Morning over The Roseroad. An orange sun inches toward the sky’s apex. Birds sing. People mill. Such are the last echoes of the trek through the Reach.
The great train slogging through the Reach has reached its last encampment on the way to King’s Landing. People move about, gathering a morning meal or stowing the last of their gear for the final march through the Crownlands. Among these people is Brad Hightower, heir to the ruling house of Oldtown, said by some to be the wealthiest (after the Lannisters, of course) house in the land and yet sporting an heir who dresses as a common lord, with no ostentation and little decor. He moves through, stopping at a particular set of horses in what’s become a makeshift stable. As he speaks to one of the horses quietly, it becomes clear these are the horses of his house. A traveling master of horses approaches, and a few words are shared before the master is on his way and Brad is left with the animals, as people continue to pass onward in their own preparations.
Andrya slowly and gently guides her horse towards the makeshift stable as she prepares to take a moment from all the continous riding. Her back aches and she feels tired but she stubbornly keeps her mouth shut about those little hardships. Today she is dressed in a simply grey travelling gown save for some intricate embroidery around the collar that gives away the fact that she is not just anyone. Her auburn hair is loose and hangs about her face freely and her bright sky blue eyes sparkle identifying her most certainly as a Tully. She notices a man standing amidst the horses and as she jumps from her horse in a suprisingly graceful manner calls out a polite greeting to him “Good morn to you Ser”.
Brad looks up toward the woman, a flick of a motion that subsequently translates into a held observance. A moment passes. Then, a hint of a smile. “My lady,” he greets her in a soft-spoken yet even tone. “You dismount like the deftest of knights.” He pauses and then adds, almost as a coda, “Good morning.” Another pause. “How was your ride?”
Andrya laughs lightly at his words and bows her head slightly at the compliment “Why thank you Ser, I have been riding all my life” she looks at him as if searching for a hint as to who he might be. “It was a satisfactory ride, it is nice to be out in the open but does get slightly monotonus after a while do you not find….you must forgive my ignorance Ser but I am new to court and not aware of who is who, I can tell by your speech you are not just anyone though so who is it I find myself speaking to” she smiles with curiosity.
“I’ve been trying to hide that little tick in my speech,” Brad says, the hint of a smile blossoming into a grin as he leans back toward the horse and turns away from her briefly. He pats the horse once and shakes his head. “Nobility. We can’t hide it, can we, Whisper?” Then he turns back to her. “I am Brad Hightower, of Oldtown.” He runs a hand through his hair, the hand opposite the one that touched the horse. “Ser Brad of House Hightower, as some would announce me. And you, my lady?”
“Ah a Hightower, and not just any old Hightower, Heir to it to, if I remember correctly!” Andrya smiles at the Hightower knight, “Aye tis a mighty difficult task to hide anything these days..I am Andrya of house Tully” she says with a proud gleam in her eyes as she declares the name of her house.
“You have the right of it, my lady,” Brad says. “Would that I were you, there should never be the need for hiding. I cannot imagine hiding one such as you, Lady Andrya of House Tully.” Behind him, the horse sniffs once, then again, audibly. It draws Brad’s eyes, but only briefly, as they return to Andrya. “So how did The Reach compare to your Riverlands? Did it match the tales, or did it disappoint?” Small talk? Or direct question, more pointed than that? The voice is neutral. The eyes are friendly enough.
“Ah the Reach could never compare with the noble Riverlands Ser, I am sure you can understand that, one can never love any land more than the place they call home” she replied back jovially to his questions, “Aye but I’m sure it was a great deal more eventful than anything happening at the Riverlands in the past two months, pray how did you find the tourneys?”
“Ah, tourneys are tourneys,” Brad replies. “You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Men play at battle, win empty honors, drink more than they should, and lurch about from one woman to the next, ever hopeful.” He takes a step forth, almost idly. “A truly brilliant tour of the Reach would begin in Oldtown, but too few made that trek. The tower is just one place. There is the Starry Sept with its black marbled walls. Did you know that Aegon I locked himself up there for a week when he first made landfall here? And the wharves, with more ships than you have ever seen, from more lands than you have ever seen. A dozen languages, at least, can be heard on the piers.” Here, he proves her truth: One does love home most. “Have you ever been to Oldtown, my lady?”
Andrya finds her smile widening as she listens to him going on about about his Oldtown. “I am sorry to admit I have never had that pleasure Ser, although it has always intrested me, especially the Citadel of course and those fearsome strong ciders I have heard of that Oldtown is famous for” she smiles kindly “The tourneys I gather were not the only thing going on, I was sorry to hear about all that buissiness with the Reyne kidnapping and the ambush” she says more seriously
Brad nods in kind, his wistfulness becoming more serious in nature. “Yes, one hears,” Brad says. “One hears too little, however. It seems my trip to Cider Hall was mistimed. What have you heard of it, my lady?”
“Not very much at all in truth” Andrya admits, “All I know is of Ser Josmyn Reyne being kidnapped, an ambush taking place and the false knights who were from the Riverlands, perhaps you could enlighten me on the subject..?” she asks slowly
“Tales for another day,” Brad says. “What I know comes secondhand. My brother and uncle remain afield. Timing was not as it should have been. As I said, I was at Cider Hall when this all took place. Being the heir to a great house has its drawbacks.” There seems to be some bitterness in his voice, or perhaps distaste. Clearly this is not a man who enjoys missing action when it is just and real. “I would have to enlighten you another day, I’m afraid.”
” Securing the flanks is the most important thing. Unless cavalry as rear guards to jump in if needed. Even better is to use the terrain and hide most of the cavalry. Deception is what wins wars, my friend.” The sound of an ongoing conversation can be heard as two men approach, their horses having a steady trot that has brought them quietly further in front of the Crane household. Known to most people, the heir of Red Lake is a man with a regal bearing and the appearance of a general, piercing pale blue eyes and a voice that is firm but polite. His companion wears the same house colours as Albyn, marking him as a retainer. As he finishes his sentence, Albyn Crane notices they are about to pass the Tully lady and he holds his horse to greet her. ” Lady Andrya, a pleasure.” Albyn’s eyes then shift to the man she has been conversating with. ” Ser. Albyn Crane.” he simply states.
“Ah once again the gods have chosen for us to meet again, Good morn to you Ser” she laughs remembering his words from yesterday, “Ah and then we also have here one heir meeting another heir here, my I feel so small in the company of so many heirs!” she smiles and looks from the Crane knight to the Hightower knight.
Brad nods once toward Albyn, his lips drawing inward, and then opening to voice. “Brad Hightower,” he says simply. He does not voice the Ser, nor the House. When one is the heir to one of the richest houses in the Seven Kingdoms, one apparently doesn’t need to. Behind him, one of the horses sniffs audibly again, but Brad appears comfortable with it as they stand here near the gathered horses of the train headed up to King’s Landing. “An honor to meet the heir of so noble a house as the men of Red Lake.” His voice is even, almost soft-spoken, and though the words could be those parroted at court after court with the artifice of noble privilege, Brad may just well mean what he says, stripped of artifice as his tone may be.
” Good morning, my lady.” Albyn politely answers though his attention gets turned immediately back on Bradwell as the Crane knight’s eyes lighten up witt recognision at the name. After all, Albyn Crane is a born politician with an almost studied knowledge of the members of the high regions ” Ser Bradwell Hightower?” he asks.
“The very same, although he was trying to hide it when I first encountered him a little earlier” Andrya smiles kindly at Bradwell and answers for him “His speech was the only that gave away who he was”
At Andrya’s comment, Brad laughs. It’s brief, but rich and true. “Hide it?” Brad says. “I think not. I simply don’t see the need to constantly announce it. Names may have power, but it is people who have character.” Here, he turns to Albyn. “And what of you? How do you judge the man? How would one judge you, Ser Albyn? When your days have run their course, how would you be remembered?”
” Ah yes. The profit of a proper education can be found in the speech of a noble. I would find it even hard to speak like a common peasant, I’m afraid.” Albyn smiles softly to Andrya as he speaks. A bit surprised by the Hightower’s questions he remains silent for a moment before leaning back a bit in thoughts. ” Hmm. Well, I’d say one can judge a man at first, based on the name of his house and rank. Secondly on what he may have reached yet in life. For that, I would like to be remembered as a loyal man who brought honour and prestige to his house. Hmmm. Yes, that would be it I guess.” Reserving an amused smile for the heir of Oldtown, he continues. ” A rather odd question though. Allow me to ask the same one to you now, my lord.”
“By my actions, of course,” Brad responds evenly. “Were they for right or wrong, better or worse, honor or none? Many things are for profit in life, others for pleasure. In Oldtown, they tell tales of the Starry Sept, with its brilliant black marble walls—” Here, he looks to Andrya. “—as I mentioned to you earlier. There is the Lord’s Sept, matching its name. But for me, it was always the Sailor’s Sept. For on the open water, one’s name matters little in a storm. What will bring you home is your skill, your strength of character, and the courage to face the squall to help your crew return home alive.”
He pauses a moment, lets it sit, then smiles, as if to crack the moment with levity. “And then,” he adds lightheartedly, “I suppose the house and rank matter a little too.”
Andrya eyes look with intrest at both the men observing the reaction of each as the other speaks. She wonders at the purpose of Bradwell’s questioning, was it trying to get a measure of the other heir or just simply talk to pass the time? She smiles though at the difference she observes between the two men. She is learning so much about these people at court already! “Even though no one has asked me, I think my answer is made all the more easier by the house that I belong to. Family, duty, honour is all that is important to me and hope to be remembered for..” she states simply although it sounds as if it is something her septa has taught her rather than something she truthfully means.
“Hmmm.. a fair answer though name does count, in my opinion. It is said that when the Dragon’s Hammer faced a larger fleet just before combat, one of his officer remarked that the number of enemy ships are twice the number of his fleet. the Dragon’s Hammer simply noted ‘And how many ships am I worth?’ and it was so that upon the sight of the sigil of House Bar Emmon beneath the royal dragon, the enemy turned and fled.” Albyn smiles as he’s quite satisfied with his counter remark.
“Very good, Ser Albyn,” Brad says, smiling faintly. “Your case is made.” He looks to Andrya. “I am sorry to have steered our conversation to such trivialties. Lords and knights, such windbags, all of the lot.” He says this deadpanned, but there is clearly humor within it. “And we have held up Ser Albyn, surely.” He looks up toward the sky, spying the sun rising closer to its noontime apex. “We leave for King’s Landing soon.”
“Well then, it was a pleasure to meet, Ser Bradwell, My lady.” he nods to both as he moves his horse to turn. Although halfway he stops in his move and faces Brad. ” Oh… just out of curiousity, my lord.” A pondering frown appears on Albyn’s forehead. ” How’s your son… Jon, was it I assume, doing these days? I’ve heard he’s coming of age to squire in a few years.” The heir of Red Lake awaits a last response from Bradwell, his face neutral as usual.
“Apologise for nought ser, it was intresting to say the least” Andrya smiles at the Hightower knight. “Indeed yes we shall be reaching Kings Landing soon enough and I shall see for myself what everyone has been talking about!” A moment passes and she bids farewell to Albyn as he leaves with a nod before she hears her name called out, spotting Ser Luthor she gives him a brilliant smile, “Ah Ser Luthor, it is good to see you again”
“He recently returned from Three Towers,” Brad replies to Albyn, referring to House Costayne. “His time as a page is nearly past, I think. So yes, it’s coming on time for him to squire. If you have any suggestions of a knight worthy enough to mentor him, come see me in King’s Landing.” Brad watches Albyn a moment, but Andrya’s words draw his attention—and his eyes, which flick on to Luthor.
Albyn nods politely to the Hightower heir and then urges his horse in a fast trot to catch up with his own household.
Luthor removes his nasal helm in the lady’s presence tucking it up under an arm. “And good to see you as well,” he replies to the Tully girl before giving a nod of farewell to Albyn. His eyes turn then to her other companion and asks Andrya “The Peacock of Red Lake I know, but may I have the honor of an introduction to your other companion?”
Brad steps forth and saves Andrya the trouble. “Brad Hightower, of Oldtown,” he says. A moment passes, and then he adds, “Or Ser Brad of House Hightower, if you would have it that way.” He looks to the now quiet Tully woman a moment before glancing back at Luthor. “Either way, it’s good to meet you.”
A look of recognition crosses Luthor’s face when the name is given, the bastard knight nods respectfully and extends an arm. “Well met,” he says with earnest good will. “I’ve heard good things spoken of you by good people, it’s a pleasure to meet you, ser.” Then to them both he says. “I trust the morning has found you both well?”
“Well enough, although I will finally admit to having been bored and tired to death, the journey has been quite uneventful, although some may say that is a good thing! How fare you this fine morning ser,are you looking forward to the prospect of returning to Kings Landing?” Andrya asked polietly back to him although the last part is directed to either of them
“Almost as well as my lady,” Brad responds to Luthor, returning the knight’s gesture, arm to arm, gripped with good will. “And even better now to hear that the positive lies about me have spread, and not the negative ones.” Brad smiles faintly and then turns to Andrya. “Did you see Ser Luthor in the tourney? I watched him defeat Ser Allos Swann in the time it takes to clean one’s teeth.” He looks back to Luthor. “I hope The Reach was good to you.”
Andrya laughs at the Hightower knight’s comment on Luthor. “Ah Ser Luthor, all in all you are starting to sound like one of the most gallant men at court! Pity you are already married” she says the last sentence with a mischeveous laugh and a quick sly look at Luthor. “I was most unfortunate to have missed the tourneys, yes the Reach does sound like a fine land…but still never better than the Riverlands!” she smiles lightly
Brad’s smile has lingered and faded, not from displeasure, but simply as natural expression. “Ser Luthor speaks as a man who’s fought his share of battles,” Brad says to Andrya. Then he looks back to Luthor. “Poor timing put me in Cider Hall with the Fossoways at the time of the most recent troubles. What of you?” Here, his tone has changed, becoming somewhat more direct.
Luthor gives Andrya a smile. “My thanks, but I am only the King’s servant, there are more gallant men than I at court,” he says before answering Ser Brad. “Hmm, I was there when your cousin was taken, I saw the ladies from harm and remained with the barges when Ser Dagur said this was a matter for the Reach.”
Andrya nodded her expression more serious. “It all sounds like a very unfortunate affair, I met Lord Swann only recently and the injuries he sustained from the encounter, well to say they looked painful would be an understatement..” she smiled wryly at that.
“And what’s your view on what happened?” Brad says, his eyes remaining on Luthor. “The truth of it. The motivations behind it. What actually happened.”
“It was foolery from start to finish. If the Meadows were so depleted of blood kin, why risk their heir in a foolish game? Then, why take a man after you’ve already accepted payment for your loss as your liege lord decreed. It seems to me that when Dagur and the other catch up to them, those men deserve what they get. I just hope Josmyn will be alive when they find them.” He pauses then and nods to Andrya. “As to Allos, the wounds did look painful but don’t fear for him. One stern look from him would set the Stranger to flight.”
Pennei approaches the stables, clad in riding leathers under a warm fur-lined velvet cloak. Ready for the final leg to King’s Landing, she is pulling on her calfskin gloves, but pauses as she hears voices at the stable.
Following Pennei at a respectable distance, is the northman knight Ser Leon of White Harbor. The man is dressed in his leathers and armour, and looks thoroughly bored and sick of riding. He does, however, keep close to Pennei, making sure to keep an eye on his master’s wife.
“Lord Swann does seem like a man not easily crushed” she replies to Luthor’s reassurance, as she scans the makeshift stable around her, her eyes spot a woman and she looks around to see Luthor’s face bearing recognition as he looks to the woman to. “Ser Luthor pray introduce me to the lady” she smiles and urges looking from Luthor to the woman
With the entry of others and Andrya’s beseeching, Brad yields the moment. “Perhaps we can pick this conversation up another time, Ser Luthor,” he says. “I appreciate your candor.”
“Of course,” Ser Luthor says with a nod to Brad before he looks back over his shoulder at the lady that Andrya indicated. He smiles slightly when he turns back to his companions. “That is my wife, Lady Pennei,” he explains before turning to call her, and her guardian to join them.
Pennei spots her husband and walks to his side. She dips a little curtsy. “My lords, my lady.” The shy girl’s murmur is barely audible and she keeps her eyes demurely lowered. Her blue-black hair is worn loose, falling over the ruined side of her face.
Leon follows his charge, dipping a shallow bow to the nobles assembled. The smallfolk knight, however, keeps silent, folding his arms across his chest.
Andrya hopes the shock she felt it her mind was not betrayed by her face as she saw Pennei’s face properly, she tries to keep her eyes on the lady as she takes in the left side of her face. “Lady Pennei! It is so good to have finally met you, I assure you I have only heard good things, in fact only earlier I was-” she stops herself remembering the nature of her earlier comment and not deeming it appropirate, “It is good to finally have another lady around, I must say all this male company was becoming rather overwhelming” she declares kindly to Pennei instead.
Likewise, Brad smiles and steps forth. “My lady,” Brad greets Pennei in return. “I am—” A faint pause, maybe a split second, and he in turn gives a more proper, court-like introduction of himself. “—Ser Brad Hightower, of Oldtown.” Here, he is nearly soft-spoken but clear, no posturing, just a simple introduction, as if to make Lady Pennei feel at ease.
A frown crosses Luthor’s face at the introductions, or more particularly the pauses but he speaks nothing of it. Instead he fixes a small smile on his lips and turns towards Ser Leon. “And this is my sworn sword Ser Leon of White Harbor, and master of arms to the Kingswood Company,” he says completing the introductions.
The first time Pennei is introduced to someone is always the hardest. Although Bradwell and Andrya maintain courtesy, it is obvious that the girl noticed. Her porcelin skin blushes pink, turning her scar crimson. “A pleasure, Ser Bradwell. Lady Andrya.” She dips another curtsey, deeper, acknowledging the difference in status between her House and theirs.
Leon bows once again as he is introduced. “My lords, ladies.” He mumbles, a slight nervous tone to the knight’s voice, despite his hardened looks. He subconciously runs a hand through his iron-black hair, watching the nobles hanging about, his steel-grey eyes lingering on Bradwell for a moment.
Andrya nods to the knight as a greeting and then looks from Luthor to Pennei,just for a second, her mind acknowledging the difference between the two. She turns to Pennei and smiles slightly “Enough of the curtsying Lady Pennei you’ll tire youself out!” she jests and laughs lightly although directly afterwards regretting it and hoping the girl does not take offence. “I trust your journey has been well so far” she says more gently.
As Andrya focuses on Pennei, Brad offers something else. “White Harbor?” Brad says, his eyes and voice lighting with interest. “Very good to meet you, Ser Leon. Some of my best days were spent at White Harbor, as short and cold as they were. Excellent fishing there. A good town, good people. I’m sure the same goes for you.”
“Lady Pennei is the cousin of your good-sister Lady Simona, Ser Edmure’s wife,” Luthor explains to Andrya with a nod to the Tully woman before he turns to Ser Brad eye brows raising with surprise. “You’re well traveled ser, how’d you come to be in White Harbor?”
Pennei ahs softly, nodding as Luthor explains the relation. “On the Corbray side, yes. My lady mother is sister to Lord Bestan. “It has been a fine event, my lady. But I will be glad to be back in King’s Landing and sleep within solid walls once more.” Though the lords and ladies of powerful Houses had accommodations within Highgarden’s keep, the lesser lords and ladies stayed in their pavillion tents.
“Yer kind to say so milord…” Leon says, smiling lightly. “Seems White Harbor turns Reavers straight, too. Me dad is an iron-man.” He glances to Luthor, then back at Brad, still shifting a tad nervously. As though he’s not sure if he should be talking.
Andrya nods and smiles openly at this new found relationship. “Truly! Well its even better now, we are kin, Simona was well the last time I saw her you’ll be pleased to hear” she replies. Her eyes light up with interest when the knight called Leon mentions his connections to the Iron Islands, she looks at him intently and properly then for the first time, though she keeps her silence.
“Well then, maybe I’ll have to reconsider that blanket assessment of your character then,” Brad says, and though the shadow of a smile lingers, it’s not clear if he’s serious, joking, or both. He turns to Luthor. “In Oldtown, you can find a ship to anywhere. If your name is Hightower, you can find passage on any of them. And if you drop the ‘Ser’ and earn your keep, you can learn to sail the way the line sailors do.” He glances toward Leon momentarily, before returning his eyes to Luthor. “I was there 10, maybe 11 years ago. The year of the Oakenshield tourney, shortly before it. If you want to see the North, White Harbor is the gateway.”
“I was in Oldtown then about the time you were in White Harbor, coming back from the tourney in Oakenshield,” he smiles to Brad. “How far North did you get?”
“That is good to know, my Lady. We all hope that she is happy with Ser Edmure. I will tell my lady mother and I know she will be pleased.” Pennei replies, peeking up at Andrya from beneath the fringe of her eyelashes.
“They are indeed very happy together” she smiles kindly at Pennei,” and you m’lady, does Luthor treat you well enough?” she winks at her. Turning once again to the retainer knight, she searches his face and letting her curiosity get the better of her speaks to him. “Aye you do have a look of an ironborn about you..” she comments, whether that is a mere observation or an insult it is not clear “have you been to the Iron Islands yourself Ser?”
Brad’s response to Luthor is a somewhat subdued and faint, close-mouthed smile. “The Wall,” he says quietly, almost with resignation. He does not elaborate.
“I have been blessed with the finest of husbands, my lady.” Pennei replies softly, with a sidelong glance at Luthor. She is about to say something else, when one of the Massey servants tells her that Lady Kalyra has need of her. With another curtsey, the scarred girl makes her apologies and departs.
Leon takes a few moments, taking a deep breath before manaing a weak smile to the Tully girl. “N-No, my lady. I don’t care much for boats.” The half iron-man says, now pointedly not looking at Brad.
Luthor smiles at Pennei’s comment then quietly bids her farewell with a squeeze of her hand. Back to Brad he nods. “I was there myself a few years later, Eastwatch,” he offers no more and neither does he press the heir to Oldtown to elaborate on his own tale.
Andrya nods curtly at Leon’reply saying no more but still her gaze lingers at him for a little too long before she turns from Luthor to Bradwell. “Ah all these secretive journeys to the wall” she laughs, then breathing deeply says “I, for one, would give anything to stand there,right on top just for a moment….to be there, on the edge of the world as they call it..” then she smiles at her own words, thinking them childish.
Brad turns his smile toward Andrya. “Yes, Eastwatch has quite a view,” he says. And there is nothing more of it to be said.
And as he watches Pennei depart, he takes mind of his own presence. “I should be preparing for the ride up to King’s Landing.” He looks at Andrya. “My lady, it’s been a pleasure.” In turn, he looks to Luthor and Leon. “As it has been with you. Maybe we can meet up again once we reach the city. You’re welcome among the Hightowers—at least this one, certainly.”
Luthor nods. “It does,” agrees the bastard knight. “I would be pleased to continue our talk in the city, ser, until then ride safely.” Andrya gets a smile. “It’s most of the reason I went, to see the edge of the world. Anyhow time grows short, and we must be off to King’s Landing and the court,” he says as he puts his helm back on. “I will bid you safe journeys as well my lady,” he bows to Andrya.
“Aye, it has been my pleasure to meet you Ser Bradwell, I fear I must do the same, Kings Landing is not so far away now..” Andrya smiles kindly at him and then once again to Luthor and a nod to the retainer knight, before also making her exit as she disappears amidst the horses.
With no further words, Brad heads off toward his encampment to gather his things and prepare for the final ride to King’s Landing.