It has been a full day and then some since the ill fated operation, and the last of the stragglers have hardly been seen. There are some who hold a vigil in the yard, others who hold up in the sept, but most of the veterans know that it is not likely to do any good: the men who left are probably little more than carrion for the crows.
Or so it seems, until a rider bursts forth from the wood. He rides hard, making for the keep, blazing through the river gate and shouting as soon as there are nobles who might actaully care: “They are safe! They are found!” The news travels through the keep quickly enough, and by the time the awaited party reaches the River Gate, they are expected, and an honor guard of sorts rides out to escort them back inside, including Ser Leon of White Harbor.
When they do come into range, the men appear…as though they have seen much, much better days. In addition to their leathers being torn and pierced, buckled and bashed, much of their garb shows signs of fire damage. This is evident on every one of them, including Ser Farin, who finally appears to be riding (at a slow gait) at the front of the line. Behind him are sers Anton and Ethos, the squires Edwyn, Ryckon, and Ammon, and only three remaining Kingswood knights.
Accompanying Ser Leon on his guard is the newly-appointed Officer of the River Gate, Ser Alek Reyne. He is dressed in his full uniform this day, the golden cloak streaming down his shoulders. But the man says nothing.
“Gods alive…” Leon mumbles, as they move to escort them back to the Keep.
Triston was standing off to the side, giving room for the men to pass. He was quiet as he had come with the first yell of the news. One hand was fiddling with the rope that raps around his neck, the other resting idlely on the hilt of his sword. His lips stretching thin, tightening as he takes note of the vastly smaller group.
Ammon Massey lags a bit behind the other men. He is beyond disheveled: dirt covers every inch of his leather armor; soot streaks down his face; his eyebrows have been singed off and a few burns dot his forehead and cheeks; blood is spattered /everywhere/. Soiled bandages are bunched up on his left shoulder and on his right side. His sword sits in its scabbard, slapping against his hip as his horse trots on. His shield, hanging from his back and bearing the sigil of his house, is gouged and wrent in a dozen places. And yet, the man smiles broadly at the approaching guards. The foul mood which has plagued him these past few days is apparently lifted.
Ser Anton Piper flanks Ser Farin Prester, a large bandage on his left shoudler, soaked through with blood. His hardened leather armour is burned through in some areas and there are singe marks on his face. His eyes are focused however and they scan the area with the calm detachment of a veteran returning from just another battle. The hilt of his greatsword protrudes from his shoulder and a longsword is sheathed on his hip. Riding slightly behind him, is his squire, Edwyn Rosby. The boy also has some burn marks on him, but is otherwise unhurt. As the group reaches the Red Keep, Edwyn moves forward to ride besides Anton and looks at his master with questioning eyes. Anton wearily nods and the boy immediately spurs his horse forward, riding hard through the courtyard in the direction of the stables. Once there, he nearly hops off his horse, letting a groom take the reins. Edwyn then walks very quickly into the keep, not greeting or looking at anyone in particular. Anton meanwhile, remains with the group, his eyes are alert, though that inherent icy coldness is ever-present.
Ser Farin Prester could not look anything farther from the image of Ser Farin Prester. His dyed red leathers, where they are not burned off, are covered in a mud that has dried into a crusty dirt. His hair is all about his shoulder, a tangled mess that would make a krakken weep to behold. His immaculate posture is beaten and crushed, for he rides with his head hanging, and back bent. His shield is dented, but not beaten in so hard as the Massey squire’s. There is a curious lack of blood on him, however: if he has taken any blows, the evidence is hidden beneath the mud. Ryckon rides behind him, the Westerling boy looking nearly the mirror image of the man in front, until Farin sees Edwyn riding off. He gives Ryckon leave to do the same, but the boy refuses, and stays by Farin’s side for now.
There was little for Triston to do but watch the group. He takes a few steps back to allow even more room. If one of the men should look towards him he would dip his head in their direction. There was no smile, no show of happiness of seeing them back, but there was no ill display either. A quiet reserve for the moment and the men that had been lucky enough to make it back alive.
And then, they make it to the Western Yard.
“Gods alive…” Leon mutters once more as they trot into the Western Yard. “Ser Farin, you want I fetch some maesters fer ya?” The baseborn man asks hesitantly.
Once the group enters, Alek dismounts his horse, and handing the reins off to his squire, turning to face the collected knights, his, oddly cold, green eyes scanning them, a light frown creasing his brow.
Ser Luthor is among those who come out to greet the returning knights out in the keep for the first time since his return this morning. No one needs to ask why, his ashen face, left cheek bright a wound painted with Myrish fire, and the stiff way he holds himself tells the tale well enough. Parting from the support of his healers arm with awkward steps Ser Luthor raises an arm in greeting as the men pass through the bronze gates. Each face he recognizes met with relief, though there are so few. He cannot banish the frown that takes hold of his lips as he walks forward to greet his cousin. “Farin,” he says softly as he walks to the man’s side.
“If you would be so kind,” the Prester knight wheezes in Leon’s general direction. So much yelling yesterday over so much chaos has caused him to lose much of his voice. When Luthor approaches, Farin smiles weakly. “Ah, Warden. I was…unable to capture Bors,” he admits, his tone matching the defeat of his mood.
Ammon clears the gate and offers a nod to the knight standing to the side. The squire reins his horse up as stableboys come running. Overhearing Leon asking about maesters, Ammon says “Please, Ser Leon. If you would.” He dismounts with a groan, though the relieved grin never leaves his lips, and allows the stableboys to take his horse away. He stands there for a moment, in silence, before moving towards Luthor and Farin. His gait slow and shambling.
As a groom arrives to take his horse, Anton nods and dismounts. His eyes scan the figures who are there to greet them and offer nods to both Triston and Alek. His eyes however, soon rest on Ser Luthor Rivers, and Anton begins walking over to both him and Farin. When Leon makes his offer, Anton quietly responds “Edwyn goes for the same thing, Ser Leon, though perhaps a knight can get them to move faster. Either way, your offer is appreciated.” Then he waves to Luthor as he reaches speaking distance. “A tough battle, my lord. Ser Farin led us well…”
Doryssa Massey is on the edges of the yard, dressed in her green, though she has a warm Massey-sigiled cloak over the emerald. Her septa and a guard are nearby, but she stands apart from them, watching the knights arriving all beaten and burned. “Oh, gods.” she says softly, not wanting to interrupt.
“Aye…Aye…” Leon mutters, seeming shocked at the moment, as if something’s just sunk in. He barely notices Anton talking to him before his grey eyes snap to the Piper knight. “Aye, I’ll get ‘em here.” And he turns to leave and fetch the maesters.
“Ser Anton.” A voice rings out, belonging to Alek. “Tough it did seem. And a tad reckless, in my opinion. I think everyone involved should rest for a few days.” He looks to Farin. “I take it that your ploy worked, ser?” He asks. There is a cold indifference in the Reyne’s voice. He’s been acting off for the past few days. Since Josmyn left.
Luthor stares at the men blankly for a moment before nodding absently. “Welcome back,” he says in muted welcome. “It’s fine about Bors, but,” his eyes travel to the two surviving Kingswood knights. “Are they all that’s left of your command?” there is no accusation in his tone, just the hope his assumptions are wrong and the rest are merely delayed.
Bright blues follow over to Alek, then towards Anton. Triston still holds his silence, more of observing the events and the conversaations that were springing up.
He stops short as he sees Doryssa on the edge of the yard and Ammon changes course. No longer walking towards the knights, the squire is now shambling towards his sister. Soon, Ammon stands before her. “I’m still alive,” he says and moves to embrace her - but it is too much and the wound in his shoulder reopens, spilling fresh blood into the bandage.
“They are,” Farin reports to his cousin, first. “And it is a credit to them that we were able to burn the holdfast. Their torches and swords won our lives,” he adds, giving a rare compliment. When Alek makes his comment, Farin turns his head savagley toward the old knight, which is all the more shocking for how languidly he had been moving prior. “You stand before me to ask such a question, do you not? Pray, save your opinions for those who have not just been spared the Stranger’s embrace. You will find that they mean less than his, and are comparatively insipid, considering that our ‘recklessness’ was the means for your continued breathing. /Ser./”
Doryssa was moving towards Luthor, but smiles in relief when she spies her brother, alive and mostly in one piece. “Oh! Ammon. You’re hurt.” She accepts the embrace and returns it. “I… I didn’t bring anything. I should have thought to! I’m stupid. Oh… do you want a maester, or we can go back and I can collect my things and see what I can do. I can pack it and sew the wound up, at least…”
There is no reaction from Alek Reyne. None at all. His green gaze merely slips over to Farin. “I did not mean it in a derogatory manner, ser.” He says, his voice not changing. “Trust me when I say that none are more glad that your planning paid off than I.” A pause. “Especially since it meant that you could return to us.”
Anton does not add to Farin’s retort, instead offering Alek a simple shrug of his right shoulder. His eyes however, remain on Luthor. “My lord… this Rogan. Does he yet live?” A simple question, asked in a simple way. Even as he is asking, his right hand fingers the hilt of his longsword…
“Maesters are coming, Rys,” Ammon says, turning back towards the group. “Come,” he says as he moves forward once more, leaning heavily on his sister for support.
Doryssa isn’t the tallest girl, but she is sturdy enough, and Ammon is her brother. She let him lean on her as much as he needs as he leads the way. “Poor Ammon… is everyone like this? What did you all have to do? Gods, it must have been terrible.”
Raising his hand to stay any feuding Luthor sighs. “Save your fire for our enemies, sers,” he says in the tone of a man near the end of his patience. He turns then to the three surviving Kingswood men and gives them a nod. “Welcome home sers,” he says beckoning Watty to come forward and see to their hurts. He frowns at Anton’s question and shakes his head. “No, I missed my chance, Geris…” he pauses eyes distant. “Geris fell on my sword with an arrow in his neck, Rogan was gone before I could get him off me.”
And, at that moment, Ser Leon returns with the maesters, directing them toward those most injured, Ammon being one of them. His duty done, Leon moves to stand behind his knight, looking very troubled in himself.
“Of course, Warden. As I say, I meant no disrespect.” Alek says, in the tone of a man who has no fire.
Ammon needs to lean quite a bit, as it happens. “No, Rys,” he says quietly. “Most are dead.” On the subject of what the group had to do, he remains silent. But the pair is close enough to the group for Ammon to overhear the last of what Luthor had to say—but the maesters arrive first and Ammon waves them away. “In a moment, if you please,” he says. “Another moment will make no matter.” And then he has rejoined the group.
Farin shakes his head, his rage gone as suddenly as it flared, and fatigue setting back in just as quickly. “In any case,” he rasps, “The holdfast is burned, coz. And we yet live. That is as much victory as we can afford for the moment, and we had to steal that from Rogan.”
Edwyn also returns with Leon and the Maesters, and Anton nods at his squire in acknowledgement. His eyes then focus on Luthor and Farin once again. “Do not worry yourself overmuch, my lord. We will find him and make him face the King’s Justice. Traitors have no place… anywhere.” Then as a maester arrives, Anton offers his left shoulder and the bloody bandage for the man to look over.
Red cheeked and just a tad bit winded, Jannia walks briskly into the western outer yard of the Keep. She scans the crowd of nobility and knights holding her breath just slightly, when she sees the faces of those that were missing she lets out a sigh of relief. She walks much more slowly now and approaches the group, stopping herself from hugging every last one of them, glad to see they are all safe. When she reaches the group she grabs the sides of her light blue skirts and dips for a curtsy, ” I am so glad to see every one is alright.“She looks around at the returning Knights “A little cut and bruised up but living just the same.”
Ethos sits at the back of the group, calm and quiet upon his horse. The man looks as if he embracing flames. His clothing and flesh are scorched, most of his hair burned away, his face black from soot and ash. He watches the reunion in silence, pale blue eyes taking in everything.
Alek looks away from the group, motioning a nearby Goldcloak over. Once the man is in earshot, Alek drops his voice, but it is still auidable. “I want the River Gate secured and people searched. Anyone acting suspicious.”
Dory is among the men now too, at Ammon’s side. She doesn’t seem to mind the blood, other than her concern for the wounded. She hasn’t yet seemed to worry that she might get her dress bloody nor that the men are in such a state. “Good evening, my lords. Thank you for your pains, whatever they may be.”
Triston seems to have nothing to say nor no reaction. Perhaps almost seeming odd as he stands there in reserve. Watching over the group as some meet up with loved ones and the others go about buisness. He seems almost out of place.
“Well done coz,” Luthor says scratching at the wound on his cheek, earning a scowl from his healer which he ignores. “The fire turned them around at the right moment,” he glances at Triston giving the young knight a nod. “Things were tense near the end.”
He shifts then, favoring his right shoulder as he tugs at his cloak. “And you’re right Ser Anton, there is no shelter for traitors anywhere. Rogan and Bors will be found and when they are, they’ll feel what we feel today,” a pause and a tight smile. “-Briefly, before the sword falls and we plant their heads on spikes.”
Ethos snickers now, breaking his silence. “Damned right about that, Warden.” The knight says, grinning. “I can think of a few ways to make them suffer.” He casts a glance towards Doryssa, “Watch yourself. A whole mess of filthy knights here.” He says with a smirk.
Farin cracks a smile. “Read up on that tactic. Would that I could claim credit, but some knight commander used it a little over a century ago…” Farin begins, but he breaks off. “Are you…terribly hurt, coz? You look worse than I. Should we…are you alright?”
“That is something, at least,” mutters Ammon to Luthor’s comment about the fire. As Ethos speaks, Ammon chuckles despite himself. “My sister is not averse to some blood, I think, Ser Ethos,” he says before turning back towards the group. “I must let the maesters see to me; these wounds will want stichings, I think. Thank you for letting me ride with you, Ser Luthor.”
Ammon turns his gaze to each of the men he rode in with in turn: Farin, Anton and Ethos. “You all have my thanks, sers. It was a good scrape last night.”
Doryssa makes a face at Ethos. “You are going to bring that up now?” She hakes her head, trying to ignore him. “Is there anything I can do for you, sers? I would do it, if I am able.”
A frown appears almost immediately on Anton’s face the instant Ethos opens his mouth. But it soon disappears and the Piper knight continues to regard Luthor and Farin. “Would it make sense to question the Starveling some more? Perhaps he can give us some clues about other hidden holdfasts in the area…” When Farin makes his remarks, Anton nods. “Perhaps we should save this discussion for another time, my lord. You do look tired and hurt.” The maester meanwhile has been poking and proding Anton’s injured shoulder, causing the knight to mutter “it is a flesh wound, spear punctured the armour.” Then in response to Ammon, Anton nods to the squire. “You fought well, Ammon, I am glad your blade was at my side. I look forward to riding into battle alongside you again.”
“Sers, please, excuse me. I shall leave you to settle and be healed.” Alek says, turning to leave. “I have my duty to return to.” And the man turns to leave.
People may notice that there is a pronounced limp in Alek’s right leg. Previously unnoticed, it seems to have been injured the night before. And, half way across the yard to the Bronze Gates, it buckles, sending him to one knee. In an instant, his squire is at his side. “Ser, you’ve been sparring, haven’t you? Maester Lunwit said…” “The hells with what the maesters say.” Alek growls back. “Help me up.”
His squire, reluctantly, begins helping the Reyne knight back to his feet.
“I guess I am, milady.” Ethos responds, snickering. “I won’t ask you to do anything for me. It might offend you.” He looks back at the others, falling silent again as they are mobbed by the maesters and friends. The Stormlands knight remains upon his horse, in no rush to join the group directly.
Jannia just stands and doesn’t speak a word. She is too busy watching the Measter do his work. She turns to see Alek entering the gates, when he stumbles she gasps but slightly. she goes to check to see if he is alright. Giving him a nod she speaks “ser, is everything alright?” She watches as he is helped up and a slight look of concern crosses her face.
“We’ll have a war council on the morrow,” Luthor says as plans and ideas are offered. “To which you men are all invited,” he says before answering his cousin with a nod. “Bloodied but not broken,” he assures him, and claps Farin’s shoulder with his good hand. Then turning to Doryssa. “I’d have you help with the healing if it’s proper,” he says. “And Jannia…” he looks to the Tully girl and sees she’s tending to Alek. Turning back to Leon he gestures for the hedge knight to lend a hand.
As Ammon begins to retreat, Farin holds up a hand. “Ammon Massey, stay a moment. Your actions have been of accord with that of many knights, and you have proven yourself over and again in these past hours. I would be remiss in my own duties if I did not at least provide the option of reward. I would knight you, if you would have it.” This he says with Luthor’s hand on his shoulder, almost giving him the impression of being held up.
Triston suddenly peaks up, looking between the injured knights. “I assume I was lucky, the spear hit square into my irons and even though I was dismounted, it did not pierce through my armor. I have but a bruise and stiffness” Though, it was posible he was lying and simply working through a constant pain.
Doryssa shakes her head, then leaves her brother in the care of the maesters. Without any other word she turns on her heel and crosses the yard to collect her septa and guard, then leaves he yard… completely missing Farin’s offer to knight the squire.
Nodding, Leon moves over to offer his assistance. Alek, however, was having none of it. “Yes, my lady, I am perfectly fine.” The man says, straightening. “I require no assistance at all, ser.” He says, turning to Leon. “Inform your master that his offer is kind, but pointless.” Looking back to Jannia. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have matters that require my attentions.”
Frowning, Leon says nothing, but the half-ironman returns to Luthor’s side, leaning in to whisper in his masters’ ear that is not occupied by Farin. Leon whispers to Luthor, “... am really worried ... ... ... ... out ... ...”
Ammon smiles tiredly at Anton. “I wouldn’t say I look /forward/ to it, ser, but I would never turn down your company.” Ammon sees the Reyne knight fall and his smile begins to fade as he begins to walk away—and stops as Farin gives his offer. The smile fades completely. “No, ser. Thank you. I am honored, truly, but—there is only one knight in all the Seven Kingdoms who I’ll accept that title from.” Ammon glances around the yard and holds his open palms out. “And he isn’t here, ser.” For a moment the squire is tense, but then he laughs. “Besides, ser, were I to kneel now, I doubt I have the strength to stand again!”
She nods to Alek “That is well to hear.” She smiles to him and looks to Luthor when she hears her name seeing that the hedge knight has things under control she returns to Luthor, “If you need anything at all just ask it of me, you all fought valiently, and the House Tully will do what they can by any means possible.
When Alek falls, Anton looks to the old knight and is about to say something but then his squire is there with him and Anton holds his tongue. He then nods at Farin’s words and his eyes focus on Ammon. “Ser Farin speaks the truth. You do deserve such a reward, Ammon. If you wish it of course.” Anton shrugs. “Some men do not want knighthood, and I can understand why. It involves much duty and dedication, and carries little reward. You have earned the right and honour I believe…” Then Ammon speaks and Anton nods. “A respectable goal, Ammon. I hope one day you accomplish this goal.” Still looking at Ammon, Anton quietly mutters “if only all knights were as serious and dedicated to the ideals as you.”
Ethos watches the situation unfolding between Farin and Ammon, and the brash knight throws in, “Don’t be a fucking fool. Take it or regret it forever.” He says, shaking his head. “Unless you seek to be a fool, man.”
Luthor adds his support to those calling for Ammon’s knighting. “Well deserved,” he opines before falling back to speak with Leon and Jannia. “I will speak with him,” he promises the hedge knight and turns to Jannia. “I would send a letter to your lady mother. I need men, and if she has loyal Riverlanders she’d see in the Company, I would have as many as she can send.”
When word arrives that the rest of the Kingswood Company had arrived back in King’s Landing, the Lord of Southshield makes his way to where they are rumored to be. He does not expect what he finds there. Unable to hide that grimace at the injured and burned knights present, Lord Serry takes a moment to recompose himself before he approaches, greeting them all, “Well, good evening. What great news this is, seeing most of you returned to us.” He smiles, looking about at each of the men, trying to discern just what had happened.
She gives Luthor a serious and understanding nod, “Considered the matter done.” she turns to her Septa and nods, her Septa taps her temple to tell Jannia she remembers what was said. She speaks to Luthor again, ” Is there anything more that I can be assistance with?”
“My thanks, m’lord.” Leon says, “The words’ll mean nothin’ from me…” He shifts back into his guarding position at Luthor’s side, mumbling something under his breath, intended for his master.
Leon whispers to Luthor, “... ... too ... friends ... ... Don’t ... ... another. At least ... ... eh? ... ...”
“Thank you, sers. Truly,” Ammon says as he looks at Anton, Farin and Luthor. But his gaze is chilled as he sets his sight once more on Ethos. “I’ve not regretted it yet, ser. Not one day.” The squire holds his gaze on Ethos, never noticing the arrival of the Lord of Southshield.
Farin expects neither the answer that Ammon gives, nor the response of his fellows. But he does not offer it again. “We all choose,” he answers simply, and finally dismounts. He does not stagger, but he does remain bent from fatigue. “Ser Anton,” he calls. “Do you still have that wineskin? I shoudl like the rest of it, if you have no dire need. I will even refill it for you,” Farin offers, with a wane smile.
Luthor flashes Jannia a tired smile. “You have my thanks my lady,” he says, then he murmurs something to her quietly. Luthor whispers to Jannia, “I could use the support of your arm if your septa would think it proper.”
The Warden turns next to Leon nodding and whispering to him as well. Luthor whispers to Alek, “Too many. I will talk to him once my business is settled here.”
“Why is he a fool for seeking to accomplish a dream? For only willing to accept knighthood when he is truly ready for the onerous task and duty of our order and the ideals we must uphold?” Anton asks Ethos in a cold, chilling voice. “Though he may not carry the title of ser, I already consider Ammon a knight in his actions and I believe he also possesses the qualities needed in his heart.” Anton now offers Ethos an icy smile. “No, my lord. He is not a fool.” Then when Farin asks him, Anton nods to the man. “I have a waterskin… but as you know, my lord, mine are never filled with wine. Chilled spice tea is what I have. If you need something stronger, I’m sure Edwyn would be glad to fetch it for you.”
“Oh,” Farin blinks. “I thought…I had some…before,” he mumbles, then leans in closer to Anton, and whispers. Farin whispers to Anton, “... ... ... ser. ... ... about ... drop ... not ... to ...”
Nodding to Luthor, Leon turns to Farin and unhooks a skin from his belt. “Ser, here. Keep it.” The northman offers of the skin, before pausing as the Deputy leans in to whisper to Anton. Looking back to Luthor, Leon frowns lightly. “Ser, may I have your leave? There is something I wish to do before the light fades…”
Ethos lifts a hand, wiping at his soot-covered face. It does nothing to improve his charred appearance. He gazes at Ammon for a long time, then glances at Anton. The knight snorts. “I’ll hold my tongue and try to be civil tonight.” He looks away and his blue eyes take in the approaching Lord Serry and he laughs from where he still sits upon his horse, “I thought it was good news myself!”
Jannia walks quietly over to her Septa and whispers quietly to her, her Septa gives her a nod and a smile. She walks back to Luthor wraps her arm around his and asks ” I would have to think your lady wife was entirely worried for you. My Lady Mother will be pleased with your works in the Kingswood. I am fairly certain she will send more than amiable Knights to give you the help you need.” she gives him a smile as she looks to Anton, ” My Lady Mother will hear of your efforts to Ser Anton, we are very proud to call you a Bannerman.” she smiles warmly to him, ” But I do hope you get well soon.”
Ammon lets out a held breath when Ethos looks away first. Then he turns on his heel, winces, and hobbles to the maesters. And, with their help, moves off to get stiched up.
Watching the various knights converse, the Lord Serry’s relieved demeanor fades away into an impassive nothingness. He gives a wan smile to the Mertyns knight at his remark, giving a brief bow of his head. “Yes, it… it is most assuredly good news, indeed.” He pauses a beat, scanning over the members of the Kingswood Company. With a sigh, he remarks to no one in particular, “I… suppose that I shall have to hear what occurred at another time.” With a brief bow, more to the crowd at large than anyone in particular, the Lord of Southshield saunters off.