Autumn in the Reach has made the weather fine, and the trees lining the sides of the little-used road along the Blue Byrn have turned their colors: gold, bronze, burgundy. Here, at a break in the road where another path winds south towards Ashford, the pursuit party of Knights of the Reach and others from various regions of Westeros has stopped for lunch. The order has been given for an hour, and outriders dispatched to the east and south to confirm they are on the right track.
Ser Myles Hightower has taken up residence beneath a great beast of a maple, and his squire has laid out some cheese and other such stuff for a short repast. He sits with his back propped against the trunk, rubbing a cloth down the length of his sword. The Hightower knight eyes the rest of the party.
Janden has kept himself busy as the party slows for the brief lunch. He is involved with the outriders - having been taking shifts of ranging out into the woods himself of the past few days. However, this break he doesn’t leave the camp, only waving to the men who are eventually sent.
The Melcolm knight dismounts and pickets his horse, scanning the busy camp himself. It’s not a long break, so everyone is running to prepare food. Janden stretches his legs by making a small turn around the camp, his path bringing him to where Ser Myles rests.
“We’re making fine time. It’s good that it’s a short rest, though. We don’t have much margin.”
Myles watches Ser Janden walk over to him, nodding gravely. “Indeed, ser. If the Meadows make Grassy Vale our task becomes much more difficult. It does not help matters with my kinsman Ser Alek driven nigh to distraction by the event.”
He grabs a wedge of cheese and, taking out his dagger, carves off a bit and throws it towards Ser Janden before carving one for himself. His squire tends to the remounts; luckily Ser Myles still has all of his: A charger, three rounceys and two palfreys for he and his squire.
“What is your opinion on the matter, Ser? I do not believe I have heard it, and I wish to know if you are a reasonable sort.”
The cheese is captured with a quick hand and it soon finds its way to Janden’s mouth. He listens to Myles while he chews. “The matter, ser?” He makes a broad sweeping gesture with the remains of the cheese.
“Any part in particular? The incident in Highgarden itself? Or the craven strike in these woods a few days past? Or our current route and intention?” He pauses a second before adding - “And Ser Alek seems to be getting his anger under control. Which is important.”
“Is he, then?” Ser Myles queries. “Good. I have not had words with him since yesterday, so I wondered. As to the matter, what do you think should be done about the Meadows? I ask you.”
“I know too little to say for certain. I believe the Longaxe should lose his life. Perhaps the others with him as well. His attack had no honour. They killed innocent men. And we don’t know the fate of Ser Josmyn.” Janden bites off another piece of the cheese, offering a heavy shrug. “I wonder if it runs deeper than Ser Kendros, however. If he acts alone, or with the true support of the house.”
“They need to die, my lords” says a voice from behind - Ser Willard Ryger obviously overheard at least the last question of the two knights’ discussion. He nods politely to both of them, smiling “Ser Myles. Ser…?” he turns to Janden, but continues not waiting for an anwser “We will catch them before they reach Grassy Vale, we will do our best to save ser Josmyn and kill them. Maybe not all - we shall leave a couple guardsmen to run back to Gassy Vale” he smirks at his quip “To tell the lords of meadows that they have crossed their liege lords, the Tyrells, and the realm - when opposing the judgement of the Queen. And if they stir once again their house shall be no more, for all the realm shall come and tear their castle stone by stone.”
He then nods politely to both of them, smiling “Ser Myles. Ser… I do not believe I’ve had the pleasure?” he turns to Janden, scans him with his pale blue eyes and smiles at his sigil “Oh, a Melcolm? I am Ser Willard Ryger. I trust it you know my squire - Kennard, of your house?” his smile stays the same when mentioning Kegs, obviously no mockery intended there.
Ser Myles nods in greeting to Ser Willard, but for the moment ignores his statements. “You are not of the opinion that the Reynes invited this upon themselves, then?” Myles queries, pressing the question. “Blood money so easily given is little recompense for the life of one who would be Lord of Grassy Vale one day, more than a few would say. I believe they have a real grievance, for all the good it will do them, and the Reynes’ refusal to fight until forced only made matters worse. Bear in mind that the man kidnapped is my cousin, so I do have a man in the fight, as it were.”
“I won’t deny the grievance. The sum of money is hardly worth spreaking about. No, I didn’t believe the issue was resolved.” Janden agrees with Myles statements to some extent, but continues. “But I cannot condone the course of action they took. Skulking like bandits in the woods. Murder. Kidnapping. But what of the refusal to fight? Was single combat offered and refused?”
Janden turns to nod to Willard. “Ser Janden Melcom. A pleasure, Ser Willard. I know the name, but I’m not certain I’ve ever met Kennard.”
Willard nods “Ah, well he’s from a… lesser branch, I think?” he rubs his chin then turns his head and calls “Kegs! Come over here, your… uncle is here?” he turns back to Janden “I’m not really versed in your family tree, ser.”
The fat squire moves from the horses and comes sullenly. His winestained doublet shows the sigil of his house “My lord?” he asks looking from Willard to Janden. “This is Ser Janden.” comprehension enlightens Kennards face “Oh, you’re one of Lord Jeron’s sons. My grandfather is your father’s uncle, Ser Arran. Commander of the sea watch.” he makes a slight bow, which seems quite grotesque considerigh his posture.
Ser Myles observes the introduction of kinsmen, a frown on his face. He waits for the moment to pass before responding. “The Reynes were accosted several times at Highgarden, but refused to give battle. If it were Hightower blood shed, I assure you only blood would answer, and no amount of coin. As to the ambush, that is strategy. From what I hear no women were harmed, so no vows of chivalry were broken. And one man’s kidnap victim is another man’s prisoner, just as the Dornish call patriots those I would call rebels. Such things are a matter of perspective.”
A pause, and his tone changes to a query. “Do you see where I am going with this? The answer here is not so simple. And those who trust to laws,” he glances at Ser Willard, “in an age of steel deceive themselves.”
The Ryger knight turns away from the Melcolms and glances back at Ser Myles “Aye a matter of perspective. Only tell me this, ser - is it a matter of perspective to disobey the order of the King, or Queen? Or is it treason?” he raises his eyebrow in question.
“Hello Kennard. I know all the names, but I have closer ties to Ser Myles family than my own, I fear. My father didn’t wish me in the Vale any longer than I needed to be.” Janden turns his attention back to the conversation at hand.
“Ser Alek claims that he would have faced them in combat had he been challenged. But, perhaps I’m ill informed about some of the events at Highgarden.” Janden’s expression is troubled and he stares beyond either of the two men when he speaks. “I don’t like it. The tact they’ve taken. But, I do see where you’re going, Ser Myles.” He offers little more, obviously working through his own thoughts.
“Let me answer your question, Ser,” Myles states, “with a question: Is it the place of a Riverknight to pronounce the actions of a Knight of the Reach treason? You know as well as I do that family feuds happen all the time in the Seven Kingdoms, most often without the word of ‘treason’ being passed about like a cheap whore in a pillowhouse. No one has raised the flag of rebellion against His Grace our King; why then do you call it treason, and what business of it is yours, Ser? You are awfully quick to ride and dispense justice in a matter you have no concern in. I wonder if you would do the same had your kinsman been slain.”
Willard bristles at Ser Janden’s words, but composes himself with an effort “Is it not a place for any -knight- to uphold the laws and judgements of their lords? And especially their Kings and Queens? If yes, then I can call it treason whether I am in the Reach or in the Vale. If not, then I believe you have another knowledge of knighthood than was taught to me by Ser Roger Ryger.” he moves his pale blue gaze at the face of Ser Myles
“No one raised the rebellion flag, because those were feuds between two houses. If the feud would escalate, their liege lord would come down and judge. If they would still be at it, he’d hang someone, put another to the dungeon or send him to the Wall, and noone wouldraise a voice of protest. As it happens, there was a Queen present here, and as such she passed jusdgement on this feud. It was solved, by the Queen. So here, yes, if someone still goes against Her Graces judgement - he is a traitor.” Ser Willard shrugs “And he will die. And I am here,because I was in the hunting party when it was attacked and fought with Kendros alongside Ser Anton Piper. We almost felled him, but he escaped. I wish to continue the fight with that trecherous craven.”
“Not another word, Ser,” the Hightower knight states. “Hear me, Riverknight, and hear me well. You are here as a guest, and for now you have guest right. The Meadows will be dealt with by Knights of the Reach. No man here would come charging into Riverrun to dispense justice that belongs to the Tullys, and nor will I allow you to do it here. You are entitled to your opinion, within reason. You are not qualified to judge Men of the Reach—to do so violates the soveriegn prerogatives of the Tyrells and the Lords of the Reach—and if you persist in this you will be called upon by my second.”
Ser Willard looks at Ser Myles seething, his jaw clenched, his fists held so tightly the knight’s knuclkles turn white. After some time, he loosens and scans his discussant’s face with a cold gaze his word are chilly and forced “Ser Myles. I would have gladly spoken more about chivalry and upholding the laws, but it seems to me you are forgetting the situation. -We- are in pursuit after -them- and neither bickering, nor threats, and certainly not duels amongst knights on the same side are quite the smart move.” he passes his hand over his hair, then lets it fall down on the pommel of his sword where he strokes it’s falling-star shape
“But if you insist, I will gladly take this ‘discussion’ on afterwards. When this pursuit is over. We can talk then and, if that is your way, ser, we can surely talk with steel as well. I would gladly make a point of my arguments” he bows stiffly, motions for Kegs to move and walks away nodding goodbye to Ser Janded on the way.
But there is someone standing there in both the Ryger knight’s way and the Hightower’s—someone who has just come back from the front of the makeshift camp where the company is snatching an hour’s rest.
“And what is this,” asks the lean, hard-featured man whose face is marked with lines of weariness from nearly two days in the saddle and looks the more wolfish for it, “is this about talking with steel?”
Janden has kept quiet for several minutes now. The discussion he was having with Myles took a sudden turn at Willard’s arrival, and the Melcolm knight has faded into the background. It’s certainly not his place. He raises his eyes at the new voice though, his eyes quickly shifting between Dagur, Willard and Myles.
The Hightower knight seems about to reply to Ser Willard when Dagur speaks. “Ser Dagur, I was just being instructed in chivalry and justice by this Riverknight. He seems to believe he is… well, I’m not sure what he believes, except that he is the Sword of Justice for Truth and Goodness and all that stuff.”
A dull thud of hoofbeats heralds another arrival; this one, obviously, is mounted, and his black and crimson leathers are mud-spattered from his booted toes to his sweat-dampened brow. The blood bay courser upon which this tall knight rides is wheezing from exertion, its flanks lathered.
It is the voices that draw the rider’s attention, and the overt tension in the stances of those men who are gathered, speaking. The rider, Ser Almer Connington, does not dismount, but merely snaps his reins, walks the blown horse toward them and scowls in clear irritation. “Now what?”
Willard turns back at Ser Dagur’s arrival. Then smirks when he hears the Hightower knight speak, bows slightly to Ser Dagur in greeting and says to Ser Myles “I believe in justice, though I claim not to be ‘the sword’ of whatever you have conceived, my lord.” then, turning to Dagur he continues “It seemed that Ser Myles had trouble with me talking to him. About chivalry. About justice. About how he dislikes nosey Riverlanders poking into Reach matters. And about how he needs to prove that point to me with a sword.” Willard shrugs “I could not accept it here and now, because of the situation we’re in - missing a Hightower knight could be a blow to this enterprise.” he gives a half-grin and a smirk “Thus I asked to postpone this duel idea of his until after this pursuit is over” he shrugs again.
The Iron Serpent listens to both knights in silence, the breeze ruffling his dark hair and plastering his sweat-and-mud crusted riding leathers to him. When they’re done, he says in that cool, sardonic tone of his: “Chivalry. Justice. I see.”
He glances at Almer and hitches a shoulder in a half-shrug, then eyes the others again: “If you want to compare your cocks, unlace, get them out and have it over it. Else save your fire for the chase. You’ll need it to keep you warm come the night.”
He begins to turn away, then turns back and says to no one in particular: “We will fight when we have to. And we will bring back Josmyn Reyne. But no one save Ardon Tyrell has the right of high justice here. Remember it.”
Myles looks at Ser Willard as though to show his point has been made. “I will cut that smirk from your face when we return to King’s Landing, Ser, and present it to Prince Aegon to wear at the next masque. Count on it.”
Willard nods to Dagur, glances cooly at Ser Myles and leaves without a word, motioning to Kennard to get going. The Melcolm squire laughs as they walk away “Show him his cock, ser. I’d like to see the look on your face as you lose!” he cackles and stops with a yelp as he gets a powerful clout on his ear.
A pair of men are walking towards the group, talking and seeming to be calm and happy. Strangely, one of these men is Ser Alek Reyne, walking with a slight smile on his face, talking to his squire. The two slow as they approach and Alek’s smile drains a tad. “Sers…Good afternoon.” He looks to Myles and Dagur, and the retreating back of Willard. “Problem?”
Shifting tiredly in the saddle, Almer looks unimpressed. He eyes Dagur pointedly, then watches Willard slip past Myles. “Making friends, are we, Myles?” he quips to the Hightower knight. “That fellow just seems to want a bit of captaining, is all. He’d know better if he had a proper example.”
Ser Myles nods to his uncle in greeting. “A Hightower is never in need of friends, Ser Almer. He wears spurs, Ser—he should have already had a proper example, though he was not taught when to keep his mouth shut. Have the outriders returned, then? Are we still making for Grassy Vale or did they turn South?”
He then looks to Ser Alek again. “Just a bit of a dispute, which shall be settled later. I grow weary of men talking like women.”
“No problem at all,” is the ironman’s laconic reply to Alek, riding over Myles’ answer. “Rested, ser? We ride again in half-an-hour.”
And to the Hightower knight: “We make for Grassy Vale. They have had a few men turn aside when their horses have foundered. But not Longaxe. He’s not a subtle man.” He rasps an unshaven cheek, “Edwyd Bulwer is a different matter.”
The old lion’s eyes narrow slightly as he watches Ser Willard’s retreating back. “Aye, ser. I can see that there is no problem.” He replies back, looking to Myles. “I am rested enough. I have rested enough on those damned barges.” He comments. “You think they still intend to ride for Grassy Vale? Longaxe doesn’t seem the type to follow advice from men more subtle than he. He nearly had to be torn from battle.”
“Spoken like a true Hightower,” Almer replies to Myles with a laugh. “But remember, some knights are extra prickly about their honor, because it’s all they have. Take the last scrap away from a starving hound, and you might get bit for your trouble.” He spits a long stream of water into the underbrush and restops the waterskin and nods to Alek.
“Longaxe,” mutters Connington in disdain. “He’s not particularly intelligent, either. Some people never quite learn.”
“Could be, Ser Almer. Nevertheless, the die is already cast on that matter,” Myles replies. “A few days and we should catch up with them. The trail is easy enough to follow. I don’t know Edwyd Bulwer, Ser Dagur. He has a talent for tricks, I take it?”
“I need a remount.” Almer nods curtly to Myles and Alek, then turns his worn-out horse’s head. “Stay alert.” With that, he taps his steed’s flanks and clatters off into the greenwood.
The Reyne watches both men retreat before looking to Myles. “There seem to be many of our number who hold insolence in their tounges, ser.”
“This is true. I would not have it be said that the Reach is incapable of seeing to its own affairs. Such a thing would be shameful,” Myles states. “There are many here who take offense to outsiders being involved in setting this affair to rights, uncle. When an outsider cannot hold his tongue it breeds murmuring. We will retrieve Josmyn, but you can appreciate that it is delicate to have Westerlands Knights, Vale Knights, and Riverknights in this party. If you have any sway over that man, uncle, I would ask you to use it.”
Alek scoffs lightly. “I would not waste my time. It seems that Ser Willard has been incorrectly knighted. And many others cannot hold their toungs.” He folds his arms. “I had some Baratheon whelp lecture that Ser Dagur being head of the Company of the Lance would impede his judgement.” He scowls. “Not even a knight…A mere squire.”
“Who was this?” Myles queries, curious.
Alek growls. “Arion Baratheon, son of Lord Corwen.” He folds his arms. “It is not bad enough that he is here without his knight, but one would have thought the lad would have shown some damned sense.”
“He is my good-nephew,” Ser Myles replies. “Would you like me to speak with him when we stop next? I do not know him that well, but you never know.”
Just then a horn is blown, the signal that the call to move is night. “We should see to our horses, Uncle. I shall speak with you later?”
Alek nods. “Aye, nephew, if you could impress upon the lad to hold his tounge, that would be for the best.” He moves to head over to where Albin has their horses. “Yes, I shall look for you when we make camp, Myles. I shall see you later.”
The knights all move to tend to their mounts, and Ser Myles and his squire quickly truss up their packs on one of the palfreys serving as a packhorse. Before long, the party is on the move once again.