It’s quiet in the hour before dawn, a single bird somewhere in the distance chirrping forlornly as if it’ll bring the day any more quickly. The kingswood is cooler than the royal city, and the dew that coats every leaf and blade of grass adds a little to that chill, dampening boots and leggings as the company of the Warden’s expedition waits for the return of woodsmen who have crept forward to scout the bandit encampment.
In the quiet moments before the company moves, Ser Aidan Dayne goes through another check of his arms and armor, from the dented helm (so bright and new just a few days before) to the splinted vambraces and on to the sword that he loosens in the scabbard. His robes are darker and muted, more suited to the coming combat. Under his breath, he repeats some prayer to the Warrior, for courage and for his soul.
He’s among the first to hear the rustle ahead. “They’re here,” he breathes to his fellow Dornishmen, busy with their own preparations.
Cooler then King’s Landing means much too cool for one of Dornish heritage. A thick half-cape of similiar dark material to that of his fellow Dornishman is wrapped warmly around Cadan Nymeros Martell’s shoulders as he waits along with the other Dornish. His left arm is tucked against is side, bound there to restrict movement, while his right hand is never far from the hilt of his slim sword. His head bobs in silence in response to the Knight of the Twilight, his helmeted head moving so that his eyes glance in the direction of the noise he hears a moment after Aidan does.
The black-armoured man, near invisible as he kneels in the pooling shadows beneath a tree’s canopy, does not stir at the rustling. He may as well be made of stone, bare blade planted upright before him, head bowed; his chest, rising and falling slowly, is the only movement about him.
At length, he looks up, hard-angled face bleached of colour by the strange light in the hour before dawn, and rises. Glancing, finally, at where the undergrowth moves, he gestures towards someone behind him without turning.
A giant stands with his back to a tree. His tabard is black save for a gold quarter over his left breast upon which is embroidered a black stag’s head with lightning bolts issuant. His great helm is a mass of black steel carved in the likeness of that demon stag, its antlers splayed forward and a bright green mantle, like wild fire flames dancing down its mane. He bears a shield - the Baratheon stag upon it - and weilds a massive warhammer - larger and heavier than any man of slighter build could lift.
So stands the Stormbreaker, a silent mountain, wrapped in silence, yet promising death with the menace of his quiet.
The helm raises slightly, the eye slits turning towards the speaking Dornishman. “Someone tell that fucking maggot to shut his hole,” the Baratheon’s muffled voice hisses.
For some, there is no need for words. When the Iron Serpent raises his hand, the Smiler is there to place his black serpent helm in it. Clad all in black leather, the mute man who the Gods alone know where, Smiler steps back half a pace and crouches, dagger already in hand and ready.
The Dornish knight stiffens, his expression grim. He loosens his sword in its scabbard again.
“My lords,” the first of the scouts says, kneeling down to deliver his report. “It’s as the outlaws said, and Ser Endros, m’lord. There’s a dip in the land and then a stony ridge, with uneven and rocky ground beneath; ain’t no good for horses. The camp, we saw a little fire, little else. We couldn’t come too close, neither, they’ve got some men watching.”
He pulls his dirk from his belt, and quickly scratches the layout on the ground, marking out the scouts. “I don’t know what’s behind that ridge—more of the same, we figure, m’lords.”
The Dornish Prince, meanwhile, shifts his gaze towards the Warden. Dark eyes blandly meet those of the Stormbreaker. Then he looks to the Knight of the Twilight, and Cadan shakes his head once, silently. All attention is then given to the scout, listening quietly to the report.
Out of the morning mist come the Stormbreaker’s company, veterans all. All wear iron kettle helms, the brims throwing their furrowed faces into shadow. All wear the same tabards as their knight, the Stormbreaker’s badge emblazoned on their left. All weild crossbows winched and locked, ready for the deadly bolts that will see the end of foes when brought to bear. All bear grim blades at their waist and shields upon their back, the Baratheon stag dancing upon them. They form up in order behind the slight form of their bearded and scarred captain.
Only yesterday were they bidden to take up their old livery - abandoned since the Hand’s order came for them to disbanded. The Stormbreaker returned it with the promise they would avenge the deaths of those slain in the ambush.
The Stormbreaker himself steps forward, looming over the returning scout. Silently, he removes his helm, revealing a black bearded and scowling visage. Deeply, yet softly, he states, “I wouldn’t fucking believe it. Why didn’t you get any fucking closer? You may as well tell us the color of the fucking trees as what you’re giving us now.”
“The watchers, m’lord; th-they were, uh, watching’” the man replies, half-grovelling. “We was told not to be seen.” He hurriedly scratches out two crosses on the ground, marking the men guarding the camp, and then stands and moves back from it. He clearly waits to be dismissed—or hopes for it.
Donning his helm as he listens to the scout’s report—wrought like a serpent’s head with twin fangs curving down to bar his face—the ironman draws his sword from the damp earth. “Bring the Reavers. You are at my back,” he says to Smiler beneath the rumbling of the Stormbreaker’s displeasure. “And you…”
He nods to a goldcloak officer standing at hand before glancing at the Dornishmen, “Guard them like a mother does a babe at the teat. I want that fool prince of theirs alive at the end of it.”
Finally, he turns back in time to hear the scout’s hurried explanation. “I can take the guards with mine,” he says briefly to the Baratheon knight. “A clear way for you from one flank.”
Once more, the dark eyes of the Prince turn, this time towards the Iron Serpent. A light, polite smile shines under mocking eyes, dipping his head in salute before leaning close towards Ser Aidan, speaking under his breath to the Dornish knight.
Snarling, the Stormbreaker drops his shield and grabs the man, bringing him closer. The giant Baratheon growls in the scouts face, “It’s called stealth… Why don’t you try fucking using it? Aren’t you supposed to find fucking poachers in these fucking woods? How do you sneeak up on them!” He then throws the man to the ground.
Pointing at the scout, the Baratheon adds, “Do something useful between now and before we get back to Kingslanding…” He leaves a promised threat unsaid.
Turning to face Dagur, Sarmion says, “Take the left flank. My men,” he gestures to the Captain and the other crossbowmen bearing the Stormbreaker’s badge arrayed behind him, “Will take the front. Once they’ve finished two volleys, I will lead the Kingswood company on the right flank.” Glancing at the Dornishmen, he adds, “Once their front is turned, you can take their rear… That’s all one of those maggots is good for, anyway.” The grizzled veterans chuckle darkly.
With a curt nod as a reply, Smiler shifts in his crouch so that he is, indeed, at his lord’s back. He listens to the Stormbreaker as well, then catches Dagur’s attention with a tap on his shoulder to sign: *Just don’t take their rear like yon Dornishmen do.*
Raynard nods at his commander’s words, and walks over to his horse, pulling his composite recurve bow from a sheath on the saddle, along with his quiver, and pulls the neatly coiled bowsting from a pouch on his belt.
Aidan nods his head slightly, after Cadan’s whispered words. “As ... ...” The sword is loosened again in the scabbard, just to be sure ... and his lips quirk into a grimace at the Stormbreaker’s behavior. He says nothing, though; not now, anyways.
When the Stormbreaker chooses to address them, Ser Aidan’s face darkens even with the olive complexion. He bows courteously none the less, elegant despite the armor. He doesn’t bother speaking back, and instead talks with the other Dornishmen. The goldcloaks who are set to guard them must needs crowd close, knowing these mad hostages will like as not run into the fray as chivalry demands, and it’s their necks if one of them gets himself killed.
“That is twice now you have referred to us again, my lord Stormbreaker. We will fight alongside you regardless, but refer to us that way again, and I shall seek you out in front of the court for satisfaction,” Prince Cadan says quietly, levelly. “And that is not a good situation to be in. If you lose, you have lost to a Dornish maggot. If you win, it will only because I have died, and then you would start the Dornish wars anew, or at the least risk the King’s wrath. So, instead of more threats and barbaric speeches, what say we deal with our true enemies this morn?”
Watching Raynard, the Stormbreaker’s face darkens. He snarls at the Dornish prince addressing him, snapping in a still hushed voice, “You’ll fight no where near me if you want to live, you fucking maggot. I will crush you like I did your fucking brother, but I won’t pause for ransome this time.”
Stepping up to Dagur, the Baratheon intones, “It occurs to me the Starveling thinks we’re fucking stupid,” his eyes still locked on Raynard, he adds, “He’s probably got an ambushed laid for us over that ridge, expecting us to send cavalry into that death trap…”
Cadan merely smiles in response to the Stormbreaker’s snarling address. “Satisfaction it shall be, then. I will see you in the yard at court when this is all said and done, my lord Stormbreaker. I do hope you can handle a crippled maggot as well as you did that old man the other day. Though I will not be running away when you strike at me.” Dipping his head to, the Prince turns back towards the other Dornish, speaking quietly with his countrymen.
Raynard silently strings his bow, and test the draw on it before slowly relaxing the string,a gently laying it on the ground, he slings the quiver over shoulder, and buclkes the strap across his chest. Picking his bow up he looks back at Sarmion and nods.
Aidan shakes his head as the prince approaches. “him, my ... ... ... of ... to be ... fighting ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...” His cousin Ser Tamlyn seems to echo his words, glancing at the giant Baratheon and then offering a brief jest. Some of the gold cloaks clearly don’t care for it, but they keep their mouths shut.
Calm in the wake of Sarmion’s anger, the Iron Serpent says to the Dornishman: “If you get any more of my men killed because you wish to play at battle with a useless arm, prince, that is a quarrel I will take up with whatever the Stormbreaker leaves. Stay with them and try not to get yourself killed.”
Turning back to the giant Baratheon knight, he follows his gaze to Raynard; his armoured shoulders rise and fall in a shrug: “I dislike wasting men. If the Starveling can be distracted, so much the better. The Locke and a dozen men to spring the trap.”
The Dornishmen make ready, and the men-at-arms of the expedition as well, separating into groups under the command of Ser Dagur and Ser Sarmion as they finalize their plans. Some few take time to pray, others go over their equipment, and others still seem lost in thought, or an intense focus on the coming skirmish.
Not even acknowledging Ser Dagur’s words, Prince Cadan nods in silent reply to the Knight of Twilight. But the subject seems to be dropped, as he makes ready with the other Dornish, waiting at the fore of that small group, cool dark eyes watchful as he gazes to the edges of their encampment.
“Exactly,” Sarmion says with a nod, then turns to Raynard, asking, “Locke, are you still hot for vengence as before? Take half the Kingswood company—ahorse—and charge that camp! Lances—horns—everything. Once they’ve bitten, wheel back to the right flank and join me on foot. My crossbow men should cover your retreat once the Starveling’s moved.”
Looking at Cadan, the Stormbreaker sneers, “I’m forbidden to kill maggots in the Court or anywhere else, shithead. So whatever this is—your honor, if you can call it that—will go wanting. Fuck off.”
Turning to look at Raynard, he snaps, “What are you waiting for? Move! Now!”
And now the Bucklers make their presence known. Ser Lormon speaks up, “We’ll go along with _Ser_ Raynard,” the infamous knight says. His small troop of men neatly fill out the ranks of men meant to go forward to lure out any trap. And among this is Ser Endros, still looking like a wild man of the woods, but with a hunger for revenge plain in his expression. Armored with bits and pieces scavenged from men felled in the skirmish three days before, he carries a rusty sword, stolen some months ago from the bandits when he first escaped them.
After hearing Stormbreaker’s command, the Buckler knights move to retrieve horses, all the while talking of what the scouts reported and how best to do as the plan requires with the broken terrain.
Mounting up he signals for the men with him to follow, and nocks an arrow. “We ride!” Waiting just long enough for the other’s with him to saddle up, he heads off into the woods, eyes alert and wary for the potential ambush.
Off by a tree, a young goldcloak, sweat dripping down his chin even in the morning cool, fumbles at his breeches as he tries to take a piss. But in his nervousness, he does not wait and ends up staining his breeches as liberally as he splatters the tree.
Voice cracking as he curses, he wipes his hands on his stiff leather armour and trots back to take his place with Aidan and Cadan, ties undone, cock dangling out.
“Tuck that prick away, boy,” a sergeant at arms says as his comrades start to snicker, whacking the youth on the back of the head. “It’s no whores we’re after, and we sure as seven hells aren’t intending to make ‘em fall down laughin.” The young watchman turns a bright red and does as he’s told. The Dornishmen are less amused, and Madyn Santagar spits on the ground and mutters, “Oafs.”
The troop of horse with the Bucklers and Ser Raynard at the lead break out of the main forested area, into the more sparsely wooded dale. Away to the north, the land dips and then begins to rise at a ridge that runs east to west, the ground between littered with rocks and boulders. The horsemen deliberate, unseen at first.
Coming to a place where they can gain the straightest and easiest path, they began to ride forward. IT must be Ser Lormon’s doing that they go at the trot rather than trying to canter or gallop. His men arrayed behind him watch suspiciously, and anxiously, for the first sign of the enemy.
“At your horn,” the Iron Serpent says in parting to Sarmion. And then he too is gone, veering to the west as he goes, his men spreading out behind him. Barely a twig snaps to mark their passing; hard-bitten men all, they move with the practised ease of those who are no strangers to ambushes and death at dawn. As indeed they are not, for they his own men, Reavers of Dorne all, culled from the ranks of the goldcloaks.
Raynard holds his bow at the ready, guiding his steed with his legs. His sword sat loose in its scabbard ready to be drawn if it came to melee.
“Hold,” Sarmion says, flatly, pausing only to pick up his shield. He moves over to grab Raynard’s reins.
Looking to the Bucklers, the gian Baratheon bows, “Ser, I leave you to assemble the riders. I will send Locke out to signal the approach and the charge. Await his horn. I want to leave ample time for the battles to assemble.” He nods at Dagur as the Saltcliffe moves off with the Goldcloaks, Reavers, an Dornishmen.
Pulling the Locke’s horse with him, he addresses the crossbowmen with a hushed voice, “Order front.” They begin to march slowly to the verge of the wood. The Stormbreaker waves his warhammer at the remainder of the Kingswood company afoot, “Order right. March.” Dragging Raynard’s horse with him, he begins to march with the rest of his men towards the right of the camp along the ridge.
Now it’s a waiting game, as the expeditionary force moves into position for what will come when the horsemen make their charge. It’s not long in coming.
There’s a hoot, as if an owl, away to the east of the horsemen. It repeats itself, twice. That’s when the charge begins, with Buckler’s voice—a roar that faintly carries out of the dale—rising up to make sure there’s no mistake about what’s happening. The horsemen ride hard for the ridge, but the ground and the still-dim light hampers them, preventing them from much speed. At points they are cantering, at others trotting and jostling to round some monsterous big boulder.
The Prince of Dorne follows the Reavers, leading the small band of Dornishman at the rear of the main group. He moves easily, despite his injured left arm, and quietly, more quietly then the heavily armored knights of Westeros are likely to be.
Now it’s a waiting game, as the expeditionary force gets into position for what will come when the horsemen make their charge. It’s not long in coming.
There’s a hoot, as if an owl, away to the east of the horsemen. It repeats itself, twice. That’s when the charge begins, with Buckler’s voice—a roar that faintly carries out of the dale—rising up to make sure there’s no mistake about what’s happening. The horsemen ride hard for the ridge, but the ground and the still-dim light hampers them, preventing them from much speed. At points they are cantering, at others trotting and jostling to round some monsterous big boulder.
Raynard grabs his reins from sarmion just before the signal for the charge came. “Thanks you Ser, but i know how to guide my horse.” Shaking his head and muttering his breath he moves with the other horsemen along the trail.
A horn sounds, now to the west of the horsemen. Another follows it, to the east. Suddenly, in the lessening gloom, the ridge is alive with two, three dozen dark, flitting shapes coming from amidst tents well-hidden among the rocks on the heights of the ridge.
Beneath his demonic-visaged greathelm, the Stormbreaker curses Lormon Buckler’s premature charge as the reins of Raynard’s horse are pulled out of his hands. He quickly turns to survey the Kingswood knights arrayed in battle order behind him.
Bowing and raising his warhammer, his deep voice booms softly in the morning mist, “Steady… Await my order.”
The mist obscures the wood wherefrom the crossbowmen are thought to be assembled.
An arrow falls amidst the charging horsemen from the gloom, and another, both barely missing their mark. And then another, and another, and a horseman falls as his horse veers from one arrow and trips upon a stone, cartwheeling over and crushing him beneath it as it screams. But onwards goes the charge, now a desperate canter, closing on the ridge and the enemy.
On the height, the scrambling, dark figures can be seen with bows in their hands, looking towards one small knot of their fellows—perhaps the Starveling is there? A figure detaches itself, and scrambles up the ridge and then down behind it. Does he flee?
No, he appears over it. And then another dark figure behind, and five, and ten more, until thirty more outlaws join the company on the ridge. The faint, faint sound of shouts, of battlecries, and then most of the troop is springing down the ridge towards the small company of horsemen charging forward so gloriously. Arrows begin to sing from the ridge.
Having followed to the rear of the Iron Serpent’s troop, the Dornishmen and their gold-cloaked guards pause with them to await the time to attack, hoping the false charge will draw out the full force of the outlaws. Ser Aidan, peering through the murk, points out at the hill. “There! The bandits are coming in strength to deal with Locke and Buckler.”
Raynard draws his bowstrng back as he move towards the ridge, an arrow glancing off his spaulder. He takes aim at the outlaws, and releases his arrow as it sails over the ridge in a controlled arc, and hopefully find’s its target. “Flanking positions now!” With that he wheels his horse and starts galloping for the right flank himself, pulling another arrow from his quiver and nokiung it looking for a target.
A cry in the distance, as Locke’s arrow finds a target. In response, more than a dozen arrows fall from the ridge, and now as the horsemen rush eastwards to Sarmion’s position arrows begin to fall from wherever that damnable lookout is. An arrow strikes Lormon Buckler’s horse’s flank, the broadhead leaving a bloody gash, but the hunter trumpets and only stumbles a little, and manages to spring over a fallen tree trunk as the troop continues. To his left, one of his men falls, an arrow having pierced his rib cage.
Hooting, cheering, sending arrows flying, the dirty bandits give chase, almost keeping pace with the horsemen thanks to the broken ground and occasional stands of trees that constantly slows the horsemen in their retreat. Another Buckler man falls, an arrow piercing the back of his neck and his body flopping from the horse as if all the bones melted away.
As the Horsemen clear the center of the field a chorus of metallic sounds rings out—those of bars being pulled to stocks on crossbows. Metal bows twang and the air is ripped asunder as bolts fly forth, black in the morning mist, winging their way towards the Starveling’s camp. Men march forth, their black and gold quartered tabards flashing in the dim morning light. They kneel, raise their crossbows beneath their kettle helms and unleash a hail of death. Quickly, another row of crossbow men move up behind them.
Sarmion’s voice rings out, piercing the morning and hard in the morning, “HORSEMEN! WHEEL LEFT! TAKE the RIDGE!”
Cutting down with his warhammer, the Stormbreaker then screams, “CHARGE!” And the Eastern battle begins to move.
Raynard pulls his bow back once more aiming for another of the archer’s as he moves toward the ridge. Loosing his arrows as he moved towards the ridge, the only thing keeping him steeled was the encouragement of his friend being alive and nearby. Each arrow he loosed as he moved was aimed, true as he could make it with his horse’s movement.
And, while the first flight of crossbow bolts is still cutting through the air, the desolate western flank of the ridge is suddenly empty no longer. Men surge forward from the concealing eaves of the woods, running in a silence broken only by the clashing of metal. Leading them is a looming, black-armoured figure, the false dawn’s light splintering on the fangs protecting his face—the Iron Serpent, and, never slowing, he raises his shield to take an arrow as a pair of archers notice the new threat and wheel in alarm, loosing hastily.
At Baratheon’s roar, the troop of horse wheels, now driving at the ridge again and at the pursuers. At first, the arrows falls wide as they turn so rapidly, and then as they come on with reckless speed some of the over-eager bandits begin to have doubts about the prudence of charging armored warriors on horse back. A few pause, or leap out of the pursuit to hide behind boulders and outcrops, peppering the troop with arrows. The broadheads do more damage to the horses than the knights and men-at-arms in their armor, but the troop of over a dozen has been whittled to eight—make that seven. A holy number, but whether it’ll give them any blessings as they ride into the teeth of resistance is a question.
At the rear of the western flank, leading the Dornish warriors alongside the Knight of Twilight, Prince Cadan runs forward. Careful to not outpace the more heavily armored Gold Cloaks, the Dornish prince keeps his good hand close to the hilt of the sword at his side, as the group nears the line of battle.
Trotting behind Dagur and his troop, the Dornishmen and their ever-present guard keep their distance. “We’ll keep an eye on their backs, in case any more of the villains plunge out of the woods,” Ser Aidan says aloud, turning to keep an eye to the dale further west. His cousin, Tamlyn, prefers to watch the fighting as it goes on, glimpsed through the trees, heard through the shouts and cries. There’s a faint crash from the ridge, and one of the Dornishmen remarks, “The horse has finally struck the bandits, nigh on the ridge. And away there, that giant bastard’s digging into them.”
The crossbowmen march forward, kneel, and fire, unleashing their bolts towards the camp. The two lines behind them then drop their bows, strap shields to their arms and draw forth broadswords. Suddenly, the front of the camp is bordered by a rank of 20 swordsmen. They march forth in order, the bearded and scarred captain marches to their Eastern flank, shouting invectives and encouragement.
To the East, along the ridge, the Stormbreaker runs a few strides ahead of his men. He breaches the palisades, looking to bring down his warhammer on the first thing to reveal itself within the morning mist.
The Dornish prince nods in wordless response to Ser Aidan, watching the main body of Dagur
Raynard feels a sharp pain in his thigh, but doesn’t pay it any heed as he looses his last arrow. Reaching up he unbuckles the quiver and lets it fall so he can retrieve his shield from his back. He drops his bow, and prays silently that t will still be in one pice whne the fight is over, slinging the shield from his back, he grips it with left hand and draws his sword as he follows Sarmion into the Palisades.
Screams and cries, curses and roars, and battle’s well-joined. The large troop of bandits who chased after Buckler and Locke are now engaged on both sides, the men with Buckler—few in number, but with the advantages of armor and long experience—holding them off, causing confusion as they slash through their unsteady ranks, too close for arrows to matter. The camp itself is now besieged, and the over-eagerness of the enemy to charge down the ridge costs them, for they left it little guarded. Still, confidence reins at first, too many of them unaware of the slowly closing trap.
Cut down by crossbow bolts and charged by mounted knights, the bandits on the ridge are slow to realise the full extent of the danger on their flanks. Those to the west turn belatedly, nocking and loosing as swiftly as they can. Two of the Reavers fall, then a third.
But they have gained the ridge now, and the bandits, torn between shooting and retreating, realise all too late that they can do neither. Drawing their swords, they ready to meet the charge with cries of desperate defiance.
And the Iron Serpent hammers into them, his men around him.
An arrow wings over the head of Saltcliffe, and strikes down one of his men. Further up the ridge, behind a crowd of desperate outlaws, is a man lean almost to the point of being skeletal, his gaunt features twisted by an old scar. He pulls another arrow, a bodkin point meant to pierce armor, and lets fly again—he hits his mark, another figure in a gold cloak falling. “You cunts never learn! This is OUR wood!” Starion Flowers roars, and his men rally to that, a cheer breaking out as they fight with renewed vigor.
Hearing that shout and the cheer, seeing the renewed vigor of the enemy, Ser Aidan touches the prince’s shoulder. “... ... and the was” His sword drawn, he does not move, however, waiting the command.
The Dornish prince nods in response to Ser Aidan, watching the main body of Dagur’s men charge. “Then that is what we shall do,” he says, giving the Knight of the Twilight the needed command, drawing his own, thin sword. “Come, knights of Dorne,” he tells his companions, and adding a mocking, “And protectors of Dorne,” for the Gold Cloaks assigned to the Dornish contingent. “Let us do our part.” And he will move with Ser Aidan, the two leading the rest moving to reach the heights while the sounds of battle ring in the near distance.
The arrows are fewer now, as three-quarters of the bandits are fully engaged hand-to-hand, cursing and dying beneath the blades of the Warden’s and the Commander’s men, but taking men with them with a will. Those not yet engaged, somewhat further up the ridge, have their attention split between the fighting—picking out targets with care and letting loose arrows, as the Starveling does—while others still look worriedly to the camp where the Stormbreaker wrecks havoc, he and his men, as well as Raynard Locke, cutting down the men who remained at the camp to guard it.
Spying the Starveling finally, Sarmion dispatches the bandit before him with a vicious swing of his warhammer. He shouts, “Bring me a fucking horse!”
He giant Baratheon begins cutting his way towards Lormon Buckler’s horsemen while the rest of the Kingswood knights cut through the camp.
The Stormbreaker finally comes to the side of one of Buckler’s men, his own tabard has been cut to pieces by the blows of several passing bandits. Sarmion ignores them all and pulls the Buckler retainer from the saddle to take the horse for himself!
The serpent helm lifts and seeks the source of that sudden roar like a beast scenting its prey. And when it finds the Starveling, it stays on him.
“Wedge! Wedge!” the ironman’s command rings out above the din of battle, and his men fall into order with him at the tip. Red and grey in the sickly light, his sword rises and falls ever faster as they cut through the bandits like tempered steel, fighting their way up the ridge towards the bandit captains.
Scrabbling up the rocky ridge, the Dornishmen eventually get the attention of some of the archers, who see them trying to flank them. The Starveling gestures, shouting a command, and some of them start to scrabble after them. Ser Aidan, true to his lineage as one of the stony Dornishmen, seems to find the readiest path. He nearly falls, but Cadan’s arm supports him, and the men lead the small troop upwards. Glancing over his shoulder, he sees the bandits approaching, and points his sword this way. “They’re trying to stop us! Meet them while we keep climbing!” Two of the Dornish knights—Ser Madyn Santagar, fierce and dangerous with his longaxe, and Ser Galwell Dalt, a long spear in hand—detach themselves, boldly plunging towards the enemy. Hastily, four goldcloaks rush after them, cloaks flapping behind them, swords and spears waving.
Raynard dismounts to fight on foot and cut down the remains of those guarding the camp still, and almost collapses. Looking at his right leg he’s suprised to see an arrow jutting out of his thigh, through his leather cuiss. dropping his sword for a moment he snapps the shaft off so he doesn’t have a foot of wood sticking out for some bandit to take advantage of. Grabbing his sword up again he wades int o the fray and begins hacking at those bandits who get in his way.
Having returned his sword to it’s scabbard as they climb, Prince Cadan keeps up easily enough with the Knight of the Twilight, though flashes of irritation begin to show as he is forced to only used one arm to balance himself or to find leverage when two good arms would be better. He keeps silent, content to let the competent Ser Aidan issue the orders while he focuses on the path ahead.
A shout of shock and initial outrage, as Buckler’s man is thrown off his horse by Stormbreaker. Ser Lormon’s attention is caught, in time to see Baratheon clambering up onto the poor beast’s back, his men rolling part way down the ridge before he manages to stop his fall and right himself, getting his sword out, turning—
A maul crushes his helm as if it were made of tin, and he falls dead. Blood and viscera bursts from his eyes and nose. A bandit stands behind him and shouts with evil glee. The man-at-arms had rolled right into a knot of bandits. What Ser Lormon thinks of that is hard to say, with his visor down, but he turns away sharply and near severs the head of a bandit running at him with a pitchfork.
The purloine horse buckles under the sudden increase of weight as 30 stone of man and armor climbs into the saddle. At first it rears, lashing out with forehooves, clipping those unlucky bandits before it in the head, but then it falls to ground, its head wrenched toward its neck by the heavy hand of the the Baratheon knight. It’s heavy hoove land on its former rider as it’s wheeled to the East.
The Stormbreaker shouts at it, digging spurs into its flanks to make it jump forward, springing over its former rider.
The Baratheon knight gallops it up the ridge, seeking to outflank the Starveling’s escape. The pale green mantle of his helm flashing in the burgeoning light of dawn.
Loose stones shift underfoot, bodies lie as obstacles, falling men clutch at knees and ankles. It is slow going and treacherous, but the Iron Serpent’s men push on, the pressure on them lessening as the bandits’ ranks thin. And then, finally, the head of the wedge wins all the way through.
“Jarl! ...take…fast,” the ironman’s command fragmented command can be heard through the battle. Swiftly, under the direction of an axe-wielding Reaver, the others start to widen the wedge, splitting the surviving bandits in half.
As for Dagur himself, he continues up the ridge towards the bandit captains with a dozen men at his back, swiftly now that there is no opposition.
The Dornishmen and the gold cloaks hold off the pursuers, and Prince Cadan, Ser Aidan, and the remaining knights and watchmen seize the top of the ridge. Looking down to the south, the whole skirmish is before them, dozen of bandits still standing and brawling with the enemy. Ser Lormon Buckler roars a command, and his last men—his son and two others—break from the fight, a dozen men never having been enough to hold the enemy. The bandits cheer and start to turn in the direction to where they’re going ... but it’s merely up the ridge, to join Sarmion’s company as it plunges down from the camp. Buckler’s men turn with him, and fight on!
Seeing the way the battle is developing, the Starveling glances to the eastern horizon, the sun now risen above the treeline; the blood is very bright on the pale stone of the hill, warmed by the light of the sun. And then one of his men shouts, and he turns back to look at the ridge, where the four Dornishmen and their eight guards are arrayed, readying to charge down on them. He cackles, a mad thing, and roars, “At them, boys!” and he and his captains start to run at them, unaware of the Stormbreaker barreling at them. His men fight on against Dagur, but the wild Reavers are brutal, and they begin to part, leaving a way clear after Flowers.
Flowers swings his bow onto a shoulder, and draws a sword, and takes up a horn at his belt. He sounds it as he runs.
Dark Dornish eyes meeting those of the Starvling, Prince Cadan Nymeros Martell draws the slim bravo’s sword at his side. Holding it down and away from him, with no battle cry needed, he leads the charge on foot of Dornish Knights and their Gold Cloak wardens, a motley crew formed into a wedge aimed straight at the heart of the bandits they fight, with the wounded Dornish Prince moves to face the starved Bandit leader.
Down the Stormbreaker comes, his horse blown by the weight of the rider it bears after having ridden a full charge and fought against footmen for a full half hour. Yet, the Baratheon reins the beast true even as its breath gives out. Down comes the massive warhammer beared by the weight of charge, horesflesh and Stormbreaker alike.
Then the horse collapses, its legs giving way as its neck plunges into the turf of the ridge, taking Sarmion with it.
Only luck will tell if the blow fell true and brought the glory of this battle to whom it most blongs.
A bandit with two dirks in hand charges at Ser Raynard, grinning wildly, knives slashing and stabbing with the skill and speed of a backalley fighter, fearless despite the odds against an armored knight. “Fuck you! When you get to seven hells, say Black Dirk sent ya!” he cries.
An arrows flies through the air. A gold cloak cries out. A muffled cry, and the man falls, an arrow in his back.
He tumbles down the south face of the ridge, from the top of it, one of the Dornishmen’s guards.
The arrow came from the _north_ face. There’s a shout, many shouts, echoing off the rocks. From the _north_.
More arrows start to fly, and a dozen, some leaping over the heads of the lonely troop on the ridge top, others finding the goldcloaks who had arrayed themselves about the Dornishmen. “THEY’RE ON THE RIDGE!” one of the Dornishmen roars, throwing his round shield up, an arrow clattering off as he turns to apprehend the new enemy.
The Knight of the Twilight is struck in the back, but the scales of his armor turns it. A brief, moment’s shock, and then he shouts, “DEFEND THE PRINCE!” His cousin and he raise their shields, to better defend the prince from the withering arrows, and they duck. Peeking over the shield, he counts—ten, twenty bandits ... and more, twice that, maybe three times, scrabbling to meet them on the ridge line, to flank and get around them, to take the enemy from behind and from the high ground as the enemy meant to do to them. The Starveling was canny.
Raynard blocked and parried the bandit as best he could, the arrow in his leg impeding his movement. He patiently played the game, and when he saw his opening, thrusting his sword forward into the bandits chest, driving it home. “I’m Raynard Locke, from Oldcastle, and I won’t fall to some southron bastard like you.”
But perhaps not canny enough. Intent on his brilliant plan, intent on cutting down the Dornishmen and their minders and then unleashing hell from the top of the ridge, withering fire from bows and determined men, he does not notice the doom barrelling at him. The warhorse barrels through the knot of men scampering up the ridge with him, knocking most aside as it collapses, as the warhammer swings down. It connects.
One of Flowers’s men has his ribs caved in by the massive blow, the cartwheeling bodies of other bandits knocking him into the Starveling against his will, so that he meets it and dies in his stead. Curses rise, and groans, and screams.
Flowers picks himself up, cursing, and pulls a wicked sword from its sheath, and a dirk from another.
From a ruin of horseflesh—legs still kicking—the giant Stormbreaker rises, sheild upon his arm, warhammer in his hand, yet no helm. His bearded face is contorted in rage as he screams, “Meet your death, you fucking shitbirth!
The reinforcement, lying in wait all this while, pour from hidden nooks and caverns in the hillside. As some of them close on where the Dornish troop stands, defying them, the arrows grow fewer. Others start to sweep past them, achieving the top of the ridge and racing down to join the battle, or to take stations and start sending arrows into the Reavers, who’ve shattered resistance further down the hill. Bandits flee, scrabbling up the ridge, or some try running east and down to escape into the dale. A good number fight on, though, cheering as more of their number begin to arrive.
From a ruin of horseflesh—legs still kicking—the giant Stormbreaker rises, shield upon his arm, his swordhand empty, and no helm. Looking about him for a moment, a dazed look upon his face, he finds his warhammer.
Looking around him, he sees the Starveling.
His bearded face is contorted in rage as he screams, “Meet your death, you fucking shitbirth!” Raising his warhammer, he climbs over the corpse of his dying mount and runs towards the Reach bastard.
At first intent upon the Starvling, Prince Cadan was a little slower then Ser Aidan to realize the situation. It is only when an arrow flashes by his face, whistling where his head was a moment before that he turns, and sees the new enemy coming. From the north. His head whirls to the south, where the Westerosi troops are, and realizes the situation. The Dornish and their Gold Cloaks are all that stand between the allied forces and bandit’s trap. Forgetting his would-be duel with the Starvling, the Dornish Prince turns towards the reinforcements. “For Dorne and Prince Marence!” he cries, leading his countrymen against the new foe.
Bold Black Dirk dies, the life pouring of out him. With his last breath, he spits at Raynard, blood and spittle mixed, and tries to wrap him in his arms, to bear him down with his weight.
The Starveling gives way, fleeter of foot, less encumbered by armor, sword and dirk flashing. “After you, Windbreaker!” the gaunt-faced bandit shouts back, grinning with strange confidence. The grin slips when he backs into a boulder, and suddenly has to try and get around it.
Half a dozen bandits throw themselves at the Dornishmen, pitchforks and cudgels in hand, with two dozen more behind trying to scrabble past them to envelop the troop. There’s a crash of bodies on shields, of metal against metal, of flesh against flesh. Aidan Dayne’s sword flashes out, cutting one down, only to have another replace him. A rock whizzes past, thrown by one resourceful bandit, who manages to open a gash on one Dornishman’s forehead. Hard-pressed, they fight on, taking up the prince’s cry, “Dorne and Prince Marence!” The gold cloaks try to outshout them, and to outdo them, holding a thin, brave line against the enemy. “The Young Dragon!”
A triumphant shout answers the Starveling’s sudden entrapment. Two swift strides finds the Stormbreaker within striking distance of the Bastard. Down the warhammer swings…
Below, the Kingswood knights fight their way through to Lormon’s horse. The Stormbreaker’s company steadily cuts their way to link fronts with the goldcloaks.
“Stormbreaker!” the men with the lightning stag upon their breast shout as they kill the men before them.
“See you in hell Dirk!” The northern knight exclaims shoving the man off him. Raynard begins fighting his way up to the ridge, and hearing the Battle cries of his comrades, joins in yelling, “For Oldcastle and Winterfell” At the top of his lungs.
Prince Cadan leaves all semblance of the noble courtier behind as he joins the fray. He becomes the Waterdancer that his thin blade proclaims him to be, as does the fluid, swift motions that move him from one enemy to the other. That blade is quick, and accurate. It thrusts through the armpit of one man, between the gorget and leather breastplate of another, better armored opponent. It does not strike at random, but for the most vulnerable points, taking down an opponent with as few blows as possible, allowing the Dornish prince to move from one bandit to another, to make that thin line of Dornish warriors and their Gold Cloak guards count for something.
That thin, brave line buckles somewhat, but holds against the press. Galwell Dalt and Madyn Santagar and two surviving gold cloaks roar in, cutting down men tripping nad rushing down the hill towards where the Starveling is engaged, to where the Reavers are cutting down men left and right. Santagar’s longaxe takes the arm off one man as he just manages to grapple Tamlyn Toland and raises his arm to thrust his dirk at the gap of armor at his neck. A second blow near splits the head in half, and Toland turns his face from the splash of blood before kicking the body away down the north face, into the crowd of bandits behind. Cadan’s blade is deadly, doing untold damage, making gaps in the press of bandits. Only to the east are bandits managing to get up the ridge unopposed. Most stop, taking up their bows, shooting down and beginning to do damage among Baratheon’s company.
*Crack* as metal strikes stone, sending debris flying as the Starveling’s lean frame manages to get away from the hammer. His sword slips out, slicing with the skill that training from a master-at-arms in his days before outlawry gave him, but Stormbreaker’s armor turns it. He scrambles, and his eyes start to show ... fear. They slip from side to side, trying to measure, trying to find a way out. Yet he cuts and he stabs and he fights, long, gaunt limbs stronger than you’d credit, faster than you’d think.
Ser Endros seems to have bathed in blood, having fought with savage fury against the outlaws who had once taken him prisoner. His father is less bloody, but less battered too, his heavier armor having stood him good stead. His horse, all but useless now on the steep slopes he encounters, dismounts. He points upwards towards where the bandits are beginning to stream down from the ridge top, the embattled Dornishmen and goldcloaks trying to hold them off but the numbers are too many. “Up the ridge!” he shouts, and Sarmion’s sergeant notices. “Right wing, get up there, hold the bloody line!” he shouts, and a troop of men with the black stag on their surcoats starts scrabbling up the ridge. The Bucklers follow, Lormon’s shield up to defend himself and his son from the rain of arrows that initially targets the troop, taking men down with wounds to arm and chest and legs, and killing some as well.
Cadan is a trained Waterdancer, and a true Dornish Prince. Yet he is also a man, and a man with only one good arm. He takes cuts, and bruises; in particular, a blow to the face with a club, a good mace blow lands on the shoulder of his wounded arm, causing him to cry out in pain, his face pale. Yet for all that, he keeps fighting, a stubborn set to his jar. His sword pierces the throat of the man with the club, causing blood to spurt in his face as the blade is removed. “For Sunspear!” he cries, spitting out blood that is a mixture of his own and that of the bandits, striking out at the mace-wiedling bandit.
From some misguided sense of sacrifice, the bandits now atop the ridge swarm over Sarmion. Blunt dirks and swords with notched blades strike at the 10 stone armor crafted by the master armorsmiths of Kingslanding.
Enraged, the Stormbreaker turns—more to the sorrow of the Starveling’s men—head after head explodes under the repeated blows of Baratheon’s warhammer.
Soon, there is nothing but a wheel of blood and brain-spatter surrounding the Baratheon knight… but he has been turn from his pursuit of the Starveling for those few crucial moments.
And with that, Starion Flowers scrambles back to his feet, abandoning his men to Stormbreaker’s hammer. Looking about him, he sees the Iron Serpent and his Reavers charging up the ridge to support the Dornishmen and the watchmen who’ve managed ot hold off the dozens of men he had planted waiting, sure that his trap was perfect. So too does he see a troop of Baratheon’s men doing the same, with the Bucklers there in the forefront. And the Stormbreaker. Of course, the Stormbreaker.
He turns and runs, well ahead of Dagur’s men, angling for the top of the ridge, leaving his men behind to die under Sarmion’s blows. As he runs, though, he pulls the bow from his shoulder, unbroken despite his earlier fall, and starts reaching for an arrow in the quiver at his hip.
Raynard charges up behind the Dornes, screaming the oath of his house. He barely notices the arrow in his leg, adrenaline coursing through his body. His breathing is heavy but not labored, far from tired He sees the starveling in the distance, and cuts his way towards him.
The Stormbreaker now appears as a demon out of the 7 Hells. His arm is coated in the gore of countless men. Ichor drips from the head of his warhammer. His shield hangs in splinters from his arm and his black armor is scored in half a hundred places while scraps of silk of black and gold hang from his waist.
His face is contorted into a mask of rage. Blood is splashed over his mouth, cheeks and brow, the blood of those he’s beaten to death with his massive warhammer.
He turns this murderous visage upon the Starveling, screams wordlessly, with a sound that curdles the blood of all within earshot,—The Stormbreaker charges.
The Starveling pauses in his flight. He nocks an arrow and turns, staring at the rage-filled giant, and grins. He draws, he waits ... and he lets loose, the bodkin-point winging its way at the Stormbreaker. He doesn’t wait to see what becomes of it, though—he turns and continues his flight, crawling westwards up the ridge, and now shouting, “Fall back! We’ve bled the bastards enough! Fall back!”
Raynard charges, running as fast as he can to the Starveling, ignoring all other targets, his rage and bloodlust focused on that one single target. From the way he moved you’d think he hadn’t been injured in the fight at all, the adrenaline numbing the pain from the arrowhead still lodged in his leg.
Ser Anders Dondarrionlooked forlorn in this battle so far, with the events turning so quickyl in this and that direction. Blood is sputtered over his right greaves and his sword shows just a tiny hint of red on its tip. Upon seeing the misery of the DOrnishmen and their guards, his face contorts in rage and he starts charging to the place of the men in dire need.
At the periphery of the melee, a few green-clad horsemen in the livery of Highgarden keep watch with naked swords and keen eyes. An immaculate Ser Ardon Tyrell sits his mount with cool patience, he and his comrades waiting and watching for any brigands foolish enough to attempt flight.
A knife cuts along Ser Aidan’s arm, and the man who wields it dies as his throat is opened by the Knight of the Twilight, constrained by the thin line of men—but protected, too—who stand to either side of him. The prince’s narrow blade has flashed and stabbed and bled quite a few men, yet more seem to be pressing forward, shouting and cursing, cudgels and rusty swords and mauls swinging. One of the Dornishmen cries out and falls, a dirk sticking from his thigh, but a watchman manages to fill the gap and screams with desperate fury. The line buckles further.
An errant blow from Aidan’s sword clubs a gap-toothed bandit, who falls backward, slipping and tumbling. A hole briefly forms behind him—and Aidan leaps into it with a roared, “STARFALL!” The bandit screams as Aidan’s feet land on his gut, bursting the air from him. The Dornishman almost falls a foot, then another finding firm ground. Then his sword is unleashed, and the pocket he forms widens for a moment, enough for the bloody knight with the leopards dotting his robes to plunge in and widen it still further with his whirling, chopping longaxe.
For a moment, the bandits are thrown back, and the bold Dornishmen fill the gap, winning the top of hee ridge, daring to push down the north face and force the bandits further downhill. Ser Tamlyn leaps in at Aidan’s side, fighting with his cousin, his mace smashing into some mad bandit’s face, his shield pressing another backwards to stumble down the rocky face.
There is no one left alive to hear the Starveling’s order. Those who have survived have fled the knights afoot, ahorse, and the men-at-arms many hours ago. Those who hear the Bastard’s order can only die.
The Starveling’s arrow hits he Stormbreaker—only because it cannot miss—30 stone of armored man the size of a mountain within 10 paces of a bow would be a legend if it missed. It pierces the side of the Baratheon’s scored black breastplate, its feathered shaft jutting from the steel.
Howling wordlessly, the Stormbreaker charges forward, running after the bandit leader, even though wounded.
The call for flight begins to move, in fits through starts, through the bands of men left on the south face of the ridge. Bodies strew the rocks across well more than a hundred yards. Men flee west, away from Dagur’s company. Men flee east, away from Sarmion’s. Others, driven by the Baratheon’s men at arms, try to make their way south, where the Tyrell troop waits with bold patience. Occasionally one of Sarmion’s men lets a crossbow sing, the bolt taking a man as he screams and tries to get his way to safety.
The Iron Serpent and the Reavers gain the ridge, cutting down men still aiming arrows down the ridge face at their enemies, not having noticed the death racing up at them. There’s shouts of panic, and men start to scramble to escape, to gain the ridge and slide and tumble as quickly as they can down the south face where even they have heard the call to fall back and retreat. The pressure on that slender, slender line of Dornish knights and gold cloaks begins to lessen.
The Dornishmen buckle, but hold, thanks in great part to the two men who lead them. The Knight of the Twilight, young and inspirational to all who behold them, and Cadan Martell, his left hand bound to his side due to the wound he took a few days back, his bravo’s sword flashing in and out as he dances through the would-be reinforcements of the bandits. The Martell prince finds himself at Ser Aidan’s other side, their fighting styles so unlike eachother, yet effective, each in their own way. “Sunspear and Dorne! The Young Dragon!!” He calls aloud, to his countrymen and to Westerosi alike, fighting to push the line further against the bandits as the Reavers reinforce them.
A bandit, left for dead by Sarmion, manages to get himself up in time to see Raynard running past him Dazed, he thrusts at the man with an old spear he had to hand, aiming for his legs.
Shouting out a loud “Dondarrion!”, Ser Anders whirls his greatsword above his head and strikes down with it with a good measured two-handed blow, nearly taking off the head of one of the bandits pressing the Dornishmen and their guards. Unfortunately for the Knight from Blackhaven, the sword is caught and stuck in the flesh of the fallen foe. Putting a foot on the corpse, Ser Anders tries to free the sword again amidst the raging sounds of battle all around.
As men flee down the ridge, some seek to frustrate pursuit by pausing to let loose arrows up the ridge, sometimes aiming with care, sometimes with abandon. One little group, stationed near an outcrop, cover the retreat of others. One of Dagur’s reavers goes down, an arrow through his thigh, as he moves to give chase to one group of running bandits. A knight’s cry is cut off when two arrows sink into him, one after another. Even as the enemy runs, they do their damage, little arrows finding gaps in armor.
A curt whistle to his brethren, and Ser Ardon points his men toward the Starveling’s stragglers who are fleeing their way. “Here come the foxes, my lads,” he comments. “Time for some sport.” The Tyrell horsemen laugh and spur their steeds toward the foemen, their blades sparkling in the sunlight.
The spear cuts the side of the northern knight’s leg open, and blood begins to flow freely from the wound, though the Locke hardly seems fazed by the new wound, though he slowed slightly. Raynard continues running for his target, raising his sword ready to slice down when the Starveling is in his reach.
Even as the Starveling and his closest bodyguard escape from the ridge, Lormon Buckler’s horsemen ride them down.
Howling with rage, the Stormbreaker destroys the fleeing bandits with his warhammer—sprays of blood errupt from the shattered skulls of those he kills.
No orders forthcoming from their Knight, the Stormbreaker’s company have retrieved their crossbows, calmly winching them, aiming them and loosing bolts into the retreating bandits—few of whom fail to die.
The Starveling outpaces Stormbreaker, running on and up to the top of the ridge, west of where the Dornishmen and the Reavers stand with the Dondarrion knight and the rest of the gold cloaks. A last look back, at the monstrous determination of Stormbreaker, and he takes a last arrow and nocks it. He’s swift, letting off the arrow, sending it flying towards the knight. His armor turns it. “Fuck!”
And then he’s gone, plunging down the north ridge, straggling troops of bandits starting to follow him, not loaded down with shields and armor and experienced with moving out doors and clambering over rough stone. One of the men following behind stops, turns with an arrow at the ready to cover the flight—and lets it loose prematurely as he’s startled by Raynard Locke!
Terror begins to take hold of the men left on the south side of the ridge, their leader gone, the enemy crawling in all directions. Those who flee south, thinking the way was clear, run into fresh soldiers left in a rearguard, the green and the gold of their livery giving them away. A little knot of them tries to force a way right through them, letting loose a single volley of arrows before hatchets and old swords are drawn.
Raynard drops his blade on the bandit’s neck, shoving him gout of the way to bleed out as he continues to chase after the bandits, the adrenaline slowly wearing off, and a dull ache where the arrow is lodged starting to bother him.
The hiss and sigh of arrows are shrugged aside by the Tyrell knights; some find their targets but none disable. In a flash Ser Ardon and his fellows are among the bandits, swords flashing down among the weary foe. They seem intent on letting none survive.
After freeing his sword from the corpse, Ser Anders looks around, just to see the battle slowly dissolving. He looks for more victims and the people he was rushing to aid. After a short struggle with a spear-wielding man with brown teeth and greasy hair, the Dondarrion knight finally dispatches the aforementioned bandit. Dark blood stains slowly form on the breast of the dead man. Ser Anders doesn’t even try to run after fleeing bandits, but joins the protective circle and takes up the spot of a Gold CLoak that was feathered by two arrows.
The general flight takes hold, and the bandits who so nearly overthrew the Dornishmen, who could have rained down death with dozens of bows if they had gained the ridge, are now sent fleeing. The last stragglers break beneath the weight of Dornish spears and swords, of Dagur’s Reavers, of Dondarrion and every other knight who gained the ridge to throw Starveling’s plans into disarry.
Leaping and stumbling down the ridge face, away from the battle, the Starveling and a straggling troop—two, three dozen, perhaps four when all is said and done—start to plunge into stands and groves of trees; the north side of the dale is more forested than the south. There, a number turn and stop, bows searching for pursuers, arrows flying through the air at them. A few fall, crying out, while more bandits manage to slip past their tumbling bodies to join their compatriots.
Cudgels and woodaxes and old pitchforks are little match against the glittering steel of Highgarden, as the Tyrell champion leads his men to slash those men trying to force their way south to ribbons. One or two try to throw down their weapons, crying mercy.
As cheers from some of the younger Gold Cloaks ring out in the silence that follows, Prince Cadan Martell remains silent, a tired, weary smile on his face as he watches the last of the bandits that he was facing fall back. He turns, about to say something to the Knight of Twilight at his side…
An arrow whistles through the air, one of the random arrows from the bandits who flee away. And it finds it’s home, driven through the scales of the Dornish prince’s armor, the shaft still quivering out of his side as Cadan falls to his knees, blinking down at the arrow.
Raynard continues into the woods after the stragglers, until he’s forced to stop and lean against a tree, the pain in his leg to great to continue on any further.
When the Prince falls, Ser Anders was cheering the victory with the Gold Cloaks. Commands are barked and all of a sudden, the troops form a protective wedge towards the fleeing bandits with Dondarrion on the tip. “Protect the Prince!” is the cry of many a Gold Cloak and soon Cadan Martell is ringed by the soldiers tryint to protect him.
The few who beg quarter from Ser Ardon are given it; he and his men encircle the disarmed bandits and level their blades at them. “We’ll let Dagur’s boys sort these out. Well done.” He glances up the rise to where the Dornishmen are making their stand as the Tyrell knights dismount and begin taking the brigands prisoner.
The arrow that manages, by a twist of fate, to find Cadan’s side stops the rest of the Dornish in their tracks. An outcry there, and some of them raise shields in the direction of the bandits to cover and protect Cadan from any more stray arrows. Kneeling with a faint groan, lifting his visor to show a sweat-soaked lock of dark hair having escaped from his arming cap, Ser Aidan is breathless. “My lord prince, keep still!”, a hand pressing at the prince’s torso to try and stabilize him as others examine the placement of the arrow.
The Blackhavian knight bellows back over his shoulder, “Is the Prince safe?” He turns his attention back to the wood, the greatsword wielded in two hands.
Raynard staggers back to the rest of the troops having lost the Starveling in the woods. He grimaces a bit as he takes each step, one leg slice from a spear, the other with an arro still lodged in it.
Ser Lormon and his son and the pair of men-at-arms still left to them, reach the foot of the ridge. Occasionally Buckler pauses, to look to see if a man-at-arms is alive or a corpse. Most are dead—the bandits would rarely give a wounded man a chance to survive, in the early moments of the battle.
The arrow sticks out of the prince’s right side, just under his rib cage, but angling slightly upward. Cadan shifts a little on his knees, his good arm holding him up while maintaining a hold on his sword, his knuckles white even as they bite the dirt, holding onto the handle with a death grip. He groans softly, speaking, but his words are hard to understand at first. Finally, he tries again.. “Get this… out of…. me.”
“Damned fool,” growls one of the Tyrell knights, seeing the wounded Dornish prince. “Should’ve stayed back in his chambers.”
Ser Ardon looks up, annoyed. “Yes. Well, he didn’t, and now he might die. Best hope he doesn’t.” He finishes securing the prisoners and mounts up. “So, is it hanging for these ones? Where’s Dagur?”
Sarmion has disconnected.
“Best have a maester do it, my prince,” one of the Dornishmen says, the man who had fallen from a wound to his thigh earlier. He’s supporting himself with a spear shaft. “It’s too dangerous.” Others murmur agreement, and one of them wrings a bit of pain from the prince as he carefully probes at the wound.
“A broadhead,” he says, and at that news Ser Aidan—who had stayed silent on the matter of removing the arrow—finally agrees with the rest. “It’s true, my lord. It could well be caught on a rib. Only a maester could get it out soundly, then, without causing far more harm.” He stares at the arrow in the prince’s side and then with an effort stands. “Still, we can break it off part way, surely?” he asks the others.
Raynard staggered into the camp finally, clutching his bleeding leg and looked about. “Don’t suppose we have a measter about do we?”
The Bucklers arrive where the Tyrell troop stands with their prisoners. Ser Lormon glares at the scum. Though well past his best years, the grey-haired knight is unbowed after the fighting, his surcoat stained with blood and sweat and dirt. His son, the once-missing Ser Endros, is far bloodier—he seems to have swam in it, by the looks of it.
“Your men came in handy, ser,” the elder knight says to the Tyrell. “Far too many escaped over the other face. Stormbreaker gave too much thought to this side, and not the other.” He looks out that way, where the Stormbreaker is with a gathering of his men, dealing with wounded and prisoners, and then mutters an oath under his breath.
Anders leaves his post at the tip of the wedge and starts to move towards the group of men kneeling besides the fallen prince. “My Lords?” he looks at the wound, his eyes wincing behind his helmet’s visor. “Do you think the prince can be transported down to the camp?”
“Maester? We’ve got Pate the Barber,” a man-at-arms tells Raynard. “He was at the Citadel for three moons, ‘till he got thrown out for whoring.”
“I thought it was because he was stealing,” another man remarks.
“Well, yeah. Stole some maester’s whore, is what I heard.” There’s a guffaw.
Shivering in pain as the wound is probed by one of the Dornishmen, Cadan nods weakly, speaking quietly to his countrymen “Fi-fine… let them know… that I am fine… I will live.” Despite that, he coughs, and some blood mixes in with his spittle, though weather that is from him, or the man he slew earlier - whose blood now spatters his face - is hard to tell.
Raynard laughs along with the rest of the men. before grimacing as his leg spasmed. “Well Whoever we’ve got, I need this damned arrowhead out of my leg.”
Ser Aidan looks wearily about, the flush of battle off him, and then consults with the other Dornish. Soon they’re arranging a stretcher, cloaks over spear shafts. Ser Tamlyn Toland goes down to where the Stormbreaker is, to inform the giant knight of the prince’s injuries, and the urgency with which it must be dealt.
In the background, one can hear talk: “Where _is_ the nearest maester? This is as remote as it gets in the kingswood.” There’s consultation and speculation, talk of the Tumbleton’s well away in the west, and the Wendwaters off in the south, and maybe there was a Gaunt somewhere off to the east….
“Right place at the right time,” Ser Ardon replies to the Buckler knight with a courteous smile. “The survivors won’t get far; they just prolong the inevitable.” He eyes the prisoners. “Even so, perhaps we should make an example of these. Darian… rope.” He motions to a squire in Cuy livery, and the curt order makes a few of his men smile wolfishly.
“Got a lot of that, ser,” the man-at-arms says, shrugging his shoulders. “Get your weight off that leg and keep it still. If it’s a bodkin, won’t be too hard to get it out once we’ve got the fires going.” There’s a grim chuckle or two.
Orders start to meander their way from where the Stormbreaker now sits, hammer resting beside him, as he roars and badgers at men. Camp will be raised on the ridge for the day, it seems, to try and restore some order, to treat the wounded, and to bury those who died in the battle. Tamlyn Toland gets his fair share of sneering and curses with his news, but in the end one of Baratheon’s men follows him up to where Cadan is. He speaks with the rest of the Dornish.
When he goes, Ser Aidan takes the time to tell Cadan, “My lord prince. The wound will be looked at more closely, but ... It seems urgent. There was a crofter with a cart east of here. Ser Sarmion will have you placed in it, and hurried as swiftly as is sound to the nearest maeser.”
Raynard laughs. and lowers himself down against a tree. “Broadhead I think, feels too wide for a bodkin.” After lowering himself, loosens the straps on his cuissesto get a better look at his wounds.
The Bucklers both grin, father and son alike. A few more dead outlaws will be a fine cap to the events of the day. “They’ll make a fine warning, I agree,” Ser Lormon says.
Moving his head in what may be a nod, struggling to focus on the Dornish knight’s face, he speaks quietly to him. “Stay… with our… men, Ser Aidan… lead them… show the other’s what the Dornish… can do. I trust you… to this task.”
An acknowledgment from the Knight of the Twilight, and his expression grows more resolute. “Come, let us move the prince to where the Warden’s camp is being raised.” With that, the Dornishmen and some of the gold cloaks collaborate to move Cadan onto the makeshift stretcher as gently as may be. It’s a hard, slow progress down the ridge to where the camp is forming.
Out of the forest, beyond the Tyrells, come the servants and grooms who trailed along after the company, bringing the long train of horses and mules. They wind their way past where Ser Ardon and the Bucklers stand with a number of prisoners, and jeer at the filthy bandits, most of them scrawny, malnourished villains.
Ser Anders’ eyes follow the departing treck of the wounded, then he turns around and organizes a defensive posture on the ridge. With all in place, he hands back command to the Senior Gold Cloak remaining is appointed to command and the Knight from Blackhaven in his Heavy Armour and with the bloody greatsword starts his way back towards the camp.
Though he grits his teeth in pain, Cadan does not protest as he is moved to the stretch. As he is bourne down the ridge, he speaks quietly to his bearers. Thanking the gold cloaks for fighting alongside him, complimenting them. Recalling tales of their homeland to his fellow Dornishmen. All down in the halting manner of someone with an arrow in his side, his arm wounded, but coherent nonetheless. It is perhaps done to keep his mind off the immense pain, but it also has the added effect of raising up the morale of these men, who fought beside him.