Campaign of the Month: December 2020

House Jasper

Goodbye Calaila

While tending to the horses below deck, I am greeted by a stern looking Lord Theodore and Ser Darron. They invite me to ride with them to the Woodhull garrison, and agree to allow me to bring August with us for additional protection. When Maester Thaddeus enters, I overhear Darron suggest they need bodies to draw fire should they come across enemies. My heart rate raises, though the thrill of adventure draws me into the mission further, and despite Thad’s request for me to stay behind , I authentically accept Teddy’s insistence I go with them.

Lord Theodore, Ser Darron, Thomas, and I depart mid day to cross the island, with August trailing close behind. After a few hours, we find Dolins on the trailing with the body of Calaila looking worse for wear on the back of his horse. It isn’t much longer on our way to the Rambis that we run into Ser Argyle and Rusty. They bar our path and suggest we bring the body to First Light, but Lordling Teddy insists we return the deceased to the Rambis for the Maester to examine. The conversation is tense, but it is that odd man Rusty who convinces Ser Argyle to allow us to continue.

The return to the Rambis is a bleak affair with the air of mourning hanging heavy over House Jasper. A pile of driftwood lay by the dock, though my questions about it go ignored by the maester. While the body is examined and Thad and Theodore discuss the cause of death and the events surrounding it, Jardon and Darron argue about the alcohol on board, and when Jardon learns for the first time that Calaila was murdered they toast to her.

Once the rest of the ship has gone to bed (or descended into a drunken stupor), I warg into August and patrol the grounds beyond the dock and near First Light. Through the dog’s eyes, I see Thomas practicing his swordsman skills on deck, Ser Argyle shouting to someone behind him as he walked away from first light dressed in his armor and then…sniff sniff…to my horror the smell of human flesh being burned. I overhear a woman and the distinguished voice of Rusty discussing the events of what was happening through the window the fire was coming from and I rush back to the Rambis. Once back in my own body, I notify Lord Theodore at once of our observations from our “evening stroll”. He contemplates this and does not seem surprised by what I share.

The next day, all the members of House Jasper move about in hushed tones until the funeral for the mistress of whispers. Each member shares kind words as the her funeral pyre goes up in flames. Though I didn’t know her well, tears spill from my eyes hearing about her adventures and trials with the House I feel so proud to be part of.

What's a "face thing"?
Apparently Carsen has one

It is dusk as Ser Darron and I reach the north cove. Darron insists that we avoid contact with all people and travel off-road through the night back to the Rambis. I agree, as the situation on this island has deteriorated into the unknown.

My stomach growls, and I enquire to Darron about his snack situation. After a moment of eager anticipation while he rustles through his saddle bags, he pulls a rotting snake head out of his bag. Blech!

When we return to the Rambis, Dolins hasn’t turned up yet. Darron and I immediately meet with the Maester to figure out what happened. He claims that two days ago Rusty was on the ship with Carson and everyone seemed flustered afterward. According to the Maester, Calaila was last seen yesterday on board.

Going upstairs to interrogate Thomas, he says he last saw Calaila two days ago, leaving with Carsen on their horses shortly after Rusty left the ship on foot. He also said he saw Carsen yesterday and he is sure he didn’t see Calaila yesterday. He did see a septon, Summer, Thad, and Jardon. He heard that Rusty showed up again yesterday, but did not see himself. He also confirmed that he saw soldiers leave First Light yesterday early morning and Summer said she saw them return late last night.

This isn’t adding up. How is it possible that the Maester saw Calaila yesterday but Thomas did not? No one seems to know why Calaila and Carsen left the ship together, or where they were going. Are they hiding something from me?

Darron and I head to First Light to find Carsen and the Eleshams. When we enter the main hall, Carsen, Lady Elesham, and Iggy are all there looking quite pleased with themselves. Carsen begins to explain how they created peace for the Paps, but that’s the last thing on my mind right now. I need to find out who killed my advisor!

Something Darron says catches my attention. He’s describing how he found Calaila’s body, specifically her face being peeled off, when he says to Carsen “you know, like that face thing you do”. Carson does a face thing? He was the last person seen with Calaila… Darron claims that Carsen has several faces in his bag, so Darron and I push Carsen to empty his bag. He reluctantly dumps the contents of his bag on the floor, revealing nothing of particular interest. Some coins, rope, small weapons. It’s clear to me there’s nothing incriminating on the floor, but Darron pushes further. He seems to genuinely believe that Carsen’s “face thing” is real. I must admit, I’m inclined to give the honorable Ser Darron’s claim some weight. Its too strange a coincidence to let go of quite yet.

Ser Darron's Journal 16
Reasons Teddy can't focus on backpacks today

Ya see, the Paps is essentially the closest point in Westeros to Braavos. And ya know what else is in Braavos? One – ships, two – sellswords, and three – probably a Targaryen or two. Now I know what they’re saying: “Robert Baratheon took his big ole hammer and squashed out the last of the dragons like a toad under a wagon wheel” and yeah, that’s sort of true, but here’s the thing about claims to thrones, now don’t tell your parents I’m saying this on account of it being kind of crude and that you’re their heir but I believe you need to see the reality of the situation. The thing about claims to thrones is that they’re like dicks – half of everyone has one, just most don’t go waving them around all over. You know? Take this for example: have you ever heard of the nine penny kings war? Did the Maester ever tell you what that was about? Well forget what you heard cause Ser Darron was there. Yeah, I was pretty green back then – didn’t know a mace from a mellon – but I had a horse and a spear and was ready to fight this Blackfyre pretender myself; more like march around getting sunburnt for two years. Never really did see much action, but I learned how to say “Your mother wrestles bears in Tarth” in two languages – three if you count Dornish. My point is that there was a whole separate family of Targaryans. Bastards sure, but that didn’t stop ‘em from trying to get that throne and there’s probably a thousand more bastards out there just the same. So what do they do? Go buy some sellswords and invade the Paps. Now you’re getting it. Sure, it’s a dinky little island, but Targaryens love that kind of thing for some reason. You’ve heard of Dragonstone, right? Lost some good men rooting those cunts out of there. It basically came down to me at the end, you know. Now I don’t want credit for it, but I’m sure you’ve heard the songs, I was there against Ser Alyn – a knight in the real old style – size of the front half of a horse and they say he hardly speaks. But he looks at me and says “Ser Darron, we meet at last” then flips his visor down. I draw my blade and it’s unforgettable single combat. Me and him trading blows. Jardon firing bolts into his back. cling! klang! I fake high but go low and it’s over. The point is there’s a reason they didn’t call it Dragonland. It’s a dinky little island too like the paps. So, my reckoning is that they invade here and hope nobody notices which is pretty reasonable because, have you seen the place? Ho Ho Ho! But really, M’lord they invade here and maybe build a castle and it’s called a foothold in warfare which is a piece of land where you start your invasion. That’s what Maelys Blackfyre was trying to do in the stepstones is establish a foothold. Or could be a toehold which is the military term for a smaller foothold. You see I’ve been educated too, OK sure I can’t write letters or name six types of soups, but a true knight knows a thing or two. And my prediction is that they’ll start dressing like Eleshams and coming over to the fingers and before you know it the Vale is going to be full of swordsmen right under the nose of Lord Arryn. Problem for them is that they don’t know that we know that there are two sure fire ways to spot a Braavosi The first is that they always use skinny swords because the ones that we got are too heavy for em and the second – and Tito taught me this, may he rest in peace – now don’t tell your parents I said this either but the second is that they absolutely can not resi….
…you’re right M’lord that is the Rambis! I nearly missed it. Let’s ride in haste! I hope Dollins made it back.

Bad Omens on Board

My wish for adventure is soon heard by the gods, and the nice lady Calaila suggests that I join Lord Teddy and the Jasper party aboard the Rambis to take care of the horses on their journey. Papa reluctantly agrees to this, but warns me to keep my head down and not bring shame to the family. I can hardly contain my excitement, and spend the whole night before we depart brushing August’s coat until it shines. I will be forever grateful the the mistress of whispers for giving me this opportunity to leave Feliston for the first time.

While tending to the Jasper horses aboard the Rambis at the Paps, I’m interrupted by the young squire Thomas, who asks me to follow him upstairs, that a septon from land is telling everyone to gather in Jardon’s room. When we arrive, the septon is reading Jardon his last rights over Jardon and the wise maester’s enthusiastic protests that in fact, the brave warrior is NOT dying! Barking erupts from the top deck, and I offer to check on Gary for Maester Thaddeus.

While August on my heels, I step into the setting sunlight to see Gary barking at an older, shaggy haired man on the dock. After a few calming head pats for the pup, we introduced ourselves, and the man who identifies himself as Rusty says he’s here to pay his last respects to the dying Jardon. “Nope! No dying man here!” I reply cheerfully and shrug, “Have a good night!” I smile and wave, and watch the odd man leave the dock. It isn’t too long before the septon follows. I ask who sent him, and he reports he was just acting out of duty based off a rumor, and departs the ship in solemnity. What an odd evening! I give August a look and he cocks his head at me. We remain watching as the evening’s chill sets in, and about 100 soldiers appear to return to the First Light Castle.

The next day, Thomas again erupts below deck exclaiming “They’re back! They’re back!”, and the both of us run to see Lord Theodore and Ser Darron on the dock. they order the quire to make sure no one crosses the gang plank and board the Rambis in haste, with furrowed brows. As I lead their horses down below, I hear murmurings from Jardon’s room, and the knight exclaims that Calaila is dead!!

Ser Darron’s Journal XV

The others take this fucking pile of rocks and it’s miserable people. Less honor to be found among the whole lot than a Horn Hill whore. Don’t know why I agreed to come here again.

Now the handmaiden is dead and Lord Theodore is next unless we can get to the ship before… before something… before the Woodhulls… or the Eleshams?… thieves maybe?… Think Darron, you dolt!

I hope Jardon is in fighting shape. I don’t suppose we’ll be able to talk our way out of this one, else Calalia would’ve.

A murder that hurts

On the journey from Woodhull to the clearing, the intended location of our meeting with the Eleshams, Dolins notices some disturbance in the woods. He and Darron go off to explore while I continue to ride with the Woodhulls. The rest of the ride to the clearing is uneventful and the Woodhulls are not very talkative. I hope this meeting is quick and painless, this whole feud between the Paps houses isn’t worth my time and I can’t wait to get off this forsaken island.

As we get to the clearing, the sound of racing hooves behind us becomes audible and Ser Darron comes into view. He pulls up right next to me a catches his breath for a moment before whispering “Caliala is dead, we found her and Mud Bottom in the woods.” I ask if he’s sure, and he confirms that he and Dolins are 100% sure it’s her.

I ask the Woodhulls if they know anything about this, and they seem fully unaware of the murder that happened on their land. These men are useless fools. My heartrate is building, as is my rage. Darron tells me that Dolins is on his way back to the Rambis with Caliala’s body. He fears this is a trap for me, and the sound of troops marching from the east reaches our ears. Darron pulls on his sword and points north to the woods. He and I spur our horses into the brush, following no particular path other than away from the clearing and the sounds of marching infantry.

As we leave the clearing behind us, I have a moment to contemplate the meaning of what Darron has told me. I’ve come to like Caliala quite a lot. I admired her knack for reading a room and getting out of trouble. She could always salvage a bad situation and spin it in favor of myself and House Jasper. Speaking of which, how did Caliala end up dead in the woods? She’s not one to be easily tricked, surprised, or killed. Something very unusual must has happened. When I find out who did this, I’ll make sure they pay dearly for what they’ve done. Aside from my parents, Caliala was one of my favorite people in this world.

Our winding path leads us to the coast, overlooking the cove where we anchored the first night we arrived at the island. Somehow we have to make it to the Rambis on the east side of the island. How is Dolins going to meet us there without encountering the forces at the clearing?

A Typical Day at the Snownook Stables

Every day, the same…Papa and I got up early this morning and broke fast with Mama’s brown bread and the last of the butter before getting to the Snownook stables just as the sun was rising. Though he used to have good and bad days, the good now seems to be a thing of the past, and he grumbles the whole way there about having had to reorganize the shovels and tack after I put them I away yesterday. August trails close behind Emma, and I discreetly nod towards Papa and roll my eyes at him. I know most would think I’d lost my mind, but I swear I see an knowing twinkle in my pup’s eyes. Most days I feel he’s the only one who understands me.

Once at the stables, the other hands trickle in, and I tune into their gossip about Feliston’s witch, Bethlazar, and rumors about her cursing Slim after he trampled all over her garden. I also hear whispers of Lord Theodore’s latest adventures to the Paps, and get lost in daydreaming about exploring beyond our homestead. The morning’s chores fly by while visions of faraway lands, swashbuckling pirates, and heroic knights swim in my head, until Papa’s shouting brings me back to Castle Snownook. He tosses a bale of feed across a stall and yells about his useless staff, sending the other hands scattering. August nips at my ankle and tugs my boot towards the door, knowing if we don’t follow suit, a shovel could be coming towards us as well. We quietly sneak out towards the paddocks and find a quiet, hidden spot for lunch.

After sharing an apple and some salt cod with August under a tree, I close my eyes and warg into him for a moment of escape. I bound through the woods and into town, inhaling the sweet scent of the forest floor, being drawn towards a rich savory smell. My paws pat quietly towards Pavel’s soup shop, a sight I recognize from many trips before. A roast sits cooling in his window, and my ears perk up to make sure the cook isn’t nearby. I place my front paws on the wall and quickly snatch the meat, turning quickly on my tail to race back into the woods. It isn’t long before I hear Pavel’s angry shouts from far behind me, and I swell with satisfaction. When I arrive back at my still human body, I rejoin it and watch August happily tear into his prize.

We finally drag ourselves back to the stables, and Papa’s mood has clearly not improved.“You lazy good for nothing,” he spits at me, “where have you been?!” I clench my fists and try to ignore him, but he follows me to where I’m working and continues to ramble incoherently about how all I do is add work to his days, and how he should’ve never let me join him. I know arguing will do no good, but I can’t help myself-we scream and yell at each other until I hop back onto Emma and take the long way home, slamming the door of the cabin behind me and ignoring Mama’s concerned line of questioning.

Good for nothing?! Lazy?! I’ll show him…someday I’ll leave these rotten parts and he can go back to doing his work with those silly boys who can’t tell a rounsey from a destrier. Then he’ll see how useless I was! I just know that adventure is out there waiting for me, and that someone will appreciate what August and I can offer.

A Promise Kept
A Gift Given

Last I saw Septa Olivia she was encouraged by my efforts in giving the gift to Calaila, but clearly displeased that I was unsuccessful. Fortunately for her, I am both patient and opportunistic. With our parties merged and a journey to be had, I suspected there would be chances to carry out my promise. Never did I imagine things could go so well. Not only did a Kraken attack our ship and wound my mark, but while wounded she decided to make a solo ride to meet the rest of our party. As I am now “a knight” It was my duty to protect a member of the house on such a foray, giving me the opening needed.

Not that my feelings matter so far as the gift is concerned, but I did not relish the way things ended. While Calaila was super rude to me, it still felt a bit crummy to shoot a longtime ally in the back. Alas, it had to be done, and so it was. Who am I to question the opportunities the many-faced god gives?

Now onto the cover up. A few things should work in my favor… First, she had been rather mean to me in front of the Maester. This means I can return alone and no raise suspicion. Who would want to ride for hours with a someone being a jerk? I will say I deserved better and left her on her own.

Second, I have her face (unmarred) and can bid the Maester farewell as her. Perhaps she got scared without a knight around to protect her and needed to bail.

Third, most of our party is not present and Jardon is hammered, I only need to deliver one message as her to the Maester that she is running away and the group should buy it.

Fourth, I have a reason for her to run. Rusty paid her a semi-private visit with only me there to “protect” her. What was said was semi-threatening, but I will make it sound so much worse when I recall it to the others. She truly was terrified of him anyways!

And lastly, she will be planning to return at a later date. She isn’t saying goodbye forever, just goodbye for now. And just maybe I will have her come back from time to time to keep people from wondering too much or to cast votes in favor of my schemes…

Ser Darron’s Journal XIV

I’ve always hated these situations: men trying to bully each other with words. It’s dishonorable, and unchivalrous, and confusing.

I watch Ralph speaking and find my hand on the pommel of Victorinox. I survey the room: four of them, three armed. A plan begins to form. I’ll take them unaware. The thief first – and quickly – then engage the knights. Will the Lordling and Bard join the melee? Yes, I think.

We’ll fight our way out… Escape before the watch can be alerted! Sail neither south nor west (as they’d expect) but rather to Essos! Dock perhaps in Norvos where the name Tito Alfah holds sway and join up with a company of mercenaries.

The band from Jasper will laugh and fight under that new sun. Against any foe our blades will sing and the east will know the valour of Westerosi knights. Ho Ho!

We’ll all grow thick moustaches and sit atop a mountain of riches; made of equal parts gold, women, dragon eggs, and wi….

I realize that everyone is looking at me… expecting me to speak… I choke but eventually say some half-truth to James. He frowns and seems…. affected by it?

Have I done it? Struck him with words alone? Darron the Wise! Ho Ho! Darron the Cunning!

I can’t wait to tell the handmaiden and farmer about this! They’ll have a good laugh!

The Red Ride from the Rambis

At the maester’s recommendation, I remained resting in my quarters until the quiet morning is rudely interrupted by an unwelcome guest. I hear the voice of treacherous Rusty board the Rambis, though he passes by my room. I strain my neck to hear what could be taking place beyond the surrounding walls, but hear only soft mumblings, until he returns to my threshold. Not wanting anything to do with Rusty’s diabolical planning, I feign sleep when he calls to me across the small room. As he steps closer, I feel sure he must be able to my heart pounding over my attempts at quiet snoring. His hot breath lands on my neck, and he whispers a veiled threat into my ears. I lay impossibly still until I am sure he has departed, realizing only then I have not taken a breath in minutes.

When I am sure he has gone, I call to Maester Thaddeus, and ask what has transpired-dread and deathly plotting follow Rusty wherever he goes. My worst fears are realized when it is revealed that Jardon drunkenly disclosed to Rusty that House Jasper returned with not one, but three dragon eggs from Valyria. Lord Theodore must hear of this at once. I ask sweet Thomas to deliver a message to Teddy, but he fears getting lost on his way across the Paps. I prepare my own horse, and Carsen insists on joining me. We bicker in front of the maester, and I express my distinct displeasure that it was he who brought this dangerous man on board, who may now expose his liege lord’s secrets to our enemies. Gesturing to the maester, I remind him that as the only current capable fighter present, it is his duty to protect the Rambis and those on board. He again insists he accompany me to the Woodhulls. The hair on my back and arms prickle at his demands and pushiness, but this message for Teddy cannot wait, and can be trusted to no one else.

A half a days ride in towards the Woodhulls, Carsen asks if we can take a break. “As I’ve already made it very clear to you, Carsen,” I respond, “I do not require an escort. You may travel at whatever pace you like.” I steel my eyes on the road ahead and move my rounsey into a bouncey trot, ignoring his request as he falls behind. It is only moments later that what feels like a hot poker rips into my flesh. Before I can truly register what is happening, I spur the horse into a gallop. Time seems to slow down, and my vision tunnels when another unimaginable pain explodes into my back. I have but an instant to look behind me from where I assume the attack is coming from. It takes the realized image of Ser Carsen-my ally, my comrade, my fellow Jasparian-carefully aiming a third arrow at me to fully understand the impossible. Ser Carsen is going to murder me in cold blood. Before I have time to look back ahead, my eyes desperate to meet the road and a horizon where I know Lord Theodore, Ser Darron and Ser Dolins await, Carsen’s final blow envelopes me in blackness.