|'A Flayed Man None'|
|Summary:||Dramdel meets a new superior - but ends up deserting the next morning.|
|Date:||20 & 21/9/2012|
|Related Logs:||A Moment Unmasked|
|Town Square, Stonebridge|
|An inspection of sellswords|
|20th September, 289|
Tyroan Nayland is still relatively newly-arrived at Stonebridge, and has been stomping about investigating the defenses. Now, as the afternoon wears on, he's already visited the knights, the men-at-arms, the levies… and all that's really left are the hired swords. The older knight knuckles his back, grumbling a curse or three under his breath as he moves over to where the mercenaries have been quartered, "Fucking town… godsdamned sentry posts… knight's not meant to walk…"
Morale among the mercenary contingent is a mixed affair. On the one hand, their last scrap was an uncomplicated victory, there are reinforcements at hand now, and the mood amongst the rough-and-tumble sellswords is confident that the next bout, if and when it comes, will easily repeat that triumph. But on the other hand, days and days have dragged since that combat, board is getting scanter and viler, payment other than spoil is uncertain under the impecunious sign of the Harpy, and, worst of all, the dread words 'peace treaty' have started to be bandied about. On top of this, the sworn knight who recruited most of these scum, Ser Jarod 'the Half-Eagle', is now absent and reported injured in some bungle on the road. Jarod was quite popular, so this hardly bolsters the sellsword spirits.
Aloof from these increasingly frequent and querulous feelings and squabbles paces the hired sword and bow from the north - the one who looks suspiciously like he might actually be an Ironman, though he's claimed to have gained his reaver-esque mail in combat with a Greyjoy armsman; Dramdel 'the Dreadhame'. Dramdel made a fair but unspectacular name for himself in the skirmish outside the town, justifying the precious crossbow he was issued with, but has not become any less haughty since, keeping to himself, oiling his mail, cleaning his sword, shooting for targets, and smiling through his beastly looking and reeking russet beard. He's not popular, but nor is he weakly enough to be easily *un*popular. He paces about to one side, a model of unconcern.
Tyroan looks over the various mercenaries nursing wounds, sulking, boasting to one another, and everything else that sellswords do. And then he looks over to the silently-pacing man in the hood. There's a grunt, and the man stumps his way over to the pacing man. "Too good for the rest of your ilk?" The question isn't aggressively asked, just a rather grumpy-sounding growl. "You're the blonde fucker who claims to be a Northman." Skepticism runs through his voice then, "Stick your head in a snowbank too often?"
The 'Dreadhame' is interrupted from a prolonged but idle seeming examination of the distant prospect over to the west, where the enemy banners still quiver in the darkening afternoon air, and, just for a moment, he looks a little taken aback by the unexpected verbal assault from this tough old fellow with his Nayland badge. It's hard to be sure about his look, with those eyes reducd to slivers behind that queer looking executioner's mask he always wears, but the way he lets his head bow is respectful, sure, but sullen too. The response when it comes is in a soft and husky tone, smacking - or perhaps, to Tyroan's experienced ear, merely trying to smack - of the north and east parts of the realm.
"And ye, ser, ye're the old man that took the witch to wife. We heard of yer, sure n' we did. Ye're to take over from Capt'n Bast'rd, are ye? Not too antic fer the front o' the fray?" Tyroan's challenge has, it seems, been more than met. Game on.
Tyroan ducks his right fist into his left palm, popping his knuckles with a series of solo cracks. It's an idle gesture, however, not an aggressive or threateningone, "Better not let my wife catch you calling her a witch. She'd turn you into a fuckin' newt." The question that follow draw a shrug from the older man, "I'm here to make sure there aren't any more cock-ups. Make sure you sons-of-bitches don't get outmaneuvered again." There's a pause there, before he answers the last question, "Fuck the front of the fray." He offers up a tight smirk, "And the back of the Frey too." There's no real venom in the wordplay, just a bit of dry amusement. "I knew a boy about your age trying to make a name for himself. He died. Down on the Stepstones, before you were a gleam in your daddy's eye, unless I miss my guess. So until you've seen a couple more wars, you can worry 'bout getting swords stuck in you, and I'll worry about putting you in the right place to get swords stuck in you."
Whether it's just the 'northern' hireling's realisation of the Nayland veteran's basically beneficent intentions, or something more, Dramdel definitely seems to have been properly tickled by Ser Tyroan's train of thought, and indeed speech. His previous exterior, as dour and icy as the Dreadfort homeland he claims, is momentarily remarkably relaxed; he's smiling wide, even behind the mask the lightish eyes look amused, and there's a harsh tickle of something approaching a laugh.
"Some gleam, up Bolton country," he confines himself to adding, as if as an afterthought. "Daddy's Eye means the Lord's Night up with us, old man. Then again, there's some as say old Lord Frey keeps to that old custom too. Any truth to that, 'd ye say…?"
<FS3> Opposed Roll — Tyroan=Alertness Vs Maldred=Disguise
< Tyroan: Success Maldred: Good Success
< Net Result: Maldred wins - Marginal Victory
Tyroan snorts loudly at the addition, "Harpy's tits, boy. I can see why you wanted to get out." The mention of Lord's Rights draws the man's eyebrows up sharply, "Fuck that. 'Course, if I was eldest instead of youngest, I might feel different." Shaking that off, he reaches up to run one hand over his shaven scalp, "So you'd be claiming to be a Snow then?" The question about the Freys draws a broad shrug, "I think Lord Frey gets to dip his wick in enough young cunt that he doesn't have to steal wives from his peasants or sons."
Dramdel's unpleasant version of laughter is brought to a rapid stop, yet he still sounds fairly genial, for him. "Didna' want to get out, ser, not certain like, but my trade is war, allus has been, and Lord Roose hired more of us for the Pyke than he could pay. He's a good lord, ser, Lord Roose…when he pays regular."
But the northerner pales even behind mask and beard at Tyroan's next suggestion, "As for Snow or not…we don't ask. Not up there. Like I say, ser, he's a good lord; he pays, and none ask questions. I'm jus' Dramdel. N' I use the surname I won, Dreadhame."
|Outskirts of Stonebridge|
|21st September, 289|
There are persistent rumours that after this petty war's sharp opening scene, the Charltons' all-out assault and its repulsion with the help of Erenford reinforcements, the conflict is winding down. One might think that this would be splendid news among the outnumbered Nayland forces, but there is one group within Stonebridge that does not welcome such developments at all. The mercenary fighters dredged up by Ser Jarod Rivers from Seagard have mostly accepted service in exchange for spoil. If the fight ends now, many will be practically empty-handed.
So it it that various little bands of the sellswords have taken to unofficial scouting expeditions, or raids, depending on your point of view, creeping as close as they might to the enemy camp, in the hope of catching a stray squire with a loose purse, or such like. One such trio of gallant adventurers just happens to be about its work now; two old hands, Ardric and Ofwyn, and a newer recruit, the Northerner from up Dreadfort way, Dramdel 'the Dreadhame'.
At present they are spending this chill early morn in disputed territory, the few acres directly west of the town, doused a week back in the blood of the Charltons thrown in disorder from the first battle. Now these outskirts are no-man's land, where Nayland scouts can run into each other, their Charlton opposite numbers…or, as is about to happen in this case, someone else entirely…
Amidst the carnage and refuse of battle, a spare and austere sworn sword in pale blue steel mail and halfhelm rides atop a gray courser. The boy-if one can call him a boy, rides atop a pinto stot-Ser Symeon's squire, Chett is an ugly youth with a pox-scarred face, a thrice broken nose, and a belly sagging out over his hempen belt. Whereas his master is arrayed in austere finery, the boy of nine-and-ten is enwrapped in food and sweat stained tatters. Ser Symeon of Sevenstreams surveys the field with chilly beaten steel eyes while the boy holds the shaft of a war lance just above a heap of corpses. Whereas Symeon appears cool and intent, Chett is sullen and bored.
The sound of hooves, any hooves, sends these lowly mercenary scouts hurtling sharpish into cover, led by Ardric, the fastest moving and quietest of the three. What would once have been a hedgerow and now, burnt out, resembles more closely a spiked barricade serves them as a temporary shelter as they watch for the mounted newcomers.
But when they get a good look at them, the two elder sellswords, shrewd Ardric and cautious Oswyn, exchange a slow smile.
"Damn fool Charlton," Oswyn avers, "ridin' out alone! Mailed and hard-like, sure, but on'y one of ‘im, n' the squire looks nowt!"
"Think we can take 'im," Ardric agrees with alert confidence.
As his comrades draw their steel, Dramdel, competent and forceful but not always talkative, holds his peace - and his position.
<FS3> Symeon rolls Alertness: Good Success.
The sworn sword's grey courser draws up short and lifts its nose to whiny, mere yards from the scorched and ravaged hedgerow-the knight of Seven Streams twists in his saddle and draws steel in a smooth flourish-the blade is plain, castle-forged steel, etched with the bat forge mark of his mother's house. Chett is laggardly and when he responds, he thrusts the haft of the war lance toward his knight prompting Symeon to swat it away. "Stranger's cock, boy-the crossbow!" Chett fumbles with-then drops the lance. Another moment is wasted fumbling with the crossbow-and another fumbline for a quarrel.
Symeon approaches the hedgerow, at a canter-when the first of the men-at-arms shows his face, the knight of Seven Streams brings spurs to the flanks of his destrier and rides hard toward the hedge row, slashing at Ardric's face in a wicked close line swipe. Alas, his squire is still fumbling with his crossbow.
<FS3> Maldred rolls Marksmanship+Reaction: Good Success.
In approximately the same moment as the top third of Ardric's head, containing most of that unfortunate sellsword's surprisingly bounteous brain, is detached from the rest and spins drastically through the aether, scattering red and brown smear over all the other four men about, an arrow is loosed from a longbow. It flies fast…but not far.
And bores between the eyes of Oswyn, the second Nayland mercenary, as Dramdel 'the Dreadhame', the third, emerges from his covert spot, his well-maintained, lengthy, curving bow swinging idly in his right hand, where the left carries a drawn bastard blade.
"Oswyn mistook a hollyhock fer a weasel," the Northerner comments from behind his straggling russet beard and dour mask. "Stupid. Stupidity demands punishment. We know that, up Bolton way."
<FS3> Opposed Roll — Symeon=alertness Vs Maldred=disguise
< Symeon: Good Success Maldred: Failure
< Net Result: Symeon wins - Solid Victory
Ardric's blood and brains spray across the Frey retainer's mail coat and the nose of his great courser puce borsch and blood add a streak of color to the knight's, otherwise, staid blue raiment. The charge ends as Symeon reins his horse before the man-at-arm's frightened fellow, the great beast's hooves tear at the sky as the man collapses -a shaft protruding betwixt his eyes.
A third figure, this one armed with a bow-emerges from behind the hedgerow, and Chett levels his crossbow at the man-Symeon's left lip turns upward in a sharp, cruel smirk. "Are you as stupid as you are ugly, boy? Get off that stot, and take their purses." Symeon sheathes his brand and leaps from off the saddle, three long strides bring him within arm's length of Ser Maldred."Ser-I thought I might find you here." True enough, wherever there was killing or decay, one was like to find Rivers. "If you have a mind to bleed the Charltons, you ought to purloin a pair of competent swords. Alas, I have only the one." Here, Symeon taps the hilt of his blade, with his mailed thumb.
The Northerner is in the midst of a contemptuous cackle as the pustule-infested stripling threatens him, when the hedge-knight's intervention quite alters the state of affairs. 'Dramdel' moves idly to adjust his gait by Ser Symeon's side, but he does not meet his eyes, or reply, instead looking gloomily, disappointedly even, down at the crouching, confused squire going about the looting. His sword still in his hand, it barely requires a step to stab the unlovely youth in the back, through the bowels, and leave him a sobbing wreck; the 'Northerner' has gone about his task so lackadaisically tha he has ended up denying the boy the swift mercy his own comrades received.
Perhaps this was even intentional, a quiet reproach for his 'friends''s necessary fall, or a reminder of the hedge-knight's place. This done, he sheathes the bastard sword, dirtied as it is, and without further reaction or ado, throws off his little iron helm, his executioner's mask about the face…and the reddish beard of treated fox that gave him his temporary sobriquet.
"Enough, ser," he explains quietly. "This war is like your squire now, a wreck bleeding itself by degrees to a corpse. They say my lord father sends a son to knit the wounds of this land for good, or, at least, for now. I would go with you, queer half-bat that you may be, and find this envoy, for I think what I have to inform him may be of interest. I think we both now lack squires," he concludes crisply, "so to ride in company will have profit as well as pleasure. That is an abominable horse, your lad's, but I have another stabled at Terrick's Roost. To there we shall next go, I think."
The Knight of Seven Streams makes no move to stop the bastard Frey, whether he has finally tired of his squire's ineptitude, or whether his inactivity is naught but deference to his sworn house none may say. His face is cold, and blank like a death mask bereft of expression—-until the blade enters his squire's back spilling the man's bowels across the brain and blood strained hedge. Then, the knight of Seven Streams smirks-a sick and coldblooded thing that turns his pale face utterly ashen.
After, Symeon bends at the knee and scoops up Chett's crossbow, and peels the boots from off his feet-for all the squalor of his clothes, they are fine boots and Symeon is, after all, a hedge knight.
Rising from his crouch, like with the grace of half-starved wolf, Symeon spares the Rivers a chilly, appraising stare. "My Lord." Symeon takes hold of the stot's reins and brings horse and bridle to the bastard knight. A moment to survey the destruction. "Twood seem the Charlton's have had the worst of it. Have you and your swords felled any of them?"
"A tale for later," Maldred replies in startingly jovial temper as he swings onto the pathetic mount, whose original rider still squeals and groans despairingly paces behind them. Obviously being called 'my lord' even in sardonic jest does wonders for his mood. "For now - to the Roost!" He spurs the beast, which whinnies near as pitifully as its late owner, and it sets off as quick as it may - not very - into the strengthening morn, whose sunlight will soon begin to putrefy three new cadavers.