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  1. Celebrating the good weather, and eager for a more hospitable terrain than the Vale of Arryn, we journey South and West to the Reach. Home of chivalry in Westeros, and of the most fertile and green lands in all Seven Kingdoms, the Reach is a center of culture, whether agri-, vini-, or high. When we toured Dorne, we concentrated on important moments of Dornish history. In the Stormlands, we noted several important people who hail from that area. In the Vale, we celebrated a particular Spring tradition. However, with the history and important players in the Game of Thrones that hail from the Reach, this time we’ll focus on Geography, looking at some of the most important places in the what the maesters call “the most beautiful of the Seven Kingdoms”. Highgarden rules the Reach. The Tyrell lords, and the Gardener kings before them, hold uncontested sway over the Reach. The Tyrell armies are large and well-fed, with many notable cavalrymen, due to the popularity of jousting and other knightly pursuits. Highgarden deserves its name, as the tiered-walled castle has gardens and fountains, groves and small vineyards located inside and on its walls, and is surrounded by a briar labyrinth. It lies amidst the breadbasket of Westeros, which enabled Margaery Tyrell to feed the populace of King’s Landing upon her betrothal to Joffrey Baratheon, gaining immense political capital with the starving smallfolk. Robert Baratheon himself said of Highgarden “there are fields of golden roses that stretch away as far as the eye can see. The fruits are so ripe they explode in your mouth-melons, peaches, fireplums, you've never tasted such sweetness” For Highgarden, I will eat four servings of fruits and vegetables each day, with one being a leafy green in order to count the day as a success. We move from Highgarden to the seat of the Tyrell’s most loyal bannerman, Randyll Tarly. Horn Hill is a Marcher castle, set near the borders with Dorne. The Marcher Lords tend to be proud and fierce, from centuries of constant warfare across the borders. The Tarlys wield a Valyrian steel sword known as Heartsbane, and are counted as the strongest and most loyal of the Tyrell bannermen to join the war of the Five Kings. (I’m not using the show version, because it doesn’t look very defensible, and what kind of Marcher lord keeps an indefensible palace? ) Withstanding (and carrying out) near-constant raids across the Dornish Marches breeds strong men and women, and creates the need for strong castles. To build and maintain defenses is the work of strong backs and muscles. For Horn Hill, I will work out with weight of some sort (active yoga, bodyweight, shovelglove) 3 times per week. Our travels now take us to Oldtown, the inarguable center of culture, learning, and piety in the Seven Kingdoms. Home to three major institutions and their three famous edifices, Oldtown has been a temporary home to scholars, septons, and seekers of mysteries from before the time of the Andals, and perhaps before the coming of the First Men to Westeros. Oldtown is the home of the Citadel, where the Maesters train and study, before being sent off to serve lords across Westeros as scribes, advisors, and healers. Allegedly built during the Age of Heroes, the Citadel holds secrets untold to the rank and file of Westeros, even those who can claim some education. The Citadel has been a depository of wisdom for centuries, perhaps millennia. However, little of it escapes the confines to be of help to Westerosi across the Kingdoms. Also, the studies of the Maesters can breed narrow-minded pedants. For the Citadel, I will search and rearrange the archives. This will take the form of going through and either repacking, discarding, donating, or reassigning the contents of 4 drawers of boxes per week. If the Citadel is the mind of Oldtown, the Starry Sept is its heart. Built by the Andals as the center of their Faith of the Seven when they fled Andalos for Westeros. Its black marble walls and stained glass windows awe the Faithful with their crystal insets, casting the refracted light of the Seven down upon them. (no picture available of the Starry Sept) The High Septon makes his residence at King’s Landing, but the Starry Sept remains one of the holiest places in Westeros to those who follow the Seven. In honor of this place of pilgrimage, I vow to rededicate myself to relflection and meditation, to walk with the Justice of the Father, the Wisdom of the Crone, the Bravery of the Warrior, the Beauty of the Maiden, the Tirelessness of the Smith, and the Mercy of the Mother*. I will practice self-care, in the form of meditation, stretching, prayer, or restorative yoga twice a week. *We don’t mention the Stranger. The political power in Oldtown, and it’s most notable landmark, is the Hightower. The seat of House Hightower, a First Men house and patrons of the faith and the order of the maesters since their introductions to Westeros. The Hightower itself is at the center of Oldtown, the city having grown around it, and it stands taller than any other structure in Westeros. It is said that the Wall is visible from its top. Its base is a labyrinthine fortress of oily black stone that predates the first men and may have been built by ancient peoples only theorized by the maesters. The Maze Makers of Lorath and the legendary Deep Ones are listed as possibilities. The First Men kings raised a tower atop that during the Dawn of Days, and the tower was said to have been erected by Bran the Builder himself. A beacon fire burns from the top day and night, guiding sailors to the mouth of the Honeywine river. In response to the current Ironborn threat, Lord Leyton Hightower is sequestered near the top with his (allegedly) prescient daughter Malora “the Mad Maid.” Whether he will be as successful as Aegon Targaryen, who consulted his maiden daughter Daenys the dreamer to escape the Doom of Valyria is yet to be seen. The common folk of Oldtown whisper that they consult books of spells to raise and army from the sea. If so, one has to wonder whether the Ironborn are threat enough to warrant such measures, or whether the Maid has seen something worse to come. For the Hightower, I’m going to think literally about the leg power it takes to maintain a nearly entirely vertical keep. I will walk or run 3 times a week, for a minimum of 20 minutes each time. It’s nothing compared to the poor stewards who ferry meals to Lord Leyton and his daughter, but I have other stuff to do.
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