22 Riding High In April

Mid 275 Spring

If anything my battlefield plate armor is even heavier than my jousting armor, and even more ornate. My armet helm is gilded as if a bear pelt is hanging off me, an effect that continues down my back and over my arms and legs. The parts not covered in extra gold plating are once again lacquered dark green and enameled with an image of a naked woman draped in a bear skin with a mace in one hand and a babe in the other, the image emblazoned on the gates of Mormont Keep. She stands next to a weirwood tree of enameled ivory and leaves of ground garnet that stretches down my cuirass with roots decorating my faulds and grieves.

Many knights tried to damage my foppish armor in the last forty minutes of melee action, and they all failed. The crowd cheered as I spun and my blunt broadsword connected with the helmet of a man attacking me from behind - not very sporting of him, but tactically sound, ten stars for the battlefield, no stars for the melee, get pwned you scrub - knocking him off his feet and out of the contest.

My performance looked like the stuff of legend, but in truth my sword skills are only expert in quality. I cheated. I cheated. I cheated some more. My pair of eagles were perched atop the stands, and shared their fields of view with me, essentially giving me a third person action game perspective of the combat. Three years of training this ability showed true in this tournament as I easily managed distance and never failed to see an attack coming.

A biting head ache was a small price to pay for a purse of two hundred dragons sponsored by the Hightowers in celebration of the birthday of the four year old Lynesse.

It felt incredibly weird fighting in the 'name-day' tourney of a four year old canon Jorah would someday marry. I'm twenty two. I don't particularly care about men in their mid thirties marrying eighteen year olds. In fact, I commend the Hightowers for keeping their daughter off the market for so long and marrying her to someone that seemed like a love match. It's just weird that she's four right now.

I don't spend any time thinking about the top tier slam pieces from canon, and I don't like thinking about it now. Conveniently, the final knight from some noble house here in the Reach came into my range and after a brutal parry I knocked him off his feet by punching him with the steel rim of my shield and pressed the tip of my blunt sword to his chest to secure the victory in the first of the main events in this multi day tourney.

This afternoon I would partake in the archery contest for another two hundred dragons, and tomorrow the joust, aiming for tournament champion and the four hundred dragon prize. Plus crowning Alysa the Queen of Love and Beauty in front of more people than she's ever seen before in the oldest and one of the most wealthy cities of Westeros sounds like the kind of thing that stands out among life's happiest moments for the woman.

I'd brought Alysa and our six children on this trip. She'd officially closed down shop on the baby making after the birth of our second daughter, the now three year old Njada. We'd left Bear Island in the cruel clutches of Maege, partially because she's the obvious candidate and partially so that people will appreciate us more after dealing with the old crone.

Helga served as a fine steward for Rockhall, and over the last three years she'd been a godsend for breaking the salt wives I took from the third great raid into obedient little deer like Ysolt. I almost loved her for it, and promised to see her children provided for over those of the other Salt Wives. Of the two daughters she brought into our union, the older, Astrid, already joined my stable of Salt Wives and was the first woman to birth me multiples, twin boys in 274, and a little girl this year. These children too, I would reward for the service of their grandmother. I'm multigenerational with my generosity like that.

"That was awesome!" Screamed Galmar as I strode over to the viewing area.

"You're welcome." I nodded to the boy and continued to the seating area of Lord Hightower to be pronounced the victor and receive my spoils, a rosewood chest with four pounds of gold coins in it. I took the chest back to my walled tent located near the tourney grounds.

The space soon became filled with my family as Ulfric helped me remove my plate armor and put it away carefully.

"That was the most thrilling spectacle I've seen since you rode out and put the Drumms to the sword." Alysa complimented me as she kept an hand wrapped around Njada to keep the three year old from running off to look at things, "Are they always this exciting."

"No." I answered, "Maybe two or three tournaments a year are this large in Lannisport, and only one bigger. I believe this tournament won't even make the top ten this year for those held in the Reach."

"A two hundred dragon prize and there are ten tournaments to be held bigger than this?" my wife scoffed, "Some people have far too much money on their hands."

Oh you sweet summer child. Once the big boy Bobby B gets his ass on the throne tourney prizes are going to be huge. We're fighting for peanuts these days by comparison.

"Aye." I agreed, "That's why I do my best to take it from theirs and put it in ours."

"Go on then husband." Alysa chuckled as she pointed to my long bow, a beautiful composite of horn and weirwood, "Your tools are ready, go out and bring me more gold to sleep atop. I'm not satisfied being the richest wife in the North. There can always be more."

Technically, I had more liquid wealth than the other lords of the North, but other lords greatly outstrip my lands, natural resources, buildings, and manpower. Still nice to have the most gold, as all that other stuff is mostly rotting assets in the hands of my contemporaries and thus not contributing to their influence the same way my gold and its buying power contributes to my influence.

After lunch I tied a black bandana around my head to keep my hair out of my eyes before I took up my quiver and long bow to go stand around for two hours and occasionally shoot an arrow. Second place failed at two hundred yards, meaning I was still a hundred yards from actually trying by the time I earned my next rosewood chest full of gold.

For the feasting that evening my family was seated with the Hightowers due to my performance. The idea that a minor lord from the North would sit at the side of Leyton Hightower, one of the most powerful and wealthiest lords in Westeros, at his own feast was a completely ridiculous idea. But it happened.

Like me, Lord Leyton was a breeder, with ten children spread out over four wives, his youngest boy still suckling the teat. His oldest son Baelor, was a year older than me and freshly married. I got my usual laugh when he heard my age and started doing the math backward. I just turned twenty one. My oldest boy is nine. I saw the exact moment his brain went WTF on his face.

He told me he'd go easy on me as it was my first time in the joust, and our names were on the first match on the lists, opening up the hundred and twenty eight man seven round single elimination tourney.

I thanked him for his consideration and knocked him from his horse on the third pass, the first thunderous crack of my lance likely took his brain back to WTF in the form of 'what the fuck was that?', then the second was 'where the fuck am I?'. The final lance had the man asking, 'did I win?' after the standby team revived him with the smelling salts. Baelor would have no recollection of our match, but he at least got to spectate the awesome display of domination I put on that day.

Beating an experienced and highborn knight on my first tourney tilt got people pumped for my next appearance, and Baelor's performance soon turned out to be an excellent showing as my next three tilts resulted in three unhorsed knights as the men proved to feeble to hold up under the thunder I bring. Each got the hard shaft and left the field totally wrecked.

No one actually made it to the third pass again until my fellow finalist in the seventh round went three lances with me despite being far more battered and bruised from his come up on the other side of the bracket. The tough knight from the Horn Hill took a pounding, but proved he was something more as he grit his teeth and clenched his butt cheeks to endure another. Though three poundings was more than he could take, the knight of the Horn Hill hobbled off the field we shared with my respect, and the adulation of the crowd for such a display of endurance.

Getting a third rosewood chest, this time with eight pounds of gold in it, felt absolutely splendid, but Alysa's face when I put the wreath of flowers that declared her the Queen of Love and Beauty was a rare treat. Pure joy.

We were friends, my wife and I, best friends even. No one would ever sing songs about the intensity of our love, but we might get a folk song about how much we loved to make love. Despite that I'd say our marriage is better than ninety percent of the relationships in either Westeros or back on Earth. Ten years, six healthy kids, and a rocket ship of a startup business maturing into a regional trade powerhouse. Two backwoods hillbillies at the high table of the best parties. The subjects of salacious gossip, but in truth; everyone wanted to be us. Young and rising up the world fast. The world was ours for the taking.

I should have known it was more than just the Southern heat making me so warm and fatigued when we boarded The Thunderer and set off for home. The biggest collection of certified doctors in the world have their training center down the way from the docks, and I just sailed on like nothing was wrong.

Franky was right. Riding high in April...


Interestingly enough, spell check caught no misspelled words on this when I finished the draft, all the red underlines were names and words the checker didn't know.

I caught up on The Dragonwolf yesterday on Fanfiction . net and in the new chapter Baelor Hightower ordered every tree to be cut down among other things for his vengeance against the Iron Islands. I've done it lads, effected the collective unconscious to the point that others now see that the trees are party to the heinous actions of whoever lives nearby. They must share in the punishment for they share in the sin.

I am inevitable.

You can support me and my family at

ko - fi . com / jmanm

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