Bow Before The Sun

Bennyn III
The Crone's 8th

Emma.jpgThe young knight finished his breakfast as he watched his stable girl ready Emma. He knew a knight was not supposed to grow overfond of a mount. Bennyn was taught as a squire that if you name them, you will grow sentimental. Bennyn didn’t care. He watched Ria carefully brush the horse, and noticed how the girl brought Emma some carrots after she finished her oats. He smiled, and forked a mouthful of eggs with peppers into his mouth.

His family was proud, but would not ever own a Valyrian blade. His sword was castle-forged, and a sturdy blade. Before Redgate broke with Skyreach, his father had the blade crafted at the top of the world in the Fowler’s castle. His father passed down the blade to him, and he now intended to care for it with the attention it richly deserved. A man’s heritage was the value, not the price a merchant might pay for it. Let the Heir of Oakdown have Nightsbane. Ser Bennyn of Broadmont would proudly wield Duty.

Still, he loved Emma as much as he loved his blade. The black palfrey had carried him safely across the foothills of the Red Mountains innumerable times. This was no small feat. She was surefooted, swift, and had the endurance of any Sand Steed. She was a beautiful creature. This was why he spent the coin to bring along Ria Sand. This young girl not only knew how to care for the animal, but Ser Bennyn could tell the horse was fond of her as well. He couldn’t explain how he knew. A cynic would only scoff. But kindred spirits? Those who loved the animals that loved them? They could tell. Ria was one of those; an especially well-suited example. He had never before seen her like. The bond he shared with Emma was formed over years of loyalty and care. Ria’s bond with the creature almost matched his own, and she knew the horse for a matter of weeks.

Most of their traveling party had already left for the Blood Orange. Quinn was to become a knight, the third sworn and anointed knight to House Oakdown after Ser Tygor and himself. The first of his generation, he was an inspiration to the grandchildren who survived the loss of Lord Nygel and his sons. Bennyn may have been born in Dorne, but his father’s family came from the Reach. Women were not created by the Seven to rule. Lady Farra did her best, but it was likely much of the strife of the past 16 years might have been spared with a man sitting the Oakchair. Annabyl tried to be a warrior, but that would never overcome her gentler nature. Bennyn was hopeful that Quinn’s knighthood, and Andros’ inheritance might restore Redgate. A knight shared in the glory of his lord, and in his shame as well.

The knighting was to occur within the Great Sept of Baelor. The honor was unmistakable, and not available to even a house of Oakdown’s stature. This was typically reserved for the greatest houses of the Seven Kingdoms, and even then, it was an honor of distinction for them as well. Most of the family had traveled all the way from the Prince’s Pass to witness the ceremony; the attendance of King Joffrey’s wedding to Lady Margaery Tyrell was an added incentive. While the Royal Wedding was a social event not to be missed, the family was most interested to see one of their own achieve his well earned anointing. The children would play their part, and mingle with the lords and ladies of Westeros. But that was duty. Quinn’s knighting was a privilege.

Bennyn had intended to travel with the others. At the last moment, Lord Andros had asked him to stay behind. It appeared that the prisoner in the dungeons of the Iron Key was incredibly important. Lord Andros bid him to protect the man and not let him be moved without his leave. Andros left behind a small number of armed men to aid him in his charge. While some of the family would remain in King’s Landing after the knighting, others were to return. Of Lord Andros, Charlotte, Desmond or Elyana, one would return to oversee the matter of the prisoner. Lord Robert Auros, the Heir of the Iron Key, was accompanying Lady Elyana to the ceremony, but would return immediately afterward as well.

The rest of the Oakdown family remained undecided about the young lord. He was a man grown at 17, and towering at well over six foot in height. His frame was solid muscle, but some suspected the muscle might have penetrated between the man’s ears as well. There was no doubting he was a skilled combatant, and would be a boon if his sword was needed. Lady Elyana had spent most of the evening with the handsome lord if the rumors were true, but even those rumors reported her virtue to remain intact. She retired to her own chambers after the feast to rest for the days travel ahead. Ria proved to be a sound investment. In addition to her skill with Emma, she proved to have a knack with smallfolk as well. Ria shared that it sounded as though Lord Robert had quickly grown fond of Lady Elyana Oakdown. Bennyn would not be surprised if it was she that Lord Andros bid return to Goldway. Ria would stay behind with him, but most of their armed men, the Septon and the Orphan of the Greenblood had accompanied the family to King’s Landing.

Bennyn finished his eggs, and brought a plate of food to Ria. He anticipated a quiet day in the small city.

Llewellyn VII
The Crone's 8th

Raven.jpgLlewellyn had poured his friend and Master-at-Arms a cup of honey mead. The
maester had entertained the notion to try Ingvar’s Black, but that had happened only once. After that, it was agreed they could converse just as well over mead. Llewellyn thought his friend might enjoy this drink, as opposed to some others they shared over far worse news. Llewellyn could hear the Northman climb the stairs to his chambers, and the light rap on the
door signaled his arrival.

“Come in, friend.”

Ingvar did as he was bid, smiling as he took note of the honey mead with a flagon nearby to yield more. “This is a warm greeting.”

Llewellyn motioned for the commander to take a seat, which he did. Ingvar immediately noticed the two parchments rolled out on the Maester’s desk, and a third set aside, still curled.

“What do we have here, Maester?”

“These are the parchments you were inquiring about.” Llewellyn lightly tapped his finger on the first. “This is the one that Asaf found locked in a chest when he was hunting the traitors. It was kept in a ruined holdfast on the southern end of Manwoody lands. As you have surmised, this must almost certainly be Bonefield. The holdfast has stood largely unused since the Dragons burned it to the ground almost 300 years ago. The Manwoody’s
use it as a watchtower, but it is unfit for landed knights. Asaf described the holdfast as I imagine it to be. Charred, pillaged, and rotting; there appeared to be nothing but snow and decay- save the chest. This parchment is quite new, as is the ink. There is no evidence of wearing.”

Ingvar looked carefully at the words.

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.

“A riddle.” Ingvar nodded. He pondered for only a moment, before continuing. “The answer is onion.”

Maester Llewellyn nodded. “Indeed. And yet, what of it? What does an onion have to do with a burnt ruin?”

Ingvar motioned to the other parchment, taking another sip of mead. “And this one? Is this the one that Lord Andros and I recovered?”

“It is. Once we got the chest opened, it became clear we were dealing with a similiar dilemna. This was found on Oakdown lands, only a few leagues from the Dornish desert. Despite being in opposite directions, you’ll notice the contents are simliar. One parchment within the chest, and look what it yields.”

Ingvar studied the second parchment. Llewellyn refilled both of their cups.

I am valued by men, fetched from afar, Gleaned on the hill-slopes, gathered in groves,
In dale and on down. All day through the air, Wings bore me aloft, and brought me with cunning. Safe under roof. Men steeped me in vats. Now I have power to pummel and bind,
To cast to the earth, old man and young. Soon he shall find who reaches to seize me, Pits force against force, that he’s flat on the ground, Stripped of his strength if he cease not his folly, Loud in his speech, but of power despoiled To manage his mind, his hands or his feet.
Now ask me my name, who can bind men on earth, And lay fools low in the light of day.

Ingvar looked down at the contents of his cup, and up to Llewellyn who was grinning. “I couldn’t help myself, friend. I appreciate irony.”

Ingvar returned the grin. “As do I. So the answer to the second riddle is Honey Mead.”

“The real riddle is what these two parchments mean? Why were they in the possession of traitors?”

Ingvar leaned back, emptying his second cup of mead. “What is this third scroll you have? Another riddle?”

Llewellyn also drank deeply, setting his empty cup down. “This is why I asked you to come to my chambers. The Raven arrived less than an hour ago. Lady Farra has given me leave to share it with you.”

Ingvar’s face darkened. “Dark wings, dark words.”

Llewellyn handed the third scroll to Ingvar, and as the Northman unrolled the parchment, he continued. “Not everytime it appears. This came from Corvo. He is certain your cousin has been found. He has been a guest of the Red Keep, it appears. Lady Farra bid me send word to Lord Michael Dent of Blade’s Edge as well. That is the reason for my delay in telling you, but your kin likely have a much longer trip to make.”

Ingvar’s eyes widened as he read, and studied the face of the Maester. He wore a mixed expression, of both relief and gathering wrath. “He is well, then?”

“As well as can be expected my friend. He will live. Lady Farra has given you leave to journey to the capital, though she bids you use caution. When the boy King learns of his stolen prize, it may be dangerous to bear your surname. The Oakdown family honors their friends, Ingvar. Whatever we can do to assist you, we will. I have notified Lord Andros as well. He is leaving armed guards behind to safeguard your cousin.”

Ingvar found his feet, standing and finding the pommel of his sword.

Llewellyn likewise rose, and clapped the Northman on the shoulder.

Mauro XIV
The Crones 7th

Kings Landing was overcrowded, sprawling, squalid and foul… yet still majestic. Mauro sensed great power here, and great danger. Meeting Prince Oberyns entourage was quite an honor, and reminded Mauro of his Dornish pride. Mingling amongst the native northerners wasn’t so pleasant however. Mauro wasn’t happy about how they looked down their noses on Dornish folk. But Mauro supposed that was the prerogative of those who considered themselves your conquerors.

Shortly before their arrival, Septon Connyr revealed to Mauro that the contact who sent word to Lady Farra regarding Kings Landing connections to the brigand activity is within the Council of the Most Devout, right below the High Septon in the clergical hierarchy. Septon Connyr explained how he worked with all of them in the past as a widely respected theological scholar.

Mauro pressed for access to the council to speak to this informant but was denied access for now, as they are preparing for the huge knighting ceremony and more importantly the royal wedding. While he waited for more clues about his fathers killers, Mauro decided to focus on his other enemy, Norillo. Knowing the Pentoshi was heading north after he fled Redgate, it was entirely possible he left Dorne and might be somewhere in the city.

Thus, Mauro took to exploring streets and marketplaces, sifting through the many languages he overheard with his gifted linguistic mind until he heard Pentoshi. However, after several days of such eavesdropping returned no leads Mauro got frustrated and decided he might as well put the word out that he was willing to pay for information. The coin Lady Farra gave him for expenses might as well be put to use that way.

Weeks passed and the Oakdowns were invited to be guests of Lord Auros of Goldway, lord of the Iron Key. Mauro went along and spent the next two days there. Tomorrow they would return to Kings Landing and Lord Auros declared he would have them as guests of honor at tonight’s feast before they departed in the morning.

Surprisingly, word of Mauro’s interest in Norillo reached a thug named Flenn in service to Harwin Waters, a lesser underworld boss in Goldway who also happened to the bastard of Aemon Auros. It was a poorly kept secret that a criminal element thrived in Goldway under the lenient watch of the old Lord Aemon Auros. As long as said criminal element didn’t infringe on the King’s purse, it was left to its own devices. This arrangement had existed for many years before the birth of Aemon, who had recently celebrated his Sixty-Fourth name day. It was simply a matter of life in the city; a Goldway tradition.

Goldway’s location along the Goldroad between Lannisport and King’s Landing made it ideal to facilitate commerce. Travelers who journeyed under the King’s Peace took some comfort in the presence of forces loyal to the crown here. Traveler’s who didn’t enjoy the King’s Peace profited far more. It was a distance great enough away from the Lion Gate to prevent unwanted Royal attention. It remained close enough, though, to facilitate any manner of business one might require.

Mauro quickly left the Iron Key that afternoon, eager to find Flenn before he was expected back for the feast. Word was Flenn could be found in a seedier area of the city known as the ‘Tower District’. Mauro considered the possibility of a trap of course, and took care to keep a lookout for anyone following him or otherwise watching him too closely.

He found Flenn in an Inn called The Tower, but Flenn urged him out into the street where they could talk in more privacy. Mauro expected he was nervous selling information without Harwins permission. Flenn was a small, timid little man with ratty eyes and a greedy way of licking his lips when Mauro flashed the coin he was promised. Mauro pressed him to talk after he dropped the coins into his hand, but Flenn was so nervous he rushed too fast stumbling over his own tongue… and Mauro had to insist he repeat himself.

Flenn: “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?”

Flenn: “Aye.”

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

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

Mauro stood aside to let the small man walk by, confident he could find him again if he needed though his expression belied worry. 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 decided to return to the Iron Key, and see what he could learn of the Reach house in league with Norillo in their library. 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.

As Flenn’s footsteps moved off Mauro heard the sound of hot piss against a near stone wall and inwardly frowned. Whoever that was may have overheard his conversation with Flenn. Information like that was valuable, even dangerous. He had no desire to share it with some damned fool with a full bladder.

However, when Mauro glanced over his shoulder he cursed his own luck. The micturating man was none other then Harwin Waters… the muscular, middle-aged, balding bastard of Aemon Auros! Mauro understood he was something of an underworld boss in this part of the city. This could be bad… Mauro thought to himself, waiting to see what Harwin did before he took another step.

Harwin however, apparently could care less about who Mauro was or what he was told. He simply walked back into the inn muttering something about foreigners in his town. If he had any suspicions of Mauro, he didn’t show it and Mauro permitted himself a quick sigh of relief before he made his way back to the Iron Key.

Desmond XVII
Early morning, The Smith's 6th

A gentle, but insistent, tapping intruded into Desmond’s slumber. He quickly brushed the fog of sleep away and sprang from his bed, landing lightly. Bare as the gods had made him, the air was chill against his naked skin. He took a quick glance at the window and could barely discern the shape of the buildings crowding the base of Visenya’s Hill across River Row. The lack of light told that the hour was still early and dawn was far off yet. Certainly too early yet for visitors, particularly to his chambers. He lifted his spear – Justice, he had named it after the events in Skyreach – from its place behind the door and slowly lifted the latch.

Two figures stood in the hallway speaking in hushed tones backlit by the candles in their sconces that lit the passage. From out of the shadows a familiar voice spoke.

“You see? He fears the shadows just as you do, old friend,” Prince Oberyn said quietly.

“I fear no shadows,” Desmond replied through the pall of weariness that descended as he relaxed. “But shadows should fear waking a man at this hour.”

“And why is that? A shadow must be a shadow and a man must wake,” Oberyn replied. He turned to his companion again, “He is almost as confusing as you as well.”

Desmond paused in his puzzlement, keeping the door between himself and Prince Oberyn and his still shadowed companion. It was most assuredly too early for riddles and Desmond wore too little to engage in witty banter.

“Forgive me, Prince Oberyn, but the hour is early. How may I be of service?”

“There are some things that would be best discussed behind closed doors,” Oberyn said, gesturing beyond Desmond into his room.

Looking down at his nakedness, Desmond lifted a finger. “Of course, a moment, if it please.”

He left the door standing open and returned to the bed, lifting the bedsheet and cinching it around his waist hurriedly as the two men entered. Using the tinderbox, Desmond lit the bedside candle and turned to face his guests.

Prince Oberyn was dressed much as he had been last evening, in knee-high boots of rich leather, light linen pants and the rich, long coat that he favored embroidered all over with the small spear-through-sun Martell sigil. His companion was dressed much the same; although his coat was sleeveless, of a rougher fabric, and unadorned. The colors, while clearly intended to mark him as a servant of Sunspear, were a shade darker. The stranger’s sun-browned skin was worn and weathered and scars criss-crossed his bare arms. Who was this man and why had Prince Oberyn brought him here before the cock crowed?

“My friend Desmond let me introduce you to your father – a dear friend of mine – Qalross.”

Desmond’s legs turned to water and the breath left him. Had the bed not been so close he likely would have collapsed onto the floor. As it was, the bed creaked dangerously beneath him as he sat onto it heavily.

“My… my… father?” Desmond said stunned into dumbness. How could this be? Prince Oberyn was his father, he was certain of it.

The stranger looked Desmond up and down. The man’s expression made Desmond feel as if he were a horse being judged for sale.

“So, it is true,” the man, Qalross, said with a rough, accented voice, the tone of which was like sand blown across the desert, “you have my jawbones. And my ears. But there is no mistaking your mother’s eyes.”

His speech carried an unfamiliar accent that Desmond couldn’t place. His harsh expression had softened and the corners of his mouth turned up in what could be mistaken for a smile. Desmond looked up and searched the man’s face, looking from him to Oberyn and back again. There was no denying his resemblance to the stranger.

“My prince, are you certain?” Desmond inquired, almost pleadingly. He felt the fragile reality of the life he had imagined crumbling ’round him.

“Oh, yes. Qalross and Lady Annabyl were inseparable,” Oberyn said, laying a hand on Qalross’ shoulder. “But she protected him. My father would not have taken kindly to a sellsword bedding an important and noble guest.”

“A sellsword? My father is a common sellsword?” Desmond replied incredulously before he could stop himself. “No offense is meant, ser, but I trust you understand that this comes as a shock at this early hour.”

“I’m neither knight nor lord. Keep you ‘sers’,” Qalross said gruffly, his dour countenance returning, as Desmond reached for the wineskin that had slipped underneath the bedtable and the cup that still stood on it.

“Would either of you care for a drink?” Desmond asked as he poured a cup and drained it quickly.

“This ‘common sellsword’, as you call him, helped train my brothers and I,” Oberyn said with a note of disapproval in his voice, “He is one of the finest spearman I know. Bloodlines do not make the man. I would expect you to know this most of all, Desmond Sand.”

Qalross simply stood sternly and, again, gave Desmond a weighing glance.

“Let us get acquainted, then. Bring your spear,” the man named as his father said. He turned on his heel and walked out of the room.

“Now? Are you mad!?” he called after Qalross, ignoring the fact that he had just emptied a cup of wine well before breakfast.

“Come, Desmond Sand,” Oberyn said with a sly grin, “Dress and follow. The sun is rising. No more shadows to trouble you.”

Mauro XIII
On the journey from Redgate to Kings Landing

Mauro was glad to accept lady Farra’s invitation to go to Kings Landing. New scenery and a chance to root out those responsible for the bandit attacks in the Red Mountains were welcome changes. Mauro was happy to see more of the seven kingdoms, regardless of how hard the journey would be for a cripple like himself. Each day he forced to himself to walk a little further with the help of his new cane, struggling to strengthen his stride and keep pace with the wagons. One day he hoped to put it aside and not just for vanities sake. He worried the cane drew attention to his frailty. It exposed his weakness and might encourage enemies to take advantage.

Mauro spent much of the journey on a wagon with Septon Connyr sharing water and conversation. Connyr was not so much the septon one expected. During the journey Mauro waited day after day for a speech from Connyr about the merits of conversion to the new gods, but Connyr didn’t bother. Finally Mauro asked him why? Connyr’s answer was, “I’m not that persuasive”, which made them both laugh.

In some ways Connyr reminded Mauro of a maester. That got him thinking about other similarities between septons and maesters, beyond the fact they both wore robes most of the time. They were both plain-speaking and long-winded in the way that learned men are… with little allowance for crude thinking or language. They both found merit in service to a greater power. Septons and maesters both had to have a care for politics in positions of influence. etc. Mauro wondered how many maesters went to the sept on a regular basis? He even wondered if a maester could also be a septon? Questions he fully intended to bother septon Connyr and maester Llewellyn with in the future.

Connyr had a talent for philosophy, but not preaching. Mauro liked that about him. He was honest about his beliefs and didn’t vouch for anything he didn’t personally put faith in. Connyr wasn’t interested in convincing him to take everything he said like gospel. Yes he shared what he believed in, but mostly he listened and let Mauro make up his own mind. Mauro for his part was polite and respectful about Connyr’s beliefs, but they were vastly different men that much was clear.

What they had in common mattered more to Mauro. Connyr was also passionate about finding answers and seeing justice done. Mauro imagined Connyr could be a valuable ally, but he wasn’t sure Connyr would tollerate everything he might do in service of justice? The question weighed on Mauro so much he finally asked the septon.

Mauro: “At what point does morality interfere with justice?”

Connyr: “At the point that justice becomes an evil act. That is probably something more akin to vengeance, not justice.”

Mauro: “Do you condone acts of vengeance?”

Connyr: “I wouldn’t be much of a septon if I did.”

Mauro: “Would you commit an act of vengeance for the sake of justice?”

Connyr: {frowns} “The only answer I can honestly give is that I’ll act according to what I think is best.”

Mauro: “Sometimes a lesser wrong has to be done to thwart a greater one.”

Connyr: {nods} “That is generally how most people rationalize it, but I wouldn’t say that makes it right.”

Mauro: {chuckles} “My mother would tell me that I must take care to keep my waters pure. You see, we Rhoynish believe that life is a river winding its way towards the sea. We may be unaware of the rivers length or exact path, but we know that all rivers end because everyone dies. We must do our best to keep our waters pure on our journey so our soul can commingle with the others when we reach the sea.”

Connyr: “That is beautiful. What do you think of that Mauro?”

Mauro: “I think life is hard and full of tough choices.”

Connyr: “What do the Rhoynish priests say about that?”

Mauro: {Shrugs} “They’d say something like I’ve reached a fork in the river. One fork may lead to calm waters, another may lead to stony rapids, but a river has no choice but to flow… or make a choice in other words…”

Connyr: “I think that’s very wise.”

Mauro: {exhales exasperatedly} “I think it’s all over my head.”

Connyr: {Smiles} “So in other words you’re drowning?”

Mauro: {Gives Connyr an amused look and snorts} “I’m the one with Rhoynish blood! Leave the river analogies to me!”

They both shared another laugh and Mauro had to admit this septon deserved more credit. Connyr may not have a knack for sermons but he had another gift, a talent for listening and helping you steer yourself on the right path. That was better then a sermon for him at least.

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.”

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.

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.

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


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.”

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.


I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.