Session One Hundred Thirty-Two - September 17, 2016

Wherein the ongoing story of the FtF campaign may be found ...

Session One Hundred Thirty-Two - September 17, 2016

Postby Matt » Thu Oct 13, 2016 1:54 pm

Halane 1, 732

Dawn, Tashal, as rain pelts down from glowering clouds. From the undulating green water of the river Kald blows a cool wind, and the early travelers of the city - laborers, marketplace vendors, bureaucrats and gong farmers, shiver as they hurry along the muddy tracks, avoiding as much of the downpour as their threadbare hoods permit. It is a perfect Harnic day in the Gray Lady of the Kald. Throughout the city, servants have long been awake and hard at work. In the stately four story edifice known for the last year as ‘Raven Hall,’ the servants have been up for hours, doing all the menial tasks necessary for the comfort and sustenance of the lord - now truly a lord - of the household and his mesnie: sweeping the hall, strewing fresh rushes, preparing a repast, and a hundred other chores. Of immediate concern: the supply of pork sausage. With the absence of Sir Aeomund, the amount consumed cannot be accurately predicted, and the steward, Walin of Vastair, brooks no wasting of food, especially meat.

By the time of what the lord of the house calls ‘the breakfast meeting,’ all is ready. It is a point of pride for Walin, his wife Bernethe, and the entire staff that their activities be as unobtrusive as possible. In some households, the servants make such a clamor so that their labors can be seen and appreciated. Not so for Walin - his philosophy of service requires all but invisibility. He has thought secret passages between the main rooms would make his task ever so much easier.

On the fourth floor, two men at arms enter the dormitory. They have been on watch in the hall the whole of the night. They are bleary and ready for the scratchy comfort of a straw pallet. Each of them holds a mug of small beer and a pork sausage - wages they collected from a cheerless Bernethe in the kitchen. One of them jostles a bed near the stairs. “Time to get up squire,” he mumbles through a mouthful of meat.

Goreg Ocazer groaned and turned over. He had been having a disturbing dream, already fading, but one which he was scrambling up some sort of incline, slipping down, down. Most days, his nineteen year old body cried for more sleep, but not today. Today, he was happy to rise, and leave such anxieties in his bed. Pulling on his linen - like everyone he slept naked - and then his leggings and tunic, he stumbled over to the water butt and splashed some water on his face. Not for the first time, he wondered of the dozen or so men at arms he shared the dormitory with were introducing foreign liquids into the butt. Squire Petros of Arandin who served Sir Aeomund and was with him in Ternua, had warned him that the soldiery could be lax in their hygiene if not watched closely. Slicking back his hair and belting his tunic, he began the descent to the second floor.

There he entered the chambers of his Lord, Ewen Ravinargh, who was still asleep. In one corner, behind a curtain, was the bed of Cekiya. Goreg knew she may or may not be in it, and if not, he was better pleased. He knew not what her role in Ewen’s service was, but she not a body servant in any sense of the word, and her actual duties seemed as often as not to require moonlight. This morning, the curtains were askew, and he could see she was not present. Now it was his task over the next hour or so to clean his lord’s armor, hone his weapons, and then assist him in his own ablutions and dressing for the day. Upon entering the bed chamber as quiet as a mouse, he saw that the bed was empty, unslept in. This too happened occasionally, and Goreg saw no need for public comment on the issue. The armor was there, spattered from the road, along with the heavy surcoat bearing the quartered arms of Caldeth and Ravinargh. Goreg set to work.

The arrival of Sir Baris and his squire Khalas acted as an alarm to the servants of Raven Hall. He was an enigma to them. He seemed absent-minded, even lax. A man of position who cared not a fig for it. Big, bluff, ruddy-faced, and possessed of a boundless capacity for merriment and ale, he still managed to arrive every day at the right time to sit down to the morning repast. Not a knocker, the servants learned quickly to station someone in the kitchen within eyeshot of the main entryway so that Sir Baris’s bold entrance was known to the entire staff within minutes. Walin always took it upon himself to bring the first mug of ale - many would join it, disappearing for all time down the knight’s bottomless gullet. Soon, the other members of the mesnie would descend to the hall. They would discuss inconsequential fripperies, perhaps a jest or two, and on very rare occasions, Lord Ewen - who was something of a troubador - would perform a ditty or two. But most of the time, the mesnie would retire to the study with ale and a few morsels, and engage in far more serious discussions.

On this morning, all are present in the study save Sir Aeomund. As Lord Ewen has been away from the city for several days, it will be useful to get an idea of any events that have transpired in Tashal during the group’s absence. Ewen sends Goreg to Firith House to see when Lord Orsin left for Heru. Leaving immediately, Goreg finds no activity and the soldiers gone. The servant who answers the door is rather evasive and she refuses to reveal the whereabouts of Lord Firith, only that he is gone. Goreg leaves and walking past Osel house, sees it too is quiescent. Goreg reports back to Raven Hall. In the interim, the rest have gone about their own tasks in preparation to depart for Heru and perhaps, another battle. Sir Baris is keen on making sure the horses are not being overtaxed by the recent travels.

Attending to some of the affairs that his new steward, Gatanis Nildar had raised, Ewen has Goreg pen a letter to Pesera of Hendel, thanking him for his year of service, and informing him that his efforts are no longer needed in the managing of Ewen’s estates. Other arrangements remain unchanged. Though Goreg acquitted himself well as a scribe, Ewen considers there is need for a dedicated amanuensis.

With the sun high, but thankfully hidden behind pendulous gray skies, the party sets off for Heru. Though it is not far, due to the shortening days, they arrive after nightfall. In the distance, they can discern a force of men encamped with tents and campfires lighting the way into town. It is too dark to be certain who they are at this remove. The horse’s hooves make an unpleasant sound as they suck in and out of the more. Sir Baris thinks to himself that they could not be louder of they were shouting their presence. When they come across the first sentry line, it is no surprise that the guards are ready and appear to have seen them from afar. Ewen identifies himself and learns that Lord Firith is staying at a house in town though the sentry does not know which one. They party sets decides to try the Red Horse to see if they can find a more senior man and perhaps directions to Lord Orsin. At the Red Horse, Ewen pays for the men he brought with him to have a drink and food. The Baron of Kobe is staying at the house of Enabrin Vastair, along with his senior men and Sir Prehil. Baris and Goreg remain behind to arrange the logistics of Ewen’s force while the rest proceed to let the Firiths know help has arrived.

Granted entry, a rather formal majordomo of advanced decrepitude leads them to the hall and announces them. “The Baron of Ternua,” he says in a reedy voice scarcely above a whisper.


“Prehil, well met. Lord Firith” Ewen nods to the men seated at the table.

“By Naveh’s blind cat! You are a sight for sore eyes.”

“Likewise. I bring with me thirty-six good men.”

“Excellent news. Enabrin, have you met the Baron of Ternua?” Orsin asks the host.

“I knew him as Sir Ewen. I must update my files.”

“Yes.” Orsin looks around at the servants and others in the room. “Yes, if we could have some privacy?” he asks in a voice of command. Once the room is clear, he speaks again.

“Well Ewen, the situation could be better. My men are in good shape, but Balim’s men are already deserting. The troops from Semethshire haven’t even shown up. But with your thirty-six and my hundred and seventy or so, we have a solid cadre. Most of the thirty or so men that Balim sent are those that should have made their way to the gallows instead of a siege – half of them have deserted anyway. The rest of Balim’s men are largely untrained peasants.

“I believe that Kornuska has about eighty men within Heru keep. He denies the Queen is the lord protector and showed me his ass when I ordered him to open the gates in the name of the Queen. Kornuska says he will only open the gates on the King’s orders.”

Ewen asks about Bereden Pawade, his inside man when retrieving Scina Dariune. Orsin has neither seen the constable nor heard of his situation. It is clear Orsin is unhappy in his own situation, without the time for a siege, winter coming, and not enough men for a proper assault.

“I don’t see how we can take the caer with so few men. The Queen has sent me on a task so I can fail and she can remove me from my office.”

Ewen merely nods. “We must find a third way into the keep. Perhaps if I speak with Kornuska that may be of help.”

“Hmm, might do some good at that. He won that tournament of yours I think. There is nothing more I can do with him.”

“Have you seen Meden Curo?”

“Meden is a water traveler,” Prehil says. “Prefers to take the river whenever possible.”

Ewen returns to the Red Horse and has the party and the men he brought with him set up their tents in the East Common. He can see that there are Firith men guarding the bridge. Before bed, Ewen asks Goreg for privacy so that he can make his devotions in peace. Goreg leaves the tent and Ewen begins to trance. He knows that Sir Bereden is either a captive or cooperating, and he would like to determine which. After a few moments, Ewen feels rested and clear headed. He then casts his mind to the keep and Bereden Pawade.

An image forms and he sees Sir Dunisel Azorn looking intently into his mug of ale. Bereden seems to be the viewer and Ewen is seeing through his eyes. Dunisel is seated on the edge of the bed, and Ewen can see that it is a small room - bed chamber. Dunisel is not far from passing-out drunk. There is no sign of armor or weapons.

“Well Dunisel, are you going to drink or meditate?” Bereden asks crossly.

Dunisel falls over and throws up.

“I hope you didn’t miss the chamber pot this time,” Bereden says, disgust in his voice. He moves over and sees that Dunisel did get the pot - mostly. Bereden picks it up and goes over to the door, landing it a vicious kick.

“Hey! We need cleanup in here!”

A voice comes through the wooden frame, “We’ve been through this before. Not ‘til morning.”

“But it really stinks in here,” Bereden says, his voice not so commanding now. He pleads some more, but there is no further response.

Halane 2, 732

Dawn stretches forth her fingers, but no one can see as the Misty Isle remains overcast with a hint of rain in the chilly air. Leaving Sir Baris in charge, Ewen and Goreg walk to the northern gate of the caer to confer with Kornuska Harabor. A stern HALT! comes from the guards on the palisade. Ewen gives his name and his wish to speak with the lord of the castle. One guard leaves to report and the other stands with his bow fully drawn. After a time the guard’s arm begins to noticeably shake. Ewen turns his attention away so that the man may relax his arm for a very brief moment without shame. The other guard returns and Ewen and Goreg are given leave to enter the compound but are warned they will be escorted and watched. Five men at arms stand hard by. Ewen enters with aristocratic indifference and stops by the well.

Sir Kornuska appears on the ramparts.

“Allow me, Sir Kornuska, to offer condolences on the death of your noble father,” Ewen begins. Kornuska mutters thanks. “I am here, Sir Kornuska, to try to find a reasonable resolution to the current state of affairs.”

“I have a resolution – Firith packs up and leaves.”

“Well, that is difficult. I believe that if Lord Firith were not tasked by the Queen, who is acting as the lord protector by the King’s command, he would gladly do so.”

“I recognize the difficult position he is in. I am in a similar one. I am acting within my rights as the representative of the Earl of Osel. I am doing nothing more than holding my family’s land under orders by the head … by orders. I am committing no treason.

“Furthermore, I am a bit unclear as to whether the King has truly delegated this authority to the Queen for if he is competent to do so, why he has not exercised that right himself?”

Ewen smiles. Kornuska is asking all the right questions. There is hope for a baronial uprising yet. “A point well made. Let me share all that I know. He was gravely ill, I saw that with my own two eyes. He is making a recovery, a claim vouched for by those nearest to him. He had a moment of lucidity where he dictated that the Queen rule in his name as lord protector. All this was brought before the council of the tenants-in-chief and they have recognized the King’s wish.”

“What a lucky coincidence, just when things were at a stalemate that the King could write his wishes out in the nick of time. And the Queen sends Lord Firith to seize this castle from my father’s earldom, whom she put to death, without a trial, my father; a peer on that same council. This is not the Kaldor I know.

“I will obey an order directly from the King sealed with the great seal – reluctantly, but I will obey. I recognize not the Queen. I will hold this castle as ordered by the former Earl of Osel, until my brother, the new Earl of Osel, says differently.”

“You may not be the only who has thought the King’s recovery a bit fortuitous. But think on this, if you or I held a position of such consequence, don’t you think that the only thought in lucid moments would be for the safety and well-being of the kingdom?”

“You are not being asked to give up a castle.”

“It does occur to me, Sir Kornuska, that the position you are in and are taking is fraught with its own peril.”

“What reason did the Queen give for taking Heru into her possession?”

“As she did not vouchsafe her rationale to me, so I cannot say for certain. Although I do suspect she wished to ascertain the loyalty to the Crown of the prodigy of your late and noble father.” Ewen says, not adding that she also wished to see the downfall of Orsin Firith. She was playing a dangerous game with the earls and barons of the land, or rather Balim was. Ewen notes that Kornuska’s responses are logical and brings to the foreground the legality or technically, lack thereof, of what the Queen was doing. The conversation between the two knights continues on in this vein with Ewen coming the understanding that the biggest concern that Kornuska has is not who holds Heru, but his life. If Kornuska or his brother were to stand in front of the Queen and pledge their loyalty, will she take their lives as easily as he took their father’s?

“Did she strip my brother of his title and lands?”

“Not to my knowledge,” Ewen replies.

“Then my brother inherits. This seizure is illegal.”

“It seems to me from my simple knight’s view, the straight resolution is for you and your brother to travel to Tashal and proclaim your loyalty to the Crown.”

Kornuska considers this for a moment. “Alright, we will do so. Do you know what plans my brother has? For I pledge as soon as he heads to Tashal, I shall join him.”

“No, I do not.”

“Neither do I. Perhaps as early as spring, he might travel. But for now, we should wait and confirm the dues from the harvest and other matters.”

“Sir Kornuska, I see you have a firm position. Let us speak again in 24 hours, by which time you shall have been able to mull over your options.”

At that, Ewen returns to Orsin and finds him in Enabrin Vastair’s hall, conferring with a few knights over a diagram of the keep. They are discussing means of assault or siege. Ewen reports on his parley with Kornuska.

“He has a sound case. I tried to put a few thoughts into his mind. One regarding his family and noting that they have not been attainted. We all need to come up with a creative solution to get out of this dilemma.”

“You’re a pretty bright fellow, Ewen. I’d like to think we have a chance to come up with something.”

Ewen nodded. “He has proclaimed loyalty to the King. If I can get him to pledge his fealty …”

“He’s a sly one. We need a spider like Balim.”

“We need someone strong enough to back him before the Queen.”

Orsin seems to understand Ewen means him, and vigorously shakes his leonine head.

“I did not mean you, but rather had hoped there was a bishop in the family who could appeal to the archbishop.”

“They are not so pious a family.”

“Why didn’t the Queen attaint Harabor?” Ewen ponders out loud.

“Couldn’t say,” Orsin growled. “Nobody liked Maldan but there’s nothing against the kids.”

Ewen, sensing that Orsin’s attention is wandering, asks Orsin to take the air with him. He relays Kornuska’s concern over his own life, and Orsin agrees he has something to worry about. The Queen has certainly proven she will act.

“One possibility we haven’t touched on, the timing is not what we wanted, but we could approach the Harabors to join in a rebellion of sorts. This would be the time, emotionally speaking, to do so.”

“No, we still have a King. But hypothetically speaking, two Harabors is one Harabor too many. I’d prefer the other one, but this is the one we have in our grasp. There is no point in killing him anyway, if can convince him to turn his coat …” Orsin trails off, peering into the murky canopy trying to discern a star, any star. “Talk with him in the morning and see what you can do.”

The two men return inside and Orsin points to the map.

“There is a weakness, Ewen – a section of wall that can be breached. Here there is a door and on the other side of the curtain wall there are two towers, only one of which is filled and used. The other is used by teenage boys to prove their bravery by climbing and pissing over the side.” Orsin snorts out something that might be a laugh. “The tower that is in use connects to the door that gives access within the keep.”

“I believe it is the same door that Cekiya and Kaelyn used to break Scina out,” Ewen says.

“Indeed, then some of your people know it?”

Ewen nods and says they need to breach the keep to make sure that the door is unbarred. He has just the person in his employ that could do that. Orsin agrees and tells him to have his operative ready to open the door at four tomorrow afternoon.

That evening Cekiya slips through the darkness to the northern side of the keep. Slinking around to the western side and she begins her climb up the wall. Selecting the wall between the castle and the first tower, she ascends the parapet with ease, checks the door that she has been tasked with breaching and finds it locked. While she would have snuck into the castle without a reason had Ewen asked it of her, she knows that she has a vital task to perform tomorrow. She steps back and looks up, ears always listening for the guards she knows are patrolling. She has seen them on the roof and so there must be a way in from there. Finding crevices and ledges so slim and narrow that no one else would think them climbable much less dare the attempt, Cekiya ascends ever upwards. The roof is empty. ‘Silly, silly men,’ she muses, and slips across and looks over the edge to the third floor battlements. There is a guard walking with his eyes looking out toward the courtyard and beyond. She watches him. After the bell rings eight times, another guard comes out and relieves him. She watches him and his pattern of walking the wall. There is very little variation in his routine. A carefully timed tossed pebble draws the guard’s attention away from other sounds in the night, and Cekiya is able to slip down the wall and next to the door. A few moments later an opportunity arises for her to slip through the door unnoticed. Nearby is a barrel, and looking inside, Cekiya sees sheaves of arrows. She takes most of them, and flicks them out a nearby window. Then she settles inside the arrow barrel.

Halane 3, 732

Dawn again stretches forth her radiant fingers in isolation as the weather continues in its penumbral clemency. If the day seems even a bit cooler, there just may be a draft in the tent.

Ewen and Goreg once again make their way to Heru keep, leaving Sir Baris to engage in drill with the men. Ewen hopes they will still know one end of a spear from the other if it comes to that. Arriving at the caer, the Baron and the squire are led to the same spot as before and Kornuska once again appears on the ramparts. The conversation picks up almost where the two had left it.

“Have you considered our words from yesterday?” Ewen asks.

“I have treated them with due seriousness. I do not know how to square the circle to keep my head on my shoulders. If I had ironclad proof that in going to Tashal, I wouldn’t lose my head. My worst odds would be to surrender this castle to you. I would then be taking certainty over uncertainty of losing my head.”

Ewen nods. “I will head to Tashal myself to acquire the bill of attainder from the Queen which will make her illegal actions legal.”

“I will still prefer to die fighting for this castle than put my head on the block.”

“Would not Sir Bereden still protect the castle were you to leave?”

“I no longer have the loyalty of that retainer. I would like to go to Qualdris and speak with my brother to know his will though. Do you offer to leave this castle unmolested if I do so? You and Firith would leave?”

“I cannot speak for the Lord Marshal.”

“Fair point. I would be prepared to leave the keep in the hands of a new constable, Sir Hogan Mindar. He enjoys the confidence of the family and I would trust him here. I and a suitable escort of my own men along with the safe conduct from Firith himself, could travel south to confer with my brother. Would you and Lord Firith find this acceptable?”

Ewen keeps the laughter off of his face at the mention of Hogan Mindar. He thought the man had hung himself in Tashal. Ah well, at least he listened to Ewen and returned to service of the Harbors. Maybe he will be useful this time around or at least redeem himself in his own eyes to the Firiths after his involvement in the kidnapping of Prehil.

“That would be acceptable to me. I will take the offer to Lord Firith and return around three this afternoon with an answer.”

It is nearly noon when Ewen returns to Orsin to give him a synopsis of what Kornuska has come up with and who exactly he would be leaving behind and in charge.

“So, was it a crap sandwich with fresh bread or with week-old rye?” Orsin asks with a grin.

“He does want to be ensured of his safety and passage to Qualdris.”

Orsin draws in his chin. “Fine by me, then we besiege the castle.” Orsin believes it all a bit too good to be true and begins to pace and think. Ewen shrugs and then mentions as an aside that his man is in the castle and will ready the door at four as promised.

Orsin stops pacing, his eye bright with excitement. “Then we have him! Your job is to preserve our honor. Don’t raise suspicions and don’t give away the game.

“You! Boy! Get over here!” Orsin barks to a man at arms standing near the door way. “Assemble the team.” The man at arms nods and departs.

“I have ten hand-picked men ready to go. Would you like to add any of yours to this?”

Ewen looks at the map. “Where would you like my men? I assume I should not be in the courtyard by four, correct?”

Orsin continues, “You need to be out of the palisade by then. It will be a killing field for any inside it.

“I need troops on the southern side of the keep. I need some troops to keep a flanking through the town from occurring, Balim’s contribution should be good enough for that. I have three companies ready to rush the palisade whose sole job it is to distract the bulk of the men in the keep. You take my ten men, plus a few of your own and go in. Put half of the rest of your men to secure the roads, and the other half should be held in reserve, ready to reinforce any that need it. I’ll command from the field.

“Damn it feels good to plan an attack!”

Ewen smiles.

Come three pm Lord Ewen is back inside the palisade, peering up into the gloom at the master - for now - of Caer Heru.

“Lord Firith is not convinced of your plan. He needs further assurance that you are not in rebellion against the Crown.”

“What will satisfy Lord Firith?” asks Kornuska, his tone clear evidence of his annoyance.

“I cannot say, but I wanted to bring this to your attention.”

“It seems the gap has widened.” He pauses in thought. “If Lord Firith can find it within himself - I would leave the caer in the capable hands of Sir Hogan. I will not turn over this castle without assurances of safety.”

“I will put it to Lord Firith.”

“Fine. But Firith needs to make a decision.

Ewen can see Kornuska growing frustrated at the wrench he has thrown into the plan that would have let all of them slip out of the Queen’s snare. The two nobles take their leave of each other and promise to speak in the morning once again, hopefully with all doubts put to rest.

Ewen returns to the house of Enabrin Vastair and the final preparations for the afternoon’s exertions. He asks Orsin where Sir Prehil is as Ewen notices that he is not among the men getting ready nor was he mentioned in Orsin’s plans. The peer tells him that he sent him into a more perilous combat zone: Tashal. “It is an arena that Prehil understands better than I ever did,” Orsin admits.

At the appointed time, the Baron of Kobe’s power has taken up positions, ringing the castle with men at arms. Lord Firith himself surveys the scene from astride a snorting destrier at the edge of town, near an ancient old oak. The guards about the palisade, however, take this assemblage in stride.

As the men ready themselves outside, Cekiya is awakened from her drifting slumber in the barrel by voices, and listens. There are voices discussing something about the castle defense, and she wishes to follow them but knows that Ewen is counting on her to move the bar. Gingerly, she lifts the top of the barrel and peers out. The voice-owners have moved on. She stretches out of the barrel like a serpent, and makes her way across the third floor and down to the second. There is no one but servants cleaning on the second floor and they pay her no heed. She merrily skips to the door and unbars it. She looks at the barrels holding arrows and takes an armful out. She puts the wooden bar inside in their place and tosses the arrows out the narrow slit in the wall. She then moves to track down the voices. She has a new mission.

From behind a small copse of trees northeast of the keep, Ewen observes the ramparts. For now, the few visible guards all seem to be looking in the direction of Lord Firith, though without undue concern from what Ewen can see. He signals to his men to move towards the wall. Firith’s men are under the direction of a veteran, Sergeant Aeplen. He looks to the wall and tells Lord Ewen that he and his men have done this before. Two men will stand next to the wall and boost the next one up. The ones that make it up the wall, will then help the next and so forth. Once on the wall Ewen and his party will go into the keep while Sergeant Aeplen and his men will deal with the tower guards. Ewen indicates that he will go first followed by Sir Baris. While Ewen easily makes it up, Baris is not so lucky and misses his handhold. He stifles an irritated roar as he tumbles down the embankment towards the river. Arva moves quickly and follows Ewen up on the wall. Goreg follows Baris down the embankment. Sir Blaka and his men are next. Only three make it up the wall, the rest fall. Ewen sighs and does not wait for Firith’s men nor Baris and Goreg to try again. He draws his sword and checks the door, giving a silent sigh of relief that Cekiya made it to the door. He had not doubted the little adder, but he was not one to assume. Opening the door carefully, he finds no one near, including Cekiya. In the great hall the servants have all left and in their place are two archers and one other man at arms at the far wall looking out the slits at Lord Firith’s force. Ewen heads to the man at arms and Blaka and his men move to the archers.

Someone scrapes a boot on the floorboards. The man at arms turns and blurts out ‘Alarum!’ as he is struck down by Ewen. Arva, moving faster than Blaka and his men, strikes at the archer with her shortsword, but is blocked by his bow. The bow breaks and she sees the man at arms fall and the other archer struck in the thigh by Blaka. Seeing this too, Arva’s opponent quickly surrenders. This part of the keep is secure - at least for now.

“This way,” Ewen commands, moving to the northern side of the keep where he thinks Constable Bereden Pawade and Sir Dunisel are being held. Carefully stepping through the stone arch of the massive support wall that runs the length of the main tower, he cals at the first door on the left and is answered. He kicks at the door but it doesn’t budge. Arva pulls tools out of her sleeve and quickly picks the lock open.

Bereden Pawade staggers out, “I want to kill that man!”

“Let’s get Scina’s men first,” Ewen suggests sensibly. Sir Bereden leads back through the great hall to where the Dariune men are being kept prisoner and Arva attempts to pick this lock but fails. Ewen kicks it in instead. At this point Baris, Goreg, the rest of Blaka’s and Firith’s men, join them as they have just entered the keep along this selfsame passage. One Firith man was a casualty in the taking of the tower.

Sir Bereden looks to Ewen, “Who is command of the keep?”

“Kornuska, until we take it from him.”

“I know where he’ll be. The upper gatehouse. If we kill the head, the body will die,” Pawade says a bit too dramatically.

As they head towards the chamber above the gate, Cekiya is also looking for Kornuska. It was his voice she followed even though she knew not who it was. Hearing him talk of his plans for fleeing the keep and how the men are to put up only a token resistance was enough for her to know that Ewen would want to talk to this coward. They went up the western tower, and Cekiya pads up the stone flight in pursuit. Reaching the ladder, she moves quickly up to the roof, spying no one as she comes out on the tower’s parapet. She spots a rope looped around one machicolation and peering over the side, sees a rope ladder descending to the ground. Without hesitation, she climbs down the ladder but is intercepted by Firith’s men who, thinking she is a part of the castle garrison seeking to escape, take her into custody. She protests that the little Harabor is getting away and they are all going to be in trouble when it is known they let him slip by.

Meanwhile, Lord Ewen and company follow Sirs Bereden and Dunisel to the portcullis room. They are quickly through the door and inside they find a handful of men at arms and Sir Hogan. Sir Hogan is not happy to see Ewen.

Ewen steps forward. “Surrender! The keep has been taken. Where is Kornuska?”

Hogan cannot deny that the keep has been taken and he does not have enough men to fight back. He motions for his men to put down their weapons. He tells Ewen that Sir Kornuska has left. Ewen nods and orders the men he brought with him to deal with the surrendered men honorably. Lord Ewen then commands Sir Hogan to come with him as they go and have the rest of the men surrender. Sir Bereden Pawade takes control of Caer Heru once again.

As Lord Firith rides through the gates, Ewen is out in the courtyard to greet and inform him that Heru is now under their control, its garrison surrendered.

Lord Firith appears satisfied. “Caer Heru is pacified. We must disarm all the troops. The arms will be confiscated and stacked here. Harabor’s men must pass under the yoke and return home under parole that they will never again take up arms against the Crown.”

Sir Bereden speaks up. “To whom do I now owe, as Constable of Heru, allegiance? Osel, the Crown, the Baron of Kobe, the Baron of Ternua?”

“It’s a shame my lady wife is not present, I’m sure she would step forward.” Ewen says impishly.

“I do not need to know now, but I should get an answer soon.” Bereden says. Orsin nods, as he is unsure himself.

They decide that all will return to Tashal in the morning, leaving Sir Bereden and his men to hold Heru.

Halane 4, 732

In the morning, with the Harabor men passing under the yoke and trudging out of Heru, the Firith and Ravinargh forces strike camp. The march to Tashal takes up most of the scarce daylight, and they arrive in the walled city tired and cold. Ewen and Orsin clasp hands and part in Haldan Square, heading for the respective abodes. Once at Raven Hall, Walin quickly manages a hot meal for them and they all retire for the night.
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