Bow Before The Sun

Elyana I
16th anniversary of the Hooded Uprising, The Maiden's 4th

The noise outside Elyana’s room grew increasing louder as preparations for the feast were well underway. There still remained a couple of hours before her presence would be required but she knew that meant the inevitable – leaving the sanctuary of her room where she had holed up for the better part of the day. The day Grandmother Farra had set aside for all to remember.

Elyana would rather do anything than remember. Too much had taken place on this day. And this morning, it was all she could bear to accompany Grandmother and her cousins to the day-long rituals she had managed to avoid for so many years. But now that Kymberly gone, it was barely worth Grandmother’s wrath to sneak away while she visited the sept before all the chaos began. Or so she thought. They couldn’t have been twenty minutes into the ceremony at Sorrow Ridge when the overwhelming need to flee overcame Elyana. How could these people withstand this drudgery year after year?

If only her frustrations ended when she left the family at Sorry Ridge, but she furthered them when she met up with Hammond among the vendors. Upon inquiring of news of Kymber, Hammond had left her with no hope. Elyana was disappointed and her disappointment turned to resentment. With that disgusting excuse of a man removed from her father’s company, Kymber had no reason not to return. Elyana had gone to great troubles so her friend could be at her side again. How could Kymber not want that as well? A friendship like theirs was rare.

Elyana sat in her lounging chair, sipping her favorite Strongwine, savoring the blood colored nectar. She found herself retreating here more and more. Today had been especially taxing, and it wasn’t close to over.

A short but loud rap rang across her bedroom door. Elyana had been expecting it. Yes, Grandmother – the blasted feast. She took one final sip and sat her glass down, summoning all her emotional strength to face whoever was on the other side of the door to escort her to the feast. As she swung the heavy oak door open she was a little started to see two men unknown to her. The man on the left bore a sun pierced lapel pin, which Elyana gleaned instantly. The other wore the black and sand colors of House Yronwood. Just as she calculated that one must be none other than Quentin Martell, he spoke.

“Good evening, Lady Elyana. I am Ser Quentin Martell and this is my companion Ser Cransen Yronwood. Lady Farra requested Ser Cransen make your acquaintance and join you for the feast. I also need to see to another matter – you wouldn’t happen to know where I could find Desmond?”

“Most likely in his chambers, I would supposed,” as she motioned down the hallway. Quentin acknowledged and politely took his leave. Ser Cransen and Elyana stood in the doorway, sizing the other up. “How would you like a tour of our Keep, Ser Cransen?” Elyana offered to break the silence.

“That would be lovely.”

Cletus III

Cletus practically jumped when he saw him. The heir to Yronwood spent the first hour of the feast examining his prospects for the evening. Daera Oakdown was in the frontrunner. Cletus found most noble ladies to be entirely too protecting of their virtue, but this young woman had a flair for sensuality. Her silk gown dipped to reveal her ample bosom, and her dark eyes often spied Cletus’ attention. Daera’s only response was a playful smile. Cletus had resolved once he found his friend to make his way to the young Lady Oakdown and test the waters. If that fell through, there were several servants who promised to provide an enjoyable time. For the duration, however, Cletus was determined to find out where his cousin and closest friend had vanished to. Cransen and Quentyn ushered him out of the High Hall, closing the double doors. Cletus had waited patiently, but after a couple of hours the feast began. There seemed to be no cause for alarm, and Lady Farra assured him that both Quentyn Martell and Cransen Yronwood were fine. Still, it made him uncomfortable. If Cletus had found himself in the Keep of an accomplished Lord, a warrior, he might have been nervous. But what harm could an old woman do? Cransen carried on like a child about meeting her, which further caused Cletus to question his cousin’s fitness for Knighthood. Quentyn_Martell.jpg

After an hour of feasting, and staring at servant wenches and the sublime Lady Daera, Cletus did finally come upon his dear friend Quentyn.

“Seven Hells! And where exactly have you been? A Knight for two weeks, and you think you can roam the Red Mountains alone do you?”

Quentyn stood on a walkway, overlooking the Prince’s Pass below. “Hmm? It was nothing like that. You do recall your father and mine demanding our service don’t you?”

Ser Cletus’ face turned sour. “Oh, don’t try that. Of course I remember. You and Cransen were the ones that saw fit to proceed without me, right? I realize we had messages from our father’s to deliver.”

Quentyn smiled slightly, reassuringly. “And we’ve made some progress there. Lady Farra seemed warm to the marriage proposal, even if she did switch the bride. At her request, I took Cransen down to meet Lady Elyana. They will sup this evening together. It won’t matter. Cransen is no fool. A dinner with Elyana costs us nothing. We’ll insist upon the marriage to Lady Charlotte or none at all. Your father won’t abide a lesser noble marrying an Yronwood.”

“I don’t know. Cransen seems quite the fool to me, old friend.” Cletus walked up next to Quentyn, and stared down at the throng of smallfolk below. “As opposed to Lady Farra. She is wise to take care of her people. Most Lords and Ladies would not take the time or expense to share a feast with common folk. Yet look at them. They love her for it. They climb the leagues to mourn beside her, beat their breasts with grief, and stand outside the gate on the winding road for hours. Night has fallen, and still they remain. They truly love her and the Oakdown family.”

Quentyn nodded in agreement, then said “They do love her. All of Lonetree must be empty tonight. I pity the travelers who try to find their way through that crowd. The merchants below have not taken down their tents, and the crowd only seems to grow. They might be having more fun than we are.”

Cletus scoffed. “Certainly more fun than you. You haven’t even entered the High Hall have you? The food looks serviceable, and they have wine. And women who know how to dress, mind you.” Quentyn nodded beside his friend. Cletus continued. “And what of the message your father, my Prince, bade us to deliver?”

Quentyn’s face lowered. “That is another matter I’m afraid. I went to Desmond’s chambers, but he was not there. I dare not ask Desmond out in the open- I can’t risk his grandmother’s refusal.”

“Desmond’s not like these others. He does as he pleases. I doubt Lady Farra would interfere, and I doubt Desmond would listen if she did.”

Quentyn stared down at the throng of revelers below. “Perhaps. I left him word on his bed to find me. I haven’t seen him. If he isn’t here, it will be too late. With or without the message, my father’s orders were clear. You and I leave for Planky Town tomorrow. Who knows when we might return? Our mission is one of extreme secrecy. No one will even know to come looking for us.” Cletus hushed him, and pointed to the Northerner, Ingvar, and Ser Tygor’s bride as they climbed the stair for the High Hall. Quentyn nodded in understanding. He had been too reckless, and if he intended to complete his task successfully, he would have to learn to be far more careful. Quentyn spied the Heir of Redgate, Andros Oakdown walking with one of the Fowler twins as well. No doubt the two exchanged more words of reproach and duty.

The sounds of a man and woman singing loudly echoed off the sandstone walls. The minstrels had begun their entertainment. The meal would be served soon after. The crowd thickened as the few guests who were seated in the High Hall were joined by the rest of the nobles on hand. Cletus motioned to Quentyn that they find their seats. Other noble guests began to do the same, and a stream of people came from up the stairwell and down the halls. Cransen was at the entrance of the hall to greet them. His smile was reluctant. “Cousin, would you do me the honor of joining myself and Lady Charlotte and Elyana for dinner?”

Cletus noticed Lady Charlotte staring off into the crowd. It appeared as though she were more interested in the Maester and the crippled house guest than the Scions of Yronwood. Charlotte was lovely, but dressed simply. He couldn’t help but feel sorry for poor Cransen. Yet perhaps he should give the boy more credit. Despite Lady Farra’s request that he dine with Elyana, Cransen had managed to still be seated next to the woman Lord Anders intended. Which suited him fine. That meant he would be able to sit next to that ravishing beauty for dinner. He could see the resemblance between Daera and Elyana instantly. They were both olive skinned with dark hair and features like the Sand Dornish of their grandmother. He had heard tales of their beauty, and the tales did not disappoint. Pity that it was Charlotte, and not them, who stood to inherit the Oakchair should Lord Andros be unable. Cletus knew, however, that one needn’t keep the garden to enjoy the fruit. It had been long enough that Ser Cletus had gone without his fruit. He took his seat next to Lady Elyana after making his formal introduction to Lady Charlotte. Despite Charlotte’s lack of interest in his cousin, Cletus remained hopeful.

The wine had already flown freely. Cletus smiled. It promised to be a good night.

Mauro IV

Mauro and lady Charlotte reached the antechamber beside the high hall and drifted over to the windows along the eastern wall by habit. It was the usual place Mauro paused to rest after he ascended the stairs to exercise his knee.

Except they did not find themselves alone when they exited the stairwell. A tall, dark-skinned Dornishman was already standing there, staring into the fading dusk. His reflection mirrored on the glass revealed dark eyes deep in thought beneath dark hair draped a bit longer than shoulder length, laid over a long fur-lined cloak that looked more appropriate on a northerners back. A disparate bit of garb on a Dornishman to be sure, but he clearly favored it for some reason or another?

The rest of his garments were locally fashioned and fit for a warrior, tailored loose around the shoulders, tighter around the legs and waist, fit for riding and swordplay both. His posture was excellent, intimating discipline, fitness and confidence. Beneath his tunic his shoulders looked thickened from practice with sword and shield, but what impressed Mauro the most was the fact he looked to be a year or two younger than himself.

And then of course, there was the magnificent looking sword on his hip. Mauro felt his gaze drawn to it as naturally as they would towards a beautiful woman. He’d learned to recognize a fine blade after so many years in the east, the birthplace of Valyrian steel… and now he had to admit, he was almost as interested in this strangers sword as his name.

There’s no way this was the suitor she spoke of was it??? He wondered, feeling suddenly very small in the presence of this… paragon.

Charlotte: “Ser Tygor!”

The man turned towards her, moving smoothly and smiling politely. Mauro immediately ascertained from that smile that this man and lady Charlotte were not very close, and that made him happy somehow? …strange… he didn’t expect to be jealous of another man as far as lady Charlotte was concerned? But then, he glimpsed the ring on the mans finger and realized he had no reason to be jealous in the first place. He was married.

Ser Tygor: “Lady Charlotte… a pleasure to see you.” He said corteously, with just the faintest nod of his head.

Charlotte: Glances at Mauro. “Ser Tygor, I’d like to introduce you to Mauro Drokhe. A guest of my grandmother, and… a friend.” She says a tad shyly.

Ser Tygor seems to get another inch or so taller in Mauro’s eyes when he squares his shoulders and focuses his attention on him. Mauro was aware he was being introduced to a knight, a man of honor and greater social standing even if he knew nothing else about him.

He should act accordingly and bow lowly. But for some innexplicable reason, he did not… it was as if he was paralyzed, which baffled and confounded him, and the worst part of it was he knew he was embarassing Charlotte and hated himself for it.

It finally took her sharp elbow into his ribs to make him snap out of it.

Mauro: Bowed at last, yet perhaps still not so deeply as he should have. “Hello ser.” He said plainly.

Ser Tygor: Narrowed his eyes at Mauro almost imperceptibly, yet the meaning was plainly clear to them both even if Charlotte did not notice. It was a look of challenge between fighters, the same look Mauro had shared with many other men on the streets of Braavos. And with that look, came the same rush of adrenaline he relished.

So you don’t just wear that lovely sword for show do you? Mauro thought to himself, realizing that he’d been itching for a fight ever since he battled those brigands. He was walking and standing again… and for the first time in month’s he’d actually forgotten about the pain in his knee… why shouldn’t he find a reason to satisfy this itch to cross blades?

Ser Tygor: “Well met Mauro. I heard someone was… recovering… under the Maester’s care. Brigands was it?”

Mauro: Feels his jaw tense a bit. Is he mocking me?! “They had me at their mercy I’m afraid. A cowardly, yet well-executed ambush.”

Ser Tygor: “I wish you a speedy recovery then. I might be curious to see how you handle that Braavosi blade… when you aren’t outnumbered of course.”

Mauro: Felt his gaze narrow back this time. I’ll give you a lesson in sharp steel you won’t forget! He thought to himself and almost heard himself say it, but then Charlotte spoke up again and distracted them from cutting each other further with their tongues as a precursor to the real thing.

Charlotte: “How is lady Christina?” She asks Ser Tygor warmly.

Desmond IV

Desmond broke his gaze away from the Oakchair and his memories and walked down the hall to the spring-fed baths. A walk surrounded the perimeter of the pool and it was here that he dropped his belongings and his travel-worn clothing. He descended the steps into the steaming waters, submerging himself completely. He surfaced, pushing his feet against the smooth stones at the bottom of the bath and reached for the basket on the walk that held the cakes of soap and clean rags. He scrubbed himself thoroughly, washing away the grime from the long journey from Sunspear and blood from his exertions at the Devil’s Cup.

He finished and made his way to the submerged bench near the steps. Desmond sat and leaned his head against the edge of the pool. The warm waters lapped around him and he closed his eyes. He just needed a moment to relax before preparing for the feast.

He woke some time later. The western facing window showed a narrow sliver of light, meaning it was nearly nightfall. In a panic, he stood and climbed from the bath. He had brought no towel and couldn’t very well put his fetid travel garments back on. The nearest stair to his chambers resided in the Main Hall. Hopefully, it would still be relatively clear and he could reach his room without causing a disturbance. Water from the bath dripping around him he stepped, naked as his birth from the passageway to the Castellan’s Tower into the Main Hall. There were a few people gathered at the far end of the Hall near the Oakchair at a table that had been laid with refreshments. None of them were looking toward the stair and Desmond made his way toward the arch.

As he gained the stair, he thought he heard a gasp and whispers start from behind but at the worst they had merely caught a glimpse of his backside. At least he was fit. Likely, some of the ladies had enjoyed the sight.

He made his way up but before he reached the second floor or the third where his chambers lay, he heard footfalls from above. With nowhere to go except back down, he continued on. With any luck it was only a servant. That hope was broken as silken slippered feet and the hem of a dark blue dress appeared above. As the figure made its way down into full view he saw that the dress was worn by a slim woman and slashed with silver. The young lady had high cheekbones, and soft, slightly tilted blue eyes, and hair of the finest yellow.

And wore the badge of a Fowler.

He feigned ignorance of the young woman’s identity and ignored for the moment that she was wandering Redgate unattended. After all, she was only a girl, what trouble could she possibly cause, Fowler or no?

“My saddlebags are in the bath, see that they’re brought up to my room,” he said coldly as he pushed past her, closer than necessary even in the cramped stairwell. “Be a dear and step quickly, now, but mind the spear. It is sharp.”

He flashed an emotionless smile and continued up the stair, leaving young Jeyne – or was it Jennelyn? – with her jaw on the stairs and rather resembling a trout as her mouth worked up and down soundlessly. As he approached the second floor landing he heard a high, thin voice float up toward him.

“I’ll do you the courtesy of letting one of the servants know to bring up your belongings and hope that you’ll be dressed more appropriately at the feast. Perhaps then we can speak of proper decorum, Master Sand.”

Resisting the urge to rush back down the stairs and throttle the little bitch, Des continued his climb to the third floor and his room. Besides, the air was chilly and he was still soaking wet. He wasn’t sure if he was pleased to find that his arrival had not gone unnoticed by the servants as he found a rough-spun towel and his feast-day clothing set out on the bed.

He dressed quickly in his black raiment and pulled on the supple knee-high riding boots looking, he expected, as if he should be patrolling the Wall in the gods-forsaken North rather than going to a feast in a Dornish House.

Desmond III

With Tempest unsaddled, combed, and stabled Desmond slung his saddlebags over his shoulder and retrieved his spear from the corner. He could have left Tempest’s care to Henred, the old stablemaster, but found some small measure of comfort in the simple task of caring for the steed. In a way, the horse was his closest friend; he spent more time with Tempest on the road from Redgate to Sunspear than he did with anyone at either end of the journey. And the horse didn’t talk back, which Desmond counted as a point in the stallion’s favor.

Desmond gave the horse’s flank a final pat, gave Henred instructions to be sure to get a bucket of oats into the stall before nightfall, and headed for the keep proper. Again, he managed to cross the yard while attracting little notice. The guards on the wall had their attention directed outward not in and it was a while yet before nightfall when the mourners would be returning from the Ridge.

He climbed the stair and pulled open the door, which was heavy but balanced and opened silently on its well-oiled hinges. A pair of servants had lowered the chandelier in the foyer to the floor and were busy setting new candles and removing the melted wax from the old. Desmond went round, dismissing their muttered greetings, and headed for the baths in the base of the Castellan’s Tower. He briefly considered mounting the spiral staircase in the Main Hall and taking his saddlebags and spear to his chambers on the third floor of the same tower but decided if he went up he would probably fall into his bed and miss the feast.

As he entered the Main Hall, he looked down to the opposite end at the Oakchair. Its massive bulk dominated the far end of the hall, the carved seat and stylized, spreading branches carried an air of strength. The seat of House Oakdown, it was a chair the Desmond had only sat in once and knew that he never would again. It had been shortly after the Hooded Uprising, perhaps a month after the massacre, when he had woken in the night. A boy of only six at the time, he had difficulty as he came to realize he was well and truly alone in Redgate. His cousins found comfort in each other’s company, having siblings and their mothers. With the death of his mother, Annabyl, and with no father, Desmond was an orphan. The Bastard Orphan of Redgate.

On this night, as with many others since his mother had been taken from him, he had stayed in his room during dinner despite the urgings of the septa. Well, perhaps, she had only given up after he had struck her and bitten her arm as she tried to drag him out of bed. He had been a bit wild in those days. After the septa had left his chambers – Desmond could never recall her name she had left the household within a year of the Uprising – he had cried himself to sleep. When he woke he was famished and, so, had crept down toward the kitchens off the Main Hall to try to find a bite to eat. Delayna, the cook, would often leave bread and cheese on the board in case any members of the family missed the evening meal in their mourning.

Halfway down the stairs he had stopped as the sounds of sobbing had reached his ears. Curious, he had stolen down softly and peeked warily around the corner into the Main Hall. A shape was slumped in the Oakchair with its head down against one arm, body heaving as it was wracked with grief. As Desmond realized that it was his grandmother, he approached softly. Hearing his footfalls and startled, she had raised her head fixing him with red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks. As her face contorted in pain again, she lifted her hands and called Desmond to her. She had lifted him up beside her onto the Oakchair and had held him, rocking him softly as they both shared their woe.

“Desmond, you are all that the Fowlers have left me of my sweet Annabyl. We have both lost all and the others will not – cannot – understand. They have others to share their pain and we have been left alone. We are together in this but we must be strong. We must hide our pain. Bury it deep, little Desmond, until the time is right.”

At the time, he hadn’t understood what she meant. As he grew it became clear that it was vengeance to which Lady Farra had referred. As he grew so too did his hatred of the Fowlers.

Mauro III

Mauro followed Maester Llewellyn out of his chamber, pleasantly surprised to see lady Charlotte standing by the stairwell. Was she waiting for me? He wonders, flashing her a smile.

As he limped towards her, he used the opportunity to admire her dress more closely. Made of a light and breathy velvet fabric it appeared very soft to the touch, creamy in color, embroidered with pearls. It wasn’t as revealing as the courtesans of Lys would favor, but it had some flattering qualities.

It never ceased to amaze Mauro how easily women distracted him from his troubles. Left to his own company he was pessimistic and prone to dark thoughts. Yet in the presence of the finer sex he often felt happier and more cheerful. The company of lady Charlotte was just what he needed to pass the time until he had more answers in the morning.

It was true that lady Charlotte was nothing like Laurel in Mauro’s eyes. Charlotte was less sensual and wild, but still attractive in other ways. She had wit to match his own, and a clarity of thinking he could only envy. Whats more, he found her honesty and frank speech quite refreshing.

Mauro: “You should rescue me from Llewellyn’s clutches more often lady Charlotte.”

Charlotte: “I have a feeling you need him more then you dislike him. Same as the rest of us.”

Mauro: “Woe for us then.”

Charlotte: “Woe indeed… but you weren’t born into this sort of household so I suppose you aren’t used to it? We nobles usually grow up beneath a Maesters education and guidance. We’re used to their… outrecuidance.”

Mauro: “Has he ever told you what sort of man he was before he became a Maester? He avoids the subject entirely with me.”

Charlotte: “Nobody knows except my grandmother. But is that really what you want to talk about right now?”

Mauro: Smirks “I dunno… what do you think I want to talk about?”

Charlotte: “Whatever I want to talk about of course! And since you aren’t polite enough to ask, I’ll just tell you. I’ve just been made aware that Cransen Yronwood has come to Redgate as a suitor seeking my hand!”

Mauro: “That’s exciting. Aren’t you happy about that?”

Charlotte: “Do I look happy or excited?!”

Mauro: “I suppose not… you look… mortified… actually”

Charlotte: Punches him in the arm. “That’s no way to speak to a lady!”

Mauro: “Forgive me. I’m not sure what else I can say on the matter? I know nothing of this suitor or his household. Frankly I’m surprised you even brought it up. I expect this is something you’d want to discuss with other ladies?”

Charlotte: Rolls her eyes. “That would be a complete waste of time! Ladies aren’t as honest with each other as you might imagine. We’re all rather spiteful actually, prone to lies and jealousy.”

Mauro: “And you think I’m going to tell you what I really think? You’ll probably break my arm!”

Charlotte: “That is a dilemma isn’t it? But you really should say something. I don’t know what to do. I’m not… good at this sort of thing.”

Mauro: “Well, for starters, is it really your decision?”

Charlotte: “I expect not… my grandmother is in charge of these arrangements.”

Mauro: “And what do you expect she’ll do?”

Charlotte: “Whatever’s best for the family of course.” She says with a hint of sarcasm. “And in that regard, a lesser lord like Cransen is probably not her ideal match for me. I can probably assume she’ll refuse him.”

Mauro: “What about your cousin?”

Charlotte: “Elyana would probably be thrilled. I know she’s been eager to marry.”

Mauro: “And you aren’t?”

Charlotte: “No Mauro, I’m not actually. Is that so hard to believe?”

Mauro: “Not for me. I never imagined I would want to marry either. But when you finally meet the right person, you may have a change of heart.”

Charlotte: “You spoke of a lady in Lys once, is that who you want to marry?”

Mauro: “If she’ll have me.”

Charlotte: “And what is it about marriage that appeals to you?”

Mauro: “I suppose it’s mostly a possessive instinct. I want to feel more secure that she’ll be mine and mine alone.”

Charlotte: Hmmphs. “Typical… men want to own everything.”

Mauro: “We do.”

Charlotte: “Well I don’t know about your lady in Lys, but that sentiment wouldn’t win me over.”

Mauro: “I expect not. But I admit I have a lot to learn about a great many things.”

Charlotte: “At last! You finally say something I can compliment.”

Mauro: “You’re lucky I don’t get to punch you in the arm.”

Charlotte: Punches him in the arm again. “How dare you!”

Llewellyn II

Maester.jpgLlewellyn could see the anxiety on Mauro’s face. And the young man was right to be anxious. Maester Llewellyn’s experience was that answers led to more questions, and the questions became increasingly complicated. Mauro had handed the message back to the Maester after studying it.

“Who is this Iris exactly? Can you tell me?” Mauro asked.

“I wish that I could, Mauro of the Greenblood. Our…friend…in King’s Landing has never mentioned her before. But this Sept that is mentioned is none other than the Great Sept of Baelor. How a message was found there, and why it spoke of these lands so far away, remains a mystery. Lady Farra bid me show this to you, and said she will receive you in the morning to discuss how you may wish to proceed. She has also indicated a willingness to get more answers- for your sake and our own. However, she will not speak of it with guests in the Hall, and certainly with the number of ears that come with them.”

Mauro sat quietly, and nodded understanding. Maester Llewellyn noticed a slight grimace play across Mauro’s face, but could not determine if this was from his shattered knee or the news itself.

“I appreciate your bringing this to me so quickly. You have been most hospitable.” Mauro stood carefully, bracing his weight and lifting his maimed leg with care. As he stood, the Maester smiled.

“You have done well, Mauro. That is no small task, and you did that much more quickly. You seem to be bearing the weight well enough.” The Maester sprinkled the tiniest pinch of Sweetsleep onto a small dish at Mauro’s bedside, and turned to leave. “You may require this after a full evening. I do believe spending some time up and about will help strengthen your knee, but you will likely experience some pain. Use this to help grant you a restful sleep. Then we can discuss these matters about King’s Landing in the morning.”

As Maester Llewellyn opened the chamber door, he noticed Lady Charlotte at the end of the hall, seemingly waiting for Mauro. Llewellyn looked back at Mauro, and then once more to Lady Charlotte. That may prove to be a challenge, I fear. Llewellyn, don’t be a fool, old man. Charlotte is just being a good host. That is all.

Mauro II

There was indeed a guard posted in the short hallway outside Mauro’s chamber on the third floor in castle Redgate, but that would probably be a given on a day with so many guests in the castle. Mauro met his eyes and nodded cursorily. The guard returned the nod and said nothing, giving Mauro the impression he had leave to move about as he pleased. So he stepped across the hall towards the spiral stairwell.

Mauro knew exactly how many steps there were on this cursed stairwell. He’d been up and down it a few dozen times already as part of Maester Llewellyn’s healing regiment. “You must regain what strength and flexibility you can walking everyday, or you’ll get too stiff and weak to walk at all.” He’d said.

Mauro must have cursed the man ten thousand times by now, once for every step he took down the stairs, and twice for each step back up. Sometimes the lady Charlotte accompanied him and helped take his mind off the pain with conversation. But even when she did, he still cursed the Maester silently in his head. Mauro saw no need to stop the habit now as he took each step down slowly and gingerly.

However, the stairwell was soon crowded with kitchen staff carrying trays of hot food up towards the high hall followed by lady Charlotte who paused to greet him.

Charlotte: “Oh Mauro, you’re coming up for the feast aren’t you?”

Mauro: “How could I resist?” He answered back with an easy grin… mouth already salivating from the savory scents that passed him.

In truth he was headed down to the crowd below, the better to avoid Maester Llewellyn, but he didn’t have the will to resist an empty stomach just now.

Charlotte: “I’ll be glad for your company.” She says with a smirk. “I really don’t enjoy these things that much.”

Mauro: Holds out his arm for her and winks. “That sounds like a challenge for me, my lady.”

Charlotte: Almost blushes and punches his arm playfully. “Don’t call me that! And you better not do anything to embarass me!” She says graciously accepting his arm as they walked back up the stairwell together.

Mauro: “The last time I was at a feast in Lys, I made a bet with ten different courtesans.”

Charlotte: “Oh dear… I’m sure I don’t wanna know!” She chuckles.

Mauro doesn’t have a chance to tell her anyway as Maester Llewellyn ambushes them as soon as they reach the third floor landing once again.

Spying Mauro Drokhe laboring up the stairs, Maester Llewellyn quickly steps up to him.

Maester Llewellyn: “Mauro, how is your knee holding up? I see you are taking my advice to take the air. And you’ll notice I left no attendants for you either. You see? I did listen. But first, I have something for you…”

Mauro: Wine?… He mused inwardly. “What is it Maester Llewellyn?”

Maester Llewellyn: “It regards the matter of those brigands. I have more information to share with you… confidentially.”

Mauro: “Ah.” {Turns to Charlotte} “Please excuse me lady Charlotte, I’ll catch up with you upstairs.”

Charlotte: “Very well.” She answers, detaching herself from his arm and carrying on alone.

Mauro steps back to his chamber, closing the door behind them after the Maester follows him in.

Mauro: “What news do you have?” He asks, making no effort to conceal the eagerness in his tone.

Maester Llewellyn: “As you know, Laddy Farra has tasked her contacts to seek out rumors about these recent attacks on the princes pass.” {Hands Mauro the small script} “A raven bore this from Kings Landing this morning.”

Mauro takes the script and reads it carefully.

A note for someone named Iris was found inside the Sept. You asked to be told of any news. It appears that Iris has taken interest in the Prince’s Pass of late, and invested Dragons in it’s peril. There is more danger. Be wary, come if you can, and I will strive to learn more. A.

Mauro: “Who is this Iris exactly? Can you tell me?”

Llewellyn I

Raven.jpgThe Maester had left Lady Farra knowing fully that he would learn the course of the conversation soon enough. He remained troubled to learn from his colleagues that not all Maesters were given such trust. The forged links of a Maester’s chain were dearly earned, and the efforts seem wasted if the Lords and Ladies they were sworn to serve dismissed their counsel so easily. Yet Maester Llewellyn understood the need to maintain the illusion of secrecy. Truly, it was less an illusion and more of a charade. Certainly the knights of Yronwood were no fools. Lady Farra trusted him, and valued his counsel. Llewellyn was sure of that. He would be privy to the discussion soon enough. Until then, he would observe decorum, and allow them to discuss whatever matters were required. It made no matter. There was another pressing concern to be dealt with before the feast. Llewellyn had left the High Hall and began towards the chambers of Lady Farra’s suffering guest.

Llewellyn found it interesting that an Orphan of the Greenblood had come so far. While certainly the Orphans could be found throughout Dorne, they typically paddled their boats down the Scourge or Vaith rivers, or the Greenblood itself down to the busy port of Planky Town. Lady Farra was a generous host, and Llewellyn was not surprised when she offered her hospitality to the poor Orphan. He had been assaulted by a band of brigands, and the poor lad might well have died had Ingvar’s Ghosts not found him first. They dispatched the bandits quickly, and the relative few that escaped were largely found in the following days. Unfortunately, those who led the bandits were more elusive. Weeks had passed since the initial capture of the runaway brigands, and House Oakdown was no closer to unraveling the intrigues that led to the increased violence. Lady Farra had no tolerance for banditry since the Hooded Uprising, and this was widely known throughout the Prince’s Pass. This particular band of bandits was either new to the area, or extraordinarily foolish. But Ingvar’s interrogations had led to little. They stated they met a stranger in the Devil’s Cup in Lonetree. There, the stranger paid them coin to pillage travelers, but no target in particular. The bandits insisted their only purpose was disrupting trade and peace along the Prince’s Pass. They claimed to have found more success north of Skyreach, but had robbed travelers up and down the pass. Llewellyn was skeptical of the story, but allowed Ingvar to continue his endeavors as he wished. No new information had been found, until today.

Llewellyn struggled to understand Farra’s fast allegiance to the stranger from the North. Ingvar Dent was a cousin to Lord Michael Dent of Blade’s Edge. The family had been embroiled a couple of years earlier in a dispute in King’s Landing, and were widely panned as barbarians from the Trident to the Salt Shore. While then-King Robert did absolve the Dent family of guilt, that perception of savagery remained amongst those who paid attention to such things. Yet Lady Farra did trust him. Ingvar was sent with official orders to accompany Ser Tygor to Redgate, and serve in whatever capacity the Lady might require. Initially, Lady Farra simply asked questions about life in the North. What was the purpose of the Godswood? Was it a church? Was it the followers of the Old Gods’ Septon? How did life endure amongst perpetual snow? How tall was the Wall in truth? Did they have White Walkers on their lands? Had he ever seen a Dire Wolf? Ingvar was patient, and accommodating. These conversations turned to the War of the Five Kings, and Lady Farra was fascinated to learn that Ingvar had rode with the Young Wolf himself. She asked Ingvar to review the forces of Redgate, which he did. She then asked him to provide counsel, and then leadership in part of some of the forces. And the soldiers began to look sharper, perform more admirably in drills. There was no questioning the young Northman. But when Lady Farra named him as the Master-at-Arms when she dismissed the previous one, Dromme, Llewellyn felt compelled to plead his concern. Farra listened, but in the end, she had decided Ingvar’s aid was essential for House Oakdown. Maester Llewellyn had served long enough to know when Lady Farra had come to a conclusion, she could seldom be moved. He slowly came to trust Ingvar himself, though never as completely as Farra. Ingvar seemed to have the matter of the bandits well in hand, and the Maester had much to do.

Today, in fact, they had received a raven from King’s Landing. The message was for Lady Farra, indicating that the recent strife on the Prince’s Pass was known as far as King’s Landing. Farra didn’t wish to alarm anyone, but felt that Mauro Drokhe deserved to know of the connection. Llewellyn wished to check on the injured Orphan regardless. He had recovered well enough, but the knee would never fully heal. In restless sleeps, Mauro would murmur about dancing. The Maester felt empathy for the bandits’ surviving victim, and would have tried to help the poor man regardless. But Lady Farra indicated she was friends with the lad’s mother as a girl, and gave permission for the Maester to use all remedies at his disposal to help the crippled Orphan. Farra also asked amongst her whisperers to see if anything could be learned of the bandits. Llewellyn initially dismissed it as yet another attempt to find answers to the Hooded Uprising. Soon it became clear she was determined to help Mauro find answers as well. The raven this morning may have been a result of those whisperers. That was not for him to say. His task was to deliver this message directly to Mauro for him to see, and then destroy it. The middle aged Maester looked down once more to the note, and read:

A note for someone named Iris was found inside the Sept. You asked to be told of any news. It appears that Iris has taken interest in the Prince’s Pass of late, and invested Dragons in it’s peril. There is more danger. Be wary, come if you can, and I will strive to learn more. A.

Spying Mauro Drokhe laboring up the stairs, Maester Llewellyn went quickly to him. “Mauro, how is your knee holding up? I see you are taking my advice to take the air. And you’ll notice I left no attendants for you either. You see? I did listen. But first, I have something for you…”

Cletus II

Cletus was shocked when Quentyn asked him to wait outside the High Hall. He was entrusted with the details of Quentyn’s mission when few others had been. His father, Lord Anders of Yronwood, was to arrange for additional knights, while Cletus was responsible for seeing Cransen and Quentyn safely to Redgate. From there they were to make their way to Planky Town. Lord Anders had sent orders for them to deliver the message that Cletus carried, which was quickly done. It was only after that, when Quentyn began to discuss the primary purpose of their mission with the Lady of Redgate, that Cletus was asked to leave.Sigil_of_House_Yronwood.jpg

The ceremony itself went without incident. The Yronwood delegation made their way around the winding path to Sorrow Ridge while Farra was still in her Sept at prayer that morning. She then made her way up the ridge where the young Septon waited for her, and the service began. The smallfolk began to cry and wail, while the Oakdown family remained vigilant, almost removed, from the grieving. Afterwards, Lady Farra went directly to the keep, and motioned for the Yronwood delegation to follow her. No one else, save the Maester, went with them. Lord Andros, his siblings and cousins remained with the guests outside the keep. As the procession tried to keep pace with Lady Farra as she quickly ascended the staircase to the High Hall, servants were seen busily finishing the final preparations for the guests. The smell of the food overcame them as the double oak doors were opened, and the flash of color greeted them.

Like the rest of Redgate, most of the windows in the High Hall remained open. The stained glass panes were opened inward, and the breeze was gently tossing the silk drapery throughout the room. The roasted pheasant was browned and drizzled with gravy, and placed on the main serving table in the center of the room and adorned with fresh bread and turnips with gravy. On smaller tables were platters of chickpea paste, onions, assorted peppers of varying color and spice, bowls of blood oranges, candied mints, and teas. A dozen servants were waiting patiently to allow Lady Farra to sample the food. They did not move to approach her or to speak to her as she entered the room. Farra lifted her skirts as she ascended the small stair to the long table on the raised dais where House Oakdown would be seated. She assumed her place in the center chair, and Maester Llewellyn stood approximately three feet behind her and to her right as they both looked out over the High Hall. The walls were covered with tapestries from the past three hundred years of the history of House Oakdown and Dorne. Small torches were lit with a gentle flickering fire, and the tables where the guests would sit were covered with woven cotton fabric of the dusky red of House Oakdown. A small hand carved replica of the desert oak that was the sigil for the family was set as a centerpiece for each of the tables. High back chairs awaited the guests, and candles were lit to provide light as the sun finished setting to the west.

Lady Farra motioned for Cletus, Quentyn and Cransen to approach. The three together strode up the dais stairs to the table where she sat and bowed slightly as they faced her. Ser Quentyn had paid his respects to Lady Farra (Cletus still struggled with the idea that his young friend was now a knight), and delivered the proposal to her. Lady Farra sat back, and smiled ever so slightly as she read. She motioned for Maester Llewellyn to look over the proposal, who nodded as he read, while looking up with his eyes to find the face of Cletus’ cousin, Cransen. Cransen stood straighter, meeting Lady Farra’s gaze while the Maester continued to read. Without a word, Maester Llewellyn nodded and handed the document back to Lady Farra.

“We are most honored by Lord Anders’ generous proposal. Yronwood is a proud house with a distinguished history. Lord Anders’ nephew would make a fine match for a daughter of Oakdown. I would be happy to extend this offer to my granddaughter, Elyana. She is a beautiful young woman, and I believe would make Lord Cransen a fine wife and lady for his new holdings.”

The three knights exchanged furtive glances, and Cletus stepped forward. His smile was confident, conveying a feeling the other two did not share. “My apologies, Lady Farra, for our Maester. My Lord father had wished for the proposal to be directed for Lady Charlotte to wed Ser Cransen. Lady Elyana is a striking woman, to be sure. We certainly mean no offense in this, only to make the details of the proposal clear for your consideration. I will be sure to bring this matter to our Maester’s attention.”

Lady Farra’s smile remained precisely the same. “There is no need, Ser Cletus. This proposal is quite clear, and we are humbled by the offer. However, Lady Charlotte is currently not receiving suitors. She would be otherwise most gracious, I am sure.”

Ser Cletus blinked. “I do not believe Lord Anders would wish to accede to a marriage for his beloved nephew to a woman he does not know. Lord Anders commented about how charming he found Lady Charlotte during his most recent visit to your home. I don’t believe he would find comfort in a match for Ser Cransen with another.”

Lady Farra continued smiling. “It is comforting to know that Lord Anders is concerned with the heart in this. So many other suitors have called because Lady Charlotte is second in line to inherit these lands should her older brother be unable to do so. And yet, I do not wish for Lord Anders to fret over his nephew’s assured disappointment. Let us have Ser Cransen dine with Lady Elyana this evening, and if there are no objections, I will send Lady Elyana to meet your family in Yronwood on the morrow. Will that suffice in alleviating your concerns for poor Ser Cransen’s disappointment?”

Ser Cletus looked over his shoulder to find Ser Cransen. Ser Cransen looked lost, and unsure. Ser Cletus sighed almost inaudibly, then turned to face Lady Farra. “Your offer is fair, and I can think of no reason to decline.” Lady Farra nodded a single time, and the smile dimmed.

“Very well then. You mentioned another matter?” Quentyn now stepped forward in response to Lady Farra’s question. He turned to whisper to Ser Cletus.

“Old friend, your father has requested I confer with Lady Farra alone.” Cletus nodded, and motioned for Ser Cransen to wait outside. Cransen turned to leave, followed by Maester Llewellyn. As Cletus turned to take part in this conversation, Quentyn’s eyes went from Cletus to the door, and back to Cletus.

“Oh. I see. My apologies then. We’ll be right outside should you have need of us.” As Ser Cletus exited the double oak doors from the High Hall, the servants followed behind and closed them. Ser Cletus waited outside those for a few minutes, until he could return inside to attend to his duties. And then he waited a little longer. Minutes turned to an hour. And an hour led to another. The voices swelled from below, until eventually the crowds of guests began to rise the stairway and approach the High Hall. A servant opened the double doors once more to allow the guests to enter, and the remaining servants filed in to show the guests to their tables. Lady Farra sat at her chair, waiting patiently and alone, for the High Hall to fill. There was no sign of Ser Cransen or Ser Quentyn inside.


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