Before the other four families arrive, the Slagathors gather to discuss our goals for the Raven Five meeting. Preparations for the visit are complete; we have enough food, beds, and everything else they’ll need to be comfortable. Geena has taken care of the party preparations (including hiring musicians who played at the Eyrie). The plan is to have a feast on Day 1, a tournament on Day 2, the meeting on Day 3, and a wrap-up party on Day 4 when people set out. Of course, anyone who visits is welcome to stay longer if they wish to. Lord Slagathor warns his children that there could be marriage proposals, as all eleven of his children are still unmarried.
Leo takes Rebekka aside after the meeting and asks if she’s found any secret passages as he requested; he’s still paranoid after the pirate attack and the way secret passages were used against the Redwoods. Rebekka claims not to have found any and promptly sneaks off to investigate the hidden locked door she found the other day. She pretends not to notice Korinne sneaking along behind her. The door’s lock is quite old and thick, but Rebekka gets it open. Before opening the door, she calls back to Korinne and asks her to stay back and fetch Leo if anything happens.
The door opens onto a once-handsome crypt packed pell-mell with bones. It smells of rot and death. Many of the bones are cracked and broken and stuffed wherever they can fit. The crypt consists of a long hall with a big room at the end. Rebekka glances at the names on the tombs and finds they’re all Slagathors, but only dating up to the big civil war. The last room contains only one tomb, with a Valyrian inscription crossed out and the word “traitors” scratched over it in Westerosi. A Valyrian steel sword is plunged through the stone lid and seems in remarkably good condition.
Korinne wanders in after Rebekka and stares at the bones. Rebekka warns her not to touch anything. The bones are tinged an odd grey color. Rebekka warns Korinne to stay back in case it’s a trap, then draws the sword from the stone. It comes out quite easily. She notices the walls seem to have been repainted and starts carefully scraping it off to see what was covered up. The image underneath is of a Slagathor man in the family’s classic clothing, including the dragonscale amulet gifted by the Targaryens. He is wielding the sword in Rebekka’s hand. Rebekka does not let her little sister touch the sword and decides to take it with her when they close up the tomb behind them. Korinne takes a different secret passage back to her room and asks Rebekka not to mention she was there.
Leo is in Maester Meera’s room checking up on Jones and verifying that we have enough medical supplies when Rebekka shows up carrying the naked sword. Ysabel arrives just after. Rebekka casually tells them that she found the sword in the crypts. Her siblings and Meera can easily tell it’s a Valyrian blade. Maester Meera orders Rebekka to wash up in the basin in the corner while she inspects the sword. To her horror, she finds that the grey powder on the hilt and blade looks to be that found on victims of greyscale.
In a carefully calm voice, Meera asks Rebekka to keep washing thoroughly and carefully wraps up the sword. She asks if anyone else has touched this. Rebekka reluctantly tells on her sister, though she doesn’t know if Korinne actually touched anything. Meera sends Leo to fetch Korinne (without touching her) and has Ysabel get Lord Arthur. Leo brings Korinne without incident, but when Ysabel knocks on Lord Arthur’s door she hears what sounds like a woman on the other side of the locked door. She keeps knocking until Lord Arthur finally answers it. He follows when she explains, but Ysabel fails to catch a glimpse of the woman he had with him.
Everyone gathers back at the infirmary to find Maester Meera running around her office pulling books down from her shelves and frantically flipping through old letters. She finds what she’s looking for in a letter from Maester Patrick. It details a new experimental treatment for eradicating greyscale, but it only works within the first day of exposure. She gets to work whipping up the gel he describes while she explains to everyone present that Rebekka and Korinne have been exposed to greyscale. The others turn around while the sisters strip and put their clothes right into the fire. They then apply the gel to their skin, which should stop the greyscale from taking hold or spreading.
Everyone decides the best course of action is to lock the sword away for now. With the rest of the Raven Five arriving tomorrow, there isn’t time to do more than return it to the crypt. Its existence will remain a secret from everyone but Marcus Felix until after the meeting is done. Meera keeps Rebekka and Korinne in her office for the night so she can keep an eye on them. Mercifully, there’s no trace of greyscale come morning. Leo informs Marcus Felix of all this the next morning. Marcus Felix is intrigued by the discovery of the sword but seems unhappy that he wasn’t included in the discussion last night. He stops by Meera’s office that morning to take a look at the sword (without touching, of course). Rebekka describes the painting she found in the crypt. Meera thinks the amulet and sword were both Targaryen gifts. As the sword is a different color in the painting and in real life, Meera suspects the sword wasn’t infected with greyscale when it was presented.
Scouts report the Highsuns approaching early that morning. They’re accompanied by 200-300 soldiers, the most that would be considered socially acceptable, though still quite unusual. Lord Arthur sends Marcus Felix and Leo to greet them with around 50 Slagathor men. Leo comments to his brother about the number of men, and Marcus Felix speculates that they might be planning to take their youngest back from the Bloodhands by force. It’s doubtful that we have anything to fear; it’s a formidable number of people, but not enough to take over our castle.
Lord Rogar rides in front with his very nice armor and very big warhorse. His sons Danbert and Farnsworth are close behind. Lord Rogar gives a formal greeting but shows no interest in talking. Farnsworth gives the Slagathors the evil eye (it was the Slagathors who reported to the Arryns about the Highsuns working with mountain men). But Danbert is chatty and talks about everything from the snows to asking about the charming Ysabel. As there isn’t room enough in the castle, most of the Highsuns men will need to sleep outside the main walls. Lord Rogar and Lord Arthur greet each other briefly and coldly.
The Bloodhands are the next to arrive. They show up in two ships hugging the coast – a strange choice of transportation in winter. Their ships are painted black, their distinctive markings. It looks like the whole family has come along. Lord Tolbert and Lady Kyrilla greet Ysabel warmly at the port and chat about business, the East-West highway, and the Grafton wedding. They’re accompanied by their son and heir Trystan, who is 20, and his wife Talia Melcolm. Then there’s Pommel (17) and Jessica (14). The latter was saved from disease years ago by Maester Meera and is in fact the only eligible bachelorette among the Raven Five who is not a Slagathor. Then there’s Idwell (24), a bastard who predates Lord Tolbert’s marriage, and Gable Highsun (12), the much-disputed ward. Pommel is quite friendly with Ysabel, who is only cordial with him. As he’d thought Leo would put in a good word for him with her, the meeting is awkward until everyone moves on to the castle. Lord Arthur greets Lord Tolbert like a brother and the Bloodhands are shown to their rooms.
The Crowmores and Redwoods arrive around the same time after that. Marcus Felix welcomes the Crowmores and Leo greets the Redwoods. The latter arrive with about 100 men. Lord Aaron is already looking much better than he did when last we saw him. Tara Stone stays close as his personal bodyguard. Marlin is now leading the troops; it seems he took over Quinton’s job. Lady Sonya smiles happily when she sees Leo, her fiancee. She’s sure Leo will help take care of the mountain men once he marries her; she still wants to see them all exterminated.
The Crowmores are awkward as ever when they arrive. Only Lord Donnel represents the Crowmores at this meeting; his wife is absent. He brings with him Ser Simon Stanton, the replacement for Ser Gerald Barkley, and around 50 men.
The feast is a lively affair with salmon and wild boar, bards with flutes and mandolins, and all of the tables set up in a large oval so everyone can see each other. Some call the food “Essian fusion”. Families enter and are announced by the order of their arrival at the Teeth. The Highsuns enter dressed in nice clothes and with no weapons or armor, thankfully. Danbert keeps his eye on Ysabel. Their military commanders are Ser Zachary of the Hills, who is friendly towards us, and his son Joakim (or Joe), who is good friends with Farnsworth. Also among their number is Elza (“the unknown”, so named because she’s rumored to be Lord Highsun’s bastard). She’s in her 20s and wears maester-ish clothing, though she has no chain. It is strange to see someone of her uncertain standing here.
The Bloodhands enter with Gable the ward, who is allowed to sit within sight of his family. Pommel, like Danbert, keeps his eye on Ysabel. Lady Bloodhand clearly wants her daughter Jessica to catch Clifford’s eye. When the Redwoods enter, the room fills with whispers as Sonya sits next to Leo rather than with her family. It wasn’t yet common knowledge that they were engaged. As for the Crowmores, Lord Donnel and Ser Simon enter alone. Simon is an unknown, apparently being freshly knighted. The various bastards serve along with the help. High-ranking soldiers from every family eat together at a separate table in the corner to build relationships among commanders.
The wine is served and Lord Arthur makes a nice speech about the Raven Five’s need for unity. He says this meeting was long-overdue and will help overcome our various issues and restore friendships. The speech is well-received and the guests become chattier with the other families after he’s done. Even Farnsworth thaws out a bit, though Lord Rogar is the only one to stay reserved, as usual.
Everyone is talking about rumors of an upcoming tournament at Harrenhall after the winter. They say ALL the noble families of Westeros will be invited to attend; the cost of putting on such a tourney must be astronomical. Even Prince Rhaegar shouldn’t have that sort of gold to burn. It’s said that Tywin Lannister has quit his job as Hand of the King. The rumor was that Tywin quit because the king was having “health issues”—people said he had foot-long nails and didn’t cut his hair anymore. And people said he was burning people to death. On top of that, Wisdom Rosart, a member of the Alchemist guild, was just appointed to the king’s small council. Elza and Maester Meera both fervently agree that the alchemists are all charlatans. Closer to home, Lord Bloodhand reports he heard Daario Shett (our host during the Grafton wedding) went sailing one day and never returned about 2-3 weeks ago. No one knows where he was going or why. Lord Arthur is troubled at the news, which he didn’t hear from Lord Royce last he saw him, so he has Maester Meera sent a raven to Lord Royce to inform him of the news.
There is plenty of dancing after dinner. Rebekka and Idwell leave together fairly quickly to find a quiet spot. Danbert and Pommel both try to dance with Ysabel, but she excuses herself for a bathroom break and studiously avoids them. The lords all chat among themselves and swap more rumors. Leo and Nina talk about Sonya. Nina thinks they make a cute couple, but she’s concerned about Sonya worshiping the old gods. She hopes Sonya can be introduced to the Seven, but she knows the conversion can’t happen by force. Before they part, Nina mentions that she’s been painting gifts for all the Raven Five and she’s almost done.
While Lord Aaron and Jessica dance, Maester Meera sits with the other lords to chat. Lord Crowmore boasts that his wife couldn’t travel because she’s pregnant with his child. Lord Rogar mutters that he’s glad to see his son Gable in good health. The Bloodhands have actually been allowing Gable to speak with his family tonight. Lord Rogar makes it clear the only way to restore ties between the families is if Gable is returned to his home. People excuse themselves one by one until the only ones left are Lord Donnel and Lord Arthur. The latter looks rather uncomfortable at being left alone with Donnel.
Maester Meera goes to Elza and they talk about how worthless the alchemists are. Meera asks where Elza started. She tells of visiting many libraries, but she never had any formal training. When Meera wonders why Elza never went to the Citadel, Elza gives a vague answer about it being a long way away and not at all welcoming. Meera offers to let Elza study with her while she’s here. Elza is surprised; it’s clear no maester has ever treated her so kindly.
Elza happily talks with Meera after that about how she does her duties for the Highsuns and advises Lord Rogar as best she can. She asks what Meera thinks about Gable being a ward. Meera calls it a temporary solution at best. Elza asks her to have the Slagathors bring up the issue of returning Gable during the meeting; as the Slagathors and Bloodhands are good friends and Lord Arthur was against the idea in the first place, Lord Arthur’s words would carry some weight. They keep chatting away and Meera invites Elza back to her infirmary to study after the party (the sword has been locked back in its crypt by this point).
Lord Aaron speaks with Ysabel while they dance. They chat about business and building a new marketplace. Ysabel boasts about Clifford and Avlon killing all those Bonebreakers in Crowmore lands and shows off the shadowcat skins. Aaron is quite impressed, though he’s surprised to hear of the brazen attack. He suggests a spring campaign to deal with both the First Shadows and the Bonebreakers. Ysabel points out that the Bonebreakers are broken and disorganized now, so there’s not much to worry about there. Aaron says pointedly that mountain men can’t properly organize without a House helping them.
Danbert cuts in to the dance there and Lord Aaron politely backs off. The two get along fine, since Danbert was in Essos during his family’s betrayal and couldn’t possibly have been involved. They chat about business, infrastructure, and the SWORD program. Danbert is very interested in everything Ysabel talks about and easily keeps up with her.
Lord Donnel cuts in next. He says his wife is doing well with her “pregnancy”. Talk turns to the East-West highway and Donnel offers to pay half the cost for the road connecting their lands. As he’d originally offered to pay the whole cost, Ysabel tries to talk down the Slagathor portion of the cost. After some polite but very tense negotiations, Ysabel gets the better of him (road will now cost us 1 power and 1 influence OR 2 of 1 category). Donnel is impressed with her negotiating skills and seems to respect Ysabel even more now. He apologizes to Ysabel for the trouble and makes her a flaming mixed drink.
Pommel sidles up to Leo and lets him know he’s very sad Leo didn’t put in a good word for him with Ysabel like he’d promised at the Grafton wedding. It’s clear that Pommel and Ysabel don’t have many common interests and it would be hard for them to get started together. Pommel begs Leo to speak with Ysabel and tell her Pommel is interesting and worth giving a chance. Leo complains to Sonya about the situation, but she suggests giving Pommel a chance with Ysabel. When she further suggests that she and Leo leave the party early, Leo turns her down because he wants to go see Nina’s paintings first.
Rebekka and Idwell chat in their private spot. She finally asks him why he was following the Freys that day during the Grafton wedding. He says he didn’t like how the Freys had treated them and their families, so he wanted to mess with them; he just hadn’t known how tricky or dangerous it would be. Since the pair of them are on such affectionate terms, Rebekka tries to press him for more information. They compare the crazy things they’ve seen; he mentions seeing a ship crash into another and sink. When she tells him how worried she was for him during the trial, he finally gives in.
Idwell admits that he cares for her, but the truth is that both of them are loyal to their fathers first. After swearing her to secrecy, he explains that he is often asked to spy or go on diplomatic missions for his father. After the incident at the Crone’s Scones, however, it was Lady Bloodhand who assigned him a task. She said it was a golden opportunity and ordered him to steal anything of interest from the Freys that he could. Idwell’s instincts tell him she was trying to set someone up with all this. She’s never liked Idwell (him being her husband’s bastard) but he doesn’t think it was him she was trying to set up. He’s positive his father didn’t know about any of it until afterwards. He wonders if he was being used as a distraction for something, or part of a larger plan. Unfortunately, he worries that it was the Slagathors that were the target of the setup—namely, Rebekka herself. After all, it was Lady Bloodhand who planted the idea of him inviting Rebekka along. He hasn’t told his father of his suspicions. Rebekka promises not to speak of this to anyone unless her life is in danger. It’s worth noting that Lady Bloodhand was born a Royce, and thus may have some influence to exert. Secrets told, Rebekka and Idwell sneak out of the castle and head to a bar.
Leo goes to see Nina’s paintings that night. She’s been painting every family’s respective castle based on the best descriptions she can get. Clifford dances and spends time with Jessica, but he also spends a good chunk of the evening hanging out and bantering with the other guys. Geena dances with absolutely everyone and has a good time. Ysabel plays cards with the lords and ladies. Lady Kyrella Bloodhand asks when Ysabel plans to marry and makes it clear that her son Pommel is sweet on her. Ysabel plays dumb and even insinuates that she thought Pommel was gay.
Of everyone at the party, only Lord Rogar and Marcus Felix stay serious throughout. Maester Meera sees Marcus Felix intending to leave early and intercepts him. She points out that he hasn’t danced with Jessica yet, the only available young woman at the party (that he isn’t related to, that is). Marcus Felix says bluntly that Jessica is a third child, so she’s better suited for Clifford, a fourth. Meera concedes the point but says it would make his father happy if he just gave Jessica one dance. Bitterly, Marcus Felix says his father doesn’t seem to require his presence anymore and leaves the great hall. Meera approaches Lord Arthur afterwards and quietly informs him that he needs to make sure his heir feels included and important or there will be problems.
As the evening wraps up, Maester Meera heads up to her infirmary with Elza to compare notes on healing and academic studies. Ysabel and Lord Arthur discuss the imminent Raven Five meeting. The Redwoods want to kill all the mountain men they can. The Highsuns want Gable back. The Bloodhands want to protect their power and pride. As for the Crowmores, well—who knows what they want anymore. Lord Arthur suggests that Ysabel and Maester Meera speak with the Bloodhands to find out more about what they want out of this meeting. Before they part, Lord Arthur asks Ysabel what she has against Pommel. She says he’s all right, but she’s just aiming for a higher bar.