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The expedition into the hingswood, under command of Ser Sarmion Baratheon, the royal warden of the woods, at last came into contact with a bloodthirsty and desperate troop of outlaws. The giant Baratheon had determined to lure the bandits out of hiding, sending a small company of his men disguised as crofters with a wagon along a forest path while a troop horse followed a good distance behind, awaiting the signal of a horn. Men of the City Watch were there in plenty under their commander, Ser Dagur Saltcliffe, and the infamous Lormon Buckler had a small troop as well. The heir to Casterly Rock, Ser Jonn, rode as well with a few Lannister swords, while well away from wherever Ser Lormon was one could often find a northern knight, Ser Raynard Locke, whom had once been rumored to have been behind the disappearance of Lormon’s son in these selfsame woods. Strangest of all were the Dornishmen, a mere handful with goldcloaks guarding them closely, whom King Daeron had allowed to join the party trying to find and put an end to the outlawry of Starion Flowers, the Starveling.
The ruse worked, but barely—volleys of arrows from the edge of a clearing killed several of Stormbreaker’s men before they could sound the horn, and they were soon locked in combat with a dozen bandits while their compatriots continued to pick off men at a distance with their longbows. The Stormbreaker and the Iron Serpent led the charge when the horsemen finally arrived, but the bandits were swift to rain their arrows at the narrow path from which they appeared, and with success: some horses fell, blocking the way. Still, the bandits were outnumbered, and they became desperate in battle. The hardest struck were the Baratheon men-at-arms, veterans all, who were in the thick of it from the beginning. Prince Cadan Martell took an injury to his arm before killing his attacker, who might have done worse damage if Ser Raynard had not first leapt at the man and tumbled him before turning to fight, along with Ser Tamlyn Toland, a pair of bandits. Ser Aidan Dayne, the Knight of the Twilight, killed two bandits with some injury and was nearly overwhelmed when the prince, as well as Ser Dagur and the Smiler, came to his assistance. Ser Dagur and his men fought boldly, and the silent man called Smiler was the first to seize a prisoner. More would be added later, when Ser Lormon Buckler went around the clearing and forced several fleeing bandits to run back to the clearing; he would report, however, that one bandit managed to escape him.
After a display of Ser Sarmion’s particular brutality—shattering the leg of an old, defiant bandit who lobbed curses at him, who the Stormbreaker took captive to put to the question—the company paused to tend to its wounded (who included Ser Sarmion, whose fierceness was undiminished by an arrow in his shoulder) and take stock of the situation. Ser Gregor Wendwater’s information from the bandit captured by the Wendwaters was running dry, but the size of the band they encountered, and the promise of wringing information from their prisoners, has put them on the scent of the Starveling and his chief encampment.
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