Bow Before The Sun

Elyana VI

A cold draft penetrated Elyana’s chamber as the heavy door swung open and Lady Farra stepped through.

Eyeing the cup by Elyana’s bedside and nodding to it, Farra queried, “Tea for breakfast?”

“Oh, why yes – it helps warm me on these chilly morns. Please, have a seat, Grandmother.”

“No, thank you. This won’t take long.”

Elyana slumped a little in her chair, knowing full well this was not a social call.

“I wanted to speak to you about Ser Cransen’s visit. Did you find any time to spare to become acquainted with him?"

“I gave him a tour of the keep. Long enough to know he’s barely worthy of the title Ser or Yronwood.”

“You’d be well served to focus on some of his more positive attributes as you will soon be his wife and join our houses.”

“No, grandmother,” Elyana pleaded. “We can do so much better than Cransen.”

“Your a foolish little girl if you think you’re going to wed Cletus Yronwood. Have your fun if you like, but I will not tolerate you staining the family name like this.”

“He was mine if I wanted him.”

“You think it matters who Cletus Yronwood wants to marry?” Farra scoffed. “There are far greater things at stake than who the two of you would rather bed. We need this alliance with Yronwood, and you will marry Cransen to make it happen.”

Tears began to flow down Elyana’s tawny cheeks, “I do understand. But don’t sacrifice me to some distant Yronwood cousin with no chance of inheritance. If you must marry one of us to Cransen, marry Daera. I can bring our house so much more if you only give me the chance.”

Farra stared deep into Elyana’s bloodshot eyes, contemplating. “Very well, my dear. But you had better not disappoint me.” Farra turned and moved to the door, “Drink deep of that moon tea lest everything come undone.” The door made an awful clash as Farra closed it behind her.

Elyana drank down the moon tea and followed it with the remaining wine in her glass. That went worse, and better, than she had anticipated. Grandmother had given her a second chance, and Elyana was aware it came at a high price.

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Andros IV

Nightsbane was hilt-deep in the stomach of a training dummy when Andros heard the movement behind him.

Engrossed in the movement of his sword and the thoughts of the morning, Andros had neglected to observe his surroundings… He silently chided himself; he’d always been corrected for his attention in fighting growing up. Perhaps it really had been too long since he’d practiced with his blade.

Standing in the entrance-way to the training yard was Ser Tygor, one of the knights that had accompanied Ingvar back from the North. As Andros understood it, Ser Tygor was originally from Dorne and had been knighted on his journies. Upon his arrival here his knighthood was sealed, as Lady Farra had granted him a small keep on the edge of Oakdown Lands in return for his knightly services and oath to the Oakchair.

“A good morning to you, Ser Tygor. A pleasant surprise to see you this morning – I would have assumed you would have returned to Oak’s End after the feast.” Andros said, sheathing Nightsbane.

Starting away from the doorway, Ser Tygor said, “I would have thought the same, but some inclination led me to stay. With what I’ve heard about the castle so far this morning, it seems it was wise of me to stay near.”

“Aye, it would seem that way. As you can see, I’ve felt I possessed a little more energy than I knew what to do with this morning. I decided it was best to come here and channel that energy into something semi-productive.” Andros said, motioning around the yard.

“Yes, I’ve always found a little swordplay does wonders for the nerves.” Ser Tygor seemed to consider something for a moment, then a slight smile broke his features, “Would you care for a partner?”

Andros smiled in return, “Certainly. Best if we use practice swords though. It won’t do to have either of us genuinely injured.”

Ser Tygor nodded in agreement, then cross the yard in a few short steps. He unbuckled his sword belt and bared down to a simple tunic and breeches, while Andros did the same. Andros went to pick up one of the many practice swords kept in the yard, and moved it in his hand. The thing was poorly balanced, and after years of wielding Nightsbane, he supposed he had been spoiled. Alas – he figured Ser Tygor was a fit match for him. He was a practiced knight, and Andros felt good about his skill with a longsword.

They both met in the center of the yard, and faced each other, swords at their sides. They nodded simultaneously and locked eyes, beginning their spar. Andros started by moving slightly to his left, readying himself to begin the attack when suddenly he found his arm racing up to block a blow from Tygor. Both swords were wood with a leaden center… But that didn’t stop the shock from running up Andros’s arm, setting it numb.

In an attempt to gather himself, Andros took a second and began to circle Ser Tygor, waiting for the best time to strike. Or perhaps waiting for feeling to return to the five fingers holding his sword. It may have been half a minute before Andros went in for his first blow. His sword managed to graze Tygor’s arm, clearly making contact, but it was fairly clear that Tygor was mostly unfazed by the move, as he had seemingly rolled with the impact.

Andros was ready to block Tygor’s next blow, determined to not let this one affect him so strongly. He saw Tygor move, and up his arm went to parry the blow… But their swords never met. Tygor had changed direction at the last second, faking Andros out. The hard wooden sword came swinging in heavy, and buried itself in the soft flesh of his side. Andros felt as if all the air in the yard had vanished, and felt that taking a breath had become a lost cause. With a grunt, Andros attempted to regain his composure, feeling pain shoot up from his side.

That’s going to hurt for a while. Andros decided, attempting to straighten himself out. Perhaps it really has been too long since the last time I practiced.

When the colors of the just-rising sun finally began to filter out and return from their momentary chaos after that hit, Andros noticed something had changed in the yard. Where once there were two, now there were three. Asaf was standing in the entryway.

With a grunt, Andros said “Just a moment, Tygor.”

Was it just a trick of the lightning, or was Tygor smirking? He elected to ignore it. Instead Andros approached the entrance-way to the yard. As he did, the soldier nodded and said, “M’lord, Ser Ingvar requests your presence in his quarters. I have found our ‘problem’.”

Andros winced from the pain in his side as he went to grab his blade and don his garb. It looked like he was going to get some answers this morning, after all.

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Desmond XI
Early morning of The Maiden's 5th

Desmond leaned on his spear and watched from the battlements of the gate wall as the Manwoody column streamed out onto the winding trail leading up into the Prince’s Pass. He wondered for at least the tenth time this morning if he shouldn’t change his mind and ride out with them as planned. But, no, Prince Oberyn and Kings Landing could wait. As grandmother had said, he had made the stew…

While he had been gathering provisions in the kitchens for the journey, Desmond had overheard two of the cooks nattering about the events of last evening unaware that he was in the larder as they prepared the stoves for breakfast. Not surprisingly, both told different versions of his confrontation with Andros and Jeyne Fowler. Just as he’d lifted his loaded saddlebags and made ready to burst in on them with an admonition on the evils of gossip one of the cooks began relating a tale of a pre-dawn visit from soldiers and a messenger from Skyreach.

“Bless me! Skyreach? Is the keep under siege?” one of the women asked breathlessly.

“Ya ninny, iffin it were would I be cracking eggs?” the second proclaimed. “Nay, they left as sudden as they appeared as Fallon tells it. But not ‘fore the messenger gave a letter to that wildling lord from the North. Leastways, that’s what Fallon told me.”

Desmond knew Fallon. A good warrior and a loyal young man, his family had served Redgate since before the Oakdowns had been its lords. Apparently, even that length of servitude wasn’t enough to inure one to the infection of hearsay and rumor that seemed to infect these walls.

Leaving his saddlebags forgotten on the floor, Desmond darted out of the larder and past the startled cooks and made straight for his grandmother’s quarters yet again. Upon his arrival, she had shared with him the contents of the message and his impossible choice; his right hand, the Wall, or open war. Lady Farra had refused Franklyn Fowler’s demands along with his insistence that Redgate renew their oaths of fealty to Skyreach. She had further insisted that Desmond continue to Kings Landing as planned arguing that he would be safer there than within the walls of Redgate.

He had agreed.

Agreed, but had not agreed to a time or route. He would be going to Kings Landing. But, first, there was business to attend to in Skyreach. Lord Fowler would likely insist on a trial with Lady Farra’s refusal to surrender her bastard grandson and once he learned that Desmond was gone, his ire would be boundless and he would take his anger out on those left at Redgate.

Desmond turned away from the view of the departing column and looked up at the parapets of his home. He would be damned if he let that any harm come to his family for his rash actions. He may not like much of his family, but they were still his responsibility no matter what Andros said. He swung his spear over his shoulder, balancing the weapon in the crook of his elbow, descended to the courtyard. Those that he passed gave him a wide berth, perhaps sensing the menace in his determined pace and cold stare. Any that looked closely shied away further from the ominous smile spreading across his face.

If Lord Fowler wanted a trial, a trial he would get.

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Ria V
The Maiden's 6th

Why was her stomach revolting like this, Ria wondered numbly, she’d seen blood before, Henred and her had to occasionally put down horses to old or injured to be helped, she’d even seen human bodies, ravaged by disease or accidents,. But none of them were Henred, she knew. The closest thing to a Father she knew was lying dead with a hole in his chest and it felt like she had a matching wound.

It was a child that found them, Kile, a local boy of about nine or ten had seen the “big man with the red beard” leave the tavern and shortly after the “angry soldiers with the swords” run out. At least that was what people could get out of him, he was clearly shaken and not saying much. What Ria knew was that he had screamed, and shortly after one of Lysa’s girls had joined him, Vela perhaps, Ria had been one of the people to come running, she rushed to the old stablemaster, took in the scene before having to go. Emerson came outside to check on her around the time she gained control of herself, “You alright, girl?” he asked, his normal all business tone gone for the moment, he knew the victims as well as she did.

“No.” Ria said as she pulled herself up, tears still streaking her face, “But… I’m alive. Do we know what happened?”

“Only what the Lad said, someone went to find the boy’s parents.”

Ria nodded, “Someone should tell the guard. I… I’d like to. I need to make sure it gets done.” Emerson for his part understood, and waved her off with a comment about getting into a shirt that was “clean”, tactfully avoiding the word “blood”. She followed the advice. Quickly swapping out the tunic before reaching the gate. She knew the man their, not by name, she doubted anyone under thirty knew the birth name of the greying guard, Most just called him “wizard” by virtue of the sleight of hand tricks he learned from a youth in a mummer show. It was hard to choke out her words, but she told him what the knew of what transpired, of the Stranger and the victims, the two soldiers seen leaving in a rush, Ria assumed it was in pursuit and stated as much rather plainly, certainly no one sworn to protect them could have done it. When she finished her tale the clearly worried man sent another passing guard to inorm… someone, she didn’t bother listening to who.

“Wait here for now, Ria, I need you to collect yourself. Those people in the Devil’s cup need you to.” The girl nodded and waited till the messenger returned.

(OOC: If anyone wants to link to connect something to this go ahead, got no preference for what goes on next.)

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Charlotte II
The Maiden's 5th

Charlotte_Oakdown.pngThe Earth had its own kind of music, if you stood still enough to listen. She let it soothe away the nightmare that clung to her. The pre-dawn winds carried the winter chill from the mountains, ghosting the fur of her cloak against her face. They would be getting snow up at Skyreach by now. She loved snow; the pristine beauty of a virgin landscape-as if the Seven had tucked them in with a blanket of peace. Peace that, if it existed, would allow her to ride into those mountains, away from the pall and politics of this place and into a crystal-covered sanctuary.

But there was no peace-not with the Fowlers, not in the world, and certainly not in her heart. If the rumors were true, even the polite hostility they’d “enjoyed” these last 16 years was in danger of being shot to the seven hells and back. She wasn’t trusting on a good day, of anything, and most assuredly not of the fickle winds of fate-or coincidence. The timing was a statement, she was sure of it, but it was the slaughter itself that had her stomach churning with involuntary fear; fear that had brought her here to stand, barefoot, on the castle wall, watching the first rays of light chase the shadows from the land. And then there was Mauro, whose company she had come to enjoy, and poisoned earrings…?? She may not like her grandmother, but she was still her grandmother.

The sunrise brought the saddling of horses and subdued chatter from the courtyard below as the party escorting her brother to King’s Landing prepared to leave. She was both proud of and worried for Quinn, and devilishly jealous that he was getting away from here. She would dearly love to see him receive his title of Knight at the Sept of Baelor, the seat of their Faith. It was said to be breathtaking but she would have to add it to her wish list, along with all of the other places she longed to visit. She would see him off, then find herself a good, strong cup of tea to bring some warmth back into her frozen feet. Afterward, she would seek answers from Mauro..

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Mauro XI

Mauro moves through the keep to find Maester Llewellyn’s chambers, anger keeping his pace up despite the aggravation to his knee. When he reaches the maesters door he knocks loudly and see’s it opened quickly.

Maester Llewellyn: “Mauro. Is everything ok?”

Mauro: “No it isn’t. We must talk.” Mauro says with some urgency.

Maester Llewellyn leads him into his study piled with books, maps and scrolls along with various other tools and objects familiar to a man trained by the citadel. Mauro is no mood to pay much attention to anything beyond his own worries however. He is too upset to even take a seat at the maesters request, though Llewellyn does avail himself of his high backed leather chair.

Maester Llewellyn: “Tell me what’s troubling you?”

Mauro: “I have concerns about that Pentoshi with the red beard who showed up at the feast tonight. His name is Norillo and he is not to be trusted!”

Maester Llewellyn: “Please explain?”

Mauro: {Sighs.} I guess I have to tell the whole truth. The safety of Charlotte and Laurel matters more to me then my own reputation. “He’s dangerous, formally a thug who rose to become a mid-ranking henchman for the Magisters of Pentos. …I worked for men like him back in the free cities.”

Maester Llewellyn: {Nods.} “Doing what may I ask?”

Mauro: “Various things I’m not proud of… but never murder!”

Maester Llewellyn: “I see. Why is he here?”

Mauro: “One reason is to collect a debt from me owed to a Magister of Pentos by the name of Segrini. Segrini hired me to purchase a rare poison called Blackwine found only in Lys. My search was unsuccessful however, or perhaps a better word would be delayed, as I was distracted by a woman I met there named Laurel.”

Maester Llewellyn: “Yes I have heard you speak of her before. Sometimes even in your sleep.”

Mauro: {Scoffs.} “You watched me sleep?!”

Maester Llewellyn: “At first I had too, if only to be sure you weren’t overdosing yourself on the drugs I gave you to ease your pain or trying to drown yourself with strongwine. You were very unruly about your treatment when we first met if you don’t remember? All you wanted to do was drink yourself to death.”

Mauro: “That’s a bit extreme!”

Maester Llewellyn: Shrugs. “I make no apologies for taking good care of you Mauro. You wouldn’t be standing here if I didn’t.”

Mauro: “Yes yes, I know that! I’m trying to tell you that I didn’t have time to return to Pentos and return the Magisters gold before I sailed back to Dorne a few month’s ago, and rather then risk leaving it behind I brought it with me.”

Maester Llewellyn: “Oh? Where is the gold now?”

Mauro: “Somewhere safe, but nowhere near this keep. I didn’t bring it with me when I started my journey into the Red Mountains.”

Maester Llewellyn: “Ok. So you’re going to give the gold to Norillo who was hired by this Magister to retrieve it yes?”

Mauro: “Yes of course. But I can’t be sure I’ll have time for that right now. I want to keep pursuing justice for my father first.”

Maester Llewellyn: {Frowns.} “I hear you say ‘justice’ Mauro but what you really want is revenge.”

Mauro: {Clenches his jaw.} “Damn right!”

Maester Llewellyn: Takes a moment to choose his next words carefully. “I am not your father Mauro but I’m old enough to know that revenge is never as easy as you think. You are kidding yourself if you think it’ll happen soon if it hasn’t happened by now.”

Mauro: “Don’t patronize me! You know nothing of me or my life!”

Maester Llewellyn: “Perhaps not, but anyone can see you are thinking rashly just now. As your friend I’m trying to help you!”

Mauro: “If you want to help me, explain more about that message from kings landing?”

Maester Llewellyn: “That is lady Farra’s perogative. I was only told to show you the message.”

Mauro: “Well then what good are you?!”

Maester Llewellyn: {Frowns.}

Mauro: {Takes a breath.} “I apologize. I have no right to criticize you.”

Maester Llewellyn: “Apology accepted. So tell me what exactly you want me to do for you Mauro?”

Mauro: “You misunderstand. I am trying to help this household by warning you about Norillo.”

Maester Llewellyn: “I see that, and your warning is much appreciated, but frankly I don’t see how this concerns us?”

Mauro: “It concerns you because I don’t believe Norillo is only here to deal with me. I watched him speaking with the Lannister and I believe he’s trying to arrange something with the Magisters.”

Maester Llewellyn: “Oh? Any idea what?”

Mauro: “I didn’t learn any particulars, but whatever it is won’t be good for anyone but the Lannisters, and given the knews in Westeros lately I think you’d agree that would be bad news for everyone else!”

Maester Llewellyn: {Nods.} “Agreed, yet the Lannisters have no reason to consider the Oakdowns their enemy, unless you know something else?”

Mauro: “I saw Norillo ask one of the serving girls for directions to Skyreach, and inquire about any other towns along the way? She suggested Graybrook. He didn’t say why he’s headed there, so after the feast I questioned him myself pressing him as hard as I dared for details. However, as I have no leverage over the man, he simply denied ever saying it.”

Maester Llewellyn: {Reaches to scratch at his chin.} “Hmm… now I think I understand what your getting at. If the Magisters want to deal with the Lannisters, it’s also possible they are willing to deal with the Fowlers or someone else who is an enemy of the Oakdowns.”

Mauro: “Yes exactly! And I should stress that Norillo is capable of anything in service to the Magisters. He’s a scoundrel and a murderer. I almost killed him myself when I heard him threaten Laurel and the lady Charlotte trying to intimidate me!”

Maester Llewellyn: {Raises a brow.} “Oh? That is indeed troubling. I will have to see too it that Norillo is closely watched.”

Mauro: “Better yet that you toss him out altogether! He has no respect for anything beyond the schemes of the Magisters. He’s a snake!”

Maester Llewellyn: “Thank you for coming to me with this Mauro. Now I suggest you go get some rest. You look to be at your wits end.”

Mauro: “Yes I think some rest is exactly what I need maester Llewellyn. Good night.”

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Asaf IV
The Maiden's 5th

They were careful not to be seen by the village, and they removed anything bearing the house insignia from the traitorous redlander before covering his face and marching him past the gate, hopefully it would cut down on rumors of troubles between the units. Asaf was not going to wait, he sought out the commander, Finding him at his quarters.

Asaf knocked loudly upon Ingvar’s door, having been told he was still in his quarters after a meeting with Lord Andros. As soon as Ingvar opened the door Asaf dragged the man inside and threw him at Ingvar’s feet. “There is your raider Commander. I can accused five more directly, but it was our own redlanders that did this on the whole.” He practically spat on the man on the ground between them.

Ingvar stared at the man on the ground for a moment then kicked him in the ribs. “Been out starting a war without permission have you?” Ingvar considered kicking him again then looked up as if remembering something. “Let’s make our guest comfortable. We’ll tie him to that chair.” Once the prisoner was securely tied Ingvar turned to Asaf. “Find Lord Andros, tell him the information I promised him is here. And grab the first runner you see and send them here.”

Asaf nodded and saluted the Northerner before leaving to search out Lord Andros. One of the servants directed him to the practice yard. The scout waited until there was a polite time to interrupt before speaking, "M’lord, Ser Ingvar requests your presence in his quarters. I have found our “problem”."

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Andros III
The Maiden's 5th

A chill made its way from the base of his neck all the way to his feet. Andros wasn’t sure if that chill was from the Northman’s ale or from his news. He only felt mildly guilty about waking him too, still slightly irked from his counselor’s… lack of counsel. Then again, Andros knew all too well that Ingvar was not really one of his men. No, the Northman was his Lady Grandmother’s inside and out. Oh well, he had no qualm with the man, but there were graver things at hand this morning than worrying about who was most loyal to him in the castle.

Hmph. Andros scoffed quietly to himself. Perhaps that was the question of the hour. Is there someone here in Redgate that isn’t true to the Oakchair? Andros knew they all played a dangerous game; it was the way of things. Being born a noble didn’t make your death any less certain, but it did guarantee a sort of… prioritization.

All the same, he decided to heed Ingvar’s advice. Seeking out Maester Llewellyn seemed to be a good plan, as his counsel was always wise and measured, and no one could question his loyalty to House Oakdown. It was hard to believe that there was suspicion, let alone potential evidence, that the Redlanders could have been involved in this massacre. Yet it was time to steel himself… This storm was brewing. The time had come to test just how deep the roots of Oakdown stretched.

The rapping on the door was soft, but firm. Maester Llewellyn would have heard the knock.

Andros waited.

There was no response.

Andros took a moment; he supposed that the Maester was just as busy as Andros wished he was, or had been, this morning. Perhaps all that was left now was to wait. Yet that drew from within him a sort of rabid impatience. In times of turmoil the overwhelming feeling was the need to do… something.

Andros was not one to sit around and wait. 16 years ago, in the middle of the hooded uprising, it was a similar story. Andros was one of the only Oakdown children that had been old enough to remember that day, and as the heir, they had felt he ought to be informed, even at the age of 8. Even before the news came… that terrible, awful news, Andros had paced and beat his fists bloody against the keep wall. Infuriated that there was nothing he could do to help. He’d wanted to be like one of the knights, ride out and save his father from the evil men. But he had learned. The world was not a canvas, painted in only blacks and whites, pictures of good men and bad men, no. They lived in a world of gray.

With a slight start, he found himself just outside the training yard. It was empty. Perhaps this was what he needed. No, what he needed was a sparring partner. He needed something to take the edge off, and sometimes a little combat was the only thing that did the job. He closed his eyes and slid Nightsbane from its sheath. He felt the steel in his hand, felt his arm extend. He was one with his blade, and the blade with him.

All troubles left him. All thoughts were gone. There was only this.

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Elyana V
The Maiden's 5th

cup_o_moon_tea.jpg

Wisps of steam circled above the cup Maester Llewellyn had fetched for Elyana. He set the cup of moon tea on the table beside her and inquired of her otherwise well-being. Elyana was noticeably distracted.

Hearing no response, Maester LLewellyn continued, “Ser Cletus sent his regards. He apologized for having left so early. I trust the tea is all you’ll be needing?”

“Just that and your discretion, Maester.”

Looking a little insulted, Llewellyn begged the question. “You believe I’d run down to announce your news to the towns folk?”

Unable to suppress the audible sigh escaping her lips, Elyana countered, “You know exactly who I mean. Grandmother.”

“And you know I can’t keep secrets from Lady Farra, my child.”

“Very well. I suppose word has probably reached her anyway. It’s rather pointless trying to keep anything from her. Thank you, Maester Llewellyn, your service is greatly appreciated.”

“You’re welcome, as always, my lady.” Maester Llewellyn slipped out the door leaving Elyana to her thoughts.

Elyana sipped from the cup he had brought her, reflecting on the evening before. Yronwood had been so close within her grasp. Cletus was hers for the taking, if only he was taking and not leaving. But when she woke from her slumber, the bed was empty. Elyana looked where the Arbor Gold sat from the night before. They had barely drunk from it before their passions got the best of them. She crossed the room and poured herself a glass, taking a seat near the window drawing in the landscape before her. Catching a chill, she grabbed a blanket from the bed and topped off her glass.

There was a rapping at the door. “Who could it be now?” Elyana thought. “Come in!” she shouted rather curtly.

As the door opened, the figure entering the room caught Elyana off guard.

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Henred III
The Maiden's 6th

Star_of_the_Seven.pngSeven hells, did his back hurt. It was not yet midday, but at last Ria and he were able to return the stables to operation. It had taken a day and a half for the feed, bits, reigns, saddles, posts and troughs to be brought back down the Prince’s Pass to Lonetree. Emerson may have owned the stables, but he typically allowed Henred to do the job he was hired to do without interference. This morning, however, Emerson was bringing in some new horses for his green cavalry unit, and wanted everything in working order. Henred vowed to finish the job, woke his trusted stable hand Ria, and between them they completed their tasks as Emerson demanded. Now the old man could feel his age in his bones like never before. The fact that what passed for winter had seemed to arrive, and the cooler than normal temperatures that came with it, likely only made things worse.

Now that the work had finished, Henred was torn. The Devil’s Cup stood just outside the stables, and Henred sorely wanted a drink to dull his aches. Just across the road that wound up into the Pass stood the Prince’s Sept. Henred enjoyed paying his respects to the Seven now more than ever since the new sept was built 16 years ago; but that hadn’t meant he went any more frequently. A visit to the Smith, and a lit candle, would likely do wonders in strengthening his body. Henred had worked hard for as long as he could remember, but the bones were giving out on him. It was likely past time for more consistent prayers. Laboring, and cautiously, the old man put one foot in front of the other as he made towards his destination. He opened the door, and entered the dark room.

“Good day to ye, old man. Just got some Ingvar’s Black in from the Dorne Road company. What say I pour ye a pint?” The lazy eyed barmaid shouted at Henred as he entered, while she refilled a stranger’s glass. The man leaned against the bar, bracing himself with his head hung low.

“What do you take me for Lysa? Save your overpriced beer for the lords. I’d like to eat more than rotten bread this month. Give me a glass of that cheap ale.” One day Henred hoped to try the strange brew. Ingvar was a novelty, and many of the smallfolk talked of the black beer he professed to enjoy, as well as a honeyed mead. While Dorne had something that passed for honey mead, it was nothing like the northern variety according to Ingvar. The northern black beer, however, was completely unusual to the locals. Lysa promised to have some on hand for everyone, but apparently the woman forgot how poor they all were. The beer would likely stale right there in the keg. The old stable master groaned as he found a chair at one of the small tables.

Lysa brought the foul smelling beer to him, and went back to straightening her bar. She was in surprisingly good spirits. No doubt she enjoyed a nice profit from all the travelers two days past who came for the anniversary. As the downturn of the War of the Five Kings found its way to Dorne, coin was harder and harder to come by. Lysa probably wore out her four whores with a steady compliment of customers, and emptied her stores of food and drink. Eventually the woman would come to her senses, and realize that expensive Northern beer was not likely to turn a profit for her. She could call the stuff ’Ingvar’s Black’ if she liked, it would make no difference.

Henred swished his cup, looking at the strange particles floating on the surface. He shrugged, and took a long drink. Setting the ale down, he wondered how much the foul drink would help his sore back. Perhaps he could find the strength to visit the Smith after all. Perhaps later. He smiled whimsically, and took another long drink. One of life’s simple pleasures was watching the comings and goings of folk- especially at a place like the Devil’s Cup. Henred had never seen the drunk at the bar before, but across the room he instantly recognized the older man. A foreigner of some kind, the old man with the dyed red hair and beard seemed to be less jovial than when he arrived at Redgate for the ceremony along with that Lannister fellow. Redbeard seemed to be all courtesy for the nobleman, and all scorn for his Ria. Henred was used to being treated badly by noblemen- that was the way of things. But he hated watching his Ria learn the lessons at such a tender age, and he hated it more that it came from such an oaf as that. He tried to comfort the girl, but she was a tough one. She seemed to forget the whole matter almost as soon as it happened. And why not? She was a woman grown, already in her late teens. Compared to an old man like Henred, anyone under 30 seemed like a suckling babe.

The drunk at the bar spoke, to no one in particular. “Don’t ye worry none. Lord Nygel and his kin are gonna finally rest in peace. The Stranger has a lot more Fowler bitches to escort to the afterlife now. Damn shame the Oakdown family lost their stones when m’Lord and his brood were butchered. I don’t care what anyone says, that Farra is weak as weak can be. How else d’ye explain her letting that northern savage just walk in her court like that? Aye, and in her skirts too, I’d wager.”

Two men Henred hadn’t noticed before stood from a dark corner table, and rushed to the drunk’s side. One of them shook him, almost knocking the drunk over. “Shut your damn mouth!”

The drunk looked up in surprise, blinking to clear the haze. “And why would I do that? I’m proud of what we done. You and me, Keene. And Hallam too. Seven Hells, we’ll be heroes. Their gonna put statues of us up next to them real Oakdowns on Sorrow Ridge. Those damn minstrels’ll write a song about the day we bled a whole village of those Fowler cun…”

The man silenced him with a vicious backhand. The drunk fell to the floor in a heap, spitting a mouthful of blood out. “Damn you, Flint. I told you. Shut. Your. Mouth.” The second man looked around the bar, his eyes first finding Lysa in the corner, pretending like she didn’t notice a thing. His eyes found the rest of the bar empty until they came upon Henred. The old man just stared, jaw agape.

His pride and his mouth injured, still sprawled on the floor, Flint looked up. “What? Don’t tell me you’re sorry we killed them Fowler smallfolk. You didn’t look so sorry when you were gutting that Elsa girl. Heh, you remember that look on her face when you shoved your spear in her? She squealed like a kilt pig, she did. And it served the bitch right for biting you, too. Hell, Keene, them bite marks probably never gonna heal right. She had it coming.”

Everything that happened next felt like a dream. The second man, Hallam, had walked across the bar and opened Lysa’s throat. She gasped, only looking up at him when it was too late. A spray of blood covered the man’s Oakdown sigil. Henred thought that strange. These were Oakdown men? Back by the bar, Flint yelped when the first man pinned him to the ground with his boot. Half a heartbeat later Flint was dead, run through with Keene’s sword.

Henred finally forced himself to action, shrugging off his waking nightmare. No longer feeling any pain, he rose from his chair and turned to leave as quickly as his old legs would carry him. His breath caught in his throat as he looked down to see a bloody blade emerge from within his chest. As soon as it appeared, it vanished. The old man slumped to his knees, holding the open wound in his chest, trying to stop the bleeding. The two men rushed out of the Devil’s Cup, leaving carnage in their wake. Henred knew he would die there, and soon. He would see his long lost wife at last. Dear Ethyl, how I’ve missed you…

Falling forward, blinking the darkness away for a moment longer, Henred wondered what happened to Redbeard. Maybe he was smarter than Henred gave him credit for after all. That fat man must have gotten out before the trouble started. Henred sighed, and with his last breath muttered…

“Ria… Ethyl. Sweet Ethyl.”

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