Bow Before The Sun

Charlotte VII
The Crone's 7th

Charlotte finished her meal, thoroughly enjoying the simple fare. They were supposed to go back to King’s Landing tomorrow but for now she was enjoying the relative peace and quiet of Goldway and Iron Key. King’s Landing was impressive indeed but also a bit overwhelming; and somewhat oppressive, truth be told. Oh, but she loved the incredible Sept of Baelor! She didn’t know where she actually stood in her faith but one couldn’t help but be awed by the magnificent structure. In between appearances or engagements that duty demanded, she had seen plays, visited some very nice eateries and perused every book store she could find. She had gone shopping with Ria and even had lunch with Elyana once or twice. But everywhere was the undercurrent of tension and fear. Always she was accompanied by her brother, Mauro or a couple of guards. It was good to be able to spend a little time with Andros but he seemed distracted and tired. It was understandable, she supposed. Desmond still wasn’t speaking to her. She had tried talking to him on the journey here from Redgate but he refused to listen. So be it. She loved her cousin but he was a man grown and, like her grandmother, didn’t like to hear that his truth wasn’t the only truth.

But today she was here and, her meal finished, she wanted to sit outside and enjoy the cool (to her, anyway) temperatures. There were guards scattered around outside but no one impeded her walk or even paid her much attention as she walked along the outside wall of the keep. She was enjoying the cool breeze when she was stopped short by a sound that seemed to be coming from underneath her. She couldn’t make any sense of what she heard but the cry was full of anguish and rage. She hadn’t thought of it before now but she assumed this keep would have the obligatory dungeon, and as such was none of her business. She tried her best to shut it out but the muffled shouting kept on, getting louder and more panicked. It pulled at her and she was about to turn away from the keep altogether to stop herself from doing something foolhardy and offensive to their host, when she thought she recognized a name in the shouting: something Stark? Rob? Everyone knew about the Red Wedding, the atrocity that had all but ended the war-was it possible someone had survived? And if so, why would Lord Aemon have them in his dungeon? It was common knowledge that Goldway had a thriving criminal element-was Lord Aemon part of that element? Seven knew kidnapping for ransom was common enough. And furthermore, if she had heard the name Rob Stark then this nameless prisoner had possibly been in league with the King of the North which would make him a traitor to the crown, and did she really want to get involved in something that could even remotely be considered treason?

The answer apparently didn’t matter because she was back through the door and halfway down the stairs she found before she realized what she was doing. Now that she was here though, it was clear she had heard correctly. She continued quietly to the bottom of the stairs and now she could see him. He was gaunt but had the frame of a man much larger, with dark curly hair and a strong face that she glimpsed as he thrashed in his sleep. There was no door to the hallway that held the cells and of course the door to his cell was locked, but she tried it anyway. She couldn’t reach him to try to awaken him so she called out to him instead, trying to be as quiet as possible. When that failed to work she finally raised her voice enough to be heard over his and he was instantly awake, his hand automatically dropping to his hip but then weakly dropping to the bed, as if he just didn’t possess the strength to hold it there. His eyes held hers for a moment, then quickly scanned his surroundings, coming back to look at her again.

“My Lady,” he croaked. His voice was deep but hoarse and very weak. “Where…?”

“You are in Goldway,” she said quietly, “in Iron Key keep. You were having a nightmare, I believe.” He just looked at her with red-rimmed eyes, deadly still but for the clenching of his jaw, and she had a flash of what this man would look like at full strength. Now that he was awake she had a moment to look around and realized that unlike the other cells, this man had a full straw mattress and the tray of food on the floor was the same meal she had just enjoyed upstairs. The man she saw was dirty and wearing common clothing but this was not common prisoner treatment, which if her thoughts earlier were even close to the mark, would make sense.

“What is your name?” she asked quietly. “Do you know why you are here?”

“De…” he breathed. “My name…is De..n Den..” HIs voice was raspy and weak and he was fading fast but could this really be Lord Devon? Her mind raced with excitement at the possibility. She thought of all the stories she’d heard from Ingvar, Christina, even Tygor, of their utter devotion and certainty that he was still alive, and prayed she was right.

“Sweet Seven!” she whispered. “Lord Devon De..aagh?!”

“Good evening, my Lady.” She jumped back and collided directly with the man who had quite suddenly appeared behind her. “I am so sorry, I did not mean to startle you. I am Alexander, a healer, summoned to check on our patient here.”

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Corvo III
The Crone's 7th

Goldway, what a beautiful place. Corvo never tired of visiting here on the occasion he could excuse himself from Kings Landing and if anything today was even better. With events unfolding as they were he finally had a chance to move about again, to do rather than to watch. The smile that spread so easily across his face would unnerve many, a smile more at home on the face of a starving beast greedily eyeing it’s first meal in far too long. He quickly suppressed it, as it didn’t fit his kindly healer alter ego, and motioned to the small, nondescript woman trailing him with a large bundle. They needed to get started soon.

The ‘understanding’ between him and Lord Auros went back many years and as such had made this the ideal location for many of his plans. Not only had it made for a safe haven to send the Oakdowns to, but had also made his latest endeavor all the easier, not having to dodge any local enforcement. More importantly it was far easier to keep things quiet, and leave the goldcloaks unaware, with a safe place to stash his prize so readily at hand. It had been simple enough to slip the small dose of Greycap to his goldcloak informant with instructions to have it placed in the prisoners next meal. After that it was mere hours before a healer was needed; wouldn’t do to have their charge dying before making it to the Twins. The privacy necessary to his plan wasn’t hard to obtain either. Few people were willing to be stuck in an enclosed space with another constantly emptying his stomach’s contents. Greycap was easy enough to treat, but made for a wonderfully messy excuse to get everyone else out of the room. The look on the prisoner’s face only added to Corvo’s joy at a plan going so well when Corvo spoke to the wall behind him, only to have it seemingly spawn Corvo’s nondescript companion. Few possessed her knack for disappearing, and even fewer the knack for finding her, making her an invaluable associate. Despite how often they worked together he still had no name for her and sought none. He found that most often when he called, she was there.

Not long after, the goldcloaks were on their way with a thin shell of a man in the same tattered noble clothing, only now he was gagged. ‘Alexander’ explained that the patient had suffered a severe spasm and had nearly bit his own tongue off when his jaw clamped shut. He had treated the wound and the gag had been soaked in a mixture and would administer said mixture over time to ensure complete recovery. In truth the ‘patient’ was a murderer and thief (a type to not be missed) that happened to look similar enough that a little work was all that was needed to finish the illusion. The original prisoner would be moved under cover of night to a comfortable little cell in Lord Auros’s keep where Corvo could further insure this was the target he sought, Lord Devon Dent of Blade’s Edge, before sending word to Lady Farra and Ingvar.

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Ingvar XVIII

Ingvar was standing in a corner of the yard watching the various groups training when he noticed Asaf arrive and do the same. He was about to call out to Asaf when Michail approached and saluted Asaf. Ingvar couldn’t hear the exchange but from the gestures and the posture of the two it was obvious Asaf was giving patrol assignments.

Ingvar smiled knowing that while Asaf was the best to command the Ghosts he would prefer to be in the field himself. He and Asaf were of a kind, both too good at what they did and able to teach that to others. They would rise to command when what they really wanted was to be in the thick of it.

Ingvar had a greater appreciation of what his cousin, Lord Michael Dent, endured and why he jumped at doing things himself whenever possible. There was always speculation as to the reason, most of it good-natured, and Michael had tried to explain it. It made no sense until you experienced it for yourself and some would never understand even then. Being in command had its perks but also great responsibility, if you really were a leader and not just an order giver, and that responsibility never stopped. He could see in Asaf a great leader and he recognized the far off looks that came over him from time to time, the longing for the simplicity of just doing the job. Gods knew Ingvar spent time doing the same.

Two months since the slaughter at Graybrook and they had enough, more that enough, to replace those who deserted. Ingvar wanted to expand the number of units rather than turn away able bodied troops. Asaf and he had spoken about it several times and both agreed Lonetree needed a garrison of its own and the Gatekeepers could use more archers. Asaf had suggested a separate archer unit but Ingvar favored incorporating the archers into the Gatekeepers even though it would make the Gatekeepers a double sized unit. Asaf still thought like a scout and favored small, highly mobile groups, which was good since that’s who he was commanding.

Ingvar made a mental note to speak to Lady Farra about making Asaf’s command official. Not only would it remove any doubt of his right to issue orders but it would help morale to have the Ghosts commanded by one of their own who rose through loyal service.

Ingvar noticed Asaf had concluded his orders and was standing alone watching the training again. He made his way over to Asaf.

Ingvar: You about ready to exercise one of the perks of command?

Asaf: Perks of command?

Ingvar: It’s nearly lunch time and I’d like to go over troop deployments, training schedules and creation of new units before we present these to Lady Farra sometime in the next few days. To that end, early lunch?

Asaf: {sigh} Talk and paperwork.

They stared at each other for a moment and broke into laughter as they headed for the hall.

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Desmond XVI
Day of arrival in Kings Landing- The Smith's 5th

Oberyn.jpg

The common room of The Blood Orange was alive with the sounds of conversation and laughter. Prince Oberyn had a reputation as a generous host and the reputation appeared to have been well-earned. Platters of spicy lamb, stuffed peppers and grape leaves, cheeses, and olives had covered the tables and wine and ale still flowed freely as the night wore on. A band of minstrels played bawdy tunes and guests danced in the light cast from the large fireplaces at either end of the room.

The Oakdowns, Desmond included, had been introduced to Prince Oberyn earlier in the evening and they had feasted before the minstrels began adding their contribution to the merry-making. Some of the Oakdown offspring and retainers had retired as the hour grew late; others had joined in the dancing and revelry. Desmond found himself alone as usual, seeking answers and courage in the bottom of a cup of wine. The solitude was a blessing really, he’d spent far too much time near his cousins during the month-long journey to Kings Landing.

His injuries from his duel with Sir Liam Cross had taken a few days to heal, which had slowed his travel from Skyreach. Though he had departed alone, his cousins had caught him up on the road. He and Andros had pointedly ignored each other. Charlotte and Elyana had made attempts at speaking with him early on but he rebuffed them and their mock concern for his brief imprisonment and wounds. Grandmother had forbid them coming to support him they had said. But he knew if any of them had wanted to be there, they would have been.

Daera was proof of that. Although she had only come to watch him die, he was certain. Betrothed to Ser Cransen Yronwood, she had convinced her intended to bring her along and Lady Farra had been none the wiser until they had arrived in Skyreach. Desmond knew for a fact Elyana was just as, if not more devious, than her younger sister. He had expected Elyana to be the one family member other than grandmother that he could count on. But not a single, “Thank you, Desmond, for upholding and defending our family’s honor” or “Congratulations on keeping your hand” or “We’re glad you weren’t sent to the Wall to freeze your stones off” was to be heard from her or any of the others.

He’d ridden ahead a fair distance during the days and made his own camp well away in the evenings, tending his own cookfire and taking his meals in seclusion. Ser Bennyn and Septon Connyr had made their own forays to break his melancholy but his silence and peevish demeanor had driven them away as well. To the Seven Hells with the ingrates, the lot of them. Especially that prig, Andros. This was all his fault to begin with. If he hadn’t been conspiring with the Fowler bitch to begin with none of it would have happened.

But now that he was in Kings Landing perhaps he could create some space and a name for himself. He’d long harbored secret suspicions – and hope – that Prince Oberyn was his mother’s paramour and his father. When the prince had asked for Desmond to join him in Kings Landing he dared to allow those hopes to raise. Why else would a Prince of Dorne ask specifically for the bastard son of a minor house to join his delegation? Desmond was hoping to wait out the evening out and approach Oberyn before he retired. He took a sip of wine and watched two of the dancers trip up drunkenly in each other’s feet and begin to roll around the common room floor passionately. Desmond looked to the prince’s table and noticed he was also sitting unaccompanied watching the same sight. The prince glanced Desmond’s way with a smile on his face. Desmond raised his cup in salute and bowed his head in deference before taking another sip. The prince acknowledged by raising his own cup and beckoning to Desmond to join him. Heart pounding, Desmond stood and, carrying his goblet of Arbor red, made his way through the dwindling crowd.

“Ah, the Bastard of Redgate!” Oberyn said jovially. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I hear you ran into some trouble in the Red Mountains, no?”

“The pleasure is mine, Prince Oberyn. There was a small matter but it was a trifle only,” replied Desmond with a shrug.

“A trifle? Of course!” he laughed and pointed his cup and the finger of the hand holding it at Desmond. “I’ll drink to that, my friend. A glass of wine? I see you have some. No matter. Finish that and I’ll fetch us another. Go on.”

Oberyn raised his own glass to his lips and lifted the bottom toward the ceiling, draining it. He then grabbed the arm of a passing serving wench and pinched her bottom, indicating that his cup was empty. The cap of blonde ringlets atop her head bounced energetically as she giggled and walked toward the bar. She returned a scant moment later bearing a ewer of wine and filled both of their cups, smiling broadly at them both as she did so. Des watched as she walked away; she was pretty, if one liked these pale northern girls he supposed. While Desmond could appreciate that there was beauty there, it was a cold beauty and had none of the fire of Dorne. He ripped his gaze away from the swaying backside of the serving girl and lifted his goblet in a toast.

“To trifles, my prince,” he said.

“To trifles, then,” Oberyn replied as they both drank heavily of their cups.

Desmond brought his cup down and stared deeply into it weighing his next words carefully before speaking.

“Prince Oberyn, I was wondering if I might speak to you of a matter of a personal nature that has weighed heavily on my mind for some time.”

Oberyn’s smile grew warm and he leaned forward in his chair.

“Oh? What might that be? Perhaps you wonder where to find the most beautiful women in Kings Landing? I fear that is no simple task. This is not Dorne, after all.”

Desmond laughed at the jest, so close to what he had just been thinking.

“My prince speaks truly. The Andal women cannot compare to the beauty in Dorne,” he said, pausing briefly before continuing. “It is of a Dornish lady I wish to discuss. My mother, Lady Annabyl.”

“Oh, yes,” Oberyn said, nodding slowly with the ghost of a smile and memory flickering in his eyes. “Annabyl Oakdown. A wonderful woman. A friend. The gods were cruel to take her so soon.”

Desmond took another swallow of wine to choke down the urge to point out that Fowler betrayal had taken her, not the gods.

“It is that friendship that I would inquire about, highness. Did you know my mother well?”

“Not well enough I suppose. She had a fierce beauty about her,” he said with a distant stare as the sad smile remained. His eyes focused back on Desmond. “A strong woman. As I recall her father did not want her to become a warrior, which she of course was. And worse, she learned how to master a Dornish weapon instead of clumsy steel.”

Desmond nodded slowly.

“My lord grandfather was more Andal than not and, as I’m given to understand, had many opinions that my mother did not share,” Desmond acknowledged. He paused and steeled himself for his next question. “My prince, I don’t know how to put this any other way and so I beg of you to forgive my directness… Would you happen to know the identity of my mother’s paramour? The man who would be my father?”

Oberyn leaned forward, clearly taken by Desmond’s request and peered at him intently.

“Your father? Why? He is no matter to you. You are the crafter of your own destiny; no one else. You are with your Prince, in one of the greatest cities of the world. You drink wine in the shadow of the Iron Throne. Come, my friend. Have another. Let us look forward, not behind.”

He had expected some evasion. But now that he sat next to Prince Oberyn, he was convinced that his father sat before him. They had the same complexion and hair, the same cocksure grin, and his skill with the spear had come too easily to him to be anything but an inherited trait.

“Thank you, my prince. But, I do not wish my past to define my destiny. I only wish to learn the identity of my sire so that I might know more of my heritage,” he answered carefully.

Oberyn leaned back in his chair and absently took another swallow of wine.

“I like you, Desmond Sand. If this will bring your heart comfort, I will try to aid you as best I can. I will grant you this, and hope one day you will help me in turn.”

Desmond’s heart leaped into his throat. “My thanks, Prince Oberyn. I am your leal subject and yours to command.”

Oberyn smiled, seeming unmoved by Desmond’s enthusiasm. He gave a shrug of his shoulders and considered the cup in his hands.

“But, first, what do you hope to gain? Truly? Do you wish to announce yourself to this stranger? Perhaps shame him? Or see if those are your mother’s eyes or his? I can spare you all. You are the very reflection of her. The eyes most of all.”

He had expected this as well. He had to convince Oberyn that he sought not to embarrass either the Martell name or his own person by acknowledging him.

“Nay, highness. I can bring no shame because it was not shame but passion that made me and I have none within me. I only hope what any son hopes. That I may bring honor to his house.”

He looked at Oberyn with a mix of hope, appeal, and solemnity. “That I might learn from him.”

It was the prince’s turn to nod.

“And you may learn from him. He is not as young as he was then, but still has much to give. He was a common man, and your mother protected his identity with her honor. Your lord grandfather would have been most displeased, I fear. I will do more than tell you of him. I will introduce you.”

Desmond tried to hold in his excitement. Surely, he was merely being modest by referring to himself as a common man. There was nothing common about Oberyn Martell. “My prince, I would be most grateful and in your debt.”

“Excellent! May I ask you a question?” he rose with his wine and walked toward a dark corner of the common room clearly expecting Desmond to follow.

“Of course, my prince,” he said as he reached Oberyn’s elbow.

“How reasonable is your grandmother?”

Desmond was momentarily shaken by the sudden change of subject. He chuckled. “I suppose that depends on the topic.”

The prince stopped at a window and stared out into the night as if seeing a great distance.

“I fear she has sown discord in the Red Mountains. Her baseless accusations, though certainly understandable, have led to distrust and tension. My Prince would like her to abandon her insistence that the Fowlers caused murder. Your family’s attack on Graybrook threatens open war in the west,” his voice heated as he continued. “Meanwhile, the Lions sharpen their claws, and the hated Reachmen bare their thorns. We cannot suffer our guard to weaken. The Prince’s Pass is the road from which our destruction is likely to come. And Redgate the door that bars its way.”

Desmond was stunned. How could Prince Oberyn ask this of him? The hatred that the Oakdowns had for the Fowlers was surely as great as that borne by the Martells for the Lannisters.

“My prince, on this matter there can be no compromise. I assure you that Lady Farra, that my family, knew not of the attack on Graybrook. Our former commander, Dromme, was unhappy with his dismissal and replacement by a foreigner. Justified though my lady grandmother was in the matter, he could not see his own incompetence and took drastic measures in an attempt to win favor. My lord cousin, Andros, led the force that crushed this rebellion and Lord Dent continues the search for Dromme, of this I am certain.”

It pained Desmond to give Andros any due but truth was truth. Oberyn looked away sadly and gave another shrug of his shoulders.

“Pity. It appears your father has left for the evening. I’m sure we will find another time to learn of your heritage. Will you have another glass of wine?”

Prince Oberyn’s eyes lit up at something over Desmond’s shoulder.

“Ellaria, my love!” he shouted above the music. He then turned his attention back to Desmond, placed a hand on his shoulder and leaned in close. “Talk to your grandmother. Convince her to mend matters with Skyreach. If this comes from you, I believe she’ll listen. Do this for me, and I will take you to your father. You have my word.”

A dark beauty in a long skirt and a half-top appeared and kissed the prince full on the mouth. Oberyn lifted her into the air and began kissing her neck and shoulders appearing to forget that anyone else existed. Desmond could not let the matter go so easily, however.

“My prince, I beg of you, ask this not. My mother, my kin, deserve justice. Surely, you of all people understand?”

Oberyn stopped kissing Ellaria suddenly and he gave Desmond a dangerous stare over her shoulder. Ellaria turned, horror written on her face as she put a calming hand on her lover’s chest.

“I do understand. The Lannisters took my sister from me. They butchered her children and raped her before butchering her as well. I know the man who did it and I seek to know who gave the order,” he said with a voice like steel. He shook his head. “You are chasing ghosts. Our purposes are not the same.”

He pulled from Ellaria’s embrace and pointed to a man, potbellied, red-nosed, and clearly drunk, wearing a badge unfamiliar to Desmond – crossed golden keys on a field of black.

“Shall I kill this man across the table and call it justice? Declare my sister avenged? Is that the way of vengeance in Redgate?” he hissed.

Desmond pressed. “No, my prince. But all evidence we have points to Skyreach. Knowing what you know, if King Robert had asked it, would you have made peace with Casterly Rock?”

Oberyn’s eyes flashed and he strode quickly toward Desmond in two steps, stopping inches from him, looked intently into his eyes, face grim and unmoving like a viper ready to strike. Desmond worried that he had made an irredeemable error before the prince laid a hand on his shoulder and smiled disarmingly.

“I would not. Are you so sure of Fowler guilt?” he said, his eyes moving from side-to-side as if trying to weigh Desmond’s soul.

Desmond steeled himself and answered with conviction. “With everything that I am, highness.”

“Then you must do your duty. As I must do mine. Please excuse me. A beautiful woman stands there waiting, and I’ve neglected her too long.”

Desmond bowed deeply. “Of course, my prince. Thank you for your words and I will think on them.”

Oberyn smiled once more. “Do not despair, Desmond Sand. You will meet your father. And soon.”

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Jonns I
The Crone's 8th

Demon_Cat.jpgThe Ghost took great pride in his duty. His officer, Asaf, appeared to be a man destined for greatness. During the desertions, Asaf served Commander Ingvar loyally and diligently. He was now being rewarded, assuming command for the Ghosts in the field when Ingvar’s duties called him away. This was happening with increasing frequency. As Asaf’s responsibility grew, so too did the responsibilities of his deputies. The Ghosts took their oaths to the Lady of Redgate quite seriously, and were leading the search for the missing traitors. Two months of searching led to nothing, and almost all believed the traitors to be long gone from the Red Mountains. Still, all those who remained loyal understood the importance of their service. Jonns was no different.

Today, his report would be of a different nature. The culprit wasn’t a traitor, or a Fowler. There were no brigands to subdue. The mission to Fool’s Drop yielded news of a different sort. Fool’s Drop was a deceptive outcropping in a valley north of Prince’s Pass. What appeared to be a gentle rolling hill lazily descending to the valley was in fact a sheer 20 foot drop. A small settlement of only a few homes rested at the bottom, and they had reported that wild coyotes were becoming bolder. As it turned out, they appeared to be fleeing a pack of Dornish Demon Cats. The Mountain Lions were typically found further off the Pass, and usually traveled in small Prides. Jonns quickly discovered their numbers had swelled, and were preying not only on the local wildlife, but some careless smalfolk as well. Nothing sinister, but alarming all the same.

As Jonns entered on the back of his Sand Steed to the main yard of Redgate, he marveled at the activity. New forces were still being trained on a large scale, larger than any in recent memory. Ingvar was coordinating the drills, and occasionally would enter the yard to challenge a new man and test his skill with spear or sword. Even Emerson’s Riders, who trained exclusively in Lonetree, were doing the same. The men spoke admiringly of the time Andros had also spent in the yard before he left for King’s Landing with the rest of the Oakdown delegation. Lord Andros had told them it was everyone’s duty to improve their skill at arms. The Heir of Redgate was no exception, they said, and he tackled his practice with an intensity the other men strove to match.

Asaf strode to his deputy. Jonns dismounted, and gave his report.

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Harwin I
The Crone's 7th

Harwin_Waters.jpgThe Tower was only two floors high, though they proudly claimed a wooden roof with a few flimsy chairs as their ‘third’. With ‘three’ floors, they were the highest building in Goldway save the Iron Key itself. In truth, the main thoroughfare had quite a few buildings that were two floors high, but when a group of men deep in their cups made a boast, it did little good to argue. The name stuck, and no one could remember what it was called generations before. The Tower was an Inn to match the small city and its castle. It was plain, and shared the features of timber, stone and little else. Dimly lit, and filled with smoke from roasting meats and a hearth fire, it was a perfect gathering place for those who didn’t wish to be seen. The Tower was always crowded, with travelers, whores and citizens of low repute. The activity spilled out into the cobblestone road that ran through the town. Nearby homes served as brothels, money lenders, and mercenary dens. They also served as markets for illicit goods, thieves’ safe houses, or rooms for those who couldn’t afford the Tower. In all, it was a district that was fouler than it smelled. And men were drawn to it like cockroaches.

Harwin Waters famously held ‘court’ in the Tower. He was the oldest of all of Lord Aemon’s children, though as a bastard, that gave him little privilege. An old man in his own right, Harwin was balding with a keg barrel chest and a broad jaw. He was well past his 40th name day, but every oversized muscle seemed to ripple when he moved. Each of Lord Aemon’s five other bastards deferred to him. Lord Aemon was kind enough to his bastards, though like most noble lords of the Seven Kingdoms, he did not usually welcome them into his home as anything but guests. For most of Harwin’s days, it seemed the distinction wouldn’t matter, as Lord Aemon refused to marry a second time. With no trueborn sons to inherit, the Iron Key would likely fall to Harwin. Any other distant relatives who thought to lay claim invited only bloodshed. Harwin held sway over the Tower, and as such, the true power in the lands. Even when the old Lord did marry a woman half his age, no one believed he would sire another son. When Lord Robert Auros, true born son and heir of the Iron Key was born, it surprised them all. By that time, Harwin had 20 years of influence in Goldway. Birthright or no, it could not be assumed that the young Lord Robert would ever peacefully inherit.

Yet Harwin did not hold absolute authority in the Tower district. That dubious distinction fell to the man known only to a select few. Most had never seen the man, but all knew enough to fear him. The criminal comings and goings of Goldway were controlled by the Nameless and his agents. No one could recall the Nameless conducting business at the thriving inn. As such, the large rooms on the second floor were kept for Lord Aemon’s bastards; particularly Harwin Waters. The rooms sat empty for the time being. Harwin was enjoying a tankard of bitter beer when he decided to get up to relieve himself. He found his way into the street, stepping over a rapidly flowing stream of sewage. There, next to a simple stone wall, he made water. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of his men talking to a stranger, a Dornishman by the look of him. The Dornishman gave his man some coin, and Flenn continued talking.

“That’s all I know, I told ya already. The sigil was a crab, on a field of blue and black. That man wasn’t no Pentoshi though. He’s a Reachman of some kind. Banner to Redwyne. I don’t know no more. And I don’t know why they’d want anything to do with a fat old Pentoshi neither. They didn’t bother to tell me their business.”

Mauro clenched his jaw, but continued. “You said you saw them speaking in Fishmonger Square though, yes?”

“Aye.”

“And the man with Norillo was silent throughout? But wore a small purple gem in his ring?”

Harwin’s thug grew impatient. “I said so, yes. I’m through with your questions. Let me pass now.”

Mauro’s expression belied his worry. He let the small man walk by, confident he could find him again if he needed. The gem likely meant one thing. Norillo had brought members of the powerful Opalon Guild with him. He had heard of these men, their brotherhood, but had never met one. They were said to have stronghouses throughout the known world, in the largest cities. Was this Opalon from King’s Landing? Or did he come from the Free Cities? Mauro knew he would have to be on his guard. He determined to return to the Iron Key, and see what he could learn of the Reach house in league with Norillo. He had finally found the cold trail of Norillo once more. It was time to finish what he had sailed across the Narrow Sea to do.

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Asaf VI
The Crone's 7th

“Alright, take Emrin and two of the greenhorns out around Fool’s drop, some of the patrols reported a family of coyotes moved in, maybe it’ll give them a chance to learn to track and not spook what their following.” Asaf said as Jonns nodded and headed off. As grateful and proud as the scout was for the increased responsibility Ingvar was trusting him with in command of the Ghosts the man was finding himself spending more and more time in the castle the past two months, his own patrols growing shorter and less frequent. For a man that loved his time in the hills like Asaf it was almost painful. But the house needed to be ready, someone wanted to start a war, Oakdown needed him, and more importantly, Lonetree needed him.

The Ghost wandered out to the yard, watching the new recruits train, the surge of volunteers was heartening, things were looking bad, when he expected faith in the trustworthiness of the fighting men to be called into question, there was instead a surge of support. He had been advocating that some of the new men be trained as archers, to allow the keep to be covered while “his” men did their work in the hills, and another garrison to be tasked with the exclusive duty of protecting the village. He wasn’t pushing overly hard though, he knew that no matter the respect he earned, at the end of the day he was still a common soldier.

Michail approached him then, saluting and asking about the next round of patrols. Well, Asaf couldn’t help but give a prideful smirk, perhaps not common…

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Ria VIII
The Crone's 7th

The past two months had been overwhelming for Ria, the journey through princes pass hadn’t been too different from what she was used to, her father’s old friend Ser Leon had taken her as far as Skyreach a time or two so at least the size of that town had not startled her. Their parties travel through the reach though, she had never seen so much grass in one place before, and she quickly realized she had packed too much feed for the horses, including the old Stot that Henred had promised to sell her, Emerson honored that deal and the pay she was receiving from Ser Bennyn was enough for that and to keep her mother secure until she returned.

Her head nearly swiveled off the first day in King’s Landing, the smell could be better but the stables were generally worse, and the sights and crowds, it was overwhelming, luckily she was busy with her work, but she found time to talk with the other members of the household, and a few words with Charlotte, who had always been kind to her. There was a serving girl at the Blood Orange who had been helping her learn enough of the city to not be lost or robbed, though the concept baffled the woman who had known almost everyone in Lonetree her entire life, crime existed but was rarely committed by long term residents, and of that even less was violent, the massacre at the Devil’s cup an exception.

At the moment though, she was enjoying a quiet moment as she brushed down Emma, the Palfrey of her employer, Vossi waiting patiently for her to finish. It was almost like home. At least in here, outside was another matter.

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Llewellyn VI
The Crone's 7th

Mountain_Desert.jpg“My Lady, Daryon will be next. He brings a gift and his gratitude.”

Maester Llewellyn and Lady Farra had spent many years in this ritual. Not all houses governed in this way, but Farra was a noblewoman who believed that the daily drudgery of ruling was the Lord or Lady’s responsibility. She never wavered in it. Andros had been included in more than a few days of hearings from the smallfolk and other petitioners, so as to follow a consistent rule of law in her absence. Farra had not missed a hearing in her sixteen years of rule. Maester Llewellyn was aware that there were many other houses who left the daily business to a council of advisors, or the maester himself perhaps. Those nobles enjoyed the privilege of rule, but knew nothing of the burden. Despite his reduced role, he was grateful he was sworn to Redgate.

“Very well. It seems the mood has improved from last month. Not only have we been spared further treachery, but the increase in banditry appears to have been temporary. Ingvar’s efforts to rebuild the forces of Oakdown have borne fruit. “

Maester Llewellyn nodded in agreement. ‘And coin has begun to move as well. We suffered a serious blow to our treasury with the costs that accompanied the treason. Arms, armor, and theft all played a part. That too has improved. Ingvar reports the garrison has been keeping a close eye, and no further warning signs have been found. In fact, one might argue that Desmond’s trial has helped our recovery. With the pending nuptials between Daera and Ser Cransen, along with sympathy for Desmond and our cause, the Yronwood family has been most generous. The hostility between Skyreach and Yronwood are well known. Another caravan from Lord Anders Yronwood arrived just yesterday. Goods for the market in Lonetree, and coin to replenish our dwindling coffers.

Lady Farra smiled. “Indeed, my grandson’s foolishness may deserve some credit. As does my granddaughter’s obedience. The union of our houses will give us a powerful ally in the Red Mountains. I fear we may need it. You may summon Daryon.’

Maester Llewellyn motioned to the guards at the entrance of the Main Hall, who brought in the foreman. Daryon oversaw the small mining operation in the Red Mountains. While not a force for commerce, Daryon’s mine supplied much of the red sandstone used in the area for building. The man who entered was poorly presented for court. He wore a thin cotton tunic, stained red from the dust of the area. The tunic may have once been white, but it was hard to tell.

“M’lady, s’an honor to serve ye.’ The man walked forward, then kneeled before her. She motioned for him to rise.

‘We are all grateful for your service, Daryon. I understand the mines are providing ample stone?”

“Aye, m’lady, that they are. Your investment has let us bring on more men to work the mines, and give them fine tools to work. It looks like we will have enough stone for your lands, as well as enough to ship some off to other markets.’

Lady Farra seemed surprised. “Oh? Are you certain?”

“Aye m’lady. Very certain. And if I may, Khensad says his Olive orchards are the same. The autumn harvest brought more than he was expectin. Even with winter here, it looks like next year’s harvest should be the same. We wanted to give you a humble gift in appreciation. My wife, Tysa, does a bit of pottery. We wanted you to have this.”
Daryon kneeled once more, removing the burlap from around his gift, revealing a clay pitcher.

“It appears the Seven have blessed us all, as the Smith strengthened your hands. We will use this gift in our family Sept on your behalf.” Lady Farra took the pitcher, and handed it to the maester, who carefully set it aside. Daryon beamed with gratitude, and turned to leave.
As an afterthought, he stopped and turned.

“M’lady?”

“Yes Daryon?”

‘I’m glad you and yours are still well. May the Mother continue to look after your House.”
‘Thank you Daryon. Seven Blessings upon you.” As the door closed behind the foreman of the stone mine, Lady Farra and Maester Llewelly concluded the day’s petitions.

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Ingvar XVII
The Maiden's 22nd -A day in court

A week had passed since Perrin’s sentencing and while not the near flood of the first few days still people trickled in to volunteer to join Redgate’s military forces. At this rate they would not only replace the deserters but would also have to form new units. The next months would be busy training the recruits and getting them settled into their units then the hard work would begin, training them to excel at their new jobs.

Looking over the training area at all the new faces Ingvar couldn’t help but think of Perrin. He believed Perrin was at least partially responsible for this patriotic upwelling and the rest was Connyr’s doing. Connyr’s sermons didn’t stir the people but his faith was unmistakeable and his counsel on the Seven invaluable. In the days before Perrin’s judgement they had consulted often. Ingvar let his mind drift back to that day.

Lady Farra was sitting in the Oakchair with Lord Andros attending her in the heir’s chair. Below them sat the Lady’s small council and some family members. The gallery was packed.

Perrin approached the Oakchair walking between two Redlanders. His walk was heavy but not lagging and the soldiers did not have to prod him along. When they reached the appointed place for those seeking audience or judgement Perrin fell to his knees immediately and bowed his head.

A quiet murmur moved through the crowd present. At a glance from Lady Farra it was quickly stilled.

Lady Farra: {firm voice} Perrin. You stand accused of treason. Do you have any words you wish to say?

Perrin: {head still bowed, voice firm but sad} I kilt those people my lady and that’s the truth of it.

Lady Farra: Is that all Perrin?

Perrin: {quick glance to Ingvar who nods} My lady I thought at the time I was avenging Lord Nygel and them good Oakdowners who was kilt 16 years ago. I see I was a fool and followed traitors who had broken with the Oakchair.

Lady Farra: So you don’t believe you were avenging those killed?

Perrin: Not no more my lady.

Lady Farra: Why not?

Perrin: It was the Northman my lady. He asked me questions and made me think on what I’d done. {takes a breath} Killing those smallfolk didn’t bring anyone back and they weren’t the ones what kilt our Lord and his people anyway. {voice softer} It was easier when all I did was follow orders. They made it sound right but I still knew in my heart something wasn’t right. {looks up pain evident on his face} I swore an oath to the Seven to keep the secret and the Seven hate oathbreakers, everyone knows that. I didn’t know what to do so I just followed their orders. {a few tears spill down his face} All I ever wanted to do was be a Oakdown soldier and serve you my lady. {hangs his head}

The only sound in the room for several moments was the heartbroken sobbing of Perrin.

Perrin: {hoarsely} I don’t deserve no mercy my lady. I shoulda known better as soon as they said it had to be secret from everyone. Even if they kilt me at least I’da still been a Oakdown soldier.

Lady Farra: I see. {sits back, takes a breath} Will anyone speak on his behalf? {looks around the room}

A tense minute passes then sound of a chair scraping the floor fills the room as Ingvar stands.

Ingvar: {looking to Farra} I would Lady Farra.

Again the gallery swells with murmurs until Lady Farra quells them with a stern look.

Lady Farra: Proceed Ingvar.

Ingvar: {turns to Perrin and the gallery} As some of you know and many more suspect I’ve spent a number of days in Perrin’s company in the dungeons. I’ve also spoken with those who know him. It is with all that in mind that I say to you, there kneels one of Oakdown’s finest. He was led astray, that is true, but still he revers the Oakchair {turns to Lady Farra} and the Lady who sits on it. {turns back to the gallery} There are lessons for us all here. First, to serve two masters is folly and will only lead to ruin. Second, if you stand in the light of righteousness what need have you of secrecy?

Ingvar paused as scattered cries of “Praise the Seven” and “Seven be Blessed” came from the gallery. After a moment he continued.

Ingvar: {points at Perrin} Perrin is guilty, of that there is no doubt. He admits it without hesitation. He had committed treason and the law is clear on the punishment for treason. {confused murmurs fill the gallery} {Ingvar holds both arms out, palms up, in supplication} But is there not a higher law that instructs us to give mercy where it is appropriate? Does not the Mother counsel us to forgive those who have no malice toward us in their heart? {drops his left arm, extends his right arm – hand open to Perrin} Perrin’s only true guilt is loving Oakdown with his whole heart. {pause, arms by his side in fists, stern look} Those with evil intent twisted that to their own ends. You may ask who they managed that. It is a good question. The answer is 16 years. {relaxes his pose} 16 years they lurked in the shadows waiting, watching, plotting and planning for the day they could spring their trap. {suddenly claps his hands together} {pause, voice softer} And in that trap a good man was caught along with several others. {voice firmer} Make no mistake not all those who did this thing are good men. A goodly number of them have black and twisted souls and desire nothing more that to spread that darkness. We must be vigilant against the forces of darkness. {gestures with open arms including not only those present but all of Redgate} Oakdown needs all her loyal folk to help guard against the evil that waits to consume us all.

Ingvar maintained his pose for a moment then lowered his arms while waiting out the gallery’s enthusiastic response. Among the cries of “Seven save us” and “Seven guide us” were pledges of service and promises to never forget. Lady Farra, consummate diplomat she was, let it run it’s course, allowing the people their release. Perrin looked around open mouthed, stunned and awed.

Ingvar: {turns to Lady Farra as the noise dies down} You asked if anyone would speak for Perrin. I ask you now Lady Farra to show mercy to this man who loves Oakdown. Allow him to regain his honor and cleanse the blight upon his soul by serving all of Westeros. I ask you to allow him to take the black. To stand upon the wall and serve so his past may be forgiven. {bows his head}

Lady Farra: Your words and Perrin’s remorse have moved us. The Mother does indeed counsel us to show mercy to those in need of it. Perrin will you take the black and live the rest of your life in service?

Perrin: {choked voice} Yes my lady. I would be honored to be allowed to remove the stain on my soul.

Lady Farra: It is decided then. We will arrange for you to go to the wall and take the black. In the mean time you will be moved from the dungeons to a more suitable cell. Seven watch over you Perrin.

Perrin: Seven bless you my lady.

The gallery again filled with cries of blessings and thanks to Lady Farra for showing the Mother’s mercy as Perrin was led from the room.

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