1. Lord Mycroft falls from his horse as he is about to go meet Tywin
2. Nojh and Maester Alistar diagnoses Lord Mycroft
3. Creegan Layne, the captain of the Afallon Calvary leads the party with Hadrian to meet lord Tywin
4. The scouting party at the hamlet attempts to make the hamlet presentable.
5. Lord Tywin arrives with Ser Kevan Lannister and an escort of 20 mounted men.
Ser Bryce Steele could see a lazy pillar of smoke rise into the yellowing sky from the hamlet, having finally caught up to the main party after their encounter a band of bandits. Bryce and several of the cavalrymen had given chase, riding them down before the rest of the lawless horde melted into the woods. Hadrian had taken the main column forward to meet Lord Tywin, but Bryce had remained behind to hunt any bandits near the road. Bryce and the hunting party returned to the road after mid-day, meeting two Afallon calvarymen delivering the message of Tywin’s arrival to Monmouth.
Only a few days ago as Bryce had been passing through, the town was mostly empty with a reeking smell which rivalled King’s Landing. Now, the wind carried the savoury scents of cooked meat towards Bryce and his party, but combat always worked up an appetite. One of the calvary outriders spotted them and shouted a greeting, some men broke from Bryce’s lead to join the outrider on his patrol. The remainder of them wheeled off towards a makeshift camp at the edge of the hamlet, with a cooking fire at its centre and a score of Afallon Rounseys grazing. Bryce continued alone into the heart of the hamlet, picturing a boar turned on a spit dripping with grease and lathered in garlic and cloves.
The hamlet had more residents than Bryce had remembered, a lot of them were idle or seemed so familiar with the calvarymen that it was as if they knew them. An Afallon man came and took the reins of his horse as Bryce approached the inn, where crimson and gold standards danced in the wind. Bryce dismounted with a slight awkwardness, still not used to riding a Rounsey instead of a Courser. Bryce inspected his new shield hanging off the side of his Rounsey, more exquisite than most decorative ones, with the winged sword of Afallon inlaid with steel on striped black. Bryce removed his lobstered gauntlet and picked at new scars adorning its surface. Bryce had tried to refuse to use the beautiful shield in battle, but his father had insisted, and his father was not someone to be rejected. “It gives the shield character, each scar is a new story. A shield unscarred is but a blank book”, his father told him with the same booming voice Bryce had remembered before he left for the Reach to become a knight.
As he continued on foot towards the inn, Bryce looked around the hamlet. Its single dirt road running through its heart was filled with armed men, destriers, and coursers. Bryce suddenly felt like a simple hedge knight, riding into the hamlet on a Rounsey despite his excellent equipment and training. In front of the inn, a line of four men in black cloaks, with an embroidered red and gold line on the left breasts barred the way. “I am Ser Bryce Steele, a sworn sword and nephew to Lord Mycroft”, Bryce presented himself to the man. It was not his status the man wanted, but his sword-belt. Bryce reluctantly handed his sword-belt to the man, feeling naked without a sword hanging from his side. As Bryce entered the inn, he saw even more Afallon men, these ones without weapons. A majority of the inn’s current patrons had the same black cloak as the men outside, eating and chatting quietly amongst themselves.
At the centre table were the highest ranked Afallon men and two unfamiliar figures. One had practical, yet exquisitely made clothes and light armour, but it was the man next him who made the first one’s attire pale in comparison. Two gold lions clasping a cloak of gold and crimson gave away the man’s identity, he was the Lord Paramount of Casterly Rock, Warden of the West, Lord Tywin, the head of House Lannister. Bryce made an educated guess of his companion to be Ser Kevan Lannister, his brother.
Bryce approached the table gracefully. “My lords”, he turned towards the two Lannisters with a praticed bow, one hand over his heart, “I am Ser Bryce Steele, a sworn sword and nephew to Lord Mycroft. It is a pleasure to meet my lords of Lannister”. The gold flecks in Tywin’s eyes shimmered as his gaze pierced Bryce’s soul, as if the man was gouging his deepest secrets from the most remote locations of his mind. “Please, Ser Bryce”, Ser Kevan gestured to an empty spot on the bench. “M’lord’”, Bryce replied as Tywin broke his gripping gaze.
Bryce noticed Lord Tywin’s portions untouched. One sip of the thin stew and Bryce understood. Not only that, but the bread was stale and the cheese was hard. The innkeeper came out with a hunk of cooked meat, “M’lord, I’ve made this especially for you”, she then presented it to Ser Kevan instead of Lord Tywin. “Lord… uh, M’Lords, this is the finest you’ll find within these parts.” It amused Bryce when he realized that the innkeeper did not know whom she was serving, she did not even recognize the heraldry of the Lannisters, and it was painfully obvious from the innkeeper’s nervous features.
The meal was eaten in solemn silence, either in fear of Lord Tywin, or from the wariness of travel and combat. The improvised main course did not add much conversation. The meat must have been salted and preserved, or the innkeeper was not the best of cooks, a combination of both would have explained the unsatisfying taste when Bryce tried the meat. Lord Tywin had a small portion, and did not return for another serving. The Lord Paramount then started asking direct and practical questions during the short meal, such as the distance to Monmouth and the dangers of the road ahead. “Let us make haste then”, Tywin responded when Uric told the Lord that it was a day of light riding still to the Afallon seat of power. “We ride for Monmouth,” Ser Kevan declared to his men in black cloaks, who rose together in unison.
The innkeeper leaned onto the counter as Tywin strode towards the door, “Was everything to your liking Lord…” the inn-keep said in an attempt to lure the name out of Lord Tywin, it was obvious she wanted the well dressed lord’s coin. Tywin reached into a pouch on his belt and two gold dragons found their way onto the uneven surface of the counter. “A Lannister always pays his debts”, Lord Tywin responded with a piercing tone, his cloth of gold swirled as he continued out of the inn, followed by his brother and the dark cloaks.
“It is far more than you deserve”, Bryce heard one of the injured Afallon men say to the inn-keep. He was surprised to see it was Jairhen Nezamin, lauded warrior of House Nezamin and Afallon, and wondered what strange things had occurred here. A man in a dark cloak produced Bryce’s sword belt hilt first as he left the inn. “A fine sword you have”, Bryce responded to the compliment with a curt nod and felt complete again. The tips of the mountains pierced the setting sun as they mounted their horses and the shadows stretched far out of the hamlet. “Best be on our way”, said Creegan Layne, the captain of the Afallon calvary as he wheeled his horse around to lead Tywin’s party down a road littered with the corpses of bandits.