|While We Live|
|Summary:||Isolde addresses the first levy of Stonebridge, and welcomes a new arrival before taking an unexpected departure.|
|Related Logs:||Drill The Troops|
|Stone Walk - Tordane Tower|
|Set at a slight incline, the stone pathway leads up a slight rise northeast out of the town square towards the single tower of House Tordane. Grass grows thick and plush along the side though it is well maintained. Private shops and stables are located up closer to the manor with the family's private stables attached directly to the exterior wall of the small castle.|
|10 August, 288|
The day of Bruce Longbough's arrival in Stonebridge appears to be an auspicious one. The young squire has a difficult time arranging stabling, as- for some reason- the entire town has shut down for the day, well before sunset. The reason becomes readily apparent soon enough, among the notices posted about town marking this as a day of Drill. Rather strict sanctions are threatened to any able bodied men who 'shirk their civic duty'. While the smallfolk of Stonebridge are turning out to see the unfolding spectable, out from Tordane Tower emerges the Lady of Stonebridge and her entourage, among whom is the tall, thin form of Rygar Nayland.
Things like aquiring stabling for the horses are no longer Ser Bruce Longbough's concern, not since he was raised from the ranks of the smallfolk five years ago, after the Battle of the Bells. While his squire, a son of a minor knight, might be struggling to find stabling, Ser Bruce has washed and aquired a piece of coarse black bread and a wineskin. In all honesty, the knight looks like he's a simple house retainer in his simple garb of a white tunic with a patch and grey trousers. Still, he's casually sauntered up the path from the town centre, watching the proceedings as if he hadn't a care in the world.
The Lady moves with the sworn, keeping a pace that is one meant for business. The colors she wears today have been chosen to make a statement - as much as she doesn't like it. Dark green much like the Tordane color of her father's house, but instead of being accented in golds and reds it is with whites and orange. She shifts, brushing her hands to her full skirts as her hair has been done in an intricate braid and brow set with a gold circlet. It seems the spectacle the smallfolk have come to see, shall be addressed by the Lady herself. She slows her pace as they reach the assembled down the walk of the Tower, her green eyes flickering back towards Rygar before she comes to a stop.
"The smallfolk have gathered, all men between fifteen and fifty, apart from those excused by Your Ladyship in advance," Rygar is informing Isolde as the noble party makes its way down the Stone Walk to the muster square at the edge of town. "As noted before, Nayland retainers patrol the streets to prevent any criminal opportunism while the citizenry are drilled. There have been complaints, as is natural when a people have not been previously trained. Your Ladyship would be wise to include a vote of confidence and words of patience to her people." Stern and severe in manner, the Nayland knight's keen blue eyes take quick note of the commonly dressed Bruce in passing, his regard lingering a moment on the sword, and a longer instant on the emblem sewn to the swordsman's breast.
It's obvious to Bruce's commoner eye that Isolde must be the lady of the town. As she passes he offers her a quick half bow, the kind that is commonly seen on the streetside when smallfolk spy a noble passing by their way. "M'lady." He also notes Rygar's gaze on him. Offering a rogueish grin to the noble knight and a slightly puzzled look on the rest of his face, he nods.
Isolde follows Rygar's gaze after listening to his council and Bruce seems wholly unknown to her but she lets her gaze narrow upon the emblem. A soft smile and nod is given to him as he offers the 'M'lady'. Yet there is little time to question and she has other matters to attend to. "Even with my words, they will still have concerns. I would like to attend all their drills, so as to show confidence instead of just speaking it." Her voice is lowered some and only meant for Rygar.
"Your Ladyship is like to have more pressing matters to attend to every seventh day, but for all of those in which she finds herself free, the Lady's presence would be welcomed," Rygar voices back to Isolde in his stiff, cold cadence, once the knight's eye shifts from Bruce to the road ahead, once again.
Seeing as the procession is moving on, Bruce decides to decamp from where he is and follow at a comfortable, courteous distance. He munches on his black bread as he walks, having tucked his wineskin in his belt while he walks. The former Blackwood knight looks pleased at… something.
You head towards Outskirts of Stonebridge
The trails are worn and well tended here and the fields on either side are lush and full of wildflowers amidst the lightly scattered trees of the central Cape of Eagles. A few packed dirt trails converge with the main road from outlying hamlets around Stonbridge.
Keeping stride amongst the center of the sworn, Isolde looks onward towards the gathering of the men for the drills. Young and old and she hmms to herself. "I will most likely release a few others…depending on performance. Keep me updated. Some may not be fit enough to make it worth teaching them and I would rather not have someone injured for it." She says to Rygar. Her hands grasp at her skirts, the path well known by the Lady, her gaze fixating on those gathered as they draw closer.
Rygar nods curtly once. "It is a fine line between sympathy and permitting the weak to shirk their duty, Lady. Yet you shall be keptappraised," the Nayland concedes after another moment. A handful of the fifty Nayland footmen who had marched into Stonebridge two weeks past have arranged the assembled menfolk of the town into something roughly resembling rank and file, five men deep and as many across as can be managed; some stand, while others sit, all they have in common is that each of the men holds a long pole. The Serjeants call for all those assembled to stand for their Lady, and they do so. On the road, to one side waits a carriage with horses hitched, pointed back toward Stonebridge to spare Isolde the uphill walk. Rygar offers a short, sharp bow to the Lady and motions for her to stand forward and speak.
Obviously, with all of the excitement about the town's first levy under its new overlords, there is a crowd of people here to watch. Bruce gently pushes a few out of the way, motioning at the sword belt at his hip to those who are a bit more stubborn in getting out of the way. Once he's at the front of the crowd and in a good position to watch, he finishes off the last of his bread and draws his wineskin to his lips. He watches the Lady Nayland, Ser Rygar… but most carefully, Ser Bruce Longbough watches the troops, both the professionals and the raw, new levies. He notes as many details as he can about them, green eyes squinting.
Stepping forward to break from Rygar, she has noted his admittance to keeping her appraished. The carriage is eyed and then forgotten as her green eyes turn back to focus on those gathered. Waiting for them to settle, she clasps her hands before her and lifts her voice to be heard. Perhaps she may be able to quell fears. "I know this is a change of pace for the most of you and that holding weapons is quite different from the tools of your crafts. These drills are to serve all of us and to see that you know and can defend your homes yourselves." She looks at them and lingers on some of the youngest and eldest, making note to excuse a few more from the drills. "These drills will take some time to get used to and will not be easy. But I have faith in your abilities and in the end, they will serve to only make you prepared for any dangers that may come."
"Compassion. A nice touch, for the levies. I don't bet they'll find any from their serjeants." Ser Bruce says to himself, mainly, wearing that grin he was sporting earlier again. He taps a finger against the pommel of his sword as he eyes the expressions of some of the levies, then, of some of the Nayland foot arrayed here.
Isolde pauses, considering her words as her gaze falls to the ground. Finally she speaks, her eyes remain searching the ground for a few more moments before rising. "My father never asked this of you. I do demand but I request that you do this. It will remain once a week and should there be need for someone to be dismissed from drills, the matter will come to me." There is a gentle smile upon her lips. "The able bodied will be the only ones to partake." She lets out a breath, searching the faces of those gathered and again finding Bruce amongst them.
"Maybe a bit more gentle than I'd have gone for. Gotta put some steel in their cocks, for this kinda thing." Mumbles Bruce to himself, even though he's drawing gazes from those around him. He doesn't notice that.
The gazes are not lost on the Lady and she pauses, the whispers amongst those nearest Bruce drawling her attention. Isolde hesitates and then turns, taking a few steps towards the unknown man. "Excuse me?" She asks of him, her smile remaining as she considers him and then the emblem.
"Your Ladyship," Rygar's cold and even voice addresses Isolde quietly as she looks aside, "Have you finished your address?" the lean knight takes a short step nearer and leans slightly down to inquire of the Lady of Stonebridge.
"M'lady." Again, Ser Bruce offers her a quick bow. "I was saying to myself, overheard, I s'pose, that it might have been a bit more gentle of an address than I'd have given." He shrugs, still jovial.
Rygar stops her though, her head turning some to look at him and then the men assembled. But Bruce is regarded from the corner of her eyes as he gives an honest answer. "Well I am not usually one to address troops, so you must give me a second go. Let me see if I can do it right." She says softly and dips back a step and looks to Rygar. "A moment more, Ser."
Isolde looks out over the men. "It is by your blades and skill that Stonebridge will stand defended. Take these drills, strike true and sharpen your talents, your blades. As my father trained his Knights, the same opportunity is now yours. Each of you is a Knight of his own home, his town. May the Seven guide you. Do not falter. While we live!" She proclaims the Tordane house motto.
Rygar stands silent and grim as a dour statue while Isolde speaks that last. A few scattered cheers go up from among the assembled smallfolk, as Rygar turns a look aside to one of the Nayland serjeants, who recieves a single nod in instruction. The bull voiced commoner in Nayland orange and green bellows, "Three cheers for Her Ladyship! Hip hip-" Given a clear signal, the men respond close enough together to form a more solitary 'Hurrah!'. Two more cheers follow, and by the third, most of those present have gotten their voices in sync. While the acclaim is being given, Rygar leans forward again to quietly inquire, "Does Your Ladyship wish to observe for a time?"
Bruce nods with appreciation at Isolde's end of the speech, his grin finally losing its place on the short knight's face to be replaced by a thin, neutral line. He says no more, but simply watches the soldiers and levies, sipping from his wineskin every now and then.
Dipping her head to the hurrahs, Isolde looks over towards Bruce again and then up to Ser Rygar as the drills will begin. "Ser, for only a short while. I want to see how these will be guided at the very least. They are my people and it does not look well if the Lady does not see to them." Her gaze lingers on the taller man, though she is not short by any means. "A few moments, that is all…" She looks to the carriage curiously but says nothing of it.
Rygar, noting Isolde's look to the carriage, states, "As the drills will run until dusk, to spare Your Ladyship a walk up the hill after dark. Make use of it when you wish." That note made, the tall thin knight raises his own voice to begin the lesson, leaving Isolde to observe and converse amongst whichever of the onlookers she chooses. "The pike is a weapon of unity," the severe Nayland barks out. "Alone, each man is weak. Together you are strong. Each must rely upon the other. Each man must stand his ground. Stand straight, facing front! Pikes grounded in line with the point of your right foot. Grip the haft with your right hand at the level of your chin. This position is 'Pike Ordered'. Now. ORDER PIKES!" Serjeants echo the call, barking at stragglers whose pikes are leaning or slanted, rather than straight up and down.
Bruce rubs his hands together as the drills start in earnest. "This is where the good stuff goes and we see who's fit for the pike wall, and who's fit to dig the latrine trench." He mumbles to himself, more than a little absentminded of where he is.
Isolde stays where she is, watching Rygar set to work and there might even be said to be a glimmer of respect in her gaze. But her eyes flicker to Bruce and she turns, taking slow steps towards him. As she does, her green eyes look out over the drill in progress. As the shouts ring out and the unorganized menfolk are put to the test, she hmms to herself. Yet as she draws near to Bruce, she speaks up. "I fear I do not know you….what has brought you to Stonebridge….." She doesn't even know how to address him, her gaze looking over him.
"This is where the pike is rested to spare the weight upon your arms. To carry the pike, is must be advanced. To advance the pike, raise it in the right hand before your faces, and with the left hand grasp the haft below. Lift, and graps the butt of the pike in the right hand, carried against the shoulder- keeping the pike straight vertical will keep it balanced, if the pike leans in any direction when lifted, it is not straight." The knight demonstrates the motion as he describes it. "Now. ADVANCE PIKES!"
"Ser Bruce Longbough, m'lady. My apologies for not introducing myself earlier. I'm afraid sometimes I'm a tad /too/ fond of walking in the commons, if my expression's to be understood." Bruce says as he finally greets the Lady of Stonebridge properly, his attention finally held firmly by the noblelady. There'll be time enough to see the levies drill. "I'm an old friend of Lord Ryker's, from when we were at Riverrun."
"Ser Longbough.." Isolde starts and the a brow lifts as her attention falls away from the men to fully regard Bruce. "My Lord husband speaks of Riverrun often. Or at least I can see it in his eyes. I am glad that he has a friend nearby from his home." A soft smile touches her lips as she regards the man. "Would you .." SHe pauses to watch the mismatched and haphazard advancing before returning her gaze. "Would you care to return to the Tower with me? It would be the least I could do for a friend of my husbands."
The first change in stance is picked up simply enough by many among the smallfolk, though the ambient clatter of pike hafts against neighboring hafts is audible proof that some don't take naturally to the handling. Serjeants take up correction, as the call to reverse the motion is given with the curt command, "Order Pikes!" Speaking with stern distaste, Rygar calls, "Sharp, uniform motions. One, Two, Three," he demonstrates, going over the lift, shift and settle of the maneuver. Keen eyes from the sidelines will note the Nayland serjeants keeping as much attention on which of the smallfolk do the motions correctly as they do on those who fail. "Now. ADVANCE PIKES."
Bruce doesn't bother to pause to consider. "It would do ill to refuse hospitality from my Lord friend's new Lady, so I will go and gladly. I feel a mite bad for poor Amos, but he'll do fine, I suspect. Er, that's my squire." He takes a few moments to watch the beginnings of drill practice before returning his attentions to Isolde. "I fear after I left the levies I was never much of a pikemen, but they're just as important as anything else in the line. Oh, congratulations on the union, by the way, m'lady."
The continued drills can hardly be missed and the Lady does watch, pausing a moment as she watches an elder man falter. She takes a step but stops herself at Bruce's voice. "Thank you, Ser…and bring your squire as well. I am sure the evening meal can be shared." She smiles at him, "A moment, then we can be underway.." Isolde moves for Rygar than, directing herself right at him and trying to catch his gaze to speak softly with him in regards to a more feeble looking elder folk. She tries not to make too direct a motion.
As Isolde (and the commoner with the obscure blazon on his breast) seek his attention, Rygar turns to the other side and calls, "Serjeant Terien. Lead the assembly though the first step twice more." Only once command of the rough levy is turned over to another does Ser Rygar turn away to regard Isolde. "Lady. You will be kept appraised." A glance past her to Bruce, as Terien gives the order to resume drills. "You are familiar with this fellow?" Rygar asks, his eye on the other knight.
"I think if I bring Amos, he'll burst his bloody eye out, m'lady. He's been gettin' the run around today trying to get everything settled. I insist, m'lady, I gave him enough coin to entertain himself for the night." Bruce answers back, moving out of the crowd itself now to stand a few paces from the Lady Nayland. An eyebrow is cocked at Ser Rygar, but he holds his tongue for now, though his slight grin is back.
There is a soft laugh from her when Bruce speaks of his squire but her head turns back to Rygar. As she shares words with him, his are louder than her own. "AHh…well just now know him. Ser Bruce Loughbough of Riverrun, a friend of my husbands." She introduces them, taking a step back to motion towards the man. "Ser Loughbough, this is Ser Rygar Nayland, the cousin to my husband." She states and adds for Rygar, "I would appreciate your continued advisement on conditions here, but I think I will excuse myself for now to attend the guest." Bruce the guest.
"Ah, Ser Longbough," Rygar greets the man directly. "His Lordship had indicated that you would be joining the Stonebridge court. Lord Ryker further indicated his wish that your expertise should be put to use in training the populace. I would ask the benefit of your eye upon the commons, if you are not too weary."
"Well met, Ser Rygar. I think I recognize your face, but a few years younger then. Somewhere in battle, during the fighting, but not sure where. Were you at the Bells, or the Trident, ser?" Asks Bruce, rubbing the back of his neck with a beefy hand. "Aye, must have been the Trident. Came up with the Nayland troops towards the end?" A nod at Rygar. "If Her Ladyship consents, I think that might be better use of my trade. But, as I said, I'm not much of a pikeman. Last time I wielded a pike in formation was when I was a lad of sixteen, doing the same as them." He motions to the levies, then looks to both Rygar and Isolde in turn.
As Rygar requests Ser Longbough's aid, Isolde pauses to consider it, "Wherever you would wish to be, Ser." She remarks with a smile, "Far be it for me to dictate that. If you can be of some help to the small folk, by all means. I will hope for another evening to ask of you some secrets of my husband." It is a humorous smile that turns her lips and she dips her head. "In either case, I will take my leave and should you care to join me, you can ride in the carriage with me." She offers. "My Lord…Ser.." She dips her head to each before taking hold of her skirts and begin to make her way to the carriage.
"I fought for King Aerys at both Stony Sept and the Trident, Ser," Rygar answers Bruce's question with stoic composure. "If you can tell a straight pike from a slanted one, you may be of good use here, Ser. The word of a knight carries great weight in the eyes and ears of the peasantry." As Isolde announces her intention to take her leave, the stern Nayland inclines his head sharply. "Lady."
"Eve, m'lady." Ser Bruce greets Isolde with a bow as she takes her leave, obviously choosing to remain. Surprisingly, Bruce regards Rygar with a grin. "Ah, well met indeed. Both battles were fought valiantly, but I'm glad we're all on the same side now. Were you on the Prince's right, by chance, at the Trident?" Bruce takes another look at the levies stumble or succeed through the pike drill, depending on the man. "Doesn't do us no good to be at blows with eachother, specially as I hear the Ironmen are a plague to this part of the Riverlands. Used to be a serjeant before I was given the title, so I think I might be of use to ya, ser. By your lead."
Letting the two go about training, Isolde is stepping past the waiting guards towards the carriage that had been oddly brought for her. She still shakes her head for a moment, considering walking on the find day that it is. Hesitation and then she is moving to the door of the carriage and as it is opened for her, she starts to lift a foot but as her gaze travels up, she is given pause and her brows furrow. She lowers her foot back to the ground and something is said, but most likely not heard by either Bruce or Rygar.
"I lost two horses fighting under the Hand of the King at Stony Sept, and stood with Ser Jonothor Darry until that excellent knight fell on the Royal Left at the Trident," Rygar recounts his wartime service in a single breath and simply nods once to seal the issue. "Then your eye for formation will be keen, Ser. I ask your assistance in picking suitable cantidates for serjeantry among the smallfolk. The Nayland men will be released back to their own homes within days, and I would see the most capable among the Stonebridge levies elevated to replace them."
"Ideally, men who've seen battle before. Men who've got a good strong pair of pipes on 'em, who've fought in the pikes. If not that, then men who've defended against bandits or raiders. That'd be my ideal, personally. Putting lads who've not been blooded in charge is a good way, in my mind, to make your pikes much more keen to break. Specially once they're being showered with arrows and throwing spears, their friend drops next to them with one in the throat and they piss themselves, looking to the serjeant for some sort of steel." Says Bruce as he watches, mentally picking out the ones in formation who seem to be breezing through the pike commands, the ones who look strong and confident.
The Lady is not getting in the coach, but she is speaking with someone with it. Her green eyes are darting to something else inside the coach and possibly to another person as her hand extends for something. The sworn stand behind her and she casts a look back at those Nayland colors in rank behind her.
"There are few enough veterans in Stonebridge," Rygar states with chill composure keeping the regret out of his voice. "For the nonce, it is more necessary to find those of good reputation and keen mind. Those who can serve as examples to the uncertain. Reliance upon their neighbors and the tightness of the formation shall do much to stiffen the levy's collective spine."
A frown tugs at Bruce's lips with Rygar's words, but he nods all the same. "Aye, you're right, if that's the situation. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a snob, Ser Rygar. I've been working with the professional house retainers for near fourteen years now. Last time I worked with the levies, they were Blackwood lads I grew up with near Raventree Hill, well, they broke. Bad. The Dornishmen cut them to pieces when they routed. In any case, I must sound like a demented old loon. I'll help ya find some good lads out of here. They might need some extra training though, I'd advise. If they can. Maybe offer 'em employ as retainers so they can get good at their jobs, eh? Then when the weekly levy comes, they'll be more and more solid every week. Don't need many of 'em. One for every half score, or one for every fifteen."
A letter is given to Isolde and her face falls a little, though she hides it as best she can. SHe gives a look back to the men drilling and then towards Tordane Tower. It is a slow shift of her being, but eventually takes her skirts in hand, stepping up into the carriage with a duck of her head. The door is closed behind her.
"The House you have come to is not so wealthy as the Lords of Raventree Hall, Ser," Rygar returns crisply to Bruce's admission. "The strength of Nayland banners rests not in fielding more knights than the Reachlords, nor fitting our smallfolk with better armor than the Westermen. We can do neither. Our defense must come from dicipline, devotion and shared strength. For these virtues there is no finer armament than the pike." A short look aside goes to the carriage as Isolde embarks, but though words go to Bruce, his eye remains upon the levy.
"Aye, I'll agree with you on that. That's what wins battles more than any suit of armour or fancy horse, Ser." Bruce offers a grin to Rygar, whether or not the other knight finds anything even remotely amusing. "S'why I'm still walking today, not at the bottom of a grave in the field." He purses his lips, losing the grin. "So, taking on twenty good lads here to be retainers is out of the question, then? Take in mind I don't know the state of House Nayland, ser, and I'm coming from service to Lord Hoster. Things are a bit different, obviously."
"The Stonebridge Naylands will not take on any further retainers, Ser," Rygar confirms. "In truth, I expect resistance among the commons. The first drill will go easily enough. The second as well, I expect. But the smallfolk have been permitted to grow accustomed to relying on the knights of the west for their defense. They shall blister and smart at bearing the weight themselves. But a stronger Stonebridge will emerge and their nerve will toughen in time."
Bruce simply nods at that, impassively. "Well, that's that then. They've got to be able to fight, and fight well if Lord Ryker is going to have a respectable fief. Thought about training some of the lads to use crossbows or shortbows, too? I'm sure there's a good many hunting lads who already know how to loose, but probably not under command in formation. It'd be a boon."
"The Mire Guard bear broadswords and crossbows," Rygar answers. "There are some few hunters, but not enough to present any useful volume of fire. Scouts and skirmishers at most. Tall Oaks to the north and Oldstones to the south make a large measure of their livlihood at the hunt, sparing the necessity in Stonebridge. It is my intent that the Stonbridge retainers be armed with crossbows to support the pike line, but for the nonce, drilling the line is foremost. Drill costs nothing, yet preparation is priceless."
Bruce gives a solemn gesture of agreement at Rygar's last statement. "Aye. As the Captain of the Guard commands then, Ser Rygar."
"I am not Captain of the Guard, Ser," Rygar corrects simply. "Unless I misjudge, that is the honor His Lordship intends for yourself, Ser Longbough. If you will excuse me a moment, I think is is time to teach them to shoulder the pikes." A curt nod of temporary parting, as the lean Nayland steps again toward the front of the formation.
Bruce can't help but bellow out a great guffaw of laughter at Rygar's words. Once he's done, the short knight moves into the formation on the opposite side to talk with some Nayland serjeants. He has them point out the stragglers, and the strong ones. Then, with his old serjeant's voice, Bruce goes to 'correct' the stragglers. Firmly.