|A Bit Of A Farce|
|Summary:||Bruce and Rygar discuss campaigns past, present, and to come.|
|Related Logs:||Siege of Seagard|
|Private Room — Rockliff Inn|
|The door and walls are thick enough to keep all but shouted conversations private. Inside, the wooden floors are kept much more clean and the elongated table with its high-backed chairs kept polished. The Terrick House banner hangs centered at the long end of the room behind the chair at the head of the table (although, should one draw it aside, they will find a large Kraken crudely carved into the wall). Racks are provided for both armor and arms alike, the wooden supports standing by the door.|
|17 January, 289 A.L.|
Bruce enters the room with his mail shirt still on, and presumably, the rest of his armour tucked away in the satchel he carries, which clanks at each step. Immediately upon entering, he hangs the satchel on one of the racks. "Evening, Ser." He greets.
"Ser," is Rygar's predictably terse returned greeting. From the Nayland's earlier arrival, the innkeep has had time to provide the items Rygar requires: the table cleared so that the nobleman's maps can be viewed, and a pitcher and small platter of cold meats set aside with half a round loaf of bread. "Seat yourself, Ser," Rygar invites, as he regards a slip of parchement.
"Aye, I will." Bruce doesn't have much else to say, but as the Stonebridge Captain of the Guard passes by the table on his way to his seat, he's studying the maps.
"The Outriders report that there are naught but a few scattered foemen between our position and Kingsgrove. Survivors who fled Aldergrove, but did not escape with their ships," he recounts, handing the missive to Bruce for the common knight's perusal. "Skirmishers will precede and flank the army on the march, but the road to Seagard is like to be clear." He pauses long enough to choose a morsel, adding, "The banners have been called to Stonebridge. Lord Tully's men will time thier own march to support our own."
Luckily, Bruce knows his letters, and quite well at that. The knight easily skims through the note he's handed by Rygar, reading it a second time before he puts it down on the table. "Very good, Ser. Though maybe calling us an army is a bit of a farce. The Northmen are… well, you know. Is there an estimate on when the Frey and bannermen levies are ready, or is that what you meant?"
Rygar snorts shortly once at the mention of the Northmen. He does not comment further upon them. "Lord Walder's levies have arrived at Stonebridge, along with those of Erenford and Haigh. Charlton's men are said to be less than a day removed, and shall arrive concurrant with those of Tully, Blackwood, Bracken, Piper, and Vance." He looks up. "If the tallies are correct, the host numbers well over two thousand men." The words are delivered in the same manner one might say that a tardy squire will have fixed a broken strap within the hour.
Bruce stares rather slackjawed at Rygar as he announces the numbers. "Two thousand, eh? That's it… two thousand." The common knight shakes his head, a look of disgust taking the place of blank surprise he had a moment earlier on his face. "I hope that's a strategem. Because that's a pithy number. I'm hoping that Lord Hoster is saving some for when we smash the Ironmen back into the sea and then loot and pillage /their/ homes. If Stonebridge can levy two hundred…" His voice trails off.
"Calling his full banners, Lord Walder alone could muster perhaps three thousand foot. A thousand horse, with great expense. Truthfully, I had expected more of Lord Tully," Rygar comments, sharing disdain equally among his superiors. "Still. Two thousand men, joined with our own strength will be enough to break the Greyjoy siege of Seagard."
"Aye, it might. As I said, I hope such is a strategem and that the rest of the forces are being mustered and trained as we speak for the next phase of the campaign. Or, in case the battle below Seagard is lost." Says Bruce, still wearing that sour look on his face. "In any case, Ser, you know the fifteen men under me are ready." He barks a chuckle, one with no mirth. It goes perfectly with his expression.
Rygar sniffs sharply at Bruce's assurance. "Ser, I will take fifteen men under steady leadership over a hundred and five champions led by a fool." By pure coincidence, 105 is the number of Flint footmen remaining under arms after Alderbrook. "Should Seagard fall to Rodrik Greyjoy and his thousand, we would need ten times that number to take it back. In that regard two and a half thousand is as good a force as five thousand."
"Oh aye, I know. I just hope that it's not two thousand scraped from the bottom of the gutter. Forgive me if I'm pessimistic, Ser Rygar. I was sworn to Lord Hoster directly for five years. Let us hope he brought out the better part of his Guard." Bruce falls silent, and is silent for a minute or two. In place of talking, the man grabs a hunk of bread and some cold meat, then pours a drink for himself. After munching quickly, he speaks. "Where are we to meet the host, Ser?"
"At Seagard, Ser," Rygar answers the latter query first. "It would waste another two days at least, and further strain the ability of Stonebridge to supply food for men and fodder for beasts to join the hosts. Instead, we shall march to Seagard, drawing what stregth remains at Kingsgrove, to approach from the west, while Lord Tully comes from the north. Should a significant Greyjoy force move to oppose us, we shall either engage them, or retreat to draw them further away from Seagard, leaving fewer to resist Lord Tully."
"Aye, that makes sense. Though as to what men we'll find at Kingsgrove, I'm not very sanguine. They've less lads than Stonebridge, from what I've understood - levies, in any case. But, likely, worth more than the Northeners." Bruce snorts, shaking his head. "Maybe my tolerance for it has reached the rim, Ser. I don't know. Did you find they fought better when you faced them at the Trident?"
"Common men rise to the quality of their commanders, Ser," Rygar opines evenly. "At the Trident the Northmen pushed hard. They had but little dread of loss or death. But they fought as if each man were a champion, or an eastern duelist in the body of a half-bear. I think that the Northern race is ill disposed to good dicipline, Ser." A shake of his head as Rygar takes a swallow of his flagon. "Your tolerance is no more strained than my own, on that count."
"Aye, but you are perhaps better at keeping a level face out to the world when it is so strained. I'm normally unperturbable, but I was far enough back that I saw the Flint men breaking. I hate to say cowards. They are common men, and not well trained. As you say, Ser - their commander did not properly instill in them soldiers' values. You know, often time of late I've wished that your wing had broken the Northern right, and rolled up the centre. If Prince Rhaegar were King, Ser, we would not be in this position today." Bruce falls silent to eat and drink.
A slowly breath drawn and let out through the nose before he states on the prior comments: "The Flint men are not soldiers. Even our own ranks staggered at the Ironborn charge, I think no less of the Flint men for breaking at such. I could expect them to do no other, in that I was not disappointed. It was in their nobility I find disappointment. It shall go so again, if it comes to it. I know not whether to hope that the Greyjoys retreat from Seagard without contest, or that they offer battle, and we must again trust in uncertain allies to inflict a real defeat upon them." To Bruce's last, the knight looks up and notes curtly, "Robert Baratheon sits the Iron Throne and commands our obedience, Ser, as well you know." Having said that, he admits to Bruce's wish, "I wake to the same wish every day, Ser. But we did not. And Robert the Usurper rode down the line of dragons, and took his bloody Crown. Small wonder that Balon Greyjoy seeks the same."
"Aye. Such are the times we live in, Ser." Bruce responds, pushing his empty plate away and draining his cup. He does not refill it, but instead looks over to Rygar. "Well, the men are ready and rested. And the most disciplined in the army. Our levies have better discipline than the men at arms of the Erenfords, Charltons, Haighs or Freys. You've done well by them, Ser Rygar. We'll be ready to march at a moment's notice."
"Drill costs nothing, Ser. But preparation is priceless," Rygar cites a favored maxim. "I rue the thought of what would have become Stonbridge and the Cape of Eagles had my family not taken Stonebridge," he comments with a shake of his head. "I trust that you shall continue to do your duty as you have, Ser. As must we all."
"It would have fallen. And thus, the Cape of Eagles. I shall, Ser, that you can be assured of. I'm going to go make my rounds of the sentries. Good eve to you, Ser." Bruce rises from his seat to collect his satchel by the door, and bows his head politely at Rygar before exiting.