Honor & Blood, V: Bran
Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this game can and will deviate from series canon.
The Story So Far: It is Year 296 since Aegon’s Landing. Jon Snow has left Winterfell for Moat Cailin, home of House Luxon. His brothers Robb and Bran have gone with him to wish him well. Lord Goddard invites the sons of his liege lord to stay for a feast and rest before returning home, and while Robb spars with his half-brother one last time, Bran explores the unfamiliar castle and its many towers…
He adored the feeling of the wind cutting through him.
Summer kept pace on the ground, watchful, long ears alert. The direwolf pup could not climb after him, though. The craggy masonry and hidden handholds were Bran’s province alone. Here, in a place he’d never seen, he still navigated walls and towers with speed and precision. In his mind he saw himself assaulting an enemy stronghold, a dagger clenched in his teeth, men at arms struggling to keep up as they moved to overwhelm the guards at the gate, or carry off a damsel in distress.
One tower was different from the others. It was not the tallest one of Moat Cailin’s many, but it was one of the few that seemed unmanned. A gregarious garron was the only creature keeping watch at its base, tied to a post and pawing at the ground. Summer gave it a sniff in introduction as Bran ascended the tower. He immediately caught a scent from above: freshly brewed tea, strong and exotic. Curiosity overwhelmed him as he moved, hand over hand, up the side of the tower. At last he came to the window that was the source of the scent.
A small spiral staircase rose through the middle of the room. Several stout bookshelves were spaced around the room, scrolls and tomes stuffed into their spaces. Tapestries hung from the higher portions of the wall and rugs lay on the floor. A small firepit was near the window, with a kettle hanging over it. Across the way from Bran was a table featuring odd figurines and two men facing one another as they sat in thought.
One was Lord Goddard Luxon. He reminded Bran of his lord father, a man of war tempered with patience and wisdom. The other was an older man, his head curiously devoid of hair, dressed in the robes of a maester. The stranger’s eyes flicked towards Bran, then back to the table.
“A moment while I tend to the tea.” He moved one of the figurines and rose. He picked up a staff that had been leaning against a nearby shelf before hobbling over to the fire pit, slowly, his eyes on Bran. The boy didn’t move. Carefully, the maester removed the pot from the firepit’s rail, set it on a side table, and covered the firepit with a broad metal lid.
“You best come inside, my lad. ‘Twould be a shame to see you fall from this height.”
Nodding, Bran climbed into the room. The maester was pouring tea as Goddard regarded him.
“As you are not one of Lord Goddard’s children, I deduce you’re one of our honored guests.”
“That would be Bran Stark.” Goddard hadn’t moved from the table, his gaze severe on the boy. “And he should know wandering a yard, any yard that is not his own, is inherently dangerous.”
“I’m sorry.” Bran found his voice but did not meet the lord’s eyes. “I like to climb.”
“Well, since you worked so hard in climbing up here, would you mind holding onto this tray for our lord?” The maester was holding a small tray with two steaming cups, and Bran took it. Smiling, the maester moved back to the table with the boy in tow. Goddard’s look had softened for a moment before turning back to the figurines.
“What is this?”
“It is called cyvasse, young master, a game of strategy and cunning. It is a means of keeping the mind sharp and taking the measure of another without the need for swords.”
“And it’s damned annoying at times.” Goddard’s voice was laced with mirth, however, and he rubbed his chin as he regarded the board before him. After a few quiet moments, during which the maester sampled his tea, the lord moved his trebuchet.
“Why is it annoying?”
“A skilled opponent knows not to move all of his powerful pieces to the front.” Goddard took a sip of tea, then nodded to the maester with a raise of the cup. “I jest; facing a skilled opponent is only annoying in that more effort must be exerted in overcoming them.”
The maester smiled, then turned his attention to the board. Bran leaned closer and looked at the different tiles and pieces.
“Why not simply fly your dragons over everything?”
“Two reasons.” The maester moved one of his spearmen to block his opponent’s trebuchet. “One, this is a game of Old Valyria, and the object is to capture the king, which is stronger than a dragon. Two, moving your dragons aggressively can sometimes be effective, but canny players can deal with and extinguish early threats and leave their opponents at a disadvantage for the duration of the game.”
“Not every battle is won with strength alone, Bran.” Goddard moved his heavy horse. “More often than not, you must use your eyes and your mind as much as your sword or fist to win the day.”
Bran nodded, watching as the game unfolded. Eventually, the maester was forced to move his king out of his fortress and after a merry chase, Goddard pinned it in the back corner with his horse and spy. The maester, unflustered, stood and bowed to his lord.
“A well-played match, my lord. The board is yours.”
Goddard stood and offered the maester his hand. “A good game and good tea. We must do this again.”
As they shook, noise came from below. The bulky form of Brock Samson came up the spiral, followed by the quick and quiet Spectre. Bran smiled and walked over to the shadow cat, who rammed Bran’s shoulder with her head to ensure she had the boy’s full attention.
“Some of the locals have arrived, my lord, wishing to speak with you about their crops and trade. I also was told to find Bran to inform him Robb is ready to leave.”
Bran looked up from petting Spectre. “I want to say good-bye to Jon.”
“So you will.” Goddard laid his teacup down on the side table and made for the stairs, with Brock in tow. Spectre moved after her master, but Bran hesitated, looking back at the maester as he put the cyvasse pieces in a box on a shelf near the table.
“Did you go bald when you became a maester?”
The older man smiled. “In a way. I shave every morning. It’s a ritual, a reminder of the commitment I’ve chosen to make to the realm.”
“What about your leg? Doesn’t that remind you?”
“My leg reminds me that I am more than the circumstances that left me with only one of flesh and blood.” The maester leaned on his staff as he regarded the boy. “Men are more than they seem, young master. More than their handicaps, more than their prowess, more than their smiles. Do not be afraid to look deeper into their hearts, as well as your own.”
Bran nodded as Goddard called his name. He hurried down the stairs. Summer bounded after him as they searched for Jon. He wasn’t leaving until he said good-bye.
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