House Slagathor - Song of Ice and Fire

SESSION 21 (7/23/17)
Episode 11: Any Port in a Storm

Maester Meera, Rebekka, and Avlon sail down to Wickendon. It takes only a couple of uneventful days to reach the Bay of Crabs. To those who have never left the Vale, it seems like an impressively large city. It’s built in tiers into a hillside. Rather than investing in a navy, they have many, many towers around the area with archers equipped with fire arrows. Wickendon mainly trades with Westeros rather than Essos and deals in basics like ore, lumber, etc. An enormous tower looms over the city— the home of the Silent Sisters. The smell of hot wax permeates the city from their famous beeswax candles.

A small contingent of knights meets us at the port. Meera gestures for Avlon to go down the gangplank first and follows behind him with Rebekka and Raynar (Little Lilly is watching the shadowcat kitten with the rest of her menagerie). Welbert Waxley is among those greeting us. He’s the heir, one of the best archers in the Vale, and known for his parties. He engages in idle chitchat before escorting us to the keep. (Note: We sent a message to the Waxleys about the anti-pirate coalition but did not receive a response.)

We are escorted to a waiting area. This in itself is not unusual, but the room itself is very drab, dingy and boring. The Slagathors discuss quietly amongst themselves. Meera has vaguely heard of Maester Katern, who is known for being a financial genius and for keeping out of political matters as much as possible. He doesn’t go to conclave meetings or travel. Raynar can tell this room has been used a lot of late, so there have been other meetings. Rebekka keeps an eye on Raynar, wary of the mountain man causing trouble.

The door opens and Willard Waxley, brother of Welbert, enters. He’s known for his skill in archery and jousting. Meera heard that Willard killed his opponent in a joust three years ago and married his opponent’s fiancee. His wife then died in childbirth along with the babe. Some say it was the Seven taking revenge on him for killing her first fiancee.

Willard greets us formally and takes us to the main hall, which is also small and dull. Avlon whispers to Meera that the Waxleys don’t seem to have much money. Meera informs him that Lord Waxley is very conservative with his funds. The room is cold and even chubby Lord Waxley is rubbing his hands for warmth as he greets us…

In the warehouse district in Gulltown, Jayne and Tiberius the Tall are trying to find out what the Graftons are up to. They’re looking to be hired on as day laborers so they can enter the warehouses. The pair head out to the eastern district with the morning cart. Almost all of the warehouses are very new, and they’re all built near the water; some could even have a boat sail inside. Jayne is taken to a sewing warehouse at the second stop while Tiberius is sent to the fourth stop to do some heavy lifting. The warehouses where the pair are sent are inland and not heavily guarded, but the ones by the water have many more guards and seem oddly quiet. Jayne is set to sewing sails. Tiberius is moving barrels to fish-packing areas. Each warehouse packed with food barrels could feed a fleet like the Slagathors’ for 1-2 months. There are 10 warehouses by the water and 20 inland, though we don’t know how many contain food stores.

There’s a fence between the inland and waterside warehouses. There are a few gates in it, but each is guarded and no goods are transported from the inland to waterside warehouses. Goods do occasionally travel the other way. The only people going from the inland warehouses to the waterside ones are dressed nicer than other laborers and seem more like blacksmiths and fine craftsmen.

In Wickendon, Lord Waxley watches us disinterestedly with his two sons at his side. The maester is not present. Meera confirms Lord Waxley got her letter and reminds him of the anti-pirate coalition. We present the evidence supporting an imminent pirate invasion. Lord Waxley says he has no interest in joining us and claims he forgot to let us know. Avlon’s jaws drop at this behavior. Meera and Avlon impress the urgency on him, the rumored strength of Gabool’s navy, and the underhanded tactics they’ve used. Lord Waxley isn’t especially worried; the last time pirates attacked the city, their fleet was entirely burned.

Lord Waxley reluctantly says we might be able to help him with something. He says there are rumors of pirates out in his Bay of Crabs. If we could investigate for him, he might reconsider. We are sent back to the waiting room and Avlon explodes in frustration. Welbert soon joins us and makes excuses for his father, saying he’s been under the weather. Lord Waxley apparently thinks someone working in the port is helping pirates increase their attacks in this area. The hope is that us newcomers will have an easier time investigating. Welbert asks for a favor as well— Septa Bethel has been treating his father, but Welbert isn’t sure she’s been doing her job well. Their maester is more focused on finance than healing. Welbert wants us to make sure his father is getting proper care.

In Gulltown, Ysabel needs to convince Maester Targon to trust her family. She starts by asking him for more information about wolfsbane, acting like she’s just curious. He’s surprised but informs her it’s a potent poison. He says he doesn’t deal in poisons himself, so Ysabel asks his specialty. Targon says he’s tried to be well-rounded, something that’s necessary in an important castle. He thinks Maester Katern is a fool, for one. But Targon is proud of his abilities; he raised Lord Grafton and his children without losing anyone in childbirth. Ysabel remarks on how valued and trusted he must be. Targon asks if she doesn’t trust Meera. Ysabel says she does, but Meera is more than a maester to the Slagathors. Targon says he’s well aware of the maester law Meera is breaking (i.e. maesters aren’t supposed to care about the family they serve so much). Targon thinks Ysabel has a good head on her shoulders and might make a good maester herself, but Ysabel says her tastes run too fine for that.

Targon mentions he has other business to attend to, so Ysabel gets to the point. She says she wants to apologize for not taking Meera’s advice and supporting him; she calls herself selfish for only looking out for her own family. Ysabel claims Meera sees him like a mentor and has a close relationship with him. Targon flatly asks why he should trust a family Ysabel calls “selfish” and says she’s clearly only here because she’s found out about tonight’s meeting. Ysabel says her family isn’t all selfish and she doesn’t want her prior impudence to make him see the whole family in a negative light.

Targon says there are others in Ysabel’s family who are a liability, including her father. He doesn’t take it well when she doesn’t quite understand. Ysabel says it’s not common for her to apologize, but she proposes the possibility of reparations for past slights. She says how grateful she is for the understanding Jeremy and Viktor have shown and the hope for reconciliation. Targon acknowledges that some members of the Grafton house have forgiven the Slagathors and maesters have no place maintaining grudges. But a maester also can’t ignore history; they’re the world’s record-keepers. He can’t toss aside the knowledge he has. Ysabel reminds him that he’s responsible for the history of ALL of Westeros, not simply that of the family he serves.

Targon pauses and recognizes his own accusation of bias thrown back at him. He repeats his assertion that Ysabel would make a good maester.

The party in Wickendon discusses options for investigation. Welbert tells us Maester Katern lives in one of the archery towers but has an office down in the port where he spends much of his time. Meera decides to start by speaking with the septa. Avlon and Raynar will go listen for pirate rumors in the port while Rebekka stealthily investigates the maester’s doings.

Rebekka easily finds the maester’s tower. She disguises herself as a courier and carries a letter from Meera asking to speak with him later tonight as her cover. She’s let inside without question. His office on the first floor has maps, books on finance, charts, and so on. A large Essosi man dressed in a mixture of clothing types is concluding his business there when she enters. He flashes sharklike teeth at her and leaves. The maester is a middle-aged, balding man with a sharp look to him. He vaguely remembers Meera’s name. Rebekka slides the note to him across his desk and tries to peek at his documents while she’s at it. She sees a document from a coalition of merchants in Wickendon called DuClaw. They’re asking him to take their concerns about increased pirate activity in the Bay of Crabs seriously. Katern scribbles a reply for Rebekka to take back. She claims to be from Old Tim’s Courier Service.

Rebekka starts investigating DuClaw. It was apparently only formed at the start of this spring season. People had been complaining about the high cost of doing business in Wickendon. Everyone is upset that they’ve been paying their protection fees and yet nothing is being done about the increasing pirate attacks. The merchants are worried their fees will soon increase even though the Waxleys already have enough funds to deal with the problem. The group was formed to try and press the maester for more action… but are their complaints even reaching Lord Waxley’s ears? The group’s leader is called Hawkins and his second-in-command is called Pinsir.

Raynar goes to a bar and hears complaints about “Shark’s protection fees”; he’s apparently the main driving force behind the protection fee collection. Raynar decides they need to meet with Shark. The people at the bar say “Shark finds you”. Avlon asks the guards about pirate activity, but they say the attacks never happen within city limits, so it’s not their problem. They say Shark’s been here about two years and he’s been useful. He was originally hired on as a merc and helped them catch a lot of people. Said he was kicked off an Essosi ship. He bought a house in the poor part of town and now has three. The guards say Shark knows everybody in the city. Raynar and Avlon slip the guard ten silver; he tells them to check out the Galloping Goat bar, which specializes in Essosi cuisine. He advises them not to order the pineapple. Avlon asks them to tell anyone who comes looking that he’s going to the GG.

In Gulltown, Tiberius and Jayne need to find a way into the seaside warehouses. Tiberius tries to seduce one of the female craftsmen headed that way. Jessica is a jeweler and embroiderer who has been working here about six months. She says her work isn’t all that interesting, just making sure things look good. Jessica won’t go into detail on her work, but it’s not weapon embellishments and it’s definitely something that’s meant to be seen. Most of her colleagues are goldsmiths and other fine craftsmen. Tiberius kisses her on the cheek and leaves when he sees a guard coming. The guard talks to Jessica but doesn’t pay any attention to Tiberius.

Jayne approaches an old woman walking with a cane and suggests a certain kind of tea she used in Essos to treat her master’s arthritis. The woman thanks her and says she’ll have her assistant seek Jayne out during their next break. Jayne introduces herself as Joyce and the old lady calls herself Overseer Anna Shortfield. Jayne offers to help the old woman with any duties. She sees that the old woman has a paper to let her past the guards, but taking it seems pointless. Jayne and Tiberius meet up quietly and Tiberius thinks they’re putting the finishing touches on ships in there. Jayne points out they could only be working on ten ships at most.

Rebekka seeks out the leaders of DuClaw to find out more. She tells them her employer wants to find out more about the pirate problem but he wishes to remain anonymous. Hawkins says they took the idea of a “coalition” from “some smaller House”. Rebekka asks them why the pirate attacks haven’t been dealt with. Hawkins thinks the maester is behind all of this, even though he can’t find proof yet. But he’s been having the maester followed everywhere he goes. They’ve been watching Katern for a month but have found nothing. This indicates he must be going through a third party. Hawkins freely tells her the maester’s daily schedule: inspect the ports in the morning, then nap in the tower, business, late lunch, then stays in for the rest of the day.

Katern always lunches at the Dancing Crab. Rebekka suggests Katern is passing notes to someone at lunch. Hawkins says the owner, Evan Coastman, is part of DuClaw and can be trusted; he’s a respected member of society and wouldn’t benefit from the pirate attacks. In fact, DuClaw was Coastman’s idea in the first place. Patty LePage always follows Katern to lunch. The only pattern in Katern’s behavior at lunch is that he orders squid ink pasta on Sundays. Rebekka wonders if this is some sort of code. The lunch manager is someone named McDaniels. When Rebekka asks them if they trust Coastman and McDaniels completely, they laugh and say “We’re businessmen”. Hawkins says Rebekka’s employer is welcome to join DuClaw if they wish. He leaves with his henchmen, Ter and Gar.

Avlon and Raynar are really taken in by the strange Essosi décor in the Galloping Goat. A woman in silks escorts them to the bar, where a few scantily-clad girls are dancing. Everyone in the bar is dressed in Essosi style. Avlon orders the crab mead while Raynar orders regular mead. Avlon pays 25 silver for the pair of drinks and gives the waitress a 10-silver tip. The drinks are quite tasty. Avlon also orders the pineapple. Raynar handles his drink fine, though it seems to have a funny aftertaste, but Avlon gets very drunk.

Eventually a tall, menacing man with shark teeth enters with some buddies. He’s drinking something out of a pineapple. When Shark and the others sit at a long table in the back, the waitress escorts Avlon and Shark to the table as well. Shark asks what business they have with him. Avlon cracks jokes and generally doesn’t understand things in his current state. Raynar tries to reign him in, but when Shark learns who Avlon is he’s more interested and offers him a sip from his pineapple. Avlon is barely able to handle the strong liquor in the pineapple Shark has been chugging from.

Raynar lets Shark know they’re looking for who’s responsible for the pirate attacks. Shark says it’s not him; this is HIS port and no one else’s. His goon and second cousin, Dolphin, says Shark protects and helps people for money. Shark says Avlon needs to give him something if he wants Shark’s help. Avlon asks why the city needs Shark if it has the Waxleys. Shark says the lord doesn’t care about his people, whereas Shark is investing in this place.

Avlon accidentally knocks his head on the table and starts sobering up, rubbing the bruise on his forehead. Shark says he’s heard Avlon’s sister is a very rich woman, so he’ll help Avlon for 20 gold dragons and the chance to open a side business in the Teeth port, probably something run by Shark himself. It would be a business like here, something to help people (according to Shark, anyway). Avlon asks for more detail on Shark’s past. Shark said he was on a ship that mutinied, and then he took his coin and left after they threw the captain overboard. He mentions how he likes being his own boss and doesn’t care for maesters.

Shark gives them time to think about his conditions and sends them upstairs with Lala and her twin sister Leila. Avlon can only pay for Lala, though, and he passes out before he can do anything with her. Reynar manages to get Avlon back to the castle.

Tiberius meets with the lady he talked to before and makes arrangements to meet her and some ladyfriends at the Cork and Barrel tonight. Jessica happily accepts his advances. While she’s distracted, Tiberius is able to look at the paper that lets her past the guards. It’s a simple note from Randall granting the bearer permission to go into a certain warehouse. The wax seal would be very difficult to replicate. Tiberius lets her keep it so she won’t get in trouble and plans to maybe steal it tonight if necessary.

Jayne waits for Anna’s servant Nicole to come find her. Nicole chats with Jayne while they go to the harbor warehouses to brew the tea. The guards let Nicole through when she promises that she will be responsible for Jayne’s actions. In Warehouse 2, Jayne sees two ballistas and ammunition under construction. These are typically used for offensive reasons, not defense. Nicole takes Jayne up to the platform where Anna is overseeing things and barking orders like an architect. Anna is grateful for Jayne’s tea and offers to give her a job with a good salary if she wants to come work for her.

Jayne asks what the ballistas are for. Anna says she thinks they’re probably not for anything; people just like making things that make them feel powerful. As far as she knows, the other buildings are making different things, though she doesn’t say what. Technically Lord Viktor guards these, but he lets Ser Duncan do most of the work. They chat a bit about Anna’s 8 kids and 30 grandkids until Jayne takes her leave.

The guards make sure the hired hands get back on the carts at the end of the day. There are some people who come in for night shifts, but we don’t know what they’re doing. Jayne and Tiberius report back to Ysabel on their findings.

Meera goes to the sept at the foot of the Silent Sisters tower. Septa Bethel is in her office. She’s dressed conservatively, but she’s on the younger side, around 20-30, unusually young and attractive for the head septa of a major port. The two women discuss Lord Waxley’s condition. Bethel says he’s not sick, he just needs medicine and herbs for his comfort, especially for dealing with the cold. She expresses her regret that he won’t light more fires for warmth (too costly) and he doesn’t come to the sept very often. Meera reviews the list of herbs and medicines Bethel has been providing her lord and comes to the conclusion that, while Bethel means well, nothing she’s providing for him is actually helping (though thankfully it’s not hurting him either). This seems to stem from ignorance rather than malice.

Bethel has only been a septa here for about four years and she’s been the head for maybe 2 of those years, ever since her predecessor died of old age. Normally the council chooses the successor, but Lord Waxley requested her specifically for some reason. As for Maester Katern, she doesn’t know him well, but everyone knows he doesn’t really do healing. She relates a story of asking him for an orphanage for the children of sailors, but he said there wasn’t coin in the budget for it. Meera mentions her sister is a septa, and after the two women have chatted a bit more Meera offers to help draw up a new course of action for Lord Waxley’s treatment. Bethel is grateful for the help and says she’ll have time to discuss it with her later tonight. Meera returns to her room to do some planning.

She doesn’t get to work for very long before there’s a knock at her door. A servant informs her that Welbert wants to see her. The young man shoos the servant away and speaks with Meera in her room, alone. He describes to her how his father coughs at night, and how an old man in his mid-40s like Lord Waxley could easily take a turn for the worse at any time. Meera offers to see the old man directly for a diagnosis, but suddenly realizes that Welbert actually wants his father to die.

Welbert says carefully that his father will never agree to join the anti-pirate coalition. He hates the expense generated by the navy. Welbert, on the other hand, believes the family needs to grow the navy for the sake of their name and reputation. And that navy would be at the coalition’s disposal.

Meera asks what Willard would think of all this. Welbert tells her about their mother, Lady Sophie Redfort, who is often away in King’s Landing for some reason or other. The lord and lady don’t have the best relationship, and it’s typically assumed Lady Sophie is not faithful. The two sons are divided in their loyalty. Welbert loves his mother, while Willard favors their father. Welbert respects his mother and understands that she had to leave due to Lord Waxley’s treatment of her. Willard bought into Lord Waxley’s lies about their mother while Welbert did not. Everyone knows Lord Waxley is just waiting for his wife to die so he can marry young Septa Bethel instead.

Meera asks Welbert about his duties. He says they’re quite light, as the maester handles port matters and Lord Waxley put his nephew Edmond in charge of the military so his sons wouldn’t argue about it. Welbert handles the garrison and Willard is Master of the Hunt.

Welbert cuts to the chase and says flatly that the septa not a capable herbalist. Some herbs are dangerous in the wrong quantity, and it would be easy to blame her for a mistake. She might not even face much of a reprimand for it. Meera says she will be here a few days more and will consider the best treatment for Lord Waxley during that time.

Rebekka goes to the restaurant Maester Katern frequents. She asks about the squid ink pasta, but the waiter is perplexed. The manager’s son McCharles comes over and asks her about her order. She clams up and he’s quite intimidated, stammering that people dressed like her don’t usually make that order. He says he can pass on her message to his father. Once she dismisses him, she slips out and blends into the crowd. She notices a couple of guys dressed in the Dancing Crab uniform trying to tail her, but she loses them very quickly.

Rebekka heads to Meera’s room. She finds Meera working on a list of herbs. After a pause, Meera recognizes her and compliments her disguise. Rebekka says everyone uses Old Tim’s courier service (if anyone asks). Rebekka reports the maester is definitely involved in all this, either colluding or just keeping all the money for himself. She describes the strange man in mixed garb in Katern’s office and explains about DuClaw. Meera agrees that Katern is suspicious; he’s shirking his duties at the very least.

Avlon and Raynar stumble in at that point. Meera stares at the boys, sighs, and gets to work mixing up hangover cures. Rebekka finishes up explaining about the “squid ink pasta” code word. The boys talk about Shark, pineapples, and the Galloping Goat. Meera questions them and determines that Shark didn’t actually tell them what he was offering or give any assurances. She doesn’t think it’s worth dealing with someone like him.

It appears we have two main suspects to investigate so far. Meera arranges to meet with Katern at his keep after dark that evening. Rebekka will be looking into Katern’s port office while Meera has him distracted. Avlon and Raynar, meanwhile, will do some snooping at the Dancing Crab. Meera gives Avlon 20 silver to spend on the condition that there be no more drinking. Raynar points out that Avlon will be obligated to drink, but he can just get a cheap house ale this time and nurse it.

Back in Gulltown, Ysabel, Geena, and Marcus Felix, along with Jayne and Tiberius, are invited to a dessert at the Grafton manor. Geena and MF quietly tell us they think their tasks went well. Viktor greets Ysabel warmly. The meeting room has a strong eagle motif and is painted to look like sky. There’s a nice map of Westeros painted on the large, round table (a rare sight outside Oldtown or King’s Landing).

Lord Grafton and the other representatives rise as we enter. There are three seats at the table for the noble Slagathors. Randall, Jeremy, Gerald, Kinara, Maywell Hathaway, Lord Fulton, Maester Targon, and Lord Zant are all present. Lord Grafton’s wife, Lady Arryn, is there as well, probably the first time any of us have seen her.

Marq Grafton comments it seems like we’ve made this port our second home. He’s heard about our exploits and negotiations, including the cooking party he wasn’t invited to. Ysabel asks what the Graftons want us to do at Harrenhal. Most of the Graftons nod at Marq, though Randall and Gerald do not. Lord Grafton says some here don’t trust the Slagathors, but as Lord Arthur has given more responsibilities to his children, his brood have proven their ambition, significance, and accomplishment. Not many could have formed an anti-pirate coalition.

Lord Grafton stands and asks what we think he’s planning. Ysabel and the others dance around the answer diplomatically, so Jayne says Lord Grafton appears to be enlarging his navy. He nods and says we’ve clearly figured some things out. The lord explains that trade has been decreasing lately because of uncertainty; shaky situations hurt markets, and nothing is shakier than when the leadership of a nation is in question.

Westeros can’t enter another great age of trade and development while the Mad King reigns. Rhaegar should rule in his stead. When Rhaegar wins the tournament at Harrenhal, he will call all the lords to a meeting to decide the next king. The Graftons intend to make sure Rhaegar is king one way or another. He is young, handsome, and malleable. Marq finds him promising and wise.

Tiberius worries about dragons, but Marq says there no dragons left, only old rumors. Marq says the Arryns are just slavishly loyal to the Targaryens and won’t bend, even for the greater good. Jon will just look for a new wife and hide in the Eyrie like he always does.

Marq considers the Graftons to be the #2 family in Vale, disregarding the Royces completely. He says the
Graftons need a house not associated with them to be their agents. Everyone knows our families hate each other, so our support would be significant. He needs us to convince key delegates to support Rhaegar. Ysabel and MF are unmarried, so they can talk to any single people there without arousing suspicion. Marq says the Lannisters won’t attend Harrenhal. Tywin’s brother was at Jeremy’s wedding and assured him they wouldn’t go. The Martells will support Rhaegar. Robert Baratheon is a drunk joke and the Starks have no natural allies.

There have been councils held to decide on a new king before— just not while the old king was still alive, until now. Marq predicts the Mad King will flee Harrenhal and hole up in King’s landing. The pirates can be sent in to attack, and then the pirates and the king will all be wiped out with wildfyre, which everyone knows the mad king has been stockpiling. With such destruction, Westeros might even be needing a new capital… maybe even one that’s been focusing on trade.

Marq says Rhaegar will accept the crown when it is offered to him. The Slagathors would be wise to offer him as much support as they can. Geena mentions how we’ve always supported the Targaryens; one of our family treasures is the dragon scale they gave us in thanks for helping them last time.

Ysabel proposes another scenario: other families might try for throne once the mad king is gone. Marq says there has never been a rebellion not led by a Blackfyre, and they’re all dead now. No one would suggest a non-Targaryen for the throne. Even the Baratheons, who have a little Targaryen blood in them, wouldn’t dare such a thing.

Ysabel asks for time to think on this, but Marq wants an answer today. He says Arthur will go along with whatever Ysabel and Marcus Felix recommend.

Ysabel asks how the pirate armada is involved in all this. The pirates have been promised that the Graftons will use them for a campaign in mid-spring. Gabool has gathered most of the pirates already. They’ve only been told they can invade a great city of Westeros, but not which one. Marq promised to help distract people while the pirates looted to their heart’s content. Pirates are ambitious and greedy and can be told and offered anything to get what we want. Ysabel worries that the Slagathors could end up being the fall guys for all this.

We ask how the Lord of Light followers are involved in all this. Marq laughs that Targon has been warning him about those fanatics but it’s not a concern for now. He’s either a very good liar or he really doesn’t know anything about them. Jayne points out that the Lord of Light fanatics might use their connections to find out about the wildfyre trap and tip off the pirates. Marq considers this but doesn’t think it’s a serious concern, even knowing there’s a small Lord of Light shrine in King’s Landing itself. He says we can focus on wiping out these fanatics once Rhaegar is king.

There is considerable risk and reward involved in all of this. If we succeed, Marq proposes pushing Ysabel’s name for Master of Coin on the new council. But if we fail, Marq fully expects to be executed, and all the lords involved will have to fight for their lives or flee Westeros. Many noble families are involved in this plot already. Still, if we are successful, all grudges between the Graftons and Slagathors will be forgotten forever.

Ysabel asks for the condition that no Slagathors or bastards will be put in danger. Marq promises not to be reckless, but he points out that he can’t know the future. There could be battles and casualties involved. But he swears that the Lord of Light fanatics will be dealt with ASAP.

Finally, Ysabel makes an oath on the Seven to support the Graftons at Harrenhal in their effort to depose the Mad King. We are all sworn to secrecy; no one must know we’re allies or suspect what we’re plotting. The only question now is— with the Slagathors now promised to support both the Graftons and the Arryns at Harrenhal, what will they actually choose to do?

SESSION 20 (6/4/17)
Episode 11: Any Port in a Storm

Ysabel and her servant Jayne will be accompanying Ser Tiberius the Tall back to Gulltown. Unbeknownst to anyone but Ser Tiberius, he has been assigned by Marcus Felix to make sure the family’s Valyrian steel blade goes with them. He has been instructed not to touch the blade at all costs because it is cursed. Ser Tiberius has gloves and a scabbard to hold the sword if he’s able to acquire it.

Ser Tiberius goes to where it’s being held and finds one guard watching it. He talks the guard into leaving. Before leaving, the guard mentions something about murders. Ser Tiberius enters to find numerous family tombs and skeletons scattered about and a lone sword buried in a stone slab. He carefully switches it with a different sword and smuggles the Valyrian steel onto the ship among his belongings.

The sail to Gulltown is uneventful. Randall Grafton is on the dock waiting and dryly welcomes yet more Slagathors to his city. He accuses us of getting into other lords’ business and stealing lands. Ser Tiberius speaks up more than a knight should and draws Randall’s dislike. Ysabel dismissively pays the docking fee and we head to the house Geena and Marcus Felix have rented for their stay.

A fence has been erected along the border between Grafton and Shett lands. For the last few weeks, anyone whose house happens to be on Shett lands has had to pay heavy fees and bribes to travel between the two properties, to such an extent that most who lived on Shett lands have now moved.

The house Geena rented is very nice and probably very expensive. As the traveling party arrives, they see a delivery person from the Crone’s Scones dropping off a box of baked goods. Geena greets her sister warmly and starts shooting orders at Jayne and Tiberius at once. Jayne gets to work making her famous coffee for Geena’s twenty or so tea party guests.

Ysabel can tell most of what’s being said at the party is useless prattle, but Geena assures her you have to listen to a lot of useless babble to find what’s really important. Ysabel is a little under the weather from the voyage and thrown off from being out of her element, so she doesn’t pay much attention today. Ser Tiberius chats with the ladies’ drivers/bodyguards. They’re happy their pay has been going up because they have less competition, even with all of the Shett servants being put out of work. By the looks of it, someone is hiring a lot of men, especially those who are better fighters, leaving those who are better at riding to escort the ladies.

Jayne hears from the kitchen servants that prices have been stable despite the increased trade from Essos; maybe someone or some House is buying up large quantities of grain and other goods for some reason, which keeps the prices up. Jayne also hears that Marq Grafton is back from being away on a business trip and he’s been noticeably busy with something. He hasn’t been making the social rounds and is only spotted here and there at the port. He’s been letting Gerald handle many of the affairs he doesn’t have time for. Marq hasn’t even been attending his family’s soirees; he’s obviously preparing something. People say it might be related to Harrenhal, but then again, it might not….

The tea party eventually clears out and leaves Ysabel, Geena, Ser Tiberius, Jayne, and soon Marcus Felix alone. Ysabel tells her brother she’s here to help him with the meeting with the Graftons. Marcus Felix has heard a decision will be made tomorrow night regarding what to do with the Slagathors. They’ve heard that we wish to make amends with them; Marcus has been explaining how our first loyalty had to be to our liege lord. We know the Graftons have done some deal with Braavos, and perhaps with other parties as well. It’s also worth noting that a large number of nobles from across Westeros attended Jeremy Grafton’s wedding despite him being only the third son. Perhaps those nobles had some other reason for being there.

Obviously, we won’t be invited to the meeting where the Graftons decide what to do about us. We’ve only been invited to have dessert with them afterwards to hear the results. Marcus has heard there will be nine advisers to help Lord Marq decide what to do. If we could convince enough of these advisers that we’re on their side, they might tell us what we need to know and even recommend a reconciliation.

Marcus Felix asks Ser Tiberius to bring out the sword, saying he trusts everyone in this room. He says no one is to touch the blade. Ysabel guesses that Marcus Felix intends to use it as a bargaining chip. He says he was considering giving it to the Graftons, though he would certainly tell them its downsides. Ser Tiberius is puzzled as to why we would give up such a powerful weapon. Marcus has the sword taken down to a vault under the house for safekeeping in case we decide to use it.

Possible members of this advising council are Randall, Viktor, Jeremy, Gerald (heir), Zara, Lady Maywell Hathaway (merchants), Lord Robert Fulton (navy), Lord Zachary Zant (army), and Maester Targon. Geena assures us she’s already spent plenty of time with Kale, who is close to her in age, and he and his little sister will have no say in the decision. She’s also rather troubled by rumors that Lord Arthur is trying to marry her off, but Ysabel tells her she’ll have to speak to their father directly about that.

Geena suspects that Lady Zara Grafton (Marq’s wife) doesn’t do well in crowds. She doesn’t do many social events and is more likely to be found with her children or doing charity work with the sept. We suggest having Geena invite Lady Zara, Lady Fulton, Lady Hathaway, and young Zina Zant for tea or dessert to discuss charity work, trying to get on their good sides. Ysabel intends to speak with Viktor and possibly with Gerald (or Lady Zara if Geena doesn’t). The Slagathors have made a social call to Jeremy and his wife Kinara before, so that might be an in. Ysabel may also try to talk up Jayne’s skills as an Essosi cook to the Graftons to try and get her into their good graces.

Ser Tiberius can look into where all of these fighting men have been hired off to. Jayne will deliver a recipe for altitude sickness remedies from Maester Meera to Maester Targon and use it as an excuse to speak with him. With luck, she will also find an opportunity to speak with Jeremy. As for Marcus Felix, he can focus his efforts on winning over Lord Zant and Lord Fulton by whatever means.

Jayne finds the maester tower without much trouble and talks her way past the guards to see Maester Targon with her letter. She runs into an assistant, the same one Meera talked to last time (who luckily seems to have retained his job). Young Bernard is quite friendly, especially when she says she’s from Maester Meera. They briefly discuss maesters and whether or not people have souls. Bernard arranges for Jayne to come back and meet with Targon around 9pm tonight, after dinner.

Ysabel heads to the theater district to try and find Viktor surreptitiously. She finds him at Sawyer’s Golden Gallery, one of Gulltown’s many stages. One of the guards proudly gives her the tour. Viktor notices her and wraps up some business he’s doing in order to greet her. They walk through the sets backstage as they talk. Viktor comments that Geena has been making quite a name for her in social circles lately. His brothers were quite disappointed by the results of the dispute at the Eyrie, to say the least.

Ysabel wastes no time in bringing up tomorrow’s meeting. Viktor understands why the Slagathors had to do what they had to do, though he wishes Lord Arthur would have pledged his family to the Graftons when he married Lady Allison. Viktor would like to see the families reconciled. He’s long since recovered from his grief and he believes Marq has as well, but it seems like Randall will never forgive. Viktor thinks Marq is conflicted; he’s impressed by the skill our family has been showing, but Lady Allison was killed while ostensibly under Lord Arthur’s protection. Viktor recognizes that Ysabel and Marcus Felix are not their father, however, and deserve to be regarded for their own merit. Gerald cared deeply for Lady Allison, who used to bring home many gifts, and is close to Randall. He’s more interested in growing infrastructure than military matters; he wants to see Gulltown become the jewel of Westeros. Ysabel hopes that Kale and little Allison will get to grow in peace and in good relations between our families. Jeremy is indifferent or perhaps even favorable towards us. He comments that Randall loves the theater. Ysabel checks the upcoming shows and sees there will be one about the Blackfyre betrayal.

Tiberius makes for the military district to look into the suspicious lack of fighting men. He finds a bar frequented by soldier types called the Char Bar. He joins a poker game with an Essosi merchant named Avi, a Grafton sailor named Justine, and a former merchant named Billy who has since joined the Grafton navy. Justine wins the first hand. The four banter and argue back and forth, then Justine wins the second hand after Billy unwisely raises by a lot on a bad hand. Tiberius claims to be looking for some employment of the sword-and-shield variety. Billy offers to introduce him to a friend named Terri who might be looking for men, though he says the Graftons themselves are hiring basically anyone who can hold a sword these days. He says rumor is the Graftons are sending a small fleet to Harrenhal.

Billy’s luck turns around with the third hand. In a better mood, he says the Hathaways are said to be looking to hire, in particular Lady Maywell’s younger brother. He offers to put in a word for Tiberius with the Hathaways. Tiberius wins the next hand and tries to keep Billy talking. Billy says Randall’s wife is just a peasant and even his kids don’t respect him, so no one likes dealing with him. Avi mainly keeps to herself, enjoys her charred chicken, and acts generally creepy. Tiberius wins big with the last hand and ends with some contacts and leads to pursue.

Jayne goes down to the docks before dinner to speak with the merchants, in particular those from Essos, to try and find out where those missing goods are going. She hears from a merchant named Zexgon (French accent) that some warehouses that were burned down by the Targaryens back in the day are finally being rebuilt and filled with supplies. The Graftons have been skimming a certain percentage of goods from everything that comes in and sending it to these warehouses, and the other noble houses in Gulltown are following suit. Zexgon doesn’t know why they’re stockpiling. Their warehouses are full of foodstuffs and raw materials like various metals. They’ve been stockpiling since the start of the spring, though there are rumors they started even as far back as Jeremy’s wedding. Jayne can see smoke coming from some of the distant warehouses are though they’re smelting the metal for something.

Ysabel convinces Geena to go with Lady Maywell Hathaway and Zina Zant to a show at the Gallery tonight. They sit together in Box 7 while Ysabel, Jeremy, and Kinara sit in Box 3 (Box 5, as always, is left empty). Betrayal of the Blackfyre is the show. Ysabel introduces Jayne to Jeremy and Kinara. The Essosi lady wonders whether Jayne or her own servant makes the better Essosi coffee and Jayne agrees to a coffee and cook-off tomorrow. Kinara’s servant, Lupita, stares daggers at Jayne the whole time. Kinara is interested to hear that Jayne came through Braavos on her way to Westeros aboard (The Fair Lady?). The servants are dismissed before the show begins. Ysabel and her noble company discuss the arts; Kinara wants her husband to build a bigger theater to match the ones she saw in Braavos. Jeremy invites Ysabel to invest in a joint theater in the future. Ysabel works out the details and agrees to invest in a large new theater, which wins Jeremy’s support for the Slagathors and may even help sway Randall (spent 1 Influence to build theater).

Marcus Felix dines with the Fultons that night. He asks Ser Tiberius to get Rina Fulton to put in a good word for us with her father. She was a woman of the sea until tragedy struck, stealing her husband and child, and she hasn’t been the same since. Tiberius goes for a walk to hopefully run into Rina. He finds her in a park built around ancient trees, among the few that still remain in the city. She’s walking with a pair of bodyguards. Tiberius approaches her as though he’s just running into her and they introduce themselves. He convinces her to let him join her on her walk. They walk around the park a few times while Tiberius seduces her and convinces her that the Slagathors are allies.

Jayne goes to meet with Maester Targon at 9pm as arranged. She’s shown up to his office. Targon looks over the papers she’s brought, asks her to thank Maester Meera for the formulas, and gives her a copy of an old design for an improved cast in exchange. The maester invites her to stay for dinner and asks her who she would say the most trusted Slagathor servants are. Jayne tells him he could trust Chadwick, with whom she has worked extensively at the docks, but says she doesn’t know many other servants well enough to say, including when he asks about “Mary”.

Jayne makes a cup of Essosi tea for Targon, who is apparently a fan, and they discuss various Essosi foods and drinks. Targon has his assistant fetch snails for their dinner when Jayne says they were one of her favorites. She brings up the guard downstairs with the missing eye who seems to be in pain. Targon brushes it off at first, but when Jayne comments that it would be better to have a guard with no distractions he says she can tell the guard to come up and see him for treatment when she leaves.

The two have a good talk about various things like the difficulty of finding good help, the duties of a maester’s assistant, the trouble of balancing education with motivation, and so on. Jayne speaks of the SWORD program at the Teeth and says it is heartening to see that Targon gets along so well with the Slagathors. Targon asks her why there are so many Slagathors in Gulltown these days. Jayne says it’s not her place to keep track of the many members of that family, so Targon says it’s not his place as a maester to hold any animosity towards a family (and he claims he never has).

Jayne tells him some trivial stories about the Slagathors to help endear them to him and speaks of times they’ve proven trustworthy, like when they showed their loyalty to their liege lord during the last fiasco. She can tell that Targon respects the Slagathors and views them as a family on the rise, but he’s not sure if they can be trusted to help the Graftons when push comes to shove and he’s wary of their intentions. Jayne opts to spend the evening helping him research a project to make a good impression.

The next morning, Marcus Felix reports he’s doing well with Lord Fulton. If he spends the rest of the day on it, he might be able to convince the Fultons (maybe even the Zants as well). Geena went to a party at Maywell’s place after the play and got her support. As for the charity initive with Zara, Geena plans to push for a way to fund the Silent Sisters better so they can properly bury even those who can’t pay, which may win us Zara’s support when she proposes it today. We decide to invite the Zants to Jayne and Lupita’s cook-off and make it a jovial, friendly competition.

The cook-off turns into a grand affair at the Zant household, which has a large area for performances. While Lupita focuses on an intimidating style, Jayne aims to be more graceful, putting on an exotic performance. The key ingredient is truffles and must pair well with port. The judges are Lord Zant, Jeremy Grafton, and Kinara.

Appetizer: Carpaccio with sunchokes and truffles (Fulton loves this)
Main Course: Tonkatsu with truffle sauce
Dessert: candied truffles in saffron ice cream (very creative, goes over quite well)

Appetizer: stuffed truffles (Jeremy loves this)
Main Course: steak with truffle sauce
Dessert: chilled ice with a little truffle sauce

Everyone agrees that Jayne’s dance-like performance is lovely, but Lupita is more intimidating and has a certain aura that can’t be ignored. However, when it comes to food, Jayne’s dishes just barely win out over the competition. All of the spectators are entertained and well-fed. Jayne makes nice with Lupita afterwards; they share recipes, realize their mutual respect for each other, and become friends.

Over dessert, Ysabel speaks with the Zants and wins them over with a little help from Jeremy, who brings up the great new theater the Slagathors are going to help him build. Viktor attends the competition as well, just for fun, and has a good time.

Randall: (no one has spoken with him, but he might soften towards us due to the theater deal)
Gerald: (no one has spoken with him, very serious guy)
Zara: (MAYBE SUPPORT if Geena is successful)
Lord Fulton: (MAYBE SUPPORT if Marcus Felix is successful)
Lady Hathaway: SUPPORT
Lord Zant: SUPPORT
Maester Targon: (MAYBE SUPPORT if Ysabel wins an Intrigue combat)

SESSION 19 (5/21/17)
Episode 10: Light and Shadow

Clifford has spent the past couple of months helping the Redwoods prepare for their assault on the mountain man stronghold. Marlin leads the Redwood garrison and has been given increased responsibility since he proved his loyalty during our last visit to the Redwoods. Leo marches from the Teeth with his army unit to join the war effort. He has Maester Meera send a raven ahead to House Starskin and stops there on his way to Hearttree.

Lord Dennis Starskin greets him warmly at the Bay of Comets. The Starskins have already agreed to join our anti-pirate coalition, but Leo wants to ask him to provide troops for the mountain man fight as well. Lord Starskin says their priority is protecting their area against pirates, as ordered by House Waynwood. Leo asks him to simply provide a small band who know the lay of the land and would know the area better than the Slagathor scouts. He offers his eldest son and a handful of troops to work with us and Leo agrees to it graciously. Lord Starskin says his son is a good archer, but lazy, and he’d be happy to see him go out more. Gene Starskin is in his 20s and doesn’t seem thrilled with this, but he can’t refuse his father.

It takes about a week to reach Hearttree from there. They pass by the strange inn we visited last time (which is now under new management, as the old “mayor” was supporting the Lord of Light fanatics), but the party doesn’t have to stop there this time. Clifford rides out to meet his brother and fills him in on the training he’s been doing with the Redwoods. He says he’s been treated well, though he misses Jayne’s coffee. Marlin greets Leo as well and mentions how the castle is much calmer than the last time the Slagathors visited. He’s got the town secured against Lord of Light fanatics and hopes that this campaign will spell the end of mountain man influence in this area as well.

Clifford reports on his scouting. Many tribes have been gathering north of here, including the First Shadows (led by Valamir, brother of Brennos who was slain by Leo), the Moon Sisters (led by Sister Siph), the Damned Mutts (led by Gos), the Red Eyes (led by Asi), and a few smaller tribes, numbering at least eight tribes in all. They’ve been gathering at the First Shadows village. Many of these were once united under Brennos’ command but splintered when he was killed. It is known that the Moon Sisters are not as close to the First Shadows as the rest are. Scouts report there may be some sort of ritual being prepared in the town.

The Redwoods are committing most of their soldiers to this campaign (2 infantry units, 1 scout unit). Lord Aaron and Marlin will each be leading an infantry unit. The Highsuns arrived this afternoon. Lord Highsun himself will be leading a cavalry unit and he brought an infantry unit as well. Leo will be leading the Slagathor archery unit with Clifford and Archer Joe part of his group.

They head in and find the Great Hall decked out for a feast. Sonya sits at Leo’s side at the Slagathor table. Surprisingly, the Crowmore and Bloodhand tables are empty— they were expected to send troops. The Crowmores declined because the Bonebreakers have been harassing them and they have to deal with them. The Bloodhands sent a raven via House Coldwater explaining Houses Coldwater and Melcolm requested their help with a pirate-hunting expedition and that effort was more critical for the stability of the Vale.

Sonya speaks with Leo about the plans to fight the mountain men. She wants to know that Leo won’t show mercy. Leo assures her he won’t show mercy to mountain men, trying to hide the mercy he showed the group we’re currently sheltering at the Teeth, and she seems to believe him. The Highsuns mainly keep to themselves. Leo goes over to greet them. Lord Highsun is as friendly as he ever is and commends Clifford for his information-gathering efforts. He says the First Shadows used to be almost respectable, but Valamir is different. He expects Valamir would have gotten himself killed soon enough and almost regrets that we’re rushing Valamir death rather than letting it happen naturally. He’s concerned about the Lord of Light element, but he expects people will eventually realize this god doesn’t care about us more than any other. Leo points out that the cultists have been murdering maesters and sowing chaos by impersonating them. Lord Highsun seems more inclined to think that people are murdering maesters just to usurp their comfortable places in the castles.

Leo mentions our theory about the pirates and the Lord of Light cultists working together and the increased threat they pose. The cultists may be prompting the mountain men to mount inland attacks to weaken the coastal defenses for the pirates. It’s unfortunate we don’t know which particular Lord of Light church is training and sending out these fanatics. Leo notices that Lord Highsun checks to make sure no Redwoods are listening before he speaks again. Lord Highsun says he’s always found that peace and reconciliation is the best way to resolve things. He hints that allying with the Lord of Light followers might be the easiest way to put a stop to all of this since they’re the link between the mountain men and the pirates. Seeing Leo’s confusion, he clarifies that the ones we’re going after right now all need killing, but it’s an idea to keep in mind for later if an opportunity arises. Capture is always an option.

Meanwhile, Clifford is drinking as heavily as usual and chatting up any girl he can. He likes the redheads in particular. One of them swings at him for his advances, a boyfriend gets involved, Gene Starskin gets punched, and it turns into a minor brawl that Marlin has to break up with his men. Even so, Clifford eventually wins over a redhead named Leila and he can’t remember if she was a noble or a maid.

In the morning, the war party marches for Shadowvale— or as it’s now known, the West Arm of R’hllor. Clifford and some of the others move ahead of the party to scout. They follow an ancient road that used to lead to First Men town that has long since been taken over and destroyed by the mountain men. At some point, a volley of arrows suddenly falls on them in ambush from the trees and kills four of Clifford’s men. They appear to be members of the Red Eye tribe (they have red paint around their eyes, tend not to sleep, and specialize in overnight missions). Clifford engages the commander while one of the Slagathor soldiers, Alan, brings down a mountain man. The enraged Clifford drives his spear through the commander’s shoulder and nearly severs his arm.

The Slagathors are much better-armed and prepared and quickly take the upper hand. Seeing how badly things are going for him, the Red Eye commander goes for broke and hacks away viciously at Clifford. The Slagathor retaliates and rips both of the mountain man’s arms off (Wookie-style). A few more of Clifford’s men go down, but the mountain men break and run when they see their leader’s fate. Clifford sends his men after them; two are captured alive and the other five are killed before they can get away. With 9 of Clifford’s 20 men killed and several wounded, he decides to head back to the main group with his prisoners.

He presents the captured mountain men to the Redwoods. Both are young men, maybe teenagers. Clifford and Marlin intimidate them into talking. The boys mention a fire ritual that will involved a good chunk of the town (which they still call Shadowvale). They were sent ahead with their boss, Savaki (the man Clifford “disarmed”) because their group were still firm followers of the mountain man gods and Valamir, who has converted to the Lord of Light, wants to get the holdouts killed. Most of the tribes aren’t as devoted to the Lord of Light as the First Shadows, but they’re here to see if there’s anything to what the fanatics say. If the mountain men win this battle, the word of the Lord of Light could spread among all the tribes… A Scarlet Shepherd named Diferi has taken command of the mountain men and is always seen in company of his personal bodyguard, Jack Redwood.

The boys report there are 8-10 mountain men units in town. Their tribe, the Red Eyes, provided two units. Most are infantry and some are archers. They only know of one group of horsemen among the mountain man forces. The questioning done, Marlin recommends executing the two as Lady Sonya would wish. Ax Dan is called in. Elza (the pseudo-maester) patches up Clifford’s wounds.

The party crosses through the remains of the First Men/First Shadows town. It looks like whatever was left was burned to the ground at least a few months ago. By the sixth day of marching, we expect to arrive at the main mountain man town. We can approach from the front, charging down the slope, which would probably be defended. There’s also a side path we could take that would be slower going but grant us the higher ground. Then there’s a third path on the other side that passes by some ruins where the Moon Sisters may be located. The scouts weren’t able to determine that path for sure. We could also, with difficulty, charge through the hills or forest.

The night before the assault, it begins to rain hard. Morning dawns rainy and foggy. This reduces visibility for all sides, but might give us an advantage if the Lord of Light fanatics can’t use fire-based attacks or complete their fire ritual in the rain. Our scouts report what they can see of the mountain man placements. They know of eight units: Valamir and Jack Redwood are in the city; the Moon Sisters are by the ruins; Red Eyes units are in the hills to the west; First Shadows are waiting for us on the plains; and that’s all we know for now.

The Slagathors start things off by firing at the First Shadows as we emerge from the trees. Leo recognizes that Lucas, the son of Valamir, is leading that unit. Lord Aaron orders Marlin’s unit to follow up, so he charges and hits hard enough to disorganize Lucas’ men. The Red Eyes rush Marlin from behind and flank his forces. A Highsun unit charges the Red Eyes. A unit of Damned Mutts pops out of the woods behind the Highsuns (interestingly, their unit is composed of a mixture of mountain men and mercenary criminals brought in for this fight).

The Slagathors and Redwoods team up against Lucas’ unit to try and wipe them out; Lucas’ unit winds up fleeing away into the hills. The Red Eye infantry unit runs to join Valamir in the city. The Highsun unit engages with the Damned Mutts. The criminals in the Mutts refuse to listen to orders to change tactics and just continue attacking the Highsuns until the Highsuns become disorganized.

The Slagathors fire into the Mutts and cause them to become disorganized in return, leaving them open for Marlin to rout them and send them running with their tails between their legs. The Highsuns are unable to rally their disorganized troops just yet. Meanwhile, Valamir moves deeper into the city doing who knows what… Leo, Lord Aaron and the Highsun archers run forward to press towards the city.

An archer duel between the Slagathors and the Red Eyes begins, soon joined by the Redwood archers. Lord Aaron spots his brother and gets in position to charge Jack down. Lord Highsun gallops up to join the fight as well. The Slagathors managed to rout the Red Eyes archers and finish them off.

Suddenly a fire springs up in the city. The Scarlet Shepherd is burning the mayor of the mountain man town alive. The fog abruptly, unnaturally clears up, and the rain starts to lessen. Valamir and Jack Redwood stand shoulder to shoulder in the city and wait for us to come. As Lord Redwood and Lord Highsun charge into the city, the rain fully dissipates.

A hidden unit of Mutts bursts from the trees behind the wounded Redwood archers. Marlin notices the Mutts and charges them to defend his fellow Redwoods. A new group of First Shadows mountain men led by a woman named Clara emerges from the forest. Leo focuses on finishing off the Red Eyes and wipes out the last of them, singlehandedly ending the Red Eyes tribe in Westeros.

Marlin causes the Mutts to become disorganized. Leo, getting his archers into position on the hill, spots the Moon Sisters watching from the ruins. They’re displaying a flag of truce and seem content to stay out of things. The Highsun troops move to make sure the new mountain men can’t attack their lord from behind. Marlin manages to rout the last group of Mutts and send them yammering.

Suddenly the Scarlet Shepherd unleashes a new spell that engulfs the entire town in flames. It traps the lords inside the city limits and sets everything ablaze. All those who don’t believe in the Lord of Light take penalties to attack in the flames, and the remaining townsfolk who aren’t devotees start burning to death in their collapsing homes.

Leo’s archers fire into the city and severely wound the Scarlet Shepherd but don’t manage to take him down yet. Inside the burning city, Lord Highsun battles Valamir and the Redwood brothers get to dueling. Sir Zachary of the Hills (Highsun forces) moves to help his lord and gets in some great hits. Lord Aaron takes a series of bad hits from his brother in a clearly one-sided fight. Leo keeps firing at the Shepherd to try and finish him off and end the magic. With a flare of magic, the Shepherd manages to fend off a killing arrow from Leo.

Lord Highsun rushes Jack Redwood to try and protect his fellow lord, but it isn’t enough to deter Jack. Just as Jack would have gotten a killing blow on Aaron as they duel throughout the burning town, part of a roof collapses between them and cuts them off from each other. Jack assumes his brother is dead under the timbers and turns his attention back to the Highsuns. Leo’s archers finally cause the Scarlet Shepherd to flee, instantly lessening the magic of the flames.

While the Highsuns focus on taking down Valamir together, Jack Redwood tries to flee with the last of the First Shadows. Leo’s archers disorganize Jack’s remaining forces while Marlin comes racing up to help. Valamir limps away from the Highsuns as fast as he can. Seeing the Scarlet Shepherd escaping, Lord Highsun changes targets and successfully chases down the Shepherd. The rest of the Highsun forces effectively deal with Valamir. Leo’s archers finally manage to defeat Jack Redwood’s forces, but in the confusion Jack manages to escape yet again. Leo’s forces then take out Clara’s before she can kill off Marlin’s men.

Lucas gets away but loses quite a bit of his men and probably ends up wounded. The First Shadows cavalry that never participated in the fight gets away scot-free. The Moon Sisters are long gone. As for the Damned Mutts, leader Gos and his unit get wiped out by the Redwoods in the aftermath but the other Mutts get away.

Leo finds Aaron in the smoldering ruins and pulls him out alive. As he does, he seems to feel Nina’s presence around him, almost like this was the will of the gods. (Later, Nina tearfully hugs Leo and shows him a painting she made while he was in combat: Jack Redwood cutting off his brother’s head.)

A ton of Jason’s troops (Redwoods) are killed in the fight, but he gets out alive to rebuild his unit anew. Marlin loses some as well, but not nearly as many. Lord Highsun loses some men to the fire, as does Zachary’s unit. It’s almost as though the fire actively went after them, especially those who most fervently believed in the Old Gods.

The Highsuns take some prisoners away before anyone else can examine them and says they’re his to deal with. Leo advises him to kill any Lord of Light followers that happen to be among them. Lord Highsun agrees, but Leo can tell he’s leaning more towards trying to use them than kill them.

As thanks to the Slagathors, Lord Redwood grants them much of the loot found in the town (1 Wealth) and shares the credit for the victory (2 Glory).

In the aftermath of the victorious battle, Lord Aaron insists on officiating Leo and Sonya’s marriage this evening at the heart tree. They’ll have another ceremony later at the Teeth in the eyes of the Seven, but this will be the one to honor the Old Gods. Leo agrees and is officially wed; Sonya will return with him to the Teeth.

Glory: 2 for Slagathors (5 for Redwoods, who were in command)
1 Wealth

Warfare Kills (more or less): Marlin (2), Leo (4), Highsuns (3)

XP: (TBD after Episode 11)

SESSION 18 (4/30/17)
Episode 9: Pirate’s Teeth

On a nice spring day, Meera, scanning the horizon with her far-eye, spots ships approaching the Teeth. One belongs to Chadwick, the portmaster Ysabel sent to negotiate with the Upcliffs a few months ago to discuss a new trade agreement. He has an Upcliff ship alongside him. Behind them are three pirate ships giving chase. Meera runs to inform Lord Arthur and he assigns Leo to send rescue ships.

The Slagathor ships quickly join the fray and do enough damage to make one of the pirate ships disorganized. Chadwick flees for port while the Upcliffs turn and attack alongside the Slagathors. The fight goes well, and soon some of the pirate ships begin to flee. The Slagathors managed to sink two pirate ships but the third escapes to the south to fight another day. They might be headed towards Wickendon.

Chadwick thanks Leo for the assistance and tells him the pirates have been chasing them for about three or four days now, gaining all the time. Warson Upcliff, the eldest son, is in the other ship. The Upcliffs have owned an island off of Wickendon for thousands of years; they’re a reclusive First Men family. In a situation that’s unique to this family, they believe in female leadership and it’s the eldest daughter, Zora (currently single and in her late teens), who stands to inherit the family. The Upcliffs preside over Witch Island. Rumors say they associate with merlings and that the Upcliff “witch queens” used magic to hold off the invading Andals thousands of years ago. Fun fact: Warson was the one Leo beat in combat during the tourney at the Grafton wedding.

Warson and Chadwick seem to be on good terms. The former is dressed in sleek black clothes with an odd, rather fishlike helmet with stylized merling ears. He thanks the Slagathors for their help and apologizes for dragging the family into it. Warson expresses an interest in the anti-pirate coalition he’s heard rumors of. Chadwick explains that winter came while he was at Witch Island and the Upcliffs graciously offered him hospitality. Warson formally requests to join our coalition and arrangements are made.

Chadwick takes Ysabel aside and quietly tells her what he’s learned. Apparently manticores are poisonous insects that can kill humans. A yellow and red manticore is the flag used to transport Scarlet Shepherds, the Lord of Light fanatics. Once the fanatics are delivered, the “poison”, the flag is changed to a scorpion so other followers can tell from afar what’s happened. His sources say the person behind all this is the Pirate King Gabool. Chadwick has also heard a Lord of Light follower approached the Upcliffs more than a year ago and asked to use their island as a base. He doesn’t know exactly what happened to the man, but he is certainly no longer among the living. Chadwick heard this from Lady Morgan herself. There have been no other emissaries to them as of yet. Ysabel gives Chadwick five gold dragons as thanks for his good service. Ysabel also thanks Warson for his aid.

A feast is held that evening. Ysabel and Nina are seated near Warson. Ysabel surreptitiously nudges Nina over their carrot/dill soup to see if she’s interested in their guest. She tries to get Nina and Warson talking about fighting pirates and such. Maester Meera requests that Warson give her students a talk about his family and island home while he’s here, and he agrees. Nina is intrigued by the tales of Witch Island and Warson enjoys hearing her talk about her painting (he’s heard of her work). Warson and Nina get along well during dinner and leave together to continue talking.

Lord Arthur waves Ysabel over and sternly asks her if she’s forgotten the terms of the Waynwood offer. Ysabel says she set them up because Nina needs to get over her shyness. Lord Arthur looks at her suspiciously but says he’ll allow this as long as things don’t go too far between Nina and Warson. The Upcliff lad will be here about a week. Ysabel sets the potential couple up for a dinner at a nice restaurant. Rebekka finds a nice secluded spot to set up the couple for a “painting date”. Meera whips up some new paints to help Nina’s inspiration.

The head chef of the nice restaurant is named Pierre Cousteau. His specialty is shellfish and flambe (because his father died tragically on a fishing trip where the ship was allegedly attacked by a giant crustacean).

Lord Arthur summons Leo and comments on Nina and Warson spending lots of time together. He’s concerned people might be going behind his back and trying to set them up together. Leo doesn’t know anything about this, but Lord Arthur orders him to come up with something to separate the two tonight. His father doesn’t want to risk the deal with the Waynwoods falling through (they’re not a family known for flexibility).

Leo finds Rebekka on the archery range, training Korinne. The younger girl is doing remarkably well. Leo compliments her on her shooting and she thanks him a bit awkwardly since Leo doesn’t talk to the bastards much. Once Korinne leaves, Leo tells Rebekka of his orders from Lord Arthur while Archer Joe keeps practicing in the background. He’s clearly still confused about what’s going on. Rebekka explains how Meera is concerned the Waynwoods plan on exploiting Nina. When Rebekka isn’t terribly helpful, Leo says the only thing he can think of is inviting Warson to a poker game tonight. She claims not to know where Warson is, so Leo storms off.

Rebekka tells Meera and Ysabel what’s happened at once. Ysabel has been having servants remodeling her room. Meera is there patching up one of the bastards who got hurt trying to help out and scraped up their knees. Archer Joe (now moving boxes) offers to set up a fake bandit attack as a distraction for Leo, but we turn him down. We settle on telling Leo some villagers have spotted suspicious lights in the woods and fear an attack. Ysabel finds him just before he would come across the couple and tries to dissuade him by being argumentative and convincing him there’s a threat elsewhere. He believes her and leaves, but not before telling a nearby guard to go break up Warson and Nina. Luckily, the guard he talks to is Archer Joe and does not comply. By the time Leo returns to the castle, Nina and Warson are finished with their painting date and packing up the supplies. Leo invites Warson out to play poker with him anyway. By Nina’s blush, it looks like the couple had a good time.

While Leo takes Warson out for a night with the guys, Nina knocks on Ysabel’s door. The younger sister is clearly taken with Warson. He’s friendly but not overly talkative, his island is intriguing, and he finds her paintings fascinating. But Nina is concerned that Ysabel will be offended if she gets married before her older sister. Ysabel gives her her blessing and agrees to help her speak with Warson about all this tomorrow.

Leo asks Warson his opinion about the Slagathor women. He thinks Ysabel has a good head on her shoulders and finds Nina quite intriguing. He doesn’t answer when Leo asks if he’s smitten with Nina, but it’s obvious enough. Leo says there are plans to send Nina and Geena to the Waynwoods but doesn’t elaborate on the arrangements. Warson ends up confused and leaves the gathering early with the look of a man with a plan. Leo worries that Warson might intend to do something rash and has guards follow.

Meera encounters Warson stalking the halls and asks if he’s all right. He asks for a minute of her time. Warson requests more information about the arrangement with the Waynwoods. Meera remains fairly vague, saying she’s not at liberty to disclose the details, but she emphasizes that it’s a tentative arrangement and nothing is fixed yet. When Warson asks how determined Lord Slagathor can be, Meera says he will go to great lengths to protect his family and his people but he also allows them a lot of freedom (for example, Ysabel running the port). Warson says he’s seen that, but it also seems Nina isn’t allowed that same freedom. Meera says many people in the family feel very protective of Nina, perhaps to a fault. Warson thanks her for her counsel and walks away— and in a sudden flash of insight, Meera realizes he’s probably intending to elope with Nina. She quickly follows.

As they walk, Meera quietly tells him she can guess their intentions and she doesn’t want him doing anything to damage their newly formed friendship between their families. She says he ought to make sure Nina feels as he does and then, if she does, they should speak with Lord Arthur. She offers to go with them. Warson agrees to this, and soon he, Nina, Meera, and Ysabel are headed for Lord Arthur’s room. The guards report what they’ve seen to Leo and he goes there as well.

In Lord Arthur’s room, Rebekka is playing a strategic board game with her father. They discuss Rebekka’s marriage to Idwell and where the couple will live. It’s customary for the woman to move in with the man, but they haven’t decided yet. Lord Arthur assures her she would never be a burden to him if she wished to stay here. Rebekka brings up the potential arrangement between Nina and Warson just as the group arrives.

Sighing in resignation, Lord Arthur asks what’s going on. Rebekka bows and moves to the corner. Warson and Nina are holding hands as Meera sits down to start the discussion. Lord Arthur, though uncomfortable saying this in front of Nina (who wasn’t aware of the arrangements), explains that there are important ongoing negotiations with the Waynwoods. Meera points out that this arrangement would not be in Nina’s best interest, and she knows Lord Arthur cares deeply for his children’s well-being and happiness. This “ward” request is highly unusual, even unheard of. Arthur agrees he’s not at all comfortable with the proposed deal but he doesn’t think the Waynwoods will agree to Geena’s marriage without the full package. The opportunity to marry into a great house is a rare one in this age.

Having listened a while, Leo proposes letting Warson and Nina court for a while before anything is decided. Warson says he would rather become engaged with Nina now than risk letting her be taken from him. Leo, Ysabel and Meera argue together that the Waynwoods are taking advantage of us and even marrying into a great family isn’t worth being abused. Meera expresses her intention to go speak with the Waynwoods at once to renegotiate.

Finally, Lord Arthur capitulates and agrees to do what’s best for his daughter. Warson and Nina become engaged (pending the approval of his mother, though he doesn’t see why she would refuse). There will probably be no dowry exchange because the Upcliffs are in the habit of demanding dowries from men. Warson will need to head back to Witch Island by boat to report because his family doesn’t use ravens— or rather they do, but they have their own network separate from the maester system.

XP: 15

SESSION 17 (4/8/17)
Episode 9: Pirate’s Teeth

As Rebekka is stuck dragging everyone’s luggage down the hall, she sees Jenny, the Arryn servant who tried to steal from the Slagathors. She’s half-assedly sweeping the floors. The girl quietly tells her their servant network has people in Gulltown too and shows her a little scrap of leather with a yellow fly stamped on it. Rebekka recognizes the emblem of the Consortium, the popular underground information network. Jenny gives it to her and tells her to show it at the fifth port building near the Crone’s Scones.

A servant informs Ysabel that Lord Arryn wishes to see her before she leaves. They meet one-on-one. Lord Arryn says he was quite impressed with her performance in the debate against the Graftons. Ysabel modestly answers that she was only doing her duty for her family and showing her loyalty. The lord comments that Lord Arthur must have great faith in her to entrust her with this duty. He recommends that Ysabel go to Harrenhal with Lord Arthur (along with anyone else Arthur wants to bring). Lord Arryn suspects he’ll need someone like her there. There are many rumors spreading, some of which might prove advantageous to the Vale if exploited correctly. He believes Ysabel has earned the right to start gaining his trust. If she continues to be of service to him, her family could greatly benefit. Lord Arryn recommends our family arrive a day or two earlier than requested. She assures him that he can count on her assistance and her loyalty.

Leo is waiting by the elevator to head down to ground level when Robert Baratheon strolls over with Ned Stark. Robert is as overly friendly as always and gives Leo a big hug, then throws an arm around Ned and says Ned had something to say to Leo. Ned tells Leo he was surprised at how Leo jumped to defend Lady Hunter’s honor. Leo said it just seemed like the natural thing to do. Ned says Leo did the right thing and offers him his hand to shake. They all say they look forward to meeting again at Harrenhal. Leo says it will be an honor to spar with Ned; the Stark reciprocates.

Maester Meera talks with Lord Hunter, Maester Targon, and Maester Esteva (see recaps).

A little earlier, in the hours after the debate with the Graftons, Ysabel has a servant request a meeting with Viktor. They meet in the gardens. Viktor gives her a bow. She asks for his understanding regarding the disagreement over Shett lands. Viktor says he wasn’t involved in the dealings, but he’s sure she did what she felt she must. He doesn’t seem to hold any grudge against her. Viktor says they’re all family, and Ysabel agrees. But he doesn’t know how to change their tense relationship. Lord Marq takes most of his advice from Randall and Maester Targon, neither of which care for the Slagathors. Ysabel hopes Meera’s discussions with Targon will help bridge that gap.

Viktor believes the Slagathors would need to make some proactive move to prove themselves to get Marq’s attention, and he has an idea. But he is reluctant to tell her. She impresses on him how hard it might be for them to discuss things in private like this. Viktor quietly mentions the rumors that Marq has been traveling away from Gulltown and spending coin somewhere. He says the Graftons have a plan; if things come to fruition, things at Harrenhal should be quite interesting. All of the great houses will be there, being watched closely by the king and the prince. Viktor thinks he might be able to convince Marq to make use of the Slagathors at Harrenhal, and their service might thaw relations between the families. Any available resource might be needed. Viktor claims not to know much more about the details. He says men like him only become useful when things get “interesting”.

Leo seeks out Lord Lynderly to talk about the anti-pirate coalition that’s being built, but the lord is quite dismissive of the threat of pirates or mountain men. As for the Lord of Light issue, his maester, Esteva, is the head of the Vale, so he feels the matter is already well in hand. Leo tells him the Slagathors are there if the Lynderlys ever need help. Lord Lynderly thanks him in a way that makes it clear he doesn’t ever intend to call on us.

The Bloodhands and the young Royce break off from the party to head back to their respective homes. It takes the Slagathor party 1-2 weeks to return to the Teeth. We stop at the Black Squirrel along the way; it’s traditional that the Slagathors stop there the night before they get home.

Avlon rides out to meet us with Rupert and 20-30 soldiers. The boy takes his responsibility very seriously and treats everyone with deference, trying to imitate Lord Arthur. Rupert makes fun of Avlon and sulks when he gets told off. The younger boy has a little trouble controlling his horse. Avlon starts to open up when Leo asks about his hunting. He hasn’t seen anything but animals on his patrols and things have been peaceful. Lord Arthur has been busy with work and sending messages as well as training the archers for combat. Clifford is still with the Redwoods. The peasants are planting in the fields and morale is high.

Lord Arthur greets the party warmly. Avlon joins the other four for the debriefing. We tell him everything, though Leo leaves out his near-tryst with Lady Hunter and Meera doesn’t mention Lord Hunter’s stolen sword (since she was asked to keep it quiet). Ysabel emphasizes that there are Graftons who want our families to reconcile and that both the Graftons and the Arryns hope for our assistance at Harrenhal. Rebekka doesn’t mention the Consortium information network.

Arthur explains that he sent many letters to try and expand our anti-pirate coalition. Many houses are supportive of our efforts but are reluctant to join, wary of being tricked. House Starskin has already agreed to join. House Coldwater is considering it. He suspects many houses will join if something happens, but we would have to do something to sweeten the deal if we expect them to join preemptively. Lord Arthur is quite pleased we secured an invitation to Harrenhal; only major and moderate houses get invitations, so this says good things about our status. Of the Raven Five, only House Bloodhand has also secured an invitation.

Clifford is doing a scouting mission with House Redwood and will likely join us for the attack on the mountain men. Marcus Felix informs us that Lord Marq has returned to Gulltown and Marcus has secured a meeting with him. Ysabel says Marcus Felix should listen for any plans the Graftons might have, especially pertaining to Harrenhal, and take note of Marq’s disposition. Geena reports that Marq was meeting with the Sealord in Braavos. Officially it was to request a new loan for the port. Gerold is away on a trading mission to the south, possibly to King’s Landing (it wasn’t to Wickendon). Kale (age 14) has been practicing his combat skills but Geena finds him unattractive. Lord Coldwater writes that relations between the king and the prince worsen by the day. The hand, Merryweather, has been trying to smooth things out between them.

Lord Arthur asks Leo and Ysabel to stay behind (he will speak with Meera right after). He’s concerned Avlon isn’t much of a leader of men and won’t ever make a good garrison commander. He says he feels Rupert (12 years old) is now old enough to start being treated like an adult. He asks Leo to start training Rupert in combat. He also wants Ysabel to start training Rupert as though he were to succeed her as Master of Coin. Though Rupert won’t admit it to Maester Meera, the boy clearly loves to read as has been known to sneak books from Arthur’s own library. Arthur would rather the Master of Coin be a Slagathor if possible. As for the Waynwood proposal, they will discuss that later.

The lord meets with Meera and Rebekka next. Meera fills Arthur in on what she’s learned about Alundra Reed during her travels, with Rebekka’s house. Lady Alundra is third in line to take over the Reed household. Howland Reed, the heir, is not considered very worthy; he’s sickly and has a poor reputation. Arthur and Alundra have been communicating since last fall. As Alundra has no maester (and doesn’t want her message read by the Reeds), her letters arrive by courier. Arthur met with her in the fall (almost a year ago). He found her very charming and beautiful, almost too good to be true. Meera points out that no one has said a word against Alundra, but we can’t discount Lord Royce’s poor opinion of her. Arthur thinks Alundra is ambitious and wants to increase her power. Rebekka says it would buck tradition to pass over Howland Reed. Arthur says something might always happen to Howland. Alundra has offered something intriguing in exchange for our help: letting part of our house split to form a new bannerman house to the Reeds.

It would be a dangerous game to play, but also a rare opportunity. We could redeem the Slagathor name and form a whole new house led by one or more of the Slagathor children. Arthur suspects Alundra is planning something for Harrenhal. Meera asks if Arthur thinks Alundra is trustworthy. He’s not sure. She’s charming, charismatic, persuasive… She seems very capable. But we don’t know if it’s just an act. Rebekka says it doesn’t matter if it’s an act or sincere as long as we get what we want from her. Meera is worried that the risk is too great to take if we can’t be sure she’s trustworthy. Lord Arthur decides it’s worth meeting with Alundra at Harrenhal to at least hear her out. He says Rebekka might be needed to help investigate her.

_Alundra Reed

Gulltown: Meera asks around to see if any Reeds have been through Gulltown. Henry Reed is typically seen once every few seasons; he’s the merchant of the family. The other Reeds generally stick to their swamps. But he brought along another Reed last summer, Alundra, who recently came to power in her branch family. It seemed he was showing her the ropes of what he does, though she was quite commanding and charismatic herself. She is a cousin to the main line, as is Henry. The latter doesn’t have a great reputation; he’s generally gruff and unfriendly. They say he’s friendlier towards the Royces than the Graftons. But Alundra was very friendly to everyone when she visited. She helped load and unload goods herself; attended some theater shows; gave money to the poor; and left a very good impression with the people. No one knows exactly what she discussed with the Graftons.

Runestone: The maester also spends some time asking around about the Reed family. About a year ago, Alundra and Henry Reed visited for a few days. As in Gulltown, she made a favorable impression with most of the civilians and soldiers of Runestone. She was very open, friendly, pleasant, and attractive. But something happened on her last day there in a private conversation between the Reeds and Lord Royce. It caused a chill in their relationship, but people aren’t sure what was said. The Runestone maester opines that the Reeds were there to try and win allies for some reason. Meera makes a good impression with the Runestone maester and they part on agreeable terms.

Eyrie: From talking with some of the servants, you find that Lady Alundra Reed visited House Corbray at Heart’s Home in the previous spring, accompanied by Henry Reed, a man known as the only Reed to have left his homeland, the swamps. It just so happened that House Lynderly was also there during this visit. Not much trade was commenced, and the Reeds only stayed for a couple of days. During the short visit, Alundra was kind to the servants and men at the castle, not making them do anything tedious, and even helped an older woman carry some laundry. She was dressed in sailor clothes when they first arrived, but changed into traditional clothes inside the castle. She made a favorable impression to the attendants of the castle. Your source of information does not know though why Allundra and Henry Reed visited; it was first visit by Henry in over two decades._

Leo seeks out his second-in-command, Sam. He finds him in his (Leo’s) office since he’s been filling in for him. Sam has been studying reading and arithmetic. Sam is thrilled to hear that Leo picked up scarves at the Eyrie and Gulltown and chooses the Gulltown scarf since it’s more fashionable. He says his girlfriend Margaret will love it. Sam reports that nothing has happened so far this spring and proudly shows a copy of a letter he wrote himself to the Crowmores. It’s very poorly written, but legible. The Crowmores report Bonebreaker activity near their castle.

Sam asks where Leo will live once he’s married. Leo isn’t sure yet, but he’ll at least be here a while to train Rupert, maybe Avlon as well. Sam says he’s willing to move with Leo if his lord chooses to go.

Sam then reports that nine of the mountain men we picked up have had to be imprisoned because they won’t convert to the Seven. The rest seem to be acting in good faith but mostly keep to themselves and won’t integrate. He recommends the nine holdouts be executed. Leo agrees. He’ll work with Meera to try and integrate the rest. The nine will be executed tonight, quietly. Leo decides to take Avlon to watch.

Ysabel inspects the construction of the new market, down by the port. It’s coming along well so far. Work has been going on for about two months and should be complete by the time we return from Harrenhal. Jayne approaches Ysabel with a worried look. A ship called “Miss Jasmine” arrived from Essos this morning. One of our “fishermen” (i.e. those brought here by Xanduul) identified it as a pirate ship belonging to the El Viento family. The ship is currently docked here and the crew of 25 are acting like regular traders so far. The captain, Nys-Sandra, has requested a meeting with the port leader. Ysabel orders that Lord Arthur be informed and that the ship be inspected and disarmed. She suspects either revenge or a scouting mission and worries for her family’s safety. Leo and some of his garrison men are brought down to the port and filled in. Jayne says no one has been aggressive so far; in fact, the captain insisted that the ship be inspected.

The Slagathors meet with the captain on the deck. She’s quite welcoming and says the reputation of the Slagathors precedes them; in fact, she says they might be better known in Essos than in Westeros. She offers a sample of green tea. Leo says they’ll try some later, but he wants her to come speak with them at the port office first. He sends a man to fetch Meera as well. The captain mentions there are bows and other weapons in the hold, but only for self-defense.

Meera is currently going through her messages. Esteva says Locke and Dustin are the houses whose maesters were killed in the North. Both are on the east coast. Maester George of House Manderly was attacked but survived. Tywinna informs her that she’s heard Maester Gerrick might be hiding somewhere in the Vale. Oldtown believes he’s involved with the attacks. Meera knows her mentor never had a Valyrian link or any interest in Lord of Light matters. He was never ambitious and in fact turned down the chance to become an Archmaester. He’s also not vengeful. It seems most likely that he’s being set up as a scapegoat. A guard fetches Meera as she’s reading her messages and takes her down to the office.

Rebekka heads to her room and finds that it’s been trashed. Nothing seems to be missing, but some items are broken. It looks more like vandalism than a search. The tougher items took several attempts to break, so the culprit probably isn’t too strong. There’s a poorly written note on the bed that says “Go to your boyfriend and leave”. It might be a child’s writing. She suspects Rupert at first, but then remembers he has nice handwriting. In fact, she suspects it might be someone younger… Gareth Stone. He’s 8 or 9 years old and keeps to himself, though he tends to follow Rupert around and obey his orders like a lackey. Rebekka goes searching for him.

Gareth is currently carrying a basket of warm bread to Rupert’s room. Rebekka sneaks up behind him and knocks it out of his hands, then smiles brightly at him. He nervously gets to picking up the bread while she questions him about her room. She says her room is trashed. He comments that House Bloodhand’s servants are good at cleaning up. Rebekka stomps on the piece of bread he’s about to pick up and demands an explanation. She says she’s still part of the family. The boy says she’s not welcome here. But he deflates and backs away, frightened. She swears to make his life (and Rupert’s) a living hell if they ever touch her stuff again. Gareth mutters that Rupert wasn’t involved, besides telling him how to pick the lock. He also tells her to stay away from Corinne, because Rebekka’s mom’s ghost killed Corinne’s mom and has killed two more people in the last month. Gareth shouts that he hates her and runs away.

Ysabel, Leo, and Meera sit down to discuss the pirates. Meera does all the tests she can think of and determines there’s nothing wrong with the tea. Sam sends Nys-Sandra in. She immediately has a cup of it herself to further prove it’s safe. She says green tea is a new product they’re trying to market and they’re headed for Wickendon next. The captain says she understands our suspicions after what happened over the winter and admits straight-out that she’s a representative of the El Viento family. She’s taken aback when we don’t show surprise.

Nys-Sandra explains there’s a rivalry between the El Viento family and Gabool. Unofficially, the Sealord pays all of the major pirate groups tribute payments so they don’t attack. This year, they’ve noticed the payment to Gabool is much greater than ever before. They’ve also heard our family is forming an anti-pirate coalition and wish to join. They could change their title from “pirate” to “privateer” if it’s to their advantage. The Slagathors killed Gabool’s son, a feat that impressed the El Viento queen.

Leo asks why the El Viento family hasn’t joined Gabool, if the latter has been recruiting and buying out other groups. She explains that Gabool’s wife died of grief when their son was killed by Lord Arthur. The El Viento queen offered to marry Gabool, but he rudely slapped her in the face. Now the El Viento family has an eternal grudge against Gabool.

Nys-Sandra asks why we think Gabool has been accumulating more money. Leo says we suspect revenge for his son’s death, but it could also have something to do with the Grafton wedding. The captain agrees; the marriage is suspicious and too convenient. As for what the Graftons get out of this… who knows? Leo wonders if the marriage is a bribe to protect Gulltown from attack. Nys-Sandra is concerned that the pirate king has been accumulating all this wealth and power but hasn’t used it yet. Queen Umil El Viento was the one who told her all this to pass along.

Leo asks where Gabool is based. She offers to point it out on a map right now. A servant fetches a map and Nys-Sandra marks an island off the coast of Essos, maybe 3 weeks southeast of here, perhaps a month with a large fleet. She admits Gabool’s fleet is larger than the El Viento fleet and on par with or larger than the Grafton fleet. The captain isn’t asking for an alliance to be forged today; she just wants us to consider it for when the time comes. Gabool’s forces have been largely sticking to Essos lately, perhaps so they could be summoned at any time.

Meera asks bluntly how Nys-Sandra feels about the Lord of Light. The captain is puzzled by the question and says there are followers among her people and Gabool’s, though she herself is not one; it’s a popular religion in Essos (except in Braavos). She does note that the port town Gabool took over for headquarters has a red temple. She seems surprised to hear that Lord of Light followers have been committing murders in Westeros and says she’ll ask her queen to investigate. When she mentions there are followers among her crew, Meera asks to speak with them. Leo tells her she has to make sure there aren’t any in her crew next time she visits.

Nys-Sandra proposes we verbally agree to a non-aggression pact for now and perhaps we can forge something in writing next time they visit. Warren of the Pale Winds will be the captain who comes with her next time. Leo and Nys-Sandra cut their palms and shake hands to agree to a temporary truce.

Meanwhile, Rebekka jumps into investigating these murders. She learns one victim was a maid in the castle, a farm girl in her 20s who joined a few years ago. Her name was Wilda. She was found at daybreak, having fallen from the castle walls. The other victim was a man named Daniel. He belonged to the navy and was spotted drinking in the castle bar the night before. He was also found at daybreak, dead at the bottom of an interior staircase on the side of the castle nearest the town. He was in his 30s. They died on different nights. The servants all blame it on Mad Maddie’s ghost, but those who don’t believe in ghosts say they were just accidents. No investigation was conducted.

As far as Rebekka can tell, the two victims didn’t know each other. She asks Wilda’s friends if anything odd happened in the week before. The only thing they note is that Wilda liked to gamble at the bar a bit. She seemed very pleased with her luck lately. Rebekka heads over to The Grouchy Gator to ask around. The guys in the corner invite her to join them and Bill buys her some grog. His friend Silent Ed nods at them. Rebekka asks about Daniel and Wilda. Bill says the two belonged to a group of about ten people; he claims he steers clear of the group because he won so much money off them they wouldn’t invite him back. Wilda had great luck, but Daniel’s was terrible. Those two never had anything, but Tarrus the smith had eyes for Wilda. Bill heard that neither victim had money on them when they were found. The group hasn’t met again since the murders.

About 6 of Nys-Sandra’s crew are Lord of Light followers. We meet with the oldest first, a woman named Nys-Lyla. Meera asks about curses first. The woman believes in them implicitly as punishments doled out by the Lord of Light, though she’s never seen one. Their casting would involve fire, and their removal requires the victim accept the lord’s judgment and convert. She says someone who can read could learn more from the books in the temples. Meera asks if anyone on the ship has seen a curse. Nys-Lyla says no one would speak of it even if they had. She says they go to weekly gatherings to listen to the red priests and receive food. There are some red priests in Wickendon who used to be Essosi traders, though there is no temple.

Meera asks about sects. Nys-Lyla says no, in concept. But in practice, each great temple has their own methods. The head temple is in Asshai, very far east of here. Meera asks about sects that condone murder. The old woman claims not to know any. She says the Lord of Light doesn’t seek to rule, only to spread his faith, so they don’t generally kill those who don’t believe and they don’t take control of cities. Ysabel asks if she knows of any missions in Westeros and she says no. This woman is not wearing the two-beaded necklace we saw on the others, but she has a bracelet and necklace in a different style.

We question the other five in turn. One says he heard from a friend that he accidentally saw a ritual. A priest had captured a thief. They tied him to some logs and burned him alive… and the priest began to look younger. Another says curses can be broken by having the priest who cast it cancel it (their death does not cancel it). Another says they’ve heard of a Brotherhood of Scarlet Shepherds who are known to be very aggressive converters. They were established to start converting “difficult” areas. Unlike other groups, the Shepherds are spread through every temple. Whether they also have their own temple is unknown. They don’t have a peaceful reputation and people are afraid to ask questions.

We buy a few barrels of green tea from Nys-Sandra.

With the market underway, we now have enough wealth and fame to have a permanent house band at the Teeth. It’s a mainly brass band with flutes, trumpets, and a lute, and it’s called The Backteeth boys.

Crops are currently being planted. The farmers plant sunflowers, corn, wheat, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, potatoes, basil and other herbs.

Jayne informs us that many Essosi ports have public artwork on display. We ask Nina to paint some murals in the new market. In addition, we ask her to teach the children in town to paint and invite her most promising students to paint murals as well. An artist named Henri Mateeth helps out as well, and together they found an art gallery as well.

Rebekka goes to see Tarrus to ask about his dead friends. Though he answers her questions, Rebekka gets the feeling his answers are rehearsed, like he was expecting this. He claims an older member named Thomas has been acting strangely. He also says the person he’s closest to is Lana, a baker. She can’t get any more out of him despite his odd behavior and just tells him she suspects the deaths weren’t accidents.

Leo takes Rupert and Avlon down to the dungeons to witness the executions. Rupert doesn’t understand what they’re doing, but Avlon does. Avlon says the executions aren’t necessary and tries to talk Leo out of it. When Rupert figures things out, he mocks Avlon for being a wimp and says the executions will be fun. Leo tries to impress upon both of them that this is a necessary duty. Avlon doesn’t think it’s right or fair to kill these people; he argues mountain men are still people. Leo asks how Avlon would solve the problem. The boy suggests keeping them locked up indefinitely, giving them more time to convert. He snaps at Leo that he can do what he wants as “garrison commander” and he’d rather join the Wall than become one himself. As Avlon walks away, Rupert cheerfully asks when the executions are going to happen.

Leo addresses the nine mountain men and gives them one last chance to convert and bend the knee. One gives in, but the other eight stand firm. One spits on Leo and says he won’t renounce his gods. The second is similarly defiant. But all eight remain steadfast as Leo executes them one by one. Rupert asks to try killing one of them but Leo refuses. Afterwards, Leo asks why Rupert wanted to. The boy says it’s something he’s never done before and he wants to know how to do “lord” stuff. Leo mentions being concerned about Avlon. Rupert says his brother has been spending lots of time with Reynar, and letting an outsider like that act like they’re part of the house is a bad idea. Rupert compares it to Mad Maddie, who thought she was special and killed Lady Slagathor for it. Leo points out even insiders can betray, like what happened at Heartree. And Reynar has earned his trust after saving both Avlon and Nina. The mountain man has done more for the family than most guards have in years. Leo tries to impress upon Rupert that it’s best to use diplomacy, but you have to be ready to use the sword when necessary. Rupert listens intently and thanks him for explaining it. Reaching Avlon will be a different matter.

Leo speaks with the one who agreed to bend the knee and feels certain the man is sincere (he’d rather live, imagine that).

Leo goes to see Meera next. He finds her working in her office with Little Lily sleeping on the couch, tired out by a long night of pestering the maester. Leo explains what just happened. He’s worried Avlon won’t be willing to uphold the law himself and kill people when necessary. Meera asks why execute them rather than release. Leo is concerned they would have gone out and hurt someone. Meera asks why he let any mountain men join our household if he thought they were all harmful. Leo says maybe because they were fleeing the Lord of Light and they compromised with us. And they’re not warriors.

The mountain men will surely find out what happened, so Leo and Meera decide to go speak with them tonight. She’ll speak with Avlon afterwards, alone.

Ysabel checks in with Lord Arthur and learns he’s fine with the non-aggression pact (since Westeros doesn’t recognize blood pacts, but Essos does). She then goes to see Nina. Her younger sister is working intently and clearly incredibly prolific in her work. She’s been getting requests from all sides. Most of the paintings are very nice and typical, but a few are odd. One has people burning on a beach— the beach closest to the Teeth. Others depict murders. One victim is a man with a maester chain. Only one painting shows a scene of war. It shows the commander being killed by another man.

Nina can’t really explain the paintings, but she says she had a vision of fire coming across the seas. Painting seemed like her “salvation”. She doesn’t quite remember painting the beach scene. In her dreams, which she had over three days, she saw an evil fire approaching the castle. The fire seemed “confused”, like it didn’t know whether or not to attack the castle. She prayed to the Seven and the Maiden told her to keep painting, so she did. The only dream she’s had since then was her trapped in a forest, searching for Geena, but this one just felt like a regular dream.

Ysabel asks to buy the beach painting, but Nina says it’s free; she knows Ysabel buys her art supplies. Ysabel has the painting framed and hung in her room (planning to report this to the rest of the family). It seems like talking with Ysabel has snapped Nina out of her almost trance-like state; perhaps it would be best to make Nina go out more often and not isolate herself.

Leo and Meera go to see the mountain men in their wing of the castle. The elders meet us: Narsa, Dayla, and Queltor. Leo apologizes for the late hour and informs them of the executions. Queltor starts to respond in anger but Narsa quiets him. She says he laid down his terms and gave them a chance. They accept his offer to let them deal with the bodies. Narsa says she’ll inform the others in the morning, and we shouldn’t expect to see the mountain men tomorrow while they process this. Leo promises the guards and staff will give them space. Narsa asks for only the heads; the rest of the body doesn’t matter.

Meera asks how things have been otherwise. Narsa says it’s been a tough adjustment; her people aren’t used to living in the confines of a castle. Meera suggests integrating the mountain men with farming or hunting groups. Narsa agrees with this but warns some people are getting frustrated. Meera asks what Narsa would have us do. Dayla says they would rather live outside, if we would allow it. Leo says we can’t do that, but they’re welcome to take the outdoor work. Meera offers to hold class out in the courtyard once a week so the children can get some fresh air and Narsa appreciates that. Leo explains the importance of staying within the walls during these dangerous times. Meera asks Narsa to speak with her if she ever has any concerns for her people.

Rebekka tracks down Leo (after he’s dealt with the mountain man issues) and fills him in on the strange deaths that happened within a few days of each other. Leo is skeptical of her murder claim but eventually plays along. The wall the maid fell from is not a place where a maid should have been, but the soldier died in a staircase servants and soldiers used.

Leo and Rebekka go knocking on Lana’s door and ask about Wilda and Daniel. Lana claims Wilda won a lot of money from Thomas shortly before she died, and Thomas takes losses hard. Lana says she loved Wilda like a sister but never cared for Daniel. Daniel was good friends with Tarrus. Wilda was the first to die. It seems like Lana is telling the truth.

They try tracking down Thomas next. They find his room, but there’s no answer to their knock. When Rebekka picks the lock, she finds Thomas dead, hanging from a rope. Rebekka is morbidly pleased to see that she was right about there being something fishy going on. There are definite signs of a struggle, though someone tried to make it look like suicide. There’s a note on the dresser confessing to the two murders and asking for forgiveness. Leo happens to know that Thomas never joined the SWORD program and couldn’t read or write. Rebekka sadly concludes that Tarrus is probably the guilty party. She and Leo have both known him a long time and gotten significant pieces made by him, like Leo’s wedding ring for Sonya and Rebekka’s dagger for Idwell.

The two finally fetch Meera to fill her in. Corinne overhears and invites herself to the investigation. Meera takes the “suicide note” and requests handwriting samples from all the suspects. Tarrus and Bill were not in SWORD but Silent Ed is. Leo asks Sam to get the writing samples from the soldiers while he and Rebekka talk to Tarrus. Meera will take a look at the body.

Leo questions Tarrus, who isn’t thrilled to hear that the lord is now involved in the investigation. The smith seems shocked to hear of Thomas’ murder. Under questioning, Tarrus confesses he found money on Daniel’s body and used it to buy Lana some nice clothes. He didn’t report finding the body first because he didn’t want to return the money. He was low on funds because he had to pay off some debts and wanted to use it to impress his lady.

Meera determines Thomas was definitely murdered. His killer was bigger and stronger than him and snapped his back over the wooden chest. She compares the writing samples Sam brings her and determines that Billy is the likely culprit. Leo sends orders for Billy and Silent Ed to report to him for instructions at his office. After twenty minutes, only Silent Ed shows up. He indicates he hasn’t seen Billy since he went to bed.

Leo does a search of the castle and learns from a guard at the gate that Billy left the castle on horseback, headed for the Black Squirrel Inn. He, Rebekka, and Meera take their horses in pursuit. Billy’s tracks are erratic; he’s not used to riding, being a navy guy. We soon spot him in the distance and close in. He yells for us to stay away. Meera and Rebekka take shots with their bows while Leo rides hard to get to melee distance. Ysabel comes up riding hard with Corinne sharing her saddle; the bastard woke Ysabel and filled her in on condition that Corinne get to come along.

The shots are enough to knock Billy from his horse, dead. He has 15 silver stags on him. We take the body back to the Teeth and consider the case closed. But it’s clear the garrison soldiers are not doing their job properly if these murders almost went unnoticed. (HOUSE ROLL= -3 LAW)

Rebekka talks to Corinne about what she wants to do. The girl wants to do what Rebekka does, but she has other ideas as well. Corinne shows off the trick she just learned: pretending to find a coin behind Rebekka’s ear (a coin she took from Rupert). Rebekka advises her to study herbology with Maester Meera so she can learn about medicine and poisons.

RP at the Eyrie

When Jon Arryn is asked what painting he desires, he asks for two paintings: one of whatever subject Nina desires; the other he desires to be a mythological piece, of a great eagle, one the size of a dragon, flying over the mountains, the emblem of House Arryn flying proudly.

Maester Meera and Lord Hunter

Lord Hunter can be found practicing his archery outside, where the cold winds are messing up the flight of any arrow. And yet he is still hitting the target with his arrows.

Maester Meera observes his work in silence for a moment before approaching. “Most impressive, my lord. Were you and Lord Arthur to spend an afternoon in the forest together, you would surely bring home a feast for the whole castle,” she remarks. “If I may trouble you, I have compiled some information that may be of use to you in evaluating your new maester, and I wish to review it with you.”

The flags fluttered high in the sky, the sun making the snow on the mountains are the brighter. Putting away his bow on his back, he orients himself to face you, his breath showing as he talks. Responding to your first comment first, he responds, “Perhaps. But if I only needed to practice for animals, well, I would practice on them!” He chuckles as a wide smile reveals his dull yellow teeth. “So, Maester, what information do you have?”

“A list of facts every true maester would know,” she says, passing him a sheaf of papers. “These include the symbolism of each link on a maester’s chain, as each represents a different area of mastery. Every maester’s chain is particular to that person; for example, I have three separate links relating to healing—” she indicates three links in various shades of silver "—but none in architecture. You will wish to note in particular if your replacement maester has a link of Valyrian steel, as Maester Johnson possessed. These links are exceedingly rare, as they are only permitted for those who have studied magic. If your new maester has one, I believe there are two strong possibilities: one, they may be an impostor using Maester Johnson’s chain; or two, they may be a true maester who will then become a prime target for another murder. From what you have told me, it is possible these fanatics are collecting Valyrian steel for some nefarious purpose.

“I have also enclosed a list of maesters currently working as instructors at the Citadel— that is, working there as of approximately one year ago, which I have learned via correspondence with colleagues over time. Any maester coming from the Citadel recently would know them. I’ve included trivia on them where I know it, but I left the Citadel a decade ago myself, so some of the information is second-hand.

“Furthermore, there is some trivia regarding the Citadel itself, knowledge that any student there would soon learn, such as which rooms are adjacent to which. I must stress, Lord Hunter,” she adds seriously, “that this information is for your eyes only. Were the contents of these pages to be common knowledge, they would lose their usefulness for testing purposes.”

Meera rubs one of her silver links pensively. “How long was Maester Johnson in your service?”

“This…is a lot of information…” Harlan Hunter looks through the papers, as the cries of falcons echo in the distance. “Are you sure you should be giving me all of this? I thought your kind was all about secrets, with your giant tower and all.” Chuckling, he moves to the target, and pulls the arrows out, putting them into his quiver. “I mean, I’ll keep it a secret and all, but I’ll have to tell my Lord Father at least, and I’m sure he will want to tell some of his trusted men.” Heading back to the castle, he continues, “Johnson had worked for our House for thirteen years. Taught me a lot. Should have been able to teach me more. Dutiful, loyal, bit dull and grey at times, qualities I didn’t appreciate most of my life. But that’s how it is, isn’t it?”

“Indeed…” Meera says quietly. “I wish to do all I can to prevent another murder. Three maesters lost in the Vale alone… It’s unfathomable. But you have a point. May I?” If Harlan permits it, she’ll take back the sheaf and separate out some pages from the packet. “I will provide different Houses with different information in order to make it harder for the fanatics to find out what these ‘tests’ entail if it should come to that. I will send you with the information on chain links and some of the trivia regarding Citadel maesters. This should be more than sufficient to ensure that your new Maester is genuine.”

She sighs, tucking the rest of the papers into one of her many hidden pockets. “Have followers of the Lord of Light had a significant presence in your lands? I must wonder at the targets these fanatics have chosen…”

Harlan shook his head. “When we went hunting for him, we examined the loyalties of all the nearby villages. We found one town, about a hundred folks, with a dozen followers in secret. But they won’t tell us anything, despite the best tortures we’ve put them through. Shame, really. No point harming a man if nothing is gained. Of course, Maester, a man of the false Gods is not a man at all, isn’t that right?” The two of you head inside the castle, where it is considerably warmer. A couple of Arryn servants bring you warm cups of apple cider and a small plate of apple cider donuts.

Meera frowns slightly, both of her chilled hands wrapped around the cup for warmth. “How did you become aware that these are followers of the Lord of Light? What made you certain that they were fanatics? To have such a large percentage of the population of the town be swayed by these views is deeply troubling…”

“We saw the remains of a ritual, ashes of men under a wooden pike, burnt straw all over. There was a hunter in the woods, and I asked pointed questions at him. He answered and led us to two of them. The two of them quickly professed their love for the Lord of Light, saying how the false priest helped them with his magic, slaying some local peasant they cared not about. We pressed for names, and they gave up more. They’ll all be punished in due time. Now that I think of it, let me ask you, Maester— what do you think we should do with the village?” Lord Hunter smiles easily at the servants, drinking from his hot cider without a care…

Meera is quiet for a moment, troubled by how distinctly untroubled Lord Hunter appears to be when discussing torture and punishments. It mars her initial assessment about his congeniality. For any man to speak so lightly of causing pain… She herself believed that at least some of the cultists deserved death for what they had done, but Lord Hunter spoke as though he didn’t consider any of them to be people at all.

She takes a sip of her cider before answering to buy herself more time to think. “The village should not be punished as a whole,” she says quietly. “Surely they are not all complicit in the actions of a few fanatics. That they should fall prey to these cultists signifies a cry for help, not a crime. I would suggest visiting them more often yourself, and perhaps appointing someone you trust to act as your agent there to see how the villagers fare in all aspects of life— economically, spiritually, and so on. If you do not discover the root cause of this rash of conversions to the cult of the Lord of Light, it will happen again. And if you do discover the cause, please inform me. We must understand more of the tactics these fanatics use if we are to counter their influence.” She looks at him seriously and adds, “And please do keep me informed regarding anything more you learn about your maester’s murder and the spread of these fanatics. What is happening now is a threat to the Vale as a whole— perhaps even more. I would also be happy to correspond with your new maester, once they arrive and have been assessed.”

“Yes I suppose keeping track of the village is the best idea for now. I’ll send a couple of my men to keep an eye on it.” Looking at a nearby servant, he places a cup on her tray and smiles, making the servant look away. He scratches his short dark hair and mutters, “This presumes we’re given a new Maester. Father already sent a raven to Oldtown, but we’ve not heard back yet. I would have thought Oldtown would have agreed to our request by now. It has been some time. Do you know of any reasons for this delay?”

(Maesters would know it can take several months for an assignment to be completed, and then more time due to travel. However, sending a raven is considered perfunctory, so this course of action is unusual for Oldtown.)

“Remember, my lord— a gentle touch with these villagers. If you frighten them too much, they will think the Lord of Light fanatics are their only allies.”

She frowns when he mentions the delay in response. “That is odd. They should have responded by now. I plan on stopping by to see Maester Esteva on the way back to the Teeth. She is in charge of the maesters of the Vale; perhaps she has heard more than I. But I ought to ask Lord Lynderly first before I visit his house… Have you had many dealings with him, my lord? Any advice?”

Lord Hunter nods. “Jon is a decent man, loyal to his friends, quiet to his enemies. I’m neither, so he treats me with respect and courtesy, which in these days often either matters much or matters little.” He begins heading to one of the few bars in the Eyrie, where alcohol is freely given to the lords who visit. “As for advice, don’t be coy. Jon prefers people who are straight with him. And don’t insult his wife; for whatever reason, he simply adores her.”

Maester Meera and Maester Targon

It is late in the evening after your meeting with Jon Aaryn. It is dark, quiet, and most of the servants have gone to bed, some with their Lords and Ladies, others in their own rooms. You are at the door of Maester Targon, who you can hear walking around in his quarters. As you approch, you hear him say in a hoarse voice, “Maester Colemon, I am fine! You can go to sleep!” The door appears to be unlocked.

Maester Meera pauses outside the door. The cups and teapot on the tray she bears rattle slightly when she stops. She had intended to use the tea as an excuse to sit and patch things up with Targon (and, hopefully, get a feel for what the Graftons might do next). But if Targon has fallen ill since the meeting…

She shakes her head, balances the tray on one hip, and gives a quick knock before she can talk herself out of this.

You hear a disgruntled sigh from the older man, who quickly opens the door. “What is—” He pauses, looking over you with your tea and teapot. “Ah. Maester Meera,” he says with bloodshot eyes and warm wool clothes that go underneath his multi-linked chain. “I suppose you think there is still business to conduct. Fine, come in, come in, doesn’t make sense to refuse a cup of tea when I have this cough.” On cue, he coughs twice away from you.

The room is mostly the same as when you and Rebekka entered – a standard-sized room, with a bed, a chest, one chair and a bureau. Most of his things have been packed into this chest, his Maester robes hanging against the wall. There is a tray of mostly uneaten cookies, an empty glass, and a jar of leeches, still ready to be unleashed. The painting on the wall is one of Oldtown, by the port, where one can see the great tower of the Maesters in the distance.

“I am sorry to hear you’re not feeling well,” Meera says as she deposits the tray on the desk and begins to pour them both a steaming cup of tea. “I expect you’ll be glad to return to the sea. This climate is not to my taste either.”

She glances at the leeches and gives a small shake of her head. “His fixation on leeches is… unfortunate. He is blinding himself to much more effective remedies. I have some herbs in my travel kit if you would like me to brew a remedy for your symptoms.”

“Colemon has potential ,though. I can understand why he was assigned here. He’s still earning his place, but he does think a couple of steps ahead. But it is as you said…” He motions at the critters and sighs. Sitting down on his bed, he invites you to sit on the chair. Taking your glass on tea, he sips it gently, nodding his approval. “I’ve taken the herbs I needed. So, your lord and lady did not like the offer, I take it?”

“I presented your offer as I said I would. But the final choice rested with them,” she said quietly. “I wish for you and the lords you serve to know how it pained them to turn down an opportunity to mend the bonds between the two families. I witnessed what a difficult decision it was for them to make.” She sipped at her steaming tea and relished in its temporary warmth. “I know your lords must be… frustrated. But I hope there will yet be other opportunities for reconciliation. The children bear their uncles no ill will…”

Maester Targon wipes his eyes with his finger, flicking something away. “Perhaps there will be, perhaps there won’t. But I doubt we’ll have such an easy opportunity in quite some time to reconcile.” Sipping his tea, he places the tray of mostly uneaten cookies in between the two of you. You hear his back crack as he adjusts his sitting position.

Tilting his head, he adds, “Even if your lord and lady were to get their uncles to like them, it is their cousins who would not. They’ve been raised on stories about how their aunt was brutally taken away by a commoner, many of them told by Randall but some by Lord Grafton [Marq]. You must remember that Lady Allison made plenty of visits back to Gulltown in those days, days before you were assigned, and she always gave them some gifts and attention. She loved children. Cassie and Gerold (the heir) in particular don’t trust your house and Kale is at that age where he wants any excuse to fight— so, not liking you. The only exception is Jeremy and his uncle Viktor.”

Maester Meera nodded, considering the look Viktor had given Ysabel after the meeting. "Indeed, Viktor and Jeremy have always seemed very reasonable men. Their disposition is enough to give one hope for an end to this feud.

“I did not know Lady Allison… certainly not as her family did. So I do not know what to do to finally help ease the pain of her loss. Do you have any recommendations for how we might take the initiative in this matter? If the offer from the Graftons had not entailed forcing the Slagathors to turn on their liege lord, I expect they would have jumped at the chance.”

Maester Targon looks around the room for a few moments, trying to think. Then, he turns to face you directly with his grey eyes, “You must understand, Maester, that to the Graftons, they were wronged. And it is up to the Slagathors to make it up.” He pauses for emphasis, and then continues, “And with the Graftons owning Gulltown, there won’t be many opportunities. Nevertheless, there may be a chance in the Spring or Summer.”

Drinking some of his tea, he asks “By the way, now that it does not matter, did Lord Shett visit you in the winter?”

“I do wish the Graftons would have a frank discussion with the Slagathors about this. A servant murdered Lady Allison of her own volition and was executed for it. What more could Lord Arthur have done?” The rest of the story, Meera knew, was not hers to tell. She had no idea how much Maester Targon might know about what sort of person Lady Allison really was.

Meera frowned at his question about the Shetts. “Of course not. Why on earth would you think he had?”

Maester Targon responds to your second question first, simply saying “I didn’t think so. Just confirming, really.”

As for the first question, he sighs. “You see, Maester, the problem with the two families is like this tea cup.” He finishes his drink before extending his arm as far he can away from the two of you. The shattering of the glass is loud, fragments covering the tiled floor. Reaching over his chair, he grabs a couple of the largest fragments of the cup. “Now, in time, this glass can be put back together. Some heat, some binding element, and it will almost be as good. But even if you were to retrieve every fragment, and put it just the way it was, with no marks, it would still be cracked. Perhaps not physically… Some, like Victor, may find this replacement to be acceptable. Some, like young Jeremy, may even not be aware that it was cracked, or simply not care. But most don’t feel that way. The cup has broken. It is of no use. It cannot be relied on. For it has broken before. The key to reforging a friendly relationship, then, is not about how to fix the cup.”

He puts the shards on the tray of cookies, and grabs your tea cup. “But how to create a new cup.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Meera sighed and leaned back in her chair, her hands tucked in her sleeves for warmth. “What does the cup represent? There is only so much we can change, Maester Targon. These are both old families already bound by blood and marriage. What force is there that can ‘make a new cup’?”

Maester Targon frowned. “Were bound. And only the Graftons are an old family. And I can’t tell if you are thinking of this problem too literally or too abstractly.” The older man looked downwards, his fingers tapping on his chair, closing his eyes as he always did when he went into thought. After a few moments, he sipped on the blue cup. “Tell me, what is the difference between this cup and the one on the ground?” he said as his feet began pushing aside the fragments of the blue tea cup….

“The difference is that the cup in your hands was once mine.” Meera smiled faintly and rose to fetch a broom from the alcove by the door. As she started sweeping the shards of ceramic into a pile, she added, “The families are inextricably bound, Maester Targon. Lord Graftons is uncle to half a dozen of Lord Arthur’s children. The Slagathor heir is named after your lord. This friction does not change that fact.” She glanced up from her work and met his eyes again. “But I am curious as to your thinking, maester. Please continue with your metaphor.”

“But to me, it is the same cup.” His eyes open, staring at yours. “It fulfills its role, and it has the same color, even if it’s a different objecct. I tell myself it is the same, therefore it is the same. You had to sacrifice your cup, it’s true, but that…” and at this point, he grabs his cup he was using as you entered, and places it in front of your standing figure, “is only temporarily.”

“Forgive me, Maester Targon, but I specialize in healing, not philosophy.” Meera tipped the pile of crockery into the waste bin beside Targon’s desk before returning to her chair and taking a cookie.

“It is in the best interests of the Graftons, the Slagathors, and indeed all the people of the Vale if all of the notable families of the region enjoy good relations. We are on the same side. So I do hope, Maester, that you and I can work together to help bridge this gap.”

“No, I suppose the Arch-Maesters focused on different studies in your time, didn’t they?” He says this with a low tone and breathes loudly while studying you for a few moments.

“Speaking of being on the same side, I do hope you can help me with something. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about missing draft documents? Maester Colemon was complaining that some of his documents went missing earlier today.”

Meera raised her eyebrows at this (as she was honestly surprised to hear that Colemon had some documents stolen). "That is news to me. I have not noticed anything missing, but I will make an inventory of my possessions when I return to my room.

“In any case, Maester Targon, I am curious as to why you brought up the Shetts a few minutes ago. Do you have any idea what might have happened to them? Why were the Graftons so eager to secure their lands? Compared to the sheer size of Gulltown, Shett tower is practically insignificant.”

“Yes, some of the servants have an underground information cartel. They like to think themselves as clever, but most of what they take is meant to be taken. Still…” He eyes you cautiously, and now you might realize what he was really asking was if you or Rebekka had stolen his documents. You believe, though, that Targon does not believe you are responsible.

“As for the Shetts, Land is Wealth and Wealth is Power. It’s a rare situation when a Lord does not wish to have more land, more power. It’s not as if one can just buy a lord’s land. And when you can, the scroll-work is most tedious. As for their fate, all I know is that Lord Shett left with only his sailing boat, and headed North and was never seen again. Obviously, taking one ship meant he only took those he trusted.”

“I am unclear as to his reason for traveling. Why would he risk sailing in a bad season and take so few people with him?” Meera sat back again and took a bite of her cookie, chewing it slowly. Sweets weren’t her usual fare, but it had been an unusual night.

Realizing there was only one cookie left, Targon snatched it up and took a bite from it. He gave a frowning face; he forgot that there were raisins, but he ate it nevertheless. “As you know, any message from a Maester for Lord Shett would go through my office first, but no such message did for a week or so before he left. The last one he received was from House Melcolm, but as to what it told the late Lord Shett, I know not. But he did receive letters via messengers. I agree with you that there has to be an impetus behind this. But as to what it was, I am not aware.”

(You roll a 22 Awareness. You remember that the Graftons have told Lord Royce of their suspicions of House Bloodhand, how they believe Lord Shett was going there. The Bloodhands have denied this. House Melcolm is located north of the Bloodhands, and the heir of the Bloodhands wife was a Melcolm as well. You do believe that he has no information about the messangers or about the message from House Melcolm. There may be more information between the Bloodhands, the Melcolms and the Shetts that he is not saying; but you are convinced that he knows nothing else of Lord Shett’s ultimate destination.)

Meera watched her colleague shrewdly as she munched on her cookie. The raisins were actually to her taste. “You have much more experience than I, Maester Targon. You must have an educated guess as to why Lord Shett might wish to pay an urgent visit to the Melcolms— or the Bloodhands. What do you suppose was worth risking his life over?”

“Something similar can be said about you, Maester Meera. Your family has a close relationship with the Bloodhands. Why would they want a visit from Lord Shett? For Lord Shett, what made the visit worth losing his life for?” He rose from his chair, and opened the door to the hallway, motioning for a nearby maid. Asking her for something, she leaves, and he closes the door again. “Well?”

“If Lord Arthur knows more about this matter than I, he has not shared it with me.” Meera finished her cookie, wiped her hands, and tucked them into her sleeves again. “I do not know what the Bloodhands might have to do with the Shetts. As to why Lord Shett felt the need to go, my best guess is that he had something to discuss with the Bloodhands or Melcolms that he had to ensure stayed private. Perhaps sensitive that he did not want intercepted. Do you agree, Maester Targon?”

“I would agree with that statement, Maester Meera. It makes his disappearance all the more interesting, doesn’t it?” He leans against the door now, waiting for the maid to come back, his hands folded together. The fireplace begins to grow weaker. “That, and the disappearance of his siblings. There were rumors that before they left for King’s Landing that his sister Pyla was most displeased with her brother.”

Meera raised an eyebrow at this news. “But there is no indication of what might have prompted her anger or why Lord Shett’s siblings were headed for King’s Landing at all? You must have known them all during your years in Gulltown; surely you can hazard a guess?”

“The story told by Lord Shett was that his sister was looking for a husband, and she was taking her brother for an experience of a lifetime. The rumored truth is neither younger sibling thought the eldest was doing a good job ruling the Tower, and disliked his favor of the theater and other such activities. There are stories of the King’s madness – perhaps they planned to take advantage of it for their own benefit. Maybe they knew of something about Lord Shett’s behavior. All I know for sure is that when Lady Shett’s ship left, no other ship of the Shetts left after them And that Lady Shett was never heard from again. If we weren’t Maesters, I would say perhaps the Gods will it.”

The maid knocked on the door, and then quickly left; Targon opened the door, grabbed the tray left, and closed the door, placing the tray of raisin and chocolate cookies, along with a strong Essosi dark tea, on the table. “Shame, then, that we are Maesters.”

“Hmm.” Meera sat back and considered what Rebekka had said regarding Lord Shett’s behavior during the Grafton wedding— how it seemed as though he’d been hoping to set her up or catch her sneaking out. But for what purpose? How did it all fit?

She shook her head. She didn’t have enough pieces yet… Instead, she looked up at Targon again. “On the subject of gods… What is your opinion of these Lord of Light fanatics? They appear to have murdered at least three maesters in the Vale alone over the past few months.”

“My opinion is the same as any educated man – they should be found and eliminated. They are here to cause mayhem, nothing more, nothing less. They are a new breed of monster, and there is only thing to be done with monsters – to make them a thing of legend.” Maester Targon says this part with a tinge of emotion, slight anger sipping thru his lips. But he settles down quickly. “It always rains, doesn’t it?” He began snacking on a chocolate cookie, letting the tea cool.

“Indeed. But I wish the rain were not Maester blood,” Meera said with a grim smile. “They are undermining us… Eroding trust. One Maester was replaced by an impostor in order to murder a lord. And there are still chains missing. It will be difficult to put an end to this and assure the people that they can have full confidence in someone who bears one.”

She plucked a cookie from the new tray and added casually, “Of course, the pirates are just as serious of a problem, are they not?”

“No, and here’s why. Pirates are a very predictable lot. They want to increase their wealth and their power, and they want to defend their wealth and their power. And when I say pirates, I mean the various so-called Kings and Queens, not your common riffraff with a boat or two who are nothing more than sea bandits. Pirates can be reasoned, tricked, cajoled, and yes, exterminated, when the need calls for it. For all Pirate Kings and Queens have the same worry: am I going to stay alive tomorrow?” He drinks some of the tea and winces, finding it a bit too strong for his tastes.

“These Lord of Light monsters do not care about their life. Only their cause. That, and their rumored magic. And that makes them worse for everyone in Westoros. The fact that they hate us in particular is bit frustrating as well. I’ve urged Maester Esteva to treat this seriously, and hopefully she will use the Conclave at Harrenhal to begin resolving this issue. I’ve also asked Lord Grafton to hold a conference about this with the various Lords of the Vale, but anything of that note will have to wait till Harrenhal now.” He says the castle name with a slight spite in his tone. “Harrenhal.”

Meera poured herself a cup of tea and just held the cup under her nose for a moment; tea this strong was better smelled than tasted, in her opinion. “And yet it seems pirates are not so easily defined. There were followers of the Lord of Light among the pirates who attacked the Teeth during the winter— fanatics who attacked for the sake of their cult, not simply pirates who happened to be followers. What do you suppose might happen if the Lord of Light fanatics and the pirates were to work together?” she asked quietly, watching his reaction closely.

The old Maester breathes heavily, and sips from his tea. “That would be…unfortunate. But is it not more likely that the attack on your castle was a rogue element, rather than part of some alliance? I don’t think we have to worry about the two forces teaming up— not yet anyways. I am unaware of any pirate leader who diligently follows the Lord of Light and I am unaware of the Lord of Light wishing to give pirates enough funds to convert. Or do you have some other piece of information?”

“Only ideas,” Meera said lightly. “I have not heard of Lord of Light fanatics murdering maesters in other regions of Westeros. It may be a coincidence of geographic convenience, but the fanatics and the pirates seem to be focusing on the same areas of attack. I myself was nearly murdered by a fanatic and have the scars to prove it. And it was the Teeth that was attacked by pirates this winter. Why should they both seem to hold such a grudge against the Slagathors and their household and mount attacks so close together?”

“As for attacks on your House, perhaps you wield something of interest to them. Perhaps you know of it, perhaps you do not, but if you think there is a link…” He rattles his Maester Chain, dangling the first link all Maesters receive in training, a basic iron chain. On Targon, it looks like it is beginning to show its age, as it is quite dull.

“As for areas being attacked… well… you should endeavor to talk with Maester Esteva more.” He straightens his back, knowing he has the advantage. “Two Maesters in the North have also been attacked, one killed. In addition, the Red Priests are rumored to ask for a new, larger temple in King’s Landing and in Dorne.”

Meera’s expression darkened at the news. “Murders elsewhere, and their influence growing… Surely the king would not wish to humor these madmen?”

She finished her cookie and took a drink from her lukewarm tea. The loose leaves at the bottom of her cup swirled and danced like crackling embers, and she frowned down at the dregs. “I would very much like to hear your opinion on magic, Maester Colemon. Particularly the kind these fanatics claim to wield.”

“Obviously, as Maesters, one of the first lessons we are taught is that magic does not exist, and that it can always be explained away, whether it be natural phenomenon, a trick of the hand, or perhaps something that simply cannot be explained. After all, it there be no Gods, how can there be magic?” He says this all with a slight exaggeration – after all, this is something driven to trainees multiple times over their training. “Despite this, there are chains still devoted to studies of religion and to magic, even if the latter barely has more than half-a-dozen at any one time. Tell me, why would devote your time to study something if you did not think it exists, or rather, once existed?”

“I doubt that they have most of what they claim. Being able to bring back people from the dead? Pure folly. Burning people to increase their own divine power? Absurdity of the worst kind. But manipulations of fire? I can see such a trick being possible to learn. And our King has promoted the foolish Alchemist Guild as of late, those who are obsessed with wildfire. They might be impressed.”

He says this last part in whisper “A Mad King for a mad religion. It isn’t without precedent in Westeros history…”

(GM Note: There have been very religious kings in the Targayens dynasty – all of them related to the Seven, though.)

“I doubt there is anything to this talk of raising the dead. But what of curses?” Meera asked quietly, and went on to describe her own experience fighting what she found in the archery captain’s arm. “What explanation can you provide?”

Maester Targon listens with interest, leaning in as you tell your story about the infected arm. As you complete your story, he frowns. “Most Maesters would tell you that it is likely the work of some strange herb that we do not of, or a concoction of poison made with the worse creatures of the Summer Isles. Others may say you are simply making this up.” He pauses, rubbing his eyes for a few moments “But all I can say is that I’ve not heard or seen of such a thing, and it is very displeasing that such a thing like curses of light might exist. I have no explanation for such a thing, for such a thing is not supposed to exist in this world. All I can recommend is that you send to Oldtown a request for all known Maesters with links of Valyrian and hope to meet with them at Harrenhal. For these curses sound like the magic of old.”

“That is an excellent suggestion, Maester Targon. Thank you,” Meera said sincerely. “I will make the request and hope a Maester with the knowledge I seek responds. I suppose you have heard that the Slagathors will be attending the tournament as well, then. You seemed less than thrilled a few minutes ago when you mentioned Harrenhal.”

“Ah, but let’s not end the night on such talk. It is getting late, and I do need to actually pack tonight, not just munch on over-baked cookies and bitter teas.” He rises from his chair. “Unless there is anything urgent, I think we could use the rest.” Maester Targon gives a small smirk as he orients himself towards the door.

Meera rose as well. “Thank you for your time tonight, Maester Targon. I feel reassured for the future. We have many challenges ahead of us, but I am confident we will be facing them as colleagues. We shall see each other at Harrenhal, I am sure.”

Maester Targon nods. “Indeed. Stay safe till Harrenhal then.” He opens the door for you, and waits till you leave. “Stay safe.”

Maester Meera and Maester Esteva

(When you talked to Lord Lynderly, he agreed that you could visit him due to an intrigue combat. I won’t penalize you for not using this for this scene – instead you can make a visit or be allowed to talk him (i.e. at Harrenhal) without an issue one time at your choosing.

For this scene, Maester Meera asked Maester Esteva to meet the two groups as they travel down the East-West Highway. The Lynderlys left before you did, due to Leo and Meera’s needed time for recovery.

After a couple of days’ ride, you notice bannermen of Lord Lynderly, as established by their coat of arms, which consist of several green snakes dashing along. Riding in peace, your group stops for a quick lunch, allowing you the time needed to talk with Maester Esteva.

Maester Esteva is an older woman, whose tanned skin indicates she was originally from Dorne. Considered wise for her age, with her calm demeanor and knowledge, she convinced the Maesters of the Vale twelve years ago to make her the unofficial leader of the local Conclave. She is a bit short, barely five feet, with a long nose, dull green eyes, and short hair that is beginning to turn white. Her robes, despite her having ridden to meet you, are in top quality, without a tear or crease.

“Maester Meera, it is good to see you again.” As you enter her tent, the smell of a warm mushroom soup envelops the air. There is a chair for you to sit at by the soup, though she herself sits low on the ground, on a stool of sorts. She rises to greet you, grasping your hand in a warm, though strong, handshake. “Lord Lynderly told me you wanted to meet with me. I presume it is about what is going on with those sun devils.”

“I’m afraid so,” Meera begins, briefly clasping the older woman’s hand with both of hers before taking a seat. “Three maesters killed in the Vale, as far as I’ve heard. I was nearly a fourth myself. And Maester Targon informs me the fanatics have been striking elsewhere, including the North. What is to be done about this, Maester Esteva? What can I do to help put a stop to it?”

Maester Esteva sits in her stool and fills a bowl of her soup. “Well, you can eat first.” She gives a small smile as she hands you the soup, and then prepares a bowl for herself, adding some hot pepper flakes on top of the mushrooms. “But really, there is not much we can do by ourselves. I’ve spent many years researching Essosi traditions as a sort of hobby. It is clear that they are seeking to undermine us. And someone is supporting them. But until we find out whom, there is not much we can do. We can’t tell all the ports of the Vale to keep everyone from Essos out, after all. The Vale would starve, and more importantly, it would not have its luxuries. And we can’t have that.” She says the last part with a bit of jest as she sips from her soup. It is just the two of you inside the tent. “As for the ones tormenting us, well, their strategy appears to be deceiving the castle’s maester, typically, like being sick or wounded, before using their kindness as a weakness. Again, I can’t tell every castle to ignore the guest right.”

“You should also know that so far it’s only been in the Vale and in the North they’ve targeted. Let me ask you, what do you think that means?”

“Only the Vale and the North… hmm.” Meera accepts the bowl and makes an appreciative sound as she sips at it. “It could mean any number of things. Perhaps they feel they have some advantage in these regions. Castles are more spread out and isolated here than in a place like the riverlands— snow and mountains around here can keep a castle cut off for months. More than enough time for an impostor to carry out his plan without fear of interference. Had you another theory?”

“Those are good ideas, Meera, certainly ones I thought of as well.” Esteva leans back on her stool, stretching her legs, before sipping on her soup. “Too much celery. Tsk.” She shakes her head as she grabs a ladle to pull some of the bigger pieces out of it. “These two regions of the Vale and the North are the two most predominant areas of the First Men, those who were in Westeros before the Andals arrived to take it over. I don’t know what correlation there is, but I do find it interesting, don’t you?”

“Quite… You are aware, I assume, of what the fanatics have stolen on the occasions where they have succeeded?” Meera asks quietly. "Besides our chains, they have stolen a broken Valyrian blade from House Hunter, which the younger Lord Hunter does not wish to be widely known. Perhaps they are collecting Valyrian steel… Which would put any Maester with a link of it at greater risk. 

“On that subject… It may be risky for the reasons just mentioned, but perhaps we ought to request that all maesters with Valyrian links be present for the conclave at Harrenhal.”

Maester Esteva looks confused at your revelation about Lord’s Hunter sword. “What, Meera, did Lord Hunter say to you exactly? In their response to my letter, they dodge my questions with snake-like agility.” She leans forward towards you, eagerly anticipating your answer.

Meera nods slowly and sets down her half-eaten soup, too distracted to finish. "I will tell you what he told me, but this must remain a secret unless absolutely necessary. It was told to me at the Eyrie with the understanding that it would not be spread about.

“Lord Hunter informed me that his maester’s chain was stolen and his body and quarters burned, destroying many of the castle’s records and all of Maester Johnson’s possessions. Also stolen was the hilt of a Valyrian sword that once belonged to the founder of House Hunter, a very, very old weapon. Why do you suppose they would have taken that?”

“Meera, you shouldn’t tell me of things that aren’t meant to have wings.” Esteva finishes her soup, slurping, as she considers what you said. “You know I am going to have tell of this at the Conclave at Harrenhal. There are going to be Arch-Maesters there. If one of them asks…” she shrugs.

“As for your question, have you ever heard of the Lightbringer?”

“I have not. Please enlighten me. You believe this Lightbringer and the hilt are important?”

Esteva nodded. “It may be important. It may not. But the story of Lightbringer is this: to the faithful, the Lord of Light is a God of Fire who protects them from the Great Other, a God that represents death. Thousands of years ago, the world was cloaked in darkness. The great hero, Azor Ahai, was chosen to fight against it. To fight the darkness, Azor Ahai needed to forge a hero’s sword. He labored for thirty days and thirty nights until it was done. However, when he went to temper it in water, the sword broke. He was not one to give up easily, so he started over. The second time he took fifty days and fifty nights to make the sword, even better than the first. To temper it this time, he captured a lion and drove the sword into its heart, but once more the steel shattered. The third time, with a heavy heart, for he knew before hand what he must do to finish the blade, he worked for a hundred days and nights until it was finished. This time, he called for his wife, and asked her to bare her flesh. He drove his sword into her heart, her soul combining with the steel of the sword, creating Lightbringer, which was used to defeat the Great Other, and bring the light back to this world.”

After this long story, she pauses. “I’m going to need tea later.” Smiling at her silly comment, she continues, “There are many who believe that the Great Other will come again, and when that happens, Lightbringer will be needed. Of course, the pertinent question for us is: does Lightbringer still exist? Most say it does not. But there are some who believe it does, in shards and segments, all over the world, and they seek to find it once more. For if the world does not have Lightbringer at its time of calamity, the world shall fall to the Great Other once more. And the Jade Compendium, one of the few sources that talks of the Lightbringer, says it is made of Valryian Steel. Now, what do you say to all that, eh, Meera?”

“I say I could use some tea as well.” Meera sighs and picks up her bowl. She absently tips it this way and that, always just on the verge of spilling its contents.

She raises her eyes to meet Esteva’s. “Whether or not your legend is true, these fanatics believe it to be true. Perhaps they know something about the House Hunter blade… Perhaps they are collecting any Valyrian blades they can find in case they turn out to be the one… Or perhaps they are simply collecting any Valyrian steel they can with the intention of forging the Lightbringer sword anew. I wonder if that is the ultimate purpose of murdering maesters— stealing their chains in the hopes of finding a Valyrian link to melt down. If that were true, discrediting our profession and killing those who might know why all of this is happening would be nothing more than a happy coincidence for them,” she says acidly.

“Do you think there is any truth in this legend, Maester Esteva? Recent events have given me reason to wonder if such things as magic and curses might have more potency than we give them credit for.”

“There is always some truth in myths and legends. Do I believe that there was a hero who used a sword to defeat something considered by his people to be evil? Probably. Do I believe that this likely required a great sacrifice, such as the loss of his family? More than likely. But do I believe in the specifics, that a blood sacrifice was used to power a sword? Of course not. We are Maesters, not some sister in a tower. Magic and curses are tales told to children to explain why the world is, but they are not how the world actually is. They are simply veils, falsehoods placed in the young ones’ hearts to keep them at peace as long as we can. No, I believe they are here to try and spread their faith, and know that we, the Maesters, are their great enemy. And that their collecting of Valryian is likely being done to fund such endeavors.” Esteva has a cold look on her.

“In that case, I would appreciate your insights into a situation I faced a few weeks ago.” Meera describes the ‘shadow’ she fought to remove from the archer’s body that ended with the loss of his arm, and nearly his life. She also relates what she knows about how he received the ailment. “What explanation can you suggest, Maester Esteva? I have done what research I can and am at a loss as to how to give this affliction a label.” Besides “curse”, her tone seems to suggest.

Esteva listens patiently to your story. At the end of it, she shakes her head. “I’m afraid whomever your assistant is misled you. Probably disappointed in their ability to protect the man; maybe they’re having a relationship. That happens more often than you think. As for the moving arm, there are several poisons from Essos that have unique affects. Strangling, choking, itching, burning, all of these are known to us. Making the body move after death, if that even happened, is far more likely. After all, there is no magic in this world. And if there were, it died with the dragons.”

She rose like a hawk, her eyes as if trying to pierce you. “Meera, you have a done a wonderful job of late being a strong Maester. I assume you don’t want to stay in a small castle like the Teeth forever. There are many positions your talents make you suitable for, even some back in Oldtown. You wouldn’t want to ruin those chances by mentioning such untrue things like magic and curses, would you?”

“I did spend many years at the Citadel, Maester Esteva. I am not claiming that magic and curses are real. I am simply looking for an explanation for things I do not understand,” Meera says quietly. “As such, I request that we gather as many maesters with Valyrian links as we can when we assemble at Harrenhal. Regardless of whether curses are real, the fanatics believe such things are real, and I believe understanding the way they think will help us.” She goes back to her cold soup, preferring to look at her broth than meet Esteva’s eyes. She doesn’t see how getting into a debate about whether magic is possible is going to help anything.

Esteva sighs. “Maesters with Valryian Links are almost universally the same: something is wrong with them. We deal with them as we much, but I recommend keeping them away from this. They’ll make this a bigger matter than it already is. I’ll try to get some poison experts to come to Harrenhal, some with two or three links for healing. I think that would be better.” She lowers her head, trying to read your face. “Agree?”

“I must respectfully disagree. I welcome the presence of poison and healing experts, but I believe it would be a mistake not to include maesters with Valyrian links as well. We mustn’t disregard any potential source of insight. And beyond the need for discussion, it is important that we gather the maesters with Valyrian links to discuss their safety. For whatever reason, they are the most likely targets, and we must do what we can to protect our colleagues.”

She lifts her gaze to meet Esteva’s, her mouth set in a determined line.“I felt the agony of being on the edge of death at the hands of a fanatic. If something we do can prevent that happening to a colleague, I would hate to not make use of any and all resources at our disposal.”

“I agree with you with those of Valyrian links should be notified. And they will be. But I doubt they’ll have any insight, other than those that make them and their theories more important than they actually are. The important thing is that, so far, we know what regions they are attacking. And so, if we ensure that none with those links are sent to the Vale and to the North, then we shall partially solve this issue. That, I think is a very effective use of our resources.” Esteva’s face is still cold, unfeeling, as her green eyes squint slightly at you, the lines of her face showing.

Keeping her face carefully neutral, Meera is silent for a moment. There’s nothing she can do if Esteva is going to be so stubborn. This attitude surprises her. She’d known most maesters dismissed magic out of hand, but to even keep those with Valyrian links from participating in the meeting… It was foolish. Why would the Citadel grant such links at all if only to shun the maesters who earned them.

“I hope they will be safe where they are, then. Where are the maesters with Valyrian links posted? I have never met one myself.”

“Oh, there’s a couple at Oldtown, Archmaester Marwyn is there, but he never leaves Oldtown. There’s one in the south I think, and maybe one in the north? To be honest, I’ve not tracked such things. I did tell the Arch-Conclave not to send any more this way after Johnson was killed. There’s not many, though. And most who did pursue such dark learnings have a bit of oddness to them. Maester Johnson, before he died, had a very strict diet, and hardly ever left his castle, or responded to letters on a timely basis. He was a Maester during your entire tenure here, so far, and you never made him, did you?” She sits back down on her stool, her posture relaxing…

“No, I never met Maester Johnson.” Meera frowns as she considers this haphazard list. “You say there is a Maester with a Valyrian link in the North? They are hardly safe there. If they are not to come to our conclave at Harrenhal, should they not at least be reassigned without delay? Perhaps all of the maesters with that link could relocate to the Citadel?”

Esteva smiles. “Don’t worry, I’m sure Maester Luwin of House Stark will be there, regardless of what we Maesters told him. Lord Stark likes to get things his way. As for your latter recommendation, I think you’ll find at the Arch-Conclave that is one of the main proposals. No Lord of Light fool could penetrate our tower.” She raises, and walks over to you. “You don’t need to put the Vale’s troubles on your shoulders. You are only one Maester.” She places her hand on your shoulder. “You can rely on the rest of us to do what must be done.”

“I know, Maester Esteva. And I am very grateful for that,” Meera says earnestly. “But I feel I must do what I can to help. I will keep you informed as I learn more, and if you would do the same I would be happy to give you my input.” She smiles up at the older Maester, choosing to set aside the argument.

“You said you advised the Citadel not to send any more maesters to the Vale at all? Lord Hunter wondered why he had heard nothing from Oldtown for months. But the people cannot do without maesters… If we prevent any more being placed here indefinitely, how can we be sure when it is safe to allow them to come again?”

“I said not to send any Maesters with Valryian Chains. The Arch-Maesters have decided not to send any while they conduct an investigation. As if they can conduct an investigation by not leaving Oldtown.” She shakes her head. “Thankfully, they decided it would be only conducted during winter, and winter has ended. I hope to ensure that House Hunter, along with any other house, begins receiving their requested Maesters in the next couple of months.”

You can hear outside things are beginning to be packed, horses starting to be reigned in.

“Ah, I see. Then I hope Lord Hunter and Lord Redwood will have their replacements soon. I am sure they will be relieved.”

Meera cocks her head a little when she hears the activity outside but doesn’t get to her feet just yet. “It seems odd that Oldtown would not at least pay Lord Hunter the courtesy of informing him there would be a delay. Have you had any news from the Citadel of late, Maester Esteva? Are things well there?” she asks, carefully not mentioning what she heard about her mentor being missing.

“Well, things are more or less normal at Oldtown, from what I hear. They have more on their plate than usual, with getting ready for Harrenhal, their investigations, and dealing with the Alchemist Guild in King’s Landing, but I think they’ll take care of it.” Esteva says in a plainly positive voice. She rises and begins putting away her cooking utensils and the bowls into the pot, preparing the tent to move. It looks as though for a few moments the conversation has finished. But then she looks you in the eye.

“And if they do fail, I’m sure they’ll need new Maesters to replace the failures. And I might be summoned, and I might need help. Something to think about, particularly if they ask any questions of you at Harrenhal.”

Meera nods with a serious look, guessing at Esteva’s meaning. Don’t talk about magic if you want to be taken seriously, right? she thinks wryly. But she’s sure Esteva is only trying to be kind. She takes her time getting up, having nothing to pack and not wishing to insult the older Maester by helping her pack.

“Yes, the Alchemist Guild… What news of them? It has never been anything good.”

“Oh, just what you would expect. They finally have power, and what do they do? Use it to make the King go….you know.” Esteva raises her eyebrows and gives a facial expression of You know, crazy! “I suspect their time won’t be long, though. If we’re lucky, they’ll be shut down soon enough.”

Meera’s eyes go wide. She has no particular feelings regarding the king, but she knows what his insanity might mean for the seven kingdoms. “Then the king really is…?”

Esteva shrugs. “That’s what the rumors say, and that’s what the visiting Maesters say, and our Grand Maester Pycelle says nothing. Add all that, plus the Alchemist Guilds and other things you hear and…” Esteva pauses. “Well, the King normally doesn’t bother with us Maesters or with the Vale. It should be fine.”

“I… I see.” Meera fights to control her troubled frown and only gives Esteva a nod. “There is nothing we can do about that problem but be ready in case in affects us. I will keep you appraised if I learn anything more regarding the Lord of Light fanatics, and I look forward to speaking with you further at Harrenhal, Maester Esteva. I hope we will not add to our tally of lost colleagues before then.”

Esteva nods. “Indeed. It’s been a pleasure. Stay safe now. And do be ready to go to Harrenhal. It promises to be memorable for many reasons.” She whistles a slow, traditional melody from Dorne for a few seconds.

The tent is suddenly ripped from the ground around you, as servants begin collecting everything. Your horse is suddenly behind you, and soon everyone is on the road once more…


SESSION 16 (3/5/17)
Episode 8: The Great Game

The distinguished guests of the Eyrie all make preparations to go to dinner. As Lord Arryn prefers to employ his own servants, Rebekka is free to do her own thing for a few hours. She’s currently brilliantly disguised as “Mary”, a random Slagathor servant. Her disguise includes coal dust mixed in her hair to darken it and added clothing layers to make her look heavy. Maester Meera requests that Rebekka get to know the servants of House Hunter to listen for gossip about what happened to their murdered maester, and we suggest Rebekka check our rooms for listening areas or secret passages while everyone is at dinner. As the lords and ladies will be in Lord Arryn’s person, they are expected to leave arms behind, though a small item like a dagger is acceptable in case someone has to defend their honor.

Rebekka notices that none of the bedrooms have secret passages and, in fact, they are all completely private. There is no way to overhear a conversation happening in anyone’s bedroom unless the person is yelling loudly. They seem to value privacy here. She notices a female servant in grey clothes confidently approaching her. She introduces herself as Phoebe, a servant of Lady Egan. Rebekka calls herself Mary. Phoebe asks if Rebekka is looking around other people’s bedrooms; “You know how our business is,” she says with a wink. Rebekka says she always thought discretion was their business, then ducks away as Phoebe tries to put a friendly arm around her. Phoebe says she acknowledges that their work can be dangerous and talks Rebekka into following her.

Phoebe says Rebekka must have been asked to do many tricky, even dangerous things for her House; she has to be highly trusted to be the servant chosen to come up here with the Slagathors. She chats about how their lords and ladies are always trying to find out more information about each other. The girl invites Rebekka to join her “consortium of secrets”, where servants share secrets with each other for the sake of making everyone’s life easier. Rebekka expresses an interest and follows…

Everyone is dressed in their finest for dinner. Ysabel wears a translucent gold leaf-lined shawl that makes her clothing underneath look even finer. Meera wears her brownest maester robes. The Eyrie is quite a bit smaller overall than the Teeth, but the dining room is larger; it could easily hold everyone in the castle. Only two tables are set up in the dining room today: one very long table, and one head table where John Arryn sits alone. Even Lord Arryn’s nephew doesn’t sit at the head table. Each guest has one or two servants waiting on them personally. Several large fireplaces roar along the walls, keeping the place warm and bright. The dinner fare consists of a variety of foods from the Vale and the Riverlands, some of which we’ve never seen before. This appears to be their typical fare (whereas this would be an exception feast for the Slagathors).

The Slagathors are among the first to arrive. They find Robert Baratheon (18 years old), Eddard Stark (18 years old), and Albert Arryn chatting amiable. Lord John and Lady Cassie Lynderly are present; Cassie is Marq Grafton’s cousin, so the two families are close. We also see Septa Violet and Maester Colemon. Septa Violet is fairly old and needs two walking sticks to move around. And, of course, we see the Graftons (Randall, Viktor, and Maester Targon). Lord Marq Grafton is NOT here.

Lord Arryn greets the Slagathors and their maester as they enter and invites them to enjoy themselves until we get to the business of why they’re here. The Slagathors take their seats across the table from the Graftons and next to Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon. Maester Meera takes care to sit directly across from Maester Targon so she an keep trying to make nice. Ysabel sits across from Viktor and chats amiably with him. Viktor says winter is easy because no one tries to attack a port town when the water is frozen, and mountain men don’t venture onto the peninsula. Randall says they expect this to be the best spring ever for the Graftons and boasts about their family being in the Vale for thousands of years. Robert Baratheon mocks the Graftons good-naturedly for hiding behind their walls and not engaging in a good fight for hundreds of years. Robert then spots Leo and jovially pours him a mug of strong ale.

Robert is interested to hear of the small tournament we hosted over the winter and even more so when Leo mentions fighting fanatic Lord of Light followers. Robert congratulates him heartily for his exploits. Maester Targon asks Meera why she chose to become a maester. She explains about her father dying when she was young and wanting to learn to heal others as a result. Targon says he had the brains for it, so everyone encouraged him to go. Maester Colemon eagerly talks about studying leeches at the Citadel and how he imports them at great expense since they’re the best quality. The rest of the lords and ladies file in bit by bit.

Phoebe leads Rebekka down to a room with an owl on the door. She gives an elaborate secret knock and the door is opened by a male servant who invites them both in. It seems to be a sort of lounge just for servants to relax. 5-6 servants are there now. Phoebe introduces “Mary” to everyone and explains how they all share information. A male servant, Chris of House Whitman, describes it as a “lord’s agreement” where they all help each other out and gives an example. He mentions that Talia Whitman is known to be an excellent horse-rider who occasionally helps her father in his business deals. That is a minor bit of information— for more important info, you would have to trade something of your own. He proposes that Rebekka share some notable information now since she’s the newest member of the consortium.

Phoebe mentions there are always rumors swirling about the late Lady Slagathor’s untimely death and asks for details on that. Rebekka tells the story people tell in the Teeth about “Mad Maddie the Maid” murdering her mistress. She deflects further questions about Maddie and decides to hold off on asking any major questions herself yet. Rebekka asks is any of these people are servants to House Hunter; she’s curious about the rumors of their maester being murdered. A female servant stands up. She says their former maester, Maester Johnson, was indeed murdered. He was in the middle of researching the old gods late at night, as he often did, when someone in strange robes and a necklace with black and red beads paid him a visit. He was found in the morning with a body covered in knife wounds. His guard was absent when it happened and was later executed for it. The servant commented she never liked Maester Johnson, so she’s not too broken up about it. In exchange for the information, Rebekka casually mentions Mad Maddie had a daughter who doesn’t leave home much. The House Hunter servant adds that the supposed murderer was named Arun and probably Essosi.

Dinner proceeds through many decadent courses. Leo consumes as much food and water as he can to desperately try to counteract the effects of the strong ale. Lord Arryn mostly just watches and listens. The lords Moore and Hunter don’t seem to be getting along. Edwin Royce and Trystan Bloodhand arrive a bit late and chat with the Corbrays. Meera engages the other two maesters in conversation in an attempt to impress Targon and make herself look very reasonable in his eyes (especially compared to Colemon). (Meera will get +2 to first roll if she has intrigue combat with Targon later)

John Lynderly mentions how the mountain men seem to be changing their stomping grounds and isolating themselves in the mountains while withdrawing from the hills. The Slagathors know at least some of the mountain men tribes have been approached by Lord of Light followers, but we don’t mention it. Ysabel has a good talk with Viktor, who isn’t terribly chatty but is pretty friendly towards Ysabel. She’s surprised at how friendly he is considering he’s know for being vicious in combat and on duty (he often serves as his big brother Marq’s bodyguard). She gets the impression Viktor actually considers the Slagathors to be part of his family, unlike the rest of the Graftons. Leo keeps up with Robert’s alcohol consumption well, at least at first. (Ysabel gets +3 to next intrigue roll against Viktor)

Rebekka excuses herself from the servant gathering and spends some time getting to know the castle, especially the servant’s passages. She also notes where the other lords and families are staying.

Leo brings up pirates with Randall. The haughty Grafton assures Leo that his family can protect all the “minor” families from the pirates. Leo tries to be friendly and invites the Graftons to our anti-pirate coalition. Randall says it sounds more like a private Slagathor army and wonders aloud what the Slagathors might want it for. He compares our coalition to the Blackfyre rebellions. Randall says it’s really the mercenaries in Essos we should be worried about, the Golden Company founded by Aegor Rivers. He says they’re one of the most powerful yet unreliable groups of mercs in existence. Randall mocks Leo for not even knowing about the rebellions and the primary actors; he also boasts that Viktor made the family proud defending the realm during that conflict. Leo mentions our victory over the pirates a decade ago and killing Pirate King Gabool’s son. Randall brushes off Leo’s claims that the two families (Grafton and Slagathor) are linked, though Viktor reminds him Lady Allison’s death doesn’t change their blood relation.

Meera discreetly mixes up something to help Leo handle Robert’s powerful ale. She pours it into her glass of ale and passes it to Leo under the pretense of letting him taste another brew.

Rebekka returns to the Slagathor rooms and immediately notices that someone has been through Ysabel’s things. Some minor amounts of coin are missing, which may have been taken as a bonus when the person didn’t find what they were searching for. The same is true of Leo’s room; only some money is missing. It’s easy to guess they were looking for documents or other incriminating evidence. By the looks of things, they left Leo’s room in a hurry and didn’t have time to search Meera’s room yet. Rebekka decides to hide outside Meera’s room to see if the person returns. She melts into the shadows behind a suit of armor in an alcove.

After a while, a petite woman in servant’s clothes appears, looking around. She easily picks the lock and slips in to start going through the maester’s things. Rebekka moves silently into the room and puts her dagger against the small of the woman’s back. She pulls off the thief’s coverings to see her. It’s a middle-aged woman she’s never seen before. She says her name is Jenny and claims to be investigating, not stealing. When Rebekka confronts her about the money missing from Leo and Ysabel’s rooms, the servant reluctantly pulls the money from her pockets and leaves it on the dresser. Rebekka asks what she was looking for. Jenny says “secrets”, and claims no one sent her. She says it’s just her day off and she’s looking for secrets to sell for extra pay. Rebekka says she’s part of that consortium of secrets herself and tells her off. She deduces that Jenny is a servant of House Arryn.

Rebekka agrees to keep quiet about this, but in exchange, she expects Jenny to assist her if she calls on her. Jenny readily agrees, since everyone knows what happens to disobedient servants at the Eyrie. Rebekka is horrified to hear that the Moon Door is actually regularly employed. Once Jenny leaves, Rebekka tidies up the rooms and puts the money back where it was (maybe skimming a little off the top for herself).

Towards the end of the third course, we see that the Moores and Hunters have been acting rather passive-aggressively towards each other. Mandon Moore finally uses some derogatory terms towards Teeora Hunter (a childless widow). Harlan Hunter gets angry and starts shouting at him, and it looks like they might come to blows. Leo gets up and tries to break it up. Mandon says Hunter just can’t take a joke; we’re all just here to do business and have a good time. He says the Hunters have never done anything noteworthy anyway. It’s hard to tell if he’s drunk or if this is just the sort of person he is. Leo tells Mandon to let the lady be. Mandon says the lady hasn’t said “no” to him; she’s been letting her brother speak for her. Leo says that’s not appropriate for this venue. Mandon stands up and walks around the table to confront Leo directly.

John Arryn hasn’t really been paying attention, just eating slowly and doing some paperwork. Leo says they should take this outside after dinner if they have something to say to each other. Mandon says dinner is done, but Lord Arryn says it most certainly isn’t. Leo keeps his cool while Mandon hurls random insults at him, until finally Mandon sits back down again. Lord Arryn thanks Leo for keeping the peace, and Viktor nods to Leo respectfully. Robert Baratheon is just thrilled at the prospect of a fight.

During dessert, Lord and Lady Hunter approach Leo. Lord Arryn leaves immediately, as seems to be his way. He might meet with those he chooses to later in the evening, or perhaps wait until morning. Lord Hunter thanks Leo for defending his family’s honor and warns him to be ready to fight Mandon, because he’s strong and won’t back down. Looking around, Harlan suggests Leo avoid fighting him altogether; maybe poison him ahead of time if possible. Maester Meera listens in on their talk. Leo says he doesn’t abide by insults and unwelcome advances. Harlan agrees, and thinks there should be some sort of code of honor among lords.

Helen Egan approaches Meera. She wants Meera’s help in establishing a raven link between their castles. Meera proposes House Egan contribute funds to House Slagathor acquiring more Citadel ravens, and then we could train one of them to take correspondence between their two castles. Helen agrees, though she’ll have to discuss it with her father first. She doesn’t think he’ll oppose it since her father wants her to marry. Meera and the House Egan maester set up a raven connection (our new raven is named Bryn).

Harlan Hunter approaches Ysabel and asks for a dance. They make small-talk during the dance, but Ysabel doesn’t flirt. Harlan mentions being very impressed by Leo’s actions and integrity tonight, especially since their two families haven’t interacted much in the past. He mentions some joint training the Houses located closer to the Eyrie than we are did over the winter, which he doesn’t see as necessary considering how peaceful things have been.

Meera quietly whips up a sleeping draught and sprinkles the powder over a slice of cake, then gives it to a servant to bring to Mandon, who skipped dessert. She thinks some of the servants and both maesters noticed, but it doesn’t seem any of the lords and ladies did. Targon gives her a thoughtful look, so she leans forward and murmurs that she believes Lord Moore could use some rest to calm down. She assumes Targon has done the same here and there. He says maesters never reveal their secrets; she says that’s too bad, because she’d like to learn from him. While they’re speaking quietly, Targon warns Meera that we should expect to be summoned shortly to discuss the Shett matter soon. He says that if we support the Grafton claims, it will mean the beginnings of reconciliation between our families and the Graftons will ensure we are invited to the tournament at Harrenhal. Meera reminds him that she can only advise, as the final decisions must rest with the Slagathor lord and lady. Targon understands; he says bluntly that he’s told Randall for years not to be an asshole, and we see how that’s turned out. The two maesters step out into a side room to talk in private so Meera can try and win him over more (and hopefully find out more information before the meeting with Jon Arryn). Maester Colemon leaves shortly after dessert starts, presumably to tend to his duties.

Leo discusses pirate issues and the nascent anti-pirate coalition with the other lords. Robert Baratheon agrees that it’s a good idea, though he doesn’t seem overly interested in the details. Elbert and Ned continue drinking with them. Ned seems rather sullen, probably because he’s not looking forward to going to Harrenhal; he can guess this tournament could end with him being married off and having to leave Jon Arryn, Robert, and his other friends here. Elbert is looking to having a good time there. Leo mentions the Slagathors haven’t received an invitation yet but wishes the other lords well in the tourney. Robert boasts that he’s going to win it all at Harrenhal; he says the only person in the Vale who might be able to give him a challenge is Mandon Moore. Speaking of which, Robert gets Lionel Corbray to get a betting pool going regarding Leo and Mandon’s upcoming duel. Mandon’s anger is legendary.

Ysabel learns that Mandon Moore and Lyonel Corbray get along well, but doesn’t make a move on that yet. She asks Elbert Arryn for a dance and makes small-talk. His wife died about five years ago. He doesn’t drink much. Elbert is curious about why the Slagathors are here tonight. Ysabel mentions we have some matters to discuss, like the anti-pirate coalition and the Slagathors being named the head of the Raven Five. Elbert wonders if we plan on doing anything proactive with our anti-pirate forces if and when they’re assembled. Ysabel says it depends on funding and imminent threats. Elbert compliments her on the efforts to build a new Slagathor market; she’s pleasantly surprised that he’s taken such an interest in the affairs of lesser houses. They have a drink to Lord Arryn’s health; Elbert seems to hold his uncle in high regard.

Rebekka waits in the Slagathor rooms until there’s a knock. A tall man in servant clothes is at the door. Rebekka says she’s a servant to the Slagathors and she’s got cleaning duties here handled. He asks to speak with her; “consortium” business. He explains that his lord and hers may well be having a fight soon. Lord Moore asked him to investigate Leo’s room and look for secrets and such, but the servant doesn’t want to do that; he’d rather fight than collect rumors. Rebekka says her lord is a very honest person who doesn’t keep secrets. The servant says he sounds boring. She mentions he’s marrying Sonya Redwood, if that would do, but she assures him there’s nothing to find in Leo’s room. When he asks to trash Leo’s room to show he did his job, she proposes that SHE trash Leo’s room and the servant trash Mandon’s room. Rebekka convinces him to trust her and they go their separate ways. She breaks a vase to show she means business but otherwise doesn’t bother with trashing anything. She then heads out to see if there’s actually a fight brewing.

In the quiet side room, Meera starts by trying to establish commonalities with Targon— things like the education they shared and typical maester values. Targon says people can draw different lessons from the same situation. He believes the difference between them lies in where they came from and where they were assigned. Meera came from – and was assigned to – the Vale, the one place she shouldn’t have ended up. Targon, in contrast, was a commoner from the border near Dorne who had to pay his own way to the Citadel. He saw first-hand what people are capable of when they don’t respect the law, and he doesn’t like that in people. There’s nothing he hates more than people who think they’re above laws and traditions, and he thinks that’s who Meera is.

Meera admits it’s fortunate for her that she was placed where she was (without admitting that she lobbied for it herself). But the fact of the matter was that Lord Slagathor’s sister was dying and Meera happened to be the best healing specialist to get her chain around that time. She argues that all she wants to do is heal as many people as she can— her origins shouldn’t matter for that. Targon counters that he has no family ties and is better able to focus on what’s important. He wants to do the greatest good he can for the greatest amount of people, and the way he sees that happening is by supporting his lord.

Meera insists that they both want to help the people, but they have different ways of going about it. She tells stories of how the Slagathors have been helping their people, from teaching absolutely everyone to read to offering medical help to all who need it. Meera offers classes to common children as well as noble ones and will run out at night to help anyone and everyone. She believes in helping the people from the ground up, not just waiting for the lord’s actions to trickle down to benefit them. By the end, Meera succeeds in warming Targon’s disposition towards her (goes from Dislike to Indifferent). She knows that if she talks the Slagathors into siding with the Graftons that will likely move up to Friendly.

Leo leaves the dining room; he’s the first to leave through the main doors since Mandon Moore left the room. Many of the other lords and ladies follow along, Ned reluctantly dragged out by Robert. As soon as Leo steps out, Mandon swings a gauntleted fist at his face. Leo just barely dodges out of the way. Mandon says it was a good try with the poison, but it won’t slow him down (apparently he did eat the cake but was able to shake off the effects). They get into the combat without further discussion. No guards even try to get involved. Ned Stark slips away at the earliest possible opportunity.

Everyone else comes out to watch at this point, but no one tries to interfere yet. This is an honor match, not a match to the death (at least so far). But Ysabel does toss Leo a gauntlet from an ornamental suit of armor to even the odds. They both fight hard, but Leo gets knocked out with an elbow to the face after a few rounds. Mandon struts away, stomping on Leo’s hand on his way out, and says that’s what happens when people oppose him. Leo will be out for at least six hours. Mandon seems more or less satisfied. Randall Grafton and Lord Lynderly laugh in the background. Robert is happy he won some coin from Corbray in the betting. Meera rushes to help Leo at once and patches him up (he’ll now only be out for four hours). Two Arryn guards take Leo’s unconscious body to his room.

Rebekka sees the end of the fight and we fill her in on what happened. She mentions the Moore servant who tried to trash Leo’s room before the fight. A soldier returns after a few minutes, mentions the broken vase, and says they’ll have to charge it to the Slagathors since there’s no proof House Moore did it (even though everyone assumes they did). Rebekka also whispers to us that she confirmed the rumors about the murdered House Hunter maester are true.

Meera approaches Lord and Lady Hunter and speaks with them quietly. Lord Hunter thinks the matter with Moore is likely resolved; he says the short-tempered lord is usually satisfied when he thinks he’s won. He claims that he and Mandon usually get along, but the latter has become more boorish of late. From their interactions during dinner it looked more like a long-simmering conflict, but Meera doesn’t press him on it.

The maester asks about the murder of her colleague. Lord Hunter confirms it and says they haven’t found the culprit. They sent out a hunting party after him, but the trail ended at a pile of ash in the woods. Meera tells him how the Redwood maester was murdered in a similar way. Lord Hunter is concerned that maesters are being hunted. When pressed, Lord Hunter admits that the murderer did even more damage than was reported. After murdering the maester, the villain burned his body and everything in his office, including papers and records. He also stole a sword hilt that once belonged to the founder of House Hunter. It was very, very old and made of Valyrian steel. Meera asks if the maester’s chain was stolen, and Lady Hunter confirms that it was. This worries Meera greatly; she tells them how the maester at House Redwood was impersonated for the purpose of murdering the lord. Lord Hunter asks how he can be sure that the replacement maester sent by the Citadel isn’t an impostor. Meera says she will write down things all maesters must know (like the symbolism behind each link in a maester’s chain) and give this to Lord Hunter so he can test the new arrival. Her hope is that, since the last impostor wasn’t very knowledgeable of the craft, this will help weed out anyone who doesn’t know what they should.

A messenger informs us that Lord Jon Arryn wishes to meet with the Slagathor delegation in two hours. Rebekka finds out from her new consortium friends that the Graftons will be meeting with him at the same time. He is said to be meeting with the Lynderlys now and will also meet with the Redforts before he sees us. Trystan Bloodhand was not specifically invited to the meeting, but we could bring him along if we wish. Edwin Royce takes sick right after dinner (Meera suspects Targon poisoned him so he couldn’t back us up during the meeting).

Meera meets with Ysabel and Rebekka in private and tells them of Targon’s offers. There are pros and cons with either action. Rebekka would like to reconcile the families if we can, but we all agree we don’t want to betray the trust of the Royce family. There may be other ways for our families to reconcile, given time. With the decision made, Meera diagnoses Edwin’s poisoning (pennyroyal) and revives him so he can attend the meeting. Edwin and Trystan both agree to go with us as support. Trystan has been spending much of his time speaking with the Corbrays and the Whitman sisters. The latter didn’t have much information to contribute, but Trystan found out that the Graftons approached the Corbrays at some point during the winter to try and increase trade relations. The Corbrays declined.

Ysabel, Trystan, Edwin, and Maester Meera are escorted to the meeting, along with Randall, Viktor, and Maester Targon. Rebekka stays behind to watch over the unconscious Leo. Ysabel takes charge during the discussions that follow. Jon Arryn greets us all, with Elbert Arryn and Maester Colemon standing behind him and surrounded by guards. He sits in a high, imposing chair with carved wings. Lord Arryn says he is aware that House Shett is extinguished and we have both come to argue for inheritance of those lands.

The Graftons open proceedings by mentioning how they’ve allowed the Shetts to live in Gulltown for thousands of years even though it never made any sense to divide Gulltown between multiple families, and now they want the land turned over to them at last. Ysabel says she’s here speaking for the Raven Five and the Royces. When it comes to history, she points out that the Royces have been here the longest. And in any case, the law of the land says the property goes to the liege lord when a family dies out. Edwin adds that it’s best for trade and family relations if the Royces keep their outpost in Gulltown.

Maester Targon looks at Meera with disappointment for not helping him. She tries to convey with a look that she tried. She thinks he doesn’t believe that she really put any effort into it, but it looks like he understands and isn’t angry about it.

Lord Arryn agrees that the Slagathor and Royce position is the traditional one; why change the practice that has kept peace for thousands of years? The Graftons argue that it’s better for trade and the rule of law to have a single family in charge of a city so there’s only one set of laws in place there. Randall further states that his family intends to destroy the tower if they get it and use the land to expand the ports and warehouses that feed trade and revenue (which would also increase the funds they send to the Arryns). He says the Shetts used their land inefficiently on things like residential areas when they could have used it for commerce.

Ysabel allows that the Graftons might have some valid points, but that doesn’t override the law. The Royces can expand the ports just as well as the Graftons can, and it’s in the best interest of most families in the Vale if the Royces keep some control in Gulltown. Edwin adds that it’s the first he’s heard of the Graftons wishing to alter the usage of the Shett lands and says the Royces could have worked with them ages ago if they’d just said something earlier. Meera and Ysabel can tell from Randall’s face that he’s getting flustered and he was lying about wanting to develop the land; that’s not at all what the Graftons intend…

Lord Arryn decides to give the land to House Royce, as per tradition. He encourages House Royce to work with the Graftons on these potential plans for development. He also warns Edwin that the Royces must choose someone suitable and responsible to take over the Shett lands, because Lord Arryn reserves the right to change his mind if the Royces choose poorly.

Randall Grafton is clearly angry and frustrated and speaks rudely before remembering he’s standing before the Lord of the Vale and tempering his tone. He covers his outburst with political niceties and takes his leave. Viktor nods to Ysabel when the other Graftons aren’t watching, showing his respect for her. The Graftons will be leaving first thing tomorrow morning.

Ysabel asks to speak further with Lord Arryn, so he asks the Slagathor delegation to walk with him to the moon door, where he needs to go dispose of a prisoner. Lord Arryn lets Ysabel walk beside him and compliments both her and Edwin on their eloquence. Ysabel expresses her regrets for the ongoing rivalry between the Graftons and the Royces (and the Slagathors). Lord Arryn comments that the Royces have always been independent and very sure of themselves, but at least they’re very loyal. Edwin assures Lord Arryn that the Royces will continue to make great strides in his name.

Without wasting time, Ysabel tells Lord Arryn our suspicions about the Graftons allying with the pirates. He says he’s not surprised, considering the Grafton marriage to the Sealord’s daughter. While we lack definitive evidence at the moment, the implications are troubling. Meera brings up the issue of the murdered maesters and Lord Arryn reveals he’s received news of a third just a few days ago. In the case of the third incident, the culprit who killed and murdered the maester was caught and killed, but there was no chance for an interrogation. Maester Meera says she believes there’s some link between these murders perpetrated by Lord of Light fanatics and what’s happening with the Graftons and the pirates. It can’t be a coincidence, all of this trouble coming from Essos all at once.

Lord Arryn informs us the maester eliminated was of House Belmore, who did not attend the Grafton Wedding. House Belmore is located by a lake in the northern regions. House Belmore’s maester, Elaine, was a noted architect who had a side-passion for ruins.

Ysabel agrees with that assessment and adds that she’s heard many rumors in her position running the port at the Teeth (Lord Arryn is clearly impressed at her capabilities and scope of responsibilities). She’s heard that people are living in terror as the pirates become more organized than ever before. Meera brings up what we learned about the fanatics forcibly converting and recruiting mountain men. If the pirates and the Lord of Light fanatics are indeed working together, they could attack land and sea at once, or use one as a distraction for the other. They could even pose a threat to the Eyrie itself. We describe the pirate attack on the Teeth during the winter, which counted at least a few Lord of Light fanatics among the attackers. When he hears that Ysabel and Nina were nearly murdered, Lord Arryn has Maester Colemon give us some gold to commission some artwork from “the famous painter”.

Lord Arryn is silent the rest of the way to the moon door. A prisoner is waiting there, surrounded by guards. He sports a clear tattoo showing his support of the Lord of Light on his chest. Lord Arryn states that this man, Randolph of the Bloody Gate, is sentence to death for the attempted assassination of a lord. Randolph rants that the Lord of Light will claim us all and come for us all but is cut off when a guard shoves him through the moon door. Elbert explains to us that Randolph infiltrated the guard at the Bloody Gate and tried to murder him when he was there on a visit, but Elbert managed to subdue him. The man was apparently a convert, not an Essosi.

Jon Arryn says our House is quickly becoming more influential and aware of what’s going on. Because of that, he wants us to go to the tournament at Harrenhal. He thinks we’ll find certain things there quite interesting. Ysabel says we’d be honored. Lord Arryn warns us we’ll need to be prepared to serve his family if the time comes, and Ysabel assures him he’ll have the full support of the Raven Five.

Meanwhile, in Leo’s room, Rebekka has been drawing on her brother’s face while he sleeps. One of the posted guards comes in to tell her someone wants to see Leo, who should be conscious soon if Meera’s calculations are correct. Rebekka offers to take a message, but the guard says the guest is happy to wait in the room. Lady Hunter enters wearing very fine (and very sheer) clothes. She asks Rebekka to go fetch her some wine and then wait outside. As everyone thinks Rebekka is a simple servant, she has no choice but to comply.

Leo wakes up in his bed, bandaged, bruised, and in pain, to find Lady Hunter wiping his face with a wet cloth. She says she found him very valiant and wants to thank him, then kisses him while he’s trying to protest. Rebekka comes back loudly with the wine to find Lady Hunter straddling and kissing the struggling Leo. The Lady shamelessly dismisses her and tosses her a couple of silver stags to go and entertain herself. Rebekka cheerfully wishes Leo a great evening and leaves. Leo tries to explain that he’s engaged and promised to be faithful to his future wife. Lady Hunter insists that “engaged” is not “married” and “promises” are not “oaths”. Leo eventually talks her into leaving her “thank you” at a kiss. While Lady Hunter seems a bit sad, she doesn’t hold his refusal against him.

The Slagathor delegation sticks around at the Eyrie for another day or so while Leo recuperates. When he’s able, Leo does a little shopping. He buys another nice scarf while at the Eyrie (10 silver) and has matching wedding rings made for him and Sonya. Meera pays 1 silver to buy a nice mountain bird for Little Lilly.


Roleplaying during and after the Raven Five meeting


It is mid-afternoon, and the Teeth is embedded with a sense of easing tension. The soldiers are relaxing with their food and their drinks, the maids are busy with their duties, and the various children of the Raven Five Lords enjoyably interact with each other. Except for Farnsworth, locked behind a room with two guards. As you, Maester Meera head towards the room, Elza leaves the room. She gives a grim look as you get closer.

“Maester Meera,” Elza says plainly, her dark robes illuminated by the sunlight. “I presume you are here to tell me about some meal, or perhaps an invitation to further study in your quarters? As we both know, you cannot enter here.”

“I would be delighted to study with you again this evening,” Meera says calmly, offering Elza a small smile. “But first, it is high time I spoke with young Farnsworth myself. He has a right to speak for himself. In this castle, even the youngest children are allowed to tell their side of a story before decisions are made.”

“My Lord Highsun has made it clear that Farnsworth is still recovering, my lady. I doubt he will be fully himself until we leave the Teeth. In our House, the words of the Lord echo the most, at the highest tone,” Elza says as she holds your arm. “The issue has been resolved. There’s nothing to be gained from talking with him. Is there any question you have in particular? I can answer for him.”

Meera sighs softly and gazes steadily at her. “I do not like this, Elza. Farnsworth cannot be so dreadfully wounded. From the blood at the scene, he was fully able to stem whatever bleeding he had so it did not drip when he walked away. Why does Lord Highsun keep him from speaking with anyone now? What has the boy said?”

“The boy told me that he had too much to drink and had too much energy, as few of the ladies would dance with a lad as young as him, and such an evening does not call for such activity. He was working his energy off by exploring the castle when Pommel encountered him, taunted him, and provoked him into fighting, charging him with his knife.”

Elza holds you by the shoulder to walk you away, trying to lean you to go away from the guards. Then, she whispers softly in your ear “Truthfully though, the boy did not drink nearly enough for that. He was provoked, but, shall we say, perhaps willingly.”

Meera lets her lead her a little ways away so they can talk freely. “I have no doubt he was provoked, but yes, for him to rise to it so violently… Elza, it was a close thing last night. Pommel could very easily have died from that wound. Has Farnsworth behaved this way before? Would be do it again?” she asks in a low, serious murmur.

Elza looks as if she has been long in thought, as if seconds have become days. But she turns and continues speaking to you in a whisper, “No and yes.” She breathes out heavily. “Yes, in that, he has been provoked, has no fear of combat, and is very prideful. No in that he has never lost his anger AND attacked someone so viciously. You must understand, Maester Meera, that many Highsuns distrust the Slagathors. But at least you had the honor not to demand a ward. The Bloodhands, who barely participated, did. Trust was low,” she says additionally as an explanation.

Meera shakes her head and purses her lips. “I understand a Highsun distrusting the Bloodhands, even hating them. And we’ve already discussed how the Slagathors were against the idea of taking a ward to begin with. But this is deeply troubling, Elza. Whatever anyone’s feelings on it, wards are taken to keep the peace. Yet Farnsworth nearly killed Pommel before his brother had even been released in spite of all that.” The maester puts a hand on Elza’s shoulder and leans in closer to whisper. “Did I make a mistake in convincing the Bloodhands to go through with Gable’s release in spite of what happened? If Farnsworth would be so violent and reckless even when his brother’s freedom was on the line, what might he do now that Gable is free to go home? We’ve made great progress in healing the divides between the five families today. What do you expect might happen now?”

“No mistake was made by you,” Elza says sternly. “Farnsworth is only 13, remember. He made a mistake. It will not happen again. Do you think Lord Highsun would truly want this before getting Gable back?”

Elza sighs, stretching her neck, her red tired eyes illuminating against the torchlight. “Nothing will happen during this trip. I can ensure you of that.”

“It is not this visit that worries me. Farnsworth and Pommel will both be adults representing their families before long, even if neither is the first heir, thank the gods. We have precious little time to finish molding them before they turn into the adults they will be for the rest of their lives. Shaping Farnsworth must be your most crucial task for the foreseeable future, Elza. Or all five families may pay for it.”

Meera sighs and withdraws her arms back into her sleeves, looking rather grim. “Perhaps Pommel’s condition is a blessing in disguise. I will have several weeks to speak with him while he’s recovering here. He will be conscious again soon enough. We both have our work cut out for us, my friend.”

“Now that I can agree with.” Elza yawns as she replies. “Gable seemed to be treated well, so if that’s the case, then Farnsworth will, in time, be convinced not to hold such ill views.” She pauses. “And if he does, well, we can always send him elsewhere.”

She puts her hand on your shoulder. “Now I could use a good cup of tea. Care for a cup with me?”

Meera smiles slightly and gives a nod, making her chain clink softly on her chest. “Tea would be lovely. We can take it in my chambers if you like— there is only one evening left if you intend to make more copies of my books, after all. And I have something for you.” She glances at Farnsworth’s door one last time, but she’s resigned herself to the fact that she can’t talk her way in there.

“Something for me?” Elza gives a quizzical look at you before smiling widely. “Well now I’m curious. Lead on.” She follows you to your study, being generally cheerful as you walk there. She talks to you about how you like living on the coast and other benign subjects on the way.

Meera chats easily with Elza during the walk, all tension forgotten. She invites her friend to sit and digs opens a drawer of her desk. When she returns to Elza, she carrying a small book bound with thin leather cord. “This may not be of great interest to you, as we have been copying primarily medical texts for you. But I’ve been working on making a copy of Little Lilly’s favorite book for several weeks now. About alligators, of course— the pet she wants most. It’s a collection of stories and legends surrounding them, as well as some basic facts.”

She opens the book to reveal pages half-covered in text, with the rest of the pages either blank or containing sketches of gators in different situations and stages of life. “I am not greatly skilled at drawing, but I did the best I could. Perhaps your little girl would like to color the images or draw what she imagines after hearing the stories. I have been making this copy in order to have a reserve copy of the information in case Little Lilly should rip the pages… She even sleeps with her copy under her pillow at times. But I want your little girl to have it. I can always start anew,” she smiles and puts the book in Elza’s hands.

Elza is genuinely touched by your gift. “Thank you, Meera.” She gives a warm smile before raising from her chair and hugging you. Separating, she has a look of thought to her, before snapping her finger and going through her pockets, eventually pulling out a small stuffed animal charm of a gryphon.

“My girl is into gryphons right now. She thinks she sees them at night, silly darling. She told me to keep this as good luck, but I think Lily would enjoy it more. Besides, I can make another. Here, have it.” And she places the cute-looking bird with big eyes into the palm of your hand.

Meera holds it up to her eyes and chuckles. “That’s just lovely, Elza! I’m sure Lilly will love it. Thank you. I did not know you could make such things— perhaps you could give me lessons next time we meet. And if you ever wish to consult with me or you need a copy of something from my books, please let me know. I would like to keep in touch.”

Lord Redwood

Lord Redwood is in a good mood, talking with any who desire it. You can talk to him at one of the dinners or you can catch him in his room in the morning or late evening.

Meera will approach Lord Redwood the next morning, as she may be spending all evening studying/etc. with Elza. She will ensure that they are able to speak alone before she mentions that she wants to speak with him about his betrothal to Jessica Bloodhand.

Lord Redwood is finishing his morning drink of hot dark chocolate and a snack of an orange as you go in. He is looking well, and the grey has all but disappeared. When you make his request he acquiesces and sends the bodyguard Terra Stone away.

“Is there something you want to say about Jessica? She’s very charming, though a bit shy. I understand you saved her life, so I can understand wanting to discuss this.”

Meera smiles slightly at the description of Jessica and takes a seat. She gazes at him seriously, her hands tucked into her big sleeves. “Yes, it was some time ago that I cured her. I must admit I am pleased to see that she has taken to the study of curing others herself now. She is quite the bright young girl. In fact, it is for that reason that I wished to speak with you.”

The maester meets his eyes. “Her studies are quite important to her and I feel she has much potential in the realm of healing. I am not suggesting she attend the Citadel, nor that you end your engagement. Rather, I would request that you permit her to spend the next few years focusing on her studies. I would be happy to make copies and send along as much material as I can from my collections. As you do not currently have a maester, her skills could be invaluable to you at Heartree. Furthermore, my studies indicate that mothers and babies both fare better if the mother is closer to the age of 20. It would be best for Jessica, mentally and physically, if she were to avoid having a child for several years.”

Lord Redwood chuckles at your statements. “Her intelligence is one of the qualities that attracted me to her,” he says. “A pretty woman who is only pretty makes for a dull living. My last wife taught me that. I fully intend for her to be able to continue her studies. I’m planning on buying her several books from Wickendon to cultivate her learning.”

He offers you some of his drink and oranges, inviting you to sit. “As for the other…heh…concern, I think that’s a matter for myself and Jessica, I would think.”

Meera inclines her head in acknowledgment of his statement. “Of course the final decision rests with you, my lord. But the role of a maester is to give counsel. It may be some time before you are sent a replacement, so I wish to do what I can for you and your young bride— a wedding gift, I suppose.”

She purses her lips, her face troubled. “A woman should not have a child simply by virtue of the fact that she can. Jessica is a girl of 14. A child yet. She may be mature for her age— more so that Pommel or Rupert, certainly — but that has no effect on her body. Please…”

The maester looks up and him intently. She is far too focused to touch his offered food and drink. “I know how important it is to you that you have an heir. All I ask is that you proceed with caution and restraint. You are both young and in good health. There is no need to rush her into motherhood at an age when the danger is greater.”

Lord Redwood sighs as he strokes his face with his hand in contemplation. “My last maester — my last real maester — always told me that life could and at any moment, normally when you are not expecting it. My father’s death is proof of that, I think.”

He rises as he puts on his winter cloak of dark brown fur. “Maester, I appreciate the advice you are giving me. But if she is ready and willing, I think it would wrong for me not to have a child. I do have to think of my house, of my people.”

“But this reminds me— what do you think of my sister? Be straightforward with me.” He begins to put on his boots.

Meera sighs and sits back in her chair. It seems this is all she can do with Aaron. She makes a mental note to stop by and speak to Jessica about this while she’s here.

“Your sister?" Meera frowns a bit, taken by surprise. “She seems a lovely, intelligent woman. I am sure she and Leo are a good match. Admittedly, the fervor with which she despises the mountain men is troubling. She seems to take their actions very personally. I should hope that Leo could temper her feelings rather than exacerbate them, but time will tell. Why do you ask about her?”

“And I don’t blame for hating them with passion. Her first husband was a good man. But if I died before having an heir, and she were to lead…well, you would have a long way in front of you. Weakening the enemy to submission is one thing; annihilating is another. You understand?”

He takes a final look himself in his lordly clothes in the long mirror and gives a smile. “She’s a loyal woman. But she’s aggressive. Perhaps too much so.”

Meera looks down thoughtfully for a moment. She wonders what lies ahead for Sonya and Leo, and how the deals made during this Raven Five meeting will affect everyone involved. She gives a gentle shake of her head. “Most people are too aggressive for my taste. More battles means more wounded for me to nurse back to health. I would rather teach the children and deal with scrapes than have to help a man cope with losing an arm… But that is neither here nor there.”

She looks up at him again and offers him a faint smile. “I am glad that you, at least, are doing all right, my lord. Did you have some counsel to pass on to Leo regarding his bride? It is only fair, after I’ve come here pushing my advice on you.”

Lord Redwood laughs gently at your last comment, placing his hand with a soft grip on your shoulder. “Ever since Gulltown I’ve known you to be a friend, Maester. I know your advice is only in the best interest of everyone. As for my own…two pieces. One, Sonya likes to select her own horse, and she doesn’t ride the same horse every day. It’s odd, but don’t fight on her this. Not an argument you want to hear.” Chuckling, he continues. “And two, be honest. Sonya may not always sense a lie, but when she does, she does not like it.”

He turns away from you, heading to the exit. “I will miss her, though.”


Meera will go looking for Jessica after Aaron and the rest of the Raven Five families have left that day, leaving behind only the Bloodhand children.

Jessica Bloodhand can be found in her room, practicing her sewing with Geena Slagathor. You can hear the two gossip about this and that from the other side of the door, which is mostly closed. Told by a maid, you know they are having afternoon hot chocolate and peppermint sticks with the head of an eagle.

Meera smiles a little to herself, glad the two girls are having time to bond. Perhaps some good could come of Pommel’s fight after all. She knocks briefly at the door before entering quietly. “May I join you, ladies?” she asks. The maester makes an attempt to look less severe than usual so as not to make them nervous.

Geena chuckles at your entrance as she sips from her hot chocolate. “If you like, Maester.” She tells her servant to bring another cup and pulls a chair for you to sit. Geena has a warm smile for you. Jessica, in a comfortable sea-blue dress with long sleeves, smiles as well. “It’s nice seeing you, Meera,” Jessica says informally. “How are the ravens doing this winter? Ours are going a bit nutty being cooped in the cages. They make the funniest sounds.”

“Oh, ours never enjoy the winter season either. I let them out as much as I can when the weather cooperates. Make sure to store up plenty of nuts to dole out to them throughout the winter. It takes them some time to eat them, so it keeps them occupied while they get some extra nourishment.” She stops herself there and smiles a bit wryly. “I apologize. I did not come to lecture. How are you ladies doing? The castle has quieted down since the rest of our guests took their leave.”

“Yeah, cleanup is ever so dull. I was going to have Jayne do it, but she’s busy, and then Erica said she was sick… so now I’m down to having Desa Snow, our cook, do it, and she keeps asking questions and it’s very annoying.” Geena says matter-of-factly.

Jessica hides a small laugh behind her hand. “You know, you might as well appoint someone you want to see if they are not going to know.”

“Ah, but there’s no one interesting here!”

“If you say so,” Jessica says. “Anyways, I’m good, thank you for asking. Everyone here has been very friendly, as usual. Are you doing all right? It must have been a stressful time for you.”

“Lord Arthur has eleven children. It is rarely entirely calm at the Teeth,” Meera chuckles gently. “It is always one thing or another, particularly with the younger ones. If it’s not a scrape or a cough to see to, it’s a fight, or tears, or someone refusing to attend lessons. Perhaps it is not the case for some maesters, but it seems that caring for children is the bulk of my duties. I gain all the responsibilities of a lady of the house and lose my family name in exchange,” Meera says good-naturedly. She smiles fondly at Geena to indicate that she doesn’t mind the work. Looking back at Jessica, she adds, “I hear you have become quite accomplished at the clinic. You may be asked to perform the duties of a lady and a maester at Heartree.”

“I wouldn’t mind that,” Jessica says. “Being a maester means, in its core, that you know how the world works. And that’s always a good goal.”

“And you get the benefits of being a lady. Jealous,” Geena mutters. “I mean, Aaron isn’t my type, but he’s not bad.”

“Geena, don’t hide like that,” Jessica responds with a smile. “But it will be…interesting. Lord Redwood has promised me a library and he’s been friendly. That’s more than what most ladies receive in life.”

“You know, you could always just stop being a Maester,” Geena says absentmindedly. “You could still stay here and you can do what you want.”

“You don’t think…?” Jessica asks.

“I do…” Geena says.

“Huh…I never considered…”

“So,” Geena boastfully asks, “who’s your crush, cousin Meera?” Jessica grows wide-eyed at this, trying and failing to hide her reaction.

“I love you, Geena,” Meera says placidly. Her smile is warm and gentle, if a little teasing. “I also love Lilly, and Leo, and Rebekka, and Ysabel, and all of your other brothers and sisters. I am allowed to have feelings… simply not romance. How would I even have time for such things with all of you running around every day? No. I would challenge either of you to take charge of Little Lilly for an entire day and attempt to get any other work done in the slightest.” Meera looks pointedly at Jessica as she says the last line in an attempt to impress upon her what a handful children can really be.

“Oh, you can play that game for now, but I’ll find out,” Geena boasts, as her maid finally comes back with your drink. The peppermint is freshly carved. Jessica says nothing to your comment, looking pensive. Perhaps if Geena was not there Jessica would respond. But there is Geena, so… “You have to have a type, Meera.”

Jessica shakes her head. “Let’s just change topics. Maester, there won’t be any long-term issues with Pommel, right?”

“Oh, no. Your brother will recover from his little mishap just fine,” Meera assures her. She takes a sip of her chocolate and nods approvingly; it wasn’t typical fare for her, but quite nice for a treat. “It is good of you, Tristan and Idwell to stay here to accompany him home. This certainly is an exciting time, and a time of great change. I hope you will not miss Gable too much now that he has gone home. You must have gotten to know each other quite well over the past few years,” Meera says in a friendly tone.

“Gable kept to himself,” Jessica replies. “At first it was because he was confused at why he was being punished, I think. Then it was because he was afraid of my parents. When we were alone, he would still be reserved. But he’s a nice boy, and has a good head on him. Always liked reading about history and going on and on about whatever myth he had heard. Bad with animals, though. One time, he tried calling a horse to him and called a swarm of geese.”

As Jessica laughs, Geena mutters, “Sounds like a klutz.”

“He wasn’t. Rather, isn’t.” Jessica shakes her head. “It’s going to be strange not having him there. Going to be strange not being home," she says with a low, perhaps, sad tone.

Meera gazes at Jessica with compassion. She can’t help remembering the day she left for the Citadel… though of course, at the time, she’d had no idea she would one day live under the same roof as her family again. “It will be strange,” the maester admits without dissembling the truth. “If the choice were mine, you would have years yet to spend with your brothers and continue your studies. I have determined after my own research, for example, that women fare better in childbirth if their age is closer to 18 or 20. But deciding on marriages is beyond my power, for good or ill.” She offers Jessica a reassuring smile. “But change is part of growing up, Jessica. You will soon be a Lady of the Raven Five. It is quite fortunate that you are part of two close families. The distances are not insurmountable. As a Lady, you will have the right to request meetings like this one and be able to send messages to your birth family. And you have ties to the Highsuns as well with your relationship with Gable. You will be well-positioned to keep the peace among the Raven Five. Do not fear— a lady’s duties and powers extend far beyond simply having children.”

“Childbirth?” Geena asks with a bit of a surprise. “Guess Aaron would be a fast worker…”

Jessica is contemplative, quiet as she considers your words. “Yes,” she finally says. “I guess that is true.” She finishes her drink and asks for another. “Thank you, Maester. You have a way of giving new perspective. Or I guess I can say…cousin-in-law? Cousin-in-law by two? Family relations can be very confusing.”

“Tell me about it,” Geena says, and the two of them laugh. “Have to say, I always thought it was 15/16…”

“That’s what I heard too…” Jessica says.

Meera shakes her head, her face returning to ‘teacher mode’. “My research at the Citadel and personal observations since then have been quite clear. 18-20 is far more ideal for a young woman to have her first child. Of course, women who are given the choice to wait so long are sadly rare. If only more couples had such patience, there would be a bit less tragedy in this world.” She is silent a moment as she considers Jessica’s comment. She’d been rather hoping that Jessica wouldn’t notice what Geena had said about their family ties. But there’s no helping it. “Yes, family can be complicated. Lord Arthur is my uncle— my mother’s brother. I was quite fortunate to be assigned here. I would be grateful if neither of you would speak of this with other people, of course. Some people may find it odd that a maester should end up working for relatives despite the fact that noble families are often quite interconnected.”

Jessica grasps your hand with both of hers. She earnestly says, “Of course, Maester. You have my word and my oath.”

Geena looks puzzled for a moment, figures it out, and then says, “Right, sorry about that.”

Jessica then adds, “So to change topics, what’s the best way to brew some tea?”

“Oh, this will be good to know,” Geena adds.

Meera laughs softly at the new question. “Tea, hmm? I can teach you how I like it, but word in the castle is that young Jayne is the person to speak to if you want the best cup. She won the pie-making contest a few days ago, you know. If you like, ladies, I would be happy to share my most useful healing tips with you. I expect at least a few of them would already be known to you, Jessica, but I firmly believe that everyone should be able to administer some healing.”

Geena giggles at your comments as she finishes her drink and tries to order some wine, being told none is available. “I would appreciate that, Maester.” Jessica says. She parses her lips, as if trying to think of the best way to phrase the question.

“She meant moon tea. Unless Jayne actually is the best…” Geena says with a meandering tone. “She does have many gifts…”

Meera blinks and stares at them with a blank look for a moment until their meaning sinks in. “Ah… Yes, I see.” Her lips curl up in a smile. “I do not know if Jayne knows how to brew moon tea, but I would not be surprised. It is remarkably easy. The ingredients are all easy to cultivate and none are hard to obtain. In fact, I can send you with some seeds to plant at Heartree, Jessica. The trick with moon tea is to combine the ingredients in the right proportions…” And she launches into a detailed explanation of the preparation. She would quite honestly be thrilled if both girls took her advice and avoided having a child for a good few years yet. They were both so young…

The two girls pay close attention to your recipe, writing the tips down…You think the maid might have done the same thing. After listening, Geena says she has to check on the cleaning and leaves, leaving you and Jessica alone. “Just to say, Maester,” Jessica says. “I don’t plan on having a child so soon. But if Lord Redwood is to be my husband…how should I conceal the tea, to lie to him, if he desires one? I know my mother thinks I should have one with him quickly as well…”

Meera is silent a moment. She almost tells her how it is a simple thing to brew a large batch and conceal the needed amount in other drinks… but she hesitates. “I believe it would be best not to lie,” she says quietly. Since they’re alone now, she goes on to elaborate. “Aaron has been through quite the ordeal these past months. His father’s murder, betrayal by a friend in the castle… I expect he will tell you the details himself in due time. But the consistent element throughout was deception and betrayal by those he trusted. He would not take kindly to someone close to him lying, even for good reason.” She grips the girl’s shoulder and looks her seriously in the eyes. “Be straightforward with him. That is my advice. Aaron is patient and kind. Explain to him how you want to wait until you are ready. I do believe he will understand.” After a pause, she adds, “… You may wish to lie to your mother. But you would know her better than I.”

Jessica considers your words for some time, nodding her head. She then gives you a hug. “Thank you, Maester,” she says. After some time, she says she has to check on Pommel, but that she would like visit to learn more about some healing recipes…

The maester leaves brother and sister to catch up a while and only goes to see Pommel once Jessica has left. When it’s just the two of them, she moves to his bedside and greets him as she approaches to make sure he’s awake. “How are you feeling, young man?”

Pommel has a tired look on him as he lies on the fluffy bed with extra pillows. The wounds are still healing and there are still cuts upon his face. He brushes aside his black hair as he responds. “I’ve been better, Maester. I suppose I should thank you for saving my life, though if there be value in it is another question.” He sighs, as his eyes averts yours. “I’ve been better,” he repeats. “Did you have something you wanted to ask?”

Meera is quiet as she sits down at his bedside. Self-pity is more promising than anger at this point. She doesn’t speak as she checks over his wounds and makes sure his bandages are holding up. Only once the physical is take care of does she sit back and gaze at him, her face neutral and non-judgmental. “Tell me what happened, Pommel. You both have a right to explain yourselves.”

“What is there to say? I got drunk, made a fool of myself, and nearly died. Killed by a boy younger than me, who should have no chance. I am a damned Bloodhand, not some Wildling. And yet here I am, treated less than a Wildling, being allowed to live.” He rubs his hands over his face, and stops himself from scratching himself. He adds, “This castle taunts me.”

“And yet here you are, very much alive. You do not seem especially happy to have another chance at life. Why do you say the castle taunts you? Did you wish for death?” she says bluntly. The maester sits with her hands folded in her lap as she watches him and waits patiently for him to speak.

“This castle has everything I want in this life, and yet it denies me that. This castle has everything I do not want, and it gives me that completely. I am a failure of the Bloodhands and of the Raven Five while I linger here, for that failure haunts me. I cannot redeem myself as long as I am here, and yet I stay in this bed, staring at the same walls, the same painting, the same people.” He looks at you with a hardened look. “You would not be pleased if you were surrounded by your lament.”

“No one is such a failure at 14,” Meera says gently. “You are both very young. There is quite a lot of time to correct anything you are unsatisfied with in your life. If it is the tournament that troubles you, you can train. If it is your temperament— you attend more social functions and work on patience. What is it that you most desire, Pommel?”

“What I desire cannot be mine. And so I’ve thought and thought, as I’ve had the time, and the answer that comes to me is silence. And so I must live till I know what I desire.” But you can sense the feeling in his words, the failure to hide his anger… and you think you know the true answer: Revenge.

Meera watches him steadily as he explains his cryptic thoughts. She nods slowly as if it all makes perfect sense, but she doesn’t let it lie. “I’m curious, Pommel,” she says softly. “What do you want from your life? A wife? A castle of your own? A life at sea? A death in battle? What are your dreams?”

“I’m curious myself, Maester. Why do you care?” he says this with a slight scorn, though you think he is not being facetious with his answer.

In response, Meera rests a hand on his head and strokes his hair with gentle, motherly gestures. “I want to help, child. You nearly died a few days ago. I know how that feels. It’s only when you come within inches of death that you truly think about your life… Your hopes, your dreams, your regrets. I want to help you move forward, as others helped me. You’re not alone.”

“How would you know?” he aggressively mutters, the second son of the Bloodhands. “How can a maester be in the same trouble? I doubt you know the pain of steel or the anguish of defeat. Look… what I want, I cannot have. Like Jessica, my fate is predestined. The Seven say nothing, nor should they.”

“A wicked man recently tried to murder me. I will carry the scars of those blades in my back for the rest of my life. As for defeat, you did thoroughly trounce me at the archery range a few days ago. I simply choose not to take it as ‘anguish’,” she says delicately. “That is because I have no ambition related to archery, of course. But you are an ambitious lad. What is it that you wish for?”

“Isn’t it obvious!” he yells. “I lost my pride, my woman, and my ambition. This castle is ill to my nature. My ambition is to prove everyone wrong. I’ll aim my arrows better, my sword thrust harder, my charm greater. I’ll get a new wife and new skills. But I shall not forget the insult given by my… rivals. And I shall make them regret it.” He exhales loudly before drinking some water. “I know what you may advise, but I shall not follow. ‘Blood for right’. Those are my words, not yours, but mine. And I intend to listen to them.”

“And what good is revenge?” she asks, unperturbed by his outburst. "What matters most to a lord is how others perceive him. How is a lord perceived if he is resentful, rude, always angry? Others avoid him and do not trust him. But a lord who takes setbacks in stride…

“Consider this. Most of those who competed in the tournaments a few days ago lost. But they shook hands, had a laugh together, and moved on. Some offered to train together, or went for a pint. Warriors often bond together sparring or fighting side by side; if each resented a loss, they would always be angry, because no one wins every time. Now, which scene do you think women prefer to see? What sort of man would a woman prefer to spend her days with?”

“A woman who cannot have a man is lecturing me. You cannot understand. I’ve lost multiple times this week. Women care most about victory, glory. How you handle it does not matter. To the victor goes the prize.” He coughs a couple of times, his voice growing hoarse. He drinks some water and then mutters, “Leave me. I think you’ve accomplished your duties…”

“As a woman, I am far more suited to say what women care about. And I assure you that women care far more about how men handle anything, victory or defeat, than about simple victory,” Meera says mildly. “But if you are pining for Ysabel— do not consider hers responsiveness solely a rejection of you. She seems much more concerned with the operation of the castle and the port than with marriage. If you intend to give your wife a lot of freedom to operate castle affairs, then consider pursuing Ysabel. But if you would prefer a bride who will be impressed by physical exploits and enjoy attention, consider a girl like Geena instead.” She sits back in her chair, watching him steadily. “A maester’s purpose is to heal and advise. I am here to help you. You are unhappy, Pommel— would more bitterness make you less unhappy? Or would you rather move past it and learn to accept life’s difficulties with grace? You have several weeks to spend in this castle while you recover. Spend it getting to know the Slagathor children better. You may find friendship and even affection here, if you are open to it.”

Pommel looks for at you for several long moments and then turns his head aside, as if he is preparing for a nap, signaling for you to leave. If he is contemplating your advice is unknown, but at least he had heard it. End of scene.

(ONE success for Meera vs. Pommel)

Lord and Lady Bloodhand
Lord Bloodhand and his family decide to have lunch with the Slagathors before leaving, allowing them to see the other families leave first. Tolbert Bloodhand can be found reviewing the preparations of his ship at Port Felix, and admiring the beginning of the construction of your market. At his side is his wife, Kyrilla. The two black-haired lords are watching intently but are alone.

Meera gives a small, respectful bow to the lord and lady as she nears. “Good day to you both. I want to assure you that Pommel will have my full attention while he’s here. I hope it will give all of your children a good chance to socialize with Lord Arthur’s; most of them seem to get along quite well already.”

Tolbert nods his head politely at you as you approach, adjusting his warm fur coat, imported from Winterfell. Kyrilla turns to face you, displaying her dark blue winter dress and a scarf made of a giant wolf. “I’m glad to hear it,” she says in a charming tone. She grabs your hands and puts them together, giving a small smile. “You’ve always been a good friend to all of the Raven Five, and we do appreciate it.”

Tolbert nods again, and then motions the two of you to follow him down the dock. “Yes, it’s been many years since they’ve had the chance to spend more than a few days together. Probably not since your arrival. In any case, I think your reputation in the Vale will increase once this is heard. I hope you are ready for that.” And he gives a small chuckle…

Meera smiles warmly at Lady Kyrilla and squeezes her hands back. She hopes fervently that the lady will put the incident with Pommel and Farnsworth behind her; she seems like a nice enough women otherwise. At Lord Tolbert’s comment, the maester looks at him quizzically. “Once what is heard, my lord? I have done my best to act in everyone’s best interest, but that is what a maester is for, after all.”

Tolbert replies, “Ah, but you know the gossip of lords is often about the goings-on of other families. And here you’ve affected five from all across the Vale. It will spread. But that’s fine. It is not as if a Maester has any enemies.” Kyrilla holds one of your hands as the three of you walk down the stone. “So, we asked Arthur, and he said no, but is there anything in particular we could do for the Slagathors? Besides being good neighbors with you and the other Ravens, of course.”

“Simply continue to be good friends to Lord Arthur’s family, and I doubt there is anything you could not face together,” Meera smiles. “I may be a bit of a busybody, but I hope young Pommel will come to fancy one of the lovely Slagathor girls by the time this visit is done. I know it would please Lord Arthur if one of his children married the child of his good friend.” She touches her free hand briefly to her chain and goes on. “Maesters do seem to have more and more enemies lately, strange as it sounds. What was it you said about Maester Johnson of House Hunter being murdered, my lord?”

“You mean a different Slagathor woman,” Kyrilla says. “Though I’ve heard that the young Nina is already spoken for. And I doubt Geena is ready to go from one fog-infested castle to another.”

“Ours is more impressive,” Tolbert replies defensively. “Anyways, I had heard from Tristan’s wife’s cousin Randohl at the beginning of winter that their Maester had been killed by a madman. Cloaked in brown, he took ill near their castle after helping the stablemaster save the life of a young horse. Johnson helped the man, as ordered, and while the Lord thought it odd to not see his man during the evening nothing was done. The next morning his assistant Tanner was bringing him his morning jasmine tea and found the maester alone, dead. Ingested some type of poison, the cousin did.” In the distance you see the statue of Slagathor…

Meera nods slowly as she takes in the tale. “Poison… If it was another acolyte of the Lord of Light, this does not surprise me. It seems to be their usual method of operation. I would advise you both not to consume anything given to you by the followers that match the description we’ve discussed…” She shakes her head. “It concerns me to hear of another maester being murdered… What was this about a cousin?”

“So yes, Randohl, the cousin, told me that they immediately created a search party. Hours passed and the stranger could not be found. Eventually, it was discovered that a smith had been hiding the man. The smith was killed during his interrogation, but he revealed the murderer’s hiding spot. But the only thing found was a pile of ash, with burnt brown robes still smoldering. Randohl was so embarrassed from his efforts that he took a vacation.”

The three of you arrive at the center of the port, where you see the large statue of the legendary Slagathor, the croc himself. Lady Bloodhand sighs and tries to hide a mocking smile. “This statue is always so absurd. Where else in the world can you find a giant statue of a lizard-lion?”

Lord Bloodhand coughs. “Sorry, an alligator. Nowhere. And now you are building a market. It’s quite commendable. Arthur is showing quite the ambition in his older age.”

“You mean our age.”

“You heard me, dear.”

Meera glances up at the statue with a placid expression, choosing not to take offense on behalf of the family for Lady Bloodhand’s remark. “Yes, Lord Arthur wishes to do what he can to help his people prosper. His children have the same drive. Young Ysabel has a better head for commerce and numbers than many a maester I’ve met, certainly.” She gives the lord and lady a bow. “I wish you both a good journey home. There is much to do now that the meeting is done, but rest assured your son will receive the best of care. I will not let him grow lonely.”

Meera, as you walk away, you think Tolbert Bloodhand is going to say something, something to try and ease the words that have been expressed. But he keeps silent, and watches you go by, before being bombarded with lordly duties… His wife shrugs, and begins whispering to her husband, but you cannot hear what they say… End Scene.

Sonya and Leo

Mike: After an evening of fun fighting activities at the various tournaments that you did well in, and after a dinner full of delicious foods, Sonya asks you to walk her around the castle, letting you determine where to go but suggesting somewhere that might be quieter, such as a part that has fallen out of use. Sonya is in warm fur clothes, her hair tied in a bun, and the cold castle air allows you to see her breath as you walk together.

“That was an impressive show, my lord,” she says as she links arms with you.

Phil: Leo says, “I could have done better, but I am more skilled at ground fights then the joust.” He sighs, as they continue down some of the back corridors, “And now I owe my younger brother a new saddle. It is what it is at this point.” He smiles at that. He says to her, “You look lovely.”

Mike: Sonya smiles at your complement, nestling closer to you. There are only a handful of guards in this part of the castle, some of the oldest, left away to wither. Not even Ysabel’s financial savvy can preserve every part of the Teeth. The tower you are currently walking in, the Whistling Willow, has many holes in it, though the wind is silent for now. There’s a legend here, but it’s hard to remember – then again, nearly every part of this castle has a myth to it, even if most are false.

“I’m sure you can afford a whole stable easily enough, my Lord. On a related note, where should we honeymoon after we are wedded? Perhaps Wickendon? Or somewhere in the Riverlands? I’m sure the fields are pretty in the spring.” She gives a slightly impish smile as she waits for your answer.

Phil: Leo says with a smile, “Riverlands could be fun. Get away from the Vale for a while, and stay in Riverrun or maybe elsewhere.” He continues to say, “But before the honeymoon is the wedding itself— any thoughts on how we wish to handle the ceremony and whom to invite?”

Mike: Sonya makes a sound of thinking as she continues to walk with you. “Well, I think it will be just our families, though you can invite anyone that you desire. As for the ceremony, my last one was in front of the Godswood. I believe that it is traditional for ceremonies for both the Old and New to be held. We can have the New be the first or the second, whatever you prefer, though the Old Gods ceremony is rather short.”

Phil: Leo will think as they walk the halls and say, "I think we can honor both the New and the Old. I would think New first, though. My sister Nina will be in charge for preparing that end. We sadly don’t have a Godswood here.”

Mike: “Your sister is very devout, and it is nice to see how unobtrusive she is with her faith. Many of her kind either accidentally or intentionally make themselves forceful about their ways. And we know the evils that can lurk in that,” she says. “Still, a ceremony of the Old Gods can only truly be finalized in front of the tree… perhaps during our honeymoon we can stop by one. It is important that we conduct the final oath there.”

Phil: “Nina is, yes, and I respect her for it. I still have to talk to her about it, but I wanted to see if you would be willing to let her handle the ceremony.” Leo continues to say, “As for making the oaths for the Old Gods, we would need to be sure that there will be a tree at or on the way to our honeymoon.”

Mike: “I’m glad you agree…” she says…

SESSION 15 (1/28/17)
Episode 8: The Great Game

While Ysabel, Leo, Rebekka, and Maester Meera make preparations to travel to Runestone, everyone else prepares for other trips and duties. Pommel and Jessica will return home by ship as soon as the weather permits. Nina is quite busy with conversions and educating the new mountain men. Trystan and his wife Talia request to go along with the Slagathors to Runestone. Geena will go to Gulltown to host a salon for noble ladies and gather gossip (hopefully something about the disappearance of Daario Shett). Marcus Felix will accompany her to watch over her and research in his own way (but without traveling to Braavos yet). His stated reason for going is that it’s a social call for him to get to know his uncle and namesake better. Geena is incredibly excited to finally get to visit Gulltown and hit the shops. Lord Arthur stays at the Teeth to run things while most of the family is away.

Maester Meera sends a letter to the Waynwoods to let them know we’ll be traveling for a while; they were going to visit when spring arrived, but their visit will have to be delayed a bit. Leo sends Sonya a love letter, borrowing some love poems from Marcus Felix’s book. Lord Arthur assigns Clifford to visit the Redwoods and start making plans for the attack on the mountain men that was promised. Meera puts Marla in charge of conducting lessons again while she’s gone and helps draw up lesson plans. She asks Reynar to act as go-between to make sure the mountain men kids go to lessons. Gareth volunteers to help keep discipline.

Leo has a talk with Sam and Tiberius the Tall. The latter will accompany Marcus Felix to Gulltown. Sam is a bit nervous about being left in charge of the garrison. Leo gives him what advice he can about keeping discipline and watching over the mountain men, and above all keeping the family safe. Sam swears to be at Nina’s side whenever she meets with the mountain men. Leo tells him to lock up any mountain men who don’t bend the knee after the first week, as per the agreement. He tells Sam to stay calm and not kill anyone unless absolutely necessary. We will figure out what to do with the imprisoned mountain men when we return. Sam gives Leo some blueberry muffins made by the garrison and asks Leo to buy him a scarf from Runestone or the Eyrie if possible. He says it’s for a friend. Before parting, Leo reminds him to keep an eye out for Lord of Light followers. These are ok to kill if they resist arrest. Leo assigns him to discreetly try and find out if anyone already in the Teeth is loyal to the Lord of Light.

Ysabel has a last debriefing with Lord Arthur before we leave. He says we shouldn’t expect to meet with Lord Grafton in person when we drop off the others in Gulltown, as he’s very busy, so we can have Marcus Felix pass on our regards. He advises that when we speak with Lord Royce and Lord Arryn, who have both generally shown themselves wise and friendly people, we should emphasize that we’re working for the greater good and not trying to do a power grab; don’t antagonize them. We shouldn’t expect to bring our servants into the Eyrie, which is very small and has minimal staff. There may well be lords at the Eyrie who look down on the Slagathors for being a small family and being uncouth enough to own boats. Lord Arryn is very studious and may make us wait a while before our meeting. Above all, Lord Arthur advises caution.

We make plans to drop off Geena and Marcus Felix at Gulltown along with a contingent of guards, then continue sailing around the coast to Runestone. After speaking with the Royces, we will ride horses to the Eyrie and see about speaking with Lord Arryn. Maester Meera wishes to stop along the way to pay a visit to House Hunter; we’ve heard rumors that their maester was murdered by Lord of Light followers, as the Redwood maester was. The Royces already know we’re coming, so Meera sends a raven to the Arryns as well to let them know we’re on our way.

Nina sends Leo with a copy of the Seven-Pointed Star. She assigns him to read the section on the Warrior and informs him there will be a quiz upon his return. On her own initiative, she also sends us with a painting to give to Lord Arryn as a gift. It depicts a peaceful seascape with a solitary boat riding the waves. If one looks closely, there are storm clouds visible on the horizon, coming towards the ship. The title is “Enjoying today.” We request a painting for the Royces as well, so she whips up a very nice painting depicting a mountain nature scene with shadowcats and some small woodland creatures. The whole thing is very green and peaceful. It’s titled “As it should be.” She’s started autographing her paintings now; we notice her signature incorporates the Seven-Pointed Star. She asks Marcus Felix to look into Lord of Light affairs in Gulltown.

Lord Arthur assigns Maester Meera a task to do while she’s traveling. He says he’ll explain more about his reasons when they meet again. While they’re chatting, Meera tells him of what she learned earlier about how disease was spread through the Coldwater family via infected gifts and toys; he thanks her and adds it to the list of possible threats for the garrison to be aware of. Leo asks Meera what she thinks of trying to find a suitable bachelorette for Lord Arthur while we’re traveling. Considering the variety of women he’s had bastards with, age doesn’t seem like it would be a factor for him. We agree to keep an eye open for anyone we think might make for a good (and hopefully advantageous) marriage.

With warm goodbyes all around, we set sail for Gulltown. It’s a warm and breezy spring, perfect for sailing. We reach Gulltown within a day and a half and are greeted by Jeremy Grafton, apparently the current portmaster (and the one whose wedding we so recently attended). He says this is a pleasant surprise. When Meera mentions that we sent word ahead a few days ago, Jeremy says their maester is traveling and his assistant is incompetent, so messages get lost. Jeremy is in charge of the port right now because his uncle Ser Randall is also traveling- to Runestone. Meera offers to give the maester’s assistant a talking-to. Jeremy hints that his wife might already have a little good news on the way.

When Meera speaks with the maester’s assistant, he apologizes profusely and swears nothing like this will ever happen again. Meera doesn’t believe a word of it. She turns her full “severe teacher voice” on him and soon makes him crack. He admits Maester Targon ordered him not to deliver any letters that arrive from the Slagathors or Bloodhands specifically. Meera can see the letter she sent earlier sitting unopened on the table; there are no letters from the Bloodhands. She sits the boy down and lectures him sternly on a maester’s duty being to their lord and castle, not other maesters. She has him deliver the Slagathor letter and informs him that he is welcome to come work for her at the Teeth if he suffers consequences for it. Targon’s previous assistant was fired for letting “a maester” into his office, after all.

Jeremy offers to treat us to a meal at his house. Rebekka stays behind with our little fleet and plays poker with the ship captains. Jeremy sends carriages to pick up the nobles. We all dress nicely, especially Geena, who goes all-out for her big city debut. The carriages take us to a nice house, though not the primary Grafton manor. Kinara of Braavos greets us graciously at the entrance. Her clothing is still in the Braavosi style. House Fulton, Lady Zant, and the wealthy Hathaway family attend the soiree along with the Slagathors and the Bloodhands who are traveling with us. The Fultons and Zants look quite surprised to see us.

The meal is quite fine, a mixture of classic Gulltown and Braavosi dishes. Meera advises Geena to chat up the ladies present. The maester speaks with Kinara about how she’s settling in. Kinara mentions how Randall, Viktor, and Maester Targon have all gone to the Eyrie together. In fact, many of the Gulltown nobles are away. Lord Fulton, who clearly idolizes and emulates the Graftons to a fault, boasts about how clever and motivated the Graftons are.

Meera says it can be dangerous to travel so soon in the spring- the weather could still turn this early in the season. Jeremy mentions that people are getting ready for the tournament at Harrenhall, which he assumes we’ve all heard about. It’s being held in three months to celebrate the wedding of the Targaryen heir. All of the great families have been invited. Jeremy mentions the Graftons sending a large contingent to the tournament. He doesn’t speak in an arrogant, derogatory way, but rather more casual and oblivious.

Jeremy congratulates Leo on his engagement to Sonya and Kinara offers to give advice on honeymoon locations in Braavos. Geena and Maywell Hathaway bond right away and seem to have similar demeanors. Marcus Felix flirts with all the single ladies. Leo talks military strategy with the lords present. Lord Fulton loudly praises the Graftons’ military prowess and their plans for securing long-lasting peace. Lady Fulton mentions that reports they’ve heard reveal the pirates aren’t much of a threat these days and are taking their time before moving again. Kinara says there’s no reason for pirates to come this way.

Meera reminds the Graftons that they would be the first to know if pirates did come this way; many lives depend on their vigilance. The Graftons hint at deals being made to mitigate the pirate threat but don’t elaborate. When Leo mentions an upcoming campaign against the mountain men, Kinara asks with interest about what mountain men are like. Braavosi and Graftons would have little dealings with them. On the whole, the meal is quite a pleasant one. Geena gets invited to several ladies’ salons by the end. Meera spends most of dinner getting to know Kinara and finding out more about Essos. Kinara already seems quite comfortable with her life in Gulltown and considers it a remarkably cultured place. Ysabel tries to surreptitiously find out why the Graftons have gone to the Eyrie. All anyone present knows is that the Graftons are concerned about the empty Shett tower in the wake of Daario Shett’s disappearance, as well as that of his last two remaining relatives. They aren’t comfortable letting that land sit empty, especially since it’s within Gulltown. The Shetts were pledged to the Royces, but obviously the Graftons would rather have it.

After dinner, the group engages in a post-dinner Essosi tradition: smoking. Ysabel notices that there are a lot of Grafton guards around, but they’re positioned more like they’re nervous about our intentions rather than readying for an ambush themselves. Geena offers a gift to Kinara: a dress made in a mixture of Westerosi and Essosi style. Kinara is quite pleased, and everyone present seems to have a good impression of us by the end of dinner. Trystan Bloodhand is friendly with everyone, but also quietly and skillfully asks for specifics when it comes to defenses and dealing with pirates. Leo listens in (OOC Leo has +3 on his first roll in naval combat against Graftons).

We stay in Gulltown the rest of the day. Half a dozen nice bottles of wine are acquired to give to any Houses we deal with during our travels. Meera asks around to see if any Reeds have been through town. Henry Reed is typically seen once every few seasons; he’s the merchant of the family. The other Reeds generally stick to their swamps. But he brought along another Reed last summer, Alundra, who recently came to power in her branch family. It seemed he was showing her the ropes of what he does, though she was quite commanding and charismatic herself. She is a cousin to the main line, as is Henry. The latter doesn’t have a great reputation; he’s generally gruff and unfriendly. They say he’s friendlier towards the Royces than the Graftons. But Alundra was very friendly to everyone when she visited. She helped load and unload goods herself; attended some theater shows; gave money to the poor; and left a very good impression with the people. No one knows exactly what she discussed with the Graftons.

Leo goes looking for the scarf Sam asked for. Sam gave him 3 silver stags, but Leo buys one for 5 silver anyway. It’s fashionable and water-resistant.

It takes 2 ½ days to sail on to Runestone. Marcus Felix, Geena, and a ship with some guards stay behind in Gulltown as planned. As we round the cape, we spot the first of the season’s merchant ships in the distance. Leo bemoans the amount of money that Geena is bound to spend during her stay.

The Royce castle is an hour’s travel from the port. Their small castle is built on a forbidding rock surrounded by crashing waves. Runes are carved into the walls on all sides. Their men are strong and excellent climbers. Royce men escort us up to the castle, Edwyn Royce in the lead (a cousin of Lord Royce’s). Edwyn is quite friendly. The PCs have all visited this castle before, even Rebekka. We leave most of our force either on the ships or in the small town on the land side of the bridge that leads to the castle.

Meera was last here for a feast for the birth of Robar, Yohn Royce’s second son, who is now three. The one subject she knows never to mention here is the fact that she knows Maester Suleyman, who once served House Royce but was sent back to the Citadel after a few years. The rumor is that he hit on the lady of the house. His very name is taboo here, and he’s the reason the current maester doesn’t have much influence with Yohn Royce.

The castle’s most famous ghost story is that of a lord and lady who died in a boat crash only a few miles from home a few centuries ago. The homesick couple made it home, though not alive. On nights with storms like the fatal one, servants have said they’ve seen ghostly figures or heard mournful cries, especially around the west wing of the house where they slept. Last time she was here, Rebekka heard something strange and a servant told her this story.

We are led to a dark room that likely used to be a throne room. The dais now houses a suit of armor covered in runes. It’s said that no Royce can die while wearing this ancestral piece. As we arrive, we see Lord Zant leaving after urging Lord Royce to reconsider something. A bit of trivia- Ysabel is aware that behind a brick in this room is a scroll containing an incantation that the Royce septa would read before Royces go into battle. It’s meant to give them increased fortitude and willpower.

Lord Royce greets us all warmly and invites us to sit at a large, circular table. Even Rebekka is allowed to sit at the table; the Royces are known to let servants speak their mind. But she chooses to stand anyway. Maester Helliwag and Head Septon Lucos join us as well. We explain all we know about the pirate attack carried out against us and what we fear is coming. Lord Royce admits he’s had a bad feeling lately; it’s about time for the pirates to be mountain a major attack. Pirates often choose to attack towards the end of spring. We suspect the pirates might bypass Gulltown and attack us due to old grudges, though their ultimate goal is unclear. They might wish to mount a major assault on Wickendon, the second-largest city in the Vale and a wealthy port town.

Yohn Royce suspects this relates to Lord Zant’s efforts just now to convince the Royces to sell their claim to Shett lands. Lord Royce was offended at the idea that he would sell a man’s land for mere gold. The only thing anyone has heard about Lord Daario Shett is that he was last seen sailing towards Bloodhand lands. Trystan claims they never arrived. The other Shetts disappeared on the way to King’s Landing. It is always dangerous to travel in winter, but it is hard to say if this is unusual. Lord typically do not travel in winter, or use quality ships that can make the trip, like the Bloodhands did. It is said Daario’s sister was going to look for a husband in King’s Landing and his brother was going to become a knight. Daario himself sent only a vague letter ahead to the Bloodhands saying he had an urgent matter to discuss.

We explain what we’ve done so far to gather support for our anti-pirate coalition and build up defenses. Lord Royce agrees that it was right to come to him at once. He has his maester draw up a document granting the Slagathors authority to form this coalition in the Royce name and asks that we deliver a copy to the Arryns ourselves. The Royces will prioritize building up their own navy in preparation. He will also gather some information of his own. Lord Royce is increasingly suspicious of the Graftons and asks that we leave first thing tomorrow with Edwyn to stop the Graftons from taking Shett tower.

Lord Royce explains that the deal Lord Zant offered wasn’t just for gold; Zant had also offered to stop the spread of ill rumors about the Bloodhands and Slagathors. He assures us he does not believe any of the rumors himself (they mostly take what happened during the Grafton wedding and blow it out of proportion). People are even insinuating that the Slagathors and Bloodhands worked together to wipe out the Shetts. Rumors don’t need to have merit to be damaging, though. Especially when they’re spread by more powerful houses than our own.

Maester Helliwag is assigned to make lots of official copies of the Royce document, which we can send out to all the families we can to ask for aid. We can also send a raven to Lord Arthur to fill him in. Meera tells Lord Royce of Maester Targon’s misbehavior so he’ll be aware of what sort of person he is (it seems Lord Royce is always prepared to think the worst of male maesters).

The only eligible Royce at the moment is Angelica, one of the lord’s cousins. She is 26 and currently serves at the castle herbalist (a position that should not exist in a castle with a maester). She was once a septa, but something happened and she was treated very badly so she left the order. She would be considered a decent catch. Lord Royce likes her fairly well, but she has a tendency to keep to herself. She’s polite and enjoys puns.

We are granted free reign of the castle and invited to dinner. Meals are low-key and not too much time is wasted on them. Lord Royce currently has three children (8, 3, and 1). His wife is friendly but very direct. She has been working hard on brightening and beautifying the castle. We present Nina’s painting over dinner and it is very well-received. The Lady particularly enjoys it.

Meera spends a good part of the day writing letters and getting them sent out on Royce ravens along with the Royce letters that Maester Helliwag writes. Lord Royce edits both maesters’ letters for his preferred form and wording. The letters are sent to every family who owes fealty to the Royces. Meera also sends a detailed letter to Lord Arthur to fill him in and includes a copy of the Royce document.

The maester also spends some time asking around about the Reed family. About a year ago, Alundra and Henry Reed visited for a few days. As in Gulltown, she made a favorable impression with most of the civilians and soldiers of Runestone. She was very open, friendly, pleasant, and attractive. But something happened on her last day there in a private conversation between the Reeds and Lord Royce. It caused a chill in their relationship, but people aren’t sure what was said. The Runestone maester opines that the Reeds were there to try and win allies for some reason. Meera makes a good impression with the Runestone maester and they part on agreeable terms.

It’s not until evening that Meera is finally able to meet with her sister, Septa Alarys. Apparently the head septa at Runestone doesn’t care for Alarys (though she doesn’t really seem to like anyone) and she’s been keeping her busy with duties that piled up over the winter while Alarys was away. Meera fills her in on what’s been happening since. Unfortunately, Alarys hasn’t learned anything new about the Lord of Light followers Meera warned her about. None have been seen around Runestone; maybe the runes keep them away? Alarys agrees to go be the septa to the Teeth whenever we get around to building a sept. She will continue researching curses to try and help Meera figure out the Redwood problem.

Leo does some drills with the Royce men and speaks with their commander, Samwell Stone. He later speaks with Trystan Bloodhand and comments on Lord Royce’s harsh words against the Bloodhands. Trystan says the suspicion is understandable, but he assures Leo it’s all slanderous rumors. He was raised to ignore such minor accusations anyway and just look at the bigger picture. They agree it looks like the Graftons and pirates are in cahoots, though there’s not enough evidence to make the accusation. Trystan is concerned that Braavos has hired the pirates to attack Wickendon to steal all the wealth they can. And if they’re working with the Graftons, they can use Gulltown as a base to ravage every city and town up and down the Vale. If the Graftons know they don’t need a navy because of their deal, they can retrain soldiers as ground troops. That leaves the Graftons free to attack inland targets…

There’s some missing information, some link we don’t have, but it doesn’t look good. It’s unfathomable to think a family like the Graftons could do such a thing, but then again, the Raven Five families once did the unfathomable as well. It’s hard to figure out exactly what the Graftons want, or what they think of us—maybe they think the Slagathors really did try to kill those Freys during the wedding. In any case, Trystan has spoken with Marcus Felix about this already and believes it’s now time to convince their respective fathers that the real threat is not the pirates, but the traitors within.

Rebekka has a dream that night of walking down the halls of Runestone. She comes to a door that is blocked and guarded in real life, but open and dark in the dream. She can hear the ticking of a clock. When she reaches it, she sees an image of her and Idwell. As the clock strikes twelve, the image splits apart. Two ghosts appear and scream at her until she wakes up.

We ready our horses to depart the next morning. Our party numbers around thirty. The ships that brought us here depart for the Teeth at the same time. One of them carries a baby seabird for Little Lilly so she can add a bird to her zoo.

It takes at least 10-14 days to reach the Eyrie. There are six families along the East-West Highway between Runestone and the Eyrie. Houses Prickett, Tenley, Brookley, Moore, Templeton, Hunter. Rather than stop at any of them, we decide to head straight for the Eyrie and hit the smaller houses on the way back. The journey ends up taking 11 days. The road narrows and become steeper as we approach. The weather in the mountains is bitter cold. We show our credentials at several checkpoints along the way. As the air gets thinner, Meera starts coughing a lot. Gyr falcons wheel overhead.

The Eyrie finally looms high above us. It’s about the size of Runestone, but strikingly beautiful. There’s a makeshift town at the base of the mountain where the soldiers and servants make camp; only the lords typically get to go up to the castle. We’re amazed at the sight of the box that goes up and down a rope to take visitors. An attendant tells us only the lords and the maester can go up to the castle, along with one servant per family. With some trepidation, we pile into the large box.

The ride up takes around half an hour. Beauty and biting cold fill the ascent. From here we can even see the Riverlands in the distance. Ysabel and Meera suffer more from the cold than anyone. The castle seems built for beauty rather than function.

Ysabel: -3 to all physical traits
Meera: -1d to all physical traits

Inside the castle, the temperature is surprisingly warm and comfortable. The castle is spotlessly clean. As we each have only one servant, they’re expected to carry all of our things, so Rebekka suffers through dragging our trunks. Arryn servants eventually come to help and bring the luggage to our rooms.

We are soon met by Elbert Arryn, the current heir. He knows us all from the Grafton wedding. After some formalities, Elbert invites Leo to join him for an aperitif while the ladies are free to do as they wish. Edwyn Royce retires to his room, but Trystan Bloodhand joins them. The three lords join others in a lounge. Among those lords gathered is Ser Randall Grafton.

Elbert asks why the Slagathors have come. Randall scoffs at the claim that a pirate attack is imminent. He mocks the Slagathors for their small port and efforts to fight the mountain men. Randall and Jaspar Redfort soon leave. Lord Hunter commiserates with Leo over Randall’s asshole behavior and plays some cards with him.

Ysabel, Rebekka, and Meera take a walk around the castle. The halls are packed with art pieces. A gaggle of noble ladies spot us: Lady Egan, the Whitman sisters, Lady Hunter, and a handful of others. They say they’re just here visiting and invite Ysabel to join them for tea (with the implicit assumption that the maester and the bastard will not be joining them). One of the ladies recommends that Maester Meera ask the Arryn maester for some obtidium, an effective remedy for altitude sickness.

Meera and Rebekka find Maester Colemon in his tower feeding a large number of leeches. He’s about Rebekka’s age, thin, and nervous-looking. The young maester is happy to debate the merits of using leeches for just about everything (a practice that is debated among maesters). He recommends using leeches to combat altitude sickness but eventually agrees to look through his stores for herbs instead. Since she’s there, Colemon tells Rebekka to deliver a vial of leeches to Maester Targon, who he says requested them. Meera goes with Rebekka to make the delivery while Colemon looks for her herbs.

In the men’s lounge, Leo plays cards so badly against the other lords that Lord Hunter can’t help but mock him good-naturedly about the money he’s losing. He jokes that he doesn’t even need to cheat against Leo. Elbert Arryn says we must be here for an important reason. Leo mentions the Shett incident and the anti-pirate coalition. Elbert thinks it was wise to come here for Lord Arryn’s ok on everything. Mandon Moore comes over and pours everyone strong drinks, especially Leo (since he’s been losing so much). Leo handles his liquor without difficulty.

The ladies take Ysabel to an indoor garden, a sort of greenhouse. Today’s gossip is mainly about available suitors. Lady Egan is clearly interested in Lord Arthur. She’s been writing him quite a bit and gets jealous at any mention of competition. In fact, she wants to establish a permanent raven with the Slagathors so she doesn’t have to send couriers each time she writes Arthur.

The ladies gossip a bit about Elbert Arryn, as he is the heir of the Vale. He’s 28 and a widower. His wife, a Karstark, died in questionable circumstances—drowned in a pool in this very greenhouse, in fact, even though she knew how to swim. Elbert is said to have a temper. The servants think he has a particular “type” that he likes, and he likes to associate with the servants because they’re “easy”. All in all, the Arryns are generally well-liked in the Vale for their low tax rates and hands-off approach to governing.

More people have been gossiping about the Slagathors recently than in years past due to the exciting fall and winter we had. Most are impressed with how the Slagathors handled themselves during the Grafton wedding defending against the Frey allegations (which must have been false if the Slagathors got off). There’s always talk about how the Teeth is haunted, of course. And Nina’s painting skill has become increasingly famous.

On the way to Targon’s room, Meera warns Rebekka about how skeevy he can be and how he has wronged those around him already. She suggests that Rebekka look around for anything suspicious while Meera distracts him. Maester Targon is sitting at his desk with his back to the door when we enter and irritably tells us to leave the leeches without looking back. He’s coughing quite a bit. His room is large and fancy and has a painting of Gulltown in a prominent place.

Maester Meera quietly brings him the leeches and leans in to tell him she doesn’t recommend actually using them. Though he’s not exactly thrilled to see her, the two maesters share a rare moment of agreement when they mock Colemon’s obsession with leeches together. Targon immediately tosses the leeches in the trash and says he only requested them because it’s important to “play nice” with the local maester. Meera questions why one must change their behavior depending on location. Targon dismissively calls her “Coldwater” despite the fact that maesters give up their last names when they forge their chains.

Meanwhile, Rebekka silently rifles through some open letters on Targon’s dresser. Most of them are letters addressed to various lords regarding the upcoming Harrenhal tournament. They mostly deal with confirming details, asking who will attend, arranging meetings with major lords, and so on. There are letters to the Freys, Boltons, Tyrells, Lannisters, even the Targaryens, and some replies. Rebekka steals the letters to the Freys and Lannisters, but that’s all she can manage without being noticed.

Meera grabs Targon’s attention when he starts to notice Rebekka and tells him she feels they need to discuss some things. Targon shoos Rebekka out so the maesters can talk, though he squints at the bastard and asks if they’ve met before. Rebekka claims her name is Mary and leaves.

Maester Targon and Meera talk as they make their way down the hall towards the library. He admits he’s still rankled that she used his ravens without permission during the wedding. While she doesn’t believe it’s wrong for maesters to use anyone’s ravens – they’re all on the same side, after all – she agrees to ask permission before using his again, even if it means waking him in the middle of the night.

Both maesters are vague about their reasons for being at the Eyrie. Meera says many matters have piled up over the winter. They discuss where a maester’s loyalties lie and what their duties should be. Targon mocks Maester Suleyman, the one who used to be at Runestone. He hated working there and apparently deliberately got himself caught flirting with the Lady so he would be sent away from Runestone (this in spite of him being gay). Targon doesn’t think Meera would last long at any castle but the Teeth, though he admits she has some skills and talents. Trying to play nice, Meera asks the older maester for advice. Targon says a maester must keep their lord happy, thus protecting the city.

Meera comments on that fact that Gulltown is prospering (Targon thanks her for noticing). With things going so well, why is Lord Grafton so troubled? Targon admits that his lord believes he’s surrounded by enemies and it’s Targon’s job to make him feel safe. The fact that Lord Arthur got his wife killed makes Arthur untrustworthy. Meera insists that she and Targon are on the same side – both being maesters serving the greater good – and says the Graftons and Slagathors must reconcile. After all, they are family. Targon says the Graftons might be willing to reconcile if the Slagathors support the Grafton bid to take over the Shett lands. Meera asks what the Graftons would offer in return for this support. As to that, Targon says he will need to discuss it with his lord. Maester Meera tells him they need to take advantage of their proximity during this visit and have some good talks.

Rebekka tells everyone in our retinue to call her Mary while we’re here. She’ll have to avoid Randall Grafton as much as possible, of course, since he’s the one who seems especially interested in her business. She disguises herself in a subtle yet effective way to help her cover (18 Disguise).
To Lord Lannister (Tywin),
From Lord Grafton (Marq),
Via Maester Targon,

As discussed with Lord Gerion*, as part of our arrangement, we are willing to lend a ship to aid in his quest to recover Bright-Roar. It would be our pleasure to do this as a favor to your great name. We are not willing to provide a fleet, unless circumstances change otherwise. It is unfortunate that Lord Gerion has made light of this matter, but we hear this is a common refrain about him, albeit one that is enjoyed in the proper moment.

We do agree that the King’s behavior has been most peculiar as of late, but know not of any cure for his maladies. The rumors grow worse and worse, and relations between him and his son worsen with each day. This is truly unfortunate, as Prince Rhaegar is truly a wise and courageous young man, as the King can be. Do you know of a curative for the King? We would be most interested in your opinion.

We are looking forward to seeing you in Harrenhal, where we hope to resume negotiations on tax policy in Westeros._

  • Lord Gerion is the youngest brother of Tywin Lannister. He was at the Wedding of the Graftons and brought an expensive gift.

Note: This appears to be a draft document, as there are markings on it. It appears to have not been sent. Maester Meera would know from Maester writing tradition that this is a last draft document, and that the final document was very close to this. It’s a good piece of parchment.

_To Lord Frey (Walder),
From Lord Grafton (Marq),
Via Maester Targon,

Again, we apologize for the treatment that your son and daughter faced, and will remind your Lordship that an apology payment has already been made for this incident, twice more than the usual amount in these circumstances. We do wish that your Lordship will understand that our apology is sincere and not false as a Dorne Rose.

Having said that, we do quite urge you to come to Harrenhal. We know your House is not partial to festivities, but House Targayen is paying all of the associated expenses. All of them. Food, alcohol, feed, even travel expenses. And you do live only a few days’ ride. And think of the taunts about Harrenhal you can make while you are there. It would be a great opportunity to describe the majesty of the Twins and remind all present of how Westeros truly relies on your castle for trade.

Speaking of which, there is much important business to be discussed. Business that impacts all of Westeros. We discussed this briefly with your eldest grandchild*, but he appears to misunderstand the significance of our question. There is more to discuss than just tax policy.

Please reply if you change your mind about attending._

*Ryman Frey, eldest son of Stevron. Stevron is the eldest of Walder, making Ryman second in line. He attended the Wedding of the Graftons, along with Leona Frey and Doge Frey. Leona and Doge Frey were the Freys Rebekka had an incident with.

This parchment, unlike the other one, is a rough draft. In maester writing tradition, this document may be changed significantly before being sent; however, when maesters are away from a lord, it is unlikely they would acquire much feedback, either. This was written on cheap, thin paper.

SESSION 14 (11/13/16)
EPISODE 7: Sevenmas

In the aftermath of the Raven Five meeting, three days before Sevenmas, the Bloodhand children are still staying with us while Pommel recovers. It’s a nice day for winter, and Reynar and Avlon have decided to go hunting. They head out on foot to track some deer. Avlon notices that it looks like a storm might be rolling in soon, but he and Reynar decide to press on with their hunt anyway; it’s been a long time since they’ve had fresh venison. They track a young deer through the trees.

Meanwhile, Rebekka is helping with preparations for Sevenmas. The younger bastards are all very excited to put up decorations and smell the holiday meal preparations. Idwell is interested to see what the Slagathors do for the holiday since Lady Bloodhand doesn’t like the holiday and their household doesn’t do much to celebrate it. The Slagathors have a tradition of carving wood to look like gator teeth and hanging them on the tree. Korinne is very proud of her carving and stratches Gareth with it to show how sharp it is. Leo is busy preparing the garrison for the Sevenmas dance show…

Avlon lands a great shot on the deer and almost kills it with one arrow. As the deer staggers away towards the river, Reynar jumps out, having anticipated where it would go, and finishes it off with a dagger across the neck. But as the deer falls, the two hunters notice the weather has gotten much worse. Reynar remembers a rocky shelter they could use a little ways down the river. At the same time, Avlon sees a woman in the forest—dressed in white, black hair, hauntingly beautiful. He wants to go after her, but Reynar doesn’t see her and thinks Avlon is just seeing snow mirages. The two decide to stick together and drag their quarry to shelter for now.

Leo is doing a great job dancing and preparing his soldiers for their performance. Sam turns out to be an excellent dancer and instructor and takes a leading role. Marcus Felix tells Leo he’s glad HE doesn’t have to do this. While they’re teasing each other, the storm suddenly hits the castle and bowls over dancers left and right. A Slagathor banner is torn away and flies off. Leo rounds everyone up to secure the castle. He notices that the hunting dogs aren’t being taken care of and calls for someone to fetch Avlon, since caring for them is one of his duties.

Rebekka is dressed in casual clothes for the holidays. Her only jewelry is a bracelet left behind by her mother. As it was a present from Lord Arthur, it’s quite nice (but not so nice that it would get stolen or look very out of place on a servant). It’s silver with an intricate pattern engraved on it. Idwell brings her a cup of hot cocoa and says he needs to take care of some business with Jessica so he’ll see Rebekka at dinner. Rebekka knows him well enough at this point to notice that he’s lying, but rather than follow him, she decides to use the time to figure out what she’s getting him.

Avlon and Reynar reach the rocky outcropping, which keeps them reasonably warm for now. They have the deer with them and set about skinning it to use its hide for warmth. Reynar can tell from experience that this storm is likely to last the rest of the day and night. Suddenly, Avlon alone hears a woman’s voice telling him to go south to follow her. He sees her again for a moment and meets her clear blue eyes before she disappears from view again.

Reynar considers Avlon’s story and hesitantly asks if Death is female to Avlon’s people. Avlon says no. Reynar describes snow mirages he’s seen before, like quarry that wasn’t really there, and says that’s all this is. Avlon decides that the woman, if she’s out there, will probably still be around once the snow lessens. Her words sounded more like invitation than plea. Reynar jokes that the woman should just take shelter with them if she’s out during this storm and shouts as much out into the snow. In response, Reynar suddenly hears a woman’s voice say, “You can see me?”

Someone reports to Leo that Avlon and Reynar are both missing. He wonders if Reynar might have kidnapped his brother; he doesn’t think Reynar would be so treacherous, but he IS a mountain man… At the same time, Rebekka is thinking about getting a gift for Reynar and decides to get him a nice whittling knife since he likes to carve things. It will have a simplified version of the Bloodhand crest on it. She asks the blacksmith, Tarrus, to make it for her and mentions it’s for Idwell. The smith says Idwell is having something made for her too, though he’s not supposed to say.

Leo finds her at the smith’s and asks if she’s seen Avlon. Rebekka remembers she saw Avlon leave this morning to go hunting. She thinks they were headed south towards the stream. Leo looks at the sky and worries about his brother. Leo and Rebekka decide to lead a party to search for Avlon. Clifford tags along with about ten guards. Leo warns Maester Meera about what’s so she can be ready with warm baths and whatever else she needs to treat frostbite and hypothermia. She also sends them with some special balm to treat frostbite, just in case.

While they’re tracking Avlon and Reynar, Rebekka notices that the ground around the place where she buried Jones’ cursed arm looks strange—like snow isn’t accumulating there, or it’s melting at once, even though there snow is a foot deep everywhere else. She makes a mental note of it for later and just leads the party towards the stream. Around that time, everyone in the area hears the cry of many, many shadowcats in the woods. Avlon and Reynar hear it from the north.

Reynar suddenly sees the woman Avlon described with the black hair and blue eyes; now it’s Avlon who sees nothing. She’s dressed in white and green. Reynar remembers that there are many legends of the snow maiden of the hills (which is odd, since we’re far from the hills). She’s said to be a manifestation of nature itself that forms to deliver a message. Sometimes she’s an omen of death, but sometimes she comes to try and save people. It’s said some mountain men can actually project themselves into this form at a distance to communicate, but most people say these are just legends. No member of the Bonebreakers, Reynar’s tribe, could do anything like that.

The mountain man asks her if she’s delivering a message and she says yes. When he asks who is in the south, she simply repeats her message and walks away. He notices that her feet and her long hair leave no marks in the snow. Reynar admits that she seems to actually be there and they probably ought to follow her. Avlon considers Reynar’s talk of nature spirits and remembers hearing something like this himself. They opt to follow her south after finishing skinning the deer so they can take the pelt and some of the larger cuts of meat with them.

They cross the frozen stream to head south. Reynar steps on a crack and nearly falls in, but Avlon pulls him to safety before it gives way. The cold and wind are biting, but luckily both young men have taken precautions and covered their faces. After about an hour, they come to a cave. The woman is waiting at the mouth for them, looking much more solid than before. As she beckons the travelers in, they hear the sounds of shadowcats nearby.

Rebekka and Reynar suddenly realize that the shadowcats are much closer than they thought; they were somehow disguising their cries to sound farther away. What’s more, these cats are white rather than black, so they blend in quite well this time of year. Avlon and Rebekka are able to sound the alarm before the cats burst from the snow around both parties.

Two shadowcats charge Avlon and Reynar. Knowing such creatures well, Reynar can tell they’re both young, scrawny females. Reynar gets bitten while Avlon deflects the blow. The mountain man is used to unruly shadowcats since everyone in his tribe had one, so he decides to try and cow the animal rather than kill it if possible. The animal is somewhat mollified by his initial attempts. Reynar keeps working on pacifying it but also keeps an eye on Avlon; if the young lord looks like he needs help, Reynar will have to prioritize the boy’s safety. Avlon nicks his shadowcat with an arrow while he tries to defend himself.

Rebekka deals a critical blow to one of the cats charging her group. Leo fights his off handily as well. They both avoid taking any damage from the cats they’re fighting. The guards are doing a pretty good job of defending themselves on the whole. Clifford kills his cat in one hit. Rebekka soon finishes off her shadowcat. Leo follows suit and all of the shadowcats that attacked their party are wiped out. Rebekka helps the group get back on track again.

Avlon and Reynar both suffer some bites as the cats attack again. Reynar suddenly understands that the females are protecting their young, which may be in the cave the humans were led to. This changes his tactics. Rather than trying to force his will on the cat, he tosses a chunk of deer meat into the mouth of the cave as an offering and tries to make it clear that he can provide more. The cat accepts the gesture and heads into the cave with the meat. Reynar gets the impression that the cat would be better disposed towards him if they meet again. As for Avlon’s fight, his cat keeps attacking and has all its focus on its prey. Avlon responds in kind. Seeing that there’s no chance of charming that shadowcat, Reynar sneaks up behind it and slits its throat to end the fight.

Reynar explains the cats were protecting their young, so they’ll have to be cautious if they still want to enter the cave. They end up both keeping meat ready and charming their way into the cave. The mother is quite scrawny and might not be able to survive this winter. They young men find five shadowcat kittens huddled at the back of the cave for warmth. They appear to be old enough for solid foods. Avlon helps Reynar try to help the mother and Reynar determines that the mother will only survive if they spend the night in this cave with her. Since Avlon seems to be suffering from the cold at this point, Reynar makes sure to keep the kittens near Avlon and put the deer pelt over him for warmth.

After about an hour there’s a sound of hoofbeats approaching. Reynar goes to meet the hunting part at the mouth of the cave so they don’t come in and kill everything. He explains that Avlon is in the cave with a mother shadowcat and her kittens, all keeping each other warm. Though Avlon’s brothers are alarmed, Reynar reassures them that everything is well. He says the cats are just cold and hungry, like everyone else, and he wants to help them. Clifford thinks shadowcats ought to just be killed, but Leo considers Reynar’s words; he believes in rewarding those who help his family.

Reynar proposes bringing the cats back to the castle to save them. None of the young lords are in favor of this. Rebekka proposes Reynar stay with the cats for the night and the mountain mean readily agrees, provided that they leave enough food and blankets behind. In the end, everyone but Reynar heads back to the castle. Leo applies Maester Meera’s frostbite salve to Avlon and, while he’s not in great shape, he’ll be ok. The soldiers skin the cats and bring the pelts and meat back to the castle.

As they’re leaving, Avlon sees the woman again to the west. She tells him, “Come back here when the storm is done.” When he responds, his brothers assume he’s snow-crazy.

The storm is a doozy and lasts the day and night. Some of the outer walls are damaged and a few windows break. People call it the Blinding Blizzard of 280(ish). With treatment and care from Maester Meera, Avlon is able to recover.

Reynar spends the rest of the day and night with the cats and they all make it just fine. Leo even leaves him materials to build a fire for warmth. Come morning, Reynar leaves the rest of the food behind for them and leaves the blankets as bedding. One of the kittens takes a special shine to him. To his surprise, the mother shadowcat indicates that it’s ok for him to take the little one. Leo tells Reynar he’s trusting him to come back to the castle (i.e. not run away).

Leo, Avlon and Rebekka head back to the cave the next morning to fetch Reynar. The rest of the shadowcats elect to stay in the cave since they have food and bedding for the rest of the winter, though they’ll surely move on and join another pack come spring. Leo sees the kitten in Reynar’s arms and isn’t happy to see it. Reynar explains that the kitten has taken a shine to him and there’s no shaking that, so he wants to keep it. Leo reluctantly agrees to let Reynar keep it as long as the mountain man keeps it hidden. Reynar tucks the kitten under his cloak and says he’ll keep it in an unused part of the castle. Leo really only agrees to this because Reynar has saved Avlon a few times now and he feels he owes him.

Before everyone heads back to the castle, Avlon mentions that he wants to check out the area where he saw the strange woman. Reynar explains that a spirit of nature led them here. Leo thinks they’re crazy, but when they approach the area where Avlon saw the woman they hear digging and banging from the mouth of another cave whose entrance has collapsed. Guessing that there are people trapped in there, Leo calls for reinforcements from the castle and gets some soldiers to dig through.

A group of about 50 mountain men are huddled inside. They’re composed mainly of women, children, and the elderly. Reynar recognizes them as First Shadows – the group that once subjugated his tribe, the Bonebreakers – and decides to say nothing in their defense. A woman in her 50s steps forward and says they don’t want any trouble. They haven’t eaten much in weeks and their water stores are very low. They are in our hands. They have 18 people under the age of 10 and 12 people over the age of 60, meaning 30 of the 50 are in no position to resist us. Most of the rest are female.

Encouraged by Leo not immediately executing them for being on his family’s lands, she launches into the tale of how they came to be there. A man in strange garb approached their tribe in the fall and promised no one would attack them if they converted to worship the Lord of Light. When no attack came, many people did convert. Those who refused were killed or exiled. When many of the fathers and sons of those here were killed, they chose to flee. They’ve been hunted by Lord of Light followers and wild animals ever since. They had hoped to get far enough south to avoid pursuit, but they got lost and then became trapped here.

Leo decides that they’re telling the truth. He offers shelter, aid, and safe passage as long as they’ll provide information about their camp and any other possible locations where they might find the First Shadows. The woman says they’ll do one better—they’ll give us all the treasure they took with them when they fled the tribe. But in return, they want to live in the Teeth. They will submit themselves to the Slagathor banner and law and give up being mountain men. This life has become too dangerous; it’s time to try something new.

There’s some muttering in the back of the cave from those who don’t approve of their leader’s agreement. Leo says he’ll speak with his father about their proposal. The woman asks that those who don’t wish to take the deal rest and eat at the castle for the next week and then leave once they’re stronger. Leo agrees to that but warns they would get no supplies to take with them when they left; they might also wind up being hunted by him and his men if they stuck around on Slagathor lands.

Rebekka takes Leo aside and debates him; she doesn’t approve of the deal and worries that many people wouldn’t approve of us sheltering mountain men, including members of the Raven Five. She’s personally ok with letting them pledge to us, but she warns letting them go may enrage our allies who hate mountain men. Leo whispers that he can have men waiting to kill those who leave once they get out of sight.

After discussing things with Rebekka, Leo returns to the mountain men and further stipulates that those who stay at the Teeth must convert to the faith of the Seven. The leader, Narsa, isn’t enthusiastic about the idea. She warns that some will always refuse to give up their wild mountain gods, even if they bend the knee.

Negotiations are temporarily postponed while the mountain men take one of their people outside to be buried. Avlon and Reynar overhear the men carrying her out calling her Marfelle and mocking her for thinking she could save them with her “shaman ways”. The woman is quite old, but she’s dressed in white and there are still traces of black in her hair. Avlon and Reynar look at each other. They guess she was the one who led them here; there is no reason she couldn’t have projected her spirit to look young. Reynar is conflicted. While he has no love for First Shadows, he never would have found and saved the shadowcat mother and her kittens without Marfelle’s help. He rests a hand on the kitten under his cloak and decides on her name.

Lord Arthur, Maester Meera, and Ysabel arrive to help deal with this sticky situation. After getting filled in on the details thus far, Meera says she doesn’t think the matter of faith should be so crucial. Leo says he has to insist for Sonya’s sake. Lord Arthur simply says he’ll let them stay if they bend the knee.

Maester Meera goes to speak with Narsa directly. The leader of the mountain men is curious about this “maester” thing. When Meera says she’s essentially a healer and a teacher, Narsa says she sounds like a shaman. They talk things over a bit and Narsa decides to sweeten the deal. She has her people bring out chests full of gems, coins, and other treasure. Some of it dates back from before the Targaryen era. It’s clearly been looted from many people over centuries (and we might gain some favor by returning some of it to its previous owners, if we can find them). The mountain men took it from their tribe’s vault before they fled. She says all of the treasure is ours to keep if we agree to harbor them.

About 35 mountain men agree to return to the Teeth with us and convert, all of the children among them. This group of people believes the mountain gods have betrayed them by letting the Lord of Light followers reign supreme, so they have no reason to stay faithful. To those who remain, Leo says that those who believe in the Old Gods rather than the mountain gods are welcome to join without converting. 2 more join, bringing the refugees up to 37. Narsa explains that they’ve been on the run for over a month now. They wouldn’t have ever considered agreeing to such a deal before, but her kind are clearly no longer welcome in this world. Though it will be painful, they need to change and adapt. She promises they will work for their keep and do their part in service to the Slagathors. Maester Meera invites all of the mountain men children to come to her classes from now on.

The maester is understanding about their dilemma. They fled their tribe because of forced conversions, so asking them to convert now is a hard request to make of them. But it’s true that it would make their integration easier. She asks that they just keep an open mind about the Seven, talk to a septa, before they make their final decision.

This leaves 13 mountain men who still refuse to convert and won’t accept our aid, even if it means their death. Leo eventually says that everyone can come to the castle as long as they bend the knee and don’t worship the mountain gods- i.e. they don’t have to worship the Seven, but if they’re caught worshiping the mountain gods they’ll be executed. This would leave them godless, but they could still choose to educate themselves about the Seven while at the Teeth in case it appeals to them. Seven more agree to this plan, with six saying they won’t come if it means giving up their gods.

A family conference ensues. Avlon thinks Leo is being too nice and says so. He thinks we should just execute the six who are still stubborn rather than risking letting them go free. Marcus Felix thinks we should lock them up instead. Meera suggests letting even the last six holdouts come back with us and give them a week to decide what they want to do. We’ll see at that point if they’re willing to give up comfort and a chance at survival over a matter of religion. Leo agree to having a week’s trial period, during which every mountain man refugee will be housed, clothed, fed, educated, and so on. Those who refuse our offer after that period will be locked up and the rest invited to stay. Forty mountain men bend the knee to Lord Arthur at once; the rest choose to wait and see. Apparently they started their flight with 90-100 people a month ago, so they have already suffered great losses.

The mood at the Teeth is much more cheerful when we return. Nina gets to work educating and converting those who have already chosen the Seven and spends what little free time she has left over painting winter scenes. She learns from the refugees that the Lord of Light acolyte who forcibly converted their tribe was named Dineri. She feels a chill at the name and feels like she’s seen him before even though they’ve never met.

Everyone enjoys some Sevenmas festivities. Marla builds a snowgator with a real spear and helmet. Gifts are exchanged all around. Meera collects surplus winter gear from the Slagathor children and bastards to donate to the mountain men children. Most of the kids go along with the idea and make friends with the mountain men children at once. Rupert says he has no extras and only manages to give away one shirt. Korinne gives away a lot of nice male clothes (probably stolen from Rupert). Marla organizes everything and raises some funds by giving away carvings and things in exchange for donations from the citizens. Little Lilly tries her best to help but doesn’t quite understand what it is that refugees need.

Leo and his soldiers do the Sevenmas criss-cross dance to great acclaim. Some of the mountain men join the Sevenmas festivities while others stay in their rooms. The Bloodhand children, who are still with us, join in the festivities too. They don’t seem to have a strong opinion one way or the other about welcoming the mountain men (Pommel says he would have just killed them, but he’s the exception, as usual).

Meera focuses on making the mountain man kids feel welcome. She organizes activities, gives them what she can, gets donations, and has lots of story time. Rebekka gives Maester Meera a bottle of honey wine in the gift exchange, which they will probably share together. Ysabel hangs out with Nina and Geena for some sister time. Geena is looking forward to spring, when the Waynwoods will be coming to visit. Nina is too busy with the conversions to do much else.

Even so, Leo talks to Nina and asks if she’ll help organize his wedding ceremony. Nina says it’s a septa’s duty, but she’d be happy to do what she can. Leo agrees that their septa aunt will officiate but he wants his sister to be a part of it too. She’s excited to help plan and pictures the ceremony as though she’s already painted it.

Tarrus the blacksmith delivers the knife he made for Rebekka, which looks fantastic. Rebekka takes Idwell aside and presents the knife wrapped in leather with a “Merry Sevenmas”. He’s very appreciative and embraces her. Idwell in turn offers her a box. It has a ring inside that matches her bracelet and has a green gem (her favorite color). She realizes it’s a proposal— and accepts. For better or worse, he spent a lot of coin on the ring and he’ll need time to save up enough for a proper wedding.

A couple of days after the festivities, Meera gets a raven from the Citadel saying that spring is coming.

Cinematic: The raven flies off over the water and reaches Gulltown, which is bustling with huge Sevenmas markets. We see the Grafton mansion, where Maester Targon brings the message to Lord Grafton, Viktor, and Randall. Randall is happy to hear that he’ll finally be able to travel again without fear of snow. Targon says there’s news from King’s Landing confirming that Daario Shett’s family never reached their destination, presumably lost at sea. Lord Grafton said this is as expected, and says he’ll be visiting the Royces to let them know the Slagathors are responsible for this…


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