A cool wind swirls across the fields near Pennytree, bringing with it a rich, loamy scent. Somewhere, a bird trills in forlorn solitude; the hour of gloaming is upon the land, and it is a melancholy one. The skies glow purple over the twin hills on the horizon, shading into darkness with each passing moment.
There is a kind of peace to the quiet tableau. Until the lights begin to bloom like will o’ the wisps in Pennytree. Too many, far too many—and these are no candles in farmers’ windows but campfires that glint upon steel and mail.
There, on the outskirts of the village, is something more suited to a battlefield in Dorne than a Riverlands village—a line of hasty defenses with rough-hewn stakes thrown up. And behind them, men—hundreds of them, many clearly levies from the village itself stiffened by hardened men-at-arms bearing the Raventree sigil. Some keep watch, most rest around campfires a little distance behind the stakes.
Until somewhere in the distance, a horse whinnies, high and thin. And in the distance, a lone rider crests a low rise, silhouetted against the darkening sky. He spurs as if all the hounds of the Seven Hells were behind him. And his cry drifts on the wind, distant and desperate:
“Blackwood! Blackwood! They’re coming!”
No such idle moments have come for Balian Blackwood on this path to Pennytree, and the veteran knight has not sat at ease since his host’s arrival. Even now, he stands amongst those watching the distance for signs of impending attack.
Cold eyes watch that horse’s gallop churn the loam between that rise and their delineated line of defense. The scout’s pace is enough signal—even as the man is calling out that warning, the Blackwood man turns on a spurred heel.
“READY YOURSELVES!” The deep boom of his command brooks no hesitation; the simple, direct choice of words dispenses with lyrical notions of battle speeches. Balian suits action to words, pointing and shouting out the finer points of preparation.
Ryckard is sat at the top of his destrier, the broad warrior is using a mail coat and full helmet. He keeps a serious, cold face as he scans through the battlefield with his eyes.
When his commander, Ser Balian, gives the order, he draws the sword and raises his shield, getting in the offensive position.
There are some defending the stakes who huddle around a small fire. They talk quietly, share a hasty meal, even sleep, some of them. But not so, does their commander.
He stands in silence, his heavy steel armor gleaming in the last rays of light in that darkening sky—well, not gleaming; the armor is too old for that: worn and battered, but strong, well cared for, and burnished as well as such armor can be. His great helm rests atop his head, visor raised; his kite shield is heavy oak and newly painted black—no sigil or sign for this knight, but that alone is sigil enough.
Here stands Ammon Massey, a man cast aside by his father, a man now known as Ammon Blackhand. This man of a bloody repute: who heartlessly murders prisoners; who takes advantage of women; who eats babies and does all manner of other terrible things!—well, depending on what stories you believe, and who tells them. And what the Riverlanders, these Blackwood men, think of their commander. What they think of this Crownlander giving them orders? Well, that remains to be seen.
“Up men, up,” Ammon barks as Balian bellows. The men listen, kicking the fire out while they rise. There is the rattle of armor and weapons as his men form up behind the stakes, but Massey studies the edge of the field—for here they come: Bracken, and Smallwood; Prester, and Marbrand. Friends, some of them. Once.
A sigh, and Massey flips the visor of his great helm down. Draws his sword. And waits.
A horse crests the ridge beyond the river it’s lone rider staring down at the village and its defense for a moment before he raises a horn to his lips and blows a long note that echoes across the fields and into the village.
A new rider appears on the crest as the note begins to fade a banner barer with the blood red horse of Bracken blowing on its golden field. Then more men come, some on horseback, others on foot, torches scattered among them as they form up at the top of the rise.
Another long haunting note is blown from the horn drowning out the sounds of horses, men and arms as battles array on the ridge top. From the village it’s hard to make out the numbers but there are hundreds there upon the hill; some glitter in their polished plate and burnished mail other hunker in the shadows of these great men riding poor horses with weapons scrounged from wars long forgotten. Though as they form their lines their voices rise with one, and a singular shout “Bracken and revenge!”
Then at their fore a cluster of knights led by Othan Blackmane himself draw their blades and charge down the ridge making for the heart of the Blackwood lines, their voices raised in a bitter shout of war, their host pelting down the ridge behind them.
“Bracken! Bracken and revenge!”
Atop a snarling, brown destrier and dressed in burnished, steel plate, Ser Kenron Piper spits down onto the floor. His surcoat — blue, and bearing the blushing, nude figure of a maiden wrapped in scant white fabric— is clean and unworn, though it seems that this shall not be for much longer. Out on the flanks of the advancing army he sits in brooding silence, eager amongst the other nobles within the cavalry.
His brother—having taken the side of the Blackwoods—is nowhere to be seen, turning Ser Kenron’s mood as sour as a Dornish lemon. As his horse trots, Ser Kenron barks out the occasional encouraging word to the men around him, though he himself does not seem eager to share in their bravado.
As the horn echoes out across the fields, the Piper knight smirks. Whether the smile is one of pleasure or anxiety, there is no time to tell. Drawing his sword and raising it high above his head, his voice joins the others; “Bracken!” he cries, “Bracken and revenge!” and soon he is charging down towards the defensive line, screaming, cursing and barking as he does.
Titus is a Sworn sword to the Blackwood house, a bastard enlisted from the Riverlands. He readies his sword as Balian gives the call and pats the mane of his horse before raising his shield. Rolling his shoulder he drops the visor of his helm. “Blackwood!” He shouts in chorus as he forms up with the line with the Balian.
Left at the edges of the Bracken line Luthor raises his visor as he watches the host charge towards the heart of the Blackwood line. “Gods be good, some archers would have been a wise idea,” he remarks idly clearly not eager to join the stream of levy men and men-at-arms streaming past his small knot of men.
His sharp dark eyes survey the field and spying place where the stakes and other defenses are lightest he nods and points with his sword. “There,” he says to his men. “That’s where we get in,” he looks over to his cousin who is nearby with his own men. “That way,” he calls to him. “And on foot. Let these fools eat the stakes.”
This isn’t the first fight of Ser Ardros Piper, but Gods willing, it won’t be the last, either. The Heir to Pinkmaiden Castle draws his sword, his own sworn fighters gathered around him on horseback. His free hand, the arm of which is currently carrying a shield, holds the reins of his mount in a slack fashion. The sword is lifted up, gleaming under the increasingly dim lights of this evening. An evening which promises to be bloody for both sides involved.
Quickly, he taps his visor back in place when the horn not belonging to his allies in the Blackwood is heard, the strap of leather of the reins smacking against the equine’s hide in order to coax it to turn, to meet the enemies that charge straight into the lines.
Two Pipers, both on opposing sides of the conflict. The Warrior smirks at the irony of this battleground-to-be, doesn’t He?
Yhon Rivers is near to Balian Blackwood, he is not one of his men but he spurs his horse to move where esquire points. His horse,—a grey palfrey,—whinnies and snorts, stomping its hooves on the ground, uneasy at the rising tensions that appear before a battle. Man at arms to House Blackwood, the bastard scans the foe before lurching his horse forward, keeping his eyes to the rest of the Bracken men, advancing as they do.
Balian Blackwood’s deep voice wars with that Bracken roar—and somewhere near him, a horn begins to sound, wild and frantic, rising in counterpoint. And everywhere along the stakes, men respond; levies perhaps, but stiffened by grizzled Blackwood men-at-arms and given heart by their far-famed commander’s presence.
Scattered, defiant cries begin to answer the Brackens; men are running, snatching up weapons and kicking over campfires, making for what are plainly pre-determined positions. The Blackwoods are well-prepared indeed—strangely so. That lone scout reaches their lines, dismounting at the run before the stakes, slapping his lathered horse on the rump and sending it to gallop riderless to whatever fate awaits it as he stumbles through the defenses himself to take his place among the defenders.
Benedict stays mounted on his horse, the reigns tightening in his grasp. Another battle, another chance for him to die. He drops his visor and adjusts his shield, Today would be quite bloody. Benedict rode on the far left flank, knowing this would probably be a vital attacking position, just as it was back in his old battle times. He draws his sword and readies for the attack. He points at the edge of the battlefield, “This is where we fight” He was shouting at the men whom were charged to him, most of the small contingent was lightly armored, and on horseback.
Though earlier, he harbored reservations about his trip to Stone Hedge—many of them—those have all vanished in the moment, and Jan Marbrand sits atop his horse, clad in a full plate of armor, ready as any other knight. His armor is purely functional, nothing audacious, and his helm is already lowered as he surveys the field, one hand resting lightly on his sword, the other on his shield, which displays the burning tree of House Marbrand.
At the signal from Ser Othan, though, Jan screams along with the rest of them, spurring his horse towards the Blackwoods and indiscriminately zeroing in on the first to enter his field of view. Though not experienced at battle, he certainly knows how to ride ahorse, and he naively ignores the better advice from Ser Luthor to go afoot, charging his steed forward towards the stakes recklessly.
Erryk stands amongst the men afoot, a sinewy, sinister sellsword who could not, in any way, be more unlike his namesake in demeanor and countenance. Bereft of one eye and one ear, his face looks is covered in boils and pox scars, indeed, it looks as though his neck has thrown up.
Arrayed in a coat of rusted mail and dented half helm, the sellsword sings a notched bastard sword overhead, calling out a litany of curses at the onrushing Brackens, and the sorry levies of peasants awaiting their charge.
Amongst those ‘fools’ aiming for the stakes, the horsehair crest of Othan Blackmane swings prominent in the fore of the Bracken forces. It curves, stark black agains the purpling sky, as that cluster of knights at the center begin their charge down the ridge, against the rushed—or are they that rushed?—defenses of the Blackwoods.
Perhaps he aims for glory, perhaps for blood- but it is certain that he aims most of all for Balian, with “Revenge!” fiercely shouted over the din, near as clear in the dimming light as the glint of his steel, even as the hidden preparations of the Blackwoods reveal themselves.
And in they ride, those Brackens and Smallwoods, Presters and Marbrands, the steel of their armor seeming to be ablaze itself with the light of so many torches within their ranks. And those ranks are many: hundreds of knights, easily the size of the Blackwood force itself, perhaps even larger, if the sight of them is enough to inspire any sort of fear. And, at the call of Othan Blackmane, the charge comes.
The stakes, however, are enough to give the charge pause. Some horses, lead by skilled warriors whose reactions are switch enough, find ways to leap through the gaps, but a great many more crash against them, like a wave hitting unseen rocks in the dark. The shrill whinnies and cries of the surprised riders and their mounts almost instantly lead to a fair amount of chaos in the Bracken ranks, and several of those in command begin shouting orders to dismount and continue the charge afoot. This is soon taken up by many, while others are simply diverted to find an alternate route into Pennytree.
Balian’s bellowing demands of his men continue as his squire fastens the last of the man’s armor to his formidable frame. Balian Blackwood has been dressed for this moment all day save helm and gauntlets, wearing even his sword and keeping his black and gold shield within reach at every turn.
Balian Blackwood has been ready for this chance at revenge his entire life; the knight’s hooded gaze gleams as it turns out to the advancing line, a sinister and hungry smile curving humorlessly across his face.
“Steady, men! Remember your positions!” Their Blackwood knight calls as he unsheathes his sword, readies his stance. “Steady and wait for the fools to fuck themselves on our swords!”
Ammon watches as the Brackens begin to move: some charge on horseback, others on foot. But the horses are quickened—and coming right for the stakes!
“Archers!” shouts Massey, and the archers answer—A few, but not many. Arrows begin to rain down upon the men charging at his position.
And then they are close. Closer. There!
The first man through a gap in the defenses is the first man to meet Ammon’s sword. The first to scream. The first to die.
But certainly not the last.
A Blackwood sworn sword, his armor is pretty good for a random retainer well nearly at average with the standard. He is tall and lanky, his armour is a size to big, but he still wears it well. On his shield a painted sigil of House Blackwood, stark white weirwood tree on a black tree. Short brown hair and a small scar going through the brow.
While other knights chose armor that befits perfect battlefield functionality, Ser Farin is instead a visage of terror. The polished steel ox horns of his helm curve dangerously, leaving two sharpened spikes pointing straight in line with its wearer’s line of sight, and the garnet enamel coating the horns gives the whole ensemble a look of bloody intent. And in the dark, with only the torchlight to view the Prester knight by, that red shines the brightest with the whole sharpened plate set to searing flame.
This Prester knight lets the other ride by, however. Argett is left to his own devices, with a pair of Prester men-at-arms sent to him for protection. Farin takes his other 4, his squire and retainer, and follow Ser Luthor on foot.
“And the arrows,” he notes back to his cousin, his voice deep and resonating within the confines of the grotesque helmet. “Let them eat it all.”
The Blackwood host’s rising is organized enough—a feud a thousand years old, some say longer, some say less; men stand with spears and shields, positioned to aim to strike the hearts of warhorses, to knock knights off their mounts. Others, behind them, taking advantage of the last lights in the sky to string their bows, squires with quivers full of goose-feather arrows. Not many archers, but enough—they pull back, releasing strings and picking off knights and men-at-arms seeking to find ways around the stakes.
Other men of the levies swing not swords but scythes and axes, farmer’s tools made deadly in small folk hands, their eyes on horse’s legs and the men who could not afford plate but settled for boiled leather and chain.
Failing to heed the counsel of Ser Luthor Rivers, Ser Kenron is amongst the first mounted knights to attempt to clear the stakes. The sound of the dying, screaming horses around him is deafening, blood filling his eyes and his mouth, though somehow Ser Kenron himself remains atop his mount.
That is until his horse lands, shattering its foot on the hard earth. The destrier screams and kicks, forcing Ser Kenron to abandon the beast on the floor. He gives it one more, quick pitiful look before turning towards the Blackwood line.
The ascent up the defenses is laborious in his plate armour, through the arrows that land around him—not to mention the pitiful weapons of the levies—are no match for such protection. Grasping his shield tight and pulling his sword back, Ser Kenron aims a thrusting stab at a pox-scarred sellsword waving a notched bastard sword high above his head…
Riding fiercely, Ryckard approaches the front line of the Blackwoods. “For the Old Gods! For the justice! For the Blackwoods!” He shouts.
When the Bracken men-at-arms starts to approach them, he steers the horse towards them, slaying one who is foolish enough to get close to him.
He moves towards the right side of the Blackwood forces, showing no fear and no mercy.
Blackmane’s steel is clean, polished, almost white against the spreading night. In an almost delicate arc, it flashes brilliantly as it meets the Blackwood line.
And then, so quickly, it is red, and instead of the sword making that delicate arc, it is the drops of blood flung from the weapon after it enters the some now dead-eyed man’s side. Some man who had not the proper armor to stand so close to the fore as he did.
Not so with Othan’s next target, and the path he begins to carve into the line heads straight for the black and gold shield at the center of the defenses, even as he continues to roar, “Revenge!”
Benedict seems quite concerned as he pushes his horse further left, but not too far as to separate from the main host. Going around the stakes would just lead to separation, the first of the Bracken host clashes into the Blackwoods. “Careful!” He shouts at his men as he approaches the stakes and presses at the right flank of the Blackwood army, rapidly dismounting as he approaches the stakes. Using the momentum to help speed him forward at his enemy, past the stakes and propelling his blade in through his first kill of the night’s throat.
It may be reckless, but Jan manages the situation well as anyone, darting to the left of the Blackwood men in an effort to avoid the arrows. And, his skill atop his horse is evident once again, as he guides his steed to a graceful and slightly improbable leap over the Blackwood stakes, and Jan even unsheathes his sword and slashes down at a Blackwood man-at-arms at his descent, a geyser of blood spewing into the air. When they land, the horse stops, and Jan pauses for a second, blinking, surprised he has made it this deep into the enemy’s maw and still survived. He spurs his horse—again, indiscriminately—towards the first defender he sees: an unknown man with a black shield.
Charging towards the Bracken soldiers, Ardros commands spearmen in a rush to incapacitate and kill the stragglers amongst those riders that were fortunate enough to jump the spikes. He parries an overhead sword strike with his own blade, the clash of steel ringing loud in his ears as he turns and sinks the point of the blade into the man’s exposed side. Mobility is a two-edged weapon depending on the opponent, and though he barely has enough time to avoid another attack, his field men save him by impaling this attacker on their pole arms.
Swatting the blade forward as if to wipe the blood off of its polished surface, he starts to charge towards the Bracken knight who has just dismounted his horse. “BLACKWOOD!”
“Glad someone remembered the bloody archers,” Luthor remarks to his cousin before kicking his horse into a trot and motioning for his men to follow, as they make their own way down the ridge and towards the swirling mass of men and horses that is the Blackwood defenses. His eyes swing from one end of the lines to the other and curses. “Well this is a fucking mess,” still he is fixed on the gap he saw from the ridge line and so swings from his horse with his men following suit. As they gather around him, he rips his sword from its scabbard and begins to shoulder his way to the gap shouting to his men. “Together men! Together! Kill any whoreson who raises a blade to us.”
Titus jumps off his horse as arrows take it in the throat and flanks. The beast flails and squeals with pain as it struggles to breath. Out of kindness, Titus Rivers takes his dagger and slits the poor beasts throat. A true testament to the bond of rider and horse, though without so much of a flinch he turns to the Bracken men and allies that are ahead, he forges forward on foot toward Farin Prester.
The best laid plans and all that. It’s chaos now, and nothing for it. The enemy begins to surge through the stakes, the Blackwood levies surge forward to meet them. The first of Massey’s command to fall does so to a mounted knight, vaulting gracefully over the defenses. A mounted knight bearing the burning tree of House Marbrand.
“Blackwood! Raventree!” A scattering of cries from these levies. And then “Pennytree! Pennytree!” The smallfolk rush to attack the oncoming men; to attempt to force the Marbrand knight from horseback. And it is to this man that Ammon Blackhand turns.
A mighty swing—not for Jan, but for the horse’s legs.
Naught else commands the Blackwood knight’s attention but the rush of that line against his men’s defenses; he shouts above the hiss and twang of archers, not so much delivering orders as he is supporting those following their predetermined positions.
He swivels his helmed head to track the arc those fletched and steel-pointed missives make towards the Bracken’s lot—
And sees the Blackmane routing his way to the line.
Balian smiles. Then, he lunges forward, past his men, past the stakes, forgetting all else but the memory of a blood debt owed. Just as Othan’s charge brings him near, Balian lets his sword arm fly with deadly purpose.
Benedict sees a man charge at him and he pulls his sword from the exposed neck of his falling adversary, bringing it in a slash at his attacker, trying to get to this shouting man before he can be hit himself.
Sticking close to his cousin through the gap, Farin waits until all of his men are through, then proceeds quietly enough—until the first man comes out from the darkness at them, right for Farin. “We’ve got our first whoreson,” he laughs, the metals of the helm turning his mirth into gallows humor. And then, shield out, Farin charges, running straight out and crashing into the man with the weight of the shield behind him for his first attack.
It’s not a terribly solid blow, but nevertheless, it’s enough to bring Jan’s horse to a halt, and Jan goes flying from his seat. He tumbles along the ground for several feet, but rights himself quickly, raising his sword in one motion to face the man who unhorsed him. It’s only until he spies the black shield again that he surmises his opponent, and he mutters softly to himself, “Fuck.” But war is war, and Jan engages the Massey knight again, though he explicitly slashes down on the man’s sword arm—a strike aimed to maim, to disable, but not to kill.
Following Balian at a trot then passing him as he picks up pace, Yohn raises his weapon sending out a call, “For Honor, For Blackwood!” He spurs his horse faster as he comes to the line, he waited for the arrows to fly before doing so. Swinging his weapon at a few of the less armed men on the field who try to take out his horses legs. He cuts down one, then two before he breaks through the line of farmerfolk.
Of course, Benedict gets the drop on him. Ardros is struck on the torso nastily by the sword, as it rips through steel and cuts nastily against the flesh of his stomach, drawing blood in the process. It winds him too, causing him to stumble forward, but still attempt to recover and launch an attack at Benedict, towards the man’s sword-wielding arm.
Never mind the fact he screams both in pain and in valiant abandon of his own wellbeing in the name of blood, in the name of revenge.
Ever the dutiful squire, Ryckon follows behind Farin as he follows behind Luthor. He is wearing a new set of plate armor, mostly plain steel with some seashells crafted into the metal, and a helm vaguely resembling a protective shell around his head. His mace already prepared, he only has to raise it threateningly and start using it at Luthor’s encouragement, though he is unable to help himself from raising an eyebrow at Luthor calling other men whoresons. He begins to fight the militia, unable to focus on his master’s well-being so long as he wishes to stay alive in his own fight.
Titus snorts at Farin’s comment. “Whoreson. Aye, but at least I don’t look prettier than a maiden in my armor.” He says with a grunt as Fain bashes at him with his shield. A riotous laugh from the thin man as he takes a step back to go at him with his own shield.
The roar of Revenge turns into a pained grunt as the man Othan was aiming for does him the courtesy of making his own way through the line- and promptly dents his armor with the force of his blow. The Blackmane’s motion stalls with it, almost sending the man reeling—almost.
But the Blackmane, just as Balian, has the blood of his family to honor and the old feud to drive him. He keeps his footing, a feral roar reverberating in his helm as he brings his own blade round toward the Blackwood’s neck.
Benedict tries to recoil his arm behind his shield, protecting him potentially from the sword swing and from a spear also aimed for his head.
From command to fight, Ammon’s focus narrows. Marbrand is unhorsed, rises quickly, counter-attacks. But Ammon closes the distance quickly, slips to the side so that the blade aimed for his arm glances off his shoulder. He bulls into Jan himself—and neither does he go for a killing blow. Perhaps he remembers their friendship, not so distant, or perhaps he is simply too close to the man. A punch toward the helmet instead, sword clenched tightly in his fist.
Farin catches Titus’ shield on his own, but the momentum is enough to jar Farin’s muscles and his bull rush is thwarted. Still, he rebounds himself with a rather spry energy for one stuffed into full plate, bringing his morningstar about to crash towards his foeman’s head. “Pretty? Aye, I would take pretty any day, opposed to the mess you will be soon,” he japes, the thick metal sound accenting the malice in his tone.
When Ryckard eyes met a young and stout boy of the Bracken side, he quickly lifts his sword and shouts, “Fool! You are defending the wrong cause!” The sword moves in the direction of the shoulder of the opponent as if trying to surprise him. It happens that the boy he is attacking is Ryckon Westerling.
The sound of the arrows and the screaming of the first dead men doesn’t seem to fright the fearless warrior.
Jan curses again as his sword glances harmlessly off Ammon’s shoulder, and he’s barely able to react as Ammon counters with a punch to his helm. Jan stumbles back, clearly disoriented, and reaches up with his left hand to his helm. He bangs a fist against the steel in a possibly misguided effort to clear his head and lets out an animalistic yell, then forges forward recklessly yet again. Still, though, he swings his sword down on Ammon’s sword arm again in an attempt to disarm the man.
Benedict cries out in anger as his arm feels the bite of cold steel rip into his arm, forcing the blade to almost flee his grasp. Benedict thrusts his shield forward, trying to knock him off balance so Benedict can swing with his sword.
Titus weathers the Prester’s blow with a growl, pushing the man’s mace off his shield with a sideways swipe. “Oh ho, shall we paint your armour pink then. No, let it be red” The Riverland bastard swings back his sword and aims for Farin’s side.
Ryckard’s shouting undermines his attempt to surprise Ryckon. Even though the squire is slow to step out of the way in his plate armor, he is quick enough, and he dodges the blow handily. He frowns. “Our side has the gods. Your side has the trees.” The young Ryckard covers the distance to the older now knight Ryckon with a charge and a swing for his chest.
The sound escaping through the teeth of Balian’s helm is half a laugh, and more a roar to answer the Blackmane. There is nothing but the power of bloodlust and wanton revenge propelling the Blackwood knight in this match; his shield arm curves to the fore even as Othan’s blade reaches for his neck.
The blade skitters off black and gold, taking with it some of that paint; Balian uses the momentum of that black to spin another swing of his sword in response, the full weight of his might behind this next push.
Benedict’s combined shield/weapon assault pays off; Ardros barely has any balance to try and recover his stance before the enemy blade sinks hard into his shoulder, causing him to lose his shield. Screaming in pain, now, he goes for a thrust at the man’s exposed side, his wrist angling the blade just so it can sink at a certain vector, to punish the other knight for this vicious blow.
The blow connects to Farin’s side, but the blow is mostly absorbed by Farin’s superior arm. There’s enough of a cut to leave a bruise behind, but not much more in the way of damage. “Aye, red,” the Prester knight laughs his agreement, half to mask the pain. “Though it will be yours. Mark my words, filthy scum!” And then flies the blackened iron morningstar, its weight and spikes aimed again for the Blackwood retainer’s head.
Ryckard grumbles when his sword doesn’t reach his target and, with that, makes himself exposed to attack, which quickly follows. The man spits some blood before speaking, “Your Seven have those stupid rules, our gods are the heart of Westeros.”
Another rush from Ryckard, his sword is aimed at the chest of the squire.
Sparks fly as Jan’s sword smashes into Ammon’s forearm—a lucky thing that Massey is wearing full plate! What might have been disastrous turns into nothing more than dented armor and a shock up the arm, a bruise in the morning is imminent. Perhaps, even some blood will present itself.
But that attack offers a brief respite for Ammon Blackhand. And when he comes on again, he isn’t trying to punch or to trip. His sword arcs down from overhead, gleaming in the firelight. This is war, now.
Benedict slams his shield down, knocking the sword in the same direction, then brings it up to fight off another spear strike, with that same upward motion, Benedict aims his sword at his opponent’s head, picking the man’s left eye as his target, aim small, miss small, or so his military training had taught him.
Ryckon is unable to dodge this time, but Ryckard’s blow misses anyway. The squire belatedly steps away from where the sword was aimed, grinning. “Maybe if your gods were so powerful, they would help you hit me.” He attempts to pivot around to a position behind Ryckard in order to swing for his back, not easy in armor.
Kenron’s sword cuts across the pox-scarred sellsword’s face—puss and blood spray across the Bracken retainer’s sword. The Sellsword Wil stumbles, swings his bastard sword over his head and brings the blade down in a cruel hacking blow at Kenron.
Unfortunately, pain is a very good wake-up call, especially when there is a bone that’s possibly broken, and your warm blood runs down the filling of your armor, coating it. And filling your nostrils with that metallic, sickly scent. His sword lifts, the flat of the blade offered towards Benedict’s sword as he parries it.
His blade slips from the other’s, then, and he swings it again towards the man’s arm. It worked well the last time, perhaps it ought to do so now.
And Massey’s sword lands true, penetrating Jan’s armor and drawing a fair amount of blood from his shoulder, spurting into the air. Jan recoils, gasping, but has no time to linger in his pain. Gritting his teeth, he steps forward and slashes horizontally at the man’s knees, another strike clearly meant to disable. He counters almost instantaneously after being struck himself, even if the pain takes some force off of his parry.
“Bullocks” Titus says as the his helm rings, a lough shrieking sound reverberates through his ears. Though not hard enough to draw blood, the Prester knight sure put a good dent in his helm. “Aww, I’m not filthy, I had a wash last year. Ha!” With that, Titus swings at Farin’s side again, putting a bit of weight behind it this time.
But Ammon seems to expect this; sparks fly again as swords collide, and Ammon neatly parries. The Blackhand, shorter but thicker, simply steps into Marbrand and smashes his shield toward the Westerman’s armored face.
That same crunch of steel against armor—Balion, it turns out, does hit rather hard—and Othan finds himself rather suddenly at the level of the rest of the fray’s boots. He is a bit slow to find his footing, rolling to get out of the way of another skirmish, but then one hand plants against the dirt, and Blackmane rises bruised and battered, certainly not dead yet.
He flexes his sword-arm, where his steel hangs a little more weakly than before, as if the dent in his shoulder plate has dug in deeply- and indeed the grimace on his countenance would agree with that as he looks to make his way back to Balion.
But Titus’ extra-strength gambit is easy picking for the Prester knight, who sends his morningstar out far enough to deflect the blow away, before laughing and slamming his shield up into Titus’ face—the better to give him a moment to ready the ‘star again.
Benedict drops his sword as he feels the blow sink into his sword arm again, “Damn you!” He cries as he swings with his shield in a wild arc at his opponent, hoping the edge of the shield would prove useful out here. With the spin, he drops to one knee to grab his sword
Toppled back by Benedict, Ardros falls on his arse, grunting before he reaches for the shield he’d dropped when his arm broke. He grits his teeth as he barely is able to lift it up and gets back to his knees, rushing forward in that awkward position to perhaps gain purchase and score a rake across Benedict’s chest.
This might be a knight’s battle, but there’s nothing outright gentlemanly about war.
The bastard sword does little damage on Ser Kenron’s plate armour, forcing the Piper knight to laugh. “Away with you, yah poxy bastard,” he snarls, thrusting at Wil once more with his sword.
Wil snicks and hisses at the bastard’s taunt and raises his shield, but his defense is laggardly and the bastard Kenron’s swift blow slashes open his hand, blood pours down the sad, twisted face of the Blackwood heart Tree. The poxy knight screams in rage slashes at Kenron’s throat!
Ryckard falls upon the blow of the squire, that also opens a wound on the back of the warrior. His helmet is removed by the impact of the fall when his face touches the ground. He quickly stands up, this time without the horse, that is far away by now.
His inexperience showing, Jan’s reckless slash is simultaneously met with a shield to his face. Jan crashes into the ground, sword flying from his hand. He reaches up and touches his face, gushing blood from both the nose and mouth. Disoriented, he nevertheless fumbles along the ground, his hand miraculously reaching his sword, which had scattered not a few feet away. Slowly, he tries to hoist himself to his feet, though the effort is arduous.
A huff from the Riverlands bastard as he misses his foe, he leans back to get away from Farin’s shield. Though not fully successful as the shield hits against his cheek. A scrape welts up on his cheek as he sneers at the Prester man. “S’that all you got? Prancing Bull, me sister can hit harder than that. I bet she has bigger balls than you too! ” Titus belly laughs as he swings for Farin’s helm, in the direction to chop one of his horn’s off.
The swift blow slashes at the gorget around Ser Kenron’s throat, causing little damage. It does however, nip just below his unprotected chin, drawing a considerable amount of blood. Another snarl is followed by another thrust, hard at Wil’s belly.
Benedict brings his shield around and knocks the sword away, he had people waiting for him, he couldn’t end himself here. His arm cried out in pain as he attempted a feint to his opponents waist before aiming high and at his head again.
Luthor’s path through the gap was slowed by a stubborn pack of levy men who fought Luthor’s sellswords in a fierce but doomed battle spear to sword to defend their town. Though as all levies do they break and as Luthor’s men storm after them seeking vengeance Luthor himself sees Marbrand bested and sent to the mud of Pennytree’s blood strewn streets.
Luthor wastes no time in defending the Westerman stepping over him and swinging a vicious backslash at Marbrand’s foe, only to recognize him as the blade nears striking home. “You,” he breathes as the blade cuts through the air for his good-uncle’s face.
Unfortunately, Ser Ardros is not the man he used to be in his youth, and faced against a younger, perhaps deadlier opponent, he receives a blow to the helmet and falls limp, face-first, into the ground. He might still be alive, but he’s certainly out of this fight, for better or for worse. His weapon and shield are scattered on the ground.
Into Wil’s belly rather—A gout of squirming, damp violet snakes slither onto Kenron’s sword, like snakes rising from a clutch of eggs beneath a dell—and blood, quite a bit of it sprays out at the Bracken bastard. Wil tugs his back sharply, pulling himself from off Kenron’s steel. A cry of pain and another, weaker downward hacking slash.
As the Seven are proven to be the true gods, Ryckon turns his attention away from the squire Ryckard, and looks over to where his master is struggling against some foulmouthed smallfolk. Grumbling, the dutiful charges over with a swing for Titus’ shoulder, not bothering with introductions.
The sword doesn’t exactly chop a horn off—instead, the horn catches the blade’s arc and the head goes with it, twisting Farin around in a rough jolt that bashes Farin’s skull around inside the helmet meant to protect it. The Prester lordling’s shield goes up a moment too late, pushing the sword away only once the damage is done. Dazed, Farin stumbles forward and performs a routine feint to put some distance between himself and his foe—the morningstar is raised, but does not crash down on Titus’ head. Rather, it swings around in the last minute to crush towards his ribs.
The force of his strike—so fully given with all of Balian’s strength—not only knocks Othan to the ground, but it threatens to do undo all of the Blackwood man’s carefully placed balance.
Balian stops short of losing his footing with a timely stab of his sword into the ground. The moment lasts long enough for the man to gather back his wits and position,
The Blackwood knight turns his gaze from Othan, looking for another in the midst of the fighting! He sees the man he seeks—not far from Balian’s place—and shouts to him: “NOW!”
That single word carries above the rattling clang of swords against shields; the man so-called raises a horn to his lips and bursts out three short calls.
A futile, last ditch attempt at halting the inevitable achieves little. Wil’s slashes do not even reach the Piper knight, stood tall and armored above the dying sellsword. Seeing the guts falling from his belly, Ser Kenron puts his sword to the man’s throat to put him out of his misery.
And Massey steps forward, stepping down upon his opponent’s sword near the hilt. With a nudge, Ammon forces Marbrand to his back, the Blackhand’s blade coming to rest at the helm’s eye-slit.
“Yield, Jan,” says Massey, echoing from his helm.
But this is war, not the training yard. An overheard “you,” and Jan is forgotten; Ammon twirls away from Luthor’s blade—but not quick enough: he’s caught across the back. But again, the armor holds. Ammon comes at his good-nephew now, sword arching at waist height.
More blood sprays out of the sellsword, this time, from his ruined throat, a tributary of blood, broad as the Blue Fork sprays out onto his rusty mail, painting his pox scarred face crimson. A fist clutches at his throat as his intestines pour out… yet Wil -still- fight out, taking tiny steps toward Kenron, leaving a trail of intensities like a sausage-maker handing out free ware. His slash is feeble, and directed at his foes’s throat.
Another Blackwood horn, and some of the Bracken leaders should be looking for what new ploy this signals.
Would be, rather, were they not consumed with furious hate for their foes, that is. Othan Blackmane has found his footing, and while his arm is weaker than before his legs remain, for now, strong. He charges through a gap in the scrambling soup of dirt and blood, backing his sword with the weight of his body and the momentum of his charge as he shoots for a gap into the other man’s armor to skewer Balian through.
Luthor twists to avoid the blade but it finds his breastplate all the same ringing the steel like the bells of Visenya’s Sept, the force carrying through to the leather and flesh below. Luthor lets out a grunt before he turns his blade and drives the pommel at Ammon’s face.
As the sellsword fails to die, Ser Kenron looks shocked, then appalled. The man is an absolute pitiful sight, blood spraying from two mortal wounds yet the man continues to cling to life. “You are a brave, strong man,” he says, fighting off the attentions of another levy. “Let me do you a service.”
He raises his blade to end Wil’s life out of mercy, but Ser Kenron himself is taken unawares by a shattering blow to his own neck. His gorget falls broken to the ground and a nasty wound opens up around his throat. Dropping his shield, he nurses the wound with the back of his left hand. “You fucker! You fucking bastard!” he yells, before stabbing at the man’s heart with a strong thrust.
Benedict blocks a potentially lethal spear strike to his head, and ripostes into his opponent, he turns to hear the horn, that was the Blackwood horn, what did it mean? he shouted for his men to pull back a little
Fighting in heavy armor is difficult; Ammon is visibly tiring. He manages to avoid the brunch of Luthor’s, rolling with the punch instead of taking it full, but steel rings against steel all the same. The Blackhand regains his balance quickly, keeping
Luthor to his front even as Jan is somewhere at his back. Still on the ground, or perhaps, rising even now? But there’s nothing for it—another attack, vicious, as expected from a man that’s hard pressed.
The Blackwood man’s horn calls rise above the din of battle, high and clear. And in response?
There is nothing. Not for a little while, at least. Until the ground begins to resonate with the drumming of hooves; a deep, rumbling thunder.
Confusion as the Blackwood horses are here, after all. And now, they’re coming.
They sweep out from the village where they have lain in wait so far, waiting for Balian’s signal. One wing rides out to the west, and before it flies Jonn Lannister’s personal banner. And the other to the east, and leading them is a fearsome figure in harness as dark as the falling night, wearing a serpent helm. And then they come around, riding back to the battle, sweeping around the stakes and driving straight at the Brackens’ exposed flanks.
But they are not unopposed, for not all of the Bracken men have dismounted. Some of them have ridden along the stakes, trying to find weak spots—or further, in an attempt to go around them. And to the east, they are lead by a man wreaking marvels of butchery. The famed Argett Prester is drowning in blood not his own—and he and his men stand right in the way of the Iron Serpent’s flanking charge.
A laugh as Farin’s head twists round, and clanks inside his helm. “You sound like the bells on a fool’s hat. Shall I call you Florian now?” The Blackwoood man-at-arms’ laugh is cut short as the Prester knight’s morningstar bashes into his ribs and Ryckon’s his shoulder.
A hard *CRACK CRACK,* and Titus folds into the blow, the breath knocked out of him he gasps for air. With as deep a breath as he can muster and rage in his eyes peeking through the slit in his helm, he raises his sword to sweep towards Ser Farin’s neck. “Get off me squire!” He growls at Ryckon before Turning to Farin, “I hope you didn’t like your head on your shoulders too much BULL!” The Riverland bastard grunts to bring the blade down, putting his full force behind it.
Ryckon reacts instinctively to the threat on his master’s life. As quickly as he can, he propels his mace into the area of Titus’ chest exposed by his raised arms, growling. “Leave his head alone, whoreson! Other people need it too!”
Luthor twists again trying to parry, his blade touches Ammon’s but he takes some of the blow to his head. He shakes it off and swings out with his shield, a feint, his real blow comes fast and low, a sword aimed at Ammon’s knee.
Blood continues to run from the bastard’s throat, but, apparently, the cut isn’t that deep—and perhaps he has league of intestinal tract in his thorax—it seems to roll and roll from out of the bloody howl in his lower abdomen.
Wil’s curse is a sputter of blood as he lifts his shield, dodges the blow for his heart, and drops it. He scoops a heap of sodden intestines into one fist, and flings them at his foe’s face! Then slashes at Kenron’s groin! Chivalry has gone to the winds, this is a nail and tooth battle to kill the man before the last yard leaves his chest.
Only a fool would lose focus of his opponent, even as he takes the moment to call an order across the embattled field. Balian Blackwood is no such fool, veteran that he is, and does not waste time in readying his position once the horn’s cry lifts into the wind.
Othan’s strike snakes through the air, quick and deadly, but the Blackwood knight is quicker by a hair.
His step backwards leaves him little opening to attack without risking another false step—and so he plants his feet again, waiting for the Blackmane, taunting him with a roaring laugh.
Jan’s struggle to his feet is cut short by Ammon, who steps on his sword and forces him to the ground again, to Jan’s evident shame. As he is commanded to yield, Jan considers the offer, but only for a moment; that is, until Ser Luthor attacks Ammon himself. “No.” Jan replies to Massey simply, but assertively, using the distraction to spit out a /considerable/ amount of blood and scramble over to his sword yet again.
He awkwardly forces himself to his feet, helm now knocked off and blood streaming down his face. When he arises, he glances at Luthor, gives him a brief, but sincerely thankful, nod of the head, and turns to their foe, Massey—unexpectedly now lying on the ground, defeated himself.
As he pulls his wickedly heavy broadsword from the weak point in another slain raven’s armor—there, where only mail covers the armpit—Ser Argett Prester lifts his visored gaze to the charge of the Blackwood horse.
Felt rather than heard, that rhythm of steelshod hooves drumming the ground. No veteran would mistake it, especially not this one.
Lifting that broadsword in defiance, Ser Argett wheels his courser about to face these new ravens bearing down on him, and Bracken men rally to his sides!
“COME ON THEN, you GODLESS DOGS! You FUCKING MURDERERS,” he roars full in the face of the rush of the Iron Serpent!
Benedict was now even more thankful for the retreat, he shouts an order of, “Remount!” bringing his men and himself to their horses. Just in time to meet the Black Lion’s forces on his side of the battle.
He charges at the Lannister and swung his blade, now he was the shouting fool, “For Honor!” He cried—for honor, for truth, for Bessa, oh, gods, for Bessa, may he see her again soon and whole!
Chewing on the man’s intestines as they land in his mouth, Ser Kenron almost gags. The blow at his groin ricochets off of his codpiece though does little damage, his nether-region well shielded by his armour. Landing on top of Wil, Ser Kenron has lost his sword. Instead, he wraps two steel gauntlets around the man’s bloody, twisted neck and squeezes as hard as he can, cursing, spitting and even crying as he does so.
As Farin’s standing-daze ends and he readjusts the the battle before him, the first thing he sees with real clarity is that Ryckon has jumped in the way of the retainer’s blade, causing a terrible strike to be reduced to nothing more than a mere glance, and rescuing himself in the process. “Well done,” the knight commends his squire. “We are even for the raid on Bors. Come, then, let us find a more proper quarry.”
But the Blackmane does not come in that next second, and so Balian seizes the opportunity to advance again. Mindless to the oncoming reinforcements, and the butchering of the Prester in the fields, the Blackwood lunges out again.
Knees are armored, protected by steel and shield—but Ammon’s shield isn’t lowered quickly enough. His knee buckles from the blow, and he drops to one knee into the dirt. He kneels there a moment, leaning on his blade, before forcing himself to his feet once more.
“So,” Ammon says, breathing heavy. His glance flicks between Jan and Luthor. “Here it ends.” A deep breath, almost a sigh, and shield and sword are readied.
There is no answering cry from the Iron Serpent; he rides in deadly silence. But around him, his men roar, “Blackwood! Blackwood!”
And they crash into Tailcutter’s men. The momentum of the charge is on their side, and it tells, pushing back the Brackens. But not breaking them, for Tailcutter anchors their centre. And Dagur rides straight for him like an arrow released at its mark, bulling past a Bracken knight who would come in his way.
That sword rises—and as he draws abreast of Argett, falls in a brutal arc!
The torn and bloody sellsword chitters, rattles, and crunches loudly beneath Kenron’s gauntlets, his foes fingers would be drenched in puss and blood from his shattered throat, and the pustules atop it. Indeed, blood and puss flow from his mouth.
The Sellwords notched sword falls from limp fingers, he fumbles for and finally draws his dirk, then stabs at the bastard with shaking hands, as the last yard of his intestines squirm and slide out of his chest with a gurgle and a plop.
At the same time that Farin realizes that his life is saved, Ryckon realizes that he has positioned himself in front of Titus, risking his own life. He takes a step back, frowning and beginning to breathe heavily. “Actually, ser, I saved you in the whorehouse, so I am ahead again. What proper quarry do you have in mind?”
Luthor wipes a trickle of blood from his brow through his open visor. “Not if you yield,” Luthor urges his good-uncle. “No sense dying for another man’s squabble.”
Again Titus has lost his breath, he falls to the ground momentarily as Farin suggests that they find a better fight. It takes a moment and the bruises under his armour are slowing his recovery. A gasp for air and he looks up to find Ammon in trouble. “Hells,” he squeaks as he pushes himself to his feet and goes after Luthor. Lumbering forward he calls out, “Rivers!” then he breaks into a bit of a run.
The dirk can only slide weakly across his smeared, dirty plate armour as Ser Kenron continues to squeeze. Finally he lets go, screams loudly—booming high across the already frenetic and noisy battlefield—before throwing an almighty punch down hard at Wil’s torn and tattered throat.
Meeting the charge of the Iron Serpent, the Red Bull of House Prester stands tall—in truth as in tales, for here the Ironborn knight’s sword is turned by Ser Argett’s shield!
His horse wheeling at his command beneath him, the masterful knight from the Westerlands first eschews an obvious riposte, his horse stepping deftly away.
Then the mount moves back in toward Saltcliffe, timed well with the downswing of that blood-slicker sword. “HOSTER,” Ser Argett roars!
Othan stumbles again, catching himself just as he starts to sink to one knee, this blow having slammed into the side of that famed Blackmane helm. The tail bounces, the knight’s eyes close for a long moment.
Finally flickering open as the man pushes himself up, point of his sword angled upward toward the Blackwood from his own lower place near the dirt. His battle cry is more of scream than a clear call for ‘Revenge!’, something wild reaching out from inside the knight. Injured, yes, and in a great deal of pain, with a thin trail of blood leaking out of the side of his helm now, but still Othan Blackmane is nowhere near yielding.
Barely able to focus on what’s in front of him from the blood streaking across his face, Jan’s eyes are fixated only on the knight in front of him—it matters not who the man is, only that Jan survives. Of course, it is Ammon, so as Luthor is engaged by Titus, Jan takes the opportunity to charge Massey again. Yet again, he recklessly swings for Massey’s sword arm—Jan is persistent, if nothing else—and though the arc of his blow is clearly meant to not be fatal, the intent seems more malicious than before.
The bastard’s fist goes through Wil’s torn throat, a death gurgle as Kenron punches through, spraying bone and flesh across the field. The knight’s eyes roll down to his torn throat and up to glare at his foe, before growing still.
Battle awareness is something that comes naturally to Ser Farin, and it is to the heads of the fight that his gaze turns, searching. When he does spot the embattled men amidst the chaos, he emits a short burst of a chuckle. “The Blackmane is in need of aid, Ryckon. Shall we give it to him?” he laughs, and begins the steady paced stride that brings him closer.
The four Prester man-at-arms and his retainer, of course, follow, keeping others away from attacking Farin and Ryckon en route.
Ammon lifts his own visor; the face beneath is free of blood, but not of sweat. For the moment, despite the chaos of battle, there is a lull here. “Tell Pennei I tried, Luthor. I… I hoped we wouldn’t meet.” And then, to Jan, “And tell Elrone… Tell her, I’m sorry.”
“Let’s get on with it then.” The visor is flipped down, Ammon readies himself as the lull ends.
But here is help unlooked for! And Jan attacks!
Ammon brings his shield up, taking the younger knight’s blade full on it; paint chips. And Ammon cuts for Jan’s knees, looking for a joint in the armor to slow the younger man.
His foe finally slain, Ser Kenron stands and stumbles towards his sword. Caught up in the heat of his brawl with the brave sellsword, the Piper knight is only just becoming aware of the ambush. Readying his sword and shield, he strides out amongst the other belligerents, though his unblinking eyes are telling of a horrible, unforgettable experience.
And Tailcutter’s heavy blade does no more than glance off the Iron Serpent’s pauldron. For he is swift, the ironman—swift enough and unpredictable enough not to use the moment the Westerman gives him by forgoing the obvious riposte to draw away himself, but instead plunge straight at him.
At him and past, so that the blow scrapes off his armour with a glottal whine. And in reply, he whips a backhanded cut at Argett’s helm.
Harsh and honed as his steel, he says with it, “Is dead. Join him.”
“Stubborn fool,” Luthor curses his good-uncle but then Ammon’s notice of Titus sparks Luthor’s own and the knight is suddenly defending himself. He pivots and steps back against Titus’ charge, his blade rising as he does to turn a retreat into an attack.
“HOSTER BRACKEN, you benighted fool,” thunders Argett Prester, his helm rung by Dagur’s backhanded slash! The voice sounds hollow and cold from within his visored helm, but loud—so loud—projecting even through the steel and the breathing-lattice of that headgear.
“HOSTER BRACKEN,” Prester roars yet again, urging his mount forward to crash heavily into Dagur’s own, barding and reins and mail threatening to entangle both beasts alike as he lifts his blade!
“HOSTER BRACKEN, you REAVING WHORESON! REMEMBER,” shouts Prester, bringing the steel down toward Dagur’s helm like a wicked cleaver! “REMEMBER his NAME!”
The more experienced Massey knight anticipates Jan’s attack, per usual. Cursing, Jan’s frustration seeps into his non-existent defense, which Ammon easily penetrates in striking Jan’s knees. At the least, Jan’s armor there is still relatively pristine, and he is forced to only stumble backwards.
This time, he perhaps learns from his earlier mistakes, striking down at Ammon’s torso. Curiously, his sword is shifted slightly so the blow is somewhat blunted, though that choice might mean Jan’s own demise.
Titus slips and falls in a bit of mud, taking a knee as Luthor swings at him, being missed barely as he was just out of reach. “Hells!” The man says as gets off his knee and stands up. “Well that was luck.” He grumbles as he takes a swing at Luthor.
“Nooooarggh! Pimple!!!” From across the field of battle, a huge, barrel-chested knight with a face half-again as hideous as Wil’s screams as the knight of syphilitic pustules falls to the Piper Knight. “Baaaaaastard!!!” Closer to seven feet, than six, Ulmar has a huge long gray beard and two and a nose eaten and blackened by frostbite, his left eye is white and frothy, from an old wound—and his left hand has only two fingers, yet he wields a great axe, one handed!—a weapon most men would need two hands to swing.
Ryckon grins. “Balian? I suppose I should repay him for unhorsing me at the tourney and Blackmane needs help. Do the Brackens have words, or… Seven Hells.” Ryckon runs ahead of his master over to Balian and Othan as quickly as he can in his plate, not making a fuss and attempting to move behind Balian as quietly as possible, before shouting, “Honor, Not Honors!” as he swings for the back of the Blackwood’s neck, adding, “I have you, Bracken.”
Titus may have luck but Luthor has run out. He’s still on his back foot when Titus recovers and so has nowhere to go when the big man takes his swing. Luthor raises his shield too late and his helm is knocked askew as the blow lands and drives him to the mud in a pile of plates, flesh and blood. It’s a moment before the Riverlands bastard moves but moves he does clawing the mud looking for his sword.
As the Prester heir’s entourage moves within striking distance of Balian Blackwood’s duel with Othan Bracken, a few Blackwoods forces rise to the challenge and dash in to engage the oncoming foe. Ryckon manages to get through with his burst of speed—but the others, lordling and his men, are trapped fighting through.
Jan’s blow strikes full, and thankfully for Ammon Massey, it is the flat of the blade that falls across his ribs. There is a grunt as the air leaves Ammon’s lungs, a sucking in of breath—and perhaps a crack, barely audible above the din of battle. But one thing is for sure: Ammon now favors his right side, turning slightly side-face toward his opponent; his right elbow, when not attacking, stays close to his ribs. But he does attack, grunting as he does so, his blade arching toward Jan’s own ribs.
Tailcutter’s blade, wielded with all that righteous fury, shivers off the Iron Serpent’s swiftly raised shield. Swiftly and desperately, for Argett’s charge has sent his horse stumbling, sliding in the bloody, churned mud at the impact of the far heavier man and his mount. And the blow itself hammers Dagur’s shield down, almost crashing it into his helm. Here is a battle so brutal the force of it seems to spread outwards in ripples from the two famed knights.
There is no reply from the ironman now; he fights in cold, grim silence, raising his shield higher—and thrusting under it at the weak point of Argett’s armour, his armpit protected only by mail.
Not one blow from the Blackmane’s sword has made a dent in Balian’s armor, nor the Blackwood’s bloodlust to see his foe felled. The untamed swing of Othan’s sword sees Balian readying another stroke of his own.
Even as some stout fellow with a few choice words swings and misses for his neck. It does not stop the Blackwood’s next strike, though with a step it changes the angle of his blade from cutting at the Blackmane’s own neck. Instead, the thrust cuts across for the man’s arm.
The words of House Prester are simple—a single word only, in point of fact. “Tireless.” So it is that even despite the younger man’s skill and sure hand, even despite the first blow to his head, he turns aside Saltcliffe’s next attack with the Red Bull once more. “I’ll KILL you for HOSTER,” he growls.
Then more quietly, “And THEN I’m off for RIVERRUN to fuck your little TYRELL girl.”
Angry and aggressive in the saddle, eyes blazing beneath his visor with the lust and hatred of battle, Prester urges his courser still closer again, smashing the beasts together with a careless brutality, pressing the attack with his very mass.
And in this vein, Ser Argett strikes hard—a thrust in close, that thick, heavy blade sent stabbing for Ser Dagur’s vulnerable underarm, his shield arm.
A giant! Surely not! A man, nay, a beast of almost seven-feet with a giant two-handed axe swinging in just one of his giant hands. Seeking the initiative, Ser Kenron launches a thrust at the man’s belly, upwards and strong.
“Get up bastard!” Titus screams, “I have heard much about you, yet here you are scraping at the ground.” He huffs, perhaps he was expecting more for a notable bastard such as Ser Luthor. Maybe even idolized the man, “Belson the Bad, my arse! You sure you’re his?” Titus sneers, “I said, get the fuck up!” he wields back his boot and kicks Luthor in the ribs. “I bet Lord Smallwood would pay sweetly for you. You would make a better ransom than a dead man.” A grin slides across his face as he looks down at the Smallwood Bastard and leans down to snatch the man up.
The Piper knight carves a wicked slash over the giant’s bearskin coat, but the beast is not alarmed, or pained—no, not in the least. As the Piper knight slashes at him, Ulmar, swings his axe down in a vicious blow aimed at the Piper knight’s head! The twin heads of his axes are steel blue blur as the weapon reaches the nadir of its descent.
Luthor may not have found his sword but did find a rock. When Titus reaches for him he swings with it at the man’s elbow. Then letting the stone drop he scrambles across the field to where a sword lays in the mud he yanks it free and turns to face his foe. “You want a ransom? Come take it,” he urges as he levels the blade.
And Ammon’s blade strikes more forcefully than them all, driving the breath from Jan’s lungs and sending him stumbling backwards yet again. Already wounded, Jan coughs up even more blood, which finally seems to be taking its toll; he places his left hand to his head, barely able to maintain his balance for a moment.
For now, though, the thrill of battle overrides the unsteadiness, and he manages an awkward, if forceful, jab into Ammon’s shoulder.
The axes crash into his great-helm though thankfully, mercifully, they do not break the steel. Unearthly dints deep into the armour knocks Ser Kenron out of his senses momentarily, the Piper knight staggering back onto one knee. Shaking off the blow and stumbling forward, he roars as he thrusts at the man’s groin with bloody, dinted steel!
The Blackmane’s shield is barely raised in time, but it takes Balian’s blow as it is meant to. Balian ordered for a “Remount!” giving Othan time to fully regain his feet even as he presses back against the blade. His eyes skirt over to this squire appearing nearby.
The man makes a noise, a simple grunt of what might be thanks, or is that annoyance? Hard to say, as the Bracken knight says little before his focus returns entirely to the foe before him, and he takes his blade in low toward the joints by the Blackwood’s hip.
*CLANK* is the noise that resounds off of Titus’ armour, as the Luthor smacks it with a rock. A sharp pain shoots up the man’s arm. “Fuck!” He says as he shakes his arm out. “Aye, I’ll come get you.” The man laughs a bit and charges Luthor with his shield.
Down Dagur slams his shield, hammering at Argett’s blade with its edge, driving it awry; it scrapes against his underarm, cutting mail links and drawing blood, but not much.
And the Iron Serpent’s blood madness is upon him. Whatever Tailcutter said—those words dipped in venom, finding a chink in his armour where the other man’s blade has not—it unleashes his terrible battle fury. He does not try to pull away from Argett now, does not try to win the space to use his great swiftness against the other man’s bulk. Instead, he rakes his spurs cruelly against his horse’s flanks, making it steady itself with a whinny against the momentum of Tailcutter’s rush.
And then he rises in the stirrups, the skin stretched so tight over his jaw the bone seems likely to split it, eyes reddening as if burning with the flames of all those campfires. And he hammers the hilt of his blade at Tailcutter’s helm, straining against the larger man.
Again. “Die!” And a third time. “Die!” He has no thought for defense now. This berserker fury will end only with his fall, or his foe’s.
Luthor meets Titus’ shield with a teeth rattling crash then lets the man thunder past. As he does Luthor turns with him driving his sword point at the back of Titus’ knee.
Ryckon lets out a mirthless laugh as Balian ignores his attack. He nods irreverently to the Blackmane as he grunts, and then when his attention is taken by the fight once more swings again at the Blackwood, this time at his side, opposite from the hip that Othan attacks. “Honor… Honor and Honors!”
Ulmar’s laughter reverberates across the battlefield, his bearskin coat shakes—then hsi laughter becomes a sharp keening as the Piper’s sword tears across his groin, something lumpy and wet falls to the blood churned earth, and lands atop a sodden waxy heap of his nephews spilled intestines.
Should any look upon the Piper’s trough they would see something akin to a pair of prodigious violet goat livers in something akin to a peeled chicken skin—-a waterfall of blood pours down Ulmar’s legs “Aaaarggghh!” The gelded beast screams pain and rage, and swings at Kenron’s throat with every ounce of strength!
Forward, always forward, weight and height and strength his friends, Ser Argett seems the Bull of Prester in truth. It may prove his undoing should he press too hard, too soon—and here it comes, for Ser Dagur is pressing the attack, and the Prester’s progress… stalled!
But here his dark eyes blaze still beneath his visored helm, and here again that Red Bull takes Saltcliffe’s blade full on!
Then here again his tireless arm lifts his broadsword, this sword he has made some obscene tool of butchery with those brutal, merciless, iron-handed blows. Here again the roar: “Is that what you BLACKWOODS said when you MURDERED him?”
And here again Argett brings his steel down and around, a cruel and wicked slash that would open a man in lesser armor than the Iron Serpent’s heavy plate from shoulder to hip.
Against that plate of Ser Dagur’s? Well, we shall see. “HOSTER BRACKEN,” he thunders!!
Yohn has ran forward to the Bracken lines, he started slashing at a few of the poorly armed men. The others have scattered as he takes a blade to the throat of the man he fights. Turning away and spotted by blood, he takes his clunky armoured self to the thick of the battle in search of a Bracken. Finding one he takes his shield and charges at Benedict to knock him to the ground.
But Ammon Massey is favoring his ribs now, and he is slowed by pain and fatigue. He never even tries to back away. Jan’s blade finds the joint of Ammon’s pauldron, cutting through steel, and into flesh not far from where the whoreson Saan stabbed him to a tree in the Stormlands. His sword drops from numbed fingers.
But Jan is not Saan; his blade does not cut so deeply, and the blade slips free after a superficial cut. Ammon surges forward in an attempt to use his greater size to bear the younger man to the ground; he pulls a dagger from his belt as he goes.
One can never have enough knives, after all.
Blackwood nearly buckles from that well-placed blow by the Blackmane—nearly, but with a labored step now that the dent of his armor presses against his thigh, Balian keeps to his feet.
With a grunt to tell how he felt that hit, the Raventree knight gathers his strength—sidesteps a stray blow from the squire…
And hits out at that stout youngling with a high, wide swipe of his blade that aims to push the blade against the boy’s fighting arm with wicked force.
The throat-bound blow is almost seen too late by the dizzy, staggering Piper knight. Fortunately he throws up his shield just in time to have it splintered into a thousand pieces by Ulmar’s axes. He tosses the remains of the ruined shield to the ground and curses. Grunting, Ser Kenron thrusts once more, this time higher at the man’s belly.
Benedict sidesteps his horse deftly to avoid the blow, and in his opponent’s after swing, he stabs for his opponent’s neck.
Against another man, the Iron Serpent’s berserker rage might have won the day already, as it has so often in the past. Against Tailcutter, no, it might prove his undoing.
For the Prester knight absorbs the fury of his attacks—and Dagur, leaving nothing for defense, has no way to save himself against that wicked blow. Hard it hammers at him, and although it doesn’t break through his plate, it crunches it in over his ribs, all but folding him in half with the breathless pain of it.
But only for a moment. For that fury drives him still, and he surges upright with it, hacking at the elbow of Argett’s extended sword arm; no words now, only those maddened eyes glittering behind the curving twin fangs of his helm.
The beast that is Ulmar rides Ser Kenron’s steel! Though the sword pierces his belly be does not relent in the attack, rather lumbering steps bring him toward his foe, three in all, as the sword sinks deeper into his belly. Ulmar swings for his foe’s sword arm “Die Piper!!!!”
A slash to his knee and Titus goes down on it, hard. Luthor got him right below the knee into the meaty part of his calf. “Maidens Tits!” he yowls as rises, the piece of armour falls off and leaves him with a large gash in his leg.
“ARRRGG, ” Titus growls as he goes after the Smallwood bastard. Blood gushes down his leg in a wide red streak, filing his boot and making an odd sucking sound as he barrels towards Luthor with a limp. He raises his sword aiming it to come down on Luthor’s shoulder.
Though he may be shorter than Jan, Ammon carries much more weight, and he drives Jan to the ground. Another bubble of blood spouts from Jan’s lips, but he is aware enough to squirm from the point of Ammon’s dagger. Rather, Jan unsheathes a dagger of his own—the hilt wrapped in the Marbrand colors, and flips around so Ammon is on his back. He raises the dagger high and brings it down /hard/ on Massey’s good hand, attempting to immobilize it.
Luthor slips out from under Titus’ sword as it falls. The Riverlands bastard turns as he does so and swings his blade at the man’s other knee in a cruel arc of steel.
Though it is a blow with the flat side of the blade, it is a formidable one. Ryckon is hit, though with a well-timed stagger to the side it is not as hard a strike as it could be.
He grunts, winces, and then grins again. “Do you remember me? You unhorsed me at the tourney. I mean to repay the favor.” He swings for the area under Balian’s arms that may have been exposed by his high swipe.
A bone shatters in Ser Kenron’s arms sending a jolt of agonizing pain up to his shoulder. He screams obscenities and roars in defiance before fighting all urges to stop the pain, lunging at Ulmar with sword in his crippled hand. He wants no repeat of the Wil debacle. The blow is aimed at the man’s throat.
The squire may not be landing many blows, but at least he has finally turned Balion’s blade away from Othan.
The Blackmane wheezes against the weight of his dented armor, his breath betraying him in the face of so many hard blows. But he has rage on his side, and vengeance, and that sort of fury can carry a man far past the point when his body would fail. He takes a careful sidestep and then swings for the Blackwood’s underarm when he may be distracted.
“For Hoster, you scum!” he howls as his blade arcs.
Yohn’s shield takes most of the blow as he grunts while it moans and creaks with the force, though it does skitter off and slam into his neck guard with a ear splitting
“YAAH,” the bastard yells as the blade’s point scratches across the armoured neck guard. Blindly, Yohn swings at Benedict in the last place he saw the man’s side.
Catching the Iron Serpent’s raging fury yet again, the Red Bull of the Westerlands turns aside another mighty blow! O stalwart shield! Chips and shards of oak fly here and there, but still the Bull holds, defending its master!
He pulls his steed back then, the great destrier stepping nimbly away. “Where is she,” Ser Argett asks, his taunting laughter ringing within his steel helm and out in reverberating echoes, “your little rose? Which tower? I know Riverrun well!”
Another laugh and he spurs the horse back in, hard, another clash of man and beast, steel and flesh! “I bet she’ll thank me for it after, little man!” Again, that butcher’s broad sword. Again, a nasty overhand, aimed once more for Dagur’s helm as it was at the duel’s beginning.
The moment Ammon’s back hits the ground, as Jan straddles him, the older knight bucks with his knees and drives his hips upward. Not straight up, but over one shoulder, and Marbrand’s strike misses as he is rolled off Ammon. And then the scramble: both knights move as quickly as they can for position—not very, to be fair, what with the heavy armor and exhaustion and all—armed with daggers now; their shields making things awkward. Ammon uses his last bit of strength to try and force Marbrand to his own back.
This time Luthor’s blow smacks against the armor and not the meat of his leg, still a lout pop can be heard coming from Titus’s ankle. The force of the blow has dislocated it, with adrenaline high and teeth firmly clenched, Titus steps on his foot and gives his leg a good twist. A similar pop is heard along with the bastard’s scream. He finds the strength to swing at Luthor again, aiming toward Luthor’s side.
Benedict catches Yohn’s weapon with his own and redirects it over himself and high. He then drops his blade and aims it at Yohn’s face, “For Honor!” He tries to ram the blade down his throat.
“Uhhhh!!!” So sayeth the giant as his head is cut from his torso, the two pieces that were Ulmar part with a loud damp tearing sound—something akin to the sound of a knife cleaving a rotten melon in twain. While Ulmar’s head lies spraying wordless curses, eyes blinking—his body sprays a fountain of blood across his foe, and swings twice, before wrenching itself off the sword and running around the field for a few seconds, spraying foes and friends alike—then it falls, boneless like a pudding, and the giant’s eyes glaze over.
Slumping to the floor, crouched beside his two fallen foes, Ser Kenron cradles his head in his hands. His sword bent and ruined, his shield splintered into pieces, the man cuts a pitiful figure. Sat amongst all the mayhem and the corpses, one has to wonder whether this battle has ruined the man. Or perhaps he is merely collecting his thoughts and his courage for a second wind? Only Ser Kenron knows.
Despite his heavy armour Luthor keeps moving. He steps back letting Titus’ sword scrape across his breast plate then surges into the gap behind the sword with backhand slash at the taller man’s torso.
Balian anticipates the squire—perhaps all that boastful chattering gave way to the youngling’s next move—and just manages to deter Ryckon’s strike with a quick step to one side.
A step too quick, as it places the Blackwood knight in far too easy a range for Othan’s first meaningful strike—the black and gold shield is too high, too slow to make a difference, and Balian’s side crumples from the impact.
It does not render him ineffective, in that instant, as he swings his sword arm with a wild passion towards the Blackmane—a fast move, if not particularly weighted, but an attack nonetheless.
Again, Yohn raises his shield to deflect Benedict and his downward push of the sword. The piece of steel wilded by Benedict cracks Yohn’s shield. The shield slaps against the bastard’s helm with a loud *CLANG.* “Bloody Hells!” He shouts as he jabs towards the man’s midsection.
Jan’s attempt to disarm Massey is thwarted as soon as it was concocted, as Ammon grasps onto Jan’s arms and attempts to roll onto the top himself. Ammon being the heavier man, he is mostly successful, dodging the blade and briefly forcing Jan to his back; Jan coughs up a bit more blood as his body hits the ground again.
But even from his back, Jan is not prepared to yield, yet—he feints with the dagger and instead brings a hard hook with his left hand to Ammon’s temple, hoping to catch the man off guard.
And, as if cue, the men keeping the Prester party embattled on the sidelines and unable to join in the fight are finally dispatched, and Farin himself strides forward, his bull horned helm gleaming dangerously in the torchlight. He spares no words for his squire or Balian Blackwood, but simply steps in to deliver a downward arc of his wickedly barbed morningstar, aimed for Balian’s neckline.
That blow cracked one of Titus’ ribs, and with a bit of a grinding sound, Titus holds his side as he tries to regain his breath. He has no words to say, not that he could speak them anyway but the pain is searing and he has lost a lot of blood from the wound to the back of his leg. The bastard fighting for Blackwood, goes down in a heap. Passed out completely from the blood loss and pain, Titus coughs a bit, but no blood comes up, it is a good sign, the man still has both lungs in tact.
Benedict grunts in frustration as he brings his shield across his body, his horse rears as he tries again with a strike at Yohn’s head, this time, slashing when he stabbed before.
Roaring his laughter—roaring, in fact, at the Blackwood men—“Tell Riverrun I’m coming!”—Ser Argett Prester has but a moment to savor his triumph over the feared Iron Serpent, the infamous Dagur Saltcliffe.
He is a warrior, not a fool, this Bull. Already his eyes are scanning left and right, searching for where a Bracken man or men are pressed the hardest. Such a scene proves easy to find, and he spurs toward it, crying, “HOSTER! HOSTER BRACKEN! REMEMBER his NAME!”
Swiftly again, Ser Argett is laying about him with that wicked, bloody broadsword, lifting his allies and dismaying his enemies.
And down goes the Iron Serpent—down and hard at that, undone by his rage. For Tailcutter has weathered his fury like a rock and thrown it back at him; that final blow near caves in his head, helm and all. But at the last moment, Dagur manages to sway aside.
Only to have the heavy blade bite into his shoulder, shearing off his pauldron, and crunching his plate. And the force of it sends him off his horse to slam into the bloody ground. But he doesn’t stay long; wounded, coughing with pain and rage, already beginning to roll over and push himself to his feet.
Around the two, Tailcutter’s men are holding,—pushed back, but holding still,—even though to the west, the Bracken flanks are falling before Jonn Lannister’s charge. Soon, the Bracken’s must withdraw, or be trapped.
The two knights are locked closely together, scrabbling on the ground as battle rages around them—and it might be that they’ve started to draw some attention to themselves. Jan swings, but they are close, grappling, and Ammon is below the level of the punch, and he suddenly finds himself on Jan’s flank, staring at the beckoning joint of the younger man’s armpit.
A quick thrust with the dagger, in and out if his aim is true—up into the flesh of the arm rather than the chest. Painful, to be sure; crippling for a time, perhaps, but not lethal.
Ryckon’s eyes widen as Othan goes down and then he furrows his brow with new intensity. He nods to his master as he arrives and follows his lead, not talking to Balian anymore as the fight goes on. The squire takes a couple of steps back and then charges forward again, leaning in and putting his momentum into a low swing for Balian’s thigh.
Benedict’s shield to block Yohn’s last blow, broke the strap on the man’s old helm. He turns his head to find himself staring down Benedict’s blade, he tries to lean back but is too late. The man fighting for Bracken’s sword sticks right into Yohn’s neck. A gurgling noise comes up from Yohn’s throat,—a sort of cough as well,—as his hands grab desperately at the blade.
He wont die as quick with the blade firmly stuck in his throat, so with what strength he has left, the Riverland bastard pushes against the blade. Blood gushes down the front of the man and sprays outward a little as Yohn’s rusty armor streaks with red.
Slowly, he sinks to his knees, staring directly in Benedict’s eyes as he does so. Finally, he face-plants, head turned to the side as a pool of blood forms around him.
And Ammon’s dagger connects, more blood spurting from Jan, his armpit this time. By all accounts, that should be the end of the matter—but as Ammon withdraws his dagger, Jan lifts his own, and opts for the same maneuver himself, jabbing his own dagger into Ammon’s non-sword armpit, even as the blood pours from his own.
The wild black tail swirls as Othan Blackmane takes the wildly swung flat—and fortunately, only the flat—of Balion’s blade to his helm—the same dented place in his helm where the Blackwood struck earlier. Dazed, the man sinks down to the bloody mud, onto his knees before the man tips over entirely from the pain and exhaustion. Some of his men who broke through with Farin leap to his aid.
With strong hands on either side grasping the bleeding man, still others fall in to keep the swords from him as the Bracken is dragged from the center of the field to somewhere safer and out of Blackwood reach—like the space carved out by Argett Prester’s sword.
As Farin’s initial blows are rebuffed, his men at arms call his attention elsewhere. One points out the distant riders sweeping in to rally the Blackwood forces; and it’s none other than Jonn Lannister’s banners leading them. Quickly, the Prester lordling turns to his retainer.
“Urston, take Othan and join the retreat that will be called,” he orders harshly, the grate about his mouth giving his voice a tinny quality. “Do it now. We will hold join you soon,” he promises, and turns back to the fight. “Ryckon! We will hold here as long as we can, but prepare to run for the horses!”
Despite the visible pain laming Balian’s side, it results in only the man keeping his battered shield tucked close in favor of that arm’s weakened state. The sword, deadly and swinging again, keeps a helmed foe at bay while the squire harries him still.
This time, when the Blackwood knight strikes for Ryckon, he does so with direct and brutal force—all the weight of his fighting frame put behind the thrust.
Luthor looks down at Titus for a moment then walks past leaving the man to his fate for the moment while he drops the sword he finds and recovers his own from the mud. The familiar sword in hand and with a moment to breath he scans the field and can see the men under the Lannister banner pushing back the Bracken host.
Luthor shouts in a commander’s voice “Rams, Smallwood to me!” and holds his place as his men begin to fall back to his position, bloodied and battered. He nods to two of the first arrivals and they drag Titus’ unconscious form out of harm’s way as the rest of the men muster around him.
In the darkness—for night has fallen fully now—it is a whirlpool of chaos. The battle at the stakes surges one way and another; Balian Blackwood holds the centre like a colossus.
To the west, Jonn Lannister’s flanking force is causing havoc among the Brackens. But to the east, there is hope for the men of Stone Hedge and their allies; there, Tailcutter has rallied his men, holding back Iron Serpent’s company at bay, leaving an avenue for retreat. And that retreat must come soon, for if the Lannister heir drives in too far or Argett’s men finally buckle, the Brackens will be trapped.
Benedict glares back at his opponent, he knew his men couldn’t hold the Lannister men for long, and now was being overrun, “Fall Back men!” He cried as he headed back into the mass for any of the Brackens that needed aid.
Ryckon grunts again as his armor is pierced by Balian’s blow. Ryckon staggers back, and answers to Farin, “Right, ser!” The expression of pain suggests that he will have no objection to this retreat. He swallows and,—subtlety being useless now,—charges for Balian once again, this time merely shouting, “Honor!”
And Tailcutter’s company will be tested anew. For Dagur is back on his horse, rallying his men—wounded, breastplate slicked with blood, but his voice is strong and his blade flashes bloodily. A few moments to bring his men to order—and then they are charging again, throwing themselves at Tailcutter’s force.
And in their midst, the ironman drives with bloody, single-minded intent for the man who has bested him once already; rising in his stirrups as he nears, hammering down at him.
Words take little time to convey, and Farin’s last are said as he strides back into the fray to provide Ryckon some cover against the Blackwood’s blows, his shield up defensively until a moment presents itself to lash out. The barbs on Farin’s Morningstar, ‘For the Realm’, glinting dangerously in the dark.
Exhaustion, pain, blood loss, and then the blade, piercing deep and true, lastly, a crimson rain. Ammon Massey slumps into the dirt. He reaches up, loosens his helmet, lets it roll away. He looks at the man who bested him, his friend, his rival.
“Funny thing, Jan,” Ammon says with blood on his lips. “It doesn’t hurt so bad, does it? Not so bad as you think it should… it will tomorrow, though.” He swallows, coughs into his hand, leaving a few scarlet drops. “I’ve no money for a ransom,” he says weakly, turning his head to show his neck to Marbrand. “Do it quick, Jan.”
But Tailcutter has watched Dagur coming; he is ready for him, that scarred, dented shield taking his blow and turning it aside. He has no breath for insults and taunts now, nor time—for even as he hacks at the ironman’s arm, he is roaring, “RETREAT! SOUND THE RETREAT!”
Balian braces for the oncoming attack—that shield arm is already damaged, too vulnerable to lift and block the squire’s blow, and so Blackwood takes the strike there, just at the shoulder.
A man of far fewer words than many others on today’s bloody field, he merely grunts again, as if the strike causes some inconsequential trouble.
The language Balian’s body speaks is far more telling—he staggers to the side, narrowly missing the Prester knight’s strike, and simply throws his fighting arm into the air, a skimming arc of blade glinting in the night towards whatever part of Farin’s body it might find.
There is no real match now; unwounded, the Iron Serpent might have matched Tailcutter blow for blow on another day. Wounded as he is, shield arm weakened, he can do nothing to protect himself from that cruel blow—nothing save take it and absorb the pain with gritted teeth, let it stoke the flames of his battle-fury.
Ryckon does not shout again, and he does not need words to understand what is happening on the battlefield, falling into the combat mode that he has trained hard for. With Balian distracted by Farin, he swings for the back of the Blackwood’s head.
“Captain, time to go,” Luthor’s sergeant says urgently as the retreat is called. Luthor glances to the east and through the gloom sees the Bracken host taking the order to heart. “Go,” he says and begins to back away from the fight keeping close to his men. “Jan!” the knight shouts spotting the Westerman. “Time to go!”
Jan considers Ammon’s words as he coughs up blood himself, some of it dribbling onto Ammon’s torso, and Jan looks to his own wound. Wild-eyed, he then turns to examine Ammon’s own. When Ammon turns his neck, though, Jan wipes the blood running from his nose and turns to spit more blood from his mouth.
He gingerly rises to his feet, still stumbling from blood loss from his own wounds. “Get the fuck up and get out of here, Ammon. I promised.” with that, he stumbles over to Ser Luthor for the retreat, even managing a small cheer as he notices Ryckon fell Ser Balian.
And it lands this time, the Iron Serpent’s blow—not a hard one, but enough to make Tailcutter pull away a little, shaking his head as if to clear it. He takes that moment to steal a quick look around the battlefield.
And it is then that a horn sounds—a long, wailing note to signal the Bracken retreat.
But Argett does not withdraw; not yet with unfinished business at hand. Back he spurs at Dagur with another heavy-handed blow!
In the wild chaos of the melee, Argett and Dagur are carried apart from one another.
Benedict rides out to Jan and offers the knight a hand up to his horse, to help get the Marbrand free of the battle.
As soon as Balian Blackwood is forced down by Ryckon’s timely onslaught, Farin takes a pace back. “That’s it, boy! No time to finish the job, but he won’t be on our heels. RUN!” he yells through his helm’s vent grate, and turns tail to flee back to where they left the horses, pausing only now and then to make sure Ryckon is with him.
His shield is all but useless now; dangling from a wounded arm. The Iron Serpent has nothing now but his blade for defense—that and his wits, still working well enough despite his wounds to make him spur right at Argett as the other man rides at him. It works, for the charge carries him past the blow—and then he is wheeling, forcing his steed past the battling men between them to hack at Argett’s shoulder!
With a wide grin, Ryckon lets out a cheer for his own achievement, but before he can get too carried away Farin’s warning snaps him back to reality. He nods with resolve. “Right, ser!”
He runs to flee right behind his master, stopping only once to shout, “WESTERLING!” and then running even faster to make up for the lost time, with a Blackwood right at his feet.
But the Tailcutter’s shield is in the way again, taking the brunt of that blow; so scarred and dented it’s a wonder it hasn’t fallen apart yet. Again, he pauses before retaliating; time enough to bellow to his men, “Back! Back, lads, back! Cover the retreat!”
And then he turns back to hack at his stubborn foe with that booming battle-cry again, “HOSTER!”
Bleary eyed, Ammon watches Jan. As the younger man stumbles off, Ammon moves as well. But Massey doesn’t stand, he doesn’t stumble off. He simply drags himself a few yards off, away from the thick of the fighting. And there he stays, back against a log his men had been using for a bench only a few scant moments ago. He sighs, watching as his enemies retreat, as his allies regroup. And waits…
And finally, down goes the mighty Balian Blackwood; felled by the stout Westerling squire after anchoring the centre for the length of the battle, throwing back all who have come against him. Down, his blade slipping from his grasp, driven to his knees, raising his shield desperately to guard himself.
But he is not left undefended. For Blackwood men are gathering around their fallen captain, protecting him, one of them hauling him to his feet, another handing him a blade.
Drawing shallow breaths limited by the pain of his wounds, Balian looks around the battlefield, taking it all in with a practiced eye before calling, “Hold at the stakes! Hold!”
Jan takes Ser Benedict’s offer of assistance and gingerly raises himself to his horse, wincing as he spurs the steed away from the battle. He spares one final glance towards Ammon, towards Ser Balian, towards Ser Dagur, and, despite blood still slowly trickling down his face, tilts his head back and laughs at the spectacle.
He gives a thankful nod to Benedict before his horse quickly reaches Ryckon and the rest of the retreating knights. “Well fought, Ryckon!” Jan hollers, offering a fist pump for the squire’s considerable feat.
But again, Tailcutter’s blow sings harmlessly past the Iron Serpent—for Dagur has ridden right at him again, slipping under it, sweeping a flat, backhanded cut at the other man’s ribs.
With it, his voice harsh with controlled pain, he calls above the din of battle, “The stakes! Clear the stakes!”
But it is a weak blow, scraping all but harmlessly along Argett’s breastplate. And with it, Tailcutter bulls right at the Iron Serpent, using his bulk to muscle the other man aside—and into the clear, rallying his men as he spurs to the retreat.
All in good order, for his men have given a good account of themselves, led by their famed captain, and they guard the retreat now as Bracken men stream away from the stakes.
Behind them, the Blackwood flanking forces ride along the stakes, killing or capturing any stragglers found there. But they do not pursue, for Balian Blackwood has given the order to hold.