Tower of the Hand

Dunk and Egg, Book 2.
Duncan and Aegon serve Ser Eustace Osgrey of Standfast, and are instrumental in ending a feud between him and Lady Rohanne Webber of Coldmoat.
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Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire, Aegon, come across an iron cage at a crossroads where two dead men are rotting. Duncan is mounted on Thunder, while Aegon rides a mule named Maester. Aegon wonders why they are there, and Duncan replies they were probably outlaws, rapists, or murderers. They do not dally, as they have wine to get to Standfast. There are many lawless men about these days thanks to a long drought that has uprooted thousands of commoners. Lord Bloodraven, Hand of the King to King Aerys I, has ordered them to return to their lands, but few do. Many blame the king and his hand for the drought, for Bloodraven is a kinslayer and the kinslayer is accursed. There is a riddle that Aegon heard in Oldtown that goes "How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have?" "A thousand eyes and one."

Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield is waiting for Duncan and Aegon when they return. He wonders why they were gone so long, and Dunk explains that they had to go all the way to Dosk for wine because the ironmen had raided Little Dosk. Dagon Greyjoy has been raiding up and down the coast during the drought. Ser Bennis asks after a resident of Little Dosk, Pinchbottom Pate, and Duncan says he was killed by the ironmen when he tried to stop them from taking his daughter. Bennis notices they only have two casks of wine instead of the four they were supposed to bring, and Duncan explains that the drought has reach the Arbor and between that and ironman raids, wine is becoming scarce. Aegon jumps into the conversation to note that the stream that runs through the area, the Chequy Water, is gone. Half the wells in the Reach have dried up, and even the Blackwater Rush and the Mander are running low. Ser Bennis, who had known Duncan when he squired for Ser Arlan, mocks him with the name Dunk. Duncan says that Arlan has been dead two years and he goes by Duncan the Tall now. Duncan examines the stream and notes that it has only dried up in the last day. Duncan decides to investigate and tells Aegon to take the wine to Ser Eustace while he looks around.

Duncan follows the stream south and west. Ser Bennis joins him shortly to make sure he does not stray onto the bordering lands of House Webber. The lady of the house, known as the Red Widow for the husband she buried, is rumored at Standfast to be a witch and a poisoner. Two years past, she sent her knights to capture one of Ser Eustace's men accused of stealing sheep. When Ser Eustace went to Coldmoat to get him, he was informed that Dake had been sewn in a bag of rocks and thrown in the moat. That was when Eustace hired Bennis to protect his lands. An hour into their ride, they come to Wat's Wood, a small forest on the Osgrey lands. It is brown and largely dead thanks to the drought. The Osgrey side of the riverbank is overgrown, so the two knights cross over to the Webber side, which has been cleared for pasture. After another half-league's travel, they discover the source of the problem, a dam. Bennis charges the dam, forcing Duncan to follow suit. There are a score of workers, however, and they do not run at the sight of the riders. Bennis demands to know who made the dam. The workers say Maester Cerrick designed it, and they built it. Bennis starts to threaten the workers when they refuse to take down the dam and opens one man's cheek from ear to jaw. One of the workers, Jorgen, wants to fight the two knights, but the old man who was maimed says it would be a fool's fight and they should leave for the moment. Duncan tells them to tell their lady that they only want their water. Duncan and Bennis cut through Wat's Wood on the way back to Standfast, but the dry forest offers little respite from the heat. Duncan tells Bennis he should not have cut the old man, and Bennis replies that they needed a little fear put into them. He wanted to cut the man's throat, but then he would have had to kill all twenty-two of them to stop them from spreading tales. He wishes they had just lied to Ser Eustace, whom he calls Ser Useless, and said the stream dried up, which horrifies Duncan. Bennis says there will be conflict now, and he points out that Ser Eustace only has ten smallfolk counting Squinty Jeyne's halfwit son. Even with all of them, they will still be outnumbered more than two to one.

Duncan and Bennis arrive at Standfast. Aegon takes Duncan's horse, and Bennis orders the boy to see to his as well. Aegon refuses until Duncan threatens to clout his ear. Bennis spits on Aegon's foot for his insolent tongue and states that next time he will spit in the boy's face. The two knights ascend the stairway to the castle. The wife of Sam Stoops, the steward, is scrubbing the steps at the entrance and tells the knights that Ser Eustace is in his quarters, having just returned from visiting his boys down in the blackberries. His sons, Edwyn, Harrold, and Addam, all died in the Battle of the Redgrass Field fifteen years before. Edwyn and Harrold had been knights, while Addam was a squire. Whenever Ser Eustace gets a new shipment of wine, he goes to their graves, pours a libation, and drinks to the king. They find Ser Eustace trying to polish a dirty old shield. He tells them it was wielded by Ser Wilbert Osgrey, called the Little Lion as the youngest of five brothers, in battle against the King of the Rock. The battle occurred during the reign of King Gyles III Gardener. While the king was off warring against the Storm King, the King of the Rock, either Lancel IV or Lancel V, took advantage of the situation to invade the Reach. As Ser Wilbert's brothers were all away with the king, it fell to him to lead what forces were left against the Lannisters. Ser Wilbert put his force across Lancel's path and bid him come no farther. The two forces met in battle, and Ser Wilbert personally fought the king. Lancel fought with a Valyrian steel blade,1 and Wilbert was sorely tried. His sword broken, Ser Wilbert made one last desperate lunge at Lancel. He was cut nearly in half, but his dagger found a weak point in Lancel's armor, and the king was killed. Disheartened, the Lannister army turned back. Duncan and Bennis tell Eustace about the damming of the stream. He is furious, as the stream has been called the Chequy Water in honor of his house for a thousand years or more. He used to fish there, as did his boys, and his daughter, Alysanne, who died in the spring, used to splash there on hot days. He had his first kiss there as well, from a cousin of the Osgreys of Leafy Lake, a branch that is now extinct. He refuses to let House Webber have his stream. Bennis says the dam is too strong for he and Duncan to pull down alone and that they will need fifteen men at least not counting guards. Duncan mentions how Bennis cut one of the men, and Eustace knows Lady Webber will come for them. He says she murdered three husbands as well as the five or six brothers that stood in the way of her inheritance. She will come for Bennis. Duncan says he could go to Lord Rowan, who is the liege lord of both Eustace and Lady Webber, but Eustace says they will find no help there since Lord Rowan is married to old Lord Wyman Webber's cousin, Wendell. He orders Ser Duncan to gather all the able fighting men on his lands and prepare them for battle.

Ser Eustace's lands support three small villages. They consist of hovels, sheepfolds, and pigs, with the largest also sporting a one room sept where an old swineherd named Mudge leads devotions every seventh day. Dunk rides around to them and commands that all able-bodied men between fifteen and fifty report to the castle. Aegon is sullen during the trip because he was forced to serve Bennis and because Bennis also pinches him. Duncan remembers that Bennis used to pinch him too. He and Ser Arlan had both been part of a party of knights hired by a merchant to see him safely from Lannisport to Dorne. He not only pinched Duncan hard enough to leave bruises, he also reputedly killed one of the other knights in a quarrel. Duncan says that if Bennis does it again, he will put a stop to it, but until then, he must take care of Bennis's horse as well as the smallfolk. Aegon is disdainful of serving smallfolk, but Duncan explains he needs all the help he can get to turn them into fighters. They may not know the arms of the great houses or who abolished the lord's right to first night, but they are not stupid and know many things about the wilds that Aegon does not. Aegon understands, saying he can teach them how Queen Alysanne convinced King Jaehaerys I to abolish first night and they can teach him what plants are safe to eat.

The next day, a dozen men show up at Standfast. One is too old, two are too young, and one ends up being a girl, leaving eight men: Wat and his brother Wat, a third Wat, Will, another Will, Lem, Pate, and Big Rob, a lackwit. Only Lem and Pate have any experience with soldiering, both having served with Ser Eustace in the Blackfyre Rebellion. They have no proper weapons, so Bennis takes them to Wat's Wood to make spears. When they return, Duncan deals with the problem of telling them apart by giving them each names based on the product of their village, leaving them with four Barleycorns, two Melons, and two Beans. As the brothers Wat are both Barleycorns, the younger is dubbed "Wet Wat" because he fell down a well once. They train most of the day by stabbing sacks stuffed with straw. After that, Duncan spars with each of them in turn, but only Treb is able to get past his guard, and then only once ineffectively. He, Lem, and Wet Wat eventually start to get the hang of it, while Big Rob runs off and has to be dragged back. At the end of the day, the exhausted trainees are led to sleeping pallets. Dunk decides to take a bath, attended by Egg. Aegon is concerned for the smallfolk, who will all probably die. Duncan points out that Roger of Pennyree was younger than any of them when he died at the Redgrass Field and that many other young men had died there in the king's service as well. Aegon says that was different because it was war, and Duncan tells him that this is war too, only on a smaller scale. Aegon wants to use his boot to clear up the whole issue, but Duncan refuses, telling him that it is only for dire need. Maekar was clear that Aegon's identity must be kept secret so that it is not known he is traveling as the squire to a hedge knight. They have traveled together for a year-and-a-half now, first crossing the deserts of Dorne and then taking a poleboat down the Greenblood to the Planky Town where they boarded the galleas White Lady and made for Oldtown. After his bath, Duncan goes to sleep.

That night, Duncan dreams he is back in Dorne, burying Chestnut. The old horse had died with Aegon riding him on the trek through the wastes from the Prince's Pass and Vaith. He buries the horse as the merchants he is escorting look on. He is crying as well, for Chestnut had borne him for four years. The merchants mock him for it, and so does Ser Arlan, who appears in the dream. Baelor appears in the dream to, as does Valarr, who asks him why the gods would take Baelor and save Duncan. As he begs the apparitions to go away, they turn into Bennis and the smallfolk, all with mortal wounds. As the sandy grave collapses around him, Duncan wakes up. The next day, Bennis instructs the recruits in forming a shield wall. After Bennis gets them into line, Duncan charges them on Thunder and they break and run. Duncan is in a foul mood from the dream. The dream was partially true, Chestnut did die, but he never wept nor buried the horse. Duncan tells Ser Eustace the men will not serve, but Eustace says that they will learn in time just as the men learned before they rode off to the Redgrass Field. Duncan asks how many returned, and Eustace admits that Lem, Pate, and Dake were the only survivors. Dake had been their forager. Duncan asks if there is some other way, and Eustace gets an idea. Back when the Reach was still a kingdom, it was possible to pay a blood price, restitution in silver or gold, for killing the livestock or peasants of another. He says he will pay the blood price if the dam is torn down, but he will not go to Coldmoat himself. Before the Conquest, the Osgreys were Marshals of the Northmarch in the Kingdom of the Reach, with a score of lords and over a hundred knights owing them fealty. House Osgrey controlled four castles in those days, and Coldmoat was the greatest of them, raised by Lord Perwyn Osgrey the Proud. When King Maegor Targaryen suppressed the Poor Fellows and the Warrior's Sons, Lord Ormond Osgrey spoke out against the king, so Maegor stripped him of Coldmoat. Coldmoat still has a chequy lion carved above the gates. Ser Eustace's father showed it to him the first time he took Eustace to call on Lord Reynard Webber, and he showed his sons in turn. Addam had been a squire there and grew fond of Lord Wyman's daughter. Eustace proposed they be married, but Lord Wyman refused. As he was leaving, Eustace heard Wyman laughing with Ser Lucas Inchfield. He has never been back to Coldmoat since. After Dake was killed, he vowed never to set foot in the castle again save after conquest. Duncan volunteers to go in Eustace's place, and Eustace accepts, calling him a brave and true knight.

Aegon complains when Duncan calls for another bath, since he has just washed the night before, and Duncan tells him that he must treat with a lady. Aegon tells him that the castellan of Coldmoat, Lucas Inchfield, is supposedly as big as Duncan and is called Longinch for his size. Aegon asks if they will fight, but Duncan says he is going to talk. Aegon asks what he will say, and Duncan admits that he has no idea how to speak to a highborn lady, reminding Aegon that Lady Vaith might have killed them in Dorne for what he said to her. Aegon suggests he be gallant and that ladies like singing or the lute, but Duncan has no idea how to play the lute, and when he got drunk at Planky Town and started singing, Aegon compared his singing to an ox in a mud wallow. Aegon also counsels against taking food or drink while at Coldmoat, since she is supposed to have poisoned all her husbands. He says she has had four husbands but no children, and Sam's wife told Aegon that she sold her unborn babes to the Lord of the Seven Hells in exchange for tutoring in the black arts. Duncan thinks that is ridiculous and asks if Aegon knows any highborn ladies that dabble in the dark arts. He says that Lady Shiera, Lord Bloodraven's paramour, bathes in blood to keep her beauty and that his own sister, Rhae, once put a love potion in his drink so he would marry her instead of his other sister, Daella. Duncan asks if it worked, and Aegon said he spit it out because he wants to be a knight of the Kingsguard and never marry. Duncan decides he will wear his Dornish tunic to the meeting, as it is the finest garment he owns and is painted with his sigil. Aegon tells him he should change when he gets there, as he will get it sweaty otherwise. Aegon says he should come to, as a knight looks more impressive with a squire in tow, but Duncan refuses to let him come.

The next morning, Duncan finds Aegon waiting for him with Thunder and Maester already saddled. He is wearing a tunic that once belonged to Addam. Ser Eustace is there too, and tells Duncan that a knight looks more impressive with a squire in tow and that Aegon will accompany him to Coldmoat. Eustace gives Duncan a cloak with the chequy lion on it as well. Eustace accompanies them on the path to the castle. They pass the blackberry bushes where his children are buried, and Eustace reminisces about how his boys used to pick berries there. He says Aegon reminds him of his Addam, who died trying to protect his wounded brother Harrold on the Redgrass Field. Eustace asks if Arlan fought in the battle, and Duncan says that he did. Eustace then asks if he fought for the red or the black. Black was the color of the Targaryen loyalists, while red was the color of Daemon Blackfyre, as his arms were the reverse of the Targaryen arms, black dragon on a red field. Duncan says he fought for Lord Hayford, who Arlan says was a noted loyalist. King Daeron II made Lord Hayford Hand of the King right before the Battle of Redgrass Field, replacing Lord Butterwell, who had been such a dismal failure that many suspected he actually supported Daemon. Ser Arlan was with Lord Hayford when he died. He never talked about the battle much, as his squire, Roger, his sister's son had died there. Duncan reflects that if Aegon IV had given his sword to Daeron instead of Daemon, Roger would still be alive and Duncan would be dead or in the Night's Watch by now. Eustace tells him that even in the heart of battle there can be beauty. Ten thousand men died on the Redgrass Field, but the sunset that night was so beautiful, Eustace wept that his sons would never see it. He says it was a close thing, and Bloodraven was the difference. Duncan says he had always heard it was Baelor and Maekar who won the battle, the Hammer and the Anvil, but Eustace is disdainful of that notion. He says that Daemon had been unstoppable that day, cutting Lord Arryn's van to pieces and slaying the Knight of Ninestars and Wild Wyl Waynwood before coming up against Ser Gwayne Corbray of the Kingsguard. They fought for an hour, Blackfyre meeting Lady Forlorn, before Daemon clove through Gawayne's helmet and left him blind and bleeding. Daemon paused then, and ordered Redtusk to carry Gawayne back to the maesters in the rear. By that time, Bloodraven had gained the high ground with his personal soldiers, the Raven's Teeth, and spied Daemon's banner. With his bow, he slew the elder of Daemon's twin sons, Aegon, knowing that Daemon would never leave his son on the field, and then pierced Daemon with seven shafts, killing him. The younger twin, Aemon picked up Blackfyre when his father fell, and Bloodraven slew him too. The rebels began to flee then, until Bittersteel was able to turn the rout into a charge at the enemy and personally fought a great battle with Bloodraven. At that point, Price Baelor struck the rebel rear with an army of Dornishmen, and the battle was ended. If Daemon had not stopped for Gawayne, he might have broken Maekar's left before Bloodraven had gained the ridge and Baelor arrived. Then, with the Hand slain and the road to King's Landing open, Daemon would have had little opposition. Eustace goes on to rant that King Aerys must be enchanted by Bloodraven and in his thrall, and that is why they are cursed with this famine. As they continue to ride, Eustace laments that Osgrey held all the land for league around including the Horseshoe Hills, Derring Downs, the villages of Dosk, Little Dosk, and Brandybottom, and both sides of Leafy Lake. As they approach Wat's Wood, he talks about how at one time none but the kings of the Reach and the Osgreys were allowed to hunt there and that even in his father's time it had covered both sides of the stream until the Webbers cleared it for pasture. Ser Eustace leaves them at the wood, and they continue alone. Aegon reminds Duncan to be gallant and compliment the lady. He also suggests using the boot again, which Duncan refuses to do. They cross the stream onto the Webber lands.

Duncan and Aegon arrive at Coldmoat without incident and ride over the lowered drawbridge of the castle. Two guards stop them at the gate and tell Duncan that none may see Lady Webber without Ser Lucas's leave. They take him to the yard, making Aegon stay at the gate with the horses. The morning devotions are going on in the sept, and a blacksmith and a young woman are having an archery contest. Ser Lucas is speaking with a septon. The septon, who is clearly drunk, turns to Duncan first and introduces himself as Sefton. Ser Lucas treats him with disdain and names him an outlaw and a beggar. He tells Duncan that Ser Eustace must deliver Ser Bennis and will hear no more on the matter. Duncan persists, and Sefton convinces Lucas to let Duncan have his say with the lady. The devotions are ending, and Lucas takes him to an old woman leaving the service. Duncan tries to talk with her, but she makes little sense and the gathered crowd is taking great amusement from the proceedings. Suddenly, the young woman whom Duncan had seen practicing archery earlier comes up and asks why he is troubling her good sister. Ser Cleyton Caswell explains to the Lady Rohanne Webber that Duncan mistook Lady Helicent for her. Duncan is immediately tongue tied, trying to explain that he thought she would be older having been widowed four times. She says her first husband died when she was ten and he twelve while squiring at the Redgrass Field. Her last husband died in the spring, a euphemism for the Great Spring Sickness of two years past. Duncan makes more of a fool of himself, causing Ser Simon Leygood to mock him until Rohanne puts a stop to it. Lucas tells her why he is there, and Rohanne tells Sefton, who is her good-brother, to escort Duncan to her audience chamber and see to his needs. She will join him after changing and wants Maester Cerrick as well. Duncan asks if Aegon can come as well, and Lady Rohanne gives her leave.

Duncan and Aegon wait in the audience chamber for the lady. Sefton comes bearing wine. He recognizes Duncan as being from King's Landing by his speech, as he served the High Septon there for many years, and tells him he would not recognize the city after the Great Spring Sickness. A quarter of the houses burned, and another quarter of the city is empty. A man could wake up healthy and be dead by nightfall. People died so fast there was no time to bury them; they were piled in the Dragonpit instead. When the bodies were piled ten high, Bloodraven ordered them burned with wildfire. The sickness was bad in Lannisport and worse in Oldtown, but in King's Landing, it killed four out of ten. The High Septon died, as did King Daeron II, his Hand of the King, Prince Valarr, and Prince Matarys. Dorne and the Vale both closed their ports and borders and were spared the sickness. Things are little better now. The drought shows no sign of abating, and the Kingswood is a tinderbox, with fires raging constantly. Bittersteel and the surviving sons of Daemon Blackfyre are plotting in Tyrosh, while Dagon Greyjoy and the ironmen are raiding as far south as the Arbor. They raided Fair Isle and took half its wealth. Meanwhile, Lord Bracken is dying on the Trident and his eldest son died in the spring, meaning Ser Otho will become the lord. The Blackwoods will never stand for it,2 and war is inevitable. Lord Tully is a boy of eight and will not be able to intervene, and the mother of Bloodraven, whose real name is Brynden Rivers, is a Blackwood and will probably not do anything to defuse the tension. As for King Aerys, he does not leave his books, even to sire an heir. His wife, Aelinor, prays daily for a child but remains a maid. Bloodraven is the one who really rules. No one opposes him, as Maekar sulks at Summerhall, Rhaegal is meek and mad, and his friends and favorites hold every office. The Grand Maester is supposedly as steeped in sorcery as Bloodraven is purported to be, and his Raven's Teeth garrison the Red Keep and deny access to the king of any that do not have Bloodraven's leave.

Duncan asks Sefton if Helicent is his sister, and Sefton explains that she is sister to Ser Rolland Uffering, Rohanne's fourth wife, while he is brother to Ser Simon Staunton, Rohanne's third husband who died choking on a chicken bone. Lady Rohanne needs to marry again soon due to her father's will. Lord Wyman wanted grandsons to carry on the line, and when he was dying he tried to marry Rohanne to Ser Lucas, but she refused. As a result, he put in his will that if she is not wed by the second anniversary of his passing, which is fast approaching, Coldmoat will pass to his cousin, Wendell. There are few suitors because of the death of her four previous husbands, rumors that she is barren after having two infants die before their first name day, and because Lucas was charged by her father to protect her from unworthy suitors, and he protects her from all suitors. Any man that would claim her will likely have to challenge him for the privilege. Ser Cleyton and Ser Simon are her most persistent suitors, but Gerold Lannister is her favorite, as she enjoys his letters. Rohanne comes in at that point and says that done of them will marry her. Gerold will not give up being the chief adviser of his brother Lord Tybolt for a minor lordship, Simon has too many debts, and Cleyton will not cross Ser Lucas.

Lady Rohanne apologizes for mocking Duncan in the yard and tells him that Ser Lucas set him up because he despised Duncan for being taller than him and has a cruel sense of humor. She asks how Duncan came by his knighthood, and Duncan tells how he squired for Ser Arlan and how the old knight died of a chill. Lady Rohanne laments that old men are weak, like her second husband. She was thirteen when they wed and he fifty-four. Half a year after he died, she bore his son, but the boy only lived three days. Lady Rohanne counsels that Duncan leave Ser Eustace's service and offers him a place at Coldmoat, but he refuses. She then turns to the incident at the dam. She says Wolmer's cheek was cut near to the bone and she will not accept a blood price for his wound. She demands that Bennis be turned over to her. She says if he is delivered she will merely slit his nose, but if she must come for him, she will not be merciful. Duncan mentions the dam, and Maester Cerrick says it cannot be taken down. Duncan points out it belongs to Eustace, but Cerrick shows him a document from the king granting the stream to House Webber. Lady Rohanne reveals that Eustace rode with Daemon in the Blackfyre rebellion, hoping to get Coldmoat back. When he returned to Standfast with the bones of his sons and gave Alysanne to the king's men as hostages, his wife threw herself from the tower. Duncan appeals to her to return the water for Addam's sake, and she becomes enraged, slaps him, and orders him to leave. If Bennis is not brought to her on the morrow, she will come with fire and sword. Sefton pulls Duncan from the room and tells him he should not have mentioned Addam. Rohanne had loved the boy and blames Eustace for his death.

As they ride back to Standfast, Duncan asks Aegon what the decree said since he cannot read. Aegon says it was a grant to Lord Wyman Webber giving him control of the Chequy Water from its beginning in the Horseshoe Hills to its end at the Leafy Lake, as well as the rights to take twenty trees a year from Wat's Wood. The privileges end when Ser Eustace dies, at which time Standfast reverts to the crown. Duncan decides to ride to the dam and see if he could tear it down itself, but it is guarded when they arrive and he is forced to retrace his steps. They are caught in Wat's Woods as night falls and have to halt. Aegon mentions how Sefton said his father was sulking in Summerhall and resents that. Maekar has stayed there for a year and a half, but Aegon says he is just mad because he should have been Hand of the King instead of Bloodraven, who is a sorcerer and base born. Duncan reminds him that while he is a bastard, Bloodraven is not baseborn, as he is Aegon IV's son by one of his noble mistresses. Aegon legitimized all his bastards on his death bed, including the countless bastards he had with every pretty commoner that caught his eye. Ser Arlan once joked that his house words should have been "Wash her and bring her to my bed." Aegon says that the old High Septon once told Maekar that all bastards are treacherous and that Bloodraven will betray the Targaryens in the end just as Daemon and Bittersteel did. Duncan points out that he may be a bastard, and Aegon has no answer to that.

When they return to Standfast, they see a light in Ser Eustace's chambers that shows he waited up for them. Ser Bennis is on the steps as well and does not like the idea of having his nose slit. Duncan goes to Ser Eustace and tells him what happened, and Eustace gives Duncan permission to leave his service if he will. Duncan asks why he said his sons died fighting for the king, and Eustace retorts that he was the rightful king. He talks of all the bad luck they had before the battle. How Fireball was slain, Hightower, Tarbeck, Oakheart, and Butterwell did not lend their full strength as they tried to play both sides, how Manfred Lothston proved to be a false friend, how storms delayed Lord Bracken from sailing with the Myrish crossbowmen, and how Quickfinger was caught with the stolen dragon eggs. Duncan points out that Eustace was pardoned, but he is bitter about how he had to give away his daughter for that right. She was seven when they took her and twenty when she died as a Silent Sister. Eustace went to King's Landing to visit her once, but she would not speak to him. He wishes he had gone into exile with Bittersteel or died. Aegon comes in during the conversation and asks why Eustace chose Daemon and if it was just for Coldmoat. Eustace explains it was because Daemon was a warrior while Daeron was a weak man. When Daemon wielded Blackfyre, none could match him, not even Ulrick Dayne with Dawn or Aemon the Dragonknight with Dark Sister. Daeron surrounded himself with septons, singers, and Dornishmen, and gave his sister to the Prince of Dorne when she loved Daemon. Meanwhile, Daemon surrounded himself with great warriors such as Robb Reyne, Gareth the Grey, Ser Aubrey Ambrose, Lord Gormon Peake, Black Byren Flowers, Redtusk, Fireball, and Bittersteel. He says that Daemon was the better man and that Aegon IV had recognized that too when he gave Blackfyre to Daemon instead of Daeron when he personally knighted Daemon when he was twelve. Aegon interjects that his father told him that Aegon granted the sword to Daemon because he was the better warrior and the sword is not the kingdom, and Eustace says his father was a fool. They begin to fight, but Duncan ends it by saying they will leave his service for the hedges on the morrow. That night, Duncan retreats to the cellars, as far away from Eustace as possible, to sleep. His rest is fitful, and he has many dreams, particularly of Rohanne, whom he dreams is feathering him with arrows as he runs towards her. He wakes suddenly to the sound of a shout and nearly collides with Sam Stoops as he gets up. When he goes to the roof, he sees that Wat's Wood is on fire. The fire burns the rest of the night. The next morning, Duncan tells Ser Bennis he should turn himself in, but the knight means to fight. Aegon tells Duncan he needs to stop the feud, but he does not know how. They decide to make for Fair Isle and Lord Farmen's seat at Faircastle. As they leave, they pass Bennis training the smallfolk. He says they will hole up in the castle, but Duncan realizes the smallfolk will all die, tells them to go home, and sends them running. Ser Eustace comes down in a fury, and Duncan tells him that he will stay to defend Eustace. Eustace decides he will ride to meet Lady Rohanne and die with honor.

Ser Bennis stays behind in the towerhouse with Sam Stoops and his wife while Esutace, Duncan, and Aegon ride out to meet Lady Rohanne. They ride through Wat's Wood, which is now a wasteland. Ser Eustace mentions the story of the Little Lion again, and implies to Duncan that if he can kill Lady Rohanne, there will be no more feud. Duncan means to not let it come to that. They wait at the bank of the stream for an hour, until lady Rohanne comes. She is armored, with Maester Cerrick and Septon Sefton by her side, as well as a dozen knights and a column of mounted crossbowmen. Eustace accuses Rohanne of burning the wood, but she denies it. Sefton points out all the woods of the realm are having fires, and Lady Rohanne says that with her crops as dry as they are she would be a fool to set such a fire, as the wind could shift and burn them. She demands Bennis, and Eustace refuses to hand him over and says she will not cross onto his lands. She has her men knock their bows and asks Eustace how he means to stop her. Duncan says he will do so, and when Rohanne asks how when they are three and she has thirty-three men, he says he will only tell her. They meet in the middle of the stream. Rohanne sees Duncan's swollen lip and apologizes for slapping him. She says she barely remembers Addam, but she knows that she loved him and never loved any of her husbands. She asks for Bennis again and refuses Duncan's request of undamming the stream in exchange for the burning of the wood, which she still denies having a hand in. He takes off his gauntlet and shows her a signet ring and tells her it was wrapped in a boot. Rohanne says she would rather not anger the monarchy, but she still demands Bennis. She says she cannot leave empty handed, for she would look weak. House Stackhouse covets her Horseshoe Hills, Ser Clifford Conklyn has an old claim to Leafy Lake, House Durwell makes a living stealing her cattle, and Ser Lucas wants to marry her by force. If any of them thought her weak, they would descend upon her. Duncan draws his dagger. He tells her that it was he who cut her man and proceeds to cut his own cheek as recompense. She is impressed and says she would marry him if he were better born. That still leaves the wood though. Rohanne denies having anything to do with it and demands that Eustace withdraw her accusation or consent to a trial by combat.

Duncan and Lucas prepare to do battle in the middle of the stream. Duncan returns the signet ring, which has Maekar's arms on it, four three-headed dragons quartered, to Aegon to put back in his boot and tells him that if he dies, Aegon should use it to get back to Summerhall. They meet in the stream and begin to battle. Duncan notices a week point and attempts to strike, but overextends himself and loses his seat, after which Thunder and Lucas's horse both go down in a tangle. Duncan fights free of the mess, but loses his sword, and Ser Lucas comes up in front of him and gives a blow that nearly takes Duncan's head off. Duncan rushes with his shield and knocks Lucas back in the water, using his strength to keep Lucas under. He pulls out his dagger and kills Ser Lucas. Duncan, seriously wounded, begins to float down the river.

Duncan wakes up in Coldmoat. Cerrick appears over him and says he was brought there because he was too wounded to return to Standfast. He has a broken ankle, a sprained knee, a broken collarbone, and much bruising. He also drowned, but Cerrick is ironborn and knows how the priests of the Drowned God return men to life. He asks for Aegon, and Cerrick remarks it was he who pulled Duncan out of the stream. He is busy, however, attending Ser Eustace at his wedding feast. Eustace and Rohanne reconciled after the battle. Rohanne asked leave to visit Addam's grave and wept while she was there, and Ser Eustace comforted her. They spent the night talking of Addam and Lord Wyman, as he and Eustace were good friends before the rebellion, and they decided to wed. As Duncan starts to drift back to sleep, he hears the sound of rain. Duncan does not see Rohanne again until the day he takes his leave. Sefton tries to talk him out of going at least until the rain has stopped, as his wounds are not fully healed, but he will not hear of it. Rohanne comes to him as well and tells him that he could be her captain of the guard and stay there, but he declines. She apologizes for marrying and tries to gives him a magnificent horse called Flame to remember her by. He kisses her and tells her he had something else in mind for remembrance as he draws his dagger. Aegon waits at the gate with Maester and a new horse of his own. He is surprised to see that Duncan is still on Thunder until Duncan shows him Rohanne's braid, which he took to remember her by. Some time later, they reach the cage with the outlaws that they passed so long ago. Duncan asks which way is south, and Aegon shows him. Duncan says that Summerhall is to the south, but Aegon counters that the Wall is north. Duncan asks Aegon why he would want to see the Wall, and Aegon responds that he hears it is tall.


Characters

Active Characters

  1. Aegon V Targaryen - He is ten.
  2. Bennis - He has small, close-set pale green eyes.
  3. Brynden Rivers - He has pallid skin, bone-white hair, and a winestain birthmark across his cheek and chin that is said to resemble a raven, hence his name. His eyes are red. He lost an eye at the Battle of Redgrass Field. He wields Dark Sister.
  4. Eustace Osgrey - He is big-boned, broad-shouldered, and barrel-chested with white close-cropped hair, a bushy grey mustache and pale grey eyes.
  5. Helicent Uffering - She is stout and square with an oddly pointed head, a big nose, and a small mouth.
  6. Rohanne Webber - She is short with a dimpled chin, a snub nose, a spray of freckles across her cheek, and red hair bound up in a braid that goes past her thigh. She is twenty-five.

Houses

Active Houses

  1. House Osgrey of Standfast - The lords of House Osgrey were Marshals of the Northmarch in the Kingdom of the Reach. Now Osgrey is a knightly house sworn to House Rowan.
  2. House Webber of Coldmoat - House Webber is sworn to House Rowan.

Locations

  1. Coldmoat - Coldmoat has an outer wall that is thirty feet high and sports towers at each corner.
  2. Standfast - Standfast is a towerhouse that sits on a rocky hill. The north and west faces are newer than the rest of the structure due to a collapse several centuries ago. Turrets were added to these two corners, while the other two corners are crowned by gargoyles. The roof is constructed of pinewood. Access to the castle is by a stairway. The bottom of the stairway is made of stone, while further up it is constructed of wood and can be raised like a drawbridge. The tower boasts four stories aboveground as well as many cellars and vaults dug into much of the hill.

Footnotes

Warning: Footnotes may contain spoilers from later chapters or books.