Blood of Dragons

The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' MUSH


A Dubious Parley
IC Date: Day 1 of Month 2, 161 A
RL Date: October 15, 2009.
Participants: Participants: Mordred (Caitrin Blackmont), Laurent Dalt, the Sand Dog, Krazdan Big Nose (emitted by Elmer Crakehall), and Beslon Smallwood (emitted by Balerion)
Locations: Vaith: Outside of Vaith

Summary: After establishing a siege of Vaith, several days pass with the Dornishmen and the sellswords staring at one another and occasionally trading arrows and bolts. Eventually, the Dornishmen offer to parley, and offers and counter-offers are made.

The days in Dorne are pitiless, everyone knows. But never has one seemed more pitiless than this. The noon sun has scoured every single cloud from the skies, then turned its attention to the red dunes surrounding Vaith; they seem to be roasting in the fires of all seven hells burning below. And as for the town itself, it shimmers in waves of heat as if an uncertain fever dream.

Out of bowshot of the walls—and a safe distance too from the tents of the small army that has camped athwart the road leading to the town—waits a small, mounted company. A man in burnished scale sits easily astride his grey sandsteed; beside him is a pretty youth—too young, surely, for the bloody business of war—holding a rainbow peace-banner. And a dozen paces behind them wait a pair of men, both clearly veterans.

Upon the walls of Vaith, dozens of crossbowmen, archers, and spearmen can be seen about the gates and to either side of them, looking dourly at the Dornish army. The gates are opened part way to allow out a similarly-sized company of Bright Banners. They’re ahorse, and before them is carried their banner. Next to the banner-bearer is Beslon the Bad himself, armored head to toe, though his visor is up and his hands are free of arms. Besides him rides some officers and soldiers of his company, including the former pit-fighter from Meereen called Krazdan Big Nose, a hulking, black-skinned Summer Islander in a feathered cloak, a scarred, pale Qartheen with outlandishly sculpted hair, and a man who looks and is armored much as any hedge knight.

The company rides forward, and stops some paces away from where the Sand Dog and his troop are. There’s a silence, as Beslon looks over the company, and then he says, “Are you planning to yield, Dornishman? You should know now, before you waste any more time, that the Bright Banners aren’t going to accept your surrender.” He looks and sounds ... bored; it’s a habitual manner, as if he’s already tasted every vice and pleasure life has to offer, and it reveals little enough of what he thinks or even how serious he is.

The leader of the sellsword horse is looking rather less bored, a scar still fresh on his cheek after the battle. His zorse dances under his reins, and he chortles a little at the words of his captain. His dark eyes gaze upong the assembly of Dornishman, and he spits as he sees the seven coloured flag.

Now that the sellswords are come, Mordred sands settles the shaft of the rainbow truce flag in his stirrup and leans forward with his smooth cheek resting on his hands as they hold it steady. He looks at Beslon Smallwood and his Bright Banners—and wrinkles his nose, as if something smells bad.

“Now there’s a passing strange company,” the Sand Dog notes to the youth, squinting against the sun as he watches Beslon Smallwood and his men approach. He scratches his jaw: “I’ll wager you won’t find stranger even in the Shadow City.”

Then, the sellswords have arrived and he opens his mouth as if to speak—and pauses, forestalled by his counterpart. “Oh, that is good,” he notes approvingly. “Very good. But I fear I will have to disappoint you, ser. I am not here to surrender.”

“Now there’s a passing strange company,” the Sand Dog notes to the youth, squinting against the sun as he watches Beslon Smallwood and his men approach. He scratches his jaw: “I’ll wager you won’t find stranger even in the Shadow City.”

Then, the sellswords have arrived and he opens his mouth as if to speak—and pauses, forestalled by his counterpart. “Oh, that is good,” he notes approvingly. “Very good. Then you will be glad I am not here to surrender, ser.”

“Good. Nothing more tiring than seeing grown men piss away any respect I might have for them,” says Beslon, with the same boredom. “Or Big Nose here; isn’t that right, Krazdan?” His eyes fix on the boy with the banner as he speaks, and for a moment his lips quirk. “Don’t suppose I’ve any respect for boys not yet old enough to shave their cheeks. Some bastard of yours, ser? Come to teach him how men fight and die, I suppose.” Lifting a hand, he scratches at his cheek—there’s a dark stubble upon it—and then he leans to the side to spit onto the ground.

Krazdan grins towards the banner bearer, showing the gaps between his rotting teeth. “Oh, I don’t know captain. We have some uses for boys who don’t shave their cheeks.” He cackles wildly and eyes the Dornish leader impudently. “Then why are you here, Dornishman?”

“And I would be sad,” the Sand Dog says blandly. “So very sad if you were to lose any respect you might have for me.” He glances at his banner-bearer when the focus suddenly shifts to the youth: “And no, not my bastard.”

He glances at Krazdan at the other man’s interjection, studies him for a moment, then smiles as if pleased: “I remember you. That zorse of yours. And what -do- you do with beardless boys. Bend over and spread your arse for them?”

“I am here,” he says, turning his attention back to Beslon, “to ask -you- to surrender.”

Mordred Sand looks at Krazdan with cool dark eyes. He says nothing—his only response to the man’s suggestion if to roll his eyes.

“My father is a Blackmont,” the stripling youth says then to Beslon in a rough voice. Then he pats the slender blade on his hip—not the long knife, the one he would use if pressed—but the slender sword of a waterdancer. “Missing a Braavosi, are you?”

A sound half between a cough and a laugh, and Beslon glances at Krazdan following Laurent’s jibe. And then the boy speaks up, and he glances at him. “You the one who stuck him? Trellio cursed a storm,” says the sellsword captain, “but the maester has him good and patched up.” His horse snorts, and paws at the sun-baked earth as he considers what to say to Dalt. In the end, he merely says, “And why would I do that for, Dalt? Vaith suits us. Might grow sick of oranges, olives, and goat in a week, but the air’s pure and the women wet and willing; can’t ask for more.”

A longer pause, and then Beslon offers, “You might have noticed the ravens we’ve had arriving these last days. Want to guess what they’re saying?”
Just to emphasize his leader’s words, the Mereenese picks a handful of olives from a not too clean pocket and munches on one, spitting the pit with a loud loise. He looks at the boy in amusement. “Oh, well, maybe after we kill all these fellows with the pretty banners, we’ll give you a place in the Banners. I do need a new saddlehide.”

“Oranges rot, goats die, and those women are likely to be hiding knives behind their backs to geld you when there’s smoke in the air,” the Sand Dog replies easily.

He considers the sellswords, then smiles a lazy smile: “And I am sure you will spin me a pretty tale about ravens. No need. You lost, what, half your company two days ago? Three hundred odd men against us, and the townfolk none too fond of you. Do you want to wager you can hold against us long enough for help to arrive? With Oakenfist trapped at Salt Shore and Sandstone and Hellholt keeping the others busy?”

He eyes Big Nose and the others: “Do they? Surrender and you will have your lives.”

“I don’t fuck animals,” Mordred says very crudely and bluntly to Big Nose. He looks at the other man a moment longer, then, with all the disdain of a powerful court lackey, sniffs and looks back to Beslon.

Beslon doesn’t seem phased. Beslon, in facts, looks well and truly amused for the first time. He chuckles more clearly, and turns in the saddle to look at the other men in his company. He offers something in bastard Valyrian to them, some Free Cities saying about foolish people with foolish hopes: “They’re hatching dragons out of the dungheap.” There’s a few rough laughs.

Turning back with a creak of leather and steel, he says, “Clean the wax out of your ears, Dalt. I said a week, and I meant that. It’ll take about a week for Oakenfist’s forces to arrive. ‘Trapped’ in Salt Shore? Just waiting for the king to tell him when he wants Planky Town and Sunspear handed to him on a platter. ‘Til then, he’s got three thousand men doing fuck all, and he supposes we could use some of them.”

he glances to Krazdan then and asks him, conversationally, “I say a week, of course, but might be a little more or less. Probably a little less, come to think of it. Six days, maybe?”
Krazdan smiles. “As you say captain. But if not, I’d like to see these pretty Dornish die trying to scale the walls of their own castle.” He grins and he scratches his neck. His grin towards the boy is mocking. He then looks at Dalt and nods. “It’d be a chance for you to get a zorse..if you’re brave enough to come for it.”

“Oakenfist,” the Sand Dog replies, squinting up at the sun, “has three thousand men holding Salt Shore.”

“Oakenfist,” he says, looking down, a cruel curve to his lips, “thinks you are scum. He made no secret of it in Sunspear. Weaken himself against the prince to save you and Vaith? No, Salt Shore is the greater prize. Whatever he might say to you to make you hold out, he will leave you twisting in the wind and sleep easily at night for it.”

“If I want your zorse,” he says to Krazdan dismissively without looking away from Beslon, “I will send my boy here to fetch it for me.”

There is a brief silence in which he remains focussed on the sellsword captain; then he allows, “But I might be willing to sweeten the offer.”

“I don’t mind if he thinks we’re scum,” Beslon says, shaking his head. “It’s true enough. But the king—gods save him—doesn’t, and Ser Alyn dances to the Young Dragon’s tune.” A pause, and then he shrugs, pauldrons rasping. “So be it. Tried to warn you, Dalt. I’ve some respect for you lot—you won a pretty little skirmish, and you didn’t throw away too many of your men. I’d say send some riders or pickets out ... but those lads of mine out in the dunes that started such a pretty little bonfire would just cut them down. Can’t be easy, sleeping at night, knowing they’re out there.”

He looks back again to the others, and asks in bastard Valyrian whether anyone cares for a sweeter offer? The Qartheen fellows replies in accented Valyrian, “If it is the boy for a catamite, I would consider it.” But the twisted leer he throws Mordred doesn’t seem very sincere. Beslon shakes his head again, rueful, and asks, “Well, we’ll hear it. Not much better to do with our time.”
Krazdan spits another olive pit. He replies in the same bastard Valyrian. “Would you trust these Dornish? The Andals will die before breaking their work, but these dogs are a different breed. I say we wait for them on the ramparts. Or if you don’t want to, my horsemen will cut you a path through them. We did it once, we’ll do it again.”

The Sand Dog stares at Beslon—and then he bursts into genuine laughter: “Knowing they’re out there? Fucking hells, you think they are still riding about waiting to catch us with our breeches down?”

“That was a pretty little trick with the wagons, I’ll grant you,” he says with a smile, a hard, hungry edge to it. “But this our land. Forget those men. They can no longer be of use to you.”

He cocks his head at the exchange between the sellswords; there is nothing to tell if he understands it or not. Instead, he asks Mordred idly: “What do you say, lad? Beslon’s milk-man here has an itch in his breeches for you.” And then, to the sellsword captain, a succinct: “Take service with the prince.”

Mordred looks first at Laurent, then at Beslon. “I am not your sort of boy,” he says calmly, unbothered.

Even those that don’t understand the Common Tongue seem to know “Take service”. The sellswords have their attention sharpened at that. Beslon smiles at that, enlivened, not all interested in Dalt’s claims about that troops of horsemen he has out there. “Now, now, Big Nose,” says he, “Ser Laurent’s here a knight, sworn and anointed. If he gives his word, I expect he’ll keep it.”

Smallwood then turns back to the Dornishman, and regards him casually, a hand resting on the high cantle of his horse. “Out of nothing more than curiousity, what does the prince think scum like us are worth?”

Kradan begins to look decidedly disgruntled. He plays with an olive, throwing it in the air and catching it. “What can dead men offer us? The Dornish cannot stand, Captain..if we go on their side now, we’ll just have to run again when the Andals come.” he makes his zorse dance. “Now…if they wanted to offer us gold or jewels and gave us free passage..”

“Seven thousand golden suns. Wages for the next two months and the rest,” Laurent replies, making no effort to gild it with pretty words, “for turning your coat. Divide it as you will, that is not the prince’s concern or mine.”

“And free passage,” he adds with a mummer’s frown, glancing at Krazdan, “is not possible. You have made too much of a nuisance of yourselves to risk have you running free again.”

“7,000? It has a holy sound to it. Might fall to my knees in prayer,” says Beslon, “if I were a praying man.” Krazdan’s complaints now seem to fall on deaf ears. He glances at the man, his heavy-lidded eyes less bored, and more dangerous, and then back to Dalt. A long silence. Then he asks, “And what about Vaith?”

“Vaith will no longer be your concern. The prince will name someone to hold it, no doubt.” The Sand Dog’s easy, sardonic manner is underlaid with something more watchful and intent now; clearly, the meaning of the parley is becoming apparent now.

Krazdan dances his zorse again and nods. “Yes, seven thousand’s not a bad sum. Though once you divide that among the company..” He shakes his head. he draws a coin from his purse and tosses it in the air. “I like Andal gold better than Dornish one.”

A quick flash of a grin from Beslon. “Much as I thought,” Beslon the Bad says. “A pleasant tale, but not half so sweet as what the king offers. Not a quarter.” He looks to the others, and in bastard Valyrian lets them know the parley’s done and it’s time to go home. “A good day to you, Dalt. I expect you’ll die quick, which is a mercy; Oakenfist isn’t the torturing sort.” Implying, in his bored, pleasant way, that he is.

He starts to turn his horse then, and the others with him. But he checks the motion and adds. “I almost forgot. Those townsmen friend of yours. Useless mouths. I don’t suppose you’ll mind too much if we send them out to you, eh?”

“Could I,” asks Laurent, brows arched, “stop you if I wanted to?”

He seems unsurprised by the outcome of the parley—and if he is disappointed, he hides it well. He too, brings his sandsteed’s head around and spurs it into a trot towards his camp; Mordred follows, the rainbow banner hanging limp and sullen in the still, searing air. The two veterans fall in behind the pair.

And then, a dozen paces away, the Sand Dog abruptly draws rein; his mount dances sideways as he turns it in a half-circle. “I have just had,” he announces with a slow smile, “a thought. A new offer, then. Seven thousand golden suns if the Bright Banners turn their coat.”

“A thousand golden suns and the captaincy of the company for the man who leads them to it. And gives me Vaith and Beslon Smallwood. Prince Marence Martell’s sworn word on it!”

And with that—and without waiting for a reply—he spurs his horse into a gallop back towards the Dornish camp, his men following.

The Summer Islander and the Qartheen are fairly uncomprehending, but the look they exchange suggests they comprehend the gist of it; they both grin, and make some jest to Beslon the Bad. Others ... are more thoughtful. Yet they follow Beslon Smallwood without stopping, and he shows no fear of betrayal, so sure is he of his grip on the sellsword company with his promise of a castle to rule as their own if they persevere. Or, rather, a castle he’ll rule, and they his subjects.

The gates open, to admit the company, and close again.

A minute passes.

Then, from the walls, the Bright Banners pick up objects at their feet and start to throw them out, one by one. There are dozens, scores… eventually, there are hundreds: the head of every man and boy over twelve in the town of Vaith.