Malcolm was now riding with his brother Samuel back home, back to Summerspring Keep. Malcolm was enjoying the peaceful silence but he had questions "Samuel, why hasn't father bent the knee?" Malcolm asked which earned him a glare from his brother "Bend the knee? Why would he do that? It goes against everything that we are!"
Samuel clearly wasn't happy with Malcolm's question but he persisted "Samuel, you must know that we don't stand a chance of winning this?"
Samuel sighed "Look, I know it looks bad but this war is happening, whether we like it or not. Take it up with father if you feel strongly about this." Samuel then threw some wine to Malcolm "I always drink after a fight and you did well back there."
Malcolm smiled, Samuel's always loved his wine and Malcolm decided to welcome the change of topic. Malcolm took a sip of the wine and looked to Samuel "I'm curious, it's been at least a month since I've left, has father decided on an heir yet?" Samuel has an identical twin brother, Lucas. And their father had yet to decide who should succeed him.
Samuel groaned "No, the old fool still can't make up his mind! So I suggested to our dear brother that we decide it on a drinking game, he then suggested that I go fuck myself, so to answer your next question, yes Lucas is still a prick." The brothers laughed, it's true that Lucas could be tough to like, he had the worst temper out of all of the Branfields but you could always catch some care in Lucas' harsh words, though he would never admit it.
Malcolm looked forward and couldn't help but smile at the sight, he saw fields and ahead of them was Summerspring keep, the sun always shined beautifully here.
"Welcome home, brother" Samuel gave Malcolm a warm smile as they marched forward to the keep. They passed through the courtyard and the smallfolk seemed pleased to see Samuel back. Malcolm overheard whispers among the small folk "Is that Malcolm? I knew he'd come back! Samuel came through."
Malcolm handed Samuel his wine back as they climbed off the horses and walked inside the keep. "You've always been popular with the smallfolk." Samuel remarked and Malcolm simply smiled.
As they entered the great hall of Summerspring Malcolm smiled as he saw the skylight in the middle of the hall. Then he noticed his father, Damien Branfield in the Lord's chair along with his mother, Talia Branfield next to him. Then Malcolm couldn't help but smile when he saw Talia's handmaiden. The first thing Malcolm always noticed about her, was her hair, red with a shade of copper tied in a loose bun. Then her freckled face and green eyes. "Is that Lucina?" Malcolm asked as if he was in awe.
"Gods, don't tell me you're still infatuated with her." Samuel smirked.
"Shut your mouth, Samuel." Malcolm immediately remarked to his brother. It was true that Malcolm's had a crush on Lucina for a few years now but he hated when his brothers teased him about it.
"You are aren't you?" Samuel teased his brother and Malcolm got more embarassed and annoyed "I will punch your eyes!" he threatened.
"Step forward boys." The two brothers heard their mother and they stepped forward. "Hello mother, father" Malcolm greeted his parents. Malcolm's father walked towards them, "it's good to have you back, Malcolm." Damien held his hand on his shoulder while Talia hugged him.
"What a grand reunion." The family heard a stern voice and they turned to see Lucas along with Malcolm's little brother, Preston, named in honor of Lucina's father. "Malcolm!" Preston ran forward and hugged Malcolm. Malcolm laughed, Preston's always been a wild child. Preston released Malcolm and Lucas approached "Finally remembered your duty to your family did you?" Lucas said sternly, he looked exactly like Samuel except Lucas had his hair tied back into a ponytail. "Oh come on Lucas!" Samuel groaned and Lucas responded with a sigh "Come here, Malcolm, I just missed you that's all." Lucas and Malcom and shared a brief hug.
Damien then interrupted "enough reunions, we need to get to business". Talia smirked and shook her head "'business' can wait until tommorow, Damien. Your son is tired. Malcolm, go say hello to Lucina, then go to bed."
"uhh... yeah, I can do that." Malcolm nodded. Lucas groaned as he and the rest were essentially kicked out. Lucina approched Malcolm as they left and smiled, she always had the most beautiful smile.
"It's good to see you Malcolm." She greeted him. "'It's good to see you'? Is that it?" Malcolm smirked and Lucina raised an eyebrow "You were expecting something else?"
"How about a hug?" Malcolm opened his arms.
"Sure... after you have a bath" she smirked. Malcolm responded with a groan "What? come on!"
"I'm serious Malcolm, you're filthy and covered in blood, you're not touching me." Malcolm sighed. Lucina's got a thing about cleaniness, dirt can't touch her without her freaking out. Usually Malcolm thought it was cute but at times like this, it really annoyed him. "Fine" he complained.
"Don't mope" she laughed. "You'd better get to bed before your mother comes back." Malcolm nodded and Lucina walked away. He stopped her and said "It's good to see you too."
Lucina smiled "goodnight Malcolm" and she left.
"Goodnight Malcolm" Samuel mocked as he revealed himself and Malcolm groaned but before getting mad he noticed the absence of two of his siblings. "Where's Elissa and Jacob?" Malcolm asked and Samuel frowned "That's actually what we need to talk about tommorow, but it can wait."
Malcolm decided to let it go "You going somewhere?" Samuel nodded, "I'm going down to the Tavern, wanna come? Better than turning in early"
Malcolm smiled "Good point, what's Lucas doing?"
"He's in the small council chamber, you know how he is, always hard at work. You can help him if you want, I don't mind"
Samuel suddenly smirked "Or you could take Lucina's advice and get that bath to get that hug" he teased his brother.
"Give it a rest" Malcolm sighed and Samuel raised his hands in a mock surrender. Malcolm thought about it, he was getting a little rank, he could use a bath. Drinking with Samuel sounds nice though, or he could go to Lucas, it'd be nice to know what's going on.
[Drinking with Samuel][Small council with Lucas][Take a bath] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Take a bath')
Gregor was waiting by Ironrath's gate, his allies were meant to be arriving soon but he was starting to get impatient.
"Still waiting?" Gregor heard his friend Thermund behind him.
"Yes" Gregor groaned "And I'm beginning to get annoyed" he complained.
Thermund laughed "I can imagine" Gregor looked relieved as he saw the banner of House Whitehill approach "Open the gate!" Gregor ordered.
Thermund raised an eyebrow "You seem awfully pleased to be greeting the enemy."
"Unlike my father, I hold no grudge against the Whitehills, besides, right now we're allies with a common enemy."
"Forrester! Gregor heard the very loud voice of Ludd Whitehill "Ludd Whitehill, welcome to Ironrath!" Gregor watched Ludd approach with a huge smile on his face. "A warmer welcome than I was told to expect." he turned to an older man beside him "You see, Ser Larion? I told you the Forresters would know how to welcome a guest." Larion looked like quite an angry guy, he has brown hair thinning into grey and he wore all black along with a fur cape decorated in Whitehill colours. "With all due respect my Lord, honoring guest right does not make an honorable House, many of have us have fallen due to Thorren's tyranny.
Gregor glared at Ser Larion and Ludd sighed "Forgive Ser Larion, his hearts in the right place, he serves House Whitehill and there's a lot of bad blood between our Houses, as you well know."
Gregor nodded, "of course, I understand. Hopefully fighting alongside eachother will change things." Larion chuckled, "somehow I doubt it."
Gregor was about to continue the debate but decided against it, "I was expecting your father."
Ludd laughed "Be thankful you got me instead. My father's got a lot of anger in him."
"Rightfully so." Larion exclaimed. "Lord Randall, like your father is needed at the Trident. Same thing with Degore and Glenmore right behind us."
As if on que, two men approached, one in Degore colours and the other in Glenmore.
Glenmore was tall and well built with a bow on his back, the other was a bit shorter but clearly tough. "Royland Degore." Introduced himself in a blunt manner. "Eamon Glenmore, a pleasure" he shook Gregors hand, he had a rather strong grip.
"Welcome to Ironrath, my Lords" Gregor greeted them all. "If you'll come with me, we'll discuss our plans in the great hall."
All the Lords took their seats and Gregor took his place in his father's chair. It felt odd to sit there.
"For starters we should talk about the forces we have" Gregor looked around to find only silence. "I guess I'll start..." Gregor sat up in an attempt to look the part of a Lord "My father has left two hundred and fifty fighting men to be used at our disposal, not much I know, but I trust combining our forces will make up for that."
Ludd finished a goblet of wine and spoke up "I've two hundred and eighty men with me. Not counting Ser Larion here."
Gregor seemed pleased and looked to Eamon. He seemed hesitant to answer "Twenty." he said.
"TWENTY!?" Ludd reacted in outrage.
"Are you fucking serious?" Royland glared at Eamon.
Gregor could not believe this bullshit. "Are the Glenmores not taking this threat seriously?"
Eamon was quick to defend himself "My father didn't want to waste more men than needed, on one House."
"This is fucking bullshit" Ludd. groaned and many at the table seemed to feel the same.
"They're good men though! My father's elite guard, just one is ten times better than any common soldier"
"I don't care if they're the bloody gods themselves! This is House Branfield we're talking about! They aren't just any one House." Ludd slamed his fist onto the table. "Do you know their words? In Arms to the End. TO THE END! They'd fight us to the last man if there were only five of them." Ludd was clearly not happy. Neither was Gregor but he chose to continue rather than ridicule Eamon further.
"What of you Royland? I hope House Degore brought some good men? My father has told me often the Degores have supported many in times of war."
Royland sat forward "four hundred men" Royland stated proudly. Gregor widened his eyes in surprise, wheras Ludd and Larion looked impressed. "I've also brought a battering ram with me as I assumed we'd be attacking the Branfields keep."
Larion raised an eyebrow "That's certainly generous."
"House Degore takes this threat seriously." Royland said as he glared at Eamon.
Gregor was pleased "So that would make... nine hundred and fifty men plus the battering ram." Gregor sighed "It's good but may not be enough."
"It's what we have Larion" stated "And from what I hear the Branfields are in a bad spot."
Gregor nodded "Perhaps you're right, in the meantime send out ravens to your bannermen, make use of what oaths you can."
Eamon remained silent, it was probably for the best.
"Will we be getting any of your Ironwood shields?" Ludd asked cautiously as if he was concerned about Gregor being sensitive about Ironwood.
Gregor smiled "Yes in fact, I'll have my men give out as many as they can." Ludd seemed pleased.
"When will we be marching?" Royland asked bluntly.
"At first light, make sure your forces are ready."
Eamon finally spoke up "I assume there's nothing more to discuss?"
"No, you may stay in Ironrath for tonight, I had the servants arrange guest rooms for you all. Make yourselves comfortable, my hall is your hall, that'll be all my lords." everyone quickly left the hall. Eamon himself looked particularly unhappy. Gregor wondered if he should console him.
"Gregor?" He suddenly heard the voice of a woman, he turned and saw his wife. "Elissa? What's the matter?" he stood up and approached her.
"It's my family, they're not all warriors, my little brother is only ten years old!" Gregor was saddened by this, he hated the idea of killing a child. "I'm sorry Elissa but there's nothing I can do, they're... they're all going to die". He saw a tear fall down her cheek.
"Why?" She began to get angry. Gregor began to get nervous "I have my orders, I have no choice."
"You're so afraid of your father that you can't make choices for yourself? Don't be such a coward!"
"I may not like it but the way my father does things works!" Gregor snapped "House Forrester would not be as far as it is if my father showed mercy. House Forrester has no enemies because my father killed them."
"The Whitehills are alive" Elissa countered and Gregor sighed.
"I'm sorry Elissa." Gregor frowned and marched out of the great hall, he could hear his wife crying as he left.
Thermund was waiting for Gregor outside "My lord? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine Thermund." he lied. "What's everyone up to?"
Thermund smiled "Well Ludd has gone to the tavern, I like him already."
"Gods, I could use a drink." Gregor sighed, he wasn't good at hiding his stress.
Thermund seemed puzzeled. "Royland Degore has taken up sparring in the courtyard, a fight could do you some good."
"What about Eamon?" Thermund pointed to Ironraths walls, "he's up there admiring the view."
Thermund looked to his Lord "Any idea how you want to spend the remainder of the day?"
[Drinking with Ludd] [Sparring with Royland] [Console Eamon] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Drinking with Ludd)
Malcolm gasped when he saw his reflection in the bath water "Gods, I am filthy!" Malcolm couldn't believe it. Why didn't Samuel say anything? "The shit probably thought it'd be funny." Malcolm sighed as he sat in the bath and decided to take the opportunity to relax, and reflect on his thoughts.
Malcolm missed this, just relaxing at home and enjoying the beauty of Summerspring keep but he always eventually got sick of his father and would leave home for about a month before returning. He always returned when he started missing Lucina, Malcolm swore she looked more beautiful everytime he saw her. Of course he missed his brothers as well.
After Malcolm finished his bath and reflecting on his thoughts, he climbed out of the bath, dried himself and got changed. After he was done, Malcolm decided he should probably head to bed.
On his way to his room Malcolm heard shouting by the window. He looked out the window and saw his little brother Preston in the courtyard swinging furiously at a practice dummy with a wooden sword. That's odd, what was he doing out so late. Malcolm decided to investigate.
Malcom saw Preston getting more aggresive with the dummy when his sword broke "Ah, shit!" Preston shouted and Malcolm chuckled alerting Preston to his presence. Preston always had a bad habit of cursing, he was smart about it though, he never did it when their father was in the room.
"Malcolm, what are you doing here?" Preston asked defensively.
"What are you doing here?" Malcolm countered as he crouched down to Preston's height.
Preston laughed awkwardly "I was training" he ran his hand through his shaggy brown hair and Malcolm sighed.
"In the middle of the night?" Malcolm questioned him and Preston nodded. "Lucas trained every day and every night! Now He's the best warrior in House Branfielfd, he's even better than father!"
Malcolm smiled, Preston wasn't wrong. Lucas is really good with a sword and worked hard at it.
Preston suddenly frowned "though he doesn't train much anymore." This made Malcolm concerned, Lucas rarely smiled but he was always happy with a sword in his hand, it helped him vent his anger and frustration, plus he loved a good fight, if he's stopped training then something must've happened.
Malcolm quickly changed the topic "Well if you train all night then not only will you be a good fighter like Lucas, but you'll be an angry shit like Lucas." Preston responded with a laugh "All right, all right, I'll go to bed."
Malcolm smiled and sent his brother off when Preston suddenly stopped "Malcolm, can I ask you something?"
Malcolm rolled his eyes but agreed "Go for it."
Preston seemed serious. "I ovearheard mother and Lucina talking." Malcolm smirked. 'Eavesdropping you mean.'
Preston continued "I didn't hear much, mother mentioned father caring about Lucina and not to be so hard on him. I was about to leave when I heard them mention that I was named after Lucina's father."
Malcolm sighed, they didn't really talk about Lucina's father much and Preston was never told that he was named after him.
Preston looked up to Malcolm "could you tell me about him?"
Malcolm frowned, he felt like he shouldn't, though Preston did deserve to know about him but it should be father or Lucina who tells him. "It's not my place to say."
Preston didn't like that, he glared at Malcolm "Fine, I'll ask Lucina then--"
"No! Don't ask Lucina, it's not a happy memory and you'll just upset her." Malcolm warned Preston.
"But father must have named me after him for a reason!" Preston persisted "It feels like there's something I should be living up too to but I have no idea what. please just tell me about him."
Malcolm groaned, Preston did deserve to know, Malcolm knew the story but he wasn't there like father and Lucina. Preston may only have more questions that Malcolm couldn't answer but maybe knowing the story would help Preston find a purpose.
[Tell Preston about Lucina's father] [Don't tell Preston about Lucina's father] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Tell Preston about Lucina's father')
"Fuck it, I could use a drink and it might give me a chance to get to know Ludd." Gregor reasoned with his desire to drink.
Thermund smiled "well go on then, I'll keep things under control here."
"Thank you Thermund" Gregor smiled and made his way down to the Tavern to meet Ludd.
"Hahaha!" Gregor heard Ludd laugh as he entered, Gods he was loud.
"Forrester! Over here!" Ludd called out to Gregor and he approached. Ludd was quite a large fellow and he looked strong, he would likely be a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, it couldn't hurt to make a friend of him.
"I see you've made yourself at home already, Ludd." Gregor gave Ludd a friendly smile and Ludd replied by handing Gregor a mug "Come drink with me, there's something I'd like to talk about"
Gregor nodded and sat with Ludd as he drank from his mug.
Ludd smiled "I hope you're not offended when I say our fathers are arrogant fools" Ludd said boldy and Gregor laughed.
"Not at all, I've thought the same multiple times"
Ludd laughed "That's good to hear, it's just that this bloodfeud seems so pointless!" Ludd began to rant "That dead guy killed this dead guy so now all the living are supposed to kill eachother?" Ludd seemed visibly angry "it's fucking infuriating! I want no part of it!"
Gregor sighed "It does seem rather pointless doesn't it? I've tried to talk sense into my father but he just doesn't trust your family"
Ludd seemed deep in thought "that's... interesting. Your father has trust issues whereas my father's reasons seem more personal."
Gregor raised an eyebrow "what do you mean?"
Ludd sighed "My father hates your father, my uncle died when Thorren took the river valley from us."
Gregor frowned "I didn't know that, I'm sorry."
Ludd groaned "ugh, it's fine. To be fair we did take it from you first. But then again my father says we were provoked." Ludd sighed "I don't know."
Gregor had been thinking about this for a while "I wish things could change."
Ludd made a bold statement "wishing isn't worth a damn, our fathers won't live forevor Gregor, one day we'll rule our Houses and the future is up to us."
Gregor was a bit skeptical "we're not the first Forrester and Whitehill to talk this way. Something always seems to get in the way."
Ludd was deep in thought "Do you think things will ever change? Or are we destined to always be enemies?"
It was a good question, Gregor hoped things could change but he had his doubts. What if some of what his father says is true? Maybe the Whitehills aren't to be trusted.
["We'll always be enemies"] ["One day things have to change"] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'One day things have to change')
Malcolm sighed as Preston stared at him, waiting to hear the story "Okay, I'll tell you, just keep it to yourself"
Preston nodded "I promise!" Malcolm was really hesitant to tell this story, he worried it'd bring back bad memories but Preston did deserve to know.
"I didn't know him myself, you'd have to ask Lucina what he was like but like I said, you'll only upset her."
Preston groaned "what about father?" Malcolm shook his head "father didn't know him either, he had only just met him."
Malcolm thought back to what he was told "Lucina and her father were staying in a Tavern, you know the one Samuel's always at. Father was visiting the Tavern as well. He had a horse with him, a Destrier it was a gift from Lord Tyrell, I think it came from the free cities."
Preston groaned "I asked about Lucina's father not some bloody horse." Malcolm groaned in annoyance "Shut up! It's important to the story."
Malcolm continued "anyway, it was large and wild, almost impossible to control. It broke free and attacked the other horses in the stable, Lucina's father's horses." Preston didn't seem to follow and Malcolm continued "Father and Lucina's father rushed to the stables in an attempt to control the beast. The horse ended up attacking father but Lucina's father pushed him out of the way and he got hurt instead, he later died from his injuries."
Preston frowned "So... he saved father's life?" Malcolm nodded and Preston seemed deep in thought "I think I get it, father feels guilty doesn't he?"
Malcolm raised an eyebrow "maybe, I always thought he that he felt he owed him and wanted to honor him as much."
Malcolm yawned "so afterwards father sent a letter to Lucina's family, she was alone and far away from home, he offered to take her in, raise her, give her a good education and so she'd never have to worry about anything ever again. Father still sends Lucina's family gold to compensate for the loss."
Preston nodded in understanding "how did she become mothers handmaiden?" Malcolm smiled "well mother really likes her, and she needed a handmaiden, not much more to it than that." Malcolm smirked "So that's the story of how Summerspring recieved even more beauty" he chuckled obviously refferring to Lucina. Preston glared at him "Save your infatuations, please." Malcolm frowned "sorry."
Preston seemed concerned about something "Lucina, she doesn't blame father right? She's not angry at him at all?"
Malcolm raised an eyebrow "For what happened to her father? I don't think-- no, no there's no way! Not after everything he's done for her." Malcolm responded with confidence.
Preston smiled "thanks for telling me, I'm gonna think about it some more" Malcolm smirked "yeah well think about in bed." Preston groaned "I'm going!"
Preston headed back inside and Malcolm went to bed soon after, there was a lot to do tommorow.
Malcolm, Samuel, Lucas and their father had gathered in the small council chamber.
Damien took his seat "We need to--" Malcolm suddenly interrupted "before we begin--" then Samuel groaned "Oh here we go."
Malcolm sighed, this was bound to cause an argument but he had to say it "Father, why haven't you bent the knee to Robert Baratheon?"
Damien was visibly annoyed "Because we are Branfields, we abandon none, our allies need us and--"
"Your loyalty is going to get us all killed!" Malcolm snapped "The mad king isn't worth this."
"Watch your tongue Malcolm" Samuel said sternly and then Lucas surprisingly defended Malcolm "Our brother brings up a valid point, our king has gone mad" Samuel, Damien and even Malcolm looked at Lucas in disbelief.
Samuel spoke up "How can you say that? You've always been more loyal to the Targaryens than any of us!" Samuel spoke truly. Lucas was devoted to the Targaryens even as a child and grew angry at any who spoke against them. Lucas trained so hard because he wanted to give the Targaryens the best he could give.
Lucas sighed "Don't mistake my honesty for treachery. I'll fight for the Targaryens, die for them if I must but there's no denying that Robert Baratheon is justified in starting this war. I daresay Aerys was the who really started it."
"ENOUGH!" Damien shouted and silenced his sons. "What are our words Malcolm?"
Malcolm sighed knowing where his father was going with this, he reluctantly answered "In Arms to the End"
"In Arms to the End" Lucas and Samuel repeated.
Damien stared Malcolm down, determined to convince him "We live or we die with our allies, we don't abandon them to save ourselves."
Malcolm didn't respond, he knew this was an argument he couldn't win.
"Perhaps we should get to business..." Samuel broke the silence and Lucas nodded in agreement.
Damien sighed "we need to find Jacob."
"Find Jacob?" Malcolm said in alarm "Where's he gone?" Malcolm noticed that his younger brother Jacob was abscent but didn't realize he was missing.
Samuel explained "We need more men, what we have won't do. Jacob volunteered to hire some sellswords. He left weeks ago." Malcolm sighed, they have a war to fight and instead they have to track down their foolish brother.
Samuel continued "I''ve been looking for him for a while, when I couldn't find him I took some intiatiative and tracked you down."
Damien leaned forward "You've spent a great deal of time among sellswords, it was our hope that you may have some idea as to where Jacob would've looked, last we saw he was headed to the small town that Samuel found you in."
Malcolm gave it a think "knowing Jacob, the fool probably tried to strike big and look for Tom Fucking Wolfson."
Lucas raised an eyebrow "Wolfson? The Northern House?"
Malcolm nodded "Tom ran away from home with his brother. I don't know much about the man himself, just that he has a large force of sellswords. and that he's dangerous."
"Maybe his brother can lead us to him?" Damien suggested.
Malcolm shook his head "Nah, his brother's dead, Tom probably killed him."
Lucas frowned "So there's no hope of finding Jacob?"
Malcolm didn't respond at first as he was trying to think of a solution "Maybe not, I know this sellsword, she mentioned that she used to run with Tom."
Samuel eyes widened "Is she pretty?"
"Ugh, Samuel!" Lucas groaned and Samuel smirked "What?"
Malcolm ignored his question "Our path seems clear to me, I'll track down Nesa and hopefully she can lead me to Tom and he can lead me to Jacob."
Damien smiled, he was clearly impressed "excellent, you'll leave immediately, as in now. Will you need men?"
Malcolm shook his head "No, I'll be too easily noticed, if I go on my own I should be able to pass as a simple traveler, don't want our enemies to know what we're up to"
Samuel nodded in agreement "good point."
"Take one of your brothers at least" Damien insisted.
Malcolm sighed, he knew he could do it on his own but decided to avoid another argument. "Sure, who should I bring?"
Damien shrugged "your decision, whoever you don't bring will help me defend the keep."
Malcolm stopped to think about it, Lucas was bound to be a help, if Malcolm ended up in a fight Lucas would be perfect for that situation. He's the best fighter in House Branfield. However Samuel was smart, charming and had quite the silver tongue, he could help avoid a fight and keep Malcolm focused. It really depended on what kind of situation Malcolm expected to run into, or whose company he preffered.
"One day things have to change" Gregor said with certainty. "Really?" Ludd seemed surprised.
"Absolutely!" Gregor smiled "our Houses have fought each other for so long, it's time to move on. Besides, right now we have a common enemy."
Ludd laughed and slamed the table, Gregor gasped as he dropped his mug.
"You're right, Forrester! The fighting has to end. I think I like you" Ludd admitted.
"Then maybe you could call me Gregor instead of Forrester?" Gregor laughed with Ludd.
"I'll work on it." Ludd smiled. "Let's toast then, to ending our feud!"
"Sure as soon as you buy me another drink" Gregor frowned at his fallen mug.
Gregor and the other Northern lords assembled with their forces "It's time to march, men!"
Ludd looked disappointed "What? No inspiring speech?"
Gregor shook his head "nah, I don't do speeches." He said as he led the march.
Eamon Glenmore caught up to Gregor "Lord Forrester, I wanted to apologise and explain my father's actions."
Gregor didn't hide his annoyance very well "It's fine Eamon"
"No it's not" Eamon frowned "It's disrespectful and insulting to have come with so small a force, and you deserve an explanation."
Gregor looked to Eamon and chose to hear him out.
"You were right. My father isn't taking this fight seriously and I've been a disappointing heir so far, he isn't willing to commit. Eamon's expression changed to a more determined one "But this is my chance to prove myself to my father, I may have a small force but I'll give you everything I have, if there's anything you need, tell me and I'll get it done!"
Gregor frowned he could symphaise with being a disappointing heir and wanting to prove yourself. "I appreciate it Eamon."
Eamon smiled "I'm glad, hopefully we can get past that poor first impression."
"We'll see" Gregor looked ahead and saw a Degore scout riding towards them.
"My lord!" The scout shouted and Royland stepped forward "What is it?"
"There's a force up ahead, around a hundred men blocking the road"
Gregor stepped forward "Did you see a banner?"
The scout looked to Gregor and Royland gave an approving nod "A Hanged man, Lord Forrester."
"A hanged man?" Gregor repeated.
"Sigil of House Trant." Eamon explained.
"I know what bloody House it is, Eamon!" Gregor snapped "Why the fuck is House Trant blocking the road?"
"I doubt they intend any trouble" Royland added "They're on our side."
Ludd nodded "I wouldn't worry, let's just march forward"
Gregor looked ahead "Best to be cautious, the main force will hang back, Eamon I will march forward with his elite guard"
Ludd nodded "Take Ser Larion with you, he's not much of a diplomat but he commands respect."
Gregor nodded "All right, I'll send Larion back when it's safe to march forward."
Gregor, Larion, and Eamon with his elite guard marched forward to meet a man sitting on his horse, he was seven feet tall with broad shoulders, he had dark brown hair and a bushy beard as well as icy blue eyes. Gregor noticed a scar across his right cheek that started from his upper lip and ended below his ear, this man had seen his fair share of battles. He was wearing the heaviest armor Gregor had ever seen.
Gregor stopped in front of him, assuming him to be Lord Rogar. "Lord Rogar, why are you blocking the road?" Gregor asked bluntly. The man seemed angered by this. He climbed off his horse and got right in Gregor's face but Gregor didn't back down. Larion became uneasy and kept his hand close to his sword.
The armored man finally spoke "Don't mistake me for that weakling again" Gregor wasn't expecting such hostility.
"It's his brother, Marcos" Eamon explained.
Marcos smiled "Good eye" he then looked back to Gregor "You're not Thorren Forrester, where's your father, whelp?"
Gregor was getting visibly angered by Marcos "he's headed to the Trident, I'm leading this force in his place."
Marcos was visibly annoyed by this "You're to lead us? No." He looked at Gregor's company "You're no leader, you're too young and you didn't even bring your own men, your protection is a Glenmore whelp and a Whitehill dog!"
Larion didn't like that. He angrily shoved Marcos "Show some fucking respect!" the men behind Marcos reached for their weapons as the conversation got heated. Marcos glared daggers at Larion "lay your hands on me again old man, see what happens"
"Enough!" Gregor stepped forward and took charge again. Gregor had heard about Marcos, he was one of the greatest knights alive, though he had never heard of him being this hostile. "Why are you here Ser Marcos?"
Marcos took his attention away from Larion and looked to Gregor "Robert Baratheon is concerned that your House is too closely tied to House Branfield to eradicate them. He sent me to assist."
Gregor was annoyed by this, did Robert have no faith in them? However Gregor continued to be diplomatic "We're happy to accept your assistance but--"
"That was when I thought Thorren was leading us, I'd sooner follow my pathetic nephew into battle than you" Marcos interrupted Gregor. "I'll be taking command now."
Gregor had heard enough, he's lost his patience and his temper "All right, I've heard enough." Gregor marched towards Marcos "I don't give a fuck what Robert Baratheon told you, I'm in charge! The way I see it, you have two options. You fall in line and follow my orders or you can fuck off to Robert Baratheon and take your complaints to him!" Larion was clearly impressed and a little surprised by Gregor's show of authority.
Marcos looked Gregor in the eye "Very well, my men are yours" Gregor smirked "Good."
"I'm not done yet, at least give me a place on your council."
"My council?" Gregor raised an eyebrow.
"Yes, my experience will be of use, I'll simply be there to advise you"
Gregor looked to Larion and Eamon "What do you think?"
Eamon smiled "I say let him in, he's a great knight and I'm sure he'll be of use. He's bound to have been in a lot of sieges."
Larion shook his head "Ludd won't like this and I'm betting Degore won't either. He'll just get in the way. He'll question every damn decision you make." Gregor looked to Marcos, he didn't like the idea of Marcos nagging in his ear everytime he made a decision he didn't like but Eamon wasn't wrong. He's bound to have some good advice.
"What will it be Forrester?" Marcos began to get impatient.
[Let Marcos join the council] [Don't let Marcos join the council] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Let Marcos join the council)
It was settled, Malcolm would be leaving with Samuel, they had to find their brother no matter what. Malcolm was outside by the gates getting his horse ready with Samuel next to him. "He'll be fine, Malcolm" Samuel interrupted Malcolm's thoughts. "Jacob may be an idiot but he's tough, try not to worry more than you should." Samuel gave a reasurring smile and it did help a little.
"Brothers!" Malcolm heard Lucas as he approached them with Lucina by his side. "Father sent me to see you off, make sure you have everything you need, do you?" Samuel smirked and Malcolm sighed "Yes, we do" Malcolm replied quickly.
"Do you have--" Lucas began to speak when Malcolm interrupted him "We have our swords, food, water, we've saddled up and Samuel has his wine" Malcolm knew he didn't hide how annoyed he was very well but he hated when Lucas got like this, it made him feel like he didn't trust him.
Lucas sighed as he rubbed the back of his neck "Alright, I'm sorry" Lucas bit his lip, knowing he'd gotten on Malcolm's nerves.
"So that's it? Can we go now?" Malcolm exclaimed and Lucas shook his hand "Goodbye brother, just come back without us having to send someone to drag you back this time, okay?" Lucas' voice was stern but Malcolm saw concern in his eyes "I'll be alright, brother, I promise" Malcolm attempted to reassure him, he wasn't sure if it worked.
"Don't worry about me Lucas, I'll be fine!" Samuel interrupted the moment. Malcolm couldn't hold back a chuckle and Lucas gave a stern glare to Samuel "Look after yourself brother." Samuel simply smirked in response.
Lucas than stepped back as Lucina approached Malcolm with a warm smile. "I don't know how you put up with him"
Malcolm raised an eyebrow "Who, Lucas? You two seem to get along well enough"
Lucina smirked "Yes, but I'm patient and understanding, you Branfields all have such bad tempers" Malcolm laughed, she wasn't wrong, even Samuel has had his moments.
Lucina frowned as she glanced to Malcolm's horse "Leaving already?" Malcolm could hear disappointment in her voice and Malcolm smiled "Why? Are you going to miss me?"
Malcolm caught Lucina blushing as she bit her lip "No, I was just wondering when I'd have to deal with you returning while covered in filth again." she responded in a snarky and sarcastic manner as Malcolm raised his hands in a mock surrender.
"That reminds me, I had a bath, think I can get that hug now?" Malcolm asked as he opened his arms and Lucina sighed with a smirk on her face "If you insist..." and she wrapped her arms around Malcolm and they hugged. Malcolm couldn't hold back a huge grin, he missed this, he missed her.
Samuel groaned "Ugh... this is too adorable for me to handle, can we please go?"
Lucina chuckled as she let go of Malcolm "Time for you to go." Malcolm sighed "it seems so, goodbye Lucina."
"Farewell, Malcolm" Lucina smiled. Malcolm climbed on his horse and looked at Samuel who was smirking "What's that stupid grin about?"
"I had a bath, think I can get that hug now?" Samuel said in a mocking voice.
"Shut your mouth!" Malcolm angrily whispered as he slapped the side of Samuel's head and Samuel laughed in response as they left Summerspring.
Malcolm and Samuel had been riding for a good two hours now, they shouldn't be far now. Samuel suddenly spoke to break the silence "You know, sometimes I think you argue with Lucas even more than I do"
Malcolm raised an eyebrow in response, this surprised him as sometimes it felt like Samuel and Lucas hated each other "How do you figure that?"
"Don't get me wrong, you two are clearly close, so much that I don't understand but there's always this intensity in the air when you're in the same room." Malcolm thought on it, maybe he had a point, Lucas and Malcolm did tend to get on each others nerves but he's always looked up to Lucas.
Samuel glared at Malcolm "Nothing to say?"
"What do you want me to say, Samuel?" Malcolm exclaimed "Sure, Lucas gets on my nerves as much as he gets on yours but he's been there for me more than anyone."
"What?" Samuel said in disbelief "When you got into a fight with that fat slob in the smallfolk that always tormented you, Lucas just stood there and watched!"
"That may have been what it looked like, but Lucas saw how he treated me, so he sat me down and told me that as long as that pig thought he was better than me that he'd keep tormenting me, so I needed to show him that I was better than him" Malcolm explained. "That's when he taught me how to fight."
Samuel seemed surprised "I didn't know that" Malcolm sighed "Lucas may be stern, a real shit even and tough to like, but he cares about us."
Samuel nodded "I guess you're right." Malcolm looked ahead "We should be almost there, we find Nesa, then Tom Wolfson and hopefully Jacob so we can get back home as soon as possible." Malcolm explained in an attempt to change the subject.
"What's the deal with this Nesa, anyway?" Samuel asked and Malcolm looked at his brother "What do you mean?"
"It's just that you've said nothing about her other than that she exists and used to run with Tom Wolfson" Samuel explained "Who is she to you? Friend, enemy, lover, all of the above?"
Malcolm shrugged "it's hard to say, I never shared a bed with her, she's pretty enough but hard to get close to, I don't know her that well to be honest" Malcolm explained.
"Will she even help us?" Samuel asked and Malcolm nodded "If she has something to gain, absolutely, if we're lucky maybe we can get hire her to fight with us."
Malcolm and Samuel had arrived to the villaige by nightfall and sat at a table in the tavern, it was a good as any place to start the search. "So what are we looking for?" Samuel asked and Malcolm looked around "Just keep an eye out, Nesa stands out, you'll know her when you see her."
Samuel was about to speak again when he heard shouting at another table across the room.
"We want our share of the reward, you ignorant shit! Malcolm saw an average sized man surrounded by four other men. He had blonde hair with a shade of beaten gold and amber eyes, he was clearly muscular with an intimidating presence.
"You don't get a share." the blonde man stated.
"Why the fuck not?" the other man asked, he was clearly annoyed.
"Because you annoying shit stain, you don't get paid for taking a job, you get paid for finishing it, you may have taken the job but I finished it!"
"You stole it, you mean" the other man replied as he reached for his sword "Let me put it this way, Dustin, you can give us our share or we can take it"
"Careful now" The blonde man called Dustin warned "I'd hate to ruin this nice floor with your bloodstains" Dustin smirked "Now that I think about it, I would love to strangle you with your own entrails, so go ahead, draw your sword!"
"With pleasure!" The other man shouted as he and his men drew their swords.
Malcolm reached for his sword, ready to help the stranger called Dustin when Samuel grabbed his arm "hold it Malcolm! I want to see what he can do" Malcolm glared at his brother "What are you on about?"
"We're not only here for Jacob, we need fighting men and if this Dustin can beat four men on his own, we'll know that he's worth our gold"
"What if he dies because we don't help?" Malcolm argued and Samuel sighed "Then we'll know that he isn't worth our gold, besides we need to keep a low profile!" Samuel explained. Malcolm didn't like it but Samuel had a point, they need to keep a low profile, but was he willing to let a man die for that?
[Help the stranger] [Don't help the stranger] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Help the stranger')
Lucas watched his brothers ride away, he couldn't hold back a chuckle when he saw Malcolm slap the side of Samuel's head. He turned and saw Lucina with a disappointed look on her face and he decided to break the silence "It's disappointing, isn't it? For him to leave again so soon after returning." Lucina simply nodded in agreement "You're too hard on him, you know?" Lucas sighed, he really didn't want to hear a lecture "I know but it's only because I miss him"
"I know" Lucina said as she looked at him "But if you keep pushing him it might get too stressful for him and you'll lose him"
Lucas decided he was going to be stubborn and remain silent, not agreeing or disagreeing with her.
Lucina noticed that Lucas had no intention of continuing the discussion "I forgot to tell you, Simon was looking for you earlier" Lucas widened his eyes "Ser Simon? did he say what he wanted?" Lucina shook her head "All he said was that he wanted to speak to you, and that it's not urgent but he'd appreciate it" Lucas nodded, "I'll go see him now, thanks Lucina." Lucina simply smiled as Lucas left to go speak with the Master-at-Arms.
Lucas searched for a while when he finally found Simon atop Summersprings walls. Ser Simon Oakheart, he was a well built and tall man with dark hair and brown eyes. "Ser Simon!" Lucas called out and Simon turned to see Lucas and gave a big grin, he's always been a happy and friendly man "Greetings, Lucas, how can I help you?" Lucas raised an eyebrow "Lucina said that you wanted to see me"
"I did but I've been busy" Simon said as he looked along the walls.
"Busy with what?" "Lucas asked as he looked along the walls as well.
Simon suddenly grew serious "I've been keeping an eye out for structural weaknesses, we need to know our defences if there's to be a siege"
"A siege?" Lucas grew concerned but Simon was probably right, someone was bound to attack them sooner or later, hopefully his brothers return before then"
Simon nodded "Yeah, we need to be prepared, especially since we have such a low amount of fighting men."
"How many men do we actually have?" Lucas asked and Simon sighed "Only three hundred I'm afraid, you're father has been far too generous to King Aerys, he kept on offering men to the war until we couldn't spare any more."
Lucas sighed "That's worrying, hopefully we can hold them off" Simon grew a look of determination "We will and even if we cannot, In Arms to the End"
"In Arms to the End" Lucas repeated. "What was it you wanted to talk to me about?"
Simon sighed "Forgive my bluntness, Lucas but there's a good chance that your father won't survived this war, and he still hasn't decided on who will take his place" Lucas groaned "Not this again..."
Simon continued "You and Samuel have both made it clear that you want to be Lord and you both believe that you're the best men for the job, if you're father dies no one will know who to take orders from, there will be conflict that we can't afford!"
Lucas began to get irritated "There's also a good chance of Samuel or I dying and then this whole discussion will have been for nothing!" Lucas argued but Simon persisted "We can't take that chance, you're father needs to make a decision and you know it."
Lucas gritted his teeth, Simon was right, a decision had to be made but all talk of this always angered his father, was now a good time for that? But if not now, when?
[Convince Damien to name an heir] [Wait for a better time] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Convince Damien to name an heir')
Gregor looked Marcos directly in the eyes "I'll let you in on our meetings as an advisor" Eamon was clearly pleased "A fine compromise"
Ser Larion was clearly annoyed but remained silent, Gregor found Marcos hard to read, he had no idea how he was feeling.
Marcos gave a firm nod "So, what are your orders, Forrester?" Gregor sighed "We make camp for now, we should reach Summerspring by tommorow, we need to make preparations" Marcos raised an eyebrow "And what will I be doing during these 'preparations'?" Gregor gave a stern glare "Just make yourself comfortable at camp and be ready when I call you, we'll be having a meeting tonight" Gregor then turned to Ser Larion "Ser, would you mind sending word to Ludd and the others?"
Larion nodded "I'll get it done" then he marched off.
Gregor noticed there was an awkward silence now that they had to wait for the others. He looked at Marcos hoping he would say something. "Who's on this council anyway?" Gregor breathed a sigh of relief, thank the gods!
"Besides myself there's Eamon here, Ludd Whitehill, Ser Larion Shiel, and Royland Degore."
Marcos seemed unimpressed "A war council of children, ridiculous."
Gregor was annoyed by the comment but decided to let it slide, he wasn't wrong. Everyone on the council excluding Ser Larion is here because their fathers were needed elsewhere. Gregor prepared himself to be diplomatic when he heard the rest of his forces coming behind him. Perhaps duty will save him from having to deal with Marcos. "Time to make camp" he said to Marcos but he said nothing in return. Well he'll be am absolute pleasure to deal with.
Night had fallen and Gregor would be holding his meeting soon. "Thermund!" Gregor looked to his friend and Thermund smiled.
"Need help with something?"
Gregor nodded "It's time to hold the war council, I need you to gather everyone to meet"
Thermund seemed hesitant "I'll gather the rest but you'll have to get Royland Degore on your own, the man's in a foul mood and I've no wish to test his wrath." Gregor smirked "Thermund, my friend, are you afraid of Royland Degore?"
"Of course I am! Have you seen him? I daresay his scowl alone would make even your father's knee's shake"
Gregor laughed in response, he highly doubted that "So what set him off?"
Thermund sighed "Your new friend, Marcos Trant. Royland isn't the only one, Marcos has made quite the impression, he was quick to demonstrate his authority and has made a strong impression on everyone here, he's not very popular."
Gregor sighed "Fine, I'll go get Royland" Thermund smiled "Sorry but better you than me" he said as he walked away and Gregor made his way towards Royland, last he saw him he set up a training area.
As Gregor approached he heard swords clashing and Royland cursing relentlessly. Royland was sparring with a young man in his ranks, Royland was clearly the dominant one in this fight.
"Keep your sword up!" Royland shouted at the boy but he was clearly struggling to parry Royland's strikes.
"Royland, I need to speak with you" Gregor said but it fell on deaf ears, the boy turned, distracted by Gregor and Royland made him pay for being distracted with a hard punch to the face sending the boy straight down to the mud. "Keep your eyes on me! Turn away from an enemy like that and you'll get worse than a punch."
"Please, m'lord, I yield!" The boy pleaded and this seemed to anger Royland further "A Degore does not yield, get up!" Royland shouted.
"ROYLAND!" Gregor shouted and Royland turned "WHAT!?" The two Lords stared each other down, things got tense quickly and Gregor now saw what Thermund meant, Royland had an intimidating presense but Gregor didn't back down. "I need to speak with you." Gregor said bluntly and Royland looked to the boy he gave a thorough thrashing "We'll finish this later" the boy nodded and obediently walked away.
"You were a bit rough don't you think?" Gregor gave Royland a glare and he groaned in response "The fuck do you know, Forrester? I do what has to be done. If you're too lenient they'll never learn." Royland seemed angrier by the second "That boy now knows to stay focused and I guarantee that'll save his life in the battles to come, he won't particularly like me but he'll be alive" Gregor didn't agree with this way of thinking "I'm sure you can teach him without beating him." Royland scoffed "Completely untrue!"
"In order for people to learn you have to show the consequences of their actions. Refuse to cut off a theif's fingers and he'll continue to steal, refuse to hang a deserter and men other men will desert, refuse to maim a kinslayer and he'll continue to butcher his family!"
Gregor sighed "How can you be so young and think that way?"
"I had a harsh teacher." Royland stated bluntly.
Gregor decided to calm things down "Relax, I just came here to let you know that we're about to hold a meeting, we need to discuss how to proceed" Royland sighed, presumably in an attempt to calm down "All right, I'll see you there"
Gregor tried for a change of topic to get on Royland's good side "So, I heard that you don't like Marcos?"
Royland groaned "Nobody likes Marcos! Even Ludd can't stand the man and just a few hours ago I thought he liked everyone."
Gregor chuckled "So what did he do?" Royland sighed "Basically waved his prick around, ranted about his nephew or something and presumed to give me orders." Royland looked at Gregor "Why would you let him join the council?"
Gregor sighed "Out of pragtism mostly, he has experience and a hundred men, he might have valuable advice and I didn't want to risk him marching off with his men" Royland reluctantly nodded "I guess that makes sense"
Gregor smiled "Come on, we shouldn't keep the others waiting.
Everyone had finally gathered for the meeting and taken their seats. Royland still had a bitter look on his face. Or did he always look like that? Gregor honestly wasn't certain.
Straight to business Gregor said "To start with we should go into what we know about each individual Branfield."
Eamon spoke up "Aren't you married to Lord Branfield's daughter? You'd know more than any of us."
Gregor sighed "You'd think so but we're not really that close, the only one I really connected with was Lucas Branfield, twin to Samuel. What I can say about Lucas is that he's damn tough in a fight, he's the warrior of the family"
Ludd leaned forward "My family's been close with the Branfields for some time now." Gregor was put off by that statement, Elissa never mentioned anything about the Whitehills. Royland spoke up "Well spit it out! What do you know about them?"
Ludd continued "Samuel Branfield... admitedly I don't know much about him, he's friendly and casual but I've never seen him in a fight. Preston's only a child we needn't worry about him, Jacob however is wild, he's damn good in a fight, though not disciplined like Lucas, he charges right for you and swings like there's no tommorow"
"Jacob Branfield is missing" Marcos interrupted "He isn't in Summerspring"
Gregor was surprised by this and crossed his arms "How do you know that?"
"He was looking for sellswords, he wasn't very discreet, word travelled fast that the Branfields were hiring sellswords when suddenly he was nowhere to be seen. My guess is he annoyed some ruthless sellsword and got what was coming to him, that or he's laying low."
Gregor shrugged "One less to worry about I guess"
"I expect that we'll reach Summerspring tommorow, we shouldn't waste time, we begin the siege as soon as possib--"
"Hold that thought Gregor!" Ludd interupted "I recieved a raven from my brother, Walter, he assured me that he'd come with a good number of smallfolk soldiers and more men couldn't hurt, he'll take a couple days though, I say we wait for him to arrive and hit the Branfields with everything we have"
Marcos shook his head "That's a bad idea, we should begin the siege immediately!"
Ludd glared at Marcos "Why? The Branfields aren't going anywhere"
Marcos leaned forward "As I said, Jacob may be laying low and if he's doing that then there's a chance he's building an army of sellswords, they could come and ruin our plans, the Branfields only have three hundred men, we have what we need, we should take Summerspring before Jacob returns."
Ludd sighed "You're basing this all on a 'chance', I know that Walter will only take a few days to get here with more fighting men."
Marcos simply said "I've said my piece, it's up to the Forrester boy to make a decision.
Gregor crossed his arms as he thought on it. They could always use more men but Marcos had a valid point, they had all the men they needed, and the Branfields could have reinforcements coming, those reinforcements wouldn't be able to do much if they were in Summerspring by the time they arrived but like Ludd said, this was all based on a small chance that Jacob was building an army.
[Wait for Walter Whitehill] [Begin the siege immediately] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Wait for Walter Whitehill')
Malcolm simply shook his head, he couldn't let a man die if there was something he could do about it. He charged towards the four men surrounding the stranger with his sword drawn, he only barely heard Samuel curse behind him in frustration. "Hey!" Malcolm shouted at the men and their leader turned "you'd best fuck off if you--" Malcolm gasped as he saw a shortsword pierce the mans throat. Malcolm then heard a sadistic laughter, the stranger had used Malcolm's distraction to his advantage. The leader dropped to his knees, choking on his own blood, the stranger pulled his sword out and let the man slowly die before smirking at the other three men "Who's next?" the men clearly seemed hesitant to attack as they nervously looked at the stranger and Malcolm when Samuel approached with his hands raised "Think about this friends, there's no winning this fight, just walk away with your lives"
"Run away with your lives" the stranger corrected Samuel and Samuel looked confused "what?"
The stranger chuckled "If they hope to get away from me they need to run" he explained as he stepped forward.
"Fuck this! a bag of gold isn't worth fighting this maniac!" one of the men shouted as he ran and the other two followed.
The stranger sighed "I have to say, I'm a little disappointed that I only got to kill one of them." Malcolm grew nervous, worried that he angered the man. "Not that I don't appreciate the help" the stranger clarified as he sat back down at his table.
Malcolm breathed a sigh of relief, though he wondered how much he actually helped, he literally just ran forward and watched the stranger kill a man.
"Not a problem" Malcolm smiled as he sheathed his sword "I'm Malcolm and this is my brother Samuel" Samuel nodded in response and the stranger eyed them both "Call me Dusty, or Dustin if you're feeling formal"
He took a drink from his mug as he glared at Malcolm "Why'd you help me?"
Malcom shrugged "I thought you might need some help"
Dusty gave a skeptical look "That's it you don't want anything in return?"
Malcolm shook his head "No, I just thought you'd die without my help, that's really it"
Dustin smirked "And yet your brother clearly wants to ask me something" Dustin looked towards Samuel "What do you want?"
Samuel hesitantly responded "I was hoping you could help us find Tom Wolfson"
Dustin laughed in response "you're insane." he stated bluntly
"We're insane?" Samuel exclaimed in an annoyed tone and Malcolm quickly said "easy Samuel..." in an attempt to keep him from angering Dustin.
Malcolm turned to Dustin "You can't help us?" Dustin shook his head "That's not the problem, Tom Wolfson has a reputation, you cross the man and you die, and two fancy lordlings searching for him is not a good sign, if he even thinks that you're looking for him, you'll find him soon enough, thing is that people who deal with him tend to get fucked over, his own brother paid the price for working with him.
Samuel sighed "we're not here to hire him, we think he might know where to find someone"
Dustin raised an eyebrow "who? it's clearly someone important"
"Our brother" Malcolm answered and Samuel looked annoyed by how open Malcom was being.
Dustin gave an understanding nod "it always comes down to family, alright, you helped me I'll help you"
Samuel smiled "You know where he is then?"
Dustin shook his head "No but I know who does, Davith Forrester"
"Forrester?" Samuel seemed concerned and Dustin raised an eyebrow "You know the name?"
Samuel sighed "sorry Malcolm it must've slipped my mind"
Malcolm crossed his arms "what?"
"Father married off Elissa to Gregor Forrester, obviously this was before the war"
Malcolm groaned "How could that slip your mind?"
Samuel frowned "I'm sorry but don't be mad at me, be mad at Lucas, it was his bloody idea"
This surprised Malcolm, why would Lucas do that? A lot of Lucas' actions have been surprising lately.
Dustin interrupted "Can we get back to the matter at hand, do you know Davith?"
Samuel shook his head "Not personally, I know of him, uncle to Thorren Forrester and Ranger of the Night's Watch, he's known to take his time returning to Castle Black"
Dustin nodded "He's here and he's a good man, we I think we can convince him to find your brother" Malcolm smiled "let's do it, where is he?"
"He's usually here, if we wait he's sure to come by"
The Branfields and Dustin waited for an hour when a bold man in black with a beard and green eyes entered the tavern.
"That's him!" Dustin pointed out and Malcolm smiled "Good, let's find Jacob"
The three of them approached and Samuel took the lead, it made the most sense, he's persuasive.
"Davith Forrester! Might we have a word? " Samuel said politely and Davith sighed "I was actually hoping to just relax and have a drink"
"Davith, this is important" Dustin inserted himself into the conversation.
Davith groaned "Why are you giving out my name Dusty? I thought you were more trustworthy than that!"
Malcolm interrupted "We need to find Tom Wolfson"
Davith quickly hushed him "Don't mention him, if he finds out you're looking for him--
"Please, Davith" Samuel pleaded "He has our brother"
Davith frowned and sighed then looked to Dustin "You trust them?"
Dustin smirked "I don't even know them, but I'm certain their telling the truth" Malcolm smiled, Dustin's been a great help so far, maybe they could later convince him to come with them to Summerspring.
Davith reluctantly nodded "Tom's going to be furious but I'll help you, Tom's currently made camp out in the woods, he's holding a feast, I'm not sure what for"
Samuel nodded "Thank you, Davith, we'll follow your lead"
The group now followed Davith into the woods, they saw a great number of torches that grew brighter as they approached, finally they arrived and the camp was much larger than expected, it stretched farther then the eye could see "By the gods..." Malcolm exclaimed.
Samuel's eyes widened "How? This camp is as large as a military camp, how much men could Tom Wolfson have?"
"More join him everyday" Davith explained "We had an issue with deserters once, they sougyt refuge from Tom, I was sent to track them down, that's how I met him." Even Dustin seemed concerned "I hope you weren't planning on taking your brother by force."
"Don't worry" Davith reasurred them "Unless your brother has wronged him in some way I'm sure I can convince Tom to let him go, he'll probably just want something in return" Samuel sighed "I hope you're right." The group followed Davith into the camp. Everyone seemed to be gathered in one place, there was food and drink everywhere.
They came to a large tent, with two guards by the entrance Davith turned to Malcolm "I'll go in alone, Tom and I are friends, he'll be more likely to listen if I'm alone" Malcolm sighed, he was surrounded by armed men and women, he felt vulnerable here "Alright but be quick about it, I don't like it here." Davith nodded and headed inside the tent, all there was to do now was wait.
Malcolm was worried about Jacob, he always tried so hard to impress their father and it often got him into trouble. Jacob's a fourthborn and will likely inherit nothing, the best he can hope for is to be married off to a lord's daughter for an alliance but Jacob wants and deserves more and his father is incredibly hard on him, nothing ever seems to be enough.
Malcolm's thoughts were interrupted when Davith returned but he seemed sad and nervous.
"What's the matter?" Samuel asked and Malcolm feared the worst
"I'm sorry, your brother is about to go on trial" Davith looked them in the eyes.
"Trial?" Dustin asked, clearly confused and Davith attempted to explain "Tom likes to put on a show, he thinks of himself as a king"
Samuel groaned "Jacob is so fucked... what did he even do?"
"Tom refused to say but his 'crimes' will be revealed in the trial.
Malcolm shook his head "No we can save him, if this is like most trials, Jacob can demand a trial by combat, that is his only hope"
Davith nodded "You may be right but be warned Tom is tough in a fight, and so are all his men, you'll need someone tough to fight, Jacob will be beaten and in extremely bad shape, he'll lose if he fights, he'll die, he needs to name a champion, I can get to him and tell him who to name but you need to tell me who right now."
Dustin stepped forward "Tell him that Dustin Sand will fight for him" Malcolm smiled and was pleased by Dustin's willingness to help but Samuel seemed concerned "Can I talk to you alone brother?" Malcolm reluctantly nodded "sure..." and they seperated from the group.
"What's the problem?" Malcolm asked Samuel glared at Dustin "I don't trust him"
"Why? he's been really helpful" Samuel shook his head "the man is insane Malcolm, he let that man at the tavern suffer and laughed as he died, he clearly enjoyed his death, sure he's tough but just be careful with him."
Malcolm sighed "well who should fight if not him?"
Samuel shrugged "You, I suppose. I'm willing but we both know I'm not the fighter of this family, I can handle myself but who knows what kind of fighters Tom has at his disposal."
Malcolm was confident that he could handle fight but he was nowhere near as skilled as Lucas, unfortunately he isn't here, Dustin was clearly tough and willing but maybe Samuel had a point, it took a special kind of individual to smile at the sight of a dying man. But Dustin volunteered, he'd likely be disappointed and feel that Malcolm didn't trust him.
[Dustin will be Jacob's champion] [Malcolm will be Jacob's champion] [Samuel will be Jacob's champion] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Dustin will be Jacob's champion')
Lucas Lucas sighed, he hated to do this but Simon is right. If an heir isn't decided there''s bound to be conflict in their own ranks if Damien falls. Countless thoughts were flooding through Lucas' head as he approached his father's quarters. He thought about what he'd say to convince his father, what tone he would use, how his father will react. Eventually Lucas decided he was overthinking it and will just say what needs to be said, for the House.
Lucas stopped when he finally reached his father's room, he sighed as he hesitantly knocked on the door "Come in!" he heard his father's voice, it seemed stressed which indicated that this was not the best time to bring up the topic of heirs but it was too late to turn back, this needs to happen.
Lucas entered and saw his father by his desk, he appeared to be reading a letter. Damien looked at his son and shook his head "If it's not important then save it, I'm busy" Lucas was really tempted to take his advice but he couldn't. "It is important."
Damien sighed before looking his son in the eyes "Very well, what is it?" Lucas stood straight, he had to make sure not to show his father weakness "You need to name an heir" Lucas stated bluntly and Damien appeared angered by this "We are NOT having this discussion again, not yet at least, wait for your brothers to return"
Lucas refused to accept this "No, father. This needs to happen now, there's a good chance that you won't survive this war, and if that happens we need to know who will be giving the orders otherwise we won't know what to do!"
Damien's expression softened "You think I'm going to die?" and Lucas' resolve broke "I hope not, honestly I don't think either I or Samuel are ready to lead but we need to prepare for the worst."
Damien stood up and sighed "very well, I'll think on it, I'll name my heir by the end of the week." Lucas had succeeded in convincing his father but he didn't feel triumphant, he felt uneasy, like he's made a mistake, yet he knew what he did was right.
"Lucas, I apprreciate your honesty and I'm proud of your determination but there's something we need to talk about."
Lucas didn't like the sound of that but he nodded "Of course."
Damien's expression turned more stern "What in the seven Hells is going on with you?" he asked bluntly but Lucas was confused "I don't understand"
Damien sighed "I know that something's wrong, you're mother thinks I'm paranoid but I know what a man whose lost his purpose looks like, you're different now."
Lucas suddenly got angry and defensive, he didn't want to talk about this, he couldn't talk about this "Don't..." he said and Damien could see that he was right and continued to press him.
"It was you who convinced me to marry off my daughter, your own sister to House Forrester despite what we know about them, how much of a monster Thorren Forrester is"
Lucas shook his head, trying to keep himself from breaking down "I only did that because I knew Thorren Forrester only had one son and I knew that Gregor was a good man. Thorren grows more powerful everyday, we needed him as an ally how was I to know that our king would go mad and start a war!?"
Damien refused to back down "You acted out of fear, but you fear no one, I know you don't."
Lucas began to get distressed "father, please..."
"And another thing, you seem to have forgotten our words, your sense of loyalty has vanished!" Damien continued to push his son despite his obvious distress. "You've been more loyal to the Targaryen's than even me, they're the reason you picked up a sword, to serve your king but now you speak of them with disdain. Don't think that I haven't noticed you've suddenly stopped training. The thing that makes you happy more than anything."
"WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS!" Lucas snapped, he was furious and couldn't take anymore. Lucas turned around and stormed out of the room, he did what he came here to do.
"LUCAS! Get back here! That's an order!" Damien shouted but Lucas didn't listen. Part of him was shocked, he's never disobeyed his father before.
Lucas caught himself wiping a tear from his face when he saw Lucina coming, he was ashamed of himself, he just showed weakness.
"Lucas, I heard... are you okay?" Lucina said softly and Lucas struggled to find an answer "I... I can't."
"I know" Lucina saved him from breaking down "But when you're ready to tell me what's wrong, to let me help, I'm always here for you, okay?" she gave a comforting smile and Lucas nodded "thank you."Lucina suddenly got serious "I didn't just happen to walk by, I wanted to talk to you about something." Lucas calmed down and nodded "What is it?"
"I think we should send some scouts out" Lucas raised an eyebrow and Lucina began to explain "I get that I'm not supposed to get involved in these matters but nobody is saying what needs to be said" Lucas gave an understanding nod "okay, what needs to be said?"
Lucina continued "Simon's compassion and care for his men is blinding him" Lucas' eyes widened, he wasn't expecting her to speak this way about the Master-at-Arms and his fathers best friend.
Lucina frowned "I'm sorry but it's true, we need to know what threats are out there and Simon's pulled back all the scouts because he's worried about putting them in danger."
Lucas sighed "That's worrying... I don't expect it'll be much longer before our enemies come for us" Lucina nodded "So you agree with me?"
Lucas nodded "yes but I don't see what you expect me to do about it, if Simon won't see reason then that's it, my father trusts his judgement."
Lucina frowned "You won't like this but I would suggest that you give the order, the men look up to you, they wouldn't question an order from you unless your father said so."
Lucas rubbed the back of his neck, clearly uneasy about this "You're suggesting that I go behind Simon's back? He won't like that and worse I could lose his respect."
Lucina sighed "He won't listen, Lucas and this needs to be done, you're the only one here who'd even consider any advice from a handmaiden."
[Send out the scouts] [Trust Simon's judgement] (THE VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Send out the scouts')
Gregor Many of the men were restless, they could be discovered quite easily if they weren't careful. Marcos Trant was very vocal about his frustrations, he says that if they weren't waiting for Ludd's brother they'd be attacking the Branfields right now. The worst part was that he was right. Gregor said that they were waiting because the more men they have the better but part of him wondered if the real reason was to delay the attack for as long as possible. He's had time to think and he hates the thought of killing Elissa's family.
Gregor's thoughts were interrupted when Eamon barged into his tent. Gregor was about to yell at him but Eamon spoke first "Apologies, Lord Forrester but things are getting out of hand" "What's the matter? Has Walter Whitehill arrived?" Gregor thought his men had grown accustomed to the Whitehills by now.
Eamon shook his head "No, it's the Warricks" Gregor's eyes widened at the mention of the Warricks. This is bad, the Warricks have a really bad reputation from most Northeners.
Eamon sighed "I expected that reaction, it seems the Warricks aren't very popular among you Forresters... and the Degores" This alarmed Gregor "Is Royland out there?" Eamon nodded "Yes and many of your own men are rallying behind him trying to force the Warricks out of here while the Whitehills are attempting to defend the Warricks from them."
"I need to get out there!" Gregor exclaimed as he marched out of the tent he saw a large angry crowd mixed with the sigil's of Warrick, Whitehill, Degore and Forrester. "Gregor!" Gregor heard Ludd's voice as he ran to his side "I just heard--" "Why didn't you tell me they were coming, Ludd? The Warricks are YOUR Bannermen!" Gregor shouted.
"You said to make use of any oaths I can, I followed YOUR orders, Gregor, don't blame me for how your men reacted!" Ludd defended himself. Ludd was right, Gregor told him to gather allies, the Warricks just weren't the allies he hoped for.
Gregor groaned "Fine but we need to deal with this, now!" They managed to get close to the crowd and there was a lot of cursing and shouting, thankfully no blades have been drawn yet. Gregor saw Larion on one side and Royland on the other. "We don't want you here, Warricks, get the fuck lost!" Royland shouted.
A blonde man with stubble stood behind Larion with very messy hair and began to laugh sadistically He looked fairly ordinary, average height, not very impressive muscles but he had a pair of green eyes with deranged look in them, this man was a Warrick. "You're free to try, dog!" the man said as he opened his arms, inviting Royland to attack.
Another blonde arrived, he looked similar to the deranged Warrick but younger, his hair was shorter and he had no facial hair. "Ammett, what's going on here?" he looked to the deranged Warrick whose name was apparently Ammett.
Ammett turned to the young man "Well you see little brother, I explained to these lovely gentlemen that we're here to aid them in the fight against the Targaryen loyalists and this... dog decided to bite the hand that feeds him"
"You call me that again and you won't like what happens." Royland growled.
"Back off, Degore!" Larion shouted "I'll strike you down if I have to!"
Ammett's brother saw Gregor and his eyes lit up "Lord Forrester right?" he moved past his men up until Forrester soldiers stopped him from passing. "Let him through" Gregor ordered and the soldiers hesitantly let him through.
"Thank you" the young man nodded as he came forward "My name is Bryce Warrick, that's my brother Ammett and next to him is my brother Kevan" Gregor looked and saw Kevan, he was a mountain of a man, tall and massive muscles. He was visibly older than Bryce and Ammett, he had long dark hair, a thick beard as well as a few scars on his face.
"Please" Bryce pleaded "We came here at Ludd Whitehill's request, we're only here to help" Ludd stepped forward "Bryce is a good man, Gregor, you can trust him."
Gregor looked over to Royland, Things were getting way too out of hand "Royland, stand down!" he ordered. Royland glared at Gregor but turned to walk away from Ammett, although hesitantly.
"Ahh, so loyal" Ammett smirked as he looked to Bryce. "What is it that they say about the Degores, Bryce?" Was he trying to provoke Royland? Is this man insane!?
Bryce shook his head, fearing the worst "Ammett, don't!"
"Oh, I remember now!" Ammett looked to Royland "Like dogs, very loyal but let them off the leash and they're very difficult to get back on."
Royland angrily turned around and charged towards Ammett. "Royland, no!" Gregor shouted. Larion drew his sword as Royland approached but before Royland reached him Marcos grabbed him from behind and threw Royland behind him. "What the fuck is wrong with you, Degore? These are our allies." Gregor never thought he'd be happy to see Marcos.
"ALLIES!?" Royland shouted in a furious rage. "No! Rapers and murderers, all of them! I won't fight by their side!" Marcos looked over at Ammett "Is that true?" Ammett chuckled in response "Well, we're not all rapers and murderers."
"Are you?" Marcos asked him bluntly and Ammett's expression suddenly turned serious and he didn't respond. This man has done some vile things. Gregor stepped in "Marcos, I need you to help me seperate these men." "No, Forrester." Marcos seemed angry "Degore is right, I won't fight with a raper and a murderer."
Then Ludd stepped in "ENOUGH!" he looked over to the Warricks "Ammett, take your brothers and have your men fall back, I'll come and get you when this has been sorted." Ammett seemed displeased "Yes, my Lord" he turned to his men and shouted "FALL BACK!" The Warricks then backed up and things began to calm down.
Gregor turned to Royland "You need to cut this shit out, you don't use MY men to start brawls" Royland swallowed his pride "Apologies, it won't happen again"
Gregor sighed "It's fine, just remember who's in command." Royland nodded and then walked away. When Royland walked away Larion breathed a sigh of relief and sheathed his sword "I'll make sure they're ready for you, my Lord."
"Thank you Ser Larion." Ludd nodded and Larion nodded back before marching towards the Warricks. Gregor then turned to Marcos but he spoke before Gregor could get a word out "You don't get to lecture me, Forrester." "Excuse me?" Gregor exclaimed and Marcos shook his head in disappointment "You're a piss-poor leader. What have you done since I got here? Nothing! You've got us waiting around for men that won't make a difference, you've let murderers and rapers into our ranks. And now you rely on Whitehill to solve your problems. Your father made a mistake in sending you in his place" Marcos stormed off "come get me when you're ready to do what we came here to do."
Gregor groaned, maybe he was right, Gregor felt that he hadn't done a great job so far. Ludd sighed "are you alright?" "No." Gregor groaned once again "More often than not I have no idea what to do and it seems that no matter what I do nobody is pleased. And worse than that all I can think about is how my wife will look at me when I come home with her family's blood on my hands!" Gregor shouted and turned his back, this was all so stressful.
Ludd placed his hand on Gregor's shoulder "You don't give yourself enough credit Gregor, you've done a good job so far. Forget Marcos, I doubt even a dornish whore would make him happy." Gregor laughed at that "Thanks Ludd" Ludd smiled "It's not a problem."
Ludd turned over to the Warricks "I should go see them. You coming?" Gregor raised an eyebrow "why?" Ludd shrugged "I don't know, get to know them? Put their minds at ease, your presence will help them feel like they're not outcasts, that you trust them."
Gregor shook his head "But I don't trust them. Ammett is clearly insane, the man seemed to enjoy the violence and he was trying to provoke Royland. I don't know if I want to get to know a man like that." Ludd sighed "Think what you want about Ammett but Bryce is a good man, one of the best and he's got some influence on Ammett, keeps him from doing things he shouldn't."Gregor sighed, he didn't like this but Bryce did seem like a good man. "All right let's go see them."
Ludd smiled "Good, do you have any questions I can answer on the way? Might give you a good idea on what to expect, help prepare for the madness that is House Warrick." Ludd laughed like he was joking but it felt like half of him was serious.
Gregor felt he should ask about either Ammett or Kevan. Ludd seems to trust Bryce so nothing to worry about there. Ammett is clearly insane and Gregor felt that he should know what will and won't set him off. Kevan was a massive unknown, he looks dangerous but he didn't speak at all when he saw him, Gregor has no idea what kind of personality he has.
["Tell me about Ammett"] ["Tell me about Kevan"] (THE VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Tell me about Kevan')
Malcolm Davith had just returned from speaking with Jacob and they were now waiting for the trial to begin. Dusty was confident that he'd win, but Samuel was visibly uneasy. "It'll be fine Samuel, I can handle this." Dusty attempted to reassure him, but Samuel didn't respond.
Samuel turned to Davith "Davith, you know Wolfson. What should we expect?" Davith sighed "It's hard to say, Tom's a good fighter, but there's a lot of tough men and women serving him, he's just as likely to name a champion."
Samuel looked at Davith suspiciously "You keep on calling him Tom. You two friends or something?" Davith sighed "Look, it's complicated." Samuel shook his head "No it's not, you're either friends with the son of a bitch who's putting my brother's life in danger or your not."
Malcolm stepped in "Easy Samuel... Davith's on our side" Malcolm did share Samuel's current suspicion of Davith, but he is helping them, that counts for something. Samuel sighed "Yeah... sorry for losing my head there, I'm just worried about Jacob and what'll happen if Dustin loses." Davith gave an understanding nod "I understand, don't worry about it."
Dusty crossed his arms and seemed annoyed "You know to actually lose I'd have to die right?" Davith looked to Dusty "Well that's not technically true, you could always yield." Dusty smirked "Ha, good one." Dusty didn't seem the type to yield.
"Guys, look." Samuel gestured over to a chair that was probably supposed to be a throne if Wolfson thought of himself as a king. A man with dark short hair, light blue eyes and stubble sat on the chair, the men and women around looked to him with respect. "You think that's him?" Malcolm asked and Samuel nodded "Unless he's just keeping the seat warm for him, then yeah, I'd say it's him." "It's him." Davith confirmed and Samuel shrugged "he doesn't look like much." Davith shook his head "Don't underestimate him, Tom's like a demon in a real fight." That doesn't bode well for Jacob and Samuel was visibly concerned. Dusty nodded in agreement "Yeah, I can see a lot of anger in his eyes" Samuel raised an eyebrow "how could you possibly be able to tell that?" Dusty smirked "Trust me, I'm good at reading people."
Next to Wolfson was a beautiful woman with short blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. She was armored up and definitely had the look of a warrior she appeared to be Wolfson's right hand. She whispered something to Wolfson and he stood up before raising his voice "Who's ready to see the bastard who dared to fuck with us get justice!?" The men and women serving Wolfson cheered and Samuel shook his head "It doesn't look like our dear little brother is very popular around here." Samuel was right, everyone of these men and women cheered at the thought of seeing Jacob die.
"Bring him out!" Wolfson shouted and everyone made room for two guards to pass. They had Jacob between them, his long blonde hair was dirty, his green eyes showed a lot of anger and his face was bruised with a couple new scars. Jacob was a tall man, and usually came across as pretty intimidating to strangers, especially when he was angry, but the men and women around him seemed unfazed by his presence. That may have something to do with the fact that that the guards had him restrained.
An older man stepped in front of Jacob and he seemed angry "You killed my friend, you piece of shit!" Jacob killed someone? Why would he do that? "Get the fuck out of my face, old man!" Jacob spat, he's always been pretty defiant, to everyone, but his father. The old man angrily punched Jacob in the gut, Jacob groaned in pain but then he repaid the man with a headbutt, effectively breaking the man's nose and knocking him to the ground.
Samuel sighed "Damn it, Jacob!" Dusty seemed impressed "Your brother's got guts." Samuel nodded in agreement "Yeah, but it might get him killed!" Samuel had a point if Jacob isn't careful they might kill him right here.
The old man stood up ready to attack again, but then Wolfson shouted "that's enough! This isn't how the boy dies." The older man seemed angry, but he relented and moved out of Jacob's way.
The guards next to Jacob put him on his knees as Wolfson approached and the blonde woman followed. "Jacob Branfield, right?" Jacob didn't answer, but then Wolfson looked over to Malcolm's direction "Those are your brothers aren't they?" But again Jacob didn't answer.
Wolfson sighed "fine, let's get on with it. Jacob Branfield, you stand trial here for murdering one of my most loyal men, how do you justify this vile crime?"
"You think he did it?" Samuel whispered and Malcolm shrugged "maybe, Jacob's temper is as bad as Lucas' if not worse. Someone could've got in his way and Jacob reacted with force." Dusty spoke up "oh he did it alright, I can tell, he doesn't feel guilty, but I can tell that what Wolfson's saying is true." Dusty did say he was good at reading people, they'll have to take his word for it.
"He deserved it." Jacob spat and Wolfson seemed visibly angered "excuse me?" Jacob glared daggers into Wolfson's eyes "He deserved what he got, it wasn't murder." Wolfson growled and kicked Jacob in the chest, it was a good hit, Jacob would've fallen over if the two guards weren't holding him up. Jacob needed help, Malcolm ran forward with the intent of helping Jacob, but Samuel and Davith held him back. "Easy, Malcolm. The only chance your brother's got is to win this trial, you run in there and he loses that chance." Davith reasoned. "But--" Malcolm tried to argue, but Samuel interrupted "he's right, Malcolm, we need to just hope for the best or Jacob won't be the only one who dies here." Malcolm didn't like it, but they were right, the trial and Dusty's help was Jacob's only hope.
Jacob spat "Fuck you, Wolfson. I came here to ask for your help." Wolfson spat right back "And you killed one of my men to do it, I'm not interested in any work you have for me." Jacob sighed "Fuck this, let's just skip to the part we both know is coming." Wolfson crossed his arms and glared at Jacob "Go on then." Jacob sighed "I demand a trial by combat." Jacob spat while defiantly staring straight into Wolfson's eyes. Dusty stood up, knowing that he soon had to play his part in saving Jacob.
Many of the men and women began laughing as if they knew Jacob had no chance. Wolfson walked back up to his throne and sat down "Very well, will you defend yourself or will you name a champion?" Jacob looked over to Malcolm and frowned "I name Dustin Sand as my champion." Wolfson cocked his eyebrow "Who the fuck is Dustin Sand?"
"That would be me." Dusty said as he stepped forward. Wolfson glared at him, he seemed angry, but confused "Why would you defend him? This is no business of yours." Dusty glared straight at Wolfson "My reasons are my own."
Wolfson furrowed his eyebrows "I see." He sat back, clearly debating his decision. "Alise." Wolfson said to his right hand, apparently her name is Alise. She looked over at Wolfson "What?" She asked and Wolfson said "Bring Sibas out. He will be my champion." Alise seemed alarmed by this "But Tom, he's just a lad!" Wolfson seemed annoyed by her protests "You said he was good in a fight." Alise continued her protests "Yes, But--" Wolfson interrupted her "And that you trained him." "Yes, but--" Alise repeated, but yet again Wolfson interrupted her "Then Sibas will be my champion!" Wolfson commanded and Alise relented "I'll go get him."
Samuel cocked an eyebrow "That was interesting." It certainly was, whoever this Sibas is Alise doesn't seem to want him fighting. "Davith, can you tell us anything about this Sibas?" Malcolm asked Davith and he shook his head "No, but I know Alise, she's a good woman, Malcolm and loyal." Samuel looked at Davith suspiciously "Why are you telling us this?" Davith sighed "I'm just trying to point out that these people aren't so bad, I feared that their treatment of your brother may have painted them in a bad light for you." "For good reason!" Samuel exclaimed angrily. "
Malcolm was about to step in when he saw Alise arrive with a man next to her. He seemed to be of average size, fairly skinny and he had long dark hair in a ponytail, Brown eyes and pale skin. He was armored up and had a longsword. "Quite!" Malcolm raised his voice over Samuel and Davith "look who just arrived."
Davith shrugged "You think that's Sibas? He doesn't look like much." "Looks can be deceiving." Samuel added "He may not be big or particularly muscular, but strategy can go a long way." Samuel had a point, Dusty had better not underestimate him. Alise whispered something to Sibas and he nodded, words of advice perhaps? The two seemed friendly, they could be close, maybe that's why Alise didn't want him fighting.
Wolfson saw Sibas and smiled "Good you're here, time to prove your worth, lad!" Sibas nodded to Wolfson proudly and said "I swear I won't let you down, Tom." Well he's formal. Sibas stood in front of Dusty and Wolfson said "Let's just skip the stuff about God's and men alright? Just fight."
Sibas stared Dusty down and prepared a stance, one foot forward, one back... he has good form. Dusty smirked "Well aren't you a scary fuck." He seemed to be trying to get under Sibas' skin. Sibas seemed unfazed and didn't move as Dusty unsheathed his sword. Dusty continued speaking "You know you probably think that armor makes you look tougher than you actually are, but it just tells me that you're afraid to get hit!" Dusty shouted as he took a swing at Sibas and Sibas easily parried his strike and Dusty chuckled sadistically "Nice... maybe you'll be a satisfying kill after all!" The way Dusty was talking was making Malcolm uneasy, he was helping them, but maybe Samuel was right, maybe Dusty is deranged.
Now Sibas attempted a strike at Dusty and he parried it just as easily. "Ooh, I think I almost felt that one." Dusty mocked Sibas and it seemed to rile him up. "Fuck you!" Sibas spat and Dusty laughed "He speaks! I thought you might''ve forgotten how with how much you're shaking in your boots."
"Argh!" Sibas growled and took another strike at Dusty and he blocked it, but held it there and got right up to Sibas' face "When I'm done with you, you'll be unrecognizable to your bitch over there." Dusty gestured over to Alise and Sibas lost it, he shouted and headbutted Dusty. Dusty took the hit and stumbled back, he was stunned and Sibas took the opportunity to strike. "No!" Malcolm shouted, fearing the worst, Dusty heard the shout and attempted to jump back and parry, he succeeded but he was rushed and dropped his sword.
Sibas took the opportunity to kick Dusty's sword behind him "The fuck you going to do now, huh?!" Sibas spat at Dusty. Dusty glared at Sibas and growled "Improvise..." and he slowly walked towards Sibas. Sibas was taken aback by Dusty's actions and took a step back out of fear. Dusty growled "what's the matter? You have the advantage don't you? So use it. Fucking kill me!" Dusty growled. Sibas panicked and took a swing at Dusty, it was a mistake, Dusty easily dodged it and managed to tackle Sibas and wrap his hands around his neck, Sibas dropped his sword and couldn't reach it, he was in a bad spot. It seemed Dusty had this won, but he wasn't killing Sibas in a very humane way, it seemed that this would be over soon when suddenly Dusty freed his right hand and began viciously punching Sibas in the face. He just kept punching and punching, Sibas had no where to go and had no means of fighting back "I yield!" Sibas shouted "please, I yield!" He began to beg. Dusty wasn't listening however and continued punching him. "That's enough, leave him alone!" Alise shouted, but Dusty didn't stop then Malcolm shouted "That's enough, Dusty! It's over." But still Dusty didn't stop and Sibas shouted in distress "You're a fucking monster!" "You don't know me." Dusty growled as he stood up and began kicking Sibas in the ribs "You don't fucking know me!" Dusty began shouting. Davith's eyes widened "He's out of control!" Samuel groaned "Shit... this is bad, the trials over and he's not stopping."
Alise began fearing the worst "Tom, do something!" But Wolfson did nothing and just looked on. Suddenly Jacob broke free from his captors "Let him go! That's enough!" And he tried to pull Dusty off of Sibas, but he was too weak from his injuries and couldn't pull him off on his own. "Malcolm, help me!" Jacob shouted over to Malcolm and Malcolm nodded, ready to intervene, but Samuel pulled him back "Hold on, Malcolm!" Malcolm pulled away "What the fuck for? He's going to kill him!" Samuel sighed "I know! But Dustin's the only ally we've got! Who knows how he'll react if we get involved. I may not like him, but like I said he's all we've got and he's clearly pretty good in a fight." Malcolm shook his head "But Samuel, that boy will die if we don't do something!" Samuel continued to argue "I know it's hard, Malcolm, but sometimes we need to make sacrifices, Jacob's fine that's what's important and Wolfson clearly doesn't care if Dustin kills that boy."
[Help Jacob save Sibas] [Do nothing] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Help Jacob save Sibas')
Lucas It's been a day since Lucas sent out the scouts behind Simon's and his father's backs. It probably wouldn't be long before he'd be getting hit by the backlash of his decision. Hopefully Simon would understand.
Lucas decided he sat around long enough and it was time to get something done. Perhaps his uncle Kiran had something in mind, he was smart and always seemed to be preparing for something. Kiran is Damien's older brother though he isn't the Lord as Kiran is a bastard. Lucas always thought about what if Kiran was true born. Both Lucas and Samuel think Kiran would make a far better lord than their father. Kiran is smart and would fit the role well. Thankfully Damien recognises this and saw fit to give his older brother the role of castellan.
Lucas wandered the halls when he spotted his uncle talking to Maester Nathaniel. Nathaniel had gotten old since Lucas was a child, he had grey in what little hair he had left, brown eyes and was a rather thin man. Nathaniel is or was a member of House Darklyn, the House destroyed by Aerys II, Nathaniel was a Maester at that point so he was safe from the conflict, however the event made Nathaniel a very bitter and angry man.
Kiran didn't seem too pleased himself, arguing with the Maester. Kiran had short dark hair, green eyes and a beard. Nathaniel angrily asked "Words getting around that you've been searching for a healer among the smallfolk. Is the work I do here not good enough for you?"
Kiran sighed "It's not like that Nathaniel, I'm simply preparing for the worst, if a siege comes here there will be a lot of wounded men, more than you can handle." Nathaniel shook his head be that as it may, you can't just do this behind my back, it doesn't look good when--" "I'll do what I please, Maester!" You always know you're your on Kiran's bad side if he refers to you by your title. "I don't answer to you, if you don't like it either shut up or complain to my brother." Kiran then turned as he saw Lucas and sighed "Fuck off while I speak with my nephew." Nathaniel seemed especially angered by Kiran's words but relented "as you wish" then he turned to Lucas "Hello Lucas." He greeted him as he bitterly walked past him. "Hello Nathaniel." Lucas greeted in return before giving Kiran a questioning look and Kiran bluntly asked "what?"
Lucas sighed "You were pretty harsh don't you think?" Kiran shook his head "Nathaniel's a prick, besides I've seen you harsher with your own brothers." Lucas reluctantly nodded in agreement "true, but I'm the heir and you're the bastard castellan, you're already unpopular, uncle." Kiran smirked "good thing that I don't care what others think of me. You need to start thinking the same way if you want to be a lord who's worth a damn."
Lucas didn't respond he knew Kiran made a good point, and he agreed, but he didn't like the idea of becoming hated by his own people. Kiran put a reassuring hand on Lucas' shoulder "Don't think too much about it, you're already on the right path." Lucas looked up at his uncle curiously "I am?" Kiran nodded "I heard about you sending out those scouts despite Simon's decision to hold them back. That's a good step. You knew it was the right thing despite a trusted friend and advisor thinking otherwise and you did it anyway."
It may have felt like the right decision, but Lucas felt a lot of guilt about going behind Simon's back. Before Lucas got lost in his thoughts he remembered why he came. "Uncle, I wanted to talk to you." Kiran raised an eyebrow curiously "Oh? What about?"
"I wanted to get busy, find something that needs doing. Do you have anything in mind?" Kiran nodded "I don't have anything that needs doing but there's something on my mind that I'd like to talk about. I've already spoken to your father about it but it couldn't hurt to talk to you about it too, it is important." Lucas wondered what he'd possibly want to talk about "What is it?" Kiran shook his head "Not here, we'll talk outside."
Lucas followed Kiran outside until they stopped by the main gate "You see this?" Kiran gestured towards the gate. Lucas nodded but he was unsure what point Kiran was getting too. Kiran continued "This gate is the only way in or out of Summerspring. If there's to be a siege then our enemy has to come through here."
Lucas nodded but still didn't get what Kiran was suggesting "I already know this, uncle. What exactly is your point?" "Pay attention I'm getting to it." Kiran looked at the gate then to Summerspring's main keep, he seemed to be visually measuring the distance between the two.
Kiran looked to Lucas "Hypothetically if a siege did came here and it got so bad that they broke through our gates, what do you think our most likely course of action would be?" Lucas stopped to think about it, like Kiran just did a few moments ago he visually measured the distance between the gates and the keep. It would be a tough run and more than a few wouldn't make it the whole way.
"The only course of action would be to fall back into the keep, but we wouldn't all make it." Kiran nodded in aggreement "This is true, we'd definitely lose a lot of people, but this is the worst case scenario." Lucas sighed all this strategy seemed more suited to Samuel, Lucas felt out of place thinking all this through. He's always been a man of action. He sees what must be done and he does it, he doesn't think about every possible outcome.
Kiran sighed "There's a detail you overlooked." Lucas was surprised by this, he thought that he was doing well despite feeling out of place. "What did I miss?" Kiran seemed bothered by whatever was going on in his head "I fucking hate war." Lucas agreed but he didn't know what Kiran was thinking about. "Uncle? Are you alright?"
Kiran shook his head "Our enemy breaks through these gates there's nothing between them and the smallfolk... except us." Lucas looked to the smallfolk and frowned there were a lot of good people there and they seemed largely ignorant of what was coming.
Kiran sighed and seemed angry "We run to save ourselves and a large amount of these people are fucked. If we're lucky we may survive if we run but how many of these people will suffer when it's done? How many people will be missing a son, a daughter, a spouse?"
Lucas sighed "I... don't want to think about that." Kiran seemed angry, but not at Lucas, likely about the whole situation. "These are good people Lucas, honest and loyal people, war isn't kind to the smallfolk. I've tried talking to you father about this, but he won't budge. He says they would be a necessary but regrettable casualty, that war demands sacrifice and if our family's to survive sacrifice is needed."
Lucas didn't like the sound of that but what else is there to do? "What would you have us do instead? Hold the line? Fight to the last man for the sake of the smallfolk?" Kiran nodded determinedly and simply said "In Arms to the End. Those are our words Lucas. I would have us live by them. We abandon none!"
Lucas frowned before taking one last look at the smallfolk "why are you telling me this?" Kiran looked his nephew in the eyes "If your father dies there's a good chance it'll be your decision. So tell me Lucas I need to know if it were up to you what would you do? If you had to make this choice right here, right now what would you do? Run in the hopes of saving your family or fight to the end to do what's right?"
["I'd run."] ["In Arms to the End."] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose "In Arms to the End."]
Gregor thought it through and decided to ask about Kevan, all Gregor knows about him is that he looks intimidating. "Tell me about Kevan." Ludd seemed to be caught off guard by the question. "A fair question, though Kevan isn't actually a Warrick." Gregor was confused by the question "But they're brothers..." the realisation hit Gregor when he realized that Kevan was the only one of them that wasn't blonde. Ludd nodded in response "Yeah, Kevan's a bastard, Kevan Snow."
Gregor thought it on it, it was interesting, but it didn't really tell him anything about Kevan as a person. "Can you tell me anything else? What's he like?" Ludd sighed "What I'm about to tell you, you keep it to yourself, don't ever mention it aloud, especially in front of the Warrick." This seemed serious, Gregor nodded "I won't say anything" he promised. Ludd sighed once again "I'll be honest, I couldn't tell you what kind of personality he's got. I didn't know him before... it happened." Gregor was confused but he could tell Ludd was concerned about revealing this information "What happened?"
"Kevan doesn't speak." Ludd said bluntly and Gregor widened his eyes in surprise "Why not?" Ludd frowned "He can't... Kevan doesn't have... his father cut it out" he said as Ludd gestured towards his own mouth. Gregor couldn't hold back a gasp when he realized what Ludd was implying "Shit! Seriously? Why the fuck would he do that!? His own son?"
Ludd nodded sadly "An extreme punishment for sure. It was for Kinslaying. Kevan killed his brother. Don't ask me why as he never explained his actions and he isn't exactly able to anymore." Gregor couldn't believe this. Kinslaying is a serious crime and viewed as one of the most unforgivable acts you could commit, even more than regicide for some. It was probably safe to say that Kevan is not a popular man.
"I appreciate your honesty, Ludd." Gregor gave Ludd a grateful smile and Ludd seemed smiled back though he seemed reluctant "The Warricks won't, not even Bryce. Be sure to keep that information to yourself."
Gregor nodded and was about to continue the conversation but he realized that they'd caught up with the Warricks so Gregor felt it best that he drop it for now. The Warricks however hadn't noticed they're presence yet and were talking. Well Bryce and Ammett were talking, Kevan was just standing there beside Ser Larion.
"Fucking dogs, ungrateful cunts!" Ammett ranted and Bryce being the voice of reason attempted to calm his brother down "Take it easy, brother." Ammett didn't seem to hear him however. "We didn't have to come here, Lord Whitehill would've understood but we did anyway, because I wanted to help and what did they do? A word of thanks? Nope! They decide they're too good for our help! Fucking Degores I never liked them, everyone's an enemy to them!" Ammett seemed different from when Gregor saw him last. He still seemed insane but he appeared arrogant and cocky, now he was angry and hateful.
"Bryce, you need to calm your brother down." Larion ordered sternly as he noticed Gregor and Ludd's presence. Bryce sighed "I'm trying Ser, but it isn't easy when he gets like this." "You're weak Ammett!" Ammett was talking to himself now? "You let everyone push you around and I know why! This stupid girl makes you soft!" Bryce looked alarmed "Oh no..." Gregor looked to Ludd wondering what the fuck was going on and Ludd shrugged, he seemed just as confused as Gregor.
"What the fuck's wrong with him!?" Larion shouted and Bryce kneeled down "Hey Ammett! Look at me." Gregor just noticed Kevan was frowning and trying not to look at his brothers. Ammett suddenly frowned "No, no, Carsen please I'll be tougher, just don't hurt her!"
"Ammett!" Ludd shouted and successfully interrupted his ranting and Ammett's expression suddenly changed from sorrowful to cheerful "Ludd! Good to see you. How's your father?" That was incredibly strange, Larion seemed very confused ,Ludd seemed more stern than usual and Bryce seemed relieved. "still bitter, not unlike your father." Ludd responded and Kevan seemed to slightly grimace at the mention of his father and Ammett nodded "harsh but very true, I can't argue." Ammett then turned to Gregor "You're Gregor Forrester then?" Gregor nodded and Ammett presented his hand respectfully, clearly waiting for Gregor to shake it. He reluctantly shook his hand and Ammett smiled "You're commanding here? I'll be honest never worked with a Forrester, you're father isn't fond of us as I'm sure you're aware. Nevertheless I look forward to fighting by your side."
Gregor planned to be diplomatic but he couldn't help but be suspicious of Ammett and spoke in a more cynical tone than intended "Do you now?" Ammett suddenly glared at Gregor and Bryce seemed concerned. "I'm gonna have to stop you there Forrester. You'll want to keep your passive-aggressive horseshit to yourself!" Kevan stepped forward as Ammett got tense and Bryce shook his head signalling Kevan to hang back. Ammett continued "I came here to help, I didn't have to, I'm putting my brother's and my men's lives at risk for you and frankly I deserve better than this!" Gregor suddenly regretted his harsh tone as he seems to have angered Ammett, that cannot be a good thing, luckily Ludd intervened "That's enough Ammett!" And he backed off "of course, my apologies."
Bryce then took the initiative and stepped forward "My brother puts it a bit too bluntly but you must understand my Lord. We came to help and you saw the welcome we got. So we are understandably frustrated." Kevan rolled his eyes at Bryce's words which earned a chuckle from Ammett. Gregor didn't understand what was funny but chose to ignore it. "I understand Bryce, but you must understand that your family is not very popular, with good reason I might add." Bryce sighed "I guess that's understandable but we're not all rapers and murderers." "Your brother is." Gregor countered bluntly and looked towards Ammett. He remembered his silence when Marcos asked him point blank if he was a raper and a murderer. "You don't know a thing about me Forrester." Ammett glared at Gregor which led to Ludd stepping between the two "that's enough, let's get to business, we're on the same side. Ammett how many men have you brought with you?"
Ammett nodded "At least a hundred, not much I know but it's all my father was willing to spare." Ludd sighed "It's fine, I understand. We appreciate the help." Ludd seemed much more stern than usual, perhaps that's how he deals with Ammett. "Kevan and I aren't bad in a fight though." Gregor raised an eyebrow "What about Bryce?" Ammett shrugged "He's... alright" Bryce responded with a glare. "He's decent but not as good as Kevan and Ammett." Ludd added. Ammette seemed annoyed. "Isn't that what I said?"
Gregor smiled "Well I appreciate the assistance, is there anything else you can offer?" Ammett seemed hesitant "There's something... but I don't want to offer it until I know it's a viable option. Something you can use." Gregor was curious about this "It's good though?" Ammett nodded "Very, it could be devastating against the Branfields if I can confirm it's an option."
Gregor nodded "Well I can't say I'm not curious." Ludd seemed suspicious but didn't comment on it "Well since everyone's not very accepting of you three at the moment we'll need to figure out a compromise for now until the others come around. Any thoughts Gregor?" Gregor sighed, it was a tricky situation. They couldn't just send the Warricks away but the others are bound to be trouble if they get too close. Gregor looked to Ammett "For now you'll have to keep your distance while I explain the situation to everyone, give it a couple days for things to calm down. Ammett seemed like he was about to protest but Bryce spoke first "Seems fair, we're to fight together though, we can't be separated for too long." Larion nodded "I agree, if we're to fight together we need to get past any grudges." Gregor sighed "Just a couple days, that's all I need." Ammett relented "Fine, I can adapt, been doing it all my life." Bryce frowned but didn't say anything. Gregor was more confused than ever. Ludd smiled "Well I think our works done here, Larion go on and head back we'll be back soon." Larion nodded "Of course my Lord.' As Larion turned to leave Gregor stopped him "actually could you round everyone up for a council meeting when you get back?" Larion looked to Ludd and he nodded "Of course." Then he left.
Gregor sighed "You know I get the feeling that your man doesn't like me." Ludd laughed "Doesn't trust you, there's a difference." Gregor groaned "I didn't expect for things to get so complicated, I expected a straightforward siege, not all this drama, we haven't even started the siege yet and a great number of people are pissed at me." Ludd groaned "Would you stop your whining?" Gregor chuckled at Ludd's bluntness and Ludd smirked "You'll earn their trust, just follow your instincts and you'll do right by us." Gregor nodded "I suppose you're right, we better get to that meeting." Ludd nodded "I'm right behind you."
The two made their way towards the tent where they'd be holding their meeting. They stopped by the tent when they heard arguing "I don't care who you are, you can't just barge in here without warning, if you were one of my men I'd beat you bloody!" That sounded like Marcos but who was he shouting at? "You really need to watch your tone friend. Right now I'm an ally, you don't want me as an enemy." Gregor gasped, he knew that voice but it's been years since he heard it. Ludd was understandably confused "Who is it?" Gregor didn't answer him and marched inside. Everyone in the room turned and saw Gregor, Marcos seemed angered and then Gregor saw him. His spiky hair & big brown bushy beard, but it was his green eyes that marked him as family. "Hello cousin." The man said with a smile and Gregor remained at a distance "Marcus, why are you here?"
Marcos interrupted them "You can talk about it later! We need to deal with this problem he's brought us." Marcos gestured to an unconscious man on the ground, he was in Branfield colours. Ludd sighed "shit!" Gregor attempted to keep his composure, knowing fully well of the situation they're in. "Who is this?" Marcos scoffed "You know who it is! I fucking told you this would happen, Forrester!" Marcus then spoke up "I caught him pretty damn close to the camp, obviously a scout, I believe he was attempting to count your forces, ran for his damn life when he saw me."
Eamon entered the discussion "This isn't good, it won't be long before they realize a scout hasn't reported back, they'll know we're here." Marcos nodded "The whelp's right, we need to strike now, Forrester, we've already wasted too much time waiting for Walter Whitehill." Gregor rubbed his neck in frustration "what are our options?" Marcos groaned when he heard the question then Royland spoke up "It depends on whether you want to keep waiting for those extra Whitehill troops, we can strike now, keep the element of surprise or keep waiting, though they'll know we're here if we do that. I don't imagine they'll wait long before taking the fight to us."
Eamon then stepped forward "I have a suggestion." Marcos scoffed but didn't say anything but Gregor could tell that Marcos wouldn't like anything Eamon has to say. Gregor sighed "Go on Eamon." Eamon smiled "Thank you, if we're dead set on waiting for Walter Whitehill we could have a parley." Marcos once again scoffed "Parley!? Our orders are to kill every single Branfield!" Eamon nodded "Yes, but the Branfields don't know that, we'd simply be stalling for time we'd send word that we'd like to meet, we hand over the scout as a sign of good faith."
Royland shook his head "I don't think that's a good idea, we'd be talking out of our asses, what do you think they're gonna do if they catch on? Leave? No they'll attack. I'm with Marcos on this, Walter will get here when he gets here, they know we're here. we can't afford to waste time." Ludd shook his head "The Branfields wouldn't do that, attack us during a parley? That's almost as bad as violating guest right." Then Gregor's cousin spoke up "I think we should--" Marcos interrupted him "No one cares what you think! You're not part of this council." Marcus looked to Gregor as if he expected him to defend him, but Gregor said nothing, Marcus should know better than to expect Gregor to come to his aid.
Marcos then sighed "I've heard enough. What's it gonna be Forrester? Will we continue to waste our time or actually do something?" Ludd then spoke up "This is about more than just Walter, the Warricks need time to settle in, the state we're in now, nobody will happily fight by their side." Royland angrily said "We don't need the Warricks." Ludd groaned in frustration but didn't argue further. "I'm good with whatever you want Gregor, but I think we should stall for time.
A parley seemed a good idea but Royland had a point. They likely wouldn't attack but who knows how they'll react if they realize their being played. Perhaps It was finally time to listen to Marcos and begin the siege.
[Stall for time] [Attack as soon as possible] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Stall for time')
Malcolm Malcolm couldn't let this happen. He angrily pulled out of Samuel's grasp and rushed to Jacob's side, Jacob looked to Malcolm and nodded, Malcolm nodded back. Malcolm grabbed Dusty's right arm and Jacob grabbed his left, they proceeded to pull Dusty away from Sibas. "Dusty stop!" Dusty growled but relented "Alright, alright! Let me go!" Jacob sighed and sat down on the ground, it seemed he was still weak. Malcolm glared at Dusty, "What the fuck was that?" Dusty seemed like he was about to defend himself when Alise grabbed Dusty's shoulder, aggressively turned him around and gave him a hard punch to the face. "Piece of shit!" She growled at him and Dusty smirked "Oh you're going to regret that, bitch." And he marched towards her, Alise however stood tall "Oh I highly doubt that."
"Hey, hey, hey!" Malcolm shouted attempting to restrain Dusty "We're already on bad terms with these people, we can't afford to make things worse." Dusty sighed "Fine." And stepped back, Alise scoffed "You think we're just gonna--" "That's enough Alise!" Wolfson marched down "Your pathetic pet lost, let it go and be thankful he lives" Alise looked extremely angry but seemed to relent as she checked on Sibas "Are you alright?" She asked as her expression changed from anger to concern "Yeah... I'm fine" Sibas mumbled when Alise caressed his cheek "Let me look at you" she insisted but Sibas angrily slapped her hand away "I said I'm fine!" He shouted and furiously marched off, Alise frowned and followed him.
Wolfson then groaned "Last time I let her bring a brat into my ranks." He then looked to Malcolm and Samuel "You two, follow me, let's talk." He declared and Malcolm looked at Jacob "What about--" and Wolfson interrupted him "Davith will look after your brother, he's so fucking soft that he'd help a stranger before being loyal to his friends." He said as he glared at Davith and Davith frowned as he attempted to explain himself "Tom, I--" "I don't want to fucking hear it, Branfields follow me, now!" He ordered them as he marched off. Malcolm and Samuel followed obediently, fearing what would happen if they didn't. Before leaving however Malcolm looked to Dusty and he nodded "I'll make sure nothing happens, go on." Malcolm smiled, he didn't approve of Dusty's actions but he's shown such loyalty in so short a time. Malcolm nodded in return and followed Wolfson.
Wolfson led the brothers into his tent and grabbed a bottle from a desk, it appeared to be wine "Thirsty?" He asked them and Malcolm shook his head whereas Samuel politely said "No thanks." Wolfson leaned against the desk "I'm Tom Wolfson, former member of a great Northern House, leader of sellswords and an extremely dangerous man to fuck with."
Malcolm gulped, Tom Wolfson was quite intimidating and Samuel spoke for Malcolm, probably for the best, he's always been a good talker. "Malcolm and Samuel Branfield are our names." He stepped forward. "We came here for our brother, we mean you no harm." Wolfson scoffed "You're brother killed one of my men, he deserved to be punished, but fair is fair, your champion managed to save him today." Wolfson sighed "Relax, Branfields, I'm not gonna kill you, not even your dog, he did me a favor, proved how worthless Sibas is." Wolfson spoke with such disdain for the boy.
Malcolm grew concerned and spoke up "You don't intend to kill the boy do you?" Wolfson sighed "No, Alise would never let that go, and unlike Sibas she's actually worth something." Wolfson then smirked "Besides, she's got a great ass!" He laughed and Samuel chuckled "That she does." Malcolm could tell what Samuel was doing, he was attempting to charm him.
Wolfson suddenly got serious "I know what you want." He stood up straight "Your brother wouldn't shut up about it, you need men to defend your home." Samuel nodded "That we do, we can pay you of course." Wolfson chuckled "Naturally. How much men do you need?" Samuel went to speak, but Malcolm knew he'd try to reach a fair compromise, something Wolfson would be easily swayed by, Malcolm boldly stated "Ideally we want all of you." Wolfson's eyes widened and Samuel glared at Malcolm. Wolfson then seemed intrigued "Interesting... who exactly are you expecting to fight?" Malcolm shook his head "We don't know for certain. I'm sure you've heard of the war. We're on the Targaryen's side, it's only a matter of time before someone is sent to eliminate us." Wolfson seemed to think about it "If I agreed to this, I could potentially be fighting against my fellow Northeners, that itself is interesting."
Wolfson looked Malcolm in the eyes "Let's get something straight, if I agree to this you'll be paying a lot, a lot more than a few hundred would've cost." Malcolm nodded in understanding and Wolfson smiled before getting serious again "One thing though, you'll have to do something for me first on top of all the gold this'll cost you."
Samuel raised an eyebrow "What is it that you want?" Wolfson then grew visibly angry but not at Samuel "Some cunt has been hounding me and my men for weeks, sets traps for small groups of my men, but he never kills them, only seriously wounds them, then tells them 'Bring me Tom Wolfson' those exact words, every fucking time." Malcolm grew curious "What does he want with you?" Wolfson groaned "He hasn't really explained his actions, but I suspect he's some do gooder, thinks killing me will be for the greater good or some horseshit, but I have no idea what he wants." This was odd, some mysterious stranger attacking Wolfson's men without explanation, why? For what purpose?
Samuel then spoke up "You want us to stop him?" Wolfson shook his head "I want you to kill him, my men can't touch him, he somehow always sees them coming, knows every move I'll make. But you two... I doubt he'll attack a group of strangers on sight." Malcolm shook his head "I'm not comfortable with the idea of murdering a stranger." Wolfson got uncomfortably close and gave Malcolm a threatening look "Well get comfortable, unless you'd rather fight this war on your own." Samuel pulled Malcolm back "We'll get it done, don't worry. But how do we find him?" Wolfson seemed pleased "Go to the inn in town, I have someone there, she's been tracking him for a while. Hopefully she's found him. She goes by Nesa, copper skin, short hair, good looking, has a fucking whip, pretty hard to miss." Malcolm glanced at Samuel after hearing the name but they said nothing.
Malcolm hated the idea of this, but Samuel forcefully pulled him outside "Later... let's get back with the group first, then we'll discuss it."
Malcolm found Jacob, Dusty and Davith and they seemed to be arguing. "Why did you even kill him?" Davith said as he glared at Jacob and Jacob sighed "It's not like I went looking for a fight, he got in my way, I wouldn't leave and he drew a sword on me, I had no choice." Davith sighed "Fine, but Tom doesn't let things go easily." Samuel then entered the discussion "Actually... we've come to an arrangement." Davith seemed surprised "What?" Samuel nodded "He'll help us, we just need to do him a favor." Jacob looked up at Samuel curiously "What does he want us to do?"
"Nothing any decent human being would consider!" Malcolm snapped as he glared at Samuel and Samuel sighed in response "It's not pretty but we have to. What would you have us do instead? Go back home with just Jacob? No forces? We don't stand a chance without them, Malcolm!" Dusty angrily groaned "Oh for fucks sake, get to the point! What the fuck does he want you to do!?" Malcolm couldn't even begin to suggest such a thing so Samuel spoke. "Wolfson's asked us to kill a man that's been targeting his men, we do that and he comes back to Summerspring with us." Jacob shook his head "No way! We can't just murder a man for him!" Samuel quickly interrupted him "You don't have to, if none of you have the stomach for it I'll do what needs to be done, but I can't do it alone, I need help, what's it gonna be Malcolm?" Jacob tried to speak "We can't--" "Shut up Jacob!" Samuel snapped at him and waited for Malcolm's answer. Malcolm thought about it, this was wrong but was there any other choice? They needed forces and right now they had nothing but Jacob to return with, as much as Malcolm's grateful to have found him alive if this was all they returned with he'd die anyway.
Malcolm sighed in frustration "Fine, we'll do what needs to be done." Jacob stood up angrily "What the fuck Malcolm?!" Malcolm frowned at his brother "We don't have a choice, Jacob."Jacob defiantly shook his head, refusing to hear what Malcolm was saying "There's always a choice! The Malcolm I know would know that, the war hasn't even reached Summerspring and it's already changing you!" He shouted in an accusing tone and Samuel glared at his little brother "You of all people have no right to judge, Jacob. You killed a man you didn't even know!" Jacob was clearly agitated by this "I didn't want to kill him! He attacked me!" Samuel then shouted back "And you no doubt provoked him! Charging around like an idiot as usual. Your tempers always made you do stupid shit!" Dusty then stepped in "Enough! Cut it out, the decisions been made, let's just get it done!" Samuel sighed "As much as I hate to admit it, your new friend is right Malcolm, we'd best get it done sooner rather then later." Malcolm reluctantly nodded, he couldn't bear to say anything right now.
Jacob shook his head "Well I'm staying here, I don't want any part of this!" Samuel nodded "Fine, you're still weak anyway, you need rest." Jacob groaned and stormed off. Samuel sighed when he noticed Malcolm's glare "Yes, I know I'm too hard on him..." Samuel said in a false caring tone. "What I do is to protect all of us, he and you will understand someday, maybe you'll have to make these decisions yourself if..." Malcolm noticed Samuel's sudden change in tone and that he paused "'if' what?" Samuel shook his head "forget it we have work to do."
Samuel then looked to Davith "Davith, please look after my brother, he's hot headed and I imagine several of these men and women still harbor a grudge." Davith nodded "Of course, but I won't be here forever, you'd best return as soon as possible." Samuel nodded then marched off with a simple order "Come on Malcolm, you too Dustin." Dusty smirked at Samuel suddenly giving him orders but followed. Samuel was suddenly acting strange, he was evasive when Malcolm caught him about to say something but paused. He began to follow Samuel when Davith stopped him "Hold on Malcolm, I want to talk to you for a quick minute."
Malcolm was caught by surprise but was curious "What's on your mind?" Davith seemed reluctant "I know we've only just met and my opinion might mean little to you but this is an opinion from an old man whose seen his share of war, obviously before I joined the Night's Watch." Malcolm nodded as he already knew he was in the Night's Watch. Davith continued "What Jacob said just now has me thinking. He may have a point. War changes people and most don't notice it at first, it starts as justifications for hard decisions, something you have to do for the greater good. I watched it happen to Thorren's father, my brother. He was a kind man but I watched war change him, after doing hard things for so long eventually he became angry and bitter, eventually I watched my own brother become a monster."
This all sounded very familiar "It sounds like you're describing Thorren Forrester." Davith nodded "Well he was his father wasn't he. My brother didn't exactly change back to normal when he got to go home and have a child, he surely had quite an influence on Thorren, though Thorren isn't quite there yet, he's very bitter so maybe this war will be the one that sets him off."
Malcolm nodded, it was something to think about, considering things to come but he still wasn't sure about why this was being brought up. "Why are you telling me this?" Davith suddenly got very stern "You or even one of your brothers could very well be headed down the same path as my brother. What you and Samuel are about to do is all too familiar. It's plain to see that when you kill this man you'll justify it as the 'hard thing' something that had to be done. I was in a very similar situation to Jacob, I watched my beloved brother become a monster and was powerless to stop it but Jacob seems much more impulsive than I was. A time may come when you do something terrible that you feel needs to be done and Jacob may feel the need to stop you, I don't imagine the end result would be pleasant."
Malcolm sighed "I understand why you're telling me this but what would you have me do instead? I need Wolfson's help my family will die without it. Maybe when this is done they'll be unrecognizable but they'll be alive." Davith shook his head "there's always another way, Malcolm. Remember that. Meet with this man, talk to him, understand him then judge what kind of man he is, I guarantee that you'll find humanity in him. Then convince him to back off from Wolfson and tell Wolfson that you killed him."
This was an extremely bold proposal but also extremely risky, Malcolm was skeptical "What everyone gets to be happy and live in peace? You think Wolfson would believe us? That we could even successfully deceive him?" Davith seemed reluctant to answer "it's... hard to say. But if anyone can do it it's Samuel. I've watched him.and he has a clever tongue, I think it's worth a shot." Malcolm was deeply conflicted about this. Could he risk his family for the sake of morals? "I'll think about it. Alright?" Davith nodded "That's all I ask. You're a good lad Malcolm, I'd hate to see that change." Malcolm nodded "As would I." Malcolm sighed "I need to go, please look after Jacob." Davith nodded as Malcolm ran to catch up with Dusty and Samuel.
Malcolm caught up with the group as they were walking into town and Samuel glanced at Malcolm "What did Davith have to say?" Malcolm sighed "Well... he proposed an alternative, he says we don't have to kill this man, says we can spare him and get our forces." Samuel suddenly stopped and glared at Malcolm "How?" Whereas Dusty sighed, clearly he was already sick of the Branfields arguing all the time.
Malcolm knew that Samuel wouldn't like this but explained "He said that we should talk to him and convince him to back off then we tell Wolfson that we killed him. Davith's noticed that you're quick witted and smart, he thinks you can convince him." Samuel smirked but he seemed angry and spoke sarcastically "Well I'm flattered truly, but this plan relies on the possibility that we can get this man to back off, we have no idea who he is and what his motivations are." Samuel then shook his head "No, I'm sorry but it's too risky." Malcolm sighed "I think it's worth considering. What do you think Dusty?"
Samuel shook his head "Dustin isn't family, this decision doesn't affect him." "Then don't listen, you can ignore my opinion but I still get to voice it." Dusty said to Samuel. "Provided that this man doesn't deserve to die, I think if there's a way to avoid killing him we should take it." Samuel scoffed "You of all people think we shouldn't kill if there's another way?!" Malcolm quickly stepped in "Samuel don't, we're on the same side here."
Samuel started pacing, he seemed to be thinking about this decision. "Even if I was willing to consider doing this and assuming I could fool Wolfson, what about Nesa?" Malcolm was taken aback by this. It was a good point. Dusty then spoke "Who's Nesa?" "An old acquaintance of Malcolm's and who we're meeting right now to help kill this man, I highly doubt she'd just go along with deceiving her boss." Dusty reluctantly nodded "He brings up a good point Malcolm." Malcolm shook his head "The last time I met Nesa she wasn't even with Wolfson and she didn't think very highly of him, I wouldn't say she's loyal, maybe if she stood to gain something we could convince her to go along with it."
Samuel sighed in frustration "We have nothing to give her!" Dusty shrugged "I don't know about that, everyone likes gold."Maybe you can promise her some extra gold on the side, without Wolfson's knowledge, if not that then ask her what she wants." Samuel once again began pacing "I guess it's a question of whether or not we can trust her, tell me Malcolm. Hypothetically if we were to go along with Davith's suggestion, do we let Nesa in on the plan or do it behind her back? assuming that's even possible of course."
Malcolm had to think about this. From what he remembers Nesa isn't exactly stupid, it wouldn't be easy to fool her, and she would not be pleased if she learned that we went behind her back. But would she even go along with this? She isn't a bad person but she always seemed to be cold towards Malcolm. She may outright refuse, and then she might even tell Wolfson of their intentions. But maybe it would be worth a try, nothing was certain anyway, Samuel might not even agree to the plan. And also Malcolm couldn't even say for certain that he trusted her.
["We should let her in on the plan."] ["We shouldn't trust her."] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose "We should let her in on the plan.")
It was a good question that Kiran asked and Lucas had to think about it but he already knew his answer. "In Arms to the End." Lucas said it with absolute certainty. Kiran seemed impressed "Truly?" Lucas nodded "Leaving innocent people to die to save my own skin, even my family's skins. That's not me." Kiran nodded "I agree, let's hope that you never have to make that choice."
Lucas nodded in agreement "Is there anything else?" Kiran shook his head "No that's all, I just wanted to talk, you can go" Lucas nodded "Until next time, uncle." And he headed back to the keep. Lucas' little brother Preston almost immediately crashed into him as soon as Lucas made it inside, Preston fell back on his arse and whined. Lucas sighed as he helped him back to his feet "Why are you running like a damn fool, Preston?"
Preston glared at Lucas "I was looking for you!" Lucas shook his head "And you couldn't look for me at a steady pace?" Preston was always so easily excitable "It would've taken longer then, wouldn't it?" He also tended to be snarky. Lucas relented, it was pointless arguing with Preston "Alright, what do you want?" Preston frowned "I wanted to ask you about the war." Lucas sighed "A serious talk then, you should ask father or Ser Simon." Preston groaned and shook his head "They still see me as some innocent little boy." Lucas couldn't hold back a smirk "And you think I see you differently?" Preston shrugged "I don't know, but you're honest, you're the only one around here that'll give me a straight answer." Lucas really didn't want to have this conversation, especially since Preston was right, Lucas wouldn't lie to him.
"What about Lucina?" Lucas suggested and Preston groaned again, he does that a lot "Well Lucina isn't fighting in the war is she? And although she wouldn't lie she's too clever and would talk circles around me!" Lucas chuckled "Alright! Fine, we'll talk about it, just keep it to yourself." Preston nodded "I promise." Lucas sighed, this wasn't the place to talk about such things. "Follow me." He ordered and Preston eagerly followed.
Lucas took Preston to the courtyard where Lucas often came to train and think, but he hasn't come here in a while. Lucas sat on some steps and Preston sat next to him. Lucas looked straight at Preston "What do you want to know?" Preston seemed hesitant to ask but eventually spat it out "How did this all start? I know that this is Robert Baratheon's rebellion but I don't really understand why, why are we fighting?" Lucas thought about his answer "Short answer? Our king has gone mad, apparently Rhaegar stole Lyanna Stark, add that with the atrocities that Aerys continues to commit, there are people that just aren't willing to ignore it anymore." Preston remained silent for a minute and seemed troubled "What's on your mind?" Lucas asked him and Preston sighed "It's just that... father would be furious if he was within earshot but it seems to me that we're on the wrong side." Lucas could sympathize "I don't blame you."
Preston frowned "Why are we supporting the Targaryens? From what you've told me combined with what I've heard they sound like monsters." Lucas sighed "It's because of this annoying concept called 'Loyalty.' Our words are 'In Arms to the End' we don't abandon our allies, no matter who they are and how much we might wish to." Preston seemed ready to ask another question "How much danger are we in?" Lucas answered bluntly "A lot" and this seemed to upset Preston "Are... we going to die?" It broke Lucas' heart to see Preston like this but he couldn't lie "I don't know." This kept Preston quite and he seemed like he was about to cry.
Lucas leaned over and took his little brother in his arms "You can cry you know, there's no shame in it." Preston shook his head in defiance "No! Warriors don't cry." Lucas chuckled "Even the bravest knights have their moments" this made Preston sniffle.
Lucas let Preston go and looked him straight in the eyes "Listen to me, little brother, I don't know what will happen to us but I do know this. I'll die before I let anyone hurt my family, so long as I live you have nothing to fear, I promise." This didn't seem to help as Preston seemed to be on the verge of bawling "I don't want you to die either Lucas." Lucas was taken aback by this and didn't know how to respond "Preston, I..." "LUCAS!" Lucas' thoughts were interrupted when he heard someone shout his name from behind. It was his uncle Kiran. "Uncle what's the matter? You're needed on the walls now! There are Northern men approaching." Lucas stood up quickly "Northeners?" Kiran nodded "Yes, that's what I said, come on your father needs you." Lucas quickly turned to Preston "Find mother now, tell her what's happening and stay with her." Preston nodded and immediately ran to find their mother. Lucas then followed Kiran to the walls.
Lucas and Kirans made it atop the walls and saw Simon and Damien standing side by side, they were best friends after all, they were also in their armor, Lucas was in a hurry so he didn't get the chance to get in his. Damien spotted Lucas and Kiran, he then gestured for them to approach. "Good you found him, there's a situation" he gestured for Lucas to look at the men approaching and saw no more than twenty men carrying a white flag. "They mean to parley?" Lucas certainly didn't expect this, Kiran shook his head in disbelief "It must be a trick, they mean to draw us down and ambush us, imagine what a blow to morale it would be if they managed to kill the lord" Kiran had a point but Damien seemed to disagree "The Northeners are honorable people, most of them anyway. They wouldn't ambush us in a parley that they started" Simon then stepped in "I agree but it's certainly odd that they'd start with a parley before attacking." Lucas noticed the Forrester and Whitehill sigyls "Perhaps they truly desire peace, what if Ludd Whitehill's down there? I've known him since we were kids, I can't imagine he'd happily attack us, perhaps he proposed the parley?" Simon shook his head "No way. Thorren Forrester is a bloody warmonger, he'd never agree to make peace with us, even if the Whitehill's suggested another way." Simon reluctantly nodded "I'd have to agree, I don't believe Forrester would agree to such a plan." Damien then spoke up "Perhaps he isn't in charge."
"Look, trap or not we're going down there, Simon, Lucas and I. I can't ignore an offer of parley. Especially if Forrester is down there." Simon seemed confused "Why does it matter if Forrester is down there?" Damien looked his friend in the eyes "Because he has my daughter, I want to know how she is and if possible I wish to negotiate for her return." Lucas was surprised that he was coming but he certainly didn't object, he also wanted to get Elissa back, despite it being him who arranged the marriage. Though it seemed that Kiran did object "Is it wise to bring Lucas, brother? If things go bad, he's the only one of your heirs here." Damien seemed certain as he shook his head "I need my son by my side, especially since it'll show that we're not hiding, we can't let them spot a weakness. Besides Talia's a strong woman, even if things go bad she can hold the reins until the rest of my sons return." Kiran was about to argue further but then Simon stepped in and Kiran groaned, annoyed by Simon's interruption "How many men are we bringing, my lord?"
Damien answered immediately, he certainly was a quick thinker at times like this "No more than twenty, we need to show strength but we don't need anymore than that, I doubt there'll be a fight." Damien then looked to Lucas "Get your armor and sword, we go immediately." Lucas nodded "Yes father." But then Kiran spoke up again "At least leave Lucas here, Damien. You're putting him in danger when he can be of use here" Damien sighed "Doing what, Kiran? What could he possibly do that you can't?" Things seemed to get tense, Kiran was one of the few that would stand up to Damien, they were brothers but still, Damien wasn't very forgiving. "I'm still seen as the bastard castellan, Lucas is your son he can prepare the men should the worst happen." Damien glared at Kiran "Are you done?" Kiran reluctantly nodded then Damien turned to Lucas "If it'll satisfy Kiran, I'll leave it up to you my son, what shall it be?" Lucas was certain about what he wanted to do "I won't hide in the keep, I'm no coward!" Damien smiled "Exactly so." He said proudly when Kiran looked sternly at Lucas "Think about this, Lucas! You're needed alive, the people here respect you, if something happens we're lacking a leader until your brothers return. Our numbers are too small, if we're to survive, we need to use our heads."
Kiran had a point but Lucas hated the idea of staying back while his father was going into potential danger. Then again if Lucas goes down there and gets killed there won't be much to stop the Northerners from taking Summerspring except for what little loyal men they have and they'd have no one to rally them. But could he really let his father go into danger without him in good conscience?
[Stay behind] [Go with Damien] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Go with Damien')
Gregor finally came to his decision and he knew that Marcos would be angry about it. "We'll have a parley in the morning, make the necessary preparations." Marcos sighed and marched out out of the tent. Gregor moved to stop him but Eamon shook his head "You'd best give him time to calm down, you're not exactly his favorite person right now." Gregor had to agree as things between him and Marcos seemed to just get worse and worse. It probably didn't help that Gregor has hardly accepted any advice of his. Gregor sighed but he had to get it together and give out orders. "Eamon I want you to get everything we need ready." Eamon nodded "Of course but who will go with you?"
Gregor had to bring the most important people and who would be useful. "Everyone on the council firstly, that includes Marcos. We'll bring no more than 20 men, it's a parley, but we still need some kind of force behind us." Ludd decided to make a suggestion "A few of my men and the Warricks would be suitable, they're good in a fight and they're eager to prove themselves." Royland was visibly angered by this "It's incredibly foolish to bring the Warricks to a parley!" Ludd shook his head "Say what you will about them but they're loyal and even if Ammette tries something Bryce can keep him under control." Gregor refused to let another argument drag out "That's enough, the Warricks will do. Get it done Ludd." Ludd nodded and marched out of the tent. Gregor than looked to Royland "I want you to look after the scout, ensure he's treated well and find out what he knows, I want to know if he has any information about us, I need to know if he knows anything that could be useful to the Branfields." Royland looked at the scout and nodded "Of course."
Gregor than glared at his cousin Marcus "You! Come with me." Marcus seemed seemed surprised by Gregor's tone. Why? He didn't think Gregor would actually be happy to see him? Gregor marched out of the tent and Marcus followed him. They moved a good distance away from the camp and once again Gregor glared at Marcus "What are you doing here?" Marcus raised an eyebrow as if the answer should be obvious "I came here to help!" Gregor shook his head "You sure you have time to put off from seeking your fortune? Surely you don't have time for your family?" Gregor said bitterly and sarcastically. Marcus sighed "I see... you're angry with me." Gregor didn't answer but he was very much so. Marcus sighed "Look, just put your anger aside, I came to help." Gregor shook his head "No I don't want your help."
Marcus was trying to remain level headed but he was clearly getting annoyed "Let me get this straight, you're angry with me for 'abandoning our family for my own selfish desires' but now that I'm actually here you're too good for my help?" Gregor snapped at this "I'm having a hard time believing that you actually give a damn! I haven't seen you in years this isn't the first time that our family has had trouble to deal with since you left!" He shouted and Marcus sighed "I'm here now Gregor, are you so well off that you can afford to reject offers of help? I mean I saw the Warricks so clearly you're standards aren't too high--" Gregor than shoved him "Be careful cousin, you have no right to judge me!" Gregor quickly realized that this was getting out of hand and attempted to calm himself down as he sighed "Look, just... stay in the camp for now, I don't need you right now but maybe I'll change my mind." Marcus clearly was hoping for more but decided against pushing his luck "Alright." Without saying another word Gregor marched back to the camp, there were preparations to make and he couldn't think about Marcus right now.
It was broad daylight now and Gregor along with Eamon, Marcos, Ludd and the Warricks were situated a safe distance away from Summerspring keep but close enough that they could clearly see them. They were holding a white flag as a sign of parley and waited for the Branfields to approach. Gregor was visibly nervous and worried about how the Branfields would react especially if they catch onto the fact that this whole parley is a trick. Eamon attempted to reassure Gregor "Don't worry Gregor, the plan will work I know it." Marcos however did not seem as confident "This is stupid, we're finally meeting the enemy and we're not even fighting them! Not to mention that we're putting ourselves at a disadvantage." Gregor wanted to argue but Marcos had a point so he decided to keep focused "Just play along, we act like we're looking for a peaceful solution. We need to keep our heads." Eamon nodded "Hopefully both literally and figuratively." Bryce seemed troubled "We act like we want peace and then we plan to kill everyone one of them later anyway. It seems dishonorable." Eamon glared at Bryce "No offense but your family is the last who ones who should be talking about honor." Ammette groaned at this "Have we met before? You'd think so since everyone here hates us and acts like they know us." Eamon rolled his eyes and turned away from the Warricks
Gregor turned to Ludd "You're being awfully quiet. Is something troubling you?" Ludd sighed "I need to tell you something, especially since it'll probably come up." Gregor raised an eyebrow, this sounded serious. Ludd began to explain "I'm sure you've caught on that I know the Branfields, In fact I know them pretty well, almost my whole life in fact." Gregor leaned, forward "Seriously?!" Gregor couldn't believe this. Elissa knows the history between Houses Whitehill and Forrester, why would she not mention this? Ludd nodded, confirming what he just said, Gregor became concerned "Are you... close?" Ludd seemed hesitant "I mostly spent time with Lucas and Elissa. I didn't really know the rest very well. Look we don't have time to get into but I thought you should hear it from me." Gregor sighed "I appreciate it."
Ammette interrupted "Hey, eyes forward, they're coming!" Gregor looked forward and saw that Ammette was right. He saw Damien Branfield and Lucas Branfield, a man Gregor had never met beside them and a small force behind them. Gregor met Lucas and Damien while arranging the marriage between Elissa and Gregor, though Gregor couldn't say that he knew them well.
Eamon whispered as the Branfields approached "Where's Royland with that scout?" Gregor whispered in response "Hanging back waiting for my signal to approach." Gregor stood up straight as the Branfields were now close enough to exchange words but not too close for obvious. Damien Branfield's presence made Gregor nervous, he commanded authority with his mere presence, similarly to Gregor's father. Damien looked directly at Gregor as if ignoring his companions "I was expecting your father." Gregor had to remember to appear strong and capable, he couldn't show any signs of weakness. "My father is needed elsewhere but your family can't be ignored any longer, I lead these men in his place." Damien glanced at Gregor's companions "I see, I'm surprised you are leading them, to be honest." Ammette smirked "The old man is trying to appear in control, but he knows he's outmatched, I can tell." The man next to Damien seemed agitated by Ammette's claims "You'd best be silent, your betters are talking." Damien glared at the man "That's enough Simon, we aren't here to fight." Marcos scoffed "For now..." Lucas then spoke "Your men seem on edge Gregor..." Gregor attempted to explain but Marcos cut him off "It's as simple as this, this parley is pointless, we all know we'll reach no compromise and--" Gregor then barked "Enough, Marcos! You are here only because I allow it, you'd best learn to follow orders." Marcos sighed but relented "of course..."
Gregor then looked directly at Damien "I shall speak plainly, you need to bend the knee and end this before it even begins." Gregor knew they wouldn't do it but this was all just a ruse. "And before you say anything I should say that we've captured one of your scouts." Lucas was noticeably concerned about the revelation and he seemed to be suffering a glare from the man Damien called Simon. Gregor then attempted to reassure them "Do not be alarmed, he has not been harmed." Damien glanced towards Simon and Lucas and they placed their hands on their swords. Clearly preparing for an ambush. "Hand him over then" Gregor nodded and slowly raised his hand and made a fist, signalling Royland to approach.
Royland then appeared from a distance slowly approaching with the scout. Gregor hadn't noted the young man's appearance before, he had Brown eyes, short light Brown hair and a bit of stubble. He appeared visibly angry as Royland roughly shoved him forward. "Get the fuck off me!" The scout growled and struggled but Royland had a good grip on him, he wasn't going anywhere. Ammette chuckled "I love the feisty ones!" Once the scout was visible Simon was visibly agitated "That's Owen Cerrick! He's a good man, my Lord and very loyal." Lucas attempted to reassure him "He'll get out of this alive Simon, I promise." Simon reacted angrily "You're the reason he's in danger in the first place!" Damien then shouted "Enough! We didn't come here to bicker!" He then turned to Gregor "You and I both know that I'll never bend the knee. Don't waste our time, hand him over!" Gregor turned to Royland and whispered "What does he know?" Royland shook his head "He refuses to say which seems to indicate that he knows something"
This was a tricky situation. If Gregor handed him over this easily he'd appear weak and out of control, his men already distrust him enough. He could attempt to stall for longer but was that wise? Perhaps he should outright refuse to hand over the scout. That could put Gregor back in control and any information the scout may have is kept from the Branfields grasp. There were two things Gregor had to avoid, losing even more respect from his men and this parley breaking out into a fight.
[Stall handing over the scout] [Hand over the scout] [Refuse to hand over the scout] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Refuse to hand over the scout')
It wouldn't be easy to achieve such a goal going behind Nesa's back, and how could they expect Nesa to trust them if they didn't trust her? "We should let her in on the plan, maybe she'll refuse but we can't go behind her back." Samuel crossed his arms "Very well, we'll tell her what you want to do and then we'll see if we can go through this insane plan of Davith's." Dusty smirked "Drama over with? Good, let's get on with it." Samuel sighed but led the way towards the inn. Samuel did have a point, this plan was incredibly risky but they had to try, it was the right thing to do."
They had arrived at the inn and looked around, Malcolm was trying to spot Nesa but he spotted something unexpected. There were a group of men scattered around the inn. Malcolm looked to Samuel and Samuel nodded, signaling that he noticed. "Five men, well armed, clearly they're together. One talking to the innkeeper, two questioning the drunks around the room, two more just went upstairs, I'm guessing they're searching the rooms." Samuel always had an eye for detail "What are they searching for?" Dusty entered the conversation "Whatever they're looking for, they're expecting a fight." He pointed out and Samuel raised an eyebrow "How could you know such a thing?" Dusty smirked in response "I'm a people person." Samuel sighed before looking back at the suspicious group of men "Shit... those are Trant men, see the colours?" Malcolm widened his eyes "What? Why are they here?" Samuel turned around signalling Malcolm and Dusty to do the same and he whispered "I'm willing to bet that they're looking for us, well me and Malcolm, I doubt they even know you exist, Dusty." Dusty glared at Samuel "Appreciate the honesty, Samuel." He said sarcastically.
Malcolm sighed "So what do we do? How do we find Nesa and avoid these guys?" Samuel sighed "Just try to blend in and wait for them to leave, that's the best we can do." "HEY! Samuel Branfield!" They heard one of the men shout behind them "Well scratch that plan." Samuel said as he slowly turned around "You've heard of me? Didn't realize I was famous around here." Malcolm and Dusty reached for their swords but didn't draw them, Malcolm was just preparing for the worst, knowing Samuel he'd try to avoid bloodshed, he never went looking for a fight.
The aggressive man wasn't amused "Don't play games Branfield, your family has picked the wrong side in this war and you'll pay for it, you and your whole family will hang!" Samuel smirked "I think you'll find that won't be the case we're rather infamous for fighting to the death. Let's not fight, just leave, pretend you never saw me and no one dies." Samuel slowly approached and the man yelled "Stop!" And Samuel immediately stopped in his steps. Dusty growled "Screw these guys, we can take them!" As Dusty said this, the rest of the Trant men approached, including the ones from upstairs, and drew their swords. Malcolm & Dusty did the same. They had five men to contend with, they were outnumbered by two but Malcolm was confident that they could take them. Malcolm heard gasps and whispers from the men and women around the inn, clearly fearing a battle.
The man that appeared to be in charge took a step forward "You want to avoid bloodshed? Then listen to this, you come with us, without a fight and we let your companions go." Why would he let them go? Did he not know who Malcolm was? Samuel looked as if he was actually considered the offer. He nodded "Very well, I accept your offer." Malcolm wouldn't allow this "Samuel, no!" Samuel glared at his brother "Be quite!" Malcolm intended to ignore the order and was about to charge forward but Dusty pulled him back and whispered "Just watch, I think he has a plan." Malcolm reluctantly nodded and waited to see what Samuel intended.
The Trant leader eyed Samuel suspiciously "Drop your sword first, then kick it over here." Samuel sighed but did as he was told, he drew his sword, then dropped it and kicked it towards the Trant men. The leader smiled "I must admit I'm surprised but I applaud your willingness to sacrifice yourself for your companions, they chose a good leader." As the leader approached Malcolm got a good look at him, he had short dark hair, brown eyes and he was a rather slender man. As the leader got close to Samuel, he smirked and chuckled. The leader glared at him "Is something funny?" Samuel looked him directly in the eyes "You really should have found out who you were dealing with before coming here. A Branfield is never truly unarmed." The leader looked alarmed and he looked as if he was about to shout an order but Samuel was too quick. He had pulled out a dagger he had hidden in his boot and stabbed him in the eye, the man screamed in agony as he dropped to the ground, the men and women in the inn began screaming and ran out of the inn in fear, then Samuel shouted "In Arms to the End!" Taking that as an order to attack Malcolm charged forward and Dusty did the same. With the leader down they only had to deal with four men, still outnumbered by one man. Malcolm went on the offensive against a single man, striking again and again but he managed to parry his strikes fairly well, these men were trained well.
Malcolm saw over his enemies soldier that Samuel had picked up the fallen leaders sword and charged against another man while Dusty took on the two other men on the two other men on his own. Malcolm too concerned about Samuel and Dusty, was hit with a headbutt sending him off balance. His opponent seeming ready to attack and Malcolm smirked "No fair! I was distracted." His opponent spat at him "Piss on your excuses, you'll die here today!" Malcolm needed to focus, these men were no pushovers. He prepared a stance and smirked "Come kill me then." The man angrily charged at Malcolm and Malcolm kicked a nearby chair towards him to slow him down, it worked and the man didn't have enough room to charge again however he kept on the offensive and Malcolm kept on the defensive, doing his best to parry his strikes. The man was striking more angrily, and it kept Malcolm on the defensive, this infuriated Malcolm, he wanted to hit him back but he wouldn't let up. Malcolm felt a table behind him and realized he'd soon be cornered if he didn't move, Malcolm quickly turned around and climbed over the table and as he turned around he saw the man climb on top of the table to pursue Malcolm Malcolm spotted a vulnerability, with him standing on the table he couldn't defend his legs. Malcolm swung at the man's right leg and he screamed as he was brought down to his knees, Malcolm then followed by piercing his sword right through the man's throat, he fell ans choked on his own blood. Disgusted by the sight Malcolm didn't hear Dusty yelling his name right away. "Malcolm!" He heard that one and he looked towards him he had downed one of his opponents but was tired and backed against the wall, but that wasn't the problem. Dusty was trying to get to Samuel but couldn't with his own opponent attacking him. Malcolm turned and saw Samuel seriously struggling with his fight, he was never a good fighter and that was when Samuel was disarmed, he needed help desperately. Malcolm ran forward to help Samuel but he was all the way across the room. That was when Samuel fell and his opponent was swinging down his blade for one final strike. Samuel was too far away and Malcolm couldn't reach him. "Samuel, no!" Malcolm screamed his brother's name and desperately commanded no as if that would somehow stop the man's blade from ending his brother. It couldn't end like this! It wasn't fair! The mans blade swung down but he suddenly stopped and clawed at his neck. He was choking? That was when Malcolm realized there was a whip around his neck! That was when he fell backwards and he saw a familiar face plunge a sword into his chest.
Malcolm saw the whip, the copper skin then the light leather armor and medium height, he was looking at Nesa Vynen. As Malcolm got closer to help Samuel onto his feet he got a better look at her and saw her light brown eyes, then her short black hair and athletic build. Despite her intimidating presence she was a remarkably beautiful woman, despite the scar on her right cheek.
Malcolm quickly turned to see if Dusty needed help, it didn't look that way. He was covered in blood but he had managed to knock his opponent backwards then grabbed him by the hair and then repeatedly smashed his head onto a nearby table until parts of his brains had fallen out of his head, it was a disturbing sight. Dusty turned and gave a relied smile "Good, you're both alive!" Malcolm couldn't understand Dusty, he seemed unstable and bloodthirsty but at the same time he was so loyal. Malcolm turned and saw Nesa glaring as she sheathed her sword and whip. "I see you've made some new friends, Malcolm." Samuel then stepped forward with a smirk "Actually I'm his brother, appreciate the save miss...?" Samuel asked awaiting her name as he held out his hand waiting for her to shake it but she simply glared at it "Nesa..." she clarified.
Nesa then turned to Malcolm "What are you doing here Malcolm?" Malcolm sighed "We actually came here looking for you." Nesa then eyed the group suspiciously "Who told you I was here?" Samuel attempted to speak "It was--" but then Nesa raised her hand aggressively "Quite! I'm talking to your brother, not you." Samuel looked visibly annoyed and Dusty had a huge grin on his face, clearly amused. Malcolm sighed "It was Tom Wolfson, he sent us to help you." Nesa looked surprised as well as skeptical "You've allied yourself with Tom Wolfson?" Malcolm nodded "It's complicated, favor for a favor, kind of thing. We need him and his men to help us, our family is in danger and he promised he'd help if we helped you kill whoever's been giving him trouble." Nesa sighed "This makes things complicated but before we continue we need to deal with the one you left alive." Dusty scoffed "We killed all of them!" Nesa shook her head and pointed towards the man that Samuel stabbed in the eye "That one there's still alive, barely." Malcolm was impressed "Tough bastard..." Samuel scoffed "He lasted two seconds!" Dusty shrugged "Just leave him, his wounds will take him soon enough." Malcolm shook his head "That's not necessary, we can save him." Samuel sighed "That's a bad idea, Malcolm. We can't trust him and besides that we couldn't save him if we wanted to." Malcolm wasn't having this "It's not about trust, we shouldn't just let him die! The innkeeper knows some stuff about healing, he could look after him and we'll tie him up until we can let him go. He's probably upstairs, he's a coward but he wouldn't abandon his inn." Samuel sighed "Fine, I'll take him upstairs, at the very least he'll have useful information." Samuel picked the man up and carried him upstairs.
Malcolm then turned back to Nesa "Anyway, Tom sent us to help you." Nesa crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes "You're here to help me kill a man you don't even know? I thought the great Ser Malcolm was above such things?" Malcolm sighed "That's the thing I was hoping we wouldn't kill him." Nesa smirked "I doubt Tom would approve of such a thing." Malcolm nodded "Yeah, he wouldn't. I was hoping we could convince this guy to back off and then tell Tom that we killed him." Nesa widened her eyes "You mean trick him? You're asking me to betray Tom Wolfson?" She shook her head "No way. It's too risky he'd kill me if he found out." An expected reaction, Malcolm doubted she'd easily accept such a plan, he needed to convince her. "He won't find out. My brother's smart, Tom will believe him." Nesa paced around the room, clearly she was conflicted "If I'm even willing to accept such a plan and put myself at risk, I need some kind of reward." Dusty chuckled "There we go, everybody likes gold!" Nesa nodded "Exactly. You'll pay Tom Wolfson, but set aside some of that gold for me." Malcolm nodded "Done. We have a deal."
Samuel came back downstairs "I still think this is a bad idea." Nesa sighed as Samuel spoke, it appeared that she already didn't like him. Malcolm sighed "It's at least worth a shot Samuel, we don't even know this guy we're supposed to murder." Dusty stepped forward "Enough! Let's just get this over with!" Nesa clapped her hands together "Couldn't agree more, Malcolm you're coming with me, your brother and your psycho can clean up this mess." She gestured towards the bodies. Dusty seemed angered by the psycho comment and Samuel seemed like he was about to protest but before anyone could say anything Nesa dragged Malcolm outside.
Nesa took the lead "Keep up, I recently found where this guy lives and I believe he knows I'm coming." Malcolm narrowed his eyes but followed "What makes you say that?" Nesa explained "I managed to track him back to this shack out in the woods, I saw him and I'm pretty sure he saw me, he hasn't left the shack since then, I think he's waiting for me." Malcolm didn't like that. "Hold on, so we're willingly walking into an ambush?" Nesa scoffed "Of course not. I have a plan and it works for your foolish sense of morality. You're going to go and talk to him and I'll remain at a distance, he'll probably attack me on sight but I doubt he'd attack you, a total stranger." Malcolm wasn't sure he liked the idea of being bait, but it gave him a chance to strike a deal with the man so it was better than nothing."
Malcolm wasn't sure why only he and Nesa were going "Why did you want to leave Samuel and Dusty?" Nesa shook her head as if the answer should be obvious "Because we don't need them, I don't know them and I don't trust them." Malcolm smirked "Does that mean you trust me?" Nesa let loose a chuckle "I don't trust anyone, but I know you. Something's better than nothing." He wasn't surprised that she didn't trust him but Malcolm frowned at her "Sounds pretty lonely to me." Nesa didn't let Malcolm see any emotional reaction on her face "Never said it wasn't" Malcolm wasn't sure what it was but he found Nesa interesting and wanted to know more about her. Maybe if he kept at it he could get her to lighten up to him.
After walking for quite a while they had reached the woods "It shouldn't be much farther now." Nesa clarified. Malcolm was relieved to get this over with but also a little nervous to meet this man. That was when Malcolm remembered that Nesa wasn't working with Wolfson anymore last they met so he got curious "Why are you working with Wolfson again? Last time we met he didn't seem like your favorite person. If I remember correctly you said you were sick of him because he's an annoying psycho with a power fetish." Malcolm smirked and Nesa sighed "He still is, but it turns out that Tom doesn't like when people leave. He kept sending people after me and it became difficult to avoid them. It became clear to me that once you ally with him you're either forever an ally or a dead enemy. I like living." Malcolm chuckled "So do I. I knew we had something in common." Nesa sighed but Malcolm thought he caught the hint of a smirk. Suddenly he got serious "Maybe you don't have to worry about Wolfson." Nesa suddenly stopped and glared at Malcolm "What do you mean?" Malcolm shrugged "Maybe you could stay with us. Once the war is over, we could protect you from him." Nesa narrowed her eyes "I don't need a bodyguard, Malcolm." That was certainly true "How about a friend?" Nesa didn't respond to his question and turned around "Keep moving." Malcolm followed but he thought he saw her frown.
Nesa finally stopped and pointed forward "That's it there." Malcolm nodded as he saw the shack, it looked old and ugly, not much like a home. "Let's go over the plan one more time." Nesa nodded in agreement "It's a pretty simple but no doubt effective plan. You're simply going to walk up to that shack and talk to him, try to work out a deal with him, I doubt he'll attack you but if he does don't worry, I'll be there." Malcolm nodded "So what will you be doing?" Nesa took a quick glance around the area "I'm going to remain out of sight, try to circle around and sneak up on him. That's when you signal me to attack if you can't reach a deal with him." It seemed all well and good but there was one thing Malcolm was unclear about "What's the signal?" Nesa glared at Malcolm "I was thinking we could go with... attack." Malcolm glared back "It seems a little too obvious." Nesa groaned "Then say you've always loved lemon cakes, it doesn't matter!" Malcolm held up his hands in surrender "Okay, okay! I'm going." Nesa sighed as Malcolm made his way towards the shack.
As Malcolm approached he noticed a total of six graves lined up by the shack, perhaps he had a family? Malcolm stopped in front of the shack with his sword sheathed, trying his best not to appear threatening. He was unsure how to handle this. Should he just walk up and knock or call out? Before he could decide the door in front of him slammed open and Malcolm saw a large broad shouldered men with a bow aimed straight at Malcolm. He had long dark hair, blue eyes and a thick beard, he also had several scars along his face and he seemed older. Around his father's age, at least fourty.
The man glared at Malcolm and seemed angry "You're not one of Tom Wolfson's men." He stated as if Malcolm didn't already know that. Malcolm shook his head "No I'm not, but I know that you've been harassing him and his men, why?" The man seemed agitated by what Malcolm said "So he sent you here!?" Malcolm got nervous and tried to quickly explain himself "Listen! I'm not looking for a fight! My name is Malcolm Branfield, mind telling me yours?" He seemed hesitant to answer but complied "My name is Lorgan" he still had his arrow trained on Malcolm but this was a good start. "Tom.Wolfson doesn't seem to know why you're attacking him, what's your issue with him?" Lorgan growled "The man is scum and deserves to suffer! I also made a promise, more than that you need not know."
Malcolm sighed "Look I need Tom Wolfson's help, he won't do that unless I stop you." Lorgan narrowed his eyes "You're here to kill me then?" Malcolm shook his head "I'm hoping that I won't have to. I'm hoping that I can convince you to leave him alone." Lorgan shook his head "Not a chance!" Malcolm sighed and took a step forward "Look whatever--" suddenly an arrow was shot in front of Malcolm's feet. Clearly a warning not to take another step. Malcolm looked up and Lorgan already had another arrow ready "Next one goes in the knee."
Malcolm nodded, understanding his warning "Whatever Tom has done to you, maybe he has a chance to fight for a good cause. He can change." Lorgan laughed "Change? People don't change! I don't believe in redemption Malcolm, I believe there are good people and bad people and if the gods won't make Tom Wolfson suffer then I'll do it myself!" Malcolm was running out of ideas, there had to be some way to convince him. Perhaps he could appeal to his sense of family, those graves must belong to someone important to him. "Are you a family man, Lorgan?" Lorgan glared at him "What does that matter?" Malcolm looked at him directly in the eyes "It's all that matters, my family's in grave danger and I can't save them without Wolfson's help."
Lorgan expression seemed to have softened "That's why you're working with Tom? To save your family?" Malcolm nodded "We're stuck in a war we can't get out of. My mother, my father, my two older brothers and then my two younger brothers. Preston, he's the youngest, he's only ten years old and I'm afraid that I'm going to lose him and the rest of my family without Tom Wolfson's help! Please I can't lose them." Malcolm pleaded and Lorgan lowered his bow, he was getting through to him! That was when Malcolm spotted Nesa behind Lorgan, hiding in his shack. Clearly she was waiting for Malcolm's signal.
Lorgan stepped forward "Let me offer you this, Malcolm. I can't let Wolfson go, he needs to pay for what he's done, but I'm willing to wait." Wait? What does that mean? "I'm sorry, I don't understand." Lorgan was vulnerable now, his arrow was separated from the bow. "I'll let Tom Wolfson fight your war... for a time, at some point, I'm going to strike and give him what he deserves." That wasn't what Malcolm was hoping for "I was hoping on getting you to back off completely." Lorgan shook his head "Not possible, I can't let Tom walk away." This made things complicated. Malcolm didn't want to kill this man but was it truly wise to spare him now? This would mean using and deceiving Tom, knowing that at some point Lorgan would attack him. Could Malcolm truly take this deal now in good conscience?
Malcolm frowned "You don't have to hurt him, just let Wolfson go!" Lorgan sighed and shook his head "Like I said, I don't believe in redemption. I believe there are good and bad people. Which are you?"
[Signal Nesa to attack] [Accept Lorgan's deal] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Accept Lorgan's deal')
It didn't seem like this parley was going over well, Gregor's men seemed on edge and ready for a fight, it didn't help that Simon was angry as well after Gregor revealed they had captured one of their scouts, Owen Cerrick. Though Lucas was still convinced that Gregor was a good man and he waited for him to agree to hand Owen over. Unexpectedly Gregor shook his head "You are not in charge here Lord Branfield." What was Gregor doing? Lucas' father wasn't one to take lightly. Damien glared at Gregor "What is that supposed to mean?" Gregor sighed "To put it bluntly, the scout stays with us, you can't have him." Simon snapped at this "Then why even bring him here? Owen's a good lad just following orders, give him back!"
Things were getting out of hand and this time Damien didn't calm Simon down. "You've got some nerve, Forrester, you come to my home and propose a parley, reveal that you've taken one of my men and now you refuse to give him back!?" Damien was furious and Lucas had to agree, this was outrageous and he thought better of Gregor. Now Lucas spoke up "What exactly do you hope to accomplish by doing this? If you knew anything about us than you'd know that we'd do anything for our own." Damien nodded in agreement "In Arms to the End." Then Simon and Lucas repeated "In Arms to the End."
Gregor showed no signs of wavering as he stood his ground "Fact of the matter is that we're not here to negotiate, we came to demand that you bend the knee, you've no hope of winning this war and I assumed you'd have enough sense to save your family." The Trant Knight seemed pleased with Gregor's sudden attitude, Ludd seemed surprised however. Lucas looked to Ludd hoping that they're former friendship still meant something to him "Ludd, you can't seriously support this, you must know that this is wrong!" Ludd reluctantly shook his head "It's out of my hands Lucas, I'm sorry." Lucas felt like he had a terrible taste in his mouth, why he ever considered Gregor a good man was beyond him now."
Lucas sighed "I thought you were a good man, in the short time I knew you I felt that you were honorable" the Trant knight scoffed "Way I see it, the boy just finally grew some sense, we're enemies, that isn't changing and we didn't come here to make friends." Damien growled "I won't forget this, boy! You're actions here today are despicable especially from someone who claims to be an honorable man." Gregor seemed to be affected by Damien's words but he showed no signs of changing his mind. Damien continued "And what of my daughter? Will you return her to where she belongs or are you determined to anger me?"
Gregor shook his head "I wouldn't bring Elissa here even if wanted to, we're at war. It isn't safe here and I'd rather she not witness the deaths of her family." Lucas scoffed "Don't expect us go down that easily." Damien sighed "You'd best leave boy, as much as I'm itching for a fight, I won't attack you during a parley but know this Forrester, next time we meet we'll be enemies and there will be no more talking." Gregor nodded "That's how things must be. I expect my word doesn't mean much to you but I swear that I'll treat Elissa as she deserves, she's my wife and I'll respect her."
Damien didn't seem reassured, in fact he looked like he felt insulted. "Get the fuck out of my sight." He spat. Gregor nodded "Until next time then." Gregor looked to his men "We're done here." Gregor and his men turned to leave, however the blonde Northener with the sadistic smile hesitated before looking at Simon "Simon Oakheart, is it?" Simon glared at him "What's it to you?" The man simply smirked and didn't answer as he followed Gregor. That was an odd exchange "Do you know each other?" Lucas asked and Simon shook his head "Never seen him before in my life." That exchange certainly could've gone better, the parley ended with each side on bad terms and the Branfields gained exactly nothing. Lucas looked to Damien "Father, what should we do?" Damien was clearly very angry as he looked to Simon "Prepare the Small Council immediately." He ordered without saying another word and headed back to the keep.
The Small Council had gathered. Lucas and Damien had waited at the table until Simon returned with Maester Nathaniel, and Kiran. Damien sighed "We need to prepare for the worst, Gregor didn't mince words, they're going to attack and I don't imagine it'll be long before they do." Simon nodded "I've already filled the others in on the situation my Lord." Kiran nodded confirming what Simon said "The way you've described this surprises me. I thought you said Gregor was a good man?" He said as he looked towards Lucas. Lucas shook his head "He was! It's the only reason I insisted on the betrohel." Simon seemed angry "Whatever kind of man you thought he was, he's proven to be no better than his father!"
Damien shook his head "That's enough!" Everyone was now silent as they looked to their Lord, Damien always commanded a presence. "Whether Lucas misjudged the Forrester doesn't matter. He is here for our heads, what kind of man he is, is irrelevant. Kiran nodded "My brother is right, we need to discuss preparations for the coming siege because make no mistake there will be a siege." Maester Nathaniel sighed but didn't say anything which resulted in a glare from Damien. "If you have something to say, Maester then say it. You're not on my council to give disapproving sighs.
This resulted in a slight smirk from Kiran and the Maester glared at him before answering Damien. "This all just seems unnecessary. We can avoid all of this bloodshed if we simply bent the knee." This seemed to becoming a recurring argument at Summerspring. Simon scoffed "Of course you'd say that! Do you hate the Targaryens so much that you'd see House Branfield destroy what it is?" Simon brought up an interesting point that effectively made the council members question the Maester's loyalties. Nathaniel's House was destroyed for defying the Targaryen's so he does have hate towards them. "I'm a Maester, the past has nothing to do with this! I admit that I still hold anger towards the Targaryens but that has nothing to do with this! I'm saying this because I don't want to see this House destroyed as mine was!" The Maester snapped at Simon. Before Simon could respond Damien silenced them both "Shut the fuck up!" He shouted as he slammed his fist on the table.
"You!" Damien pointed at Simon angrily "You are my most trusted friend and advisor, but you're here to advise me, not to bicker with every man you disagree with." Simon frowned, he looked ashamed "Of course, my Lord. It won't happen again." Damien nodded then glared at Maester Nathaniel "We've had this discussion time and again. We're not having it anymore. I'll die before I bend the knee." Nathaniel frowned "That's my fear." This caused Lucas to frown as well, but Damien was intent on ending this discussion "Enough, Maester! We will not throw away who we are to save ourselves!" The Maester seemed to get angry "Will you let your children die for your pride!? Your children? Your wife?"
Kiran tried to calm things down "Nathaniel, that's enough!" But Nathaniel wasn't listening "Your youngest son is only ten years old and he will die if you continue down this path and you'll have no one to blame but yourself--" suddenly Damien punched Nathaniel in the face and he fell from his chair. "Get the fuck out." Damien commanded. Nathaniel stood up and defiantly pointed at Damien "You know I'm right." And then he marched out of the room. That was unnecessary, despite his past Nathaniel has always been loyal despite what happened to his House and he's honest, always speaks his mind. Lucas wanted to say something "Father, I--" Kiran stared at Lucas, letting him know to let it go "He'll get over it."
Quickly moving on before things got awkward Damien looked to Simon "How many men do we have?" Simon sighed "Only around three hundred, not enough." Damien shook his head as he reassured them. "My sons will be back to make up the numbers." Kiran didn't seem convinced "Even so, we can't rely on them. We need to plan what to do until they get here." Simon stepped in "Well firstly we should try to get Owen back." Kiran shook his head at the mention of the scout "That isn't possible, Simon. Also we can't unnecessarily risk our men to save one Scout." Simon looked as if he wanted to argue this but Kiran had a point, it was too risky.
Simon sighed "I hate to admit it but you're right." Damien seemed troubled "So we can't bring the fight to them, what do we do? Nothing?" Simon shook his head "No, I prepare our forces as much as possible and sort out a formidable defense. Secure the main gate, get archers atop the wall..." Kiran sighed "So unfortunately there's not much we can do." Lucas hated this, knowing there was an enemy and that they're not far but unable to do anything about it. He hated waiting. "Surely there's something more we can do. I can't just sit around and do nothing." Damien glared at Lucas "Perhaps you could get back to training." Lucas glared in return, Damien was clearly making a remark about Lucas not training anymore. "Are we done?" He asked bluntly and Damien reluctantly nodded "For now. Simon, brother, get to work." Taking that as permission Lucas marched out of the room. Lucas had to find something to do. He found himself stuck with nothing to do. Perhaps he could take his father's suggestion and try to force himself to get back into training, you can never be too good in a fight. But Lucas just didn't see the point anymore, and he still wasn't ready to talk about it. Lucas remembered Maester Nathaniel's dramatic exit from the small council meeting, he tended to be bitter and could be holding a grudge against Damien, it might be good to talk to him and calm him down. Though Lucas was getting pretty stressed lately, Samuel always said Lucas needed to relax more, try to enjoy himself for a bit. Samuel usually spent his time among the Smallfolk, perhaps Lucas should do that. A break could be nice. Though it didn't feel like something Lucas would do, especially now. He was always so focused on the goal and working, but maybe that was the problem.
[Try to get back into training] [Talk to Maester Nathaniel] [Take a break among the Smallfolk] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Talk to Maester Nathaniel')
Gregor, Eamon, Ludd and the Warricks were heading back to the camp and it was extremely quiet. Gregor was in disbelief of the way he acted at the parley. He felt that the right thing to do was to just hand over the scout and yet he didn't do it. And only because he feared losing the men's respect and appearing to be weak. Gregor was concerned about how his men saw him now. Marcos was clearly pleased but he wasn't sure about Eamon and Ludd.
Gregor decided to find out himself. He approached Eamon "How do you feel about that?" Eamon raised an eyebrow "About what?" Gregor sighed, there's no way Eamon was stupid enough not to know what he was talking about. "About what just happened. What I did and how I acted." Eamon nodded to acknowledge that he understood "Admittedly I was surprised, the Branfields clearly didn't appreciate it but honestly, I approve" Gregor felt relieved to hear that, it was good to know that someone approved. Eamon smirked "It's bothering you that much, huh? There's a time and a place for morality and honor. War isn't one if them. Handing over that scout would've been foolish. Maybe it'd gain your enemy's respect but they're all going to die anyway and we'd have been handing them an advantage." Gregor nodded, he understood but wasn't sure if he agreed, honor has always been important to him, but maybe Eamon was right and war wasn't the right time for honor. "I appreciate it, Eamon." Eamon nodded "You did good, Gregor. Don't forget that. Keep doing what you're doing and maybe you'll even win over Marcos." Gregor laughed "I don't know about that but it won't hurt to try." Gregor then turned to Ludd, if Marcos and Eamon approved maybe Ludd felt the same way.
Gregor smiled as he approached Ludd "Ludd!" Ludd turned and seemed distant "Need something Gregor?" Gregor was surprised by the attitude but shrugged "I just wanted to see if you had any thoughts about what happened back there." Ludd shook his head "Your father would be proud." Gregor normally would've felt honored to hear that but Ludd's tone suggested that it wasn't intended it as a compliment. "Come on, Ludd. That's not fair." Ludd raised his voice "What do you want me to say, Gregor? I didn't like it. It might've been the smart move and it definitely made sure we were in control, but I've known Lucas a long time, Gregor. Doing that to him and his family... it felt wrong." Gregor sighed "I didn't like it either but we're at war, we'll be fighting those men soon." Ludd nodded "And killing them will probably feel even worse, I know but it still doesn't sit right with me." Gregor didn't know what to say, he knew that he'd disappointed Ludd but it still felt more beneficial to do things this way and he hated that Ludd didn't agree. Ludd sighed and put his hand on Gregor's shoulder "Look, don't worry about it. You may have done something I disagree with but I still think you're a good man. I just think it's important that you stay a good man." Gregor nodded, he understood what he meant, this war wouldn't last forever. Eventually Gregor would be going home, assuming he survived this. "I get it, I'll try to keep that in mind." Ludd smiled "Good, you're a good man, Gregor. I know that but I think the stress of command is getting to you. I think it always does to truly good men, they find themselves struggling between being a good commander and being a good person. You need to decide which is more important to you."
Before their conversation could continue Gregor saw Larion running towards them and Ludd turned to address him "Ser Larion, you were supposed to be with us at the parley. What happened?" Larion breathed heavily, he did just run over here and he was an older man "Apologies my Lord, but something came up and I thought it best that I stay behind to keep order. Walter Whitehill's just arrived." Marcos stepped into the conversation "It's about damn, time. That means we can get the siege underway." Marcos was clearly pleased that Walter had arrived but Larion seemed concerned "what happened Ser Larion?" Gregor asked. Larion looked at Gregor but didn't respond, clearly he still wasn't fond of Gregor. Ludd groaned "Out with it, Larion! What happened?" Larion nodded "Walter and his troops have somehow gotten a group of Forrester men riled up, I expect there will be a fight soon if we don't put an end to it." Gregor sighed "Come on! We better get in there." Gregor then ran forward with Ludd following close behind.
Gregor alongside Ludd returned to camp and just as Larion said there were Whitehill men and Forrester men clearly arguing and appeared very angry. Ludd pointed towards the tall muscular man with short golden hair, green eyes and a short trimmed beard. "That's him! That's my brother, Walter." Gregor looked closely and saw that the man had the Whitehill sigil on his breastplate. He was definitely Walter Whitehill. Gregor took another look and saw his cousin Marcus at the head of the Forrester men with a short but bulky Forrester soldier beside him that had black eyes short black hair, a short mustache and a pointy goatee. No more than two days he's been here and he's already started another bloody brawl. "I don't fucking believe this." Gregor spat as he ran into the fray.
As Gregor got closer he could hear Walter speaking to Marcus. "We'll never be friends, Forrester, but we don't have to be enemies. Have these men stand down." The short man spat "Fuck that, we heard you and your men spouting shit about us not being trustworthy." Walter chuckled "You overhear some whispers among my men and take that as a personal insult? It is nothing personal, our House has lost a great deal after the battle at the River Valley, so there's some understandable sore spots." Marcus laughed as he stepped forward "We took back what was rightfully ours after your House took it from us. You only have yourselves to blame for any losses you suffered." Walter appeared to be slightly angered by Marcus' words but Gregor could tell Walter was trying to remain calm.
"You need to back off" Walter warned Marcus. Cleary what happened at the River Valley was a sore spot for Walter. However the short Forrester seemed to have taken that as a threat and he reacted by punching Walter in the face. "Hey, that's enough!" Gregor shouted as he rushed between them. Walter smirked as he wiped blood from his mouth "Just in time, Forrester." Ludd then marched forward towards the short soldier "I should kill you, dwarf!" He growled and in response the soldier gave Ludd a headbutt. Ludd was about to draw his sword but Gregor quickly stepped in between "Ludd, there's no need for that! I'll deal with this." Ludd seemed like he was about to argue but Walter stepped in "It's fine, Ludd. Just let it be." Ludd calmed down but pointed at Gregor "You better deal with this!" Before he marched off with Walter.
Gregor sighed, just when he felt like he was back in control something goes wrong. Gregor glared at his cousin "YOU! I'll deal with you later, don't start anymore trouble." Marcus offered no reaction. Gregor then turned to the short soldier "Come with me." He commanded as he marched away from Marcus and the soldier followed him.
"What's your name?" Gregor asked him "Braedon Snow, M'lord." He said. Gregor sighed "If Ludd was in command here and not me you'd be a dead man. Maybe you'd just lose a hand if he was merciful. Why would you do what you did?" Brandon smirked "What can I say, M'lord? Hitting people I'm not supposed to hit helps me feel alive." Gregor raised his voice "I'm NOT in a joking mood, Snow!" Braedon lost the smirk and nodded "Apologies, M'lord, it won't happen again." Gregor nodded "It better not, I might not be able to save you next time." Braedon nodded "Of course m'lord, I wouldn't want to put you in a difficult position." Gregor sighed "Listen, of course I would try to save you but I'm not popular with these people. There's only so much that they'll tolerate from me." Braedon sighed "Maybe I acted rashly but I heard them talking about you and your father and it set me off." They were talking about Thorren? Gregor didn't like that, Thorren's name was normally brought up in a negative light. "What did they say?" He asked and Braedon shrugged "I didn't hear the whole thing. I heard 'weren't trustworthy' and that you could be just as bad as your father." Gregor was disappointed but he wasn't surprised, the Forresters and Whitehills have always had issues. "I appreciate you're honesty but keep this to yourself, our alliance is uneasy enough. We can't have people thinking we don't trust each other." Braedon nodded "I understand, m'lord. You can trust me." Gregor smiled "Thank you, you can go now, but don't start anymore trouble." Braedon nodded and walked away.
Gregor had to deal with Marcus now. He was tempted to punch him in the face to teach him a lesson but before he could speak to him Bryce Warrick, Ammett's younger brother rushed towards him and whispered "Gregor, I need to speak with you!" Gregor sighed, he wasn't in the mood to deal with the Warricks "Can it wait? I need to deal with something." Bryce looked around and he seemed quite distressed "I think you should deal with this as soon as possible." Gregor felt that any issue the Warricks have should be brought to Ludd "Wouldn't it be more appropriate to go to Ludd?" Bryce nodded "I thought so but Ammett told me to go straight to you and not to Ludd. Be honest with me, do you trust Ammett?" Gregor firmly shook his head "No." He answered bluntly and Bryce nodded in understanding "I understand why Ammett may have given you a bad impression but he wasn't always like this. He was a good person once and I think he can be again. I try to keep him on right path and I think if you gave him a chance he may try to change." Gregor doubted someone like Ammett could've been a good person once but perhaps he did deserve a chance. Nobody is born a bad person. Bryce bit his lip and seemed to be in a hurry to get to the point "Ammett is well aware of the fact that you don't trust him and he's eager to prove himself to you. But the thing is that Ammett can do some very rash things when he's eager." Gregor was pleased that Ammett wanted to prove himself trust worthy but Bryce was speaking ominously and Gregor began to worry "What has he done?" Bryce looked around as if to make sure no one would overhear their conversation and he whispered "Follow me." Gregor reluctantly followed. Marcus would have to wait, if Ammett had done something bad then Gregor needed to know.
Bryce led Gregor to a tent in the Warricks camp and as they entered Gregor found Ammett with bloody fists and Kevan holding his hand as if it were in pain. "Oh don't be such a baby, Kevan! You've handled worse." Ammett said to his silent brother and Kevan responded with a glare. Ammett turned to see Gregor and smiled "Ahh, welcome back, Forrester! Nice work, Bryce." Ammett praised his younger brother. Clearly something had happened, Kevan seemed hurt and Ammett had blood on his fists.
Gregor spoke sternly "What's going on?" Ammett picked up a rag and began to clean his fists "Calm down the blood isn't mine, it's hers." Ammett gestured behind him and Gregor saw a woman bound to a post, her mouth was gagged and she appeared to be unconscious. She was a tall woman with brown eyes and long dark hair. Gregor might've thought she was beautiful if she didn't have a black eye and a fat lip. "What the fuck?" Gregor raised his voice before glaring at Bryce and Bryce attempted to defend himself "She was conscious before I left! What happened, Ammett?"
"Kevan being the stupid softie that he is tried to give her some water and the bitch bit him! So I knocked her out and gagged her, just in case. Let me tell you she's a tough one, took a few good hits to knock her out." Ammett explained. Gregor was furious that someone was being treated like this and didn't know about it. "Explain yourself, Ammett! Who is she?" Ammett glared as if he felt Gregor should be showing gratitude and not anger but he explained "This here is Keira Flowers. Sellsword, great in a fight and apparently she's got strong teeth." He smirked at Kevan and Kevan responded with yet another glare.
Gregor stepped closer to make sure she was breathing "Why is she here?" Gregor directed the question to Bryce as Ammett was taking his time to get to the point "This is Simon Oakheart's bastard daughter." Bryce said. Simon was at the parley and seemed to be a trusted advisor to House Branfield. "And you're only bringing this to me now?" Ammett nodded "I wasn't certain that Simon Oakheart was a trusted advisor to House Branfield, not until the parley. Now that I know I thought it best that you be told and understand the opportunity we have here." Gregor glared at Ammett "What opportunity is there in kidnapping a woman and beating her?" Bryce stepped forward "Gregor, I understand that this may seem dishonorable but we could do some serious damage by using this woman as a hostage. A man would do anything to protect his family." Gregor sighed, Ammett had a point, Keira could be useful but Gregor didn't understand why they came to him and not Ludd. "Why wasn't Ludd told?" Ammett shrugged "Well you're in command aren't you? I wanted to bring this to you and let you act as you saw fit without having to worry about if someone disapproved." Gregor looked to Bryce, he did mention that Ammett was eager to gain Gregor's trust.
Gregor took another look at Keira. The way she was being treated was intolerable "You're not to hurt her anymore, understood?" Ammett sighed and reluctantly nodded "Fine, I won't touch her." Gregor realized that Ammett was trying to help and that Gregor probably seemed ungrateful and he sighed "I appreciate you coming to me with this. Maybe she'll be useful. But I'm going to need to tell the council about this." Ammett chuckled "What, Trant, Glenmore and the dog? Tell Ludd if you must but those assholes will just judge you for keeping her here." Bryce sighed "I recommend keeping this to yourself, Gregor. This way you can act however you see fit without worry of how the others will react." Ammett spoke up "And if that's not reason enough for you, think about what some of the less honorable men will do if they find out there's a woman in camp." Gregor glared at Ammett as he has yet to deny raping and dared to talk about honor. But he brought up a good point. Bryce also had a good point as Gregor could act however he wished as only he and the Warricks knew about this. Though Ludd likely wouldn't be happy to find out his own men were keeping something from him. Perhaps Gregor should at least tell him or maybe even the whole council. Some of them would no doubt disapprove and he just got Marcos' respect but perhaps they'd appreciate Gregor being honest with them. Though there was no telling how they'd react.
[Tell only Ludd] [Tell no one] [Tell the whole council] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Tell only Ludd')
Malcolm had to do it, taking the deal was the only way to resolve this without bloodshed. "Alright... I agree. You'll back off for the time being and attack Wolfson after we have his men." Lorgan had a pleased smile on his face "Glad to hear it. You'd better hurry and get what you need from him before I strike." Malcolm nodded as he looked behind Lorgan and Nesa was gone. She must've sneaked away. "I'm glad this didn't have to end in blood." Malcolm however frowned, he didn't feel right about condemning Wolfson to whatever Lorgan planned to do to him.
Lorgan must've noticed Malcolm's reluctance as he gave him a stern glare "Don't let yourself feel guilt or kinship for Tom. I promise you Malcolm, he isn't a good man and he deserves what's coming to him." Malcolm had to take Lorgan's word for it, but he couldn't honestly say he was convinced. He knew almost nothing about Wolfson and absolutely nothing about Lorgan except that he wants Wolfson to suffer. Malcolm had nothing more to say so he simply nodded and walked away to meet Nesa.
Malcolm found Nesa back where they discussed their plan. "I'm not sure that was wise, Malcolm." Malcolm nodded "I'm not sure either but it was the only way to prevent bloodshed." Nesa gave a cynical chuckle "Except for Tom, or do you think you can somehow keep him alive and prevent Lorgan from attacking?" Malcolm angrily shook his head "I... don't know! We'll think about that when the time comes. I'm doing the best I can and trying to keep as many people alive as possible, can you just lay off!" Nesa narrowed her eyes at Malcolm as he shouted her and he sighed. Malcolm didn't mean to snap at her but this was so much more complicated than he hoped, and his temper got the best of him. Nesa had a point and he didn't want to believe it. He didn't want to believe that he spared one life while condemning another. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you."
"Forget about it." Nesa answered bluntly "Tom's no friend of mine, just wanted to make sure you knew what you were doing." Malcolm wasn't sure if Nesa was angry at Malcolm for shouting at her or just didn't care. "What do we do now?" He asked her and Nesa said "Now you and your brother need to figure out how you're going to convince Tom that you killed Lorgan, because if he catches you in a lie, he'll give you nothing and he'll never trust you again." Malcolm put on a forced smile as he imagined what Wolfson would do if he realized they didn't kill Lorgan."Oh, I'm sure he'll be reasonable." He said sarcastically and Nesa rolled her eyes "Come on, we should get back to the inn." Malcolm nodded in agreement as he followed her.
Malcolm and Nesa entered the inn and they saw a young pale girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes cleaning the mess they'd made in their battle with the Trant men. This was Sara, the innkeeper's youngest daughter. Malcolm didn't know her well, she was always kind but seemed frightened when around around him. "Sorry, about the mess, Sara." Malcolm apologized and Sara jumped up as if a direwolf ran inside and she knocked over a chair in the process. "Oh... hello , Ser Malcolm!" She said quickly with a shy smile as she awkwardly picked the chair back up. She was always like this, a friendly smile but so timid. "Hello." He said again and then Sara shyly bit her lip "Umm... hello" she repeated. Malcolm chuckled, she didn't hold up a conversation very well either. Nesa however rolled her eyes and marched passed her. Sara frowned "I'm sorry!" Then she turned to Malcolm "I didn't mean to annoy your friend."
Malcolm put a reassuring hand on her shoulder "You didn't do anything wrong, Sara." She smiled. Malcolm then remembered why he came "Have you seen my brother? His names Samuel." Sara nodded "Yeah, he's upstairs talking with father, I can take you... if you want" She quickly offered and Malcolm politely shook his head "No thank you, I I know where the stairs are." He joked as he walked towards the stairs and Sara gave a shy laugh. Oddly enough she seemed disappointed.
Malcolm walked up the stairs and saw Samuel and the innkeeper talking. Kayden Davin was his name. He was an older man, tall, fat and ugly, he was also a cowardly man. He also happened to be bald and had blue eyes. Though he'd never done any wrong to Malcolm and he was always respectful. "I'm happy to help, M'lord. Your brother really helped me with that brute last time he was here and I pay my debts. But you must understand that keeping this man imprisoned in my inn is dangerous for me and my family." Kayden said to Samuel. They must've been talking about the Trant soldier that Samuel stabbed in the eye, they had managed to keep him alive then. "This is only temporary, good man. We'll deal with him and leave your inn as soon as we are able." Samuel said to Kayden and Kayden still seemed concerned but then he saw Malcolm and smiled "Ser, Malcolm. You've returned!" Malcolm nodded before looking to Samuel "How'd it go?" Samuel asked. Malcolm didn't want to go into it right now so he simply said "Nobody died." Samuel narrowed his eyes "Got what you wanted then." Samuel turned to Kayden "Your friend here has proven to be useful Malcolm. He managed to save the Trant soldier." Malcolm smiled "I heard. Well done, Kayden. We appreciate the help." Kayden sighed "Appreciate the gratitude and all, Ser Malcolm but can you hurry and deal with the man? I don't feel comfortable with a man tied up in one of my rooms." Samuel smirked "Agreed, I prefer the other way around myself." He laughed at his joke and Malcolm sighed but couldn't help but smirk at Samuel's joke. If Lucas was here he'd no doubt have groaned at Samuel.
Malcolm noticed that Dusty wasn't present "Where's Dusty?" Samuel shrugged "He said he wanted to take a walk. He left about ten minutes ago. Forget about your new best friend for a minute, we need to deal with our new guest." Malcolm nodded, he doubted Dusty would just abandon them without saying anything, he'd probably be back soon. "What do we know about him?" Samuel gestured for Malcolm to follow him "He's been remarkably honest for someone who tried to kill us." That was certainly surprising. "Has he?" Malcolm asked and Samuel nodded "His name's Mayson and he was sent by Marcos Trant to capture Samuel Branfield." Malcolm widened his eyes in surprise "He gave you a name?" Samuel smirked "See? Remarkably honest. Anyway, I've heard of Marcos Trant. A very accomplished knight. He's certain to be a formidable enemy." Malcolm was very confused that Mayson would be so helpful "He must not be very smart if he's giving away information so easily." Samuel stopped by a door and smiled "That's what I thought at first but after thinking about it, I think he's rather clever." Malcolm narrowed his eyes "How so?" Samuel proceeded to explain "He gave us information we already knew while appearing to be honest and helpful! Think about it, he's wearing Trant colours and he specifically named me and not you when he confronted us. Only thing we didn't know was who sent him and we can't do anything with that name."
"You seem impressed." Malcolm said and Samuel shrugged "Maybe I am. It's not often I meet a thinker and get to outhink them." Samuel did enjoy his battles of wits. Before Malcolm could say anything else Samuel quickly whispered "Quite!" Malcolm obeyed and heard whispering in the next room. "Here, this won't be missed." Malcolm heard a feminine voice. "You need to leave before you're caught girl. This is none of your business." They then heard another voice, presumably Mayson's. Samuel then barged into the room "What do you think you're doing?!" Samuel shouted at a young woman with long brown hair and brown eyes. She was of average height. This was Kayden's niece, Bethany. She had a plate of bread and water. Malcolm saw the man Samuel had stabbed earlier. His eye now had bandages over it and he was tied up. It seems Bethany sneaked in and tried to feed him.
Bethany stood up and stared directly at Samuel "I was feeding him." She stated bluntly. Bethany was certainly braver than most. Samuel shook his head "No, we can handle our own prisoners. You can't be here." Bethany scoffed "This is an inn. Not a prison!" That was when Kayden marched into the room "What's going on?" Samuel turned to Kayden "You're daughter is poking her nose where it doesn't belong." "Niece." Bethany spat. She looked towards Malcolm "Malcolm, surely you can't approve of this! He's hungry and thirsty." Kayden waved his arms angrily "It's 'Ser' Malcolm Foolish girl! Don't be disrespectful." Kayden always insisted that Malcolm be referred to as a Ser. Malcolm thought it unecessary. Bethany groaned "Is it disrespectful to refer to people by their names now? Apologies, I wasn't informed." She said sarcastically. Kayden shook his head "Enough! Get back to helping your sister clean the inn! You're not wanted in here!" Bethany glared at Kayden "She's not my sister! But fine, I can tell that honorable people aren't welcome in this room. Excuse me, M'lord." She said bitterly as she barged into Samuel's shoulder and left the room.
Kayden sighed "Apologies, I've taken her in after her mother ran off and her father, my brother died. She's a stubborn girl and difficult to control." Malcolm shook his head "No apologies necessary, Kayden. She was only speaking her mind." Kayden nodded "You're too kind, Ser. He said as he left the room and closed the door.
"Interesting friends you have here... Malcolm Branfield." Malcolm turned to Mayson as he said his name "That's right, I know who you are now that I've gotten a better look at you, heard you and the others speak." Malcolm sat down as he listened to the man speak. "When I first saw you I thought you another sellsword like your psychotic guard dog. You must spend a great deal of time with these people that I might mistake you for a commoner. I was told to find Samuel. We had no idea another Branfield would be with him." Samuel smirked "He certainly loves the sound of his own voice. He does this whenever I stop asking him questions. Just talks. My guess is he wants to see how we act. Get a good idea of how we think and act by striking up a conversation with us." Mayson smiled "That's partly true. I do want to know how you to to think but I simply enjoy having a good talk sometimes." Malcolm eyed him suspiciously. He seems so different from the man they engaged in battle. "You seem different from when we first met. You were aggressive and angry." Malcolm pointed out and Mayson attempted to explain "A scare tactic. It was my intention to capture Samuel alive so he could be used as a hostage before the siege. I hoped he'd turn himself over if he truly believed that I'd kill his companions if he didn't cooperate. Angry and aggressive people tend to be scarier and their threats appear genuine. I wanted you to think that I could snap at the slightest provocation." This man certainly was clever, he was playing a role the whole time. "So there is to be a siege." Samuel smirked "Who would be involved in this? Surely House Trant isn't fighting us alone?" Mayson chuckled "I like you Samuel, I really do but you're smart enough to know that I won't answer that."
"How did you know where to find us?" Malcolm asked and Mayson shrugged "We were told to come find Samuel Branfield. We weren't told why he'd be here. We didn't know he'd be specifically in the tavern. We were just told to search the area." Samuel narrowed his eyes at Mayson "What made you think I was alone?" Mayson shrugged "I don't question my orders. I will say they were oddly specific. Interesting that you specifically were named and not just Branfields in general." Samuel smirked "Well I'm awfully hard to miss. My natural charm and good looks are clearly famous here." Mayson chuckled but then said nothing more.
Samuel sighed "He's done talking Malcolm, let's go." Malcolm nodded and followed Samuel outside. "Hold a moment, Malcolm. Do you mind handing me that food there? I didn't want the girl to get in trouble but since she got caught anyway... she wasn't lying I am rather thirsty." Malcolm nodded, it was the least he could do. He placed the plate where he could reach and Mayson smiled "Appreciate it. Could you tell her I said thanks?" Malcolm nodded "Of course" and he left the room with Samuel.
Samuel sighed "I don't think I got anything useful out of him. The man rarely gives a straight answer. A bloody Red Priestess would be preferable to this." Malcolm shook his head "No way, their all out of their minds, brother. Rambling about their bloody fires. Remember that story the Maester told us about?" Samuel widened his eyes "Oh yeah. You mean the one about some butterfly?" Malcolm shook his head "No the one where some Red Priestess tried to burn some child to prevent death." Samuel quirked an eyebrow "Isn't that the same story?" Malcolm sighed "A butterfly and burning a child. How could those two ever be related, Samuel?" Samuel shrugged "I don't know! Half the stories the Maester tells is too damn confusing." Nesa then arrived and glared at the brothers "What the fuck are you two talking about?" Samuel shook his head "I don't even know, let's just move on."
Nesa shook her head "Okay... well you need to figure out how you're going to convince Tom that that a man that's planning to kill him is in the ground." Samuel shrugged "Assuming you got him to back off, I'll just have to confidently say it's been done and hope that he'll take the lack of attacks on his men as proof." Nesa shook her head "I was told to bring his head. What do you think he's going to say if we show up without a head?" Samuel shrugged "I expect he'll say 'Eh, where's the head?' And then I'll say 'You wanted his head?' And hope for the best." Nesa seemed skeptical and Malcolm had to agree "Samuel, you've got to have a better plan than that." Samuel shook his head "We wouldn't have this problem if you had just killed him, Malcolm. There's nothing else we can do!" Malcolm sighed shrugged "What about one of the Trant men we killed? We could grab one of them and say he's Lorgan." Samuel chuckled "Oh that's good, your on a first name basis with this man."
Samuel shrugged "It's something." Though he didn't seem sold on the idea. He turned to Nesa "Does Wolfson know what he looks like?" Nesa shook his head "No, but several of his men met him in combat. He gave me a description of dark hair and a beard when I was told to find him." Samuel nodded "We hid the bodies in a storage room at the back of the inn. Let's go have a look and see if we can't use one of them." Malcolm didn't relish the idea of disrespecting a man's body but he saw no other way to convince Wolfson so he followed Samuel and Nesa to the storage.
"Ugh..." Malcolm was disgusted as he saw the man Dusty had killed. He'd left almost nothing but brains as he smashed his head onto the table. Samuel groaned at the sight "I'm telling you, Malcolm, Dusty is dangerous. I don't trust him." Malcolm thought Dusty had proven loyal but he didn't argue about it. Especially not here, so he shook his head "Let's just focus on the task at hand." Nesa looked disappointed as she looked at the bodies and she shook her head "This won't work, Red hair, blonde, and that one isn't even recognizable anymore." Malcolm sighed "So what do we do?" Samuel sighed "You probably won't like this, Malcolm but one of the Trant men does have dark hair, he could work but he's still alive." Samuel was referring to Mayson "You mean kill him and try to say he's Lorgan? No that isn't right!" Samuel seemed frustrated with Malcolm "It's the best way to convince Wolfson!" He shouted and Malcolm was beginning to get frustrated as well. "What makes him so good? Mayson's eyes are brown, Lorgan's are green. Lorgan also has a beard, longer hair and he's a great deal older." Samuel stopped to think for a moment then he smiled as if he had it "The description Nesa got was dark hair and a beard. Nothing about the eyes or his age. We can say that he shaved his beard. This will work, Malcolm!"
Malcolm groaned in frustration. There had to be another way. Desperate for another solution he desperately pointed at the man Dusty killed "What about him?" Samuel sighed "Come on, Malcolm..." Malcolm shook his head "Just listen! We can say Dusty fought him and overdid it. His head is so fucked that you can't say he, didn't have dark hair!" Samuel shook his head "No way! It's way too risky. This is the best way and we kill an enemy at the same time. It's too birds with one stone. It's the most logical action!" Obviously seeing that things were getting tense Nesa began to walk outside "I'll let you boys argue about this. Come get me when you've decided what to do."
Malcolm was getting angry at how easy it was for Samuel to decide to kill a man for their own ends. "You know I never thought I'd rather have Lucas with me than you." Samuel glared at Malcolm "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Malcolm didn't hesitate to explain "Well at least Lucas has a sense of honor. You're so ready to kill others and I don't even understand why! First you didn't even want to help Dusty who was just a stranger who needed help at the time, then you were ready to kill a man you didn't even know and now Mayson." Samuel laughed angrily "This is fucking unbelievable. It's simple Malcolm. Better them than one of us. I'd rather see a thousand dead strangers than see someone I love hanging from a noose."
Malcolm was really getting angry now. The lack of care for others was infuriating him and Samuel tried to justify by putting the image of their family hanging in his head to justify it. "I don't understand why you care so much. It wasn't that long ago that Mayson tried to kill us. He's the enemy, Malcolm. Why do you care so much?" Samuel asked. "Because he's not a bad man!" Malcolm shouted. "He's just a soldier following orders. We could've been him if our loyalty was with the Baratheons and not the Targaryens."
Samuel bit his lip and shook his head "I've heard enough, Malcolm. I'm the heir, I'm your older brother. Father may have sent you but the second you chose me and not Lucas this became my mission." "What are you saying?" Malcolm asked and Samuel answered "This is my call. I'm going back upstairs and I'm going to kill Mayson whether you like it or not. Unless you plan to stop me?" Samuel basically challenged how far Malcolm would go.
Malcolm was furious and everything in him told him that the right thing to do was to stop Samuel. But he wasn't certain that he wanted to fight him about it. If they fought there was no taking it back. But maybe that was the best way to get the message across. Maybe he could knock some sense into him.
["Fine but I want no part of this."] [Punch Samuel] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Punch Samuel')
Maester Nathaniel was known to be bitter and he had quite a temper. Lucas thought it would be wise to talk to him and try to keep him from holding any grudges. Knowing Nathaniel he probably brought his concerns to the next person who could do something about it and that would be Lady Talia Branfield, Lucas' mother.
Lucas didn't disagree with what Nathaniel said. He had a good point. This war would be incredibly dangerous for them and it's a losing battle. However bending the knee would go against everything the Branfields stand for. 'In arms to the end' those are their words. Never give in and abandon none. That's where Damien stands. And on top of that, despite Nathaniel being a straight forward and honest man, given his past and hatred for House Targaryen, it's hard to see his opinion as unbiased.
Lucas made his way to the main hall on his search and his suspicions were confirmed. The Maester was speaking with Talia. "I understand your concerns, Maester and I sympathize but I don't understand what you expect me to do" Talia said. Nathaniel seemed incredibly annoyed "You're his wife, you share a bed with the man!" In response Talia smirked "I am well aware of this fact." She somehow always had a smile on her face. Lucina once made a joke that it was ironic considering how deadly serious and angry most of her children were.
Nathaniel sighed "Please be serious, my Lady. If Lord Branfield continues on this course--" Fearing that the argument would get as serious as the one in the small council, Lucas interrupted "That's enough, Maester!" Lucas didn't want his mother thinking about how her children might end up when this is over. "I'll take it from here, mother." Lucas said to Talia and she rolled her eyes "Very well." And she walked away.
Nathaniel gave Lucas a stern glare "You shouldn't coddle your mother. She's a strong woman, she can handle what I have to say." Lucas shook his head "Nothing she says to my father will change his mind and you'll only upset her." Nathaniel sighed "You'll all die if your father doesn't see sense. I couldn't bear that, I have to try." Lucas understood but he was beginning to get impatient "Maester... you're going to listen to me. Nothing you do will change my father's mind. Let. This. Go." Nathaniel seemed hesitant to agree but he reluctantly nodded "Very well. But this is serious, Lucas. Are you honestly prepared to see one of your brothers die in battle? Or hanging from a noose?" Lucas shook his head "Of course not. Which is why I'll do everything I can to prevent that. But this war is happening. Whether I agree with it or not."
Nathaniel nodded "Yes, I've noticed that you haven't given your opinion on this war. You act as though you're neutral but I know you Lucas. I can tell you're avoiding giving an opinion." Lucas glared at the Maester in reply to his accusation. "That'll be all Maester." And Lucas marched past him. "Lucas..." The Maester said sternly and Lucas reluctantly turned around "What?" He asked bluntly. Nathaniel glared at him sternly "You're an angry, man Lucas. You've always had a temper but I know you. You get angrier everyday. You're more emotional than any of your brothers." Lucas raised an eyebrow, slightly surprised by the Maester's claim "That's funny. Most people seem to think I'm stoic" Nathaniel chuckled "That's because you try to keep your emotions bottled up. I don't know why, but I know that you do." Lucas got a little uncomfortable at the Maester almost studying him "What's your point, Maester?" He asked, intentionally not confirming or denying his claims. "You just pointed out to me that this war is happening and knowing you, you'll probably be on the frontlines of it. I worry what this war will do to you. War can change the most stable people, considering how emotional you are..." Lucas shook his head "I've seen battle before, Maester. I've killed before." The Maester nodded "This is true, but you've never fought in a war. It's different." Lucas sternly glared at the Maester "Neither have you. You're no warrior. You've never seen war." The Maester glared back "I've seen what it does to people and while I've never fought in a war, I have suffered because of it. I lost my entire family because of it."
Lucas sighed "So you're worried about me? Is that what you're saying? I'm fine. I came here to calm you down, why are you suddenly advising me?" "It's why, I'm here." The Maester frowned "And I'm worried about you." Lucas sighed in frustration "I'll be fine. I came here to make sure you weren't bitter or holding any grudges. Are you?" The Maester laughed "I'm angry, but don't worry. Your father is my Lord and it's my duty to serve him. I'll do my duty." Lucas forced a smile, he knew the Maester was still holding a grudge but it was better than nothing "That'll be all, Maester" and Lucas walked away.
Soon after Lucas was stopped in the hall by his mother. Talia smirked at him "Why do you feel the need to protect me?" She asked him bluntly and Lucas sighed, he knew that she loathed being coddled or protected, but he couldn't help it. "I have to." Talia groaned but kept a smile on her face "That's always the answer you give to any question I ask. Why do you push yourself so hard? Why do you train everyday? Why do you want to be the best fighter? Why do you involve yourself in every problem? 'I have to'" she said in a mocking voice and Lucas couldn't hold back a chuckle. His mother was amusing, he couldn't deny that.
Talia smiled "There it is..." She said softly and Lucas raised an eyebrow "What? Why are you looking at me like that?" Talia suddenly seemed sad "Your smile. I wish you showed it off more often. Perhaps we'd have an easier time finding you a wife if you did." She played it off with a joke and Lucas sighed "Perhaps, I would if you didn't make those terrible jokes so often." Talia gasped "Take that back! My jokes are great." Lucas lightly laughed and Talia sighed "I'm serious though. You're always working. You're always serious. I wish your life were easier." Talia started getting emotional "And now with this war coming... you don't deserve the burden of having to protect me." Lucas shook his head "Stop it, it's not a burden. It's a privilege. And I'm not as unhappy as you might think." Talia smiled "Is that so? Then tell me this. When was the last time you did something because you wanted to do it? Because it was something you wanted, not because it's your duty." Lucas frowned, he tried to think but nothing came to him. He couldn't answer her and Talia sighed "I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to upset you. It's just... I want more for you. I want you to be happy but you never do anything for yourself and now with this war, I fear that..." Talia didn't dare finish her sentence and Lucas knew why. She feared that this war would be his end, that he'd die without ever truly being happy.
"I'm sorry..." Lucas apologized and Talia firmly shook her head "Don't be. It's not your fault. I don't blame you, I blame..." She didn't answer but Lucas knew who she was talking about. Lucas wanted to say something to comfort his mother but he didn't know how. She wanted him to be happier, to be just a little selfish. To for once do something for himself and not his family. To do something that he wanted. The key problem was that Lucas wasn't sure what he wanted. All he's ever done and lived by is his duty. To protect his family and serve the Targaryens. There was one thing but Lucas knew he couldn't have that, it was out of the question.
He had to say something though, something that might make her feel better, but what? Perhaps he could honestly tell her what he wanted but he wasn't sure if that was wise. He's never admitted it to anyone. Perhaps he could try to convince her it was okay for him to be this way? Maybe he should vent his frustrations? The Maester earlier accused him of bottling his emotions up. Perhaps he should let them loose? Agree with her that it's not fair, that he does deserve better.
["I can't have what I want"] ["It's worth being this way, to protect my family"] ["You're right. I do deserve better"] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose "You're right. I do deserve better")
Gregor paced around the tent as he considered his decision while at the same time glancing at their new prisoner. The council won't like it if they find out Gregor hid this from them, especially Marcos but Gregor decided to go along with Ammett and only tell Ludd about this. "Fine, keep this quite but Ludd at least has to know." Ammett grinned as he clapped his hands together excellent! You won't regret this, Forrester! You'll see that I can be very useful when you let me." Gregor nodded as he hoped he wouldn't regret this decision.
Gregor glanced at the woman "So this is Simon Oakheart's daughter? How sure are you that she'll be useful? Are they close?" Ammett shrugged in response "Depends on who you ask." Gregor raised an eyebrow "What's that supposed to mean?" Bryce sighed as he proceeded to explain "What Ammett is saying is that she appears to have some sort of grudge against her father but a father would do anything for his child." Ammett chuckled "Well we're a prime example that, that isn't true. Especially Kevan." Ammett said as he gestured towards his mute brother. Bryce groaned "Well Simon Oakheart at least would do anything for his child!" Gregor sighed "Yes alright, I get the point. Do you have a plan?"
Ammett nodded eagerly "Oh, I do! A good one too, but it's not ready yet, I'll come to you when it is." Gregor glared at Ammett "You can't tell me now?" Ammett shook his head "No, not yet. I don't want to commit until I know I can do it. And besides you probably won't like any plan of mine and I know you're just waiting for someone more honorable to come up with something better. DON'T... deny it, I know what you think of me." Ammett said very suddenly with clear anger. Gregor sighed but thought it best not to deny it as it would possibly anger Ammett. There was some truth to Ammett's words. Gregor just couldn't bring himself to fully trust him, not yet at least.
Bryce seemed pleased that Gregor had gone along with what Ammett wanted. "We'll keep this hidden, Gregor, so you can act however you wish. I assume you'll be heading off to inform Ludd?" Gregor nodded, he had planned to talk to his cousin Marcus about his intolerable behavior but he'd have to wait as this was more important. "I'll go find him now." Gregor was about to leave but stopped to glance at Ammett "I appreciate you coming to me with this." Ammett nodded, he seemed pleased "Perhaps in time you can learn to trust me." Gregor shrugged in response as he left the tent. He doubted it but maybe Bryce was right. Maybe if Gregor gives him a chance, Ammett can become the good person that Bryce claims he used to be.
Gregor made his way towards the Whitehill encampment to find Ludd. He soon found Ser Larion standing guard by the main tent. "Is Ludd inside?" Gregor asked bluntly and Larion glared at him, he clearly didn't like him. "Yes, but he is talking with his brother. You'll have to wait." Larion said but Gregor shook his head "This can't wait." Larion opened his mouth to say something but then Ludd yelled out "Cut the petty grudges, Larion and let him through!" Larion sighed and reluctantly stepped aside "Go on then." Gregor couldn't hold back a smirk as he entered.
Gregor saw Ludd and Walter sitting by a desk, Ludd was drinking wine and Walter smiled at Gregor. It was obviously forced "Hello there, Forrester." Gregor nodded "Hello, Whitehill." Ludd groaned as he slammed his fist onto the table "Walter... I'm not going to tolerate any grudges solely based on someone's name." Walter sighed "I understand, brother but--" "But nothing!" Ludd growled "We are allies and we're going to act like it." Walter sighed but smiled as he looked at Gregor "Looks like we're best friends now." He said as he stood up and held out his hand "Walter Whitehill, Let's put our grudges aside to take out our common enemy." Gregor smiled, he couldn't deny that Walter was charming. He shook Walter's hand "I can get behind that." Walter nodded "Glad to hear it." Walter said as he sat back down. Ludd nodded approvingly to Walter, showing that he was pleased.
Gregor then turned to Ludd "Is it possible for us to talk alone?" Ludd firmly shook his head "Clearly my brother here doesn't trust you, but I give you my word, Gregor. You can trust him. Whatever you have to say to me, you can say to him." Gregor looked at Walter and Walter grinned in response. Gregor sighed as he leaned against a nearby desk. "It's about the Warricks." Walter chuckled "It's always a big deal when the Warricks are involved." Ludd sighed "What's Ammett done?" Gregor raised his hands to reassure him "Relax, he's actually trying to prove that I can trust him." Walter raised an eyebrow "And how does he aim to do that?" Gregor glanced behind him to make sure Larion couldn't hear them and he spoke more quietly "The Warricks have captured and are keeping tied to a post... the bastard daughter of Simon Oakheart. Simon is--" "A trusted advisor and best friend to Lord Damien Branfield." Ludd finished Gregor's sentence. Gregor wasn't aware that they were that close but Ludd did mention knowing the Branfields quiet well. "Ammett has suggested that I use her as a hostage." Gregor explained.
Walter looked at Gregor suspiciously as he leaned forward "Why did you know about this before my brother? The Warricks are Whitehill bannermen, not Forrester bannermen." Walter said and Gregor shrugged "I'm not entirely sure. Bryce believes that Ammett is eager to prove himself to me. That he told me in secret so I could act however I wished without fear of the rest of the council judging me." Ludd didn't appear to be pleased "The Warricks have always been unpredictable but I always thought they were loyal. The fact that they came to you with this and not me... I don't like that." Gregor nodded "I understand and you can punish the Warricks if you feel it necessary but I thought you should know about this."
"What do you intend to do with the bastard?" Walter asked and Gregor shrugged "Ammett claims that he's working on a plan, however he's assured me that I can act however I wish." Gregor explained and Ludd sighed "I appreciate you coming to me with this Gregor. It appears the Warricks are not as trustworthy as I thought. I assume you want this kept secret?" Gregor nodded and Ludd stood up as he took a final swig of his wine "We won't tell anyone." He assured Gregor and Walter nodded in agreement. Gregor smiled as he was pleased that Ludd was so appreciative, though he found it slightly concerning that Ludd was losing trust in the Warricks, they certainly wouldn't like that.
Walter smiled as he too stood up "I understand you've been awaiting my arrival for some time, Gregor. Now that I'm here do you intend to start the siege soon?" Gregor nodded "Yes, it's about time we begin. I intend to start the siege, as soon as possible. You'd best prepare what men you have." Gregor then turned to Ludd "We'll discuss the details at the council. We should start as soon as possible. Right now, ideally." Gregor evidently didn't have time to speak with Marcus. He'd have to wait. Ludd nodded "Fine with me. I'll walk with you. Walter can stay here. Let's go!" Ludd declared as he marched out of the tent. Walter smiled as he sat down "It was nice meeting you, Forrester." He said and Gregor wasn't sure if he believed him but he nodded "You too, Whitehill." Gregor then followed Ludd out of the tent.
Gregor and Ludd made their way towards the main tent where they held their small council. Standing outside the tent were Eamon and a tall man with short red hair and brown eyes. He was wearing impressive armor with the Glenmore sigil. They appeared to be having a heated discussion but were whispering "I told you this would happen, Eamon! Those two Houses are destined to fight each other." Eamon nodded "I didn't want to believe it, but you're right. We'll have to do something about this. It's only a matter of time before someone goes too far." The tall man firmly nodded "Just give the order and I'll handle it." Eamon seemed like he was about to say something but then he saw Gregor and Ludd approaching "Shh! That's enough. We'll discuss this later." Eamon said firmly to the tall man.
Eamon smiled as Gregor and Ludd approached him, Ludd gave Eamon a suspicious glare before Eamon turned to Gregor "Welcome my lords! I don't believe you've met Ser Gregory yet." He said as he gestured to the tall man "Meet Ser Gregory Fuller, a very accomplished knight and serves as Master at arms to my father." Gregory nodded "Our paths have yet to cross until--" "Were you two Just talking about us!?" Ludd shouted angrily, catching everyone by surprise, Eamon even jumped a little. Gregory crossed his arms, not answering Ludd's question and Eamon stepped forward attempting to reassure him. "Calm down now, Ludd. We're all friends here." Gregor glared at Eamon, very quickly sharing Ludd's suspicions "You didn't answer his question, Eamon."
Eamon sighed and Ludd aggressively grabbed Eamon by the collar of his tunic "Listen here, you useless little brat!" Ludd growled and Ser Gregory reached for his sword "Get your hands off him!" He shouted at Ludd. This situation got very tense very quickly. Ludd shook his head as he furiously glared at Eamon. "I don't like people talking about me behind my back. Makes them difficult to trust." Gregory stepped forward, clearly ready for a fight. "We just met, my lords and a fight is a terrible way to make a first impression. Settle down or there will be violence."
Ludd showed no signs of calming down and Eamon was visibly nervous "Gregor, please! There's no need for this!" Gregor sighed "Ludd, that's enough!" Gregor attempted to calm Ludd down and Ludd shook his head "I don't trust him. Gregor, he was clearly talking about us and refuses to give a straight answer." Gregor bit his lip, Ludd had a point and Eamon was acting rather shady and he's clearly scared. Ludd could probably get a straight answer out of him if he scared him enough. Gregor's main worry was the knight. He was ready to draw his weapon and Ludd was threatening his Lord. Gregor shared Ludd's suspicion but wasn't sure if this was the best idea. Eamon was an ally and could leave if he felt threatened. Gregor was confident he could keep Gregory from attacking Ludd by stepping between them. However he doesn't know Gregory and how good he is in a fight. Gregor may be very good in a fight, but Gregory is an unknown threat. Gregor could force Ludd to let Eamon go but he probably wouldn't appreciate that.
[Pull Ludd away from Eamon] [Step between Gregory and Ludd] (VOTING IS CLOSED! 'Pull Ludd away from Eamon' won the tiebreaker by coin toss.)
Malcolm did it. In anger he punched Samuel in the face. He knew that he couldn't let him kill a man when there was another way. Samuel wiped his mouth as he looked at Malcolm in shock. He probably didn't expect Malcolm to actually do it. His look of shock quickly turned to anger "I hope you don't think I'm not going to hit you back, little brother." Malcolm shook his head as Samuel tried to belittle him by calling him 'little' brother. "Go ahead. I'm not going to let you kill that man."
Samuel growled as he punched Malcolm back "I'm doing this for us!" He shouted "Any morally questionable thing I do, no matter how ugly it may be, it's for our family!" Malcolm growled as he shoved Samuel against the wall "You going to tell Preston that? Or mother? You going to tell them you murdered a man for their sakes? Are you mad enough to think they'd thank you for it?" "No!" Samuel shouted again as he punched Malcolm once again, hard enough to knock him to the ground. He then quickly got on his knees and grabbed onto Malcolm's tunic "I have no illusions. They'd hate me for it. Lucas would be disgusted, Preston would be afraid of me if he saw me like this and mother would never forgive me and father..." Samuel gulped and seemed unable to finish his sentence.
Samuel shook his head like he was trying to shake whatever thoughts he had out of his head "But it'll be worth it! Because they'd be alive. Whatever the cost is, it's worth it!" Malcolm frowned "Samuel... it's not necessary to do these things. We can protect them the right way. With honor." Samuel shook his head again "No... it's too risky. Look at all the wars in history. The ruthless are who win. Think of Aegon, of everything he had to do to conquer the seven kingdoms. He killed so many people with those dragons, people who's only crime was loyalty to their king. And he won." Malcolm angrily kicked Samuel off of him. "Don't turn this into a bullshit, history lesson!" Malcolm shouted as he picked Samuel up and shoved him back against the wall "You've never talked like this before. Why are you doing this?" "BECAUSE I'M SCARED!" Samuel screamed in Malcolm's face. "I'm scared. The odds are against us, Malcolm. All I can think about is what happens if we lose. Father would die in battle and we'd comfort ourselves by saying he fought bravely. Lucas would foolishly do the same and again we'd comfort ourselves by saying he fought bravely. Mother would kill herself after that, assuming she wouldn't have already been raped and murdered. Then we'd go mad, we'd swear vengeance and become monsters anyway!" Samuel seemed to be on the verge of falling into tears as Malcolm let him go and Malcolm frowned as he looked at his brother "You've been thinking about this a lot." He stated and Samuel nodded "I can't stop. The odds are against us, Malcolm. We both know that father will never bend the knee. All I know is that I have to do everything I can to prevent the fall of our family."
Malcolm sighed "Samuel, I... I can't let you do this." Samuel bit his lip "This is pointless. We both know that you're the better fighter. Do what you want. I won't kill Mayson." He said as he turned around and Malcolm followed "Where are you going?" Samuel groaned "I need a fucking drink." He said bluntly and marched away. Malcolm sighed as he watched him. Samuel seemed so pitiful. He had no idea that such thoughts were haunting him. It made Malcolm wonder how the rest of his family was dealing with this. Them and Lucina. She had already lost her father and she's become close with the Branfields. Who knew what thoughts plagued her mind with this war coming.
Malcolm's thoughts were interrupted by the Innkeeper's niece, Bethany. Bethany gave Malcolm a stern glare "You let that shit hit you?" Malcolm grinned as he realized Samuel must've gotten a good hit on him. "I didn't 'let' him." He defended himself and Bethany shook her head as if she didn't believe him "Right. Well just fair warning, you or your brother or even your new guard dog kill that man upstairs, I won't forgive you." Malcolm widened his eyes "Bethany, I wouldn't do that... and I've convinced Samuel to back off." Bethany smirked "Convinced? Meaning you beat the shit out of him. Wish I could've seen it." Malcolm sighed, Bethany was always so bluntly honest and never cared what others think, most people keep their nastier thoughts about people to themselves, but not Bethany. Malcolm liked it most of the time, he always knew where she stood but didn't appreciate it in this particular instant.
"So... ready to take me away from here yet?" Bethany winked and Malcolm chuckled "Uh, no not yet. Your father still likes me, don't want to ruin that." Bethany gave a playful sigh "A girl can dream." Bethany often flirted with Malcolm, it's never lead to anything but the banter is enjoyable. Bethany walked over to a nearby table and gestured for Malcolm to follow as she sat down. Malcolm nodded and sat with her. "So what are your plans? Will you be leaving soon?" Malcolm shrugged "Hopefully." Bethany raised an eyebrow at his words and Malcolm shook his head "No, that's not what I meant! There's a war, my family is in danger and I need to get back as soon as possible."
Bethany sighed "So you're here for an army? This Wolfson I keep hearing about?" Malcolm nodded "Not the most honorable man to call an ally but he's the only option we've got." Bethany glared "A dishonorable ally is no ally at all." Normally Malcolm would agree but he doesn't have the option to be choosy, however he decided against arguing about it.
Bethany gave a friendly smile "You are much more stressed out than I remember. Drink?" Malcolm was tempted by the offer but he had to refuse "Another time, I have some things to take care of." He said as he stood up from his seat "Oh and Mayson, the man upstairs, he says thanks, for helping him out." Bethany simply nodded "See you, Malcolm." Malcolm nodded back as he walked outside, he decided it best to give Samuel some time before going to see Tom Wolfson and left to find Dusty.
After a few minutes it felt like Malcolm would never find Dusty, he wondered if he'd left them, Samuel probably wouldn't mind, but despite his violent behavior, Dusty was beginning to grow on Malcolm. That was when Malcolm spotted Dusty kneeling by a beggar, he appeared to be giving him some money, not something he expected Dusty to be doing. Malcolm approached and said "Hey, Dusty what's..." Malcolm paused when he'd gotten a better look at the beggar, he had bandages wrapped around his eyes. He was an older man, no hair, but skinny and he was really dirty. Dusty sighed "Don't offer any pity, it doesn't help. Just pisses you off." Malcolm frowned as he turned to Dusty and Dusty stood up "Looks like his eyes were cut out and he doesn't speak. I think his tongue was cut out too." He said as he led Malcolm away from the man "He didn't choose this, someone did this to him." Malcolm sighed "That's... terrible." Malcolm couldn't think of anything else to say and Dusty nodded "I bet he'd have quite the story, if he could speak."
Malcolm looked at Dusty curiously "You're the people person, Dusty. What do you see when you look at him." Dusty looked grim as he shrugged "I just see shame in that man." He said as he looked back at the beggar and Malcolm sighed "What kind of person does that to someone? Takes a certain... Violent person to be capable of something like that." Malcolm thought back to the violent way that Dusty kills.
Dusty then glared at Malcolm "There's something I've been meaning to say to you." Malcolm nodded "Then say it." "I like you, Malcolm, I really do." Dusty said "but do not start thinking that I'm one of your soldiers. Do not start thinking you can tell me what to do." He said and Malcolm felt threatened, he must've been referring to when Malcolm pulled him away from Sibas. Dusty didn't stop his menacing glare and said "Or I'll rip off your leg and beat you to death with it." However Dusty suddenly grinned and Malcolm wondered if that was supposed to be a joke. Dusty playfully punched Malcolm's arm as he marched past him "Come on! We've a job to do remember?" Malcolm reluctantly nodded in agreement and followed Dusty back to the inn, still trying to figure Dusty out, he still didn't understand him.
Malcolm and Dusty made it to the Inn and found Nesa standing outside with her arms crossed, she must've been waiting. Nesa glared at Malcolm "It's about time. Are we ready to go? Family drama over with?" Malcolm nodded "Yeah, let's head back to Wolfson. We just need to get Samuel and that man's... head." Dusty raised an eyebrow "What?" Malcolm shook his head as he walked inside "I'll explain later, come on." He said as he walked inside but he couldn't see Samuel anywhere. However he saw Sara "Where's my brother?" he asked and Sara shyly stood up "He... left shortly after you did. He seemed really angry but I assumed he was looking for you. Sorry." Nesa raised an eyebrow and Dusty seemed just as confused "Why does she always talk as if she's in trouble?" Malcolm sighed as he tried to figure out where Samuel must've gone. Malcolm feared that he might've killed Mayson so he quickly ran upstairs and barged into his room. Mayson was there and clearly still alive. Mayson looked as though he was about to say something but Malcolm exited and closed the door before he could.
Malcolm ran back downstairs to Dusty and Nesa "He's still alive but there's no sign of Samuel. Where did he go?" Dusty shrugged "Don't look at me. He's your brother. Why would he run off?" Malcolm sighed "He'll probably be back but he's really pissed at me." Nesa joined the conversation "The corpse back in that room is missing his head. My guess is your brother decided to deal with Wolfson on his own." Malcolm sighed "Then he'll be at Wolfson's camp." Dusty shook his head "Well if we know where he is then let's go!" He said as he marched outside and Nesa watched him leave "He doesn't seem to like talking very much. But I agree, we've gotta get back there anyway, and we wouldn't want Wolfson to get suspicious. Come on." She said as she tilted her head towards the door and Malcolm sighed before following her out.
It was when they got close to Wolfson's camp when Dusty turned to Malcolm and asked "You and your brother fight like this often?" Malcolm shook his head "Samuel and I usually get along fine, Lucas is the one that I usually butt heads with. That's another one of my brothers. Samuel's identical twin, actually." Dusty nodded, taking the information in before getting impatient "Get to the point, Malcolm. What changed?" Malcolm sighed "Samuel did. He wants to do a lot of things that I can't support. He seems to think doing these awful things is the only way to protect our family." Dusty nodded "I understand. I'm not saying I support your brothers decisions, or even like him, but I don't blame him. When it comes to family and the fear of losing them, morality becomes a second thought." Malcolm shook his head "Not me, I have to stay true to who I am, no matter what." Dusty raised an eyebrow "We'll see how long that lasts. I guarantee you Malcolm, if someone hurts the people you love, your first reaction won't be grief. The shock will turn into anger and all you'll be able to think about is hurting whoever took them from you." Malcolm frowned as he looked at Dusty, wandering if he was speaking from experience but before Malcolm could ask Nesa interrupted Malcolm's thoughts "Enough talk, we're here. You don't want any of Wolfson's people to overhear." Malcolm couldn't argue with that, if they overheard them say anything that would suggest Lorgan is still alive, they'd be heading home with no army.
They headed towards Wolfson's quarters to find Alise standing guard. She had a venomous glare and Malcolm quickly realized the glare was aimed towards Dusty. Clearly because of what he did to Sibas. Malcolm turned to him "It's probably best for you to wait outside, like way back there." Malcolm pointed behind Dusty with a smile, trying to lighten the situation. "It's not personal, I just think it's for the best." Dusty raised his hand "Enough, Malcolm. I get it. I'll see when you're done." And he walked away.
Alise still seemed angry but much less confrontational. Alise turned to Nesa "I assume now that you're here, the job is done?" Malcolm didn't want to put Nesa in a position where she'd have to lie, so he answered for her "I'm sure Samuel's already told you it has." Alise glared at Malcolm "I'm not entirely certain that what Samuel says and what is are the same thing."
Alise clearly didn't trust them but Malcolm still didn't let Nesa answer "Is my brother in there with Wolfson? Can I go inside?" Alise seemed reluctant to answer and Nesa rolled her eyes "Enough with the personal drama, Alise. Just let us in." Alise snapped at Nesa "Personal drama!? Do you even know what this bastard's friend did?" Nesa kept her composure and showed no change in emotion "No I don't, but honestly I really don't care, just get the fuck out of the way." Alise was visibly furious but she didn't say anything, she just barged into Nesa's shoulder as she marched past her. Malcolm wasn't expecting Nesa to be so cold but before he could say anything she gestured forward. "Go on, your army is waiting." Malcolm reluctantly let it slide as he walked inside.
Malcolm and Nesa walked inside to find Wolfson sitting on top of his desk, rather than on a seat with Samuel standing in front of him. Wolfson smirked as he saw them "Malcolm and Nesa! Welcome back." Samuel however had a neutral expression. Wolfson happily jumped from his desk "Samuel here tells me you did it. The mongrel that's been harassing my people is dead?" Malcolm nodded "I did what I had to do to" however Wolfson seemed suspicious and turned to Nesa "Can you confirm that they're telling the truth?" Malcolm angrily shook his head "I just told you that--" and Wolfson impulsively shoved him "I'm having a hard time trusting anyone with the name Branfield after what your brother did. Be thankful that you and your brothers aren't dead, let alone getting the opportunity to hire me and my people!"
Wolfson turned to Nesa "Well? Is the cunt dead or not?" Malcolm nervously looked at Nesa, unsure if she was going to come through on their agreement. Nesa nodded "Yeah, the cunt is dead" which resulted in a grin from Wolfson "Excellent! This calls for a drink in celebration!" Nesa shook her head "I'd rather just take payment." Wolfson rolled his eyes "You really are such a bore." he complained as he threw her a pouch of gold "There, now fuck off! I have business to discuss." Nesa left the tent without hesitation.
Malcolm glared at Wolfson "She did what you asked despite how she feels about you. She deserves respect." Samuel shook his head "Leave it alone, Malcolm." But Wolfson condescendingly raised a finger to silence Samuel "Shut up, let your brother speak." He said as he walked uncomfortably close to Malcolm. "What the fuck do you think you're doing, Malcolm? Defending her honor or some bullshit? Don't waste your time. That girl will sooner gut you than fuck you."
Malcolm angrily shook his head "You're a piece of shit! That's not what this is about. You need to treat your people with more respect and honor." Wolfson laughed as he stepped back "You're hilarious." He said as he turned to Samuel "You're brother here talks like a fucking hero!" He turned back to Malcolm "Malcolm the fucking perfect!" Samuel was visibly uncomfortable and Malcolm couldn't blame him. He may have just ruined their chances of getting Wolfson on their side.
Wolfson then glared at Malcolm "Of course it's all bullshit. Otherwise you wouldn't have killed a man you didn't even know. That's not something an honorable man would do, is it Malcolm the perfect?" Malcolm bit his lip as he tried to control his anger "No, I don't suppose it is."
Wolfson nodded "Then how about you stop acting so high and mighty and take a good look at the kind of man you are." He said as he pulled something from behind his desk and placed it on his desk. Malcolm gagged as he tried not to vomit and Samuel turned away. It was the head of the man Dusty had killed. Wolfson whistled as if it was a grand sight "What a mess! You squished his fucking head!" He laughed and Malcolm winced. Wolfson was not sympathetic and left the head on the table. "This'll make a nice trophy."
"What was this cunt's name again?" Wolfson asked and Malcolm gulped before answering "His name was Lorgan." Wolfson chuckled "'Lorgan' what a name. I don't suppose you found out what his problem was with me?" Malcolm shook his head "He only said that you deserved to suffer. He wouldn't say why." Wolfson looked disappointed "So I'm gonna die wondering what this fucker's problem was with me and never find out? How annoying." Malcolm wondered just how true that statement was.
Samuel coughed to get Wolfson's attention before putting on a charming smile "So how about it, Tom? We killed Lorgan here for you just like you asked and we'll still pay you for your help. Are we in business?" Wolfson gave Samuel a suspicious glare before smiling as he shook his hand while smirking at Malcolm. "Yeah, we're in business. You've got yourself an army." Malcolm had mixed feelings about this. He was glad to have an army to help his family but at the same time he found Wolfson to be so despicable.
Wolfson stood up "of course I'll need time to prepare my people before we follow you to your home." "How long would you need?"Samuel asked and Wolfson shrugged "I can't be sure. Give me a day or two." Samuel nodded before turning to Malcolm "We can spend the night at the inn." Wolfson then sighed "Actually, maybe you could stay here in my camp?" Malcolm gave Wolfson a glare "Why would we want to do that?" Wolfson glared in return "Because everyone here hates you! With good reason. Your brother killed one of us then your friend nearly killed Sibas." Samuel raised an eyebrow "No offense but that seems like a reason not to stay here."
Wolfson sat on his desk as he sighed "Hear me out. We'll be spending a lot of time together. We'll be fighting side by side. Maybe it'd be a good idea to try to earn their trust, let them get used to you." Malcolm didn't like it but he could see the wisdom in that. Not only that but Nesa would be staying so Malcolm would need to stay if he wanted to talk to her. Though Bethany and Sara we're back at the inn, if Malcolm wanted to talk to them.
Samuel shook his head "Malcolm can do whatever he wants, but I'll be heading back to the inn." And now that Samuel's heading to the inn, maybe Malcolm should go if he wanted to talk to Samuel and try to talk about their fight. Then again, he was likely still angry. Maybe Malcolm should give him time. Wolfson clapped to get Malcolm's attention "Well? What will it be, Malcolm the perfect?" He asked mockingly.
[Stay at Wolfson's camp] [Stay at the inn] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Stay at Wolfson's camp')
Malcolm turned to Samuel and Samuel only glared in response. Malcolm could tell he was in no mood to talk so he figured it was probably best to leave him be. "I'll stay here then." Samuel shrugged "I'm not gonna stop you. I'll be back in a couple days" he stated bluntly as he turned and left without another word.
Wolfson raised an eyebrow "I get the sense that he's pissed at you." Malcolm glared at Wolfson "I get the sense that it's none of your business." Wolfson sighed "Fantastic start to earning trust, eh Malcolm?" He said sarcastically and not without anger. Malcolm rolled his eyes. He really didn't like Wolfson but decided he should probably try to stay civil "Where exactly am I to sleep?" He asked and Wolfson shook his head "A tent, the cold hard ground. I don't care. Though I doubt many of my people are willing to share a tent with you." Malcolm sighed "I suppose I''ll just figure something out then." He said as he turned to leave the tent. "Good luck..." Wolfson said mockingly.
Malcolm looked around, wondering how he should spend his time. He saw Jacob and Dusty sitting by a camp fire, isolated from everyone else. Malcolm would certainly be more welcome there with his new friend and brother, but wouldn't do much to earn any trust from Wolfson's people. He then turned and saw Nesa sitting alone by a tree, also isolated from everyone else. She didn't seem to be happy here. It could be an opportunity to get Nesa to warm up to Malcolm a little. Finally he saw Alise and Sibas sitting by a tent. Alise was tending to Sibas's wounds, almost mothering him and Sibas didn't seem to appreciate. Dusty nearly killed Sibas and Alise was outraged, so they probably weren't fond of Malcolm but maybe he could make an offer of peace. It seemed unlikely but it may be worth trying to gain their trust.
[Approach Jacob and Dustin] [Approach Nesa] [Approach Alise and Sibas] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Approach Alise and Sibas')
Lucas reluctantly nodded in response to his mother's words "You're right..." He managed to say with emotion and anger in his voice, though not directed at his mother. Talia seemed confused by her son's reaction "What?" Lucas looked her in the eyes "I've never said it out loud, but I do deserve better than this, following every damn order to the letter my whole life, never following my heart, in what I believed in, only father's orders. I've always just forced myself to ignore my own feelings on the matter." Lucas said with venom and Talia gripped his soldiers tightly "Lucas, I wasn't trying to make you angry, I just..." Lucas shook his head quickly interrupting her "But I am, all the time..." He admitted "I'm so damn furious, at Samuel, Jacob, even Malcolm and especially father." Lucas thought perhaps he was even angry at the whole world.
Lucas sighed as he saw the expression on his mother's face, she obviously wasn't expecting this reaction out of him. "Thank you." He simply said "I need to go. I have to prepare for the siege" he said as he walked away from his mother.
Lucas soon made his way out to the courtyard and found something he wasn't expecting. There was a large crowd of smallfolk that appeared to be very angry and they were shouting at the soldiers in front of them. Lucas heard shouts like "Why aren't you protecting us?" And "Hurry up and do something!"
Lucas marched down in front of the soldiers and shouted with authority "What's going on here!?" An older man boldly stood face to face with Lucas. He had Long dark hair, with shades of gray in his hair and beard. He's a tall muscular man with broad shoulders. This was the blacksmith Thomas Cerrick, the father of the scout now in the Northener's hands, Owen Cerrick. "What's going on is that there's an army practically on our doorstep and your family isn't doing anything about it!" The rest of the smallfolk shouted and nodded in agreement. Thomas didn't give Lucas a chance to respond "Not to mention that my son is nowhere to be found! Where is he?" Lucas stepped forward "Your son is being held captive by the Northeners and they refuse to hand him over."
Thomas didn't take the information well as Lucas saw the anger on his face "I knew this would happen, this always happens to those with blind loyalty to the Branfields." Lucas attempted to reassure the man "We'll do all we can to get him back--" Thomas snapped "Bullshit!" He shouted "You're just sitting here waiting for the enemy to attack." Lucas sighed "I'm afraid it's all we can do for the moment." Thomas shook his head "I don't accept that, you shouldn't accept that! Inaction is unacceptable." Lucas began to get angry "What would you have me do?" Thomas' expression softened as he placed his hands on Lucas shoulders "Take the fight to them before they take it to us. Please save my son."
Everything in Lucas told him to do what Thomas suggested, he himself was furious with the Northeners dishonorable display and wanted to make them pay for it. However Damien, Lucas' father would never agree to this. A smallfolk soldier behind Lucas spoke up "M'lord, if I may... The smallfolk soldiers are with you"
Lucas turned to the man in surprise "What are you saying?" The man spoke softly "We've heard of the action you took despite your father's orders. Sending out the scouts to prepare for the coming battle. If you did choose to fight back... We'd follow you without question." Lucas was flattered but unsure what to make of this "Such a move would be risky."
The soldier nodded "Perhaps... but they'd never see such a move coming. We could go at night, bring a small force of us with you and truly take the fight to them. Both the soldiers and the smallfolk would love and respect you for it."
Lucas thought on it, the idea was very appealing to him, he was a soldier and he hated doing nothing, it was also a chance to strike a blow against the Northeners, Damien certainly wouldn't appreciate going against his orders but Lucas wasn't sure if he truly cared at this point.
Thomas spoke up again "Your words are 'In Arms to the End' are they not? Loyalty is valued above all to you Branfields. They say you never leave a man behind. Please, I beg you, prove them right."
[Take the fight to the Northeners.] [Stay put as Damien has commanded] (VOTING IS CLOSED! Readers chose 'Take the fight to the Northeners.)
Ludd grew angrier and angrier as Eamon continued to evade Ludd's questions. Before things could escalate further, Gregor quickly grabbed Ludd and pulled him back "Ludd! That's enough." Ludd growled "Are you serious? This brat is hiding something and he was talking about us!" Gregor stood between Ludd and Eamon "Even so. You're out of line. Eamon is an ally and doesn't deserve to be threatened."
Ludd shook his head in disapproval and bitterly muttered "This day just keeps getting better and better..." As he angrily marched away. "Ludd, wait!" But Ludd didn't listen. Gregor then turned to Eamon and Eamon smiled awkwardly as he rubbed the back of his head "I-- appreciate this Gregor." Gregor glared at Eamon "Do you intend to tell me what you were whispering about?" Eamon sighed and regretfully shook his head "I really do appreciate this though..."
Gregor sighed "I believe you... Eamon. Just whatever you're hidin... be more careful. If Ludd or anyone else continues to find you untrustworthy I might not be able to protect you. I might not even want to if I agree with them." He warned him and Eamon nodded in understanding "I understand, I know I haven't the best reputation right now but I swear I'm here to help. I'll prove useful before this is over." Gregor placed a hand on Eamon's shoulder "I hope that's true." Then he gestured to the main tent where they held the Small Council. "Is everyone inside?" Eamon shook his head, "No, not yet but your cousin Marcus is in there. He'd heard that you wanted to see him." Gregor sighed, it was time to deal with Marcus, he was causing too much trouble at this point. "I'll see you later. Gregor said as he moved towards the tent to speak with Marcus.
Night had fallen as Lucas and the smallfolk stealthily made their way towards the Northener's camp. They looked on and saw the army Gregor was hiding, it was quite large. Lucas sighed "If my brothers don't arrive with reinforcements this army will decimate us." A soldier beside Lucas looked forward in fear "There's no way we can take them all!"
Lucas nodded in aggrement "Luckily that's not what we're here to do. Remember we're here for Owen Cerrick. But we'll still have to fight. That's why we're going to force them to split their troops." The soldier curiously looked to Lucas "How will we do that my Lord?"
Lucas pointed to a hill "We'll have a good height advantage there. Most of you will take bows and fire down from there after I give a signal." The soldier raised his eyebrow "What will be the signal?" Lucas glared at the camp ahead "Fire and Blood." He said with purpose as he picked up a torch "I'm going to take just a few men, create a little chaos, burn some tents and set some horses loose. When most of their people diverge to stop the chaos, that's when you strike!" The soldier nodded "And then you'll save Owen?" Lucas noddedin confirmation. "And cause some serious damage. Now that we're all clear on the plan, let's do this."
Lucas took just a few men with him as they lurked dangerously close to the camp, he heard some Forrester soldiers cheering "That was bloody beautiful when you headbutted Whitehill!" Several of the men laughed and a short man chuckled "Aye! It felt good. Unfortunately Lord Gregor doesn't see it yet but inevitably the Whitehills will turn on us."
Lucas bit his lip as he grew angry at the thought of the Whitehills. At the thought of Ludd being an enemy in this fight. In all the time he's known him, he never would've imagined this turn of events. He quickly shook his head to focus. He saw some Horses nearby and made his way towards them.
There was a Forrester guard by them but Lucas sneaked up behind him, he drew his sword and stabbed him through the heart while covering the soldiers mouth with his free hand to muffle his screams. It didn't take long for the soldier to die as Lucas dropped him.
Lucas pointed to the Horses, gesturing for his men to cut them loose. They did as they were ordered then slapped their arses to send them running. It wasn't long before they heard shouting. Lucas and the men moved on before anyone realized what had happened.
They then found a few tents and they moved quickly with their torches to start burning them. The chaos would soon start. Lucas turned to his soldiers and one of them asked "Is it time M'lord?" Lucas nodded "Use the chaos to disappear, find Owen Cerrick, I'll go it alone from here." The men nodded and did as commanded, moving on to find the Scout.
Lucas heard screaming and turned to see a group of Whitehill men with their backs turned, clearly wondering what was going on. "Are we under attack?!" One screamed and Lucas growled, he was done sneaking around, he wanted a battle. Lucas stalked the Whitehill men, there were four of them and once he got close enough he stabbed one straight through the neck and before they could realize what was happening he swung his sword straight across another's neck. There were two left and they quickly drew their swords to attack. Lucas ducked as one attempted to strike him and pierced his sword up into his gut and twisted it before pulling it out. He then quickly sidestepped the final soldiers attack and thrusted the sword into his chest, forcing him to the ground and impaling him.
Lucas panted as he found himself drenched in blood. He looked around and saw the fires raging around him. As terrible as the circumstances were, Lucas couldn't help but feel good. He always felt more alive in a fight and he felt more useful and purposeful on the battlefield rather than sitting in the keep, obeying his father's every command without question. No longer, Lucas was determined to be his own man now. Not his father's good little soldier. Lucas then looked down at the soldier he impaled, he picked up his sword and glanced at the blood now covering the sword. He shook his head and growled, he was unsatisfied "No... I'm not done yet." He muttered to himself.
"Marcus..." Gregor said as he saw his cousin waiting for him. Marcus looked to him and simply said "Cousin." Gregor sighed as he sat down. "I'm beginning to think you might be more trouble than your worth." Marcus shook his head, he didn't like that "I don't understand, Gregor! You're angry with me for leaving our family to find my own glory, but I came back here to help you."
Gregor sighed "It's not just that, Marcus!" He shouted as he slammed his fist onto the table "Not only do you seem to lack any concept of family and loyalty but now you're antagonizing our allies, the Whitehills. No matter how you might feel about them, they are our allies and--" Marcus seemed distracted as he looked away with a confused expression "Do you hear that?" He asked and Gregor groaned with frustration as he leaned back against his chair "And you're not even listening!"
Marcus shook his head "Shut up and listen for a moment!" Gregor heard angry shouts "Another brawl?" Marcus shook his head "I don't think so..." He said as he cautiously stepped out of the tent. Gregor followed him and that's when he realized the shouts sounded more like screams. He quickly ran outside and the first thing he saw were Horses running wild. Then he turned and saw fire raging around the camp.
"We're under attack!" Gregor heard a soldier scream and as Gregor turned to him the soldier was shot down by an arrow to the back. Gregor looked up to see Archers on a hill shouting "In Arms to the End!"
"Gregor look!" Marcus pointed and Gregor saw much of their forces focused on where the fires were worst. "They've divided our forces." Gregor surmised. He then grabbed his shield and sword and looked to the archers "Let's get up there!" He said but Marcus quickly stopped him "Hold on, Gregor!"
Gregor looked at his cousin "What!? Our forces are in trouble and need us in there!" Marcus nodded "I know but they have a height advantage, it'll be difficult to get close enough to hit them." Gregor sighed, seeing his cousin's point. "Alright, so what do we do about it?"
Marcus gripped Gregor's shield and pushed it to his chest "Take your shield and get their focus on you while I flank them!" Gregor bit his lip before realizing there was no more time left to waste and he nodded "Alright, go! I'll draw their attention." Marcus nodded with a smile as he quickly ran off.
As Gregor ran forward he stopped to see Braedon Snow and a few other Forrester men tending to a burning tent. Gregor shouted "Snow!" Braedon quickly turned to see Gregor "M'lord!" He shouted with relief. Gregor dismissively waved his arms "Forget the fires! All of you take your shields and come with me!" Gregor commanded and ran forward. "You heard your Lord, move it!" Braedon shouted as they all followed Gregor.
As they got closer the archers took notice and prepared to fire. "Shield wall!" Gregor shouted and they all ducked down behind their shields as arrows rained down on them. Gregor groaned as Marcus was nowhere in sight. "Advance!" Gregor shouted and they slowly moved forward, still behind their shields.
The archers didn't hold back as they continued to fire down on them and now they were unable to advance any further without exposing themselves. They were stuck. Gregor then looked up and saw Marcus slowly advancing on the archers from the side, wielding his greatsword. He took a large swing and cut down one of the archers with a single hit. "Iron from Ice!" He screamed.
This was their moment. Gregor stood up and pointed his sword up the hill "Go, quickly get up there!" Braedon was the first to drop his shield and quickly climb up the hill to aid Marcus with the soldiers following behind him. Then Gregor climbed up as well.
The archers were caught off guard and had little time to draw their swords, which gave Marcus the opportunity to kill several of them. By the time the rest were ready to attack Marcus, Gregor and the others were behind them and attacked them swiftly. Attacking from both sides now the archers had little chance as they were all quickly struck down.
"Yes! We did it cousin! Marcus cheered as he pulled Gregor in for a hug. Caught in the moment, Gregor laughed and hugged him back before they looked down at the camp. The fires were getting worse, everyone, including Marcus looked to Gregor and Gregor nodded "Go help get things under control! I'll be fine, go!"
They all did as commanded and ran off to help. Gregor stopped for a moment to catch his breath and his thoughts began to haunt him as he wondered how this could've happened. So many questions came to his mind "Would this set them back? Were the rest of the Council okay? Ludd, Eamon, Royland and even Marcus? Had Gregor failed as a commander?
Gregor shook his head, this wasn't the time to think about such things. He regained his breath and ran down the hill before looking around, trying to see where he was needed.
Sweat dripped off Gregor's face as the fires raged on but felt a shiver run up his spine as he heard a terrifying and enraged shout from behind. "FORRESTER!" Gregor heard the voice shout his family name with rage and Gregor slowly turned around to see none other than Lucas Branfield with his sword drawn and covered with blood, his own body was also drenched with blood. Gregor had to assume he had killed a great number of men. Lucas looked furious. Gregor quickly readied his sword and Ironwood shield "This is a rash move, facing me like this, Lucas!"
Lucas slowly approached Gregor, each step made with purpose "Making an enemy of me and my family was a rash move." He spat as he got closer and Gregor knowing there was no talking Lucas down tried to attack first. He thrust his sword forward and Lucas easily parried before barging forward into Gregor's shield, sending him a couple steps backwards before Lucas began his assault, striking with rage and Gregor struggled as he desperately tried to block with his shield but he did manage to keep Lucas at bay.
Lucas was infuriated by this and shouted "Fight me!" As his strikes continued and eventually Gregor made a mistake as he dropped his defense and attempted to strike Lucas down. Lucas blocked the strike and locked Gregor's sword with his before successfully knocking the sword out of Gregor's hand. Gregor's eyes widened as he realized how dire his situation was now. Only a shield left to defend himself Gregor quickly hid behind it but Lucas didn't hold back as he striked relentlessly down on Gregor's shield. Thankfully Ironwood was strong and resilient, Lucas was barely making a dent.
Lucas again shouted with rage, furious by the lack of damage he was inflicting and he kicked forward, forcing Gregor to stumble back then he grabbed the shield and forced it from his grasp before throwing it aside. Gregor quickly stood up as he was left vulnerable, no weapon and no shield. Without hesitation Lucas swung his sword at Gregor. With quick thinking Gregor managed to swerve, only narrowly avoiding the blade, seeing an opportunity he grabbed Lucas' sword arm and twisted it hard until Lucas screamed and was forced to drop his blade. Gregor didn't let go and that was when Lucas delivered a hard punch to Gregor's face with his free hand, he punched him hard, several times until Gregor relented and released his arm.
Both warriors were now left unarmed and forced to fight with their fists. Gregor felt confident as he was larger and stronger than Lucas but Lucas was quick. Lucas quickly dive tackled Gregor down into the ground and delivered a very hard blow to the face before Gregor could raise his arms fast enough to block. Quickly seeing the dire position he was in with Lucas on top of him, Gregor turned around onto his stomach. Just as Gregor predicted Lucas wrapped his arms around Gregor's neck, attempting to choke him from behind. This put Gregor in the position to use his strength to throw Lucas over his shoulders.
Lucas groaned in frustration as he fell and before he could act Gregor resorted to climbing on top of Lucas, he couldn't risk running for his weapon and giving Lucas the advantage again. He wrapped his hands around Lucas' neck and began choking him. Gregor was too big for Lucas to overpower him, he was trapped. A bad way to go but Gregor had little choice.
Lucas was in a really bad position with Gregor Forrester strangling him to death. Fighting for survival he desperately clawed at his face but it did little to help him as Gregor was unrelenting. Lucas frantically struggled and began to wonder if he'd made a mistake in choosing to attack. Lucas then turned and saw Gregor's Ironwood shield, the sigil staring back at him, almost like it was taunting him. In a desperate act of survival he reached for the shield. He managed to grab it and bashed it repeatedly into Gregor's skull. Eventually he managed to knock Gregor down and Lucas quickly got to his feet.
Lucas gave chase and rather than defensively he used the shield like a battering ram, ruthlessly slamming it into Gregor. Gregor then fell onto his back. Lucas glared down at him as Gregor looked convinced this was the end for him. As Lucas then prepared to slam the shield down an arrow was fired his way. Luckily the shield protected Lucas and he quickly backed away before picking up his sword. That archer had just saved Gregor's life. Lucas looked forward and saw an archer wearing the colours of House Glenmore. The archer helped Gregor to his feet "Are you alright, Gregor?" Gregor nodded "Thanks to you!" Gregor got up and Glenmore then handed Gregor his own sword before aiming his bow back at Lucas. Then they were soon accompanied by a Glenmore knight.
It was three against one, Lucas didn't like his odds but he also despised the idea of backing down. He prepared to attack once again and as he growled a hand quickly held him back. Lucas turned in surprise to see the Scout he came to save, Owen Cerrick. "M'lord!" He smiled "The men you brought just saved me and now it's time to return the favor. You can't die here, we must return to Summerspring, the people still need you." Lucas didn't like it but he did what he came to do. He reluctantly nodded before glaring at Gregor Forrester and pointed his sword towards him "We'll meet again Forrester! I promise you that! And then we'll finish this. There will be no stalemate next time!" He growled furiously before he turned to leave with Owen, and he brought the Ironwood shield with him. Forrester was wise enough not to follow them. Gregor
Eventually the fire had been extinguished and the chaos was over. However they did take heavy losses. Thankfully their forces were still large and undoubtedly outnumbered the Branfields but it was unclear how much of a setback this would be.
Gregor turned to see Ludd standing beside him. Ludd sighed "I never expected Lucas to make such a rash move. It's not like him" Gregor didn't expect it either but it's what happened and he hit them good. "Maybe you never knew the real him."
Ludd only shrugged in response "Word's gotten around that you faced Lucas in battle. He give you that?" Ludd asked as he gestured to Gregor's black eye. Gregor reluctantly nodded, he felt like he was shamed. Ludd looked around and spoke softly "You should know, these men, when they look at you they won't see that you fought Lucas Branfield and lived. They'll see that Lucas Branfield left his mark on you and lived."
"He took my shield..." Gregor angrily muttered. Ludd narrowed his eyes "You'll get another one. You Forresters have plenty of shields and plenty of Ironwood."
Gregor growled as he shook his head "You don't understand!" Ludd was surprised by Gregor's outburst. "Explain it to me then." Gregor sighed "That shield was given to me by my great uncle, Davith Forrester! A Ranger of the Nights Watch. He crafted that shield himself, long before he took the black. He treated me with more respect than my father ever has."
Gregor chuckled bitterly "My father... He's always seen me as worthless you know? He's never trusted me. And now that he's finally trusted me, I've failed spectacularly. 'A worthless child and a worthless leader' Lucas Branfield proved him right today. And took the one thing that made me feel like I mattered!" Ludd frowned as he attempted to reassure Gregor "This fight isn't over yet." Gregor sighed "Maybe not, but how many times can I fail as a leader before it's intolerable?"
As if on Que, Marcos Trant appeared beside Gregor. The man who questions Gregor's leadership the most. "How bad is it?" Gregor asked and Marcos turned to Gregor, if he was angry he didn't show it. "This will set us back quite a bit. We have no choice but to delay the siege... again."
Gregor stepped forward running his hands through his hair in frustration. Everything in him told Gregor to maintain his composure, that if he loses it he'll lose what little respect he still has. But so many emotions were running through Gregor. Without thinking he dropped to his knees, furiously slammed his fist into the ground and screamed "DAMN IT!" His voice echoing through the whole camp. No Choices for this Part
Malcolm had decided an attempt to make peace with Alise and Sibas would be worthwhile. Though he hesitated when he realized Alise was glaring at him. As intimidating as she is beautiful, if not more. Malcolm awkwardly walked towards them as she didn't look away from him. Before Malcolm could speak Alise spat "What do you want?" At this Sibas looked forward, only now noticing Malcolm's presence. "Alise..." he said, trying to calm her down but she didn't answer, apparently still awaiting Malcolm's response.
Malcolm bit his lip, trying to word this carefully "I... wanted to check on you." Alise scoffed "Well as you can see he's alive, you can go now." Sibas glared at the woman "Alise, come on! Let him speak at least." Alise rolled her eyes "Fine." There was then a pause as Alise stared at Malcolm "What?" Malcolm asked with a confused expression and Alise wasn't amused "Do what you came to do!" She growled and Malcolm realized she was literally giving him a chance to make his case "Oh, sorry!" He laughed awkwardly but Alise's expression still did not change.
Malcolm sighed "Look, I'm not denying that Dusty went too far. He absolutely did and I don't approve." Sibas looked down at the ground and Malcolm looked at him, slightly concerned "How are you doing?" Sibas shook his head "You've nothing to apologize for. Your friend was the better fighter, what's worse is that I acted like a coward. I thought I was past that."
As Sibas said that Alise's expression softened "You are Sibas. You're not the same boy from when we first met." Sibas rolled his eyes, clearly annoyed "Don't coddle me! You're so hard on everyone else but you excuse all of my faults. Why?" Malcolm felt he was intruding on something that had nothing to do with him before Alise bit her lip clearly upset by what Sibas said. Without saying a word she barged into Malcolm's shoulder as she marched past him.
Malcolm rubbed the back of his neck "This is a little awkward..." Sibas let loose a smirk "Don't worry about Alise. Give her time, she won't show it but she appreciates what you said." Malcolm felt relived by Sibas' words but also a little skeptical. "She clearly cares about you." Sibas scoffed at that "Hang her care. I don't need it and I don't want it. She treats me like a fucking child." Sibas had quite the short temper on him.
Malcolm sat down next to Sibas, growing curious he asked "What did you mean when you said you thought you were past being a coward? Clearly Alise thinks you are" Sibas sighed "Alise looks at me differently. Her praise means nothing. Words are wind. My actions speak for themselves. And my actions are that of a coward. When your friend started beating me, I panicked. I thought I was gonna die." Malcolm nodded "It's a natural reaction." He tried to reason but Sibas shook his head "Not for a warrior, not a soldier. It reminded me far too much of when I met Alise."
Malcolm couldn't help but grow more curious "What happened?" Sibas glared, clearly angry just at the thought of the memory. I was Ironborn." He revealed "Or to be more accurate I was from the Iron Islands. No Ironborn would've acted the way I did. I was pathetic, a coward. Alise said so herself." Malcolm waited for Sibas to continue and he did "I was terrible with a sword, but it was supposed to be easy. Raid a fishing village, happened all the time with no complications. This time there were sellswords defending it."
Malcolm raised an eyebrow "They could afford a band of sellswords to defend them?" Sibas shook his head "I don't think so. She won't admit it but I'm sure Alise just had a conscience. She wanted to save them." Malcolm nodded "That's honestly surprising, considering Wolfson seems to only care for himself." Sibas nodded "Your right, but we hadn't met Wolfson yet." Sibas smiled "You should'be seen her Malcolm. She was amazing and terrifying on that battlefield. My comrades were slaughtered. Which is fine I hated their guts. But when it was my turn... I dropped my sword, fell to my knees and cried like a baby. I begged her to spare me."
Malcolm nodded "And so she did" Sibas laughed "Well she spat on me first. Called me all sorts of things I won't repeat. But for some reason she forced me up to my feet and made me pick up my sword, demanding that I fight her." Malcolm smiled, understanding her intent "She wanted you to have a warrior's death." Sibas shrugged "Maybe but it didn't matter. I was disgraceful. Was so scared and she easily knocked me on my arse. But for some reason she decided to bring me with her. Make me a warrior." Sibas then glared as he stood up "Obviously she hasn't succeeded yet." Sibas looked down at the ground "I just... I want to prove her wrong. I want to prove that I'm not a coward. That I'm worth something. I know she doesn't mean what she says. Something changed in the way she looks at me. She just wants to protect me." Malcolm chuckled "You remind me of someone." Sibas showed no reaction, clearly deep in thought.
Malcolm stood up and attempted to speak but Sibas cut him off "Don't try to comfort me, Malcolm. I don't need it and I don't want it. I may know how to fight but I'm still a coward. Screamed when your friend had me down, I should've fought back, should've taken it." Sibas looked Malcolm in the eye "Just be honest, I was a coward. I should've fought back."
Malcolm wasn't sure what to tell him, he wouldn't hear it from Alise, but she knows him. Perhaps if Malcolm told him he did well that he'd believe it. Part of Malcolm wondered if he'd have fared much better. Dusty is a scary individual, even as an ally. Then again Malcolm remembered his words 'In Arms to the End' perhaps Sibas should've fought back. Thinking about his answer, Malcolm looked Sibas in the eyes and said...
["You're right. You should've fought back.] ["I would've done the same."]