Jaime ignored that. "You are putting those breeches on backwards, my lord," he told Bracken. As Jonos cursed, the woman slipped off the bed to snatch up her scattered clothing, her fingers fluttering nervously between her br**sts and cleft as she bent and turned and reached. Her efforts to conceal herself were oddly provocative, far more so than if she'd simply gone about the business naked. "Do you have a name, woman?" he asked her.
"My mother named me Hildy, ser." She pulled a soiled shift down over her head and shook her hair out. Her face was almost as dirty as her feet and she had enough hair between her legs to pass for Bracken's sister, but there was something appealing about her all the same. That pug nose, her shaggy mane of hair ... or the way she did a little curtsy after she had stepped into her skirt. "Have you seen my other shoe, m'lord?"
The question seemed to vex Lord Bracken. "Am I a bloody handmaid, to fetch you shoes? Go barefoot if you must. Just go."
"Does that mean m'lord won't be taking me home with him, to pray with his little wife?" Laughing, Hildy gave Jaime a brazen look. "Do you have a little wife, ser?"
No, I have a sister. "What color is my cloak?"
"White," she said, "but your hand is solid gold. I like that in a man. And what is it you like in a woman, m'lord?"
"In a woman, I said. Not a daughter."
He thought of Myrcella. I will need to tell her too. The Dornishmen might not like that. Doran Martell had betrothed her to his son in the belief that she was Robert's blood. Knots and tangles, Jaime thought, wishing he could cut through all of it with one swift stroke of his sword. "I have sworn a vow," he told Hildy wearily.
"No turnips for you, then," the girl said, saucily. "Get out, " Lord Jonos roared at her.
She did. But as she slipped past Jaime, clutching one shoe and a pile of her clothes, she reached down and gave his c**k a squeeze through his breeches. "Hildy, " she reminded him, before she darted half-clothed from the tent.
Hildy, Jaime mused. "And how fares your lady wife?"
he asked Lord
Jonos when the girl was gone.
"How would I know? Ask her septon. When your father burned our castle, she decided the gods were punishing us. Now all she does is pray."
Jonos had finally gotten his breeches turned the right way round and was lacing them up the front. "What brings you here, my lord? The Blackfish?
We heard how he escaped."
"Did you?" Jaime settled on a camp stool. "From the man himself, perchance?"
"Ser Brynden knows better than to come running to me. I am fond of the man, I won't deny that. That won't stop me clapping him in chains if he shows his face near me or mine. He knows I've bent the knee. He should have done the same, but he always was a stubborn one. His brother could have told you that."
"Tytos Blackwood has not bent the knee," Jaime pointed out.
"Might the Blackfish seek refuge at Raventree?"
"He might seek it, but to find it he'd need to get past my siege lines, and last I heard he hadn't grown wings. Tytos will be needing refuge himself before much longer. They're down to rats and roots in there. He'll yield before the next full moon."
"He'll yield before the sun goes down. I mean to offer him terms and accept him back into the king's peace."
"I see." Lord Jonos shrugged into a brown woolen tunic with the red stallion of Bracken embroidered on the front. "Will my lord take a horn of ale?"
"No, but don't go dry on my account."
Bracken filled a horn for himself, drank half of it, and wiped his mouth. "You spoke of terms. What sort of terms?"
"The usual sort. Lord Blackwood shall be required to confess his treason and abjure his allegiance to the Starks and Tullys. He will swear solemnly before gods and men to henceforth remain a leal vassal of Harrenhal and the Iron Throne, and I will give him pardon in the king's name. We will take a pot or two of gold, of course. The price of rebellion. I'
ll claim a hostage as well, to ensure that Raventree does not rise again."
"His daughter," suggested Bracken. "Blackwood has six sons, but only the one daughter. He dotes on her. A snot-nosed little creature, couldn'
t be more than seven."
"Young, but she might serve."
Lord Jonos drained the last of his ale and tossed the horn aside.
"What of the lands and castles we were promised?"
"What lands were these?"
"The east bank of the Widow's Wash, from Crossbow Ridge to Rutting Meadow, and all the islands in the stream. Grindcorn Mill and Lord'
s Mill, the ruins of Muddy Hall, the Ravishment, Battle Valley, Oldforge, the villages of Buckle, Blackbuckle, Cairns, and Claypool, and the market town at Mudgrave. Waspwood, Lorgen's Wood, Greenhill, and Barba's Teats. Missy'
s Teats, the Blackwoods call them, but they were Barba'
Honeytree and all the hives. Here, I've marked them out if my lord would like a look." He rooted about on a table and produced a parchment map. Jaime took it with his good hand, but he had to use the gold to open it and hold it flat. "This is a deal of land," he observed. "You will be increasing your domains by a quarter."
Bracken's mouth set stubbornly. "All these lands belonged to Stone Hedge once. The Blackwoods stole them from us."
"What about this village here, between the Teats?" Jaime tapped the map with a gilded knuckle.
"Pennytree. That was ours once too, but it's been a royal fief for a hundred years. Leave that out. We ask only for the lands stolen by the Blackwoods. Your lord father promised to restore them to us if we would subdue Lord Tytos for him."
"Yet as I was riding up, I saw Tully banners flying from the castle walls, and the direwolf of Stark as well. That would seem to suggest that Lord Tytos has not been subdued."
"We've driven him and his from the field and penned them up inside Raventree. Give me sufficient men to storm his walls, my lord, and I will subdue the whole lot of them to their graves."
"If I gave you sufficient men, they would be doing the subduing, not you. In which case I should reward myself."
Jaime let the map roll up again.
"I'll keep this if I might."
"The map is yours. The lands are ours. It's said that a Lannister always pays his debts. We fought for you."
"Not half as long as you fought against us."
"The king has pardoned us for that. I lost my nephew to your swords, and my natural son. Your Mountain stole my harvest and burned everything he could not carry off. He put my castle to the torch and raped one of my daughters. I will have recompense."
"The Mountain's dead, as is my father," Jaime told him, "and some might say your head was recompense enough. You did declare for Stark, and kept faith with him until Lord Walder killed him."
"Murdered him, and a dozen good men of my own blood." Lord Jonos turned his head and spat. "Aye, I kept faith with the Young Wolf. As I'll keep faith with you, so long as you treat me fair. I bent the knee because I saw no sense in dying for the dead nor shedding Bracken blood in a lost cause."
"A prudent man." Though some might say that Lord Blackwood has been more honorable. "You'll get your lands. Some of them, at least. Since you partly subdued the Blackwoods."
That seemed to satisfy Lord Jonos. "We will be content with whatever portion my lord thinks fair. If I may offer you some counsel, though, it does not serve to be too gentle with these Blackwoods. Treachery runs in their blood. Before the Andals came to Westeros, House Bracken ruled this river. We were kings and the Blackwoods were our vassals, but they betrayed us and usurped the crown. Every Blackwood is born a turncloak. You would do well to remember that when you are making terms."
"Oh, I shall," Jaime promised.
When he rode from Bracken's siege camp to the gates of Raventree, Peck went before him with a peace banner. Before they reached the castle, twenty pairs of eyes were watching them from the gatehouse ramparts. He drew Honor to a halt at the edge of the moat, a deep trench lined with stone, its green waters choked by scum. Jaime was about to command Ser Kennos to sound the Horn of Herrock when the drawbridge began to descend. Lord Tytos Blackwood met him in the outer ward, mounted on a destrier as gaunt as himself. Very tall and very thin, the Lord of Raventree had a hook nose, long hair, and a ragged salt-and-pepper beard that showed more salt than pepper. In silver inlay on the breastplate of his burnished scarlet armor was a white tree bare and dead, surrounded by a flock of onyx ravens taking flight. A cloak of raven feathers fluttered from his shoulders.
"Lord Tytos," Jaime said. "Ser."
"Thank you for allowing me to enter."
"I will not say that you are welcome. Nor will I deny that I have hoped that you might come. You are here for my sword."
"I am here to make an end of this. Your men have fought valiantly, but your war is lost. Are you prepared to yield?"
"To the king. Not to Jonos Bracken."
Blackwood hesitated a moment. "Is it your wish that I dismount and kneel before you here and now?"
A hundred eyes were looking on. "The wind is cold and the yard is muddy," said Jaime. "You can do your kneeling on the carpet in your solar once we've agreed on terms."
"That is chivalrous of you," said Lord Tytos. "Come, ser. My hall might lack for food, but never for courtesy."
Blackwood's solar was on the second floor of a cavernous timber keep. There was a fire burning in the hearth when they entered. The room was large and airy, with great beams of dark oak supporting the high ceiling. Woolen tapestries covered the walls, and a pair of wide latticework doors looked out upon the godswood. Through their thick, diamond-shaped panes of yellow glass Jaime glimpsed the gnarled limbs of the tree from which the castle took its name. It was a weirwood ancient and colossal, ten times the size of the one in the Stone Garden at Casterly Rock. This tree was bare and dead, though.
"The Brackens poisoned it," said his host. "For a thousand years it has not shown a leaf. In another thousand it will have turned to stone, the maesters say. Weirwoods never rot."
"And the ravens?" asked Jaime. "Where are they?"
"They come at dusk and roost all night. Hundreds of them. They cover the tree like black leaves, every limb and every branch. They have been coming for thousands of years. How or why, no man can say, yet the tree draws them every night." Blackwood settled in a high-backed chair.
"For honor's sake I must ask about my liege lord."
"Ser Edmure is on his way to Casterly Rock as my captive. His wife will remain at the Twins until their child is born. Then she and the babe will join him. So long as he does not attempt escape or plot rebellion, Edmure will live a long life."
"Long and bitter. A life without honor. Until his dying day, men will say he was afraid to fight."
Unjustly, Jaime thought. It was his child he feared for. He knew whose son I am, better than mine own aunt. "The choice was his. His uncle would have made us bleed."