You haven’t heard much in the way of descriptions of Lord Roote. Men have called him “complacent,” “well-read,” “suited for a seat,” “passionless,” “getting on in years,” and “stoic,” whatever that means. Before you is a somewhat fleshy and deflated man whose hair is racing to depart his scalp before being fully drained to grey. Up close, you can see that his clothes are a fine cut, though he’s allowed his sweat and dust to sully them somewhat. He speaks with the confidence and lilt of a lord or highborn knight, and seems at home in the tower.
Ser Meryn laces up the chest of his gambeson and slides out the door while buckling his sword about his hips. He’s perhaps six-and-twenty, and looks in his fighting prime, with broad shoulders and a flat stomach. You recall learning in the gambling hall that a Ser Meryn Templeton serves Lord Roote, though the yellow star on black and the name Templeton are strangers to you.
When you balk to sit, Lord Roote pulls your chair out for you and seats himself without further delay. Ferret follows your lead. When you ask permission to empty the purse, he nods. “Of course.” The tin spills out across the table, shining where the light hits it. Lord Roote reaches into the spill of coin and spreads them a bit, plucking a chit up here or there and turning it in his fingers. If he has a reaction, it’s well-guarded. “Aye, I’ve seen these chits. Strunk the Miller issues them and they’re accepted in place of silver around the town. What business does Ser Ethan have with these?”
Whoever occupies the customs shack raises no acknowledgement of your entry. Stepping lightly, you manage to gain entry to the town unawares, yet without any real deception. Something strikes you as amiss about the situation. Usually, you find a pair of soldiers at each of the three entry paths to the town, but this time, they couldn’t even bother to properly man the shack.
When you ask him to secure the cloaks, Johnny knuckles his forehead and disappears down a side street. Soon enough, he reappears with three dun-colored dustcloaks. He and Dorian clasp on their cloaks so that it covers their left arm and chest, obscuring the Leyburn badge. Luckily, their shields are unadorned. Once that task is accomplished, they follow your lead to the docks.
The way there leads you through the heart of the town, with the daub huts and pens giving way to prouder stone structures with slate roofs and windows framed with open shutters. With the sun setting, the town is beginning to cool and the streets are growing more congested. Here, a brown-eyed monger calls out the catch of the day, his voice rising over the spatter and crackle of fish in oil. There, a swindler makes coins dance across the top of a tarred barrel. Above, wanton women throw bawdy remarks from windows, hoping to entice a plump-pursed man abed. A few slow-moving carts plod down the street, pulled by mules, donkeys, or stots. You and your men catch a few stares. While your cloaks mask the Leyburn badge, you’re the only men in mail and so heavily armed. You’ve seen more than a few men with weapons dangling from hips—knives, stilettos, clubs, and a mace or two, but none with swords or polearms. Only a few of the armed men wear mail; the rest make do with boiled leather or no armor at all.
It’s been a few months since you’ve been to Harroway Town. It has always been rough, teeming with newcomers and fortune-seekers, but never this lawless. Ser Dickfred Roote ruled the streets then, putting men in stocks every other day, and ‘neath a gallows on the month. He was nevertheless loved, not feared—the young man has a disarming smile and a way with making the smallfolk feel heard. His older brother Robar is more pious and studious, perhaps befitting his status as heir; the sept and ferry-docks are his domain. Lord Quincy Roote himself is reserved and bookish. At ten years your senior, you’ve always received the sense that he thinks himself wiser and better educated than you, although he has proved an able arbiter of issues his sons cannot quell. His rule is just and steady, but slow-moving and sometimes uninterested with matters of sharp justice. As for Blackfyre sympathies, the Rootes are a blank page. After his wife died a year before the rebellion, Quincy went to Oldtown to forge a chain, bringing his sons with him. His older brother Mace was the lord then, and backed the Tully loyalist forces, though he was slow to move. Mace and his young son died some six years past, causing Quincy to put aside his half-made chain and take up a lord's scepter.
You’ve seen no sign of either of Quincy's sons, or of any officer. The highborn captains and officers of Roote are more distant in your memory, but the names Gerold Whent and Sebaston Frey come to mind. Each is a stalwart knight from a distant branch of their house. Whent in particular, called the White Bat, is known for his force of personality and command of lance and mace. Of course, Osmund Blackwood was once Lord Roote’s strong right hand, but the Sickness took him as it took half the town. Quincy ground ground his ashes, as he did a thousand others, and gave them to the river.
After shouldering past a group of sailors, you find yourself at the Rancid Oyster. It’s largely as you remember it: an outwardly nameless tavern of timber and tar, with a peaked thatch roof. Pushing inside, you find the benches crowded with sailors, crofters, and all manner of ne’er-do-well. No fewer than seven bar-lasses are serving the tables, with a man and a woman pouring from behind a low bar. Scanning the room, you catch sight of Bass dicing down at the end of one of the tables. Aside from him, a couple of others stand out. There’s a large bearded man in a lemon jerkin over brown who carries a knight’s sword and poise. A singer with bright blue eyes and a flowing sheet of silvery hair is sitting cross-legged at the end of the hall, stroking a woodharp as he would a lover, and belting out a mournful ballad of love lost, betrayal, and valor.