Gold and Steel
It is said that a Kestra will only reach for that which he can grasp. It is also said that this may have something to do with the family’s infamous inability to loose an arrow.
The Kestra household is seated in Whitemane Castle, nestled upon a mountain overlooking the land’s sole settlement, an honest hamlet which has never rightly been able to expand itself. The House’s holdings sit in the northern boundary of the Vale of Arryn, southeast of the Eyrie itself.
The history of the Kestras runs back, even before the house itself was established by the landing of the Andals. The household traces itself back to a Mountain Clan known as the Greybirds who, before the arrival of the Faith, were conquered by Kestra the White, said to be a warrior with no equal in battle and a bewitching seducer. Family tradition holds that Kestra “forced” an Andal she saw as worthy to marry her into the Faith of the Seven, and therefore secured her clan’s survival. The newly-formed household donned the name of its matriarch in honor, and thereafter the clansmen of the Greybirds became the first soldiers of House Kestra.
When Aegon I landed in Westeros, it is said House Kestra’s Lord Farkarath implored King Arryn to submit to the Conqueror, thus being one of the reasons for the Vale’s surrender. Kestra’s influence grew considerably with the favor of the Targaryens. Indeed, Farkarath knew that independence from the Valyrian inheritor’s dominion was far beyond their reach and embraced the new Kingdom – his son was named Aegon in the King’s honor.
But Farkarath’s grandson, Galric, failed to heed his family’s wise words. Gaining Lordship early at the age of fourteen, Galric lacked any respectable faculty of a Lord. Nevertheless, he went to war for land in a savage conflict that resulted in a sound defeat by rival households. Ever-persistent, Galric continued to conspire for power until his death by the hands of his angered Castellan, but his schemes only wasted coin and squandered the already crippled soldiery of his House. The warning words of the Kestras became a verse of woe.
During the Blackfyre Rebellion, the wounded Kestras remained loyal and sent one of their few remaining units of infantry to battle in support of Lord Arryn. However, it is said that during this time the firstborn son of Lord Daemys Kestra, Maelon, was tempted by the Blackfyre-supporter Aelyrya. Rumors bounded through the Mountains of the Moon that the notorious Kestra House was disloyal. Desperate to avoid incurring the wrath of his Lord, Daemys executed Maelon and Aelyrya by pitching them in tar and setting them aflame. Embittered by the consistent misfortunes of his line, Daemys had all of his banners redecorated with the motto “Madness and Fire”.
Some eighty years before the War of the Usurper, Aemos Kestra took the mantle of Lord. Aemos, shy of some fifteen when he was seated, turned out to be a hero of his house. There was said to be no purer soul in the Vale at the time, and Aemos was solely interested in improving the condition of his holdings. He consolidated military power and attempted to repopulate his land, though his efforts were largely foiled by a sudden surge of activity from the Sons of the Mist mountain clan. Aemos died, having saved his House from disgrace.
The current Lord is the grandson of Aemos, Mercer Kestra, an aging fellow who is to be succeeded by his secondborn son Markas Aerys Kestra. The lords of the Vale hold some respect for the struggles of House Kestra, as Aemos did much to win hearts over to his ruined family with his determination. Mercer has supplemented this with much goodwill to his fellows; he has gained a knack as a sort of mercenary-lord, selling his talent as a commander to other Lords to help remedy mountain clan attacks. This recent popularity has allowed Lord Kestra to raise new troops in his own borders with money obtained from work with fellow houses. Mercer also seeks to make good in the court of Jon Arryn, but the Hand of the King is aloof, instinctively uninterested in uplifting the Kestras.
While a Kestra may grasp only what’s closest, warned Jon’s predecessors, he also reaches far, far into the mountains…