Page 375: The Startled Stoats
The Startled Stoats
Summary: A Terrick, a Mallister and a Charlton are interrupted one twilight by unlikely visitors, and urgent requests for news.
Date: 31/07/2012
Related Logs: Who Would Weep For Thee?
Alys Maldred Nevan Muirenn Justin Harold Firth 
Entrance Hall, Four Eagles Tower
The Entrance Hall is more than two dozen feet high with ornate columns hefting the fresco ceiling above all. Plush seating is arranged around one side for visiting nobility while the other has less comfortable slab stone or wood benches for the peasantry. Alcoves dot the walls for more private discussions and sworn Guards patrol this hall at all times and especially during court. Several hallways and doorways lead off to different areas of the castle with a spiral staircase carved neatly into one corner that winds its way up.
31st July, 289

Alys smiles to the girl before turning to Nevan, her smile wavering, and a bit uneasy. "I am sorry if our presence causes you unease, ser, but Ser Aleister could not have told them not to move. Considering he was being held in tower at the time, as was I, and the rest of the Charlton host at Stonebridge. I am sure, if Ser Aleister was allowed to write, or anyone was given leave to for that matter, my father would have been written to not advance on your lands. Again, my apologies, that is all I have to offer you."

Alys looks genuinely apologetic as she looks away from Nevan to Justin. "That would be lovely, ser, my thanks." She turns to the others in the group and curtsies. "Lady Muirenn, I hope to see you soon, Ser Nevan, good eve to you both. May the Seven light you on your path of life." She turns and nods to Justin bringing back her brightly lit smile.

Ah well, yes, that's probably his cue to show Alys to the chambers she came to find. Justin stands quietly, his grey eyes watching the interactions of the others. His right hand is lightly bandaged and for the moment he clasps his hands loosely behind his back after making introductions. "Thank you, lady Muirenn." There is a faint nod to Nevan, then Justin turns to show Alys and her handmaiden the stairs, "I haven't actually seen Lord Aleister yet, though he be our guest. Ser Harold roams about easily accessable but your cousin has prefered to keep to his chambers. Therefor, he is likely within." Setting boot to the stone steps, Justin starts on up towards the second floor.

Glancing back to Nevan Muirenn gives a simple nod of her head in agreement to his words, "It is only wisdom and natural that he remains wary. Trust, once broken, must be re-earned. It is a sign of a good leader devoted to his family and his people." Her words are delivered calmly, a flash of a smile given. Turning back to Alys she regards the girl for a long moment, "My Lady, I truly hope that we might have time to take tea soon. I have heard much about you. I am sure that you, of all people, understand Ser Nevan's uncomfortableness with the situation because of your own experiences. Your apology is appreciated." With a nod to Justin she smiles and makes a shooing motion with her hand "I am told that Ser Aleister hates to be kept waiting. And while the perverse part of myself wishes to tell you to walk her ladyship slowly up the stairs, I imagine Septa would insist I spend even more time in prayers to make up for such an insult." Grey eyes twinkling, she turns back towards Nevan.

From not far beyond the outermost threshold of the Tower comes the sound of clattering and of commotion. Terrick men's voices raised in consternation combine with the unmistakable bedlam of an armed man dismounting in a hurry. At last, flanked at a polite distance by retainers of the House, but under their beady observation, the newcomer makes his way inside. His hauberk of mail is almost fully secured about him, only the coif let down from his head to droop about his neck and shoulders; hair wild and none too clean, of a mud bespattered, sickly yellowish colour, disarrays his bare head. His sword and dagger are in good repair, but belted, a close look will espy, oddly - he must be a left-handed fighter. And his surcoat, darkly translucent with the sweat of a hard ride though it be, is a curious sight here; an azure field displaying twin towers and a bridge, argent, a bend sinister, gules. A Frey knight, and a bastard Frey at that, has felt it necessary to visit the hall of a Mallister bannerman.

"Forgive my uncouth…eruption," the stranger starts, and his voice, though weary, is still more determined. "I thought there might be news here, relating to the dispositions of men at arms whose rumour has just reached Stonebridge. I was informed some Charlton cadets were guests here…"

Nevan sighs as Alys is hurried off, rubbing his forehead as he gives a frustrated look. "Hm, perhaps I spoke a tad rashly. Lady Alys's apology is appreciated, and I suppose she can do no more than that, but until her father does so and compensates us for the crime, we'll be forced to assume the Charltons view us with about as much respect as the Ironborn held for the Camdens. We can't afford to forget it. I disagree with what the Naylands did, but it was the /Naylands/ that did it. They could just as easily have gone and done the same to Hag's Mire, achieved the same result with the house at fault, but chose us instead. Entirely out of convenience, I presume." Nevan sighs again, shrugging his shoulders and turning to leave. "I really need to depart, I'll see if I can find my cousin for you, Lady Muirenn. Good evening to you."

“While it is true that what her House did to your own was entirely uncalled for and in its way uncouth, they have been extended guestrights here…and we will not turn into Naylands and conveniently forget proper behavior." Muirenn gives a faint grin, "If he is too busy or you all must depart immediately and he cannot come visit for a minute or two, I will understand." The commotion in the courtyard has her glancing towards the door, "Oh dear, what now. I had hoped to facilitate a pleasant tea…I hope that it will not be ruined." Returning her gaze back to Nevan she continues, her voice sincere "Be safe Ser Nevan. I will be praying for you and your family during this time…" Perhaps there would be more, but then Maldred enters and there is just the slightest crinkling of her nose…a Frey…yes, it is a fact that now..her pleasant tea will be ruined. Internally she heaves a sigh, but Mallisters are above the rest and a welcoming smile is brought forward as she moves towards the travel stained knight, "Good afternoon. I am Lady Mallister, who might you be?" No curtsy in greeting, but there is an inclination of her head in polite greeting.

A man comes back down the stone stairs from the floor above. Justin has seen the Lady Alys to her cousin's guest chamber and now returns to the main floor - likely to check on their Erenford visitor who seems to have departed. The Terrick knight is garbed predominately in black with minimal touches of his house colors, a well used old blade hung from his left hip. Justin's right hand is lightly bandaged and at the sound of a man entering in haste, his grey eyes at once go to the Frey to study him as Lady Muirenn boldly goes forward to greet him.

This surprising and unkempt visitor gives the Mallister offshoot a vague, distracted look - not quite irritated, more just startled, as if at the irrelevant conversational contribution of a kestrel. "My lady. I think it would be more proper to state my name and errand to the master of this Tower, or one of his progeny, first," he opines. "The…gallant Lord of Seagard, Defender of the Western Shore, and First Guardian of the Riverlands may be the overlord of this fief, but each man is still, surely, supreme in his own hall."

This evenly stated reflection is brought to a close by the arrival of the third Terrick son. The Frey bastard does not know him by sight, but presumably guesses his identity by dint of his healthy legs and tender youth. "Ser Justin. I am Ser Maldred Rivers, ridden from the Twins, by way of Stonebridge, to ask the truth of certain tidings from guests beneath your House's eaves. I cry your pardon for my, ah, lack of notice…"

Ser Harold Charlton seemed to have been drawn in by the whirlpool of activity surrounding the Frey bastard, having been making his way back to the Four Eagles after an extended training ession with his young page, a boy of seven of so with sweat mussed hair and a flushed glow on his cheeks, carrying two wooden practice swords well used, nicked, cracked and repaired. The knight himself had a bit of moisture to his scalp, too, and beneath the pits of his arms, straining his dark green tunic. His eyes swept over the gathering, picking out Justin for a polite nod, Muirenn for another one with a silght deepening of his smile, before it rested at length on the Frey man himself.
At first Harold would've only seen the man from behind, so he made an unhurried and amiable circle to get a bit better look.

Walking across the hall to join the new arrival and hear him out, Justin gives Muirenn a look and a nod ere he turns his attention to Maldred. "I bid you welcome to Four Eagles Tower, Ser Maldred … so long as you do not come here with intention to break the King's Peace against one of our guests." Justin may be deemed of 'tender' years by the other but the Sheriff of Terrick's Roost's words hold warning. "Yourself is notice enough of your arrival and your request, Ser. I will send a servant up to see if Lord Aleister wishes to speak with you. Will you wait?" Justin may not be in maile himself but he is armed and there are plenty of guards in the hall, alert and watchful. Ah, and there is a newly returned Charlton even now. The Terrick glances to Ser Harold to guage that man's reaction to the bastard Frey.

"I am the ward of Lord Jerold Terrick" Muirenn replies tartly. "And while I don't speak on behalf of the family in weighty matters, I do try to welcome guests and assist where I can and was prepared to actually give you the news you seek." She begins to continue, but as Justin arrives merely inclines her head and stalks past the Frey without another word muttering, "Absolutely … rudest ……… . …. met." Pausing, at the door, she gives a faint smile as she notices Harold and in an effort to smooth herself, smooths her gown, "I bid you welcome again Ser Harold. I fear that the pleasant tea I had planned might not happen, though I did get to make the acquaintance of your niece. She is quite lovely."

The jangle of his mail notwithstanding, Ser Maldred seems to relax considerably as a result of the Terrick's reassurances - and hastens to provide some of his own. "My dear ser, there has been concord between the Houses of Frey and Charlton for as long as even my lord father can remember. Far be it from my House to break such a noble tradition, or worse, to infringe sacred guest right! It is a hard road 'twixt here and Stonebridge, and as I took it dusk gathered; my mail was accoutred 'gainst the bandits a man of your own, one Master Corbin, warned me against, only yesterday! My intentions towards *all* in this house," and here his watery eyes settle softly on the young Mallister termagant, "are nothing but gentle."

As a third knight joins the gathering and rounds a circuit about the newly arrived pseudo-Frey, Ser Maldred examines this latest warrior with sudden, and intense, concentration, before his smile - a constant but usually cold phenomenon - seems to garner unusual lukewarmth. "But what luck, Ser Justin. Here is my…good-brother, if I mistake it not. I'm sure we can settle this matter without even disturbing your newly ennobled guest Lord Aleister's beauty sleep, or indeed that of his…fabled…kinswoman, Lady Alys."

Justin only gives a short nod, "Your maile does not offend us and you are wise to wear it upon the road, Ser. And had there been discord between your House and the Charltons, I assure you we would be most surprised." Nonetheless, the caution seemed prudent in these odd times and by manner of the other man's arrival. "Abide here then and I will send to inform Lord Aleister of your arrival." Justin glances once to Ser Harold to invite the Charlton over to speak with their newest guest if the older knight so wishes, while he himself steps aside to becken a house servant. The Terrick speaks low and after a moment, the men nods and turns to go upstairs to carry the message.

Ah, but wait. Justin waves off the servant and dismisses the man to return to his duties, himself to walk the short distance back to rejoin the Frey and Charlton. His gaze momentarily follows lady Muirenn, Justin's hands once more clasped lightly behind his back. Though his right hand is lightly bandaged, it doesn't seem to be giving him too much trouble.

A man was expected to behave with at least a minimal pretence of cordial warmth towards one's inlaws, but did that bit of etiquette really extend towards even the bastard kin of a man whose lineage was so swollen with names even a hardened royal courtier might stutter and blink as he attempted to recall who was who? Ser Harold seemed to have a bit of difficulty at first to place Ser Maldred, scratching his cheek, his brows knitted together with a bit of a furrowed frown, so obviously thinking as hard as the clockwork behind his steady gaze could. Being called a good-brother really didn't help things at all. Though perhaps something about Maldred's smile.. or.. voice?
"Maldred," he barked the name out, more out of victory for his own success at remembering than any kind of polite welcome. At least he didn't say 'The BAstard's bastard', or the like. With a grunt he nodded at the Frey somewhat briskly. Certainly nowhere the amount of respect he'd show a true Frey, but not necessarily disrespectful. "Hah. Took me a moment there. Blame age. If you've got a matter, I'll be.. happy to help."
He flicked a look in Justin and Muirenn's direction, somewhat apologetic. "Ah. A pity about the tea. Another time, no? Or I should be most distressed to have missed it."

With a nod and a smile, Muirenn leaves the men to it and goes out to continue overseeing the preparations for tea…such that it will be after the mess.

The knight from the Twins, too, looks as if he could do with a hot drink and rather regrets its withdrawal. "May we sit?" he asks of the representative Terrick, kitten-mild. "It was a fast journey, and indeed to sit may be near as painful as a stand, but I would fain try…" As the Mallister girl leaves, his glassy eyes follow her with remarkably sincere disappointment. Only a very suspicious, or by other lights, perceptive eye might venture to guess from the small laugh lines flanking the curve of his sharp smile that he was enjoying putting it on.

"Your wedding was a pleasing distraction in our sometimes dingy baileys at the Twins, Ser Harold," Maldred continues politely. "I would trust few men more than you to give me a helpful, frank account of the questions that are now puzzling the good folk in Stonebridge…"

The Terrick nods and Justin half turns to indicate the tables pushed up against the walls in places that the family and guests may dine in here, rather than use the more formal throne room, when desired. "Of course, Sers, make yourselves comfortable. We may not have a great deal in food or drink to offer our guests by way of hospitality, but I nonetheless offer it." The lord Sheriff turns and motions for the same man he was about to send upstairs to go and fetch something suitable.

In a few minutes, a woman comes out bearing a tray. There upon it is a pot of tea, two cups, a small flagon of wine, dark brown bread, hard cheese and dried apple slices. Once it is set out, Justin quietly asks the woman to bring him a cup of wine as well.

Ser Harold gave his forhead a little wipe with the sleeve of his tunic, before joining Maldred with a content grunt at the relief his knees were given as a result. His young page kept hovering nearby, still clutching the practice swords and listening with the kind of fanatic often shown by young boys allowed to stay when grown ups were discussing things that were actually interesting. In a quiet murmur, the Charlton ventured to his Frey companion: "Tsk, unkind." But if it was a true chastizement, then it was ruined by the small glimmer of wry amusement in his eyes. "Helpful, frank and with a tendency towards showing the good people of Stonebridge the right way. Aye, Ser Maldred, it sounds quite like me. Let's talk, then."
His eyes slid towards Justin, head dipped with an honest expression of gratitude on his lips as a little meal was set forth.

A servant comes in and offers a bow to Justin and Harold. The young man clears his throat. "There is a Lady Firth outside to see you Lord Ser Harold may I show her in?"

Maldred gets to the tea with an enthusiastic will, and also draws his eating knife to hack into the cheese with zeal, stashing it amongst a hunk of the bread for a later contingency - possibly even as much later as his ride back to Stonebridge. These preliminaries seem to absorb and satisfy him in equal measure, as he pays the mature Charlton knight's pleasantries casual attention - but his aspect is transformed by the name the doorkeeper gives. "Firth? But it can only be my sister, Firth Frey," he remarks, clearly not, unlike his other words, a prepared speech. "I escorted her to Stonebridge myself yesterday, but it seems she is so eager to play the eaglet she has found her way back! Seriously," Maldred addresses Harold directly, "this is but a single example of the kind of problem I face. I am in Stonebridge to guard my lady aunt; in addition my niece is, of course, old Lady Tordane, I have a brother in Nayland service, and my sisters pop up whenever I dismount to relieve myself, if you'll forgive the vulgarism. If your family has military intentions towards the town, it is your duty as liegeman to the Twins to tell me so now, that I may get as many of my kin, and Lord Walder's, as I can to safety. That is all I request."

A glass of wine is brought out for Justin himself who stands near to where the other two have taken seats, companionably near as though he were with them. After all, if they wished for privacy, they need only go up to Ser Harold's guest room. Justin doesn't look to be paying them much visual attention however. He leans his back against the stone wall and tastes his own wine, relaxing as his gaze slips towards the entrance and the return of the woman he met before.

There could be a flicker of his gaze back to Maldred's comment about sisters popping up every time he dismounts to take a piss. Justin's mouth tries not to curl into a smirk nor to laugh. No, not him.

"Ah. I'd invited her to see me at her convenience, when she let me know she was in place. Please, there is no reason she should wait outside, when she has kin here already sharing meal with me." Ser Harold murmured, inclining his head slightly. "And Ser Justin, I feel like such a poor guest sitting here enjoying your food and your fine drink, while you stand there and merely watch. Please join us, or I'd feel obliged to abstain myself. And bloody hells, but my stomach is telling me not to, and my thirst is already showing her nails at my throat for the very possibility."
A chuckle rode the end of those words, barked out quick and quiet. Good natured companionship all around, Ser Harold seemed to have today. Perhaps because his Lady Wife had left the day before. He swung his head back to direct his calm eyes at the Frey bastard.
"My duty as a liegeman to the Twins, to tell you." Harold repeated. Slowly. A brow arched just a touch, though his smile remained as did the companionable note to his voice, gruff though it might be from havign been strained too many times on field of battle. Or screaming his lungs out from a Maester tending the wounds after. "Well. The Charltons are, and have always been, loyal to the Twins without question, Ser. If we were to have any kind of military intentions towards.. well, anyone, do you honestly believe we would do so without the knowing of Lord Walder, my father-in-law?"

The servant bows and leaves.

Soon afterwards there is the sound of heavy footsteps and a tall lady with a cane appears in the entrance. She is dressed in rich grey velvet and she seems amused. She does not curtsy instead she offers a stately bow of her head. Her auburn hair is hidden under a white veil. Her bearing is regal but there is a quiet calm to her and it is reflected in her moss green eyes. She offers them men before a smile that touch her eyes. "Good Evening and thank you for allowing me entrance. Brother, you are a wonderful sight as always. Lord Harold I presume and you good Ser, whom I have seen before in the company of Lady Nedra Mallister."

"Ah, Welcome to Four Eagles tower, Lady Frey. Courier Nathaniel relayed your graceous message and I sent him my reply to accept when next we are in Stonebridge." Justin greets her, "I trust your ride was safe and uneventful? Please do come in. Ser Harold and Ser Maldred are just this way."

Looking slightly less like geniality incarnate at the prospect of his dear half-sister dropping in to join them when he is doing his utmost to determine a question in earnest, Ser Maldred's creased brow gets still more ridged when she appears in person; he seems to consider asking something, then swallow it back, and continue to reply to and press Ser Harold instead. "Of course our Houses are friends, ser. I act on that presupposition; I know the Hollyholt and the Highfield alike would never step 'gainst their gracious liege…and so on," he emphasises with some exasperation.

"I merely ask your assistance in a matter of practicality, as a friend, and indeed as a kinsman, now, to myself, Lady Firth, and the rest of us. I am not so well informed as my lord father, and I would appreciate if you gave me fair warning on whether your troops are likely to put my kin at Stonebridge into jeopardy, should I fail to encourage them to go, ah, travelling!"

The Terrick sheriff and host now distracts the anxious bastard, who breaks in, "Ah, yes, Master Corbin. I hope he delivered my own expression of our House's desire for…full affection, also. He seems a valuable servant to command, swift and prudent, does your man Corbin."

"You're too kind, Ser Justin," Harold murmured, looking pleased at the prospect of a proper meal. He was still watching Maldred, though, with an genial expression worked into his weathered features and eyes that had a tendency to flash a touch too sharp, and dig a bit deeper than the fine line of courtesy dictated.
"A follow up to my previous.. well, I was about to say answer, even if it were a question. Heh. But a follow up non the less: If Lord Walder knows Charlton intentions, meaning the Twins know Charlton intentions, if the Twins wished Stonebridge completely rid of Freys, I'm certain he has the resources to see it so." He lifted his cup to his lips, a servant having filled it one assumes, and took a bit of a taste.
"Blunter said: I owe no warning when if warning was necessary, it has already been given. Lady Valda sits in Tordane Tower, and is unlikely to relenquish her spot even if you ask her real nice. Her daughter similiarly disposed, I should say. Ser Wayland Frey, a friend if I may call him so, and my wife's favorite brother of them all, is sworn to that cause. I think he's unlikely to depart regardless of your insistance.
Practically speaking, though. It's always bloody wise to get the hell out of the way when you hear about armies marching. In my personal experience, and I've had considerable up through the years, it's a distinctly unpleasent business. Whether blood is shed or not, the mere presence of knights, men-at-arms and peasent forces, is like to cause chaos and discord. Charlton's intentions are not mine to give, but you're a smart fellow, Maldred. You can figure it out. I dare say you likely already have."
Ater which his eyes swept off in the direction Firth was arriving, and he rose to his feet with a smooth motion.

"Indeed my ride was quiet pleasant and my horse and I found it much to our liking. Your retainer is very diligent Lord Ser Terrick." Firth's quiet green eyed gaze goes to her brother after she is done addressing Justin. "Brother, I am sure Lord Ser Charlton would never step on the toes of our Lord Father. He knows that ire of his liegeman would not be something he desires. But, what you do say is true my dear bother, we are far removed from the Twins and we are lacking knowledge. To be honest that is why I am here. Our great minds think alike."

Her gaze goes to Harold next as he speaks and she listens and nods. There is a sense she is analyzing what he is saying. "Very interesting Lord Ser Charlton, very intriguing, why is that you want it so badly this little parcel of land so badly is it because the Nayland dug their heels in and they too are making a play for it. Forgive me for my ignorance as I have been in the lands of the Grell's for a long time. It is my intention to become less ignorant so that I can make an informed decision."

"Oh, everyone loves Wayland best," Ser Maldred joshes back, "except perhaps the blacksmiths he insisted on disturbing with his quaint desire to forge his own legendary blade…Hosteen's build and Hosteen's wits, but blessed with a heart that beats pure Tordane…what's not to admire, eh, sis?" he adds with a roguish inclination of his lank-haired, strawy head in Lady Firth's direction.

Switching his keen, glass-green glance back to the Charlton veteran, Maldred concedes, "I take your point about the women of Tordane Tower, but I could not return satisfied to the Twins without having at least tried to make the mother see matters as they are. As for the daughter, she is not merely part-Frey, but also very near her time. Any harm that comes to her or her child - before or after its birth - will be a crime against the law of the king and the gods. Even our father would be powerless to prevent such a crime's just expiation."

Shrugging, the bastard turns back to his oh-so-voluble sister. "It seems your impetuosity has turned to initiative by this evening's light, my Lady Firth. But now I entreat you to stay where you are, if Ser Justin and the others do not object. After all, the Roost will, it seems, prove safer for you than the old fief of Tordane. For myself, I would return there instantly, to rejoin my charge, Lady Jaimera, our…elder sister…and to seek a desperate audience with Lady Valda, ere her hour passes. But when that matter is finished, I would sooner return here than to the Twins; Lady Jaimera has errands unrun in the Cape still…"

"Good day to you, Ser Justin. My thanks for your generosity," Ser Harold said, offering courtesy for a courtesy recieved.
A wave of his broad hand, idly in the direction of the seating arrangement, inviting Lady Firth to join himself and Ser Maldred, and he would only sit back down himself when the Lady was appropriately situated. Once down, though, his thick frame veritably oozed down into the depths of the chair, losing the knightly sense of etiquette that had preceeded it. He gave a bit of a pleasent grunt, then flashed the pair of them an apologetic smile. "Weary bones, feeling the need for a bit of rest."
A small frown touched his features next, going on to press his lips into a stern line. "Harm tends to come to everybody in war." It was said with more a sound of resignation than hashness in the end, though. "But I wish you good luck in that endevor, Ser Maldred. Bloody good luck, indeed. I've no wish to march on anyone, though if marching must be done, I've always found that only a fool stays his hand. Better a quick and brutal and merciless, than dragging it on for months and months, with polite skirmishes. Get it out o the way, I say, and let people carry on."
He sighed, rubbing his chin as he lifted up his cup and took a long swallow of the wine. "They broke guest rights, denied right of trial by combat, held children and my Lord Brother's own heir and daughter as prisoners. Spies, if you'd believe it. However did the Naylands think my Lord Brother would react, eh?"

"From the Twins, it all seemed very far away," the bastard mutters gloomily, and very sincerely - another of the rare moments which catch him now and again thinking aloud, instead of on his feet and behind his hand. "And now I must make ready to be gone, a maester's needle jabbed into the very heart of the wartime pox. Goodnight, good-brother. Sister, stay safe - that is, where you are. Give my thanks to the Terrick lad, Seven bless his soft heart."

These parting benedictions dispensed, Rivers scoops up his left over bread and cheese for the saddle-bag, and hurries to start ahorse without being shown out.

"Ser Lord Terrick I thank you for your hospitality." Firth offers him another bow of her head. "There are laws that are set in stone, though both religion and need." Firth comments back to both Harold and her Brother. Her movements are slow but steady. She finds a chair and she puts her cane aside and she lowers herself down on to it. "Trust me I do understand weary bones all too well." This is said with a smile and a soft laugh. She grows quiet for a moment as if she is mulling over her words. She finally speaks.

"I hope that you are well versed in them. There are other games at play; there are different means as to which to make the Nayland pay for their crimes. War is not one of them. Not yet anyways. There is much at stake. Are you certain you have thought this through? I mean no offense by my words but I would ask that you assuage my mind. Your lord brother is acting as he should but he must use that anger to forge something stronger that will grow. Marching and fighting will only make things more difficult here and will only create more chaos. Already the carrion is gathering as it is waiting to see what is left over."
She turns to look at her brother next. "Brother be well, and I will see you soon as I will travel back to help you if I may."

He may already be through the threshold, but that does not altogether obscure Maldred's strangled gasp of frustration at his sister's final suggestion. Then the rough, fretful breath vanishes into the intensifying sound of hoofbeets and mail ajingle.