Soaring Steel

No Shame in Fear

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Summary

1. Lord Mycroft’s party going towards the Deepen Hall are attacked by Mountain Clans as they camped at night in the mountain pass.
2. Lord Mycroft’s party has succeeded but with casualties
3. Half the forces are sent back to Monmouth with Ser Bryce in command

Aelyn

It had been a few years since Aelyn had traveled more than a day’s journey. Since Aelyn crossed the Narrow Sea and settled down at Monmouth, her life had become quite dull now that she reflected, though that may change soon enough. Monmouth and her adoptive Lord father had been stirred after Lord Tywin’s visit, but Lord Mycroft had kept it well hidden from everyone but his own household.

Ser Meyon fell in with the center column, “My lord, night is approaching we must make camp”. “See to it.”, Mycroft replied curtly. Meyon spurred his horse, returning to the front of the column. Lord Mycroft returned to his thoughts, the series of events at Monmouth have taken a toll on Mycroft, and he had been in deep thought since Tywin’s departure. Aelyn would hear Mycroft mutter verbalized thoughts from time to time, as Mycroft attempted to understand the reason behind Tywin’s visit.

An hour later, Ser Meyon called for a halt. “We shall make camp here tonight”, Meyon announced. In another hour, the flat ground had become a small hamlet of tents, with a pavillion at its center in Afallon black with silver trimmings. Aelyn had settled into the pavillion as the sky became a golden bronze. The shifting sounds of a brigandine signaled Ser Meyon’s approach, “My lady.”, Ser Meyon greeted Aelyn before approaching the pavillion. Goodwin and Wilburh opened the flaps of the pavillion as Ser Meyon approached. Maester Alistar, soon found his way inside the pavillion. Aelyn turned a bright red and averted her gaze when Bryce gave her a warm smile before disappearing into the pavillion.

Aelyn easily slipped away from the camp, with everyone busy preparing for the night. Lord Mycroft had decided to take the shorter, uncharted route through the mountains to Deepen hall, the seat of the Dulvers. There was no road here, hills and mountains surrounded them on all sides. Aelyn made her way onto a small hill, but it was high enough to overlook the valley. Leagues and leagues of forest, plains, winding rivers tangled like Aelyn’s hair in the morning.

Aelyn returned to the camp as darkness fell upon the valley. Some of the men were making supper in a large cooking fire. Aelyn followed the scent and sound of crackling grease towards supper. “Lady Aelyn”, Bryce called out. “S-Ser Bryce”, Aelyn lowered her gaze to the ground. “Have you supped?”, Bryce attempted to find Aelyn’s eyes. Aelyn shook her head, her feet shifting in the dirt. “Waylon, a stew for the lady!”, Bryce called out with his commanding voice. “A stew for the lady!”, Waylon echoed. “Do you want your sup to be brought to your pavillion?”, Bryce asked with the courtesy of a true knight. “I’ll take my sup out here”, Aelyn had a shy smile as she took the bowl from Bryce. Aelyn brushed her silver strands behind an ear and sat down with Bryce as butterflies filled her tummy.

Bryce was telling Aelyn of a tourney in the Reach when Ser Meyon came up behind them, “Have the scouts sent to the East returned?”. “No, I’m afraid they have not Ser Meyon.”, one of the Afallon men replied. “With me, we will search for them, I fear the worst in these parts.” Ser Meyon turned to Bryce, “Ser Bryce, you have the command of the remaining men. See to Lord Mycroft and his household’s safety until I return.” With that, Ser Meyon and almost a score of men rode out of the camp into the darkness of the valley. Bryce stood up and retrieved his shield, “I’m afraid I’ll have to tell you tales of chivalry another time my lady.” Aelyn gazed directly into Bryce’s eyes for the first time, “Aelyn – you may call me Aelyn”. “Of course, Aelyn.”, Bryce gave a polite nod and went about his duties.

The braziers still had a dim glow when Aelyn awoke. She had learned from her travels to wear traveling clothes to sleep if there was no solid roof over her head. She grabbed her blade, Nightshade as she lifted the fabric of the pavillion and slipped out from the rear. Aelyn could see a dozen arrows scattered, none of which found their mark. Half a dozen men were fighting Bryce and a handful of men. Some of the Afallon men were waking others, but they would not be up in time to hold the line. Aelyn knew she had to help, hold them off the sleeping men could rally.

Aelyn unsheathed her thin sword, the fire gave the black metal a deep blue shimmer. Bryce opened the throat of a man as Aelyn approached, his blood spilling out to the rhythm of his fading heartbeat. Two men approached Bryce, the one with the shortsword and dagger a few steps faster than the one with the longsword. Bryce met the man with the dagger and shortsword, but could not land a blow on the man, leaving him open to the second man. Aelyn pounced at the man with the longsword parrying his blow.

“Lady Aelyn! You shoul-”, Bryce raised his shield to block a flurry of blows from the dual wielding man. “I can handle myself”, Aelyn replied without losing focused on the foe before her, parrying his wide longsword arc. Bryce groaned, one of the two blades made it past his sword and shield. The man in front of Aelyn saw her concern, figuring her to be distracted and took the opportunity. Aelyn parried the reckless overhead swing, cut the man in two different places before burying her Braavosi blade into his chest.

Aelyn withdrew her sword from the man and lashed out at the dual wielding man attacking Bryce. He caught Aelyn’s sword with his dagger, and Bryce’s shield caught the man’s shortsword. The look of fear, regret, and shock was on this man’s face on the split second before Bryce’s longsword opened him from shoulder to breast.

Several Afallon men had joined the battle, but Aelyn could see more shadows approaching. “AELYN!”, Bryce yelled as his raised his shield, longsword at the ready. A bear of a man wielding a club shimmering with shards of steel on the end charged at the Afallon line. Wooden and steel splinters exploded from Bryce’s shield when the bear man brought down his club. Aelyn felt a hand on her shoulder as she was pulled back from an axeman trying to take her head. The guard met his axe, but the axe found the guard’s side on its second swing.

Another man flanking Bryce was about to strike when he took a crossbow bolt, a shaft sprouted from his chest and he dropped to the ground – her father and the maester was here. Goodwyn and Wilburh formed around Aelyn and brought her to Lord Mycroft. Lord Mycroft lowered his steel bow as they approached. “Aelyn, what are you doing out here?”, Mycroft asked with a tone of concern and anger. The maester turned his attention from reloading his crossbow, “She did help hold the line, mayhaps she could be of further assistance until Ser Meyon returns, will will need all hands. Their numbers are still unknown.” Maester Alistar always had a different point of view, one which not everyone would agree on. Aelyn believed this is the reason why Mycroft keeps Maester Alistar, for a different view from his own.

Mycroft turned to the maester, “No, my daughter does not even wear armor!”. “She may don armor and help with the defence.” “NO.”Aelyn could not see Lord Mycroft’s face, but it was enough to cause the maester to injure himself with the crossbow. “Goodwyn, see Aelyn back to the pavillion”, Lord Mycroft waved them off as he strung another arrow.

to be continued… (The mountain men interrogations)

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Fear Cuts Deeper than Swords
The Mystery of the Dead Stable Boy in Monmouth

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Summary

1. Dead Stableboy Investigation

#Body found around noon after lord Tywin’s departure in the morning
#Believed to be killed at night or around dawn
#Primary cause of death believed to be opening of the throat
#Estimated to be approximately eight and ten
#Did not have calloused hands common to small folk of his age
#According to the master of horse, his name was Pyter, and does not have family.
#No one in the keep knew of this boy before his employ at the stable
#Further investigation revealed an unidentified foreign poison
#Lilith Summers successfully identified the poison to be Basilisk blood

2. Night down in the Tavern

#A portion of the household travels down to the Winged Sword tavern to further investigate the identity of the stable boy
#Sam Steele quarrels with his arch rival Dennis when they arrive at the Tavern
#No one in the tavern knows of the stable boy Pyter
#Sam Steele requests that Ryia Steel accompany one of the parties visiting the Dulvers or Tullisons. Sam wishes to find a suitable mate for Ryia.

3. Trade negotiations

#Lilith summers offered to trade a shipment of Essos ore when the ship is scheduled to dock at Lannisport
#Lord Harald Dulver refused to give audience to Lord Mycroft, as he sees nothing of value
#House Afallon has offered Lilith’s exotic luxury goods up for trade, and Lord Harald accepts.

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A Task for Every Tool

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Summary
1. Tywin arrives at Monmouth for his visit

1a. The feast
i. A delicate and full bodied spiced bread, toasted lightly drizzled with a fat and honey mixture, with some smoked fish (to put on top of the bread)
ii. A bacon and hearty vegetable pie, covered in a rich cream sauce
iii. Suckling pig and roasted apples and vegetables- carrots, turnips and other root vegetables
iv. A fish plate, with several different fishes all prepared different ways- smoked, roasted, broiled, fried
v. Venison Ribs, cooked to perfection with a cranberry sauce glaze
vi. A light and airy pie, with some lean chicken, roasted apples and some vegetables
vii. An assortment of sweet pies, tarts, cookies, and all manners of baked goods.

2. Lord Mycroft gathers the members of his household for a meeting
3. A task has been assigned for each individual, with groups going of to separate noble houses.

Deepen Hall

House Dulver

Mountain’s Reach

House Tullison

Monmouth Keep

House Afallon

Lord Mycroft

Ser Meyon

Maester Alistar

Squire Isaac

Aelyn

30 Afallon Horse

Anika

Ajax (missing)

Arabella (missing)

Clement

Jairhen (missing)

Ser Bryce

Hadrian

Ser Creegan

Uric the Black

Nojh

4. A dead stable boy, not known by anyone at Monmouth was found.
5. A cavalryman returns with the news of the attack at Homehearth, where injured Afallon men and women stayed. 30 Calvary was sent out to investigate.

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A Tool for Every Task

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Summary
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.

Bryce

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.

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With Swords and Spears

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Summary
1. Uric executes the 3 ruffians after a rough interrogation. It was revealed that one of them followed straight arrow, a notorious bandit.
2. Lord Manning and his son stays at the inn to avoid the rain, and leaves before the dawn of next morning.
3. The party comes to realize that the hamlet has been abandoned in the morning.
4. The bandits have the town surrounded and moves in. Uric provokes the bandit commander Shagwell Cooper and battle ensues.
5. The party prevails over the bandits. Ajax and Gwen have sustained wounds.
6. It was decided that the bodies were to be burnt behind the South Western house

There is a total of 20 heads. With one staked in the middle of the hamlet.

Meyon

It didn’t seem right to him. To kill defenceless men, especially ones that hadn’t even borne arms against them. But so little nowadays seemed right anymore. The people in his mind, the figures that spoke to him, they often mocked his sensibilities. But they knew too that those sensibilities were a part of him, just like they were. Mycroft knew also that people mocked him for speaking with the figures, the worst calling him mad, the best calling him blessed. He was quite aware the people weren’t real, he knew he alone saw them. But… when he ignored them… they became… worse. If he spoke with them they stayed gentle, courteous, safe, even wise at times. However, if he didn’t… if he tried to live as most others did… he remembered the men and women made beasts, beasts he alone could see, beasts he alone could feel as they tore at his flesh.

He shook his head roughly as he sat in the inn once again. Now was not the time to pine over what might have been. Lord Mycroft would arrive soon, as would Lord Tywin and much ceremony would be needed. 20 heads now. 20 heads out of the lord’s requested 25. And 3 gained dishonourably and callously. But it was so hard to argue with the Old Man sometimes. His methods were… crude… crude and vicious, but so terribly effective. And Meyon did owe him, owe him more than almost anyone else. He could hear laughter outside, the deep basses and tenors of most of the men combined with the alto and soprano sound of Isaac and Guinivere. Isaac was a good lad and an earnest squire, Meyon had been glad to have him in the scrap. Guinivere had been brave too, and durable. Meyon was unsure if he could have taken such a grievously shot arrow as well as she had.

Thinking on the battle made the red-haze enter his vision again and once more he shook his head briskly. The fight was over, a formal event was fast approaching, he needed to think about calming things. It had been interesting to see Lord Manning and his son the night before. Meyon wondered at the strain that seemed to exist between them. Once again, old men disapproved of the next generation, regardless of all that they do. Meyon felt sympathy for Ser Kevan, sympathy and perhaps a semblance of pity. To be married off for an alliance, it made Meyon glad that things hadn’t turned out similarly for him. A “mere” anointed knight he may be, but he controlled his fate far more effectively than lordlings. And come to think of it… the Mannings had left pretty bloody early didn’t they?

“Had they known something?” Meyon was surprised to find himself thinking out loud. He was tired though, and all this subterfuge and trickery disturbed him. He felt his head begin to ache.

“You really shouldn’t ponder on such things. Your mind wasn’t made for it.”

Meyon smiled slightly as the words of “Phantom” Mycroft flowed over him.

“Perhaps you’re right my lord.” Meyon turned his head to look at the all too real illusion. “But surely you must suspect their motives for departing with such haste.”

“It is… suspicious I will agree.” Mycroft stepped forward and sat across from his vessel… and vassal. “But there is little that can be done about it now. You fought well earlier, even though the leader escaped.”

“We only succeeded because so many fought well. Ajax and Guin had a field day with their bows if the shafts protruding from the dead are any indication. And Jorje and Isaac both had good claim in the blood spilt. But it was all so risky. Our strategy was too fragmented. And I hadn’t expected the Old Man to interfere with my negotiation, though I suppose I should have.” Meyon sighed when reflecting on how dangerous the battle had become because of just one man. “Even though he’s quite useful and I have no grudge against him, that Ironborn needs more discipline.”

“Why did you go to help him?”

“It wasn’t him I went to help my lord, it was the Old Man. Never has he or I gained anything but total victory when we stood together. And he has a soft spot for the wretch. I could hardly let him get killed for actually showing some compassion.”

Mycroft’s face seemed to battle over whether to smile or sneer. “Hm… well regardless, the battle was won and you have many more heads to show the application of law in these lands.”

“Though not without cost.”

Meyon turned around, stunned to see his “Phantom” Mother standing before him. I must be more tired than I thought. He pondered to himself. Usually only Mycroft emerges from my mind.

“A little blood must be spilt for progress, just as a little steel must be spilt to make the best blade.”

Alaya Danbeyras waved away Mycroft’s words as she stepped forward, her bright green dress hissing across the wood floor. She sat next to her son and laid a hand on his arm.

“Never pay a cost that doesn’t need to be paid. Especially if it is a cost of life.”

“None of ours died today, the wounds will heal. But yes mother, I’ll remember.” It isn’t as if the thought ever strayed far from his mind. Though it made sense she would voice his thoughts, she was him after all. “Mycroft” disagreed however.

“Words a woman can easily say.”

“Words a man would be wise to listen to.”

“Enough!” Meyon shocked his phantoms with his tone and his abrupt stand from the table. “I will not have you two fighting with such an important event about to take place.” He could handle Mycroft by himself, but an argument inside his mind was liable to drive him to madness, or at the very least utter distraction. “If you must continue this please do it elsewhere.”

The two illusions gazed at him blankly for a moment and during that time a tingle of terror ran up and down Meyon’s spine. Would they change now and drive him again into a terrible coma like the one he had suffered before? Had he pushed them too far?

Waves of relief passed over him as the hallucination of his mother smiled weakly. “You’re right my son, of course. I apologize.” She turned to ‘Mycroft’. “And apologies to you as well my lord. I shall take my leave of you both now.” Meyon helped her stand and kissed her lightly on a cheek that he knew wasn’t there but still felt like it was real. He then watched her as she walked into one of the walls of the inn and seemed to fade away.

“Well my lord, what do-” But as Meyon turned to address his illusory master he saw that he too had disappeared. “I will need quite a bit of rest when all this is over.” He began to rub his forehead with his right hand, trying to ease the pounding.

“Boy! Get your arse out here! Don’t think just cause you kept my hide from getting knicked worse earlier on means you get to shirk on work now!”

Meyon smiled to himself as Uric’s voice boomed into the inn.

“No rest for the wicked.” And then he caught himself, shocked at his words. “Or… or the worthy, for that matter.” He stepped out into the sun, a shadow briefly hanging over his soul.

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With Quills and Ravens

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Summary

1. Mycroft gets Monmouth ready in preparation for Tywin’s arrival.
1a. A feast has been prepared, with a 7 course meal prepared by Loreen (Sarah and her cookbook)
1b. Hadrian and Aelyn has been sent out to hunt for the feast.
1c. Lodging has been established inside Escalate Hall for Tywin and part of his guards.
1d. 2 members of the calvary are sent out to meet with the noble delegation.

Bryce returns to Monmouth after the night to escort Mycroft out to the fringes on the 3rd day.

2. The outriding party stops at the fringe inn.
2b. The party rests up and eats a few full meals
2c. It rains.
2d. Ruffians looking for trouble enter the inn looking for trouble
2e. A bar fight ensues with the outriding party victorious
2f. Only one of the ruffians escape the capture of the party
2g. The party holds the captured men in the stables
2h. It rains some more
2i. A lordly looking man and who seems like his son stops at the inn.

If you have been assigned a task by Mycroft at Monmouth, or have taken notes during the meeting, please list them in the comments below.

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Dark Wings, Dark Words.

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Summary

  1. Raven: Tywin will arrive in 3 days
  2. Mycroft calls knights to secure fringes
  3. Ser Bryce’s trial
  4. Knights set out to lure out bandits
  5. Knights slaughter bandits

Aelyn
The morning had dawned clear and damp, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer, but Aelyn was not cold practicing in the yard. Lord Mycroft had gathered the knights returning from their patrols since the day before. The last to return was Ser Meyon, who speaks to those not seen by others. It was whispered by some that he had been touched by one of the Gods, others whispered that he was simply “touched” in the head.

The maester had not shared the message with Aelyn, but she was certain it was the raven from Casterly rock a night before, the only reason Lord Mycroft would keep his knights from the lawless fringes. They gathered in Lord Mycroft’s solar in Afallon tower, but Aelyn could not make out any of the details before septa Loreen found her and gave her to Large Maudge to prepare her for supper.

Aelyn’s squalid hair betrayed her day’s activities to Large Maudge. Aelyn was stripped and dumped into a tub of scalding water despite her resistance. Faye and Eloise joined Maudge in flaying her with brushes, and a defeated Aelyn sunk into the tub, her hair spread like roots of a tree on the surface of the water.

When the trio of women were done with Aelyn, her hair was once again silver as white moonlight, running down her matching pale skin to the small of her back. “Your hair is so pretty”, Eloise attempted to make conversation as she took the knots out of Aelyn’s hair. “You are too kind”, Aelyn selected a practiced response.

Aelyn knew what they were really thinking, about her dark blue lips, the dark blue ring about her eyes, her freakishly pale skin, the ghostly white hair she hated so much. If only I could be normal, Aelyn thought to herself as she clenched her fist so her black nails would dig themselves into her palm and ever be seen again.

Everyone pretended not to see, Lord Mycroft made sure of it, but not everyone had the gift for acting. Aelyn heard the whispers about her, no one could save her from that, and she kept to herself save for a few people in Monmouth. Oftimes, Aelyn felt as if the Stranger understood her more than anyone ever could staring into the black eyes of the Stranger in the sept.

Large Maudge decided on a simple but elegant blue and white gown for Aelyn tonight,“Seven hells not a-”, Large Maudge tightened the laces before Aelyn could continue, squeezing all the air out of her. “That is not how a lady should speak,” Large Maudge continued to tighten. Aelyn was uncertain whether the suffocating tightness was punishment for what she said, or if it had been Large Maudge’s intensions from the beginning. “Was it that Steele girl? She’s unlady like that one, working the forge and all.”, Large Maudge finished with a tight knot. “But Ryia is pretty”, Eloise added. “Pretty and unwed”, Large Maudge returned, pushing the finished Aelyn forward for inspection.

Aelyn’s dark blue lips had been painted a lively red, and her eyes have been lined with a dark charcoal to hide the blue. She also smelled of a kind of flower she did not know, “Did I forget someone’s name day?”, Aelyn asked with her precious breath as they hurried her down to the great hall on the second floor of Escalate hall. “We’re feasting the knights tonight,” Faye answered from behind, “It’s also to prepare for Lord Tywin’s arrival in three days”, Large Maudge added without so much as turning her head.

The large hall was brighter than usual, most were dressed in finer garbs than usual, garlic, herbs, and burning grease was in the air, but the quality of the food did not compare to the scents or occasion as she walked past the tables in the hall towards the head table on the dais. Aelyn hoped in her mind that there would be better food when Lord Tywin arrives. Hadrian and Isaac were already there, just as uncomfortable in their silk and velvet garbs as Aelyn was in her gown. Aelyn sat between the two at the head table, and he could hear Hadrian snicker.

“You are beautiful tonight my lady”, Hadrian jested trying to hold laughter. Aelyn kicked him beneath the table, clothed in the stripped black and silver trimming of Afallon. Hadrian was Lord Mycroft’s firstborn and heir, one of the few of people who she was not a stranger to. They would find each other in the yard and spar from time to time, or go hunting in the forest, while Aelyn was a better sword, Hadrian was a better bow like his father.

To the right side of the long head table, on the other side of Lord Mycroft, the knights sat, already finished their leek soup, nursing their tankards of ale. “Five and twenty heads,”, “What if no bandits show themselves?”, Aelyn continued to sip her thin leek stew listening to the chatter of the knights. “We’ll show ourselves to the bandits and then behead them”, the men roared as tankards met in the air. The master at arms always scared her, the way he would look at her when they passed each other gave her chills on the warmest summer day. At first, she thought it was her appearance, but she noticed it was not only her which got the master at arm’s soul rendering gaze. He was just old, that’s all she told herself.

The main course streamed into the room, though the display was far more impressive than the food, regular mutton and lamb was served. More than the average sup, but this was no feast. Lord Mycroft was carefully studying the movement of the servants across the hall, with special attention when they served the right side of the table where the knights sat.

Aelyn worked on the mutton set in front of her, slightly bland for her tastes despite the smell of garlic and herbs in the air. At least the wine was not a disappointment, sweet like honey and anise and cream. “This is good wine Lord Mycroft”, she raised her goblet to her adopted father who did not seem to notice. “This wine seems spoiled”, Hadrian cringed as he swirled is goblet. “Wine cannot spoil”, Aelyn shot back. “I cannot see why you like this foul liquid”, Hadrian pushed away his goblet. Aelyn simply shrugged and finished the rest of the goblet which became better with each sip.

Aelyn was walking through the cellar, but it was nowhere familiar, was she lost? She thought to herself, it was most like the wine from earlier. The hallway was long and dark, but light somehow found its way into the halls, the outlines of doors and hinges apparent to Aelyn. Rough men carried wooden boxes with the ring of steel through one of the doors ahead. The sound of flowing water against a shore grew louder as Aelyn approached.

The door closed before Aelyn could see what was on the other side, she reached for the door, and it opened, light as a feather. “Mercy.”, the voice of an old woman called towards her from a blue flame within the darkness. “Mercy is all I ask, my children, my children… Mercy.” A hand reached out of the flame, covered in blue smoke and tapped on her forehead. Aelyn swatted the hand away, and a loud screech brought her back into her featherbed.

Aelyn’s eyes shot open, the air was filled with white feathers, she was drenched with sweat. The feathers stayed in the air and time slowed when she realized she could not draw breath. She was suffocating, her lungs would not expand, the damned corset! She struggled with smaller breaths until the world stopped spinning. Ivory landed at the end of her bed, his white head turned and studied Aelyn with its shimmering black eye. I can’t believe I went to sleep with this on. Aelyn returned the raven’s stare as she reached behind the corest, but found that she could not undo Large Maudge’s sorcery, which would explain why she slept with the damned thing after the wine.

Where is everyone? Aelyn was quickly frustrated being trapped in this horrible torture device, at least her sweat still smelt of some mysterious flower. Ivory took flight and perched on the window. “Hey, come back and help me”. White ravens were supposed to be smarter, Marwyn once told her. Ivory had preformed tasks much more complex than undoing knots. Ivory flew out into the yard as Aelyn approached. She poked her head of out of the window to see a crowd around the entrance of Escalate Hall, some kind of commotion, the guards were keeping the small folk from entering the hall, at least half of Monmouth had to be out there.

Ivory was circling the crowd with a wingspan larger than the hawk Hadrian used on hunting trips. “Fine, be that way”, Aelyn called out of the window, Ivory returned an almost mocking call, as if he had heard Aelyn from down below. Aelyn found her gown from the night before in a pile on the ground, she quickly laid it straight before Large Maudge found it in that sorry state. She quickly put on a simple brown linen garb and wrapped herself in a dark wool cloak.

Aelyn’s legs found a pair of leather boots, and she descended to the lower hall with haste, where the winged seat of Afallon could be found. The seat had sharp steel wings for its back, mimicking the Afallon crest, but unlike the iron throne, this chair was built with comfort in mind. Its seat and armrest polished, inlaid with structured patterns and scrollwork.

Aelyn pulled the hood of the cloak over her head, carefully tucking her silver white hair from sight. On one side the guards were holding back those who were outside of the hall, and on the other there was Lord Mycroft with his knights atop the elevated stone dais, a man dressed in simple clothing, a knight in dark plate and a wagon drawn by a warhorse. She joined the crowd within the hall to satisfy her curiosity, carefully slipping through the cracks in the crowd.

Then Aelyn saw the plated knight’s face and her heart stopped, the lacing on her body seem to tighten and she was short of breath again. She gazed at the young knight worshipfully, his perfect hazel eyes, fierce, but kind. His smooth cheeks, his strong gallant jaw, his kissable lips. She could feel her fingers running through his soft chestnut hair, Aelyn clutched her wool cloak tightly, loosing herself in the moment. Then it all came back, her heart pounding like the drum of a war galley in a fierce storm, heat swelled within her and Aelyn’s pale face flushed with life.

Bryce

His return was supposed to be a joyous occasion, but now a gloom hung over him. More importantly, he was questioning himself and his knightly vows, the very foundation of who he was. The line between good and evil had always been clear to Bryce until now, when did he become astray?

A touch on the right shoulder with the blade. “In the name of the Warrior I charge you to be brave.” Bryce drew his elegant longsword, Randyll Tarly had executed this technique with a greatsword, but Bryce knew a longsword would suffice. The Palfrey charged Bryce head on, its rider leveled a spear at Bryce. He held the longsword his father had forged him with a two handed grip, his sliver cloak trailed behind him as he met the horsed bandit in a full sprint on foot. Bryce sidestepped the horse at the last second with a wide stance, parrying the spear as he drove his longsword deep into the horse. The longsword failed to find its way out of the horse as a greatsword would have, but the rider and the horse screamed in unison as they collapsed violently several yards behind Bryce’s flowing cloak.

The sword moves from right shoulder to left. “In the name of the Father I charge you to be just.” Bryce heard a man cry for mercy by the farmhouse, and he moved with the swiftness of a scout in leather instead of plate, a tourney sword in hand instead of his longsword.

Right shoulder. “In the name of the Mother I charge you to defend the young and innocent.” There were three of them, the bandits were trying to carry the woman away without much success, the father outmatched, begging and weeping. Bryce clutched his blunt sword tightly and approached with an air of confidence, two of them charged wielding hatchet and club. Bryce parried the cumbersome club with ease, and met the hatchet twice before Bryce turned the hatchet towards the man with the club killing him instantly. Lord Randyll gave no quarter, and none shall be given, a lesson engrained into Bryce’s every movement. Before the bandit with the hatchet could recover from his shock, Bryce’s cloak swirled and his blunt blade found the back of the bandit’s knee and neck with two swift strokes as he walked towards the maid in distress.

The left. “In the name of the Maid I charge you to protect all women.” The last man released the woman and drew his longsword. The cries of the daughter and father were drowned by the song of steel in the air. This last bandit held his own longer than the others, mayhaps a sellsword, but Bryce made an opening, striking his thigh. The maid screamed a name at the bandit, calling for him to flee, and rushed Bryce with a dagger. But the bandit took the chance and attacked at the same time from the other side. Bryce deflected the longsword and countered the dagger in one swift motion, perfected after practicing a hundred times against other men in the yard under the watchful eye of Lord Randyll.

The right. “In the name of the Stranger…”. The dagger was deep within the belly of the maid, the last bandit had made himself scarce. The father cursing and weeping at the same time. Was I to be blamed? What role had he played? Who was the villain? Should I have interfered? Would that had made the realm a better place? “Ser Bryce.”

“Ser Bryce?” Lord Mycroft spoke with a cool, calm voice. Bryce looked up at Lord Mycroft, “My lord”. Mycroft steepled his fingers, “Your story.”

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Hear Me Roar

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Summary

  1. Lord Mycroft gets stuff done.
  2. R0ar.
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And now it begins,

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Summary

  1. Mystery man supplies Grumekk’s mountain clan with steel
  2. Mystery man convinces the clansmen to attack a hamlet
  3. Raiders successfully attack and sack a hamlet

Prologue

The grey smoke from the hamlet could be seen from afar, could this truly be the work of the clans? The little grey man thought to himself as he rode with his companions. They had never struck a guarded settlement, the clans were bold, but this was not their way.

The patrol who came upon the aftermath of the raid led the group into the hamlet. It was a simple settlement, but its defences were enough to deter clansmen. The little grey man cringed as he looked upon the decimated settlement. His steed became unsettled at the scent of the dead, especially when it neared a corpse of its kin.

The little grey man slid off of his small shaggy garron, holding onto its black mane for support. The little man placed a hand on his back, stiff from years of wandering. “Two ’o them we found”, Pyte the skinny came up to the little grey man, gesturing at the corpse. The little grey man ran his wrinkled digits over his bald head until he reached the remnants of his hair at the rear of his skull.

This one could not be older than ten and two, the little grey man thought to himself. His torso was split halfway from the side, he did not suffer. The little grey man moved to the one beside the boy, “T’is one we found aways in the woods.”, Pyte kicked the heels of the dead woman. An arrow through something important, gave her enough time to get away, but not enough to see home again, the little grey man concluded with a nod.

The little grey man strained himself as he turned to look at the hamlet, who’s only crime was living too close to the mountains. The little grey man hobbled towards the small hall, with several arrows protruding from its walls. Beside its steps were the six men who gave their lives for this hamlet, laid neatly in a line, unlike the clan raiders.

The little grey man groaned as he knelt before the fallen guards, a split skull, clean with no splinters; Arm missing below the elbow, a sword of great width driven through his chest; Multiple stabbing wounds, with an arrow lodged in his shoulder, sword driven through his neck; Slashes across the chest, the mail did save this man’s life; The little grey man squinted his aging eyes, the glimmer of broken rings from the guardsmen’s mail marked the spots where they were slain.

“What has been left?”, the little grey man called to Pyte the skinny, returning to his feet with some difficulty. “Woman, food, tools, anything of use they co’ld carry has been taken. What they coult’n, they put to the torch.”, Pyte gestured at the husk which was a quiet hamlet just a day ago. A typical raid, very successful for the amount they have taken to the amount they lost. “The clansmen’s weapons, where would they be?”, “The hall.”, Pyte helped the little grey man up the steps of the hall.

The hall was cluttered with remnants of belongings, people, and guards outnumbering the survivors, but only the weapons held the little grey man’s interest. The weapons laid on the table seem as if they had come from two different realms. The crude bow, dagger, and knife sat on one side of the table. On the other, a shortsword, spear, and dagger made of castle steel. The little grey man picked up the steel shortsword, stained with the dried blood of good men.

The little grey man had never carried a blade in all his years of wandering, but he knew when a sword was of superior quality, balanced, tempered, flexible and sharp. Something a regular mountain clan would not normally have, something which would cause them to become bold. One steel weapon could have been a stroke of luck, but luck had no part in putting together three of these weapons. From the wounds, the little grey man knew the clansmen who made off with their lives had steel of the same quality.

“Bury the dead, pray to whomever pleases you.”, the little grey man took a firm grip of the shortsword, tucking it into his belt as he turned back towards the stairs. Pyte helped him down the steps, “I tho’ut you said you were too old to start carrying a blade.”, the little grey man looked at him with a determination in his eyes. “This is no ordinary blade”, the little grey man flashed the blade in the setting sun, making a mark on the blade obvious, “this is Afallon steel.”

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