Bow Before The Sun

Bennyn I
The Maiden's 12th

generic6.jpgThe journey to Redgate was always treacherous. It was slightly less so to ride down the side of the mountains east to the desert, and south around to Lonetree. From there, one could journey up the Prince’s Pass. It was unquestionably longer, but the risk to good mounts was much less. Ser Bennyn had been summoned to serve his liege, Lady Farra. On the morrow, he was to ride out with the Oakdown family (at least some of them) to protect them as they journeyed to King’s Landing. There was no question he would answer the call. His family was the oldest line of Knights sworn to House Oakdown, serving over two hundred years in that capacity. The question was whether he would journey to Redgate at all. He enjoyed Lonetree, and would rather await the family there. Loyalty was not the same thing as affection. He found himself a distant servant of Lady Farra. She preferred the company of her new sworn knight Ser Tygor, and his northman kin, by law, Ingvar. That was just as well as far as the knight was concerned. The Broadmont family was able to honor their oath from the holdfast deep within the Red Mountains as well as if they were in the halls of Redgate.

The small walled holdfast known as Broadholt sat atop a narrow red plateau, leagues north of the Pass. It was charged to guard against the approach of Reachmen who might threaten the Prince’s Pass. In truth, it faced far more danger from the local mountain lions than lords of the Reach. Ser Bennyn couldn’t help but wonder if the ancestors of Oakdown were as cool to his own ancestors as Farra was to him. He could think of no other reason for the ‘honor’ of being awarded Broadholt. His younger brother, Harrod, was of an age to squire. For now, he would wait and watch over their home. Their only other living relative was his uncle, Allard, who was the current Master of Laws for House Oakdown. As such, he resided in Redgate itself. That left the duty to Harrod. Ser Bennyn had bore the responsibility for the family for 16 years, when his own father died trying to protect the Oakdown family during the Hooded Uprising. Many loyal men died during that tragedy, not just the lords of Redgate. For his part, Ser Bennyn would have appreciated more recognition for his own father than what had been received. A true knight owed service to his lord, and Ser Bennyn would accept his fate humbly as his father had taught him. He would keep his misgivings to himself.

His message from Maester Llewellyn indicated Bennyn was to ride with the departing family, while Ser Tygor remained behind in Redgate with the rest of the house. Ser Bennyn finally decided to await them in Lonetree, and after lighting a candle for the Warrior in the Prince’s Sept, went to the stables. There he saw the young girl working to ready horses at Emerson’s instruction. The work of manning the stables had fallen to her with the death of the old stable master. He was glad Emerson had made other arrangements. This girl’s talents were wasted in the dusty village.

Ser Bennyn dismounted, and walked his Palfrey to the young girl.

“Ria’s your name, yes?” The girl nodded.

“I’ve just spoken to Emerson. He has agreed to resume proprietorship of his stables. I’ve requested your service from him, and frankly compensated him well. I’d like to hire you to journey with us to King’s Landing. The last time I was there, I had to put down my poor horse Clover. The fool stable hand infected her hoof while ‘shoeing’ her. A damn crime, truthfully. I’d not have taken ten of the boy for my horse. I trust you girl. You do good work. And my black palfrey here, Emma, likes you well. What say you? Interested in some silver?”

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Ingvar XVI
The Maiden's 11th -The Plot reveal.

Ingvar remained, respectfully silent as the holy man departed. The gate closed once more, as Ingvar took two steps closer to the sobbing man in chains.

Ingvar: Look at me.

Perrin’s eyes found Ingvar, as Ingvar spoke once more.

Ingvar: Let’s get started, then.

Perrin nodded in response and took several deep breaths.

Perrin talked the morning and a good portion of the afternoon away, pausing only occasionally to take a drink of water. Ingvar asked few questions and only as necessary to clarify who was involved. At last Perrin wound down and there was silence for a bit as Ingvar considered what he had been told.

Of course, Lady Farra would have to be told, as would the Maester and the Septon, beyond that the details would be strictly need to know. They would have to make plans to visit the gathering place to see what might have been left behind.

Ingvar: Thank you Perrin. There is no telling how many lives you may have just saved.

Perrin: Aye, I suppose that’s something but the Gods hate an oath breaker.

Ingvar: {unchaining Perrin from the wall but leaving his fetters} Is it truly oath breaking to uphold your original oath? Remember you swore to the Oakchair first and the traitors second. Even then the traitors dressed themselves up as loyalists so you would side with them.

Perrin: I don’t know northman. I’ll think on it.

Ingvar: I have to report now. Sit, lie down, walk around as you wish. I’ll make sure you get dinner even if I’m not here. {walks to the gate} And Perrin.

Perrin: Yes northman.

Ingvar: Even if your Seven are displeased, I can assure you the Old Gods are pleased you upheld your original oath. They will forgive a wayward son who returns home and rejoice at his return.

Perrin looked at Ingvar for several heartbeats then nodded.

Ingvar joined Lord Andros, who had been listening just outside the gate, and returned to the keep. They went over some of the points of information as they walked. At the entrance to the keep, Lord Andros went to join Lady Farra and Ingvar made a quick stop at the kitchen where he told the head cook to make sure some food and water were delivered to Perrin at dinner time if he did not come himself to deliver it.

He sent runners to collect the Maester and the Septon and request their presence for the report. He then joined Lady Farra and Lord Andros while they waited on the others to arrive. Once everyone was gathered he began.

Ingvar: I’ll make this as short and clear as possible. Dromme had been identified as the ringleader and there are names from the Redlanders, the Gatekeepers, the Riders, and the Ghosts. The number totals nearly one hundred. Dromme did not take his relief of command well. Some of the names are of higher placed members of the groups and these masked the desertions by falsifying reports. The corruption reached fairly high and a large number are those who opposed you posting me to Master-at-Arms Lady Farra. All the traitors were to leave Oakdown before dawn of the second day after the slaughter at Greybrook. They were to meet north of Greybrook. While their benefactor is unknown to Perrin, he does know the benefactor is in King’s Landing. And finally, Dromme has been living in a small homestead five leagues from Lonetree, well into the Red Mountains off of any pass or trail. Perrin has only been there twice but the second time was only a week before the anniversary and that was to receive their final orders.

Ingvar paused to let his audience digest the news. While he waited he thought how best to go about searching Dromme’s hideout for possible information.

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Desmond XIII

“I see you remain in possession of both your hands, you little shit,” Lord Fowler said through gritted teeth as he found his voice.

Desmond raised himself from his bow and gave the Lord of Skyreach a cocky grin.

“I do at that,” he said holding up both hands and wiggling his fingers to prove it. “And I have no intentions of parting with either. I’m rather attached as it were.”

“You conduct yourself as the lowborn filth that you assuredly are. But you are worse. Aren’t you?” Lord Fowler replied, his maester nodding his head slowly in agreement next to his throne. “You are the seed of Oathbreakers.”

“Rich words coming from the mouth of a liar and a murderer,” Desmond replied with a derisive sneer.

Lord Fowler stood from his chair and sucked in a breath, quivering with rage.

“I stand before you as innocent as my first nameday. Your baseless accusations condemn you, not me,” he hissed. He then jabbed a furious finger at Desmond. “And I will not answer yet another from your treacherous family. If your lady grandmother will not grant us justice, perhaps it is time to find a family more worthy of Redgate.”

Heavy footfalls sounded and from the corners of his vision, Desmond counted two Fowler guards flanking either side of him with bared steel. He suddenly wished he’d not left his spear strapped to Tempest’s saddle. He ignored the newcomers, however, and let his eyes wander over Sky Hall.

“Yes, perhaps it is,” he mused before shifting his gaze back to Lord Fowler. “Once you step down as Warden of the Pass and the Oakdowns take possession of Skyreach, of course.”

The Warden of Prince’s Pass was stunned into silence yet again while his maester stood with mouth agape.

“A fool you are and a fool you will always be, bastard. Pray tell me that you have come at the least to surrender yourself for justice. But, surrender or no, you will face justice. Perhaps you have some scant blood of your noble grandfather, however?”

“The blood of Oakdown does indeed flow through my veins. And my grandfather, had you not murdered him, would do what I do now; of that I have no doubt,” Desmond said slowly. He looked from Lord Fowler to his maester and back. “Surrender, you say? Nay, ‘my lord’. I come to stand trial, yes. But I demand trial by combat. Name your champion and let us end this farce.”

Franklyn Fowler snorted in disdain.

“Pity. I had hoped to see some of that famed temper I’ve heard so much about. Then we could spill your blood here, and spare the matter of any trial.” He sighed as settled back into his chair. “But a trial by combat is your right.”

Desmond ignored the pointless threat. Lord Fowler would no more spill his blood in the middle of Sky Hall with so little provocation than Desmond would have killed his daughter in Redgate.

Or so he hoped. For now that he was here, before this treacherous scum, he intended to have his say.

“You may, of course, save this poor soul’s miserable life by admitting your crimes, submitting to the justice of Sunspear, and allowing young Jeyne to apologize for her behavior. But I doubt that’s an option for a cowardly, treacherous sack of suet like your lordship.”

Lord Fowler leaped back up from his seat and bellowed, “You go too far, bastard! Perhaps I will forget my responsibilities and gut you where you stand. Who would question us? None here will deny we were provoked.”

As Lord Fowler walked toward him, Desmond kept his temper in check and said softly, “As you were provoked by the denizens of Graybrook and my kith and kin?”

Desmond dimly heard clattering armor and another round of footsteps as yet more guards entered the hall. Lord Fowler laughed and spread his arms wide.

“Go on. Where is your spear, boy? Where is your venomous tongue now?”

Desmond regarded the soldiers ringing the hall.

“Nay, my lord, I’ll not give you the satisfaction,” he said looking back to Lord Fowler. “I say again, name… your… champion.”

Lord Franklyn turned his back to Desmond.

“My champion will be Ser Liam Cross of Bonecross,” he shot back over his shoulder. “A true knight, in deed and fealty. He will be summoned immediately, as he has sworn to champion my daughter’s cause should you be foolish enough to ask for it. You may find a true knight more than you bargained for, bastard.”

“And you may find that a bastard is worth ten knights.”

Lord Fowler laughed loudly and turned back to face Desmond, wiping at his eyes. “Oh, yes. A bastard worth ten knights. An Oakdown in Sky Hall. And a Fowler accused of murder. Get him out of my sight, lest I lose my patience further.”

As the guards moved to seize his arms, Desmond couldn’t resist one more verbal thrust.

“Give my regards to Jeyne. I’m sorry to have missed her and hope we speak again very soon.”

In a fury, eyes bulging, Lord Fowler rushed Desmond and drew his dagger. He pressed the blade to Desmond’s cheek and slid it down slowly. Warmth trickled from the shallow cut down Desmond’s jawline.

“In lieu of your regards, I believe I’ll send your head to Lady Jeyne.”

Desmond lifted his chin defiantly. “And in so doing confirm that you have no honor. Go on, do it, you worthless, dishonorable coward!”

The blade quivered in front of Desmond’s eye and he wondered briefly if he’d pushed too far before Lord Fowler dropped his dagger and spat full in Desmond’s face.

“I’ll have it soon enough.”

He gestured a dismissal to the guards restraining Desmond and they turned their prisoner toward the door.

“The only thing you’ll have is your champion’s head and the sight of my backside as I march down this mountain.”

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Ingvar XV
The Maiden's 10th ... they first make mad.

Ingvar gathered his food and headed to see Perrin as usual but upon his arrival it was anything but usual.

Ingvar: Good morning Perrin.

Perrin: {holding up a hand} I have a headache already from my thoughts chasing themselves northman. I yield, you win.

Ingvar: Oh? What did I win?

Perrin: {glares at Ingvar from one bloodshot eye} I’ll tell you what you want to know under one condition.

Ingvar: A condition?

Perrin: I be allowed to confess first.

Ingvar: That’s it? Confession?

Perrin: {nods tiredly}

Ingvar went to the gate to speak with Lord Andros who came down often to listen to the sessions with Perrin.

Ingvar: Lord Andros? Are you in attendance today?

Lord Andros: I am.

Ingvar: What say you my lord? A confession for information?

Lord Andros: I’ll see to it straight away. {pivots and heads to keep}

Ingvar: {walking back to the table} Looks like you get your wish Perrin. {sits down} Butter on your bread?

Perrin: {settling in} Yes please.

The meal proceeded with considerably less talk than usual.

Ingvar: {after the table is cleared} It will most likely be tomorrow before Septon Connyr hears your confession. I assume you’d like to rest up?

Perrin: Please.

Ingvar stands and begins toward the gate only to stop next to Perrin. He places a hand on Perrin’s shoulder and keeps facing the gate.

Ingvar: Perrin, I’m sorry.

Perrin: Sorry northman?

Ingvar: Yes. I failed you.

Perrin: I don’t understand.

Ingvar: You murdered smallfolk and part of the reason was me. If I had done my job right you’d still be an Oakdown soldier with your honor intact.

Perrin hung his head and said nothing. Ingvar gave his shoulder a squeeze then left.

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Ingvar XIV
The Maiden's 9th -Those whom Gods would destroy...

When Ingvar arrived in the kitchens there was already a small basket waiting on him. One of the cooks had placed bread, butter and a jug of water in it. He tossed a thank you in the direction of the cooks and headed to the dungeon.

Ingvar: Good morning Perrin.

Perrin was silent.

Ingvar: {emptying the basket on to the table} Don’t tell me Flint killed you. I didn’t think the white walkers had made it this far south yet.

Ingvar walked to where Perrin lay and had to stifle a laugh. Perrin glared pure fury at Ingvar.

Ingvar: No. I see you are indeed still alive. Did you have a good vigil? Gain any wisdom?

Perrin glared.

Ingvar: I suppose you think I left that corpse blanket as a means of torture. That it would loosen your tongue. Sorry to disappoint you, it was more a form of training. Although if it has loosened your tongue, feel free to tell me anything you’d like.

Perrin: {almost growling} Unchain me northman and there is plenty I’ll tell you.

Ingvar: While that sounds promising I’ll pass for now. It’s time to break fast, that is if you are ready to get up?

Perrin sputtered inarticulately and struggled to get loose from his chains.

Ingvar rolled the body off Perrin and called one of the guards to take it back to the Septon.

Ingvar: And be careful. I promised the Septon it would be returned for burial without harm.

Rolf: Aye Commander.

Ingvar: {once guard is gone} So are you going to be reasonable or will we have to start on an empty stomach?

Perrin: {eyes bugging at the reasonable comment} ME! BE REASONABLE! Are you barking mad northman? {sarcasm} I suppose where you’re from it’s acceptable to use the dead for blankets.

Ingvar: No not really. In fact, they’d probably ask me if I was mad, same as you.

Perrin stares, blinks and his expression changes to his more accustomed confusion.

Perrin: {Soto vocce} I’m dead and this is hell.

Ingvar: If I understand your seven right, that would make me the Stranger. Yes?

Perrin: Yes.

Ingvar: Interesting.

Perrin: I don’t… Seven help me I’m going to regret this… I don’t understand northman.

Ingvar: Understand what Perrin?

Perrin: Why you did that. You said it wasn’t torture.

Ingvar: No. I said it wasn’t for torture but I’m sure it would be considered torture.

Perrin stares blankly.

Ingvar: Ready to break fast?

Perrin: I… You…. Umm…. Yes.

Ingvar: Good. {unchains Perrin}

They settle at the table.

Ingvar: The cooks packed butter today. Would you like some on your bread?

Perrin: {slightly out of it} Yes please.

Ingvar cut the bread and buttered it and as had happened previously served them both until it was all gone. Perrin ate automatically and could not have told you what it tasted like if you asked. Ingvar talked about the weather and general keep news. Perrin hardly heard him but nodded and made an occasional comment. Once they were done Ingvar cleared the table into the basket.

Ingvar: It’s safe to say you’d know a corpse if you ran into one again. Yes?

Perrin: Yes.

Ingvar: Did Flint try to kill you at any point?

Perrin: No.

Ingvar: If he had what would you have done?

Perrin: {furrows his brow, looks at Ingvar as if Ingvar were crazy} Died.

Ingvar: That’s it? Just died?

Perrin: Are you daft northman? I was trussed up like hen for baking. I couldna stopped a babe from killing me.

Ingvar: True. If you had been free to move, what would you have done?

Perrin: To be honest, pissed meself and screamed like a little girl.

Ingvar: So the tales of the white walkers and wights has almost completely faded here?

Perrin: No more than grumkins and snarks.

Ingvar: You don’t believe in the white walkers and wights?

Perrin: I want to say no but I don’t think that’s the right answer anymore. {pause} Gods help me, I’ve lost my mind.

Ingvar: {very serious} They are very real. They are part of the reason the Dents came south. Winter is coming and they will come with it. And the wall needs men to stop them.

Perrin: You made me sleep with a corpse so I’d take the black?

Ingvar: No. I did it so when you ran into a corpse that wasn’t like Flint you’d know to be very careful. And to see if you are the kind of man I’d recommend for the wall. If you had turned into a blubbering coward there would be no use in sending you to the wall. Remember that anger you felt when you see a walking corpse. Use it to help you fight. I don’t remember all the stories myself but I remember fire works on them and normal weapons don’t. There is something else but I can’t quite recall it right now. Frozen something is all I remember. Have to talk to Maester Llewellyn and Septon Connyr to see if either of them remember. So would you be interested in defending Westeros from an ancient evil or would you prefer beheading?

Perrin: I… I….

Ingvar: Tough decision?

Perrin: {shakes head} No. I wanted to be a soldier to protect Redgate. I’m just trying to believe all you are saying. I’ve been taught it was just stories.

Ingvar: The last time they came in force was even before the Andals. Those that believe they existed at all believe they were exterminated more than a thousand years ago. {looks Perrin in the eye} How do you kill the dead? How do you kill something that never lived and can call the dead to service? How do you say you’ve exterminated something if you don’t even know where it came from in the first place?

Perrin: {hoarsely} How do you know they are back?

Ingvar: More wildlings are heading south than usual and they aren’t just raiding. They are trying to stay south. They are running away from their homes. {pause, lowering voice} And they’re scared.

They sat quiet for a few minutes then Ingvar abruptly stood up.

Ingvar: You think on that and we’ll talk later. And think, really think on what you did at Greybrook and what it really accomplished besides getting Oakdowners killed.

Perrin: {as Ingvar is going through the gate} Wait! You forgot to chain me up. {holds his hand up}

Ingvar: We’ll attend to it later.

Once the gate was locked again Ingvar quietly told the guards to get him immediately if Perrin asked for it. No matter what the hour.

The middle of the day past in a blur for Ingvar as he tried to figure out exactly why he tried to make the corpse sound like something other than torture. In truth he had felt betrayed by Perrin and was angry almost beyond reason. The corpse was to torture Perrin. The only thing he could figure out was he felt guilty about doing that to Perrin and sought to lessen the blow. Bah, he liked Perrin and that was the root of it. Once Ingvar got Perrin to part with names he would make sure that whoever corrupted Perrin would suffer.

The evening visit with Perrin was fairly mundane and Ingvar went a little lighter on the loyalty and service talk. It appeared to him Perrin was doing plenty of that to himself. It wouldn’t be long now and Perrin would tell them what he knew. He did have Perrin returned to the wall chain for the evening before leaving.

Again Ingvar split wood as he pondered the events, not so much to dispel a darkness now but the physical activity seemed to help him think. And the more he thought the more certain he became tomorrow would be the day things changed.

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Desmond XII
The Maiden's 7th

He drew the hood of his cloak close against the wind and lightly falling snow as Tempest approached the gates of Skyreach. He did his best to blend in with the crowd but ‘blending in’ had never been of any particular use to Desmond. This sneaking and skulking about was foreign to him. He generally used brute force and intimidation to get what he wanted. However, he would likely find difficulty reaching Lord Franklyn on anything other than the Fowler lord’s terms if he attempted to bully his way through the city gates. He was likely to find himself clapped in irons and taken straight to the castle dungeon – perhaps short a hand or head – before he was brought to Sky Hall. While he was good with his spear, he’d only be able to take maybe a half dozen or so of the whoresons before they overwhelmed him.

And he would have words with Lord Franklyn.

The journey up the Prince’s Pass had taken the better part of two days even on horseback. The journey was made somewhat longer by his stop in Graybrook. The town was little bigger than Lonetree and was similar in many ways, although Roddam’s was a slight step up from the Cup. He was surprised to find civilians walking around armed and the town swarming with Fowlers. After he’d seen Tempest stabled, Desmond had found a dimly lit corner in the common room of the inn and listened to the rumors. Tempers were running high after the attack of evening last, which explained the watered down ale that Desmond had spent the night nursing as he overheard the conversation.

Some folk were scared, others wanted revenge and none could agree on the source of the mysterious attack. Some claimed it had been a band of the brigands that had been accosting travelers in the Pass, while others shouted loudly that it had been the work of the Oakdowns. Still others speculated in hoarse whispers that it had been the Fowlers. That one was not spoken loudly at all, lest they be overheard by the many hawks circling the village. He listened to the gossip until a trio of villagers eyeing him suspiciously left him with the distinct impression that it was a wise time to retire. He’d slept a few hours only and taken his leave three hours before dawn.

The rest of the journey had passed without incident and he now found himself at the city gates. The walls of Skyreach were the same red sandstone as Redgate but that was where any similarities ended. To begin with, where the keep of Redgate stood alone, Skyreach was surrounded by its city. The city was larger than Lonetree and Graybrook, larger than both together, and had grown up around the castle for thousands of years but had changed little in that time. It filled the triangular shaped outcropping of the mountain, the walls looking out over the cliffs and down on the clouds, and several buildings had been built on natural terraces on the mountainside. The Pass was the only way in and the only way out.
The crowd filtered through the gates, traders mostly, some smallfolk and travelers joining them. A pair of guards looked over the throng of horses, wagons, pack animals, and people lazily, herding the press through and barely giving any of them a second glance. Desmond passed under the arched entrance, the teeth of the gate yawning wide overhead. He couldn’t escape the feeling of being swallowed by a giant beast.

He wended through the city, the journey through the congested streets taking more than an hour. He finally found himself at the keep. It straddled the large plunge pool at the base of the waterfall, the river continued on from the pool through the city and under the wall before it spilled down the sheer face of the cliff. The entrances to the keep, like the city, rested on the northern and southern ends with the span of the castle and Sky Hall rising between the gate towers over the roaring waters. Tempest carried Desmond toward the southern gate tower where a retinue of guards stood, three to either side of the portcullis and two standing before the entrance.

“You there, on the sand steed,” what Desmond could only assume was the captain called out when Tempest was thirty yards from the entrance, “Halt!”

Desmond reined Tempest to a stop as ordered and waited silently as the guard captain approached.

“That’s a mighty fine horse for a rough and tumble lookin’ sort, like yourself,” the guard said as he came around Tempest’s flank. “Where did you get it and what’s your business in Skyreach?”

“The horse comes from my lady’s stables in Redgate,” Desmond replied softly.

The captain’s hand immediately went to his sword and the half dozen guards moved in to block his way at the mention of the Oakdown’s home.

“Redgate?” The guard asked suspiciously, eyes narrowing and his hand easing his sword out a half hand. “I say again, what brings you to Skyreach?”

“I bring a message from Lady Oakdown to Lord Fowler. An answer to his latest peace offering and a gift for the Lady Jeyne. May I have your leave to deliver it to the castle?”

“No, you do not. Let me see this message.”

Desmond inclined his head. “I have been commanded only to divulge the message to Lord Fowler.”

The guard hesitated. Before he could speak again, Desmond continued.

“I understand your hesitancy but this is a rather delicate situation. Lady Oakdown knows how treacherous are the high reaches in autumn and early winter for the ravens. I was sent to ensure my lady’s response to Lord Fowler arrived and to present a gift this gift to Lady Jeyne personally.”

The guard motioned to one of his fellows, a younger lad. Judging from his nervous stance and the way his eyes darted from his superior to Desmond, new to his duties.

“Ralston, take the messengers horse to the stables.” He turned to Desmond as the boy took Tempest’s reins. “Come, I’ll take you to Lord Fowler.”

They passed through the halls swiftly and to the central tower, climbing a spiraling staircase to the heavy, gilded doors that led into Sky Hall. Desmond took a breath as the guard captain pulled open the doors to the inner sanctum of the Oakdown’s betrayers. Lord Fowler’s bulk sat on his falcon adorned throne, an even fatter maester at his right hand. Desmond lowered his hood and watched as the Lord of Skyreach’s face went from passive indifference to a shade of angry crimson, his visage punctuated by the throbbing vein at his temple.

The Bastard of Redgate bowed mockingly.

“My lord, had I known how easy it was to gain audience, I would have long since visited to pay my respects.”

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Llewellyn V
The Maiden's 12th

three_candles.jpgThree small candles flickered on the large desk used by Maester Llewellyn. Off to the side of the desk was the voluminous tome he recorded the histories of House Oakdown. It remained unopened, not used since earlier that morning when the Septon transcribed the past week’s events. Normally this was a trivial task, but this past week included two separate days of bloodshed, the memorializing of the biggest tragedy in the history of the family, and the details of one of the family sons awaiting his fate in the dungeons of Skyreach. Few appreciated the importance of history as much as a Maester. Llewellyn was certainly no different. But tonight, there were more pressing matters.

Asaf had returned after a grueling week’s trek through the Red Mountains in search of the traitorous Oakdown forces. All signs seemed to point to a massacre of smallfolk occuring at the Fowler hamlet of Graybrook at the hands of forces loyal to House Oakdown. Ingvar had ordered the pursuit of these men, and instructions to avoid further aggravating current tensions with House Fowler. Those tensions were already stretched to dangerous limits. While the Old Hawk, Lord Franklyn Fowler, demanded justice for the rough treatment of his heir and daughter, he had not called for justice over Graybrook. Fowler men had been seen in force in the area, so it wasn’t a case of the Hawk not being aware of the bloodshed. It was the hope of everyone in the room to bring those responsible to justice before things worsened with Skyreach.

In front of the desk stood Asaf, and his commander, Ingvar. Next to them was Lord Andros, heir and Castellan for the house. On the desk were three items brought with Asaf from his unsuccessful pursuit. While all parties would have preferred to have the actual accused present, they were satisfied with Asaf’s efforts.

The Maester begin by holding up the scroll. Asaf and his men, like most smallfolk, were unable to read the common tongue. But the scroll was locked in a wooden chest that was out of place compared to the rest of the holdfast. It bore a broken was seal marked with the sigil of House Oakdown.

“This mark is not one of ours, Asaf. You were right to bring it to us. This tree does not match the offical sigil. The silhouette of the tree is all wrong, with branches out of place. And the craftmanship is inferior. The seal is a forgery. Further, the scroll has been handled by numerous hands. Based on the discoloration of the paper, this has taken place over months, if not years. Considering it was locked in a chest by itself, it obviously has great value. But all that is written on the scroll is a riddle.”

Quick; quite mum; I die notwithstanding. I lived once, I live again. Everybody
lifts me, grips me, and chops off my head, bites my bare body, violates me.
I don’t bite a man unless he bites me; there are many men who bite me.

“As far as the soil you brought with you, it is discolored compared to the native soil. The composition appears to be similiar, if not identical. I confess, I do not know much of this matter, but this is more than mud. The fact that you found it both in Graybrook, and in Kingsgrave lands, raises more questions than answers. Which brings us to your final evidence. This sigil is authentic. The men’s bodies you found were Manwoody men. The cloth is poor fabric, and homespun. The men you found were not noble. Quinn appears to still be safe. It was not his party that was ambushed in the Manwoody mountains, at least not based on this.”

ingvar spoke.

“Rest up, Asaf. I have learned a potential hole where we might find Dromme. Many of those in our care must depart for King’s Landing in two days. I want this matter resolved before they do. I need good men at my side. You have proven yourself to be a man to be relied upon Asaf. I will be relying upon you and your eyesight once more. Once we awake, we make for Dromme’s hiding place.”

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Ria VI
The Maiden's 11th

The days since the murders had quickly blended together for Ria, rumors ran wild of course but she didn’t pay attention, didn’t try to calm worries, didn’t even listen really. Just kept working, losing herself in the simple monotony of hauling feed and mucking stables, making sure the animals were feed and watered. She pushed herself, more than enough to make up for Henred and collapsed into heavy sleep as soon as she was done, too tired to dream.

Today though, had it been four days, maybe five, she didn’t care, found herself alone in the stables with the horses, and for some reason today was the day she realized there was no one there but her, the horses, her faithful dog, no one to joke, no one to help with the heavier bags, no one to mess her hair and tell her she must be part horse.

She didn’t realize what she was doing until she saw her blood on the wall, looking down at her fist, scraped and raw, fool girl, she thought, now she’d have to clean both the wall and her hand, waste time better spent on the rounseys.

But somehow she felt better.

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Ingvar XIII
The Maiden's 8th - And bad cop again...

Ingvar woke to sore muscles but it was a good, sore from good, hard work. This morning he got one of the loafs with fruit, nuts, and meat in it and an extra mug before heading to see Perrin. The morning chill was welcome, at least to him if not everyone. He smiled at the grumbles of cold and winter he heard on his way.

He set up the table while the guard freed Perrin from the wall. As Perrin sat down Ingvar cut both heels from the loaf, sliding one to Perrin and keeping one for himself then poured them each a mug of water.

Ingvar: Good morning Perrin.

Perrin: Morning northman.

Ingvar: {gesturing to the servings} I see the question on your face. We both know you are not a guest and this morning I decided to save some time by breaking fast with you. Besides you’re better first meal company than some I have to endure in the hall. {chuckles}

Perrin: {nods, chuckles} Aye. I know what you mean. Some people were not meant for morning.

Ingvar: Some weren’t meant for light period. If you know what I mean. {snicker}

Perrin: {chokes on water while trying to laugh} Oh aye!

They continued to make small talk while they ate, nothing of import just friendly chat. Ingvar had noticed fairly quickly that seemed to be the key to getting past Perrin’s guard and Perrin wasn’t really a bad man just a misguided one. Eventually the meal ended and things were cleared away.

Ingvar: So where were we Perrin?

Perrin: {expression becoming more solemn} We was talking about Oakdown’s past.

Ingvar: Ah yes. A proud history. A proud people. Very much like my home, only hotter. {smiles}

Perrin: Really northman? Most a the older houses look down on the younger ones.

Ingvar: And most nobles are total asses.

Perrin: {stares}

Ingvar: {laughs} Still surprised I don’t act like the rest?

Perrin: {shaking his head} I shouldn’ be but it’s still strange ta hear you say things like that.

Ingvar: Here’s hoping you get plenty of time to get accustomed to it.

Perrin: {heavy sigh} I’d like that but I don’t think it will happen northman.

Ingvar: Never count your chickens before they hatch Perrin. You never know what may happen.

Perrin: {shakes his head} I can’t hope northman. I’ll go crazy.

Ingvar: Then I’ll hope and tell you I told you so later.

Perrin: What in the hells are you thinking?

Ingvar: There is more than one way for this to play out. You could lose your head, you could end up on the wall or ……

Perrin: Or what northman?

Ingvar: That’s the question now isn’t it Perrin.

They stared at one another for several minutes until Perrin shook his head and opened his mouth.

Ingvar: You seem chilled Perrin.

Perrin: {slumps his shoulders realizing Ingvar isn’t going to answer} It is chilly this morning northman.

Ingvar: And here I thought is was pleasant. Ah well, I guess it’s all in what you grow up with.

Perrin: I reckon so. {pause} Is it true the snows can get deeper than a man is tall?

Ingvar: Yes, in deep winter the drifts can get taller than houses. You have to know how to move in it or it will kill you. When it gets cold enough everything is dangerous. The cold itself is the most dangerous. At first you’re cold, then it burns, then you go numb and get sleepy. If you sleep, you die. They say it’s a peaceful death after you go numb and the colder it is the less it burns. Water becomes very dangerous. In just a few heartbeats you can’t move your arms and legs then you just slip under and die. I’ve seen a man fall through ice and it’s odd.

Perrin: {leans in}

Ingvar: For the first few heartbeats he fought like mad then he slowed down. {stares off into the distance} Then he just stopped and got a peaceful look on his face and slipped under the water. Of all the deaths I’ve seen, it looked to be the easiest. {shakes himself} Of course I’d prefer to die being ridden by a woman in my old age. {laughs}

Perrin: Aye. Sleep sounds like a good way to go too. I’d take either.

Ingvar: They’re tracking your brothers now. They left a clear trail, at least as far as the Ghosts are concerned.

Perrin: {furrows his brow, starts to say something then stops}

Ingvar: Time for me to go Perrin. Let’s get you back on your chain.

After securing Perrin, Ingvar headed to the keep to see if any word had come back yet or if any other incidents had occurred. He glanced into the other occupied cell on his way out, at least he didn’t have to deal with this one… hopefully.

His report was only to Lady Farra as Lord Andros was in town checking into something that happened at the Devil’s Cup. He had no doubt he’d hear about it later but he was more concerned with Lady Farra. She was staying in her rooms and looked as if she were crying. She waved off his questions and concern telling him they’d discuss it later.

Lord Andros returned to the keep in a foul mood and once he told Ingvar what happened Ingvar’s mood was no better. The worst part was the description of the two who fled the Devil’s Cup. He knew them both, they were Ghosts, as was one of the dead. Lysa, Henred, and Flint all killed by men who were Ghosts. Sworn to protect Oakdown and it’s people and instead murdered them. After speaking with Andros he headed to Perrin and everyone who saw him was glad he wasn’t coming for them.

Ingvar: On your feet Perrin.

Perrin: {unease showing} Northman?

Ingvar only waited until Perrin gained his feet then he punched him in the gut. Perrin doubled over and staggered back.

Perrin: {holding a hand up, fear evident on his face} What’s happened? I don’t understand.

Ingvar hit Perrin again, this time a solid punch to the jaw. Perrin fell to his knees, bleeding from a split lip. Perrin cowered, covering his head with his arms.

Ingvar: {voice cold and flat} Your brothers killed Oakdowners.

Perrin: {dropping his arms} What? No, that’s not possible.

Ingvar: Lysa and Henred are dead, as is Flint.

Perrin: {head jerks, eyes widen at mention of Flint} What?

Ingvar: So your brotherhood shows it’s true colors. They are turning on themselves and Oakdowners now. Still think you have an oath to uphold?

Perrin: How.. how do you know it was them?

Ingvar: They were seen. It was Keene and Hallam, Ghosts. Flint was a Ghost too but from your reaction I’m sure Flint was with you.

Perrin: {obviously agonizing over his response} Aye. Flint was with us and Hallam and Keene too. They kilt Lysa and Henred? {looks off into the distance} That don’t make no sense. We wasn’t suppose to … {looks at Ingvar}

Ingvar: Supposed to what?

Perrin: {hangs his head}

Ingvar: Don’t make me get a whip Perrin. Once I start I won’t guarantee I’ll stop before you’re crippled.

Perrin: We wasn’t supposed to kill Oakdowners just Fowlers. Lysa and Henred wasn’t no problem to anyone. I don’t know why they kilt’em. It don’t make no sense. I swear northman, I don’t know nothing about it.

Ingvar: {nods} I’ll return shortly.

Perrin didn’t like the way Ingvar said he’d return. It sounded more like a threat.

Ingvar headed to find the Septon.

Ingvar: {walking up to Septon, command voice} I want Flint’s body.

Septon Connyr: {taken aback} It’s quite unusual commander, but as you wish. The Stranger can wait a short while longer.

Ingvar: Burial for a traitor? Bah, why bother. I need that body and he has no further use for it. Out of respect for you Septon I’ll return it or I can handle it’s disposal, whichever you prefer. And no, I’m not going to defile it.

Septon Connyr: I would like it returned, yes. May all the Gods, old and new, guide you in your most difficult duty.

Ingvar: A brother of his wants to sit vigil. I’ll give him one night. You can expect it’s return in the morning. {turns to go, pauses} Thank you Septon. I need all the help I can get.

Ingvar considered using a cart but the narrow steps would make that problematic so in the end he just hoisted the body over his shoulder and headed to the dungeon. On arrival he had the guards bind Perrin hand and foot and lay him on his back, there was very little movement possible to Perrin. He waited outside while this was done and had ordered the guards to silence as they bound Perrin. Once the binding was complete Ingvar entered the cell and placed Flint in the chair. Perrin’s eyes were wide with panic.

Ingvar: Recognize him Perrin?

Perrin: {nods without speaking}

Ingvar: Name him Perrin.

Perrin: {several false starts} Flint.

Ingvar: Now you see. {points to the hold in Flint’s chest} I did not lie to you. He was found with Lysa and Henred and judging by the smell he was drunk. At first we thought him a victim like the others but you let me know otherwise.

Perrin: {eyes flickering between Ingvar and Flint} Aye.

Ingvar: You named him a brother. You said an oath with him. True?

Perrin nodded.

Ingvar: Well I thought it polite to allow you to sit vigil with your brother. Perhaps you will discover some wisdom tonight.

Perrin: Sit vigil my lord?

Ingvar: {voice thundering} NORTHMAN! Not my lord, remember? I’m not an Oakdown, remember?

Perrin: {recoiling and cringing as best he could} I’m sorry my… nor… northman.

Ingvar drug Flint’s corpse from the chair and laid it over Perrin like a blanket. Perrin struggled to remove the corpse and begged for mercy.

Ingvar: You get the same mercy as Lysa and Henred. Think on who you protect.

Ingvar took the torch from the cell on his way out.

Ingvar made his way to the keep and informed Lord Andros what had transpired. He gave a somewhat edited report to Lady Farra, leaving out the body but told both he thought Perrin was close to breaking. Another day, two at the most and Perrin would tell them what they needed.

Once he completed his duties around the keep he returned to where they split wood and once again lost himself in the simple movements while his mind raced.

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Connyr II
The Maiden's 12th

Septon_Connyr.jpgConnyr opened the scrolls wide on his table, and dipped his quill feather into a jar of ink. He smiled as he looked at his work space. He had been teased since his time studying theology that he was more Maester than Septon. The fact that he lacked much public speaking skill only seemed to have reinforced that notion over the years. He could not captivate worshipers in a sept, but when he wrote down his thoughts, his gifts were evident. Connyr was a student of history, and he and Llewellyn enjoyed more than a few scholarly discussions on the impact of cultural diffusion throughout Dorne, and the transformation of mercantile economies across the ages, among other equally fascinating topics. He deferred to the Maester when it came to writing the histories of their House, but he was actively involved in the research.

After consulting the charts, he identified that it was the 12th day of the Maiden’s First Moon. All of the Seven Kingdom’s were counting down the days until three month’s hence. That would be the Stranger’s Moon, and the wedding of King Joffrey. He could not suppress a shiver; the Septon had witnessed some of the boy King’s cruelty. He found the timing of the wedding to be very fitting, and an ill omen. He made a note of the coming wedding, then he returned to recording the dates of the past eight days for Maester Llewellyn’s official record. The maester insisted that this was not necessary, but Connyr enjoyed the task. And regardless, he would be away for a potentially extended time in the Capital. He wanted to assist Llewellyn now while he could.

The anniversary of course was the 4th day of the Maiden’s First Moon. The Septon meticulously wrote down the nature of the memorial service for posterity, as well as the names of those he recalled in attendance. Connyr naively believed that his biggest challenge would be to conjure up the passion of the Seven to celebrate the lives of Lord Nygel, Arthur, Aryl and Annabyl. Connyr carefully recited prayers and fables from the lore of the Faith to illustrate the moral of sacrifice and faith in the face of tragedy. Yet his organized thesis seemed to rouse no more passion in his flock than any of his others. The smallfolk wailed away heedless of his prayers, and the nobles appeared disinterested. He did far better with his faithful individually, where he could answer questions and offer comfort.

Technically, as the massacre of Graybrook happened after midnight, he detailed those events on the 5th day of the Maiden’s First. It was the 5th day when Connyr was summoned to the Main Hall at Lady Farra’s bidding as well. He was seldom called to court for official business. When he arrived for that summons, Septon Connyr noticed Mauro and Maester Llewellyn waiting for an audience outside the Hall. Shortly after Connyr arrived, they were all called inside. As they entered the large hall, covered in woven tapestries (beautiful, but not as exquisite as those reserved for the High Hall) and smelling of exotic scents, they could not help but notice the Lady’s dour mood. It was shortly after dusk, and the Lady had just finished her supper. She was joined by Ingvar, an increasingly common occurrence. Mauro walked painfully before the Lady as directed, and bowed in deference. Llewellyn and Connyr waited several steps behind him. Lady Farra spoke.

“It appears we all owe you a debt of thanks, Mauro Drokhe. The Pentoshi man has been named by your assailant as the man who hired him. No reason was given, only that much more money would be his if successful. Apparently, there was some question of gold the man was to collect from you, and barring that your head would settle the debt. Regardless, Norillo has come to our home with naught but murder on his mind. Maester Llewellyn informs me you have shared your suspicions with him, and that Norillo was escorted from Redgate almost immediately after your warning. While it did not deter the attack, I am glad you are well. You have been a gracious guest, and we have enjoyed hosting you as you recover from your grievous wound.”

Mauro nodded respectfully, and added “The pleasure has been mine. The stories my mother shared of your generosity have proven true. And I owe your Maester a debt for his care.”

“I remember your mother fondly. I pray she is well. And it is for you and your mother that I share the following news. We have friends in King’s Landing who have warned us of powerful forces involved in the brigand activity here in the Prince’s Pass. The same activity that has crippled you, and almost cost your life. I invite you to accompany my family and household as they journey to King’s Landing. You will be given shelter, and coin to provide for your modest expenses. I am also instructing Septon Connyr to accompany you, as his contacts may prove to be most valuable. In King’s Landing, I hope you can learn the nature of the bandits who took your comfort and your father from you. We will continue to search for this Norillo to prevent further evil here, though it appears he has already left. For the time being, you are welcome to remain with us until it is time to depart from Redgate.”

“Your offer is most generous Lady Farra.”

Smiling slightly, Farra continued. “I hope you will consider this. I would be comforted to know you were there to help safeguard my family. Maester, if you would accompany Mauro, you can share with him what other news we have learned from his attacker. If he likes, you may have Mauro accompanied to the underpass to visit this man.”

After reviewing his script, Connyr turned the page and entered a new heading. On the 6th of the Maiden’s First, the murder of three smallfolk occurred in the hamlet of Lonetree. A member of the Ghosts, the old stable master Henred, and the barmaid Lysa were all killed, ostensibly by other armed Ghosts. The man named Norillo was reportedly there, not left from the land after all. And worse, though unrelated, it appeared Desmond Sand had gone to Skyreach without word to anyone, and had been thrown into the dungeons. He was to face trial by combat, at his own request. It had been learned that Fowler had no intention of notifying Redgate of Desmond’s capture. Instead Skyreach conspired to fabricatie a story that the raven was lost in the snows. Farra was incensed, and retreated to her chambers. She did not leave for three days, and reports of her crying were made in whispers around the keep. No one could recall hearing her cry after the Hooded Uprising sixteen years previous.

Connyr then penned his final entry. It was less than 24 hours ago, on the 11th day of the Maiden’s First, since Connyr had heard Perrin’s confession. Later that day, Asaf returned with word that the remaining treasonous Oakdown men had fled further north, through Manwoody lands. There he found four unidentified bodies of slain men wearing the sigil and colors of Manwoody and their castle Kingsgrave. Norillo had vanished once more, and as the days passed, tensions increased. Mauro inquired frequently about the progress, though no more attacks occurred.

Now, on the morning of the 12th, Connyr was finishing putting his affairs in order. It was agreed that the traveling party for King’s Landing would leave in two days. Connyr would provide one more call to worship in both the Redgate Sept as well as the Prince’s Sept in Lonetree. He intended to finish his work for Maester Llewellyn this morning, before he left for the two houses of the Seven. All of his clothing elsewise was packed. He did not relish the idea of returning to the capital, but he would be glad to see the Great Sept and worship there once more. He gathered his pack, closed the heavy tome with dust-covered pages, and rose to leave. The Seven would guide him on his uncertain journey, and watch over the people of Lonetree and Redgate.

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