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Feast Day

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Addam the Archer's Tale (A Sea of Spears chronicle)

Feast Day (Part Two): Feast and Frisson

 

The scions of House Nymaryen and their Tyrell escorts finally disembarked from their carriages within the courtyard of the Red Keep, their presence announced by Ser Garlan and Lady Olenna. They were admitted with surprising swiftness, getting a brief glimpse of the imposing Iron Throne as they passed the Throne Room, and were surprisingly accorded good seating in the Queen’s Hall, though not until Grandmaester Pycelle took an interminable age to announce everyone. Though it was tedious to listen to him drone on, Addam noticed the announcement of his cousins from House Lugus, and he made a mental note to catch up with Orten at some point. He also heard another name announced that piqued his interest – Ser Lyn Corbray.

Ser Lyn had made an impression on Addam from his first joust against Ser Donnel Waynwood. Addam had seen how talented and skilled the Vale knight was, but it was not just prowess that had gotten Addam’s attention. Addam wanted to know what was behind that dark, inscrutable look he wore, especially after seeing how intensely he had glared at Ser Garlan when he was denied the duel on foot he had so clearly wanted after Garlan unhorsed him. It seemed like he had hated Ser Garlan in that moment, and Addam couldn’t help but wonder why. There was yet another reason, something that Addam had to dig deeper for. Ser Lyn Corbray was very handsome, and if Addam was honest with himself, his dangerousness was oddly alluring. Not to mention the rumours he had heard multiple times now about Ser Lyn’s proclivities. It was said that he was, like Addam, disinterested in women. That had sharpened Addam’s curiosity.

Someone else like me? Getting to know someone else like me would be… good. If someone like him can be like me, then maybe I’m not a lost cause after all. I should find a way to talk to him…

Addam was swept along with his siblings toward the royal table to greet the King before taking their seats, though they had been told that moving around to different seats between courses was permitted and expected, especially as the revelries drew on.

That may present a chance then. Just keep your wits about you.

If this was just a minor feast for those chosen by the King, Addam wondered just how much grander the closing feast for the tourney would be. He had heard there would be eleven courses this night, and looking over the tables, he wasn’t sure how it was all going to be accommodated. The tables brimmed with loaves of fresh black bread still warm from the ovens, bowls piled high with creamy goat cheese, dishes of plum and onion chutneys, and little roundels of fried corn, flecked green with fine slivers of spring onion. It was as delightful to the eyes and nose as the Tyrell’s resplendent manse courtyard, though flowers did not make Addam’s stomach growl like this.

Addam’s attention was drawn from the food when the King’s booming voice rung out. He looked round to see Robert Baratheon lifting Ser Garlan off his feet in a fierce bear hug.

“Aha! You’re much harder to lift than that little brother of yours! But it’s good for Baratheons and Tyrells to be close, eh, though we’re admittedly not as close as your little brother and mine. Where has Loras squirreled Renly off to anyway? I heard he lost a horse in that last tourney! Not you though! All the way to the final!”

“My thanks, Your Grace,” Ser Garlan responded with his usual tact, though neither he nor the King seemed to be aware of the innuendo about Loras & Renly, despite their closeness being one of the court’s most poorly kept secrets.

“Aha! And of course, your grandmother! Lady Olenna!”

Robert bowed over Olenna’s hand and kissed it deftly.

“You are the prettiest rose in all of Highgarden, and I’ll murder any man who says otherwise.”

“And it seems I am the prettiest rose here tonight too,” Lady Olenna replied playfully. “Alas, Pycelle took his time announcing us and it has taken a toll on my poor feet. But luckily, I see you have a chair clear.”

Glancing over the King’s shoulder, Addam saw that the Queen’s chair was empty, and now that he was paying attention, neither she nor any of the royal children were present.

Robert looked for a moment like he might dispute Olenna claiming the Queen’s chair, but he only sighed.

“Ah, the Queen is unwell, and the children are keeping her company in her chambers.”

“I see. Well then, I am sure she won’t mind if I use it. It is rather closer than the one accorded me,” chirped Lady Olenna, not waiting for permission before stepping up to the royal table and sitting in Queen Cersei’s ornate chair beside the King’s.

Titters of amusement rippled down the hall, though Robert seemed to take it in good spirit, another belly laugh erupting out of him and echoing through the room. As it tapered off, he looked over the assembled members of House Nymaryen. This was their first time seeing him up close, and it was far more imposing than simply being bellowed to from across the tourney field. He had gone quite thoroughly to seed since taking the throne, but he was still towering at six and a half feet tall and built like two oxen sewn together.

“Ah, the Dornish dragons! I haven’t seen so much silver hair since I had the Mad King and his family’s heads on pikes,” he said, with a superior smirk. “But, ‘twas long ago,” he added, waving it off amiably, though the air of menace he had planted with that comment did not shift with his tone. He complimented Rhaena and Baela on their performances in the tourney, though not without the bawdy comments that were expected of the usurper King.

“Lucky horses well-ridden,” he purred, raking his eyes over them both lasciviously before lifting each of their right hands in turn to his lips and kissing them. He praised Lucerys for his own jousting performance, and warned him light-heartedly that many a man would be aiming for his sister in the melee, not least of all Ser Meryn Trant, the Kingsguard Baela had defeated both ahorse and on foot.

Pfft, Trant has no chance against Baela, Addam thought. She’ll leave his face looking like a sackful of dented bells.

When his gaze finally fell to Addam, he loomed over him like a great dark-furred bear, all hulking shoulders and bushy beard, and it took most of Addam’s concentration not to shrink back as Robert leaned in to speak to him.

Unexpectedly, the King extended one huge hand out to Addam, offering it to shake. Addam, surprised by the gesture, reflexively took the hand, though it dwarfed his own. Robert gripped Addam’s hand in his tightly and pumped it up and down with a vigour that made Addam fear his arm might be wrenched from its socket.

“Well done on winning the archery contest, lad! Good to see what you can yet achieve despite your…well, I suppose it is still two good feet, at least for standing and shooting.”

Addam gave Robert a small, awkward bow, his awareness of his twisted foot and limping gait intensified a hundredfold  by it being pointed out in front of everyone by the King himself.

“Your esteem means the world to me, Your Grace. Thank you,” he said simply, hoping the King would not dwell on his physical shortcomings.

“Aye, a gammy leg, but you can still do what needs doing. Good lad!”

Robert clapped Addam so hard on the shoulder that it stung, almost knocking him sideways with the force of it.

Robert moved on to congratulating Ser Vanyn on winning the horsemanship contest and defeating another of the Kingsguard, Ser Boros Blount, laughing with him and Lucerys about Vanyn’s canny gambling abilities, which had seen him win over a thousand gold dragons over the course of the week. Addam smiled meekly along with it, but as he looked slightly past Ser Vanyn, he realised he had made a terrible mistake.

I forgot to send Orys to our seats! Shit! He came up with us! Shitshitshit! I was supposed to keep him away from the King!

There was nothing he could do but stand there helplessly and watch as Robert Baratheon came face to face with one of his many illegitimate children, unbeknownst to either of them.

“Seven Hells, boy! You’re even bigger outside of your armour!” Robert exclaimed.

Orys looked anxiously over at Addam for a moment, as the person who had previously kept him on track with etiquette, but Addam was gaping like a fish, trying and failing to speak up.

“Erm, my thanks, m’lord… yer grace?”

Another, more desperate look at Addam, who had finally fought through his panic and managed to use his voice.

“You address the King as ‘Your Grace’, Orys, and bow to him,” Addam hastily advised under his breath.

Oh Gods, please let this be over quickly, without the King realising who Orys is.

Due to both men being extremely tall, Orys had to step back a little to bow, but once he did, Robert laughed and waved his hands dismissively.

“Oh never mind all that. Pycelle is the one who cares about formalities. Everyone knows who the King is,” he trumpeted amusedly. “Anyway, you did well lad, knocking Lancel on his arse, but then doing the same to Hugh, so Jon couldn’t give me any shit for it! Brilliant! I hope you don’t squash your prize courser when we give it to you!”

Orys just stared in panic, like a horse about to bolt, unsure of the King’s meaning, and another ripple of polite but not exactly kind tittering was heard behind them, some of the guests present finding Orys’ rough lowborn manner and dull confusion entertaining.

“The King is just joking, Orys,” Addam whispered. “Nobody actually thinks you kill horses.”

Orys looked only slightly less confused and terrified.

“Ach, it doesn’t matter anyway if you’re near mute, boy, you let your hammer do the talking, hah!” Robert continued. “Good fighting, lad! Good fighting!”

The King then cast his gaze over the room and spread his arms wide.

“Now that all seem accounted for, the Tyrells have made themselves at home, and with House Nymaryen of Wyvern’s Rest in attendance – Pycelle! Sit your bony arse down! You’re off work for the night! Let’s all get down to eating and drinking! Let the feast commence! Go get yourselves sat down!” he added to the Nymaryens, who needed no second telling to scurry to their seats. Robert reached behind to his table, grabbing and downing the nearest drink, which turned out to be that of his brother, Stannis, to the Master of Ships’ chagrin, and the King sat back down in his seat with a loud, raucous laugh.

Addam did not eat heartily to begin with, choosing to be sparing with sampling the first course, knowing there was much more to come. He sipped on straw-coloured beer and nibbled on the fresh black bread, enjoying the sharp tang of the goat’s cheese and the slightly sweet bite of the plum & onion chutney cutting through the cheese’s creaminess. Then he was handed a cup of blackberry wine, and it was so delicious that he barely noticed how quickly and easily he drank it down and asked for more, washing away a little of his cares with each drink of its dark sweetness.

The King seemed not to recognise Orys. That’s good. Need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He’ll likely be too pre-occupied to bother with us for the rest of the night anyway.

The Nymaryen contingent split up rather quickly after the feasting began, his siblings moving off to talk with Myranda Royce and Mya Stone, who had been among their rivals in the horsemanship contest, and whom Lucerys seemed to have an interested eye on. Ser Vanyn peeled off to speak with Ser Brynden Tully - ‘The Blackfish’, and Orys possessively took some food and went off to sit alone. Addam’s heart sank a little to see Orys trudge off just as he was about to talk to him, but he knew better than to follow the surly squire when he went into one of his moods. Addam blew lightly through his lips as he pondered his options, glancing around. His eyes fell upon a gap in the seating in the Vale section, not far from Lord Petyr Baelish, the Master of Coin, and when he saw the face opposite the empty seat, it was as though the Gods had heard his thoughts earlier as he had wandered into the hall. Ser Lyn Corbray sat there with his squire, Mychel Redfort. Taking a deep breath, Addam stood, and walked purposefully over, trying to minimise the appearance of his limp.

As he drew near, Ser Lyn did not notice him, as he was paying rapt attention to Lord Baelish, rather than the ribald joke the Blackfish was telling nearby. However, Mychel Redfort saw Addam coming, and the piece of bread he was holding halfway to his mouth snapped in half in his hand and dropped to the table in his alarm. He frantically nudged Ser Lyn with his elbow, hissing “There’s a fucking Dornishman coming over!”

That did get Ser Lyn’s attention, and he turned his head to look at Addam as he reached the opposite edge of the table. He quirked an eyebrow in mild curiosity, and leaned back languidly in his seat, away from Lady Forlorn, his famous Valyrian steel sword, which sat propped up against the table rather than on his belt, in a flagrant flouting of convention. It was a way of showing he was not threatened by Addam, as he slung one leg over the arm of the chair in blithe disinterest, which briefly pulled Addam’s gaze to his tight leather breeches.

Get your eyes up! And don’t you dare blush right now!

“Ser Lyn. Mychel,” Addam greeted them with stiff formality, keeping his eyes solidly on their faces. “Do you mind if I join you?”

Ugh, my voice sounds so reedy. I sound scared, and stupid. Gods, he looks…

Lyn’s outfit bore the stark white, black and red of his House, the three hearts borne in the claws of ravens in his sigil looking a little like splashes of blood on his tunic. He was even more handsome up close, with well-groomed shoulder-length dark brown hair and keen steel-grey eyes.

For what felt like far too long, Addam kept his eyes fixed on Lyn’s, his request left dangling in the air between them while Ser Lyn decided whether or not to accept. After all, Ser Lyn was accustomed to constantly watching for danger. This young Dornish dragon didn’t seem like a threat, but looks could be deceiving. So focused was he on sizing up Addam that he either did not notice or did not acknowledge the questioning look he was getting from his squire.

Finally, Ser Lyn shifted a little in his seat, gave an unconcerned shrug, and Addam heard the scrape of wood on flagstone as the empty chair opposite Lyn was lightly kicked outwards from the table. Taking it as an affirmative answer to his question, Addam sat down and folded his arms on the table. His right thumb absent-mindedly rubbed at the huge opal he wore on his index finger, its pleasing smoothness grounding him for the moment.

“I was impressed by you both at the jousts,” Addam began, trying to start with a pleasantry rather than diving straight into his primary line of inquiry. He realised too late that, since both Ser Lyn and Mychel had ultimately lost their jousts, his opening statement could be perceived as an insult. Ser Lyn’s expression, which had been like a stone cliff face in its cold stillness turned to a practiced glower, and Addam hastily tried to correct himself. “I mean that, genuinely,” he added, almost stumbling over the words in his rush to get them out.

His attempt to explain himself garnered no response, and he felt his panic rising up again.

You are fucking this up! Quick, just ask him your question before he gets angry!

“I hope this won’t be taken the wrong way, but I have a curiosity that I’m hoping you will indulge. I noticed a certain… tension… the other day, when Ser Garlan did not respond to your challenge. The look on your face was so intense. It seemed like some personal grudge. Would you be willing to tell me why? Is there some history of conflict there?”

To Addam’s surprise, the question elicited a crooked smirk from Ser Lyn.

“Oh no, dear, sweet boy,” he began, in a patronising tone. “That was the opposite of personal.”

He swung his leg down off the arm of the chair, leaning forward and reaching out – slowly enough to clearly show he was not leaping to an attack – and caressed Lady Forlorn’s hilt, his eyes never leaving Addam’s. Whether intended or not, it did feel threatening. And suggestive. Addam felt a sharp tug in his stomach that he wasn’t sure was fear or desire or both.

“Lady Forlorn cares not from whom she drinks. It is only that, whenever I draw her, she gets terribly thirsty,” Lyn said dramatically. “So naturally, both she and I were very disappointed.”

At that, his gaze shifted past Addam, over to where the Reachmen were seated, laughing and talking, oblivious to Ser Lyn’s mirthless glare at Ser Garlan.

“Yes, very disappointed that Ser Garlan did not accept our challenge, in the spirit of the King’s tourney. My Lady won’t get to drink until tomorrow, it seems.”

Addam regarded Ser Lyn somewhat incredulously, eyes narrowed slightly. He found the way Ser Lyn referred to Lady Forlorn quite peculiar, but it was also somewhat intriguing.

“Forgive me, Ser. I have never owned a Valyrian weapon, and so am ignorant of their more unique qualities, but surely as the wielder, it is you who chooses to draw her, so her thirst is within your control rather than hers?”

“Oh, this isn’t any old sword, nor any Valyrian trinket,” Lyn replied, breezing over the question. “Everyone knows about how special Lady Forlorn is. I believe I gave a cousin of yours an intimate introduction.”

It was obviously a test, Addam thought. To see if he’d be riled. It was true that Ser Lyn had killed Prince Lewyn Martell, a Kingsguard and second cousin to Addam and his siblings, during Robert’s Rebellion. But Ser Lyn had not accounted for the complexity of that matter in Addam’s mind. While it was Robert’s Rebellion that had brought House Nymaryen low and lost the House its former glory, it had all happened so long ago that Addam felt he hardly had any personal connection to it. He had never met Lewyn Martell, nor indeed his own parents, who had each been themselves broken by the Rebellion. He had often reflected on how he expected he should feel more strongly about it, but it only felt like a numb hollowness in his heart that did not respond to idle jibes.

“Yes, I have read the accounts,” Addam said flatly, unable to think of a witty riposte. It was a blatant attempt to get a rise out of him, and it certainly made him uncomfortable, but Ser Lyn had miscalculated what threads he should tug on to actually rattle Addam. It felt like a cheap shot, too easy. He almost asked Ser Lyn if that was the best he could do, but decided against it.

“She’s a special blade, with special desires,” Ser Lyn continued. “It’s been quite some time since she tasted the spice of Dornish blood though.” He said it with the air of a cat idly batting a still struggling mouse for sport, and his index finger lightly tapped Lady Forlorn’s pommel, the heart-shaped ruby set in it glinting merrily.

Addam became aware that he was no longer fidgeting nervously. Ser Lyn’s appraising gaze no longer felt like it might scald his skin off. With each little needle Lyn failed to hurt or scare him with, he felt a little stronger. Perhaps it was just the first head rush of the blackberry wine, but Addam felt a little emboldened, and to him, the suggestive sword talk seemed like perhaps it was not merely a test to see if he would be rattled by veiled insults, but also a question in itself. A question about something else altogether, which would imply that Addam did not just have Ser Lyn’s passive curiosity anymore, but that he now had his attention.

“You sound almost disappointed,” Addam said, leaning forward a little.

Let’s find out if we’re still talking about just swords…

“Me? Oh, no, I’m fine, but I cannot speak for her.”

“I see. Well, the King’s peace sustains us, for now, so she may have to do without Dornish spices a little longer.”

Lyn sighed, leaning back in his chair, away from his sword. Addam frowned a little, his attempt at a subtle hint seeming to have failed in its delivery.

“Yes, it does, though stranger things have happened in melees,” Lyn replied, casting his smouldering gaze all around the room with dark intent.

That gave Addam pause. The tone seemed relatively benign, but the wording and Lyn’s eyes carried a threat, one that skirted too close to Addam’s siblings. For the first time in their conversation, he wanted to sling a barb back at Lyn, to tell him there would be dire consequences for anyone who intentionally hurt his brother or sisters. But he knew he could not back up such a threat, and both Lyn and Mychel would laugh in his face for it, so he held his tongue.

Act unflappable. Don’t show him that bothered you. He’s just toying with you. Toy right back. Perhaps that’s the way to get his respect.

“I shall look forward to seeing you in action then,” he said, unconsciously casting his own appraising glance over Ser Lyn. The look did not seem to go unnoticed, as Lyn tilted his head a little, still watching Addam closely.

“Then I hope that watching me in action will indulge whatever curiosities of yours you may have.”

Addam couldn’t be sure, but he thought he detected something accepting about the way Lyn now looked at him. Was it perhaps even approving? The up-and-down look that passed over Addam then was different from before, somehow. Did Lyn like what he saw? Or had Addam merely held his own side sufficiently to no longer be considered a threat or a triviality?

A response leapt to Addam’s mind, and he almost stopped himself from saying it. The Addam who had first arrived at King’s Landing would not have said it, nor indeed the Addam who had not won a royal archery contest. Even the Addam who had not drunk three cups of blackberry wine and a mug of beer would have likely balked, but here he was, loosened by alcohol and fired up by a sense of pride, daring, and the allure of those dangerous eyes.

“I can assure you, Ser Lyn, my curiosities are infinite,” he replied, his voice low and husky with innuendo.

The raised eyebrow that followed from Ser Lyn was much less practiced than the one he had shown at the start of their interaction, and another appraising sweep of his eyes over Addam followed it. Addam was surprised by how much that pleased him. He smiled confidently, though his mind had already begun to race.

Wait, did I just flirt successfully there? I didn’t stammer or anything! And he doesn’t seem offended – he seems…Seven hells this is exciting! But why do I falter around Orys but not with Ser Lyn? Surely I should be more afraid of this man who could and would kill me if I put a step wrong, and not fear Orys at all, who would never hurt me. Why is my heart thumping so hard? Come on, Addam, stay calm. You’ve made an impression. Get out while you’re ahead. Call it good practice for when you go and talk to Orys later.

The decision to break up the conversation was made for him in that moment, as the next course arrived. Four soups were laid out in deep, lidded terrines, and guests spooned whichever they fancied into smaller individual bowls. There was a venison and barley broth, a creamy garlic soup with roasted snails, pea & ham, and pumpkin & honey. Addam inspected them each in turn, glad of something else to look at for the moment, though he felt Lyn’s eyes on him still, and they rooted him to his seat, anxious that he might look like he was fleeing if he left now.

Sit out this course, and then move on. Talk to someone else. What about Lord Baelish? He runs his House and the Crown’s gold quite well, so they say, and Grandfather has put you in charge of the funds for this trip. Perhaps Lord Baelish might share some of his wisdom that will help you be better at your role. You don’t get the opportunity every day to ask advice from the King’s Master of Coin himself.

Settling on a plan of action helped calm Addam’s mind again, and so he set about choosing a soup. The creamy garlic soup smelled lovely, but he had tried snails once before, in White Harbour, and he knew the texture revolted him, so it was eliminated from his choosing. The pea & ham and the venison & barley broth looked appetising, but relatively ordinary, given they were close to some of what he had grown accustomed to while in the Crownlands over the past week. The pumpkin and honey had drawn his eye and nose the most, so he opted for that, at least to begin with. He spooned some into his bowl and tasted it delicately. It was utterly divine, all rich, thick sweetness and silky smooth texture. It was truly one of the best things he had ever tasted.

He swallowed his mouthful, then looked to Lord Baelish, who was enjoying the same soup. He caught the Master of Coin’s eye, and a congenial smile went between them, which Addam swiftly used it to initiate conversation.

“My Lord Baelish, if I may introduce myself, I am-“

“Addam Nymaryen, yes,” Littlefinger interjected, though his tone and expression seemed amiable enough. “Or should we say ‘Addam the Archer’ now?”

Littlefinger gave a crooked smile as Addam blushed shyly.

“You made quite the impression, young Addam. Your siblings too.”

“Thank you, my lord. We are enjoying the tourney a great deal.”

“Good. Though there is a saying here that drawing the attention of those in high places is both a blessing and a curse.”

Addam was momentarily unsure how to respond. Littlefinger seemed friendly, but his words had something of a dark edge to them that he was not sure quite how to take.

“I shall bear that in mind, my lord,” Addam responded, a little hesitantly. “I am certainly not one to ignore the wisdom of someone as esteemed as yourself.”

“Excellent flattery, young man. I see you are as deft with words as with a bow,” Littlefinger chuckled, stirring his soup a moment before raising the spoon to his lips.

Some pleasantries over tasting and comparing the different soups opened and warmed their discussion, each of them able to recount how this flavour or that reminded them of home or of a cherished memory, and a rapport built up between them that let Addam feel more confident in discussing House matters, namely asking Littlefinger’s advice about how to run a House efficiently, particularly in regards to finances. Lord Baelish was gracious in his answering of Addam’s earnest questions, sharing some of what he had learned of running his House and handling the royal coffers, and Addam paid close attention. He couldn’t help but notice though that Ser Lyn was almost pointedly ignoring the conversation, instead focusing singularly on his venison & barley broth, followed by a smaller taste of the pumpkin & honey soup. It made sense, Addam thought. House Corbray was old, but poor, as noble Houses go. Either discussing money was a sore point for Lyn that he wished to avoid, or he considered it beneath him. Either way, he was no longer sizing up Addam, and while Addam had begun to find some strange enjoyment in being under Lyn’s gaze, it was intimidating too.

As the soup terrines were cleared away by the servants, Addam glanced over to where Lucerys sat with Rhaena, Baela, and a coterie of laughing ladies. Luc gave Addam a little beckoning gesture, having been covertly observing his younger brother’s conversation from the other end of the table.

“Do please excuse me, my lord. I see my brother calling me over,” Addam said to Littlefinger. “Thank you for sharing your insight. You have given me much to think on.”

He stood and nodded to Lyn, who had returned to languidly slouching in his seat and talking idly to his squire, though his eyes slid over to Addam upon detecting upward movement.

“Ser Lyn,” Addam said with a respectful but breezy tone, trying to appear casual.

“Thank you for answering my questions about Lady Forlorn. It has been quite fascinating. Best of luck in the melee tomorrow, though I am sure a man of your skill has no need of luck.”

With that, Addam made his way over to where his siblings sat, feeling Lyn’s cold grey stare on him the whole way.

 

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