Though the evening is just beginning over Stone Hedge, the sky is already darkened, and sets the tone for the mood about the castle. The righteous fervor that was once there still hangs in the air over the “For Hoster!” rituals that are beginning to lack in enthusiam. Most of the servants are given to silence, the knights weary or wary of needing to fight again. The Brackens themselves, of course, remain steadfast - but not so, with others.
There have been rumblings, among the allies and volunteers. The war seems to have taken a turn for the worse, and there have been many whispers of a desire to return home, for the forces that call home elsewhere. These sentiments have been met with resistence, but it is harder to quell resentment than it is to silence lips. And it is in this dark mood and grey time that Ser Farin Prester has called forth a small meeting at his pavillion.
The inside of the great tent is utterly devoid of servants, though wine has been set out for those who do intend to come. Ser Farin himself stands alone, sipping at his glass every now and again, his eyes trained on the veil of mist outside.
Luthor is the first to enter the tent pushing aside the flap and ducking under the doorway. After he enters, his serjeant and his healer follow both men moving to stand silently by the doorway while Luthor approaches his cousin scooping up a cup of wine as he goes. “You called, coz?”
Ryckon still uses his former knight’s tent, for lack of any better place to stay, and so he is already there when people begin to arrive, sitting in a chair off to the side but still near Farin and holding one of the glasses. Taking a sip, he rises to nod to Luthor and whoever else arrives in greeting with a respectful, “Ser.”
Jan tentatively opens the flap to the tent, not too long behind Ser Luthor. His left shoulder still lightly bandaged from the skirmishes with the Blackwoods, Jan, clad in light training armor, is visibly tense, mirroring the tenor of the camp. Still, he offers Farin, Luthor, and Ryckon a cordial nod each, quickly making his way to the wine. He downs half a cup before approaching the knights. “Evening, sers. My guess is we weren’t called to taste a new vintage, Ser Farin?” he asks in an attempted to lighten the mood, his own included.
Ser Farin swallows the last of his wine, and moves the glass away from his lips to acknowledge his cousin. “I did,” he notes, then, “I have been thinking on the missive you recieved this morning. It is time.”
As Jan enters, Farin turns his attentions that way, and cracks a wry half smile at the westermasn’s humor. “No, Ser. I am afraid it is a bit more dire than that,” he grants. “I suppose we can begin, then. The others preferred to send their responses in whispers than show themselves, so far. But, I assume that in general, the lot of you have noticed that this war has not gone entirely our way, hm?” he asks to the group at large.
Luthor turns his eyes towards the new arrivals and greets them with a nod and turns back to his cousin. He snorts. “We have time yet,” a sip of wine follows and he listens quietly to Farin’s words. “It hasn’t gone our way, no, so what do you propose to fix it coz?”
Jan’s eyes dart to the other knights in the room, gauging their reactions to Farin’s query. He raises an eyebrow slightly at Luthor’s expressed confidence before speaking. “Aye, I’ve noticed…” Jan concedes softly, gently tugging at his bandages. “Almost as if the Blackwoods know what we’re going to do, before we do it.” He scratches his beard with his free hand, bemused, before taking a sip. “What is this talk of a missive?”
Ryckon drowns a frown with a gulp of wine. “I believe that we won… just a single battle, at the ford, if I recall correctly. Not well, and now the Tullys are fighting too.” He furrows his brow and shrugs. “...Er, yes, what was this missive? And what are we to do?”
“Is there?” Farin quries back to Luthor, his own conviction not lacking in the surety that the words he uses do.
“Sers, before we set out for Stone Hedge, I requested an audience with Lady Tinessa Tully, and was granted it, along with a task for her war council: I was able to secure for her a missive that promises that no harm will befall House Bracken, or its lands, or its interests, if the House were to stand down its forces and return to Riverrun in an attempt to seek justice for Hoster through the Tullys, rather than their own means. I brought it here, and was told that Lord Bracken would not even see me, if my cause was for peace.” The Warden explains.
“We participated in the war, following this, obviously in the hopes of ending it early - but as you say, Ser Jan, the Blackwoods are no mean match. The only instances we can catch them unawares are when we ourselves have not intended a battle.” Farin pauses here a moment to grab a new glass of wine for himself, which he sips and swills before contiinuing.
“Now, of course, the Tullys are involved directly. I was sent by Lord Bracken with a small force to chat with Ser Patrek Vance recently; the goal was for the men to scout out their numbers and provisions whilst I talked, but I was afforded the opportunity to ask Ser Patrek if Lady Tinessa’s missive was still good, now that the fighting has gone on in earnest. He assured me that it was. I made haste back to Stone Hedge, only to be rebuffed by Lord Bracken again.
“And so I began to sow a little dissention. It is difficult enough to continue a war if your allies had shied away from it; and harder to continue ignoring their advice. The Brackens have taken notice, but are not yet aware of where the dissent comes from. The Pipers have given their nod to my efforts, tired as they are of it. But now there is some new information that I believe justifies showing my hand early,” and with that, he points towards Luthor with his glass.
“My cousin recieved a missive this morning, implying that Lady Tinessa herself has taken command of the host, and is marching - and on Raventree Hall, thank the Father. So…my proposal is simple. We call openly for Lord Bracken to invoke Tinessa’s offered amnesty, and to join our forces with hers. The war will /not/ go in our favor, as vastly outnumbered as we are, but we can still save the Brackens /and/ find justice for Hoster, if we join with them.”
Luthor nods to the others. “Aye I did recieve a letter from lady Jannia, but it does not make plain Lady Tinessa’s plans or who murdered Hoster Bracken. All we know for certain is that Lady Tully questioned Lucas Blackwood before he died and that afterwards she chose to lead the host herself. As to where she rides, we do not know, not for certain.”
As Farin speaks, Jan’s face turns red, and grows redder; his knuckles turn whiter as he grasps his cup of wine tightly. “I thought we were fighting to seek justice for Hoster this entire time? You mean to tell us there was an offer to do so without all this bloodshed, on the table since the beginning?” Jan asks, his voice incredulous, and rising with each passing word. He shoots a glance at Luthor. “Are we fighting for justice or just for the sake of fighting?”
Ryckon raises an eyebrow, both at Farin’s information and at Jan’s reaction. “Lady Tinessa herself? ...Interesting. But I doubt that… well, perhaps this could change Lord Bracken’s mind, but it just well may not… do you actually think that it will, that he will accept this time? He might not want to be impeded by others in his sack of Raventree.”
Bearded and brutish, Bloody Brus Bracken shoulders his way into the tent after Farin makes his announcement, and the men make their replies. Nervous faces part the way once they note his fearsome presence. Reaching the front he crosses his arms, “Prester, what’s the meaning of this?” Brus sweeps his hand around, showing he means the meeting in general. “When I was called to your tents, I did not realize that the whole Bracken host would be here.”
He grunts, a sense of uneasiness is shown on Brus’ face. He retracts his hand to tug lightly at his scraggly beard, twisting the course hairs idly. Awaiting what the Prester knight has to say, Brus’ features are cold and hard, weary and wary, it could be said, much like many at Stone Hedge.
“Of /course/ we have been fighting for justice for Hoster. But the Brackens see it differently than we do,” Farin replies, his tone clipped. “Amnesty is not worth the ink it is written with if the Lord refuses to heed it. That is the purpose of this meeting; I am asking that you stand with me to-”
And then Bloody Brus enters. “There are no other sane options,” he replies, quickly, to Ryckon, though his eyes are on Brus. “Ser Brus, welcome. Do have some wine, and sit with us. We were just discussing the war, and how best to end it.”
Luthor spares a glance at Brus when the famed knight enters but still shrugs and lifts his cup to his lips turning back to Jan. “I fight because my lord Smallwood commands me to and for this,” he taps the fat that has not left his side since he was paid Ser Ardros Piper’s ransom. “Whicever way the war ends I’ve done my duty to myself and my lord.”
Jan, still bristling, though slightly less than before, tilts back the rest of his cup upon Brus’s entrance. “Then Lord Bracken /should/ heed it, frankly. How many men have to die for a goal that can be obtained otherwise?” He snorts at Luthor before protesting further, “Fighting the Blackwoods for justice was ambitious, but I thought it warranted. But fighting them for Lord Bracken’s sport is foolish, and fighting them /and/ the Tullys is an absurd folly. I won’t do it.”
Ryckon blinks in surprise at the arrival of the Bracken and does his best to greet him respectfully. “There are other options, ser, they are simply not sane. But they are there, to be sure… I started fighting as a squire, and I continue fighting because I wish to see it finished. But it must be finished.” He casts Brus another wary glance and adds, “Else there will be no justice for Hoster.”
Another grunt follows Farin’s words on sanity. “So, you’re saying we’re all bloody insane then, eh, Prester?” Brus snorts in a show of mirth. “No, I do not need wine,” He waves his hand to dismiss the offer, “Oh. You think you know the best way to end this?”
A smirk tilts the hard lines of his mouth, ” Well. I think the best way to end this… is the man who killed my son, that Blackwood fucker, his head on a spike. Raven-feathered….” The end of that statement trails off, punctuated by an ending “Whoreson” before quieting his grumble. Sliding Luthor a grin, “There’s a knight who has his thoughts in the right place, a bastard even. Ha!” His grin falls slowly as he turns to look at Farin, “If it isn’t that, I have no want to hear it. Ser.”
Though his attentions are drawn away from Farin as the Marbrand man speaks. “Are you daft boy!” Brus booms as his attentions snap to Jan, “My son was laid to the stranger at the hands of one of those weir-tree-fucking bastards. I will not rest until Balian’s blood stains my hands, and my hands alone!” The fearsome man’s face is red, a sign of rage bubbling up to the surface, Ryckon’s words are not heard, Brus keeps his gaze set on Jan.
“And how will you do that, with the Tullys at your gate, /Ser/?” Farin fires back, as the Brakcen becomes irate. “Justice may yet still be sought for your son - but at what price? If you continue this route, you are dead men, all. And what are the Brackens to profit gaining justice for Hoster, at the cost of the House?” Farin spits. “Assuming you even /could/. Your army is in no shape to lay seige to Raventree Hall, even if you knew a way past the Tullys to get there. And soon you will have thousands of them between here and the Blackwoods. There /is/ /no/ /victory/, Ser Brus. And Tinessa would flay it right back from you once you took it, for the trangression you have comitted since. I bring /amnesty/ and /justice/ both. What do you bring, Ser Brus?”
Luthor’s brows raise at the bastard comment but he takes it in stride. “I do what I can to show my trueborn friends the way,” he says wryly and drinks down his whole cup of wine and sets it on the table. “Though this debate is for those in charge of their own destinies. I shall send my squire with Ser Farin’s arguments to Lord Bellos, but I suspect he will stay loyal to his Bracken good-kin and agree to fight to his last bastard cousin.” A smile then. “Good eve sers, let me know if peace is declared.” Then Luthor departs his serjent following him, but his healer, a tall slender Dornishman remains behind to watch, listen, and no doubt report back to his master.
“I’m not a boy,” Jan growls menacingly, setting the cup of wine on the table firmly and inching closer to Brus. “I’m sorry for your loss, /ser/, but how many other knights have to be laid to the Stranger as well, in your son’s name?” He sighs and relaxes his shoulders, slightly. “The choice is clear to me. Either lead your men into slaughter, and receive no justice, or accept the offer, spare your men’s lives, and receive the justice you seek. It may not satisfy your bloodlust, but it is the only choice, ser.” His anger having somewhat subsided, Jan looks around, almost surprised at his own presumptuousness; nevertheless, he does not take a step back from the man they call Bloody Brus.
As the tension of the debate rises, Ryckon remains dispassionately worried, sipping his wine and glancing at whoever is yelling angrily at the given moment. He smirks just a little when Jan protests at being called a boy, but otherwise remains solemn and dignified. “Indeed, ser… as they say, the only way to justice would seem to be through the Tullys.”
“Such words!” Brus belly laughs. “Well, if I die defending my son, so be it. So long as I take as many of those sheep fuckers down in the trying, I am sated. Who are _you_ to speak of what is best for /my/ house!” A growl replacing his prior laugh. “Do I hold you hostage? Do you seek diplomatic victory. I am not afraid of any TROUT, ser one hundred, or one thousand, it makes no difference to me. If you wish to tuck your oxen tail between your legs and flee like the ball-less whoreson you are, so be it.”
“We will not yield, ser!” Brus spits his last, nodding to Luthor as he makes his leave. “Why is it the bastard that has any sense in the lot of you? If it were your kin, you would not relent, no matter how weary, no matter how defeated you felt. Tell me,” he barks at Farin, “if it were your son, Prester, would you yield, how about that pretty wife? If you say yes, then I say you’re a coward!”
He bellows with rage, “I will give justice. Justice and death, blood for blood. It is owed to me, I will see to it personally that it is paid, in full, and I will not let you or anyone else take that away.” he spits again, all but foaming at the mouth. “And you! I do not need your words of apology, and the words you do say are that of a child, boy!” he snarls at Jan, Ryckon only gains sharp eyes, though hardly as offensive as the other two who speak. Sharp, yet pain ridden eyes they are, as well as angered in a blood rage. The Bracken men-at-arms filter in to see if they need to diffuse the situation.
“I would yield the justice to the /Lannisters/ if they offered it to me, Ser, and I would know better than to cross them! As for your lieges,” Fsrin growls right back, “We speak of /Tinessa Tully/. Do you remember /Goodbrook/, Ser? Is it the stake you wish to die on, burned alive for your rape and butchery of the Riverlands? Her Lady will see justice done to /you/, if you do not relent. Brus. Brus, listen to me,” the Warden tries, his tone taking on the edge of desperation.
“Your army is weak. Your foe is unassaiable, your liege has ten times your strength, and has come to war. It is Tinessa Tully herself at the head of the army, and you and your allies will burn if you do not seek her amnesty. There will be justice for Hoster, but it must come this way, or you will not have it at all. You - Brus - as a father - you have not the strength to take your vegenace out on the Balian Blackwood, not from here, not now. The hour is too late. If you want your justice in any form, it must be through an invokation of Tinessa’s last shred of benevolence - this offer will not come a second time. My part in this war was to aid the Brackens - and now I hold the only thing standing between your House and total oblivion. Please, tell Lord Bracken. Tell him that it is time to join the Tullys, and take the fight to the Blackwoods /together/.”
Jan’s face grows red again; this time, his bristling does not subside. He spits on the ground and shouts, “I suppose you do not want any /boys/ fighting in your army, then, ser. Well, this /boy/ has killed many, many /men/ in your son’s name. But no more.” He pauses as Farin speaks, nodding his head vigorously in agreement. “The only death that awaits your current path is that of your House, ser. There is only one route to justice. Open your eyes and realize that.”
Ryckon furrows his brow thoughtfully, setting down his glass. “It… would not be yielding, ser, not strictly. Simply joining your liege, and receiving amnesty that the killers of your son would not… and assuming that the Blackwoods do not give in and the siege is carried out, perhaps in the chaos Balian might meet his end?” He shrugs. “I can promise nothing, but nothing will come from fighting the Tullys.”
The mention of Tinessa /herself/ coming brings pause to Brus’ anger, though it doesn’t stop him for long. He shakes it off and continues. “Fire cannot burn a hole in the feud between houses, -NOT- even dragon fire. Let the Fishwife try. I will not yield.” He says through a clenched jaw. “If I burn, it be will for a cause worth burning for. Again, ser, who are you to speak for _my_ house. Let the Blackwoods yield, cowards they are!” He snaps, and before he can continue Jan comes in.
“ENOUGH! I have heard enough, My Lord Bracken has heard ENOUGH. Seize them!” Brus barks, pointing to Farin and Jan and spits at their feet. “You bring unrest to my encampment. Fostering doubt, and lowering morale, mutiny! Treachery! Seize them!” The men-at-arms and those who are Bracken aligned who do not want to be in the same situation move to disarm Farin and Jan swiftly and take them into custody. “If this place burns, you, will be burning with it. In the cells with the both of you. This one too.” He says pointing to Ryckon before shouldering his way back out again, pushing people out of the way as he goes.
At Brus’ command to seize any of the Westerland men, the sound of seven swords being unsheathed in tandem rings out within the cloth walls of the pavillion, as the Prester men-at-arms and retainers dare Brus’ men to actually carry out those orders.
“Hold,” Farin orders, not of his own men, but of Brus and his. “The others have nothing to do with this. These are men of House Marbrand and Westerling, and they will not suffer for my dissent. I pray you, Ser Brus; I will go willingly with you, on two conditions. My friends will go free to stay or leave at their leisure, and you will get me an audience with Lord Bracken. Agree to that, and I will go to a cell for you. If not, you can die for the wrong cause and see /no/ justice done.”
Brus stops at the door, his temper is as fleeting as the breeze. “One word, a single word from the other two against our efforts and they will be shackled and hung from the gates, alive mind, to greet the Fishwife themselves.”
He does not turn around his eyes face the yard of Stone Hedge, “I cannot promise you a meeting, however, I mean that Lord Bracken has heard enough. I am not his voice, but I can tell him you wish to speak with him. Spit those words to him, Prester, and he is liable to do the same to you. These are tense times. If you agree, come along, if not, you will be apprehended.” Brus waits there for the Prester’s reply though he switches his stance back and forth, impatient.
Jan brought no sword to the pavillion, but his hand jolts towards the hilt of a dagger, strapped to his waist. He takes a few steps closer to Farin and his men, and for once, he’s wise enough to stay silent, eyeing Ser Brus and the Bracken men warily, as he awaits Bloody Brus’s response. When Brus starts to move for the exit, he whispers to Farin. “I’ll sow no dissent, but I will leave for the Tullys first chance I get. We both know this is foolish.”
Ryckon grabs the mace eternally at his instinctively as Brus gives the order to apprehend them, and his grasp does not relax when the Prester men-at-arms come to their defense. He mutters, “Better alive than dead,” quietly to himself at Brus’ threat, and then whatever sacrifice Farin is making begins to register. “Ser, you…” He struggles for words as so often and shrugs, “...will not be forgotten.” The former squire is probably referring to when they are with the Tullys and not when Farin is dead, but that may not make it sound any more reassuring. He adds to Jan, “I will join you, ser. Do you think we can make it by nightfall if we leave immediately?”
The Warden pauses to listen to Jan and then Ryckon’s words to Jan. “Ryckon, take charge of this camp. My men will follow you, but for my retainer; he will remain by my side. Go to the Tullys. Ser Jan - go with Ryckon and keep safe my camp, and you will be well rewarded. And…” he leans in to whisper back as his speech finishes, “Tell the Pipers “It is time,” on your way out.”
Orders given, he turns back to Brus. “Just a moment..” he informs, then makes his way to a small chest, which he opens and produces a small scroll. “This is all I need. Let us get this over with then, Brus.”
Brus eyes Farin going to the chest, raising a brow as he grabs the scroll. “Move your fucking swords.” He says to men with blades pointed in his direction. “Let us go, Prester.” Brus sniffs and moves when the swords are moved away and stalks out into the yard Bracken guards trailing behind, keeping eye on the camp until it is out of sight. “Bloody Hells.” Bloody Brus exclaims as his form dips out of sight and into the keep, guards leading Farin to the holding cells.
Jan nods to Ryckon enthusiastically, but then speaks somewhat skeptically. “By nightfall? Likely not…but we can reach them soon enough. Glad to have you by my side, Ser Ryckon,” he says, a meaningful emphasis on the ‘Ser.’ He then turns to Farin, listening intently to his words. “As you wish, ser. And good luck. See you on the other side,” Jan asserts, eyeing Brus as he stalks out. He starts towards the exit and motions for Ryckon to join him.
Ryckon blinks at his former master’s orders, surprised by the responsibility. An eyebrow raises as Jan is offered a reward, but nonetheless Ryckon nods deeply to Farin after his whisper. “Yes, ser, of course… Good luck.” He watches Brus and Farin carefully as they leave, and then nods again to Jan. “Thank you, ser. You as well.” Beginning to follow him to the exit, he turns to address the men-at-arms in a loud command voice. “Right, men, I am in charge until Ser Farin is out of custody. Strike the tent so we can ride for the Tullys.”