Wedding Knight Part III
(Sorry, this is still not the complete story - the whole thing cost much more time than anticipated. More to come next week, i hope).
Than it was time for the travel to castle Starbone. For the next few days the commander of the city garrison should be the interim steward. Before he left, Gard had ordered to choose some men as future bodyguards for the new Lady, and to be aware if Joren Ripon (the last Ripon of Twinwood, who had try to kill Ser Vicon Aran during his last visit) might try to harm an Aran-family-member again. Beside Lord Gard, his mother, sister and uncle the travel party consisted of Lord Gawan and Lady Anya, Ser Paedrig Rivers, almost half an dozen servicemen/ maids and 14 soldiers from Krayenhorn and Dragonport.
It was a long trip to Starbone and the ‘street’ was not very comfortable (a typical problem in this area) but uneventful. At the Aran borders the party was welcomed by Ser Vickon Aran and a cavalry detachment. Vickon was in a good mood, joking with Gard and flirting with Alyanna also he was a little bit angry about the rude reaction of house Fallkirk (not even an apology and almost ordering back the two members of their house who stayed at Starbone).
It was still unclear if the Weymouth delegation would arrive this or the next day. Vickon also mentioned that septa Berena did have left the castle for some unspecific but urgent matter of faith (an excuse – in reality she might be still pissed off. But it was also a good explanation why Septa Jonelle would lead the ceremony). When the party passed by some small hamlets the inhabitants gathered together. Some of them cheered and praised the wedding (and the future husband of Lady Meera).
Castle Starbone was erected on a hill, protected by slopes at two sides. It was an old castle, built after the andal invasion. The party was greeted warmly by the whole Aran family and their high ranking servants etc. (minus septa Berena). It was obvious that the antipathy between Torrhen Fallkirk and Ser Pirron Strife had not faded away (and Torrhen still looked not very happy because of the wedding). Alyanna (still a little bit cautious because of the rumours she did have heard) came to the conclusion that there was indeed a vague similarity between Ser Strife and one of the members of house Aran (Elyssa Aran to be specific). Both young people looked like they did have the blood of the first men in their veins (small and lean, dark eyes, hair and taint), while most members of house Aran have the appearance of the Andals (tall, light hair and eyes).
There was time to bath and change the clothes before the great evening meal. Of the other guests only Septa Jonelle from the Septrie Eaglewood (who should lead the ceremony) had arrived. The young head of Eaglewood (not even thirty) acted like it could be expected from a high member of the faith (of course she was very pleased because she could lead the ceremony).
It was obvious that there should not only be a festivity for the noble/ higher ranking guests but also for the local smallfolk – the gates of the castle were wide open and there were numerous activities to prepare the ‘great day’.
Of course the family of the husband-to-be did get special attention and prominent places at the table. The meal was opulent, some minstrels were hired for this occasion, the atmosphere was delightful and all guests acted with perfect manner. The most prominent topics of the conversation were the wedding and the events at Kings Landing (or at least the parts that could be told in the presence of ladies). Alyanna get much attention by Ser Vickon – a situation which seems to anger Lord Aran and his wife a little bit. Gard concentrated his attention on his future bride.
During the meal message arrived that the Weymouth delegation had arrived Starbone (earlier as expected). When Lord Aran left the hall to greet the newcomers Gard wanted to accompany him. However he was stopped because Lady Meera suddenly felt ill and left the hall in hast. When she later returned she claimed that this was only the result of nervousness and perhaps some ill prepared food (Eric who had witnessed the scene was not certain if she said the truth).
Meanwhile the Weymouth came into the hall. The delegation consisted of Lord Weymouth (a calm, cautious and not very pretentious man in his thirtieths) his wife (a born Manderly) and their daughter Naerys (a shy and calm girl of fifteen years, certainly a bit ‘normal’ in comparison to such beauties like Meera, Alyanna and Anya). Lord Aran (and also his wife and his children) treated them very well (given Lord Arans normal temperament it was almost unusual).
Naerys was seated right beside Ser Vickon Aran and (after some meaningful views were exchanged between father and son) the young knight concentrated his charm towards the new guest – at least for some time. However the young lady was very shy and seemed to be more comfortable with a conversation with Elyssa Aran (both young woman seem to have something in common) and Alyanna.
Lord Aran announced a deer hunt ‘a la Reach’ for the day, some riding/ jousting manoeuvres in the afternoon (plus a poetry contest). The wedding should be in the late afternoon/ early evening followed by the obligatory meal.
He claimed that the deer hunt would be a great fun, a real manly adventure – and Lady Anya Blyth of Krayenhorn claimed that she could ride at least as good as many men who will participate.
Lord Aran laughed and accepted this challenge but Lord Gawan (who was calm, almost a little bit depressed during the whole day) was not very amused. However he did not argue.
It was late when the meal ended and all the guests went to bed.
Given the fact that the place was a little bit cramped by the number of guests some did not get single quarters. Eric f. e. should stay in the same room as Ser Vickon. The young knight joked that his father perhaps wanted to ensure that his son do not sneak out undisturbed or invite one of the young ladies in his room. He was well aware that Lord Aran wanted him to court (and in the end marry) Naerys Weymouth but seemed not certain if he did like the idea.
Alyanna soon noticed that someone had sent one of the minstrels to who started to sing love songs etc under her window. She guessed that this might have been Ser Vickons idea and thought that it might be the best to bribe the minstrel that he should do his serenade under the window of the bride – as an ‘gesture of admiration by Lord Gard’, and because she want not to insult Naerys (or anger Vickons parents and their plans for their son).
After the minstrel has gone away she did hear an argument in one of the quarters nearby and sneaked out of her room to listen. It soon became clear that she witnessed a little quarrel between Lord Gawan and his wife. Gawan criticised Anya’s idea of participating in the hunt and even accused her that perhaps her ‘adventurous behaviour’ might be a cause for the fact that she still not could get pregnant.
Lady Anya countered with the statement that this was not the diagnosis of Elen (the healer of Dragonport). Short after this the quarrel (which never gets very loud) seemed to have ended and Alyanna returned to her room.
Very early the next morning the hunting party started. The noises of horses, hunting dogs and hunters did wake up even the people who did not participate. The party consisted of most of the young knights, squires and lords (and also the older one) who could ride plus Lady Anya.
It was a clear, beautiful morning and everyone was eager to be the best when the dogs tracked a great deer. It was not easy and sometimes even dangerous to follow the prey. Gard did his best to stay at the top but some other hunters outmatched him.
Ser Strife did have bad luck when his horse jumped over a small wall – he failed, got unhorsed and even trapped under the fallen horse. Lady Anya immediately stopped to help him (as did Paedrig who had an eye on his aunt) while the other hunters followed the prey. In the end it was Ser Vickon who did catch the deer, killing it with one single sword stroke.
Skinning and take out the prey was a bloody business but none of the Aran men thought he was to ‘noble’ to do this job. While the hunting dogs did get the intestines of the deer, the hunters got small stripes of the fresh raw liver (an old but a little bit barbaric hunting tradition). When Ser Strife, Lady Anya and Ser Paedrig arrived it was obvious that Torrhen almost gloated over the misfortune of his tormenter.
Lord Gawan used the situation to remind his wife that this sport was certainly too dangerous for women. Her answer was that SHE did not fall from her horse, but than she apologized for her ‘unwomanly’ behaviour.
When Lord Aran wanted to get on his horse suddenly his saddle girdle split and he went down - right into the pack of hunting dogs. A yellow bitch (and I mean a female dog with this!) attacked him and must been killed. This dimmed the enthusiasm of the hunters because it was a bad omen (the arms of house Aran have a yellow dog in it)…
In the same time the castle was humming with the preparations for the big event (cooking, cleaning, decorating etc.). The small castle almost seemed TOO small and Lady Aran ordered and chased the service men and maids around mercilessly.
However for the honoured guests there was not much to do. Eric ordered a second breakfast and Alyanna wanted to socialise a little bit more with the Aran girls. But when she arrive Lady Meeras chamber she did hear some sort of argument and tried to listen secretly. She did hear only single words and half sentences, something about shame and worth of someone, a warning to be silent etc. but Alyanna could not detect who was speaking and who/ what was meant.
To get a look at the situation she silently sneaked away and then returned a little bit louder, knocking on the door and acting as if she had just arrived.
When she marched in Alyanna did actually find Meera Aran and her niece Elyssa (who seemed very disturbed). None of the three young Ladies mentioned the argument but when Elyssa left the room short after, she was followed by Alyanna. To get a real conversation with her was not easy because she tried to evade this and used every possibility (f. e. the duties of the festivity preparations and Erics arrival who also detected that something was going on) to get away.
But in the end Alyanna was able to get through her defence, noticing that Elyssa was deeply troubled by something that did have to do with the honour of her family – with rightfulness and trustworthiness. But Alyanna must also promise Elyssa that she would not reveal the source of her information and that she will do anything to prevent any harm for the honour of house Aran.
After this promise Elyssa did reveal the shocking and embarrassing truth: Her ‘aunt’ Meera (would-to-be-bride of Lord Gard) was pregnant – probably by Ser Pirron Strife.
Alyanna was uncertain what to do with this – but clearly she could not act as if nothing had happened. She secretly informed Eric Blyth and they both decided to bring this case to Meera’s mother but letting Elyssa out of the picture for the moment. Of course Lady Aran acted furious after hearing such a ridicules accusation. Eric (who was suspicious that Meera’s parents might already know about the pregnancy) could not detect any proof of this. She seemed really surprised and shocked. It was not easy to convince her that this even might be a possibility.
But then she stormed into the room of her daughter, creating quite a scene. Meera at first denied everything but under the threat of a medical examination by the castle master her defences seemed to falter. She did break down crying and confessed that she indeed was pregnant. As she told it Ser Piron Strife might have misunderstood her acting and feelings towards him and one evening when they were suddenly alone in the castle garden…
After this she was too ashamed to say anything about it.
In the same moment noises outside the building indicated that the hunting party was returning. The three (Lady Aran, Alyanna and Eric Blyth) left Meera Arans quarter and came to the conclusion that Ser Pirron Strife must be arrested immediately – but of course as calm and secretly as possible.
Following the ideas of Alyanna and Eric Lady Aran tried to separate Ser Strife from the public scene and the group of the lords, knights and honoured guests by ordering him to one of the (at the moment mostly abandoned) castle towers where two guards were waiting to arrest him.
However Alyanna and Eric (both with very keen senses) soon did hear some noises out of the tower (swearing, fighting noises etc.) which indicated that the arrest might not go as swift as planned. While Eric tried to convince Lady Aran to give him her ring so he could order additional forces into the fight (not so easy because she was in the middle of all attention and the whole operation should go as silent as possible), Alyanna simply grabbed Ser Paedrig (who stood more at the sideline of the scene), ordering him to go to the tower and help to arrest Ser Strife.
Although the young knight was a little perplex by this request he simply nodded and followed the orders. He arrived just in time to notice Ser Strife climbing out of a window of the tower. However his attempt to flee was blocked by Paedrig. The fight was unfair – Paedrigs sword against a simple club. In the end Ser Strife did get two nasty injuries and went to ground unconsciously. Of course the fight did get some attention by others but when Lady Aran did arrive the scene she was able to cover this by claiming that she ordered Ser Strife’s arrest because he had stolen some of the wedding gifts. Lord Aran ordered that Ser Strife should be brought to his quarters and that a guard should watch the door.
Then it was time to tell him the truth. Of course he was as furious and shocked as his wife (a second time Eric did not find any signs that this was only acting). Lord Aran also informed his eldest son and heir Ser Jonah. No decisions were made for the moment because Gard was not yet informed about the whole problem. However Lord Aran warned that time was thin and that everyone must act very careful to prevent a scandal. Because of this he also came to the conclusion that Ser Strife (still unconscious) should stay at his quarter for the moment although Lord Aran would have liked the idea to put him in jail. However he did not want any further attention for the moment…
P.S: Dear readers
. I would be interested in your ideas how such a situation could/should be handled?