The Great Hall has been decorated in the honour of the two Houses that are united in marriage today. Great banners that show the sigils of Houses Corbray and Caron adorn the walls in an alternating pattern. Before the wall opposite of the entrance a dais has been positioned, with the table for the closest family and important guests. This table and the three trestle tables for the remaining guests have been put around a large space, which has been intentionally left for the dancing that will follow later. With the arrival of the first wedding guests the hall fills with the murmuring sound of chatter, as the manifold details of the wedding ceremony a few hours ago are being discussed.
The ceremony was started at noon by the Most Devout Geryn with a sermon, in which he addressed the importance of marriage under the religious inclusion of the aspects of The Seven. There were prayers to the Maid, the Warrior and to the Stranger, too, as the Most Devout did not forget to mention the absence of close relations from this feast, foremost the father of the bride, Ser Albar Caron, and the elder brother of the bridegroom, Ser Benfrey Corbray, who had both not returned from Dorne six years ago during the conquest. Ser Astos’s mother Lady Alanna was also mentioned, who had died three years before her son from a serious fever. Then the seven vows were exchanged between bride and bridegroom, before Ser Bryce Caron, brother to the bride and the heir of Nightsong, removed Lady Belissa’s yellow maiden cloak from her shoulders, and Ser Astos covered her in the white cloak with the embroidered sigil of House Corbray. The ceremony concluded with Astos and Belissa exchanging their final vows and sealing their marriage with a kiss.
So obviously there is enough food for chatter and gossip on this late afternoon until the young married couple arrives, slightly relieved as it seems and cheerful. Below her wedding cloak Lady Belissa Corbray wears a wonderful dress in pale yellow, with long slitted sleeves and a black belt. Her wheat-blonde hair falls down her back and has been adorned with light yellow roses. Ser Astos Corbray wears black breeches and black leather boots, shining from recent polish, and a doublet of black velvet with white sleeves, each of which have been embroidered with three black ravens carrying a heart. After greeting the few guests who have arrived early, bride and bridegroom make their way across the open space towards the slightly elevated table and take their seats at the center of it. And as Astos and his wife quietly exchange some words, both are looking towards the open double doors in anticipation of the guests to come.
Maester Talbard does not usually frequent wedding ceremonies - indeed, truth be told, it is something of a span since he was last bidden to one - but he is delighted to make an exception in favour of Ser Astos, a friend of quite recent standing but nonetheless of true quality. All the same, there is an unobtrusive hesitancy in his motions as his quick, drab eyes ricochet glances all over the hall, looking for acquaintances. He is not known to the bride, nor indeed any of her Marcher house, Stormlanders like himself though they may be. But he has briefly encountered Ser Bryce, and his observation hangs for some notable moments on the dour young knight as he gives away his sister. Not a task Talbard can imagine would be enjoyable; small voice though he has in the matter these days, he’s always fended off Sarella’s suitors as best he can. And yet one hears Bryce Caron himself arranged this match, as a result of a life debt earnt in Dorne…curious. The maester’s eyebrows are prickly upwards. His appearance and robed array is no more radiant than usual…but a good deal neater. He draws nearer to bride and groom pace by tentative pace, awaiting the right moment for a courteous congratulation.
At last the part of a marriage a man can enjoy, the feast! Ser Ermen is dressed from head to heel in fine blue velvet, slashed in places to show the smoke grey silk beneath. The young lordling has a cup in hand, one which has already been re-filled, and talks loudly with some fellow knights of the Riverlands. His squire, also dressed in finery, standing a step or two behind him. Taking a long pull from his cup, he laughs. “Gods, the holy rose can go on, I thought I would have died of old age before that homely was through,” he remarks of the Most Devout’s sermon. “But it seems my cup is dry, excuse me friends, time to drink once more to the bride and groom and drive the tedium of the ceremony from my mind.” He turns and wanders towards one of the tables where the wine has been set out, tossing a serving man his cup to fill.
Ser Bryce Caron is wearing a yellow doublet with black lining and thread, with contrasting areas in black onto the yellow field, dark gray breeches and black boots. He walks up to the married couple, accompanied by his wife Lady Sherion. After exchanging a few words with them, he and his wife take the seats beside his sister Belissa. More family members arrive and occupy the seats at the table: Lady Donna Caron, the mother of the bride, and Ser Andian and Lady Obyra Corbray, father and sister to the bridegroom who have come all the way from Heart’s Home and just arrived a few days ago.
Ryckon Westerling is not at all familiar with either of the betrothed, but this is not stopping him from attending the feast that they have so generously put out for the rest of court. He is wearing the sandy yellow doublet that he wears to all such formal events, but conspicuously there is a mace at his belt. The squire glances up at the families on the high table and regards them vaguely as he walks toward an open seat at the lower tables.
Donning his old black linen doublet emblazoned with the Corbray Sigil on the right breast, Andred seats in the shadow of the dais. His knight, Ser Jarret Corbray, seats in a seat of honor, but no such seat of honor exists for a bastard, no matter his father’s name or his own position in the Corbray Household. He sits at the middle of the three trestle tables towards the front close enough to hear his knight’s shout. His eyes rest upon his master. A bastard he might be, but it does not excuse him from his squirely duties. One duty is always a given for the bastard squire at feasts: be invisible. No need to draw needless offense from any of the more sensitive lords or ladies about a bastard seated in thier midst. So, he does his duty and draws no attention to himself. He drinks no wine. He charms no fair maids. He offers no lewd japes. He even offers no greetings, even to those he knows. He just sits fiddling with a fray in the sleeve of his old doublet watching his master. When the bride and groom walk by, Andred does offer a cordial nod with a sheepish smile a kind of silent congratulations, but nothing more, nothing that would draw attention to himself.
Present too is the Lady Katla Serry, known as a friend to the bride, Belissa; the ironborn woman is dressed in gold and black, her long ink-dark hair veiled in the manner in which some court ladies have taken to doing. The only token of her marriage is a necklace fastened at her throat: a velvet ribbon set with a piece black jet, inlaid with a gold-wire rose. She sits to one side, conversing politely with others at her table and otherwise remaining quiet, for nothing could keep her from the wedding of one of her dearest friends - but she seems, too, a bit distracted.
Talbard’s quiet and hoarse voice is somehow at the same time audible, delivered with internal force and mental clarity, as he passes the youngish Frey knight and his roisterers in time to cut in with a rejoinder. “I do not know, Ser Ermen; at least themost Devout’s oration was more…restful than some of his earlier…performances,” he notes, his greys eyes glooming a bit darker, like the shadows of the tormenting fires they even now remember. “But I will assuredly join you in, ah, lavering his nutritious orations down with the refreshing bounty of the grape.”
His slight wrist and bony fingers get a surprisingly tight hold on a surprisingly spacious goblet.
“Oh?” answers the Frey knight as he takes the full cup from the servant and downs a healthy swallow while he nods for the servant to get a cup for the maester as well. “I think I followed most of that,” he murmmurs as he lowers his cup from his lips. “And I suppose it is better to be bored out of ones wits than to have him be all about the hells and damnation I suppose. Gods help us but there are too many septons at this court.” His attention wavers however and spying Andred among those in the vicinity of the dias he shoots the squire a small frown before turning back to his prefered company, that of Maester Talbard.
Astos glances around the hall from his elevated position for any familiar faces. He greets Andred with a friendly nod as their eyes meet. He raises his own goblet to Maester Talbard for a toast from afar. Katla gets a polite nod as well. Ermen and Ryckon are not that familiar to him, he has only met them in passing, but will offer a polite nod to them as well, should they look in his direction.
One of the advantages of a decade’s obsessional pursuit of the Citadel’s varied and variegated disciplines is that such training allows Talbard to notice, and retain in his memory, many dynamics at once. Sometimes the resulting combinations are quite piquant, and he can’t help look slightly amused at Ser Ermen’s barely contained contumely for the bastard squire - not very advisable on this occasion, perhaps.
“Family is family,” he reminds the Frey gently out of the corner of his mouth, no doubt affirming his and Ermen’s distant connection, but primarily reminding him that Andred is, after all, a relative of the groom. “And only that dry sermon, that unrelenting homily, and the ceremony they decorated, serve to separate your birth, or, as it happens, mine, from Andred Stone’s, or as it happens, my father’s…”
It is meant as counsel rather than remonstrance, but perhaps it is risky all the same, and so Talbard, to cover the potential seriousness of the moment, flickers his glance up to the dais and lifts his almost overspilling vessel to meet the Corbray bridegroom’s wassail.
A young knight walks into the great hall in search of sustenance, the fair hair and bold red tunic identifying him as a Reyne of the Westerlands. Seeing a few familiar faces at a table including his maesterly friend Talbard, Josmyn starts heading towards them.
The Great Hall seems to have filled reasonably with the majority of the expected guests. Astos and Belissa exchange a quick glance with Ser Bryce and Ser Jarret before the bridegroom rises and helps his bride to her feet. The pair of them let their eyes wander over the gathered guests, beaming and yet a bit nervous, while they wait for the buzz in the hall to die down. As soon as most of the attending guests fall silent and turn their eyes towards them, Astos clears his throat and greets them with a firm voice: “We thank you all for joining us today to celebrate our wedding. As some of you may know I am not a friend of long speeches. May you enjoy the festivities as much as we do.” And with these words and a gesture Astos signals the servants to start serving the first course. As the pair settles back into their seats, dishes with fine slices of smoked ham are served, decorated with three little apple pieces, carved in the shape of a heart.
Ermen takes a seat as the first course is served, still talking with Talbard his grey clad confidant. “Hmm, yes your father was a bastard wasn’t he?” he muses, whatever conflict that might have caused in the young knight’s brain doesn’t last long before he washes it away with wine and a convenient excuse. “Well you’re true born, and that’s good enough for me.” He slides some of the ham over in Talbard’s direction while he tips back his cup again. He’ll likely need to be carried from the hall the way he’s going.
Ser Humfrey Westerling sits, below the salt, with several of the Hedge Knight of the Kingswood company. It is ill luck to refuse a man hospitality on your wedding day and there is no shortage of hedge knights and free riders in attendance. As the first course arrives his squire offers a fresh cup of wine. Humfrey declines. “Go eat, lad.”
Andred takes note of Ser Ermen’s rather distasteful look at him, and shakes his head in response. He mutters to himself, “Not here, not today.” His tone is low enough that it would get drowned out by the bustle of the feast. Only those in his direct vincinity might hear it. His eyes furtitively run amok in the Great Hall avoiding any more negative recognition. His deep sea blues only afford any real attention to his knight, Ser Jarret, who sits upon the dais carefully watching him making sure his assistance is not needed. Andred’s focus does not break at the talk of bastards between Maester Talbard and Ser Ermen. His gaze wanders there for a time until the smell of ham brings distracts it. If anything, the young squire is hungry. So he happily hunches over his plate and starts eating with as much manners as he can muster which are few at best. Despite a valiant effort, food finds it’s way onto the collar of his doublet. It hangs there for but a moment before it is wiped away.
The maester’s meandering gaze does not linger mush longer on Ober Arryn’s geminian bastard, though while it does, there is a note of sad empathy in his look. But soon he has assuaged that ambiguous feeling in wine, and, taking friendly temporary leave of Ser Ermen, he glides off further down the tables, towards another figure he knows well by sight, celebrating in rough-hewn company.
“Ser Humfrey! Fate is an odd thing, is’t not? Not so long ago you were the festive hero of your own betrothal, and now here I find you, hiding with your Kingswood friends below the salt!” Talbard smiles broadly and looks sheepishly apologetic, “Also, I owe you an explanation about the other day, ser. Simple enough - it seems Clement’s old head muddled up the new Kingsguards…”
Ser Humfrey Westerling rises to his feet as the Maester approaches. “Maester, good to see you, ah, well Clement is a fine man, nevertheless. Seven did you see Sorin in the lists? The man is the best Hedge Knight have ever seen. How do you find the festivities, Maester?” One of Humfrey’s companions spares the knight a flinty stare at his remark about ‘the best hedge knight’ but other than that the rough company seems to bare the Maesters appearance well. Men nod to him at his approach and greet him politely.
Josmyn looks rather embarrassed when he realized that he had walked right into a wedding. And since Talbard is ignoring him, he goes to sit by his new bestie Ser Humfrey . “Whose wedding is this?”, he whispers.
The young maester laughs his strange hoarse cackle, sounding like a death rattle yet sounded from a free heart, at the irritation Ser Humfrey has induced in his comrade. “Have a care, ser, look to your friends! I should bristle myself, if I heard you say Clement was a fine fellow…as maesters went!”
Spotting the disgruntled and baffled young Reyne too late, he tries to remedy his lapse with helpful accuracy - “Ser Astos and my lady Belissa, Ser Josmyn. Corbray and Caron. It sounds well, does it not?”
Quietly finishing his ham and washing it down with a gulp of wine, Ryckon glances around to see the present company. Clustered around his cousin, it seems, are several knights and maesters with whom he is not particularly eager to associate, so he instead goes over to his fellow squire Andred, who seems lonely. “So, your master’s kinsman is married now? How fortunate for that house that must be. My aunt is the lord’s wife, I think, so that’s… something. The ham is good, no?”
Lady Reyna Saltcliffe is sitting beside Lady Katla Serry, both women in deep conversation, as she now and then glances over to the dais, where Princess Naerys herself sits as a guest of honour at the table beside Lady Donna Caron, the mother of the bride.
While the servants are busy serving the next course, a soup of mushrooms and cream accompanied by a slice of white bread, Ser Bryce Caron, the brother of the bride, rises from his seat and clears his throat, waiting for the wedding guests to take a break from their chatter. After the noise has finally reached an appropriate volume, he starts his speech with the promise of keeping it rather short as he does not want to bore everyone with endless tiring stories. After a short account of how Ser Astos saved his life a number of times during the Dornish Rebellion, he closes with the words: “And now I put the welfare of my sister into your hands. May you guard it as safely, as you have guarded mine during the war.”
Ser Astos has listened to his good-brother’s words, lightly shaking his head as if he did not think he deserved all the praise. After Ser Bryce has finished however the bridegroom nods, before he rises from his seat and gives his answer with gleaming eyes. “I will, ser.” And raising his goblet he adds: “I swear it, may the Seven be my witness!” The bride meanwhile makes an amused grimace in the direction of her close friend Lady Katla Serry, discreetly rolling her dark blue eyes at her husband’s dramatic vow. Katla looks back and winks at the newest of the Corbrays, her expression more than a little amused.
Humfrey claps Josmyn on the shoulder. “Good to see you Ser, have a cup of wine, Ser Astos and Lady Belissa are paying for it and it’s much better than the swill your like to find at a Crackclaw company camp.” Humfrey grins when the jest is delivered and his squire brings Josmyn a cup of wine. “Ah, Maester I ought to have a care whose lily I gild. Sit, drink. I have a mind to get inebriated and try the quintan. Jousting is never quite as fun, though Ser quintan has bested me these past four weddings!” Humfrey nods to Erton and the lad steps forward with a beautiful cherry-wood box in hand. He approaches the bride and groom sand sets the box down and waits a moment. Contained therein are two beautiful golden goblets. A nightingale and a raven dance, rampant, in a beautiful inlay of jet and gray agate inset upon the widest point, just above the groove, upon the widest of the goblets. Below the inlay-a small a row of black opals and gray agates encircle the lower edge just above the groove. “From House Westerling, Ser. May you and your wife drink many toasts ere the Stranger comes.”
Janden is off to one side with a number of others, dressed in his best doublet today. It’s a deep blue, fine material for him, though considerably less fancy than what some commonly wear day to day. It’s a wedding with a Valeknight, a good thing to come to, and he’s kept up with idle chatter around him. The Targaryen badge is also displayed on his breast, as it’s been seen recently.
“Thanks, my friend.” Josmyn accepts the wine from Humfrey and the explanation from Talbard, looking around to get a good look at the happy couple. “How nice indeed.”, he comments. And as presents are being presented, he suddenly hopes very sincerely that his brother Victor had taken care of that.
The maester’s in any case rather large eyes goggle at the richness of the wedding present from the Crag…and the intricacy of its wrought design. “Most touching, ser. Though I fear that if my day’s tasks are anything to go by, if a raven and a nightingale were to dance, his croak would quite drown out her song…” he japes, his ragged voice pitched as loudly as he can manage and tilted towards the dais in the hope the…lovebirds…in question may catch it.
As the wedding present of Ser Humfrey Westerling and Lady Jannia Tully is presented to them, Lady Belissa lets out a cry of delight. And Ser Astos looks impressed by the wealthy present as well. He rises and raises his goblet towards Ser Humfrey, expressing his thanks. And catches Talbard’s croaking jest, toasting to him as well with a grin. “Well said, maester! Noone would want to hear -me- sing!”
Ser Humfrey laughs so hard he nearly spits up a mouthful of wine at Talbard’s jape—when Astos lifts his goblet in a toast Humfrey swallows and coughs for a moment before rising to his feet and lifting his goblet. “To you, Ser, and your beautiful bride.” After the toast he turns to Erton. “Well, lad, my goblet is almost empty—if I let Duren’s goblet go dry he’d give me a clout in the ear, I am too clement. I think the Maester needs a drink too, and Ser Josmyn.”
Andred zealously chops up his ham remaining ham into small pieces before proceeding to eat it. Nothing like keeping busy to blend in. His forced abstinence from wine seems to start to bug him as he enviously eyes the others in the cups and a particularly inviting flagon that sits nearby. Ryckon breaks his focus and possibly saves him from a repeat of his last feast. “It is indeed, and is she? I am horrible at keeping up with how all the noble Houses are connected. My grandmother is a Corbray, I believe.” He says in a casual tone. “A joyous day, but I could do without the feast. The ham is good and I am sure the rest of the food will be too, but I always feel out of place at these things. I’d rather not drink to feel more comfortable this feast.” Andred watches with feigned interest as the gifts are presented.
The maester gasps with almost tangible delight and relief as the pallid depths of his silver cup are stained good and blood red with wine once again. “Thank the Seven and your squire for this, ser! Court certainly perfects the palette. I remember before I had begun to mingle in these, ah, exalted circles, I drank so much wine at so inopportune a speed I found myself proposing marriage to my Lady Costayne’s elder daughter. Lady Ammara did not mind in the least, of course, but the good Ser Willard,” he adds spikily, “nearly slew me on the spot…”
Josmyn quirks a brow at Talbard’s words. “Care to explain to me why this was any of Ser Willard’s concern, maester?”, he asks rather tetchily, glad for the wine to gobble down happily.
The next wedding presents to be presented are those of the Lord and Lady of Southshield: one good-sized tapestry with the sigil of House Corbray worked on it, clearly designed to be hung upon the wall and one engraved wood-and-bone coffer, probably intended for Belissa more than Astos. The tapestry is perhaps not a masterwork, but it is clearly very well-wrought and has taken a significant amount of time, and close inspection will show that in one corner, the initials of Astos and Belissa and the marriage date have been woven in, wrought in golden thread. Belissa and Astos raise their goblets in the Katla’s direction visibly overwhelmed by the ironborn woman’s kindness. The wedding gifts are being put on display on a nearby table, with more being brought over as the time passes.
“I believe it was something in his vows,” the maester replies mournfully, “about protecting maidens…”
“Seven, Maester, what did Lady Ammara’s mother say—I have been drunk to the point where I wanted to don my armor and ride off to war but I have never proposed to a maid? And our good Ser Willard was he drunk, too? Or did his squire steal away his sword?” Humfrey rises and approaches the spot where Andred and Ryckon sit, squire in tow. Humfrey looks upon the two squires. “Errton! wine for my cousin and Andred.”
Ryckon raises an eyebrow suspiciously at his house’s elaborate wedding present. “...Well. My house is generous, if nothing else. No doubt that such an expense is covered financially.” When he sees his cousin approaching, he clears his throat and coughs, a little flustered at the prospect of having been overheard. “Coz. Good afternoon. I would like wine, to be sure, but Andred here… doesn’t want to drink to much apparently. I think a cup of wine never hurt anyone. Besides, Andred, I do not think you are out of place here, if you are a kinsman of the groom, as you say, and squire to another.”
Janden’s not far from the squires, but he appears content to eat and watch the proceedings as gifts are brought before the two the rest have gathered here for. Idle chit-chat runs the gamut of effortless responses. “Yes, that’s a beautiful gift.” “Oh, that must have been expensive.” “They look good together.”
While the next course is served, well-peppered wild boar with onions, mushrooms, and mashed neeps, Ser Andian rises from his seat for a speech. The father of the bridegroom waits for the noise in the hall to die down until he begins: “My son has not always been as cheerful as he is now. After I returned from Dorne with the news of my eldest son’s death he reacted with deep sorrow and grief - yes, Astos and Benfrey have always been very close, I remember there was hardly a day when they did not spar in the yard of Heart’s Home. One of the reasons for my sending him to King’s Landing was to let new impressions and acquaintances distract him from his mourning. I am happy that my plan was successful. Not only did he get a chance to prove himself during the Dornish Rebellion, he also gained the hand of Lady Belissa.” And with these words he raises his cup for a toast. “May the Seven bless you both.” Belissa raises her goblet to Ser Andian with a bright smile and Astos follows her example, slightly affected by his father’s speech.
“What can I say…? We in the Citadel lack your noble bellicosity, my lord of Westerling,” Talbard admits, before directing a casual glance towards the double-doors, and gasping, muttering under his breath, “Speak of the Stranger…or, at any late, his dam…” Fortunately Ser Andian’s speech now comes and it’s unlikely anyone takes much notice.
Andred idly listens to Ryckon’s comment about he picks at his ham, eagerly awaiting the next course. “I do wonder what my cousin Lord Arryn sent.” He bites his lip when he hears Ser Humfrey, Ryckon’s cousin, ordering him a drink. He remembers his knight’s stern advice before the feast, but after hearing Ryckon’s words, he concedes to merriment. “It is a wedding, is it not? It would be affront to the bride and the groom not to have at least a glass.” His tone is light, but soft enough not to reach Ser Jarret Corbray’s ear. “Just do not ask me to bless their wedding with seven glasses. I shall leave that to you Ser Humfrey.” A smile appears on his face before looking back to Ryckon. “You are right. My nerves just get the better of me on occasions such as this. And here comes the Wild Boar, my favorite.”
“One cup, Andred? One cup to wash down the boar?” Humfrey lifts his cup and takes a lenghty drought. “Drink Coz, drink and mayhaps you will ride forth with me to do battle to my Lord of quintan.” Westerling smiles, his face a bit flushed from the wine.” He lifts his cup and drains it at Ser Andian’s behest.
“My noble bellicosity? Yes, Maester stay close at hand and keep your poultices ready, mayhaps I shall have need of them or mayhaps my gallant foe will have need of Good Master Pate, the carpenter.” Westlering turns round and spots Ser Janden. “Ser, Ser Janden how do you find the wedding?”
Janden lifts a cup at the proper time but his attention begins to waver, eyes passing over others gathered here, mostly the women. He appears distracted, indicated by a few blinks and a start at hearing his name. “Hmm? Oh, it’s..exciting, ser. Just thinking about being in Ser Astos’ place one day.” Said with a small frown.
Present, of course, for the wedding ceremony itself, though absent from the beginning of the celebratory feast for reasons having to do partially with the frailty of age and partially with a minor contretemps involving her gift to the young couple—Lady Taria Buckwell proceeds in a stately fashion into the Great Hall, attended as ever by a coterie of servants and minor relations and friends, amongst them Lady Costayne of the Three Towers and her young daughter Lady Mesella.
These three ladies, crossing the threshold all in a row (though with the Costaynes slightly to the rear of the Buckwell), might well strike onlookers as the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone arriving in person to bless the nuptial feast of Ser Astos Corbray and Lady Belissa Caron—though the Mother amongst them is clad in severe black silk which could hardly be cronelier, while the Crone herself is resplendent in pale blue and crowned with a silver coronet. She is a handsome old lady, this dowager, and she retains despite her many years an upright carriage and commanding grace such as would befit a queen.
Lady Taria curtseys with perfect humility to Princess Naerys before offering her greetings to the bride and groom; Lady Costayne, at her side, keeps a close eye on her lest she need an arm to assist her in the execution of this courtly manoeuvre.
“Ser Astos. Belissa. My dears,” Lady Taria beams. “The blessings of the Seven upon you both, and may you always be as happy side by side as you are today.” Her claw-like white hand makes a small gesture at her side, and a servant comes forward burdened with a large object draped in a silken cloth embroidered with the arms of House Corbray and House Caron. “A little something I hope will amuse you both.” Another gesture, and the cloth is whipped away, to reveal an intricate wrought-iron birdcage, in which a Corbray raven and a Caron nightingale are perched side by side. The miracle is neither has attacked the other… yet.
The young maester’s fixated, petrified gaze has not deviated from the Great Hall’s entrance for some minutes. Now it does, as he turns in an unusually incoherent attitude to Ser Josmyn, and simply mutters, loudly, but very vaguely, the words, neither query not statement exactly, “She…actually…did it…!...?”
“To battle! Ser quintan awaits. Humfrey procedes out toward the western outer yard where his foe awaits goblet in hand—attended by an alarmed Erton!
Belissa and Astos watch as the three women approach their table, the expression on their faces mild interest at first, then wonder and when the cloth is removed from the cage astonishment. “Lady Taria, what a wonderful gesture indeed!” cries the bride in delight. “Thank you very much!” And Astos adds, with less delight and more courtesy: “Thank you for honouring us with your presence, my ladies.” His glance resting for a short moment on Lady Ammara, as he recalls a rather unpleasant scene before the Visenya’s Sept, where this woman had to give one of her horses a merciful death as it was befallen by wildfire. He shakes off the memory as his attention is suddenly drawn to Ser Humfrey leaving the Great Hall in a rather rash and unorthodox manner.
Ryckon does not pay very much attention to the wedding speeches, mostly focused on the wild boar, though he does nod here and there. “We can drink seven glasses between all of us, to be sure. I doubt I’ll be up to riding at the quintain, though, sorry to disappoint you.” He waves his cousin off as he goes to do just that, and raises an eyebrow at Talbard’s great surprise. “What? What did she actually do?”
The maester’s almost despairingly wide eyes seem to aim for a spot somewhere perpendicular to the younger Westerling he now addresses with scattered syllables. “The birds…I happened to mention it…only a jest…that Dowager is a Force, I tell you, boy,” he trys to emphasise with more clarity and also more fatigue. “A Force. A Power.”
Andred tears into his boar meat with little mercy. The peppers that top the dish off definitely require wine to wash them down, so a muttered thank you is offered to Ser Humfrey’s squire as he brings some. The bastard squire nod in response to Ryckon, but at the present, he is preoccupied with his meal too give much more of a response.
The cage with the two birds is carefully moved over to the table with the wedding presents. Meanwhile, the servants serve the next course, a delicious dessert: slices of apples and pears with cream and honeycakes. It is now that Ser Jarret decides to rise for his speech, which he keeps rather short following the example of the ones that spoke before him: “Although my brother Lord Bestan Corbray cannot attend the wedding today due to the important tasks he is left with in Heart’s Home, he has asked me to express his happiness about our two Houses being connected from now on, Ser Bryce, through this marriage. And furthermore, to submit his good wishes to you, Ser Astos and Lady Belissa. He hopes that he soon gets the honour of meeting Lady Belissa in person and would be happy if you could pay him a visit in the near future.” Ser Jarret’s words earn him a consenting nod from Ser Bryce Caron who raises his cup for another toast, soon to be joined by most of the gathered guests. Astos exchanges a glance with his wife, his eyes slightly pensive, and nods as he replies: “It surely has been a while since my last visit. We will follow Lord Corbray’s invitation shortly, I promise.” And Lady Belissa adds with a lively glow in her dark blue eyes: “I am most eager to meet Lord Corbray, ser. And I would also like to see Heart’s Home, a place which I have heard so many things about - and where my husband grew up in.” Ser Jarret accepts the answers of bride and groom with a nod and resumes his seat by the table, casting a worried glance at his squire who is apparently drinking again.
If Lady Costayne recollects Ser Astos from that wild night, she gives no sign of it; being otherwise unacquainted with the knight and his lovely bride, she remains in Lady Taria’s shadow, murmuring such words as are customary on these occasions, and employing a pointed glance from her fine dark eyes to direct her daughter forward to do the same.
Of course, Lady Taria knows everyone at court, and feels no such inhibitions about putting herself forward. “You are most welcome, most welcome,” she tells Ser Astos, with grandmotherly indulgence. And, to Lady Belissa, “You see, my dear girl, so sweet is the voice of the nightingale that she may train even a raven to live with her in perfect harmony, and so brave is the raven that he can shelter her songs from any peril.” Her sharp green eyes are then turned upon the Valeknight. “Let that be an example to you, Ser Astos, not to cage your lady unless you are in there with her. And lots of chicks in your nest soon, too, I hope.”
Maester Talbard is still displaying the dazed, almost concussed aura of a young man whose very jokes and anecdotes have come to life before his eyes. Fate even thought to send little Mesella along! It is all rather disconcerting, and he is a man easily spooked by coincidence.
While having attended the marriage in conversation with other nobles, ser Albyn Crane now seems to have find time now to present himself and the gifts from House Crane. Dressed in his finest doublet - the fabric starch due the large amount of gold-wire embroided cranes- the heir to Red Lake makes his way till he ends up in front of the high table. Before it he bows slightly and pulls up a soft smile. ” The gods must be delighted to see such illustrious houses connected, ser Astos.” he states.
Shifting his attention to Belissa, Albyn nods gently. ” My lady of Corbray.” he starts, already using the new title she’ll wear. ” You truly outshine all ladies present here.” A sweet compliment only to be sweetened more by the gifts the servant cares, now called forwards by Albyn to present them. ” Please accept these gifts from my father.” As he steps aside two books are presented. The shiny leather shows they’ve been made new but the content is to Albyn to reveal. ” Both books tell of the history of your houses so that they might be remembered and know as some of the finest of the realm.”
Ser Astos chuckles at Lady Taria’s remark about the cage and little chicks in their nest while Lady Belissa blushes lightly, a sudden tension coming over her. But the next moment all nervousness seems to be forgotten as Ser Albyn adresses them, offering the presents of House Crane. Astos accepts them, visibly moved by the gesture. “We thank you, Ser Albyn. What a great present indeed.”
Her mark upon the occasion having been well and truly made, Lady Taria withdraws from the area of the dais, her entourage trailing behind her in dribs and drabs. She and Lady Costayne speak a few words to one another in familiar undertones, at the conclusion of which dialogue the elder lady pats her friend’s arm and sends her off to join her friends, while little Lady Mesella remains sheltered beneath the metaphorical wings of the Dowager Lady of the Antlers and her companions.
Lady Costayne is wearing, as she approaches them, what Ser Josmyn Reyne and Maester Talbard Storm will surely recall is her best, and, indeed, her only silk frock. Its blackness is relieved only by the sigils of the house into which she herself wed, long ago, on a day much like this. Their table is much more to her taste than Lady Taria’s, or the high table on the dais: the friendly companionship of men who hardly seem aware that she is, technically, a woman.
“Maester Talbard. Ser Josmyn.” She nods to them, and settles herself without ceremony in an empty chair next to the maester. “Delightful wedding, wasn’t it?”
Finding himself in something of a void - and not just mentally - following the departure of Westerling and his hedge-company, the maester eases himself groggily up, having eaten quite enough for his slight, distractible appetite, just in time to encounter the startling apparition of a silken Lady Costayne most directly. “My lady,” he suggests weakly, “perhaps the past tense isn’t advisable quite yet? I can hardly confess to a facility for dancing, and I doubt it is among your favourite pursuits, either, but I’d like to see your Mesella further burnish a name for herself upon the royal rushes…”
A servant appears at the high table, carrying another wedding gift for the young couple. “Lady Bessa Hunter sends her excuses. She cannot attend the feast due to a sudden fever, but sends her regards and this present, an ornamented book with old songs of the Vale.” Both Astos and Belissa are most impressed with the wonderful book as they take a quick look at it. The former grinning, as he remembers Maester Talbard’s jest from a little earlier. “I suggest that you sing these songs, dear Belissa, the nightingale that you are.” And to the servant he says: “Send our thanks to Lady Bessa. May she quickly recover from her illness.”
And then the final course is being served: A selection of various cheeses, varying from mild to rather strong, decorated with red and white grapes. Ser Bryce leans over to the young couple and says something in a low voice, a cheerful smile on his face. Although his words are too low to be overheard by most of the guests, his motioning gesture towards the empty space in the center of the Great Hall leave not much room for speculation what he is talking about. After a quick word with his bride Ser Astos rises, offers her his hand and leads her towards the dancefloor. As they pass the little stage where the musicians are making final adjustments to their instruments the bridegroom finds himself staring at the lute, fiddle and flute as if he was assessing the powerful weapons of an enemy. He shakes the awkward feeling off, however, and when they assume their places and face each other in the duel that is known as the opening dance of a wedding, Belissa’s encouraging smile is soon returned, although slightly tempered by concentration. As soon as the musicians start playing they move to the music with the appropriate grace through steps that have been rehearsed thoroughly during the weeks before. They are soon joined by others, assuming their places beside them until two lines are formed, which continue to intermingle and switch positions until the song is over.
” My father will be pleased to hear that.” Albyn says, smiling more genuinely now that his inquiry on the couple’s interests seems to bare its fruits. As the gifts are handed over, ser Albyn quickly disappears again in the crowd to join his wife and other acquitances.
“On the contrary, Maester Talbard,” the Lady of the Three Towers corrects him absently, her dark eyes drifting already from his prematurely haggard visage across to where her daughter sits two places down from Lady Taria, “I like dancing very much. Though I fear I am a little long in the tooth to indulge my liking for it in such company. I had my turn, I suppose; now, as you rightly remark, it is my daughter’s.”
Straightening up in consternation as it dawns on him he may have shown a lack of maesterly gallantry, and flushed with a quantity of wine that - while he seems to carry it better than the somnolent Ser Ermen Frey not far off - is surely conducive to speeches slightly rasher even than usual, Talbard - apparently more or less forgetful of his station - stutters out in a distracted voice - “Well, then, my lady, perhaps you would not be, ah, ungratified, to, er, tread, an, as they say, um, measure in my company?” It takes only a few seconds for him to realise the impracticability of this on several grounds - and that realisation makes him grin ruefully but widely.
Her friend’s grape-fueled impudence draws Lady Costayne’s eyes back from the bluer pastures beyond, and sends her thick dark eyebrows northwards almost to the Wall of her hairline. “That is,” she fumbles, “kind of you, Maester Talbard, and were I in my own home I should not hesitate to accept. But, Seven help us, we’re in King’s Landing. I don’t think it would be prudent, for either of us. Let’s just sit, and…” She sips the wine which a thoughtful servant has placed before her. “Perhaps you can tell me who all the people are whom I still don’t know.”
Ryckon is not a man for dancing, too large to move himself gracefully and too awkward to carry himself chivalrously. So it should be no surprise to any courtier who knows him that he is not taking to the dancefloor as of yet, only watching those who have and refilling his cup with more wine. He only blinks at the potential improprietry between maester and lady, half-aware.
Astos’s eyes never left his bride, as he took turn after turn with her, holding her right hand gently in his, the obvious admiration for his bride mixed with a look of concentration and - despair ?, as he seems not to be as used to the dance floor as to the battlefield. When the music finally ceases, he is visibly relieved, bowing to her with a light smile. His intention to escort her back to their places at their table is thwarted, when his father Ser Andian arrives and asks Lady Belissa for the next dance. The bridegroom gives his consent with a respectful nod and takes two steps backwards so his father can take his place, just in time obviously, as the musicians start playing a faster, livelier piece. He uses the opportunity to move away carefully from the center of the hall and casts a quick glance around the tables in search of someone to talk to. And catches sight of Talbard who is obviously in a conversation with that interesting horse lady. “Maester Talbard. I hope you enjoy yourself. Might you introduce me to that Lady there beside you. I do not believe we have met, she does seem familiar, though…”
Relieved in both senses by Lady Costayne’s quick thinking, Talbard is, when the Corbray groom approaches, in the midst of quickly running through the most notable guests as yet unknown to her. “The young knight in grey silk having a…catnap…is Ser Ermen Frey, third son of the Lord of the Crossing. The muscle-encased youth who isn’t Ryckon is a stray twin belonging to the Knight of the Bloody Gate. I think he’s drunk, but I’m not sure…ah, Ser Astos!” the maester exclaims, obviously trying to engineer an organic break and alteration of subject when he realises the groom has just been close by listening to him summarise a kinsman. “But of course. My Lady Costayne, your host, Ser Astos Corbray, as you no doubt know. He’s not unlike Urston, but a lot brighter. Ser Astos, this is Ammara, Lady Costayne, born of House Mooton. You know what they say, ser,” the maester trails off with desperate enthusiasm, “wisdom and strength. As I’m afraid I’m running low on both those commodities, I may take this moment to slope off. But…hearty, heartiest congratulations, ser!”
The knight of, and heir to, the Crag arrives lathered in sweat dressed in a pale golden arming coat. He sits down at the table and calls for another cup of wine before turning toward Maester Talbard and announcing “Maester, Ser Quintain has bested me, yet again. In the third pass—seven what a puissant knight he is.”
Hard bested in conversation, not entirely himself in terms of potation, and a little confused in the din of the music, Talbard completely mishears Humfrey, whom he passes already staggering his way out.
“That may very well be, ser,” he replies sternly. “Nevertheless, he is certainly not the Ripper!” And that is his last conclusion of the evening - he is gone in another wine-splashed swish of grey.
With her boon companion now in full retreat, Lady Costayne casts a thin-lipped look after him, then composes her stern features into an appropriately festive arrangement to greet the lucky groom. “My congratulations again, Ser Astos, upon securing yourself such a fair and charming bride. I hope you’ll forgive me for coming as a stranger to your feast, bringing as I do my best wishes to you both.”
“Forgive you? Certainly, my lady. I thank you for helping Lady Taria presenting her wedding gift.” The bridegroom pauses and looks at Ammara with thoughtful eyes. “Were you not there that night before Visenya’s Sept. I think I saw you with your horses…” But unfortunately fate has decided that he will not get an answer to his question - at least not until tomorrow.
For this is the moment, that the musicians break into a rather lively rendition of “We Hail From The Vale”, a popular song from the Vale of Arryn, the chords of the lute building a foundation for a rather excited sounding fiddle that carries the melody and the flute adding a few ornamental notes here and there. The excitement of the music seems to carry over to the wedding guests, both the dancing and the non-dancing, and quicker than they would have imagined the bride and groom find themselves grabbed and carried off towards the double doors of the Great Hall and out of the Red Keep towards the Guest Tower, where they will meet their fate and be bedded just as the custom in King’s Landing demands it.
Ser Humfrey rises, again. Stumbing out to the yard on his way for a second bout with the vile Ser quintain. “My foe awaits, Sers and Ladies, I bid you good evening.”
To ensure that the young girls don’t get out of hand, and furthermore that Ser Astos’s embarrassment is as complete as can be, Lady Taria Buckwell and one or two attendants join the party of ladies escorting him to the bridal chamber. The abstemious Lady Costayne, who is still only on her first cup of wine, refrains from joining them.