The Scene: Tomas and Ser Jory are making the approximately 8 hour ride through trackless and hilly terrain to Stormhold from Ravenswatch. (I am assuming that they have been staying in the town of Ravenswatch, though I may be wrong.) Ser Jory tells Tomas neither the reason for the journey nor the destination.
I am going to let you start out, Rigil, so you can establish the personality of the characters and the relationship between them.
The day dawned crisp and cold, with a clear blue sky that promised an improvement of the temperature, but there was something … intangible in the air that hinted at great change. It wasn’t obvious – there was no wolfish serenade at sunup or a murder of crows circling overhead – and the smallfolk of Ravenswatch seemed oblivious to it, but Tomas Stone could feel it in his bones. Somehow, some way, he knew that his world was about to change.
He took extra caution while saddling the horses and, much to the unstated displeasure of the boy paid to watch over them, insisted on triple-checking everything. By the time he was satisfied, even his ever-patient courser was fidgeting in place, affected no doubt by Tomas’ worries. The stableboy wisely said nothing, but then, he was not especially helpful either.
“Go and rouse Ser Jory,” Tomas finally ordered sharply. They had a long journey before them, one with a purpose that remained a mystery – the ruins of Stormhold were a full day’s travel by horse and the blighted lands surrounding the fallen castle was a favorite for brigands.
“Yes, my lord,” the stableboy replied before darting away. Tomas’ automatic response – that he was no lord – died on his lips the instant that he realized he was alone in the stables. Instead, he blew out a frustrated breath and focused on donning his mail.
“You look like you’re going to war,” Ser Jory Todd announced when he strolled into the stables long minutes later. He still stunk of ale and whores, but his eyes were sharp and his bearing upright, which Tomas took as a good thing. The very last thing he wanted to do was ride into the blighted lands around Stormhold with a drunkard in tow.
“A warrior who goes unprepared into a situation where battle is likely has no claim to the title warrior,” Tomas replied wryly. Ser Jory scoffed.
“Rhetorical nonsense,” he muttered. “Where do you learn that crap?”
“From you, my lord,” Tomas said with a smirk. “If you still mean for us to ride to Stormhold,” he added, “then I would be a fool not to wear armor.”
“And I suppose you expect me to do the same.” Ser Jory frowned in disgust. In recent years, as his age advanced and his girth expanded, the once dangerously fit knight had become positively disdainful toward wearing actual armor.
“If it pleases my lord,” Tomas said. He gave the older man a quick smile. “And if it pleases him not,” he replied brightly, “then I shall be forced to remind him of the many uncomfortable things he required me to do as a child that were all in the name of preparation for war.” When Ser Jory gave him a sour look, Tomas’ smile deepened. “The world does not wait for you to be ready, boy,” he quoted in a raspy hiss that was a close approximation of Todd’s gravelly voice. “Those ill prepared for conflict deserve their graves and should never be mourned.”
“And to think,” Ser Jory grumbled in that all too familiar tone that only partially disguised his affection, “you were such a respectful lad before you went away.” Tomas glanced away – he had no desire to think of those days, to think about the blood and sweat and shit of battle, or the screams of the dead and wounded – and Todd cleared his throat apologetically. Not once in the last five years had they discussed the war, or how Tomas had disregarded his mentor’s explicit wishes to ride with Lord Wayn’s soldiers, and from the gruff expression that flickered across the older man’s face, today would be no different. “Help me with my armor, boy,” Ser Jory ordered.
“As my lord wishes,” Tomas replied calmly.
The sensation of being watched followed them out of Ravenswatch, and Tomas did not relax until they were two leagues away, by which time his concern about the general lawlessness of the region set in. Ser Jory was deep in thought, seemingly less interested in their surroundings than whatever had been concerning him for nearly a week, ever since he returned from his last visit to Lord Wayn, and Tomas filed it away for later discussion. For a moment, he briefly considered bringing it up himself, but just as quickly discarded the notion – Ser Jory rarely liked being forced to address something that he did not bring up himself, and Tomas was not interested in another argument. They had too many of those now and had since Tomas came back from the war, no longer an eager understudy hungry for a surrogate father, but now a scarred adult that had seen too much death.
“You did not visit the Mine,” Ser Jory abruptly declared sometime before midday. He spoke of Ravenswatch’s small brothel and Tomas gave him a sidelong look. “By my reckoning,” Todd added without making eye contact, “you haven’t visited since you came back.”
“I haven’t felt the need,” Tomas said flatly, hoping the older man would drop the matter and they could go on pretending that things were still the same. In truth, Tomas had been tempted to visit the Old Mine – the new dark-haired girl they had there was everything he appreciated in a woman – but the desire would vanish the instant he thought about the scars that crisscrossed his torso. While he gave thanks to the Seven on the high holy days for sparing his life and his chance for future children should he ever find a woman able to look upon the ruin of his chest without disgust in her eyes, Tomas could not be feel the tiniest bit of resentment at the pain he had suffered at the hands of the Targaryens.
At least, he thought they were Targaryens. In the days after he recovered and rejoined the rebellion, there had been rumors and hints that others ostensibly allied with King Robert had been truly responsible…
“I worry about you, boy,” Ser Jory said. “Never forget that.” Tomas narrowed his eyes at the unexpected statement – it had the sound of finality, as if the old man knew something that did not sit well with him.
“And I you,” he replied, “especially when you act thus.” Ser Jory gave him a look and Tomas locked eyes with the man who had become his surrogate father. “It is time for you to tell me why we are going to Stormhold,” he said. Todd blew out a deep breath.
“Aye,” he said simply. “I think it is.”
There was a long pause and it was evident in his manner that he was struggling to find the right words. He shifted uncomfortably in his saddle before the words finally spilled out, "Stormhold, though I have never lived there, holds great meaning for me. Within its walls lies an altar to the seven that was built thousands of years ago by the first Andals in Westeros. It was there in the center of the Seven Pillars that I was knighted. It was there that every first born son of Todd has been knighted since the founding of our house. And it is there, Tomas, that you too shall be knighted."
Tomas inhaled sharply – a knighthood … that he was not expecting. As a bastard, he had long known that his options for social advancement were limited – as Lord Wayn had many legitimate children, it would require direct intervention from the crown to be named heir, which was why Tomas had been so grateful that Ser Jory took him as a page and then later a squire. The Night’s Watch was always an option and, in the dark days of the war, Tomas had seriously considered pledging himself to the black where his status as baseborn would not be considered a hindrance, but he had eventually overcome the desire. After the war, he had learned to accept his place and was simply content to act as his mentor’s squire. But now? Even if House Todd was fallen into ruin, official adoption into it opened new avenues that would have otherwise remained closed to him.
“You do me great honor, my lord,” he said softly. Ser Jory snorted.
“I am doing no such thing,” the grizzled old man retorted. “I’m doing what should have been done long ago, before you left for the war even…”
“That isn’t what I meant, my lord,” Tomas said. “I am honored that you think me worthy of your House.”
“My House.” Ser Jory snorted. “Not much of it left now … just one foolish old man …”
“Two foolish men, I think,” Tomas interjected with a smile. His good cheer faltered as he studied the horizon. “Is that smoke?” he asked aloud.
Last Edit: Dec 10, 2011 19:14:16 GMT -6 by Rigil Kent