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Sites of Interest
Words at Dawn
IC Date: Day 3 of Month 11, 162 AC
RL Date: July 09, 2011.
Participants: Alyard Corbray and Katla Greyjoy
Locations: Red Keep: Western Outer Yard

Summary: What starts as merely an observation of Ser Alyard’s riding at the quintain turns into a conversation about valour, honour, duty, and commitment.

Red Keep: Western Outer Yard
Dark but never bereft of light, torches in sconces about gates and the entrances of buildings provides a faint flickering illumination that leaves only the central part of the western end of the outer yard itself in the gloom. More light pours from the windows of the towers and other structures. Guards make their rounds, sometimes with a torch at hand and sometimes not, occasionally challenging one another or hammering the butt of a spear on the stone of steps or cobbled paths to call out the time. The great bronze gate is usually shut after sunset but the postern gate is kept open and guarded for men on foot or horseback to come and go.

The outer yard continues a great distance beneath the high red walls, encompassing the smaller inner yard from which the highest peak of the Maegor’s Holdfast can just be glimpsed. Here in these northern and southern quadrants of the outer yard, the royal sept and the kitchens can be found, among a number of other structures. To southwest is the great stableyard where horses of guests and the City Watch are kept. Rising in the east is the high wall separating the outer yard from the inner and Maegor’s Holdfast, the only passage through being a lone portcullis. To the west, the bronze gates lead out of the castle entirely.

The sky slowly changes from dark grey to pale. Everything is veiled by fog. The air feels damp and chilly, and there is little wind.

Dawn is approaching the east coast of Westeros and already the sky is turning a pale shade of blue. The outline of the battlements above and the silhouette of early rising seabirds can clearly be seen. A few torches still burn in the sconces, a few more move around as guardsmen step into the darker parts of the keep.

The ambient noise is growing steadily louder too, the kitchens are already a hive of activity, a trio of cook boys running across the yard stand testament to this. Above all of the noise is the thunder of hooves followed by a crack!

Riding his brilliant white charger is a knight in full shining plate, Ser Alyard Corbray one might judge by the lance coloured with swirling black and white. His white surcoat also bears his personal arms, a single raven bearing a heart in flight. The handsome Valeknight’s long wavy black hair shifts easily in the wind behind him.

Alyard charges at the quintain, his horse rapidly picking up speed…

Alyard’s horse moves at a rapid gallop towards the quintain…

Alyard lowers his lance, aims at the splintering shield and strikes the shield a remarkable blow that shatters it entirely and makes the lance flex ominously!

A squire rushes up to clear away the shards and splinters that Alyard reduced the shield to. After a few moments, he hangs up a brand new one.

No lady to lie abed and linger idle and indolent, this one. No, dawn is coming and with it the ironborn woman Katla Greyjoy has risen to see the rising sun, as is often her wont. This morning she is escorted by her ladies both, a small young thing no more than five-and-ten, and an older matron as beetle-browed and frowning-faced as any septa might ever wish to be. Behind them are a pair of men-at-arms with the Greyjoy sigil sewn on their jerkins, and their lady pauses at the fence, watching the knight at the quintain.

Alyard charges at the quintain, his horse very slowly picking up speed…

Alyard’s horse moves at a slow trot towards the quintain…

Alyard lowers his lance, aims at the pristine shield and strikes the shield a solid blow that leaves it battered!

Walking to the fence and leaning against it, the kraken’s daughter watches, curious, and ensures she is positioned well enough away to avoid most of the splinters, should they shatter. The guards seem less interested, and the older woman, but the small thin maid is nearly hidden behind her lady’s skirts but watches with saucer-wide eyes. Her mistress if, of course, more restrained - but the curiosity is clear.

Alyard wheels his horse around and heads back up to the fence to start a fresh charge. He spots the Greyjoy maid and offers a curt nod, lifting a hand to brush a few stray locks of hair behind his head. “Good morning, my lady.” He utters, glancing down at her with a wry grin forming on his lips.

He looks ahead and kicks his heels into Frost and thunders across the yard before hitting the shield with a solid blow, wheeling his horse around and returning to the fence. “So, what brings a lady into the yard this early?” He asks as he tosses his lance aside and swiftly swings out of the saddle and lands gracefully, abeit with a loud clatter from his armour.

“What should keep me from it?” She calls back to him, amusement playing across her features. “Good morning, Ser… Alyard, if my memory serves.” Katla looks down at the maid near her, and shakes her head a bit wryly. “I am surprised to see a knight at practice at this hour, with the chill yet in the air and the pale dawn light barely gracing the Keep. You must have been up when it was yet dark out, to get yourself and your horse readied so.”

“Your memory serves, Ser Alyard Corbray, my lady. Lady Katla Greyjoy, correct? He asks as he ties Frost’s reins to the fencepost. “The cold doesn’t bite so hard with the heat given off by Frost.” The Valeknight pats his horse on the flank before leaning on the fence, crossing his arms at the wrist. “Trouble sleeping?”

“I rarely sleep past the dawn,” Katla confesses, “and I have no doubt my ladies and guards would dose me with dreamwine or milk of the poppy if they thought it would keep me abed longer. It has been a habit long since childhood, and I am too old to try to break it now.” She smiles wryly. “So now, as there no boats to sneak out in, nor rope-bridges between keeps to clamber on as the sun rises, I while my time with learning the keep’s grounds and people.”

She eyes the charger for a few moments, considering, before turning back to the Vale man. “I have no doubt your horse will be well glad for feed and rest after brisk morning exercise,” she adds wryly. “Is dawn practice a routine for yourself as well?”

Ser Alyard listens to Katla with that smile remaining on his lips, a nod at the mention of being too old to break a habit. “A deserved rest, he has served me well for years, my Frost.” The Valeknight gives the horse a quick glance, showing a little affection for the beast.

“Lady Arryn is usually still abed at his time, I would feel odd starting my day without a spell in the yard. Have you watched me before?” He asks, gesturing for a stableboy to collect the horse.

Katla shakes her head. “I have not - of some mornings I take to the solar, others the godswood to look at all the bloody trees,” she says cheerfully. “Too many of them in one place. I dread the Kingswood, all the leaves and nary the scent of salt in the air. I have started perusing the library,” and she jerks her head towards Maegor’s Holdfast, “so had planned to slip inside this morning, but this is a more than pleasant distraction from musty tomes.”

“The solar, the last place you wish to go if you seek silence.” Alyard utters with a smirk, still leaning on his wrists. As he glances over the Maegor’s, a few stands of hair come away from his ear and brush against his cheek. “The Kingswood, I will see it tonight, perhaps I will share the experience with you when we next meet.” He offers a playful bow of the head at the mention of the welcome distraction before asking. “So, you are to become the Lady Serry, correct?”

Katla’s mouth pulls up, then down, in indecision. “My father has betrothed me to Lord Serry of Southshield,” she says carefully, “so inasmuch as that would make me the Lady Serry, yes. Though that is, I think, at least a season off if not longer, dependent on the way matters in the Reach go. I have already made it clear that I will not be wed until the situation is closer to being resolved and there is no accusation of ignoring the problem for my own pleasure.” She grumbles slightly. “So - you are taking to the Kingswood for the campaign, then? How long do you expect it will be?”

“The Reach is certainly going through a rough patch, first with the Meadows trying to make war against the Reynes, and now this…” Alyard shrugs before adding. “Probably a wise decision to delay it, you have your whole life to enjoy life as a Lady of the Reach…” Alyard smiles, though it doesn’t appear he’s teasing her, not outwardly at least.

The knight watches his horse trail off into the stable and turns back, his armour clinking as he does. “Who knows, it could be days, it could take weeks if we are lead on a lengthy chase, I will be with them of course, the Vale needs to show a face in the Crown’s matters.” And a familiar one at that, though he leaves it unsaid.

Katla nods. “I have no doubt the Lady Belissa will wed her betrothed - Ser Astos, I believe he is kin of yours, a Corbray? - before the Lord Serry and I.” She smiled dryly, clearly a bit amused. “Had Lord Serry not been… injured,” and her lips pull down; this is clearly a matter of annoyance to her, “I am certain he would be along with either the Kingswood Company or the company headed to Crackclaw Point. As it is, he shall remain and I think has intent to speak with Ser Dagur and Ser Luthor upon their returns to offer future assistance, as he knows well he would be of little use when all fighting arms are needed.” She pauses, and shrugs. “I wish you good luck routing the brigands, though with a knight of your fame as a duelist, I do not think you will need much luck. Only the opportunity.”

“Oh, is Astos betrothed? I struggle to keep up with my kin.” Alyard utters dismissively, also omitting Astos’ title. It is no secret he is the black sheep of the Corbrays, the Black Heart may be more apt a name for the knight. “I am an officer in Dagur’s wardenry, so I will be going from the Kingswood to Cracklaw Point, it will be a lengthy engagement for this one.” The knight smiles. “I have discussed this with Lord Justyn, he seems disappointed to miss the campaign, perhaps the melee was a bad decision.” It was Ser Alyard’s melee that injured the Reachlord so sorely, though Alyard doesn’t apologise for actions on the field.

At the mention of his fame, the Valeknight bows his head once more. “You are too kind, my lady. Justyn may be the only man left in the keep, you will have to keep your eye on the reaving ladies…” He smirks at that.

“It is never a bad decision to hone one’s skills, Ser Alyard - it’s a bad decision to let yourself be hit,” Katla responds with a glimmer in her eyes - amusement, ferocity, who knows exactly what it is? “I think the Lord Serry has learned his lesson, at least with the maester that checks in on him… as well as the maester I send to harangue him on occasion,” she adds with a clearly wicked grin, “so he learns from his choices.” To the other comment, well, she simply shrugs, shoulders undulating beneath her cloak. “The ladies can try to their heart’s desire, though I think they will find themselves sore disappointed with the reactions they get. He does not like to crush their hearts - unfortunate when they throw themselves at him, sadly… rather like fish swimming into a trap.”

She considers for a few moments. “I know some have already departed for Crackclaw - I wish you the best in that engagement as well. You certainly seem to be seeking the heart of the battles, Ser Alyard,” she quips. “Is that your heart’s home?”

“Words to live by, those. Any who are skilled enough to hit me rarely get a chance to swing a second blow, I see to that.” Alyard straightens and rests his right hand on the red heart-shaped stone set into the pommel of his longsword before walking around the fence. Stopping beside Katla he leans back onto the fence and looks out into the yard. “I struggle to see an Ironborn lady threatened by green girls from the western realms, you do not disappoint.” Alyard utters with another smirk, though his cold grey eyes remain on the empty yard.

As for the talk of Cracklaw point, Alyard nods. “It is what I do, my lady. It would be a shame to disappoint.” He adds, though the next words are caught for a heartbeat in his throat at Katla’s little quip. Eventually he glances at her, his grey eyes reflecting the morning light coming over the battlements, like a couple of hot coals in a bed of ash. “My heart has no home, my lady, I have but this one…” Alyard taps the red stone shaped like a heart with his finger, the steel gauntlet making a clinking sound against the precious stone. It too catches the morning light.

Katla listens, and her eyes glance to the pommel-stone as he touches it, and nods idly, looking back up to his face. “There is little they can do to threaten me. They mouth courtesies and I have seen the lies as well as the truths come spilling out - one mentioned she’d been threatened with wedding a Greyjoy, like as not my brother. I advised her I did not think she could survive the islands, and it is true. The women here are different,” she shrugs, and seems to resist the urge to swing up onto the fence. “Romny - Captain Romny - has despaired of me. What was it… becoming a simpering silk-clad meek-mannered waif. I think he has little to worry about, though I have been on my best behaviour.” She pauses, a heartbeat.

“Mostly.”

Katla glances up to him, and purses her lips, then chews thoughtfully on the inside of her cheek. “I know the feeling to have no home, Ser Alyard. Or one so easily discounted by others as a true home that it is rendered…” she trails off, and shakes her head again, tucking an errant strand of hair behind one ear, touching the chunk of amber at her throat. “Difficult to understand, shall we say.”

“They know little outside of their sewing and little songs, some few of us are a different breed, the Iron Islands and the Vale can be harsh lands. Mine may have lush valleys and the grandeur of the Eyrie, though mountain folk and harsh winters breed a fierce and noble people.” Alyard looks Katla over, an appraising look perhaps, he continues to lean on the fence, his head turned to look at her.

“I haven’t met your brother, he is wrong though, that fire is still burning bright in you, it look that way anyway.” Another shrug. “As long as you behave, even for the most part…” That wry grin returns once more and Alyard looks away.

He takes a few long moments to digest her words, his long jet black hair shields his face as he looks out at the yard. Eventually he turns back and says. “Impossible, for those who have not experienced it. It is our lot, you need to take what the Gods have given you and make it your own. Fame isn’t won without blood, gut and sweat. I might find my home one day as will you, we might find our hearts hidden where we least expected them to be.”

Katla looks out over the yard, quiet for a bit. “We haven’t lush valleys, but we have the sea - the breakers crashing against Pyke, Harlaw, Saltcliffe, Old Wyk… It’s a hard place, a rough one, with no tolerance for weakness. The weak…” She shakes her head, and then puts a hand on the head of small maid that huddles behind Katla’s skirts, occasionally looking up to Alyard with eyes wide with a mixture of fear and challenge. “The weak, or the damaged, find themselves protectors, or they find themselves back in the arms of the Drowned God.” The maid snorts once, a purely nasal sound, and glares up at her mistress, but there’s affection in the scowl.

“The ladies here, I feel, would not find things as they would be used to. It is easier, perhaps, to tame something than it is to inspire fight where there is none. Much the same, no doubt, with warriors - the squires who become knights, and those who never do.”

Alyard’s stormcloud gaze never shifts from the daughter of the Kraken as she speaks, he even nods once or twice at her words. His lips curl slightly, any more and it could well be a warm smile brewing. “Your strength is something few ladies have, even fewer keep it for long once they wed, I hope you do not change.” Alyard replies, glancing briefly at the maid.

“Knights are not to be taken on face value, the weak fail and become watchmen or men-at-arms, this is true, though do not let the ones who succeed fool you, the strong can die as easily as the weak. I could die in the Kingswood tonight, would you remember as a weak man, perhaps I wouldn’t be remembered at all…this is the song we wall dance to. A craven can hope to live many seasons than a true knight.”

“The craven will live knowing he is craven,” she answers equitably, “and that he may live longer than a true fighter, but will live half the life the fighter does. The old ways say the ironborn carved their kingdom out with fire and blood and iron, and be remembered in song. We have little enough kingdom now, but we are still remembered. The fighters are - the cravens never. If you die in the Kingswood, Ser Alyard, you die in the Kingswood a warrior. I doubt you would be forgotten,” she says, looking up and meeting his eyes for a few long moments.

“I think Lord Serry would not have me changed much - we have had our spats, oh, and it makes me glad to find there is spine in him,” she adds, and looks back over the yard. “He had the will to nag the Greyjoy for his surviving daughter’s hand - there’s spine, if not always much sense,” she murmurs, “so I cannot complain overmuch. I have no doubt Captain Romny and yourself will call me on it should I become some simpering weak-willed fool,” and Katla’s lips pull up in the ghost of a smile. “I will trust you to do that, in fact.”

“That he will…” Alyard replies to the comment about the craven knowing himself for what he is. His grey gaze meets hers, lingering for a heartbeat longer than it should. “You have my thanks…” He manages, smiling, just a little. “It will be many a year before a man can best me, Katla, though if one day you hear word of Alyard Corbray falling in battle, release a single raven for me, that’ll be worth more than a song.” The Valeknight peels his gaze away from the lady, looking up to the light coming down over the battlements, his eyes picking up those burning coals once more.

“I will let you know if you fail yourself, you need not worry. Just don’t forget that raven…” Alyard’s gaze returns to Katla once more.

“That he will…” Alyard replies to the comment about the craven knowing himself for what he is. His grey gaze meets hers, lingering for a heartbeat longer than it should. “You have my thanks…” He manages, smiling, just a little. “It will be many a year before a man can best me, Katla, though if one day you hear word of Alyard Corbray falling in battle, release a single raven for me, that’ll be worth more than a song.” The Valeknight peels his gaze away from the lady, looking up to the light coming down over the battlements, his eyes picking up those burning coals once more.

“I will let you know if you fail yourself, you need not worry. Just don’t forget that raven…” Alyard’s gaze returns to Katla once more.

Katla looks to him solemnly, her eyes bright but unreadable. “Agreed and sworn, Ser Alyard,” she says simply. “I have no doubt it will be many a year before they can best you, but they’ll batter themselves senseless trying to attain the heights you already fly at.” Her voice is quiet and considering, but she doesn’t turn from his face. “Like as not the only reason you will fall, I think, is if someone tampers with your horse, your gear, your armour. I have heard much of you, Ser Alyard, from the combat with the Bulwer man, and since I have arrived. So I think you have nothing to worry about.”

Her eyes and face turn back to the grey mists of the yard and the bustling folk that have begun to filter out in the course of the morning. “There is time enough for me to fail myself, and lose the things I have once done, or hoped to do. But such is the fate of women - from whatever land we come from. We are born to wed, and fight our battles in the bloody bed of childbirth. Less on the battlefield. In the Islands, even a woman can captain a ship. I never entertained the idea much beyond a trading galley. I wonder if I would yet stand here if I had walked that path.” She glances to Alyard, curiosity again on her features. “Was a knighthood always your future?”

Alyard doesn’t blush but he offers a warm smile, one reserved for a select few. “You are…too kind, my lady. I am capable, better than most of the knights in King’s Landing with a longsword, though every knight has the Stranger watching him with great interest, the Warrior has kept him at bay this far, like the others before me, my time will come. Better to die covered in glory than by soiled sheets , surrounded by heirs waiting for me to die…”

He taps the heart idly a few more times, listening to Katla share her fears. The Valeknight offers a reassuring smile, but speaks honestly. “You will find no place in King’s Landing with thoughts of being your own Captain, your place would be back in the Iron Islands…this isn’t Pyke, my lady. Things never change here, Kings come and go, the court remains.” The look changes to one of sympathy, but the subject changes once more. “I am no heir, I have no lands and cannot hope to hold any since I left Heart’s Home. I have only ever wanted one lady in my arms…” He pauses, catching himself, he sighs. “Lady Forlorn will never be mine, so as I said before, I had to make my own fame, it has taken sweat, guts and blood, lots of blood. Though here I stand, my lady, what do you see?”

Katla nods, lips curling down in thought, and looks back up to him. “No, my lord, I am not too kind - I am merely honest, perhaps a failing amongst the gilded tongues here. Should I better snap my kraken’s beak?” She makes the sharp snapping noise, teeth clacking together. “No, ser, I realise full well I shall never by a captain on her ship, queen in her meagre kingdom. The court and her exacting requirements always remain.” Her eyes turn back to the yard, and she puts a bit more weight on her arms over the fence. “We’ll hope I manage to survive them without sending half the court to maesters with… indispositions. The islands are as our - my -,” she corrects herself quickly, “god made them… and sometimes not so different from King’s Landing, and sometimes I think it is more than oceans and gods that separate us.”

She lets the silence linger a little longer, not finding it a strain but almost a comfort, wrapped in the mist. “You have lost your lady, and I think there is little the krakenspawn can do to aid you in taking her,” the dark-haired woman says, considering her words with care. “What do I see?” Katla straightens, takes a few steps back, and considers him with an objective look. “I see a handsome knight in plate, who has skill with horse and lance.” She tilts her head again, and walks around him, perhaps like a merchant examining a horse.

“I see a man who knows what justice is, what pain is, and what it means to fight and win.” With her long-legged stride, she returns back to her position near him at the fence. “A man who knows the weight of duty and vows all too well, and the equal cost of it.”

Alyard chuckles lightly at the young Kraken’s clacking, the point not lost on the man. He keeps his hand on his sword, but slips the thumb from his other under his belt as his companion continues. The long silence is happily shared by them both, Alyard shows no sign of discomfort, merely glazing at Katla before replying. “Your Krakens beak should remain, it’s your best feature…” Alyard jests, smiling once more. “Just learn when…and where to use it. ” He pauses before carrying on with more of a serious tone.

“The Iron Islands /are/ a world away, the Drowned God will find no sea water inside these wall, /outside/, yes, though you will have to listen hard to hear him.” Alyard adds no more than that, he doesn’t know, or much care for any gods other than the face of the Warrior.

He shifts a little one his feet, though his gaze remains on the young lady, where most would have found discomfort under such a cold look, Katla continues to speak. “I doubt I will see her again, though the Gods decided that before I ever took a breath, my song has little of the Lady in it…” He falls silent again as the Ironborn Lady moves around him, listening quietly as she speaks. He turns his head to the left as she paces, then looks to the right as she moves behind, his gaze ready and waiting for her return. It takes hims a few long moments to construct a reply, she appears to have summed him up in one revolution.

“You know me that well?” He asks, before adding. “Am I so easy to read, or do you just recognize one of your own?”

“Like calls to like, I’d say, else what other mad souls linger here in the grey winds of dawn?” She laughs softly, and her voice is dampened by the mist. Katla considers the fence briefly, and seems to discard the idea that had entered her head. “Your song may have little of the Lady in it, ser, but I think she has affected you more than you might acknowledge.” She leans against the fence, her back to it, and pulls the cloak around her a bit tighter, fingering the soft sable trim. “Turnabout, however, is fair play - and though I have my beak, I am yet a lady, and sufficiently curious to wish to know what you might see in me.” Her eyes are still bright, but there is a weight in them - still waters run deep.

Alyard nods, smiling at the comment. The look soon changes at the mention of the Lady one again, he shakes his head. “I might earn another one day, perhaps I will end up with a white mistress, in place of Lady Forlorn.” Alyard glances off in the direction of the White Sword Tower. “Who knows…” He utters quietly, almost a whisper before returning his glance to Katla.

He appears to have been caught off guard by the ladies question though, he looks up for just a moment, those coals burn bright in the light for just a moment before giving the Kraken a long, long look. “I see a pretty young lady, high-born and fiercely intelligent, hoping for a life befitting a Kraken, though you are resigned to Ladyship in the green seas of the Reach. You seek rolling waves, not squealing babes… ” He lifts a hand to brush a lock of hair behind his ear. “...I see a stranger, though one I have met many times before…”

Katla’s eyes flicker as she watches him. “I do not know if you would be happy with that mistress, ser,” she says, considering. “Would she bring you happiness - or only distraction? And would that distraction be enough?” It’s not exactly a question to Alyard, almost rhetorical, a nod to his comment of waves and babes. “Our lives are not our own, and I envy you your freedom and your choice,” she finally says, and looks up to him with a hint of sadness in her features. “And we are strangers, but I think it may not need remain that way overlong. I expect you will be back from the Kingswood and Crackclaw,” she says solemnly, “and if you are not there will be a raven - and I shall have words with your gods,” she advises. “But I do not expect that will be such. I would propose, ser, that we do this again sometime, some misty morning.”

Alyard offers a slow nod, conceding that Katla may be right, though it is soon followed by a warm smile. “I would fear for the Stranger the day that he wakes the Kraken, I will keep my blade sharp to save him the trouble.” He smirks and then nods once more, bowing for the lady in his plate which now glitters in the morning light he says. “I am here at dawn every day, I will look for you when the mists next fall.” He glances up. “I should return to the manse, the sun will see Lady Arryn rising soon, it has been a pleasure, my lady.” Alyard utters, though the once hollow words ring true, seldom as it may be.

Alyard looks to the guards and maids, offering flickering glances before giving Katla one last, long look.

Katla chuckles, and nods. “I will look for the mists,” she says to the Corbray knight. “Attend to your lady, and give her my greetings. It has indeed been a pleasure, ser. Ride well, if I do not see you again before you leave.” She awards him a smile - something warm and genuine, for all the complicated matters discussed. “And,” she calls after him with a wicked grin, “give the Lysene pirates hell, on my behalf!”

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