|On the Way to the 'Bridge|
|Summary:||Ser Sterling Sharpe briefs Ser Torsten Banefort on the situation as he sees it.|
|Related Logs:||None, directly.|
|Worn Road — Terrick's Roost|
|This is a dirt road that leads away from Terrick's Roost towards Stonebridge, it passes over several low wooden bridges.|
|17 April 289|
Sterling had been ostentatious, even obsequious in his greetings as the two met up to make the trip to Stonebridge, in his expression of relief that the noble Banefort had survived his trevails, but had faded into silence as the trip started up. The sworn sword rides a greying old gelding, but one with a deep chest that speaks of stamina, and he rides it like a sack of oats. As they pass a particular stand of trees, however, he rouses himself, straightening up a bit and easing his sword in its wooden scabbard. Speaking up in his gravelly voice, he notes, "This is the copse where Lady Saffron and I ran into trouble on our way north, Lord Torsten." Which is to say that Saffron, Sterling, Mistress Morla, and the two Banefort guards ran into trouble here. "Broken peasants. They ran quickly enough."
"They're mostly broken peasants in these parts now, if they could ever be called unbroken in the first place," Torsten observes with a smirk toward the trees. "It would almost be boring to disperse them, though I would be happy to have something to do," he adds with a shake of his head. He doesn't bother loosening the blade at his hip. He plods along on the back of his own horse - which in fact looks closer to an inbred mule than a true steed - and doesn't appear to be any measure of a fantastic horseman. A round wooden shield slaps lightly against his knee as he rides, it being slung from his saddle. He was slightly warmer than normal in his greeting prior to the start of their ride, but he also lapsed into silence at some point. "My sister has me training her smallfolk in the use of broom handles as swords. It is quite the experience, you should join us some time."
Sterling is silent for a moment, then bows his head, "If you'd like, Lord Torsten. I've never been much of a teacher, but of course I'll assist you any way I can." He gestures around the landscape a little vaguely, "If you'll forgive me for saying so, Lord Torsten, it might be better to teach them to use bows or crossbows. No armor to worry about, unless there are some ironborn still hiding in the woods." Keeping his reins in his left hand, he tucks his right in close to his stomach a bit, fingers moving as if trying to rub off something foul. "Whatever you're doing, though, Lord Torsten, I'm certain that Lord and Lady Banefort will be pleased to hear of your survival. It must be quite a tale."
The man gives a slight snort. "Ser Sterling, I'm lucky to get broom sticks to train with. My sister had no weapons to spare. Perhaps with the return of our comrades in arms we'll have a better supply; I would agree with you that bows would be a better choice for the good Roosters." Tor shifts in his saddle as they plod along, shooting a glance at the wood once more before giving a nod. "Aye, it was a good turn - this whole surviving thing - though I did lose my ship and men. That was unfortunate. When I learned that the Terricks sold my sister's ship-dowry I was less than pleased. I hope to get back on the waves soon, anyway. And I trust you've had some excitement these last few months?"
Sterling arches his eyebrows at the lack of any weapons, tsking softly to himself, "They must have been buggered even worse than I thought by the ironborn." The words are quiet, inwardly directed and accompanied by a thoughtful frown, but he pushes a smile back onto his face, "Well, I'm sure that Lord and Lady Banefort will be most pleased to hear of your survival none-the-less. Sailors and ships can — eventually — be replaced. Grown sons are significantly more difficult to replace." The question about his own actions draws a shrug, "I saw a little action when The Banefort was under siege, Lord. I was not long on the walls, however. Your Lord father saw that I would be more use outside the walls, and several of us slipped out to teach the ironborn a thing or two about fear."
"I envy you, then. Most of my conquests were limited to securing this fabulous mount and chasing off some outlaws, once I'd lost my true mount," Tor replies to the other man, giving a mockingly loving pat to the neck of his mangy horse. He chuckles. "Fair point though. I suppose if something untoward should happen to my brother then they would have need of me. I hope that day never comes, though," he comments. He urges his horse onward. "So you invited me to see the road with you but told me little of your trip's purpose; I trust you're not just out to enjoy the lovely weather."
Sterling shrugs his shoulders again, "I've found information to be a more powerful weapon than a sword, Lord Torsten. That was as true when I was finding where the ironborn kept their food and destroying it as it is when learning how each house on the Cape means to react to the end of Balon Greyjoy's Rebellion." He gestures up to his own chest with his left hand, a wonderfully self-effacing gesture that at the same time seems designed to connect the importance of the task with himself, "Lord and Lady Banefort have asked me to see what the houses of the area are doing, and how House Banefort may help their efforts." And, of course, the unspoken, 'and how House Banefort can best benefit from their efforts.'
"I would be interesting in your findings," Torsten agrees with a nod of his head after a few moments of thought - as if he had to figure out the logic before he could agree with it. "I'd be happy to know what you know now, in fact. Things are more straightforward at sea, I find. Things on shore are not normally my concern, though it would seem that should change given my present circumstances." He gives another glance around before looking to the other man. "Tell me of the Terricks."
Sterling bows his head, "I'm sure that Lord and Lady Banefort will be happy to share my findings with you, Lord Torsten." The request that follows, however, sets him thinking for a good long moment, "I think they're fucked, to be blunt, Lord Torsten. They need money their liege house can't provide. They need manpower to rebuild, but also to patrol their lands, plant their crops, tend their fields… they have too many needs for the hands they have." Apparently, when the sworn sword is blunt, he is really, really blunt. "Without some miracle of the Seven, they'll be diminished by the time they get back under control, and the Frey-aligned houses will have eaten up the ground they've lost."
"I'm sure you'll be happy to share your findings with me, Ser Sterling," Tor replies to the other man, the smirk creeping back across his face. He gives a nod of his head, then, after having thought over the other man's words. The bluntness doesn't seem to be an issue for Torsten. "I'd have to concur, though sad it may be for my lady sister's situation. I had thought that there might be some boon from their participation in the recent toppling of Greyjoy, though. It seemed that most of their household was participating. Not a factor?"
Sterling shrugs his shoulders, "Unless they've captured a noble or three for ransom…" A grimace touches his lips, although it's not of distaste, just of thought. "The Naylands and Charltons both participated in the war as well. Unless either the Mallisters or the Terricks get a fuck-ton more coin than what they've earned, they're still going to be behind. They'll get benefits, but so will their enemies." There's no hesitation in naming the Frey-aligned houses as enemies of the Mallister-sworn ones. "If they both benefit equally, the Frey houses win, because they're starting from a better place." He snorts a grin, "If I didn't know beter, I'd think the Freys paid off the ironborn to attack the Mallisters, Terricks, and Camdens, and leave their bannerhouses alone."
Tor adjusts his shield, shifting it so that it slaps against his leg a little less as he rides along. He ponders over these words for a few minutes, silent as he does so. "It would be entertainingly clever if that was their stroke," he comments after a moment, finally. "Though I think my experience with the Ironborn would have to make that likely. I know they're more than happy to fight, and the added bonus of being paid to do so? Fuckstains, if it were me I'd take that offer." The man chuckles, shaking his head. "It sounds like we'd be better off not aligned with the Terricks, at any rate. Would you say?"
Sterling smirks faintly at the nobleman's profane review of the situation, but he hesitates before responding to the question. His eyes sweep over the folds of the ground alongside the road, and the copse of trees that the pair are leaving behind them, buying time through study before he finally notes, "I'd say it's not much my place tosay what we should do, Lord Torsten. I get the information, others decide what to do with it." He clears his throat, "Besides. We're already aligned with the Terricks through Lady Terrick." Shifting his slouch-rolled shoulders, he shifts his hand on the reins, curling his left hand up close to his stomach now, "If pressed, I'd say we should be finding a connection to the Freys, the Charltons, or the Naylands too. Or throwing everything we've got behind the Terricks. First way's safer. Second way works better. -If- the Terricks can win out. If they can't, we're fucked in the Cape too."
"The Terrick squidbait sold the ship we gave them along with my sister rather than use it to their benefit. Swords do more than gold, many times. Especially if its gold to build a bakery or some jape of an inn," Tor bites out, sounding more than a little annoyed by the situation. "The more friends we have the better, I'd say, if it were up to me." He shoots a slight grin in the direction of the other man. "Good thing that's not our place to decide, hmm?" He smirks, glancing around once in a while as well. "Have you noted a good number of sellswords in the area?"
Sterling nods his head, "Shortsighted. Maybe they think they -have- to be shortsighted though." He shrugs a bit, "Maybe they're right. Maybe they're wrong. Probably wrong." Once more, the sworn sword shifts in his saddle as he thinks, his horse snorting a bit at him as if annoyed, "It'd be nice to have someone in place who -could- decide, Lord Torsten. Things could go real fast, especially whenever the King decides on Lord Tordane's bastard. Be nice to have someone to make decisions on the spot. But I think Lady Terrick is… biased." The question that follows draws a shake of his head, "They're all off at war. Not safe to hire on sellswords when you don't have your own soldiers to keep them in line. Good way to get burned and buggered."
"Hopefully they won't use our ship-money to hire swords rather than build bakeries, then," Tor answers with a frown. "That would be shortsighted, though. Hardly reassuring." He snorts and spurs his horse a little, the mount apparently needing some encouragement to cross the bridge they have now come to. "I can't say I know much about this situation with the bastard you mention, Ser."
Sterling allows Torsten to cross the bridge first, then follows after shortly after, "I've only gotten one side of it so far. Part of the reason I'm going to Stonebridge, Lord Torsten." He looks down to the greying mane of his horse for a moment as if gathering his thoughts, then nods to himself, "From what I've heard so far, it's a fucking mess. One daughter, one son. Son's the father's bastard for sure, claims the daughter's the mother's. Father and son support the Terricks, mother and daughter the Naylands. Father's dead, mother's not. Son wants to be legitimized, daughter's in charge now. Married a Nayland, but he's dead own."
"That is a fucking mess," Tor observes after a moment with a snort and a shake of his head. "No understatement there." He slows his pace once they have both made it across. "Sounds like it'd require some sharp untangling." He glances over at the other man. "I assume that's the Terrick side of the story and you seek the Mother and Daughter's side?"
Sterling shrugs his shoulders slightly, "I cut out the venom, the hopes, the dreams, and the rumors already, Lord Torsten. The Terrick side is even worse than that." He nods his head, "But yes. I intent to 'express the concern of Lord and Lady Banefort at the trouble this situations has caused them,' and hear their side. I figure I'll probably get passed off to a Nayland. Daughter's pregnant, apparently, and I'm not exactly the sort you invite to meet your pregnant noble daughter." He chortles at that, although there's a bit of a hungry edge to the amusement.
"Perhaps not," Tor observers dryly. "Though, she may not even be noble, eh?" He snickers then, amused by the situation. "If you think the Lord in front of my name can be of service to your mission, feel free to seek my aid. I ride with you to learn the country, but if I can pick up more knowledge than that I'll be happy. And helping my family is never a bad thing." He looks around then before looking to the other man. "You mentioned Lady Terrick's bias?"
Sterling shrugs one shoulder, "Even if what the late Lord Tordane's bastard says is true, she's still the daughter of Lady Valda Tordane. Nee Frey." He thinks for a moment again, then shrugs, "If you find a good way to hear about it from some noble, I'll include it in my report to Lord and Lady Banefort, Lord Torsten. If not, I'll get my information from lower sources." A crooked grin twists his lips, and he shrugs helplessly again, "As for the bias, she's married into the Terricks. I'd think that Lady Terrick's likely to believe they're side of things, if only because it's the one she's heard more often." That last may have been a sop for the good lady's absent ego in another sworn sword, but from this one, is sounds just like the plain truth, so far as he can tell.
Tor nods his head at the other man's words. "Fair enough. If I happen to hear a juicy enough rumor I'll share it with you. We're such gossipers." He snickers, then nudges at his horse to increase the pace a bit. "I think you're probably right. This conflict has turned her into more of a Terrick than a Banefort, I'm afraid. At least she is fitting in, I suppose, though I doubt that I ever will. Tell me, how is my little sister?"
Sterling touches his heels to the sides of his horse to match its pace to that of Torsten's mount, smirking along with the snickering words of the nobleman, "Indeed, Lord Torsten. Perhaps next we will take up knitting?" His humor fades away at the words that follow, however, and he nods his agreement. There is another long pause as he considers the question, and his possible answers to it, but eventually he settles on, "She is lonely, Lord Torsten. I think that she and her new Lord haven't had a chance to get to know each other much, not with everything that's been going on. She's putting too much of herself into her work. Not keeping enough for herself. And as you say, Lord, she's losing what it means to be Banefort."
"All true," Tor nods his head. "She seemed excited when I washed up here. And she was more than excited to share the news of your arrival with me, and the Lady Saffron's." He lets a hand hang casually by his side as he trots along, though he still doesn't look like a natural horseman. "Hopefully we might remind her if the need be. You know what they say about a sinking ship." He shakes his head. "And speaking of my little cousin, how does she fare?"
Sterling rides his horse like a wet lump, but it's a wet lump that doesn't fall off, or even look like he might. He's not an elegant rider, but he's a practiced one. "She's anxious about meeting her betrothed." He rides a few more seconds in silence, "And I don't mean anxious to. Well, maybe that too. Just to get it over with. Like pulling off a bandage quick in case the blood's hardened on it. I think she's a little enchanted with the romanticism of House Terrick's position. Beaten down but still defiant." Grimacing a little, he shifts his reins to his right hand, checking the inside curve of the fingers of his left for a moment, "But she knows Lord and Lady Banefort have to look out for their long-term interests in the area."
Tor only hmms softly to himself at this one, his lips pursed slightly at the words from the other man. He gives a small shake of his head and then glances around them once more. "I'll rely on you to be my guide in Stonebridge, but don't let me take from your mission. I'm not too proud to take affront if you tell me to fuck off when I need to," he remarks, smirking. "Though only when I need to. Not for gratuitous reasons."
Sterling laughs at that, shaking his head, "I don't know much more of Stonebridge than you, Lord Torsten. Just what I said earlier about the mess, and that there's a bunch of single noblewomen in the town." Apparently unconsciously, he reaches up with one hand to smooth his hair back from his brow, "Unless you need me for somethin' specific, Lord, I'll probably just stay outta your way. I'll do better talkin' to other sworn swords and hedge knights anyhow. For some damned reason, we like talking about our betters."
Tor snickers at this one. "There's a reason we're referred to as 'betters', Ser," he answers the other man with a wink. "I'll call on you if I need you and expect you to do the same of me, then. I think that is a fair deal." He grins at the other man. "Maybe we can both find some noblewomen, eh?" He smirks and then picks up the pace a bit.