|Remains on the Road|
|Summary:||A grisly discovery is made when a missing merchant is located - in a manner of speaking, on the outskirts of Stonebridge and the Mire. (OOC Note: Scene run by Jarod Player, in case anyone has a want to get involved in this.)|
|Related Logs:||None yet|
Heard around Nayland lands about a week prior to this scene…
Marvyn Felps, a well-do-merchant from Hag's Mire dealing mainly in leather goods, has disappeared on the road. He was last spotted leaving Stonebridge town a week ago - with a wagon containing his profits from selling his goods in the Stonebridge market and hired hands that included armed guards - but he apparently never made it home to the Mire. Felps' son has reported his disappearance to the Sheriff in the Mire, and the family is offering a sizeable reward for anyone who locates his father, or finds out what has become of him.
Was the man merely lost in the woods? Are disreputable sorts taking advantage of the recent unrest between the ruling lords of the region to pray on smallfolk on the roads out of Stonebridge? Or might this merchant have been a casualty in the some cloak-and-dagger conflict between lordships?
It's a long ride from Stonebridge town, even just to the place where the borders grow fuzzy; or where they used to, when Stonebridge was a Terrick vassal. These are Nayland lands now, despite the contention from those half-Tordane. Pippa's mount is small, just a little pony for a little woman, though steady and obedient under her rider's care. "It cain't be too much farther now," explains the petite redhead to the party accompanying her, reining her horse down to a slower gait so that she might look unhindered over her shoulder to Bruce. "Y'cain't miss it, I swear. Big drag marks o' blood or summin', an' an arrow that did miss its mark, ay? Right where the trees start a-growin' all thick-like, Ser." Which is just up ahead.
There are three armed and armoured men who follow Pippa. One acts as a rear guard type, a few hundred yards back from the main group, while the other two are much closer to Pippa. Bruce is the best armoured out of the three, though not by a particularly significant margin; he's just got a nicer mail shirt which marks him for the leader. "Lovely. Alright, lead on."
Once they're out into the (former) borderlands, it doesn't take Pippa long to lead Bruce and his merry men to the spot she found. It's easy enough to miss in the trees - which grow thick and make long shadows off the main trail - but it's plain enough if you know what you're looking for. There's blood in the grass, smeared, as if something was dragged through it, and an arrow embedded in a tree right on the edge of the trail itself. There are also wagon tracks and hoof prints of horses, heading off the beaten path and into the wilderness. It's clear and easy enough to follow. One might wonder why no one reported this earlier, as the tracks look more than a week old. Perhaps it's gone unnoticed until now. Or those others who may've seen it didn't care to contact the Naylands of Stonebridge about it.
And Pip winces as she notes the spot, pointing it out with an outstretched arm as she draws her horse up short of the scene. "Ay, this is it now," she announces, and waits for Bruce and the lads to… do the lad thing, what lads do.
Bruce grimaces at the sight. "Well, I'll tell you one thing. I doubt very strongly this was a hunt. They'd have taken the arrow back." The Stonebridge Captain of Guard motions with his off hand to said tree, shaking his head. "I'm no huntsman, but lemee see what I can see." Bruce sweeps off of the horse, shaking his head at the other two guardsmen and motioning for them to remain mounted. Then, he snoops about a bit.
Pip swings off her horse, despite the indication from Bruce for his men to stay amount. She peers after Ser Longbough, edging up onto her tippy toes with a firm grip still on her pony's reins. "Ay, shouldja be headin' in there all on yer lonesome, Ser?"
"I have a bad feeling about this." Bruce says after milling about the area, playing with the crossbow bolt and sniffing blades of grass. He shakes his head, sighing. "This doesn't look good." He motions to the crows flying in the distance, same direction as the wagon tracks go. He climbs the horse, unsheaths his sword and shield. "I think he's ahead."
The courier girl scratches nervously at the back of her neck, and hitches a foot back up into the stirrups to hoist herself back atop her horse. "It don't, ay? Look any good. S'why I thought I should be a-tellin' yer, Ser." She darts a look to the other men, clearly waiting for them to follow Ser Bruce. She will, too. Ain't no sense in a lass sitting around idle out in these partses with no escort.
"Prepare yourselves, gents. And you too, Miss." Bruce waves his sword around, but then thinks better and sheaths it, deciding on his javelin instead. His expression steadies after taking two deep breaths. "The trail goes off to the south, just up there. We'll follow it, but stay close. There might be trouble." He spurs his horse to a trot down the tracks. "You uh… you armed, Miss?"
"I ain't got no sword on me," says Pippa back to Bruce, fixing him with a bit of a puzzled look. "If that's whatcher mean? I can be a-handlin' m'self though, aye Ser. I ride these parts fair often, I's a lass that knows how to duck." Her little pony, flanked by the other guardsmen, trots along at that pace, though a little reluctantly - perhaps she's aware on the ominous tension that hangs in the air.
It's the wagon that comes into view first as the party follows that ominous trail into the woods. A large, square-bodied thing that's half a carriage up front, with a large bed in the back to haul supplies. Must have been quite comfortable…when it was still whole. It was half-driven, half-forced into a clearing a good mile off the main road. And then set fire to, as the blackened remnants of it make clear. Whatever it was carrying, there's nothing left of it, or even debris signifying that what it once held was burned. It was likely picked clean before it was set fire to, and whatever horses were originally pulling it are long gone as well. There're a few things left behind that weren't picked clean, however. Save by the crows that now flit through the air like giant, black flies.
The bodies were dragged away from the wagon before it was burned. Left laying in the dirt of the clearing near it. Four men, one middle-aged and portly in fine silks, but the other three have the look of guards about them. They're still in leather jerkins, light armor, and wearing swordbelts, though if they carried weapons they've been taken. Even to an untrained eye, it's plain they were on the very wrong end of a nasty fight. All the corpses are sticky with blood, and smell around the clearing is sickly with death. It's hard to tell at first glance where the wounds that killed them start, and where the meals they've been made of by the crows begin.
"Well, then if anything does happen, make sure to gallop back into town and tell them. I left Willem Hardwood in charge of the lads still back there, that's who you go find. Got it?" After making his point, the soldier turns back to his task at hand - observing the area as he trots along with naked steel in hand. His expression darkens considerably when the familiar stench of death reaches his nostrils and then, when the sight does, too. "Oh, ye Gods. I think we're not going to find as much as we wanted to."
"I hate to say it, Miss, but this is the evil men do. Looks like they had clean deaths, though, I suspect. A quick fight, they were overwhelmed defending the wagon I'd say. Hit by many more than they were. I didn't know Master Felps… did you?" Bruce, after quickly examing the scene, turns to Pippa pointedly. "Is that him?" He motions with his sword towards the rather more portly corpse. He dismounts, approaching said corpse to examine a peculiar mark on its forehead, which looks kind of like a brand. A brand of a charging horse.
Pippa wretches again, her petite shoulders heaving with the effort. She draws a few deep breaths, holding a finger under her nose to try and block the smell of all that dead. Managing a look up again after a moment, she picks out Bruce and shakes her head; she wasn't overly familiar with Master Felps, is what she means. "Sorry, Ser," stutters the girl, "I ain't never smelt nothin' so bad, yanno? Didn't mean ta make more of a mess for yer." She coughs.
"Don't worry, I think it's him. Who else but our old boy here," Again, Ser Bruce motions with his sword to the corpse, now much closer, "would be dressed such as like this? But I don't know what this symbol is, else that I saw it during the Rebellion, I think. On King Aerys's side. Maybe I fought the lad who bore it. Don't know." He sheaths his sword, though the shield remains strapped to his arm. "Lass, I need you to run to town, and get Willem Hardwood. Alexandar here will go with you, escort. Tell Willem to bring a wagon, and all the usual stuff for corpses." He squats down , observing the scene of carnage with a shake of the head. "Ye Gods, where did I see that?" He's focused on the symbol.
Pip nods, looking almost relieved to be bid elsewhere - away from the rotting corpses. "Aye, Ser," she says, her gratitude flashing briefly in her eyes. "Ta town, ta fetch ye one Willem Hardwood. I ain't know nothing about that there symbol, ay? Sorry I ain't been more of a hand." She straightens up in her saddle, tugging the reins of her little pony to spur her into action. "Hie, an' away!"
"You helped enough. You brought us here." Bruce answers, quietly, looking around with dismay.