|Do You Trust the Wolf?|
|Summary:||Tyroan has a few questions for Bruce.|
|Related Logs:||The Struggle over Stonebridge, Spies Among Us, and The Kraken's Last Stand is referenced.|
|Map Room, Tordane Tower|
|A guest room that has been transformed into a map room or study.|
|29 September, 289|
Tyroan has taken over one of the smaller guest rooms, had the furniture cleared out, and had a high table and a few tall chairs brought in. The table is a height made for standing around it, and the chairs spindly things to match. Ledgers and maps have been spread around the table, and a half-full tankard of Mire beer — along with a chilled pitcher and another couple of tankards — stand nearby. Tyroan himself stands at one side of the table, reading over a scrap of parchment. By the look of it, the thing is rather well worn, although it doesn't look particularly old. He's asked the Master at Arms-slash-Captain of the Guard up to speak with him at his convenience.
Bruce has just finished his dinner. While he normally likes to eat with the troops when necessary, today's been spent talking to a number of folk about a certain Nayland Lord who's now a restrained guest of his father. This has left a rather sour taste in the knight's mouth, though one wouldn't be able to really guess by looking at him; he's as pleased with the world as ever, apparently. He enters the room after having brushed crumbs off of his clean white tunic, arching a bushy brow. "Ser Tyroan. Should I call you m'lord? What do you prefer?" The point doesn't seem to be particularly important to the man. He walks over to the table and the waiting beer.
Tyroan looks up at the other man's entrance, nodding sharply and gesturing to the beer and a chair in turn, "Ser Tyroan's fine." He tosses the letter back onto the table, twisting it as he does so it lands right-side-up for Bruce, "I want to hear what the fuck happened here before and during the fight with the Charltons." One hand gestures toward Hag's Mire, "All that bullshit. But first, let me know what you think of that." And he points to the letter.
*The following is delivered by Highfield Courier*
Much has transpired in the passing months to see our families set against one another and yet, with all that has come to pass, I would see this set behind us. I would see peace once more brought to these lands, so that our people may freely travel from one land to another, to peddle their wares and enjoy their freedom as they once did. There is much to be addressed and much to be answered for and while you are of Nayland blood, you are of a different line. It is my hope that this sets you apart from your Brother's sons.
Let us mend the broken relationship that has been strained with each passing day, good Ser, and let us usher in a new era of peace and friendship. As such, I invite you and yours to Highfield, to feast with us. You will, of course, be treated properly under the most sacred Oath of Guest Rights and will be allowed your personal guard within my Keep, should you desire such a thing.
Signed this day,
Lord Ser Aleister Charlton
Knight of Highfield
Bruce is slow to the table, but when he does get there it's not the beer that he reaches for, as he might have first intended - it's the letter. The caloused hand and thick wrist of a swordsman lift the letter up to be comfortably read by the Master at Arms. His expression barely changes, other than his eyes widening somewhat. "Well. That's interesting. He's lying." He doesn't say that he thinks the Lord is lying. He simply says he is.
Tyroan nods his head slowly, "You think so? Sure, he's a cock-sucking wolfshead, but you think he'd kill me or seize me if I went?" The older knight takes a swig of his own beer, setting down his tankard and leaning his forearms against the side of the table. The question sounds serious, the same as the request for the other man's opinion. Then again, he's already shown that he's willing to take advice from a squire. "Even if I sent this letter to the Twins?"
"Oh no, he's probably too canny for that. I wouldn't completely rule it out, Ser, but he likely would not do that. However. This is the man who, when he saw our men at the Bloody Keep getting assaulted by a wave of Ironborn, waited until the last minute to put his men in the gap. I looked back and saw his eyes, time and time again. He was calculating. The image will never leave my mind." Bruce's normally mild expression sours considerably, frowning in a way not usual to his features. He places the letter back down and takes a swig of the Mire beer, as if to wash that taste out of his mouth with another kind of sour. A familiar one, at least. "No. He's trying to lull you into a false sense of diplomacy. He will never cease trying to take Stonebridge.
Bruce runs a hand over his day old stubble, before saying, "Go to the meeting, Ser, I implore you. It's a magnanimous gesture on your part. But don't entertain whatever poison he fills your brain with. To be honest, I would suggest completely cutting Highfield and Hollyholt off. Treat them as if they were not even members of the Cape. High tariffs on any goods. They deserve to be treated coldly; they just tried to wrest Stonebridge from your House. If you seek to drive a wedge, then lessen the tariffs on Hollyholt and Broadmoor, but at least on Hollyholt's part I would not suggest so. They plan even now to take this place. Lord Aleister has a long vision."
Tyroan nods his head sharply at the first suggestion, "Oh, I know they'll come. But I need time to repair the damage to the town, and to our reputation." He breathes out a hiss of air, then snorts and takes a heavy draw of his beer, "Fuck. I'm going to have to go there. But I'll go with just one man, enough to watch my back, but that's it." The bald man nods his shiny head slowly, "A good idea to raise the tariffs on them. Hollyholt doesn't need it much, and Highfield can move some goods through Heronhurst, but if the birds raise theirs too…"
"That's somethign to talk to our allies with then. Heronhurst and we have to act in concert, Ser Tyroan. Setting tariffs high for Hollyholt, which sends much of its land traffic down river through Heronhurt and Stonebridge and depends on imports from the barges that go upriver will do them a blow. One they deserve. But that also means that in their absence, we need to play nice with the Twins and our allies. Perhaps Broadmoor and…. you won't like it, but the Mallister and their brood." Bruce takes a deep drink, finishing the cup of ale and replacing it carefully on the table. He is nothing but careful on a normal occasion. "Befriending them balances the Hollyhocks."
Tyroan flashes a tight smirk at his Master of Arms, "There's a reason Ana's wrangling the Eagles right now, Ser Bruce." He gestures to the beer as if to remind the other knight, "And why we sent seed grain with her. Half of what Rutger tried to sell Rickart's old daughter to the Terricks for." Straightening up, he braces his hands on the table, "I'm not my brother. Or my dumb-fuck nephews. I mean to hold this town, godsdamn it. And I'm not going to piss around to do it."
"Say what you will, Ser Tyroan, but Ser Rutger did his best with a bad situation. Both Ser Riordan and Lord Ryker were good soldiers and good men. Poor politicians, administrators and lords. I say that as a man who was recruited by then Ser Ryker to be his Captain of the Guard. But Ser Rutger does not deserve heaps of abuse on him, though he erred; without him, we would have completely lost Stonebridge yet here we stand. In any case, that's in the past now. We're standing here today, Ser." Bruce dips his head after his little speech, as if to make up for any possible perception of him having been overly forthright. He does not look abashed, but continues on. "I see where you're coming from, though. I don't like beating around the bush either." A slow smile spreads.
Tyroan listens to the compliments toward Rickart's boys in silence, picking up his tankard and draining off the last of his beer. "They may've done the best they could, but they're the reason Stonebridge is in this situation, all of them. If it hadn't been for you and a few others, we would've been crying our way back to the fucking swamp." Running his hand back over his shaven scalp, he continues, "Right then. Rickart's other fuck-up son. Rafferdy. I talked to him, and he damn near put a noose around his own fucking neck. What do you know about his reports and anything else he did?"
"Well, they didn't make much sense. He did go out and get reports, but they were usually… very vague. For all of his claim he had spies in their camp, and I didn't ask who or what, his reports didn't smell right. So I usually ignored them and went with my gut feeling. Glad I did, or we'd have been totally outflanked after we'd committed all of our men to one spot. He told me there were four hundred Charltons, no more." Bruce doesn't check his smile, apparently finding the whole situation to be a bit absurd and therefore amusing. "What did he tell you, if I might ask?"
Tyroan nods his head slowly, "He said he told the Haighs he'd feed us false information in exchange for marrying some Haigh Lady." His smirk goes tight again, "Of fucking course, he was going to betray them." He snorts softly, "Said he tried to find the real information, but couldn't." Shaking his head, he adds, "So either, he's a traitor, or he's incompetent."
"Or both. Like the two of his brothers, he was never any good at politics. Unlike them, his rebellious streak went too far. I think he went over his head before he realised how deep he was, and then it was too late. Unfortunately, he's also a good soldier. It's a shame I believe that you're correct. I've been snooping around about him today and will continue to tomorrow, Ser." Replies Bruce.
Tyroan reaches for his beer, realizes its empty, and grunts once. He doesn't refill it, showing that he's not quite his elder brother. "I don't doubt he got in over his head." He gestures around the room a bit, "I don't need good soldiers right now. I need good politicians." He points across the table with two fingers, "And I need good men. Because I'm fucking getting Stonebridge back on its feet, and I'm keeping it in Nayland hands. I think you're the right person to help with that. Do you?"
"I think I do what I'm told. A wise man once told me that opinions of one's self have little value, Ser Tyroan." A bushy brow lifts up over one of Bruce's eyes. "If you think I'm for the job, then, I'll follow."
Tyroan snorts, "Political answer." The tight smirk returns, and he nods, "I'll take it. Need some continuity and stability." He pushes away from the table, "Those wagons that came in this evening, they're filled with beer and wine for the levies and guards. Compliments of House Nayland, me, and my family. Our thanks for their hard fighting."
"I'd talked to Lady Anathema about such the other day, you know. I don't know if she'd passed the message on to you. I'd like to have Ser Amos sew on the new 'Stonebridge' battle honour to the fief's standard. Have a parade, have one of you hand me the standard and me go hand it to their senior serjeant. Then, like we do after a normal time weekly levy, have a town dinner and drink some of the beer and wine. I know we've not much coin, and I'm willing to put my own pay in for it after their weekly levies start again. Like I told Lady Anathema, I live simply." Bruce doesn't look like he's kidding about that.
Tyroan nods his head, "I'll do that. I'll even drink a bit with the men." The mention of the town dinner, however, causes him to shake his head, "We'll be stopping that. We can't afford weekly dinners for the town or the levies. Flat out. You want to know why the fuck the coffers were dry when we went to hire sellswords when this is the center of trade for the entire fucking Cape? Because of those dinners."
Bruce doesn't even attempt to stop a frown at that. "They'll understand. But I'm going to match whatever they scrape up for beer once a week, if nothing else. The fief doesn't have to add any."
Tyroan shakes his head slightly, rubbing at his face for a moment, "I'll do what I can to buy the first round of drinks for a while. It won't be long though. We'll taper off slowly." One shoulder rises and falls in half a shrug, "They'll complain, but that's what soldiers do." That tight smirk returns, "Sacred right."
"Aye, but it was something which bonded the men to the Lord. As I said, I'll keep pitching. I live simply." Bruce is stubborn on this point.
Tyroan nods his head, "And it almost lost us the town. But what you want to do with your coin is up to you." He shrugs one shoulder, "Anything else I should know about Rafferdy, anything you need from me, or should I let you get back to work?"
"My only work tonight is sleep, Ser. I've got precious little of it lately and I'd like to continue talking to the men about Rafferdy Nayland tomorrow. Seeing what I can see." Bruce shakes his head with his eyes closed. "I've nothing more for you. Any tasks you wish me to complete, or does this take priority?"
Tyroan shakes his head, "You know your job almost as well as I do, Ser Bruce." There's a wry, almost teasing sort of tone to that statement, probably stemming from the fact that Tyroan himself was a Master at Arms for a dozen years. "Look into Rafferdy, and let me know what you get. Especially anyone who talked to him a lot. I'll send a response to Ser Aleister and head up to Highfield in the next couple of days. If Ana gets back before I do, don't let her come after me." He smirks again, "If you can. I can barely make her do what I say."
For the second time tonight, Bruce's bushy and expressive eyebrows rise up. It's a wonder that they were so inactive throughout the conversation. "I will. If I may, who do you plan to take with you?"
Tyroan shrugs, "My man. Morgan." The 'man' is the Steward's valet, older than the Lord, and just as gnarled-looking. Rumors suggest that he was a serjeant during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, and retired to take up his current position after Robert's Rebellion. "No one'll bring me out alive if he plans to kill me, but at least I'll have some fucking warning if he tries to have me strangled in my sleep."
"Ah, I've heard of him. Aye, a good choice. Even if someone puts a spear in you, at least you'll go in good company." Bruce grins, then rises up to his full and admitedly unimpressive height. He dips from neck down. "Well, Ser, then I better be off. I'm sure we'll speak before then. Gods keep."
Tyroan nods his head, "Goods keep, Ser Bruce." The benediction is spoken pro forma, not the words of a 'true believer.' He gestures for the other man to head out, and then he looks back down to the table, collecting the letter and folding it up as he pulls a ledger close and starts pouring over it again.
Bruce does as he's bid. For his part, the words are spoken with a simple piety, but not of a fanatic. Heavy footfalls can be heard fading away as enters the hallway.