first reaction was to defend her sister without thought or reason. Feeling heat flood her cheeks, she looked away. Her hands smoothed over her silk gown as she recalled that Danelle had chosen it. Did it look so horrible?

Seeing as Aelora planned to leave her, Elayne's thoughts broke free. The one question that she could hardly keep in. "Your Highness? I do not mean to sound ungrateful for this honor but I must ask, why?" Her soft voice was tense with worry and confusion. The hurt about her own gown which she thought looked rather nice plain in her delicate voice. "I worry this shall cause problems for you and I would not wish that. Your brother says no one would speak of a Prince's honor, and forgive me for doing so, but my Father's sister is Jeyne Lothston. I well know people's whispering, even about kings, can disparage honor. Surely you must see that?" She knew that her cheeks must be flaming and her gaze drifted to the floor before snapping back to Aelora. Firmly taking this point to try and protect the honor of the man who had helped her. Prince or no, it was the right thing to do.

Aelora just smiled. "Is a grown Lady gaining a few new friends from an odd family really so dishonorable, Lady Elayne?"

There was a meekly suffering look as Aelora dodged her question! Yet she could not call the Princess out without being rude. Giving a defeated sigh, no one would reveal things to her ever it seemed, she dropped a curtsy to the woman. "No, Your Highness. I suspect not." Why did she think the sister would be any different from her brother? "I believe I shall rest as you so wisely suggested. I feel I have need." She felt as though she had been picked up and tossed into a whirlwind and found her feet only to land firmly on her bottom again. If her voice was a bit dry, who was to notice? "Please, if I may be of service in any way, Your Highness, I would be glad to be of assistance." She gave Aelora a hopeful look. Elayne would not see their kindness and care go without return.

She hoped Targaryen madness did not come in pairs with twins, but it seemed so. Surely there could be no other answer to this madness and they had offered no other reason!

“You can help me set up dinner when it’s closer to time. We’ll have to chase down plates, cups…everything not nailed down or reserved for my uncle seems to be fair game as a dozen meals get served in these walls, alone, never mind the dozens more outside these walls…” Aelora lingered at the door a moment, the corner of her eye-catching the table near the door, and the letters. Her lips drew grim as she sighed lightly and shuffled papers into appropriate books, where she kept them.
“My brother has an eye for people in need, Elayne. He’s…forgetful, at times cold, at times unthoughtful, and so much more…but he’s always had a good heart. If you’re worried about the why I wouldn’t. Because he wants to, and I’ve known him and his choices long enough to be intrigued, too. So enjoy being intriguing, Lady Elayne.” Words punctuated with a small chuckle as she looked back to Elayne, bidding her rest easy.

The woman flushed and gave a weak protest that Prince Aelor was certainly not unthoughtful, or forgetful and certainly not cold! Stammering over the words, she fell silent with a shake of her head in disagreement. Firm disagreement, and accepted the bid that she rest and a promise of her aid for the hunt in such elusive things. Though she meekly added she would fair better with a guide.

House Lothston
Shield in the Darkness

The servants were scattered and their ceaseless clucking over their appointed tasks. There were days when Danelle felt like she was a farm wife with hens and herding cats, though there would be no worse fate than that if her father found her unfit to find a husband to suit his needs. They did a delicate dance about each other with Elayne in the middle. The woman ran a hand over her dress of dark green silk and light blue, attractive colors that suited her well she thought. Of course, she would rather be in armor and snapping men down to their knees. “Oh, isn’t it lovely! All the dashing knights and the fashion!” What little peace was shattered as her reason for galavanting about sighed dreamily at a rather large man in armor passed. The armor was well made and the man a knight Danelle had heard of before, but not one suitable to take Elayne for wife and the Lothston’s name.

“Sister.” Oh, how she had to keep her tone even and away from that sharp edge that was so natural. Light and lady-like. Several of their guards shifted about them and the women watched as a group of Northmen rode by. Stark men if she was any guess. “We will see these knights thump each other with sticks and try to bash their brains out while they drown in drink and women. We are to stand out among the women so that we might be approached.”

We, being Elayne as both women were aware. The younger sister, adjusted the lilac gown that hung on her, a slightly dated gown but no less beautiful. Danelle approved. It had been one of Jeyne’s that the woman had urged Elayne to take. Suitable for the end of summer and Elayne’s coloring, it accented all the parts a man would look at while being perfectly modest. An alteration that had been discussed lengthily before Elayne had set to altering it. Snapping a fan open, Danelle crossed an arm under her chest and eyed a lad wandering the crowd. A Northman with a feckless charm. A rogue, though his clothing spoke of someone highborn.

“Danelle?” The small voice of Elayne trailed off as she studied the unwary Ashe Stark. A handsome fellow to the younger sister, though hardly comparable to some of the knights in their impressive armor that spoke of victory in the lists. “Oh, he is impressive.” Her light voice did not reveal her true feelings of ambivalence. She was to charm and simper over any man who seem to meet approval in Danelle’s or their Father’s eyes. She privately hoped for a young man from the Reach, a place with more even weather, there was little to do in the North except wade through snow and wish for the winter to end according to her books. No, all the great love stories came from the South. Skittering about a puddle in the ground, Elayne swallowed as she saw Danelle snag the arm of a servant carrying a jug of wine. There was little worse than Danelle drunk, and she hoped the woman was not annoyed enough for that.

Danelle, for her part, had seized the arm of the servant and with a skeptical look gave a sharp bark of command. “You there, where can I find the camp of House Bracken?” Ignoring the questionable look that Elayne sent her, their mother had been a Blackwood after all. The man looked startled at being accosted by a Lady and stammered his reply even as Danelle leveled a far more chilling smile at the man. “What about the Blackwoods?”

“Blackwood? Aye. They have arrived and set their tents over on the western side, Mi’Lady, but the Brackens have not yet-” Anything else was cut off as Danelle turned away, abruptly dismissing the man who glowered at her back, the information she needed was there and that was enough for the woman. Elayne winced at the servant’s black mood and could only emphasize. Danelle was no easy woman to get along with and especially so as a servant. Sliding a coin onto the man’s platter and hoping her sister did not notice, the younger sister moved to catch up with Danelle’s stride.

Whatever plan she had going on, Elayne felt a worry stir in her. Danelle had been whispering the private corners of Harrenhal with Jeyne, just as Manfryd had been staring at maps and writing letters. Plans were being made about her, plans that keyed on her and if she leaned one way or another, the devastation would crash down on House Lothston. Elayne tucked her hands into her gown to hide the trembling. A bright smile fixed on her face as she focused her attention on the tents, the flags that snapped in the breeze, and the gallant knights. Things that could be smiled at, an enjoyment that was rare in Harrenhal. Hopefully, she would leave promised to a man and be far from the drama of her father and sister.

Spying the black ravens bordering the white tree, the flag of House Bracken, Danelle smiled coldly. Quentyn Blackwood, her cousin through her mother’s side was the current lord of Raventree Hall. A proficient man in jousting, she could see the smaller tents of his four sons. They would hardly miss an opportunity to grind Bracken noses into the dirt of the tourney ground. “My Lady Danelle!” The booming voice of Bennifer Blackwood, the second of the sons, crashed through the din of the tourney. “And this must be Elayne, well met little cousin.”

“Ser Bennifer.” Danelle bowed her head slightly as her red hair cascaded over her shoulder. “Is Lord Quentyn inside his tent?” Their mother had kept close ties to her House and Bennicott had been urged to do the same as there had been plans to send him out to squire under Quentyn, sadly that had not come to pass. Danelle couldn’t quite bring herself to mourn even now for her brother. “Your letter was most illuminating.” If it was not for her cordial relationship with the Lord of Raventree, Danelle would have urged Elayne to marry one of his sons. He had enough between the four for at least one to produce an heir and spare for the continuation of the House.

Elayne gave a small smile at her cousin and dipped a slight curtsy. “So formal!” The jovial knight bellowed a laugh that nearly caused the woman to stumble. “Aye, he is and plans to joust with the rest of us Blackwood menfolk! We will put those Brackens in the dirt and hopefully a few of their necks get broken!” Elayne looked horrified at the notion, her eyes flicking between Danelle’s grim smile and Bennifer’s.

“A glad outcome.” Danelle agreed, her stride carrying her by Bennifer and towards the largest of the tents. Giving a nod to another of the sons, she let a servant announce her before entering into a lush and well-kept interior of Quentyn’s tent. “Lord Quentyn.” She greeted and gestured for Elayne to remain outside. “Stay near.” Though it was hard to tell if the order was for her sister or the guards. There was little that could happen to Elayne within the Blackwood’s encampment. Turning her attention back to the Lord who sat on a camp stool, a sword being sharpened in his hands. A man in his forties, Lord Quentyn was a handsome fellow and a lord of note within the Riverlands as well as a relation to the Spymaster of the King. Though Danelle could not decide if he was one of Bloodraven’s eyes or not, there were always a hundred layers in the games that the court played.

“Little Danelle, not so little,” He gestured to a canvas seat near a table with a jug of Arbor red. “My sympathies for the death of young Lucas.”

“A death long past,” Danelle commented, her tone no longer light as it had been outside where potential suitors might see. “My aunt Jeyne sends her regards, and Elayne is not fit for such conversations of necessity.”

“A young woman cannot be kept from the world.”

She heard the reproach in that tone and shrugged, many of her letters had been to Raventree. “A child still in the games played. She has no skill in the world besides those befitting a simple woman.” Pouring the Arbor wine into two goblets, she picked up one as Lord Blackwood took the other. “My father remains in good health and has poor hearing. He speaks loudly.”

“Too loudly. His discontent can be heard in Dorne and is well noted. Though Harrenhal has always been questionable in the reputation of its Lords.” Taking the wine the man drank deep, with a grin. “Jeyne would be welcomed at Raventree.”

Danelle reclined back in the canvas seat and swirled the wine, staring into the red depths. “My aunt has been most useful in Harrenhal, leaving would be granting my Lord Father a victory.” She commented with a growl. “He does not intend to joust. I tried to convince him, alas. A bit of enjoyment for his old bones, but he is too worried about an accident.”

“An accident.” There was an agreement of annoyance from Quentyn. “It would be most fortunate to see the man quieted from his grumblings. He strays towards fire and brambles.”

“Brackens.” Danelle spat with annoyance, cutting to the quick with words. “Mother’s ghost would wail in Harrenhal. It would be best if a duel happened. He is not so skilled with the sword anymore.”

“You speak too openly, my lady.” The Lord warned, only for Danelle to shake her head sharply.

“I speak truthfully, Lord Quentyn.” She growled and shifted in her seat. “I will not have the Lothstons lose Harrenhal for his foolish idea of pride and vengeance against a dead man.” Danelle’s voice lowered as she growled to herself. “I have Elayne secured but a proper promising marriage being planned can pull his fangs.”

Lord Quentyn sat back and rubbed his beard as he studied the fearsome woman before. Jeyne had kept ties to the Blackwood and had passed them to Danelle and Alysanne when she had returned to Harrenhal. Letters and the odd visit when traveling kept the ties of blood alive. It was a political alliance, but one that was intended to curb Manfryd’s growling. Lord Blackwood hardly thought his cousin’s husband would do anything, but there had been whispers and rumors being spread. A nuisance more than anything else. Harrenhal had kept him in wealth and with men, though his lack of heir had been a sore spot when he looked towards Quentyn and his four sons. “As well as that would be, you speak of his death too openly, Danelle. Curb your tongue against a thousand eyes and one. Harrenhal is an unfortunate seat.”

A warning and Danelle scowled at the disapproving Riverlord. “I have had one brother dead for his foolishness, a sister who ran off into the world to die, and a second brother who was born by a lowborn whore. Most likely not even brother to me.” She pointed out with a skeptical tone. “Harrenhal has long been cursed by unfortunate death.”

“I would rather not include you, Lady Danelle. Had your father allowed it, I would have taken you as a ward but Benjicott’s death and Alysanne's disappearance put an end to that. He would not risk another child disappearing or dead.” Danelle gave the lord a cold look, this was news to her but she had known Lord Blackwood to be fond of his Harrenhal relations, if not Manfryd himself specifically. Hemming and hawing like a wild mare at the reins would get nowhere if Quentyn had made his mind up. She was to take the safe route he had chosen and it would be like moving the weirwood tree itself to convince him otherwise.

“Your affection touches me, Lord Blackwood.” She drawled, in truth, it was only blood ties that made it easy to consort with the man. Had Jeyne not recommended cooperation with her mother’s kin, Danelle would have gone her own way. A way of money, knives, poison, and blood. This was, there would be others to speak for her right to Harrenhal if it was brought into question, a point which Danelle knew she would need. The Riverlords all fought for their ideas and they were often greedy for the riches each other had. House squabbles were as dangerous as the games the greater houses played. “But let us get to business.”

Outside the tent, Elayne winced as Bennifer went on entertaining her. He spoke of duels and fights against brigands. Often a problem and, according to him, not enough of them plague Stone Henge. She loved to hear tales of distant lands and delighted in them, but when those tales were about how you hacked a man’s hand off or an ear? She cringed and kept a delicate smile on her face, praying Danelle would not be long. She was not sure she could remain thus! Taking to walking had only made Bennifer point out the men who had fought with him and who had done what deed. Elayne was silently thankful she would not be asked to marry the second son of Quentyn Blackwood and reminded herself to make an offering to the mother for that relation. Directing the man that she was feeling quite faint, Elayne ducked behind a tent and found herself in the frenzy of the tournament.

Delighted she walked along the path, her guards forgotten behind her as she considered the different houses that had come for the celebration. Surely it must be as grand as the Golden Wedding had been described by the maester. All it was missing was being in King's Landing, which was no loss in Elayne's eyes, and the swooping dragons of the past. Dodging a man pulling a reluctant horse down the makeshift street between tents, the young woman hesitated as she realized with a start she was alone. No guards surrounded her, and in her loss at the colors and frenzy of wondering at food, flags, knights, and lords she had become quite a bit lost. Pulling at a lock of her hair, she frowned and stared about her. Looking for the flag of either Lothston or Blackwood. Surely she had not wandered so far, yet there was no sign of either and no sound of Bennifer's bray over the din. A flush rose in her cheeks and she thought of Danelle's order for her to remain close and outside the tent. Her elder sister would be in a fury over this, though if she could find her way back there would be no one the wiser. She had simply been around the corner was all! Swallowing hard, Elayne felt a lump in her stomach as she wandered the stalls and tents, Danelle would have her hide for this. She could hear her now, belittling her sense for wandering off on her own when she had never even been out of Harrenhal castle alone before! She was rarely alone even in Harrenhal! Her steps kept to a delicate walk, though her eyes were a bit panicked as she pulled that lock of hair again. Where were the tents!

I'm back alive! Hit me up for rp!
House Lothston

Danelle Lothston

Danelle sat her dark mare, the creak of the carriage’s wheels echoing through the singing of songbirds that fluttered through the King’s Wood. It was idyllic and the time was better spent riding than letting Elayne prattle about how lovely a day it was. The girl’s head was flying higher than even the Targaryen dragons had only a century ago. She could hear the muffled voices of Septa Bessa and Elayne from the carriage, the former patient and well used to the latter’s frivolous chatter. Glancing with a practiced eye over the train of soldiers that escorted them with her father sitting on his bay at the head dressed in white and yellow with slashes of black that did nothing to compliment his appearance. Elayne, bless the girl, did have a head for fashion and given a chance she would have him out of the buffoonery and into something that would not draw shame to the family. She suspected that particular tunic had been acquired while she was still just a shadow beside Benjicot. Her face tightened with hatred as she remembered her bastard brother.

Heeling the mare, Danelle Lothston sent the horse trotting up the line. Uncaring of the fact it was not what a proper lady would do. A ‘proper lady’ would be in the carriage and have the same dreams as Elayne. Dreams far from what Danelle had in mind. Hers involved Elayne and a husband, but one that would produce heirs for their House. Heirs she could tutor once they were of the age that they would no longer leave messes about and were competent, before then she would see that Elayne had all the wondrous joys of motherhood that Septa Bessa droned on about when teaching them their letters and needlepoint. The mere thought of babes sent Danelle to wanting retch over a privy. She had seen the small folk with their squalling brats. Taking a breath of the clean forest air, she steadied herself and checked that her face was in that cold impassive mask. As heir to Harrenhal, it was her father’s precognitive that she has an heir and spare for their house if he did not produce one himself before the Stranger took him.

"You do not have any choice but to attend. A tournament housed by a son, even the fourth son, of a Targaryen King? If you keep looking for power there are those who will be interested in bargaining there." The woman leaning in the crooked window looked out over the rolling fields of Harrenhal, her red-gold hair streaked with strands of silver and curled about a delicately pale neck. Still a beauty despite the years that gently touched her, Jeyne Lothston lounged against the cold stone in a gown of thick wool. Once she would have worn silk, her husband had always clothed her in it. Danelle could remember her mother sometimes slipping away with her youngest child to talk to the woman. Years later, after her mother's death, she had learned they were talking of herbs and men.

Draped across the chair that was lined with furs and silks and not at all feeling like a lady, Danelle stared at the chess board before her. Pieces scattered about in disarray as she shoved her curling red hair from her face. "The Blackwoods are hardly any help. They are solidly behind Daeron. Father still whispers with the other Riverlords and sulks. The old whisper that the Good King is nothing more than the Dragon Knight's bastard with Queen Naerys." Setting a pawn of black on a map of the Riverlands, Danelle studied the white pawn that hung over the Brackens. She still was unsure of what that particular House believed. The grand niece of a Blackwood Lord she saw little reason to risk sticking her hand into that bramble patch. "Elayne's marriage must be to the advantage."

Jeyne looked away from the fields she would never walk in. Her Lord brother had forbidden her from leaving Harrenhal, since the day she had been shipped back after her husband's death. Trading silks for wool and her subtle arts for those in the darkest of shadows. Of course, there had been some benefits. With three daughters and a commoner wife, the children would learn little of Court or how a woman of station was to be. So she had taught them. Danelle had been an apt pupil, just as much as her elder sister. The Heir to Harrenhal stamped on the thought of Alysanne. The wretched child she had been was little more than a nuisance and her disappearance had been advantageous. Being second in line, Danelle had no doubt her father would have had her promised off to a lord and Alysanne would be with her first child already. Spying her aunt's concerned look, Danelle forced her rage-filled face to the usual mask of blankness again.

A hand still free of time and graceful, though looking worn for having to take the task of a ladies' maid, ran over Danelle's shoulders. "Do not fret. My brother is not in the best of health and his eyesight is poor. Stir the tides correctly, let his anger ride the currents, and win or lose you might find yourself with what you want if you are not foolish."

"If." The word tasted vile on her tongue. "I do not play the game of battering my eyelashes."

"You are a woman, like it or no." Danelle's head jerked back as she felt the sharp nails of Jeyne, a self-proclaimed Targaryen bastard among certain circles, prick the back of her neck. The other’s voice was as cold as ice. "I taught you how to appeal to both men and women. We are women in a world where men get to weigh the gold and decide what is balanced. We play the Great Game."

Her husky voice snarled back in equal threat. "You lost your round, and Grandmother Falena as well." Jeyne glared at her niece and gave her a sweet smile that bared teeth.

"We lost, but we still live."

"Valar Morghulis." Danelle sighed the words more to herself, consciously stopping her hand from rubbing the back of her neck. Jeyne had been correct. Alliances had to be formed never mind what her father intended. Manfryd had never cared for his sister and Danelle could understand why. The scorn and shame, the further blackening of the name when they sat as owners of the land that was rich but well thought of as cursed. Sometimes she even had to wander it herself. Leaning back in the saddle she let the horse choose its own pace. There were plans to lay if she was going to hasten her Lord Father's meeting with the Stranger.

Elayne Lothston

“Oh, I do hope to meet a lord of some note.” The wistful voice belonged to a woman young and in love with the idea of romance. A novice to the realities of the world and on her way to the first of the tournaments and gatherings where she would be presented a prize. A broodmare for sale, Elayne thought critically. Though she quickly swept the nonsense aside. There was not a thing she could do in brooding about a future she had no chance to control. Already she was silently copying Septa Bessa, a wisened old woman, for the reply she knew by rote.

“You will marry a man of standing and to the advantage of your father and sister so that she might marry to continue the legacy of House Lothston. It would do you well to remember that child.” Child, she was a woman newly grown. The whole world was full of delights she was sure, the beauty of the Vale with its towering mountains, the fields of golden harvest that was spoken of the Reach, and even the icy chill of the North had to have some beauty. Privately she hoped her father would not send her to a Dornish husband, a place of sand and dust and savages with strange customs and not a faithful man among them. Leaning against the side of the carriage she watched Danelle, dark and fearsome Danelle, heel her horse after their father. She was free to ride, the heir. If Elayne had been free to do the same she would be pleading with her father to change his choice of outfit for the trip. White and yellow were their house colors, but let them be against the black, subtle. Not the overwhelming scheme that made the eyes water and him look ill!

” A faithful man!” Danelle laughed harshly as Elayne looked over at her sister at the worn desk she had taken from the small library. “There is no such thing and you would do well to remember that. Brother, father, or son. All a man wants is the most he can get out of a woman.” Danelle has been wearing a dark silk dress that set her eyes alight with the hatred that constantly burned there. For as long as Elayne could remember Danelle had only a handful of ways to react to things and this suited the scorn she so often wore with servants and the smallfolk.

Elayne gathered her skirts and shifted in the seat next to the window, adjusting the book she had been reading. “Surely all men are not the same, some must be faithful.” Though she had no misgivings that men were, for the most part, unfaithful. Her father had taken a commoner, and most likely his mistress, for his wife. The Harlot, as her stepchildren had proclaimed her, had nearly ruined them financially. For all that Elayne felt pity for the woman’s death only days after Lucas had died, she could not give herself the proper grief for the woman herself. Let alone her half-brother. The boy had been a right terror, breaking things and getting nothing but a ‘he is the heir and should be strong-willed’ from their father.

“Men, dearest sister, are pigs who act as though they are wolves.” That tone filled with patience was a warning for her to drop it. Elayne had only not dropped it once when they were children and she kept pressing Danelle to agree that Alysanne would be a good heir for Harrenhal. Looking down at her book, she stifled a sigh. Recalling it was the only time Danelle had raised a hand to slap her rather than pinch her.

Septa Bessa was prattling on still about her duties to House Lothston and Harrenhal. Elayne let the woman chatter on as she nodded meekly and tried to smile politely. At least she could recall this lecture as well as any other she had been given by Father and Danelle. Each contradicted the other with how she was to attract a man’s interest and whom would be fitting. For Father, he wanted a son of a noble house of note. One that would give a strong alliance to Harrenhal and bring them up in the world while Danelle took a third or fourth son who could take the Lothston name. Even a bastard son would do for Danelle, her father had proclaimed within the woman’s hearing. Elayne could still picture the slight jerk of fury that hand curled Danelle’s hands at that. With Danelle? It was Elayne who would collect the admiration meant for her. Those third or fourth or bastard sons would fall at Elayne’s feet and of her pick, she could have any. So long as they agreed to take House Lothston’s name. That had been delivered each night since the tournament had been announced. “Girl, are you listening?!”

The youngest of the Lothston daughters paused as she looked at the Septa with a sheepish smile. “Yes.” Any more acknowledgment was plowed over as the Septa continued with her lecture. There went her attention slipping away, and the result of it! Now the woman would repeat herself, and this time with comparisons to Danelle and poor Alysanne who must be at the bottom of the God’s Eye!

Alysanne, it had been a while since Elayne had remembered her eldest sister. Her blue eyes burned with slight tears, she missed the kind, willful sister who would gently explain things and teach her small games. Such memories were further away as the years passed, but against Danelle’s firm hand and Father’s gruff approval of her meekness. It would be nice to have someone to laugh with. Letting herself lean back against the seat as the carriage rocked along the road, she recalled that it had been Jaehaerys Targaryen who had carved these grand things into the land. Wistfully she let her gaze wander out to the realm's woods and smiled at the sight of a rabbit watching the procession pass. Such innocence in a world where it was just another piece of meat.

Manfryd Lothston, Lord of Harrenhal

Staring at the road that wound through the Kingswood, the Lord of Harrenhal pointedly ignored his third child, second daughter, and heir to his seat lest he acquires a wife and produce another son. It was something of a sore point of the Lord. He longed for a proper heir for Harrenhal leaving him able to wed off his two remaining children to Houses that would increase their standing and weight. Then perhaps he could more fully secure the future of House Lothston and restore some of the respect his sister and fool mother had lost. Never mind that Harrenhal had been gifted them by King Viserys. Gloved fingers tightened on the reins as his stallion champed at the bit. A land with a wealth of gold to soothe the wound of pride caused by his son, surely Viserys had no idea that his son would take mother and daughter both when they returned to court or the scorn that would follow from those whispers! It had been thus and the Lordship of Harrenhal had fallen to him far too soon when his father had been taken by the Stranger. Burdened with a good wife, a good lordship, and those whispers he had been content til Cerena had died and then his heir. A joke of the Seven that when he had looked for a second wife no other lord had a daughter to spare. “Father,” Danelle’s voice always cold and as hollow as Harrenhal interrupted his thoughts. “Perhaps we should think of camp if we wish Elayne in comfort.”

There was nothing more to be said past that. For his comfort, it was well known that Manfryd cared nothing, but his youngest daughter had been the last child of his beloved wife. Elayne was the jewel of House Lothston though seldom seen outside of the ruins of Harrenhal. Raising a hand, the train of carriages, a few carts, soldiers, and horses turned into a suitable clearing. The ruckus of camping being put up and comforts laid out for their Lord and Lady scaring away any possible game, which was well enough. Manfryd had no wish to hunt. He was a fit man but stress weighed on him and he could feel the soreness that crept into his bones from being in a saddle day in and day out for weeks. Soon, the smell of cooking was filling the clearing and the Lord of Harrenhal was satisfied enough with the arrangement that he retired to his tent.

What he found made him stiffen in insult. Danelle sat behind his writing table, her eyes cold as she looked over documents meant for him. The girl had always been full of herself, of course, she took the responsibility of taking over the Lordship someday seriously. With a pang, he wished she was a son, then there would no longer be hang-ups about marriage, her cold demeanor would be of no matter to any wife who would only look at the riches of Harrenhal. “You will flirt and charm when we reach the Tournament.” The order fell into the stony silence and Danelle’s pale green eyes flickered to meet his own icy blue ones. “You will do this, Danelle. Even if their fathers argue, I shall have a son married to you and taking the Lothston bat for his House before the Tournament is over or I shall find a distant cousin.”

The woman rose from the seat and gave a stiff curtsy that was low and just a hair too deep for sincerity. “As you wish, Father.” Her voice was still that hollow coldness that would send any suitor running rather than fall into her arms. Gritting his teeth, Manfryd gripped the woman’s shoulder. She stood of the same height as him. Tall, how she would make a good son. His grip tightened and still, Danelle showed no sign of discomfort though he could see the hatred in her eyes, or could he? She always seemed so empty.

“I know you whisper with Jeyne, the old bat.” He snarled in an undertone lest a servant or soldier hear him admit to relation to the bastard who posed as a Lothston. “I know she sank her claws into you. Trust me, Danelle. There is nothing that Jeyne will not say to get what she wants. There is nothing she will not do. We must act and improve the standing of our House against the folly she committed. If it were not for that I would-!”

Her own words cut in and Manfryd felt fury boil in him. “You would have a son? No, what house would have ties with a man who thought he whispered so softly yet all the Riverlands can hear his discontent? You are a fool.”

“I am your father and Lord of Harrenhal, when I say toad you jump girl!” His reply was a strangled snarl as he stopped himself from shouting. He wanted to roar at the imputent wench, Jeyne had sunk her claws deep and he thought perhaps too deep. “Look at Elayne, you shall behave as you ought. A lady to charm and wed or I shall find a husband to name my heir and you to marry them. That is my will.”

“As you have said.” Her tone was ever as empty and her eyes bleak. Did the woman have no emotion whatsoever? Releasing her, he hear her walk from the tent and leaned over the writing desk. A blacksmith with a stout build would do her nicely. Someone she could not shove around, he thought. If it came to that. He would prefer a noble husband and a son within the year of their marriage. A grandson to name his heir with Danelle to be the regent for the Lordship.

But there were other reasons to go to the gathering as well. A tournament held by a Prince of the Realm would attract more than suitors and things best kept off of letters could be discussed. Urging that could not be put on paper without it being called treason and that evidence found by Bloodraven. Manfryd sat heavily in a canvas chair, drawing a goblet of wine left poured by some servant for his return to him. A bastard sat on the throne while the rightful heir was called such. King Aegon IV, may he rest in peace, had given Daemon Blackfyre the sword of kings and thus made his will known. That the throne had passed the bastard of his brother and wife? It was appalling enough, made worse by the man marrying a Dornish whore. The Young Dragon had things right, Dorne would need to be conquered and made to kneel, not this business of marrying them into the realm and allowing them to keep their ‘Princes’ and ‘Princesses’ of Dorne. Taking a long drink from the cup, the man studied the surface of the Harrenhal vintage. It was no arbor red, but the drink was good enough for him and it was no Dorne poison that circulated on the roads now!

Snarling to himself, he thought of how perhaps a nice arrow in the right spot would solve the problem of having a Dornish ‘Prince’ and ‘Princess’. Urging Daemon Blackfyre to declare for himself and take his rightful place? The Prince would be grateful for the support, and a position at court might open up to House Lothston once again. Not as Hand, no that position had its own problems. No as Master of Whispers he could depose Bloodraven and make the realm tremble of him instead. Taking another drink, Manfryd smiled at the thought. Lord Manfryd of House Loshston, Lord of Harrenhal, Master of Whisper, and all the realm would be eager to please him as he bowed before King Daemon Blackfyre. Yes, he liked the thought very much.

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