The king has returned!
Nearly four moons have passed since King Aegon, Fourth of His Name, departed the royal city of King’s Landing to take his first royal progress. Accompanied by his Hand, Lord Bracken, and his pregnant mistress, Lord Bracken’s daughter Barba, his ultimate aim was to visit Stone Hedge and while away time there. The journey to Stone Hedge was uneventful enough that much of the gossip left in the wake of the progress had to do with a king seemingly devoted to his own pleasures and a mistress willing to indulge them, from making use of the chambers of Lord and Lady Buckwell to bathing together in the holy baths at Maidenpool. Harmony between them was, it must be said, briefly disturbed when the progress stopped at Harrenhal where Lord Lothston—once master at arms of the Red Keep—and Lady Lothston—the king’s first mistress when he was still a youth—were all-too-pleased to host the grand entourage. Lady Lothston and Lady Barba did not get along, and the king’s intention to stay half a fortnight were cut short as the progress resumed.
Once at Stone Hedge, Lord Bracken made sure that his guests had every comfort. From far and wide, lords and knights associated with the Brackens flocked to give homage to the king, and many were the days that the king hunted through the riverlands with them. The king was so taken with the reception that he decided to summon Lord Tully so that he could extend his stay rather than continue on to Riverrun. Lord Kermit and his retinue, including Lord Blackwood and Lord Blackwood’s daughter Melissa, joined the king a few days later. Though Bloody Ben Blackwood refused to sleep beneath Stone Hedge’s roof, choosing instead to remain outside the castle in a guarded pavilion, he and his kin did join in the feast in the great hall, and there were those who later whispered that Lady Barba was displeasd by the king’s eye straying more than once to the young and beautiful Melissa Blackwood.
Half a fortnight more, and it was time to move on. Lord Tully returned to Riverrun, while the king and his progress continued on toward Pinkmaiden Castle where old Lord Piper hosted a fine tourney to celebrate the king’s presence. More importantly, out of the west came Lord Loreon Lannister and many of his knights and lords, to give homage to the king. The tourney was a grand affair, hotly contested, but the young bold knight Ser Quentyn Ball carried the day, crowning Lady Barba as the Queen of Love and Beauty. Shortly after, the progress resumes, lingering at Stoney Sept before continuing on to reach the Gold Road and turn east for King’s Landing.
Awaiting the king in the Red Keep’s courtyard was Prince Daeron, the Prince of Dragonstone, and his lady wife Princess Mariah of Dorne, the lords of the small council, the royal princesses Daena and Rhaena (but not Elaena, who remained obstinate in her anger that the court was beginning to talk of Lord Velaryon as being lost at sea) notable lords and knights… but not Princess Naerys, who has been in confinement due to the delicacy of her own pregnancy, with courtiers whispering that her belly is so large on her small frame that some fear this latest child may well kill her. King Aegon did not seem to miss his sister and queen, it must be said. With him came some new faces as well, most notably being the smiling, open-handed Lord Butterwell, a man who had ingratiated himself to the king at Stone Hedge and had been invited to join him at King’s Landing. It’s said the king has spoken of finding him some office.
And speaking of offices… while the king has been gone, it has been the Prince of Dragonstone and the small council that has steered the realm, sending messages to the king about matters but rarely hearing from him. From news that Lord Alyn Velaryon’s ship had perhaps foundered in a storm while chasing a corsair off the Stepstones, to rumors of pirates haunting the secret coves of Crackclaw Point, King Aegon seemed to have little enough interest in what to do about these matters and left them up to Prince Daeron to attend to it. Yet it’s said that Lord Bracken is of a different mind, and while the king was eager to feast on his return, Lord Kennoth was known to have spent much time consulting with the masters of the small council… but not, it must be said, with the Prince of Dragonstone.