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.