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Ethos stands in the kennels, far more at home amongst the dogs and hunting birds and supplies that he actually recognizes now as opposed to a few months ago. He’s talking with a few of the huntsmen, “So just make sure the boar is close to the river so that we don’t have to ride far. Tancred wants to go tomorrow morning, but I don’t want to be too far from the city for more than a few hours. If the king sends word for whatever reason, I want to be around, not off galavanting with my cousin.” He pauses for a moment, then adds in a quieter voice, “And if it’s a smaller one? That’s okay.” Getting gored right before war is not appealing, requested by the heir of Baratheon or not.
The usual business of the day in the Red Keep, servants and guardsmen about their duties, but there’s an increasing charge of tense energy—there are more and more knights about the castle, not idling about but on the king’s business, arranging the thousand details of his impending departure for Dorne. Yet when the king himself appears, flanked by a pair of Kingsguard and a maester, activity tends to stop. Many pause to bend their knee, to bow, to promise some feat of arms against the hated Dornishmen—the king acknowledges them all with nods, and even with smiles which do not touch his eyes.
His destination? The kennels, it seems. Certainly, when he calls, “Ethos! Come to see our hounds?”
Ethos looks up at his name, and suprise flashes across his face when he sees the king is calling. Perhaps he had assumed that Daeran has countless other matters to concern himself with aside from hunting just now.
The knight of Mistwood bows deeply, “Your grace.” He says politely, but there’s an eagerness about the Stormlander. “Ser Tancred Baratheon requested a small hunt tomorrow, so I have been putting it together, my king. I have also been trying to be sure that all things here and in the Kingswood will be well tended by the huntsmen while off in Dorne.”
“Did he?” Daeron asks, but with no particular interest. “Perhaps his father will join him. Lord Corwen will soon be returning to Storm’s End, of course…” He moves past the huntsman to look at some of the yapping, eager dogs, and reaches a hand through a barred cage to rub one’s head. “Do not be gone too long, however. I’ll have need of you,” he remarks as he does this, idly.
Ethos pauses, considering that possibility, though he’s fairly certain Tancred is seeking an escape from his father. “I will suggest that he extend an invitation to Lord Corwen, your grace.” The knight watches the king, curiosity touching his features now. “We did not intend to be gone past tomorrow evening. If there are services you require of me, though, I will reschedule with my cousin. He will understand, my king.”
He shifts, thoughtful for a moment as he carefully chooses his words, “I am looking forward to returning to Dorne to fight, hopefully beneath Stormbreaker’s banner.”
Daeron flashes a grin, a genuine one; valor and feats of arms always please him. “Good. If the gods are good, we’ll join him and the stormlords near Wyl. Together, the Boneway should present little more problem than it did before—less, truly, as the Dornishmen are even more fractious now than they were the last time.” He takes his hand back from the loud, slathering hounds, wiping it briskly on a a leg. Then, in considering Ethos a long moment with those purple Targaryen eyes, the Young Dragon asks, “There was some word or other—I think Lord Preston told me—that a betrothal was being arranged for you? How far have those plans gone, ser?”
Ethos grins in return, a pleased expression as there seems to be no hangups with his plans to rejoin Sarmion in battle. It’s only natural, really, given their history. “The duskies will not be any problem, I’m sure.” He agrees. “Their traitorous ways have sealed their fate.”
The sudden change in topic is a bit of a surprise, but Mertyns allows some of his frustration to show. “Orene Lefford. Her family has been slow with correspondence, much to our irritation. I admit, I have been entertaining the idea of an elopement to be sure the wedding is done before I must leave.” He sounds as if he is jesting, but then, perhaps not. “Of course, I would prefer not to offend the Leffords with such a brash move, your grace.” There’s that unspoken ‘but I might’.
A lift of pale golden brows, and Daeron shakes his head. “That won’t do, ser, to elope; an offense to the Leffords, and to the lady as well who surely deserves better,” the king remarks, a thread of sternness in his voice; he doesn’t see the humor in it. “Though the thought is good. Marriage before going to war gives a knight something more to fight for, or so my uncle has said.” A pause, a silence, as the king seems to consider something or other, his gaze turning back to the noisy kennels.
Then he says, “If the Leffords have been slow, then it’s cause enough to break any contracts.” The king gives a moment for that to sink in, before he adds, “If the king commands it, the Leffords can do no more than grumble about me, I imagine. In any case, I have a better prize in mind for my loyal huntsman. How does Lord Ethos sound to you?”
“She does deserve better, I agree. But she has been left waiting on a betrothal during war before, and I would not like to see her suffer that again.” Ethos responds in that pause, but when talk of breaking the contract comes up, the Stormlander’s gaze sharpens and he’s quick to respond, “I wasn’t implying a desire to see the contract broken.”
Mertyns takes a step closer, the noise of the kennels distracting. Better prize? There’s a torrent of thoughts that rush through his mind, for the knight has heard some of the rumors moving around court. He swallows after a profound lapse of silence, etiquette is never a strong point with Ethos, “I am ... honored… by such a consideration.” There’s a carefully blank expression on his face.
“I know you weren’t, ser. But if the Leffords drag their feet, let it be on their own heads. They’ll find a good match for her, doubtless.” The last is said with a certain airiness. Daeron smiles, however, at Ethos’s expression at the end. “Honored. Good. I think Lord of Salt Shore is something you can become acclimated to, no? You are no friend to Dornishmen, I suppose, but Dornishwomen have their charms.” He motions, then, for Ethos to walk with him aways as he moves around to another side of the kennel, to see some other hounds of his.
As he speaks, the king goes on to say, “She is older than you, I admit, this Lady Joleta. But perhaps that will suit you, eh? The Dornishmen leave their heiresses unwed too long. I should have seen to it from the outset, rather than waiting until now.”
What else was he going to say? Yet the expression on his face is quickly growing less controlled and more dismayed. There’s a delay before Ethos moves to follow, on leaden feet weighed down by his heart that just fell like a lump of iron. “Your grace,” He begins, before his breath catches, “I know only hatred for the du-.. Dornishmen.” The knight swallows, his throat dry, “This isn’t-” He struggles, running his hands through his hair, “I am not the man for this, I fear.”
Ethos is well-aware of the temper of the king, but the outrage he’s fighting to contain himself is rather considerable. He takes several uneven breaths, his features paler than they were before. The almost pleasant way the king presents it all is not much helping.
Mertyns manages to remember some courtesy in the face of the refusal and struggles out a bow. “I would not seek to disappoint you, my king. I thank you for the honor and reward.” The words are strained, to say the least.
“As is right and proper,” King Daeron says in acknowledgment, a brisk nod of his head matching the words. “You may curse the woman now, but when you’re sitting in your seat, ruling a strong castle above a port town, with wealth passing through your harbor and into your treasury, mayhaps you’ll find her and hers more pleasing.”
A pause, and then another shrug. “Or not. Good day to you, ser.” And with that, the king departs about his business.
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