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Just past noon, a message rider was seen approaching from downriver, at speed, from the walls of Riverrun. He barreled through the large encampment of the lords and knights and ladies who had gathered for the marriage of Ser Willard Ryger and Andrya Tully, without stopping until he reached the ferry to carry him over across the river and into the castle.
Others saw it, and wondered, and guessed: news of the Brackens and Blackwoods, for it’d been enough time. Perhaps it was good news, that they had listened to the Lady of Riverrun’s commands dispatched by raven. After all, dark wings oft bear dark words, but this was a messenger…
“‘... had planned to raze the village of Buckle and its fields, in retaliation for the slights done them by the Brackens,” Lady Tinessa reads from the long letter a vassal knight has written to her, carried by his son, “only for the Brackens to be there first, having meant to press on to Pennytree to do the same harm. Battle was joined, blood has spilled, and someone has burned the holdfast.” The solar is crowded: with lords, with knights, with ladies and their maids, all having heard of this news, and finding that Lady Tully seems to wish everyone to know what exactly has happened.
“Which holdfast was burned?” Reyna queries, frowning. “Buckle?” She casts about her as if for a map, and must settle instead for frowning more fiercely as she pictures the Riverlands in her mind. After a moment, her eyes clear some and she looks around—waiting, perhaps, to hear who was killed.
Stirring from where he leans against the sandstone hearth, his white-and-gold panoply ruddy in the light of autumn fire—a cheerful thing at odds with the mood of the great chamber—Ser Jaesin Lannister clears his throat.
“So Prince Aegon’s suggestion that a single Blackwood life be forfeit, for Hoster Bracken,” he says meaningfully, if somewhat sardonic in tone, “can be considered null and void, at least.”
Luthor had been making his way from the camp to the castle when the messenger passed and guessing the message’s import he made haste to follow the messenger and so finds himself in the solar when the message is read aloud. The Riverlands bastard does not look surprised by the news but clearly considers its meaning leaning against one of the walls with crossed arms and a thoughtful expression.
The gown she wears is blue, not new by any means, the drop-sleeves have now been shortened and the bodice has gained silver swirled embroidery reminiscent of the heavy currents of the Tumblestones, more than likely a project Jannia’s septa had her take on along the trip. Small tendrils of curls frame the Tully girl’s face, as the rest of her hair is bound up in a tight braided bun and covered with a silver hair net.
Jannia blows a tendril of curl out of her eyes as her mother reads through the letter. At its end, the Tully maiden sighs lightly and looks up solemnly to her mother from her perch on one of the high-backed chairs. She listens to the rumble of nobles and their murmurs of concern.
Though there’s no heat in the words Lady Tinessa says next, the grimness of her expression tells the tale: “So it would seem, ser,” she tells Jaesin Lannister, eyes still scanning the document in her hand. The exhausted messenger has been taken away to the kitchens, for refreshment. Then, turning to Lady Reyna from where she sits at the high seat, she says, “Ser Clemond is Buckle’s master, so that answers that, Lady Reyna. That makes him a Bracken vassal, of course, but he was fostered at Riverrun when he was a boy.”
Lady Tinessa sets the document aside, and her faded blue gaze turning on those present to mark who’s present.
“His Highness remains abed,” says Ser Jaesin of the Kingsguard to that, his face and tone—so typically expressive—plain and unusually unreadable in this moment. “He is… unwell.”
“Still, I would urge you not to hesitate, my lady,” the Lannister says to Tinessa, “but rather, forge ahead with this council without the… benefit of his wisdom. Surely he will give his own thoughts on the matter soon enough.”
Not far from the former Tyrell lady, the heir of Red Lake has taken a rather serious and attentive expression on his face. The feud between the Brackens and the Blackwoods is well known through the realm and the deceased good-mother of the Crane was Lord Blackwood’s eldest child.
As a known politician, it’s not strange the whole situation has his full attention and it seems he doesn’t care to hide his interest.
“Ah, of course. Thank you, my lady,” Reyna murmurs gratefully, her fingers drumming soundlessly against the green velvet of her skirts. Her eyes flick to Jaesin but she shows no surprise at the Prince’s condition; indeed, she seems to expect it. “Prince or no, the Riverlands are yours, and you know it better than any of us. Bid us, Lady Tully, and we will act.”
“Indeed, what would you have us do?” Luthor chimes in breaking his silence as he moves from the wall and draws closer to Lady Tullys and the worthies who surround her.
Not looking all too surprised at the Kingsguard’s words Jannia lightly shrugs in her mother’s direction, perhaps mutual acceptance of Jaesin’s advice. She doesn’t open her mouth or dare give her mother counsel, she just sits soaking in the words of the other nobles… for now.
Covered by the full attention Tinessa continues to receive, Albyn slowly moves closer to Reyna till he stands closer to the woman, in range to exchange a whisper if needed. As she speaks, Albyn frowns slightly but remains silent, the gearwheels in his head almost visibly turning.
“Of course, Ser Jaesin,” the Lady of Riverrun responds, the words polite, the look more eye-rolling: she knows as well as everyone else how Aegon spends his nights and why his days start so late. “You will of course inform the prince of all that has transpired, when he is in better health.” And then, after a long pause, an unwilling addition follows. “And should he have counsel to offer, Riverrun would be pleased to hear it.”
So much for trusting in a Targaryen’s presence to help end matters any more swiftly than her own native powers will allow. But at least there are those who, like Lady Reyna and Ser Luthor, are not bound to the prince’s whims or the cast of his liver. “You are gracious, Lady Reyna,” she says, and gives Rivers a nod of her head. “My lord husband and Ser Tomas Rivers will gather forces, to put an end to this unruliness, but it shall take time. Half the lords in the riverlands are still here with small retinues, and shall need to ride to their seats to gather their forces. I have no doubt the Blackwoods and Brackens both are already marshaling their strength, given this news from Buckle.”
“How long until those forces are mustered my lady?” asks Ser Luthor in a concerned tone as he rubs at his right wrist. The knight has checked his advance towards the Tully lady keeping out of the inner circle of nobles unless invited to step closer.
Leaning back against the sandstone hearth once more, Ser Jaesin returns a simple nod to the Lady of Riverrun. Propped up by the warm stone at his back, he says quietly—for him, so also clearly—in the wake of Tinessa’s statement, “The prince has been much among your bannermen, Lady Tully.”
He is silent a moment, then adds, “Last night, in fact, and unto the still hours of dawn.”
Reyna bends her head to Lady Tully’s compliment, then listens quietly. “Then battle is likely to meet before a Riverlands force under a Tully banner can be mustered in any significant numbers,” she concludes in a low voice, exchanging a glance with Albyn, fingers still drumming against her skirts.
As Reyna catches his presence, the Crane bows over a bit, whispering a few words.
Albyn whispers to Reyna, “... ... ...”
Bootsteps upon the staircase herald the arrival of another Lannister. This one is cloaked in deep crimson, and mailed in golden chain. The sound of armor and spurs comes to a stop a moment later than the man himself. He watches for now—like a great cat stalking his prey through high brown grass.
A polite smile is cast to Luthor and Reyna, a nod in thanks given to them as well. Though, there is a hint of worry trapped under the pleasantries that tugs her smile into something a bit more awkward than Jannia would have liked. She looks about at the throng of people gathered and catches a glimpse of the heir to Casterly Rock, she pales slightly and turns her eyes away and back to her mother wiping away her worry.
Nearly on the heels of Lackspur comes the Jewel of the Eyrie, so immersed in conversation with Standfast that she does not see the Lannister man lurking just past the doorway. It is that venerable Vale guard who sees Jonn, and the rest of those gathered in the solar, and holds a hand out to stop his charge’s steps and quiet speech.
Stop she does, and blinks—Jyana’s unsmiling features drop into a deeper frown as she glances around the room.
Lady Tinessa frowns at the question Luthor Rivers offers, but there are the sounds of others who wish to know the answer to the question, so she says, “A week, and we’ll have strength enough to lay Raventree or Stone Hedge under siege, if needs be. A fortnight, and we can encircle both seats.” She’s no stranger to sieges; her reputation for a willingness to take harsh measures came in the Dance of the Dragons when she was the young Lady of Riverrun who was willing to burn her vassals’ lands rather than let them defy her.
But the Blackwoods and Brackens… this is a different thing, ages old, and no fire has ever burned hot enough—not even dragon-fire—to put an end to that knotty problem. “Until then, we must wait, and do as we can to contain the problem.” And so she turns to the knights and lords present, taking them in her gaze. “I see some here who are vassals of men who are not here—I trust you will let them know what Riverrun means to do: to call its banners, and put an end to this fighting when we’ve strength enough. If your lords are loyal men, they have leave to depart and to raise their banners, to bring them here to Riverrun within a fortnight—or within a week, if they can. “
Reyna nods grimly at Lady Tully’s pronouncement, but the look she gives Albyn is perplexed. “No, not at all,” she says aloud. “I have said we will remain neutral, Ser Albyn, and so we shall unless Lady Tully requires our assistance. I expect a raven from Ardon commanding neutrality of all our folk as swiftly as the ravens can fly.” She glances toward Lady Tully and then away, lower lip in her teeth in what might be guilt.
Luthor nods along with those others who are charged to bring Lady Tully’s words back to their liege lords. Though if those others depart, Luthor remains, quiet and listening at the edge of the gathering.
“Prince Aegon will stay. Or perhaps he will make for Stone Hedge. He has been… unwilling,” says Ser Jaesin, “to share his plans with me. It makes little difference.” Cool blue eyes take note of Jonn’s appearance, and then Jyana’s; the first receives a nod, the latter a grim smile.
“Faced with the same straits, Lady, the Young Dragon had no compunction against patience—or splitting his forces, when they were strong enough,” counsels the Kingsguard more directly now. Some here might recognize him as the one man present to have stood in King Daeron’s tent in the last campaigns of the Conquest.
“I think His Grace would have approved. Hold your ground—marshall your forces—then encircle Blackwood and Bracken alike, at once and at your leisure,” Jaesin firmly advises.
The news her mother has is not a shock to Jannia, she had warned it would come to this. Though it is not anything she is happy to have admit. She looks to the men that will be tasked to break this news to their lords and murmurs a word of luck to them in this matter, even if they wont hear. Though she does give Jaesin a raised brow, curious if anything to see her mother’s reaction to that. She waves a small hand to Luthor in her place by the hearth, as if she were calling him over to her if he happens to look her way.
Some in the crowd make noises of acknowledgment, taking her words as a command—some eager knights even push their way out of the solar, shouldering past men and women to find their liege lords and let them know Tinessa’s wills. But some ... seem more hesitant. One knight speaks up, after moving to the front of the crowd and kneeling. “Lady Tinessa,” he says, “do you mean us to take up arms against our kin? Some of us call Blackwoods kin, my lady. And some of us call the Brackens kin, though I’m not surprised few are willing to admit it after what they did at your daughter’s wedding tour—”
That was a step too far, as there are protests from those Bracken kinsmen in the crowd, shouting him down.
Lady Tinessa raises a hand and slaps it down on the table loudly, the cracking sound sharply above the voices. “Enough!” the Lady of Riverrun commands. “Any man who wants to brawl in _my_ house will be welcome to do it… if they can, once flung into the dungeon and shackled. None of this foolishness.” And then to the knight, Ser Ardros Piper, the heir to Pinkmaiden: “You’ll call your banners as I command, to do as I command, _ser_. Or I’ll wonder why I need vassals who do not abide by their oaths to me, oaths made to my father before me, and his father, and on to the days of the Dragon.”
Those words are heavy in the room, and there are looks among some of those present. And some seem to decide now’s the time to slip out, perhaps to tell their masters, perhaps to decide whether the Lady of Riverrun really means it. Tinessa ignores all of them, however, regarding first Reyna Tyrell and then Jaesin Lannister… and then her eyes slide over to Jonn Lannister, the heir to Casterly Rock, and her gaze is unfriendly. But it’s to Jaesin that she speaks: “The prince is welcome to do as he desires, Ser Jaesin. I trust he will act in the best interests of his cousin the king, however.” The way she says it says quite otherwise: she doesn’t trust the prince at all, but what can she do to him?
Black Jonn, Lackspur, Ser Jonn—the man has many names. He steps forward now, his voice rising. “I ride for Raventree Hall tonight,” he says in a hard, ringing voice. He casts a look to his brother. “There is one Lannister here who will not leave his own blood to the wolves.”
Then his eyes return to the Lady of Riverrun. “The men beneath my banner are a different matter entirely, and their disposition depends entirely on you.”
He does not flinch away from the Lady’s gaze, and why should he? He is Loren’s heir, and there is no stare more frightening than that belonging to the Warden of the West. And after a moment, he adds—“My lady.”
Luthor notices Jannia’s wave and while the Bracken and Blackwood men squabble, Luthor ghosts quietly to her side. “My lady,” he greets with quiet formality as he watches the other Riverlords with an amused expression. He sets a hand on the back of her chair as he does so continuing to watch and listen.
Jonn Lannister’s verbal cut seems to slide harmlessly off his brother’s gilded breastplate. In response to the talk of Lannisters, blood, and wolves, Ser Jaesin only gives Jonn a level look—there are lions in the embellishment of his panoply, to be sure, but his are twinned with dragons.
“There is one Lannister here who is free to do as he wishes, for the sake of blood,” Jaesin reminds his younger sibling. “There is another who must think first of the king, and the realm; these are one and the same. And the realm will be safest when -both- these fool hotheads are put down.”
“You may tell Balian I said as much,” the elder Lannister tells Jonn plainly, then nods to the Lady Tinessa. “My lady. I will see to His Highness.” Then he is moving toward the door at a brisk stride.
Reyna holds Tinessa’s gaze unflinching when it falls her, though she bends her head a little in acknowledgement. Her gaze does slide to Jonn for a moment and she frowns a little as he answers Tinessa. Then she clears her throat uncomfortably. “My own husband will likely ride to Balian’s aid,” she says, though she has said it to Lady Tully before, “but if you request it, I will hold all other Reachlords to neutrality until we hear otherwise from my brother at Highgarden.”
There is little the Jewel can say in response to Lady Tinessa’s call to action. But with her shoulders squaring, chin lifting, and hands folding firmly in front of her, Jyana moves further into the room. She sidesteps away from one Lannister and opens a path for the other in doing so. The latter, Jaesin, receives the full measure of her studied gaze as he makes for the door. The young lady may not speak, but her expression of concern says enough of her opinion on the tense exchange between the two brothers.
“Luthor.” Jannia returns the greeting as her mother’s flat handed smack on the table to calm the Bracken and Blackwood kin makes her jump a little in her chair. Her attentions snap to that of her mother. “Seven Hells” she says in a bit of an exhale. Then to Luthor she murmurs, “I had thought the peace my grand-sire gained would have lasted longer than this, Edwyn Edgewise, may the Seven keep him in their light.” she sighs lightly at that thought. “What are you to tell Lord Smallwood?” Jannia asks Luthor, quietly under the din of the grumbling crowd.
Oh, the faded blue eyes are hard when they look on Jonn Lannister. “As it please you, boy,” Tinessa tells him. “I know Raventree to be a comfortable seat, and no doubt one can see far across the Blackwood Vale perched in their tree. It will afford you a good look when the castle is encircled and under siege.”
Unrest in the crowd, at that—does she mean to put Blackwood to siege first, just because of Casterly Rock’s heir? But she pushes on, forcing a smile on to her lips as she tells Reyna, “I would not pretend to council you as to the place of your nephew’s vassals, Lady Reyna. But they can know I will not look well on those who ate bread and salt at my board and then deigned to join those who rebel against my will.” And the message is clear that the Iron Serpent will be no friend of hers, if he does as his wife says.
In his exit from the chamber, Ser Jaesin of the Kingsguard hesitates briefly as he nears the Jewel of the Eyrie, Jyana Arryn—flashing his friend a tight-lipped smile—but no further than that, and for no-one else. Then he is swiftly gone to catch a Prince.
“What about Hoster?!” some man akin to the Brackens yells from the back of the press, not daring—as Ser Ardros did—to have himself signled out. Others take it up, and it’s clear there are partisans of Stone Hedge who seek to drive Lady Tinessa more firmly against the Blackwoods, seeing an opening. Others immediately start to protest, to argue against them.
“I would expect no less, Lady Tully,” Reyna says, though she does so unhappily. And it is clear that she is thinking then, very hard—she does not look toward Albyn or any of the other Reachmen in the room, not that there are very many.
“I will tell him what your lady mother said, as a good vassal should,” Luthor answers Jannia bending close so he can be heard above the shouting. “My say in matters is limited, so it is best to simply report to my lord and obey his commands,” there is a hint of a smile in those words however and Luthor stands once more beside Jannia’s chair.
A spasm of rage twitches Jonn Lannister’s left cheek. “So you will not drop your suit for Westerling’s gold?” he asks slowly, his voice forced to calm. “Pity. You are a low creature, and so it pains me to be in your debt.”
To his credit, he leaves then and there. He does not spout the conventional wisdom of Lannisters and debts…
Nor does he need to. The speculative look he gives Jannia is words enough.
Jannia reaches up and pats Luthor’s hand that rests on the back of the chair. “Good, one less house I, or my mother for that matter, will have to worry about for the moment. My thanks Luthor, I am worried, though, as to how he will take it.” Jannia’s attentions are taken away from Luthor as her mother reacts to Jonn, and Jonn her. She tilts her head down and her eyes away from the Lannister heir and Tinessa as a blush rises to her cheeks and she shakes her head.
No one paid Lars much attention when he slipped into the solar, probably due to the heated debate going on. But it suddenly struck Lars that within this quarrel lies the opportunity that he has been waiting for. “My lady” Lars bellows as he makes his way towards Lady Tinessa from his seat. “As far as I am from home, and my heart aches for the north, I cannot sit idly by when such trivial fights trouble the rest of an honorable Lady such as you”. Lars mindlessly scratches the scar on his left jaw as he says:“My men and I are more then willing to aid you in whatever decision you make on this matter”
Elmer crosses his arms as he stands by the door, watching Jonn storm out. The big Crakehall knight is wearing the Lannister captain of guards uniform, making sure that everyone knows where his loyalties lie. He’s been silent and watching , not very characteristic of him, though.
Jonn’s departure leads Tinessa to look to her daughter Jannia, and the look suggests that mother and daughter have shared some word on the Lannister heir. But she ignores Lannister otherwise, as if it were inconsequential. One of her men-at-arms hammers the butt of a spear into the stone floor several times, trying to bring about silence, and in the fitful silence that forms Tinessa says, “What can we say of Ser Hoster, sers? His kinsmen carried his body away, the witnesses who claimed to see the attack fled with them. If there is no justice for him, it is not of my choosing.”
None of the Bracken kinsmen like the sound of that, it’s plain, but they hold their tongues… and so do the Blackwood kin, for after what Lady Tinessa had said to the heir to Casterly Rock before he departed they’re now concerned as to her intentions against Raventree Hall.
And it’s rather good that Reyna does not look back for support from the Reachmen as one of them has already left. The heir to Red Lake has made his way out of the solar, making use of the shouts and chaos among the many attendants. For those attentive, it is however noticeable that before he does, the Crane lordling has made a little detour towards the Blackwood kinsmen. A few short words were exchanged before the pale blue dressed lordling disappears.
The indistinct murmuring of more than once voice buzzes near the solar’s entranceway, where Jyana still stands at her guard’s side, as the Lannister heir says his piece and takes his leave. She watches him go with the same look of concern his brother received only moments before. Noel bends to whisper something in her ear, after a moment, but is brought up short by the ringing sound of spear against stone.
Despite the warmth of the trout etched hearth, Jannia shivers a bit as if she feels her mother’s cold gaze on her. Looking up, however, she sends her mother a solemn nod. Blinking slowly before turning her gaze to Luthor. “This will not be good, Luthor.” Jannia says in a hushed tone. “Ser Jonn is not pleased, and neither is my mother. This… could not have come at a worse time.” She says in a worried yet cold tone.
Luthor moves his hand from the back of the chair to rest upon Jannia’s shoulder. “Things will go as they go,” Luthor says. “If anything Ser Jonn’s choice may yet balance the odds, as those seeking a Lannister ransom may join the Brackens in the seeking of it.”
“I hope so, dear friend.” She says twists her features a bit to a look of uncertainty. “Ah, I had not thought of that. I am not so sure that is a good idea either. Peace, Luthor, I like peace.” Jannia sniffs as she gives Luthor an appreciative smile for the comfort, turning her gaze back to her mother after she does so.
With the last words from Lady Tully and the murmurs and mutters from the crowd, she decides to make an end of it. She rises, and tells the gathered lords and knights and ladies, “You are welcome to enjoy the feast being prepared for tonight, my lords and ladies, and to continue to enjoy our hospitality… though if you must needs depart for your seats to raise your banners to rally to Riverrun, you will not tarry long. Tell my steward of any need or supply you require before your depart, and he will see it taken care of.”
And with that, the audience is over: she departs.
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