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At Sarmion’s question, young Mathin seems poised to speak, and yet a look of unsubtle relief passes over his face when Ser Jaesin makes answer instead.
“Prince Aemon is yet abed, as I think you know, Ser Sarmion,” the Lannister heir says, “and has charged us both with making better use of our time than attending his recovery. There is a little a knight, a squire, or even a friend can do for a man who is battling Dornish poison.”
“And winning,” Mathin eagerly interjects!
“And winning,” Jaesin agrees, indulging his sib with a smile. “But yes,” he adds, turning to Aurana, “do stay. We were soon to break in any case.”
“You are most kind, good Ser,” Aurana intones, dipping her head once more to Sarmion before taking a few steps closer. Silk whispers over the grass as she moves closer to the Baratheon, the conversation regarding Aemon certainly drawing her attention. “Does he show signs of improving, then?” the woman asks, her voice soft but intent.
Brisk strides, lacking in ladylike qualities, carry Aisling Ryswell into the western section of the outer yard. Her stay at the Red Keep has not yet gone on for so very long, but already some of her habits are known. Such as the time she spends on horseback, or just near or in the stables. Avoiding, if the rumours have it right, the company of her step-sister and the match-making efforts of the latter’s uncle, Lord Ryger.
With hooded eyes, Sarmion nods his head, “It is a foe that few have conquered, Ser Jaesin.” His jaw setting grimly as his dark eyes brood. Scoffing, he adds, “The only thing the Dornish do well is working with their women’s weapons.”
The sounds of horse draw his gaze then and he spies the Northerner entering the yard.
While Jaesin moves to give answer to Aurana, his young brother—known widely as Aemon Targaryen’s own squire—seems to maintain his silence with a certain difficulty. His eyes dart back and forth between the golden-haired lady, and the latest such maid to approach, with her own strangely silver-streaked hair.
“It is even as Mathin says. His Highness, I think, is getting the better of the blackguards’ foul poison,” Jaesin says to both Sarmion and Aurana, and cannot suppress a glad smile at his news.
Aurana lowers her gaze, her head dipping down yet again even as her wrist flicks a bit faster. “I shall continue to keep him in my prayers,” she murmurs softly. Her eyes lift once more, a small smile of encouragement offered to the younger Lannister, before looking to the others. The young woman falls silent for the moment.
The conversation between the two knights, and the pale-haired young woman near to them, draws Aisling’s attention as she moves along a narrow footpath taking her close to where they stand. Dark eyes, subtly tinted with purple, scrutinize the small gathering with a hint of interest that appears to be intensified as she overhears some of what is said. Her gaze then settles upon the younger of the two Lannisters, a thoughtful frown crossing her face, and she allows her path to veer more in their general direction. “Good morning, my lady, sers,” she greets them, her voice polite but reserved. “I could not help but overhear some of your conversation ... the news is good, then, on Prince Aemon’s condition?”
Looking at Aurana, the Stormbreaker smiles darkly, “Prayer can’t hurt.” As the northener arrives, the Baratheon knight nods his head, “He does better, but there are other knights of mean repute who are in better health than they deserve.”
A scowl takes his face, then, as he adds, “Tidings of Prince Aemon I welcome better than those of Ser Doran Dondarrion.”
“Jaes… Ser,” queries the lad, correcting himself in proper company, “With all this talk of His Highness, ser…” Mathin pauses, fidgets a bit, and asks, “I know that he bade us to go and train, Ser, but now we’ve trained and…”
He trails off, but looks eagerly to his elder. When Jaesin bids him go with a quick grin and a wave of his hand, the boy is swift to bow his thanks and hustle off toward Maegor’s Holdfast.
Jaesin, meanwhile, says to Aisling, “As good as we can hope. The maesters know the toxin, but can only guess at how swiftly our Prince will regain his full health.” His glance flickers then betwixt Sarmion and Aurana at the Baratheon’s dark words for Doran Dondarrion, and he maintains a puzzled silence for the moment.
Aurana’s cheeks pinken faintly, another nod given to Sarmion’s words though her gaze is quick to shift to Aisling. A warm smile is found for the woman and an even warmer one for youthful exuberance. Watching Mathin dart off, Aurana remains silent for the moment, just listening and fanning.
Aisling, too, appears puzzled by Sarmion’s remark regarding the other knight, and she gives a thoughtful look to the tall Baratheon scion before nodding to his and Jaesin’s responses. “That is good to hear,” she replies, directing her words to both of them. To Aurana, she offers a smile in return, but its polite and little more, before saying, “It would have been a terrible addition to the cost of this war, had the Dragonknight not recovered.” She does seem to have a certain interest in the matter. But then again, who doesn’t?
A mocking smile answers, as Sarmion says, “The war has been costly, but it has paid for many prizes, also.” Nodding to the West where the city beckons, “Some seem to think that now they can rival the heirs of the great houses, since they’ve bloodied their blades.”
The Stormbreaker’s looks darken as he lapses into brooding silence.
Into the immediate silence that follows Sarmion’s remark, Jaesin Lannister ventures with nary a care. “Ah, so now we come to it,” he laughs. “I’ve heard that Dondarrion still busies himself with the charming of hostages, though even he must pale to the charms of the Caron boy—” and here he looks at Aurana with a glint in his eye, “is that not so, my lady? How fares young Bullneck?”
Puzzled by Sarmion’s words, Aurana’s forehead creases slightly, her gaze slipping to Aisling with bewilderment. The young lady’s attention moves on to the Lannister as he begins to explain, understanding dawning on her only to turn into embarrassment. Fair skin flushes crimson as Jaesin turns the attention to her. Her fan moving faster, giving what hair surrounds her face a slight whirlwind of activity, she still takes a moment to compose herself before responding. A pale brow arches as her chin lifts. “Bullneck? Is that truly what you call him? To my knowledge Ser Bryce is doing well.”
At Sarmion’s continued complaints, Aisling finds it difficult to entirely suppress a wry quirk of her lips. She has, it seems, little patience for such concerns of men, though neither does she appear to be quite as amused by the matter as Jaesin. A little tartly, she asks, “I wonder why it merits commenting that there are knights, and ladies too no doubt, who will keep the company of the hostages? Are they not the official guests of King Daeron here at the Red Keep? Not to mention, now part of the realm as much as the North is. Just a little closer by.” The exchange between Jaesin and Aurana, however, passes her mostly by, though she does give the other woman a curious glance.
For his part, Ser Jaesin seems engaged by the sudden turn of subject—of a certain it must be far more entertaining than his close friend’s brush with death, at least! This seems evident in the smile—the man seems never without a smile—that reaches his eyes with its mischief.
“It’s easier than calling him ‘Lord Caron’ will be, one day,” the Lannister answers Aurana. “I admit that even my lord father is much disheartened by some my peers, though he does not know this paramour of yours. But at least he is no hostage,” he adds, turning a curious gaze on Aisling.
“They may be sworn to King Daeron now, my lady,” he says, “but no oath sworn under duress rests easy. If our roles were reversed, I would have rather died than sworn my sword to Marence Martell and his ilk. No—it is far too soon, and the war far too recent, to trust these Dornish.”
Aurana would be quite happy to let the subject go and just let them continue on with the conversation about the Dornish. “Paramour?!?” The woman looks nothing short of horrified, but her features quickly smooth over. As hard as she fans, the red will not drain from her face. “It would appear now that there is no longer a war to be fought, we turn upon our own as enemies. What offense have I given, my lord?”
“If that is so, one wonders why King Daeron embarked on this conquest in the first place? What good will it do anyone to have made Dorne a part of the realm if we are unlikely to ever be able to trust them?” asks Aisling in responds to Jaesin’s words. And that’s not all. Known already in the North for a sharp tongue and a habit of questioning things a lady should perhaps not question, she seems determined to acquire a similar reputation here in King’s Landing. “Why, it makes no more sense than pressing northwards beyond the Wall to make the Wildlings good Northmen. No, we fight them when they raid into our lands, but we do not seek to make their lands part of ours.” As she finishes, her attention again shifts as she casts a curious glance at Aurana, slim brows quirking above dark eyes.
“King Daeron’s motives are inscrutible, lady,” Stormbreaker entones, “But for the Boltless, I will know why it is he claims such as he has.” Bowing his head to the company, he says, “My ladies. Ser.”
Then he turns and walks into the Tower of the Hand, his motives known only to himself.
Whenever Sarmion turns to head for the Tower of the Hand, the Vale maiden steps out from around a nearby construct, right into the path of the Stormbreaker. Eyes widen, and she drops a hasty curtsey, seeming in a hurry herself, and in a swirl of skirts, she moves towards the direction of the Royal Sept, and vanishing from view after a mere few seconds.
The Buckler woman’s violent reaction takes Ser Jaesin aback—or it does by all appearances, at least. “Is Bryce Caron not your paramour, then?” he wonders of Aurana. “I cannot imagine another reason for midnight strolls in the Godswood. But even if such a reason exists, it is hardly making war upon you or any other to seize on such an assertion,” he calmly explains.
“I saw a man and a woman, alone in a darkened grove. What would you assume, my lady?”
“And this talk of Dorne and your Wildlings, I forgive,” the knight goes on, turning to Aisling, “because you have not bent the knee, nor been forced to it. I promise you these Dornishmen have no love for us, my lady. Perhaps their sons, or their sons’ sons, shall swear fealty to the Iron Throne and mean it in their hearts.”
“But these men never shall, and if you think they will fall in loyally behind the Dragon Banner, you will soon learn otherwise, I fear.”
“Midnight?” Aurana echoes, her forehead creasing slightly. “We did walk just at evening but it was hardly midnight. And if you were watching then you already know that there was naught amiss.” The fan snaps closed, the young woman shaking her head slightly. “I have been sheltered overlong, it would seem. I have forgotten how desperate the need is for gossip and scandal here.” A bit of a wry grin is given to Aisling. “I do beg your pardon, my lady. I will take my leave now.”
“Well, I for one can imagine other reasons for midnight strolls in the Godswood,” the Northwoman remarks dryly, though she does shoot Aurana an inquisitive glance as she speaks, and offers her a nod as the woman indicates her intentions. “A pleasant day to you, my lady.” Then, however, Aisling’s gaze fixes rather firmly upon Ser Jaesin. “Why, thank you, ser, for forgiving me,” she replies, a thin smile on her lips. “But my question remains, though I suppose it is for the King to answer. Why claim unwilling subjects? I know there is bad blood between Dorne and both the Reach and the Stormlands, but I doubt King Daeron invaded Dorne because he felt they posed a threat to his realm. A foolish venture, if you ask me, and I highly doubt its worth.”
“Gossip and scandal are often wrong, my lady,” Ser Jaesin answers drily, “but walks among the trees without a chaperone? I should say that you invited them. But I beg your pardon, for I meant no offense; fare well.” And so he says as Aurana moves to make her departure, before looking to Aisling as if upon a strange specimen, never seen before.
She is from the North, after all. Perhaps that explains it.
“I had thought it common knowledge that Aegon the Conqueror envisioned all of Westeros as his realm,” Ser Jaesin tells the Ryswell girl. “King Daeron is simply attaining his family’s age-old goal.”
From the northern part of the outer yard, a group of armored fellows come walking, sweating running of them as if it was raining outside. They are talking loudly about the latest bouts on the practice grounds and boasting about a blow there or a victory there. Among them is Bryce Caron, fully armored except for his helm, which is carried under one arm. He is participating in the talking just like the others, and they seem fairly oblivious to their surroundings, too busy determining who won that last grand fight.
“Thank you, my lady,” the young woman replies. “And to you.” Looking to Jaesin, her smile is forced but present. “Pleasant day to you, honorable Ser.” Turning on her heel, she heads south and away from the pair, her fan reopening after a few steps to begin creating a breeze in an attempt to cool her.
A brief glance follows Aurana’s departure, though it is not for long that Aisling’s gaze strays from Jaesin. “And that makes it sensible, ser? To me, that makes them sound like a dog with an old bone of which it will not let go. Or rather, a dog persistently chasing after a bone with little meat on it,” is her rather irreverent response to his words about Aegon the Conqueror and his descendants. “But I daresay we shall see soon enough whether it is worth anything to have Dorne as a part of the realm.” By the sound of it, she herself is convinced that the answer is no, and she underlines her words with a stubborn tilt of her chin that lingers even as she looks sideways to take note of the appearance of the small group of men.
To that, Jaesin Lannister merely shrugs his shoulders, and amicably answers, “It is not for such as I to wonder what motives haunt the corners of Dragonkings’ hearts. They do what they will, and House Lannister will follow.” With that, he too falls briefly silent, eyeing the approaching knot of would-be champions with a skeptical eye.
Well, the group of Caron guardsmen, Bryce and the other minor Sers who have practiced with them are obviously on the way home, walking southbound. “If he hadn’t been so damned thin, that blow would have caught him right across!” one man mutters, only to get a harsh objection: “I was ahead of that one by far, didn’t you see? You must have seen it!” The last is directed at a third man who shrugs his shoulders, staying out of it. The argument continues, both claiming that they are right, like it always is, and no one getting tired of it either. Bryce himself is involved in a discussion kept at a lower volume about the merit of two different blades.
Aurana continues along her way, her pace quick as she tries to leave the unpleasantness well behind her.
Judging by the frown the passes across Aisling’s face as she looks back to Jaesin, an amicable answer was not quite to her tastes. Still, there are limits even to her persistence, and so she shrugs in turn. “Fair enough.” Her gaze then returns to Bryce Caron and his companions, and she raises one hand to brush back a few mingled strands of black and silver, willfully escaped from her long braid, from out of her eyes. “At the very least, I suppose it is giving many otherwise idle young men something to do.”
“Well, well,” remarks the golden-haired Lannister lordling aloud to Aisling, “it looks as if the Marcher lords are keeping up their skills, at least. You have the right of that. Let us see what they’ve been at, in truth.”
And with that said, he begins moving forward, toward the group of Caron men.
“Ser Bryce,” Jaesin hails! “All surrounded by your father’s men, and my poor, benighted brother not even in sight! Is it true you meant to chastise him for some ill-chosen words? Or was that Dondarrion?”
“You Marchers all confuse me,” he admits, smiling rogueishly. “The same tan, the same moustache, the same temperament.”
Bryce comes to a halt, but gestures for the others to go along with what ever they are doing as he prepares to respond to the Lannister. A few seconds pass by, the Caron knight frowning and getting a rather angry, provoked and proud look across his face. He crosses his arms across his chest and watches Jaesin in silence for two seconds. “I still intend to, Ser Jaesin,” he calls back to him from the distance. “And the men are my Grand Father’s, as you should very well know. My father died in Dorne, as your brother would have me remember every time I am forced to be near him. I am sure you could not have missed it?” Some of the men, namely the Caron guards, do not proceed but instead stops to look where this is going.
A distinctly dubious look settles on Aisling’s face, though she does still follow Jaesin’s example and moves towards the group of men. Coming closer, she offers a polite dip of her head, and a brief greeting. “Good day, sers.” As Bryce speaks up, her dark eyes now settle on him, scrutinizing the Marcher lord in an appraising fashion. “My condolences on your loss, ser,” she tells him, politely enough but with her usual reserve.
“But it seems that I have,” Ser Jaesin replies. “Do you take me for my brother’s keeper? If that were so, Jonn Lannister would be home with his wife and child as my father’s castellan, and I would be rid of the burden of dealing with the ruffled feathers of every bird he takes a stick to,” the tall knight says, with a pointed reference to the Caron nightingale.
“As to your father, you have my condolences as well, though if you think I keep a roll of all the men who died in Dorne, you are mistaken.”
Jaesin pauses then, fixing Bryce with a flat, level look. At length, he adds, “I think you are too prickly by half, Ser Bryce. My brother taunts lords and ladies alike. If you cannot suffer his words for the poorly-wrought insults they are, how would you wish me to deal with you?”
Bryce stands there in silence, looking at the Lannister and seems busy trying to come up with something witty in remark. It’s not until after a few seconds of awkward silence pass by that he replies: “You, Ser, are a poor knight if you cannot keep track of the death of the Heir to a Lordly House, second to the Great House Baratheon in the Stormlands, especially when your brother spent a month talking about it on a ship where we both shared the same space.” A pause, then he continues: “And I have learnt to deal with your brothers insults, not knowing that I would also have to deal with yours. In the future, maybe I should stay away from both of you, if none of you have anything good to say.” He gets a fiercely proud look and reluctantly offers an inclination of his head to the other knight. “Be well, Ser Jaesin.” And he turns on the spot, marching off with the clink of steel and mail.
The other Carons and the rest of the Stormlanders follow more or less relunctantly, already starting talking about the event that just took place in gossiping voices.
“Turn and be accounted for, Ser Bryce,” snaps Ser Jaesin Lannister, his voice like a whip-crack, harsh and loud and commanding of a sudden.
“It may be that you or even my brother shall weather such impudence with a simpering smile and a muttered curse, but you know neither Jaesin Lannister nor what a ‘poor knight’ truly is.”
“Turn and be accounted for,” he repeats, firmly. “Or be content to run from your folly, as they say your father was running ere the Dornish cut him down.”
Having listened in silence to the exchange between Jaesin and Bryce, Aisling cannot help but to voice her opinion on the matter. “It does seem as if the lady you spoke to earlier was correct in her observations, ser Jaesin. With no Dornishmen to fight at the moment, the internal quarrels are thriving.” She shakes her head at the words being said, indeed, goes so far as to roll her eyes. “Perhaps that was the real reason for the Conquest?”
Slowly, oh so slowly, Bryce turns around. His eyes are filled with pride and something near hatred, and he slowly speaks, yet rather loud: “I thought you said you did not know my father was dead. But apparently, you are a liar as well, just like your brother.”
“I knew it once, and lost the memory—as one might with a memory of little account,” Jaesin answers, his tone dangerously cool and measured. No hatred or anger akin to Bryce’s haunts his own sapphire eyes; no, they are cold as iron of a sudden, and as unbending.
“What are nightingales and apples and cock-robins to the Lion of Lannister? I think you forget your place,” the westerman decides, stalking now toward the armored Marcher. If Aisling’s words are heard, he gives no account of it now. “I had hoped to put an end to this insouciance bandied about betwixt you and Jonn, but it seems you cannot leave this alone.”
“Very well,” Jaesin says through gritted teeth. “You will give me your apology, or you will give me a sword. And we will see if Jonn was right about your backbone.”
The yard is a place of some activity, though large enough that few need meander particularly close as they go about their business. Servants go about their daily tasks, gold-cloaked guardsmen move purposefully towards some posting, knights and ladies chatter about inconsequential nothings ... and Dornishmen, it seems, walk about rather aimlessly, having little enough to do in this high-walled prison.
Uncertainly, Aidan slows to a stop at the periphery of the little scene. He watches with naked interest, though what he makes of it is anyone’s guess. It’s only after a considering look to Aisling that he moves somewhat nearer. His carriage is very precise. “Good day, Lady Aisling. Do you need help?”
“You have my apology,” Bryce says, staring at the knight. “I am but seventeen, and you want to take up your sword against me, a knight of only a few months past. It would not be a pretty sight. I have nothing against apologizing to someone such as you, Ser Jaesin, but my father did not run. He fought, and he died. Your brother lied to everyone about him, and I was hoping you would not. It seems I was wrong, unless you suddenly remember the details there as well. But you have my apology.” He offers a respectful bow to the older knight.
So Bryce offers his apology, and the young Lion of Lannister gives ear to it. So Jaesin does listen, his face betraying no flicker of his feeling for long moments after Ser Bryce speaks his part.
And then he answers, his voice no less calm than it’s remained throughout this little spectacle.
“You mistake me, Caron. I have no interest in taking up arms against you. But Jaesin Lannister is a knight and no liar; my vows are sacred to me, and I would chastise you sorely if you did not retract such slander. But you have done—
Jaesin sighs at that. “They say your lord father was caught in the confusion. I have heard tell that he ran, and others say he fought bravely. I am no man to judge this, and was wrong in the saying. But this bickering betwixt you and Jonn—it ends now. Turn your cheek and leave my brother to me.”
The harsh words, and the tension that arises from them, certainly do nothing to improve Aisling’s opinion of men in general and knights in particular. Though, Bryce’s apology does earn him a faintly approving nod from the sharp-tempered Northwoman, leaving her free to turn a cool stare on Jaesin instead. “I think a scion of a Great House should be more careful with his words, since he expects to be listened to by many. Rumours spread so easily, after all, when given weight to by men in higher positions.” It is fortunate, perhaps, that her attention is distracted at that point by the appearance of Aidan, and by the quiet words spoken to her. She looks to him, considering for a moment, then shakes her head. “No, thank you, ser.”
“My vows are just as sacred, Ser Jaesin, which is why I cannot stand by when your brother says such things when I am present. I have tried to avoid him, he seeks me out. I have tried to ignore him, and he talks to everyone around me. I wish I could do what you implore me to, and I shall try, but I cannot give my word.” The hatred is still there, but it’s clearly not focused at Jaesin’s person now, more at the subject. Instead, he nods in real respect for the knight and for the Lannisters admittance, but his features are still strained with pride and hurt feelings, and he looks at Aisling like it’s none of her business.
Aisling’s assertion wounds the Lannister visibly; though he does not turn nor acknowledge her, he flinches at the words, and says nothing in reply. The pride of his ancient and powerful House—on such vibrant display but a moment agone—has fled him completely in the moment, but in regret and humility he seems no less strong—albeit it is strength of a different sort.
Empowered by that strength, he crosses the distance between himself and Bryce in a single long stride, and reaches out to clasp the man on the shoulder. “Keep your vows, Caron,” he implores the other quietly.
“We all will do our penance for our sins. It seems I have my brother’s to deal with alongside mine own, after all. Very well—the Lannisters will order their own house.”
“As you say,” Aidan murmur to Aisling, with a dip of his head in acknowledgment. But his eyes are for the tableux, as two heirs to the Houses Lannister and Caron appear to settle some matter. What he thinks of it is unclear, but that he’s interested by the matter is not at all. Perhaps these two knights are strangers to him, that he does not choose to speak, or perhaps the matter is best dealt between them.
“I shall keep them.” Bryce replies, but it’s clear that the Caron knight does not have as easy time accepting the situation as solved. “I shall retreat, I need to be alone to calm down, Ser.” There’s still a lot of more or less uncontrolled feelings in the man, clearly visible on the outside, but for now he keeps them in check “But I thank you for your sense and honor.” He has to force the last words through his teeth, and offers another bow before he takes a few steps backwards, retreating without turning his back to the man.
With the matter at hand appearing to be sorted out, at least for the time being, Aisling steps back a little from the two knights. A frown does linger on her face, though its thoughtful in nature, perhaps as she reflects on her own peripheral involvement in the scene and why it even came about. As it happens, her movement takes her closer to where Aidan stands, and her attention returns to the Dornishman. “No squire to lecture today, ser?” she queries of him, her voice almost carefully neutral now.
For his part, Ser Jaesin says no more. A quiet thoughtfulness seizes him, and does not depart in this moment. He does turn around, leaving Bryce at his back as he moves away across the yard, past the fruit trees toward Maegor’s Holdfast. In so doing, he inclines his head to the Lady Aisling respectfully, but again does not speak. The Dornishman is noted, but the Lannister seems too preoccupied to say aught in passing.
And so, wrestling once more with his honor and the misdeeds of his kinsmen, Jaesin Lannister departs the yard and the oppressive sun for the shaded confines of the royal keep—and perhaps some wiser counsel than his own.
Bryce finally departs as well together with his kinsmen, to the south.
The loud trumpeting of a stallion can be heard from the direction of the main gate beyond the outer yard, soon sound is given form as a massive black destrier charges into view. The large horse is covered in his own lather, apparently have been ridden hard by the rider who now sits astride him. Ser Doran Dondarrion, the Blackbolt of Blackhaven, pulls tight on the reins as he takes note of both Dayne and Ryswell. His warhorse screams his protest, going up on his hind legs at the sudden stop called for by the young knight of the Stormlands.
“Well met.” Doran offers, his head lowering in respectful courtesy to both Aidan and Aisling. The emerald orbs of the marcher knight turn to take in the Caron and Lannister, his brow furrowing considerably as he tries his best to discern the topic at hand. The stallion shows its impatience, side stepping nervously as it tries to keep both knight and lady in field of view. The Blackbolt’s gloved hand drops to the nape of his equine’s neck, caressing in a way meant to sooth the beast. “I hope the day finds you well?” Ser Doran turns back to the two he greeted previously, dismissing Jaesin and Bryce as they move off.
“Danyll is with his siblings, my lady,” replies Aidan to the northwoman’s question. “A squire shouldn’t always be underfoot, I’ve always felt. They grow too harried to absorb such lessons as they’re given, you see.” Perhaps he prepares to discuss the finer points of educating squires—like he has a great deal of experience, little more than a year after winning his own knighthood—but the stormlord makes quite an entrance. Or his horse, does, in any case.
Aidan offers a brief nod to the man, returning the greeting with a brief, “Good day, ser.”
“He has siblings among the hostages?” The response seems to elicit curiosity from Aisling, as she turns an inquisitive look on Aidan. “I suppose there would be Houses with more than one member among the hostages ... is that true for yourself, ser?” Any thoughts on further questions, however, are diverted as Doran makes his appearance and her attention is drawn to his mount, which she eyes with a critically appraising eye. “Well met, ser,” she greets the Dondarrion, inclining her head politely in his direction. As usual, she makes little use of names, though its also likely enough that she has commit few to memory so far.
The large stallion continues to pace nervously, the hair on his form thick with the dew of his own labor. Doran pulls back on the reins once again, causing the destrier to back up and halt its insistent movements. Doran allows his eyes to scan over the dornish knight, seeming to gauge the younger warrior to discern outcomes of frays not committed to. “The Knight of Twilight?” Doran inquires, recalling the man from the banquet that followed the arrival of hostages and war heroes to King’s Landing.
The Blackbolt throws the reins over his steed’s head, removing his hand from the neck of the beast as he dismounts the horse in a fluid grace that could only be accomplished by a knight who’s reputation was built on horseback. “I must say I have not had the honor of your acquaintance.” Ser Doran grabs a hold of the reins to make certain his temperamental destrier does not cause any havoc without his say. “Nor yours, my lady.” The last is directed to Aisling, and Doran commits her face to memory as he addresses her.
Aidan smiles—it’s an easy smile, no sharpness in it, that suits him well—to Aisling’s questions. He seems glad to answer., “Yes, Lady Aisling, as far as Danyll and his siblings go,” he states on the heels of Aisling’s greeting to the knight. “Ser Tamlyn and Lady Tanyth. We are cousins, in truth.” If he was to enlighten Aisling further, the chance is lost, as the stormlands knight asks his question.
Giving the knight a closer look, he offers another inclination of his head. “So the singers have called me, and some have taken it to be apt,” he responds, “though Ser Aidan is my right name.” He glances towards Aisling, perhaps wondering if he should introduce her to the knight, but instead leaves it to her. “If I am not mistaken, you are Ser Doran of House Dondarrion?”
Her attention mostly on the horse, though with some to spare for each of the two knights, Aisling offers a polite smile to Doran. “Aisling, of House Ryswell of the Rills, ser,” she informs the Dondarrion knight. However, then his words shift her gaze back to Aidan, whom she gives a thoughtful look. “An interesting name to have acquired. Are your cousins famous too, I wonder? I must admit ignorance of most knights of the south, be they on this side or the far side of the Red Mountains.”
Doran offers an unconvincing smile to both lady and knight, once again his heavy formality taking over as he drops his head in respect. “Ser Doran Dondarrion.” the Blackbolt confirms, allowing his head to rise from its form of courtesy. “Called Blackbolt by those who cheer me in the lists, and half-breed by those who find themselves at the business end of the lance.” A spark of mirth appears in the chartreuse eyes of the stormlord, but it is short lived as the sadness that often accompanies this knight douses the humor as quickly as it came.
“I am honored to meet you both.” the Blackbolt states softly, his gaze following Aisling’s to reside on his horse once again. “I would offer you a ride, my lady. Yet I fear he is quite a handful. Storm was a gift from my father when I returned to Blackhaven. Ser Corentyn cut down my previous mount, Lightning, on the Boneway. I am told Storm is from exquisite stock from the Reach.” the marcher knight explains, turning to look at Aidan as the lady questions him regarding his relatives. “Your sister is married to Ser Wallace Chester, if I am not mistaken? I had the honor of riding against him in Oakenshield. He is a terror on horseback.”
Is that a touch of color to Aidan’s cheeks? Hard to tell against his olive skin, and he’s quick enough to laugh that perhaps it’s nothing more thna a flush of amusement. “Ser Tamlyn is accounted a good knight, my lady, and Tanyth ...” There’s a hesitation, and then he offers, “has been made much of, by the singers.” His lips press together primly at that, giving perhaps a hint of what he’s trying to hide, but it’s just as well that Dondarrion gives him something else to think of. The flush that touches his cheeks is more obvious this time, and not of embarassment. “You have the right of it, ser. Lord Tyrell bestowed Alia upon Chester, and I do not doubt you when you say he is a terror.”
To Doran, Aisling speaks with certainty and no pretence, “I must admit, I have not yet met a mount that I couldn’t ride. Still, my Father has never been inclined towards destriers of a particularly fierce nature, so I would not presume to come between a knight and his steed. He looks like a fine animal, however, and a lucky one to have escaped the war with his life.” A hint of disapproval touches her voice at the end, as if she’d rather see knights walking into battle, though the matter is not touched further upon as she then turns to Aidan, eyeing him with a faintly bemused expression. It seems she doesn’t know quite what to make of his responses, either to herself or to the Dondarrion.
“Nor would most of the knights in Westeros.” The Blackbolt’s reply is solemn and directed at the Knight of Twilight, his eyes losing their focus as he recalls the Tournament in Lord Hewett’s Town. This reverie is not long lived, however, and soon another weak smile will bring some light to the face of the stormlord, and he focuses his gaze on the Lady Aisling. “The Master-at-Arms at Blackhaven once told me a knight’s presence and reputation on the battlefield is worth more than the strength of his arm.” The marcher knight turns to his steed, bringing a gloved hand up to caress underneath the head of the massive destrier.
Happy enough, it seems, to leave the matter of his sister by, Aidan turns his attention to Dondarrion’s horse. “He is certainly very large,” he offers, manner and voice both mild. “It has its advantages, as your master-at-arms indicated, ser. Such horses did not do very well in Dorne, I fear.” He does not need to explain further—the loss of destriers from heat and privation was terrible, especially in Lord Tyrell’s part of the campaign. “King Daeron was very wise, to attack as he did, for his part. It must have been easier for such brutes, along the coast and the Greenblood.”
“The matter of King Daeron’s wisdom has already been amply debated today,” Aisling dryly notes as the subject changes yet again, and there’s a hint of tartness in her voice that suggests she holds some particular opinions on the matter. “Though I suppose he must have done some things right,” she concedes, rather giving away which side of the debate she was on earlier.
The destrier once again shows its uneasiness, pulling on the reins that the Blackbolt holds onto, and sidestepping nervously at the young knight’s touch. Doran’s brow furrows at this, obvious annoyance beginning to catch the best of him. The marcher knight gives a firm yank on the reins, making the large horse throw his head up in disgust, but it seems to do what was intended, for the horse calms considerably and lowers his head to search for choice grass. Satisfied with the horses more docile activity, the Dondarrion knight turns once again to those at hand.
However, when the Conquest begins to be discussed in detail, Ser Doran Dondarrion adds nothing. His smile falters, leaving the heavy poignancy that so oft plagues one of the most promising knights of the Stormlands. Desperate to hide his eyes and any thoughts that may be betrayed by looking at them, he turns back to the steed at his side.
“Yes,” Aidan responds. The briefness of the agreement is noticeable. He gives Ser Doran a brief regard, and sees the man turn to his horse. What thoughts cross his mind at that cannot be said, for he merely shrugs his shoulders and asking Aisling, “What happened earlier, my lady. That was Ser Jaesin Lannister, was it not? And the other knight was…?”
Perhaps the Conquest is not the best of subjects to dwell on when two knights from different sides are present, and Aisling too seems relieved to move onto something else. Well, after a fashion, anyway. “Yes, that was Ser Jaesin. The other knight was, I believe, of House Caron. They disagree, it seems, on something or other concerning Lord Caron’s death in Dorne,” she replies to Aidan. “I could not help but to agree with the sentiment posed by another lady a little earlier, that already there’s dissent in the ranks when there’s no more fighting at hand.” At that point, she seems to recall just who is present, and casts a thoughtful glance between Aidan and Doran. “One hopes it will not extend to further hostilities here in King’s Landing.”
The Blackbolt’s sorrow seems to be kept in check as the subject is changed to favor the two knights that departed during his arrival, and he turns his attention to the Knight of Twilight as he speaks. “Ser Bryce Caron.” Ser Doran’s voice is soft, and it is a wonder with such a voice how he ever lead men into skirmish after skirmish with success on the Boneway. The half-dornish knight casts a side-long glance to Aisling as she speaks, and offers his own words in exchange. “Many went into battle for glory, honor, and riches. Some now have scars that will never heal. The Warrior exacts a heavy price for strengthening those that invoked his name, and it was a price we were not made aware of before asking for assistance.” Ser Doran’s statement is thick with wisdom, but as he speaks it is apparent how young the knight really is.
Aidan’s gaze, returning to Dondarrion as he speaks, is inscrutable. What he says afterwards is less amibuguous, however. “I do not know, ser, that we all of us were unaware of the price. It is in our calling—to suffer, to bleed, to die in a just cause. It is the proof of our devotion, surely.” There’s a pause, a moment in which he seems to consider what more to say, and finally he offers with gracious courtesy, “But even so, being aware is not the same as meeting these trials that a knight must suffer for their honor. I did not think to see my cousin Ser Conayn die, or to hear of my uncle’s death. They died well and bravely ... but still, they died.”
A lingering look, and a sad one, before Aidan waves a brief hand, as if it were a sign against evil, or to dispel the dour things spoken of before. He turns to Aisling and, with her, readily agrees. “The war is done, for my part I am sworn to take up no arms in Dorne’s cause. I wish only to pass my time here honorably, and to go home safely when the time comes for it,” Dayne says with a distinct earnestness.
There’s little for Aisling to say about the exchange regarding the Seven, and even on the matter of losses incurred by the war she’s left with few observations of a personal nature to make. Still, she nods thoughtfully to both knights, before turning to Aidan and asking, “And would you say that most of your fellow hostages share your views? It seems there are those who feel that oaths sworn in circumstances such as these cannot be trusted.” She does not, however, note who may have said something like this.
Doran offers his half-hearted smile to Aidan, but his eyes still ladened with sadness will give no strength to it. “It is comforting to know that knights of Dorne are not the barbarians that our Lords had suggested. I regret your loss, ser, and let us hope that none shall tarnish your honor with barbed words while you are a guest here.” The Blackbolt turns his gaze to Aisling as she speaks, and it seems this perks his curiosity as well, and he turns back to the dornish knight to scan his face for response.
“I cannot speak for all my fellow ... hostages,” is Aidan’s response, a brief shrug of his shoulders emphasizing it, “but those I know and know well will hold to their oaths. Even if they had to be made a second time for the pleasure of the city, and little else.” The last must refer obliquely to their arrival at King’s Landing. He gives the northwoman a brief frown then, wondering as to where she stands on the matter, before he turns to Doran and offers a brief bow. “Let us hope, ser, that it shall be as you say.” Straightening again, his very erect posture makes itself clear—he is not one for slouching.
A glance to the clouded sky reveals little enough of the time, but bells that rung earlier give him a sense as to what time it is. “I should my squire, my lord, my lady. It has been a pleasure.” With a final bow, and a murmured, “Farewell,” the young knight turns and makes his way towards the eastern end of the castle.
“Farewell, ser,” Aisling replies to Aidan as he takes his leave. A thoughtful frown then settles on her sharp-featured face as she watches him depart. “One cannot, I suppose, fault his conduct. It is rather unnervingly correct,” she remarks, more as an idle musing than a comment directed to anyone in particular. “Too much so, perhaps,” she then adds, shaking her head. “I suppose it is just as well that King Torrhen knelt some centuries ago.” Turning to Doran, she offers a slight smile. “If you will excuse me, I do believe I should be on my way as well. No doubt I have managed to miss yet another appointment arranged by my step-sister’s uncle.” By the sound of it, she really hopes she has.
Doran returns the appropriate formal courtesy to the dornish knight as he walks off, bending at the waist to give a half bow. “The pleasure is mine, Ser Aidan.” Doran offers with his usual heavy formality and respect. He slowly rises from his respectful posture, turning to the lady whom is present, and giving her the same treatment he gave the departing Knight of Twilight.
“Farewell, my lady.” Doran states, recovering from his second bow as he moves to the side of his horse. He slips his leather riding boot in the stirrup, before vaulting onto the back of the massive stallion. Storm immediately halts the grazing he was attempting with bit in his mouth, offering another trumpet as his docile nature shown before is cast off to favor the warmongering spirit of the beast. “I enjoyed our introduction, my lady of Ryswell. I look forward to seeing you again.”
“Oh, I do not doubt that we will. I am, I fear, to remain here in King’s Landing for the foreseeable future. Not quite a hostage, but I seem to like it even less than some of them,” Aisling dryly notes. She then courteously dips her head to Doran, and moves off towards the northern part of the outer yard.
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