Micah watched from the shadows of an alley as a Lord and his company rode through the snow-fallen streets of the city. The men had journeyed into Gulltown to track and capture him, he was sure of it. Micah didn’t have many people he could trust in, not after the battle at the Wall. It seemed like some kind of dream from long ago that he was knighted by Robb Stark before one of the bloodiest battles he had ever witnessed. The knight clenched a fist around the dagger in his waist band, recalling that less than a handful of men had survived to tell the tale, himself included. He could count the remaining men these days on one hand, but he had only ever heard whispers about their lives, never having seen or spoken to them himself in twenty years.
The call of guards from down the street grew louder when the horses were pulled to a halt, giving the Lord with no name a chance to step out of his gilded chariot and stop into the nearest tavern for a reprieve from the northerly winds. Micah refused to return to the North. There was no one worth serving in those lands. He knew that Arya Stark held power up there, one of the few descendants remaining in the Stark line, but Micah laughed at the thought of serving a woman. What did a woman know, after all? It wasn’t often that a Queen held such power over a kingdom. The only such time fitting was for Queen Regent Daenarys Targaryan, but that was due to her ownership of live breathing dragons. Micah stood well clear of her. He knew how to fight white walkers and men, but surely not dragons.
Once the party entered the tavern, Micah stepped from the shadows and casually strode down the edge of road. A sentry was posted just outside of the doors and he wondered whether they would even let him in through the front entrance.
“Hi, Mister,” a small feminine voice issued from an open window Micah had just passed. He cringed and spun around, coming face to face with a little girl no more than seven. “Hi,” she smiled.
Micah held up a gloved finger and shushed her, turning his attention back at the tavern. The sentry had not moved. A convenient barrel of mead was along the side of the shop, so Micah leapt atop it and hoisted himself onto the roof. The feel of snow and ice beneath his fingertips made him grin, feeling that he was back in his element. Soldiers never forgot their training.
The propped up window over the kitchen would be the easiest way to get around the guards and into the building to eavesdrop. That way he could discover what their true intentions were and whether he had anything to worry about, or even if it might be someone he’d be able to band with. The skylight opened easily on its crudely created hinges, and Micah slid his way into the kitchen. The owner was stirring up some hash in a kettle and shook his head when Micah straightened up from his fall.
“What?” Micah dusted off his black jacket of soot and snow. “Like you’ve never thought of putting a rope ladder there.”
“My old bones have enough of a hard time with the front steps, let alone attempting your acrobatics,” the gray-haired shop keeper answered. He continued to stir the couple rations of hash and ham while Micah took an empty cup and placed it against the kitchen door. “His name is Lord Gregor Harlaw. Give someone a bit of land and he immediately thinks he’s a lord.”
“I know who he is,” Micah scoffed, placing his ear against the hollow cup. The owner shook his head, knowing that Micah never admitted his shortcomings. Ever since the knight helped him fight off a band of misplaced bastards from his land, Micah stopped by at least once a month to catch up on old times, and to claim a hot meal and bed as payment. He always helped out the old man best he could, and considered him a guardian of sorts.
“You’re all they’ve been talking about,” the old man scraped some rations into a few bowls and handed them to Micah. Micah stared a bit dumbfounded at first, not sure what he was supposed to do with the cup if three bowls were being shoved into his arms.
“Mathis, one is quite enough,” Micah stared at him, holding out his cup. “Of course I can’t eat unless I have some of your finest mead as well.”
“Not for you,” Mathis swiped the cup from his hand, roughly setting it down on the stone counter top. Micah cringed at how filthy the counter was an realized it must have been a while since they were cleaned. Probably not since a couple months prior when Micah had cleaned them himself. The old man wasn’t kidding when he said he was getting up in age. His wit however seemed to be sharpening itself.
“You’ll take this out to them if you plan on spying,” Mathis handed him two more bowls. Micah awkwardly juggled them on the crooks of his arms and hands. “And don’t draw your sword like last time you faced someone in my tavern. I don’t care how pretty you think it is.”
“Aye,” Micah groaned, waiting for Mathis to open the door for him.
There were five men sitting at the bar. The lord was in the middle of them with a map spread out amongst them. Micah couldn’t tell what it was from the kitchen doorway, and as soon as they heard him enter the map was instantly rolled up and stowed away.
“Ah, Brewer,” one of the men held out a hand and motioned with a come hither gesture. “Hurry with those, we must be on our way.” Micah gave each of them a dish, noting the hands they grabbed with and which side they hung their weapons. “Tell the owner it’s good he’s got a pot boy. Or rather, pot man.” The other guards in the group laughed heartily. Micah wasn’t pleased. These men were definitely not worthy to fight with. He just needed to discover whether they were a threat to him or not. Micah pretended to do busy work behind the counter, cleaning off the polished wood and rearranging glasses and containers of ales and mead.
“I heard he ran away from the Wall, my Lord,” one of the men said. “As soon as he was knighted he tore off. Don’t have the slightest to why dead Robb Stark would give him the title.”
“That’s why they call him Ser Micah the Crestfallen,” another man spoke up. “He’s a miserable wretch of a knight ‘cuz no one wants to take him on under their family name. Won’t see him sporting a new crest. That’s certain.”
“No matter,” Lord Gregor drummed his fingers against the bar. “We will take out this so-called knight who’s been killing my forces and the region will be all the better for it. Some have even taken a liking to his methods and decided to take the law into their own hands.”
“We can’t be too far behind him, Lord Gregor,” another of the men replied. “Sightings have been reported all around this area of the city. Not more than a day off.”
“You know what I heard?” Micah said, still wiping the inside of a glass from behind the counter. “That he stumbled upon a group of ruffians besmirching his name. And their black tongues were cut from their mouths within minutes. All except one so the tales could continue to be told.” All of the men gaped at him. “But of course they’re just rumors. No one even really knows what this knight looks like.”
“Indeed,” the lord scrutinized Micah’s face. “Brewer, what else do you know of this derelict knight?”
“I know he’s searching for a new allegiance to a worthy house, Lord Gregor,” Micah said. “You are a lord yourself, are you not?”
“I am,” the man straightened his fitted coat, glittering with rivulets of gold. Micah wondered if his whole life savings was invested in that single jacket.
“But you would never house such a criminal,” Micah set down the glass and leaned in closer to him, voice now barely a whisper. “Would you? All that power under your command?”
“Perhaps,” Lord Gregor sneered. “All any dog needs is to be broken correctly and they’ll listen to anything you say.”
“Is that so?” Micah straightened up, his hand nearing the dagger on his hip.
“To anyone with any sense, yes,” he replied, fitting his gloves back on. “This should be sufficient, Brewer,” the Lord threw a couple of coins onto the counter top.
“Let me properly thank you for supporting my master’s trade,” Micah lightly smiled, but it came off much more like a grimace. He walked around the bar and half bowed in front of Lord Gregor.
“Yes,” he sneered at the gesture. “If you were such a knight, you would be just the obedient type required.”
Micah withdrew the dagger from his belt and stabbed it into the lord’s side where his armor did not cover. Lord Gregor cried out and fell to his knees. Instantly his men pulled their swords on Micah, who drew his in return. He bolted for the door, forgetting that their sentry was posted out front. They stepped inside, weapons drawn, but Micah surprised them and swiftly slit their throats. He barreled through them and led the other men outside. The four soldiers circled him in the street and Micah considered the options. Every outcome was a win in his favor, and he grinned. Two of the men charged at him and he parried their advances. Thrusting his sword backwards he impaled one of the guards and used the body as the shield when one of the further guards threw a dagger at him.
Micah counted down the remaining soldiers in his head. He spun around and ducked when a blade flew over where his neck had just been. He felt the wind of it against his neck and slashed his own sword against the antagonizing man. The leg came right off and he screamed on the way down to the ground. Micah picked up the injured man’s sword and wielded both of them at the remaining two. They charged at Micah, who quickly disarmed the one man and took out his legs with a swift kick. The knight braced his footing when the other soldier went in for his head. Their swords collided in a stand off, leaving Micah worried about the previous guard’s whereabouts. An arm went around Micah’s neck and he choked, losing the battle with the guard who still had a sword. The only way out was to drop an elbow into the grappling man and dart away to catch his breath and grab another weapon. He managed to pull one of the daggers out of a dead soldier and snapped it at his assailant. It drove right into the soldier’s chest and he fell.
Micah picked up a sword and stood to his feet, hefting the weight of it in his hand. He skirted around the screaming soldier whose leg lied yards from where it should be and backhanded an arcing draw across the last guard’s chest. Blood sprayed from the wound and the man collapsed in the street. Micah slowly walked back over to the screaming man and drove the sword into his throat, leaving it there like a challenge to anyone else.
He turned around and walked back into the tavern. Lord Gregor was behind the counter looking for a bit of cloth to stuff his wound. On seeing Micah he picked up the dagger that had pierced his side and threw it clumsily. Micah held back a smirk and bent down to grab the dagger, he didn’t have anything to wipe it off with so he placed it underneath his belt for the moment. The sword in his hand was ready to pierce the soft, yielding flesh that waited just beyond his grasp. Cleaning the world of false, cruel men was just one more task on his agenda. The list was long, and disposing them was the easiest way to remember which ones remained.
“You-you’re him!” Lord Gregor shrieked. “ser Micah the Crestfallen!”
“I did give you a chance,” Micah held out his arms, slowly walking around the bar area. The lord tried to scramble over the counter top, but couldn’t muster it due to his shorter stature, and held his own sword out in front of him in defense. Lord Gregor thrust forward awkwardly and Micah disarmed him, sending the sword clattering across the tavern floorboards. All of the pleading in the world did not prevent Micah from driving his most cherished weapon into the stomach of the lord standing before him.
“But I am no dog,” Micah growled before pulling the sword back out, crumpling Lord Gregor where he stood. Micah cleaned his sword and dagger on the lord’s clothes before putting them away.
“What did I tell you about fighting in my store?” Mathis shouted from the kitchen door. Micah blanched and sheepishly looked up at the tavern keeper.
“I er—-” Micah tried to think of an apology. “I remembered when fighting the guards,” he shrugged in defeat.
“Clean this up,” Mathis demanded before going back into the kitchen to grab a mop and bucket. “You know, for all the good you are, Micah, an awful lot of trouble falls in your wake.”
“And you think I shouldn’t have stood up for myself?” Micah eyed him. Mathis gestured towards the body behind the bar and Micah sighed at the chore that lied before him.
“I think you should have left it alone,” Mathis said, watching Micah drag the body of Lord Gregor out the front door. Micah had to move a couple of the sentry soldiers as well from the archway, groaning at the amount of blood that had seeped into the wooden floor underneath them.
“Plenty of men and women alike will say negative things about you, Micah,” the old man said. “But it’s how you react to them that matters. You can’t kill everyone who insults you.”
“Why not?” Micah questioned, grabbing the mop and slopping it around a bit in the bucket before applying it to the reddest stains.
“Alliances are only made worse through war,” Mathis answered, nodding his head in approval of the work Micah was doing. “You may never truly find someone to accept you, if you cannot accept and forgive their own mistakes.”
“Battle is all I know, Old Man,” Micah said, moving on to the area behind the bar. “And I will not rest until I find someone worthy of my skills.”
“If you’re hoping to become a knight to someone as kind and courageous as King Regent Toten Lanncaster, then you are sorely mistaken,” Mathis sighed. “Men like that do not approve of cold-hearted renegades such as yourself.”
“I’m not cold-hearted,” Micah grumbled, finishing up the mess he had made. “Thanks for the talk, Old Man, but I have to continue on my way.”
“You can stay for a little while longer, Micah,” Mathis shook his head. “You haven’t even eaten yet.”
“Your kindness is appreciated,” Micah half smiled as he put away the mop and bucket. “But I have to be on my way, Mathis.”
Micah nodded to the old man and left through the front door. He decided to retrace his steps and possibly look for a new house to serve in the Riverlands.
“Hi, ser Pooh Shoes,” the same little girl popped up from the nearby window. It startled Micah and he gave the girl a quizzical look as he passed, taking a glance down at his boots to realize that he had indeed trodden in something of horrible stench. “Pooh Shoes! Can I come with you?” She followed in his step.
“No,” Micah barked, wondering why this strange child was following him. “Go back to your parents, child.”
“But I don’t have any parents,” she trilled, running to keep up with him.
“Then go back to that home you were staying in,” he tried again.
“I’m Elisia,” the girl beamed. “Hey, that’s a really shiny sword. Can I touch it?”
“No!” Micah spun on her, taking notice of her outstretched hand. She quickly withdrew it
back to her side. “You really are a Pooh Shoes,” she giggled.
“I am no such thing,” he snapped. “I am Ser Micha the Crestfallen. And I’d watch your tongue before I cut it from your mouth.”
“You wouldn’t do that,” Elisia smiled. “I seen you with Old Mathis the Brewer. You’re nice to him. You’ll be nice to me too.”
“You see those men out in the street?” Micah gestured to the dead soldiers. Elisia turned to look, then looked back and slowly nodded. “I did that. And no little girl is exempt.”
Elisia pouted, but didn’t say anything back. So Micah turned and carried on his way. A couple paces further and he felt something sting across his ear. Another second later and a familiar dagger thunked into the close by wooden beam. Micah immediately checked his side, only to find that his dagger was missing. He pulled it from the wood and turned on his attacker. All that stood there was the little girl with a scowl on her face and arms folded across her chest. Had he almost been bested by a small child?
“I want to go!” Elisia threw a fit.
“You’re too young,” Micah responded. “Go back.” He considered tying her to one of the horse posts, but thought it a bit inhumane. “The outdoors is no place for a city girl.”
“I ain’t city,” she huffed. “I’m from the North and my parents left me here. So I’m going with you. I’m not gonna be left alone again.”
“Fine,” Micah eyed her, understanding how she felt. He too did not want to be alone any more. “But if I tell you to run and hide, you do as I say.” Elisia nodded her head vigorously. Micah handed his dagger to her, knowing she would need some form of protection, and that she was good enough of an eye to use it properly.
Someone like Toten Lanncaster, Micah thought to himself. Yes. The Starks have always spoken highly of him.