|Stonebridge Rock Talk|
|Summary:||The men of Stonebridge and their allies from Hag's Mire confer on with the oncoming blue tide.|
|Date:||31 August 2012|
|Related Logs:||All the Stonebridge succession logs|
|Tordane Tower Hall|
|The entrance to the tower opens into a larger common room for receiving guests. Effort has been made to bring warmth and light to the interior, as well. Rugs have been hung from the stone walls as well as placed on the floor to bring at a welcoming ambiance. There is a large table with several chairs off to the left of the door, a cooking hearth against the back wall, and a wooden staircase that leads up. An antechamber behind the stairs is where the servants live and bed down.|
|31st August, 289|
ON the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear the steady drummer
Drumming like a noise in dreams.
Far and near and low and louder
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die.
East and west on fields forgotten
Bleach the bones of comrades slain,
Lovely lads and dead and rotten;
None that go return again.
Far the calling bugles hollo,
High the screaming fife replies,
Gay the files of scarlet follow:
Woman bore me, I will rise.
- "On the idle hill of summer", A.E. Housman
The Tower Hall has been kept spartan for the meeting. Plates of bread, simple meat and cheese have been laid out on a small side table, along with pitchers of water. There are no pitchers of wine or beer to be found around here, likely an intentional move by the man organising the meeting. The main table is covered in several maps. One is of the Cape of Eagles and the Western Riverlands, a second of the immediate fiefs surrounding Stonebridge, along with terrain and obstacles. The final map is one of Stonebridge's local area proper including the town's layout. There are a number of wooden figurines representing different forces on each map.
Ser Bruce Longbough, the Stonebridge Master at Arms, stands over the table. He observes the map with sleepy blue eyes, his helmet tucked under a mailed arm. Around are a number of important soldiers. All six of the militia Serjeants, four from Stonebridge and two from Hag's Mire represent their men. In addition, most of the important knights are here, dressed as if for battle. Finally, the two Guards Serjeants, Serjeant Stefan Turner as well as one of his counterparts from the Hag's Mire contingent is present. They're chatting amongst themselves as people filter in. For his part, Ser Bruce is quiet.
Jarod was on time, of course. And is standing near Bruce by the table. He's dressed in his black and gold-winged surcoat over his maile, listening to the talk amongst the other knights and militia men. He looks anything but sleepy, green eyes bright and keyed up. The bastard is an ever-exciteable fellow, though at least it's channeled into an appearance of sharp attention rather than nerves. He peers thoughtfully at the layout of the town.
Someone has to keep all of these men from getting thirsty, and better that that someone not be someone who might be inclined to slip away and whisper secrets in someone else's ear. And so, Senna moves around the table, topping off glasses with water or wine as required, though she too eyes the maps and the layout of the men there.
Rafferdy arrives just a minute or two late, perhaps not surprising. However, contrary to his usual attire, he's wearing noble clothing. With sleeves. In fact, he looks downright almost Nayland proper. He emerges from the stairs, his crossbow hanging off his belt, and heads to a stool in the corner of the room, flopping to a seat not at the table.
Stepping in rather quickly, Ser Karel Stenhammar looks around for a few moments, offering a few nods and smiles to people, as he makes his way over to the table now. He keeps quiet as he looks between the others, waiting for things to happen now.
Bruce looks around the room as the entries become fewer and fewer. A frown tugs at his lips, though only for a moment until he's composed himself to address those present. "Men of Stonebridge and our brethren in the Mire, welcome. Tonight we confirm what exactly we're to be doing once this Charlton host arrives to wrest Stonebridge from us. Firstly, I'd like to hear how big the host is exactly. M'lord Rafferdy, when was the last time you had your eyes, or a pair of eyes you owned, on the army?" His sleepy blue eyes are at once on the only Nayland in the room.
Rafferdy looks up, perhaps a bit surprised to be pointed out so quickly, "Oh, um…" He clears his throat, "Nine days ago. I gave my full report to the Regent. I assume he passed it along. I hadn't received any further instruction or request, so I held." He shrugs, casually, "I don't cash in favors or call on my contacts arbitrarily. I don't want to have wore out my welcome before we're finished needing them, Ser."
"I've spoken little to the Regent of late, so I haven't heard it from him for my own part," Jarod says after Rafferdy's words. He offers a quick nod and grin to Karel, and then making a little side-hand motion to Senna. Wine, please. "Figure he and Lady Isolde are busy folk these days. Has there been any word from them on how our alliances stand? With the Erenfords and Groves or…anyone?" He tries not to sound overly pleading that someone might like them.
Karel remains quiet for the moment, listening as he looks between the others a bit carefully for the moment.
"That's fine. I'd heard that it was something like four hundred, with supplies. Well, let us now assume that with their allies and whatever mercenaries, their numbers are now double that. And that they've got supplies to put this town to siege." Bruce sweeps his gaze from person to person, saying to Jarod, "I'm told Ser Rutger is making inroads on the Erenford front. What that means, time will tell. He is meeting with Lord Rickart right now. But." Back to Raff. "We need accurate, up to date intelligence on this foeman of us. Perhaps you don't cash all of your favours in now, but we need new information as soon as you can get it. If the Lord Riordan is busy with other concerns, then I'm picking up the reins. It is why, I imagine, he replaced my silver cord with a gold cord. So - please, m'lord, get for us new numbers, new disposition, as much detail as you possibly can. It will greatly change this situation."
Senna steps closer to top off Jarod's cup, grimacing faintly at the numbers. She keeps her own counsel, though, leaving the decision making to the men.
Jarod manages not to wince at the numbers, but he does drink from his wine at the totals. He seems glad to have it in hand. "I've been looking into adding more sellswords to our forces, but gold's tight at the Mire right now," Jarod says. "Buying up all that harvest from the Groves left the Nayland coffers pretty lean. I think enough can be scraped for a handful of additional men, though. Lots of swords without prospects in the land now that the war's over, perhaps they'll fight as much for a chance at a spot as a sworn than pure coin. I was figuring on heading down to Seagard for a day or two, shake their taverns for mercenaries, along with our own township and the Mire."
Rafferdy nods, "Ten days ago, there were about 400 men gathered at Highfield. They were well-supplied. However, they were working hard to build a surplus of even more supplies. Obviously, they were preparing for the arrival of even more soldiers. I couldn't find out just how many or when they'd arrive, but based on the supply hoarding, it's a significant sized force." He pauses, letting that sink in. "I also learned that once they've gathered, they were moving to take Stonebridge. Last I heard this morning, they're coming now."
Karel frowns a little bit as he hears what's being said at the moment, nodding a little bit, especially at Bruce's words about picking up the reins. The mention of the numbers makes him grimacce a little bit now. "Had there been a mountain pass, or a place they would have to pass over a bridge before they got here, we could have tried doing something to slow them down," he offers a bit quietly. "But the lack of those kinds of places makes things a bit harder…"
"That'd be perfect, Ser Jarod. I'd rather have bowmen and crossbows, to be fair - we're perilously short of those right now, with only thirty or thirty five, including knights who know how and squires. I'd like to get that number up. The more we can deter the enemy before they get to the pike, the better, and since archers will be covered anyways they're less likely to run. I know sellswords are notorious for it." Says Bruce in response to his number two's proposition.
He nods at the Nayland lord. "Aye, I've heard that rumour too. That's why you must get up to date information for us, please. I beg of you m'lord. I know I'm not a noble, but I'm the senior knight right now and it's necessary to the survival of the town. On that note, Ser Karel, I'd like you to increase the outriders pickets as much as possible. We need to know what's going on within the Stonebridge fief. You being one of the senior men here, you're going to lead these scouting parties around these lands." Bruce puts his helmet down and reaches for a cup, pouring himself some water. He downs it. "Now. I'm not the only one here with ideas. We've got a Nayland lord and the house's three senior knights here. Please, floor is yours."
"The women and children seem to be moving out of town, at least. Whatever Lord Aleister might've been angling for with that, did give them some time," Jarod says. "To be honest, I think the town's damn defensible. The can't come at us from the Mire to the east, or Seagard from the south, with the Mallisters seeming to want to keep their noses out of this mess. And we may not have mountain passes, but we've the bridges. Just like the Ironborn tried, can't take the town without crossing them, and defenders can make a fine bottle-neck of enemies that try. The Naylands coffers might be low, but at least they've still that food from the Groves. If it comes to a siege I figure we can hold longer than they can push, if they don't drown us in superior numbers."
Jarod adds, "I do pray we get support from the Erenfords. If they do try to siege us they'll need to resupply, and the herons are in good position to cut them off from it."
Rafferdy actually sounds humble and earnest when he offers, "It is my understanding the Erenfords have agreed to help, and that Rutger is simply getting my Father's final approvals on things." He leans forward, "I'm no knight, gentlemen, so I thank you for hearing me." He bites his lip a moment, then offers his thoughts. "What did we do with all the grain we bought from the Groves?" He glances at Jarod, "It might be worth the sacrifice to offer it to the Roost in exchange for their help."
Karel nods a little bit as he hears Bruce's words. "Of course, Ser," he offers, with a bit of a nod. Looking between the others as he listens, he frowns a little bit, but doesn't say much more for the moment.
"Knight or not, Lord Rafferdy, you're a soldier. You proved that during the King's War, and during the Rebellion that the barbarians foisted on us." Says Bruce, his tone clear and honest sounding. "I would agree with you - but the Roost has their accord with Highfield, and I think it precludes them from intervening. Let's thank the Gods that they've kept out of this entirely, because I know those men, and I've fought alongside them," a grin is sent Jarod's way, "and the last thing we'd need is for them to fight us. The priority, m'lord, is your scouting and spying. But if you've the ability after that, please talk with the Terricks and maybe something can be worked out."
Bruce motions to Senna. "Mistress Delacourt, I'm glad you're here as well. We're going to have need of your talents, I can undeniably state." He reaches for a pitcher to refill his water, then continues. "I've taken some measures. The men are beginning to ditch the area around Stonebridge in the enemy's possible ingress route. They're using the dirt to strengthen walls inside town, as well as further fortify the Tower here and, importantly, the waterfront. I want only one area open for landing there. If they attack it, we'll be able to stop them clean. The ditches aren't going to stop the enemy… but it should funnel them into our pikes and reduce their weight of numbers."
"I think our supplies of herbs and the like are still strong from the war," Senna notes to Bruce, stopping next to him to top off his glass. "So we shouldn't be running out any time too soon. Though I'd prefer not to deal with too many infected wounds, so any time you can avoid injury would be lovely."
Hoekenn was perhaps of an errand or such, or just forgot to be close to his knight. Arriving rather late anyhow. Moving silently and as he spots Bruce he moves to stand behind to the side of the man. Silent. Not wanting to interupt. Eyes going to the map and perhaps looking more to that than listening to the talk. Though his eyes does move from person to person. He's just a squire, so nothing really worth in this. But if anyone looks his way he offers a nod.
Rafferdy sighs, rolling his eyes a little, "I appreciate your words, Ser Bruce. But it doesn't matter what you believe I prove, I walked out on my squireship, and that defines what I am now." He shakes his head, "I am not a knight, Ser." He glances around once more, "Is there enough grain to convince them to ignore the Highfield accord? We do have Ser Jarod on our side," he glances at his brother in law. "Regardless of any of that," he nods, "I'll ride out as soon as the sun sets to find out more."
Jarod frowns, at mention of the Roost. "They're already getting aid. From the Charltons. Naylands had their chance, didn't seem keen to offer it. Highfield did." He doesn't bother to curb the bitterness in his tone, though he doesn't go any further with lamenting the matter than that. He braces his palms on the table. "From what Ser Kamron Mallister said, the Roost is staying neutral. Not joining the mistletoe fuckers. Lord Jerold has been given little reason to aid these lands, so for my part I just figure we should hope they keep their swords out of it. Figure they will. They're still diminished from the Ironborn, like to want little part of another war." He does sound more than a touch relieved about that. He does crack a shadow of a grin at Bruce's compliment to Terrick forces. Albeit somewhat wistful one.
"Alright, Mistress Delacourt, make /sure/ that our supplies are strong. And please, if you can aquire more before the herbalist leaves town, do so. You've the House's purse strings for that." Bruce smiles in appreciation at the woman's refreshment skills. Evidently he's also hoping her other skills are just as sharp. He pats Hoekenn on the shoulder. "Squire Stenhammer. You're going to be alongside me during this. And should anything dire happen, you're going to mount a horse and be the one to ride to Hag's Mire." His attention, all over the room since the council has begun, continues to bounce. "Aye, Lord Rafferdy - enough of that, as you say. As of right now you're a Lord of this house. That's all that matters. As for our grain situation… well, we just don't know. I doubt it, as Ser Jarod is saying. House Nayland had its chance and didn't use it in time. Such is the game of politick. I do know, by chance, that Ser Justin is in town. I'd like to speak with him at some point." He rubs his hands together. "Now. Some measures have been taken as we've discussed. Does anybody have any other ideas?"
Hoekenn stays silent, listening. A bit surprised when an arm pats his shoulder. Nodding to the words, "Yes ser." He offers in return as he glances to the man. Looking over to his father as well after the orders he got. Then let it go around to all the people present again before landing on the map for a moment. But not long enough for him to lose focus. Letting his eyes go to whomever is currently speaking. As for other ideas, he just shakes his head.
Rafferdy stands, "The only Lord of this house, apparently…" he mutters, referring to the lack of attendance shown by his brothers. "I need to get my things ready if I'm to leave tonight." He looks at Bruce, "Do you have anything else for me, Ser, before I take my leave?"
Jarod nods when Justin is mentioned. "Aye, so I've heard. I'll be seeing him myself, albeit on mostly personal matters. There's the chance to ask him what we will, though, so might as well take it." He offers no more ideas of his own. "I figure our bed is as it is, and what's left is to figure out if we can lay in it. We're doing what we can to secure the town, which I figure we can hold. Enough of the populace is out that it won't turn too ugly if it comes to fighting in the streets. We can probably hold out with our current supplies for a decent stretch if they siege us. I pray our lords have secured us aid from the Erenford levies, and whatever else they can, but the rest above me."
Bruce offers a nod at Rafferdy - both for the fact that he needs to gather his belongings, and that the Master at Arms has something more. "Yes, Lord Rafferdy. When the battle is joined, I'd like to have you commanding where the bolts and arrows are landing. Should the Guard need to engage close in, which I suspect they might, then we'll go back to normal structure. But you are by and far the best man with a crossbow I've met." A second nod is offered, this one to Jarod.
"Aye. Hopefully. Now, we're done with strategy. What we can influence and plan for is the tactical situation, so this is what we'll turn to." Ser Bruce moves down to look at the map, the one of the area directly around Stonebridge. He motions at the lines placed around the area of the town. "These are the ditches. See how they're going to be dug? The idea is to funnel the Charltons into attacking through there. If they decide to go through the ditches, which they can certainly try, it will impede their own going, hurt their horses and men and make them easy picking for archers and pikemen. This is best case scenario."
"Like the squids dug around Seagard," Jarod notes with a grim sort of smile. "Nasty going for cavalry, riders fared worse from the trenches than the Ironborn. I figure it'll take them some time to breech the town. If they manage it at all. What's our plan if they do? If we have to worry less about harming the folk in the houses, we can stage archers on rooftops. Maybe do things like set traps in the alleys as well, if we can make certain the remaining townspeople're holed up somewhere safe as they can manage."
Rafferdy pauses, and just stares at Bruce for a long moment. He clearly doesn't like Bruce's desire for him to lead the archers. It's also pretty clear he just bites his tongue, and then nods very slightly, before sighing and moving towards the stairs.
"Worse. More extensive. The idea is blunting their attacks, cavalry but even infantry. But yes, that's the general idea." Bruce moves some of the blocks on the table, painted with little dashes of blue for Charlton of Highfield. He moves them to push at some plain brown blocks by the entrance of the town. "When - not if, the Charltons have sufficient pressure on our force, we'll withdraw into the town. We're going to try and inflict as many casualties on them as we can, and when it looks like the tide might be turning soon we sound the withdrawal. Once we're in town, defence should be easier. Archers on roofs and walls, as you say, Ser Jarod. The pike can completely block streets off, and the streets being as narrow as they are we'll blunt their numbers again. If they breach somewhere in the wall, we send a Quarter of pike to deal with them, supported by whatever crossbows or bows we've got. Same if they try to come by the river, like the Ironborn did. We bring our men and push them back." He wipes his forehead off and slides his hand down, pinching the bridge of his nose. "We're going to be confined to the town. I do not want our force being annihilated in a battle we can't win, outside the gates. We do as much damage as we can and we come in. That's why we're stockpiling." Bruce arches a bushy brow at Rafferdy. "Tell me what's on your mind, m'lord."
"We may be able to force their movements into certain quarters by how the pikes're placed. Or away from certain spots, as it may be," Jarod says, nodding to himself as he follows the dashes on the map. Then he also looks to Rafferdy. Head-tilt.
Rafferdy slows, stands halted for a moment, before turning back around, exhaling. He stares at Bruce again a moment, before he speaks. "Those men should be led by a knight," he says, softly. "They NEED to be led by one. Not by me." He tilts his head a bit, and steps over to the map, looking at the town. "We don't have the numbers we need. The morale, the leadership, the spirit. THAT will be what saves us here." He looks at Bruce once more, "They need someone more than I am, Ser, to stand their ground in this." He looks back at the map. His brow furrows a bit, and he stares at the drawings. "Huh…" he mumbles, tilting his head just a bit.
"Aye, Ser Jarod. That will be situational, depending where they breach from. We'll decide on the fly." Rafferdy is listened to carefully, Ser Bruce tapping on the map. "You're right, we don't. All I want you to do is direct where their arrows and bolts fall, Lord Rafferdy. How do you think the Northmen, without knights, get along? And those across the Seas? And the reavers? They've few or no knights. You're an experienced bowman. I want you to tell them where to shoot and where their arrows should land; not to lead them as they fight tooth and nail in hand to hand combat. That's what I or Ser Jarod will be doing, don't you worry. Speaking of which - I hope your crossbow skills are sharp, Ser Jarod, because you might need them. And you too, Squire Hoekenn."
"Over the past year, Raff, I've come to think the knighthoods just a title lords' sons use to make themselves think they're proper warriors," Jarod says. Shrug. "To most, at least. To a few it's more, but not enough." He looks down at his own still-spurrless boots. Not that it'd be difficult for him to replace them, but he hasn't since his lord father stripped him of them so many months ago. He regards his goodbrother. "You led men for Good King Robert, figure you can lead them now. What they need is to see Naylands willing to bleed next to them, if they'll hold against Lord Aleister." As for the archery question, "I'm nothing on Lord Rafferdy but I'm an all right shot. I know how not to shoot myself with the bolt, at least."
Rafferdy furrows his brow a bit, processing whatever thought the map has given him, before he looks at Jarod. "Maybe you've forgotten. I AM a lord's son." He looks back at the map. "Defense is easier in the town…" His brow furrows a bit more. And then, almost to himself, he slowly says, "Maybe we should fight this backwards…"
"I like where you're thinking, m'lord, but we need to make them bleed some before we pull back. It's important for appearances' sake that we bloody them, however so slightly. But you're right. After that, defence is easier within the town. I'm not under illusions that we can defeat them completely in the field." Ser Bruce answers, not pressing the matter of command any further.
"Backwards?" It's not until Bruce answers Rafferdy that Jarod seems to get a proper idea of what he's suggesting. "All the blood they'll have to spend getting into the town, I figure is more than we'll have to spend keeping them out. More we can thin their ranks, less they'll just be able to stack their numbers atop us."
Rafferdy looks at Bruce, "We have to fight backwards…" He points at the outskirts of town, "We don't put our archers in town. We hide them. Here. And here…" Pointing at the woods near the entrance to the town. "In the woods. We let you and your men hurt them, and then you fall back into town a bit further than normal strategy would suggest, letting the Charlton's get all the way." He looks at Bruce, "Then we have the archers step out behind them and open fire." He looks back at the map, "They'll be hit from both sides, confused." He looks at Bruce again.
Hoekenn is still silent, perhaps having lost focus at some points. But listening to most at least. Nodding about the part where he is addressed. Not speaking though.
Bruce frowns at Rafferdy's suggestion, rubbing his stubble. "It's a good strategy, if the archers had any way to get into the town after. Like I said, I'm not confident that we can defeat them in the open field. If we had bigger numbers, and we weren't defending a town… I'd agree. In this case I think we have to prepare for the fact that we're best off pulling into the town, archers and pike."
"Ugly fighting in towns," Jarod mutters. More to himself than anyone else. "Best chance we've got though, I agree. Seven preserve us."
Rafferdy shakes his head, "I dunnow… We march the archers out, front row fires while back row reloads, then switch. We'll all get at least two free shots on them before they can even turn around and see us." He looks at Bruce. "The confusion and the free shots might give you the advantage with the man to man we need."
"Gods but it is." Bruce rubs at a large pink scar on one side of his neck without even thinking, one that goes down towards his shoulder and dissapears from view, covered by his tunic and mail shirt. People here might remember he got that on the streets of Seagard. "Okay. I like that idea, Lord Rafferdy. It's situational, depending on how many bowmen we've got and more importantly, how many enemy there are. Ser Jarod - I want you to canvass Seagard, Terrick's Roost and all surrounding areas for sellswords.. Specifically archers or crossbows, if you can. And just as importantly, see if you can recruit volunteers. You're from the area and there might be some who don't look kindly to an inland House making inroads, illegal inroads, onto the Cape when the Cape's just suffered so much. Frame it like that, or however you need to. M'lord, we need those numbers before we commit to a risky strategy like the one you propose. Bring numbers and information back and we'll make a decision."
Rafferdy note, "They'll be firing one shot into a crowd not dodging. It won't be a hard shot. We put swordsman there with crossbows, too. Then, once they fire, they can charge with swords as well. We'll have the Charlton's from both ends."
"I'll see who I can scare up," Jarod says to Bruce. "I'll not be gone from town more than two days. Don't figure it's good for any knight to linger off from our defenses more than that. Though while I'm in Seagard I might take in Ser Kamron and Lady Saffron's wedding."
"Yes, but if they outnumber us by three or four to one, m'lord, then you might put a part of their line to flight. It won't matter because there's more. You see why it matters what our numbers are, and theirs?" Bruce queries, nodding at Jarod. "Aye, fair enough. Be a good spot as any."
Rafferdy nods, "I agree, Bruce. I'm just sharing my thoughts…" He looks at Jarod, nods, and then back to Bruce. "Of course, it's your final call. I'm just… I just was thinking, was all, Ser." He nods again, and turns to head for the stairs.
"Gods keep," Jarod offers to the pair of men as he, too, departs.
Before Rafferdy can completely exit, Bruce calls, "Aye, m'lord, and you know more about ambush than I ever will. There's a reason you're here, and others of your family are not. Gods keep you and good luck on your journey."