Avatar of Vanq
  • Last Seen: 19 hrs ago
  • Old Guild Username: Vanquished
  • Joined: 9 yrs ago
  • Posts: 257 (0.08 / day)
  • VMs: 2
  • Username history
    1. Vanq 9 yrs ago
  • Latest 10 profile visitors:


Recent Statuses

7 yrs ago
Comic Con for the day, woo!
1 like
7 yrs ago
7 yrs ago
Can't afford to be neutral on a moving train
1 like
7 yrs ago
8 months? I don't feel like I received enough warning at how quickly time flies the older one gets. Poking around, taking a look.
1 like
8 yrs ago
Work isn't cooperating with giving me time, working on catching up.


Most Recent Posts


Collab with @Vanq, @Ezekiel, @LadyRunic, @Almalthia & @Apoalo

The family and guests had gathered on a wind blustered plateau of Dragonmont. Dragonstone was visible in the distance, its black stone dragons foreboding, but fitting for the somber occasion. Just five years ago, they had all gathered here in fiery farewell to Aegon, the Conqueror. But there were those of blood who were missing from the somber affair. Alyssa was torn between her grief and fear that had only steadily grown when Visenya had not yet returned. What could delay her - more tragedy or malicious intent? Moment to moment it mattered nothing at all in the face of her tragedy, and then threatened everything she had left. She had not shared her decision with Melyssanthi or Viserys, but quietly that afternoon she had begun arrangements to be able to flee Dragonstone quickly, if necessary.

Half a dozen dragons circled overhead, their cries and bellows began each time with Quicksilver, with Fyresong and Dreamfyre close behind. Young dragons followed behind them, some hatched less than a decade ago. All seemed to grieve in unison with their blood, even those that had not yet been bonded. Viserys stared up at them, lost in the thought of the great need he now bore to claim one. Quicksilver to carry on his father’s legacy, or perhaps one of the younger ones to grow in might and power together. Though his youngest siblings held claim to the two youngest dragons that circled above them, the egg placed in his cradle had never hatched. His destiny still waited for him to take it.

Four dragons descended at last, without Balerion or Vhagar to dwarf them, they were formidable even as they delicately landed surrounding the pyre. Quicksilver, Fyresong, Vermithor, and Silverwing. Viserys waited, his eyes still skyward and watching Dreamfyre. His eldest sister’s dragon. The pale blue and silver dragon stood out against the dusk sky, but she showed no sign of landing. She circled, higher and higher, leaving the other flying dragon behind with a scream that pierced the quietness that had fallen. And then she was gone, west towards the bay. West towards the mainland. He wondered if she would, at last, fly until she found her rider.

Melyssanthi felt the confusion and loneliness in that one cry from Dreamfyre as she searched for Rhaena. Melyssanthi was lonely as well. Heart sore and gritty-eyed she met the blue eyes of Fyresong who gave a low rolling purr to comfort his mistress. She smiled weakly.

She would take flight after the funeral. Melyssanthi had decided that enough was enough and she was getting Rhaena back. Not to mention reuniting Dreamfyre with her mistress. While the Rahl family was a pleasant diversion her issues with not having Rhaena around sat heavily in her mind. They had never been apart this long and her thoughts turned ever toward her best friend and sister.

Alyssa placed her hand on her son’s black-clad shoulder. He was too small, built like his father, his grandmother. “We must begin.” Her eyes looked down at the boy, then past him, the pyre surrounded by dragons. Aenys looked so small as well, wrapped in the white funeral shroud, the outline of his body just barely visible. She ached for him, for more time with him, to return the happy times before he was king and they were young and reckless. To see the light shine in his eyes with mischievous glee. The way he would run his thumb along her cheek and jawline with tenderness. The queen was lost in her thoughts and brought back to her senses only by a man on horseback riding full force towards them.

“Balerion and Vhagar have been sighted, flying fast from the east.” The man dismounted before his horse had fully stopped. He stumbled forward with his message, out of breath, his horse laboring beside him.

Melyssanthi’s heartbeat shuddered for a moment. Maegor and Visenya. I feel uneasy. Her thoughts swirled with possible situations that ranged from unlikely-Maegor sobbing at the pyre of the brother that he felt ultimately banished him-to the more likely-Maegor petitioning to be Viserys' Regent. Somehow Melyssanthi felt that neither of those would be options that her Uncle entertained. She could not say why but the feeling of something looming. Something heavy and dark, like a large fat spider waiting in her web.

Edwell Celtigar, castellan, stepped forward and spoke a command in a tone that was clear - it was a request that he would not hear denied by any other present - “We will begin when Queen Dowager Visenya and Prince Maegor have arrived.”

The words of warning and stalling proved prophetic in the imminence of their nature. No sooner had the words slipped from the steadfast Celtigar than any note of his proclamation was swept away by a sound louder and more destructive than the crash of thunder.

The wharbling, reverberating cry of Balerion resounded from the sky above, crashing down onto the obsidian-like rock of Dragonstone and reverberating across island and sea. The vast creature was a storm all of his own, the beat of his wings, even when gliding, casting off currents of air. The smaller dragons, many formidable beasts in their own right, raised up to regard the sky from which they had only descended moments prior, but none offered a counter challenge. The Black Dread had returned to his roost. With a surge, and still some way from the island, the sweep of the monstrous creature’s wings broke from above the cloud cover, followed shortly by a smaller, but still vast, secondary shape. Already the distance between them and those on the ground was reducing at an expedient rate, and those narrow shapes in the distance were soon giving way to the colossal forms of the Conquering dragons.

Those vast wings tucked close, and both dragons dove towards Dragonmont. Late in the flight, Balerion disappeared from view by the scope of the cliffs, before the great beast appeared to rise up, as if from the Sea, casting the funeral procession into shadow as the shape of his from rose over them, the banners of House Targaryen sent into rustling flight by the sweep of air in his wake. When Balerion touched down, even in the controlled glide, the ground shook beneath him, and the great beast let out another roar, this one echoed by the other dragons, before his neck swept low to allow the descent of his riders. Three individuals were atop the monster’s back, at the fore was the Prince himself, already unbound from the chords of his saddle, and perhaps even tighter, the grip of the woman behind him. Armsmen from among the retinue of the Dragonstone household approached to assist in the dismount, while Maegor leapt clear of the saddle without aid, he soon directed them to aid Alys and Tyanna, not halting himself to do so as he strode forwards, towards the funerary pyre.

He had no words, not of comfort or triumph, for the assembled family, instead he passed them all, arriving at the foot of the pyre. Blackfyre, the sword his brother had once granted to him, then attempted to take away, was pulled free of his belt, the point placed towards the ground, as the towering form on Maegor knelt, his eyes on the body that had been a half-brother, half loved.

Visenya was barely slower than her son in dismounting, Vhaegar coming to a similarly well executed halt a little beyond Balerion, but she did not follow her son, instead waiting at the rear of the funerary procession, her hands, and what was held between them, hidden once again by the sweep of her cloak around her armoured form.

The aerial maneuvers of The Black Dread were inspiring, whether terror inspiring or awe inspiring or both depended on the staunch will of the person. Pheynix found the sight riveting. While she was of the mind that she did not need a dragon to be deadly she could admit that they were beautiful creatures. As Balerion alighted and Maegor with, not one but two women climbed down the dragon. One his second wife Alys and the other…

Pheynix straightened as she recognized the second woman. Tyanna of Pentos. The viper was thought to have poisoned her competition in the brothel she resided in. Not to mention the rumors of sorcery that hung around her like a choking cloud of perfume. She was not the most beautiful woman but it was said that her voice was bewitching. Pheynix, while never having been intimate with anyone, had older brothers that had; and explanations from a frank and no nonsense woman like her mother meant that Pheynix knew what men and women did together. Her mother had explained it in detail, but had also explained that while men did not have to be chaste the expectation was that women came to marriage untouched. It was a double standard that few rose above. Still it was shocking to see a whore at a funeral.

Alys was delighted to feel Dragonstone beneath her feet. Her hands had clasped tightly to her husband and Prince on the flight from Essos. If he had been a lesser man she would have left bruises, flight was wonderful she would say. It was delightful, a true show of Targaryen power and the power of their dragons. Privately she hated the lurching and the sickening glimpses of what laid far below. So very, very far below. Moving to stand to the right and a step back from the Dowager Queen Visenya. Her eyes watching the body of her former King, a pang hit her. He was so young to have been taken, and so young to have left such a mess behind him. Dressed in the dark reds and blacks, she folded her hands before her wind ravaged skirt. No veil that covered her tumble of curls would have survived and with that in mind she had ignored the bit of fashion. Bowing her head to the pyre that would be consumed in flame, she kept the smile from forming on her lips. The King is dead, long live the King.

Tyanna followed after Alys, her head held high for she cared little for the last rites attended to here. She was an outsider and she would not cower behind it. The courtesan of Pentos had not enjoyed travel on dragonback, nor had it seemed like the beast much cared for her. There was an ill ease of acceptance borne only out of Maegor having accepted her behind him. She stayed by the woman’s side, the heaviness of her black gown, buffeted by the wind on the plateau, but nearly as unmoving as her expression. Dark eyes took in the scene before her, never had she seen so many dragons in one place. Calm facade or not, she felt nearly gleeful within. She momentarily caught Visenya’s eyes, narrowed her own, then every so slightly dipped her head. That woman would be something to contend with, eventually. For now, it was enough to offer her support to the princess, though she doubted the sincerity of the grief displayed. Tyanna admired her ease at slipping into the role, the deftness of the charade. She gave Alys’s elbow a reassuring squeeze and turned her attention to the family that grieved sincerely.

Narrowing eyes at her Uncle's flashy entrance, Melyssanthi looked past him to the two women he had brought with him. Never one to be called bright, it looked like Alys had decided not to tie her hair up or cover it in some way so as to not look like a nest of brambles on her head after riding Balerion. Her skirt completed the fashion statement of carelessness in her appearance. Aunt Ceryse would never have come looking like a tangled mess.

Melyssanthi's attention was caught by her striding Uncle. She watched as he knelt at her father’s unlit pyre Blackfyre drawn and point resting on the ground. She looked back toward her Great Aunt Visenya and stretched out a hand in familial love, in appeal to have her close.

Some had called her cold, but Visenya had never been such. Her life raged and broiled with the heat of Dragon flame, she did not allow petty affections to stray her from her path, but that was a different matter entirely. One hand moved from the concealment of her cloak, taking the hand of her great-niece. Her eyes moving from the procession instead to the young woman who sought her touch. To Visenya, two separate events were to occur this evening, and for one of those, she could provide her family some comfort.

At the other end of the procession, alone but for the presence of his brother and his pyre, Maegor remained in place. How long a time passed meant little for him, for the kneeling figure of the Prince wrestled with the force of the moment. They had never been alike, at many times they had fought and been to each other as enemies would be, but that had not changed that they were family. Some part of Maegor considered that perhaps his more recent bond with the Dragonlord ruler of Volantis had some basis in the bond that could have been between himself and Aenys. Vhandyr was no doubt a greater man in deed and act than Aenys, but in many ways they were more alike to each other than they were to Maegor. It was those thoughts that ultimately enshrined the plan that his mother had suggested to him. The weakness of compassion could be forgiven in those that still had the strength to act, and while Volantis may have been blessed with one who could, Westeros had not.

The Prince stood, his hand on the pommel of his royal blade, casting his eyes now directly to his brother atop the pyre, who had died while he was in exile. The words were barely a whisper when Maegor spoke them, but they were loud enough.

“Balerion, to me.”

The great vast form of Balerion unfurled from his place at the rear of the ceremony. The process was as long as any in the history of burials on Dragonstone, the full conclave of the Targaryen household extended back from the pyre of Aenys, but even still, Balerion’s vast neck extended over all of them, until it reach to a fraction behind the Targaryen Prince. Maegor lifted one hand, placing it to the side of Balerion’s snout. A tender moment between rider and dragon, a bond which the Prince had with no other being.

His next words were louder, no element of subterfuge, as they carried over those present.


The heat roared beside Maegor, a wash of fire and destruction that would give even his other kin pause, so close as he was to the adjacent maw of the Black Dread. Maegor, however, did not flinch. He allowed the pain to wash over him, the searing of his skin and the heat beneath his armour as Balerion bathed his brother in flame. The wood caught immediately, no slight spattering of sea spray could even delay the fire of Balerion. Aenys form was obscured in an instant, the same flame that had forged the Iron Throne utterly consuming both Pyre and King in a cascade of inferno.

“And so it is finished.” Maegor spoke, as much to Balerion as any other present, before the dragon retracted his long neck, residing once again at the base of the slow rise up to the still burning pyre.

Hot silent tears rolled down the stoic face of Melyssanthi who held her Great Aunt's hand in solidarity. She had been wrong to blame her. Melyssanthi had called her to help and Visenya had done what she was able to. Fate had been cruel and taken her father as well as her brother. She was perversely glad that her Uncle had usurped her brother's duty to burn their father's body. Rubbing in the fact that Viserys did not have a dragon would have been overkill and with Rhaena not present it would have fallen to possibly Melyssanthi. None of the dragons would have listened to Viserys.

Balerion did not frighten Cassiopeia. No. Dragons had always fascinated her. So to see so many all together was fascinating. She saw the assembled people flinch as a great gout of dragon fire poured from the maw of The Black Dread and she stared entranced at the flames.

You could almost feel the grief pouring off the family as the once Aenys of House Targaryen, the First of His Name. King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men. Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm burned. So much tragedy has struck the Targaryen family. First Aegon then his father. As Pheynix thought this the old phrase her mother used to say came to her. Trouble comes in threes. Looking up at Maegor as he said it was finished she looked puzzled. Of course it is finished. The man is dead.

Just how many Dragons did the Targaryen's roost on Dragonstone? It was an impressive sight, and one that spoke of the current power of the House. Castor doubted that anyone could match them now or ever, but in the back of his mind he figured that had always been the case. The Freehold, his ancestors had used their dragons well to conquer vast territory and amass great power, only to be undone by their own greed. But while the dragons were impressive, Castor was focused instead on the people, as it was people that the Rahl family specialized in dealing with. Be it in negotiation, blackmail, or spying. The Targaryen's were obviously grieving, but some more than others and when Balerion appeared and deposited his three occupants Castor could almost feel the tense air that had suddenly appeared.

He remained silent, a sympathetic look on his face even as he briefly scanned his siblings. Pyxis was as always unusually calm, an eerie calm as if he had seen a dozen funerals and was immune to grief. And the boy had given warm and supportive smiles to the Targaryen children if they looked his way. Cassie was enamored by the dragons, while Nix seemed very thoughtful. All in all, Castor was content that they presented themselves well and now all there was to do was to continue that.

Viserys had attempted to stay brave in the face of his uncle and his aunt’s return. But his uncle calling fire, Balerion setting his father’s body ablaze, was too much for the boy. His hand found hers and he folded it beneath her fingers. Alyssa wrapped an arm around her son but stopped herself from pulling him to her. Even in the moment of watching Aenys’s mortal form burned to ashes, she needed him to still show some strength. Seeing her brother by law again before her brought a hard lump to her throat. That he had not only traveled with the cause of his exile, but another woman? Damn the gods for taking a good man.

Alyssa knew she should approach Maegor or Visenya but she stayed unmoving, letting the wind whip at her. Her eyes met Quicksilver’s and she turned her face skyward. Bonded or not, she thought they had come to an understanding after her many years of being with Aenys. The dragon dropped its head and shook out her wings. Her snout nuzzled against Fyresong before backing away and crying out one last time as she labored to take to the sky. The young dragons looked after her and quickly took to wing as well, as if they were eager to be away from their ancient cousins.

Viserys at last spoke, his words just barely audible to his mother. “I want to go back.” His face had scrunched up in a twisted attempt to stem the flow of tears. His face was wet and red though, perhaps as much from frustration as from grief. Jaehaerys and Alyssane were being tended to by a septa, Alyssa looked back to the robed woman and gestured to gather them together. It was finished.They could deal with everything else in the morning. A funeral feast had been planned and undoubtedly there would be much drinking for everyone else. No matter how much she wanted to drown herself in cups, she would need that time to finish planning.

Alyssa turned her and Viserys away from the pyre away from her dead husband’s family. Let them sit with the ashes when they had seemed to care so little for him in life. Her eyes pressed together at the thought, for she knew Visenya had tried to do so much for them. Tried and failed. Damn the gods.

After bathing the Rahl girls pulled out their most somber outfits. Pheynix brushed Cassiopeia's hair, getting all the snarls out. "Nixie, that means that Viserys is King now, right?" Cassie asked her older sister as Pheynix smoothed a small amount of sweet oil on the ends of Cassie's hair.

Wiping her hands on a hand cloth Pheynix quirked an eyebrow at her baby sister. "What do you think rūs mandia1?" Setting down the cloth Pheynix swept her hair over her shoulder and began to comb it in long smooth strokes. Her raven tresses puddled in her lap cool from the bath and still slightly damp but not dripping. Her hands moved swiftly as she tightly braided her hair in a complex twisted half up half down. The braid was wrapped in a tight twisting weave around her head like a crown while leaving half of her hair down to float and wave down to her knees.

Cassie’s dress was charcoal gray bordered in black lace along the skirt, and high collar as well as peeking out of the cuffs on her wrists. The charcoal gray silk shimmered with buttons of jet down the left side stopping at her hip. The skirt fell in a graceful column to touch the floor. Nix, while working on her own hair decided that she would also braid her baby sister’s hair.

Crossing the room in bare feet in just her shift Nix stepped up to her sister who was fully dressed and sitting looking out the window. “Ivestragī issa gaomagon aōha ōghar2.”

Hen rhinka3.” Cassie smiled and nodded quickly, responding likewise in Valyrian. The girls had been speaking Valyrian well before any other language, their accents were melodic, liquid and rapid.

Hands flew through deep mahogany tresses and braided Cassie’s hair into a similar coronet on her head, the difference being that Nix put all of Cassie’s hair up leaving only a few strands on the side of her face to frame it. Satisfied with her work Nix stepped back and looked her baby sister over. “Ao jāhor gaomagon. Māzigon se dohaeragon issa4.” Cassie nodded and helped Nix with her more complicated outfit.

The dress was a deep purple that was so dark it was almost black. Fitted tightly in the sleeves to just above the elbow where embroidery in silver thread looped and curled in a never ending, never beginning pattern around the sleeve that rippled down in loose folds to cover the hands, if placed at the sides. The neckline was a gentle modest curve with embroidery of shooting stars that seemed to chase each other around it. Tiny seed pearls made the silver thread shimmer in the slightest light.

Snuggly fit to the waist the dress in front starting just under the bust was an extensive painstaking representation of House of Rahl’s standard. The two rampant birds of prey under eight stars that were rendered in embroidery and small black seed pearls and amethysts. From the waist down the deep purple skirt flowed freely to the floor, the stars that chased each other embroidered on the neckline were echoed at that hem.

The girls fully dressed finally made their way hand in hand with soft steps and the smooth rustle of silk. Neither spoke as if the sad hush of the place deterred much more noise than the soft whisper of fabric, the muffled step of one who would tread lightly and or the hushed rush of breath. The still sadness was like a living thing that no one dared to disturb. At least none but the Royal family.

Grief threatened to subsume her into nothingness. Visenya had urged her to have strength, but had fled the island on Vhagar before night had fully fallen. The widowed queen stood atop the Sea Dragon Tower and looked down. The sounds of the ocean crashing into, battering, the island felt as if it called to her. She was Velaryon, her family was of the sea, not of the sky, not of dragons or of fire and blood. Aenys was gone. Aegon ripped from her. Beneath the many layers of grief, fear grew.

The sea sang to her, urging her to be embraced and consoled within its violence. In the distance, circling the island, she could hear Quicksilver begin her mourning anew. Slender fingers curled against a stone parapet, her knuckles scraped and bloodied in the effort to stay standing. Alyssa could only see danger ahead, and her remaining children would need her. She stepped back from the edge, away from the sweetness promised to her within the waves.

A voice broke through, and she realized, belatedly, that it had been addressing her for some time.

“Yes?” Her voice quivered, unsteady, weak. The queen turned, her black gown billowing and swelling around her, dwarfing her into a void. Viserys stood before her, dressed in black, pale but blotched with red. She gasped at seeing the boy, and a fleeting wish that they could flee rather than lay the too-heavy crown on his head crossed her mind.

The prince sniffled, rubbed at his face, and then straightened awkwardly. “A ship from Volantis arrived this morning.” The boy’s frown deepened. “And the septon says everything will be ready for this evening.” His eyes closed, tears spilled out regardless. “For father’s funeral.” He breathed deeply, exhaled roughly. “When I am crowned -”

His mother cut him off. “Not now. Let us get through this day first.” Now was not the time for visitors yet they were here, and they were a strong family to keep in good graces from the free cities. “We must present a strong face to our guests. Go and greet them, even in our grief.” She knelt down to her boy, her hands gently caressed his shoulders. “Even in our grief we cannot look weak.”

The boy who would be king sat in the Great Hall, word had been sent that he would greet the Volantene visitors. Alyssa could not stomach it, though he wanted his mother. Needed her. He had sent her back to her chambers with a septon so the maester could see to her. He would welcome his guests with Edwell’s assistance, and then finish preparing for the funeral. His body shook with the effort of keeping his grief at bay. He steadied himself as the great red doors opened in the dragon’s maw and his guests were guided in.

Sesīr isse mundagon jēdi, issa sȳz naejot ūndegon ao. Ipradagon se mōzugon kostilus.5” He greeted the guests with as much formality as he could muster, servants moved around him to guide them to their seats and offered refreshments.

Cassie had been looking around while holding onto Nix's hand loosely as they wandered into the great hall. She smiled at the mythical and real beasts that graced the castle. Were times happier then she would have employed her cousins to help her seek out each wee beastie carved into the stone. Blinking Cassie looked at Viserys who had spoken in their mother tongue. She found his accent charming. Her family used the mother tongue constantly and she supposed that if she had lived here she might have that same accent.

Watching her sister Cassie blush, Nix smiled to herself and answered Viserys. "Kempa iksos se pāletilla, īlon shifang.6 How kind of you to greet us. I am Pheynix Rahl and this is my sister Cassiopeia Rahl. My two brothers have yet to join us so their introductions will have to wait." She smiled at Viserys.

Melyssanthi came around the corner at the introduction and moved to her brother's side. "Greetings Rahl cousins. I am the second oldest of the late King Aenys, Melyssanthi. Our eldest sister, Rhaena, is currently in the Westerlands but shall be returning shortly." She noted the Rahl girls had dressed to reflect the somber occasion and noted that they were the finest quality. Simple in design as to not detract from the girls themselves. "Of course you are welcome to join us for the funeral in the evening."

Nix inclined her head. "We are honored to be included."

Cassie sat down near Viserys. "I like the decorative beasts that grace the architecture. How many are there?" She asked him a pointed question to get him talking.

Neither of the Rahl brothers had been very interested to bathe. Afterall, they had washed after training but after the water had been prepared, both couldn't deny that not having salt within the liquid was much better. But, because of the delay neither was ready to be presented at the time of their sisters. Castor had undressed and redressed as he was quite happy with the outfit he had picked out upon the ship but he did change his brother's attire. He kept the Rahl colors prominent but the black was far more pronounced and a deep satin that almost seemed to an abyss. It truly reflected the shock of the white blonde hair and was far more fitting for the situation at hand.

Dressed and ready, the two brothers were led to the Great Hall where Castor could hear his sister already. Both Rahl's stopped at the entrance as they were introduced and gave similar bows before going to stand by their sisters.

It took a moment, once the pleasantries were out of the way, to make sense of the question being asked of him by the girl who had introduced herself as Cassiopeia. The boy’s soft violet eyes, reddened still, ticked up in a questioning look before he glanced towards his sister. He caught himself thinking that she was rather pretty, half a heartbeat later and he knew he had left her question lingering for too long unanswered. Viserys shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “Too many too count.” He spoke softly, his head dropped down, eyes staring at his hands that fidgeted in his lap. An imagined slap to the back of his head brought him back into proper posture. Aegon’s reprimands on being too meek echoed. “They are everywhere here, this castle was built with fire and magic, you know.” He did love this story, where others found the castle foreboding or grim, he had been intrigued by it and a small child, and caught between the eldest and youngest of the children, he had often explored its halls and crevices on his own. “Some of them look like they could break free of the stone.” He used to imagine that too - unlocking long buried magic and bringing forth a new line of dragons to claim and bond. Foolish musings of a childish imagination.

He picked at the skin around his nails as he looked over the brothers that had joined them. A fleeting moment of distraction, he could feel the weight of it already. Guilt. Viserys ignored it to look back into Cassie’s eyes and make as bold an offer as he could muster. “After my father’s funeral, I could show you as many of them as I know about.” He tried to offer a small smile and hoped that it succeeded though he felt an uncomfortable warmth at his neck, a flush across his cheeks. He hoped his sister had not overheard him. He did not know why it felt embarrassing, but he was certain he would be mortified if she had heard.

Putting on what she liked to call the "big baby girl eyes" Cassie looked over at Nix who was struggling not to grin and who nodded her head. "I would love to see them. Maybe we can discover a few more you have not found? Oh and I want to hear about how this place was built." Cassie's eyes sparkled with the excitement that dangled before them.

Sharp eyes watched the interaction between Cassiopeia and Viserys. Nix gave Castor the side eye and bumped his hand, tipping her head toward the two youngsters when she caught his eye. She made the movement so subtle that it was almost undetectable by anyone not aware of her mannerisms. They had come to Westeros in the disguise of trade but really looking for spouses for all their siblings and cousins, save for the little ones. From Aster down to Andromaeda, which frankly was a lot. They were going on a grand tour around Westeros to all the noble houses. They had a large list that would take them some time to work through.

Looking back over at Melyssanthi the question was addressed. "Perhaps you and your mother could help me with the list I have for our travels at that same time tomorrow, your Highness."

Blinking Melyssanthi focused on Nix since she had been staring at Castor without realizing it. "But of course. What sort of list?" Melyssanthi was intrigued by the mention since she had not helped plan Rhaena and Aegon's tour. Her opinions were not qualified at the time. But right now a virtual stranger was asking her opinions.

The reprieve was brief for Viserys, and he suspected for his sister as well. He watched her from the other side as she stepped into a role he had only ever seen Rhaena play. He wished he had her confidence to act, rather than the furtive attempts he kept at with the girl at his side. He pushed away his plate at last. The food on it was largely untouched, a few bites here and there, but the Prince’s stomach had turned with each swallow. It wouldn’t be right to be sick in front of his guests. He was, though, pleased to think that he would have her by his side following the funeral and feast. The boy had nodded enthusiastically to her offer, there were many stories he could tell her about Dragonstone.

He wasn’t sure how much time he had allowed to pass when he saw guards at the door, speaking to someone from outside it. Viserys knew what it meant though, that it was time for him and his sister to finish preparing themselves. No more time for the luxury of forgetting that their father was gone. The young prince grimaced and gave swift apology to Cassie for it. “I have to go now.” He paused, his face contorted in a way that too clearly showed his struggle to find the words. “You, I hope…I will see you later.”

Viserys dropped his eyes, afraid for the girl to see the tears that again threatened to spill over. He did not look back to see if Melyssanthi followed after him. He let the castellan guide him away, back to his rooms, no words exchanged though he felt the man’s heavy eyes on him.

The Eyrie

Collab by @LadyRunic and @Vanq

The arrival of Lady Catelyn Harroway had sent the Eyrie into barely controlled chaos. Though her arrival had been planned for months, Artys was supposed to have returned from his progress already. It had been hotly debated between Hubert and Elys over whether to even extend such offers of marriage alliance to a House that had allowed their daughter to be taken as a second wife. Now, the key son, the heir to the Eyrie, was stranded in a distant city-state. It was not an auspicious start to such matters.

Hubert’s reasoning had eventually won out over Elys’s reticence after many weeks of the Crone praying in the sept, appealing to the Seven for guidance. Just as Maegor, imperfect and aberrant as he was, had been used as a tool for justice in righting the grievous sin of kinslaying, so too could the Arryns forge and form faith by joining with the Harroways. It was a precarious balance between crown and faith that they had balanced since rising to lordship. It was delicate and neither lord nor his sister were fully convinced it was the best option but correspondence had been sent and arrangements made.

Now they had welcomed the woman, they planned and plotted with their Maester and other advisors on the best path forward without Artys in the Vale. Surely he would return within the next few months and be pleased to meet his intended then. Their second son was a disgraceful lost cause, but Andar was a smart lad. There were talks with House Grafton of Gulltown over the need for more direct contact between the Eyrie and their city. Andar had proven himself a talented diplomat and mercantile minded in his handling of affairs with the sworn house. Lord Grafton had been effusive in his praise for the boy even as Lord Hubert sought to exert greater direct control over the port city.

All of which had been shared in correspondence. They thought young Hanna would make a lovely match for Artys by the way in which her mother wrote of her and of what they had heard from their own courtiers. Osric was of course of marrying age as well, though they worried that he had made an undesirable reputation for himself. Hubert and Osric had not seen eye to eye ever, and his father’s second wife had coddled the boy too much. At least he had worth in being a great warrior. Lady Elys thought he would do better in service as a white cloak - eventually. Hubert had finally gained agreement that if the Harroways were insistent, it was a sign from the Seven and they should not dispute it.

The family gathered with Lady Catelyn in a small solar following an unusually luxurious feast. Spring had provided a bounty and much of the castle was glad for the visitor in giving a reason to imbibe at last. Hubert sat behind his desk, strong and aged wood. It had served countless kings before him. He ran a hand over the wood, in thought. “While I hope we come to happy understanding between your family and mine, you are of course welcome here as long as you wish. My lady-wife would be most happy to have you accompany her tomorrow.”

Elys spoke up, seated across from Hubert and next to Catelyn, wrinkled hands folded together on her lap. “The Eyrie still requires much work to restore it after winter, but we hope you’ve found it as beautiful as we do, in your short time here.” The crone did not offer a smile though there was a warmth to her words. “It is a shame that Artys has been delayed in returning. It has been some time since he would have passed through your lands on his progress, but surely he made a good impression at the time.”

The Lady of Harrenhal was a small, stout woman but she held herself with pride. She was after all the mother of a Princess and the wife of a wealthy lord. With a son and two daughters already, she had done her due diligence and perhaps would do so again. This trip had been considered foolish by the Maester as he had warned her that she might be with child, but both Jeyne and Hanna were of age. They needed husbands and soon.

"It is lovely and refreshing after the Riverlands." Catelyn had been borne to those lands, having been a Bracken before her marriage, but she had to admit the soaring mountains of the Vale made her appreciate firm land. "I can imagine that one loses track of time seeing the wonders outside of Westeros, my Lord's second son being a rather renowned sailor after all. Damon has lavished our halls with delights." There, they could see to that as well. For all Damon was a troublesome lad, he had his uses.

"Your son left quite the impression on my daughters, Hanna was quite put out that her father could not pull an entire tourney out of his cloak for the occasion. Really, My Lord, your house has fine cooks and finer children. I could hardly be made more welcome or delighted by such auster company." Catelyn smiled at the Arryns, she truly hoped they could come to an agreement for one child, Jeyne could find a suitor at court perhaps. Another Prince? There were still two younger sons.

Hubert and Elys shared a look. They had never been close as children, but the past few years had brought them together. Lord Arryn turned his attention back to his guest. He considered himself the father of this family, not only of his sons, but of all his siblings and their children wherever they may be. He too would be father to whatever woman his son wed. He would guide them with the Seven’s light. Particularly with some of the…less desirable elements within House Harroway. Not a thing to discuss with the woman before him, of course. “Yes - Damon. We’ve heard tales of his adventures even here, or perhaps it was from coming ashore in Gulltown.” He shrugged his shoulders casually, his brother Osric and Damon would seemingly be of a mind and he was glad that the knight had only seen fit to carry on in King’s Landing rather than take off across the sea.

“Artys may be young but he has a sharp mind and a decent sword arm. When he returns we shall celebrate with a tourney, down in the valley.” Elys prodded, a celebration for a return and celebration of a betrothal. No need to wait for such things either, better to be wed, bed and done with it. Life had shown her how swiftly it could all be swept away. The old lady patted absently at the arms of her chair, her head nodding along as she spoke, in agreement with herself. Yes, if they came to an agreement here and now it would be best to begin the arrangements most quickly. The Crone had shown her the wisdom of such a match and she would do whatever she could to clear the way for it.

"A tournament you say?" Catelyn seemed interested. Hanna would find it to her liking to be wed at a tournament she could claim was in honor of her joining with House Arryn. "My daughter, Hanna, is a fine girl of figure and grace with skill enough at being a lady I could only wish I had possessed such in my youth." To be more to the point, the Lady of Harrenhal wished she had Hanna's skeptical mind and willingness to do her duty for the family. She had argued but had done as her father, Lord Bracken, had bid. All Catelyn had gotten out of the deal was a bastard spawn and a husband who held her in contempt.

But this was not the time to dwell in those matters, rather she needed to secure this marriage as promised and do it fast. "My daughters all know their duty. An heir and a spare at the minimum, and they will see to it until the task is done. If I may be blunt, Lady- Lord- Arryn, you know the realities noble women are faced with. We are to have heirs and spares then accept our husband's will." The words were more towards the Lady of the house. "My daughters will not begrudge a husband and will do as they must for the family they are wed into."

Lady Elys nodded softly, it was rare for her to share much of the trials the Seven had seen fit to test her with. “Yes, Lady Catelyn, it is true. We are tested time and again, but we must look to the Mother. I assure you that your daughter would be well supported in seeking her guidance.”

The Lord of the Eyrie nodded, well aware of women’s troubles but not keen to dwell on such matters for long. “There are women here to aid her in such things. And with my own wife having given me six healthy sons, Artys has been raised to see how men should treat their wives.” It was no love match between him and his wife, but she respected him and he cared for her, each in their own way.

"Though your mention of Damon in Gulltown has recalled to me." Her husband might disagree with this move but it would put the wretched girl out of her sight and if Hanna kept a close hand on the bastard all the better. "We have among our numbers a woman of fair beauty and mild temperament. Of noble get and sired by Valyrian blood," Catelyn edged her words about acknowledging that bastard born of her womb. The child she had borne under a hope that had turned to ash. "Your handsome knight, Ser Osric? Perhaps he would wish a comely wife. Marriage often can settle a man especially when it is to a comely woman." And the Riverlander hated that fact.

It was a struggle to keep his face flat, to keep his brows from furrowing up, knit together, as they wished to at the mention of his brother. A third son, blessed indeed by the Warrior, but cursed with a wildness that refused to be tamed. “A good woman would perhaps be able to temper my brother.” His fingers flexed at the discomfort and he looked to his sister for her aid.

Lady Arryn’s attention remained firmly on their guest however, a thoughtful look to her face as she blinked slowly. “Our brother has all the valor of the Warrior, of course.” She spoke carefully. “But he has less to offer a girl of any standing.” Whispers of the Valyrian-blooded bastard had of course reached them over the years; court gossip spread faster than ravens at times. “We think he may prove himself in service to the crown, as a Kingsguard.” Let that settle it if there remained any concern on if the Arryns swore themselves to the Faith or to the Dragons.

Hubert picked up from his sister, while the last thought was barely off her tongue. “And even if not, I’m afraid that anywhere he would settle would not be of a standard for such a woman. When we come together to celebrate Artys’s return, perhaps the woman could attend and meet Andar instead. He’s a smart boy with a good head, less boisterous than my eldest, but I intend to pass him our family’s stake in Gulltown.” Nevermind their plans to expand their reach in the city, plans that had not yet come to fruition and that he would not dangle as a promise of wealth.

“Perhaps, the young woman would be more than willing for such a match and your son will have a fair wife. If he finds it acceptable, then by all means my lord husband will most certainly agree to the match,” The Lady of Harrenhal nodded in thought though how Osric would fare as whitecloak was something that she would not mention to this family. The man was known to be a rake among the women of Westeros and the vow to forgo any wives or children would be interesting. Of course, that any man had kept it was undoubtedly due to the peerless Visenya. The woman was as cold as the North and just as imperious as any of her House has right to be. It would take a very stupid man to stand up to her when he was in the err of breaking his vows. “I must admit it will do good to less the number of family about Harrenhal, my son Horas will take a wife in a few years and it is with luck that I suspect Damon will be welcomed home with a third nephew. Pile the numerous cousins of my Lord husband on top of us and I suspect that Harren the Black built the castle so big just to hold his family while enjoying some silence nevermind dragons!” Perhaps it was bordering the line to speak so, but Catelyn no longer wished to speak on Elayne Rivers, that bastard girl who shone with a beauty that she could not deny. Well! Deny it she would not! She would make sure the girl was separated from Harrenhal and forgotten!

The uncomfortable topic of Osric fell away and both Arryns took a long breath of relief. “We know too well how crowded it can be when a family has such luck to have so many children.” Hubert offered in agreement, though he would not speak of it so bluntly. The same hands that laid Harrenhal to ruin had restored order in the Vale. Such interesting tools of the Seven, though now was not the time for such musings.

“And sometimes, family who has long left returns to the fold.” Elys offered with a wry tug at lips. She had never thought to return to her family, and certainly not to see them raised to Lords of the Eyrie. One could never guess at the will of the Seven. “Well, let us begin plans for this celebration so that we may have many more to come in joining our families.” Her fingers tapped lightly at the arms of her chair. With all the unrest that brewed, with Prince Maegor across the sea in exile for some time still, the aged lady was pleased that in this instance, it seemed unlikely for the Eyrie to be graced again with dragons. But she kept the thought to herself, it would be of no benefit to air her distaste. “Notice should be sent soon, I expect that it will only be a few months before we are welcoming Artys back.” And Sharra, though the Maiden seemed cursed to always lurk in the shadows of her siblings.

“That is, if all is agreed to at least move forward with agreement between us, Lady Catelyn. Our Maester will be pleased to assist you with anything you need in sending word back to Harrenhal.” Hubert offered firmly.

“A raven to my husband and celebratory plans shall be underway.” Lady Catelyn Harroway smiled and nodded in agreement. This was going extremely well, especially if she could see Hanna wed to a Paramount Lord and that useless wretch scattered to the leavings of this great family with a single cast. She had not liked how the people of Harrenhal looked to her, how Damon seemed to let his gaze linger on the girl. “He will be most delighted.”

Collab with @Ruby @Vanq

The Starry Sept had not offered her comfort in many years, and today it offered only grief, regret, and shame. Her eyes passed over the black marble walls, the stained glass windows of the seven pointed star, the altar where her kings had been anointed; where she had been wed. Now it was where her father would lie in vigil. It was as if someone had reached into her chest, wrapped a mailed fist around her heart, and squeezed. Ceryse was alone, or nearly alone, as the Silent Sisters tended to her father’s body. It wasn’t right for her to be here, but no one had barred her entry. She was still queen of the realm.

It had not even been a day since she had seen him last. Manfred had looked at her in such a way that all the earlier vitriol and anger melted, at least for a moment. The shame had come instantly, no longer a woman of middle years but a girl shirking in the shadow of her father’s disappointment; of his love for her even as he should reprimand her again. They had not apologized, had barely spoken a word to one another. His aged hand, wrinkled and stiff, had found hers and wrapped tenderly around it with a gentle squeeze. It had been enough. Now, Ceryse wished only she had said everything that had been in her head, floated across her tongue, only to be stopped by obstinate lips, unwilling or unable to swallow her pride enough. Had she even said she loved him, when they parted at his chamber doors? The scene played over and over in her head and she wished she had wine to wash it away.

It hadn’t been his fault, though she had blamed him and everyone else for the pain and shame she had been dealt by the Seven, by Maegor, by fate, by awful luck. Ceryse was already dressed in black, simple silk, no ostentatious adornments of fire or dragons. The brief rage-induced euphoria of the night after she had left her father had been dashed so quickly when she was disturbed from her slumber. She had never strayed before. Not for all the time that Maegor had done as he wished, not for any of the time that he had ignored her and her bed. It was impulsive, all of it, though men would whisper that she had been in her cups she had been of clear and sound mind. Everyone had a breaking point. And the Volantene man had been so eager to prove himself a worthy sin. She had been woken having barely slept, still entangled in sheets and limbs, to find that her world had shifted completely.

It was her fault, she would be blamed. They accused her of giving the dragons cause against her, now she had killed her father. She tried to find a way to defend herself against what she knew would be said but could only find herself agreeing with the invented charges. Self-loathing reinvented itself as rage renewed against all those who had wronged her, that had led to this exact moment. The Hightower flame burned brightly within her, perhaps it was not fire and blood, but it could burn all the same.

The gloved hands rested atop the star-shaped crystal pommel as the longsword touched the floor with a gentle clank, the man in armor and mail and robed with rainbows gave a deep breath, before a deeper sigh. The Grand Captain of the Warrior’s Sons, Ser Morgan, once of House Hightower, held a deep voice with a pained tone, “Fool man, may the Father judge you justly.”

Though it took him a moment, after a few prolonged moments, Ser Morgan tilted his shaved head in her direction, and spoke quietly, “Is it true? Did he and his forsaken foster daughter really threaten the High Septon with an army? I mean, I can believe the man who was once my father was an overly proud, overly brash, arrogant brute…but even that seems a step too far for him.”

There was another beat, but one far shorter, one that came only with a hair’s hesitation for him to add, “…you didn’t really…with the Volantene man, it’s just the things being said…”

“All of it is true.” She whispered it sharply, unsure if her voice would carry enough for him to hear her admission and regretted it instantly. “Our uncle,” presumptuous pride still to deny him his title, “had earned the threat.” Her relationships with her family had grown so strained, tattered and beyond repair. She lifted her head so her gaze could meet his cautious eyes. He didn’t really want to know the truth, did he? Such a highly honored man of the Warrior’s Sons, sworn sword of the Faith, but his judgment as a brother would wound her more. “My husband takes a second wife and I am to be judged for one small moment of…respite?” Her head shook softly. Servants had seen them together, it would not take long for the truth and then some to spread across all of Oldtown. “Haven’t I been punished enough?” She looked past him again, to where her father lay. “Damn him to seven hells for leaving us this way.”

The bitterness in her voice cracked. “What will you do now, Morgan? Family or Faith?” Her eyes were earnest, searching his face for the boy she had once known.

“Seven Hells, father…”

The Grand Captain of the Warrior’s Sons closed his eyes and sighed, once more, a level of frustration boiled by a hot undercurrent of anger, the leather of his gloves making a small sound as his grip upon the blade’s pommel and handle tightened. The longsword clanked against the ground once more, though this time, not as gently.

“The High Septon,” he said it, sharply, correcting her lapse of addressing the man who was also their uncle by his proper title, “is the voice of the Seven on our mortal plane. There is nothing the Seven could have done to warrant being threatened with an ARMY, Ce—your Grace.” He all but grunted her title, teeth clinched, not wanting to descend to the level of letting emotion get in the way of what was right. His nostrils flared, and his head shook, a small, quick, thing of a man in his thoughts, “no, Manfred Hightower always had an ego the height of the Hightower. And her…”

He gave a low, scornful, breath of a chuckle, “You well know her arrogance from how she was in her youth but from what I hear, every victory she has claimed, however dubiously claimed, likely belonging to Den Tarly or Thad Rowan, has only seemed to make her worse. Your husband may not even have the ego she does. At least he was exiled.”

Outward his breath came again, as if Ser Morgan was venting the heat inside him, to find an inner calm, “A sin in response to a sin is still a sin, your Grace. We will see to it that your husband is held to task for what he has done. You cannot degrade yourself, you are the Queen of Westeros now, and we will protect you.”

He nodded, firm, before his head turned to meet her eyes at the question of Faith or family, “You would ask me that? We both know Martyn is a fool who worshiped the flawed man who sired us. Martyn will simply go right along with whatever things that man promised that unnatural girl. And that being an army against the Faith?...I am the Grand Captain of the Warrior’s Sons, your Grace. I cannot abide such a thing.”

A rebuttal stuck at the tip of tongue, the boy was long gone. Worn away by a pious zeal that she would never understand. The hypocrisy was endless, but his confidence in himself and his beliefs did nothing except throw fuel back onto the fire. “How dare you. Vittoria has more than earned her reputation, exceeds what is spoken of her while lesser men try and claim her glory for themselves.” The woman she would have loved to call sister or even daughter was hers alone to judge, and only for the girl’s own benefit. Where was she now? Had she already heard that Manfred had died? She prayed the girl found a few more moments of peace.

The comparison to Maegor struck her like a slap across her face. Redness crept up her neck. Protection, from what? A husband who had abandoned her? “You are Morgan Hightower, always a fool-headed boy and now a fool-headed man who’s replaced his mind with blind faith.”

Before she could trade any further barbs, she caught movement from the corner of her eyes. No one else should be here. They shouldn’t even be here. Ceryse turned her head to see several septas behind her and to their sides. Her eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, the hair on the back of her neck bristled. “I am the rightful queen of Westeros, bonded by marriage to the dragon to whom the faith bent and anointed. You will do as your queen commands and escort me back to the High Tower. Now.” She commanded, but rage edged her words with something too much like desperation.

His head bobbed to the side in a side-ways half-nod, “Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps I wrong her. I am just a man, fallible as any other, I do not claim to be anything else, but I do not threaten the Faith with an army…as you say she has done.“

In the wake of her growing anger, Ser Morgan stared at the dead man in the center of the great Sept, the man who once seemed as large to him as the Hightower. To the woman who was once his sister, he sounded only sad. “Vanity and pride are no weapons in the Light of the Faith. We are all equal in the eyes of the Seven, your Grace.”

The figure that appeared was taller than the Grand Captain though slightly thinner, his armor more plain with black boots, gray mail, gray plate, and gray half-helm with a woolen blue cloak. The only thing marking him any different than any other member of the City Watch was the blue lining of the breast plate, and the golden clasp fastening his cloak. His eyes were so dark they were pools of ink, matching the hair that fell nearly to his shoulders, and the full beard that covered his face.

He moved with a grace that seemed as uncomfortably natural as a storm on the distant horizon. The voice that followed was chilling, calm under any circumstance.

“She’s in the city, and we know how to get close to her. It’s time.” Black eyes moved with a preternatural calm to meet Ceryse, with a smile that seemed to haunt full lips half-hidden under mustache and beard the color of starless, moonless, night sky, “So good to have you with us, your Grace.”

Ser Morgan lifted his longsword, and followed the other man out, leaving only Ceryse and the Septas.
Return to the Rock

Collab with @Ruby @Vanq

Keeno took a moment to retrieve his discarded torch, and bring it life again, explaining himself in a soft tone to the Princess now by his side, “The Lannisters grew up in mines, they like to explain, so I’m sure they can safely find their way to the entrance without this,” though soft of tone, there was still a hint of mischief at the corners of his mouth as he lips nearly curved into a smile, his dark eyes looking up from the torch to hers before he nodded, “I’ll lead, slowly.”

Slowly, he emphasized, to give her assurance he had in mind her injuries. His tone was as gentle as it had been with Lorelai, a tone few but Lorelai ever heard from the typically silent, ever watchful, man. At the entrance to the man he simply passed his horse, explaining, “We need to look around first.”

It was then he went back to the small building where he had found Loreon and Rhaena in a fight for survival. “I want to be sure there are no more surprises. I hate surprises.” He stalked both areas, the one where Loreon defended himself, and the one where Rhaena defended herself, with the assistance of Loreon. It was in the latter area that Keeno sighed, “Shit. See the floor? The blood pooled? It hadn’t pooled enough for you or the Lord to step in it.” He explained, slowly bringing the torch over the pooled blood, right over the boot prints now in the blood, “There was a third.”

Keeno followed, stepping carefully around the pooled blood, the sharp smell of blood and the smell of worse when a man lost his life was ignored as he followed the boot prints back to the first room, where they grew fainter, mixed with dirt. “Every time he steps, some blood comes off the bottom of the boot. Not the biggest boots, either, maybe a small man, maybe a woman.”

He followed it out a partially collapsed wall in the back, noting a bit of blood on a half-fallen wall, “jumped out here.” Keeno followed, hopping over the wall, but stopping and turning around to carefully help Rhaena over and down to the dirt, too, then he continued his hunt. They were nearly twenty yards away from any building when he stopped and held the torch to the ground. “Our third person got on their horse here. Bandits wouldn’t come back, not even with more men, assuming they know more men. They don’t look for fights, they look for easy prey, and they were probably hiding out here because few, if any, ever come this way at night.”

His eyes scanned the horizon, where the valley turned into hills that crashed against mountains. “Come on, let’s get our horses.” Rhaena’s lesson was over. He retrieved his first, since it was closer, before walking it and her to where she had left her mount. Keeno helped her up, and there was nothing awkward about his movements; he had helped injured people up on mounts before, that much was clear to any observation. His voice always soft, his tone always gentle with her, now.

She followed behind him silently, uncertain of what to make of the man. Trust should not have come easily, but what choice was there. Nothing of the night made sense, and she could not run much longer. Rhaena would need to return and deal with Aegon being dead. The thought was pushed from her mind as she trailed behind Keeno and his light. The mine was too confining and she breathed a heavy gasp of fresh air when they left them for the abandoned town again.

A feeling of dread came over her, and it was of some comfort for the man to investigate first. Rhaena followed in his wake, eyes darting to each spot he called out, her eyes lingering on the pool of blood and flashes of the man's hot breath against her neck woke her again. Easy prey? She wanted to challenge such a thing, she was a dragonrider after all…a dragonrider with no dragon. Prey.

"I hope he becomes prey to something worse." She muttered quietly, mostly to herself, as they finally made their way to their horses. Rhaena shifted in her saddle, bruises and strains that seemed to pull at her every muscle. What she'd give for a soft bed and endless sleep.

"You didn't want to leave her." She spoke up for more than noise of agreements for the first time as they urged their horses onward, away from the ghost town. "Lady Lorelai." Rhaena clarified as if there was any doubt who she meant. She picked at the skin around her nails as she loosely held the reins. "Our…" The word stuck in her throat. "My whitecloak, he will blame himself for not being here tonight."

Even as his body moved with the motion of the mount’s gait, Keeno kept his eyes on the horizon, before sweeping them to Rhaena. Taking in her words, the way she said them, and just as importantly, what she didn’t say. At the idea of the bandit becoming prey to something worse, he simply snorted, “There’s nothing worse than the life of no one, having nothing, trying to take from anyone they can. No, that man lives his punishment every single day. If it’s even a man. What if it’s a woman? What if it’s a child? Those weren’t the tracks of a full-sized man.”

Then and there, Keeno Sylhan fell into silence, watching the horizon, watching the stars to keep track of where they were headed. At the eventual break of silence that he didn’t want to leave Lorelai Lannister, he offered a suppressed chuckle, eyes kept strictly upon the horizon. “Of course, I didn’t want to leave her—I like her,” he said, finally looking into Rhaena’s eyes again, mouth half-smiling.

“I know a lifetime about what it takes to protect someone at the highest possible levels. So, when I decided my life was over, that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing…I just walked away. And I kept walking, otherwise I would be dead. I came to the end of the known world, I came to Lannisport. The King of the Rock thanked me for news of Essos, but otherwise rejected me. Tytos rejected me. It was only Lorelai who took a chance on me. And for someone that takes a chance on you, she pays better than I could have imagined…I’m not a white cloak, Rhaena. I don’t do it out of duty. I don’t even do it out of gold anymore. I do it because she deserves it. She’s good, I see virtue in her where I just don’t see it in the rest of the world. She’s smart.”

Then, even as the country became something closer to familiar to what it looked like close to Lannisport and the Rock, Keeno stopped his horse and looked directly at the Targaryen young woman. Letting out a heavy breath, letting out the truth with it, “It’s not all fucking fire and blood, Rhaena. You don’t need the dragon. You don’t need the white cloak. If you think you do, you’ll never be free, and you’ll never be able to protect yourself. You need your wits. You need your determination to survive. The dragons, the white cloaks, the crowns…yeah, that’s great, but that’s extra. Think that dragon would’ve saved Aegon’s life? Ask yourself…are you really sure about that? I’m pretty sure Essos saw countless dragon lords get mobbed and murdered, dragon and rider, for nearly a century after the Doom.”

Keeno sighed, looking back to the horizon, digging heels into the mount and pulling reins tight, starting the horse again at a slow pace, “No I don’t like leaving her. But she’ll be alright. Because she’s smart. Because she’s capable…I’ve made sure of it. And if someone does kill her?...I’ll fucking avenge her. Believe that. Now, let’s get you back to mourn and come to terms.”

Not duty, not money, but respect? Rhaena knew little of Lorelai Lannister. Though she had heard whispers that it was Lorelai who had arranged their rescue, tonight in the cavern had been the most words they exchanged since she had taken refuge at the Rock. But that only raised more questions for her, what kind of person could engender such loyalty? Would Ser Robin be by her side were it not for sworn oaths and duty?

She urged the horse onwards, behind Keeno, barely noticing the passing landscape. While she had taken off after Loreon in haste, now, she found herself wishing for more time. Everything was chaos in her head, flashes of fire and blood. Light played at the horizon, hints of the coming sunrise. What would happen if she just kept riding, ran from it all, shed the weight of everything that threatened to suffocate her completely. But it wasn’t who she was or ever could be.

“Not all fire and blood?” She spoke with a force that took even her by surprise. “My grandfather brought these kingdoms to their knees with fire and blood. It is who we are, who we are destined to be.” Her voice rose, a shrill desperation as if the core of her being was called into question. Whatever had happened in Essos after the Doom was not of concern. It was different, it was why they had left with the foresight of what was to come. “How can I be anything else?” Her anger peaked again, threatened to swell into rage but Keeno had proven to be kind. To be worthy of restraint. It wasn’t his fault, but he was the only one there to bear the brunt of it. “I am nothing else.” She whispered it, saddened and then angry in turn at the sadness.

Keeno Sylhan smirked, "Sure, Princess," he said, though the title didn't fit the man's tone, "that's really working out for you."
She could not run nor hide from her blood. She would not. “I have no more time for tears.” Rhaena kicked her horse's sides, urging it from its easy pace to a full gallop. Casterly lay ahead of them, and there was much to be done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…what the fuck are you doing?...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was that screaming?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summaries & Links

  • Lorelai Lannister suffers a strange and ominous dream. [Post by Ruby]
  • Elayne Rivers endures her life as an outcast amongst her family and recalls the last time she crossed paths with Damon Harroway. [Post by LadyRunic]
  • Queen Dowager Visenya calls upon her magic and her departed siblings for guidance. [Post by Ezekiel]
  • Vittoria Tyrell and her Mercenary Captain, Garin, dispatch with a group of bandits who had been harassing Elmo Harroway on his way to Oldtown.[Collab Post by Ruby, LadyRunic, Amorian]
  • Vittoria and her younger sister Mina catch up and discuss expectations of themselves for their family, their house, their lands.[Collab Post by Ruby, Espada Emi]
  • Elmo and Vittoria discuss Harrenhal, his plans, and come to an arrangement.[Collab Post by Ruby, LadyRunic]
  • Lord Hubert Arryn and his sister, Elys, finally receive news of where their heir and sister have landed. In Volantis, they suffer from the heat. [Post by Vanq]
  • The Arryns in Volantis are rescued from the heat by the timely arrival of Aster Rahl. [Collab Post by Almalthia, Vanq]
  • Vaera Balaerys arrives to King's Landing. [Post by Ruby]
  • The Ironborn purge followers of the Faith. [Post by Archangel89]

In Dragonstone, King Aenys, having fled with his family to avoid the growing Faithful unrest in King's Landing, falls gravely ill. [Collab Post by Almalthia, Vanq]
Aegon and Rhaena Targaryen are attacked near Oxcross, in the Westerlands, by Poor Fellows. [Post by Vanq]

They escape only thanks to timely intervention from House Lannister, where they are escorted and attempts to save Aegon's life seem unlikely to succeed. [Post]

In desperation, sacrifices are made to R'hllor by Lord Loreon's Red Priestess, Lysara. The sacrifice fails, Prince Aegon's death sped along in an act of treason and murder. [Post]
South of the Wendwater

Lady Ellyn Dayne and the Poor Fellows

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

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

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

“Get out.” She needed to atone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As they passed sites in the city that were common to him Aster watched for little things to interest Sharra. His mother always said that paying attention to a woman was the way to her heart.
© 2007-2023
BBCode Cheatsheet