Book 1, Act 1 - Gold and Wine Sept 27, 2018 15:37:18 GMT LiquidChicagoTed, CM3434, and 1 more like this
Post by WildlingKing on Sept 27, 2018 15:37:18 GMT
Book 1: Steel Rain
Act I: Gold and Wine
Act I: Gold and Wine
Lyonel Bracken stood silently atop the ancient stone walls of Raventree Hall, feeling the soft and warm summer breeze on his face. This summer had lasted over six years, and the dread for the inevitable winter grew larger with every new harvest. It was said that a long summer meant an even longer winter, and that concerned Lyonel. He had seen half a dozen winters in his life so far, but even the harshest of them hadn't lasted longer than five years. Winter lasting over six years would leave Riverlands in a devastated state, no matter how well they would prepare.
Standing between the two massive square towers that flanked the castle’s gates, Lyonel's mind was taken back to the siege that took place here over fifteen years ago. Lyonel himself had been a young and inexperienced man on his early twenties back then, thoroughly unprepared for war. Looking towards east now, all he could see were barren green hills, but back then those hills had been overrun by an army of over ten thousand troops. King Humfrey Teague had come to crush the rebellion of Lord Roderick Blackwood once and for all, the Mallisters, Harroways, Charltons and the Faith Militant loyally backing the King of the Rivers and Hills. Meanwhile what was left of the beaten and tired army of Blackwoods, Tullys, Brackens and Vances was stuck inside this castle, growing more desperate after every passing day. It was later said that King Humfrey had already begun celebrating in his camp, so certain of victory he had been. However, soon King Arlan Durrandon arrived with a great host of twenty thousand Stormlander warriors and lifted the siege, sending King Humfrey and his supporters on the run.
Scratching his short blond beard Lyonel turned around, looking inside the castle walls now. The tall timber keep of the Blackwoods stood proudly on the inner yard, but even taller was the colossal weirwood tree on the godswood next to it. Leafless and white as bone, the weirwood of Raventree Hall had been dead for thousands of years. Many were convinced the Brackens had poisoned it after allying with the Andals and taking up the Faith of the Seven, but there was no way to know if such claims held any truth. Obviously, the Brackens had always denied the accusations.
Lyonel and his brothers had been brought up in Stone Hedge by Lord Emmon Bracken, and taught to pray to both the Old Gods and the Seven. Lord Emmon and Lord Roderick were rivals throughout their lives, just like countless of Bracken and Blackwood lords before them had been, but still they had put their differences aside and banded together to overthrow King Humfrey Teague. For Lord Roderick the reason to rise against Humfrey had been the king's violent attempts to suppress the worship of the Old Gods, whereas Lord Emmon simply wanted to avenge his younger brother who had unjustly died at the hands of the Teagues many years before the rebellion. The war ended the line of House Teague, but it also ended the lives of both Roderick and Emmon. The Riverlands were annexed by the Storm King, young Brydan Blackwood inherited Raventree Hall, and Lyonel's brother Robb Bracken became the new Lord of Stone Hedge.
Battle in the Teats fifteen years ago had ended the war, or Battle of Six Kings as they called it now. Only two kings had marched to that battle though, those being Arlan Durrandon and Humfrey Teague. Humfrey was the first to die, and all his brothers and sons followed him before the day was over. In that bloody and chaotic battle five Teague kings fell, as wells as a dozen noble lords, hundreds of anointed knights and thousands of common soldiers from both sides. Lyonel himself only narrowly avoided death due to Lord Roderick saving his life. Before the battle was over Roderick was slain by a young man named Harrold Hill, a Faith Militant knight who managed to escape after the Teagues were defeated.
After the war was won, Lyonel Bracken had sworn his sword to Brydan Blackwood, vowing to serve him until the end of his days. He owed his life to Lord Roderick, so pledging his sword to his son was the least he could do. And here he was fifteen years later, still loyally serving the Lord of Raventree Hall. Some in this castle would always look down upon a Bracken, but most had gotten used to his presence, and some had even found respect for his sense of duty.
Suddenly Lyonel was awoken from his thoughts as he heard the sound of a high-pitched horn behind him. Turning around, he saw an entourage of about thirty riders approaching the castle, flying blue-and-red banners with the leaping silver trout of House Tully. In the middle of this entourage there was an elaborately decorated red-and-blue wagon drawn by two horses, no doubt transporting the noble family itself.
“Looks like the first wedding guests are arriving,” Lyonel heard a familiar voice speaking to his left, and he shifted his gaze to see Ronas Blackwood, the younger brother of Roderick and Robert. He was a lean man on his early fifties, though remarkably handsome for his age with emerald green eyes, sharp facial features, flowing dark hair and a finely trimmed full beard. After the war, the Storm King had granted the lordship of Trident Hall – the seat of the fallen Teagues – to Robert Blackwood, but Ronas had remained in Raventree Hall to aid his young nephew in governing the lands. It was well known that Arlan had no trust for Roderick's brothers, so he had left his own brother Barron Durrandon to look over Lord Brydan as well.
“The bride herself,” Lyonel responded calmly as the gates below them were opened to let in the Tully entourage. Indeed, in just three days Lord Brydan was due to marry Ellyn Tully, the only daughter of Lord Everan Tully. The Tullys were perhaps the most vital ally of the Blackwoods in the Riverlands, and the purpose of this marriage was to solidify that alliance for the foreseeable future.
“I still think it’d been wiser for Brydan to marry one of Lord Mallister’s daughters, or perhaps Lord Vance’s,” Ronas commented quietly as they watched the Tully family climbing out of their wagon down at the outer yard. “Those are the people whose loyalties are questionable if trouble arises. Whereas Lord Everan, well, he has little choice but to stay loyal to us as we’re the only real allies he has.”
“And he’s the best ally we have. It only makes sense for us to look after one another,” Lyonel responded, though the tone on his voice was a bit uncertain. He had to admit that Ronas had a point, especially now that lords Mallister, Vance, Harroway, Charlton and Smallwood had all suspiciously turned down the invitations to the wedding of their liege lord. That combined with the troubling rumors of the Warrior’s Sons causing trouble in the south made Lyonel feel like the Riverlands were teetering on the brink of succumbing into another conflict.
As the tall and redheaded Lord Everan together with his wife, daughter and two sons were being escorted towards the keep, Ronas spoke up again. “Anyway, I didn’t come just to chat”, he said tiredly, and Lyonel glanced at him questioningly. “Barron wants to meet us at his quarters, says it’s something important,” Ronas clarified.
“Guess we oughta not keep him waiting then?” Lyonel replied with a raised eyebrow, and after hesitating a moment Ronas nodded in agreement. It was clear to everyone who knew them that Ronas and Barron had their differences, which could often be seen in the council meetings where they would be on the opposite sides of almost any given issue. Brydan’s marriage had been one such issue, and the young lord had chosen to follow Barron’s advice to marry the Tully girl.
Together Lyonel and Ronas descended from the walls and walked past the stables by the gates, where most of the Tully entourage were still grooming their horses. Quietly they made their way from the muddy outer yard to the shadowy inner yard between the keep and the godswood, and finally into the cavernous great hall. There Lord Brydan was currently welcoming the Tully family together with Maester Joseth and Ser Uthor Wayn, the elderly master-at-arms of Raventree Hall. Without bothering them Lyonel and Ronas walked straight to the corridor leading to the wooden stairway, which they climbed up all the way to the second floor.
This floor was above the quarters of the servants and household knights, but below the highest floor which was reserved for the members of the Blackwood family. The chambers here were mainly intended for highborn guests, but there were also few that were permanently occupied, one such being the quarters of Prince Barron Durrandon.
Thrice Ronas knocked on the large wooden door of the Durrandon prince. “Come in,” a stern and deep voice spoke inside, and so Ronas grabbed the knob and pushed the door open. They stepped inside a large and airy room, a single oak beam standing in the middle of it. The timber walls were decorated with shiny swords and battle axes, as well as a large yellow kite shield displaying the crowned stag of House Durrandon. Behind Barron’s desk were two latticework windows with diamond-shaped panes of yellow glass offering a view to the farmlands west of the castle.
Barron himself sat behind his desk with a piece of parchment on his hands and another atop the desk, hardly paying attention to Lyonel and Ronas as they entered the room. An old man he was, already on his early sixties and it was starting to show. His once jet-black bushy beard was now dark grey, his head had begun to bald, and the wrinkles on his pale face were prominent.
“My brother is dead,” Barron begun bluntly, laying down the parchment and raising his gaze to meet that of Lyonel’s and Ronas’. Though he clearly tried to hide it, Lyonel could spot the grief in the old prince’s blue eyes.
“King Arlan is dead?” Ronas spoke with a distraught expression on his face, and Barron nodded. “He is, which is why I must ride to Storm’s End as soon as I can. I need to take part in my brother’s funeral, as well as the coronation of my nephew,” he explained with a sigh, turning his eyes to the parchment again. “While I am gone, you Ronas will be Lord Brydan’s most important advisor, which is a position I wish you to handle with great care.”
“Of course. And… my condolences,” Ronas responded with a small nod, which was followed by a tense moment of silence. “Unfortunately, that is not all,” Barron spoke up again, letting out a deep sigh as he picked up the other piece of parchment from his desk. “We’ve all heard the recent rumors about the Warrior’s Sons causing commotion on the lands around Stoney Sept. In order to learn more about this I sent ravens to lords Smallwood, Keath, Ryger, Vance and Harlton, inquiring what they knew of this and if their lands had been harassed.”
“And?” Lyonel asked quietly, the grim expression on Barron’s face making him fear that he wouldn’t like what was coming next. “There has been no answer from lords Smallwood, Keath or Vance, and Lord Ryger simply claims to be ignorant of the Warrior’s Sons actions. However, Lord Harlton’s answer arrived this morning, and it reads as follows: ‘Several reports of the Warrior’s Sons riding to settlements in our lands to intimidate or agitate the people have arrived to Castlewood during the past moon. I’ve heard even more of such behavior has occurred especially on the lands of House Vance and House Keath, though I cannot confirm the truth of this. However, that is not all, as just few days ago word reached me that the Faith Militant have crowned a pretender king in Stoney Sept, a man who calls himself Lucifer Justman. This I cannot confirm either, but if true it could mean they plan to start another war. My intention was to inform you of this at Lord Brydan’s wedding, but since you requested an answer as soon as possible I decided on writing this message. Yours truly, Lord Armond Harlton.’”
“Excuse me, did I hear Justman?” Ronas asked, his tone equally baffled and amused. “An imposter, no doubt one of the Faith Militant’s own,” Barron muttered in response, laying down Lord Harlton’s message. “That is, if the man even exists. Nonetheless, it is clear that trouble is brewing in the south, trouble that I would like to resolve before it escalates. However, as I will be preoccupied this mission falls to you, Lyonel Bracken.”
“As you wish, my prince,” Lyonel responded with a slightly surprised tone. “And what exactly will be my mission?” He asked. A sharp glare took over Barron’s eyes, and he clenched his fists. “After the wedding, you will travel south with Lord Harlton, and you will get to the bottom of this mess,” he instructed sternly. “You will find out who leads this treasonous conspiracy, who supports it, and what sort of response it merits. And if an opportunity to make an action that would resolve the situation presents itself, you will take it. Do you understand?”
“I do,” Lyonel Bracken responded with a dutiful tone. A satisfied smile formed on Barron Durrandon’s face as he looked Lyonel to the eyes. “Ours is the fury.”