Tag: A Song of Ice and Fire (page 2 of 6)

Honor & Blood, VI: Viserys

Courtesy HBO, GRRM and Jim Stanes
Courtesy Jim Stanes

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. Word of the lost swords of high Westrosi houses by up-and-coming House Luxon has crossed the Narrow Sea…

He looked up from the meal in front of him to the bearer of the news. Under the stylish, wide-brimmed hat providing shadows for half of his face, there were not many in Pentos who would easily recognize the traveler. Most would be distracted by the flamboyant, multi-colored feather tucked into the hat’s bright violet band. Still, Viserys could not shake a feeling of doubt. Were they being watched? Who else knew of this, of them?

“You saw this thing?”

“With my own eyes.” The voice of the traveler was low, subtle, all but lost in the tavern’s ruckus. “The blades of the Baratheons were laid at the feet of the king himself.”

“The king sitting on my throne.” Scowling, Viserys snatched up a goblet of wine and drained it. “I can’t wait to see the look on his fat face when I split him open.”

“In time, in time.” The traveler spoke calmly, unruffled by the notion of waking the dragon. That didn’t sit well. He should fear the dragon. All men should fear the dragon. “What was interesting to me, however, was not only what this man of the north carried, but what he did not.”

“The blades of my family. Where are they?”

“I suspect they are locked away in Moat Cailin. Little birds tell me the new maester has taken residence in a tower built atop a vault. That would be the most likely place.”

Viserys took a bite of stew, trying to think. The spices in the Pentoshi food distracted him, equal parts curiosity and revulsion interfering with his ability to strategize.

“My ancestors would storm the castle with their armies to take back what is theirs. I have no army. Aemon would have flown over the walls with his dragons. I have no dragons.”

“Astute, my prince.”

“I wasn’t asking for your opinion.” He waved his goblet in the air until it was refilled. “I need inspiration, not sycophancy.”

The eyes of the man in the hat gazed at Viserys. He reminded the Targaryen prince of a spider, hiding in the shadows, scuttling to and fro from King’s Landing to the Free Cities. “Not all wars are won with armies and dragons. Some are won with deception and stealth, before they even begin.”

Viserys considered this. What glory would he win stealing into a castle like a thief? He wasn’t stealing anything, he was reclaiming it. But what price would he pay to get those weapons? There were blades of Valyrian steel among them, perhaps even the sword of Aemon the Dragonknight, or that of his elder brother Rhaegar. He envisioned himself riding towards the Red Keep, a loyal army at his back, the smokey steel in hand and raised high as he returned to the place he truly belonged…

“How do we begin?”

“Well, for one thing, we cannot have you and your sister staying in places where you could be stumbled upon. It is no small miracle that you have remained relatively undiscovered until now. Fortunately for you, I have just the place for you to stay while plans are made. A trusted friend.”

“Inasmuch as I trust anyone.” Viserys finished his wine and laid some coins on the table. He moved to stand, then paused. “Wait. You said a man from the North came to deliver the fat king’s swords. But when you first told me of this, you spoke of two men.”

“Indeed I did.”

“The other was not from the North?”

“No. He is not, but as our time is somewhat short before I am missed, I think that is a tale I shall have to tell another time.”

Viserys narrowed his eyes. “You’re hiding something from me, eunuch.”

“I hide things from all men, my prince. It is how I stay alive.”

“That, too, is no small miracle.”

The traveler only smiled. He stood, gesturing for Viserys to lead the way. As it should be. I’ve been here long enough to know this city like the back of my hand. They wound their way through the streets until they came to the merchant ship owner’s pavilion. The traveler tipped his hat down slightly.

“I will wait here.”

“Is the place we’re going better than this?”

“Slightly larger, and infinitely more hospitable, I suspect.”

Viserys grunted. He walked through the gate and found his host sitting by one of the windows that faced the harbor. Half of the man’s hair, both on his head and in his forked beard, was painted blue, the other half green. A girl from a pillowhouse knelt at his feet and was massaging his ankles while he enjoyed a pipe.

“Ah! My guest returns. Did you have an enjoyable lunch?”

“I did, but I’m afraid I must depart. My sister and I thank you for your hospitality.” He dropped a few coins on the table and walked back towards the guest rooms.

“I find it unfortunate that you still will not consider my offer.” The merchant was standing. “Your sister would be well taken care of and greatly desired. Is that not what all women want?”

Viserys looked over his shoulder, first at the man then at the girl who remained on the floor, barely clothed in the silk gown that fell from her shoulders. Shaking his head, the prince walked into the guest bedroom he shared with his sister. If anyone is going to whore out Daenerys, it’s going to be me, not that old pirate, and not for any pittance of gold, but for my crown.

“Daenerys. It’s time to wake up.”

She murmured as she rolled over on the bed. Viserys crossed to it, reached around her and took hold of her breast, pinching her nipple until her eyes opened.

“We have to leave. Now. If you delay, you will wake the dragon.”

Nodding as she looked at him, Daenerys quickly found her clothes and packed up her few meager belongings. Viserys was already packed. The message had made it clear that they would not linger here long, and so had prepared himself before dawn. They walked out to find the merchant with an old blade in his hand.

“I think I’ll be keeping your sister. She’s worth far more than you are, boy.”

Viserys was armed only with a dagger. But the merchant was in his cups, despite the hour, a fact evident in the empty glass bottles near his chair and the stink on his breath. The young king gestured for his sister to stay behind him as he drew his short blade.

“I’m sure you’d like a virgin to sell to whomever you got that whore on the floor from, but my sister stays with me. And we’re leaving.”

The old pirate scowled, slamming the pommel of his blade on the table, causing bottles to fly. “Wretch! I keep you under my roof for months, feed you and clothe you in keeping with this station you claim, and this is how I’m repaid?”

“No. That gold on the table is how you are repaid. More will come if you let us pass. You will have the thanks of a king.”

“I’d rather have the girl. And your head!”

He roared and charged towards Viserys. The prince ducked to one side, still between his opponent and his sister but out of direct harm. The merchant slammed into the corner where his main room met the hall back to the bedrooms. Viserys smiled.

“Has age slowed your pirate reflexes, old man?”

“I’ll show you how pirates fight!” The merchant reoriented himself with Viserys and charged again. Another sidestep put the man squarely into one of his cabinets. In spite of the deadly nature of the situation, Viserys laughed.

“You should stop now while you still have a house to live in!”

The pirate’s reply was wordless, a restored grip on his sword and yet another charge. This time, when Viserys stepped aside, the man went through the large open doors and across his pavilion. It was easily seen on the streets when he launched into space and landed face down on the inside of his low garden wall. His dogs trotted over to see what had happened, and when he lifted his face, the passers-by laughed, as he now wore one of those dog’s droppings in his beard.

Viserys, sheathing his dagger, took hold of Daenerys’ hand and walked out the door to where the traveler waited. Beside him was an extremely obese Pentoshi gentleman who bowed as they emerged.

“Your Grace. My lady. I’m quite pleased to finally meet you both.”

The pirate staggered towards them, but at the sight of the large man he stopped short.

“Ah. Numeris.” There was something in the fat man’s gaze that reminded Viserys of himself. Of waking the dragon. “I do hope your altercation with this young man will not keep you from seeing my shipment safely to Lys. I’d hate for you to lose your contract.”

“Um. Yes.” The merchant took a step back. “I will see to it personally.” He ran back into his house. Both the fat man and the traveler laughed.

“Spineless as always,” the traveler observed, then tipped his hat to the Targaryen siblings. “I must take my leave, my friends, but let me introduce you to Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of Pentos.”

“And your humble host, Your Grace.” He bowed to Viserys again, and kissed Daenerys’ hand. “My lady.”

“At last, some manners!” Viserys bowed in return. “We are in your debt, Magister. I look forward to seeing your home.”

Get caught up by visiting the Westeros page.

Next: Cadmon

Honor & Blood, V: The Green Boy

Courtesy Facebook

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. Jon Snow has left Winterfell for Moat Cailin, home of House Luxon. His brothers Robb and Bran have gone with him to wish him well. Lord Goddard invites the sons of his liege lord to stay for a feast and rest before returning home, and while Robb spars with his half-brother one last time, Bran explores the unfamiliar castle and its many towers…

He adored the feeling of the wind cutting through him.

Summer kept pace on the ground, watchful, long ears alert. The direwolf pup could not climb after him, though. The craggy masonry and hidden handholds were Bran’s province alone. Here, in a place he’d never seen, he still navigated walls and towers with speed and precision. In his mind he saw himself assaulting an enemy stronghold, a dagger clenched in his teeth, men at arms struggling to keep up as they moved to overwhelm the guards at the gate, or carry off a damsel in distress.

One tower was different from the others. It was not the tallest one of Moat Cailin’s many, but it was one of the few that seemed unmanned. A gregarious garron was the only creature keeping watch at its base, tied to a post and pawing at the ground. Summer gave it a sniff in introduction as Bran ascended the tower. He immediately caught a scent from above: freshly brewed tea, strong and exotic. Curiosity overwhelmed him as he moved, hand over hand, up the side of the tower. At last he came to the window that was the source of the scent.

A small spiral staircase rose through the middle of the room. Several stout bookshelves were spaced around the room, scrolls and tomes stuffed into their spaces. Tapestries hung from the higher portions of the wall and rugs lay on the floor. A small firepit was near the window, with a kettle hanging over it. Across the way from Bran was a table featuring odd figurines and two men facing one another as they sat in thought.

One was Lord Goddard Luxon. He reminded Bran of his lord father, a man of war tempered with patience and wisdom. The other was an older man, his head curiously devoid of hair, dressed in the robes of a maester. The stranger’s eyes flicked towards Bran, then back to the table.

“A moment while I tend to the tea.” He moved one of the figurines and rose. He picked up a staff that had been leaning against a nearby shelf before hobbling over to the fire pit, slowly, his eyes on Bran. The boy didn’t move. Carefully, the maester removed the pot from the firepit’s rail, set it on a side table, and covered the firepit with a broad metal lid.

“You best come inside, my lad. ‘Twould be a shame to see you fall from this height.”

Nodding, Bran climbed into the room. The maester was pouring tea as Goddard regarded him.

“As you are not one of Lord Goddard’s children, I deduce you’re one of our honored guests.”

“That would be Bran Stark.” Goddard hadn’t moved from the table, his gaze severe on the boy. “And he should know wandering a yard, any yard that is not his own, is inherently dangerous.”

“I’m sorry.” Bran found his voice but did not meet the lord’s eyes. “I like to climb.”

“Well, since you worked so hard in climbing up here, would you mind holding onto this tray for our lord?” The maester was holding a small tray with two steaming cups, and Bran took it. Smiling, the maester moved back to the table with the boy in tow. Goddard’s look had softened for a moment before turning back to the figurines.

“What is this?”

“It is called cyvasse, young master, a game of strategy and cunning. It is a means of keeping the mind sharp and taking the measure of another without the need for swords.”

“And it’s damned annoying at times.” Goddard’s voice was laced with mirth, however, and he rubbed his chin as he regarded the board before him. After a few quiet moments, during which the maester sampled his tea, the lord moved his trebuchet.

“Why is it annoying?”

“A skilled opponent knows not to move all of his powerful pieces to the front.” Goddard took a sip of tea, then nodded to the maester with a raise of the cup. “I jest; facing a skilled opponent is only annoying in that more effort must be exerted in overcoming them. My son could stand to learn that, as well as how to play the game better.”

The maester smiled, then turned his attention to the board. Bran leaned closer and looked at the different tiles and pieces.

“Why not simply fly your dragons over everything?”

“Two reasons.” The maester moved one of his spearmen to block his opponent’s trebuchet. “One, this is a game of Old Valyria, and the object is to capture the king, which is stronger than a dragon. Two, moving your dragons aggressively can sometimes be effective, but canny players can deal with and extinguish early threats and leave their opponents at a disadvantage for the duration of the game. Given the mobility of the dragons, your opponent could see it coming, and prepare a counter-move.”

Bran knelt and leaned his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands.

“Not every battle is won with strength alone, Bran.” Goddard moved his heavy horse. “More often than not, you must use your eyes and your mind as much as your sword or fist to win the day.”

Bran nodded, watching as the game unfolded. Eventually, the maester was forced to move his king out of his fortress and after a merry chase, Goddard pinned it in the back corner with his horse and spy. The maester, unflustered, stood and bowed to his lord.

“A well-played match, my lord. The board is yours.”

Goddard stood and offered the maester his hand. “A good game and good tea. We must do this again.”

As they shook, noise came from below. The bulky form of Samsun Cray came up the spiral, followed by the quick and quiet Spectre. Bran smiled and walked over to the shadow cat, who rammed Bran’s shoulder with her head to ensure she had the boy’s full attention.

“Some of the locals have arrived, my lord, wishing to speak with you about their crops and trade. I also was told to find Bran to inform him Robb is ready to leave.”

Bran looked up from petting Spectre. “I want to say good-bye to Jon.”

“So you will.” Goddard laid his teacup down on the side table and made for the stairs, with Samsun in tow. Spectre moved after her master, but Bran hesitated, looking back at the maester as he put the cyvasse pieces in a box on a shelf near the table.

“Did you go bald when you became a maester?”

The older man smiled. “In a way. I shave every morning. It’s a ritual, a reminder of the commitment I’ve chosen to make to the realm.”

“What about your leg? Doesn’t that remind you?”

“My leg reminds me that I am more than the circumstances that left me with only one of flesh and blood.” The maester leaned on his staff as he regarded the boy. “Men are more than they seem, young master. More than their handicaps, more than their prowess, more than their smiles. Do not be afraid to look deeper into their hearts, as well as your own.”

Bran nodded as Goddard called his name. He hurried down the stairs. Summer bounded after him as they searched for Jon. He wasn’t leaving until he said good-bye.

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Next: Viserys

Honor and Blood, IV: Jon

Heart Tree

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. After a caustic argument in the wake of House Luxon‘s return of stolen blades and his training of his little sister in swordplay, Jon Snow left Winterfell for the Wall on his own. It was Goddard Luxon and his captain, Samsun, who brought him back, but not before Ser Allister Thorne insulted the visitors and fought Samsun in the yard. They have returned to Winterfell, and while Samsun recovers from his wounds, Jon and his direwolf pup Ghost prowl the godswood…

“Only those worthy of the name of Stark carry these. And you are neither worthy, nor a Stark.”

Ghost could sense his mood. The direwolf pup was only as tall as his shin but he still brushed up against Jon Snow’s boot as he made his way around the godswood. It was a quiet evening, the air cool as it always was in Winterfell, and Jon half-expected to see his little brother hanging from one of the pale white branches above their heads. It would have been a welcome distraction from his thoughts.

The words of his mother rang in his head. Step-mother. He reminded himself of that. Catelyn may have been the only mother he’d ever known, but she’d made it clear on several occasions that she did not see him as her son. No; Robb, Bran and Rickon were her sons, not Jon Snow. He was another woman’s issue. Yet Jon tried to please her, to live up to the name of his father and all the Starks before him. Was it impossible, as she seemed to think it was?

He hadn’t been looking at the swords for himself, in truth. Yes, some of the blades that came back to Winterfell with the Luxons of Moat Cailin were very fine, but none suited for his purposes. He wanted to spar with Arya on even terms, her with Needle and himself with a similar blade, not just with harmless sticks. She needed to know how dangerous it could be. She wouldn’t shrink from it, of course, and he loved her for that. But Catelyn had other ideas.

“Arya will study with her sister to be a proper lady of a noble House. I will not have you putting ideas in her head that she’s suited for anything else. It’s hard enough on Septa Mordane as it is without your interference.”

Jon kicked a small stone. Ghost loped after it. Sighing, the dark-haired young man looked up at the twilight sky. The stars were beginning to emerge through the branches of the weirwood, but they did not seem as clear here as they had at the Wall. He’d talked of joining the Night’s Watch, to remove himself from Cat and the drama of his House rather than cause more strife, but that too had been a disaster. He hadn’t been able to get past the master of arms’ prejudice and scorn, and when Goddard Luxon and Samsun Cray arrived it’d been even worse.

I could have chosen to stay. I could have tried harder. But I picked the easy route. I ran away.

Because of his choice, Samsun had a broken arm and more than a few bruises and scrapes. It’d taken Lord Goddard and the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch to convince Thorne and Samsun to use practice blades. Had they not, Samsun might now be dead, only because Jon had leaped at the chance to escape from the Wall.

He was on his third or fourth circuit of the godswood when he heard the soft sound of stone on metal. He turned around the trunk of a tree to see his father sitting beneath the heart tree, a sword in his lap. Jon assumed it was Ice. He moves quietly to get closer, Ghost his inspiration as the pup stayed beside him.

“I know why you’re out here.”

Jon rolled his eyes. Of course his father knew.

“Father… am I a coward?”

The stone stopped. Eddard Stark raised his eyes to look at his son in disbelief.

“…What?”

“I ran away from here. And then I ran from the Wall. I thought I’d have a place there but all I got was more scorn. I have enough of that here.”

Ned sighed. “Jon. Come and sit down.”

He obeyed.

“You can’t tolerate being thought of as less than what you are. I know men who’d lash out in anger when their self-image is challenged. And you’ve yet to prove yourself in the eyes of those that need it. The Wall may have been a place to do it, but your uncle sent a raven telling me not to let you stay. He doesn’t want you near that’s happening there. He worries about you.”

“I can take care of myself!”

Ned lay a hand on Jon’s shoulder. “I know you can. That’s why you’re going to Moat Cailin. They are drawing attention from people in the South, and if trouble comes from there, that castle is where it will begin. Benjen’s on one border of our charge, and now you’ll be on the other. I’ll feel better having a Stark both on the Wall and on our gate to the South.”

“I know, and I think I can do better there than on the Wall, but… I’m afraid. I’m afraid I’ll run away again.”

“I’m not. I know you won’t.”

The moon emerged from behind the clouds. Jon’s eye was drawn to the sword in Ned’s lap. It was shorter than it had seemed at first, it’s grip suited for only one hand, the leather embroidered with wolves chasing each other. The pommel was large, like a plumb weight slightly smaller than Jon’s fist, to balance the blade and provide a place for the off-hand in the instances of a two-handed swing. The moonlight played on the smokey waves that seemed to deepen the steel.

“That isn’t Ice.” But it could be Ice’s little brother.

Ned followed his gaze and smiled. “No, it’s not. This is Snowfang. My father gave it to Brandon the same day he gave me Ice. That was before they left for King’s Landing.” Ned paused, the smile fading. “It was the last day I saw either of them alive.”

Jon swallowed. He didn’t like seeing his father dwell on the past. Yet his next question would have him doing exactly that.

“Was that before you met my mother?”

Ned said nothing. Instead, he got to his feet. He seemed to tower over Jon in the darkness, a giant come down from beyond the Wall. For a moment, he loomed there in silence. Then, he picked up the scabbard for Snowfang, sheathed the blade, and handed it to Jon.

“I give you this sword, Jon Snow, so that you may carry the honor and courage of the House of Stark with you everywhere you go.”

Jon blinked, taking the sword with numb, disbelieving fingers. “Mother will…”

“She’ll disapprove. I know. You let me deal with that. You have other tasks ahead of you.” Eddard knelt in front of his bastard son, looking him in the eye. “Listen to Lord Goddard and follow his example. Be ever at his side as much as possible. Observe. Learn. Have their maester send ravens to me when you can. You are my eyes in Moat Cailin and aimed at the South. I will not be blind to what comes from there no matter how dire things become at the Wall. You remember our words.”

“Winter Is Coming.”

“And it comes from more directions that just the land beyond the Wall. Things are changing, Jon. I can feel it in my bones. If we do not change with them, this House will fall.”

Jon’s grip tightened on Snowfang.

“I won’t let that happen, Father. I give you my word.”

Get caught up by visiting the Westeros page.

Next: The Green Boy

Honor & Blood, III: The Watcher

Courtesy HBO's Game of Thrones

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. House Luxon is in the process of returning a trove of stolen blades to their rightful Houses. Victor Luxon has now crossed the sands of Dorne to return the final blades to House Martell. Accompanying him from Sunspear to the Water Gardens is Maester Chrysander, newly appointed to service at Moat Cailin. Cadmon Hightower, however, is nowhere to be found…

They were two, now, while three had entered the Water Gardens.

Areo Hotah was in step behind them, silent, his poleaxe leaned against the crook of his shoulder and his hand resting on its shaft. They walked at a reasonable pace, both for his Prince and for one of their visitors. They said they’d come from House Luxon, far to the north in a castle once ruined. Yet only one of them appeared to be of Northerly stock. He was broad of shoulder and long of gait, even if Hotah was slightly taller. His eyes betrayed neither mirth nor treachery, and his mouth seemed to speak only blunt truths. Hotah admitted he was taking a liking to him.

“I still don’t see why we’re here, while I do appreciate Your Highness’ hospitality.” Victor Luxon pushed Doran Martell across the pink marble floor slowly. The wheels on the chair had been freshly oiled, and made no noise. There was occasionally a metal rattle from Hotah’s armor or a scuff from Victor’s boots, but the sound permeating the hall was the rhythmic clack of the maester’s staff against the floor. The sun glistened on the bald pate of the older man, who had no hair whatsoever on his skull. Even his eyebrows were missing.

“I wanted to show you all that Dorne offers.” The Prince’s voice was set at its most magnanimous. “I can only imagine what you might have heard from the smallfolk in Highgarden on your way here.”

“I had begun to acquire a taste for your Dornish wine in Oldtown.” Victor smiled. “You can tell a lot about a people by their wine.”

“Oh? And what does our wine tell you about us, young Luxon?”

“The wine has a sweet taste, many textures and a warm finish that may burn if you aren’t prepared for it.”

“We had the pleasure of drinking it without it being watered down,” Maester Chrysander observed. “I shudder to think what becomes of it in less civilized parts of the world.”

“I wouldn’t strictly called Oldtown ‘civilzed’.” Victor Luxon was frowning. “It has its share of unruly elements. Mostly in and around the ports.”

“Isn’t your young friend something of a sailor?” Doran turned to look over his shoulder at Victor. “He has that look about him.”

Victor’s hands visibly tightened on the handles of the chair. Hotah noticed this, and the way the maester took a discreet step further away from him.

“He is not what I’d call a friend.”

“Yet you traveled together.”

The maester stepped close again as they walked. “The young master is, ah, of an opposing personality with the heir of Hightower. Born a bastard and raised in the Free Cities, his attitude can be somewhat cavalier at times.”

“He’s a green, vain, arrogant boy, and I trust him about as far as I can throw him.”

Hotah hid a smile. Victor was a capable warrior, it showed in his every movement. It’d be an honor to meet him even in the yard, trading blows. Yet he had all the subtlety of Robert Baratheon’s fabled warhammer.

“You needn’t concern yourself with Cadmon Hightower any longer, young Luxon. He has asked me for the privilege of staying in Sunspear for the time being, and after hearing his petition I’m of a mind to oblige him.”

Victor Luxon blinked. “Why would he want to do such a thing?”

“Perhaps he fancies one of my daughters. He couldn’t court them anywhere near as well from Moat Cailin, now could he?”

Hotah studied the guests. Luxon simply shook his head, looking disgusted. He thinks the boy a fool, blinded by lust and power plays. The maester, on the other hand, seemed locked in his own thoughts. His expression was distant but otherwise inscrutible.

Prince Doran picked up on it. “You seem quiet, Maester Chrysander. Shall I guess your thoughts?”

Chrysander looked to the Prince and smiled. “You might be mistaken, my Prince, at what they are. Perhaps a game of cyvasse instead, with our thoughts as the stakes?”

“That again? Do you play it in your sleep?”

“You could be a fair player, young master. I would not disparage it out of hand, in spite of your losses. It teaches much about…”

“Boredom? Obscure rules? Treachery and deception?”

“I was going to say, ‘warfare’.” Chrysander’s smile was that of a teacher speaking to an obstinate student. “Your aggressive playstyle would be suited for some opponents, but you must learn to anticipate beyond the next move.”

“I deal with what’s in front of me.”

“Such honesty seems a uniquely Northern trait,” the Prince observed.

“I’ve noticed, Prince.” Victor sounded only slightly more bitter than usual. “Too many around the Iron Throne seem to like hiding daggers in their smiles.”

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t always see the threats that ally against us.” Prince Doran steepled his fingers as they approached the courtyard, where the children played as they always did. Chrysander smiled beatifically, and Victor blinked a few times.

“I come here whenever I need a reminder of what we’re fighting for.” Doran’s posture relaxed as he took in the sight. “Ensuring I never lose sight of what is most precious to me.”

“I understand.”

Doran turned to look up at Victor. “I’ve no doubt you do. Perhaps one day you’ll have children of your own, and understand more deeply.”

“As long as my sons are strong,” Victor replied. Chrysander leaned on his staff.

“I’ve no doubt they will be, young master.”

“We’ll watch them play for a time, if you’ll indulge me.” Prince Doran was now utterly at ease. Areo Hotah rested the pommel of his axe against the white marble floor. Despite the manner of the Prince’s guests, he remained watchful, as he always did. “Afterwards we shall take a midday meal, and then make arrangements to return to Sunspear where you can take ship to White Harbor. Martell is in your debt for the return of our blades and the justice done in the name of their owners. It is the least we can do to see you safely home.”

Get caught up by visiting the Westeros page.

Next: Jon

Honor & Blood, II: Chrysander

Courtesy HBO's Game of Thrones

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. House Luxon is in the process of returning a trove of stolen blades to their rightful Houses. Carrying those belonging to the Houses of the Reach and Dorne, Victor Luxon has reached Oldtown. After delivering the treasures of House Hightower, the Citadel offers the growing House of the North something no political force in Westeros should be without: a maester. The Archmaesters have been reviewing candidates for three days…

He began the day he always did. He swung his body into a seated position on the small cot in his cell within the Citadel, in walking distance to one of the lower libraries. He used a cloth soaking in the bowl of water by his cot to clean the stump of his right calf, the flesh smooth inches below his knee where he’d been cut free of the dead horse. He reached under the cot for his leg. It was made of two pieces of ash, one shaped like a foot and the other taking the place of his lost leg tissue, held together with a sturdy pin of iron. He strapped it into place with the specific procedure he’d used countless times since coming to the Citadel as a novice. The leg had been his own design, perhaps the largest step in forging his link for alchemy.

He stood, ensuring the leg held, and half-hobbled to the larger water bowl on the dresser. Even with the faux leg it was difficult to move quickly without assistance. Rapid movement, like dreams of knighthood and vast sums of wealth, had been left crushed under the poor horse. He reached to the side of the bowl for the razor, washed the blade in the water, and took it to his scalp, jawline and lips. He scoured his head of hair, including his eyebrows.

I am a maester of the Citadel, he told himself as he set the razor aside. Would that we had vows like the brothers of the Night’s Watch that the realm might know our quality.

Sighing, he put on his robe and fished his chain out from beneath it. Adjusting it so it hung correctly, he next took up his staff. It was old, an oak shaft just slightly taller than he, carved with Valyrian letters and symbols and topped with a shard of dragonglass. He leaned on the familiar tool, cleared his throat and opened the door.

He had been expecting one of the pages of the Citadel, or perhaps a novice like Pate, ready to help him to the library for the day’s research, filing and answering of questions.

He was instead faced with another maester.

“Maester Chrysander. The Realm has need of you.”

The figure in the hall was shorter than Chrysander, stockier and broad of shoulder, his chain easily double that of the cripple’s. In normal clothes and not the robes of a maester, he could have been mistaken for a deckhand or thug in the employ of a pirate or dock lord. Instead, his imposing frame spoke of power and knowledge. The thing that Chrysander focused on, however, was the Valyrian steel mask the other wore.

“Archmaester. I’m honored you deliver this summons in person.”

“I’ve done it before,” Marwyn sniffed, gesturing for Chrysander to join him in the hall. The junior maester did so, his staff clacking softly against the stone with every other step. “It’s not that rare. Your predecessor in your post, Maester Luwin, was also summoned in such a fashion. Of course, that was some years ago, and to an old and storied House of the North. You are going in the same direction, but to a House much younger.”

“That would be House Luxon, I take it.”

“Your ears work fine, I see, even if your legs do not.”

Chrysander looked over his shoulder. As usual, the black cat with which he shared his cell had stepped out to follow him. Selyne’s tail was straight up, crooked slightly to one side, as she padded along silently behind the maesters. After a moment, her ears pricked up and she darted down a side corridor. Chrysander smiled. She’ll be along. She needs breakfast, too.

Over a meal of bread, cheese, fruit, cooked eggs and fresh water, Chrysander discussed the post with Marwyn. The archmaester hosted his apprentice in his own rooms, where he removed his mask to eat. His red teeth tore into an apple before he spoke of Chrysander’s purpose.

“Other than providing guidance for Lord Goddard and education for his children, I advise you to keep a weather eye towards the Wall. Ravens from the North have been most disconcerting of late. The astronomers are quite nervous.”

“I suspect the Luxons are equally squirelly.”

“Ha!” Marwyn slapped the table hard, sending an orange rolling across the floor. “A good one, but I’d watch those puns if I were you. They may not be welcome in a lord’s hall.”

“I will do so, Archmaester. What else of the North?”

“As I mentioned, Luwin preceded you, as my apprentice and as a maester in the North. You know which House he serves, and their words.”

Chrysander nodded. “Winter is coming.”

“Aye. Look well-armed to receive it when it does, Chrysander. Your charge is nothing more, and nothing less. The Realm may depend upon House Luxon standing its ground when the blizzards come, bringing Seven knows what else with them.”

Chrysander fingered the ring of Valyrian steel on his chain. “It will be done, Archmaester. The Realm has called, and I will answer.”

Satisfied, they left to proceed to the yard. Chrysander made a list of provisions, books and materials he’d need for his service at Moat Cailin, and requested the garron Aloysius, a heavy and somewhat lethargic beast too large for barding and too intractable to serve as a steed. Yet he pulled carts very well and he didn’t seem to mind Chrysander’s presence. As the cart was loaded and Selyne caught up with him, Chrysander caught sight of a man in the yard testing his strength against several squires of House Hightower. Marwyn approached, his mask back in place.

The man in the blue and silver armor roared defiantly at the six men coming at him. His greatsword, blunted for practice, nevertheless floored two before they could come to grips with him. The shield of a third was splintered when he tried to attack, and he fell away, clutching a broken arm. The figure in the armor punched a fourth in the face while parrying the blow of a fifth. Pushing the warhammer away, he glanced between the two squires who still stood, and laughed heartily.

“I knew you squirts from the South were made of suet!”

This is my new Lord, Chrysander realized. No — this is the man I must teach to follow that Lord as Gatekeeper of the North. Acid ran through his heart.

The squires attacked Victor as one. Still laughing, their opponent stepped aside from one blow, parrying another and headbutting the one on his left. As the squire staggered back, blood spewing from his nose, the broad-shouldered warrior grabbed the final one by the throat and forced him to his knees. The others staggered to their feet and called out, one at a time, that they yielded.

“I’ve only seen such ferocity and dedication to victory once before,” Archmaester Marwyn observed.

“When was that?”

The man in the Valyrian steel mask turned to his apprentice, his expression inscrutable.

“Gregor Clegane. The Mountain that Rides.”

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Next: The Watcher

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