Lanterns swayed in squeaking cacophony on their mounts as a tall form stalks across cobblestones accompanied by a slender youth who large eyes and curly dark hair made him look cherubic, but in whose sparkling brown eyes there lit the light of mischief.
“Theon, I swear I’m going to send you back to the north,” the taller man growled, “If you ever beat up Shaun again.”
“He said stuff about my mother!” Theon protested, his twelve year old morals offended.
Stevyn Locke sighs and reaches out to ruffle the lad’s rumpled locks.
Ethos crosses the yard at a slow pace, a young knight in his early twenties with hair still wet enough from a bath to stick to his scalp. He’s cleanshaven, and wearing a fresh silk shirt tucked into linen pants. When he sees the other knight and squire, he pauses, watching curiously with a faint smirk touching his face at overheard words.
Janden is on his way into the Keep from the city, in through the Broze Gate. The red headed knight is mounted - but dressed in his usual court clothing. He’s headed for the Stables - but his eyes scan the yard as he moves.
“Sometimes it is better to turn the other cheek, my boy, and sometimes…” Stevyn’s eyes crinkle a little in amusement, “...sometimes it’s more satisfying to punch it squarely.” He wraps a muscular arm around the shorter lad’s neck and headlocks him briefly.
Theon struggles with a muffled protest, “Hey!”
Stevyn laughs and lets him go, glancing up at Ethos and nodding politely in greeting.
“Evening,” he drawls, before stepping out of the way of the passing horse.
“What house are you from?” Theon’s clear voice rings out, querying of Ethos with curiosity.
“Sorry,” Stevyn apologises to Ethos, “He’s spent most of his time in the Nine Cities - yet to learn the heraldry of Westeros.”
Ethos laughs, shrugging. “No problem, my own squire has a similar lack of education, but we’re working on it.” He looks to the boy, “I’m Ser Ethos Mertyns, of Mistwood. It’s in the Stormlands.” The knight gestures towards the man with the horse. “Ser Janden Melcolm of Old Anchor, the Vale.”
“Ser Stevyn Locke, first of Oldcastle, then Winterfell,” the knight introduces himself. Any who had been in Dorne, travelling with Balian Blackwood would have known that name.
“And this is Theon Snow, my page.”
“Squire,” Theon protests.
“Page,” Stevyn replies firmly, looking sharply at the lad.
Janden pulls up beside the group and dips a slight bow from the saddle. “Good evening, all. Well met, Ser Stevyn. Theon.” He twists a grin toward Ethos. “And you too, Ethos.”
“Stevyn Locke? Really?” Ethos asks, grinning at the northern knight that’s nearly twice his size, “A pleasure to meet you, ser!” The knight says cheerfully, then looks to Janden, “First over the wall at Starfall, I’ve heard.” Mertyns turns his attention back to the other two, “And well met, Theon.”
Stevyn gives a crooked grin, “Did a lot of stupid things in that place, must admit. That wasn’t the least of them.” He runs a hand through his dark hair, causing it to stand more rampant than ever.
“You were the Stormbreaker’s squire, weren’t you?” he frowns thoughtfully.
“I know the name, indeed. First of the wall at Starfall and still alive to talk about it. It was many a good knight who didn’t live to speak about that battle.” Janden nods again to the man, some thought taking him into quiet consideration for a few moments, until he smiles at Stevyn’s reply. “I’m afraid of what you did that was more foolish than that, Ser.”
Ethos grows solemn, nodding in agreement with Janden. “I wasn’t at that battle, but I’ve heard enough about it.” He chuckles, “Yes, if that wasn’t the most foolish, that has me wondering. But, you’re correct, Sarmion trained me to knighthood.” The man says.
“Janden? Is that you?” A young woman emerges from the stables, her voice preceding her. She’s swathed in a dark cloak of linen, but the hood is down and as soon as she reaches a pool of lantern light, it can be seen that said woman is Elyana. And that her cheeks flush slightly red as she spots the group—in particular her brother Ethos. “Good evening,” Elyana says, stepping forward towards the gropu.
“Then we are well met,” Stevyn holds out his hand toward Ethos for the other man to take, “And Ser Janden. I fear I have spent little time in the Vale. I know it little, though its Lord I have met upon occasion.” At the new arrival, he grows solicitous and bows his head politely, “Good evening, my lady.”
“I’ve spent little time there myself, Ser. The Vale thought I best spend most of my days elsewhere. I’m more familiar with Oldtown, honestly.” Janden’s head turns when he hears his name, eyes watching the form emerge from the stables and he bows slightly from horseback. “Elyana. It is me. And a few others. I havn’t started talking to myself. Yet.”
Ethos shakes the man’s hand, grinning. “Ser Janden serves as officer to the Warden of the Kingswood. We both have the misfortune of too much time spent around Stormbreaker.” As the lady approaches, Ethos turns with a curious gaze. “Ely!... What are you about this late?” He asks, lifting a brow.
“Nothing, nothing,” Elyana answers Ethos quickly, perhaps even nervously. She gives Janden a sideways glance as she says that. “I was seeing to my horse. Took a late ride, that’s all. Why are you out here?”
To Janden, though, Elyana grins quickly. “Oh, I don’t know—it wouldn’t surprise me if you were talking to yourself these days.” And then to Stevyn, a smile is given. “Ser.”
Stevyn lifts a dark brow thoughtfully, watching the interaction between the three younger folk with some curiosity. At his side Theon shifts and gives a subtle throat clearing.
“I am Stevyn Locke, my lady,” he introduces himself to Elyana, “And my page, Theon Snow.”
Theon grumbles softly.
“This is Elyana Mertyns. Ser Ethos’ sister.” Janden introduces Elyana, smiling down toward her at the comment. “If I’m going crazy, Elyana, it’s in different ways. If I get to talking to myself in the night, it might be time to have me sent to the Wall for duty.”
Ethos watches his sister for a long moment, eying her critically, then turns his gaze back to Stevyn. “Ely, Ser Stevyn was at the Battle of Starfall. He might have known Dandon.” The knight explains. His eyes go to the boy, “So when are you to be made a squire, then?”
“A pleasure to meet you. I’m..” Elyana starts, then stops as Janden introduces her. She grins briefly to Janden once more. “If that’s the case, then I’d have to join you, Ser. I’m afraid I talk to myself entirely too much, and more so since I arrived here.”
Elyana’s gaze has fallen on the page and she smiles and seems about to say something to the boy when Ethos mentions Dandon. She looks up to Stevyn, smile fade, though she does not speak with sorrow—just plainly. “You knew Dandon?”
Theon regards his knight with a grumpy stare, “He promised soon. But soon isn’t ...soon enough.”
Stevyn snorts, and shakes his head, “Theon, sulking doesn’t become a knight,” his voice is carefully neutral though his eyes are amused. He glances up at Elyana and tilts his head thoughtfully, “There were so many men…who was he?”
“Ser Dandon Meadows. He stormed the walls at Starfall as well - but he didn’t have your luck in the matter, Ser Stevyn.” Janden fills in some of the infomation, but leaves Elyana to add more if she will. He casts a quick glance toward Ethos and then back to Elyana.
“Ser Dandon Mea-.. He would have been with the Tyrell host.” Ethos offers, then looks back to Theon, “You could always find yourself another knight, boy. Janden here doesn’t have a squire.” Mertyns says with some mischief in his tone. “Though Ser Stevyn is quite a man to study under. He’s a hero.”
“I was married to him,” Elyana replies to Stevyn. “Very briefly—only a few months before he was killed at Starfall. You didn’t know him at all?”
“Meadows,” Stevyn frowns as he repeats the name, then his expression clears, “Dandon Meadows…” He raises a hand to his jaw and rubs the scar that mars it.
He drops his hand and folds his arms across his broad chest, “Yes. Yes my lady, I knew him,” his voice suddenly grim, “I was there when he fell. If I was first over the wall, your husband was not far behind. He was a brave man.”
Theon’s eyes open wide at Ethos’ suggestion, “Another..knight?” He looks horrified at the suggestion.
Janden raises his hands into a defensive pose at Ethos’ suggestion. “The lad would be taking a fair downgrade if he were to squire under me. I think he’s in good hands as it stands. I suppose I’ll end up with a squire before too long. Most days I struggle enough to keep my own affairs in order, let alone another’s.”
For an instant, Elyana’s eyes widen as if the girl is about to start crying at this answer. But she doesn’t cry, just nods her head mutely at the answer for a moment. “I had wondered as much, but noone ever knew before or else they didn’t tell me. Thank you. I wish I had gotten to know him better or that I had been older when we married.”
“I was jesting, lad.” Ethos responds, chuckling. His eyes move back to Stevyn. “You knew him? Really?” The man gives his sister an encouraging smile, his brows lifting. “If there was ever someone to ask about Dandon…” He reaches to rest a hand on her shoulder.
“Sometimes it is just not possible to know, a battle is a mess of confusion. I only knew what happened because…” Stevyn bites off what he was going to say, taking pity on the young woman, “...I was there.” He finishes lamely.
“It would not be fair to you to know more than that, my lady.”
Janden nods simply after listening to Stevyn’s words, taking another look down toward Elyana. He shifts slightly in his saddle and glances toward the stable. “I should see about dealing with my horse. And then likely to my bed.” He announces, partly to raise a slightly different subject. “Excellent to meet you, Ser. And good to see both of you - Ethos, Elyana.
Ethos looks up to the knight on the horse. “Good night, Janden. If you’re heading to the Kingswood in the morning, I’ll join you, just knock at my door when you’re up.” He says with a wave to Melcolm.
“Good night, Janden,” Elyana says, her words said after giving her brother a curious—but approving—look. “Ser,” she continues to Stevyn, “I was or am his wife. He died—I should like to know if it was a good death. Heroic…it seems so. But I would like to know that at least he didn’t suffer long, if that is possible. It seems from your response, that it was a bad death? Little I can do about it—nothing, obviously. But I would like to know.”
“Ely, don’t ask that. Everyone that died in Dorne was brave. You know that.” Ethos cuts in quickly, his words softly spoken.
“Lady Elyana,” Stevyn begins softly, his voice and expression kind, “Tis better that you remember him as he was in life. He spoke of you often.” A small smile and an apologetic glance is given Ethos.
“I fear I must be going,” he murmurs, “The hour grows late.”
Ethos seems a bit relieved at Stevyn’s answers, returning his glance with one of appreciation. “Ser, are you staying here in the Red Keep? I would love to sit and speak with your sometime when it is not so late, if you’re willing.” There’s some eagerness in his tone.
“So be it,” Elyana says, looking alomst relieved at the answer Stevyn gives. To her brother’s words, she nods, as well. “And I would like to know more about him as a person. I never got to know him as well as I wanted to. But…as you say, the hour grows late. I should turn in, too.”
“Goodnight, both of you,” Stevyn replies in his gruff voice, “A pleasure to meet you both.” He rests his hand upon his breast and bows.
“Of course, further acquaintence would not be unpleasant,” and in an aside to Elyana, “I am sorry if I have distressed you, lady.”
“You have not,” Elyana answers. “Good evening to you, Ser.”
“Good night, Ser Stevyn, Theon.” Ethos says, grinning and giving the man a quick bow. “Ely, if you have a moment more, I wanted to ask you something.” The knight says.
“Just a moment, Ethos, sure,” Elyana says. The young woman has already turned to make her way back but pauses now and waits for her brother’s question, though Stevyn is given a quick smile as he leaves.
Ethos moves close to his sister, asking in a soft voice. “Did you get a chance to speak more with the person we discussed? Have you learned anything?” He reaches a hand up to run through his drying hair, smoothing it back as he glances around.
“Ah. I did,” Elyana says, smiling slightly. Her voice is a low whisper. “She is not married. Her marriage will be arranged, but it is not set yet. Her brother—at home, I think—will be the one to arrange it, but she has not heard from him yet. And she knows the value of political marriages, I think.”
“That makes sense, about her brother. He would be the one.” Ethos responds, sounding thoughtful. “I wonder how much say she has in it. Duskies do strange things.” The knight grins. “Anything else that will be of use to our cousin?” He asks. “Personal things? Weaknesses?”
“I’m working on it, Ethos. Give me time,” Elyana sighs. “I can’t just ask her outright, after all. She doesn’t seem the type to be full of pretense, though—she doesn’t put on airs, and I don’t think she would be inclined to accept a man who did so. But oh! She wants babies. Lots of babies.” Elyana smiles.
As Orene, the often terribly busy—or so it would seem, for as little time as she spends with her friends—steps out from the direction of the stables, she seems quite distant. The heat has wilted her curls somewhat, tightening some and making others lank, and she fusses with them as she strides purposefully toward the keep.
“Babies? That’s good. Very good to know. Anything else you can think of at all?” Ethos presses, though a smile is on his face. He catches sight of Orene approaching, though, and his brows lift. “Orene!” The knight calls, beginning to move away from Ely, then pausing and remembering himself. “Thank you, dear sister.” He says in a rush, leaning in to give her a kiss on the cheek before he does move away, effectively ditching her.
“Yes, Ethos, babies!” Elyana calls after her brother, laughing quietly as she watches him rush off toward Orene. She shakes her head, lifts her hand in a little wave to Orene, and heads toward the keep.
“What… about… babies?” Orene stops in her tracks, looking rather distrustfully between Elyana and her brother. “Ethos, if you have been planning things again, we may need to have a chat.” As irked as she was the previous evening, the worst of her storm seems to have blown over; at least, she does not look thoroughly displeased. She even smiles slightly as he approaches her.
Ethos sees that hinting of Orene’s wrath the knight before and he slows his approach. “No!.. no.. not what you think. I’ll explain, I promise. It’s something Arion and I are cooking up.” Ethos says, closing the distance between them with a more cautious expression. “I am sorry, Orene. Truly. But, the lottery went very well today.” He adds, with a hopeful note in his words.
“Mm. Well, that -is- good news!” Orene nods decisively at the knight, leaning up to give him a soft peck on the cheek. If this is forgiveness, it is rather chaste forgiveness, but her anger certainly seems to have cooled somewhat. “I’m pleased it’s gone well. Is it complete?”
Ethos visibly relaxes at her more pleasant demeanor. “The lottery? For now. I’m going to take some time to get the hunting lodge started and make sure that’s going smoothly. I have a bit too much on my plate right now. The lottery proved a bigger headache than I intended.” The knight grins, “But, I also didn’t intend to be so involved with my cousins either.”
“Yes, indeed. Quite so. You start meddling in that sort of thing, you see what happens. Suddenly you’re mired like a fly in a web. That’s politics for you.” Orene smiles dryly, folding her arms across her chest. “I still have yet to speak with that person I’d mentioned, but as soon as I can get her pinned down…”
“It’s okay, whenever you have the time, my dear.” Ethos responds, grinning. “And the talk of babies was in regards to Arion. So do not worry. There’s nothing foul afoot there other than my cousin attempting to win the heart of a woman. How was your day, otherwise?”
“Winning hearts?” Stevyn laughs, having sent his page off on some trouble free errand.
“Now there is a tricky thing, fey creatures that they are!”
“Hot. Sticky. Uncomfortable. Nice despite that, though I really would like to get inside and clean myself off. Arion wants—oh, it must be someone you have in mind for him. Poor fellow.” Orene’s smile broadens slightly. “I suppose I ought to give thanks for the warmth, but I can only think of how good a nice rain would feel.”
She lifts her head at Stevyn’s words then, seeming to only now notice the fellow, and gives him rather a more pleasant smile. “And fickle, I hear, and hard to catch.”
Ethos chuckles as the elder knight rejoins them. “It is more work than any other task, I agree, ser.” He turns his pale blue eyes back towards Orene, “Have you met Ser Stevyn, milady?” He takes a step back from the woman, turning to include the Northman more fully in the conversation.
“I have not had the pleasure,” Stevyn replies with a smile and placing his hand upon his breast he bows politely, “And indeed, fickle as the north wind - and at times as chilly.”
From the inner court comes a more or less steady stream of nobles ending their duties for the day. Among them is a lady in court dress of black and silver, with those same colors in her hair and about her neck. The silver flashes now and then when the torchlight catches it just right, and her low voice can be heard as she meets with her guards and orders her horse brought. It seems she will wait near the stable for it, but at the last moment something catches her attention and Reyna Saltcliffe alters her steps toward the trio.
“Nor have I—but now it seems we are both privileged,” Orene replies. She inclines her head with an almost cheeky smile, bending in a graceful curtsy. “It is a long road to the North. Have you come for the famous southern summers? I hope it is pleasant business you have in King’s Landing.”
Her head lifts, then, at the movement not so far distant. As her eyes briefly seek the knot of nobles she sees the lady Reyna and inclines her head in something of a distant greeting.
“Ser Stevyn is a hero from the war. I’ve heard many stories about his prowess in Dorne.” Ethos says, his grin widening. “He was the first over the wall in Starfall, and still stands today. No small feat.” The knight says, then offers in introduction, “This is the lady Orene Lefford, from Golden Tooth.”
Stevyn shakes his head, “I have not seen the North in quite some time. I have spent the last months in at least three of the Nine Cities.” His eyes twinkle in amusement.
“There the women are as firey as a desert zephyr. Quite the contrast - I can tell you,” he drawls, “But it is a pleasure, Lady Orene.”
As Reyna nears, she smiles at Orene. “My lady Orene, how are you?” she asks, her voice all Highgarden—for she has not failed to note that degree of distance. “Ser Stevyn, it’s been ages. Ser Ethos.” This last is clipped and added almost as an afterthought.
The Lefford maid looks quite honestly impressed: “Truth? Then I am all the more impressed. The first into the fray are often the first out of it. You must be feared in Dorne.” She glances over at Ethos with a dry smile, continuing: “I believe he may know how fiery a Westerling woman may be, but I am coarse and unpleasant compared to my courtly sisters, so I fear Ser Ethos gets the worst of it. Perhaps because I know he will forgive me.” She looks at last then back to Reyna, and though there is a worried touch to her eyes, almost a tentativeness about her voice, she calls in reply: “Wishing for even the gentlest of rains, but quite pleased to see you up and well. We haven’t talked in far too long.”
Ethos mutters softly while Orene is speaking, beneath his breath, “There are women as fiery as that -here-...” Then the knight notices Reyna’s approach and his expression grows flat. “Reyna.” A cool greeting, at best, from the knight. In his pale blue eyes is a hint of anger as he looks upon the Saltcliffe woman.
Mertyns is distracted by Orene, though, giving her a soft smile. “Yes, I will. You are difficult to refuse in most anything, milady.”
“Thin line between heroism and stupidity,” Stevyn replies drily, “I walked it for many months, but the gods smiled upon my path protecting me when I hadn’t the sense to protect myself. As for fear,” he shrugs, “I doubt they feared me so much as the horde of Westeros knights screaming bloody murder behind me.”
At Reyna’s greeting, he bowed his head politely.
Reyna’s brows rise unflappably to Ethos, and she bends her head slightly. “-Lady- Reyna, if you please,” she says evenly. Then she smiles at Stevyn. “Careful, Ser Stevyn. Ser Ethos does not like dark ladies of the desert, I fear. Tell me, Ser Ethos,” she says, turning her gaze on that man. “How did you leave Ser Sarmion? Well, I trust?”
Without waiting for him to reply, she turns a suddenly genuine smile on Orene. “You must come and see Rhiannyn. The sweetest little bird you will ever see.”
“Yes, well, I’m not sure how fond I am of most of them either. Try to be friendly and it’s thrown right back in your face…” Orene gives a little sigh. “Unsurprising, I admit. Were I defeated and slung into a far-off tower, I’d be snappish too. But that’s neither here nor there…”
She inclines her head to Stevyn, answering his words with her own: “Then surely there was the luck of the daring with you, for which we may all be glad. But you are as modest as the finest warriors I have known. Few will even speak of their experiences in the burning sands. From what stories I have heard, I can begin to understand.”
She lets out rather a relieved breath, then, at Reyna’s pleasant smile: “I must indeed! I haven’t seen you since before she was born. Congratulations, by the way: I never had the opportunity to say it, and I did want to bring you and she a little gift.”
“You fear? Are you a dusky in disguise?” Ethos asks with a smirk as he looks Reyna over skeptically. “Leave him, Reyna? Usually I bow, or say ‘good day, Ser’ if that’s what you mean. He is my lord-uncle’s brother, after all. And it wouldn’t do for a -humble- member of the royal court such as myself to be rude to the man that trained me into the knight that I am. I think some courtesy is required.”
Ethos looks back to the Lefford woman, smiling. “That’s kind of you, Orene, to think of her and child. Had I known you were interested, I would have gone to find you the day Reyna had the babe here at the keep.”
Stevyn smiles politely at Reyna’s comment, but makes no particular reply. To Orene though he replies with a chuckle, “I confess I am no lover of Dornish beauty, but the maids of the Free Cities…they could leave a man scorched of his shorts and happy about it…” he shakes his head, before regarding the short interaction between Ethos and Reyna with interest. A dark brow crooks thoughtfully and a faint smile curves his lips.
“You must consider yourself welcome at any time,” Reyna says warmly to Orene, ignoring Ethos for the nonce. She laughs lightly when Stevyn remarks on the girls of the Free Cities. “My maid is rather a scorcher herself, or so I believe when I see how they look at her. From Lys, you know,” she says to Orene.
Then she does attend to Ethos, and never have the elongated vowels of Highgarden been so long in her voice. “It is a common courtesy, to ask one one left one’s master,” she notes.
“Am I going to have to separate you two?” Orene mutters, glancing between the Mertyns knight and the once-Tyrell lady. One hand lifts as though to reach out and take Ethos’s shoulder but she pauses, letting it drop—for whatever reason, she takes no other action between the pair. Instead, she turns her gaze to Ser Stevyn instead: “They certainly do not fear to speak their minds. Indeed, I think they fear nothing. Is it true the women fought alongside the men with spear and shield? I could almost believe it of those I’ve met.”
“Is it? I’m not one for common courtesy, my apologies, milady.” Ethos responds, then moves closer and leans in to speak gently in Orene’s ear. “Sorry…” He looks back to Stevyn, trying to return to the conversation while reaching for Orene’s hand. “That is true, actually. Ser Stevyn, I’ve heard mixed reviews on how the Battle of Starfall was conducted. Do you mind sharing your opinion, since you were there? My interest might only be related to the fact that my sister’s husband was there, I admit.”
“They are formidable,” Stevyn quirks a crooked grin, “Dangerous and far to sharp for my own damn good. I confess I am susceptible to women who can think before they speak.” He turns to regard Ethos’ query, and nods.
“What have you heard, and mayhap I can clear up some of your questions?”
‘I have noticed, ser,’ Reyna says in that same carefully polite tone. ‘I was quite pleased to hear that the winner of your… lottery was a commoner. Their need is far greater, after all.’ Ignoring the others for just a moment, Reyna leans very close to Ethos to murmur something into his hear, never losing the smile from her lips. “Tell me, Ser Ethos, just what you might have said to your master Stormbreaker to make him think I would -ever- bed the likes of you?”
“Is that so? I wish you luck in your search, then. Beauty and needlework are prized rather more than erudition or education.” There is that same wry tone in Orene’s voice as she says this, her eyes shifting to the genteelly bickering nobles. The fingers of one hand twiddle upon the back of the other hand, but she makes no move, watching with grim interest.
“And so,” she continues, “I have been working on my needlework.” The corner of her mouth quirks up.
“I have heard varying opinions on how the battle was led, ser.” Ethos says, then grows distracted when Reyna leans in to whisper in his ear. His hand tightens around Orene’s for a moment and the knight gives the Saltcliffe woman the strangest look. Then he laughs. “That’s flattering. But if I wanted a whore, I would just go pay visit to the Street of Silk.” He looks back to Orene, “But such activities left my interest when I became betrothed.”
Stevyn makes an odd sound in his throat. But his expression remains serene. Their conversation is on hold for the nonce whilst they little interaction takes place between the Stormbreaker’s former squire and Reyna Saltcliffe.
“Heard and witnessed, Ser Ethos,” Reyna says in that same, unchanging Highgarden drawl, lilting and almost cheerful. “You may expect to hear from my lord.” She bends her head to him ever so slightly, then turns her back utterly.
“Forgive me such unpleasantness, Lady Orene,” she says politely. “Necessary, but nasty.” She brushes her hands together lightly, as if to clean filth from them. “And you, Ser Stevyn. Pray forgive me.”
Shocked. Orene looks thoroughly shocked as she stares at Ethos, her jaw dropping in an almost amusing picture of outright stupefaction. It is as Reyna is stepping away that she grasps Ethos’s arm and hisses: “Are you -mad-?”
She raises her voice, taking a step after Reyna and reaching out toward her: “Lady Reyna, I ask you to let the words go. They were spoken in anger, and not from the heart. I ask you, as a personal favor.”
The sound of a galloping horse comes from the north east. As soon as it is cleared the keep, once can see Ser Tancred, urging his horse on, two of his men at arms trailing behind the heir to Storm’s End. Tancred pulls the horse up sharply, the charger rearing up and failing its hooves in the air. Once the horse drops back to the ground, Tancred is out of his saddle with a knight’s trained grace despite his injured leg. His men just now catch up to him, and they too scramble out of their saddles, but they are not nearly as skilled as the young knight, who already has a 10 pace or so lead upon them, stocking towards the group, his hard blue eyes boring in on Ethos.
Stevyn crosses his arms before him, and there is a look of faint disgust that crosses his face at the exchange. His dark eyes regard those in the conversation and when Orene speaks he sighs and shakes his head faintly. As Tancred makes his entrance he raises a hand to rest on the edge of his jaw his thumb rubbing the scarred line. How much more entertaining can this moment be?
Ethos gives Reyna another queer look, then shrugs. “Yes, you all heard and witnessed my lack of interest in whores.” He says, chuckling, but Orene’s sudden response draws his attention away. “Orene, she just suggested something extremely unbecoming in regards to my honor. My comment wasn’t directed at her, merely explaining my disinterest.”
As the sound of horses approaching fills the yard, the knight turns to investigate. Tancred’s angry features cause him to lift a thin brow. “What’s the matter, cousin?”
“I do not keep secrets from my lord, and he does not brook any untruth to be spoken to my face. I am sorry, Orene,” Reyna says, her voice hard at first, then gentling. “You will understand, when you are wed.” She pats the lady on the arm and it would seem, now her back is turned, that the insult has struck and struck deeply, for she is pale and the courtly smile has vanished.
So it is that when she looks up at Tancred, it is with some small alarm. “Is all well, Ser Tancred?” she asks, her fair brow furrowing. “Ser Stevyn,” she asks beseechingly, turning, “will you not ensure he is well?”
Stevyn looks vaguely amused at Reyna’s request, “He seems in decent health with a brace of men at arms to see to his wellbeing. And if the Lord Tancred cannot look after himself somewhat I am certain that he is not worthy to be heir of Baratheon…and if tis Ethos that struggles, then the Stormbreaker’s tutorage is wanting.” He crosses his arms, “A shame Theon was not here to witness this show of Westerosi…relations.”
Orene’s own cheeks are pale, and for once her cheer and pleasantness have departed entirely. “And you responded by—Ethos, you just said—” And for truly the first time, she is entirely at a loss for words.
Reaching up to pinch the bridge of her nose, she mutters weakly in response to Stevyn’s words: “They are usually not quite this… lively. And it’s usually my nephew who says that sort of thing. Except he gets away with it.”
Tancred stalks forward, ignoring the others, the men at arms just now having a shocked look on their faces, like they can’t believe the action that is about to take place, then they redouble their efforts to catch their lord. Ethos closes in, and hauls back his hand and has it strike straight out with all the force and strength his long lanky frame can muster, and given his size and strength, that is quite a bit. A closed fist flashes out like launched from a crossbow, aiming for Ethos face and jaw.
Normally Tancred isn’t so volatile. Ethos doesn’t expect the attack, and lifts an arm to block but the Baratheon is the quicker. The slim knight staggers back as Tancred’s fist cracks into his jaw, stunning him. He almost loses his balance and falls over, but recovers quickly and holds up his hands, backing off. “Whoa! What’s the matter, Tancred?!” He manages, spitting some blood to the dirt.
Stevyn watches the beginning of the fight with a marked lack of disinterest for Stormland politics. But as the blood splatters, he sighs and takes a step forward.
“Stop this, you morons, unless you want the goldcloaks down on you,” his voice is harsh in the darkness, “I thought the Westerosi were supposed to be a little more civilised than this. I swear I will smack your heads together if need be.”
Then men at arms are on Tancred them, grabbing at the heir’s arms and trying to hold him still, but he still manages to drag them a pace or two forward. Tancred’s face is well red with anger. “I had to be carried off the tournament field, you were one of the ones that helped me. I could barely walk, let alone tumble any woman between the sheets. Yet you still told that foul lie about court, told it knowing it was false and a lie and did so with relish, and smeared a Lady’s reuptation that has been nothing but polite and kind to me, and she being a meber of the house you are marrying into. So don’t you /dare/ Ser stand there and act like you bloodly well don’t know what is going on!”
Reyna gasps as Tancred barrels past her, and her eyes are wide as he hits Ethos. “It would seem,” she says in a very shaky voice, going paler, “that he has called more than one lady a whore,” she says in shock. Then she turns eyes full of sympathy to Orene and holds out her hand.
Yelping in surprise and jumping back at the blow, Orene’s already pale face tightens with what might well be fear. “There—surely there must be some misunderstanding,” she stammers, her usually glacial poise tossed to the wind. But whether she believes her own words or not is hard to tell: certainly her eyes turn away from the bloodied knight, and when her eyes raise to Reyna’s, undisguised dismay etches her delicate face. She raises her hand in negation to the Saltcliffe lady, a crimson flush of sheer embarrassment now washing her pale cheeks.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Stevyn sighs again, and glances toward Orene, “Lady, I suggest you not believe any that is going on here. The Red Keep is a nest of vipers that just bites itself on the ass every so often.” He turns his dark eyes on the Heir, “Don’t let that idiotic Baratheon temper get the better of you. Just where did you hear about the rumour? Hmm?” He folds his arms across his chest, “Are all mouths so trustworthy in this place? Are all words held as truth? Have things changed so very much in the last ten years?” He looks to Ethos also.
“Hmm? Are you both such idiots you would turn on a swordbrother before checking out a few facts?”
“Yes, I was the one that helped you, Tancred.” Ethos answers, keeping calm now despite the fact that he was just assaulted by the man. “I do think you have the facts wrong, cousin. But if you want to hit me again, go ahead. I won’t fight back, unless you command me to.” He wipes his chin, smearing away a line of blood where his lip is bleeding. Already an angry, discolored welt is forming.
He glances towards Orene once, but only briefly. “Otherwise, might we take this conversation elsewhere, Tancred?”
Tancred reigns in his temper, just so. It is enough for the men to let go of his arms however. To the man trying to talk to him, he has not paid heed, his focus on his cousin. He makes a motion towards the keep. “Then let us talk elsewhere.” He says curtly, voice still crackling with anger held in check.
Rebuffed by Orene, Reyna steps back, and back again. “I… must go and see to my horse,” she says to all of them. “Ser Ethos, I would speak to a septon if you know what is good for you after this night.”
“Talk where there are others to stay your hand if you choose to do something fucking stupid,” Stevyn snaps at the two youths, and to the Heir especially, “The Stormbreaker will not like it if his former squire and his nephew decide to hurt each other because of bitchy words of old women who have nothing better to do than fuck up the lives of others.”
Ethos nods in agreement when Tancred gestures towards the keep. “Of course.” The knight shifts his gaze to Orene, “Forgive me, milday. I must speak with my cousin.” He bows to her, and the apology in his eyes is sincere. Then the Mistwood knight is looking back at the Baratheon, “After you, cousin.”
“Yes. Indoors. By all means.” Orene straightens, though rather stiffly, and nods to Reyna as she steps away. “I am sure we shall see one another soon,” she continues, looking to the lady with a weary shake of her head. Her delicate hands clench and relax as she draws herself up, squares her shoulders as if heading into battle, and reaches out to take Tancred’s arm with one hand, gently as if she were picking up a baby bird in her hands, and Ethos’s arm with the other—again, with the utmost gentleness. She pauses at Ser Stevyn’s words, turning to look at him with a tight smile: “My lord, while I appreciate your rationality and your… candor, I fear your words to these men may be the truest: the middle of the yard is not the place for this. And if the lady of Ser Dagur is old, then I am ancient indeed. Please, let this business not continue.”
She looks up to Ethos then, raising an eyebrow: “You are sure I should not be present?” she murmurs. “I doubt Tancred will kill you in front of a lady of delicate sensibilities.” A brief pause. “Or me, for that matter.”
Reyna steps back toward Orene, and leans in close. “... would ... ... Ser ... ... witness ... ... passes. ... ... him ... ... ... ... and ... ... ... this ... ... ... ... ... will ... ...”
Thus spoken, she looks almost pleadingly at Ser Stevyn Locke. ‘May I have a word, ser?’ she asks.
“I would rather not,” Stevyn replies shortly to Reyna, his expression forbidding, “But of course, I am sure you would just threaten me with Dagur Saltcliffe’s displeasure if I refuse.” He waves his hand, not precisely approving of this entire encounter.
“So go ahead,” his arms fold across his chest.
Tancred turns briefly to the Lady Orenne and Reyna, bowing to them. My apologies ladies. That is all I can say to you. Lady Reyna, I would like to visit you tomorrow if I could. A lady of our acquaintance said I should search you out to talk about a personal matter.” He starts to walk towards the keep, his men at arms shadowing him. He looks to Ser Stevyn. “Do not worry Ser, I plan on having words with my Uncle as well, I assure you.”
“... ... ...” Reyna says quietly, the pleading note softening but not going away, “But as ... ... my ... and ... you ... ... for you have ... ... no ... or ... ... beg ... you ... what ... ... ... you ... ... ... ... May I depend ... ...”
She looks flustered as she makes Tancred a low curtsy as is due his status. ‘Yes, of course, ser,’ she says, nodding. ‘I am at your service. I shall… likely be with that lady of whom you speak, as she has written to me of the most recent news.’ She pats her skirt pocket, then looks ack to Stevyn for his answer.
As Orene moves in to place herself between them, Ethos speaks softly to her. “I think my cousin has more than enough honor than to try anything dangerous against me, Orene. I will speak with you tomorrow. Perhaps Ser Stevyn will be kind enough to provide you escort home.” The man says, then lifts her hand to light a kiss upon the back of it. “We will talk.” Then he moves to follow Tancred.