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20 days ago
Current Depends on who you're writing with, but it's always advised to talk about your combat post intentions beforehand with involved parties, if nothing else. They're (mostly) like choreographed fights.
2 mos ago
...what is love?
3 mos ago
I have no idea what stamps on Neopets are, or Neopets, but you got this Master EffeX!
3 mos ago
Wishing people could just watch the collabs as they happen, sometimes.
3 mos ago
I'm not sure anyone wants that kind of attention.


Unless you want to offer RP, I don't care, you're better off not sending it my way.

Most Recent Posts

I've finally come to the conclusion that I will always be a batshit crazy, barefoot, free spirited, foul mouthed, Southern Applachian child.

I might be goth, or a hippie from time to time - but I'll always default back to the little girl that likes to play in the river.

Would be disappointed if this was anything but the true reality.

Mina Tyrell // @Espada Emi

The Sept of Upper River Road had not been what Dake had expected. Instead of just serving one or two Septons of the Sept, he found himself running around what the Faithful called the septry—the Septry of the River as the Faithful called it. The Sept, itself, was part of it, but there was more to it: there was the common hall, the infirmaries, the scriptoriums, the dormitory, the kitchens, a brewhouse, the cells, the gardens, the Sept, and the small Sept. And that didn’t even include all them other outbuildings.

Rarely did Dake find himself helping an actual Septon, of which there were more than two, he learned. Instead, there were Protectors and Holy Brothers, though mostly they just called themselves brothers, and even then, there was an Elder Brother apart from the Septons and the Proctors and the rest of the Brothers. Dake didn’t understand it all yet, but they just told him to listen more than he talked and respond to someone asking something of him with “Yes, brother” or “No, brother.”

He helped with the garden some days, but mostly he scrubbed floors when he wasn’t helping in one of them infirmaries. Brother Stohl told him the Sept of the River had the most, and largest, infirmaries in the Reach, maybe all of Westeros. The bile and the blood and the vomit and the spit and the piss…Dake didn’t know all them bodies held so many things, and he was used to the streets of Oldtown. But Dake didn’t waiver none, Brother Stohl called Dake blessed by the Seven because nothing seemed to turn his stomach.

The worst of it was the early mornings, but Dake got pretty good at waking up before even his mother, often sneaking out and making it to the Septry in time for the morning prayer. Because if you didn’t make it to the early morning prayer, you didn’t get to break your fast with the brothers, and Dake liked the stew the brothers typically had in the morning. After that was the work.

But after that was the mid-day meal, which was usually the same vegetable stew. After mid-day meal he’d sometimes be told to see Proctor Robin in the scriptorium. Dake wasn’t allowed to touch anything down there, but he would scrub floors, and the Proctor and Brothers who worked there would show him numbers and letters. Dake could write to ten, which made Brother Otho proud, cause none of them other ‘street boys’ did that half as fast as Dake was able to do it. The faster and more he learned, the more Dake was told to go work in the scriptorium, and Dake liked Brother Stohl the best, but the infirmaries were full of groaning and crying and sometimes worse.

The scriptorium was quiet, peaceful like. Dake liked that. It was Brother Otho who tapped his shoulder today as Dake went about scrubbing the stone floor, whispering in his ear about someone asking for him. They wasn’t allowed past the gatehouse ‘cause they was a girl, said Brother Otho. Dake rushed, ‘cause if the Proctor caught him gone too long it’d mean trouble, Brother Otho warned him. But at the gatehouse he was met by Septon Arlo. Arlo was old, thin, with shoulder length white hair and a blind eye…but he was the nicest man Dake ever met ‘sides Brother Pater.

And Proctor Robin wouldn’t do nothing if Septon Arlo said it was okay. Septo Arlo looked out for all the other boys in the Septry, too.

“Dake? You have a visitor,” The Septon said, as he moved aside, and motioned the Brothers at the gate to let the visitor into the gatehouse. Dake blinked when he saw Cissy.

“They don’t have girls here, Cis.”

“Go on,” Arlo gently urged the girl, with a calm tone and warm smile, like he was everyone’s grandsire, “you are safe here, child.”

Something wasn’t okay, though, Dake saw it. Dake could always see that kind of thing, and Cissy’s skin wasn’t usually so pale, and she never looked scared. Nothing scared her, except maybe Big Bill. “What is it, Cissy?”

The girls big eyes went to the Septon, to the Brothers of the Gate, before slowly falling back to Dake, “It’s your mum, Dake, you gotta come quick.”

Silence was the response. Dake just blinked, again, thinking…he’d seen his mother this morning. She was tired, but she was always tired, her labor was long and hard, she always said, but she was glad to do it, she also always said.

“Go, Dake. You may return on the morrow, I will explain it to Proctor Robin.”

Dake felt himself nod and leave with Cissy. Outside the gate she took his hand, which just made him feel more confused. Cissy didn’t hold no hands, but now she was squeezing his, “What’s wrong with—”

And then it just burst out of Cissy, like a cry that was all hushed talking, like she was afraid they’d be heard, “Big Bill needs your help, Dake! He said only you can help him, said it’s about your mother, and there’s gold in it. Real gold, Dake. But we got to hurry!”

Dake just ran with Cissy after she all but pulled him along by the hand at first. Dake tried looking back when he thought he heard someone shout out to him, but Cissy just yanked all the harder, leading them quickly down an alley, down a shortcut.

Scrapstone Alley once wound behind the North Silver Street. Disease had cleared out most of the shops and homes that had boxed it in tightly on its southern side, leaving Scrapstone Alley wider than most streets in Oldtown in some places. Though it was mostly mud and exposed foundations with nothing left on them instead of cobblestone, there were still one of two buildings that had been gutted by fire, or further disease, or banditry. The Square of Scrapestone was the largest ‘square’ of the alley. Its where Big Bill had held court for the past two years, after stabbing another, older, street urchin in the neck to take control of the band of urchins they called the Scrapestone Boys. Where once it had been makeshift seats and benches and tables filled with urchins of nearly all ages, some of the bordering buildings used for hideouts and makeshift brothels of the girls ruled by the Scrapestone Boys, when Dake and Cissy got closed, they saw now the square was bordered only by the mail and blue cloaked members of the Oldtown City Watch. At least a dozen of them.

Death and blood was everywhere. Big Bill’s body was broken and bloody, headless, thrown aside his big chair. All the others boys and girls Dake knew for years were laying around, some looking asleep, others with heads missing, or giant gashes flowing with guts and blood where they had once been whole. In Big Bill’s old big chair was a large man, shoulder length black hair, face covered in black hair. He didn’t look old, but he didn’t look young, neither, to Dake. Dake turned around, but his heart sank when he saw more of the City Watch when just moments ago had been the alley. Dake knew a trap when he saw one. When he looked to Cissy, she wouldn’t look at him, even as the members of the Watch behind them grabbed him, lifted him, and carried him forward to dump him at the feet of the large man wearing the uniform of a City Watch officer.

The man’s eyes were black, and seemed to smile in a way that didn’t hold any joy.

“Hello, Dake,” the man said sternly to him, before his black eyes looked up and past Dake, to Cissy, “dispose of her.”

Dake tried to move, but felt only a fist upside his head, sending him spiraling to the ground of mud and blood, all he could see was the officer’s booted feet. All he could hear was the screams of Cissy…before, suddenly, he heard steel, and then heard Cissy no more.

“M’Lord, ask Septon Arlo, ask Septon Pater, please M’L—”

Silence came to Dake in the form of a heavy gloved backhand from one of the two who’d threw him down.

“I know of your favors, urchin. Given not by the Seven, but by a certain sinful noble lady. But worry not, Dake. Your mother will live, your mother will keep her place in the service of her merchant master, and you will be forgiven for your sin of acting as a pawn of such sinful nobility…and in return, you will tell me how it is you got to Lady Vittoria’s inn on Port Market Street. How you managed to sneak past the patrol of the City Watch. Tell me this, young Dake, and forgiveness will be given to you.”

Mina had wasted no time in saddling back up and riding to the Septry of the River as she was bid. She was still running off of the electric high of what had happened at her father’s great tent earlier this morning and it wasn’t until she pulled up to the gatehouse and asked after Dake that her mood started to deflate a bit. She’d just passed him, said the old Septon with a milky eye as he pointed the lad out, running hand in hand with a pale street girl away from the sept on some urgent business about his mother. Mina wheeled around, trotting forward and shouting after Dake, but the girl just tugged him away down a side alley. Cursing, Mina leapt off her horse and went after the two before she lost them completely. If something was wrong with Dake’s mother, Vitta would want to help the boy further, she was sure.

Fortunately, the two younger children’s trail wasn’t hard to follow. The alley lead to a wider one, disused, worn and muddy with visible footprints. Mina slowed as her eyes caught their tracks, not just to better follow them but because of what surrounded them. Dake and the girl had left the freshest footprints, but they were overlaid onto a background of bigger, heavier prints, dozens of them, made by what looked like sturdy, hobnailed boots. Mina stopped completely, closing her eyes and focusing. A Water Dancer must learn to sense danger and see with more than her eyes, that’s what Master Athos had taught her, and something about this already felt wrong.

Yes, she wasn’t sure how she’d missed it before, but there was an unmistakable smell in the air too. Blood and spilled viscera, coppery and nauseating like someone had been doing a bad job slaughtering animals...or people. Mina shivered and moved more carefully, and as soon as she spotted the first blue cloaks she ducked quickly out of sight, pinned flat against a husk of a burned out building as she took in the scene.

There were children’s bodies littering the square, some with guts spilled and giving off the foul odor she’d smelled moments ago, some headless, some twisted and broken, all in pools of blood and mud and gore. The blue cloaked guards, a dozen of them visible, ringed the sight of the massacre uncaringly. Their eyes were fixed on the young boy sprawled on the ground rather than at the horror around them. If the girl slumped limp and blood-soaked at the feet of one guard currently wiping off his sword blade was anything to go by, the reason for their indifference to the hideous crime was plain enough. Mina fought down a wave of cold terror and nausea, breathed in, breathed out, trying to center herself. Now was not the time for fear. She could still save Dake. Besides, the bearded man towering over the boy had just mentioned ‘Lady Vittoria’. He might well be a threat to her sister.

Mina steadied her shaking hands and slipped away from her hiding spot. She could do this! The guards were distracted by Dake and she’d practiced stealth by sneaking up on tree cats in the forests off the River Mander. Quiet as she could, Mina slipped by the guards at the outer ring of onlookers and pulled her thin Braavosi blade from its sheath. Stalking up to the man who was still cleaning his blade of the girl’s blood like she’d stalked any number of animals, she readied herself to deliver a clean thrust to the gap in the armor near his neck.

Dake heard the words as they left his body, unbelieving he was saying them. Was his mother really even still alive? What had Cissy been screaming when they killed her? Mostly, his mind circled and circled around the same question that left him stunned, barely able to think, barely able to understand this was real life, that this wasn’t just a bad dream: Dake would’ve told the man whatever he wanted to hear. So, Dake told him, and when he was done, he finally looked up, and stared into the man’s black eyes.

“Why, m’Lord? I would have told you.”

The man sighed, a great weight upon him, his voice turning into a tone of wisdom, of a master taking a hard lesson to an apprentice, “They were criminals. Rapists. Murderers. Thieves. Your friend, the girl? Caught last night snatching the purse from a man of the Watch visiting the brothel her own mother worked at, as the man took his pleasure. Street urchins, Dake, do you not see?” His body shifted, from a comfortable seated position into Big Bill’s big chair to leaning forward, knees on his thighs, gloved hands clasped tightly together before him, half-helmed head lowering to bring his eyes almost level with Dake’s.

“You thought a sinner from the nobility was your savior, though you were wrong, I will give you that at least you tried to turn away from this life and serve the Faith. But these…things?” He said, raising his head up and unclasping his hands to motion all about, at the corpses of street children around him, “They had no sinner to save them, Dake. All that awaited them was a life of crime and pain and sin. Instead, we have given them the mercy of a death for a noble cause, in service of the Seven, for justice and the peace of the city. Their struggle is over, they now bask in the glory of the Seven. Grieve them, boy, but be glad to know their struggle has ended. The very sinful noble that saved you called banners to raise an army to oppose the Faith. Today, Oldtown will see just how mortal this ‘Ardent Maiden’ is.”

“Lady Vittoria is good, m’Lord, please. She protects the Realm, she—”

“—is an afront to the natural order as given to us in the Seven-Pointed Star itself. A sinner and hypocrite who says she dedicates herself to the Faith, while only serving her House and herself. The very creature who would raise an army against the army of the Faithful. Is this the person you would tell me is so virtuous, boy?”

Madness took him, as he didn’t blink before he heard himself say it, as he looked at the bodies around them, “...she wouldn’t have done this.”

The Commander of the City Watch stood suddenly, the song of steel ringing out as he drew the short sword that rested upon his hip, hanging from his belt, “The Stranger has bid you to come and see, Dake, and so it seems only then will you understand. Goodbye, child.”

In truth Mina wasn’t sure she could go through with killing anyone in cold blood, even supposing the man in front of her had killed children. It was different, skulking like this and committing to it deliberately, rather than defending herself in the chaos of a battle. But hearing his commander rave so coldly about her sister, about sin and slaughtering children, then watching him draw steel on Dake, her resolve and anger solidified. She stabbed out with her blade, quick, clean and forceful just like Master Athos taught her and shouted “Run!”

Alaric’s eyes narrowed in on the sound of the voice, and Dake saw the man…smile, like he’d seen a welcome surprise. The rest of the Watchmen just seemed stunned, but Dake didn’t so much as breathe again before he darted past the Watch Commander. Steel flashed as the man swung the blade after him, but it was a hair late, and Dake weaved between two Guardsmen who took bad angles in the chase, leaving both behind him. A single look over his shoulder was all he gave, enough to see the two guardsmen re-gather and start after him—while their Commander made a deliberate pace in the direction of the other voice, the one Dake didn’t recognize. He hadn’t time to waste, he had to lose the two men on him, and he had to make it to his mother before they did…if she was even still alive. Dake ducked into one of the empty shells of a building and went quickly up a barrel and into a hole in one of the floors, the kind of shortcut he knew that the two watchmen would not. He went out the window to the left and was quickly on another rooftop, his boots simple things but better and with more grip than his old ones. The Brothers had given them to him just two days prior.

He had failed the Septons. The Proctors. The Brothers. He couldn’t go back now. All the hope Lady Vittoria had given him was just gone, like that, because of a Watch Commander and an order. His face was wet and hot as he ran, and it wasn’t until he flew down to cobblestones that he realized…he was crying.


Loud Lonnie stared at him, confused, from the door of his shop…but Dake just looked at him for a moment, felt nothing but shame, and kept running. It wasn’t until the pot shop that he wheeled around a surprise hay wagon along the side of the building and up back stairs, only to find the door open, certain they’d already gotten to her. What felt like tears before nearly took him to a sob before shock splashed upon him as he went through the door…and saw her there, shoving things into a basket.

He walked to his mother and cried and tried to tell her all of it. She probably heard none of it, as he blabbered and sobbed, hugging him close for a moment before lifting his chin to look her in the eyes.

“Babbet told me. Now let’s go, we’re going to King’s Landing where my sister is.”

She didn’t sound surprised, only determined. And yet again today, Dake just felt confused. A confusion that only deepened when he heard steps on the stairs, and saw a figure darken the doorway.

It was a girl, barely taller than he was, clean, except for sweat, and…the blade. The reddened blade.

Mina stood there in the doorway, panting slightly after the chaos and tumult of running full tilt after Dake. She reasoned he knew these streets and how to run and hide in them a lot better than her, so she’d followed him as he fled. Now she found herself awkwardly looming with a bloodstained blade in his doorway. She held up her free hand, trying to show she meant no harm.

“Sorry, I’m here from Lady Vittoria. Wanted to make sure you were safe. She’ll want to help, I think.” Mina made a half-awkward bow-curtsey. Then she remembered she was still holding the bloody blade and flicked it clean before wiping it down against the sheath and stowing it, Braavosi fashion. She didn’t think about how that just spattered more blood across the floor, couldn’t focus on the blood at all. Nor how the blood had gotten there, the man she’d killed, how she could feel the jerk and gasp from him as he’d died on her blade. But now that the running was done it was getting harder to ignore. No, best to focus on helping Dake and his mother.


Dake’s mother exasperated a loud whisper, and she did it quickly, turning to stare at her child. “Why would she want to help? Dake of Blackcrown…why would…what did I tell you about the nobility? Do you not remember…”

Her voice trailed as her son’s eyes welled. The woman looked breathless in a terror of shock as she looked back to the girl in the door, “…and you? Do I even want to know what you are? Do either of you know the danger we are in? The Faith and the Watch have eyes everywhere. There is nowhere safe in this city.”

“They’re gonna kill her, mum.”

His mother's face twisted in confusion, but for a moment, until realization dawned further fear, “Kill her?” The words the woman wanted to say didn’t come, instead, her features seemed to soften as she looked at the hurt, scared, boy of hers, “Dake, I’m not even sure the dragons could kill that girl. She’s surrounded by an army. And what of us? What do we have to protect us but this girl assassin sent by this noble lady? did you come to find service with the Septry, Dake?”

The boy frowned, and his mother sighed. “Gods. And you never told me.”

“Wanda, I’m starting to hear…” The man who appeared walking up the backstairs was tall, but too simply dressed and he smelled of a tannery, short blonde hair and small blue eyes regarding the scene he stepped into carefully, “The wagon is loaded, everything is covered in hay.”

“This chest,” Dake’s mother said, shutting it, moving aside so the man could take it and load it. As he lifted it, the boy’s mother stepped forward and placed her hand on the man’s arm, “I’m truly sorry.”

Sadly, the man smiled, “I’ll be in King’s Landing as soon as I can get there. You two go…or three,” he said, awkwardly, before carefully moving himself, and the chest, out of the door and to the wagon.

Dake’s mother just stared at the assassin, “You can hide in the wagon with us. The man watching the gate we’re going out of is a friend. We’ll make it out, but we must hurry.”

Mina nodded, face twisted into a grimace as she put together just what her sister’s charity had wrought for these folk. “My thanks. I’m sorry.” It was all she could think to say. She didn’t bother correcting the woman’s assumption that she was an assassin, nor try to explain herself. It would take time they didn’t have and it could wait til they were safely away.

“Let’s go. Now,” the boy’s mother said, with the kind of courage and determination only a mother with a child in danger could provide.

“Lead the way.” Mina agreed, inwardly resolving to herself that she would do whatever it took to protect these two and fix her sister’s mistake.

Hello :)

It's been a VERY long time since I've posted here but was wondering if there's still room/time for an ASOIAF fan who misses being creative to join?

There's always room in these games. :)

Garin // @Arnorian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I missed you too, father.”

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

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

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


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

“As soon as I am done here.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prince Maegor Targaryen // @Ezekiel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Princess Ceryse Targaryen // @Vanq

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lord Alaric.”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The heir dead. Aenys ill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This is madness—” the High Septon began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cast: Ser Ryam Redwyne - @Apoalo / Lord Hespaerys Rahl - @Almalthia / Princess Ceryse Targaryen nee Hightower - @Vanq / Lord Davos Baratheon - @Ezekiel / Lady Mina Tyrell @Espada Emi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vittoria thanked her younger sister, quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What was THAT?”

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

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

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

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

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

Vittoria blinked, “Thanks, I think.”

“Make sure you eat something,” Dennet insisted.

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

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

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

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

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

“High Septon, how are you?”

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

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

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

“Yes, your High Holiness.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“I’m sorry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lord Ma—”

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

“Brother, this will not st—”

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

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

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

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