Noon under a punishing sun is rarely pleasant, but there’s a breeze from the sea carrying a certain freshness to it, and a great, wallowing cloud casting its shadow over much of King’s Landing. The yard outside two of the castle’s great drum towers is made more pleasant by the ancient trees that stand here or there, and it’s no great surprise to find knights and ladies gathered about them here and there, whiling away the time, discussing matters of court and the realm and the society of nobility.
And so there’s Ser Aidan, his robes garish after the Dornish fashion, amidst several other Dornish knights discussing some business or other—each and everyone wears the sigil of the Sons of the Spear, so no doubt it has to do with their chivalrous society. Yet the serious look some of the men have—the angry looks, in fact—suggest it may be something more serious. After all, with the news from Dorne mounting day by day to prove the rebellion general—Blackmont freed, by Lord Andrey back from the dead!—there has been unrest in the city against Dornishmen. Perhaps that’s why the gathering suddenly breaks up, unhappily, three or four the knights marching off back to their tower, one or two commiserating with Aidan with shakes of their heads and looks of worry before going on their own way.
Ser Anders is riding in through the castle gate, sitting on a Dornish sandsteed well-known to most of the Dornish people. It’s the one usually ridden by Lady Joleta Gargalyen. The horse is sweating as if Ser Anders was pushing it to run very fast and obviously the animal enjoyed this. The knight is wearing normal riding clothes and his face is red and sweaty from the exhausting ride.
Uneasy and unhappy Dornishmen, and into their midst, clad head to toe in unrelieved black, is the late Lord Tyrell’s sister. The black of her mourning is a marked contrast to the gaudy colors worn by the Dornish knights, the fine pallor of her skin almost luminous among dark skins. She has a small flock of Reach ladies with her, all of them in the same sad color.
The Dornish knights are watched by the big Crakehall knight whose heavy crimson cloak flutters in the wind. Is he set to keep a guard on them, or does he have another interest. Especially Ser Aidan gets his attention, but he says nothing, and watches in silence, taking a long gulp of wine now and then.
“... unwise to do such a thing,” the knight from Starfall can be overheard saying by those drawing nearer, “It’s bringing more scorn on us for no purpose. We must…” One of the knights, a Santagar by the enamelled leopard on a brooch he wears, clears his throat to interrupt Ser Aidan. He turns, having fallen silent, and sees Lady Reyna and her companions. A pensive moment, and then he excuses himself from his companions, to approach her in her mourning.
“Lady Reyna!” he calls, picking up his pace a little to draw up to her.
Reyna Saltcliffe stiffens, then slowly turns with a fluttering of her mourning veil. Her handful of ladies cluster close, whispering, but she waves them away and looks toward Aidan. Once she had warmth for this man, but now her face is hard. Never has she resembled her late brother so much as now when she strives for no expression at all.
Anders reigns in the Dornish sandsteed and watches the unfolding scenery, unsure at the moment what to do. A clap here, a clap there and a lot of hesitating.
Ser Burton Crakehall, tall and sober in his usual brown linen, walks across the Yard, followed by his squire.He looks around, as if searching for somebody. As the Crakehall heir sees the Dornishmen , he frowns for a moment, but in a second he is as calm as ever. For a minute or so he silently watches the noblemen of Dorne talking and whispers something to his squire. The boy nods vigorously and smiles to his master. Suddenly notices Aidan and Reyna and, hesitating for a moment, comes closer to them, the the golden thread of the Brindled Boar emblems decorating his tunic shining in the sun.
“Lady Reyna,” Aidan repeats, once he no longer needs to shout half across the yard, “my apologies.” And then ... he seems unsure how to proceed, as some of the ladies look on him with barely concealed scorn. A pregnant pause under those eyes, and then the olive-skinned Dornishman, with the music of Dorne in his way of speaking, and everything else about him screaming of Dorne, says, “I hope you will not think it forward of me to say that I have prayed for Lord Tyrell’s soul. He died doing his duty, and a knight can ask for little better.”
Elmer looks at the exchange between Reyna and Aidan, and he shakes his head, making his dark curls wave a little, and a flash of white teeth behind his short beard. He would like to hate the knight of Starfall, as he’s been bested by him in tourneys, but no one can deny the fellow is a splendid knight, in behavior too. Seeing his cousin, he raises a hand in greeting.
Anders gets off the horse, still patting it and whispering something into the ear of the sandsteed. He keeps an eye on the congregatiopn of Tyrell mourners and DOrnish knights.
Those Dornish knights, dark eyes taking in Aidan’s approach to Reyna with a certain flatness, glance at one another and then shrug. Then one, noticing the sandsteed, nudges the other and points. “You there!” one calls to Ser Anders, looking suspicious. “Knight on the sandsteed! Isn’t that Joleta Gargalen’s horse?”
Anders looks at the speaker, judging him from the distance. Then finally, the redheaded brute of a man nods, “Aye, ‘tis.” He keeps on patting the horse until a boy or two run in from the stables and take the horse off him, “You know the drill” he says to them, then rises up again and moves towards the Knights. “Isn’t it a brilliant ride?”
“I would never scorn prayers given in earnest,” Reyna says, her voice low and soft, but impersonal. “The Gods know what is in a man’s heart when he prays, and they will know if you mean them or not.” She looks for a moment as if she will take her leave then, but pauses. “What of that other Garvys? The lost babe of Starfall?”
As Burton sees his cousin , his lips wrinkle in an involuntary smile. Giving a sign to his squire to follow him, he approaches the man and asks with exaggerated dryness ” So, what are you doing here, cousin? Looking for another Dornish maiden to ask favours from?”,,
Elmer snorts towards his cousin and grins. “This isn’t a tourney. I thought I’d check on those knights, we don’t want trouble in the Red Keep, do we?” he shrugs and drinkd deeply. “Will you ever stop reproaching me for doing what countless other knights do?”
“They are,” says the one Dornish knight to Ser Anders. “But what right have you to use her horse, ser?” Suspicion does seem plain. The other, though, catching sight of some sigil, whispers something to the other man. He frowns and then says, “You’re the Blackbolt’s brother? Lady Loreza’s son?”
” Whom do you mean by other knights? I dont know any other knights nearly getting in trouble by fraternisning with an enemy-even if the enemy is very pretty, I must admit “-laughs Burton, adjusting his silk eye-patch—black today. While he is talking to his cousin, his gaze is still on Lady Reyna and the famous Aidan Dayne ” So,w hat are you up to?”
At the mention of his nephew, Aidan grows more awkward still. “I fear ... I have no more news than you, lady; probably less. I tried to send to my sister Lady Alia by one of the grand maester’s birds, but it was denied me. But the last I heard…” His voice trails off, grimly; he doesn’t quite seem able to fully doubt the tales of the toddler’s fate.
Anders looks gloomily at the two knights, “I am the Son of Lord Manfred Dondarrion and his wife Loreza Dpndarrion. Aye. And the brother of the knight they call the Blackbolt.” He gets closer still, “And to answer your question, Ser, due to the ...unfortunate events in far-away Dorne” A gaze at the black-clad Lady at this point, “forced the King to confine Lady Joleta to the Red Keep. And as the horse needs running, she asked me to do it for her. Who am I to deny a Lady as such?”
Elmer shakes his head again and offers his wineskin to Burton. “See, even you admit that she’s pretty. And besides, if I’m to remain the black sheep of the family, I’m to do such things, no?”
It speaks well of her upbringing that even now, Reyna shows no expression. “The gods do not look kindly on a woman who will murder her own child, no matter the manner of his getting. No one would have cared that she killed Wallace Chester, but this…” She looks at him gravely. “Is there any honor in Dorne, Ser Aidan Dayne?”
Ser Burton takes a gulp from the wineskin, returns it to Elmer and grins at his last words ” Appointing yourself the black sheep… You are not being very modest, are you, coz. I can assure you, Lord Jonos hates you no more that his other grandsons-and other men younger than sixty save for the King and the Princes ” He drinks deeply and returns the container to his cousin , his only eye still scanning the speaking nobles.
“When last I was there, there was,” replies Aidan, less timidly. A pause, and then in a less timid voice, and a less conciliatory one, “But even an honorable man may forget honor, if he is abused enough. Or a woman.”
A noise from the one Dornishmen, best described as a grunt, and he says in a grudging way, “Well, then, you’re a fortunate man. To have the lady’s esteem in such a way, Ser Anders, I mean.”
“Then your people must count themselves much abused,” is Reyna’s bleak response. But there is no heat behind it, no real intent to harm. She sounds only weary now, and sad.
Elmer shrugs his big shoulders and grins. “Well, maybe a black boar then? And I’ve never had any pretensions of modesty, you know.” His dark eyes still follow the moves of the Dornishmen, and he listens to what is being said.
“One wouldn’t forget about honor in any circumstances-if he is truly noble, not just pretending to be so ” Burton, having overheard Ser Aidan’s remark, steps forward and joins the conversation-if uninvited “And infanticide is the worst of crimes, and when it comes from the mother of the child… It is an insult to the gods and men alike”.
Aidan can only say, “Mayhaps, my lady.” He starts to say more, when the Crakehall heir enters the conversation. The Knight of the Twilight stiffens at that, and turns a cold, cold eye on him. “What do you mean by that, ser?”
“No, Ser Burton,” Reyna says coldly, looking to her countryman. “There is nothing to gain by this. -Aidan- Dayne, at least, is innocent of this crime, and we have naught but rumor to inform us. Let it lie.”
Elmer takes a step and moves to stand at Burton’s side, a thoughtful expression on his face. Yet he doesn’t voice agreement or disagreement with his cousin. He does nod at Reyna’s words.
Anders also gets closer now, while keeping an eye on the situation.
Listening to Aidans response, Burton at the same time bows deeply to Lady Reina , not paying attention to the coldness in her voice-for he speaks very warmly indeed “My Lady Reina, I extend to you my deepest condolences. Loss of relatives at the hands of murderers is always very painful, I myself have experienced such thing…”
Then he turns to Aidan, his face emotionless ” Ser Aidan, tis can be strange, but I am not a courtier and I usually meant what I say-mo more and no less. I believe that infaticide (and if it is committed by the parents) a terrible thing, than must me punished with utmost severity . It is not important for me what reasons have led to such cruelty, what motives were behind it and whether the murderers are Dornishmen or the inhabitants of the Reach. Of course, it is only rumors for now and ,of course and I didn’t for a moment want to blame Ser Aidan -who is indeed innocent of this depravity, be it truth or lie. No offence met”
The Dornish knights, seeing the movement of knights in that direction, Ser Anders not least, decide to draw nearer as well in support of Aidan. They look grim. But perhaps Ser Aidan’s mollified by Ser Burton’s response. “Rumors, as you say, ser. I will say no more on it. But as to honor… it is a fine and noble thing, ser. I love it dearly. But until you’ve been beaten like a dog and forced to bear the unbearable, I don’t think you can speak with such certainty.”
Reyna looks about her in discomfort, as if for a guard. “Leave off, Ser Burton, or I shall send for gold-cloaks. Now is not the time for condemnation. Perhaps someone has simply… removed the child to a hidden place for his own protection. We only know he is missing.” As she speaks, she sounds increasingly hopeful that this tale is the true one.
Anders offers, “Honor always lies in the eye of the beholder. And that is what makes it a treacherous thing to have.” The tall Dondarrion knight motions towards the Dornish knights shadowing him, “I am no threat to your precious Prince. In fact, you might have figured out I am half-Dornish myself. Even if I do not look like it.”
Elmer places a heavy hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “We all try to keep our honor, but these are trying times.” He shakes his head towards Reyna. “I’m sure my cousin meant no threat, my Lady.” His eyes might be bloodshot. He grins towards Anders too. “I wouldn’t boast of that too much, ser.”
Anders looks bluntly at Elmer, “You shouldn’t pick fights you can’t win. My brother wasforced to kill relatives of his during the last campaign and I also fought on the King’s side against my cousins. You better pray that you’ll never have to make that choice, Ser.” The head and face of the red-haired Dondarrion seem to get red as well.
“Yes,” Ser Aidan says, fixing on what Reyna says. “Yes. We know little enough of it.” To the other Dornishmen who approach, he briefly waves a hand, a thanks and a suggestion they move along—perhaps for fear of making anything worse. Turning back, he greets the Dondarrion knight. “Ser Anders. How are you?”
Anders nods at Aidain, Fine Ser Aidan, I hope you’re well, too.” He looks around again, “DESPITE the rumors from the south, I still can’t find myself to hate the Dornish hostages here.”
Burton gives Reyna a surprised look , his face a bit flushed ” The goldcloaks? What for? Have I offended you in some way, my Lady? As I have said, I am a soldier and my speech is not very refined and flowery . Still, I have just expressed my thought and didn’t want to offend anybody” His one-eyed gazed briefly flicks to Elmer (who is quite red now) and the Dondarrion knight, as he addresses Aidan ” I heard of you as of a man of honor and ,again, never for a moment wanted to accuse or insult you. The slaughter of children is not the thing I am inclined to forgive and this is just what I said. Lets hope it all really rumors and the infant is alive. The gods know, that we will have enough bloodshed without such things pretty soon…” Bowing to Aidan, he steps away, once again touches his silk eyepatch and ,for the next few minutes, keeps silence .
Elmer laughs rather merrily towards Anders. “And which fight can I not win, good ser?” his voice is slightly mocking and then he shrugs. “I respect Ser Aidan here’s who’s a better lance than me, and while I don’t hate the Dornish hostages, I do think we’re going to have to fight their brothers and sisters in Dorne again.”
Reyna bends her head very briefly to Aidan, and only slightly more to Burton. “Just leave it,” she says wearily. Then, with her black-clad ladies around her, she takes her leave without bidding anyone farewell.
“I do not hate Dornish hostages either.”-adds Burton curtly, now standing near his cousin ” Only a weak man would hate an adversary who is at his power. And there are Dornishmen whom I-as persons-do deeply respect,as men and as knights. Gods,among the hostages there are people that a warrior cannot count as enemies-women and such-but ,when my King calls, I will do my duty. Wouldnt you have done the same, Ser Aidan, if your own sovereign gave the order? “
The mourning sister’s abrupt departure leaves Aidan embarrased, and after that, he tries to keep to the lady’s wishes. Burton’s query is met with a curt, “I would do it if I could, ser,” and he searches for something else to discuss—anything, really. Anders’s good-natured remarks, for example, or Ser Elmer’s judgment of his jousting. “A tourney would be better than a battle, sers; less death and as much glory. Let us pray we have the former, and have no need for the latter. My comrades of the Sons of the Spear tried to license a tourney for here in the city…”
But then he’s brought up short; perhaps because the news on _that_ isn’t particularly good, according to rumors of the king’s displeasure with Dornishmen in general.
“In how many great tourneys have taken part by now, Ser Aidan?”-Burton seems to happy to change the theme as well, clearly understanding that his bluntness his led to some awkward tension. “You jousting fame is indeed quite impressing, if even a savage like me have heard of you deeds”-he continues with a smirk, his large palm on his cousins shoulder.
Despite the effort to move to something else, there’s still a ghost of suspicion in the Dornish knight’s eyes as he glances at Burton. “More than half a dozen by now, ser, and a number of smaller ones. I have had some good fortune along the way,” he says, finishing off on a modest note. An awkward pause and then he asks, “And yourself, Ser Burton? You and your cousin Ser Elmer were bold at Storm’s End. You must have been in tourneys in the West, at Lannisport and elsewhere, I imagine.”
Elmer shrugs and grins at the Dornish knight. “Me and Burton ride easier in battle than in tourneys.” he grins widely. “And you unhorsed me at Rosby…and probably would have done so at Storm’s End too, if this kind ser’s brother hadn’t done it already.” he tips his head towards Dondarrion.
Anders grins, “I couldn’t ride there..My broken arm from the last tournament prohibited..But Doran went out of the way to rub it in again.”
“Oh , I fear I am not quite a jouster, Ser”-laughs Ser Burton bluffly and smiles once again-friendly,if a bit unnaturally ” I have indeed always better at battlefields than at quintains ,the gods know why. I have ridden in a few tourneys,and without much success, I must admit-but my cousin is being modest , he is another pot of jam. He did rather well at Storm’s End, I must say… I think you have crossed the lances with the famous Prince Aemon,the Dragon Knight, a few times, Ser Aidan? “
“I’ve had good fortune,” Ser Aidan repeats, still modest, but more relaxed. “Lord Rosby’s tourney was a happy occasion, I admit. Storm’s End, it was a day for the stags, but such feats—your brother, Ser Anders, is a great jouster! I had thought he’d win the day, in truth, given the way he rode.” Easy enough for a Dornishman to praise another Dornishman ... well, half a Dornishman, in any case. But to Burton’s query, Ser Aidan’s eyes brighten. “The Dragonknight? I have, ser, I have. We have tried a few tilts, and we are very well matched, if I may say so.”
Anders lightens up a bit, “Considering the Dragonknight…do you know I broke 5 lances against him before he finally unhorsed me?”
Elmer raises his wineskin and drinks deeply, then passes it over to Burton. “A pot of jam, coz? Should I be flattered or not?” He grins widely. “Apparently my cousin thinks I’m pursuing Princess Ariana. What do the Dornish think, Ser Aidan?”
” Five lances… It is indeed impressive. And against such an opponent…” Ser Burton shakes his head in disbelief-though is not clear, if the real admiration or only reasons of politeness are behind it. “Ser Aidan, Ser Anders “-enquires he after a moment -“Forgive me my ignorance… I think the Dragonknight is the only one of the Royal Family who does any serious jousting? Prince Aegon acted as a judge during the Rosby tourney ,so does he… Elmer! It is a family matter!”.
“A famous contest, Ser Anders. I remember it well,” the Knight of the Twilight says. “I’ve never broken so many against him. You Dondarrions are tenacious. Your arm is better, though, I trust?” And then ... Elmer asks his question, and Dayne seems at a loss. Finally, he manages, “Well, ser, I am sure we’d think it an amusing tale…” The tone suggests he doesn’t know what to make of the claim; and Burton’s reply makes the knight even more concerned. Perhaps that’s why he’s glad to shift to the topic of Targaryens jousting.
“Why, at the guildsmen’s tourney, the King rode famously,” he says. “And Prince Aegon has ridden on occasion, but not very often. Prince Viserys’s jousting days are past, I think it; and Prince Baelor… I do not think _he’ll_ ride a tourney, the Seven bless him.”
Elmer laughs merrily. “Then why are you discussing it with everyone else, coz?” he shakes his head at Aidan’s embarrassment. “See? Our good Knight of Twilight thinks it’s an amusing tale too.”
Anders hmms, “I need to beg for a leave. Lady Gargalen awaits my report on the sandsteed.”
“Of course, Ser Anders. A good day to you, ser,” Aidan says, and seeming to mean it.
“Elmer, you are an insolent little .... ” -Burton tries to look indignant, but hardly manages to not to laugh-” I have been very tactful about it , you know, and you talk of it in front of Ser Aidan-and the Princess,if you haven’t forgotten, is a relative of his overlord…“Elmer, you are an insolent little .... ” Realizing that Ser Aidan is in front of him at the moment, Ser Burton looks confused for a moment ,but then speaks up again “Very well, if my cousin insists…. Ser Aidan, do you think it is proper for a simple Lannister retainer to court(whatever it can be called) a Dornish princess? Would it lead to any good, in your opinion-for the both of them?”
Elmer punches his cousin’s shoulder rather forcefully , with a merry laughter. “I haven’t been called little in a while, coz” Indeed, that punch would knock over a lesser man. and he adds. “Besides, I am NOT courting Princess Ariana. I’m sure she would laugh at the thought.”
And once more: at a loss. Ser Aidan looks between the two burly Crakehalls, clearly unsure what to make of what they’re saying. In the end, his refuge is a certain flatness of tone and expression. “I cannot say, ser. It would be ... unexpected, at least.” When Elmer states that it’s untrue, he again relaxes—a little. He’s still confounded.
A hot day in King’s Landing, as most days are during this long Summer. Ser Aidan Dayne, one of the Dornish hostages, is in conversation with two burly knights of House Crakehall, the heir Ser Burton and his cousin Ser Elmer.
“Well, I would be glad to call you little any time you ask, little coz,I could even kick your arse-as a substitute to your father,so busy at the Rock. And I SURELY would have laughed, if I were a young Dornish princess and a reckless drunkaurd like you started asking my favours”-retorts Burton, while punching his cousin back and smiling apologetically to Aidan at the same time ” Thats what I said, Ser Aidan, unexpected (just the word I used , isn’t it ,Elmer…) .... However,lets leave this theme. Are you hunter, Ser Aidan? I believe there is many magnificent opportunities for this noble amusement back at Dorne?”. Saying that, Burton throws Elmer another suspicious look, afraid he will once again say something unacceptable-about hunting whores,for instance.
Elmer grins with a perfectly decent smile this time. “Oh, but I think the Princess is amused by my audacity, if not by my prowess.” He’s about the same size as his cousin, maybe an inch shorter, but wider in the shoulders. “And any time you wish to spank me, i say, pick up a lance or a sword and have at me.” His white teeth flash again, emphasized by his short dark beard.
“Hunting, ser? Yes, though not so much in forests,” Ser Aidan replies to Burton’s query, half his mind still working at trying to make sense of the conversation that passed just moments ago. “There are hares, and wild goats and rams in the mountains, and sand dogs—not an animal I find much pleasure in, but some do. You probably heard their barks in the ... Prince’s Pass? I believe you Crakehalls fought under the Tyrell and Lannister banners in the west of Dorne?”
Burton says, “I have indeed been there-but the circumstances weren’t quite suitable for hunting back then “- for a fraction of a second Ser Burton’s expression becomes a bit grim ” And I have of course seen sand dogs, not a very interesting game indeed. I am more interesting in bigger predators-like wolves and bears and wildcats? Have hunted such in Dorne, Ser Aidan?”“
“I have indeed been there-but the circumstances weren’t quite suitable for hunting back then “- for a fraction of a second Ser Burtons expression becomes a bit grim ” And I have of course seen sand dogs, not a very interesting game indeed. I am more interesting in bigger predators-like wolves and bears and wildcats? Have hunted such in Dorne, Ser Aidan?” Then the knight once again pays some attention to Elmer ” A lance and a shield? Are you kidding, coz. What would I say to your father?”-snorts the heir to Crakehall,eying his relative humorously. The conversation seems to be getting more and more bizarre.
Elmer chuckles but mercifully refrains from his own thoughts of hunting in Dorne. He looks at his wineskin, and finding it empty he shouts for his squire. The lad is bright enough to run to him with a fresh one without further requests. “That you were clumsy enough to be dropped in the sand by yours truly?” he grins.
“There are shadowcats still, here and there, and a few bears; but nothing like what can be found in the kingswood, to speak the truth” Ser Aidan says, a little doubtfully. “Leopards, too. And I knew a knight who had the pelt of a cave lion… Wolves? Well, there are the sand dogs; much alike.” The good-natured jesting between the cousins does lighten his mood, however, and the knight relaxes somewhat more. He gives a look about the yard, getting a sense of who is milling about in the shade of trees or going about their business, before he asks, “Do you often practice against one another, sers?”
“I didn’t have much chance too…”-explains Burton, his hands on his waist ” I have only arrived at the Landing, and didn’t have the chance to practice with this braggart-despite taking part in two tournament. He is better than me with lance anyway-but if I will take a sword or a hammer in my hands,he will have to look out” .Ser Burton is now in a good mood as well, a smile doesn’t leave his usually very serious face.
Elmer shrugs. “Excuses, excuses…” he looks towards Aidan, and his face becomes more serious. “But truly, I’d be honored if you trained with me some day. I’ve never seen anyone ride like you in a tilt, except maybe that Baratheon brat…”
“If we should have occasion to be in the yards together, ser,” the Dornish knight says, “I should be honored. We Dornishmen keep different hours for our meals, for the most part; that may be why we rarely see one another in the yard at the same time.” Aidan thinks on that a little, and then to Elmer’s last remark he adds, “Ser Tancred was surely blessed by the Warrior that day. I’d never seen anything you like it. He rode well at Rosby, but nothing like his prodigious feats at Storm’s End.”
“Elmer, give the poor boy some rest. Looking at him, one might think he a vintner in training, not a squire. He probably knows more about the shapes and sizes of the wineskins than about archery ,heraldry or riding!”-making this strict remark, Burton casts a quick glance at the young Dayne knight ” You do indeed ride brilliantly , Ser Aidan. I wouldn’t have refused to practice with you as well-it probably would have been good even foe an old sword-and-shield man like me.Or at last I would like to see you practice with my cousin-and gloat,when he is once again thrown from the saddle of his trusted steed” .
Amella laughs gently at her brother’s comment.
Elmer pats his squire on his shoulder, making the boy’s knees buckle. “I told you time and again, Burton, i fight better when drunk, and besides I train my squire in sword and lance and mace too.” His trademark grin appears again. “It should be an honor, Ser Aidan. And your modesty does you honor. I was truly surprised to see you yield the field at Storm’s End.”
The gentle laugh catches Ser Aidan by surprise, and he turns to see who it came from—but it’s no one he knows. He offers a tentative smile, and a brief nod. “Good day, my lady. Ser Burton’s droll, is he not?” He studies her a few moments longer, as if trying to make sure of her identity, before the Crakehall cousins speak further. “Oh, I should not expect Ser Elmer to fall, or to fall easily, Ser Burton. A stout fighter, to be sure. You both did better than I in the melee, after all. But it was the melee, and then the jousting—especially against Blackbolt!—that made my ribs groan too much for me to continue riding. A sore disappointment, I promise.”
A pause, and then he glances to the lady once more.
Amella smiles at Ser Burton. “Forgive me, Ser Aidan. I have the honor to be Amella Crakehall. I do hope I am not intruding; I came to surprise my brother. I’m new-come to court, good ser.
“Why, Amella!”-Ser Burton now looks as if he has seen a ghost -though Lady Amella ,the daughter to the deceased Crakehall heir and the sister to the present looks much lovelier than any ghost would ” How comes…. What bring you here? I didnt expect. For the sake of the Seven, Lord Jonos should have written!”
Amella smiles at her brother and gives him a quick, sisterly kiss on the cheek. “I’ve come to keep you company, dear brother, and our dear cousin, Kellyn. Grandfather wished me to experience court life, of course. In his words, ‘No need to stay in this stuffy keep for ages. Can’t have your brother have all the fun, can we, my dear?’”
Amella turns to her cousin, Elmer. “Well met, dear cousin. Uncle Kennet asks after you, good ser.”
The reunion is surely touching, and Burton’s pleasure palpable. Ser Aidan offers the lady a deeper bow with a certain courtly elegance. “An honor, Lady Amella, and I’m glad you’ve arrived safely. You travelled the goldroad? It must have taken a good number of weeks.”
Elmer blinks as he sees his cousin and shake shis head. “Grandfather said that? N grumblings about his descendants wasting his money in this den of fools that is King’s Landing?” he laughs merrily and he bows. “Welcome then , cousin!”
Amella curtsies at Ser Aidan. “A fair number, indeed, ser. But I do enjoy riding very much, so the journey was quite pleasant.”
“Did he say so? Well ,he always been very civil to you-more than me , Elmer and all other unhappy Crakehall men could hope for”-winking at Elmer, Burton scrutinizes Amella with a proud (if only) eye and grumbles half-seriously ” It is indeed very gracious of Grandfather,giving me another nuisance. As if I don’t have enough things to care about! By the way, how are the children and Mylana?”
Aidan considers the three kinsmen and after a last smile says, “The Seven smile on happy reunions, my old septon used to say. I shall leave you to yours, my lady, sers.” He offers a last bow, and then the Dornishman withdraws. He gives a last glance about the yard, taking it in, and then pondering the Crakehalls for a last heartbeat he moves along towards the tower where the Dornish hostages are kept.
Amella smiles brightly. “They are well, brother. They miss you so.”