This time not much action, but many secret discussion and intrigues. Not deadly for now, but in the future...who knows...
New hope, old feud
In the following weeks the troops stayed in high alert. It was possible to slightly improve the abilities of the archers, which could used the combat-experience of some of their men during the capturing of the “Bloodrider” and the training they get on land before and after the combat.
Foreign sailors were kept under surveillance to search for possible infiltrators. Secretly Gard prepared a declaration of an amnesty: Any man of Nardis which leave his chief would be welcomed and his life spared. If he brought Nardis alive or believable witnesses/ proofs of his death, he would reward with 100 dragons, and 50 for the death of one of his captains. A pirate ship which changed sides would rewarded with up to 200 dragons for captain and crew, a smaller vessel with the half or a quarter, depending of size etc. But any attempt to foul him would be punished severely, he warned, and he was determined to handle new recruits and possible defectors with care to avoid that possible traitors could sneak in.
Gard did not publish the declaration yet, waiting for a chance to win Lord Aran as support (he wrote to him, also praising Lord Aran’s daughter for her wisdom, because several of the ideas were her) to give the declaration more convincing-power. Most members of his household support the idea, with exception of his mother (who opposed because Meera was supporting it).
The Bloodrider was prepared for further duty as convoy-ship but it needs time to find men as sailors and officers. Also it seem clear that it would not easy to build even a small fleet or to hire armed freighters. Gard tend more and more towards the idea to create a mixed unit – perhaps two additional small galleys like the captured ship, fast and able to operate in shallow waters, and two greater ships, for example armed cogs or holks, able to give support because they clearly may be a better platform for archers, scorpions etc. This would also reduce the time for creation, because it would be much easier to buy two freighters and to build three galleys than to form a unit of five more or less identical ships.
But the pirates weren’t the only problem. Rumours spread about the ability (and willingness) of house Blyth to pay its bills, about the danger of ruin and poverty. Nothing of that was true, in fact the house had several hundred dragons as safety, but the rumours did harm the trade in some way. Since it was not absolutely clear from where these lies come, Gard – and not only he – thought the source might be house Lugus, who, as the Blyths learned later, had a new heir which in the meantime had visited the Twins to find support (but not with much success it seems).
Paedrig did not very much during this time – the wounds he suffered during the capture of the Bloodrider immobilize him for almost two weeks.
Eric on the other hand was busy with his task to managing the preparations for the fleet and the recruitment of the men which would be needed, and he had also to manage his own business. The commander of his small personal guard was also involved in the recruiting, since he was one of the few people at Dragonport with experience in real naval warfare. Gard tried to reduce this problem by searching in the archives after information about earlier pirates and sea-battles. He found something, but not much. But he wasn’t absolutely preoccupied with that problem – in addition he started two more or less secret “operations”.
First, he made contact with his aunt Lady Visennya Buckwell in King’s landing. Since Gard’s Bastard-nephew who was hidden with his mother at Eaglewood was growing and in perhaps two months would reach the age of half a year, the Lord decided that soon he would be healthy enough to send him away into the south together with his mother. There he could grow without any chance to be instrumented as “heir” or propaganda-tool against house Blyth by angering the Dannetts (the father of the bastard, Gard’s brother Viserion, was married to a Dannett-girl which died during her own pregnancy, creating some rumours about the behaviour of her husband) and discrediting the deceased Lord Viserion. Gard reserved 20 dragons for the transport, to “silencing” Septa Jonelle and to guaranty mother and child a living under Visenyas surveillance. He was for now not sure what later should be done with his “nephew” – this would be a problem for the future.
Second he sends a letter to the Wall, together with a generous gift of 30 dragons. In fact he see the Nightwatch more as a protection against the wildlings (less against Others, snarks or grumkins), and he was aware that the black brothers had fought small-scale-warfare for thousands of years. He asked if they may send a brother to train the scouts of the border watch in which he was involved in and if not (given the fact they had swear not to intervene) at least sent scripts from their written memories of centuries of counter-guerrilla against foes which have much in common with the clansmen of the Mountains of Moon. Of course it would need time to get answer to this letter…
Alyanna was also busy, mostly in secret as it was her nature. She went on with her researches about magical phenomenons, spending quite a lot of her money for that and other operations. She learned something about old ritual places, today nothing more than stones with withered runes, carvings and faded pictures nobody of the civilized people could understand, and about a remaining Weirwood and some tales about the children of the forest who used the trees to look through their eyes. There were also some more frightening stories about a specific clan in the mountains, called Shadowcats. Some tales report they were the remnants of people who flee the North during the Long Night, or come to the south as allies or soldiers of the Others. There were also rumours they still were preparing for a coming war either against or in support of the ‘old enemy’, or that they had to watch over some ancient dark secrets. She discussed that with Elen, but got no further information.
About Maester Roderick, which had searched after information about magic in the late Targaryan-years she learned little new. It seems that his report never reached Oldtown, but that he left for King’s Landing. Perhaps this might be a trace to follow…
The young lady also spend money to spread (with growing success) poisoned rumours about the Lugus, about their intrigues and acts of brutality against their own kind in past and present, to reducing their chances to ally or intermarry with any of the local families.
Alyanna also cared for her own future. Realizing that she someday would have to marry she started collecting information and secrets of potential grooms. She hoped, that in that way she could prevent an unwanted marriage and to decide, which would be the best candidate for her. She also won a secret ally in her sister in law – for the promise to support Meera in securing her position as “first lady” in Dragonport, with even more influence than Gard’s mother. Alyanna used the chance also to influence Meera’s opinion about Gard in a positive way (other than her easily influenced and seduced brother she did stay a little sceptical towards her sister in law’s loyalty and feelings towards Gard).
In the meantime news arrive that Tygor Wyl and Iris Dannett would marry soon. Since the celebration should be with some entertainment including a “fighting hunt” – a hunt in a controlled area were dogs and dangerous animals would set free and would be challenged by the hunters.
It seems that most of the local houses get only information, no invitation (perhaps because of the…colourful…past of the bride), but house Blyth of Dragonport was invited. Following Gard’s order, Eric and Paedrig dealt very well with one part of the present for the couple – collecting some animals for the hunt. Two strong bulls were bought by Eric for a good amount of money, and Paedrig with the help of Loren and Wulf – the two huntsmen of the castle – organized a smaller hunt in which three ferocious boars/ sows were captured. Meera and Alyanna collected some jewellery and clothing for the bride. House Blyth would send a greater delegation – Lord Gard, his wife and sister, his uncle, some guards and so on. The old Lady stayed at home to keep an eye on the situation in Dragonport (and secretly because she wants not to be under pressure to show harmony with her daughter in law). Gard ordered the troops being carefully during his (short) absence. The travel was without mayor events, even the animals were transported without problems. After arrival these presents were kept under surveillance by the Dannetts in cages in an old barn.
Dannett Hall was a smaller fortress than Starbone or Dragonport, defended only by palisade and wall, with an old, dark, strong and perhaps a little bit shabby stone keep. While the event was a lucky one, Adham Dannett still seem not really happy (surely because of his health), and also his sister stays calm.
Other guests were the Arans – Lord Vickon Aran with his granddaughter Elyssa – and the Faith represented by septa Jonelle from Eaglewood. Eric used this opportunity to renew his contact with the septa which was an important trading-partner of him. Meera had her own agenda towards the faith and used the coming days to win the septa as an ally in her secred plans to remove Lady Fiana Blyth permanently from power and any influence towards Gard. Although she soon had to realize that Jonelle was a formidable foe, she won some support for the promise to influence Gard in the way Jonelle wishes.
Also house Falkirk was present at the feast, because they were a long-time ally of the Dannetts – a friendship that has cooled down a little bit since the relations between Dannett and Blyth improved in the last months. The head of house Falkirk, Lord Edwyn did show swiftly how much he dislikes the Blyth’s by insulting Eric without real reason. His sister Rhaenyra, a silent young girl, did have better manners, but avoided contact with the party (mainly with Alyanna, which was of course present in the circle of the younger noblewomen).
Gard used the time after arrival to discuss with Lord Aran some matters. While he get some support for his planes of an amnesty for pirate defectors, he was also somehow driven in the corner by Lord Aran and convinced to try to end the old feud with the Falkirks, perhaps – this was Lord Aran’s idea – by an marriage between Alyanna and Edwyn or Torrhen. Gard agreed that he would discuss calming the waves and trying to find an agreement, but was not willing to press things forward for a marriage. After all he suspected the Falkirk’s of having something to do with earlier raids against the lands of the Blyth and the death of his brother – and before he honestly thought about a man as potential groom for his sister he need to trust him in some way. But he surely wanted to find an agreement with the Falkirk’s in the defence against the pirates. Gard also agreed in supporting Lord Arans plan in wedding Elyssa to Adham, although he mentioned potential problems given the fact that he thought the girl was still young and secretly in love with Torrhen Falkirk. He later discussed the matter with his wife, asking for her opinion (after all she was the aunt of Elyssa and daughter of Lord Aran, and he was interested in her advice). Meera was not sure and mentioned, that Adhan would perhaps be also a good groom for Alyanna, a marriage which could improve the relations between both houses and lead to Alyanna being lady of house Dannet in a not to distant future, even if that would mean to disturb the plans of house Aran.
Alyanna in the meantime had mainly conversations with Elyssa, which she knows well from the time of the marriage of her brother. She had not difficulties to find out that Elyssa was a bit afraid of being “on the market” – to be married soon to the Falkirks or Dannetts. Alyanna agrees secretly with that fears (knowing, that she was in a similar situation, but trusting her abilities to manipulate the situation). She for herself had for now no clear “favourite” potential groom…
The local nobles were not the only guests worth of notice. A visitor from the Twins was awaited, but he arrived late – Lord Edwyn Frey, a pale, unhappy man with no charisma, who was of course welcomed with respect by all. With him and his men a hedge-knight arrives Dannett Hall, named Orwin Kettleblack. Alyanna and Eric noticed that something on this guy worried the bride. Both did know not much about the Kettleblack’s, only that some of them live around King’s Landing and that the family was unimportant. Alyanna who thought he may know Iris from her time as prostitute at King’s Landing had some suspicions. It would be very strange that such a man by “accident” arrives at just this time. She suspected him of being perhaps instrumented/ sent by the Lugus to piss in the celebration-wine, so to speak. So she sent her lady-in-waiting to spy after him, and hired a stable boy to do the same. That brought not much information, but clearly Kettleblack was very interested in learning more about the castle – examining the stables and the palace but also the wall and the gate. This strengthens Alyanna’s worries. She decided to inform her uncle about what she found out, and he had the idea to perhaps drink something with the hedge-knight to search for further information. Both agreed also that Alyanna should talk with Iris to warn her (not only with altruistic reasons, but if the Lugus were behind that all, they were enemies of the Blyth too).
Before any further could happen, the situation took a dramatic twist. Suddenly there was yelling and screams outside the castle. Both Gard and Eric (who noticed this first) rushed to the wall. On that way Eric had some worries that it might be an attack by the Lugus or something like this, while Gard cursed himself that he had not speak with the Dannett’s to keep a watchful eye on the cages of the animals – he thought they might be a easy target for any saboteur. When they reached the wall his worries proofed all to true. A huge brown bear hat broken out, peoples flew while the predator seems uncertain to follow them or to feed on a human body which lay on the ground. Gard asked Eric to send half of the Blyth-soldiers outside for help while the other half and his personal guard should protect Eric and the ladies. Than he jumped down from the wall, shouting to distract the bear from possible other prey. This worked all too well and both opponents meet each other. While Gard suffered some serious injuries, he was able to slay the animal with his sword. After the corps was brought away and the situation calmed down a little it became clear that some children from the village had angered the bear by picking him with sticks and throwing stones into his cage, and finally he broke out, killing one boy. While Gard still believed in sabotage and warned about this (and further acts like this), Eric and the Dannetts believe more in an accident.
Gard was treated by the master of the Dannetts and praised by some men and women, but others like his uncle and wife (which seemed worried) mentioned it would be better if he had send his men ant not – as often – joined the fight as first man. He agreed to some degree to that critic.
Meanwhile Alyanna joined the young ladies again. She was able to speak secretly with Iris, wanting to warn her about Kettleblack. Iris revealed that she did know Orwin and some of his brothers from her time in the Jade Spring brothel in King’s Landing and had a bad opinion of him. She was worried he might want to blackmail her but did not want to involve her family or groom in that matter. Alyanna asked if she could help and Iris asked for help to bribe Orwin to leave before the marriage and any possible scandal. But she warned it would be too dangerous for a young woman to speak with him alone. She gave Alyanna money and jewellery worth more than 20 dragons. The young Blyth lady decided to ask her uncle for help, giving him a greater sum of money (she decided not to give away the jewellery to have something to charm Iris or remember her how much she owes her). Eric thought he would have time during the feast in the evening and want to make sure that Kettleblack would not return for a second blackmail – so he must persuade or intimidate a reckless warrior…
The feast was well organized. Erick sent the leader of his personal guard to made first contact with Orwin, lying that he was thinking about hiring him. He was also busy in another way, helping his nephew who was – still injured but present – under pressure from Edwyn Frey. The older man wanted more information about the feud between Blyth and Lugus (who did have some land near the twins) and seemed a little bit concerned about the ambitions of house Aran. Edwyn Frey was also seeking help for a possible marriage between house Frey and house Dannett, offering some financial support for house Blyths naval project if an agreement could be found. Gard was not very happy with the situation – he had promised lord Aran already some support or thought about a marriage between house Blyth and Dannett, and he did know enough about the possible brides Edwyn Frey mentioned ( Zia, daughter of Tytos Frey, a maid of around thirteen, Amerei Frey called Gatehouse Ami for her freeness in giving her virtues or Tyta Frey called “the maid” because she was still unwed with 28 years) to consider most of them as not very optimal for Adham. He did not say this open (Eric did, what lead to some trouble and a serious warning by Edwyn that Lord Frey would not humour such sayings), but refused to give a positive signal to the Frey. Secretly he thought about revealing all this to lord Aran – after all his liege-lord and father of his wife.
Alyanna meanwhile was not SO busy, showing perfect manners, keeping an eye on the guests but kept herself a little bit in the background, secretly supporting the appearance of Meera and Elyssa.
After Edwyn Frey had left, Eric changed his attention towards Orwin Kettleblack, but was unable to manoeuvre him into drunkenness (instead he himself and his personal guard get slightly drunken). But he get far enough to leave the feast for a more secret talk with Kettleblack on the castle wall, although he did know that this was not without danger. But he was confident of his abilities and the alertness of the Dannett watchmen.
The conversation was not easy given the fact that both men were unwilling to take the first step and speaking clear (and Eric was slightly drunken), but in the end he was able to bribe Orwin to leave Dannett Hall immediately and he got also the name of the man – a merchantman in King’s Landing with connections to the Westlands – who tipped Orwin about the possibility to blackmail Iris. It seems that the suspicion that the Lugus are behind Orwins travel seem right. Sadly on the next morning Eric, who had gone on with drinking after the conversation, could not remember the name of the merchantmen (The player forget the name and also failed in an inPlay knowledge test to remember). Orwin had left during the night, so that this possible problem was gone, perhaps forever.
Alyanna used the evening to made first carefully contacts with the Falkirks (after all Edwyn Falkirk was one of her potential grooms), but also she was treated with some resentments.
On the next morning, the fighting hunt started. The main attraction – the bear – was already killed on the day before but there were still some wild boars, dogs, bulls and wolves which fight in several rounds against each other or were killed by hunters. While there were some injuries, no hunter were hurt seriously. Adham Dannett took part in the fights against the will of his father – what lead to some arguments between lord and heir. Gard – still handicapped by the injuries from the day before – did not take part in the fight, but ordered his men to stay alert if someone tries to sabotages the event, but nothing happened.
After the fighting there was again the possibility of conversation. Gard secretly informed Lord Aran about the plans of the Frey’s and about their suspicions against house Aran. He for himself made clear that he saw his loyalty at first smitten towards his immediate liege-lord and father of his wife. Alyanna did continue in her subtle work to improve the opinion of lord Falkirk towards her – but this project clearly needs more time. Gard and Eric had also some contact with lord Falkirk but he seems to be unwilling to compromise. He had no good opinion about the naval project of Dragonport, about the border guard which was created with the help of house Blyth and was not ready to forget the old feuds. On the other hand Gard was still not trust the Falkirks that they had nothing to do with the raids on his land in the past. Even to mention a common enemy – “Pirron Strife” alias Joren Ripon of Twinwood – did not help, because lord Falkirk began to realize that house Blyth of Dragonport may have very personal reasons to hunt Joren/ Pirron (also he did not find out which).
In the hours after the hunt Gard and Eric finally meet Lord Edwyn Frey. The emissary of the Twins did his best to incite them against lord Aran. They planed to tell him in a polite way that they do not want to support house Frey’s wedding-plans with house Dannett, but want to convince him that it would be also in the interest of the Twins to charge the pirates in the Bite. They had soon to realize that Edwyn was a superior negotiator. Gard decided that they had to cancel the discussion, since he was not willing to take a position against his liege-lord and father of his wife. That left house Dannett in a difficult position. Surely the Frey’s will not support the naval plans with money and they had realized that house Blyth of Dragonport stands loyal to house Aran – if the suspicions against Lord Aran ever result in open or covered conflict, it is very likely that house Blyth will be involved on the weaker side…
The wedding continued, undisturbed from all this secret whispering and elbow-rubbing. It seems clear, that bride and groom were quiet happy with each other. The wedding itself was a rare moment in which politic and hostility was absent, at least on the surface, and all joined voices to congratulate the couple and drink, dance and eat.
On the next day the guests broke apart. There was still some trouble inside house Dannett since it becomes clear that Adham planed accompany his sister and brother-in-law (at least for a part of the journey) when they travel to Dorne to claim Tygor Wyl’s birthright by force (with the support of Dannett-soldiers). So any wedding-plan had to come to a halt (it seems so that the old lord Dannett was much more attracted to wed his son with the Twins than the potential groom, but he could not go on with his plans, similar as lord Aran).
House Aran and Blyth travel home together. Lord Aran was worried about the mistrust and plans of the Twins, but while he was not absolutely satisfied with the support he get from the Blyths he surely trust their loyalty towards him. Both houses said each other farewell in best relations, knowing that they soon will have to discuss important matters in their campaign against the pirates.
When the Blyth reached their castle, a mysterious “gift” awaited them – a precious dagger, exactly the same type as Eric had got in King’s Landing during his last visit. The weapon was found inside the castle one day before Lord Gard came back. Instead of the glass-flacon with poison the dagger had an anonymous letter inside. It said that instead of the spreading of evil rumours and covered intrigues it might be better to seek peace and harmony. Further hostility would lead only to more suffering on both sides etc…an offering of ceasefire from the Lugus, so much seem clear – but how will house Blyth decide, and how far could the offer be trusted?