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The booming Ironmonger wakes Ammon from his reverie and the would-be singer looks up just as the lady’s retinue departs. He stands quickly and almost pays the price as his knee buckles, but his arm shoots to the tree for support and the squire is soon on his way, hobbling towards they lady and the Ironman, crutch tucked up under his left arm.
The foppish Frant disappears none too seen; the Ironmonger watches him with narrowed eyes, cruel speculation in them. That look takes in the rest of the party as it scatters: “Cousin? And these your kin? Tyrell blood is watered thin these days. Your father was a man, stiff-necked or no.”
He laughs, fingering his axe, “By the God, I nearly solved that for him!”
He glances at the approaching squire and shakes his head: “Boy-lovers and cripples. The Targaryen rule a fine court!”
“Nuncle, really,” drawls Reyna, her tones rife with Highgarden. “Frant is a very distant relation, and I only barely claim him.” She glances at Ammon, and smiles. “As for Ammon here, he was honorably injured in Dorne.”
She looks back at Alvyn, slanting her eyes upward almost coyly. “In service to the King, you know. Many of the men here are recovering from grievous wounds.”
The squire arrives before the Ironmonger and effects an awkward bow. When he rises, his grin is wide and toothy. “Yes, crippled. In service to the king, no less.” He shrugs, chuckling, “THAT makes it worth it.”
He turns his full attention to the lady and his full, toothy grin transforms itself into a half crescent moon. “My Lady Reyna, a pleasure as always. I trust this evening finds you well.”
Something in that seems to amuse Alvyn; that great laugh rings through the yard again: “Good King Daeron. I was serving him down in Dorne myself. He’ll want to thank me, doubtless.”
He takes another swig and wipes the trail of wine with the back of his hand; eyeing the harp left under the tree, he says: “What did you do, sing cradle-songs to soothe the boy king to sleep?”
The door of the kitchen keep creaks and groans…
And a voice calls out: “Seven hells, another one?”
A brilliant flash of white comes out of the door, now flung open. A beautiful smile, as a spearpoint glittering in the sun is beautiful. It is surrounded by a bristling golden beard, and inches above are two eyes hard as green stones freshly mined.
It is Jonn Lannister, and he leans against the frame of the door, smiling as he studies the three before him.
Freed of the obligation to respond to Alvyn, Reyna turns toward the keep, then groans silently. “Good evening, Ser Jonn,” she says tightly, her smile taut.
Turning at the new voice, the Ironmonger eyes the man leaning against the door. And then, a smile begins in the thickness of his heard that warms his eyes with a capricious fire.
“A Lannister,” he proclaims with a sigh of contentment.
To the large, bearded man, Ammon responds. “Nothing of the sort. His Grace had other, more suitable voices for his lullabyes.” Another smile and he turns towards the Lannister and takes a bite from a ripe peach he had carried with him.
“A ser now, am I?” the Lannister rumbles good-naturedly at Reyna, a golden brow arched.
His eyes flicker to Alvyn. “A Saltcliffe,” he says thoughtfully. “Unless my nose does deceive me.”
“Only in polite company, Jonn. Unless you -like- being called Lackspur. I should be pleased to oblige.” Then Reyna glances up at Alvyn, her nose wrinkled delicately. “Well, in company, anyway. One must maintain propriety.”
With another bite of his peach, a curious look between the Lannister and the Lady and a subtle sniff of the larger Saltcliffe, Ammon raises one eyebrow and takes a polite step to his right.
Clapping the squire’s shoulder absently, a buffet hard enough to stagger many men—the Ironmonger glances at Reyna. “You have a fine tongie to you, girl,” he notes—save that now, that smile, changeable as a summer storm, is more dangerous by far. He turns back to Jonn:
“Which one is this, older or younger? Not pretty enough to be the first but he’s a man and that’s more than I heard of the second.”
“Jonn Lannister, Alvyn Saltcliffe,” Reyna says perfunctorily. “Ammon Massey, Alvyn Saltcliffe. My lord’s nuncle and Captain of the Iron Price.” She disregards the Ironmonger’s tone, save to raise a brow at him. “Known along the western shores as the Ironmonger,” she adds, sweetly.
The squire is forced forward, his left knee buckling though, again, he keeps himself upright with his crutch. He offers a quick glance up at Alvyn but does not linger long as Reyna makes her introductions. His face is passive and emotionless though he does bow his head in the Lannister’s direction and mutter, “Ser.”
Discretely, for one hobbling along on a crutch, Ammon takes another step to the right.
“Lackspur,” Black Jonn tests the word on his tongue. He smiles, “It does have a certain…” he pauses, looking for the word to describe what he means. After coming up blank, he merely shrugs and turns his attention to the Ironmonger.
“Ironmonger? I expected someone smaller.”
“It seems I heard wrong!”
The Ironmonger tosses the aleskin to the Lannister, good humour restored, “You seem to be a man, after all.” Glancing at the almost-forgotten capon, he lets it fall and wipes the grease on his breeches. “Lackspur,” he rumbles, looking from Jonn to Reyna. “A fine name. And how was it won?”
“He tried to give his spurs back to his Grace,” Reyna explains, smiling angelicly from Jonn to Alvyn and back again. “Over a woman.” She looks at Ammon then, as the squire sidles to one side. “Do you need to sit again? Here are the steps to the Keep, if you want…” And she offers him an arm.
“My lady, no, I’m fine,” he says to Reyna and then, under his breath, “so long as I can escape this Beasty’s reach.”
Jonn snorts as he catches the wineskin deftly in his left hand. Unstoppering the top, he sniffs the contents and shrugs.
“I never wanted them in the first place,” he says, gesturing with the skin. “But someone’s brother,” he looks accusingly at Reyna, “had to saddle me with them anyway.”
“Actually, my lady, I’m feeling a bit hungry. If you’ll excuse me?”
Without waiting for a reply, Ammon nods to both Alvyn and Jonn. “A pleasure,” and with that he
“Knighthood,” the Ironmonger says with open contempt. “It makes a milksop of a man. An axe serves better than spurs ever will.” He looks appraisingly from Jonn to Reyna, combing his beard, “There are things to learn here, it seems. A good thing I will be here a while.”
Reyna, between Alvyn and Ammon and a great deal shorter than both, sends Ammon a faintly scathing look. “You’re the one who’s been in battle,” she says, clucking her tongue. She sighs when he leaves, and looks after him in disgust.
“Yes, better Garvys should have knighted one like -that-,” she says to Jonn. “At least you, as my -dear- nuncle says, are a man. After a fashion.”
And for the Ironmonger: “I’m sure you’ll ferret them out, given time.”
Warily, the Lannister watches Reyna. “Never say that again,” he advises her sternly.
“Time, I have.”
“He is closemouthed, my nephew,” says the Ironmonger ignoring the departing squire, “Always was. But about you more than most things. A good thing I will be guesting with you from tomorrow.”
“Time enough,” he repeats, eyes gleaming in the light of the torches.
And with that he leaves, pushing past the Lannister and into the kitchens again.
“Say what? That you’re a man? So very sorry,” Reyna replies sweetly, eyes wide and ingenuous. But she is left staring open-mouthed after the Ironmonger in obvious dismay. “Seven hells,” she breathes, rubbing her forehead with her fingertips. “Seven fucking hells.”
The Lannister erupts into laughter at that.
“Ah, Reyna,” he says with a shake of his head, raising the wineskin to his lips. “I almost pity you,” he says before taking the swallow.
“Almost?” Reyna asks a trifle bleakly. “Gods, Jonn, you have no idea at all.” She eyes him, swilling from the wineskin and laughing. “Do let me know when I’ve been dishonored enough to suit you, won’t you? I’m getting a little tired of it, but it never ends.”
“You have been dishonored enough for the nonce,” Jonn pronounces airily, waving the skin as a king might wave a scepter.
“Bastard.” Reyna drops the word like a blade at his feet, then looks around. “Smiler? Where are you? I want to go home while home is still mine.”
“Bastard. Lackspur,” Jonn says with a shake of his head. “Make up your mind, wench. A man can have only one name.”
“Why don’t you just go in there and tell the Ironmonger every little detail, hm?” Reyna says, waving her hand toward the Kitchen Keep. “Save me the trouble of admitting it and watching him gloat.”
That causes the Lannister to frown. “Can’t say I remember many details,” he says, a touching worried about a failing of memory. “Not to mention, you’re like to describe it better than I ever could.” That brings the smile back to his lips.
“Are you ever serious?” Reyna asks, shaking her head. “No, don’t answer that. I know. Where is that bloody Smiler?”
“Off raping someone, I’d imagine,” Jonn says, squeezing the last of the wine into his open mouth.
“I seem to recall him trailing after some kitchen boy earlier.”
Reyna laughs in spite of herself. “Oh, gods, Jonn, don’t say that. He’ll be guesting in my home tomorrow! I’ll have to send Amalia away as it is; I don’t think he’ll be attracted to Gysa, and we’d all starve else, so she’ll have to take her chances.”
“Lyam would not refuse a house guest,” Jonn suggests, smirking. “And he does often say how well he misses her.” A lie, certainly—but he does it so well.
“Oh, I’m sure he does,” Reyna replies wryly. “Poor man, she never mentions -him- at all. It seems the Stormbreaker is the standard by which she judges her men. Poor Ser Edmund has no chance.”
“And still she is ambulatory?” Jonn says in disbelief. Then he shakes his head, chuckling: “My destrier would stand no chance, in that case.”
Reyna shrugs. “I didn’t ask her for details, Jonn. Better her than me was all I can think at all.”
“Of course, of course,” Jonn says with a knowing smile. “It wouldn’t have been polite, now that you’re happily married. I understand completely.”
“Oh, Jonn, you silly man,” Reyna says almost fondly. “If Sarmion Baratheon is Amalia’s standard, my husband is now mine. A pity there are so few who measure up.” She clucks her tongue helplessly, looking on the Lannister with sympathy in her eyes.
“I bet the bedchamber is just another duty for him,” the Lion says with amusement. “Marches there with grim determination, thrusts, adds another for good measure, then rolls over and goes to sleep. A true knight to the end, your garden snake.”
“That, my dear, was you,” Reyna replies, unphased. Then she leans in, lowering her voice to confidential levels. “The truth, Jonn… is not for you to know.” She pats his cheek, a bit harder than need be, then steps away.
The Lannister brow furrows in concentration, as if trying to recall—
“If I’ve ever done anything with grim determination, you most certainly were not it,” he informs her at last, seeming to find the prospect amusing. “Though I suppose it was a duty, after a fashion.”
“By your latest excuse, anyway. Pity I’m not Dagur,” Reyna replies. “I’d just hit you and get it over with. But I don’t fancy being knocked down again.”
“Now that I think on it,” Jonn says, “I do regret striking you.”
A pause, a smile. “In the face.”
“And I regret not letting Almer castrate you,” Reyna replies, small hands balling into fists at her side.
“Not a man, after all.”
And the bearded bulk of the Ironmonger looms behind Jonn in the doorway of the kitches, another skin dangling from a hand. He belches, the sour smell of ale drifting towards the Lannister:
“Never had to hit one and I’ve seen twice your years, boy. Do you keep your sword for women and your cock for men?”
The balled up little fists—truly, the joy it causes the Lannister has no equal in all the world. He laughs and steps away from the door, turning to face the Ironmonger. “Who said anything of need? I felt like it, so I did it.” He shrugs, wondering where is the crime in such.
“Timely arrival, nuncle,” Reyna says acerbicly to Alvyn, looking almost glad to see him. “Did you see Smiler in there, by any chance? I seem to have misplaced him, and I want to go home.” She glares at Jonn’s back, then aims a punch at his kidney.
“I’ve seen men who proved themselves against women,” grunts the Ironmonger contemptuously. “Pissed themselves when they faced a man with steel.”
He steps past Jonn, “Smiler? The sour fellow who looks like he caught someone bedding his mother? He…”
And he breaks off, roaring with surprised, approving laughter as Reyna aims a blow at the Lannister.
It causes the Lannister to laugh as well.
He turns his head to look upon Reyna and says, seriously, “Now we’re even.”
To the Ironmonger, he says, “I’m more like to piss on the man with the steel.”
“Or a woman you’ve just concussed,” Reyna says brightly, shaking her hand. Then she looks past him to Alvyn. “I’m going home. If Smiler -is- in there—just the fellow you described—tell him he’d best catch up before I get there and Dagur finds out.” And she turns to go.
“No wonder, if the men here are what you have to deal with,” the Ironmonger answers through a swallow. “Try it with the wrong man and you’ll be sitting down to piss the next time.”
“He’s standing behind you, I was going to say,” he points out to Reyna; his eyes, near surrounded by that great thatch of hair, are unclouded by the drink and shrewd as he studies the woman a moment longr before turning away.
And indeed, Smiler steps out from the shadows, breathing heavily as if just having arrived at a run; the tell-tale glimmer of steel vanishes back into his sleeve as he gives his mistress a sour look.
Reyna yawns, shaking her head at Smiler. “Don’t look at me like that,” she says a trifle sheepishly. “I’ve been standing right here for ages. Good night, nuncle. Good night, Lackspur. Come, Smiler.” And she is off without further discourse.
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