As Jorrel Eisengold walked the dusty, winding road leading up to the Red Keep, he reflected on the path he had been set upon. He did not think Petyr Baelish’s idea of blockading the Dornish was wise, when the master of coin presented it to him. It seemed foolish to incite conflict between realms when a solution to the hisser problem was so close at hand. Nevertheless, the Eisengold lord was reluctantly prepared to agree to Petyr’s proposal. But things had a way of escalating when one involved themselves with the upper echelon of the realm.

Scarcely containing his surprise at the unexpected appearance of Ser Merlon Crakehall, Jorrel complied with his call to action and followed the young knight to The White Dunes, accompanied by Zyre Oakwood and Nkosazana Hill, as well as the handful of guards he had with him at the time. The accused members of House Sekhmet, and their lord, were now peaceably in hand, but Jorrel felt as though the entire cortege was balanced on the edge of a knife.

Merlon’s men took the suspect Dornish into custody without much conflict. Zyre found three of the Eisen Guard unconscious in an alley – muttering something about being ambushed by an old man when roused – but no blood was shed. To Jorrel, it seemed that things could have just as easily gone the other way. It took the combined persuasion of himself and Lord Kearen Sekhmet for Merlon to admit that they were to capture the Dornish unharmed. The son of Lord Crakehall was brash. Arrogant. Given an excuse during the arrest, Jorrel suspected he would have no reservations about wielding his blade.

For the time being, matters were under control, but Jorrel had no intention of simply handing the captives off and cleaning his hands of this messy business. Jorrel sensed that a guiding hand would be required to uphold the crown’s justice in this instance, at least while Merlon Crakehall continued to be involved. The Eisengold lord refused to sit idly by while the falsely accused took the fall. Jorred judged that Petyr and his sources had reason to suspect the Dornish, but he could not believe that Laerra – or the witch woman, as they had taken to calling her – was responsible for the spread of the hissers. Was she not the very individual who developed a cure? The charges of assault were realistic – any man could be foolish and violent – but it made no sense for Laerra to be complicit in the alleged hisser plot. Something didn’t add up.

Jorrel glanced to Laerra, off to his right. Flanked by two of the largest men among Merlon’s retinue, the expression on her face – as she gazed down at her feet – was one of complete dejection. She was a mess. After trying to escape through a sewer and being pelted by rotten fruit, thrown by on looking commoners, she looked and smelled like she belonged in the worst corner of Flea Bottom.

On top of everything else Jorrel could say about him, Ser Merlon was not subtle. At The White Dunes, he all but spelled out that Laerra was to be blamed for the entirety of the hisser plague. Working with her on the cure had cemented his faith in her character and he trusted that she was innocent. More so, the lord could not shake a lasting feeling of responsibility, of duty, to help her. She was too young to spend her life in prison. Or worse. Jorrel feared she would be made an example, her head lopped off and set atop a pike; a gruesome reminder of what happens to those who incur the ire of the crown.

Jorrel’s extended stare caught Laerra’s attention, but only for the briefest of moments, before she returned to glowering at her filthy, muck caked boots. He could not tell if she refused to look at him out of embarrassment or anger. It hardly mattered. This was not the place to speak with her, surrounded by her twenty or so captors. A gust of wind came from Laerra’s direction, carrying with it a strong waft of her unfortunate odor.

“By the gods!” Merlon exclaimed, “When we reach the keep, have her sent to the washroom before taking her to her cell. If I have to suffer her stench much longer, I may fall ill.”

His men within earshot chuckled and made their own disparaging remarks. Kearan Sekhmet looked like he wanted to say something, but perhaps thought better of it, and merely pursed his lips. Jorrel weighed the knight’s remark. Did that mean he would be involved in the trial? Jorrel saw no reason why his continued presence would be necessary once the Dornish were under lock and key, but felt distinctly that Merlon was the sort of man to insert himself into a situation needlessly.

The Eisengold lord held back a sigh. A part of him knew he should be happy. With a culprit in hand, Petyr Baelish would certainly come through on his word to arrange an expedited meeting with King Robert. As a lord, the needs of his own house should come first. Yet in his complicity, Jorrel felt dirtier than the sludge that covered Laerra.