Bow Before The Sun

Charlotte XIII

The High Hall was decorated beautifully for Elyana’s wedding. Her health had improved greatly and she looked better than she had in months. Opposites though they be, she was genuinely happy for her cousin. Lord Connington’s affection was evident to all and Charlotte found herself unusually wistful.

She toyed with the deep red pendant at her neck and chided herself for the slight case of nerves that she couldn’t seem to banish. She almost reconsidered having that glass of wine but white was hard enough to keep clean without getting red stains all over her cherished gown. She resolutely dropped the necklace and tried to focus on what – oh, what DID she say her name was?

A small, pale hand looped around her arm and she knew she was being rescued.

“I am SO sorry to interrupt, milady…? Lady Valencia let the last syllable linger, inviting the elder woman to introduce herself. Her smile was easy and warm, her eyes kind, putting their verbose guest at ease.

“Fatima,” she offered, “of House Yronwood? We met at the wedding, I believe.”

“Yes, of course!” Lady Dent briefly laid her other hand on the elder lady’s arm, as if they were old friends. Lady Fatima’s smile grew. “My age is catching up with me, I didn’t recognize you. We’re trading visits it seems.” Both women laughed and Charlotte couldn’t help thinking how her first opinion of this petite woman had changed. Upon arrival, that woman had practically leapt off of her horse, hiked up her skirts and, with no noble dignity whatsoever, ran to her son, shoving aside any who would try to intercept her. True to Devon’s prediction, she had clung to him, sobbing inconsolably and thanking every god who would listen. Lady Christina had tried vainly to calm her mother but as soon as she was within arm’s reach she, too, was captured. Lord Michael approached, much calmer but the relief on his face no less evident. Charlotte had felt very awkward standing there witnessing the emotional reunion; she was happy for them but this kind of emotional outburst made her uneasy. All she could think about was her mother, reliving all the times she had cried outside her door, her mother sobbing just like Lady Dent, oblivious to her and her pain.
Lord Michael and Devon had exchanged a warm, long-suffering look but Devon had held his mother carefully where she had collapsed to the ground, continually assuring her that he was fine. After a few minutes, Lord Michael finally intervened.

“Val, let the boy up, he needs to breathe.” His words may have seemed gruff but he was gentle as he lifted her up. She had turned and embraced Lady Christina, to Charlotte’s relief finally seeming to regain some control, allowing Devon and his father to finally embrace. The warmth of it all had made Charlotte uncomfortably jealous but then Lady Valencia had walked toward her and she was embraced, also, Lady Dent still crying softly, thanking her and blessing the rest of her days for her part in Devon’s rescue. She had stood frozen, not knowing how to respond, until Devon had rescued her.

“Mother, stop, you’re scaring her,” he had laughed. “These people aren’t like us, they’re normal.” Lady Dent had laughed and released her but she had grasped her hands and looked her in the eye with an intensity that was uncomfortable. After a moment she had nodded and said, “She will understand one day.”

Then the intensity was gone, replaced by warmth and charm – the same warmth and charm she was now lavishing on Lady Fatima so effectively. “I’m afraid I need a guide,” Lady Valencia was saying. “I still get hopelessly lost in Lady Charlotte’s beautiful home and she has been most patient with me. I won’t be long and then we can finish that glass of Dornish red, shall we?” Lady Fatima was by now quite willing to excuse Charlotte to her duties and practically glowed from the attention Lady Dent had shown her. While it accomplished the mission – freeing Charlotte – Charlotte also had learned it was genuine – she was genuine. Lady Valencia cared about people and she showed it, be they noble or smallfolk. She abhorred politics for that very reason – the “necessity of falsehood,” as she called it – a trait they shared. She had gone often down to the village with Charlotte and Devon, who had been spending quite a bit of time together lately, where she charmed the men and ladies equally. The Dent family loved their smallfolk, she had explained, often sharing meals and always helping where they could. At home, she said, she could do more, including rolling up her sleeves to help with work if needed or playing tag with the children. But away from home she had to maintain at least some semblance of noble propriety, another necessity she despised. So she did what she could, especially spoiling the children, passing out coppers for treats but always making them ask their parents first. When Lord Michael would join them, she would send them to him for the coppers and laugh when the children would swarm the big, gruff lord. He seemed the opposite of his wife in every way but there was no mistaking the love between them. And they watched with unabashed love and pride as Devon would engage the young boys in mock sword fights or give the girls “pony rides.” She had seen him in the practice yard as he recovered, regaining his strength, and she knew he was a warrior with few equals. But with the children he had infinite gentleness and patience and, looking back, she thought that was when the change in her had begun.

“Thank you,” she breathed as Lady Valencia took her arm and led them away. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me tonight.”

Lady Dent laughed softly and patted her arm. “I do.” As they walked across the room Charlotte didn’t fail to notice that her eyes continually scanned the room, always noting first where her family was, as she had known where Charlotte was; nodding slightly to Lord Michael, who nodded back. This Lady Dent was sharp, perceptive and protective. She had seen this look before, at other gatherings. She could take the measure of a person even better than Charlotte, and since the attacks on Devon and, she had learned, her daughter Magan last year, she was constantly scanning for threats to her family. A family Charlotte had begun to feel a part of and, she had discovered, she wanted. They were leaving soon after the wedding and she had made her decision, she would speak to her grandmother tonight.

“It seems my anti-social son is taking his time making an appearance,” Lady Dent said as they reached the doorway. “I will deal with Lady Fatima – at least she’s harmless, Seven bless her.” She took Charlotte’s hands in hers and smiled up at her knowingly. “You look beautiful tonight, dear. Now, go and get your man.”

Charlotte looked at this woman she had once thought weak and hysterical, and couldn’t help wondering if her mother had been strong enough to deal with her grief, if maybe she wouldn’t have been something like her. She was emotional, true, and her family was her weakness but, along with her faith, it was also her strength. She had told Charlotte once that everyone had that capacity, to be both weak and strong, both soft and hard, but we were that way for a reason and that reason was to help each other.

“Knowing we live for others gives us purpose,” she had said. “Knowing why gives us peace.”

Charlotte smiled, full and warm, and went to find Devon.

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Keraq I

Sunspear.jpgKeraq wore his colorful silks loosely. His bronze skin was sticky with sweat from the withering sun. Winter could not be found here. The reds and yellows caused him to stand out amidst the crush of the Dornish poor in the Shadow City. He was no peasant. The silks belied his humble beginnings. He may have been born the son of smallfolk without a surname like the rabble surrounding him- but he wasn’t one of them. Not anymore. It was coin that brought him to the winding market and mud brick structures of the Shadow City. Coin, and a search for one man. He had reason to believe the man he sought was inside the two room building in front of him. The Last Well served drinks to all. As it sat nestled inside the Threefold gate inside the second wall, it saw traffic from travellers, nobles and smallfolk alike. It was said the man he sought enjoyed the company here. At the very least, he enjoyed the drink.

Keraq learned a valuable lesson. Having friends, important friends, was the key to power. And if you couldn’t find friends with powerful family names, at least find friends with coin. Keraq had found several such friends. His father was a spice trader from Volantis when he accompanied him to Plankytown and from there to the Martell court at Sunspear. His Rhoynish heritage instantly made him a welcomed guest in many Dornish homes. His father’s ship, the Salt Queen, opened even more. With the War raging in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, Dorne was seeking commerce across the Narrow Sea. Goods that used to leave Plankytown for ports in King’s Landing and beyond now headed for the Free Cities. The Salt Queen made several runs for House Martell, but it also made runs for less-known clients as well. One such client was a Braavosi Merchant by the name of Prensimo. He plied his trade in weapons, and as such, still called in both King’s Landing as well as Planky Town. Prensimo approached Keraq about an important transaction.

Over some Dornish Red, the two discussed the Bastard of Redgate, a warrior of growing repute from the Red Mountains. Keraq informed his new merchant friend that he was well aware of the man, but couldn’t see why it would concern such an important man as himself. Prensimo had seen too many name days, he explained. His hair was graying and thinning, his belly more pronounced, and his strength lessened from his younger years. The stories of this bastard were a cautionary tale. It was said the man’s temper knew no bounds, and caused him to challenge a powerful lord from the Red Mountains- his leige lord in fact. When faced with overwhelming odds, he spat in the face of the lord, and drew a blade across his cheek. The bastard was thrown in irons, and called rightly to trial for his crimes. Yet the Seven favored this bold warrior. He defeated a gallant knight, leaving him bleeding in the snow and making his way to freedom down the snowy peaks of the Red Mountains.

Keraq gladly accepted another cup of Dornish Red, nodding at his new friend. He too had heard similar stories about this man. Still, he was confused why this mattered to a Braavosi arms merchant. Prensimo explained that he had been paid to find this man, but knew the danger. He needed a younger, more skilled, man to find him. In return, he would gladly share the finder’s fee. Prensimo told how the last he knew, the Bastard was in King’s Landing at the time of King Joffrey’s death. He had men looking for the bastard in the Capital, but had heard he often frequented the halls and hovels of Sunspear and the Shadow City. Keraq emptied his cup, and smiled.

He gladly reported he had seen the basard many times, and could easily find the man once more. In fact, he believed the bastard was in the Shadow City even now. Prensimo smiled. The two agreed on a price, and Keraq was sent to find Desmond Sand at once. Should he want to enjoy this treasure, he would need to be about his business quickly. Keraq was not the only man in the Shadow City Prensimo had approached.

Keraq took a deep breath. He had struck many a deal with many a man. But he did not want to earn the wrath of the Bastard of Redgate. He hoped to find the man in a forgiving mood.

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Llewellyn IX

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“You are to be commended Asaf. It seems clear what you have found is the ‘Dragon Road’. When Aegon and his sister wives attempted to subdue Dorne some three hundred years ago, the lords were elusive. All of Dorne to be sure, but the lords of the Red Mountains most of all. Each time one of the accursed creatures flew close, the lords disappeared. Keeps were burnt, but most of the nobles survived. How they achieved this was largely a mystery. At the Citadel we uncovered letters written from that time that alluded to such a thing. The tunnel network was a closely guarded secret for understandable reasons. One traitor could undo the fortunes of all. Only a few were told of the locations, primarily Maesters and Lords, and those were sworn to secrecy. Not only were the doorways a mystery, but means of accessing the doors as well. In each case, those who swore an oath of secrecy were told only of the doorways they needed. Thus, no one individual could compromise the whole.”

The torchlight flickered against the man-made tunnel walls. Most of the Dragon Road was carved tunnels connecting natural caverns throughout the Red Mountains. When in the tunnels, the size varied from tall enough where a man could walk single file and stooping to avoid the roof, to merely a crawl space. The Ghosts led Maester Llewellyn into a mercifully larger cavern. The ‘Road’ was frequently covered with mud, as the red dirt washed into a trickling underground stream. It was worse here. The group emerged into what Asaf explained was Graybrook. His keen eyes now spotted something he had missed before. The whole of the Road appeared to be littered with secret compartments and doors. A false floor revealed a wooden plank. Once opened, the group gasped. Maester Llewellyn knew exactly what it was as he freed the sixteen year old relics. Asaf, and many of the others, suspected as much. Now they had proof.

Llewellyn turned the black burlap hoods over in his hands, finding the eye holes and clearing away the muck and creatures that had made their home within. Those who took part in the original hooded uprising came through this door, and hid the evidence of their crime within.

“Asaf, you must see what more you can learn of this. Our lady will want to act upon this, I am certain. Let us make sure we have what information we can as quickly as we can. After Lady Elyana’s wedding to Ser Adrian, we must be prepared to share it.

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Bennyn VI

Horses_in_the_Red_Mountains.jpgSer Bennyn couldn’t help but smile as he rode up. He recognized the young girl tending horses instantly. Six months ago, it would have been Henred stabling the travelers horses for the festivities. Now, the young girl Ria Sand handled the affair as if she were born to it. In many ways, he knew, she had been. When it was time to accompany House Oakdown to King’s Landing, he wanted to find a skilled aide to tend to his beloved steed. All the nobles and smallfolk alike spoke of the young bastard girl, and her gift with the Seven’s creatures. She did not disappoint. When the company returned, Ria even managed to drive off some Highwaymen who had been following them for ill purpose. Ser Bennyn insisted on paying her wages, as well as a gold dragon besides. He told the young girl he wanted to see it used to further her ambitions of taking over for Henred, or perhaps starting a venture of her own. He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and only asked for her promise to tend to his horse personally when it was needed. When she saw him ride up to the outcropping near Redgate, she returned his smile.

As he dismounted and handed her the reins, he smelled roasted fowl cooking nearby. It seemed the Oakdowns and Conningtons wouldn’t be the only ones feasting. His father had always told him you could tell the smallfolk’s mind about their liege lords based on how they joined in a celebration. Lonetree was famous for sharing Lady Oakdown’s misery, and today they were celebrating in her joy. A mere three months ago they celebrated another marriage, but they hadn’t seemed to lose any interest. Once more the Prince’s Pass was humming with activity as smallfolk gathered, merchants peddled their wares, and noble guests made their way into the Oakdown’s Keep. Tonight was the welcoming feast, and tomorrow would be the blessed event itself. It was a great insult to refuse an invitation of a Lord or Lady, but an even greater insult to refuse a wedding or funeral summons. As a sworn sword of the house, he had no intention of giving such insult. He didn’t care for these things generally, but he resolved to enjoy himself this time.

Ser Bennyn smiled at the young girl. “I see you’ve been keeping busy, little Ria. How fare you?”

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Farra I

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Lady Farra looked out over the red foothills of her home. The throngs of people gathering below her at the gates of the Oakdown family keep were here to celebrate, not mourn. Six months ago the crowds had gathered to mark another anniversary of the tragic murder of her Lord husband Nygel Oakdown and her three children. Today, the crowds gathered in hope.

The air was crisp. Farra pulled her formal gowns tightly around her. The hearth was crackling inside the High Hall, and the warmth found within was tempting. She couldn’t bring herself to go inside to enjoy it. Not yet. She was advancing in years, and it wasn’t clear how many more moments like this she might survive to see.

Her mind raced back, recalling the first time she saw Redgate. She was barely a woman grown when she arrived to marry the stranger that would become the love of her life. That was the way of things in the Seven Kingdoms. She considered herself blessed indeed by the Seven. So many other ladies she knew were forced to endure their marriages to men who cared little for them. Worse, she knew several who suffered far more than emotional neglect. Blessedyly, she and Nygel came to love each other. Awash with relief when she first met him that day, the two had been scarcely separated for the remainder of his days. Her Sand Dornish kin had traveled west to the foothills to watch her take the deep red cloak with the sand colored silhouette of her new husband’s House. The symbol told all who gathered there that she was now an Oakdown, and would enjoy the comfort and protection of her new House, as well as share in it’s destiny. She had fiercely protected it ever since.

Sixteen years ago, down below her at the entrance of Redgate, messengers came in to bring the terrible tidings of the slaughter at Graybrook. Inconsolable, she commanded the bells of the Sept to toll her loss, so that all of the land could bear this misery together. The Keep entered into a period of mourning; one that many (including her own grandchildren) claim never lifted. Few had the courage to tell this to her personally, but she was no fool. Let them talk. To her mind, love was not only feasts and joy. It was loyalty, and rememberance. If she kept her husband and her children dear to her heart, they would never truly be lost to her. She clung to that as it fell to her to raise a new generation of children.

She looked down once more, and the crowds celebrating and entering the keep vanished in her mind’s eye. In their place, she recalled seeing her precious granchildren playing in the courtyard. Andros, the spitting image of her Nygel, played at swords with the guards, his brother, his cousin… anyone who he could convince to pick up a sword. Unlike some of his other family, Andros had to work at the craft. Truthfully, he wasn’t much of a swordsman- but he had many, many other gifts of his own. It never seemed to appease him. Andros was fiercely brave, and he would will himself to master the blade.

Often watching and admiring his older brother was Quinn, the youngest of her son Arthur’s three children. Unlike Andros, Quinn was very talented with a sword- even from a young age. He didn’t share his older brother’s diplomacy or charisma, or his instinct for leadership. To ask Quinn, though, he was a pale comparison of his hero of an older brother. The family admired his humility, and loved him dearly. The middle child was her sweet Charlotte. She was a precocious young lady. She had an active mind, loved to learn, and asked many questions. The poor girl found much of the life in the Seven Kingdoms to be terribly unfair. She was right of course, but this was the way of things. Farra sighed and smiled to herself. It was well that little Charlotte hadn’t been born north of the Dornish Marches. As a Reach girl, life would be even more unfair. At least in Dorne a woman could inherit, and enjoyed some privileges denied to the fairer sex in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms.

She didn’t have many memories of her natural born grandson Desmond at play below. Strange. She was certain he must have been there- the cousins loved one another. The fact that he was bastard born to Farra’s youngest daughter Annabyl would have played no part. In Dorne, bastards were not looked down upon like they were in the rest of Westeros. Even though many of the people of the Red Mountains shared some of the narrow minded views held in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, she knew for a certainty that her family did not. They accepted Desmond and loved him as she did. Even when Andros and Desmond quarreled, she knew it was because they were all but siblings. Nothing more. The few memories of Desmond she did have were of him playing with spears while his cousins played at swords. Desmond’s olive skin was not all that reminded Farra of her people far to the east. He shared their temper, and their love of the spear. And if there was another who was more skilled at war than her little Quinn, it was Desmond. Farra, and her advisors as well, agreed they had never seen anything like it. Not in Lord Nygel, or Arthur, any of the men at arms.

Finally she recalled her other two grandchildren, the daughters of her second child, Aryl. They, like Desmond, were olive skinned and dark haired. They were stunningly beautiful, and adored the life of a Dornish noblewoman. The two sisters were rivals, and friends. While the other cousins played at war, or in Charlotte’s case, read and rode the Prince’s Pass, these two sat and watched the people of Redgate. They giggled, and flirted, with the travelers and boys who came and went. They took to the politics of the Seven Kingdoms the way that Quinn and Desmond took to arms. They left their dolls at an early age, preferring to frolic with one another and the children of the keep.

Farra was startled from her memory by the bells tolling. Today it was not the somber tolling of mourning, but the happy chimes of celebration. Farra sincerely hoped that today would be the beginning of a brighter chapter for her family. She did not know how much longer she would be able to toil on their behalf. She was determined to do all she could while she was able. Her aching was constant now. She had to walk slowly, often with the help of a terribly undignified cane. Her hands burned with pain when she tried to close her fingers, and her knuckles were ablaze constantly.

Farra smiled when she saw her dear friend was coming to help her. Ingvar Dent had only been at Redgate a relatively short amount of time, but he had earned her trust quickly. He was always considerate, and never more so than at this moment. His family from a world away was gathered in the High Hall, including his beloved cousin whom all had feared lost. House Dent had been the personal guests of Lady Oakdown for several months, but they had decided it was time for them to return home to their lands far to the North. None could have blamed Ingvar for spending his every waking moment with them- yet here he was, escorting her down to the feast in his family’s honor. It would spare her the humiliation of walking with her cane, and let her enjoy his company for a few moments.

In the High Hall, the guests gathered to celebrathe another wedding. Today was Oakdown’s second union in several months. Earlier, the family had traveled to Yronwood to celebrate Lady Daera Oakdown’s marriage to Ser Cransen Yronwood. Customarily, the weddings were celebrated in the homes of the groom. Today, though, Redgate was able to host Elyana’s wedding personally. Elyana’s groom, Adrian Connington, was warmly welcomed by all. His house once commanded great respect, but was now under fierce scrutiny by the Iron Throne. It had been so for years, in truth. Since the murder of King Joffrey, that had intensified considerably. While all accepted that the King’s own Uncle had masterminded the plot, a hunt was under way for his co-conspirators. The Starks and their Northern allies, House Dent, were chief among them. Word was beginning to circulate that Oakdown was involved as well. Despite all of this, Dorne was far safer at the moment than the Stormlands. To be cautious, it was decided that the wedding would be held at Redgate. Adrian Connington’s own family was small in number, and easily accomodated. More importantly, the celebration could be enjoyed in relative security.

As Ingvar slowly led Lady Farra down the stairs, she couldn’t help but sigh sadly. The day would have been perfect if everyone could have been together. Andros assured Lady Farra that Desmond had safely gotten out of King’s Landing after the Purple Wedding. In the months that followed, though, no one had seen him. Farra hoped against hope that he might have heard of the event, and found his way home in the waning moments as he did for the most recent anniversary. It would be reckless for him to do so. Travelling, even in Dorne, was likely going to be far more dangerous. Farra smiled optimistically. Desmond was nothing if not reckless. He survived a trial by combat with the accursed Fowlers. Anything was possible.

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Llewellyn VIII

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“He started it.”

The Dents had been staying as the personal guests of Lady Farra for only two days, yet she had learned a great deal. Ingvar shared the tales of the North, and the differences between the Dornish and the lords and ladies of the far North. As Ingvar told it, there were dramatic differences between those near the wall and those south of Winterfell as well. The people near the wall, Ingvar’s people, decended from the wildlings. Ingvar explained that it made their House different from their neighbors. The free folk, as the wildlings called themselves, did not put any weight into the notion of court traditions or reverence of nobility. This reflected how the lord of the House, Lord Michael, had ruled his people. He viewed them almost as children, and visited them as often as he could. He was a stern man when the law was broken, but he was fair. The smallfolk seemed to love him for it, and when he was orphaned tragically at 8, his people followed his rule without incident as he grew to adulthood. Yet there was Blood of the First Men in the Dents as well. It was what kept them fiercely loyal to the Starks of Winterfell, and what kept the Dent rule in place for thousands of years. Yet, of the lines of the three original brothers, the smallfolk could (and would) change their allegiance. One brother’s kin might be removed in favor of another. As a result, the Dents paid special care to the rights and allegiance of those sworn to them. Yet it was always a Dent who ruled. The nobility was expected, and none ever questioned it. Ingvar admitted it was an unusual system compared to others south of the Wall, but it had led to harmony for most of their ancient history.

Ingvar had always been cordial, and skilled in the political realms of the Seven Kingdoms. Lady Farra had seen signs in him of the differences he described to her, but it was only now that it was clear. Lady Farra explained to Llewellyn how she had witnessed families at play, adult brothers wrestling, in the dusty roads of Lonetree. At times she even envied them. They seemed to enjoy a life free from the burden of rule. But as a noblewoman of Dorne, she was taught she must be a model to her people. They must see her as wise, as measured, and they would trust her rule as a result. She grew up this way. Her grandchildren were raised this way. Maester Llewellyn knew her instructions well. To rule was a privilege, and a grave responsibility. The Oakdown grandchildren grasped this with varying degrees of success. But it was never for a lack of instruction. Of all the Maester’s responsibilites, he took the education of the granchildren most seriously.

Lady Farra charged the Maester to impart the dignity of Court, and a reverence for those who held power there. The grandchildren were taught to dress in their finest garb, and behave with rigid grace as a show of respect for their guests. Those from Dorne did not judge as fiercely the circumstances of one’s birth as others in the Seven Kingdoms. Though if truth were told, it still played a part. The Maester witnessed this within the household itself. Redgate held Rhoynish blooded nobles and bastards, haughty Andal children, and an open minded Andal girl. The one constant was the importance of duty, rule and loyalty to one’s people and House.

so here they were, with their lives and their fates unraveling before them. Lady Elyana remained with Ser Adrian Connington, who had asked Lady Farra for Elyana’s hand. He informed Lady Oakdown that they would travel in person as soon as it was safe to do so, but the road was now treacherous for them both. Lady Daera, Elyana’s sister, was to wed Ser Cransen Yronwood. This would be an important alliance, as Sunspear’s intentions remained unclear. The tensions between Skyreach and Redgate only intensified, and indications were that this was being laid at the feet of House Oakdown. Desmond Sand had vanished once more, having yet to return from King’s Landing. At least all of Arthur’s children had returned safely. The heir, Lord Andros returned with his younger brother. Quinn was now an annointed knight, and immediately offered his sword to his family. Lady Charlotte perhaps endured the most periolous journey of all. She rescued Ingvar’s cousin, the heir of House Dent in the far North, With the help of loyal men, House Oakdown repaid their debt to their House Dent at great danger. They had now been accused of the Northern conspiracy to murder His Grace, the now deceased King Joffrey.

The Dents seemed unaffected. The heir and Ingvar were there, enjoying the hospitality of Redgate, and enjoying their reunion fully. Lady Farra seemed to understand that these people were different from any she had known. Before this, Ingvar had dutifully adapted to Dornish ways and customs. Now, he was with family once more. Perhaps all of Redgate could do with a spell of informality. Perhaps. Her own granddaughter, Lady Charlotte, stood among them now. Her time with the Northmen seemed to have changed her somehow. She was more confident, more aware. She was a loyal granddaughter, even if she often resisted the way of life the Gods had chosen for her. She questioned many things, and would go forth into the world in her own way. As Lady Farra grew older, she feared what that might mean for her little Charlotte. The days where she could protect her were quickly fading away. Instead, she could only smile.

“It appears we may need to have a new dining table crafted.” Lady Farra motioned to nearby servants, who scurried to clean the mess. “Honored guests, would you do us the honor of joining us in the High Hall? Maester Llewellyn has drawn up the charter of friendship between our Houses, and I would enjoy sharing a cup of Red to mark the occasion.” Lady Farra turned to begin her climb up the central stair to the High Hall, still smiling ever so slightly. Maester Llewellyn couldn’t help but wonder what her reaction might have been had the two men wrestling in the hall been Oakdowns.

Nonetheless, Lady Farra was determined to cement an alliance with House Dent. They had now been cast together, on two opposite sides of the world, as conspirators against the Iron Throne. This made them mortal enemies of the Royal House and House Lannister. Fortunately, they were not alone. Dorne was an uneasy ally of the Throne, and never knwon for their willingness to fall in line. Prince Oberyn was hoping to demand justice for Ella Martell while in King’s Landing. Word was he had declared himself Champion for the accused, Lord Tyrion Lannister. And House Dent’s circumstances were even worse. The Stark family had been removed as Wardens of the North, and House Bolton put in their stead. The Dents refused to swear allegiance to Bolton, and Lord Devon was kept a prisoner as a result. Only now, Devon was free, with the aid of House Oakdown. The die had been cast. The coming weeks and months would be a dangerous time for them all. Let everyone enjoy their time while they could. Soon enough, those times would be gone.

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Charlotte XII
Stranger's 9th

Two groups of riders approach each other on the road.

“I see you survived.”

“Eh.”

The two groups ride off together. The e—

“That’s not how it happened.”

“What are you talkin’ about, that’s exactly how it happened!”

Charlotte cut her eyes at Devon but didn’t miss the immediate relief on Mars’ face, clearly thinking he was about to be reprimanded for his satirical recreation of “northern ways” with forks, spoons & bread. Apparently she was the fork.

“I think he has done a great job of capturing the essence of the characters-except for me. Where’s my strong jaw, and my weapons?!?”

Charlotte sighed as Ingvar joined in. “About the weapon – how are you going to tell your father about that?”

A shadow passed over Devon’s face. “I’m going to explain to my Lord Father in the northern way.” The food arrived – cold sliced meats and fresh fruits and vegetables to go with the bread they already had. Following Mars’ example, Devon built a small food effigy and looked up at Ingvar.

“This is the man who has Ghost Touch.” With a sudden burst of anger the large battle axe sliced through the effigy and sank deep into the dining hall table. Immediately contrite, Devon looked around the suddenly silent room, lastly at Ingvar. Charlotte noted a silent ‘something’ that passed between the two relatives.

“Still messy, cousin,” Ingvar said, wiping a piece of meat off of his face. “No style.”

“I never needed style to best you, cousin,” Devon answered, smiling again. The two Lord Dents were suddenly a tangle of arms, twisting and wrestling across the table. It was clear no real harm was meant and it was also clear that Devon was the better fighter. It wasn’t long before he had Ingvar in a headlock.

“Let me get that meat off for you,” Devon mock growled. It was as he was grinding a piece of bread into Ingvar’s face that the sound of a throat being cleared broke through. The two cousins froze, staring at Lady Farra standing in the doorway. Ingvar spoke first.

“He started it.”

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Asaf IX

Asaf stood over the map of the oakdown lands and its neighbors, looking at the faces of the other officers of the fighting men of redgate, with both the lord and master at arms away he felt it best to appraise all of them of what he had found. He had already handed the riddles and discarded weapons to Maester Llewllyn and it was now simply a matter of making sure information was shared, that was the job of scouts after all.

“As I’m sure you’ve all heard the lions moving in around Fool’s drop was something the Ghosts were looking into, We found that one of the homes a hidden door, it had proof some scum had been luring the cats into the area, there were a good number of bones around, but more importantly was a tunnel, it lead in two directions, one opening up into the traitor Dromme’s home, the other near Graybrook, there were other natural tunnels leading in other directions but we saw no signs of travel through them. I think we can all agree someone has been planning this for a very long time. There are ghosts stationed watching both entrances on the lands owned by our lady. I thought it would be a good idea to tell you all this. Better to not have Lord Andros return to find an army on his doorstep.” With that the men spoke more of plans to prepare for a possible flanking attack from the tunnels and to map them further to watch for more mischief. After what seemed like days, but was more likely a few hours, they seemed to have a plan in order and Asaf found himself bitterly cursing the Commander for taking off when he did, the recent betrayals had left several of the so called “leaders”, himself included with no experience at command and no one completely trusting anyone else.

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Lord Dent I

Lord Michael Dent stood at the prow of the Sea Fox, as he did most every day, watching the horizon and noting their progress. The Sea Fox was a fast ship and justified his first opinion upon hearing her name. The fox was not only swift but cunning, often leaving it’s pursuers trying to figure where it had gone. A good omen for the journey they were on as it was in their best interest no one knew where they were.

Only four of them traveled on the Sea Fox having left the handful of guards to return to Blade’s Edge when they boarded. Thus far, his Lady, Valencia, had spent the majority of the trip in their cabin due to sea sickness whereas he spent most of it on the deck for the same reason. He retired below decks only to check on her and sleep for a few hours at a time. He found it amusing that they had such opposed reactions when they were usually so much more alike in their responses.

After the sailors realized he wasn’t the usual priggish noble they had joked with him that it was said that only the sea could come between a man and the woman he loved – that the sea was notoriously jealous. He could well believe it, even after all the weeks at sea he could only stand to be below decks a few hours before the sickness began to take him.

His poor Valencia, while doing better, was still ill at ease and though she tried she found no solace above decks as he did. Still they managed time to comfort one another and properly scandalize the others traveling on the Sea Fox.

He was aware the Manderly girl, Wynafryd, was about some business concerning the Dent’s beside simply escorting them to their destination. She chatted with them when the occasion arose about various topics but it had not escaped his notice she seemed to be sounding them out about the Starks. He was content to let her take her time, it wasn’t as if there wasn’t plenty of it aboard ship for those not engaged in it’s operation. He considered volunteering to help with some minor tasks to help pass the time and would probably offer after they put King’s Landing safely behind them.

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Ria IX
Crones 22nd

Ria was confused by the two men at first, she didn’t know them, and while the occasional wealthy traveler to Lonetree would turn up their noses these men didn’t seem like that was the case. She’d heard of Bandits and Brigands but never thought she’d actually encounter some, especially not alone like this. She slapped at the hand of the one that tugged on her clothes, stepping back towards the horses. She wished Vossi had come with her, but the tired dog had curled up against the pack she kept her meager belongings in and nodded off as soon as they stopped for the day.
“I don’t think I’ve ever even held a gold piece,” she said referring to his last threat, “maybe the knight and noble folks I’m working for could spare you some ? They’ll be wanting their horses back soon, so I should probably take care of that before they come looking…” She hoped the possibility of a knights coming about would convince them it might be better to go somewhere else.
“Knight? Is that so?” The older man said, looking around nervously, " We might have to take a look at them next. But you’re a pretty thing. Why don’t you be a bright girl and give us your coin purse?" His partner though cast a nervous look around

“Maybe we should keep moving. I don’t want to take on no knights.” He says casting a look towards the camp.

The lead man says. “Shut up, just do what we talked about, and we’ll be fine.”

The stablehand senses she’s got there attention and addds, “Yes, a Knight and his Lady’s guard. And like I said, I’m late with their horses, excuse me…” Trying to fake confidence as she starts to walk the horses past them.

That must have gotten through to them because the leader turns to his friend and say, “Maybe you’re right. We don’t want no trouble.” He’ll talk to the subservient one then. “She doesn’t look to be carrying much money on her. Probably not worth it anyway. Let’s get out of here.” They left, almost at a run, Ria might have laughed if she wasn’t trying not to be terrified. She makes sure to let Ser Bennyen know that there are highwaymen about once she returns to camp, in case they or some friends try to come back. And spends most of the rest of the night trying to calm herself.
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