|Meet the Naylands|
|Summary:||Terricks ride forth to meet the Naylands at the border to escort the Lady Anathema and her wagons of grain back to the Roost for talks.|
|Worn Road, Terrick's Roost|
|A point of land between Terrick's Roost and Stonebridge, one can travel to either of the two from here, by travelling west or east, while north takes them to Highfield and south to Seagard.|
|September 28th, 289|
It's the early morning when the carriages are hitched up to their packhorses and the men are ready to move out. The evening prior, grain had been carefully piled into the wagons and covered quite thoroughly under the supervision of Stonebridge's Master at Arms. As they get ready to move out, Ser Bruce is tapping out his pipe onto the ground and tucking the small thing away in a pouch at his waist. There are a score, or twenty, militia gathered around the wagons, ten to each side - just enough to hastily form into a double ranked pike line should they need to on each side. The colour flag of Red is carried by one of their Corporals in his padded gambeson armour and steel cap, indicating the Red Quarter. Ser Bruce grunts, "Alright, lads, form up."
Anathema Nayland met with her sons and guards just outside the western side of Stonebridge. Her coal-colored gelding is a monstrous creature — perhaps not as mighty as most war horses, but she certainly does not relegate herself to a graceful palfrey. Her cloak drapes across the steeds flank, the hood drawn up to frame her light olive face with lashes of curls peeking around the edges. Once Ser Bruce and the levy meet her and the pair of Nayland lords, she nods her head gently to him. "Ser Bruce," she greets before she starts to spur her horse along, taking up point beside the Master of Arms. The travel to the border is taken with care, and as they near, Anathema is on alert to see the Terrick retinue expecting to meet them.
The march is uneventful. Ser Bruce, as is his usual, leads on foot and not ahorse. His crossbow is draped over his shoulder, guige strap holding the tower shield he's got on his back. He frequently moves up and down the line to talk with the men as well as observing how much attention they're paying to the surroundings. "Keep your eyes open, lads. Not just a few days ago, the bandits slew Ser Marvish Erenford and fell on his party of knights. They might know your reputation, but don't take stock on it." Grinning, he turns back to his primary concern - the land around them.
More than a hour before first light, the Terrick escort set out with as many knights, Men-at-arms, cousins, and whoever else Justin could get his father to agree to let him take on this venture. As it is doubling for a look out for his brother's horse and as a patrol to check for signs of bandit activity, the Sheriff of Terrick's Roost comes even with a few hunters to serve as bowman and scouts.
Having arrived at the border at a reasonable hour, Justin ordered everyone to dismount and rest their horses for there was no telling how long it might be ere the Naylands would show. A couple of bowmen are set out to watch as animals are lightly watered. Justin himself is wearing partial chain with partial plate, his helm tied to his saddle with a quick release knot. Instead of his more usual bow, he has a crossbow secured to the other side of his saddle pommel and a small quiver of bolts. He stands near to his cousins who have chosen to come along and shades his pale eyes against the bright summer sun, "You two aren't very familiar with the road here anymore. I have brought a map that I have marked…" Justin steps over and opens up his saddle bag to remove a scroll case and open it up to bring out the map, "And I've marked areas we have had bandit troubles before, as well as likely places that are best for ambushes. I've scouted either side of the road as extensively as I've been able the past 6 months, and had the aid of several others including the Huntmaster, Kain."
Brogan is among those Terrick cousins, suited in a lighter set of armor much akin to Justin's, the yellow and gold tabard of his house worn over that. He's taken his hunting bow for this journey along with a quiver of arrows at his side, the older Terrick nodding slowly to Justin as he speaks. "Things have gotten more intense along the road as of late, but we'll be ready for them."
Being part of the military escort, Hareth of the Mire marches beside one of the wagons. He is a young lad of about 20 years of age, wearing the colours af House Nayland above an armour of mail, well-kept although of simple making. As are the sword hanging down from his belt in a leather scabbard and the shield strapped to his back. There is a glance of ever vigilant caution now and then to the sides of the road, carried out with the casual professionalism of a guardsman already three years in service. A nod and a hint of a smile is given to Ser Bruce as he passes. "Aye, ser." Hareth answers with his baritone voice dimmed down a little, before he starts scanning their surroundings for any signs of bandits as they continue on their way.
As the Nayland retinue continues it's path toward the Terrick borders, Anathema sweeps a hand up to glide the hood from those dark, lightly salted curls. There is a soft caw from the raven in the frontmost cart, its feathers ruffling up with some irritation for the ride. With a crippled wing, a raven cannot fly so neither can this one. She pauses just on the edge of the Stonebridge lands, drawing her steed to a halt. The coal-black coat of her horse shivers and shakes, though it does not seem to have an ill temper for the time. She casts a glance toward Bruce before she sets her dark eyes forward. "Good day, House Terrick," she calls out to the other retinue, offering a nod of her head as a small smile starts to bloom on her full lips.
The plodding clop of a horse's hooves accompany the march, much to the growing discomfort to the man holding the animal's reins. The youth's sandy brown hair matches a lighter splotch around the horse's eye. The similarity goes on to mirror the unease which reflects clearly in the eyes of both mount and rider. The agitation soon becomes apparent in the nervous dance of the horse's hooves- a quick clop-clop- amid the otherwise somber repetition of the march. One hand strokes the smooth length of the reins while the other stretches back to first check that the bow is tightly strung on his back and then to romp through the fletching of the full quiver at his side. Reassurance causes him to sit a mite straighter in the worn leather of the saddle before sinking down again soon after. His gaze seems to brush over every stray leaf and blade of grass near the road, often loosening his lead and unintentionally allowing the animal to pick his way along the side of the road or to brush the unwary soldier.
"Steady, lads. Eyes and ears, then!" Ser Bruce bellows, turning now to one Guardsman with his sleepy blue eyes. "Guardsman Black, ready with that horn if you see." Then to another, this one mounted with the sandy blond hair, Aram. "Guardsman Blackthorn - you told me you're quite the scout. Well then, do what you do and show us what you're made of. The trees talk, lad. I want to know what they're saying." His orders spoken to for now, the Stonebridge Master at Arms takes brisk steps forward on his short, stout legs, towards the Terrick party. With his free hand he waves, grinning. "Ser Justin, hail. Good to see you and your men."
The map is shown to Brogan who already commented upon it, then it's handed to Lothar. Justin points out the same places, which he's already briefed his usual men for patrols already. There wasn't enough light to refresh everything so he goes over it all one more time with his men as they wait. One of the bowmen sets up a warble of a whistle to announce the approach of the expected wagon train. The young Terrick Sheriff takes back the map and rolling it, Justin puts it back into the scroll case and that into his saddle bag. "All right. Get your horses ready, take your final piss. They're coming."
Terrick men regather into a tighter unit, untethering their horses. A flag bearer takes the Terrick banner and mounts up, the purple and golden quartered cloth hanging limp in the lack of sea breeze here without the horses moving. Justin himself steps up into his saddle and takes up the slack in his pale grey horse's reins to start out with a few men to greet the Naylands. Justin gives a motion for their own bowmen and scouts to spread out a bit, not fully trusting these Naylands not to be laying some bait for them, rather than the goodwill gesture they give lip service unto. The scounts blend into the trees, watchful but stay on the Terrick side of the border as their Lord's son rides to greet them, "Ho, Naylands!" Justin pulls up his horse and gives a nod to one of the men, "Ser Bruce." His grey eyes skim over the others in the lead, waiting for someone among them to come forward to greet him in turn.
Aram looks up from his sunken position in the saddle after hearing the Master at Arms call his name. Moss-colored eyes lose their sense of unease in light of the task set before him. The rider's energy sinks down into his mount and both lift their heads and set their shoulders as the man gives a stringent nod. "Aye, Capt'n Ser," he says, laying his heels almost lazily into the animal's sides. To most onlookers it would appear that they are of one mind in moving away from the line and through the ranks. The tramp of hooves soon fades into the muffled embrace of the foliage for a look about.
"Ser Justin," Anathema offers with a smile that nearly does touch those dark, earth-colored eyes. "I should have guessed. You look quite like your father." She bows her head a bit from her spot on the saddle. "Lady Anathema Nayland, and these are my sons — Ser Renholdt and Lord Aeron," she introduces the quiet, dark brothers who are not far behind her. She gestures further behind them to grain laden carts. "And these here, Ser, are for your House." She guides her monstrous horse forward, stepping out to meet the knight.
Once Ser Justin's been greeted properly, Bruce dips his head and returns to his duties. Luckily for the stocky Stonebridge knight, these duties don't include diplomacy most of the time. Instead, they use his well honed battle senses and so the man returns to his troops, looking outward for any sign of trouble.
The grey gelding Justin rides is not monsterous in size. He's rather average, plenty of bone, his hide nearly white with stormy dappling around his haunches, dark legs, mane and tail. White ears swival around, brown eyes alert but the animal doesn't seem difficult nor tense. Amusement flickers through Justin's eyes as he inclines his head politely to the Nayland lady, "Greetings, though it is usually my brother Jaremy I'm told I look most like." His mouth twists wryly, "So I thank you for not comparing me unto him, lady Anathema."
There's a glance aside to Brogan joining him, and perhaps Lothar also. The Sheriff lifts his chin to indicate the wagons, "You will forgive us if we wish to inspect your wagons ere we cross over into Terrick lands. Also … aside from your sons, you men will have to remain on your side of the border. We do have an Accord with House Charlton that concerns allowing armed Naylands to move through our lands, lady Anathema." Justin makes a motion to his own men, "I believe we have brought enough to see you through safely."
Brogan's horse nickers gently but stands patient at the bidding of his rider. He keeps a calm expression, studying the Naylands arrayed before them as Justin talks them through the process.
Lothar rides over to Justin, back in his leathers from the other day but at least he's had time to clean them since the other day. Quiver slung over the shoulder but his bow's strung and held in his lap as he moves his horse over to his cousin and just sits back and watches the gathering.
"Inspect them as you see fit, Ser Justin," Anathema agrees with a nod of her head to the knight's words. "You will find nothing but grain, both seeded and not." And indeed, in the cart are several burlap sacks of grain. Whoever inspects the front wagon however get eyed by the crooked raven, and Balerion caws his repetitious 'Home, home!'. "It is a dual-purpose offering — one to make amends on a marriage accord between your House and mine that went poorly, and another to hopefully open up the possibility of dialog between Terrick's Roost and Stonebridge." She casts a glance toward those who traveled this far with her beyond her sons. When her eyes return to Justin, she bows her chin just a touch. "Ser, I would not dare do anything to threaten your Accord with Highfield, but… I do ask that I be permitted to bring at least Master Blackthorn and Master Hareth. I sent a letter to Lord Aleister to make sure he was aware there would be this sort of movement as to not violate your accord."
Bruce moves to Hareth's side, his boots scraping along the packed dirt path. He taps the man on his shoulder, jerking a thumb behind him. "I guess that's your bugle call, mate. The Lady Steward chose you for her guard detail… go report to her." Then, much more quietly, "Maybe she likes ya." He sends the man who he's shared more than a few close calls in battle with a wink, and shimmies back to check the men in the line.
As Lady Anathema mentions the carts, Hareth casts another glance about the area, as if her words were capable of attracting the unwanted interference of the villains Bruce had mentioned before. His pale blue eyes narrow slightly as they are on the other villains then, the Terricks, keeping a vigilant eye on Justin and Brogan as they ride forward. Hareth's hand moves instinctively to the pommel of his sword, resting there for a short moment. Noticing his own unappropriate reaction he forces himself to relax a little and assume a stance a little less threatening.
If he is taken aback by Lady Anathema's next remark remains unclear. His eyes lighten up, and obeying both the lady's and Bruce's request he moves beside Anathema's horse, careful not to frighten the animal, replying in his still dimmed down baritone: "At your service, M'lady."
"Who is Master Hareth and why him, Lady Anathema?" Justin motions for others to come up and inspect the wagons carefully, lest there be /more/ men hidden in them among the sacks of grain. Not likely, but he's being cautious. The part about the marriage negotiations between his house and hers thins Justin's mouth. Aye, that's still a sore point, slightly. His archers are still keeping back, watchful and in among the edge of the trees.
Trusting his men to do their work well, Justin keeps his place and waits for their finishing. His grey gelding paws the ground and shimmies his head up and down a few times, arching his neck while playing with his bit. "Our Accord with House Charlton is ours to keep, letter or not, Lady Anathema." Justin would hear her answer about who this Hareth might be first, "Though four men do not troops make, three would be better."
Aram comes back some time later at an easy trot so as not to upset the folk in line. A few paces from the Master of arms, the youth swings a leg over and slips his other foot out of the stirrup as he comes to a halt. "The woods, she be talkin'- but I don't think you's wanting to know about a deer scratchin' 'is ass on an old oak or a squirrel throwing nuts at a coon. Looks all clear, Cap'n Ser," he summarizes with a crooked grin. "Though I do say that dis close I smell fowl out yonder," he says, offering a curt nod to the Terrick troops stationed out in the open.
"He is one of the household guards of Stonebridge, and one who has been in service to my family for many years," Anathema offers, unfettered by the young Knight's inquiries on who she would pick as her guardsmen. She casts a glance toward Hareth once before her gaze settles on Aram with the same calculating briefness. "If you are concerned that more than my sons and I would threaten your accord, and would prefer three men to four, I will ask that Master Blackthorn accompany my sons and I." After all, Anathema and Aram share a natural kinship with the woods — not an ideal marker for a guard, but there must be more to her decision than that. She casts a glance toward Bruce, speaking to the Master of Arms. "Ser, I will send a courier to let you know when we will be returning to the border once more to be escorted home. I put my trust in the Terricks."
Brogan narrows his eyes as there's more sitting and talking, but contents himself to study their surroundings. The trees look lovely this time of day, afterall, and he may as well study each of the Naylands' men to see if they seem on edge or glancing toward a particular direction or place.
This Aram fellow interests him greatly, however. Alas, he does /not/ go into detail about that squirrel fighting with a raccoon, and Brogan for a split second looks to have the slightest of disappointments. He seems a little relieved as Anathema finally agrees on their terms, giving a pat to his horse as he figures they'll finally be moving out soon.
Bruce watches and listens to Aram's animated report with a smirk of his own. He surpresses a chuckle but nods at the woodsman, jerking his head to the side. "Good enough then. Go join the Lady." Pivoting on his heel he faces the gathering of nobles and dips his head. "Aye, m'lady. You've no worry to mind being among the Terricks. They're good, stout lads, and the lads here fought for them at Alderbrook and with them at Seagard and the Isles. I think we'd be able to trust based on that alone, Ser Justin, hmm? Nevermind this recent unpleasantness. We're all on the Cape."
The Terrick lord Sheriff doesn't know Aram either but perhaps Justin's eye knows a scout when he sees one, himself having played the role often enough. So he nods, "Very well. The wagons have been inspected, shall we move out Lady Anathema?" Justin turns his horse, his gaze to return to the raven and he studies it. His attention then goes to his own people, "Look sharp, we are moving out. Two outriders take point." This is followed by a silent hand gesture and a look to the trees to convey some order to those who have not returned to the road. The pace will be slow with wagons and though they have a few spare horses to lead with them, the Terrick archers and scouts are on foot and know their jobs well.
With a quick tug on the reins of her gelding, the dark horse draws into a steady trot to come alongside the Terricks. She casts a glance toward the Nayland men who she now must leave behind. She bows her head gently to them, as if passing along some reassurance. Her sons flank just behind her, both dark and alert much like their mother — after all, they hardly look Nayland unless their father is near by to add another layer of comparison. For now, they look as steady as the North itself. She bows her head to Justin, allowing him to lead the way. Again, Balerion the Raven caws softly, ruffling up his dark iridescent feathers.
Brogan urges his courser to turn around, equalizing their pace with that of the caravan as he takes up position alongside of it. His bow is left at the ready, a hand gripping the reins in preparation for whatever can happen as grey-green eyes study the road's outskirts.
While Hareth waits for Lady Anathema to make her decision there is a glance in Aram's direction, with a hint of a smile indicating his amusement at the man's report. A household guard of Stonebridge he may be, although perhaps a bit young for a service already lasting many years. Hareth's face remains still, not showing any discomfort at his own humble self being discussed by these nobles. And he does show neither disappointment nor relief as Anathema picks Aram to escort her instead, assuming his position from before, by the carts.
"Gods keep then, m'lady, Ser Justin." Bruce calls after the departing convoy before facing Hareth again. He shrugs, the double layer of mail on his shoulders making an audible, though rather quiet sound. "Guess she didn't like you that much, mate. Oh well." He pats Hareth on the back, motioniong with his non-crossbow wielding hand at the men. "Let's give them a quick break. Say ten, fifteen minutes, before we move back. Go tell their militia Corporal…" He pauses and squits at the man in a padded gambeson, as if trying to remember something. "Right! Travis Slim. Anyways, go tell him to stand most of his lads down, other than the sentries, for a spell."
Jerold Terrick's son gives a nod to Ser Bruce as they turn their horses to start, "Good to see you yet hale, Ser Bruce. If you see my brother Jarod, buy him a drink for me!" And don't kick him in the leg. Justin sets his grey to a brief canter to set him a bit ahead of the bulk of the group clustering around the wagons. His two outriders move on ahead to take the lead up the road a ways to scout it, a few Terrick armsmen taking up the drag position a short distance behind the wagons to keep a sharp eye for anyone who wants to come up from behind. For the most part, the few Terrick archers and scouts stick to the edge of the trees on foot and aren't to be seen.
Setting out, Justin pulls up his crossbow to check the string is yet taunt, ready for a bolt. He leaves his helm off initially, the road ahead promising to be full of the summer day's heat, the dust fairly low do to recent storms.
A stray wisp of shadow passes across the young man's face, setting his eyes to a more earthy tone as he surveys the scene. Men are picked apart from commanders, weapons given consideration before he bobs his head and climbs back into the saddle. Leather creaks and the stirrups jingle in an exagerated sense before leading himself up to the dark horse of his better. "Lady," Aram says, bowing his head though his eyes refuse to remain downcast- as if every shadow held an awaiting hostile army.
Brogan takes a deep breath as they go along for, beyond the tension and all, quite a pleasant ride back to the Roost. He sits comfortably in his saddle, swaying gently along with the movement of his horse.