The Sworn Sword-Summary
|The Sworn Sword|
|Dunk and Egg novella|
|Previous||The Hedge Knight|
|Next||The Mystery Knight|
Duncan and Aegon are returning from Dosk with two casks of wine for Ser Eustace Osgrey. They note the terrible toll that the drought is having, and the predation by the ironmen was not making matters any better. The oppressive heat is wearing down Dunk, but he recalls Ser Arlan's saying that aches and pains “were as much a part of knighthood as swords and shields”. When the pair reaches Standfast, they are accosted by Ser Bennis, another knight in service to Ser Eustace. Bennis is a mean-spirited sort, fond of chewing sourleaf with a foul mouth and a bad stench. Bennis mocks Ser Eustace constantly, and rarely lets up on Dunk either, calling him “Lunk” as Ser Arlan had; though the old man had meant it fondly. Duncan shares none of Bennis' disregards for Ser Eustace, instead believing that a sworn sword owes his liege lord respect, truth and leal service. Egg notices that the stream near Standfast has completely dried up in the short time they were gone. Bennis advises Dunk that the drought caused it, but Dunk disagrees; to which Bennis warns him not to get involved. But the hedge knight is stubborn as always, and insists on checking out the reason for the Chequy Water's disappearance (the Chequy Lion is the sigil of the Osgreys).
Leaving Egg behind to inform Ser Eustace of what they were about, Dunk and Bennis follow the dried up stream toward its source on the Webber lands. The current Lady of the house has a sinister reputation. Called the Red Widow due to her loss of 4 husbands, whom she is rumored to have poisoned or killed by black magic, the Webber sigil is also a spider. Their fortress Coldmoat is a true castle, and they own much more land than Ser Eustace. Standfast is nothing more than a fortified tower, with only a couple of tiny hovel villages. The Osgreys are no more than landed knights since the time of King Maegor the Cruel, while the Webbers are true minor lords. The two knights eventually arrive at a dam, with several builders putting on the finishing touches. The diggers are villagers from Coldmoat, and they do not break and run as Dunk had hoped. Dunk asks them to tear down the damn because it is blocking the flow of an Osgrey stream. Standing firm, the diggers form a line to prevent the two knights from tearing it down. Bennis draws his sword and slashes the face of one of the older villagers. Still the diggers hold their ground, and warn Duncan and Bennis that the Lady of Coldmoat will hear of what transpired.
The two knights return to Standfast, with Dunk prepared to tell Ser Eustace what occurred despite Bennis' protests to let it rest. Ser Bennis knows that the old knight will not abide this stain against his honor, and will seek retribution from the Red Widow for having the dam built. Sam Stoops tells them that the old knight is up in his solar, having just returned from the gravesite of his three sons, all of whom had died on the Redgrass Field. They find Eustace reminiscing over the Little Lion, an Osgrey hero from before the Conquest. And sure enough, the old knight is incensed over the damming of the Osgrey stream, known for over a thousand years as the Chequy Water. He warns that Lady Webber will come for Ser Bennis, just as she had for a forager from Standfast named Dake. Ser Duncan offers to go before Lord Rowan, but Ser Eustace states that Lady Rohanne's uncle is married to Lord Rowan's sister, and they will receive no help from that quarter. Instead, he charges his two sworn swords to go roust the townsfolk and arm them.
Dunk and Ser Bennis are only able to round up 8 able-bodied villagers, and a sad lot they are. Two of them had some experience in war, as they had marched with Ser Eustace 15 years before to fight for “the King” during the Blackfyre Rebellion. However, none of them show any promise, even with the simplest of martial weapons- the spear. Dunk begins to despair, knowing that even with a fortnight of training; these villagers will be put to rout by the Coldmoat forces, who have at least fifteen knights in addition to a small levy. That night, Dunk takes a bath in the cellar of Standfast, and Egg suggests that they use his boot to summon his father's forces. But Dunk asserts that he would only use Egg's boot in the most dire of circumstances. Later that night, Dunk dreams of how he tried to bury his horse Chestnut while in Dorne, and throughout the dream he is admonished by ghosts. Baelor, Valarr, and Ser Arlan all appear in the dream, as do deceased versions of Ser Bennis and the eight villagers from Standfast. The dream ended with Egg dying and Dunk helpless to save him.
The next day, Ser Eustace suggests that perhaps Lady Webber will accept a blood price for the cut Bennis had inflicted on her fieldhand. The old knight remarks how Coldmoat once belonged to the Osgreys back when they were the Marshals of the Northmarch. The Osgreys lost nearly all their power during the reign of Maegor the Cruel, when Lord Ormond Osgrey spoke out against Maegor for dismantling the Stars and Swords, two warrior sects of the Seven known as the Poor Fellows and the Warrior's Sons. Ser Eustace also mentions how his youngest son Addam had developed a fondness for Lady Rohanne back when Addam was a page for her father at Coldmoat. Dunk states that he will go treat with Lady Webber, since Ser Eustace had sworn never to return to Coldmoat.
Dunk takes another bath that night, and Egg recommends that his master avoid eating or drinking anything at Coldmoat, since Lady Webber was said to have poisoned three of her husbands, and was a practitioner of the dark arts. Duncan doubts what his squire says, but Egg tells him that the Lady Shiera Seastar, Lord Brynden Rivers' half-sister and paramour, bathes in blood, and even his own sister Rhae once tried to use a love potion on him. Egg seems to believe that some highborn ladies, in his limited experience, do dabble in the dark arts, even members of the extended royal family. Dunk then sends Egg to bed, telling him that he has no inclination of exposing the boy to possible danger by taking him to Coldmoat.
However, at daybreak, Egg is dressed in some of Addam Osgrey's old clothes, and had convinced Ser Eustace that Dunk would make a greater impact on the Red Widow with a squire at his side. Eustace gives Dunk an old Osgrey cloak, and accompanies them part of the way to Coldmoat. The old knight talks of how his son Addam had died trying to save his older brother Harrold on the Redgrass Field. The boy was merely twelve at the time. Ser Eustace then asks which dragon Ser Arlan had fought for, the red or the black. Dunk replies that Ser Arlan rode with Lord Hayford's battalion, who was Hand of King Daeron II at the time. Ser Eustace remarks, “Lord Hayford was a noted loyalist." Dunk recalls that Ser Arlan had lost his squire during the fighting, his own nephew Roger of Pennytree. The hedge knight considers how many lives might have been saved had King Aegon the Unworthy given the Targaryen sword 'Blackfyre' to his trueborn son Daeron instead of his eldest bastard, who would later be called (by many) Daemon the Pretender.
Ser Eustace continues that the battle was closer than many believe, and if it had not been for Lord Bloodraven, Daemon Blackfyre might have won. When Dunk says that he had always heard that it was Prince Baelor and Prince Maekar's flanking of Daemon's host that had won the Redgrass Field, the old knight scoffs. He talks wistfully of how Daemon was the Warrior himself that day, slaying two renowned knights, breaking Lord Arryn's vanguard, and fighting a legendary hour-long battle with Ser Gwayne Corbray of the Kingsguard. And therein laid his undoing, since Daemon supposedly called for his own maester to look after Ser Gwayne, rather than finish off his foe. This chivalrous move allowed Lord Bloodraven and his Raven's Teeth to gain the Weeping Ridge. Brynden Rivers, using his weirwood bow and possibly sorcery, shot down Daemon's eldest son Aegon and then Daemon himself. When the younger twin Aemon took up 'Blackfyre', Lord Bloodraven put a shaft through his heart as well. According to the old knight, it was this event that crushed Daemon Blackfyre's Rebellion, and not what the singers would have everyone believe.
Ser Eustace concludes his story by saying, “So close a thing…if Daemon had ridden over Gwayne Corbray and left him to his fate, he might have broken Maekar's left before Bloodraven could take the ridge…The singers can go on about their Hammer and their Anvil, ser, but it was the kinslayer who turned the tide with a white arrow and a black spell. He rules us now as well, make no mistake. King Aerys is his creature.” The landed knight then takes his leave of Dunk and Egg, and the boy suggests that Dunk pay the Lady of Coldmoat compliments, even if she is as old and ugly as some say. After crossing the Chequy Water, the two note that some of the water is also being diverted to fill the moat from which Coldmoat got its name. The guards at the drawbridge agree to take Dunk before Ser Lucas Inchfield, the Castellan of Coldmoat, while Egg tends to their horses.
In the yard, Dunk passes a freckled young woman loosing arrows at an archery butt with a squire. At the quintain, Dunk is brought before the castellan and an enormously fat septon. Lucas Longinch is famed for his height, but he is several inches shorter than Dunk who stands an inch short of seven feet. Ser Lucas threatens to hang Dunk for his involvement in the altercation at the dam, but Sefton Staunton recommends that the castellan bring Dunk before Lady Rohanne. They walk over to the small sept within the castle's yard, and meet a highborn lady of about 40. Ser Lucas calls her 'my lady' and tells her that Dunk bears a message from Ser Eustace. When Dunk declares that her ladyship built a dam to divert the Chequy Water, the others start laughing. He begins to realize that something is amiss. Then a strong voice speaks, “What is all this merriment? Ser knight, why are you troubling my good-sister?” The speaker is the young woman with the bow from earlier, and it is revealed that she is actually the Lady Rohanne Webber.
The forty year old woman is the Lady Helicent, sister to one of Lady Rohanne's deceased husbands. Dunk is dumbfounded and blurts out how unexpectedly pretty the Lady of Coldmoat is. She explains how some of her husbands had died, and then admonishes Ser Lucas and the others for deceiving Ser Duncan; asking rhetorically, “Did the courtesy of Coldmoat die with my lord father?” She then asks Septon Sefton, also a brother to another of her deceased husbands, to show Dunk to her audience chamber. The hedge knight asks if his squire can accompany them, and Rohanne smiled her assent. While waiting on her ladyship, Dunk and the septon strike up a conversation over a flagon of wine. We learn that Septon Sefton was in King's Landing during the Great Spring Sickness, which claimed so many lives. Dunk and Egg were safe since Dorne had closed off its ports and borders, as did the Vale of Arryn.
The septon also speaks of Aegor Rivers, and the remaining sons of Daemon Blackfyre, hatching plans overseas in Tyrosh, and how the Brute of Bracken stands to become the next Lord of Stone Hedge. That would most likely spark a war with the Blackwoods, a war that may even involve Lord Bloodraven as his mother was a Blackwood. Sefton continues with some borderline treasonous remarks regarding King Aerys I and his obsession with old books and prophecies, and his lack of interest in his wife. He elaborates on how Prince Rhaegal is too meek and mad to ever intervene, and that Prince Maekar remains sulking in Summerhall, bitter that his brother chose Bloodraven as Hand over him. Egg bites his tongue during this sololiquy, and we discover that Lady Rohanne's father had left a will requiring her to marry in 2 years or Coldmoat would pass to his cousin. This will was written as revenge for Rohanne's refusal to marry Lucas Longinch.
Rohanne arrives as the good septon is explaining the lack of decent suitors. Those with promise are often afraid of Ser Lucas; thus the Lady of Coldmoat has yet to remarry. Rohanne apologizes to Duncan for teasing him in the yard, and it becomes apparent that the two share a strong attraction to each other. She asks him to forsake Ser Eustace and swear his sword to Coldmoat, but Dunk will not abandon his vow. Rohanne refuses Osgrey's offer to pay a blood price, and demands that Ser Bennis be brought before her to answer for his crime. She also will not dismantle the dam, and when Dunk claims that the stream is owned by the Osgreys, her maester brings forth a document with the King's seal. Dunk cannot read, but Egg nods that the paper is authentic and that the stream does indeed belong to the Webbers.
When Dunk asks why the King had taken the stream from Ser Eustace when he had lost all his sons on the Redgrass Field, Lady Rohanne responds, "If King Daeron had been a less forgiving man, he should have lost his head as well." She goes on to tell Dunk that Ser Eustace had supported Daemon Blackfyre, in the hopes that the Black Dragon would have restored his family's lands and honor. We learn that he was forced to surrender his daughter Alysanne as a hostage, and upon his return to Standfast his wife threw herself from the top of the tower. Ser Duncan, while stunned, is not ready to give up. He asks her to relent for the sake of Addam Osgrey's memory. Lady Rohanne then slaps him hard across the mouth and banishes him from Coldmoat, warning once more that Ser Bennis must be delivered by the next day or she will come for him with 'fire and sword'.
On the way out, Dunk learns from Sefton that Rohanne wasn't just fond of Addam, she truly loved him as she never did any of her husbands. She had never forgiven Ser Eustace for taking the 12 year old Addam with him when he marched in the Blackfyre Rebellion. Returning to Standfast, Egg indicates that the document granted the Chequy Water to Lord Wyman for his service to the crown during the Rebellion. Aegon mentions that Ser Eustace was lucky his life was spared, and Dunk asks him if he would have taken it if he were king. The boy explains that his uncle Baelor always advised "clemency when dealing with an honorable foe"; while Lord Bloodraven maintained "that when you pardon rebels, you only plant the seeds of the next rebellion". Egg does not, however, directly answer Dunk's question, but instead wonders why the old knight hadn't fought for his grandfather, King Daeron.
Duncan begins to harbor an ill feeling toward Ser Eustace, who had lied to him and played him for a fool. Egg then brings up Septon Sefton's remark that Maekar has been sulking for a year and a half. When Dunk offers that Egg's father removed himself from his brother's small council after Aerys named Bloodraven his Hand, Egg counters, "His Grace should have made my father Hand. He's his brother, and the finest battle commander in the realm since Uncle Baelor died. Lord Bloodraven's not even a real lord; that's just some stupid courtesy. He's a sorcerer, and baseborn besides." Dunk tells him that Bloodraven was bastard born, not baseborn, and then mentions that it is possible that Dunk himself could be a bastard.
Back at Standfast, they meet Bennis on the steps, and upon hearing that the Red Widow wants to mark him for his crime, the knight just dismisses the notion. Dunk goes up to confront Ser Eustace, and the old knight defends his decision 15 years before by stating that Daemon was the rightful king as he bore the Targaryen sword 'Blackfyre'. Eustace reminisces about how things could have turned out differently had certain events not transpired, but we learn little from these revelations: "If Fireball had not been slain on the eve of battle...if Hightower and Tarbeck and Oakheart and Butterwell lent us their full strength instead of trying to keep one foot in each camp...if Manfred Lothston had proved true instead of treacherous...if storms had not delayed Lord Bracken's sailing with the Myrish crossbowmen...if Quickfinger had not been caught with the stolen dragon's eggs...so many ifs, ser...had any one come out differently, it could all have turned t'other way."
Egg then asks him if he supported Daemon solely to gain back Coldmoat, but Ser Eustace answers that Daemon was a true warrior, unlike his trueborn half-brother King Daeron. He claims that no man was Daemon's equal with 'Blackfyre' in his hand, not even Ser Ulrick Dayne with 'Dawn' nor Prince Aemon the Dragonknight with 'Dark Sister'. Eustace continues by telling Egg that Daeron was always surrounded by maesters, councilors and Dornishmen; and further: "(He) sold his own sweet sister to the Prince of Dorne, though it was Daemon that she loved. Daeron bore the same name as the Young Dragon, but when his Dornish wife gave him a son he named the child Baelor, after the feeblest king who ever sat the Iron Throne." Daemon, on the other hand, surrounded himself with the greatest knights in the realm; men whose names Lord Bloodraven would rather the realm forgot. He concludes by stating, "You ask me why? Because Daemon was the better man. The old king saw it too. He gave the sword to Daemon."
Egg counters by saying, "My father says that was because Daemon was a swordsman, and Daeron never was. Why give a horse to a man who cannot ride? The sword was not the kingdom, he says." Ser Eustace, unaware of who Egg really is, tells the boy that his father was a fool. Egg retaliates, and when Eustace demands that Dunk discipline his squire or else he will, Dunk replies, "No. You won't, Ser." The hedge knight then tells Ser Eustace that they will leave his service at first light, and the old, done man dismisses them with vehemence.
That night, Duncan is awoken by shouts of a fire, and arrives on the roof of the tower to find Wat's Wood burning. Believing the fire was set by Lady Webber, Bennis and Ser Eustace begin plotting to burn down her mill As Dunk and Egg prepare to set off, the hedge knight realizes that the eight villagers will die when they march on Coldmoat. He chases them off, much to Ser Eustace's ire. But Ser Duncan is not a man to run from responsibility, and he tells the old knight that he will stop the Lady of Coldmoat, or die trying. Osgrey is inspired by Dunk's attitude, stating "Better to go boldly than hide behind stone walls. Better to die a lion than a rabbit." Dunk commands Egg to fetch his armor and one other item.
Osgrey rides off with Egg and Dunk, instructing Bennis to ride for Highgarden and inform Lord Tyrell of what happened if they don't return. Arriving at the Chequy Water's edge, they don't have long to wait before Lady Rohanne and her retinue appear on the opposite bank. With the Red Widow are 7 knights including Ser Lucas, a column of crossbowmen, her Maester and Septon Sefton. Rohanne denies setting the fire, accusing Ser Eustace of doing the deed. When Osgrey will not surrender Ser Bennis, Rohanne threatens to cross the stream and take him by force, but Dunk insists he will stop them. When asked how, he replies that he will only reveal that to Lady Rohanne. Meeting in the middle of the stream, out of earshot of the others, Rohanne apologizes for slapping Dunk. The hedge knight asks her to forgive Ser Eustace for Addam's death, and she concedes that she would if he surrenders Bennis.
Reaching no accord, Duncan shows her Egg's signet ring. Despite her surprise, she tells him that it will not stop her from killing Ser Eustace, Dunk, and Egg if they stand in her way. But Duncan replies, "...might be a spotted spider's bite can kill a lion, but a dragon is a different sort of beast." Rohanne says, "I would sooner be the dragon's friend. Dragon or no, I must have Bennis..." She reveals that if she were to back down, it would weaken her position in the eyes of her subjects. Dunk then draws his dagger and cuts open his face as recompense for Bennis' deed, stating "There, the Red Widow has her due. A cheek for a cheek." Lady Webber calls him mad, but also reveals, "If you were better born, I'd marry you." Still denying any involvement in the fire, she demands that Osgrey apologize or she will insist on a trial by combat to decide her innocence.
As Dunk and Ser Lucas dress for battle, the Longinch tells Rohanne that she will marry him after the trial, as her father wished; but she replies, "My lord father never knew you as I do." Across the stream, Duncan tells Egg to place the ring back in his boot, and "if it happens that I die, go to the nearest of your father's friends and have him take you back to Summerhall." The two knights ride into the stream to do battle, Lucas wielding a poleaxe while Dunk was armed with his sword and shield. The castellan soon catches Dunk a blow that also glances off Thunder, prompting Dunk's warhorse to rear up and come down on Ser Lucas and his horse. Both riders went down, Dunk twisting his ankle badly in the stirrup. The hedge knight emerged from the stream first, but without his sword. When the Longinch surfaced, he drew his sword and started punishing Dunk's shield and body with blows. Once again though, Dunk resorts to instincts, tackling the smaller knight and holding him underwater with his weight. Dunk draws his dagger and buries it under Ser Lucas' arm, but upon realizing the castellan stopped struggling, Dunk himself began to lose consciousness...
Ser Duncan awoke in the Maester's tower of Coldmoat a few days later. He had suffered several bad injuries and had been drowned, but Cerrick was not only a maester. He was also ironborn, and knew how to revive the drowned. Dunk learns from Cerrick that Egg had not left his side until that day, as Ser Eustace had asked the boy to attend him during the wedding. The old knight had married Lady Rohanne after seeing her cry at Addam's grave, and Ser Eustace was now Lord of Coldmoat. Dunk soon falls back asleep after finding out that it had finally been raining for a couple of days now.
Shortly thereafter, Dunk tries to depart Coldmoat as quickly as possible. He is supported by a crutch, and admonished by Sefton for this foolhardy act. The septon fears that Duncan is planning to ride after Ser Bennis, who had looted Standfast of its few treasures and fled; but the hedge knight assures him that that is not his purpose (although Dunk hopes to meet the knight again). When he reaches the stables, Dunk finds Rohanne waiting for him. Egg had warned her that they were leaving, and she came to make amends. She had never visited him while he was under the care of Maester Cerrick, but now offers him a beautiful new horse. Dunk refuses the magnificent animal, telling her the horse was too good for him. When she insists that Dunk take the warhorse to remember her by, he grabs her and kisses her passionately. The young knight then cuts off a lock of her red hair as a memento.
Ser Duncan the Tall and his squire Aegon set out once again, but not for Summerhall as Dunk suggests. Egg wants to see the Wall, and thus they head north...