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The morning of the wedding tourney to celebrate the union of Ser Willard Ryger, heir to Willow Wood, and Andrya Tully, began well. The field outside of Riverrun was crowded with the pavilions of great lords and knights from throughout the riverlands, and even beyond. More than eighty knights and esquires had entered their names in the herald’s rolls, and among them were well-known names: from Raventree Hall came Balian Blackwood and his kin, from Stone Hedge came Bloody Brus Bracken and Othan Blackmane and more kinsmen beside, the surviving Twin of the Crossing Ser Halder Frey, Argett Tailcutter from Feastfires, the groom’s famed uncle Ser Roger Ryger, the bride’s brother Ser Brynden Tully, the Iron Serpent Dagur Saltcliffe, Kendros Longaxe, and more besides. There were shocks—the fall of Roger Ryger in a single pass to Ser Jan Marbrand—and wonders—the Battle of Bracken between Bloody Brus and Othan Blackmane, the ten courses Ser Brus later ran against Balian Blackwood with eighteen broken lances between them—and mysteries—a contestant naming himself the Knight of Ashes who would later be unmasked in unconventional fashion. It seemed a fine day…
But for months now, tension had been brewing between the Blackwoods and Brackens, and though they had come in peace to the wedding, it was no great surprise that in the course of the jousting those tensions would begin to mount. And so, during the long series of courses between Ser Brus and Balian, something happened to disturb the watching Brackens, and some were seen to run away into the tents, towards the area where the Blackwoods had put up their pavilions and had kept their horses. And then when Ser Brus at last fell, on the tenth course, to Balian, he was urgently approached by his kinsmen—even the dazed Ser Othan, still suffering from the blow that his kinsman had used to unhorse him—and shouldered his way through the crowd. Most put it down to ill-grace, to having lost the contest—the Blackwoods and their kin in the crowd certainly thought so, raining derision on them—and the contest continued on.
And then chaos: Bloody Brus and his kin and their men-at-arms, all armed, screaming bloody murder, and the Blackwoods were defending themselves as Ser Oscar Tully and the Tully men-at-arms on hand tried to keep the combatants apart. Violence spilled into the stands as frightened women and men tried to get away from what was happening, and it was sheer panic in all directions. And the chaos mounted when others who had stood by suddenly leapt into the fray; some, wisely, tried to aid the Tully men (and the Rygers, for Lord Terin the Master of Laws had ties to both sides, and seemed to want nothing but peace between the two) to put an end to the fighting, but others chose sides, plunging in to support one side over another as Ser Dagur Saltcliffe and Jonn Lannister, the heir to Casterly Rock, did when they joined the Blackwoods in their defense. And one knight, the Knight of Ashes, seemed intent on slaughtering men on both sides, indiscriminately, blood spilling wherever he walked. It was all Lord Kermit could do to command the combatants to stop, for his son and his brother to bring to bear enough men-at-arms and guards and loyal knights to drive the combatants apart, and to seize the mystery knight before he could add more bodies to the count.
At the end, something like order was enforced. The mystery knight was unmasked as Ser Humfrey Westerling, once heir to the Crag, once betrothed to Jannia Tully. Lord Kermit had him stripped of his arms, and commanded him to remain until he had time to judge him. And then he turned his attention on the Blackwoods and Brackens, and ordered them to disperse, to await her judgment as well, and it was clear from the look in his eye that it would be harsh. Then Bloody Brus repeated the charges against the Blackwoods that had been barely understood, and the reasons for the rage of the Brackens became plain: his son Ser Hoster, who had ridden and fallen earlier in the tourney, had been found beaten into unconsciousness outside the Blackwood tents, and Ser Brus had been informed only in time to reach the young knight as he drew his last breath. Balian Blackwood dismissed it out of hand, as did the other Blackwoods, but Lord Kermit would have no more of their arguing—he had his men escort them away.
The tourney had begun in glory but had ended in debacle. Lord Kermit and Lady Tinessa were missing from the feast that followed, and so too were the Blackwoods, Brackens, and even some of their close allies and kinsmen; the famous Argett Prester, Ser Brus’s good-brother and former squire, could be counted among those. Rumors ran wild, and slowly was some of the wheat winnowed out from the chaff: Ser Hoster was tended to by a maester who reported his face had been beaten almost into unrecognizability; a group of Blackwood men-at-arms and squires had been seen leaving the area laughing about having beaten Brackens black and blue; Ser Hoster had said a message had arrived, calling him away from the tourney.
A long, fraught and sleepless night for the Tullys… and in the morning?
The Blackwoods and Brackens had defied her command, decamping in the night each to their castles, and with the Brackens went Tailcutter and his retinue, and some say others trailed after the Blackwoods. And now it seems the tensions will lead to war, a private war, but war none the less.
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