|Cyvasse and Wine|
|Summary:||Ser Harold invites Ser Bruce for some conversation, some wine, and some cyvasse.|
|Related Logs:||Anything related to the Stonebridge plot.|
|Along the border between Highfield and Stonebridge|
|A grassy glen.|
|Wed Sep 04, 289|
A couple of Charlton retainers had set down a small open sided pavalion on a grassy stretch between the Stonebridge and Highfield lands. There was a single fold up camp table in its center, and a pair of like fold up chairs on either side of it. The kind a man got used to if he spent any considerable time in armed camps, and didn't consider it necessary to drag along a whole wagonload full of proper furniture. A wicker basket held some light fruit, as well as a pair of bottles of particularly fine Arbor wine. Two pennants were planted in the ground infront of the pavalion, flapping lazily in the fainth breeze. One was Harold's personal heraldry: A black raven on yellow, surrounded by the three Hollyholt mistletoes. The other was the proper Hollyholt Charlton motief. In addition there was a peace banner, to show his good intentions.
Harold was seated in one of the chairs, casually reclined. Though he wore the vestments of war; mail and brigadine, his helmet was off, as were his gauntlets, and his burly bearish frame seemed relaxed and comfortable.
There was a squire livered in his colours nearby, to serve. Though the young teenage boy wore a sword, he was not armoured. A pair of retainers were waiting a small distance away, tending to the horses and the pack mule that had to drag everything back with it.
Compared to the richness displayed by the almost opulent Charlton campsite, the two men that approach are simpler fair entirely. The bulkier, shorter man is wearing a good quality, if plain suit of mail armour. His helmet is slung at his hip, and shield on his back, though one hand rests on the guige should he need to pull it in front of him. He's walking a stout, black pony from the front and chatting with the taller man next to him. "That's us. Well, that's them."
Indeed rather tall, especially for such a young age to be that tall. Fast grower no doubt. Just walking next to Bruce, his squire Hoekenn that is. Nodding to the words though not uttering any of his own. Wearing more armor than usual perhaps. Having both a sword and mail on him. Along with his knife somewhere upon him as well. Always carrying that knife after all.
Ser Harold Charlton's flinty eyes were shrewd, the kind that suggested he rarely let much slip him by, and he made little effort to conceale the fact he was studying both Bruce and his squire with pointed interest. To his own dependant youth, he barked a gruff: "See a bottle opened, boy." While that was being done, the Charlton Master At Arms calmly lifted to his feet, spending a moment once he was elevated to give the back of his neck the kind of wearied rub a man got when he started to feel a bit too old for the whole running around in armour and swinging swords routine.
"I'm glad you decided to take me up on my offer, Ser Bruce," greeted the new arrivals with. He'd a strong voice, though rough along the edges in a way that suggested he had shouted atop his lungs more than once, to the point of permanently straining his vocal chords. Since neither Bruce nor Hoekenn were noble, the former recieved only a minor nod in courtesy, the latter nothing at all. Which wasn't to say that Harold seemed to intend any sort of insult; simply a man who stuck to the rules of propriety.
"Please, have yourself a seat." He made a brisk motion of welcome to the seat opposite to the one he'd had himself.
Bruce dips his head in a more formal matter - afterall, the Charlton Master at Arms, while counterpart in position, is most definately of higher status. "Ser Harold. I'm glad that you don't have sword or spear points ready. Well, I suppose there's always time. This is my squire, Hoekenn. He's the lad of one of the household's knights." He looks over to the squire, shaking his head a tiny bit, and then steps forward. Gloves are pulled off, shield is leaned on the side and he plops down.
Hoekenn offers a small nod to the man, following Bruce's lead. The lack of response to him seems either lost or just ignore. Not much for knowing when they are supposed to bow or whatnot. So he will just do as Bruce and anyone else can do as they please. Nodding to Bruce as the man looks over. Standing and waiting. Hand on his side, resting a bit on his sword. Got to act correctly after all.
Harold gave a grunt, and didn't bother to introduce his own squire, who stayed politely in the background and pretended he didn't care that he had failed to be included beyond a servant's role. The boy's lips might have tightened just a touch, though, with the haughty grandeur of a noble born brat thinking he's too good for his current situation.
"Hah," he barked a quick and quiet little chuckle, that rumbled to life from deep in his broad chest. "Always plenty of time to kill people. Between you and me, I generally prefer drinking with them. Less of a chance that someone will be spilling my blood all over my pretty clothes." With dry sardonic humor written in his eyes, he sank back down into his seat himself. Each of the Sers were promptly offered a goblet, which was then filled in plain sight with the Arbor vintage. "My father always told me, start with the most expensive bottle you have. But keep some cheap stuff in the back for when they're too drunk to tell the difference."
"My clothes, not as pretty, but aye, I've had enough blood on these links to like to keep 'em clean. My own and other peoples'." Instinctively, Ser Bruce rubs at his neck. With his coif down and helmet off, a nasty, reddish pink scar that goes down past his collar. He takes the cup of wine with a nod at the squire, sniffing it quickly. "My, and this is a good one, Ser Harold. I'm impressed you think the likes of me is worth it. Thank you." He tentatively sips at it, a smile blooming. "A shame. I'd rather drink, too."
Hoekenn just looks between the sers drinking wine as well as glancing to the servant and anyone else that can be spotted. Just looking around and keeping an eye on things. Even if he isn't one to be paying too much attention to his surroundings. He does try to however.
"Hah. I'll admit that normally I wouldnt," Ser Harold said with a bemused snort when it was pointed out he was wasting some rather fine wine on a commoner, Ser or not. "However I figure I might be dead soon. Fate being a fickle bitch, and you unlikely to give us a particularly warm welcome to Stonebridge. A bad time to be hoarding wine that won't be doing me no good if I've passed on." His large palm wrapped about the cup, and then lifted it up in an amiable salute. He took a sip, then leaned back down into his chair comfortably. He'd mastered the trick of avoiding collapsing the fold up mechanism, even in a sprawl.
The squire set out the wooden cyvasse board, next, along with the pieces.
"How long have you served in Stonebridge?"
"One year, Ser Harold." Bruce answers the last question first, his sleepy blue eyes darting downward to the cyvasse board. His smile broadens. "Oh, this should be interesting, I've not even any clue what to do with the pieces. But, one year. I came at the behest of Ser Ryker, well, he had just become Lord Ryker. Lord Hoster Tully released me from his service as a favour to me. I was in Riverrun as his Master of Foot for five years. Before that, during the war and before, I mean, I was with the Blackwoods. It's where I'm from, the mountains south of here." There's a pause. "I miss mountains. If I die, I would have wished it was in sight of them. But, at least my wife and sons are there."
Hoekenn listens, if only able to do so a little as he tries to look at the other squire as well. Though he does hear his own knight's story about it all. Where he's from and so on. Not really having much knowledge about things other than that the man was the captain of the guard earlier. When he got squired to Bruce in the first place. As for the game, he might have seen it but no idea how to actually play it. Not something that he has had time to do before.
"As a game I find it complex without being overwhelming, but with a wonderful depth. Mind, I'm little more than a novice myself, but I enjoy it in my bumbling ignorance." While he spoke, Harold continued to watch his two guests, his gaze calm and steady. He had the kind of solidity to him that came from confident and experience. And a little bit of age as well. The hairs on his chin he kept scratching had already started to grow properly grey. In the next few moments he quickly explained to Bruce the rules.
"A man who has moved around, then. May I ask why? Most are happy to be born, fall in love, get sick and then die all within the same few miles."
"I was very happy in the Blackwood lands. My family's served them for generations, so far back we don't remember when it started… like as not, when they were petty kings. Yeoman status and all that. I fought with them since I was sixteen, and then during the War. At the end, Lord Tytos agreed to Lord Hoster's request, as a favour, and as a favour to him, because I loved him and the lands he ruled, I went to Riverrun. Then, as a favour to my good, late friend Ser Ryker, I came here, and as a favour Lord Hoster let me go." Ser Bruce is studying the board carefully, but he looks up at Harold and meets his gaze. He chuckles. "So you see, my life is based on favours. Anyways, I'm not the important son! My brother Ser Adrian is Lord Tytos's Captain of Guard, and my other brother Erik is a gold cloak. I just serve a backwater coastal house. Came here for a man who's no longer living. A confusing situation."
Hoekenn listens and is still silent. Finding things interesting enough though. Trying to keep up a bit with Bruce's story. Though a lot more than likely getting missed in it aill. He does his best not to lose focus though.
"I know a thing or two about being the younger and unimportant brother," Ser Harold said, sounded neither bitter nor disappointed for the hand he'd been dealt. There was rarely much left for the youngest son, but by his contentedly bemused demeanor, that was not something that bothered him. "And I know a thing or two about doing favors. I hold some lands north of Hollyholt for my Lord Brother, and honestly had no intention of doing anything but watch things grow. Have some kids with my pretty young wife, spoil them rotten, then die fat and happy." He flashed a crooked grin, with a certain brusque charm to it, for simply coming off as honest. Little pretence in him. "But here I am. Not yet had time to get fat, and losing weight every day, along with my hair, barking orders at kids."
Calmly he waved his cup at bruce, and the game board, indicating the other man should start.
"Aye. It pains me to see them at drill. I'm proud of them, but I know that some of the lads I fought with at Alderbrook, Seagard, Harlaw and Pyke, well, they won't see the end of the month. See the harvest." Bruce's opening move is clumsy. Being fairly new to the game and fairly conservative in any case, he advances the centre of his formation, waiting to see what Harold will do. "Is there any way, truly, that we can make this less savage than it aught to be? We're civlized men. We're not fighting barbarians. Despite the political slights on all sides here, this is ridiculous."
Hoekenn looks and doesn't understand the game. The words sticking to some parts though. Though he might be starting to slip a bit. If not fully, yet. His hand staying on the sword at all times though.
It wasn't a particularly well played game, but that didn't really bother Harold much. He enjoyed it for its own sake, to stretch his mind with the possibilities it offered. Harold matched Bruce's initial move, and they seemed to stall there for a while. "You've done a good job with them, though. Your lords are right honorless bastards, no offense," he said with a shrug rolling dismissivly off his broad shoulder, "but it's hard not to admire the precision and skill your militiamen show. For part timers," and he couldn't help but show just a hint of knightly derision towards foot in that comment, "they're impressive. Your guardsmen, too. Aye, Stonebridge has a good pool of men to draw on to defend itself. Too bad there's so few of you, eh?"
The content of his cup was washed down his throat in a happy swallow, after which he xtended his arm to have it immediately refilled. His eyes were on the board, considering his next move. When he made it, it was a bold stroke. Perhaps too bold, since an experienced player would likely have cut it short, but against Bruce it might just work.
"No." To if there was a way. "There might've been a way, before the Naylands took Charltons hostage, before they broke guest rights. Now? Only thing that will make it less savage, is your surrender. Which I have no hopes for. No. Blood will flow until the earth is red with it, I think."
"So few of us, and so few people willing to stand with. I won't deny the truth in what you say. They've snapped at anybody and everybody, flailing with knives out in a mad move to defend what's theirs. But no one is friends with the rabid dog, even if it is a fearsome creature." Replies the Stonebridge knight, not looking bothered in the least that being tricked in the game - it's not as if he knew how to play in the first place. His defence is just as clumsy as his first move, and though he moves up pieces to support the flanks of this one, in cyvasse it won't do.
He's taken his time drinking the fine wine, finishing his cup finally. "Thank you for the cup, Ser Harold. It's really something special. And, for the complement. A lot of the credit must go to Ser Rygar - whatever one thinks of him personally, he's always acted in the law. But his council hasn't been available for the last few months, with him being wounded, and then sick. If bloodshed can't be stopped, then it should be minimised. I don't wish to throw the lives of these lads away just as pieces," he motions to the board, "on a game. What are some civilised rules we can work on, then? Perhaps regarding yields?"
Hoekenn is luckily focused enough not to space out, even if it was close. Instead looking as if he is almost over focusing a bit. Then blinking and shaking his head. Returning to looking like a lost puppy, but at the same time a guard dog. Just waiting and listening. Glad to have gotten to be in Bruce care.
"I'm afraid I'll have to dispute that," Ser Harold murmured in reference to Ser Rygar. "We see things somewhat differently, in Hollyholt." A tiny ghost of a smile hide at the corners of his lips when he said it, a rather pronounced understatement. A dismissive hand threw the question of Rygar aside, and all the conversational options that line of question might have opened. "But as you say, credit to him, then."
As soon as Bruce's cup was empty, it was refilled again by the Charlton squire.
"I fear what there will be no civilized rules, either. To use your phrase: Rabid dogs." He lifted his gaze from the bottom of the cup to give Bruce a thoughtful stare, direct and to the eyes. "One can't trust a rabid dog to keep to its leash. You put it down. As quick and hard and merciless as you must, because it serves everybody's best interests in the long run. Your tower broke guest rights. -Guest rights-. Sacred under the Gods, ancient to time immemorable. If that is cast aside, well. We unlikely to trust anything else, are we? But.. here, let's do another game."
"I was beginning to take ill at the time. Were it that I could have interceded…" Bruce looks regretful at the whole situation, a frown forming on his lips. He nods absentmindedly at the idea of another game, leaning forward. "You know, Ser Harold, I've got quite a bit of influence with whoever is in charge over back in Stonebridge. I could make sure that nothing untoward happened. For instance, what if some of the men yield to yours? Is it like when Lord Aleister captured prisoners on Harlaw and Pyke, and had them killed? I know those were barbarians, but I'm not sure how he'll act."
Hoekenn is starting to feel like things might be getting a bit out of hand. Or he is just really bad at social things. Perhaps both. Either way he moves a bit closer to Bruce and offers a nod to Harold before looking to Bruce. If the man reacts then he offers a nod and just goes back to his squire duty of being silent and listen. Along with helping would it come to the worst scenario.
"Those were reavers," Ser Harold said, frowning slightly at the memory. "And I think that our children will curse us for leaving the castles and the so called lords of the Iron Isles standing. Were it up to me, we'd torn them all down. We'd hanged those murdering bastards. We'd burned their ships and their warfs, and killed any man who knew how to build their wreched longboats. My children will pay for us not doing so, for the Reavers think us nothing but sheep for slaughter, and once they've forgotten this latest defeat, as they always forget, they'll come again. And burn and plunder and murder. You and me might not see it, but our children will. Or our children's children." Harold's eyes were flat when she spoke, and his voice hard and harsh. No mercy there. No sympathy. "One less reaver?." A shake of his head.
"But the men of Stonebridge are barely Naylands, and we would have them be Tordanes once more, and the lands to prosper. The less damage, the better, the fewer dead the better. We'll do what we must, but our intent is not to butcher whose we would see ours. As for the nayland lords? I doubt Ser Rutger would recieve must mercy if he came into Charlton hands. The others? A hostage and randsome is more useful than a corpse. That is my opinon. That is what advice I'll give."
Bruce does react - he tries to always keep himself aware of what his squire is doing. He offers a terse, short smile to his squire and a nod in return before looking back at the game. On the topic of reavers, Bruce seems to agree. "Aye. At least Balon Greyjoy, of all! Why the King didn't kill him as he'd promised in front of so many, I'll not know." The topic of Rutger makes Bruce a bit uncomfortable. "You know, despite his posturing and his disgusting mouth, he's a good lord and a good soldier. I wish he were more couth, but it doesn't seem to run much in the Nayland blood."
Hoekenn smiles a bit, if perhaps forced. Talk of death and such has never been anything he likes, though he still have a bit of understanding for it. Listening and glancing between those present. Agreeing about Rutger's mouth. As for anything else about Rutger, he can not speak for.
"Aye? And the women who keep dying in his presence?" Ser Harold asked with his mouth turned into a disapproving tense line. "A man can be shit, and still be good at killing people. Infact the two are quite often combined, successfully." His voice was a stern grumble, finallyc coming to an end when he took another sip from his wine. It really was pretty good, and better still when taken in combination with the light fruits and fine cheese that the squire had put on a platter between them.
"As for the King. I can guess," with a dead tone that said he'd no interest in expanding on it. Let the man take it as he pleased.
"We'll see how things go. Truthfully I merely wished to get a sense of you. It's good to put a personality to your enemy. It keeps you from forgetting that we're all humans, an easy thing when your blood is hot and death is all around you, and your body screams with pain."
This time he started the game.
"Rumours should be taken as less than fact without confirmation, Ser Harold. I take you as a smart, blooded soldier. You wouldn't accept a scout's report unless he actually saw what he's talking first hand, right? I'm the same way." Bruce stops that conversation thread and simply nods with an equal grumble as for the King's motivation. He's not touching that subject, either. "Aye. I think in better times, we'd have served well together. But times are not better. Oh, my move." And so Ser Bruce movies with about as much finesse as a boar stuck with four spears. He's not looking likely to win this one, but he'll try as best as he can.
"No, times are not better," and that was the last thing of consequence spoke of. What time remained of their civilized sit down at the edge of two Seats going to war, was spent on cyvasse, and talking about the various ways to play, or each other's moves. Or perhaps about weather. Or horses. Innocent topics, that made good wine and food better. Harold won that game. This time rather brutally. Losning is learning, though. Except in war, when it's just death.