Campaign Summary – Fire on the Mountainside
The players gathered at Coldwater Rush to participate in a Feast honoring Lord Eliath’s victory over the highlanders two years past. At the feast, the players were introduced to some of the more important personalities of the surrounding lands:
Andar Royce – Lord of Runestone: Andar is a well-respected and loved figure in the Vale. A physically large man, he is boisterous and loves a good party. He is technically the Liege Lord of the Coldwater family, but looks on them as equals due to his long friendship with Eliath. Tragan even convinced a slightly tipsy Andar to tell the party a tale of when he and Eliath attended a tourney together in Gulltown in their youth. Eliath had insisted that they practice their lance work in the middle of the night while stone drunk. Unfortunately for the young Lord Waynwood, Eliath (according to Andar) is “an even better lance when he’s shit-faced”. This drew a round of laughter from those who know Eliath, who is outwardly a quiet and reserved man.
Sigmund Hersy – Lord of New Keep: Sigmund Hersy is a bear of a man, with a huge brown beard and the gut to match. He is disheveled and unkempt, but a steadfast ally and respected for his ferocity in war. He formed a rapport with Valen, Ser Daniel’s retainer and the two shared more than a few toasts in honor of fallen friends.
Horton Redfort – Lord of Redfort: Horton is a young, dashing Knight with a quick smile and an even quicker wit. He took a liking to Alayne immediately and contended with several other guests for her attention throughout the Feast.
Harys Belmore – Lord of Strongsong: Lord Harys is an elderly gentleman who braved the journey despite his frailty to do honor to the Coldwater Family. Harys and Berric (Eliath’s father) were great friends in their youths and Harys would not have missed the Feast for all the gold in Casterly Rock.
Damon and Mikael Tollett: These young Tolletts attended the Feast in place of their Lord Uncle who regretfully could not attend. Identical twins, the young lads enjoyed themselves immensely and competed with Lord Redfort for Alayne’s attention.
During the Feast, the celebration was interrupted by a toast offered by Lord Royce. In an uncharacteristically solemn tone, he asked that everyone raise their glasses to honor the valiant dead of all the Houses present, killed in the wars and battles of their troubled times. The players were taken aback by the display of emotion from Lord Andar, and it was one of the best moments of the evening.
Following the toast, Eliath thanked everyone for coming and surprised everyone by naming Ser Jonathan as the new Captain of the Coldwater House Guard – the old Captain, grown old and frail and long past retirement age, pinned the Captain’s cloak on Jonathan himself and everyone celebrated the honor shown to the young knight. More toasts were offered – one by the young Tolletts in honor of Lord Eliath’s victory and generosity, which seemed to please Eliath and convince the players that perhaps the rift between Coldwater and Tollett can yet be healed.
After the Feast, the players were summoned to Lord Eliath’s chambers (the first time together in one room as a group) and told that they each had a task to complete in support of a larger mission being given to Tragan.
-Tragan was ordered to travel Northeast to speak with Symond Templeton, Knight of Ninestars, and secure rights to collect several tons of sand from Templeton’s shore line for use as mortar in a tower Lord Eliath has planned to construct.
-Jonathan was ordered to accompany Tragan as his personal guard and also to use his talent for diplomacy to ask the smallfolk what they think of Symond’s rule.
-Daniel was ordered to assess Symond’s standing armies in terms of fighting capability, armament, and discipline.
-Alayne was ordered to broach the topic of a possible marriage between Symond himself and Elsa, Tragan’s younger sister.
-Jeffery was ordered to act as guide for the group, taking them on the safest route while also surveying Templeton’s lands to form a more updated picture of the Knight’s geographical advantages and disadvantages.
-Wilhelm was ordered to assess Ninestars Keep itself and find any possible weaknesses in its design. Wilhelm was also tasked with ensuring the correct type and price of the sand to be used.
The journey to Ninestars was fairly uneventful – I took the time to describe the beauty of the countryside to the group, as I imagine the Vale to be one of the most serene and naturally magnificent areas of Westeros. The group has only begun to establish rapport with one another so conversation was light, but friendly. On the second night of the journey, Jeffery heard something in the woods and went to investigate. He found a large bear attempting to get at a honeycomb far up in the forest canopy. The bear heard his approach and when it turned to peer at Jeffery, he saw that the bear was missing an eye. This was a small detail but will come back as an important clue in the future.
Upon arriving at Ninestars, the group found the Holding to be immaculate and well-tended. The Keep itself was in pretty bad condition but as Wilhelm found, it’s more due to the lack of expertise in the Templeton Household than from any purposeful neglect. Ser Jonathan parted ways with the group in order to speak with some of the smallfolk and found Ser Symond to be a well loved figure among the people. Despite his young age, Symond has built a reputation for justice, prudence, and generosity.
With everyone keeping an eye on their respective tasks, it fell largely to Tragan and Alayne to deal with the Knight himself.
They found Ser Symond to be a man of great courtesy and (at least outwardly) a friendly, respectful individual. Upon introducing himself, he immediately began to subtly seduce Alayne, who was no match for his courtly chivalry and withering charm. Symond also spoke very highly of House Coldwater, and expressed a strong support for the actions taken by Lord Eliath against the clans. He personally thanked Tragan for his service in the battle, stating that the people of Ninestars were greatly indebted to him for the years of peace that have settled on their lands. Tragan, in a moment of brilliant roleplaying, countered that House Templeton also has a history of bravery in war, citing the valor of the Knight of Ninestars at the Battle of the Redgreass Field, fighting Daemon Blackfyre himself in defense of King and Country nearly 70 years ago. This greatly honored and impressed Ser Symond, and would come to greatly affect their discussions.
After everyone had gathered in the Keep for dinner, Symond asked the group if they would share some tales of their adventures. Tragan and Daniel told their versions of the Battle with the Clans, with several other members adding details as they went along. Of note was a brief bit of in-character squabbling that took place between Tragan and Daniel. Daniel is a somewhat arrogant man who doesn’t like to be left out when recounting the story of the battle. He interjected himself one too many times for Tragan’s liking and was subtly given the hint to let his superior do the talking. Instead of doing so he took a verbal cheap shot at Tragan citing his youth as a negative and implying that Tragan never had to do his Lord’s “dirty work”. Tragan let the insult slide and continued on, deftly changing the subject by asking Symond if he would share more about his famous aforementioned ancestor, which Symond was happy to do.
When things moved on to business, the party became very perplexed when Ser Symond offered to allow the rights to dig and even the sand itself for no charge whatsoever. This took Tragan off guard, who didn’t want to be “indebted” to Symond and insisted that some form of compensation be given. At this point, we began an intrigue with Tragan trying to persuade Symond that a charge was justified and Symond trying to convince Tragan that he should accept the gift.
Though Tragan was no match for Symond in the intrigue, even backed up by Alayne and other party members, the Intrigue itself was a trap. Symond was on the verge of winning the intrigue when he “surrendered” on the condition that Lord Tragan, instead of paying with coin, do him a favor “from one Knight to another”. Tragan, eager to avoid losing the intrigue, agreed.
With the agreement to assist Ser Symond officially made, Tragan returned to the group and waited for all of the servants and retainers to leave the Keep hall. In a low whisper, Tragan outlined what had been asked of the group – that they find and “deal with” a man named Aiden who has been spreading rumors that Ser Symond played a role in his father’s untimely death. Everyone in the group expressed reservations about simply murdering the man without finding out more information, so the plan was made to visit Aiden’s home in the morning and interrogate him there. Tragan in particular displayed contempt for Symond’s suggestion that the party use poison.
In the morning, the group (consisting of Tragan, Jeffery, Daniel, and Valen) set out for Aiden’s home. They found his wife and children at home but were informed that Aiden was at work in the mine. Sensing a possible ruse, Jeffery found a hiding spot nearby in order to watch the house while the other three travelled to the mine, located almost a mile outside of town.
Upon entering the mine grounds, the group soon learned that Aiden was in fact the foreman of the mine operation, and a respected boss. Aiden agreed to meet with the visitors in his office. Ser Tragan wasted no time and immediately began to question Aiden about Ser Symond and his opinion of the Knight. Uneager to speak ill of his superior, Aiden resisted at first but Tragan convinced him (a simple intrigue) to share his true feelings.
Aiden told the group that Ser Symond was overall a good sovereign – but that he cared much more for appearances and his own honor than for the welfare of the people. The farmers and merchants he treated well in order to maintain an air of generosity and prosperity to anyone who visited the Keep, but the miners were a different story. Symond paid them far less than they deserved, and placed unreasonable demands and quotas on the workers. This created unsafe conditions in the mine which had led to several recent deaths. With more coaxing from the group, Aiden also admitted that he had deliberately caused a recent cave-in to send a message to Ser Symond, but that he did so to protect the lives of his workers.
At this point, Tragan confronted Aiden about the accusation of the rumors. Aiden denied it and the party believed him, so Tragan divulged the true nature of their mission – that they had been sent to assassinate Aiden in order to silence him. Tragan proposed a new plan – to smuggle Aiden away from Templeton lands along with his family. Aiden was struck by the offer, and seemed confused as to why the Coldwaters wouldn’t simply kill him in order to curry favor with Symond. In a wave of guilt, he admitted to Daniel that he had in fact spread the rumors about Ser Symond killing his father, but that he was drunk at the time and such accusations were commonplace in the area.
The party then carried out their plan. Jeffery spent a few hours hunting in the nearby woods, taking a large buck and draining its blood into a spare water skin. The other party members visited briefly with Aiden and gave instructions that he and his family should be ready to flee at midnight. After dark, the group evaded town sentries on their way to Aiden’s home.
Aiden and his family were whisked away quietly and led to a goat trail by Jeffery, while Daniel, Valen, and Tragan ransacked the house, emptying the red contents of the water skin in creative, gruesome, and altogether convincing ways.
While leading the family into the hills, Jeffery noticed an older gentleman had wandered outside to take a piss and noticed them. Though fearful of discovery, he decided it was not worth taking the man’s life over and let him go. (This will be crucial in the future). In a slightly humorous turn of events, one of Aiden’s neighbors came calling when he heard the ruckus in Aiden’s home – the party ceased the racket when they heard his voice asking if everything was ok. After a moment, the neighbor shouted that Aiden could sleep on his floor if he and “the Mrs.” were having a spat. The party managed to stifle their laughter, picturing the diminutive Mrs. Aiden physically abusing the large miner with pots and dishes.
The group met up again in the hills and managed to evade being seen by town sentries through Jeffery’s expert maneuvering. They made a hasty camp and at dawn, Tragan, Daniel, and Jeffery rode back to Ninestars Keep while Valen stayed behind to watch over the family. At the Keep, Ser Symond received the Coldwaters warmly and inquired as to the success of their mission. Tragan stated that Aiden would “trouble you no more”, which greatly pleased Ser Symond. The terms of the agreement were finalized, and the party set out again, heading westward.
Back at camp, Valen was doing his best to entertain Aiden’s two little ones. They were at first frightened of the big, scary, scarred man but once he tossed the young one a few feet in the air, the two little girls found a new best friend. Unfortunately, a pair of poachers had sighted the party the previous night, and took advantage of the split party and attempted to ambush Valen and kidnap the family.
In a stunning display of martial prowess, Valen sensed the ambush and slew the poachers as if they were insects.
This frightened the family at first, but once they realized the quality of their protectors, they slept much easier. The rest of the party returned and debated the identity of the two brigands, but concluded they were simply poachers that had seriously picked the wrong fight.
The journey westward was uneventful for the next few days. However, before dawn on the fourth day, Ser Daniel was on watch enjoying the sunrise. It took him a moment to notice that the sun was rising in the west…startled, he soon realized he was staring not at the dawn, but at a massive fire in the distance. Waking the rest of the group, the party mounted up and sped toward the hazy glow, which by their orientation could only be the village of Emberpool. Cresting a rise, the party encountered the horrific sight of a village being mercilessly put to the torch by raiders. Without hesitation, Tragan ordered an attack and the party fell upon the raiders.
Though the raiders were several dozen in number, they had not expected veteran Knights as opposition and the party cut through them as if through practice dummies. When enough of the raiders had been slain, the remainder broke and fled to the hills. The party took stock of the village and did their best to put out fires and help the wounded. Jeffery posted himself as a lookout on the roof of the inn, and noticed a few hours later that a column of horsemen were headed toward the town, with bound men being dragged behind them.
Tragan ordered a hasty defense to be prepared and met the column, who turned out to be a sellsword company under the command of one Brenton Blackhart. The horsemen were accompanying a caravan southward when they noticed the fire and rode to investigate – on their way their scout captured several fleeing prisoners who had stopped to rest along their flight. Brenton reasoned the situation and stated his admiration for what the Knights had done, and offered the prisoners as a gift.
The party did their best to interrogate the prisoners, who were obviously Clansmen. The prisoners were unwilling to give any information to the party despite threats of violence and even death.
Brenton Blackhart noticed the exchange and with a smile, showed Valen and Daniel “how this is done”.
Taking a long dagger out of the camp fire, Brenton approached one of the 6 prisoners and kicked his knee in, breaking it and sending the poor soul toppling to the ground. With machine-like motion, he grabbed the man by the hair and yanked him up, pressing the red-hot dagger blade to the man’s face. When he peeled the dagger from the Clansman’s face, a burning layer of skin stayed on the knife – perhaps motivated by the blood-chilling screams of agony from their kinsman, the remaining prisoners suddenly became much more cooperative and revealed that they were from the Moon Brother Clan, the same Clan that was all but destroyed two years earlier at Redmount.
The village of Emberpool lies on Hersy lands, and a messenger was dispatched to inform Lord Hersy of the raid. Two days later, Hersy himself arrived with a strong force to relieve the Coldwaters. Lord Hersy was deeply moved by the brave actions of the party, and vowed that he would always be a true friend to House Coldwater.
Ready to head home, Daniel inquired to Brenton about the possibility of Blackhart and his company working for House Coldwater.
Smiling, Brenton informed him that his services would not come cheap.
Jonathan’s mission was to gauge the temperament and loyalty of Templeton’s smallfolk, so he spent a few days in the village, frequenting its two inns and striking up conversation. He brought a large quantity of goods from Coldwater Rush and loosened tongues by offering very good deals. Though he lost a fair amount of coin in the trade-off, he shrewdly did not give the items away, as that would be seen with suspicion.
The farmers and merchants at the Inn of the Iron Stars were a rowdy, celebratory bunch. They seemed prosperous and overall very happy with Ser Symond as their protector (remember, Ser Symond is not technically a Lord but rather a landed knight). Even when drunk and showered with gifts, the patrons did not reveal anything negative about Symond.
The next night, Jonathan visited The Anvil, a tavern just outside town on the road leading to the town’s mines. The patrons at this establishment were dirty, ragged, and worn due to the harsh conditions and hard labor of the mines. At first no one would really speak of Ser Symond, but Jonathan found a table of miners that had imbibed a little too much and were willing to say what was really on their minds.
According to these men, Ser Symond is not respected at all by the miners, woodsmen, and trappers that frequent the outskirts and open land outside the village. The miners especially have a strong dislike for Symond’s treatment of the miners, which involves a series of unreasonable quotas, low pay, and dangerous conditions in the mines. After a few more drinks, one man in particular catches Ser Jonathan’s attention when he mentions Symond’s father – who would “never have stood for this”. When pressed, the man offers his opinion in a hushed voice – that Symond murdered his elder brother and father in order to seize control of the holding.
Spoiler – the truth is much more complicated. Symond’s elder brother and father always had a tenuous relationship. The brother, Avery, often challenged his father’s authority and was as stubborn as a mule. Their arguments grew more and more heated as Avery approached adulthood. The situation came to a head when Ser Haeden (the father) informed Avery that his bride had already been chosen and that he was to be married in a few months time.
Enraged, Avery stormed into his father’s chambers and refused. This infuriated Haeden, who saw this as a direct challenge to his authority. Though Haeden loved his son, he could not allow him to simply do as he pleased – in his eyes, Avery needed to learn to put the interests of his family above his own. Despite the cries of his wife, Haeden told Avery that refusal meant banishment from Templeton lands, hoping to finally show Avery the severity of his decision. Feeling utterly betrayed, Avery overturned a nearby table and flew into a rage. Haeden tried to seize his son but the entanglement soon became a brawl. Avery delivered a powerful punch, sending his father reeling. Haeden then drew his sword and demanded that Avery submit. Seizing a mace from Haeden’s own weapon rack, Avery charged.
Symond, then only 16 years old, arrived just in time to see Avery deliver an overhanded strike to Haeden’s unprotected head. The blow was partially blocked by Haeden’s parry but was enough to end the fight. The screams of their mother filled the hall, and Avery’s mace fell from his fingers. Stunned into inaction, Symond could only watch as Avery, tears streaming down his face, ran from the hall.
Haeden was alive but near death. The blow had caused terrible damage to the side of his head, and the wound bled fiercely. The maester was summoned but little hope remained. Symond stood vigil over his father for 3 full days, expecting him to die at any moment. Somehow, the old knight held on. Though the wound eventually healed, Haeden was never the same. His wits had left him forever, leaving behind a shell of a man, unable to speak or understand. Though alive, he never regained the use of his legs or left arm. He has been kept alive by the constant care of his loving wife and son these past 6 years.
Of Avery, nothing is known – he rode out on his old garron and was never seen again. Symond still wishes to find his brother, to offer him forgiveness and a place in his household. Symond decided it best to announce that his father had died and his brother had offered his sword to a family in the Riverlands, yet the smallfolk spin their own tales.
Meanwhile, back in the Keep, Alayne had a lengthy intrigue with Ser Symond and mentioned that her cousin Elsa, younger sister to Tragan, is ready to wed. Ser Symond is interested but wants to meet his potential bride first, and reveals to Alayne (whom he has grown fond of) that House Redfort has also offered him a bride. Alayne then asks Symond to come to Coldwater Rush, so that he can meet Elsa and decide then.
Upon meeting Elsa, Ser Symond knew immediately this was to be his bride. She was everything he had dreamed of in a wife, displaying courtly nobility while possessing a regal beauty. The very night the party arrived, Symond expressed his wish to accept Alayne’s offer and marry Elsa as soon as Lord Eliath permitted. Given Eliath’s desire to make the wedding a real celebration, he insisted on a month to prepare.
Symond requested that Eliath allow his maester (played by Mark) to return to Ninestars with Symond and provide a special service. This service, unknown to all but maester Edric, was to provide comfort and care to Symond’s father whose health had recently deteriorated drastically. Symond asked that Edric take a vow of secrecy before revealing the truth, to which he agreed. The maester offered the dying man a generous portion of milk of the poppy, which greatly eased his pain before he died. Edric returned home after the service was provided, and when asked by Eliath about the service, kept his vow and revealed nothing to his master.
Preparations were made and the month flew by quickly. Lords from all over the region flocked to Coldwater Rush to attend the festivities. During this time, Wilhelm was tasked with caring for Aiden and his family, and also to keep them concealed from scrutiny. The other characters busied themselves with menial tasks and assisting the wedding preparations.
Alayne is very close to Elsa and noticed that she had been acting somewhat strange these last few weeks. Alayne originally believed Elsa was just nervous, but further investigation hinted at something else going on entirely. Alayne began to suspect that Elsa had been romantically involved with someone, but she had no idea who. Alayne’s suspicions were correct – Elsa has been involved with Lord Eliath’s new squire, the young Addam Waynwood. Meanwhile, Elsa discovered that she had become pregnant and sought the discrete assistance of Maester Edric (played by Mark). She approached him openly and demanded that he swear an oath of secrecy and give her medicine that will terminate the pregnancy so that she may wed her betrothed. Edric agrees but immediately informs Tragan of the situation. Tragan then seeks out his father’s council, and Eliath is furious to know the truth.
While preparations for the wedding feast are being made, several of the more outdoorsy party members accompany the hunting party which manages to bring down a boar. While on this little venture, Valen, Wilhelm, and Jeffery are introduced to the new Lord Belmore – old Ser Belmore has passed away and his eldest son, a huge man of strong reputation named Braxton has inherited.
Back at the Keep, Tragan, Eliath, and Edric debate what course of action to take regarding Elsa. Eliath finally concludes that the wedding will continue and that Elsa will be allowed to believe she has fooled everyone should the medicine work. Tragan secretly disagrees with this action and formulates his own plan to deal with the situation. Tragan fears that discovery of Elsa’s treachery will cause a scandal resulting in a great loss of prestige and respect for the family. After departing from Eliath’s company, he commands Edric to lace Elsa’s next dose of tea with a poison that will kill her. A cold move even for a Coldwater, Edric nevertheless obeys Tragan and the girl dies fitfully in her sleep.
The next morning, the Keep erupts into chaos as a serving girl discovers Elsa’s body and screams bloody murder. The party rushes to her room to discover that young Elsa is definitely dead. Taking control of the situation, Daniel orders the room sealed off and the crowd in the hallway dispersed. Tragan feigns outrage and the party is caught completely off guard by this development. And HERE is where it gets really interesting…
Unknown to the party, Lord Eliath Coldwater is a man of deeply conflicting faiths. He was raised a devout follower of the Seven, yet during his time in the East, he met a travelling horsemaster named Sullius. This young man had an incredible talent for breeding and training horses, yet he had an alterior motive when he accepted a position in Eliath’s employ. Sullius is an ordained Priest in the Red Temple of R’hllor, and seeks to spread his own faith to distant shores. When Eliath was gravely injured in the Mountains of the Moon while fighting against the clansmen, it was Sullius who promised Eliath a speedy recovery. Eliath’s own Maester had been unable to treat his wounds effectively, yet Sullius, through some art, had healed the Lord’s flesh and made him feel strong and youthful again. Since that time two years ago, Sullius has been teaching Eliath the mysteries of the Red God, and showing him images in the flames. One of these images was his own daughter, murdered in her sleep by a man she loved. (This is why it was so important for Eliath to discern Symond’s qualities as a man. Eliath didn’t believe the vision but nonetheless took it as a sign that he needed to find a good, moral man to take care of his daughter.)
When Eliath entered the bedchamber and saw the vision made manifest, he lost all faith in the Seven and became a true believer in Rh’llor. His vision had told him that the man responsible was someone she loved deeply, and so Eliath immediately suspected the young squire Addam Waynwood. He coldly summoned Addam, who arrived completely unaware of what had happened. When Addam saw the corpse, he collapsed in tears. Eliath told Addam that he was responsible, to which Addam only replied that he was sorry.
Eliath took this for an admission of guilt, which was convenient timing given that Ser Symond had then just arrived with sword in hand, demanding the name of the one responsible for killing his betrothed. Elaith motioned to the squire, who lay at the foot of the bed pleading for the mercy of the gods to forgive him for his sins (in his mind, his sin was sleeping with the girl, not killing her). Symond grabbed the squire by the throat, lifted him up, and plunged the blade through his heart, killing him instantly. Both Eliath and Tragan watched impassively, with the rest of the party shell shocked at what was happening before them, unaware of Tragan’s guilt.
Soon, after, Eliath and his new Chief Advisor Sullius gathered all of the religious tokens, relics, and ornaments from the Castle Sept and burned them in the Courtyard. Even Tragan was taken aback by this act and the party now began to piece together what was happening to Lord Eliath. Eliath commanded Valen to accompany him and his men to the Wood, where Valen was commanded to chop down and burn the Weirwood that served as a holy place for those of the Old Faith in Coldwater lands.
At the Keep, Tragan, Daniel, and Jonathan struggle to keep the other Lords from interfering with Eliath’s actions or discovering the truth of his new, startling conversion.
In the aftermath of Elsa’s death, a dark cloud settled over Coldwater Rush. Most of the nobles gathered for the wedding chose to leave rather than stay for the funeral service. Lord Eliath seemed not to take offense, but rather chose to keep to himself in the days following his daughter’s tragic end. As preparations for the funeral were being handled, Tragan called on his father to speak with him about the strange actions he had taken regarding the relics of the Keep. Eliath spoke to his son of his new faith, and explained that for years he had been a man of little regard for the gods, until he had met Sullius and witnessed the capabilities of his strange Lord of Light. Assuring his son that he was not insane or mad with grief, Eliath did much to soothe Tragan’s concerns for the impact this may have on the family. Before leaving, Eliath also informed his son that a message had arrived from King’s Landing – a son had been born to the King. In celebration of this joyous event, a grand tourney would be held in a few weeks time. The painful irony did not escape Tragan, who vowed to his father that he would represent his House well.
At the last minute, a runner arrived in Tragan’s quarters to let him know the funeral would take place in the courtyard, not in the Sept as is custom. Startled by this, he dressed quickly and entered the courtyard to find a huge pyre had been built with his sister’s body at its top. Of all the assembled Lords of the Vale who had come to attend the wedding, only Andar Royce and Sigmund Hersy remained. As the pyre was lit and the Red Priest Sullius began his incantations, Andar gave Tragan an intense look of disapproval, and rode off in disgust at the heathen ritual. Despite their personal misgivings, no one protested at the funeral as the body of Elsa Coldwater was given to R’hllor.
In two days Tragan, Daniel, Valen, Edric, and Jeffery all set out for the south. Of the group, only Edric had ever set foot in King’s Landing so the excitement was palpable as the journey began. Unfortunately the weather was uncooperative as spring rains drenched the poor travelers for days on end, turning the Kingsroad into a plodding, muck strewn path to what seemed a watery hell. After several days spent huddled around camp fires the group was eager to find shelter – and on the 5th night of their ride they found one. (At this point I borrowed heavily from both “The Road to King’s Landing” and “Peril at King’s Landing”, both of which I found to be excellent.)
At the inn the weary group found rooms and company in the form of a boisterous innkeep, a few travelling strangers, and an especially flirty bar wench. The group noticed a sick man by the fire but didn’t pay him much heed. After some conversation and a bit of gossip, the group retired for the evening.
At dawn Daniel awoke and noticed that of the 8 household guards they had brought with them, 3 were missing. After somewhat interrogating the inhabitants of the bar, the group discovered fresh tracks leading south along the road. Eager to find out what happened to their men, they mounted up and rode out with haste.
A mile or so down the road they entered the ambush. An arrow hissed from the trees and landed a few feet in front of Jeffery, who led the column. A voice called for them to “Stop, and throw down your weapons!” Tragan answered back that they would only surrender if his men were returned to him, to which the voice in the trees replied “Serves them right for getting drunk and making this job so easy!” As laughter echoed all around him, Tragan yelled “then they will get what they deserve!” and spurred his horse forward in a flash. The ambushers were taken completely by surprise and managed to only get off a few shots. Unfortunately for the group, one of those arrows downed Jeffery’s horse, and the group halted and combat begun.
Surrounded on one side by a rolling slope and on the other by a sheer rock face, arrows continued to rain down from the trees. A few ragged men charged forward with spears and axes but were no match for the mounted knights. Seeking to climb the cliff face, Tragan and Valen dismounted and used roots and rocks as handholds to scale up carefully. A few well rolled athletics checks gave them success. Meanwhile Daniel headed around the hill mounted, hoping to encircle the archers while Jeffery pinned them down with his own accurate fire. Once atop the hill however, Valen and Tragan encountered the unexpected. Standing before them in the treeline was a fully armored warrior with a green willow tree on his tabard. He strode forward confidently and sent Tragan flying back and over the cliff with a devastating blow from his greatsword. Valen had little time to finish climbing the cliff before he too was grievously wounded and fell back down the cliff. Luckily Jeffery was waiting with a precise bowshot that clanged off the Willow Knight’s helm and sent him back into the trees.
Ser Daniel, arrogant as ever, tried to challenge the knight alone, but discovered that he had another well armed ally nearby (his squire). Together, the knight and squire were more than a match for Daniel and I did my best as narrator to get that idea across to the player by making liberal use of several powerful weapon abilities that despite his high numbers in fighting, Daniel lacks. A stalemate ensued (I admit I did somewhat pull a punch or two in order to keep the story moving) and eventually the Willow Knight and his squire retreated, having seen their own men killed.
Recouping, Daniel insisted that the dead ambushers be strung up and hanged along the road as a warning to anyone else prone to thievery.
Now given the time to think and discuss the ambush, Edric informed the rest of the group that the Willow Knight is a man named Allard Ryger, who fought for the Maelys Blackfyre during the war of the Ninepenny Kings. Since the defeat of his sworn master, he has returned as a robber knight, vowing to fight to the last for his cause. A few miles down the road, Jeffery finds four dead bodies in a ditch beside the road. All seemed to be of fighting age and vigor, and were apparent victims of a similar ambush. Jonathan searched the bodies and discovered a small cloak broach depicting 9 black bats on a field of yellow – the sigil of House Whent.
Upon entering King’s Landing the retinue of House Coldwater was overwhelmed by the sheer size and magnificence of the city, overcrowded and bursting with excitement and activity. Alayne and Jon, eager to see the sights, quickly broke off on their own leaving the others to deal with setting up the pavilion. As the googly-eyed, small town visitors walked the streets of King’s Landing they were accosted by all manner of city dweller from shifty merchants to begging children to well-mannered courtesans to bawdy whores. (This environment was a radical change for them, and they showed their excitement in character as well as out!)
Both Jon and Alayne were in high spirits and eager to spend some coin and meet new and interesting people. They made their way to the Great Sept and then on to the Street of Silk for a drink and some gossip. Alayne, being the dutiful and gracious sister she is, suggested a classy looking bordello with beautiful specimens lining the balconies. Jon could barely contain his mirth as she led him in. The establishment was indeed very respectable, and the ladies of the highest quality. Jon was immediately drawn to a honey-haired girl serving wine to what appeared to be the owner, a hook nosed foreigner dressed as extravagantly as a peacock. Jon boldly introduced himself, and the girl responded eagerly to his attempts at friendly conversation. Her intelligence and charm immediately won over both Jon and Alayne, who were impressed by her wit as well as her surprisingly regal bearing.
Outside the walls Daniel and the others set up the pavilion while discussing news with several other knights and free riders. One interesting bit of rumor was that the grand melee would take on an interesting theme at this tourney – 7 teams for the 7 kingdoms, which each region fielding a team of 7 champions to determine the winner as a group rather than an individual. This idea was supposedly the young King Aerys’s doing, and the city was already buzzing with excitement over the event. Ser Daniel was bound and determined to be named as a competitor for the Vale, and soon set out to make arrangements. Tragan was surprised to see the young Tollett twins Michael and Damon, who sought him out to deliver a gift from Sigmund Hersy – an exquisite dagger carved from dragon bone. Sigmund was unable to attend the tourney but wished the Coldwaters the best of luck in his absence.
The Shaded Palm turned out to be everything Jon dreamed of. Before long he had negotiated Corina’s services and despite withering (but good natured) teasing from his sister managed to sneak her off to private quarters. While Jon was being entertained Alayne contented herself with spending her brother’s coin on drinks and fine food, all the while becoming a sort of minor attraction herself, as noble ladies were not often among the patrons of the Palm. The owner took notice of the pair, obviously nobility, but kept his distance.
Tragan, Jeffery, and Daniel were very curious about the martial events and their details. Seeking out a registrar, they confirmed that not only was the rumor true about the 7 teams, but that the entire Kingsguard would serve as a team representing the Crown and King’s Landing. Though the Coldwaters had never been to King’s Landing, they were no strangers to the legends of the Kingsguard and their storied prowess. Clearly this melee would be a spectacle unlike anything the Kingdom had ever seen.
After his time with Corina was over Jonathan suddenly remembered he had pressing business regarding the cloak pendant he had found on the corpse a few days past. Jonathan recognized the crest but knew little of House Whent other than it held Harrenhal. Asking around he soon found out that one of the Kingsguard was a member of House Whent, the young knight Ser Oswell. Determined to deliver the pin to him personally, he set out for the Red Keep as the sun began to set over King’s Landing.
Back at the pavilion Tragan and Daniel discussed their options. Daniel wanted to enter the lists as well as the melee, but Tragan considered the risk of doing both and decided to simply enter the lists. (As an aside, I gave a lot of weight to Tragan’s wisdom in choosing his course of action, so that when it came time to choose opponents for them in the lists I gave Tragan the easier opponents while pitting Daniel against tougher, more seasoned knights. I realize this could be seen as unfair by some, but I place a high value on playing up the human aspect to one’s character – something I can and will reward players for.)
At the gates of the Red Keep, Jonathan had some trouble convincing the captain of the guards to admit him. Once Jon mentioned the dead men and the name Whent, the captain became much more amiable and admitted Jon into the gates. Ser Whent was practicing in the courtyard with several knights and Jon got a chance to see the Kingsguard in action. The guard captain informed Oswell of Jon’s presence and purpose, and Whent approached Jon with a serious look on his face. Jon told of the men killed on the Kingsroad and their sad fate in the ditch, but embellished a bit and added that they had been defending other travelers from harm. Oswell told Jon that the dead man was a cousin of his and very dear to him. Whent asked if they had received a proper burial, to which Jonathan replied that they had (which was true). Ser Whent was very grateful for the news and that his cousin had been paid the respect he deserved. Jon turned to leave but Oswell stopped him and with a grin asked if Jon and his retinue would honor him by staying as his guests in the Keep.
Upon receiving Whent’s invitation the group heartily accepted the offer and moved their quarters to the Red Keep as guests of the Kingsguard. That evening the festivities would commence with a large public feast attended by the young King and his newly born son, the crown Prince. The streets were crowded with noble and commoner alike as the party made their way from the Keep down to the Great Sept.
The mood of the city was absolutely joyous as the excitement of the tourney mixed with wonder at the display of power made by House Targaryen. King Aerys had spared no expense in celebrating the birth of young Rhaegar – the wine flowed like a river and the tables were spilling over with the abundance of Westeros. It seemed that for one brief moment, the people enjoyed a respite from their toil and came together to celebrate the simple pleasures of a peaceful life.
Taking a seat at one of the tables, the Coldwaters found themselves crammed amongst the commoners and tradesmen of the city. This was a source of mirth and amusement for Alayne, Valen, and Jon but seemed off-putting to Tragan and Daniel who were accustomed to seats of honor. Soon enough a few familiar faces arrived – boisterous Andar Royce almost fell onto the table, clutching two steins of ale in each hand. He challenged Valen to a short drinking contest, which was promptly ruined when Andar tripped over a stray foot and sent dishes and waves of ale crashing to the cobblestones amongst howls of laughter. Even sour Maester Edric seemed to be having a good time. The Tollet twins managed to find Alayne and promised to take her to the best ale house in the city.
A sudden hush fell over the feast as King Aerys slowly climbed the steps of the Great Sept, with his newborn son in his hands. At the top of the steps, the King turned and smiled down at the baby, who gripped the young king’s finger in his tiny hands. The display of affection brought gasps and tears from ladies highborn and low. Aerys then scanned the crowd, his brow furrowed in thought. A shout went up, a few voices that soon became thousands. Soon it seemed that the whole city was cheering, showing their love and loyalty to the Prince of Dragonstone. Ser Arthur Dayne unsheathed his storied blade and thrust it into the air, shouting Rhaegar’s name. Soon the people joined in, and the King kissed Rhaegar’s forehead, whispering something in the Prince’s little ear. After a brief blessing by the High Septon, the feast began in earnest and course after course was served to the masses, who toasted their fortunes for having a King of such generosity.
Long after the last dish was served, the party lingered at the tables exchanging pleasantries with other Houses and asking of news. A stoic Lord Eon Hunter informed Tragan that there was something amiss with Lord Horton Redfort, who according to rumor had some issue with the Coldwaters and was seeking an audience with Jon Arryn. This greatly troubled Tragan and Daniel who had counted Lord Redfort a friend.
Maester Edric and Valen soon found themselves roaring drunk, which seemed comical at first until Edric began to speak of Elsa. Tragan was conversing with Daniel when he heard Edric speak his sister’s name. Tragan coldly told Edric not to mention her, but it was too late as Ser Daniel had overheard. Sickened by Tragan’s behavior and emboldened by alcohol, the Maester began ranting about the hypocrisy of nobles and their exploitation of the small folk. Valen tried his best to quell the Maester’s unseemly, sudden rage, but to no avail. Years of pent up hostility came surging out, and soon Edric was cursing all the major Houses in Westeros. A few guards came to investigate the disturbance, just as Edric started in on the Targaryens and their sickening practice of incest. The guards took it upon themselves to take the drunken Maester into custody on charges of sedition.
Early the next morning the jousting began. Ser Tragan and Ser Daniel both fared well, defeating two opponents each and earning sizeable winnings. Tragan, still suffering from a wound gained during their combat with the Willow Knight, managed to defeat his second opponent despite his dubious tactics. Overall the jousting went well, with Ser Daniel annihilating his opponents due to his skill as a horseman. Much to Tragan’s ire, Jonathan invited Corina to attend the jousts. Tragan felt this was a shameful act unbecoming of a noble.
Before he was offered the chance to voice his displeasure, Jon Arryn made an appearance in order to congratulate both knights and invite them to a private feast the following evening. Lord Arryn also asked Tragan if he or Ser Daniel were planning on fighting in the melee. Tragan declined but asked Lord Arryn if he would allow both Daniel and Jonathan to take part. Impressed by Jon’s enthusiasm and confidence, Arryn agreed but with one caveat – that Jonathan represent the knights of the Vale with all his strength. Jonathan agreed and left to share the news with Corina.
Tragan and Daniel asked Lord Arryn if he had heard anything regarding Horton Redfort. Arryn relayed that he had, and that Horton planned on formally accusing House Coldwater of raiding his lands. Struck by this accusation, Tragan tasked Alayne and Jeffery to find out more about these accusations.
Alayne met up with the Tolletts at their favorite ale house and tried to find out more about Redfort, but with little success. Both Michael and Damon were stone drunk and Alayne did her best to guide them through the city back to their pavilion. Unfortunately for her she made an easy target for a rough band of cutpurses that had an eye for more than just her coin.
When Alayne lost her way while trying to navigate the streets at night, the thugs made their move. Damon had stopped to relieve himself in an alleyway when they approached her. Knowing her position to be dreadfully precarious, she did her best to convince the would-be thieves that a better reward would present itself if they returned her safely to the Red Keep. Despite her sincerity, the thugs were interested in more than a little gold.
Drawing her dagger bravely, Alayne resolved to go out fighting. One of the thugs had quite a laugh at that, until a clothyard broadhead took him right in the adam’s apple. In the darkness, it was impossible to tell where the arrow had come from. Hesitation claimed another poor bastard, this time with a clean shot through the heart. The remaining would-be rapists had a sudden bout of regret and bolted back into the shadows.
A frightened Alayne gathered her wits (and the two passed out Tollets). A figure emerged from the darkness with a sardonic grin. “Good evening my lady,” said the stranger. “Shall we proceed to the Keep? I would like a word with your brother.”
On the way back to the Red Keep, the mysterious man introduced himself as a friend of the family. At first he averted Alayne’s request for a name but eventually told her to call him “Tad”. Tragan was furious when he heard Alayne’s story and commanded her to remain in the Keep until he allowed her to leave. Meekly accepting her punishment she left his quarters in a cold rage. Tragan was thankful but skeptical of Tad’s timely intervention on behalf of his sister. Tad explained that he had seen the ruffians following Alayne and her companions and was familiar with King’s Landing. He humbly offered his service as a guide of sorts, to which Tragan agreed.
After the feast Jonathan returned to the Shady Palm to visit with Corina, and ended up staying another night with her. He admitted that he had feelings for her despite their circumstances, though she reminded him that they could never be together, despite their mutual feelings. Resigned to the truth, they nevertheless agreed to enjoy their time together to the fullest. Jonathan had always wanted to see the Dragonpit, and Corina happily agreed to take him. The two enjoyed a quiet walk through the city as the people lay down to bed in anticipation of the great melee in the morning.
At dawn Ser Daniel awoke and made preparations for the day he had awaited for so long. The city was already in an uproar as the tourney grounds overflowed with people vying for choice spots from which to witness the first ever event of its kind. Daniel entered the grounds and found his teammates making preparations. Andar Royce (still hung over from the previous evening but in good spirit), Braxton Belmore, Symond Templeton, Eon Hunter, and to everyone’s surprise, Denys Arryn, “the Darling of the Vale” awaited him with handshakes and well wishes. Unfortunately for the party, Jonathan was nowhere to be found. (I let every player at the table draw up stats or use existing ones and play the Vale team members for the melee, so that everyone could participate). Daniel was also surprised to see that his sworn man Valen was standing with the Northerners, girded for battle. Apparently Brandon Stark had issued an invitation to Valen personally to fight for his homeland. Valen gave Daniel a wicked grin as he cracked his finger joints.
By then the other teams had formed up ranks on the melee grounds. The Westerlings were led by Andros Brax and Gerion Lannister, two renowned tourney knights; the Northerners by bold Brandon Stark, wearing a wolf skin cloak; the Riverland Knights formed a ring of steel around their chosen captain, Jason Mallister; the Reach men were a colorful lot and seemed to lack a leader, though their presence was no less impressive; Dorne made even the Reach seem drab and plain, their young captain sporting a black suit or armor with a red snake wrought in red gold across the chest. Lastly came the Kingsguard, cold eyed and menacing in their brilliant white armor. The crowd roared their approval as the seven sworn brothers marched lockstep onto the field and stood at the center of the grounds, a bold and silent challenge to the other teams.
By now it was obvious that Jonathan was not going to make the fight. Daniel, cursing his kinsman for a coward, sought out the other Lords and asked if a last minute replacement could be found. Horton Redfort stepped forward, though he wore no armor. As Daniel began to object, Horton eyed him coolly and stated “a Knight’s true armor is his honor”, pushing his way past with sword in hand. At that moment, a trumpet sounded the beginning of the melee.
Without going into too much detail, the melee went well, and I think the choice to let everyone participate was a good one. The Vale team did really well and by the end it was a few Vale knights against the remnants of other teams and the Kingsguard. I used really high stats for the Kingsguard (perhaps a little too high) but once the battle devolved into separate duels it wasn’t quite as pronounced. Daniel was soundly defeated by Arthur Dayne while Denys Arryn (played by Chuck) was the last non-Kingsguard standing but eventually yielded to Jon Darry. Despite losing (the deck was highly stacked against them) the knights of the Vale accorded themselves extremely well and several (Denys especially) became crowd favorites.
Jonathan Coldwater awoke with a start. Across the city, the clear ringing of a single trumpet ripped him from contented slumber. As Corina lay sleepily beside him, his heart nearly stopped when he realized how late he was – far too late. Throwing on his clothes, he headed down stairs and bolted out the door to the stables. Flying recklessly through the city, he arrived at the grounds just in time to see the Kingsguard dismantling their opposition. Cursing his failure, he prepared mentally to face Tragan, who would doubtless be incensed by Jonathan’s absence.
As Daniel and Tragan prepared for their afternoon tilts, the archery tournament commenced on the parade grounds. Jeffery had been looking forward to this for a long, long time and was eager to prove his worth and have a shot at the fat purse being offered. To Jeffery’s surprise, Tad was among the contestants. As the best moved forward in the brackets, Jeffery noted Tad’s skill but took particular notice of a shabby looking boy no older than 12 who showed incredible skill. In the end the contest came down to Jeffery, Tad, and the boy. At 100 yards the boy planted his arrow in the bull’s eye, winning the day (he burned a destiny point to do it). Impressed by the boy’s skill, Jeffery congratulated him on his victory and immediately noticed that the child had no one to protect him or look after him after claiming the reward – 100 golden dragons, a dangerous fortune for such a lad.
Eager to see the boy safely home, Jeffery convinced Valen and Tad to accompany the lad to his house near the docks. The boy lived with his grandfather and made a living bow fishing on the river. The grandfather had no idea young Petey had even entered the contest, and nearly fainted when he learned of his grandson’s victory and the reward. Clearly distressed by the situation, the grandfather asked the men if they knew anyone that could help them put the money away safely. Valen in particular felt that such a treasure would make the lad a target, so the three men came up with a plan.
Both Daniel and Tragan did well in their respective tilts, though Daniel was hard pressed given an injury sustained during his duel with Ser Dayne. After the jousting was done for the day, Valen and Jeffery shared their idea with Tragan, who was in a rare good mood following his victories. The boy and his father would accompany them home to the Vale, where the boy could be trained as a soldier or perhaps even a squire, while the old man could train the Coldwater archers (Valen surmised that if the old man had taught Pete how to shoot so well, he must be an excellent trainer). To everyone’s surprise Tragan heartily agreed.
A few minutes later a page arrived wearing the colors of House Arryn. The Coldwaters were invited to a celebratory gathering in the City hosted by Jon Arryn himself, where the deeds of the Vale knights would be honored. The invitations were sent to Vale Houses only. As the group made preparations for the feast, Jonathan confronted Tragan and apologized profusely for his absence. Tragan listened impassively to the apology then left Jonathan stammering. Ser Daniel was more outwardly displeased.
Alayne, grateful for her brief imprisonment in the tower coming to an end, put on her finest dress and did her best to make everyone else look presentable. The celebration was held at the Grey Feather Tavern, an upscale establishment well known for its quality food and dark, stout beer. Jon Arryn greeted the Coldwaters warmly, thanking them for their service and fine performances. While Valen and Alayne conversed with their friends, Tragan and Daniel spoke privately with Lord Arryn and Lord Royce. Rumors had begun to circulate that Lord Redfort was outraged at some crime committed against his House, and some said he blamed the Coldwaters, though details were scarce. As the men were discussing this, Horton Redfort arrived and rudely ignored Ser Daniel’s attempt to congratulate him on his part in the melee.
Alayne and Jonathan visited with the Belmore contingent, a friendly but quiet group. While Ser Braxton was known throughout the Vale as a man of wrath, his brothers Preston and Winston were much more jovial, and their beautiful sister Maria took an instant liking to Alayne. The Belmores were very interested to hear any rumors Alayne or Jonathan had to share. After the dinner and a few toasts the group retired quietly to the Keep.
The final morning of the tournament dawned, chilly and overcast. Daniel and Tragan made their way to the tourney grounds early to make ready but were waylaid en route by Horton Redfort and some of his men-at-arms. Horton waited for the Coldwaters in a crowded market square and loudly accused Tragan and his family of sending raiders to his lands and attacking his smallfolk. The crowd gathered round and began to hurl insults at the Coldwaters, who already have a reputation for being somewhat merciless. Despite Tragan’s protests, Horton threw down the gauntlet and challenged Tragan to a duel to settle the matter. As the accused it was Tragan’s right to choose weapons, and he chose the lance. The duel would occur the following morning.
With that out of the way the Coldwaters resumed their places in the lists, both eventually being defeated by more skilled opponents but earning a few sets of armor and horses. The winner of the tournament was Ser Jon Darry of the Kingsguard, who unhorsed Ser Denys Arryn who despite his loss, earned the nickname “Darling of the Vale” due to his popularity. Jonathan missed out on the lists and tried to meet with Corina, but was barred from entering the establishment by bouncers. Dejected, he left but a girl from the Palm ran after him and informed him that Corina was in trouble – that the owner was furious at her for leaving without his permission. Jonathan asked if she could deliver a message to Corina: to escape that night at midnight and meet him at the Dragonpit. The girl agreed to deliver the message and Jonathan thanked her and gave her a golden dragon for her trouble.
Tragan and Daniel wanted to meet with Lord Arryn to discuss the accusation and ensure the duel was sanctioned. They found him at his pavilion and he gave his permission for the duel to take place, but only to satisfy honor – he warned that should either of the duelists be killed or maimed, the other would face his justice. Lord Arryn knew little of the accusation itself, but had heard that Redfort planned to present a weapon taken from one of the raiders as evidence of Coldwater involvement.
Daniel then met with the newcomer Tad and asked him to find out more about the item. Tad agreed and snooped around Redfort’s pavilion, noting that the guards seemed lax and often left their posts to flirt with several whores that congregated near the gates. Taking some initiative, Tad slipped into the tent and found what he was looking for – a blade with the maker’s mark of the House Coldwater master smith hammered into the forte. He quietly wrapped the blade in a sheet of cloth and disappeared, taking the evidence back to Ser Daniel who promptly locked it inside a chest.
As the sun began to set, Jonathan informed Alayne of Corina’s situation and asked her if he should mention it to the others. Alayne suggested they ask Jeffery for his assistance but not mention it to the others, who were already angry at him for missing the tourney. Jeffery reluctantly agreed to go along, though as a House man he couldn’t really refuse. The streets were largely empty at that hour, and Jeffery followed Jon and Alayne at a distance to make sure they weren’t being watched.
At the Dragonpit, a hooded figure awaited them in the middle of the sand pit. As Jon moved closer, the woman removed her hood to reveal herself – it was the young girl he spoke with earlier, a wicked smile on her lips. Alayne and Jeffery watched from a distance as another man entered the sand pit, laughing. Jonathan turned toward the laughter, instantly recognizing the owner of the Palm. After a round of mocking laughter, he introduced himself as Glaucus Taro of Braavos. Jonathan did his best to bandy words with the man, but was severely outmatched.
Taro demanded that Jonathan cease trying to contact Corina, that their relationship was a farce and threatened to hurt him financially – Taro had invested a lot of coin into making Corina a presentable lady and would not see such an investment ruined or taken away. Jonathan surprised everyone by stating his intention to marry the girl. This took Taro aback, as the wheels in his mind began to turn. Such a marriage would bring much honor to his establishment and make his name even more popular in King’s Landing. Impressed by Jonathan’s earnest and honorable intent, Taro agreed to let Corina go on the condition he take her to the Vale as his betrothed. Taro then whistled, and dozens of crossbowmen emerged from their hiding places within the pit. With a wink and a bow, Glaucus Taro made his exit.