It is late afternoon on this autumn day, and there is a light wind blowing from the east. The barges continue their slow ascent up the Mander River, with music, singing and general merriment echoing from within. Numerous lords and ladies speak and drink inside, servants wandering through the crowds, offering food and drinks.
Since the departure from Highgarden, Branna has been a familiar sight in the grey and white of her house as she leans against the barge rails, often gazing out over the waters. With her septa hovering nearby and a guard next to her gamely holding out a handful of flat rocks, the young lady is currently trying to skip the rocks off the river surface. At least, so one might infer from her movements, even if the spectacularly uncooperative things simply plummet down below the waves with each attempt. When a passing server offers the young noblewoman food and drink, she refuses with a smile.
As Melarra and her escort come around a bend in the Mander, she breathes a sigh of relief. There ahead, she spies the grouping of barges she has been hoping to see for the last day or so, ever since they passed Cider Hill.
After some minor bother getting a barge stopped and her party boarded and settled, Melarra is finally able to turn her attention to meeting the other guests on the barge. She is pleasantly surprised to see her brother—and NOT the brother she had expected.
Melarra moves lightly across the swaying deck towards Bradwell, her eldest brother. “Well met, Ser Bradwell!”
On board the barge, another Hightower stands alone among a crowd on one side of the ship’s bow. Arms folded across themselves, eyes seemingly on the distant horizon instead of toward the crowd, his eyes flick to the road on shore. A figure in the distance, a retinue, a call, and a girl he’s known for many years.
“You’re late, little sister!” Brad calls out to the fair woman on land. He extends both arms, hands open, as if to motion toward the moving vessel. Then he shrugs and smiles, calling whimsically, “Not all ships wait for House Hightower!”
Melarra looks up suddenly at the booming voice coming from the nearest barge. A twinkle alights in her eye as she recognizes her eldest brother. She laughs aloud at his teasing, “They might not wait for YOU, big brother—but I am far prettier than you are!”
Brad grins broadly, chuckling quietly and shaking his head. He then looks around and puts Melarra’s claim to the test.
“Well then,” Brad announces, turning back to the ship’s body politic, “is there any here with sufficient influence to stop this vessel so the lovely lady of Hightower may board?” And after, presumably, there is no immediate answer, he adds, “If it helps, she’s beautiful, unmarried, and rich.”
A tall thin knight walks down the barge talking to a very fat young man with an anchor sewn onto the chest of his doublet, partially hidden behind the wine stains. They seem in the middle of a discussion until the tall man tells something to the fat one and he walks away purposefully to the rear of the barge. Ser Willard Ryger then looks up and notices a tall young girl in Stark colours doggedly throwing stones into the river. He smirks and walks closer “Does the lady need any help with giving the Mander a proper stoning?”
A booming voice is heard near the front of the ship, “STOP!” The crew of the ship immediately react to this great voice, halting the ship so that Melarra may come aboard if she wishes. Ser Anton Piper slowly walks down towards Bradwell and anyone who may be near him. As he passes Branna by on the way, his eyes flicker to her briefly, for she is someone he’s not yet met. Speaking to Brad, Anton states simply “it matters not her current situation. She is a lady, and as such, the barge will stop for her.”
“Seven bleeding hells, what’s all that racket?” a cross voice mutters at the call to heave to. Groaning slightly, Ser Myles Hightower of Oldtown sits up from where he was reclining on a lush rug with a book over his face. Spotted Dick is at hand with a skin of wine, which the knight takes from his squire and takes a long, cool, drink.
Branna pauses in her rock-skipping since Melarra’s group comes into sight, and Ser Bradwell’s words prompt the beginnings of another smile. The smile turns to Ser Willard as he makes his approach, though she inclines her head toward the Hightower contingent. “That would be most appreciated, but it would seem that the lady—” She breaks off as Anton’s booming shout is heard, and her smile widens. “—has received the appropriate assistance. It is good to see the knights of the south so chivalrous.”
Brad looks toward Anton, and his mirthful grin slips into a natural fade down to the linger of a smile. “Thank you,” Brad says to Anton, the joke passed, the voice quieting. “Some would not be so chivalrous. We are obliged.” And then some racket abounds. Brad’s eyes close momentarily, and he takes a deep breath. “Well, this should be fun.”
Anton inclines his head in a bow to Brad. “My lord, I do not think we have had the pleasure. Anton Piper at your service.” As the crew of the barge begin moving it closer to the riverbank so Melarra and her entourage may board, Anton looks curiously at the lady. It is not long before the barge is close enough so that Melarra may board if she wishes.
“The south?” Willard asks before a hint of understanding shows in his eyes “Of course, we’re all southerners for you, in the cold hard North? Yes, there are some who are chivalrous, though I hardly call chivalrous aiding in the stoning of a river! Seems most unkind!” he smiles and looks at the ruckus on the barge. “My, now there is a commotion. Are you acquainted with them, lady…” he trails off, then bows “Pray forgive me, my lady. I am Ser Willard Ryger, of Willow Wood.”
Reyna has arrived.
“Brad Hightower,” Brad introduces himself to Anton. “Your service is appreciated.” He puts a hand to the edge of the barge to steady himself as the vessel slows. “It’s my sister’s first true trip up the Mander to King’s Landing.” He glances out toward her briefly, then back to Anton. “Naturally, she’s as late as she is fashionable.”
A flurry of activity begins on the riverbank as Melarra’s party prepares to board the barge creeping toward the bank. She dismounts, handing the reins to a guard. She sends two more into action, removing a few of her trunks from pack horses to be taken aboard. As she doesn’t see a boom on the deck of the barge, she calls the captain of her guards over. “I will need the rest of the party to continue along to King’s Landing ahorse. I will take these trunks and my maid aboard the barge, but naught else. Seek for me when you arrive in King’s Landing; I likely will be set up in the Red Keep, or wherever Myles and Bradwell are staying.”
Resting his forearms on his knees as he sits leaning against the bulkhead, Ser Myles glances ‘round at those nearby. “Richard, run along and polish something,” he says, and the squire obeys, disappearing.
“Melarra would be late for her own wedding,” he says, finally scrambling to his feet and moving over to the lee rail. “Must’ve made good time.”
A few seconds pause. “Ser Bradwell,” Ser Myles finally acknowledges his brother.
Ever since Reyna Saltcliffe rejoined the barge party en route to Tumbleton, she has slept more often than not. Now she seems awake enough as she emerges from a curtained area set aside for sleepers. Her brown curls are braided very simply and tied with a bit of gold ribbon at the small of her back. A servant comes at once with a bowl of something steaming, and Reyna looks grateful for it as she settles onto one of the padded benches lining the barge’s gunwales.
“Ser Brad, a pleasure.” Anton replies. Then when Myles come to join them, Anton bows his head again to the other Hightower. “My lord, Anton Piper at your service. You are another brother to the lady coming aboard?” Anton’s eyes remain on the lady, though one arm is quick to grab a passing crewman. “Once the lady, her maid and her trunks are aboard, cast off immediately.” The crewman bows his head in acknowledgement and moves along, quickly going about his business.
“It is not so cold and hard, really,” Branna protests as she straightens up from her lean at the rails, though the undercurrent of laughter in her words suggests that she is not really so dismayed at this particular characterization of her home. “And I like to think I am feeding the river. It certainly swallows up the rocks hungrily enough, wouldn’t you say?” She offers a faint, rueful shake of her head. “I’m afraid I do not. But then again, I know few people here. I am Branna Stark, of Winterfell. Pleased to meet you, Ser Willard.”
Bradwell turns askance toward his younger brother, Ser Myles, and holds the gaze a moment. “Ser Myles,” he says evenly. “It seems a ship big enough for us can be found after all.” A moment passes, and then the visage cracks a bit and softens. He seems about to say something else, but Anton interjects. He nods once, twice, to Anton. “Thank you.”
The younger Hightower knight inclines his head to Anton in return. “I am Ser Myles Hightower of Oldtown, Ser Anton. That over there is my sister, coming to court I suppose…” his voice trails off but there are a few muttered, clipped phrases about keeping her away from Prince Aegon.
“Did you know she was coming with us, brother?”
The barge finally lurches close enough to the bank for a plank to be run down from the deck to the bank in front of Melarra’s party. Everything is ready for her to board, and it only takes a few minutes for her things to be loaded aboard. She walks up the plank behind her maid and jumps down to the deck, landing with a laugh in front of her brothers and the Piper she had spied from shore.
“My lord,” she says to the stranger. “Thank you for getting the barge to stop for me, though Ser Oaf here would like me to believe it is because of my material and maidenly wealth.” She nudges her older brother Bradwell in the ribs and grins. The grin falters a bit when she notes the coolness of the looks Brad and Myles are trading. “Well, look here—a regular family reunion! Just like being children again, except I’m not trying to feed anyone mudpies.”
Willard flashes a smile at Branna “Please be sure, my lady, that if not all then at least the majority of the pleasure is mine” he makes a short courtly bow. “And of course, it’s just the comparison, and rumor and the general knowledge of people, that makes for those characterizations. North - cold and hard. South - wine, sun, rivers that run, blood in veins instead of ice…” the Ryger knight says all this with a half-smile lingering on his lips, indicating a jest “Yet somehow, a beautiful flower has flown on the wind down south from that terrible north, to teach us that there is beauty everywhere.” he cocks his head a bit sideways and beams another smile “Is that the lesson you came down here to teach us, my lady?”
She leans in close to her brothers and lowers her voice, “Although if you two don’t stop staring icicles at each other, I might be forced to have them stop this fat-bellied boat again just so I can get some mud.”
“In theory,” Bradwell replies to Myles as Melarra makes her way forth. His eyebrows raise faintly to accompany the deadpan mirth in his voice when he says, “I was not placing heavy bets on whether she would make the boat or not.” A smile cracks. It’s clear this is gentle humor, offered out of affection toward Melarra, who has arrived, nudged him, and called the heir of House Hightower an oaf. “But here she is, sans mudpies, the young lady of the Hightower, courtesy of our man of House Piper.”
“Ser Myles, an honour and a pleasure.” Anton nods his head. When Melarra boards the barge, Anton offers her a deep bow. “My lady, Melarra, is it? I thought I heard one of your brothers mention it. Welcome aboard. It is a long ways yet, to King’s Landing. I am Anton Piper, at your service.” Noticing the looks going between the three siblings, Anton takes a step back. “Family reunions are joyous occasions, I will gladly give you three some room to catch up.” Another bow, and Anton is in the midst of turning to leave when he catches sight of Lady Reyna Saltcliffe lounging nearby. He walks quietly towards her and when within speaking distance, offers her a deep bow. “Lady Reyna.”
“Hallo, Ser Anton,” Reyna says, eyes smiling over the rim of the bowl as she lifts it to her lips. She sips from it for a moment, the scent of beef broth drifting up on the steam. She swallows then, her cheeks pinking. “Forgive me. I’m starving! How are you enjoying our voyage?”
“Mmm hmm, strange father did not mention it,” Myles says, perhaps a bit wary but unwilling to go further. “I don’t like mud; I prefer apples, sister,” he says, though he winks after a second. Another drink from his skin drains it and Ser Myles throws it at a servant. “You should present yourself to Lady Reyna. I’m sure she will be delighted to see you again.”
Anton almost cracks a smile when he responds. “Slow, my lady. But otherwise, excellent. I wanted to stop by and personally thank you for the hospitality shown by House Tyrell during this trip. The Lord-Protector was an amazing host, the entertainment and food were some of the finest ever offered. I am sure the entire court appreciated this vacation.”
Branna has reconnected.
“He’s right,” Bradwell says, echoing Myles. “One of the fun parts of court, and no better place to start than there.” He glances off toward Reyna briefly, then back toward his sister. “The mudpies can surely come later.” He smiles again, faintly.
“A beautiful flower?” Branna echoes, dark eyes briefly wide with amusement. “A lady of Highgarden is far more deserving of such a compliment, I am sure.” She offers a smile. “I mean to learn, rather than to teach. My aunt is skilled in the ways of stewardship, and it is a useful skill for a Stark to learn. And what takes you to King’s Landing, ser?”
“He likely didn’t mention it because I helped him think of it after you left, Myles.” Melarra grins ruefully, “Although I will say it took a whole week from planting the idea in his head before he mentioned it to mother; I must be slipping.”
She sniffs the air delicately as Myles tosses an empty wineskin to his squire. “Apples indeed. Grapes, more like.”
She turns to Bradwell and offers him her arm. “Well Ser Brother, shall we make our courtesies to my lady of Saltcliffe?”
“I will pass that along to my brother,” Reyna says with a weary smile. There are dark circles under her eyes, unalleviated by all her sleep. “I know he will be grateful to hear it. We are indeed moving very slowly. I want so badly to be home now that it’s driving me mad.”
She hears a voice then and looks past Anton. “Myles! When did you join the party?” she cries, looking genuinely delighted.
Anton bows his head again at Reyna, and excuses himself with a simple “my lady.” He backs away in a different direction, allowing the Hightowers Three to approach and hold court with Reyna. He turns and begins walking towards the railings, a quizzical look on his face.
“Your courtesies may be more welcome,” Brad says beneath his breath to Melarra, his rueful humor subtle and quiet. “Go on. I will be along momentarily.” Here, he looks to Reyna and over to his now quiet brother.
The Hightower knight bows to Lady Reyna; his face lightens somewhat. “I made it to Highgarden the night of the chapionship joust. ‘Twas a spot of hard riding, but I must go back to Court. His Grace did not mean for me to be gone so long, I fear. I shall probably have some unpleasant task when I return.
“But allow me to present my sister Melarra to you. Our father has decided to send her to court. We shall rely upon you to help us find her a place, if you are willing.”
“A finely shaped snowflake would suit you better, is what you are saying my lady?” Willard widens his smile even further “Pardon, I play at words instead of talking to you truly. My purpose in King’s Landing? Fame, fortune, entertainment, unending glory, carrer, progress… and now, also a finely shaped snowflake from the clod North” a wink and a nod are what he adds to that, fitting this youth’s countenance like a glove.
“Hallo, Lady Melarra,” is Reyna prompt and amiable reply, her smile undiminished. “I did not see you at the festivities; can it be possible you missed them? Myles, you shall have to chide your father for me. It was all such spectacle!” She looks past the two Hightowers to the third. “Good evening, Ser Bradwell,” she calls to him.
Bradwell slowly bows his head ever so slightly to Reyna, raising an open palm to waist level, as if to offer gracious deference of sorts. “My lady,” Bradwell says, his voice not raised too much but still carrying nonetheless. “To see you again ...” He tails off and smiles, leaving the compliment unstated but ostensibly implied.
“Hello, Lady Reyna!” Melarra curtsies, spreading her burnt orange velvet skirts before the lady. “It is true, I’m afraid—I didn’t escape Oldtown soon enough to see any of the pageantry at Highgarden.” She smiles at Reyna. “However, I consider convincing my lord father to allow me to come to court quite a triumph, so hopefully you will forgive him my absence at the Tournament.” Melarra raises a quizzical eyebrow. “Surely there will be revels aplenty awaiting us when we arrive at King’s Landing?”
“Snowflakes melt in the summer heat,” Branna notes languidly with a delicate scrunch of her nose. “But then again, it is autumn.” Right around the time Anton moves for the railings, she takes another rock from her obliging guard and sends this one skipping over the river, easy as you please. Perhaps it is beginner’s luck or a matter of not paying much attention earlier. “It sounds like you have a busy schedule ahead, Ser Willard. However will you find time to feed the river?”
Anton walks towards the railings, in particular toward Branna and Willard, his quizzical look being replaced by one of wry amusement. Once he is within speaking distance, he inclines his head at Branna, offering a “my lady” in greeting. Seeing her success with the rock this time, he adds “nice throw,” before clapping Willard on the shoulder. “Willard!” Anton says the name, a small trace of warmth appearing in his voice. “I thought I heard you the other day.”
“We are a quiet court under King Baelor, though I suspect there will be a revel now and again. No singers strolling the gardens, though, or mummers’ dragon setting things afire, alas.” Reyna gives a regretful shrug. “It has all been rather fantastical this last month. I must credit my brother greatly with all that he managed to do.”
Glancing at the Mander and its great surface Ser Willard smirks as he takes one stone and utters “This one looks very well fed. May it be th…” he trails off as a hand claps his shoulder and he turns almost immeadiately towards the would be assailant, his hand going for his sword… only to stop mid-air. A warm smile appears on his face “Anton. Ser Anton Piper! How did you ever get out of King’s Landing? Were there no crimes commited, no one to be stopped from making the lives of the poor citizens unbearable?” he gives a small chuckle, then turns to the Stark girl “My lady, allow me to present Ser Anton Piper, an officer of the City Watch. Anton” he says to the Piper watchman “Meet the lovely Branna Stark, on her way to King’s Landing. Please do keep her safe in the city, if I would be at any point unable to do so myself” Willard winks to Anton jokingly.
Melarra nods sympathetically, “Well, ‘quiet’ is not a word that has been known to apply to me, my lady—as I’m sure my brothers will attest.” She smiles at the two men standing on either side of her, like bookends. “It may be that if there are no revels to be found, we can supply our own!”
“My party did hear about the events at Highgarden when we stopped over nearby during our travel. The smallfolk were abuzz with the deeds and events—I’m sure it is a story that will be told to their grandchildren. Your brother should indeed be proud.”
“The King is given to… reflection upon the Seven. For hours. And hours,” Myles states. “Best course in that situation is to keep your head down, sister, lest you get dragged to the Sept.”
Bradwell chuckles at his brother’s comment. “Oh, I think they would kick her out, for fear of too many parties and too much laughter,” Brad says, now having stepped forth a step or two to close the gap between himself and the other three. “She certainly would have appreciated your brother’s efforts. I can say that it was one of the more impressive series of events I’ve ever seen, Lady Reyna.” He pauses, then adds, “Please tell him I said so when next you see him.”
“Better to go to the Sept and be seen to,” counters Reyna, shaking her head and smiling at Myles. “It is a different court now, my friend. It behoves us all to at least make a show of piety, whatever is in your heart. Then we are thought devout and can do as we please.”
She smiles mischief at Bradwell. “It might be years, I fear. I shall write him your praise, however, Ser Bradwell, if that will suit.”
Branna inclines her head toward Anton, offering a quiet, “Thank you, ser,” along with a bright little smile. Her brows arch in surprise as Willard reaches for his sword, but her smile returns full force as introductions are made. “Thank you for the introductions, Ser Willard, and it is a pleasure to meet a member of the City Watch, Ser Anton. Yours is a noble duty, guarding the safety of the city and its residents.”
“Undoubtedly,” Bradwell replies in kind to Reyna, smiling and tilting his head slightly to the side with the motion.
Anton’s smile this time is quite genuine and even goes to his eyes. He bows to Branna, greeting her formally with “Lady Branna, an honour and pleasure to meet you. It will be good to have some northern blood at court, keep us on our toes. I thank you for your kind words, we do our best to uphold the King’s Law and provide order in the city” In response to Willard, Anton ruefully shakes his head, as if he’s done this many times. “Ser Richard forced me to take a vacation. Apparently, I was *working too hard.*” Anton grimaces. “As if there is such a thing.” He now looks Willard up and down and a smile returns to his face. “Look at your now, Ser Willard. ‘Have patience. Patience is a virtue.’ How many times did I tell you that in Dorne?”
Melarra raises an eyebrow at Myles. “I wasn’t proposing putting on a mummer’s show in the throne room, Myles.” She pauses thoughtfully. “And Lady Reyna is quite correct—there is nothing wrong with visiting the Sept. Perhaps you will join me when I visit it. It should prove instructive for at least ONE of us.” She stifles a giggle, and turns back to Lady Reyna.
“I do like to have a bit of fun, my lady—but it is of the harmless kind. Rides in the country, walking in the markets, or even just chatting over needlework. I dare say I’ll find ways to entertain myself in the city.”
“Well, I shall let you two speak for a moment,” Myles states, bowing slightly. “We shall have plenty of time to speak on the way back to the capital.”
The knight backs away and returns to the rail, calling his brother. “A word, brother, if you please.”
“Oh, that sort of thing is all right,” Reyna says, though she hides it if she is relieved to hear what Melarra considers fun. “I love a ride outside the city, though it is very rare when I can manage it.” She has finished her bowl of broth, and now a servant whisks the bowl away. “Tell me, Lady Melarra, who is that with Ser Anton? If she’s not a stark, I will eat my own hair.”
Willard laugh a trully merry laugh at Ser Anton’s words “I knew they’d have to set rabid dogs on you, to get you out of the city. And don’t start with that high and mighty atitude, patience is a virtue of the old and the dead. Too much life goes away on waiting…” at thisheturns back to Branna “I am sorry, for this interruption, my lady. Ser Anton and I are old acquaintances, forgive us if we get carried away in our jovialities. You were about to tell me…” He glances at Anton “Us, why are -you- on your way to King’s Landing from” and there’s that smirk again “The cold and hard North?”
With his brother’s beckoning, Bradwell bows slightly and smiles to the ladies. “Please excuse me,” he says and steps away, taking an even gait away from the pair and catching up with his younger brother.
Melarra hides a smile, wondering what Lady Reyna would think of the bits she left OUT of her comments on fun. A ride with Melarra would be at breakneck speed, like as not, and the markets she would frequent could be in Flea Bottom as easily as the more prosperous parts of town. Oh well, she thought—What the Lady Reyna doesn’t know won’t hurt her.
Melarra turns slightly to regard the young lady that Lady Reyna mentions. “You know, I am not quite sure, my lady. She does have the look of the North about her, though. Shall we invite them over? I have not had a chance to speak more than a few words to Ser Anton, either.”
Once the two are a short distance away, Ser Myles leans on the rail, his eyes scanning the riverbank absently as he speaks. “Since you were there, I take it you know a bit about this business with our uncle, Ser Alek.”
Branna’s smile widens, mischievous. “It is a pleasant interruption, if it is an interruption at all. And as I said earlier, I am here to learn.” No elaboration here. “In any case, I shall strive to do my part in keeping people on their toes then.” A glance goes to her septa, who looks just a little horrified at the thought. “Within the limits of chivalry, etiquette, and the like, of course.” She says this too airily for her words to be taken entirely at face value, but the septa does relax, taking her at her word.
The young Stark does grow more solemn as she adds, “Upholding law and justice is no easy task. I have seen my father and uncles deliberate over such matters. Though you might not wish or need for a break, it may still be good to take them as they come.” Perhaps catching something of Reyna and Melarra’s conversation, she glances over with a pleasant bob of her head.
“A little, but not enough, not yet,” Bradwell replies quietly to Myles, turning out toward the water so that his voice carries away from the ship and not toward the crowd. “Some mess with the Meadows people.” He shakes his head, drawing his lips inward. Here, he looks at his brother, who, whatever differences there may or may not be in their styles and personas, he has always treated as a stalwart. “What do you know?”
Similar to Branna, it appears Anton heard something, likely the name ‘Stark’ which has not been mentioned much in court the past few months. Turning his head to see only Reyna and Melarra present, with Brad and Myles having gone their own way to have a discussion, Anton steps to one side to allow Branna and Willard a clear path to the Saltcliffe and Hightower ladies. “Lady Branna, Willard, I believe Lady Reyna may be interested in meeting the both of you. As I mentioned, northerners have been rare at court as of late. As for you Willard, your father is an important figure at court, as is Lady Reyna. It is a good idea to make her acquaintance as early as possible.” With that Anton takes a flanking position to the two youngesters, almost sheparding them to Reyna and Melarra.
Melarra notes the lull in the conversation surrounding Ser Anton and the unknown young woman and young man. She lowers her voice for Lady Reyna’s ears alone. “It appears they overheard our speculation, my lady. We shan’t need to call them over after all!” Melarra turns with a smile for the newcomers, deferring to Lady Reyna to speak first.
“Well, they were playing some game of Monsters and Maidens I think and Ser Alek and Cousin Josmyn killed Lord Manard’s grandson. There’s been a lot of bad blood in it, I’m told. The Reynes have been fairly meek about it, but the Meadows are still angry, I think,” Myles replies.
“Oh, good, I do hate to shout,” Reyna says to Melarra, smiling and turning toward the threesome coming across the barge. She is a small woman, and seated, looks rather smaller still. “Who have you brought me, Ser Anton? You must forgive me for not rising,” she tells the other two in apology. “I have spent the last few days sleeping, and I still feel weary. I hope to be at my best by Tumbleton.” Her voice is warm, even welcoming.
“‘To learn, ugh. You northerners are always so shy of words, when there a myriad of them to say out loud” Ser Willard smiles and turns at Anton’s words “Lady Reyna… The wife of the Iron Serpent, hmmmm.Yes, meeting her might do good. To you as well, my lady” he smiles at Branna yet again “Lady Reyna is known, connected and a prominent figure at court.” he offeran arm to the Stark lady “Shall we?”
Bradwell nods once at his brother’s description. “As well they should be,” Brad says, his own words still softened and meant for his brother alone. “I heard Ardon Tyrell stepped in and handled it as well as could be expected. But in truth, how can you ever put a fire like that out?” He shakes his head. “Only with blood.” He turns out to the water again. “When last have you seen Alek?”
As the three move towards Reyna and Melarra, Anton overhears some bits and pieces of Myles and Brad’s conversation. His only reaction is when Myles mentions ‘Reyne’ and ‘Meadows’ at which point, a frown appears on Anton’s forehead. He does not approach the brothers however, as it clearly is a private conversation, but his frown does not disappear until the three reach Reyna and Melarra. Bowing to Reyna, Anton offers a quiet “no forgiveness required, my lady. You deserve whatever rest you require after the work you and your brother put into that festive event.” Turning to the other two, Anton continues. “This is Lady Branna Stark and Ser Willard Ryger, son of Lord Terin Ryger.” He then steps back to allow the two youth a chance to converse directly with Reyna.
Melarra inclines her head toward the two newcomers. “Hello Ser Willard, Lady Branna. I am Melarra Hightower, daughter of Lord Lorent Hightower, and younger sister to Ser Myles and Ser Bradwell.”
Melissa has connected.
The question prompts Ser Myles to reflect. “A year? Two? I cannot recall. I only wish to be certain that we have not been drawn into anything. King’s Landing is enough of a viper’s den without having a blood feud thrown at our feet. We shall have to get a proper house, most like. It will not do to keep our sister in the tower, unless Reyna is able to get her a place with one of the princesses. If our names are attached to this disagreement we’ll have to pay double the rent to some fat merchant jealous of his property.”
Branna accepts the shepherding and the offered arm with good grace, her thanks murmured to them both as she walks. Upon her approach, she dips a neat curtsey to Melarra and Reyna during Anton’s introductions. When she straightens up again, it is with a warm smile on her face. “A delight to meet you both, my lady of Saltcliffe, my lady of Hightower. Please, there is no need to rise. You have been busy with the proceedings at Highgarden, and I am certain my aunt would be deeply vexed with me if I imposed on her dear friend.”
Reyna, hearing something of the Hightowers’ discussion, chooses to interject: “The Queen handled it, Ser Bradwell, which is much better than my brother managing it alone. She decreed a blood price and an end to it. Anyone who ignites a feud now would be running afoul of the Dragons.”
She claps her hands then, smiling brightly. “I knew you were a Stark, Lady Branna. You have the look of them, much like my dear Marian. And Lord Ryger’s son as well. I am honored to meet you both. I am Reyna Saltcliffe, daughter of Lord Loras Tyrell. Lord Leo’s father was my brother.”
At that, Bradwell chuckles beneath his breath. “At least we can afford it,” he says, his humor ever so black about his family’s wealth. Then his tone becomes serious again. “I saw Alek briefly during the tourney, before this all happened. It was the first time we’d crossed paths in maybe 10 years, and he barely recognized me. I have yet to see him again, though admittedly I have stayed to—and beyond—the periphery of this traveling revel. I think it’s allowed us to steer clear for now, but then ... King’s Landing has blown my preconceptions to the winds in the past.”
“The pleasure is all mine, my ladies.” Willard says with a deep bow, as he stands straight again with a smile on his face “It is unfortunate that I did not arrive to the tourney on time for the festivities and the, as I heard, beautiful enntertainment that was given.” his features loose a bit of merriment at those words, though his worse mood is not aimed at nobody particular.
Melissa has long been socializing on the deck. From one side to the other, there are far too many people on board to not get involved a conversation. Wearing a smile the way Melissa does, as a perfect accessory, her cheeks hurt after a while, and the cold does nothing to help it. The wine is what keeps her warm of an evening, but tonight she’s dressed in a shawl and is sans bottle, having gone dry a long time ago in her discussion. Now she’s arriving on a new cluster of people well known, and talking with some more newly met. And the smile on her face is refreshed.
Myles nods at Reyna’s interjection.
“I find myself hungry. You, boy! A wedge of cheese and some bread. And wine!” he adds, sending a page scurrying toward the galley.
“I dread returning to court with the place crawling with septons.”
Anton withdraws more from the conversation, letting Branna and Reyna discuss their mutual relations and acquaintances. His gaze flickers back to the river flowing by outside, though still much too slow for his liking.
“The queen is wise,” Bradwell replies (somewhat belatedly) to Reyna’s comments. “As has Ser Ardon been, ever since we rode together years ago in the Marches, so my faith in both is strengthened.” Simple comments, put simply.
Now .. turning back to his brother ... about that cheese and those septons. “Yes, well, court is still court, septons or not. I suspect it will influence them more than they it. But until then—” He looks about. “We still have some time before then, and I plan to make the most of it.” Now, to Myles: “I will find you later.” And, to Reyna, “Good day, Lady Reyna.” And he is off, pushing off and pressing deeper into the crowds before he disappears among them.
Willard is about to say something as a very fat man with ananchor sewn onto the front of his doublet runs up to him, his large belly and huge jowls wiggling to the steps. He runs close and whispers something on Willard’s ear and nods to a questioning gaze from his master. “I am verily sorry to run away like so, but it seems I am needed urgently elsewhere.” He bows to the Laies Reyna and Melarra, then turns to the lady of Stark “My lady, it was an untold pleasure to make your acquaintance. I hope I will not be cumbersome if I say that I will be looking forward to our next meet.” and again, he flashes one of those smiles “Then you can tell me all about the ‘learning’ as well as the beauties of the hard and cold North” he finishes with a small chickle, bows deeply in front of Branna and nods to Anton muttering a “We will need to talk later, aye?” as he hurries after his squire.
Reyna bends her head to Bradwell, then raises a brow at Myles. “How now, Ser Myles?” she asks, a smile curving her lips. “Good evening, Ser Willard.” She bends her head to Melarra as well, acknowledging the ebb and flow of people on the barge.
“Better than a signet ring,” Branna comments on the topic of Stark looks, her smile deepening with a touch of family pride. “There are quite a few families who seem to carry their heritage in their looks, it would seem.” Perhaps it is Melissa’s approach that inspires that comment, though the younger lady’s not so certain of her guess to venture a greeting just yet. A curious look goes to Willard as his mood seems to worsen, but she refrains from asking, nodding as he takes his leave. “Hardly cumbersome, Ser Willard. Good evening.”