House Slagathor - Song of Ice and Fire

SESSION 24 (12/3/17)
Episode 12: The Tragedy of Harrenhal

The Slagathors get dressed for the party and head for the main castle (Geena is EXTREMELY trendy). Even some of the servants and soldiers are allowed to join in for the welcoming feast. As we get in line, we’re told we’ll have to wait— the king and his retinue have just arrived and need about an hour to file in.

Meera spots her old friend Maester Tarwyn. He approaches her with someone she doesn’t know and the old friends greet each other warmly. Tarwyn introduces Maester Qyburn of the Citadel (who still has his chain). They talk about the maester conclave that will happen during the tournament. There are three main solutions proposed: 1) do basically nothing, 2) create an order of maester knights, or 3) spread the maester order to Essos. Qyburn mentions wanting to speak with Meera this week about the Lord of Light people; she says she’d be happy to talk to him as soon as possible, even later tonight during the feast.

While we’re waiting, Meera has a quiet talk with Rebekka and fills her in. She asks her to investigate any maesters she can to help Meera figure out where people stand and why. Meera proposes prioritizing the Seneschal and the others who came from the Citadel first. Rebekka agrees to help and will sneak away at the first opportunity.

There are thousands of people in the great hall already when we enter and it’s continuing to fill. The house band is playing and there’s plenty of dancing space. Even the servants are eating rich, expensive food and drinking coffee, which not everyone is familiar with; Jayne takes it upon herself to take cream and sugar around and teach these Westerosi how to drink it. Leo asks Jayne to bring some for him and his wife.

An older, handsome man with a warrior’s physique approaches Ysabel. He is Donnel Swann, the heir of House Swann, and asks to dance with her. They make small talk while they dance. Swann has a good relationship with the Arryns and doesn’t know much about the Graftons or the intricacies of Vale politics. Lord Sunderland is the next one to dance with Ysabel, and so on.

Ysabel decides to focus on chatting with lords from the Iron Islands to find out what they think of the prince (they’re not so hard to get dances with since most noble ladies tend to avoid them). She chats with Harris Harlaw, heir of the house, who seems quite nice and reasonable. He’s nicknamed “The knight of grey garden”. He says there are two main Iron Islander factions: some support the current leader, who wants to become closer to Westeros, but others want to return to full piracy. The Harlaws support the former. In fact, they’re hoping to pick up a maester while they’re here. Ysabel mentions her maester has saved her life and says she’ll put in a good word for the Harlaws. Harris ends with a very favorable impression of her. He might even be able to get her an audience with the Greyjoys at some point. He is quite interested in the SWORD reading program and further development.

Ysabel and Geena both dance quite well. Nina struggles for a bit before giving up. Leo dances respectably well and doesn’t disgrace Sonya; Marcus Felix is about the same. The dance is how information and rumors are spread from person to person. Maesters do not dance. Ned Stark is dancing with Ashara Dayne, widely considered one of the most beautiful women in Westeros. Mandon Moore is busy drinking. Kevan Lannister has people to talk business with. Robert Baratheon is shyly watching Lyanna Stark. Stannis is not here.

The king, as mentioned, is present, and it’s the first time most people have seen the reclusive monarch. He has a throne and crown, but his appearance is shocking. His skin is grey and thin, his hair unkempt, his nails long and ragged— he looks awful, like a diseased beggar. Sitting at his side is the prince, one of the most handsome men in Westeros. He’s in the prime of life and looks absolutely regal, though bored.

Mandon Moore approaches Leo and taunts him about his fighting style. He warns Leo he’d better fight better than at the Eyrie or else drop out right now. Moore threatens that Leo will pay if he causes the Arryn team to lose. Lord Yohn Royce is nearby, so Leo greets him in turn. They chat about the melee (Royce will be on the Arryn team as well). Leo says he’ll try ax-throwing and Royce says he’d like to try the Game of Thrones card game.

Meanwhile, Rebekka is doing the sneaky-sneak. She expertly disguises herself as a simple pageboy and walks right into the maester area where the Seneschal and the other Citadel and Hightower maesters are quartered. The maesters brought their own pageboys (trainee maesters) to run errands and deliver messages. Rebekka snags an empty message tube from Meera’s stuff and tells a page she needs to deliver a message to the Seneschal. The page directs her to the tent in question, which is guarded by the maester’s personal pageboy. She observes the tent for a while and sees the bored-looking pageboy with a box for messages as well as two Hightower soldiers.

Rebekka masterfully sneaks into the Seneschal’s tent. His quarters are filled with books and tools and everything you could imagine a maester having, all of very high quality. She scopes out hiding places first in case she has to duck out of sight. She’s unable to get the first drawer open and notices the drawers are actually trapped and will make noise if not opened the right way. The second drawer opens for her and she’s able to study the innovative trap within. It contains correspondence dealing with recent events; each letter is sealed. She starts opening messages. The first few are boring matters regarding catering and other details. Some are disciplinary or warning letters, including one to Qyburn, who was reprimanded for experimenting on dead bodies. There’s a letter addressed to Meera, half-written, asking to discuss the details of Maester Katern’s death. Another is an unfinished letter to Tywin Lannister; it mentions a Lannister gift to to the Citadel and promises that the maesters will stay neutral when “the issue” is presented at Harrenhal.

She hears a guard coming at that point and easily hides in time. She tries for the third drawer, but unfortunately the trap is triggered this time. The dagger jabs her hand and the bell goes off. She grabs the first few things on top in that drawer and slides out of the tent just in time to avoid being spotted. She then slips on some gloves to hide the bleeding and tries to sneak off. It takes a long time for the frantic activity to calm down, especially with the maester afterparty (and caterer cooking competition) being set up. But she is able to get away without being seen or caught.

Back at the feast, the maesters are all sitting off in their own area rather than with their houses. Many quickly return to deal with their own houses after a while. Meera is easily able to sidle up to Targon after a while. She very quietly tells him the news about the Arryn plan and, anticipating his reaction, covers for him by loudly talking about trivial matters like caterers and getting other maesters arguing. Targon tells her not to act for now and starts a message chain to tell the Graftons ASAP.

A member of House Lynderly (the master of arms) tells Meera that Maester Esteva wants to speak with her immediately. He leads her out of the hall and up some stairs. He doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. She climbs a tall, ruined tower alone into a room of rotting furniture where Esteva waits. They speak alone.

Esteva tells her House Lynderly (which she represents) is all in on the Grafton plot and she knows we are too. Meera acknowledges this. Esteva says we have an order from the Graftons: we must do everything we can to get Robert Baratheon to leave Harrenhal before the kingsmoot is called. If Robert leaves, his uncle Lord Estermont, who is a good man, would vote in his place. The best thing would be to get Estermont to leave as well and hopefully get a different representative to cast the Baratheon vote, someone who could be convinced to support our plan instead (Lord Lonmouth, the third in line to vote, is involved in our plotting already). Meera is skeptical about this plan, but Esteva points out that the Arryns and Starks could be planning to use Robert’s upcoming engagement to Lyanna as leverage to get Robert to vote in favor of his own kingship (even if he might not want to actually be king). Meera wonders if we might be able to convince Robert to leave Harrenhal with Lyanna on some romantic trip.

As for the Graftons and the rest of the plotters, they’ll be trying to recruit the Greyjoys. They’re planning on joining the pirate fleet to the Iron Islanders to attack the Summer Isles and get involved in the civil war there. It’s located a few months’ journey from Westeros and would provide a convenient way to get the pirates out of our hair. The Lannisters may be a lost cause, but they will be trying to get their vote as well.

Before returning to the party, Meera briefly mentions the upcoming maester conclave and why she feels that bringing in new blood (expanding to Essos) would be better for the maesters than shedding blood (forming a band of warrior maesters). Esteva is not yet convinced, but Meera is persuasive enough that it will help her in their next argument (+1d to next intrigue combat with Esteva).

Leo approaches Robert Baratheon, who gets him to drink something really strong (Leo does fine with it). Mandon Moore chugs the same drink effortlessly just to show off and his henchmen (Crabbe and Goyle) cheer and smash glasses in celebration. Leo notices Robert has been watching Lyanna, who is at the Start table looking bored, and tries to get Robert to go ask her to dance. Mandon Moore makes fun of Robert to try and discourage him. Eventually Robert finds his courage and gets Lyanna to dance. The Grafton house band (the Game of Scones) is now playing while the servants hand out scones. Moore is irritated at his loss and tries to dance with Lyanna next, but she pushes him away. Leo can tell that Robert is deeply in love but Lyanna is just being polite.

Ysabel opts to try and reach some Tullys. With some skillful dancing, she makes her way to Lord Hoster Tully. She introduces herself and they make pleasant conversation about the Arryns and the Vale. He’s friendly enough, though tired after a long night of dancing. Hoster considers Lord Arryn a good and loyal friend to have. They discuss piracy and lack of leadership from the crown, though Hoster skirts the latter issue. She compliments his daughters and commiserates the loss of his wife. When Ysabel mentions the possibility of him remarrying, she can tell he considers her house to be beneath his but would be fine with her visiting his tent at night. She hints that status can change and walks away.

Meera seeks out Qyburn when she returns to the feast. He mentions the reports she sent the Citadel about the strange powers Lord of Light followers possess. One of his friends has captured a shepherd alive and he invites Meera to join him in the interrogation. Meera doesn’t care how the shepherd was captured; these people are murderers and she’s seen what they can do. Qyburn talks about the possibility of magic existing, even bringing people back from the dead. He wants to know how these people get their powers, if indeed they have them. Meera is open to all of these ideas and doesn’t discount anything on principle, which pleases Qyburn. She says she can’t promise she’ll participate, but she would like to observe as long as absolute secrecy is ensured. Qyburn agrees and says he’ll see her at his tent later this week.

Marcus Felix spends the feast drinking and hanging out with the Dornish ladies. Lord Arthur speaks to many people, Geena dances with everyone, and Nina has a thoroughly miserable time. Jamie is named a kingsguard at the end of the feast and the king immediately orders him to return to King’s Landing. Jamie does a good job of hiding it, but he’s clearly not happy to be forced to miss the tourney for no reason.

Rebekka looks over the documents she took. They all look to be various financial documents. Of particular note are the Seneschal’s personal finances, which reveal that he is in debt to someone in Oldtown for about 50 gold. This is the debt that the Lannisters are offering to pay in exchange for maester neutrality in a certain matter (but which matter, we don’t yet know). Rebekka binds her wound and waits for everyone else to return.

The rest of the Slagathors return to the tent and everyone is filled in on everything that was learned (Meera does not mention her talk with Qyburn). Meera tends to Rebekka’s wound. She will have a scab for two days but after that it will be fully healed.

We wonder what to do next. Various plans for dealing with the Baratheon issue are floated and shot down, including drugging or kidnapping Robert, getting him seduced by someone else, getting between him and Lyanna, getting him and Lyanna to leave on a romantic date, and many others. We have difficulty deciding exactly how to proceed with getting Robert and his uncle out of the picture.

Day 2
Leo trains with Ser Tiberius to prepare for the melee. It goes well, and Leo learns a lot about defense (armor rating doubled for the first hit he takes).

Meera goes looking for Targon to ask more questions. She has Jayne set up a meeting with him before the Conclave. We talk quietly in a pantry for a few minutes. Targon says the prince is being kept informed, but he’s closely watched by his father. Rhaegar’s former squire, a Lonmouth, is close friends with the prince and has been the Grafton go-between. Meera proposes having Rhaegar speak with Jon Arryn directly. Targon doesn’t see that working; he thinks Jon Arryn is too power-hungry. Plus, having the Arryns neutralized without being executed does nothing to increase Grafton power.

Gradually, Meera realizes that the Graftons haven’t actually told the prince anything about what we told them last night yet. She states in no uncertain terms that we have to tell the prince if things go south; only he has the power to salvage things if we can’t. The Graftons want to fix things themselves if possible, of course. But Meera makes Targon promise to get the prince informed about all of this by the evening of the sixth day if the conflict is not resolved by then. Targon isn’t sure he could convince the Graftons to go along with this, but Meera says she’ll help him get it done. Better to have the whole thing called off for now than risk a much worse outcome.

Targon recommends Meera speak with Esteva about further matters, but he also recommends talking to Maester Bran of House Tarth. He is involved with the Grafton plans and could tell us about affairs in the Stormlands to help deal with Robert.

Before parting, Targon mentions the Seneschal was not the only one robbed last night. Valyria of House Hightower, Jacob of House Bracken, Zelda of House Dustin, and Sean of House Spicer all claimed to have been robbed as well. He warns Meera not to write anything down. Meera briefly brings up the matter of the vote at the maester conclave and she and Targon agree to do what they can to win that as well.

Lord Arthur takes Ysabel and Rebekka to meet Alundra Reed, as she requested. Alundra is 17 and unmarried, and enters the Slagathor tent in unmarked robes to disguise her presence. They greet each other formally. She gets right to the point and says the lord and lady of House Reed are sick and may not last much longer. She thinks their heir, Howland, is weak in every way and not fit to lead. The Reeds have been rather isolated for centuries, but Alundra doesn’t think that can work anymore. She wants the Reeds to set aside their precious First Man blood and rejoin Westeros properly.

If something happens to Howland, Perry, Henry, and herself would be the three potential heirs to the main Reed family. If Alundra were to take over the main house, it would leave her branch house without a head. She could see one of the many Slagathor children taking over that branch Reed house (at Castle Darkwillow) and repairing our relationship. She would expect whoever took over Darkwillow would be loyal to her.

Alundra mentions she’s been meeting with some minor lords who want to impress her. She let slip to them that putting Howland Reed in his place would do the trick. As such, she expects these nobles to find Howland during the tourney and beat him up. As long as one of the Slagathors is there to finish the job, she’ll make one of us Reeds once again and put them in charge of Darkwillow and the branch family. Arthur asks why she thinks we’re capable of such a thing. Alundra says every house has their methods. She wants this shared secret to bind us to each other and create loyalty.

Rebekka believes Alundra is sincere in her offer, but the bastard is still conflicted about the prospect of murdering someone in cold blood. After some thought, she decides to do it. Arthur lays out the conditions to Alundra: Rebekka will perform the assassination and she is the one to be named heir of Darkwillow. Alundra is skeptical of the choice of heir, but they convince her. She shakes hands with all three Slagathors. When she gets to Rebekka, she says this plan will make them cousins. Rebekka considers stealing an arrow with Frey markings to use that to frame them for the assassination (she could steal one after one of the archery tourneys). Alundra will try to help arrange the assassination and tip us off on where to be.

NEXT TIME: Day 2, Action 2

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SESSION 23 (11/12/17)
Episode 12: The Tragedy of Harrenhal

Going to Harrenhal: Lord Arthur, Marcus Felix, Leo, Ysabel, Avlon, Nina, Geena, Rebekka, Maester Meera, Jayne, Tiberius the Tall

Staying home at the Teeth: Clifford, Rupert, Raynar, all bastards besides Rebekka, Sam

Lord Arthur eventually picks up everyone with the Slagathor fleet and his archers, traveling from the Teeth to Gulltown to Wickendon. Raynar is sent back to the Teeth with a small contingent of soldiers. At Wickendon, the Redwoods soon arrive with Leo to hitch a ride on the Slagathor ships. The Bloodhands also join their fleet with ours at Wickendon. Rebekka’s fiancee Idwell is there, as well as Jessica Bloodhand, who will go live with her fiancee, Lord Redwood, after Harrenhal is done.

Houses Slagathor, Redwood, and Bloodhand sail towards Harrenhal together. We sail through the Bay of Crabs until it joins the Trident, then up the Trident to the Saltpans. Lord Arthur mentions to the family at one point that Lord Arryn asked him to bring the archers along. From the Saltpans, it’s about three days to reach Harrenhal by land (we aren’t rich or important enough to dock closer). Lord Cox, who is in charge of the Saltpans, charges all the ships an exorbitant fee to dock there, but we have no choice.

Harrenhal is the largest castle in Westeros, which is impressive to basically everyone but the Slagathors, who are used to the Teeth’s absurd size already. The castle is half-ruined by old dragon fire and surrounded by some of the richest farmland on the continent. Only two of the five towers and a third of the rooms and grounds are in usable condition. Most families live in tents pitched on the grounds. Thousands of flags wave in the fields, probably many we can’t even identify. The children are amazed at the sight, though it only makes Nina more nervous about proving herself in the painting competition.

Lord Whent, who runs Harrenhal, has given us a spot located roughly midway between the Graftons and the Arryns, with the Redwoods and Bloodhands adjacent to our plot. There’s to be a grand feast tonight to celebrate the opening ceremonies. Some notable features of Harrenhal include the largest bear pit in the land; one of the largest godswoods; and a large crystal-clear lake with an island in the middle.

Within the first hour, while we’re setting up and settling in, Maester Targon comes over and asks for a word. We send Nina, Geena, and Avlon away so they don’t hear all the plotting. The Graftons now officially tell us all their plan. Ysabel asks if Rhaegar is in on this plan. Targon says he is, and this process is the formal mechanism for changing kings without killing the old one. Targon isn’t worried about anyone else being elected king during this council; every other Targaryen is too young, and the Baratheons hardly count as royal blood; plus, Robert only drinks and carouses as he pleases. Ysabel asks why the Graftons haven’t involved more Houses in this plan, especially the Arryns, who have more power than us. Targon says having historically antagonistic houses like the Graftons and Slagathors working together would look good.

Targon explains that their plan has the added benefit of dealing with the pirates, as they would have attacked Westeros soon regardless of what anyone did. By turning the pirates elsewhere, the Grafton fleet is free to act as they please. Ysabel isn’t crazy about working with pirates or risking being accused of treason if everything falls apart, but she already pledged that the Graftons would have the support of the Slagathors, so we don’t have much choice.

Meera asks for more information on the concerns about the Tullys. Targon says the concern is that we know there’s been lots of activity, lots of ravens sent to the Tullys, and the military has been training a lot more, but we don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Any marriage between the Tully daughters and families outside the Riverlands is cause for concern. If we want to be very ambitious, we could try and push the daughter to make a more harmless marriage.

Meera asks why having the prince name his wife Queen of Harrenhal is necessary. Targon says it’s just the signal saying the plan is on and one of the great Houses (i.e. Martells or Tyrells) can call for the council to be held. If the signal isn’t given, it would mean that the prince knows of something that makes it a bad time, like if he learned his father had brought wildfire. The Graftons and their allies are hoping for a peaceful transfer of power, but we have to be ready for violence as well, just in case. The Graftons have troops hidden on their ships that can be here in a few hours (same for the Martells and Tyrells).

Leo mentions he’d like to participate in the melee and probably the group fighting too. Targon says he’ll tell Viktor in case he’s putting together a group for the melee. Leo thanks him, though he’d have to join Lord Arryn’s melee group if asked to avoid arousing suspicion. Targon says he trusts that we’ll be discreet and make the right decisions, as we have often done. Viktor’s melee group is called The Seaward Knights.

After Targon leaves, Elbert Arryn soon comes to call to share the Arryn plans with us. Officially he’s come as a representative of our liege lord to orient us for the tournament. But he tells us in confidence that they know for a fact that the king is coming with a large retinue, and both the Arryns and the king know that a council will be held. The Arryns intend to try and disrupt the council plans and put wedges between the allies working with the Graftons so there won’t be enough votes to install Rhaegar as king. Instead, they want Robert Baratheon to take the throne. Yes, he’s an impetuous drunk, but he’s young and they believe he can be molded into the position. They haven’t told Robert of this plan because they’re afraid he would screw it up somehow and spill the beans.

The Arryns aren’t worried about the Lannisters voting one way or another. Tywin isn’t coming, instead sending Kevan in his place, and while Kevan can vote during the council, they believe he’ll abstain from voting since he won’t have time to learn what Tywin would want.

Leo asks why the Arryns choose Robert over Rhaegar. Elbert says it’s because the Targaryens carry madness, and even if Rhaegar isn’t showing it now, he might within a few decades. Madness concerns the Arryns far more than drunkenness does, because they believe madness can’t be managed, while drunkenness can. Meera says there are maesters who would disagree.

Ysabel wonders what the Arryns really want out of all this. Elbert believes the northern lords have largely been ignored over the years and a better balance of power must be established. He expects this transition to be mostly peaceful; he wouldn’t be surprised if Rhaegar put up a fight. There would be risk to us, but Elbert promises reward as well. He believes his agents would be able to discover and deal with any wildfire the king might have brought. Elbert assures us he would rather the king, prince, and all of their children not be killed; the children could be given land and made into minor noble houses, for instance. But we don’t believe him. It’s quite clear to us that he would rather all the Targaryens die so as to prevent them coming back and causing trouble later. Trying to ensure the safety of the young children regardless of what happens, Meera proposes that the children, who are all younger than ten years old, be adopted into other Houses rather than made into a minor noble house of their own. This would give them a better chance at survival, even if their identities as Targaryens were lost. Elbert thinks this is a good idea and promises to bring up the idea with Lord Arryn.

Elbert mentions he is forming a melee group called the Falcon Men. Jaspar Redfort, Mandon Moore, and a few other nobles have already signed on. Leo immediately agrees to join them.

Once Elbert leaves, the Slagathors settle in to discuss matters among themselves. We ask for Lord Arthur and Marcus Felix to give their opinions first. Lord Arthur feels there are two solutions: pick one House over the other, or do the bare minimum for both to plead incompetence. MF simply supports the Grafton plan, and Ysabel agrees. Rebekka points out that staying in the middle won’t win us favor with whichever side wins. Leo says doing absolutely nothing is also an option. We could also tell the king directly about both plots, though no one favors this plan.

Leo mentions his conversations with Robert and Ned at the Eyrie. His opinion is that Robert might be able to change, but he doesn’t seem like a leader. Meera says the ideal would be convincing the Arryns to back Rhaegar. Marcus Felix says he doesn’t think Jon Arryn would ever change his mind, but we are friendly with Elbert, and if Jon Arryn were out of the way… Meera points out that we could inform the prince directly and try to push him one way or the other— either to kill Jon Arryn for treason, or to spend time with him this week to win him over.

For the voting, the eight great houses must find a majority for one candidate. If the Tyrells, Martells, Lannisters, Starks, Tullys, Arryns, Baratheons, and Greyjoys end in a tie, the current king is the tiebreaker.

Meera muses how this would all be much easier if the king were simply to die. If we can use the Grafton channel to speak with the prince and convince him to dispatch his father, it would avoid the council altogether. MF mentions we could always try to prevent the council from happening at all, which would at least avoid the issue for now, if only pushing it down the road for later. Ysabel wonders if she could win the Tully vote by offering herself in marriage to Lord Hoster Tully and maybe arranging a marriage between the Tullys and Martells.

Meera proposes simply telling Robert about the Arryn plot. The Arryn’s didn’t want him to know for fear of him blurting it out— so let him. Or tell Robert and try and get him to vote for Rhaegar since he doesn’t actually want to be king; maybe set up Rhaegar and Robert as drinking buddies during the tourney. One way or another, it may not be too hard to use Robert for our own devices, as long as we inform him of the plot in a subtle way without letting anyone know we were the ones who told him (such as have Rebekka slip him a note or spread rumors around him).

Leo is concerned about betraying our liege lord. Meera says the Arryn plan is not good for the realm. MF points out that the Arryns are a more dangerous enemy to us than the Graftons are; if they find out we betrayed them, they could seize all of our lands and strip us of all titles. Meera mentions it would be far less risk for us to simply inform the Graftons and let them take charge of the dangerous parts, like being seen approaching Rhaegar. Even so, Leo is afraid to tell the Graftons what we know for fear of being found out, even if keeping mum means having to handle everything ourselves.

Leo wants to sleep on it and decide what to do tomorrow. Meera objects, saying the longer we wait, the more time others have to act. We need to tell the Graftons what we know of the Arryn plan without delay. Rebekka says Jon Arryn is likely to be executed by the end of this if he loses, but we may be able to do something about that. If we don’t want the Arryns to lose everything, we need to get them to support the prince, and we need the prince to be willing to not execute the Arryns.

Proposed solutions:
Ysabel:
-Marry off as many people as we can to increase our influence (i.e. Arthur, Ysabel, MF, Geena, Clifford, Avlon). (could try to set up Ysabel with Elbert Arryn, Hoster Tully)(get Lysa Tully to marry a Tyrell, maybe)
-Tell Rhaegar the plan and try to get him to have good relations with Robert.
-Try to reduce northern influence.
-Tear apart Arryn alliance where we can.
-tell Robert of the plot; maybe let him sabotage himself
-minimize current king’s involvement no matter what
-talk to Kevan to try and win Lannisters over
-get Jon Arryn to be Hand to Rhaegar (or at least on council)
-ok with telling Graftons ASAP
Leo:
-tell the Graftons and have them pass it on to the prince.
-Try to get Arryns to support Rhaegar and lessen Robert’s appeal as king.
-Try to minimize Slagathor involvement/footprint to avoid retribution.
-Try to make sure Arryns aren’t punished too much
-ok with telling Graftons ASAP
Meera:
-tell the Graftons and Rhaegar (have Graftons tell Rhaegar)
-try to spare the Arryns however we can
-use Robert for our own ends (either have him sabotage himself or get him to be good buddies with Rhaegar and back him)
-minimize Slag footprint
-win over the Greyjoys by using the Grafton-controlled pirate fleet; set up the pirates to be ambushed and destroyed, win Greyjoy favor
-try to get Jon to support Rhaegar (have him spend time with Rhaegar)
-kill the King? If Rhaegar killed his father, would be no need for a council. Or arrange an “accident” with wildfire
-tell Graftons ASAP
Rebekka:
-tell the Graftons and Rhaegar (ideally we would tell Rhaegar ourselves)
-get Robert to sabotage himself
-minimize Slag footprint
-try to get Rhaegar to spare Arryns
-without telling him the Grafton plan, try to get Jon Arryn to back Rhaegar instead
-have Rhaegar and Jon Arryn talk and come to terms?
-don’t involve the Greyjoys because they’re not trustworthy
-tell Graftons ASAP

-agreed: tell Graftons ASAP (hopefully at feast)
-tell them Arryns want Robert king, king is coming, and Stark/Tully already Arryn allies
-find out how Rhaegar will be informed (in fact, how have they been talking to Rhaegar?)
-Meera tells Targon what we know, relay to Graftons
-see how Graftons react to this
-tell Graftons we want Arryns won over, not executed
-what can we offer the Graftons to include the Arryns (since they won’t gain as much if the Arryns are involved0
-Rebekka could either gather rumors through her information network OR go snooping around on her own while everyone else is at the feast
-Ysabel could start trying to woo someone? Figure out what alliances we want to forge?
-Leo could gauge how people feel about the king and how people think Westeros should go; who is a lost cause vs. a good leader; subtly persuade people to support Rhaegar?

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SESSION 22 (10/29/17)
Episode 11: Any Port in a Storm

The party in Wickendon continues the investigation into the mysterious pirate attacks in the Bay of Crabs. Meera will be distracting Maester Katern while Rebekka searches his port office for incriminating information. Avlon and Raynar will be snooping at the Dancing Crab, where Rebekka discovered suspicious goings-on and a “squid ink pasta” keyword.

Meera finishes writing up her list of efficacious herbs to help Lord Waxley and goes to see Septa Bethel. She catches the septa in her room and helps her prepare herbs for the lord. While they’re working on preparing herbs, Meera brings up the issue of the pirate attacks. Bethel is sympathetic – she’s still concerned about those hurt and orphaned by the increase in attacks and agrees that it may be linked to the rise in pirate attacks seen elsewhere. As Katern doesn’t seem to care about the pirates and the lord isn’t listening to his sons, Meera asks Bethel to bring it up with the lord herself. These herbs should make the lord start feeling better quickly, so she could start by mentioning it tonight and push more tomorrow when he’s feeling better. Bethel agrees to bring up the pirate matter with the lord and do what she can to help Meera’s cause.

Avlon and Raynar dress like commoners and head to the Dancing Crab. They place their drink orders and spot the DuClaw group having a meeting in the back. The group is trying to decide whether or not to fund their own mercenaries to fight the pirates directly. McCharles, the manager of the restaurant, is watching. One of the fat merchants sends the owner, Mr. Coastman, over to speak with Avlon. Coastman acts oddly when the pair mention squid ink pasta. Avlon asks about Essosi people; Coastman says you really only see Essosi on the other side of the port, where Shark reigns. He admits there’s been a rise in pirate attacks and that DuClaw has been trying to take matters into their own hands.

While Meera goes to distract Katern, Rebekka disguises herself as a maid and heads for his office. She spots two maids heading for the maester’s tower as well and overhears them mentioning that cleaning the maester’s office is very easy because he’s tidy and keeps most things locked up. Rebekka easily tails the maids, waits until they’ve finished, and sneaks in once they’re done. Basically everything in his office is locked. She picks the locks on his desk first; it contains lots of trade documents and an odd bundle of documents written in squid ink and in code.

Meera is in Katern’s keep at the castle. She passes someone leaving his office; he looks annoyed and matches the description of Shark. As he brushes past Meera, he whispers, “Don’t forget the offer I made to your kid.” Katern looks annoyed as well. He says Shark just expects everything to go his way. Katern doesn’t like having to deal with such disreputable people, but sometimes it’s necessary. He invites Meera to sit. Meera looks questioningly at the butler, a strange man with a tattoo of a piece of parchment over one eye. Katern says he named the man Parchment because he can’t talk (due to some incident in childhood). But he can read and write well and often takes notes for Katern.

Katern brushes off talk of pirates and says the problem is overblown; things are no worse than usual. He’s frustrated by DuClaw’s activities but says he isn’t too worried. They’re merchants; they don’t want to cause too much trouble. Katern is considering raising taxes again to fund a defensive fleet. Meera suggests that Shark might be a pirate, or at least working with them. Katern says Shark is being investigated. Meera asks what someone might gain from working with the pirates. Katern proposes Shark could be getting a cut or some sort of promise for future trade.

Meera studies Katern while they speak. He’s acting like everything is under control, but it really seems like he is the one working with the pirates rather than Shark. It’s clear Katern doesn’t care one bit about the widows and orphans produced by these attacks. When Meera suggests Shark might be the culprit, Katern proposes having Willard deal with him just to be safe. Katern mentions dismissively that the pirates might be based on some of the small islands in the bay (he doesn’t know or care much about them); all he knows if that the pirates are mainly Westerosi, maybe Iron Islanders or even poor people from Wickendon.

Looking to buy more time for Rebekka, Meera asks to examine Parchment and determine the cause of his condition. The butler seems afraid, but Meera can tell it’s all an act. She offers him coin, but still he refuses, going to far as to back away from her. Katern brushes off Meera’s attempts to stall further and he and his servant leave after suggesting Meera go have a chat with Willard, who has just returned from Essos.

Avlon and Raynar ask more detailed questions about squid ink pasta. Coastman says they don’t serve it often and his face goes pale when the pair mention the maester ordering it. He hastily ushers them into a fancy back room to keep them distracted.

Rebekka searches for a cypher book to help with the code; there is none in his desk, so she goes picking the locks on the cabinets. In total, she finds 5 cypher books hidden away. Now she sees that the papers use different codes. Rather than bother deciphering anything there, Rebekka takes the 5 cyphers, the bundle of coded papers, and the papers on trade relations. She goes ahead and steals the 51 gold dragons from his safe as well to make it look like a standard robbery, then scatters his papers and trashes the place for good measure. Moving quietly and checking for pursuit, she returns to the Slagathor living quarters undetected.

Maester Meera returns to the living quarters just as Rebekka is deciphering the documents; she locks the door and joins her to help. One of them is the recipe for squid ink pasta, but the rest are correspondence between Coastman and Katern (McCharles is sometimes mentioned as a middle man). Coastman has been using some of his shipping fleet for piracy, attacking other merchants to cause unrest. The plan is to do this for a few months, then have Katern raise taxes, send out the fleet, and “destroy” the fleet. Katern will then keep taxes high to gain more revenue and Coastman will get the right to renovate part of the port. Coastman will be granted most of Shark’s property and Shark will be set up as the fall guy.

In their back room, Avlon and Raynar overhear Coastman and McCharles arguing about something in the alleyway nearby (they can’t hear exactly what). The pair decide it’s time to leave. There’s one door (back into the restaurant) and two small windows. They start shimmying out a window. Avlon gets out easily; Raynar hangs back long enough to hear one of the men stabbing the other repeatedly, though they don’t know which it is. Avlon yanks Raynar out the rest of the way and they flee the scene. Raynar the mountain man hides easily, but Avlon isn’t as good at it. Luckily, Raynar’s guidance keeps them from being discovered immediately.

Seeing men from the restaurant searching for them and watching the main road up to the castle, they fugitives take a different tack. They steal a couple of dresses from a clothesline and disguise themselves. The guards are fooled and allow the “women” to leave, and from there they make it to the Slagathor quarters without issue.

The boys mention Coastman and McCharles having a falling out and one of them stabbing the other, though they don’t know which did what. Meera and Rebekka fill them in on what they’ve learned and who the conspirators are. We wonder if one of the men at the restaurant got cold feet when the pressure got bad. We decide to press our advantage and go see Welbert tonight, before Katern can react.

Meera and Avlon go to speak with Welbert, along with a handful of Slagathor guards (Rebekka and Raynar disguised among them). We head to the keep, passing the maester’s darkened keep. Welbert is waiting alone, so Meera and Avlon meet with him and have the rest wait outside. Meera says we know who’s been working with the pirates, and we have proof. He seems surprised, interested, and calculating. Avlon and Meera explain what they know. As for where the documents came from, Meera lies that someone in town anonymously helped us by leaving us the documents.

Welbert looks for ways to use this for his plot to kill his father. He’d like to frame Katern (instead of Bethel) for killing his father if possible. Welbert could use the garrison he commands to put Katern under house arrest and capture the merchants involved to question them. Meera mentions her suspicions about Parchment (what is he hiding? Is he not mute after all?). Welbert knows Parchment was found years ago and he came from Braavos.

Welbert decides to take his garrison to arrest the merchants involved. He hints that he thinks it would be more effective to kill Katern than arrest him, because the Citadel would be the ones to deal with Katern rather than the lord. Meera’s face indicates her approval to Welbert; Avlon notices this and wonders if Meera would actually have someone killed. Welbert leaves to deal with the culprits and the Slagathors retire for the evening. Rebekka hides the trade documents under a floorboard and we divide the stolen gold between Meera and Avlon. Avlon briefly discusses his suspicion about Meera with Raynar, but they decide not to do anything for now.

We are called to breakfast with the Waxleys the next morning. The lord informs us that Katern killed himself when confronted and his tower burned down. Coastman was captured and he admitted to what he had done. McCharles’ body was found and the Dancing Crab burned down. Lord Waxley asks why we went to his son and not him. Meera and Avlon mention what they witnessed (especially the murder) and how they felt time was of the essence, so they had to go directly to the soldiers to have the culprits arrested. Apparently Parchment was still able to escape.

The lord is impressed that we solved things quickly, but he’s perturbed that we didn’t go through proper channels in our investigation. He finds us very efficient and capable, but also ruthless. He’s worried that his opinions would be ignored if he did join us. He won’t join our coalition, but he would like to work together in the future. Meera tells him Wickendon is a valuable port city, both for the Vale and for all of Westeros. It’s in everyone’s best interest if their forces are ready to defend this area if the need should arise. They are now aware of the threat of imminent pirate attack. We don’t know where the pirates are likely to strike first, though a target within the Vale is likely given our proximity to Essos. Knowing that Wickendon’s forces will be prepared – that this area won’t be caught off-guard if the pirate fleet bears down on Wickendon – that will have to be enough.

Welbert asks to speak in private with Meera and Avlon after breakfast but quickly dismisses Avlon when he realizes Meera didn’t tell Avlon about the plot to kill Lord Waxley. Welbert’s wife distracts the disgruntled Avlon with gifts of watermelon and candles. Meanwhile, Welbert suggests that Harrenhal might offer another opportunity to enact his plan. Meera tells him outright that she became a healer because she watched someone close to her die an agonizing death (not mentioning that that person was her father, which she suspects wouldn’t go over well), and it’s not in her nature to inflict that herself. He thanks her for her candor and asks what she plans to do now. She assures him that she considers matters between himself and his father to be his own business; she won’t be talking.

We have a few more days in Wickendon before we get picked up to go to Harrenhal. We visit Shark at his bar and he congratulates us on our good work. All food, drink, and “extra benefits” in his bar are free as thanks. Sexy guys and girls of all types descend on the group and start making advances, even on the maester (the Essosi treat everyone the same, but the Westerosi look distinctly uncomfortable at the idea of touching a maester).

Shark gets to the point and explains that he still wants to open an office at the Teeth. As thanks for dealing with Katern, he explains that he knows Parchment to be a trained assassin who will be trying to kill Avlon Slagathor while they’re all still in town. Parchment and Katern were close; if the assassin doesn’t manage to deal with Avlon while he’s in Wickendon, he will follow him as long as it takes. He might disguise himself and stab Avlon in the back, among other methods. He’s called Parchment because he’s been known to leave a scroll on the bodies with a fake Last Will (and since it’s the local maester who decides whether or not a Will is authentic, having a partnership with the local maester has been very beneficial to Parchment). Shark doesn’t know if the assassin is actually mute, but considering Meera’s story of him shying away from being examined, the evidence points to “no”.

Shark proposes three options for dealing with this. We could hide in the castle and leave under guard, leaving no opportunity for the assassin to make his move while we’re in town. We could try using Avlon as bait and set a trap. Or we could pay Shark 25 gold dragons to take care of Parchment for us. Raynar seems to favor paying Shark, while Rebekka and Meera don’t feel that Shark is exactly trustworthy. Meera tactfully says a lord should trust his own soldiers to handle his safety. Shark lets it go for now and sends Avlon and Raynar upstairs with some girls. Rebekka and Meera stay downstairs to talk with Shark and ask about his strange, pointed teeth (apparently he files them himself).

Raynar asks Rebekka quietly if she thinks we made the right choice; we could just pay Shark to handle it. Rebekka points out we can’t trust Shark; he’ll just serve the highest bidder. We decide to disguise Raynar as Avlon and Avlon as a servant and ready an ambush for Parchment. Rebekka helps the boys disguise themselves. We go through a normal routine for a few days to make Parchment think Raynar is Avlon before setting up our ambush, making it look like “Avlon” is leaving lunch quite tipsy.

“Avlon” staggers into an alley with only one guard while the other guards and Rebekka and Meera hide nearby. A small boy runs up to “Avlon” and hands him a roll of parchment, then runs off. Raynar reads it and it contains a misspelled will signed by “Avalon Slagathor”; it says Avlon has realized the error of his ways and wants to donate everything to an orphanage. As he reads it, he suddenly starts sneezing. He drops the parchment as his hands start feeling like they’re burning.

Meera rushes into the alley when she recognizes the symptoms of wolfsbane poisoning (it was in the ink). Meera’s quick treatment stabilizes him, but it will take at least three days to eradicate the poison completely. Raynar can’t feel his hands. We regroup at the castle and decide our only option is to try using Raynar as bait again if he’s well enough to walk when we head for the boat in a few days.

The Waxleys leave for Harrenhal a day or two before Lord Arthur arrives with our ship. We space out the guards in our party a little more than is typical in order to give the assassin an opening as we march to our ship. Rebekka and our other arches lie in wait, Avlon hides among our servants, and Meera walks with the party.

Suddenly a herd of startled goats comes barreling towards us. Many of the guards get distracted, especially when something in the opposite direction explodes, but the main party notice a bow protrude from a nearby window before it fires. Raynar is struck by an arrow that nearly kills him. Rebekka returns fire, but the assassin lands another arrow in Raynar all the same. Meera steps between Raynar and the window and fires but misses completely. The real Avlon draws and sinks an arrow into Parchment’s shoulder. Raynar dives for cover behind some armored guards.

Rebekka shoots one of Parchment’s ears right off. The assassin finally decides it’s time to go and disappears from the window. Meera orders some guards to surround the building and Avlon tries to figure out where Parchment is going. Avlon spots the assassin in the basement and charges in to avenge his friend. Raynar rallies and runs after Avlon as well. Rebekka charges in. Meera orders the guards to stop Raynar and Avlon if they can and to go inside to take care of the assassin themselves. Some guards restrain Raynar while the rest rush inside to back Avlon up.

Avlon directs the guards down to the basement. The first guard falls dead with a ballista bolt through his chest. Rebekka arrives and shoots an arrow through Parchment’s upraised fist before he can activate his secret passage and escape. While he’s pinned and helpless, she walks up and puts an arrow through his eye, killing him in front of Avlon. And thus ends another assassin, dead by Rebekka’s hand.

30 XP TO ALL CHARACTERS

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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?

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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.

Jayne:
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)

Lupita:
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)
Viktor: SUPPORT
Jeremy: SUPPORT
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)

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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.

GAIN:
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)

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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

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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.

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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…

END

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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.

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