It has been a long day in the city, with clouds threatening rain and a chilly wind blowing from the northeast. Yet it was a pleasant day nonetheless, spent in the company of friends away from the bustle of the court. Now the westering sun is giving way to a darkling sky, and a small company has come to the Three Hills Inn for food, drink and conversation before they must disband and go their separate ways.
The inn is a veritable melting pot for the upper classes of King’s Landing. Here is a lord and his lady, there a wealthy merchant. A few men of the Crackclaw Company sit laughing around one table, hardened men of a more dubious repute around another. A troupe of musicians play near the hearth, while serving girls run from table to table with flagons of ale or glasses of wine. And, outside taking care of the horses, is a squire bearing the green turtle of House Estermont on his breast.
At one such table sits Ser Ammon Massey, a frothy mug of ale before him. He seems content, does the man some call Blackhand, as his three fingered hand lifts that mug to his lips. He drinks deeply and turns to speak to his companions—but is interrupted as the inn erupts into a familiar song. The musicians lead the crowd in the singing:
“A bear there was,
“A bear, A BEAR!,
“All black and brown,
“And covered with hair….”
Jan sits across from Ammon, a tired but pleasant expression on his face. In front of him lies a mug of ale and the remaining bites of a large beef-and-bacon pie. For the first time since the trip, his right arm is only moderately bandaged, and he has enough mobility with it to grasp his mug and raise it to his lips with his right arm, albeit with some awkwardness. “The bear! The bear!” Jan sings along, though not loudly, before hastily digging in for another bite of his pie.
A burst of pleased laughter escapes Elrone as the crowd begins singing. “I had near forgotten what this is supposed to sound like- when not sung by drunk squires.” She smiles to the men at her table, brushing an escaping lock of copper hair away from her face, and pushes a plate of lemoncakes toward her septa, trying to coax the woman into some enjoyment- though the older lady is more tired than her young companions and only mostly picks at the little cakes, looking rather dubiously at them. Elrone rolls her eyes and pops one of the cakes into her own mouth. Her black cloak is draped over the back of her chair, the inn being quite warm with so many people about, and her red dress stands out from the dark wood of the furnishings.
Ammon leans back in his chair, watching the singers idly—though not singing himself, of course. Like Jan, there are the remnants of a beef-and-bacon pie before him, though ‘remnants’ is a strong word. The pie didn’t know what it was up against in the Massey knight.
“Drunk squires?” he muses. “I’d lay a stag down that Lady Reyna has you singing with her before the moon’s out.” Ammon gulps down some more of the ale, wiping foam from his upper lip with a sleeve and wincing as he does it—his shoulder, like Jan’s, is clearly not healed yet—and chuckles. “It amuses me that I squired for Ser Dagur, my lady, and now you are doing much the same for his wife. Have you met his men yet?”
Jan swallows a rather large bite of pie and says, “Ah, yes, I forgot about Lady Reyna’s singing prowess as well. You two certainly are a good match, aren’t you?” Jan says sincerely before taking another gulp of ale, tapping his fingers along the table along with the singers. He delves back into the pie for the finishing blows during the pause in conversation.
“I hope you are not too fond of that stag, Ammon- Lady Reyna and I have already sung together- we did so on the ship.” Elrone raises a brow toward Ammon with a smirk. “And I am not sure I like the idea of being on equal footing with the squires. Though, yes, I have met some of the men- Steffyn at the gate, and Edmund and the Smiler as guards… there are others I have seen around the manse, but I do not know them by name yet.” The smirk moves to Jan as she watches him tear through the remainder of his pie- her own had been a much smaller portion and was dispatched quickly to make room for the lemoncakes. “My, you two worked up an appetite. And neither of you was even attempting to spar today,” she says teasingly.
Ammon smiles as he watches Jan attack his food with vigor; he chokes on another sip of ale as Elrone smirks at him. “So you’ve met the Smiler, then? You’ll meet Poxy soon enough, I should think.” Massey waits as she teases Jan, but replies anyway. “Yet, my lady. We haven’t sparred -yet-.”
And as the song reaches its climax, a slender man dressed richly in red and green silks leaps gracefully to the top of a chair. He turns to the crowd and raises his arms above his head as he sings, a slender sword hanging from his hip:
“Then she sighed and squealed,
“And kicked the air,
“She sang: My bear so fair,
“And off they went,
“The bear! The bear!
“And the maiden fair!”
And, the song done, the man falls backwards into the arms of his fellows, as the inn erupts in laughter.
Jan finishes the last gulp of pie and wipes his mouth with a napkin, revealing a sly grin, “Well, no sparring that the two of you know of.” He pushes the empty plate away from him, a sated look on his face, and his left hand rests on his stomach while his right clutches the ale. “And it’s not so much my appetite. It’s these pies! I can’t help myself,” he says before taking a long, deep drink to wash down the meal. Smacking his lips, he turns to see the slender man in red, a curious brow raised. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the inn this merry. I usually come earlier in the day. Less of a wait. I do enjoy the singing, though.”
Elrone joins in the laughter as the song ends, glancing at her septa beside her, who, if she is not wholly pleased with the rowdy crowd, at least does not look terribly displeased with the merriment either. “It does not count as sparring if the meat is already dead, Jan,” she smiles at him, then looks to Ammon. “Yes- Poxy is only around when Ser Dagur is as well, though, and he keeps a wide berth from Lady Reyna- or so I have heard from Miranda. So I do not know when our paths shall cross- when Ser Dagur is at home he is often behind closed doors.”
“My friend,” Ammon says, “you only say that because you weren’t here for Ser Dagur’s last nameday. -THAT- was a night!” He slaps the table for effect. “And the next morning, when Meadows came calling and met Ser Alek and Jos—well, that was something else entirely!” He turns to Elrone with a raised brow as she talks of his former master and that man’s door preference. Ammon seems about to say something, but a quick look to Septa stops him. Instead, he drains his tankard.
Despite the crowd, Ryckon can be seen ducking into the inn and stuffing a piece of paper into his pocket, or coinpurse, seeming tense. He relaxes upon taking a step into the inn, though, and looks over its patrons curiously. His gaze falls on the Crackclaw men and the Darklyn guards first, and he looks a couple of tables over to see a group of nobles familiar to him. He approches them with a raised eyebrow. “Ser Ammon, Ser Jan… Lady Elrone… what’s the occasion, if there is one, if you don’t mind my asking?”
Perhaps the merriment is contagious, so Jan can’t help but finish his mug of ale and signal a serving maid for a second. “I wish I could have been there! Maybe the next one.” The maid brings him a mug of ale, and where Ammon seems quizzical at Elrone’s comment regarding Dagur and his doors, Jan looks more concerned. It is short-lived, though, as he turns to greet the squire with a mostly friendly, reserved nod. “Evening, Ryck. Just sampling their famous pies, of course,” grinning.
A sip from her own cup masks the smirk on Elrone’s lips at each man’s reaction to her comment on the doors from being noticed by her septa until she can assume a more polite expression. “That was the incident with Ser Kendros, no? I heard about some of that from Lady Alyce.”
She smiles politely as Ryckon approaches, though she looks faintly surprised after he manages to greet them without a single stutter. “Hello Ryckon… we stopped for a meal after a bit of shopping in the city. Your cousin would be proud, I think- I put in an order for a bow to be made for me.”
Ammon nods to the squire, gesturing to an empty seat. “Have a seat if you’d like, Ryckon. Benther’s about somewhere,” he says with an all-encompassing gesture.
When the barmaid arrives, Massey orders another, and begins to answer Elrone. “Aye, my lady. Of a sort. Meadows came looking for ‘justice’ as he ca—,” he trails off as he catches sight of his squire. “Oh Seven Hells, not Jory,” he curses.
For there is Benther, sitting amongst the Crackclaw men, laughing as one of them tells some tale or another. “He’s no good influence on a child,” Ammon mutters as he stands. And then, to the table: “Excuse me a moment.” He walks away quickly, towards the table of men-at-arms.
“Are you talking about the whole business at the Highgarden tourney, with the Reynes and the Meadows?” Ryckon inquires curiously. “I’ve heard about it, of course, though I wasn’t there for it…” He takes a seat at the table. “I would love to eat with you all, to be sure, but the Presters’ cook is expecting me back and it wouldn’t do to have her cook for someone who isn’t there, so… Benther is your new squire, yes, Ser Ammon?” He follows Ammon’s gaze over to his squire and frowns a little when he’s called a child—squires have to stick together, after all. “I’m… sure that he would be, Lady Elrone, yes.”
Jan takes a sip of ale, his eyes following Ammon warily. He does not look at the squire, but nods as though he’s listening, whether he is or not. He takes another sip and, apparently hearing Ryckon’s final question, chooses to answer. “Yes, Benther is Ser Ammon’s eager young squire. We have him to thank for being able to watch Ser Ammon in the last tourney,” he says, the slightest of grins on his face.
Elrone’s eyes follow Ammon over to Benther and she shakes her head. “That boy does not seem to learn very quickly- or Ammon must needs break his bad tendancies a bit faster. He was near disgracefully drunk at the wedding- did you see him, Jan? Though, yes, I was pleased Ammon did compete, whether or not he really wanted to.” She glances to Ryckon, a small sly smile on her lips. “Ser Humfrey did well in that one, as usual- though I am sure he expects you to win the next. Have you been putting him into the dirt very often of late?”
“I am thinking that your beauty is wasted on men such as these,” says a silken voice by Elrone’s ear. And there is a man there, short and willow-thin but standing with a quiet confidence. His clothes are fine: his tunic is of red and green silk, striped horizontally. His hair falls in black curls to his shoulders; a thin moustache, expertly trimmed, adorns his lip. An emerald stud sparkles in the man’s left ear, and when he smiles—and he smiles often—a golden tooth gleams.
“They do not know what they have in their midst, these brutes,” he continues to the lady, for his eyes are for Elrone alone. “You must be one of these lordly Tyrells, for you are no mere woman, but a rose: red and white and precious, no?” He smiles again, produces a red rose from—somewhere—and presents it to Elrone.
But it is no mere flower, for this is a length of silk, cunningly folded to resemble a rose. “I am fearing that this gift is no match for your beauty, but I beg you to accept it.”
“...Good to know.” Ryckon just begins to smirk with a sense of superiority before returning to a neutral expression. “...Er, I suppose I have been defeating my cousin in the relatively rare times I have seen him… Though if I understand correctly, the next tourney will be a joust, which is a different skill…”
He trails off as some mysterious but suave man dares to flirt with Elrone. “...Who are you to be talking to the lady like this, /ser/?” Now, at least, he can manage the authoritative tone that nobles should have. One eyebrow raises while the other pushes itself down.
“Ah, I do remember, actually. But I’ll give a fifteen year old some leeway when it comes to holding his wine,” Jan smirks. As he takes another long, deep drink of ale, the man in red approaches and makes his offering. At the insult, Jan’s face turns red, and at the man’s audacity with the rose, it becomes even redder. He stands up, and, without thinking, grabs the silk from the man’s hand and throws it on the ground. “No one invited you here,” he booms, looking the short man up and down derisively, menacingly. “I think it’s best if you’d leave.” He opens his fist and closes it tightly, standing side by side with Ryckon in support.
Elrone simply stares at the man who has suddenly appeared so close- though it is a sideways look, as if she fears fully turning her face when he is so near to her. Finally, with a blink and a gentle blush after Ryckon makes his chilvalrous defense, she says, “I thank you for your kind praise, but I- cannot accept.” Her eyes flick to her septa, who nods, prodding her on- she is, after all, under orders to be more direct in her refusals. She takes a breath to continue- but anything more she would have said is paused when Jan throws the rose to the floor, leaving her staring at Jan instead, as a small “oh!” of surprise escapes her.
“I am no hacky-slashy knight of your seven gods, little man,” says the little man to the stocky squire: the two are of a height, though the foreigner is much slimmer. And as Elrone refuses him he simply shakes his head and tsks. “Just so.” But then the gift is snatched from his grasp and thrown to the floor and the bigger knight booms out his anger.
“Aha!” the man says. “You are seeing this, my rose?” he asks as he steps back a hand’s breadth. “Brutes, I say! Or is it a crime in your lands for a man to speak to a woman?”
And even as Jan shouts out, a hush falls upon the common room. There is the creaking of benches and chairs as the group of hardened men stand and begin to gather their things—and more than one with a wary eye upon the group. And, from where he stands near to that table, Ammon looks back.
Ryckon blinks in surprise at the rose on the floor for a second, but quickly looks back up and stands alongside Jan. He frowns more deeply than he ever could to a noble when he is called ‘little man’. “I’m a bigger man than you,” he grumbles. “And I called you ser out of respect, which you’ve now lost. Please leave the /lady/ alone.” And then he glances back at the group of intimidating men, and his eyes widen a little. Though most certainly in a manly way, and not out of any sort of womanly worry.
Jan takes another step towards the seemingly-foreign man, until they are only inches apart. “-He’s- the little man?” Jan says authoritatively, again looking down on the man in disgust. “He’d cut you down in a second, if he wasn’t such a gentleman.” As he speaks, the rage in his voice becomes more evident. The condescension towards Ryck, the inappropriateness with Elrone, the haphazard insults prove to be too much for Jan’s temper. He breathes heavily as he reaches out with his left hand and grabs the much smaller man by the scruff of his clothing, lifting him slightly off the ground. He looks near to striking the man, but appears to be restraining himself…barely.
Tarell enters the inn, and notices the group of known people in a table. They seem to be talking, so he waits for a moment of silence and greets them. “Lady Elrone, my cousin, Ser Jan, my friend, Ryckon, Ser Ammon, how are you?”, he bows and smiles. After Jan’s intervention he adds, “I see you’re… kind of busy, maybe?”
At the Crackclaw table, the Darklyn guards have also noted the shouting near their charge- and they slowly rise, whispering betwixt themselves on how to best remove the girl and her septa from the inn without making a bad situation much, much worse.
Elrone clears her throat slightly as she slides in her chair a little closer to her septa, not really having enough of a clear path to escape farther. “Jan- Ryckon- you do not need to prove anything- just… we can just go….” She speaks quietly, in a nervous tone. Her eyes stay focused on Jan and the singer, so she misses her cousin’s entry.
Benedict had chased after the future lord as he had seen him leaving the palace. He eventually caught up to the man after he had entered the inn. He had expected more chaos and less of the tense silence that so often preceeds a fight. He watched cautiously, but was pleased that he recognized a few faces. He also noticed the that his new acquaintances were the ones at the center of this tension.
From his place by the Crackclaw men, as both the sellswords and Darklyn guards begin to stir, Ammon Massey speaks. And what he says is, perhaps, surprising. “Out!” And he begins to order his men, and squire, toward the door—and the Darklyn men, too. “Out! I’ll get her.” He doesn’t wait for them to move, turning quickly back toward the scuffle, but the Crackclaw men listen, at least. “Jan!” he shouts, to get the other knight’s attention.
The foreign man’s grin never fades, even as he comes up to the tips of his toes. His golden tooth glints in the light, the emerald stud in his ear sparkling. “Just so,” he says to Jan. And again, as Elrone speaks. “Just so. It was not for fighting I came here. You must listen to the knight of eight fingers,” he says—and reaches out to Jan’s bandaged right arm in an attempt to press down. Hard.
“Ser Jan, this foreigner isn’t worth it… nor are whatever companions he might have…” Ryckon urges, trying to defuse the situation while calling attention to the other group in as subtle a way as possible. He looks at the new arrivals and nods distractedly, and he looks at Ammon in confusion as he orders the men away. “Ser—” And then fighting seems to start. Ryckon rushes in front of Jan to catch the foreigner, should Jan drop him.
Somewhere in the distance, he hears voices, ostensibly belonging to Ammon, Elrone, Ryckon, and the new arrivals, but Jan is too enraged to make them out. His scowl grows more menacing as the man speaks, but when he presses down on Jan’s injured shoulder, the pain is too much bear. Jan cries out in pain and flings the man across the table in front of him, Jan himself staggering back several feet and clutching his wound. When he looks up, he seems to realize what he has done, and his rage subsides -somewhat-...replaced with some shame. Still, he stands tall and faces the foreigner, albeit a distance away, rubbing the injured shoulder.
Elrone lets out another little noise of surprise as after Jan cries out. “Oh- Jan-” Then her eyes flick to the singer with a little fear in them. She pushes her septa’s shoulder whispering in a low voice, and following the directions Ammon was giving from the other side of the room. “Out- go.” She helps the older woman slide out from the far side of her chair, and pushes her off toward the Darklyn men, one of whom escorts the older woman outside. The other waits, keeping a place by the door. Elrone gathers her heavy skirts and starts sliding over to the chair the septa was in, giving herself more of an escape route.
Tarell is shocked at first for the scene going on. He walks with a Darklyn guard, full of anger, pushing chairs and people in the way to his cousin. “Take her out, quickly!”, he shouts. Tarell is too far inside the hall to go back, and remembering Jan’s injures, he runs beside him. “Come on, friend, it’s time to get out somehow.”
Amidst the quietude that has fallen over the other patrons of the inn, and the clamours of those who are involved in the possible scuffle, the front door to the inn suddenly opens wide, enough almost to clang against the wall as it does so. And in steps Ser Farin Prester, Warden of the Kingswood, in his darkened crimson dyed traveling leathers, and the scrutinizing scowl that rarely leaves his face outside of the Red Keep. His eyes dart this way and that, not yet fully aware of the situation - only looking for someone in particular.
Benedict took a step towards Jan and the foreigner. He aimed to get ready to defend this man whom he had only breifly met. He aimed to also give them an escape. He was also ready to let out some of his pent up agression from last night.
“Elrone! Come!” Ammon calls, alongside Tarell—and then the foreigner is flung away, and Jan is screaming, and Ammon only has one thing to say: “Oh, fuck!”
But the foreign man isn’t thrown far. He is quick, this one, landing lightly upon his feet in a crouch. “I am thinking that you are stupid as well as brutish, hacky-slashy Jan,” he says with a grin. “I am thinking that you are not knowing who it is that you are dealing with and that is why you are grabbing your betters so.”
And the man’s dark eyes gaze to the back of the room, to the door, and he smiles. “Commander!” he says with a quick and graceful bow to Farin.
Ryckon does indeed try to grab the foreigner, but the bravo seems to be quick and agile while Ryckon is slow and clumsy, and he probably won’t be caught unless he leaps right into the squire’s arms somehow. “I am thinking that… what in the name of the gods are you talking about? Comm—” He turns to see where the foreigner is bowing and sees his master. Once again, his eyes widen in (manly) worry. “Ser Farin! Do you know this man?”
Jan, equal parts ashamed and confused now, turns to see Ser Farin in the doorways, and he glances at the ground ashamedly. He still clutches his shoulder and does his best to look menacing towards the man in red, but his rage has subsided and he feels the glares of the rest of the room on him now. Still, he manages to reply to the foreigner, “No better of mine would act like that,” he hisses, but he does not sound nearly as convincing or confident as before. His eyes dart to the side self-consciously, checking to see Elrone and her septa are safe, but he turns to face the foreigner once again, somewhat dispirited though he may be.
Elrone continues to slide along the seats- it is rather difficult to move in all those heavy fabrics- and snatches her cloak off the back of her chair before she finally extricates herself from the table. And then she is moving as gracefully as she can manage across the room to Ammon and her remaining guard without looking like she is running. She turns as she reaches the guard and catches the last of the foreign man’s words. Her eyes flick to Ser Farin. “Oh.” She looks to Ammon curiously, and then across to the others, tilting her head as she realizes her cousin has moved toward Jan. “Coz?” she asks with quiet surprise, clutching her cloak to herself.
“Excuse you?” comes the overtly condescending tone of the lordling knight as he looks out across the space between himself and the acrobatic sellsword. Ryckon’s word process next, as he turns his faculties towards his squire, growling, “I have never laid eyes upon him, but…” and then he crosses his arms, and looks back to the bravo. “Not many call me ‘Commander.’ You are not one of the new Rams, are you?” he asks, narrowing his eyes. “If you /are/, then explain yourself immediately.”
Ammon moves aside for Elrone, offering a shrug as the bravo speaks and she looks to him.
And across the room, that smile with that one golden tooth. “Just so,” he says with another deep bow. “I am Florio, my lord, and I have the honor of serving in the Company of the Sable Rams. As do my friends.” And here, those menacing, hulking friends of his offer salutes of their own to their co-commander.
And then the bravo begins to explain, his tone with the co-commander of the Rams is markedly different than it was with Jan. “Commander Rivers had given us the evening off, my lord. We are to be going to Rosby with the morning.” He smiles to Jan, watching that knight for a moment, before finishing. “I had thought to speak with a lady, but this Ser Jan thought better of it.”
Ryckon frowns suspiciously at Florio’s explanation. “...Ser. He was… unsuitably familiar with Lady Elrone. With a noble lady.” Clearly unacceptable. “He tried to give her a /rose/. It was made of silk, I mean, but still… Ser Jan was defending her honor.” A pause. “...I sought to help…” Reluctantly he steps away from the bravo, and he clears his throat. “What would you have done, ser?”
Jan looks at Tarell, Ryckon, and Benedict, and offers a relieved smile to find men still standing beside him. He snorts at the foreigner’s retelling, muttering, “Yes, he spoke with the lady…uninvited, and insulted her company,” just loud enough for Farin and a few others to hear. Despite his bravado, Jan looks more embarassed than anything now, and his eyes dart towards the door, looking for an excuse to leave. He glances at Ammon, then Elrone, almost apologetically, and nods at Ryckon’s account of the evening.
Tarell lets himself fall into a chair. “Next time I’ll choose the place to drink”, he whispers to Benedict, Ryckon and Jan.
A snort is the first response from the Prester lordling. “Is that so?” he asks of no one in particular. Then, hooked nose upturned towards the bravo, “It seems an apology is in order, to the lady you ought not have sought to mingle with, and then to those you have offended. The Rams can afford no ill will in /this/ city, and I will suffer no chastisements for it. And when you make your apologies, do it earnestly; any that are not accepted will result in deductions from your wages, such as they are,” Farin lists off, his voice pointed, and subtley laced with a command tone that is used to orders being followed.
Elrone looks annoyed at being the center of this mess, but she stays rather quiet, save a rather reproachful look for Ryckon and Jan. She looks to the sellsword. “He did not insult my honor, Ser Farin, he need not apologize to me… just be more thoughtful on who you offer your rose to in the future, well-crafted though it may be.”
Florio offers the slightest hesitation as he considers his commander before his bow, as color rises in his cheeks. But bow he does. First to Farin with an, “Of course, my lord.” Then to Ryckon, “I apologise for my actions, young lord.” Then to Jan, bowing lower still. “My lord, Ser Jan. Accept my deepest apologies,” he says sweetly. “I will be remembering this insult I have caused with my behavior and I will endeavor to put paid to it. With your help, Ser Jan.”
Finally, he approaches Elrone and bows lowest of all. “And you, Lady Rose. To you I make the sincerest apology: I am sorry you keep company with such one armed brutes, who I could carve apart with my left hand—and I am not left handed.” And then he pushes out the door and into the yard of the inn, and away.