The heat is oppressive in King’s Landing this day, and many knights and their guardsmen have deemed it necessary to skip their training lessons for the day. It is not so for Blackhaven’s renown Blackbolt, who along with two of his guardsmen, seem prepared to begin another session of sparring. A young squire is at Ser Doran’s side, and he fiddles with the mans cumbersome armour, making certain that the leather straps that hold the equipment in place are securely fashioned. The helm at this time is off the head of the knight clad in black plate, and perspiration from the sun’s heat already marred his brow.
“Let’s speed it up, Tarell. I don’t want to be out here any longer than need be.” The marcher knight states, his shoulder rotating inside his armour as if to test the flexibility he has within the cumbersome plate. The two guardsmen are already prepared for the bout, and they step away from the weapon rack and the preparation of knight and squire, ready to begin todays training.
“This is chilly, compared to the Carrion Wood.”
The tall, lanky form of Ser Almer Connington is unmistakeable in light chain and leather, as are the griffins emblazoned on his leather jupon. He stands languidly in the shade near the lists, leaning on his sword with a faintly bored expression. Almer makes no further move, but continues to study Ser Doran and the others with his customary frosty detachment.
Lazy. Lazy and hot. That is the mood of the day for the ladies who idle about seeking escape from the heat. A couple of Tyrell lackeys wander toward the stands carrying a bizarre assortment of poles and green cloth that eventually emerge as a sun shade suitable for three or four to sit under.
Cheeks red either with heat or embarrassment over the fussing of her guards, Reyna Tyrell follows shortly behind and settles in the green-tinted shade erected for her. She settles skirts the shade of a Highgarden rose neatly and demurely about her, then folds her hands and disposes herself to watch the sparring amidst other ladies under -their- sun shades.
The young squire that had been securing Doran’s armour to his form finally steps back and gives a nod of approval to himself. The squire reaches over to pluck the great helm from its perch upon the weapon rack, before offering it to the knight with a warm smile. “You’re ready, Ser Doran.” He replies cordially, and as the Blackbolt accepts the helm, the boy retreats to the shade of a nearby tree.
“I am glad you feel the same as I, Ser Almer.” Doran replies, offering the fellow stormlander a cant of his head out of respect to the man’s reputation, before he lifts his helm up to don it. “A knight does not have the pleasure of picking time or place when he commits to battle. Harsh training, leads to harsher knights. I suppose that is why King Daeron’s host, backed by the chivalry of the Stormlands, met with little difficulties in our march.” Doran’s voice sounds strangely hollow now that he is encompassed head to toe in the heavy plate that his squire fashioned with expert precision. He steps out towards the two guardsman bearing the Dondarrion sigil, after plucking the metal shield from the ground that laid at his feet.
It is not from the holdfast that Carmella arrives, but from the stables, Dondarrion guards her constant conpanions. She looks a bit dusty from a ride and she and Ser Giles are deep in conversation. For once they seem to actually be enjoying each other’s company for the knight says something and the two of them laugh over it. The two knights behind then don’t seem to be in on the joke and carry on stoicly.
The activity in the yard certainly doesn’t go unnoticed, but it is the Tyrell group that first catches Carmella’s attention. The smile born from laughter tightens and she looks to Ser Giles. “I think I’ll visit with the Lady Reyna for a bit,” she says to him, their direction changing to head towards that particular shade.
Her horse seen to, Aurana leaves behind the odors of the stables to make her way homeward. Two guards accompany her, though it would appear that one has been elected packmule for the day. The younger man is laden with packages and appears none too pleased about it.
Blue eyes dart over the yard, spying the training in progress and those who are scattered about to watch. A soft word is murmured to her guardsmen, sending the younger off to dispose of her purchases while the older remains to escort her wherever she chooses to go. For the moment, she seems inclined to walk the perimeter of the small crowd, remaining in the shade of the trees where she can.
Hearing her name, Reyna turns her head, and smiles, though her cheeks stay red. Without raising her voice, she makes a small gesture and says, “Carmella, come and share this ridiculous contraption with me.”
Almer straightens, then laughs at the Blackbolt’s comment. “No difficulties? I seem to remember more than a few, Ser Doran. His Grace is still down there stomping on them, I believe.” Connington raises his naked blade, peering along the rippled steel of its razor edge. “But you’re right, that a knight must be ready to fight at all times. Even when they haven’t got time to strap on their harness.”
He indicates Doran’s full plate with the point of his sword. “Armor is well and good, but sometimes the advantage goes to the man who is skilled enough not to need it.” He takes a few pratice cuts at the air. “Don’t you agree?”
Listening to the Dondarrion knight’s rambling lecture, Jonn Lannister does what any Lannister in his place would do—he smirks.
Meanwhile, the two young Swyft squires have squared off. The elder has the upper hand, but it only lasts until the younger, Ser Jonn’s squire, sends him sprawling to the dirt with a swift kick to the ankles. Amid muffled curses, the two youths begin rolling on the ground, fists flying. It is a brother’s fight now; skill and honor are thrown away.
Carmella joins with Reyna and finds a better smile to offer her friend, though the distractions found in the yard turn her attention away soon enough. Ser Giles and the other knights remain outside the shade, but close enough to remind their charge of their presence. With a gesture of her hand towards the men she asks of Reyna, “And what have I chanced upon here, I wonder?”
“A sparring of well-matched knights,” is Reyna’s prim answer, before she rises and leans over the railing. “Ser Almer! Would you go into battle without your ladies favor on your arm? No champion ever did before.” And she waves a length of green ribbon at him, taken from her own sleeve.
Doran’s helmeted head turns to regard Almer for a moment as he speaks, the visor slit betraying the man within by way of his chartreuse eyes. “Little difficulties. Sunspear has bent the knee, this is war no longer, it is now a matter of quelling an uprising against the crown.” He corrects the Connington, his arms once again rotating in his armour to test how much his flexibility and movements are truly hindered. “Yet your assessment of a knight and his armour are apt enough. Yet I do not joust, or charge into battle without it, the weight does nothing more than strengthen my legs and arms.” Doran’s voice still sounds strangely hollow within the suit of armoru, and he pulls forth a blunted blade from the scabbard that rests on his side.
Doran twists the blade in his hand, testing its balance and weight, before he brings the shield up in a defensive posture and places the sword behind his head. “I am ready for you.” He states to the two guardsmen, who seem not at all to pleased at having to train against this knight, even if they do outnumber him.
“Skill be damned, wearing armour was a death sentence in itself often enough,” remarks a rider in a serpent-helm who draws up, then; dark eyes behind the twin fangs that protect his face study the Stormlands men. Tossing a shivered lance aside, he dismounts, tossing the reins to a young boy clad as he is in dusty leathers.
As the horse suffers itself to be led away, the ironman removes the helm and saunters towards the Connington knight, the hint of a limp in his step:
“Old Lord Rosby’s guard captain fell at the Blind before a single blow was stuck, cooked in his own harness. And he wasn’t the only one.”
Carmella ahhs softly to Reyna and when she actually identifies the knights in question she appears a bit more interested. But while Reyna makes her offer of a favor, Carmella simply leans against the railing and waits for the sparring to begin.
Aurana’s gaze flickers towards Reyna and Carmella briefly before flitting away, studying the ground for a moment as she continues on. The argument on the field is listened to with half an ear, not that she can hear much of it from where she stands. Skirts rustle as she continues on, a pale brow arching at sight of the youthful scuffling, one corner of her lips quirking higher than the other. “Now there is a familiar scene…” she murmurs, amused.
“Am I going into battle?” Almer glances over his shoulder at the faintly-heard feminine enjoinder, and nods in acknowledgment of Reyna’s gesture. “Here, let’s have it then,” he says, quickly striding over to take the ribbon.
Connington turns back as Ser Dagur Saltcliffe arrives. “Oh yes. I heard about that, ser. Damn fool, more interested in looking pretty in his plate than in ending up like a fried egg.” Sheathing his sword, he begins to tie Reyna’s green ribbon to his left upper arm. “I was about to offer a spar to Ser Doran, but it seems he’d rather fight his men-at-arms,” Almer explains to his sometime rival.
“-I- thought you were,” Reyna replies, releasing the ribbon and looking in confusion at Doran, to whom she offers the deepest of curtsies. “Almer,” she says when she rises, “do go and ask Lady Aurana to come and sit with us.”
She turns then and settles herself back on the bench. “This heat is just too beastly, Lady Carmella, don’t you agree?”
“Your balls have dropped,” Jonn Lannister informs his Connington cousin, “and you’re no cousin of his. He’ll not spar with you, Almer.”
He looks at the Iron Serpent briefly, and inclines his head. “I remember that as well,” he says somberly.
What interest there was in Carmella’s eyes dims quickly when it is announced who Doran will be sparring again. With a heavy sigh (half the fault of the heat) she pushes back from the rail and looks to Reyna. “I’ve seen this at home a dozen times, what kind of entertainment can it possibly be?”
The sun shade does offer a little relief from the sun’s direct rays, but the heat is still heavy on them all and she gives the Tyrell woman a nod. “It is terrible indeed. I am almost tempted to go for another ride, that was more comfortable than this,” she says in response.
When she notes the arrival of Jonn and Dagur on the scene, Reyna rises and curtsies deeply again, shooting a glance at Almer through her lashes before she rises. Again. Then she sits down—AGAIN!—and smiles vapidly at Carmella. “Oh, riding is so rough. One would become so heated, and so covered in dust.”
The two Dondarrion guardsmen relax their stance and do not press the attack as Ser Doran voices he is ready for them, instead they pay heed to Ser Almer and his talk of sparring against the Dondarrion tournament champion. They look expectantly at Doran, almost pleading with him to take on the knight with far more skill than both of them possess. Doran raises his shield, catching the bottom of his visor, he lifts it up to the top of his head.
“I don’t believe we have ever had the opportunity to cross blades, Ser Almer.” Doran begins, setting his protective accessory to the ground to be leaned against his leg, as he reaches up with a gauntlet hand to do his best to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. “Your name was hard to overshadow in tournaments, my lord of Connington.” He offers lastly, turning his gaze to see the Iron Serpent ride up. “Well met, Ser Dagur.” He offers the knight, lifting his sword to the chest in a respectful salute of the man. “Yet another man who’s said to be a terror to be behold. It appears the heat has drawn the finest knights to test their constitution.” Doran states at last, sighing softly as he brings the shield up from the ground again.
“It would be an honor to train against you today.” He states to the griffin, offering a nod of dismissal to the two guardsmen that are no longer needed. To the ladies he pays no heed, instead allowing them to continue with their banter and observance of the knights in their practice.
The scuffling of the Swyft boys is observed for a few more moments with a strange fondness before Aurana turns her gaze again to the gathering of knights. Hands clasped and resting against her skirts, she cants her head, trying to hear a bit more but unwilling to leave the shade to do so.
“What am I, cousin, your footman as well as your champion?” Almer replies to Reyna with a twinge of irritability. It would seem that, despite his studied nonchalance about the weather, he too is less than comfortable in this heat. “Send your maid. I’m sure she’s hovering about somewhere.”
He glances sharply over at Jonn as the Lannister makes his jape, but says nothing. It is then that Ser Doran’s invitation is proffered, and he smiles. “I thought you’d never ask,” Connington replies. “But I fear I have you at a disadvantage; you in full plate, and in this heat?”
“He didn’t look very pretty, red and blistered under all that armour,” shrugs the ironman.
Nodding to the women—and after a pause, Jonn—he seats himself on a handy butt, eyeing the Marcher knight and his guardsmen: “And the war is far from over, ser. The reavers back on the islands fight as these Dornishmen are doing now, pillaging and melting back to their ships. Before this is over, the Young Dragon is going to be pining for another Carrion Wood instead.”
The Blackbolt offers a nod of agreement to Almer when he makes mention of his disadvantageous predicament, and waves the guards away yet another time. The two guardsmen do not need any further goading, and they join Ser Doran’s young squire in the shadow of the tree. He raises his sword to his face, offering a salute to the Connington, before he slams his visor down with a resounding clang. “I give way to your reputation, Ser Almer, you may have the first strike.” He offers cordially, before turning his eyes to regard the Lannister for a brief moment.
“We shall see, Ser Jonn.” Doran says in regards to the young lion’s assessment of the Targaryen’s war of conquest. He turns his attention to Almer, and bringing up his shield, prepares for the skirmish at hand.
“Yes, do please, Carmella—and ask him to invite Lady Aurana to share our shade while we watch this friendly little match.” Reyna doesn’t react to Almer’s grouchiness; she only smiles at the men once more, then sits with rigid posture to watch.
Unbuckling his swordbelt, Almer leans the blade against the railing. He then tugs on a pair of heavy gauntlets and steps over to the weapons rack. He selects a blunted tourney sword, tests its heft and balance, and apparently satsified, takes a battered shield as well. “Just like the old days,” the griffin knight remarks to Ser Dagur. “Perhaps this time we won’t end up in the Small Council’s parlor.”
He steps up to face the Dondarrion, raising his sword in salute; the bright sun glitters dully along its edge. Then with a deceptive, almost lazy forward motion, he aims a probing overhanded strike at Doran’s upper body.
Carmella’s gesture to one of her knights isn’t immediate, for she’s caught watching Reyna bobbing up and down as if the woman has quite lost her mind. “Reyna…” The word is questioning, but she soon remembers herself and motions towards one of the knights. He bends over while she murmurs instructions in his ear and he looks none too pleased by what she says. Nevertheless he gives her a nod and stiffly walks over to Aurana before he heads into the Holdfast.
“My lady Aurana, the ladies Carmella Dondarrion and Reyna Tyrell would bid me invite you to join them.” Without waiting for a reply he turns and heads off to find one of Carmella’s maids.
“Care to place a bet, Ser Dagur?” the Lannister asks, the two young Swyft lads now at his side. His eyes glitter impossibly bright as he looks upon the Iron Islander.
The look Reyna gives Carmella sparkles, unlike her demeanor. “Let there be no criticism of my upbringing by man or maid,” she says, raising a brow quickly. “I cannot allow any chink in my armor that might allow one of these gallant knights—so brave!—to carry tales of my impropriety. What would my poor lady mother say?”
Doran seems ready to raise the shield as the lazy strike comes at him, but at the last moment his sword strikes out to ward off the blow with a parry, his shield dropping low as he does in attempts to stave off any riposte the Connington might bring to bear. The knight already is breathing heavily, and from within the armour it sounds as if some beast was behind the helm, instead of the renown knight of Blackhaven.
As the Blackbolt’s blade comes up to parry the slow strike coming from the Connington, his boot appears from underneath his shield, thrusting out in a kick aimed at the dancing griffin that is embroidered on the knight’s jerkin. “Too slow, Ser Almer.” He states through heavy breaths, the metal encompassing him still giving him a strange hollowness to his tone.
The approach of the Dondarrion knight is met with mild surprise by the Buckler lass. A small curtsy is given the man and, at his words, she smiles softly. A murmured word directs her own guard to follow her as she picks her way across the yard, pausing before the makeshift shade to offer a deeper curtsy to the women within. “Lady Reyna. Lady Carmella,” she greets, her cheeks flushed faintly from the heat and the short walk over.
Carmella watches as the sparring begins, but she continues to watch Reyna out of the corner of her eye as if she isn’t sure just what is going on. “Of course, lady Reyna, none of us would wish that,” she agrees politely and then looks back to the action before them until Aurana’s arrival distracts her again.
“Ahh, Lady Aurana, please have a seat and join us in watching our most noble knights,” she says with a smile, no hint of anything but complete sincerity when she speaks. “There is some chilled wine on the way,” she adds before turning back to Doran and Almer.
You paged Doran with ‘No worries. I was going to suggest we exchange a few parries before Doran begins to wear down. When you feel you’re ready, you can yield; you know your character better than I do, of course.’
“Dear Lady Aurana, do share our shade with us. These gallant knights are giving us a fine display of their wondrous skill,” Reyna says, fussily brushing a minute bit of lint off her skirts. “It’s so wretchedly hot, and you looked so very alone that I could not but beg Lady Carmella to invite you.”
“I don’t wager,” grunts the ironman, chin propped upon a fist as he watches the duel’s first exchange. “Not that there’s much to wager on. Ser Almer will win. Only man I’ve met whom I haven’t been able to beat.”
Ser Almer is taller than his fellow Stormlands knight, and so he attempts to use his superior reach to full advantage. Spinning from Doran’s apparent counterattack, he is not quite fast enough to evade Dondarrion’s kick. The blow catchs Almer on the ribs, and he grunts in pain. But with the movement comes momentum, and the knight of griffins is a natural swordsman. He parleys his motion into a backhanded cut, surging forward and to one side even as his blade arcs towards Ser Doran’s extended sword arm.
Aurana’s smile widens slightly with such a greeting from both ladies. “You honor me,” she murmurs softly in reply before actually stepping beneath the shade to find herself a seat. Another obeisance is given to those knights nearby who are not currently sparring and then she settles down. “The heat has become rather oppressive. I almost regret that I have no family in the North to visit,” the lady offers teasingly as she sets her skirts to rights. Though she speaks with the women, her eyes are upon the fight before them. “How do you both fare this day?”
Eyeing the Rowan noblewoman from the corner of his eye, the ironman shakes his head, then turns his attention back to the duel.
When the Blackbolt’s sword strikes true, Reyna gasps dramatically. “Oh, Ser Doran,” she warbles, waving her handkerchief, “do be careful!” Then she clucks her tongue and looks at her companions. “That will leave a bruise, I swear it will. Poor dear Almer, I shall have to beg a maester to attend him directly they are finished.”
Doran’s blunted broadsword thrusts out again as the Connington seems to be unaffected by his kick, a lazy parry coming out in attempts to catch the unexpected backhanded strike. The Dondarrion’s blade catches the Connington’s, but such momentum is behind it that it sends his sword backwards to clang off the side of his metallic helm. The Blackbolt staggers back, seeming confused at the sudden speed of Ser Almer after his first strike was so lazy, and he brings his shield up again as he prepares for the griffin to press the attack. “Whom did you squire for?” Doran questions almost in disbelief, his breath sounding as heavy as the full plate he wears.
“The weather is quite foul, but otherwise the day goes well enough for me,” Carmella says with a smile to Aurana but Reyna distracts her. Again she gives Reyna an odd look and then glances back to the knights. “Our men are made of sterner stuff that that, Lady Reyna. Certainly a few bruises are nothing to them,” she assures her friend with a light pat to Reyna’s arm.
It’s about at that time that some members of Carmella’s household arrive, bringing with then the requested chilled wine. The Dondarrion guard returns as well, trailing the servants and resumes his proper duties. The servants busy themselves with pouring the wine and offering it to the three women beneath the sun shade.
Aurana regards the sparring with open curiosity, wincing only slightly when contact is made. Reyna’s words draw the lady’s attention, blue eyes lifting towards the woman in slight confusion. “Certainly the Lady Carmella is right. They wear their bruises and scars as badges of honor, it would seem. As well they should. Though… your concern does do you credit, my lady,” she murmurs. As ever, there is a hint of puzzlement in her countenance though that fades quickly to warmth as the wine is offered. “Thank you. And thank you as well, Lady Carmella. It was kind of you to have your people look after us. How fares your lady mother?”
“Oh, my, thank you so very much for correcting me,” Reyna gushes to Aurana, pressing her fingers rather hard on Carmella’s arm as she leans over the Dondarrion to speak. “Really, I don’t know what I’d do without these little reminders since I outgrew my septa. I should run quite wild, I fear, without you darlings to keep me in line, and such knights as these to set the example of chivalry!”
Without pausing, Almer does indeed press on with his assault; shield upraised, sword whirling, he lunges against the unbalanced Blackbolt with the practiced ease of a predator. There is no chivalry here, nor any pretty display of showmanship; it is war, and if these weapons were not blunted, then death or maiming must be inevitable. “Sarmion Stormbreaker,” Connington replies through gritted teeth.
Ser Doran could not have asked a more unfortunate question, for with the Baratheon’s name comes all the strength of long years of anger and frustration of squiring for the notorious knight. Indeed, it seems that all the beatings, hardships, and humiliations of Almer’s squirehood are compacted into the swordblow that follows; a blow that, in other circumstances, might be deemed as meant to kill.
“Yes, we are quite fortunate,” Carmella says to Reyna warily before taking a welcome sip of the chilled wine. “Ahhh, I think this might be the best thing for you Reyna, it will help combat the heat,” she says, lowering the cup.
“My lady mother is well and quite busy as well,” Carmella says, looking back to Aurana and taking another drink. “It is kind of you to ask after her. I imagine her own business keeps her indoors, for I would imagine she would not wish to miss this,” she adds with a gesture towards the two knights.
Massaging his knee, the ironman laughs abruptly although there seems to be little enough in the duel to cause such amusement. He glances again at the women before turning back—just in time to watch the Connington knight’s last blow.
“Well, now,” he murmurs; his hand drops idly to his side where the sword-hilt would be were he carrying a blade.
No reply is given to Ser Almer as he makes mention of whom he squired for, for the Blackbolt is in a predicament of being pressed. He gives up ground yet again as the Connington comes in, seeming to bide his time for an opening in his rival’s defense. As the sword comes in, Ser Doran thrusts out his shield, allowing it to take the blow with a loud audible grunt at the weight that had been brought in behind it.
Doran’s sword hand comes behind his shield, pressing weight against it to stave off the blow, and masking the movements of his wrist to deceive where his next strike will come from. Yet the strike does not come from the sword, and a sudden press of Doran’s own places all the weight and strength he can call to muster behind his shield. He charges forth, hoping to use the shield to drive Ser Almer to the ground or at least several feet away from him, to grant him a small bit of reprieve to catch his breath.
“Seven hells,” Reyna says suddenly, the vapidity sliding off her face like a silken veil in the breeze. She leans forward, small hands on the rail, suddenly intent on the fight below. She absently takes a cup from the maid, mouthing her thanks without sound as her brown eyes narrow slightly.
Aurana blanches at Reyna’s reply, her blue eyes turning frosty for a moment, her cup hovering only a few inches from her lips. “My lady, no offense was meant. If anything, I’d thought I did indicate that you were to be lauded for you concern for your kinsman. I regret that you did misunderstand me, my lady.” She continues to watch Reyna for a moment, still uncertain in her dealings with her.
“Your mother was kind to me. I enjoyed my brief time with her greatly. She does seem quite proud of Ser Doran. And you as well, my lady. I believe, from what little she and I have exchanged, that you are everything she did hope you would be.” Her cup is lifted to the woman and then to her lips, sipping at it carefully and turning her gaze once more to the spar.
There is a thud of wood upon metal, and Almer takes one, then two steps back. The tall Stormknight grimaces, grey eyes blazing like cold fire; and though there is wrath in his eyes, there is likewise a smile upon his lips. He is in his element here, and clearly knows it. Now that the strengths and weaknesses of his foe are apparently laid bare, Connington takes his time with the next assault; his blunted blade, shimmering like liquid silver in the burning sun, is unwavering. The reprieve does not last. He leaps forward again, to make an end. The sword seems to sing even as it falls towards Ser Doran; unsubtle, irresistible and true, it is aimed squarely at the dubious defense of the Dondarrion’s practice shield.
All but unnoticed, Ser Jaesin Lannister has been idly observing the sparring from the shadows of the tall red wall. Clad not for combat but for court, he is resplendent as ever—perhaps he has gone unseen so long as the result of an uncharacteristic… silence?
But that ends now. “Split the shield, Almer,” he cries!
“Really, my dear Aurana,” Reyna says, suddenly vapid and sweet again. “You simply must learn to just smile when one has thanked you!” She smiles angelically, and leans over Carmella to pat the Buckler’s arm. “Truly, you sweet thing, I am grateful to you. Pray excuse, Carmella. How unforgivably rude of me to lean on you so.”
Doran offers the shield willingly to the Connington, taking the blow to cause yet another audible grunt to escape from his chest. The weight of the armour has begun to take its toll, and the heavy breaths of the renown Dondarrion knight betray that the man within is tiring. The shield hangs lower as the blow is accepted, the knight’s own strength seeming to leave him as his body prepares to shut down in the heat.
A lazy strike lashes out, attempting to ward the Connington to keep his distance, and to deceive him into thinking that he is still in for a long drawn out fight. “You need to be faster.” Doran warns, not understanding that Almer’s blade was directed at his shield to begin with.
Now that *is* surprising. Carmella looks back to Aurana, ignoring the two knights and her wine. “Really? I had not known my mother was quite so open with her praise,” she says, still stunned that her mother would say as much.
It takes some quick thinking and manuevering to keep out of Reyna’s way as the Tyrell leans over her. It is the wine that worries her more, but she gets her arm out of the way, but just barely. “Don’t worry Reyna, there has been no damage done, I assure you,” she kindly offers, again giving Reyna a cautious look.
Sword clangs against sword, and Ser Doran’s warding parry is undone. “Faster? Like this?” The Dondarrion’s attempt at instruction seems to annoy Almer, one of the most renowned swordsmen of the Conquest. He demonstrates with two steps forward and a fast, elegant thrust into the seams of Doran’s defenses; neither high nor low, but aimed just between shield and sword, it is a move that a lesser knight would be most unlikely to accomplish. Surprisingly quick, the blunted point flashes forward in a blur of motion.
“Yes, Connington,” chides a wryly smiling Jaesin Lannister. “You heard the man! Faster!” Laughing aloud, the heir to the Rock bites indolently into a nectarine. The juice trickles down his chin a bit before he wipes it back and adds—as if for good measure—
“He’s only half-Dornish, he won’t run as fast as the Martells do!”
“Fie, Ser Jaesin, why do you speak so about our very dear guests? Why, Prince Cadan is so distinguished, with such moral upright…” It seems that whatever Reyna’s about, she is barely able suddenly to maintain it. “Such moral uprightness as I have never seen. I learnt much from his didacticism the other day!” And she drinks swiftly from her wine goblet, squeezing her eyes shut -hard-.
Perhaps the outcome would have been different if Ser Doran Dondarrion was not laden with the weight of cumbersome plate in the boiling hot sun, but the fatigue of the knight can not be any clearer. The shield is lifted up to stave off the blow, but not in time, and the point of the blunted blade strikes him hard in the breastplate of his armour. It is a blow that would have pierced his protective garb, and a blow that holds with it enough strength to cause him to stagger back.
A loud grunt takes the knight, and he drops to his knees as he relinquishes his grip on his sword. It falls unceremoniously to the ground, and his shield follows suit. “I yield!” He calls, his gauntlet coming up to clutch the dent that has been placed on his armour. His other gauntlet comes up, and weakly throws the helmet off his head. His face covered in a thick dew of perspiration, causing much of his black locks to stick to his forehead. He gasps for breath, leaning against the ground, not even bothering to look at the Connington for the time being.
“About fucking time,” Jonn says, covering another yawn with his fist.
The tip of Ser Almer’s sword hovers just at Ser Doran’s neck; but it is, fortunately, a mere formality. This is a training exercise, after all. The tall knight’s shadow falls long upon the Dondarrion, perhaps providing some measure of relief from the scorching sun. Connington lowers his blade, thrusting it into the sun-baked sod of the field. “Well fought, Ser Doran,” he says, offering a hand to the man at his feet. Ser Jonn’s blithe comment goes either unheard or ignored.
Shaking his head, Ser Jaesin observes Doran Dondarrion’s fall and surrender with a smile of mild reproach. With a shrug of his shoulders, he pushes off from the wall and approaches the viewing stand, nectarine in hand. A nod for his brother, a vague acknowledgement for Saltcliffe, and then his eyes track to the women.
The source of that tale about Cadan Martell… there. And it’s Reyna Rowan again. Teeth gritted, Ser Jaesin forces a smile of polity if nothing else. “Cadan Martell is lecturing folk in the Sept? I say Prince Rhodry’s brother has no moral ground to stand on, my lady,” he says.
“He merely thought to lesson an errant lady, ser,” Reyna replies ingenuously. “And Ser Doran as well, of course. I have learnt ever so much from them, and from all who have so kindly sought me out to show me the egregious error of my ways.” There it is again, the vapid smile. The facade.
Now Carmella turns full towards Reyna. “My Lady Reyna, I fear that the day’s heat might make you swoon soon. I’ve seen it before, such temeratures can affect one poorly and I would hate to see you taken ill.” Carmella even lifts a hand to rest against Reyna’s forehead.
The green eyes of young Ser Jonn follow his brother’s progress, and a golden brow arches.
However, upon seeing the Tyrell woman’s facade, and listening to but a single word of her vapid conversation, his expression turns murderous.
Ser Jaesin’s smile tightens. “This is neither the time nor the place for such talk, Lady Reyna,” he says simply, his voice practiced and formal. Now his eyes track back to his brother’s—registering the look therein—and his gaze locks on Jonn’s for a moment.
Doran stays a moment on his prideless perch upon the ground, inhaling deeply the air as he attempts to catch his breath. Slowly he raises his eyes, thankful for the shade offered by the shadow of the Connington knight, regardless if it was his intention. He slowly raises his head, his hand shaking off one of his gauntlets, so he may remove the follicles of hair that have blended with the perspiration on his brow. “You don’t tire.” He states softly, his lungs finally getting the much needed air now that his helmet has been removed.
He reaches up, clutching Almer’s hand to assist him in his rising. “You are a testament to the unyielding strength of our people, Ser Almer.” He adds, letting his ungauntleted hand gesture to the young Tarell who has been observing the sparring session. “Lord Swann once told me in order to defeat you, I must do it with a horse and lance. I now know why.” Doran admits, offering a small smile of respect to shine through with his otherwise somber and exhausted appearance. “On foot, you are unstoppable, ser.”
Reyna bends her head and looks away from Jaesin. “Ill, yes. Quite ill indeed,” she says to Carmella, her tone suddenly dry. She rises then, and sends a smile to Jonn. “Many talents, Ser Jonn,” she says, raising a brow and turning pointedly away from the elder Lannister.
“You are welcome to try me with mount and lance any day of the week, ser.” Almer’s smile is hard. “I enjoy a challenge, and would welcome the chance to hazard myself against a man of your unblemished tourney reputation.” He tosses his shield and sword to a nearby footman. “Next tourney, find me, Doran. Thank you for the exercise; it was most invigorating.” Connington nods to the Blackbolt and steps away toward the stands; true to Ser Doran’s words, Almer seems hardly to have broken a sweat.
A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!
In a short distance, a dark steed races past. Golden hair flying, a delicate form upon it, there is impish laughter and a manic grin as Jyana Arryn, Jewel of the Eyrie, does a medieval drie-by.
This is followed by a running man in full armor, who’s at the very cusp of giving up, finally slowing, panting, and resting his hands on his knees.
His comment? “I’m -way- too old for this shit.”
Ser Noel catches sight of the crowd, eyeballing the Griffin knight in particular. “I heard I have you to thank for this.”
Black Jonn scoffs and turns away from the stand, walking toward the pair of Swyft boys under his supervision. “Well?” he asks of them angrily, putting his hands on his hips like a scolding septa. The two turn and run away as fast as their little legs will carry them.
For a moment, Almer’s eyes widen in surprise. Then he laughs. “You are welcome, ser. I can give you lessons as well; you’ll need them if you mean to catch her, riding like that.”
Carmella just stares, mouth open when she finally registers what has just sped by them. “Sweet Seven,” she says, looking back to Reyna. “I fear the heat has taken Lady Jyana as well.” She quickly takes a long drink of her wine and motions a servant to refill her cup.
Reyna looks over her shoulder at Jaesin suddenly, just after drinking the last of the cold wine from her cup. “The Gods loathe a coward, ser,” she says cryptically. Then she watches Jyana zip by, her mouth open for a long moment before she snaps it shut and turns to have her own goblet refilled.
“And you love them, I think,” replies Ser Jaesin in the wake of his brother’s departure. “Me? I simply run them down.”
And then the madcap gallop of another horse—or is it Noel Standfast, all afoot—gives Jaesin Lannister a welcome reprieve from his brother and the Rowan woman. But he does not take it, only standing where he is.
“I’ll remember that,” Ser Noel grunts. He looks -a little- amused, but not much. Instead, Standfast turns around, uncaring of the sweat pouring from his brow. Seeing another young-un riding nearby, he walks up to him. “Get off, boy. I mean to kidnap your bloody horse for ten minutes!”
He’s on his way soon after, galloping after his charge, but he’s not happy. Sad that she wasn’t a man, he knew the exact punishment he would use.
You paged Reyna and Dagur with ‘Well, you have to fire me first anyway. Then I’ll soften him up. Prevail upon his honor/ego, or whatever.’
There was a particular brand of water torture he’d been itching to try.
Reyna looks down her nose at Jaesin, from her vantage above him, then smiles to herself and bids Carmella farewell before wandering off toward the Guest Tower, goblet still in hand.
Carmella offers farewells to the lady Reyna, watching her as she goes, eyes filled with concern. With a shake of her head Carmella takes another drink and looks towards where the knights had been fightings and she waits until her brother looks in her direction to lift a hand, waving him over.
His charges sent off, Jonn turns back to his brother. He watches the elder Lannister a bit curiously and slowly makes his way over. He has apparently missed Jyana’s mad dash through the yard—that, or he’s got more important things on his mind.
Doran moves behind Ser Almer as he moves to the stand, noticing for the first time the ladies that are present there, mostly due to his sister’s wave. A warm smile seems to cross over his overly tired features, and he motions yet another time to the young Tarell Darklyn who sat with his men-at-arms in the shade of a tree. His young squire follows obediently, plucking the sword, shield, and gauntlet from the ground as he hurries towards Ser Doran.
“Well met, ladies.” He offers them, giving one of his bows of practiced courtly elegance to show that the man takes his formalities seriously. The Blackbolt doesn’t seem to wait for his squire to reach his side, and begins removing the last gauntlet that wears. “I hope you found the show to your liking?”
Nonplussed and laconic as ever, Ser Jaesin ignores the woman’s scorn—if ever he noticed it. Smiling apologetically to Carmella where she sat beside Reyna, he merely shrugs his shoulders—It’s as if to say, ‘There’s no accounting for taste’—And turns more fully to regard the comic scene in the yard. “Still teaching falcons to fly, Almer? Or is it gemstones,” he chides his friend and kinsman from afar. “Good luck in it.” Now he looks to Jonn as his brother approaches.
“Whatever is that woman about? It’s hardly my fault that she spurned my goodwill,” Ser Jaesin remarks, allowing for mild annoyance.
Carmella returns the Lannister’s smile and then gives one last glance in the direction Reyna went before her brother’s voice draws her back again. There’s lingering traces of the smile she had for Jaesin, but it doesn’t grow at all.
“It was quite entertaining,” she says to her brother and sips from her wine. “Much more so than had you restricted yourself to your own men,” she notes. “I do need to speak with you, brother. There are some financial matters that need seeing to that require your input and I’d like to make sure that the household budget is not stretched too thin. Might you find some time soon to that we might go over the numbers?” Her dark eyes look past him to where he had been fighting. “A bit dull, but most certainly necessary,” she adds.
Jonn glances back over his shoulder Almer and then says, “You are a white bastion of goodness in this black, filth of a city, brother.” In his defense, he tries not to smirk. But he is Black Jonn, and it is just not in him to withhold such emotions. “I expect she misses you. In your absence, she’s rather gone off the deep end of a shallow stream, hasn’t she?”
“The Jewel has learned near as much as I can teach her,” Almer answers Jaesin with a rueful laugh. “Any more and she’ll be riding me into the ground.” He takes a proffered cloth from one of the squires and dries his forehead; it seems that he does, after all, sweat in this heat. Reyna’s abrupt departure goes ignored, despite the obvious reminder of her in the green ribbon fluttering on his bicep. The conversation between the Lannister brothers, however, draws him in. “Go easy on Reyna,” Almer mildly requests. “She’s been through a great deal this year. She is trying, you know.”
Ser Jaesin lets the first barb go unanswered—wearily drawing a deep breath instead, as if girding himself for a task of frightfully boring proportions. Fixing Jonn with an inquisitive glance, he begins to speak—but holds off in favor of Almer.
Almost as if in response to Connington as much as his brother, Jaesin only then answers, “A lion devouring a rose, dear brother? You’re subtle as an alley cat, and as indisciminate in your prey. What drove you to it?”
The Blackbolt nods in response to his lady sister, glancing behind him to take notice of his young squire coming up to assist him with the removal of the oppressively hot armour that he is contained in. “As you will, lady sister.” He states, bringing his gaze back to her when she brings mention of necessity. “Our lady mother has spoke about a dinner possibly for us all to sit down, as we did in Blackhaven. I understand your duties keep you away from the Lady of Blackhaven as much as my own. She misses us.” He admits, letting his eyes scan over the others who speak of Arryns and Tyrells.
Carmella frowns a little and finishes her wine. “I see our lady mother on quite a regular schedule, brother. She has no reason to complain for lack of my company. But dinner would be most welcome, certainly. There is much that needs to be discussed between us,” she says with a pointed look towards her brother. The glass is handed to the nearest servant. “We are not the only ones who have busy, I am sure mother would welcome the opportunity.”
Black Jonn shrugs in response to his brother, again glancing at Almer. “I had other prey in sight. I can’t be held accountable for a flower being lured to treachery by a twain of witches, can I?” His eyes sweep over the Dondarrions and his lips curl in disgust.
“Then it is I who have been shirking in my responsibilities as a devoted and loving son.” Doran admits, his smile seeming to fade at the thought of that. His emerald gaze turns to the Connington knight who bested him in an impressive display of constitution, offering him a significantly weaker smile than the one he showed him when he assisted him to rise. “Ser Almer, perhaps you and your lady cousin would dine with us as well? Lessons of humility are to be rewarded with vintage wine from the Arbor.” He states cordially, not seeming too upset that the fellow stormlander had forced him to yield.
“Ser Jaesin and Ser Jonn, the Lannisters as well could be welcome at our table if you wish to join us? I am certain the spread that can be afforded will be far shy of what Casterly Rock could muster, but I offer you pleasant company in form of my beautiful mother and sister in exchange.” Doran adds, directing his invitation directly at the heir of house Lannister, rather than the Black Jonn.
“We are welcome at all tables throughout the realm,” Black Jonn responds despite the question not being addressed to him. “But not even our gold can buy a dish that will mute the smell of Dornish filth.”
Carmella is struck silent by her brother’s invitations but her gaze travels to each man in turn, her shock evident. “Doran, that is indeed generous, but I don’t imagine anyone else would be interested with what we need to discuss,” she says, leaning over to speak to Doran. “You will need seek me out seperately, I’ll not dicuss family finances at what you’re turning into a formal dinner, brother.” But she need not have said anything, not with Ser Jonn’s oh so polite response. Her back stiffens and she looks over at Jonn for a long moment. “Then perhaps you would do better to return to Casterly Rock, good ser, for I fear that ‘Dornish filth’ is found throughout King’s Landing.”
Almer studies Jonn pointedly. “I expect you know my answer to that, cousin.” He tosses the towel to the footman. “I’m off. Let’s have a drink sometime,” he tells the brothers. Then, to Ser Doran: “I cannot speak for Reyna, of course. But I would pleased to do so. May I bring a guest?”
Again cut off—this time by Doran Dondarrion and Jonn himself—in a response to his brother, Ser Jaesin looks aside from his kinsmen to regard the so-called Blackbolt.
“I am afraid,” the elder Lannister says politely, “that for myself, I must decline. But I thank you for the offer of such fair company,” he adds, smiling at Carmella in pointed contrast to his kinsman’s bile.
Now Jaesin looks back to Jonn, and to Almer. He seems poised to say more, but only adds, “I have other demands on my time. Good day to all of you.”
And with that, he turns and is off along the paved paths.
“And nowhere is it more prevalent than in your bedchambers,” Jonn retorts to Carmella. “Or perhaps the stain upon your dresses? I seem to recall the odor of Red Dunes and Skyreach being amongst the most vile.”
Carmella’s mouth drops open in shock at Jonn’s sudden vile retorts and her cheeks pale as she resists every urge within her to strike the knight if she could. “Ser, you go too far,” she breathes, her own tone venomous as her fists clench at her sides. “Believe whatever you wish, for the Seven know that your mind can conjure the most disgusting of situations, but I know what I am and that is a loyal maid.”
Doran nods politely as Carmella speaks to him, and offers her a disarming smile of good nature. “Certainly, my lady sister. I will come to your quarters in the following days after I escort my charge to service.” Doran’s eyes then move to Almer, looking over his face for a brief moment as if his own features would betray who his guest would be.
“Of course, my lord of Connington. You are most welcome to bring a guest to the dinner. Expect to hear from a servant of our household to inform you of the time and place for our little banquet.” Doran replies cordially, offering another one of his beautiful bows to both his sister and the knight. His young squire busies with removing the pauldrons of the knight, as Ser Doran turns his eyes to the sharp-tongued Lannister.
“I will tolerate your attacks on me, Ser Jonn, but do not presume that I will allow you to speak ill of my sister or her friendships. Your reputable brother will not save you from my wrath if your words bring damage to House Dondarrion.” It is the last that is afforded the Black Jonn, a man who was invited to dinner not moments before. Doran spins on his heels, and stalks off towards Maegor’s Holdfast. Doran’s young squire scoops the plate he had managed to remove while the knight spoke with the other nobility, and his little legs carry him swiftly to follow in the Blackbolt’s wake.
As Doran is speaking to him, Jonn nods his head once, twice, again.
“Never fails,” he says with a nasty laugh. “Lectures like a septon, then turns and runs like a little girl. Mayhaps you ought to father Vaith’s bastard after all, lady. The child will likely prove a better champion.”
He aside, and like the others before him, saunters off—his own destination being the city proper through the bronze gates.