Lynne Mormont has lived in the Bear's Keep for many years. For fifteen years to be specific, ever since her father fell on the battlefield and Lynne became house Mormont's sole heir. Back then, she decided to make the Keep once again her house's castle, as did many of her ancestors' before her. And yet, in all those years spent within the thick castle walls, she'd never seen the Keep so sad and silent.
Instead of the raging bear, the symbol of house Mormont, simple black drapings hung off the stone walls. When Lynne rode through the gate, she thought she'd choke on the mourning the air was so thick with.
"What the hell happened?" she harshly asked a serving boy to whom she was handing the reins of her horse.
"It's Joellu Whitethorn, ma'am." the boy answered, a sliver of fright in his voice.
Lynne raised one thick eyebrow. Joellu Whitethorn a generally good-looking lad of twenty-five was the heir to the Whitethorn house as well as the Isles sweetheart. With a keen mind and a kind heart, he was well-liked both in the political circles and the peasant ones. Lynne admired him for that. She couldn't even manage to be liked in her own house. "What about him?" she demanded whilst forcefully sliding gloves off her pale hands.
"He's dead ma'am." the boy said in a small voice.
"Oh." that's all the young heiress managed to say, although she quickly reprimanded herself. "What a tragedy."
She realised she probably sounded like a cold-hearted bitch, but honestly, she couldn't bring herself to care. She just came back from a diplomatic visit to an allied house, her aunt dragged her on. Her muscles ached from hours spend on horseback, her mind numb from listening to politics. She just wanted to rest.
But rest will have to wait, she thought bitterly as she made her way through the Keep. Lucky for her, she knew a couple of shortcuts, so two minutes later, she was knocking at her uncle's door. She didn't bother to wait until he answered.
"Who was the bastard that killed Joe Whitethorn?" she spat out, using the nickname his family and friends had for him out of habit.
Etyyt Mormont cleared his throat. He knew that his wife's niece had a bit of a temper, that their house was closely affiliated with the Whitethorns and that if he wouldn't tread carefully, Lynne might start throwing things. She'd done that a couple of times already.
"It was an assassin. But we don't know who hired him." he quickly added at the spark in Lynne's sky-blue eyes, "Look, dear, why don't you sit? You must be exhausted after such a long journey." She pointed her finger at him accusingly. "Don't try to change the subject," she warned but sat at the chair he proposed her.
"As I was saying," the old man picked up, "They captured the assassin, but he managed to kill himself before they had a chance to learn in whose's employ he was."
"Why would someone want to kill Joe?" the young woman asked, and for the first time, her voice wasn't tainted with anger. Etyyt shook his head sadly. "The assassin didn't mean to kill Whitethorn, but the king."
He saw the flame in Lynne's eye's die down as he let that sink in. The woman propped her elbows on her knees, then put her head in her hands. Not only was a good man dead, but he was also dead because of an accident. He wasn't meant to die, not only in the profound sense.
"What happened?" she asked, raising her head. Her dark hair fell the sides of her face, almost falling over her red-rimmed eyes.
"All the lords gathered for the spring solstice council, as they do every year. Only that this year Lord Whitethorn brought his son alongside him. All went relatively smoothly until the ceremonial supper. When the king made a toast to the Isles, the assassin shot, aiming at him. Joellu must have seen the arrow in its flight, for he threw himself in its path. The king survived without a scratch on his body, but the young heir bled out from the wound. The guards quickly captured the assassin, but before any man could question him, he started to convulse. Turned out, he had ingested a lethal potion. The king named Joellu a knight of the Isles and arranged for his funeral to be held at the Owlies Den."
Lynne sat in silence whilst listening, her expression unchangeable. When her uncle finished speaking and looked at her in anticipation, she simply rose from her chair.
"I'll see you at supper, uncle," she said before exiting the room.
When she emerged from her bathing chamber an hour later, she felt soothed. Perhaps by having the hardships of the last few days washed off her or by the flower petals, she added to the bath, or maybe just by spending nearly an hour undisturbed, in only her own company.
She let her wet hair freely flow down the nape of her neck, all the way down to the small of her back. Between it and her lavender-smelling skin was only the slightly rough fabric of her towel, wrapped around her rather thin frame. She walked over to her wardrobe, her still-wet feet leaving watery footprints at the wooden floor. Her hands slid over her clothes until they stopped at a black dress with leather elements. She plucked it out and shut the wardrobe in one swift motion. The dress fell on the neatly done bed, with a towel following suit. Lynne spared a thought to the poor servant tasked with cleaning her chambers.
The dress fit her perfectly, the leather at her hips and collar bones sliding off her like a second skin. The rest of the dress was made of thick, rough fabric, sliding off her frame onto the floor, hiding the heavy boots she wore underneath. Absentmindedly, she picked a piece of twine and used it to tie part of her hair into a messy bun over the rest of the dark locks. Pleased with the result, she set out onto the corridor. While she walked to the dining hall, her mind chomped away at the death of the Whitethorn heir. She felt sad at the whole proceeding, and she felt bad about it. But, as she was ashamed, to admit even to herself, she felt more bad that she couldn't do anything now than anything else.
"Hello, Lynne, dear," the brunettes aunt greeted her as the young heiress entered the dining hall. Lynne simply nodded curtly in response. That night, the whole court of the Keep was dining with them, with shouldn't come as a surprise to her, with both the head of house returning and the heir of an allied house being murdered.
When she was half-way through a bite, Lynne's aunt stood up.
"As many of you know, the funeral of the tragically dead Joellu Whitethorn will be held at the Owlies Den. The closest relatives of Joellu travel to the Den as we speak. Tomorrow morning, they shall reach the Bear's Keep. We will allow them to stay here for a few days, to gather their strength before the rest of their journey."
It took all of Lynne's strength not to choke on that bite. With accusation and fury in her eyes, she turned to her aunt who was helping herself to a glass of wine. Note to self: don't wander round aunt and uncles chambers tonight, Lynne thought.
"How come I only learn of this now?" she spat at her aunt. The woman might have been the head of house but it was only until Lynne'd reach the age of twenty-one. It didn't help the brunette have any respect to formalities when dealing with the woman. Nor with anyone else, for that matter.
"I only learned of this mere minutes ago. Calm down, dear," the older woman said with a calming smile. She had known her niece for a long time now, and so she pushed a plate full of pie towards her. The young woman but flashed her a small smile before throwing herself at the pie.
Dark hair spilled all over the deep red pillow as Lynne threw herself onto her bed. After she left the supper she had enough energy to but jump out of the black dress and into her nightgown. And as she lay in bed, she picked at the little bluebirds knitted all over the otherwise brown dress.
She pushed the thick blanket onto herself, letting it rub over her skin, where the nightgown left it exposed. She stared up at the ceiling, where the moonlight, coming in from the wide window, danced with the dust. With a stronger huff, she slightly disturbed the ethereal dance. The way the particles of dust and light seemed to scramble back into their previous positions brought a smile to her face.
Come morning, the highest of the Whitethorns would arrive. The thought filled her with both dread and joy. She disliked when the Castle was overflowing with people, making it that more difficult to slip quickly through the many corridors and passages of the Keep. But the Whitethorns arrival meant that she'd get a chance to see the two cousins of the recently murdered, which she had not for at least a year at that point. She wondered if thinking that something good came out of a murder of a good person, made her, in turn, a bad person.
And with that thought, she drifted into sleep. Into dreams filled with arrows and white roses. And, for some reason, pies laughing mockingly at her.