Lady Farra looked out over the red foothills of her home. The throngs of people gathering below her at the gates of the Oakdown family keep were here to celebrate, not mourn. Six months ago the crowds had gathered to mark another anniversary of the tragic murder of her Lord husband Nygel Oakdown and her three children. Today, the crowds gathered in hope.
The air was crisp. Farra pulled her formal gowns tightly around her. The hearth was crackling inside the High Hall, and the warmth found within was tempting. She couldn’t bring herself to go inside to enjoy it. Not yet. She was advancing in years, and it wasn’t clear how many more moments like this she might survive to see.
Her mind raced back, recalling the first time she saw Redgate. She was barely a woman grown when she arrived to marry the stranger that would become the love of her life. That was the way of things in the Seven Kingdoms. She considered herself blessed indeed by the Seven. So many other ladies she knew were forced to endure their marriages to men who cared little for them. Worse, she knew several who suffered far more than emotional neglect. Blessedyly, she and Nygel came to love each other. Awash with relief when she first met him that day, the two had been scarcely separated for the remainder of his days. Her Sand Dornish kin had traveled west to the foothills to watch her take the deep red cloak with the sand colored silhouette of her new husband’s House. The symbol told all who gathered there that she was now an Oakdown, and would enjoy the comfort and protection of her new House, as well as share in it’s destiny. She had fiercely protected it ever since.
Sixteen years ago, down below her at the entrance of Redgate, messengers came in to bring the terrible tidings of the slaughter at Graybrook. Inconsolable, she commanded the bells of the Sept to toll her loss, so that all of the land could bear this misery together. The Keep entered into a period of mourning; one that many (including her own grandchildren) claim never lifted. Few had the courage to tell this to her personally, but she was no fool. Let them talk. To her mind, love was not only feasts and joy. It was loyalty, and rememberance. If she kept her husband and her children dear to her heart, they would never truly be lost to her. She clung to that as it fell to her to raise a new generation of children.
She looked down once more, and the crowds celebrating and entering the keep vanished in her mind’s eye. In their place, she recalled seeing her precious granchildren playing in the courtyard. Andros, the spitting image of her Nygel, played at swords with the guards, his brother, his cousin… anyone who he could convince to pick up a sword. Unlike some of his other family, Andros had to work at the craft. Truthfully, he wasn’t much of a swordsman- but he had many, many other gifts of his own. It never seemed to appease him. Andros was fiercely brave, and he would will himself to master the blade.
Often watching and admiring his older brother was Quinn, the youngest of her son Arthur’s three children. Unlike Andros, Quinn was very talented with a sword- even from a young age. He didn’t share his older brother’s diplomacy or charisma, or his instinct for leadership. To ask Quinn, though, he was a pale comparison of his hero of an older brother. The family admired his humility, and loved him dearly. The middle child was her sweet Charlotte. She was a precocious young lady. She had an active mind, loved to learn, and asked many questions. The poor girl found much of the life in the Seven Kingdoms to be terribly unfair. She was right of course, but this was the way of things. Farra sighed and smiled to herself. It was well that little Charlotte hadn’t been born north of the Dornish Marches. As a Reach girl, life would be even more unfair. At least in Dorne a woman could inherit, and enjoyed some privileges denied to the fairer sex in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms.
She didn’t have many memories of her natural born grandson Desmond at play below. Strange. She was certain he must have been there- the cousins loved one another. The fact that he was bastard born to Farra’s youngest daughter Annabyl would have played no part. In Dorne, bastards were not looked down upon like they were in the rest of Westeros. Even though many of the people of the Red Mountains shared some of the narrow minded views held in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, she knew for a certainty that her family did not. They accepted Desmond and loved him as she did. Even when Andros and Desmond quarreled, she knew it was because they were all but siblings. Nothing more. The few memories of Desmond she did have were of him playing with spears while his cousins played at swords. Desmond’s olive skin was not all that reminded Farra of her people far to the east. He shared their temper, and their love of the spear. And if there was another who was more skilled at war than her little Quinn, it was Desmond. Farra, and her advisors as well, agreed they had never seen anything like it. Not in Lord Nygel, or Arthur, any of the men at arms.
Finally she recalled her other two grandchildren, the daughters of her second child, Aryl. They, like Desmond, were olive skinned and dark haired. They were stunningly beautiful, and adored the life of a Dornish noblewoman. The two sisters were rivals, and friends. While the other cousins played at war, or in Charlotte’s case, read and rode the Prince’s Pass, these two sat and watched the people of Redgate. They giggled, and flirted, with the travelers and boys who came and went. They took to the politics of the Seven Kingdoms the way that Quinn and Desmond took to arms. They left their dolls at an early age, preferring to frolic with one another and the children of the keep.
Farra was startled from her memory by the bells tolling. Today it was not the somber tolling of mourning, but the happy chimes of celebration. Farra sincerely hoped that today would be the beginning of a brighter chapter for her family. She did not know how much longer she would be able to toil on their behalf. She was determined to do all she could while she was able. Her aching was constant now. She had to walk slowly, often with the help of a terribly undignified cane. Her hands burned with pain when she tried to close her fingers, and her knuckles were ablaze constantly.
Farra smiled when she saw her dear friend was coming to help her. Ingvar Dent had only been at Redgate a relatively short amount of time, but he had earned her trust quickly. He was always considerate, and never more so than at this moment. His family from a world away was gathered in the High Hall, including his beloved cousin whom all had feared lost. House Dent had been the personal guests of Lady Oakdown for several months, but they had decided it was time for them to return home to their lands far to the North. None could have blamed Ingvar for spending his every waking moment with them- yet here he was, escorting her down to the feast in his family’s honor. It would spare her the humiliation of walking with her cane, and let her enjoy his company for a few moments.
In the High Hall, the guests gathered to celebrathe another wedding. Today was Oakdown’s second union in several months. Earlier, the family had traveled to Yronwood to celebrate Lady Daera Oakdown’s marriage to Ser Cransen Yronwood. Customarily, the weddings were celebrated in the homes of the groom. Today, though, Redgate was able to host Elyana’s wedding personally. Elyana’s groom, Adrian Connington, was warmly welcomed by all. His house once commanded great respect, but was now under fierce scrutiny by the Iron Throne. It had been so for years, in truth. Since the murder of King Joffrey, that had intensified considerably. While all accepted that the King’s own Uncle had masterminded the plot, a hunt was under way for his co-conspirators. The Starks and their Northern allies, House Dent, were chief among them. Word was beginning to circulate that Oakdown was involved as well. Despite all of this, Dorne was far safer at the moment than the Stormlands. To be cautious, it was decided that the wedding would be held at Redgate. Adrian Connington’s own family was small in number, and easily accomodated. More importantly, the celebration could be enjoyed in relative security.
As Ingvar slowly led Lady Farra down the stairs, she couldn’t help but sigh sadly. The day would have been perfect if everyone could have been together. Andros assured Lady Farra that Desmond had safely gotten out of King’s Landing after the Purple Wedding. In the months that followed, though, no one had seen him. Farra hoped against hope that he might have heard of the event, and found his way home in the waning moments as he did for the most recent anniversary. It would be reckless for him to do so. Travelling, even in Dorne, was likely going to be far more dangerous. Farra smiled optimistically. Desmond was nothing if not reckless. He survived a trial by combat with the accursed Fowlers. Anything was possible.