(121-04-28) The Riders

Camp - Somewhere in the Westerlands

The archer's camp isn't terribly far away from the main camp. It's late, there's a fire burning, there was a rabbit stew made not too long ago, and there's brandy being passed about.
Andolin Stark, however, is plopped on the ground leaned back against a log, and, though he acknowledges the knight's words, he glances after Angharad as she leaves. And, when he turns his attention back 'round to Riderch, he just muses, "She's an interesting woman," in almost a bit of a marveling way, and it sounds complimentary.

"Indeed." Riderch's hands are twirled about the silver-plated horn as he turns back towards the Stark Lordling. "Most are. Except for the ones that aren't, I suppose, but I imagine they would not be riding along on this excursion, wouldn't you say?"

Just as Angharad vanishes to, as she eloquently put it, to piss, her cousin the She-Bear takes her place. A field-dressed deer carcass is slung over her back, and a spot of blood from her prize is smeared over forehead. "Already eaten?" She asks no one in particular before throwing her game down on the ground near the fire. "Good. I'm quite hungry." She then kneels down to finish butchering the deer.

Ernarr Grafton's head looks like a disheveled haystack, the boy skips rocks across a small pond beside the camp. His cousin, young Burton Redfort, looks rather bored and contents himself with skipping pebbles off the head of his young cousin, when Kaspar and Ernarr's eyes are elsewhere.

Kaspar draws a length of leather from his saddle purse and sets to wrapping it and stuffing a Myrish lens against one end, then Ernarr screeches, "Ouch, stop it, Burt!" The boy pulls a club from a leather strap and charges his cousin.

Kaspar looks to Maera, then to Riderch. "I hope we find the Wildlings, before my page kills my squire." He rubs at the bandage round his neck and charges toward Ernarr, in an effort to grapple his page.

A quieter entrance into camp, one lean dornish knight climbs down from his horse, leading her over to the water source to drink. His squire, riding a horse behind him, dismounts as well. She's a small, blond woman who is given the task of seeing to the two chargers after the day's ride. Ser Tameron rubs a hand over the back of his neck, draws in a soft breath and moves to where others are gathered around the fire.

"Very true," Andolin offers toward Riderch - he might have had something else to add, but then folks start trickling in; he glances from person to person, sitting up a bit from his easy lounge against the log. His brows wrinkle a little at the sudden amount of folks, but he just takes a sip of the brandy and offers a general, "Evening."

The roses on Ulyka Mormont's thin-skinned cheeks flare with everlasting defiance. The young Mormont girl approaches the warmth of the fire with a suspicious reluctance, her old lute held like a shield to protect her from the scent of strongwine, the ribald jests and the hardened muscles, concisely: From all the masculinty that could stain the ideal of the fair maid that exists nowhere but within the most longing of her chords. It isn't the music that seems to draw her closer, it is for way more mundane. An obviously hungry gaze watches her sister's way of handling dinner.

Her voice, however, is surprisingly affable as she speaks "Finally we rest! May I help you, Maera?"

The Riverlander looks a bit nonplussed here as he stands, drinking brandy in the firelight with the flames glinting off the black pigment smeared around his eyes. He too trails off as more familiar and semi-familiar faces approach. "I see the North cast a wide net." He finally speaks, turning on his bootheel and staring off a moment. Kaspar's approach earns a nod. "I believe I know who you are, Ser." He says, eyeing the man's squire before he studies the man himself. For reasons no one can fathom. There's a nod of his head in greeting. And to Maera. His expression brightens. Food! Well, that always raises his spirits.

Yet distant from the fire, Lady Hellan strikes a gaze upon the archer's camp as she enters its boundaries that seems to uncover every rock and pry into the motives of every soul she passes, even in this moment of reprieve from the road. She takes her role of keeping people in line seriously, although those who are familiar with the Battle-Axe of Bear Island turned Stark would know that such a manner is how the woman conducts her daily business. A striking silhouette in her wolf-trim cloak — as though she's brought the cold of the North with her wherever she goes — the older of the dark-haired women about is engaged in stern conversation with Landur, a broad Stark man-at-arms. " —wasn't what I told you to do the first time," drifts into range coolly, "See to it that it's divvied between the camps in fair supply."

"Beat them more." Maera suggests cheerfully to Kaspar as she uses her hunting knife to finish skinning and butchering the deer. She wipes at her face again, and another streak of red goes across her other cheek, just over the thin scar. "I think I can manage." She says to her sister without looking up as she loads the haunches of venison onto the flames. "Why don't you play for a bit? I know you've been itching to all day." Venison on the fire, she dry dusts her hands on her pants, and settles down on the ground.

The knight of Runes and Pebbles intercepts the boy page and lifts the lad, bodily, by the collar. "Lady Maera's correct, I should give the both of you a good a clout on the ear." Kaspar glares at the boy, for a moment, then sets his down atop the leaf-strewn forest floor. "You fought tourney of maidens, Ser, and by your crest, I believe you a friend, perchance a cousin." Here, Kaspar gestures to the runes on his doublet. "We Remember." The Vale knight turns to Lady Ulkyka. "A lute? How serendipitous, sing something sweet, humming bear, mayhaps my petulent cousins will drift off. Forgive me my brusqueness, lady, I am Kaspar Royce."

Tameron eases to the ground by the fire, pulling a canteen from his hip and taking a long swallow. He sets it down, drawing up one knee so he can rest his arm on it as he watches the flames. His green-brown gaze travels around at the collection of knights are warriors that have travelled together on this 'hunt', though it lifts a little higher at the sound of Lady Hellan's voice. Or, snippets of it, anyhow. He regards the Battle Axe for a long moment before returning his attention to closer company.

Andolin recognizes about none of these faces beyond a distant passing; he's got keen eyes, though, and follows their progress 'round the camp. There's a certain level of discomfort that's settled into the young Stark, too, and thus he just lapses into quiet while he takes another swallow of the booze to settle his nerves.

"Ravens do not mourn, Ser." The Riverlander responds to the Vale Knight with a languid recitation of his House's words. "But we welcome a friend. That is what I thought. Although I don't see the Vale Lady in question much." Riderch was apparently sitting on this fact, and mulling it over in his head long enough to process an accurate estimate of their family's ties. "I believe she's happy enough with my Uncle. Even if he likes to talk. And talk." The reference to his own kin is fond and is accompanied by a toothy grin.

The new arrivals keep piling up though as he eyes up Kaspar's squire for a second and then makes note of them in turn. More Mormonts, a Stark Lady — A Dornishman? Blackwood's eyes narrow sharply at Tameron but he raises his horn in greeting. Unlike his Reach counterparts, Dornishmen aren't really considered adversaries, more an unknown curiousity.

"Yes, my fingers have been itching indeed." Ulyka answers, finding herself a seat near the others. As one of the vivid boys around the Valeknight makes the mistake of becoming a bit too curious about the instrument in her lap she lifts the eyebrows in synchrony with her upper lip, from which a fierce glare of fury jumps into his direction.

"It is a pleasure Ser Kaspar. I am Lady her womanly title is cautiously emphasized "Ulyka Mormont, as you may have overheard. It is always a pleasure to meet a friend of some chords to sweeten the eve."

Then her throat is cleared: "Alas, I'm not sure whether either them or the humble verses to accompany them would fit an occasion like this. There is nothing sweet about the Northern songs on Wildlings and forests, and I have to hesitate to bring some verses about love and longing to a fire with warriors as… capable as you are." She speaks these obviously well rehearsed verses steadily but softly, testingly.

Finally the stern bits of conversation that trickle into the fire's reach from her aunt make her turn her head. An invitation follows, partly to bring her into the warmth, partly to muffle the sounds that could disturb her potentially following own ones. "Join us, aunt…please do!"

Tameron glances over at Ulyka and smiles faintly. "Warriors can appreciate a pretty verse now and again, even if it isn't about gutting something," he offers quietly. Riderch raised horn gets a curt nod from the dornishman. If he feels ill at least among so many Westerosi, his bland gaze and relaxed posture at least conceal it well.

As Landur is sent off with a purpose that is, regrettably for him, not sitting by a fire, Hellan pauses momentarily near the pond; from here, Ulyka's invite finds its way to her. After a brief eyeing of the page and the squire, she's soon to stride toward the beacon of her Mormont family, coming to stand behind the unrecognized back-of-the-head that is the Dornish knight. There's a tiredness carved under Hellan's eyes that suggests she may have approached more for rest and replenishment more than companionship (and as she's silent, it's not business), yet her strong features have not cracked; she even has a smile for her niece.

Lady Angharad comes ambling back to the fire, stops short, squints at the gathering, looks around behind her, and squint again. "Smith's blistered taint, Ser Riderch, half our company followed you here!" She smiles wide, warm welcome at the group, plopping herself down to sit against one of the large logs bordering the circle of firelight. "You, Ser, are a force of nature. You move us as the moon moves the tides." Then, to her Mormont/Stark family, "Cousin. Cousin. Cousin." Maera. Ulyka. Hellan. Though Hellan might be her aunt. One can never be sure of these things.

Andolin Stark levers himself up to his feet - it's deliberate thing, and he picks up his cup with him. He's clearly stiff in one leg, no matter how hard he tries to hide it, and glances over as Angharad comes back in and mills about; there's a wry grin toward her comment toward Riderch, apparently agreeing. Everyone's eyed, though he doesn't interrupt in all the introductions and greetings going about.

"And I don't even have Jorah with me to lead them along." Riderch notes with feigned rue. "Or maybe it's just me." Riderch's nostrils twitch as he throws his head back, sniffing the air at all the introductions. He falls silent though after nodding his head once acknowledging said introduction and just hangs back, watching the Mormont girl play. Music is a diversion, at least.

"He's always been a garrulous sort, your uncle." Kaspar says nothing more of the Raventree's uncle. "But a capable man, Ser." Kaspar directs a look of warning toward his young page. "Ernarr, don't be rude to Lady Ulyka." The boy draws back into the shadows at fire's edge and drops into a hasty bow. Kaspar looks to Ulyka. "You must forgive Ernarr. He's as sprightly as a falconet. I believe it's the Arryn blood on his grandfather's side." The Vale knight looks about. "Wolves, bears, Ravens, and more." Kaspar looks to Tameron. "I do not believe I have had the privellege, Ser. I am Kaspar of House Royce. I cannot make out your device, Ser, are you Stark, Blackwood, or one of Lady Maera's relations?"

Maera unfastens her cloak, and throws it on the ground before she lies back to stare up at the sky and munch dried fruit from a pouch. "I think it has more to do with the fire than Ser Riderch, coz." She says this with a lazy little smirk, and turns her head to stare across the fire. Her eyes happen on Tameron, and she watches him for a moment. It's as if she's trying to remember where she's seen his face before, but can't recall. She gives up on this musing with a shake of her head, and rolls back onto her back.

Tameron sits a little more stiffly for realizing that there is someone standing right behind him. She shifts over a little so that Hellan might have space to sit, if she wishes, though he voices no direct invitation. Instead, he regards Kaspar as the other man addresses him directly, offering the other man a small nod. "Ser Tameron Sand, ser," he greets, "I serve House Dayne. Ser Arrick wished to ride with all of you, but as he still recovers from injuries, I offered to accompany him as well."

The hint of flattery is obviously appreciated well enough. A hint of satisfaction shines through Lady Ulyka's smile, a smile that shows a little gap between her front teeth as if once a smile too broad has created this space.

Her fingers caress the strings of her lute in almost etherical beauty, soft chords raise and lull the evening air into a soft bed of tunes.

Her voice… however and the choice of her verses - it may be the odd location, it may be the day's ride to hoarsen her singing. Flawed but enthusiastic it joins:
"If I was a man, I could renounce his sight,

The bow of his lips in the morning light,

The faint and maddening scent of him

The faint, but maddening scent of him

But ah, soon the singing gets entangled between the chords of the lute, and all too soon the Mormont girl's fierce eyes lower in humbleness and shame as she realizes how poorly half of her performance makes its way into the ears of her audience. Again she clears her voice to asks meekly, akwardly "Can I have a sip of water?"

"I'd have to agree with both of those things." Blackwood takes Kaspar's compliment to his kin handily enough. "I think he's well-matched." And returns it in kind.

Ah well, for now he merely falls silent as the younger Mormont takes to entertaining the crowd. Whatever her singing performance here, it's entertainment on the road, not in a Great Hall. Riderch claps his hands all the same afterwards — It's not every day that war comes with a floor show, after all. But it looks like Ulyka was able to nail the song well enough to earn his approval.

On her way to oving to sit upon a log near Maera's sprawl, Hellan pauses to recognize Tameron, lingering there with a faint narrowing of her ice-coloured eyes warmed and shaded ambiguously by the firelight. She lowers to sit, a slow but elegant process until the very final second that goes heavy; ignored. "Ser Tameron," she says, quiet but deep, beneath her niece's song as it falters, no bother to her. "So that is your name."

Angharad rolls to her feet and goes to sit next to Ulyka, resting her shoulder against her cousin's as she passes over a bottle. "Brandy?" she offers. Hey, it's what she's got. There's water in brandy, right?

Tameron dips his head in another nod as Hellan titles him. "Lady Hellan," he greets, canting his head so he can glance at her without regarding her directly as she eases down into a sit. "It seems our blades will be on the same side, this battle." There is a small wince is Ulyka's singing trips itself, though the expression is more one of sympathy for the embarrassment than discomfort caused by botched notes.

"Thank you." Ulyka says to the appreciatetive audience, her mirth perhaps a bit stained by her embarassment.

"Thank you!" she repeats almost relieved as she accepts the bottle from Angharad to drown the shameful part of her performance immediately in a hearty, hasty swig of the offered beverage. Obviously the girl has overestimated either her own powers, or those of the fluid passed around - bursting out in an earthquake of a cough she only manages to exclaim "By the bear's backside, Harry!"

"Ser Arrick looked worse than me, if the half the tales are to be believed." At this, Kaspar winces, and rubs at the bandage round his arm. He directs a look to the Valyrian blade beside he Lady of Bear Island, then turns and winces as the Lady Ulkya's song sours. Kaspar draws a wineskin from his saddle purse and tosses it to the earth beside Ulyka. "Have a sip of wine, it will alleviate the tension in your voice, my lady of Mormont. It has been a long day." Kaspar reclines upon his saddle purse. The sky is full of stars and he has saddle sores to aggravate the throbbing of the scars on his neck, chest, and left arm.

"Maybe wine's more to your taste, cous," Angharad teases Ulyka, nudging her skald-cousin and lifting her chin at Kaspar's wineskin. She takes back her bottle of brandy, but… waggles it out there, still offering. All the cool kids are drinking it.

Now that things are settling down a bit, Andolin exhales a sigh and settles back on his log, sipping at his brandy; he's paying attention, marginally, most of his attention on the singing girl. Otherwise, however, he doesn't interrupt.

"Most of the time it's drunk sellswords fighting after a dice game goes sour. So — " Riderch says what he's particularly thinking here, at least offering encouragment by way of favorable comparison. "The North knows how to entertain." The Riverlander's grin is a little vulpine, here.

Maera holds her hand out for the brandy. She lifts her head slightly to offer Kaspar a crooked little smile, "I hope you'll be able to repair your armor, Ser Kaspar? I'd hate to have ruined a family heirloom."

"Ser Arrick is very skilled," Tameron says to Kaspar, "but considering his injuries, it seemed wisest that a knight who had fought alongside him, at least once, come as well, and I was not opposed to defending the Reach from Wildlings." Or, potentially, showing up some Westerosi fighters.

Hellan begins a nod to Tameron, yet it only rises and doesn't fall, so that she may examine him through a lifted, heavy-lidded gaze. "So it would," she replies; for good or ill is rather difficult to determine by her steady tone. A flicker of a smile responds to Ulyka's adventures with the brandy without quite looking the young bear's way. It's only now that she lets a similar gaze truly glide over the others after her first once-over, familiar and not (and the various alcohols, let's not forget those).

Angharad passes the bottle to Maera, who looks very thirsty. She stifles a yawn. "I think I'm going to go pass out, for a bit. Early scouting on the morrow. Like yesterday. And the day before." She stands and stretches. "I say if we don't find these wildlings soon, we just keep riding north until we pass the Wall. There's sure to be some there."

Kaspar lifts his head and turns toward Maera. He blinks in the darkness, then glances toward his armor. "If the smiths of Oldtown can reforge Valyrian steel, they can certainly reforge bronze, dear lady." Kaspar looks about the clearing to Hellan and Andolin. "Would that one of you brought a wolf, we might have their scent. I left my mastiffs n the Vale." Kaspar turns to Tameron. "I hope he mends, with all possible alacrity. I bear him no ill will, though, I have yet to avenge my goodbrother. Damn Blackmonts."

"I think we might have more problems if we were to do that," Andolin angles toward Angharad; it's with a bit of a smile, though, and then Kaspar's pulling his attention 'round; the young Stark just raises his brows with a wry sort of expression. "Unfortunately," he says, leaning back against his log comfortably, "I didn't bring any wolves. Though I dare say they would have come in handy."

Maera sits up, and takes the bottle to have a swig. She follows with another swallow before passing the bottle back. "There isn't a smith in Oldtown who can reforge Valyrian steel." She says with a wry smile, "But certainly they can handle bronze." There is a pause, "But why not go with good castle forged steel for your armor?" She glances to Andolin, "No wolves. But, we did bring Lord Stark's big hunting dogs. Be patient. We won't be apron Crakehill until the marrow."

Her smile is a painful one when the skin of wine flops down at her feet. Ulyka manages even to send a brittle "Ha." to ensure the offer is taken in good humour.

Observing her sister's longing for more brandy, there is a short flicker of worry appearing around her nose, followed by yet another reintroduction of the defiant flare. Well, then!

It is more than just curiousity that makes her pick up Ser Kaspar's skin. "Mayhaps this is really more to my taste," she comments with well-performed light-heartedness to both the knight and her cousin, opens the cork, sniffs and takes the second hearty gulp at this evening. If she has been ever so reluctant to follow her sister's traditions there is one she is very eager to live up to at this occasion, with all the stubbornness she could possibly scrape together: To drink at least as much as Maera at his very occasion.

A glimpse, only the shortest glimpse of doubt is thrown at Hellan and her mild smile as she begins to ride out and fulfill this self-obliged task.

"I don't think I can f—, err, handle Valyrian Steel." Riderch's muttering is to himself, and he hides his next grin in his cup, all whilst he lingers around the campfire, stiffly heading to a tree to lean against sharply, one arm dangling at his side.

Angharad hands her bottle next to Ser Riderch, clapping the man on the shoulder. "Good night, you lot."

Snapping of branches are heard, and the soft whicker of horses. Surely it's no snark or grump kin come skirting down from the wall, but easily marked the sound of men. Scouts are quick to look up and Sentries call out once before nothing. Soft clopping of muted horse hooves on the wooded ground, before a sizable party comes closer to the campfires Others be on foot and idle past looking to find places of their own fires and amongst the assembled camp. A few seem to be officers, if you can call the few lingering and talking to sentries on horseback that.

Amongst them is an old and scarred face, which could be discerned if torch or fire light catches him well enough. Like a ghost melted out of the woods. Spitting, he drops from his saddle and moves to come stand as horse and reigns are passed along to someone else. Apparenrtly the helm thereon is left. Someone will nab it for him. Bootsteps slow as he makes for them all lingering.

Tameron's own opinions of Blackmonts, or Florents or any other house of either land are thoughts the young man keeps to himself. He does offer to Kaspar, however, "I thank you for your well wishes and shall relay them to Ser Arrick." he tugs his canteen from his hip again to have another deep swallow of water, despite the wine and brandy being passed around.

"We've wolves here enough under the Starks," Hellan adds her piece, somber until the corners of her mouth again move upward to prove her face can animate, a livelier glint going to Maera. "And bears besides." She nods a passing goodnight to Angharad, interrupted midway by the hint of an approach. Her shoulders curve in and stiffen beneath the weight of her cloak as she looks; goes still, wondering over a flash of scar. An illumination in firelight, a trick of its shadows, a stranger trick of her mind? She raises with sudden purpose to her feet to stride to the edge of the gathering's clearing, clutching a grey length of her cloak, facing the approaching figure as though prepared for battle, not to greet an obvious compatriot.

It's just a girl. Pale, skinny slip of a thing in boy's clothing — not that such is at all unusual, in the camp. She's girded with a slender switch of a sword and more knives than are probably immediately visible on her person. Though there are plenty visible, to be sure. She enters the firelight and takes quick, careful inventory of those present and nearby. Nods. And sits beside Ser Tameron Sand without a word.

The figure stalls when Hellan stands, before it continues it's solitary stalk into the light. One hand rests on the grip of his sword, fingers in easy lean. His own dark eyes watch the dancing flames for a moment before he is looking to them assembled and seated. "Well t'en." his accent is thick-and likely atrocious to those in the South, but to the North it's normal. "What I see is a press of wet boys, an women. Who bloody well leads it?" The question is gruff, though there's a twinge of a raise of lips. As if he was speaking in a damned joke and everyone was with him on it.


Gidion Stark then reaches in his mouth with gloved fingers to pull a wad of something out and toss it into the fire. "Meat never softened..all gristle." as if explaining what he was chewing on.

Tameron's head turns as his slip of a squire appears and seats herself beside him. A corner of his mouth lifts in a small smile, which is all the greeting he offers the girl. Well that and his canteen, in case she'd like a bit of water herself. "Meat'll be ready, soon. Horses all right?" He leans back then, to watch when Hellan, seated on his other side, stands and moves away from the fire and towards some new arrivals.

Maera rises from her seated position when she hears the proclamation made by Gidion, and comes to stand near Hellan. Her murky eyes settle on Gidion with a flinty hardness to them, "I lead it, and if you've a problem with it you can take it up with Lord Stark or you can shut your fucking mouth." Her lips tighten into a thin line, "Those are your options." There's a pause, and she glances to Hellan, "This is your husband? The one who helped a member of the watch desert?"

"Steel is certainly more practical, but bronze has girded Royces since raised the first Stones." Kaspar turns toward Maera. "None, in all of Oldtown?" A look to south, toward the, now distant, city. "I suppose I shall have to send away for a man from the Free Cities, a Volantine, mayhaps." The sound of snapping branches brings the vale knight to his feet. He rises with the grace of a shadowcat, and a soft curse as blood rushes to his saddlesore legs. He draws a dagger and palms the blade flat against his palm. A the sight of the girl and the Stark, he relazes and takes a sitting position upon his saddle purse. "We have venison and wine, you'll have to fight the other wolves for the wine."

Except to pivot to track the newly arrived Stark, Hellan is stricken where she stands, but it is not out of fear — far from that. Something else roots her to the spot, still but for the tense, growing curl of her hands into her cloak, her sharp knuckles losing what little flush of blood they had. The woman's features have pressed and sculpted into conflict: dismay, anger, and altogether undefinable sentiments. None burst outward; the nearest is a twitch of muscle in her neck when Maera speaks.

"Gidion," she says to the man himself beneath her breath and it's still rich and deep enough to be thunder rolling in.

"I don't eat meat," says Tameron's girl-squire, taking a sip from the canteen. The words have the smooth, time-worn quality of a reminder given to the same person, many times. "And you don't drink wine." She watches the Northman and women face one another down, leaning closer to Tameron, her eyes still on the lot. "What are they doing?"

When night obscures the eye, the ear begins to sharpen, and now, at this hour, somewhere in the depths of that creamily thick deep darkness, but still at a distance as yet, is a sound that does not exactly shirk its auditors. Hoofbeats, and not a few of them, though hardly an approaching warband, either…somewhere within a few dozen…hooves, that is!

There's a bit of a pause on Riderch's part as he leans against the tree, receiving Gidion's announcement. He doesn't immediately grasp who the man really is, letting out a bit of a pronounced 'pfffft' sound. There's the man's reception of his assessment. He even puts his horn down. His eyes are narrowed and he props one toe of his boot in the dirt.

"Well, there's…" Tameron frowns. Because meat is kind of it. "Apples," he recalls to Magden. "In the saddle pack. And stale bread." He looks back towards the Starks and the Mormont. "Um. Reuniting. I think."

"Venison is a shade better than salt beef." Gidion states before he turns his gaze on Maera Mormont. There's a hock in the back of his throat, before something yellow and bloody is spat out into the fire. "I didn't help no man desert nothing." A run of his tongue over his teeth before he is looking back at the Mormont Lady with narrowed eyes. A reach to his belt and a crude bit of paper is produced passing it, held in Maera's direction. "That's initial count of the lot I brought in." A tic of one eyebrow up should be enough to see if it's being argued. "We got may haps ten more on th' rocky road down."

To Hellan he gives a look, before his own hand curls and knots there to his belt. Holding firm and tight. His own expression seems a bit unreadable, but then he is letting his eyes roam over, before he nods. "Hellan." His own response like a damned cliff for the thunder to peal against. For Riderch, a look-and half grin follow.

The volatile ornaments of the fire seem to emboider Lady Ulyka's leather and linnen in a way more natural way than any ribbon of silk, any thread of silver and gold could ever accomplish. The warmth does not travel in her fierce dark eyes, as she spots Gidion, a certain attentive suspicion trickles over from the miens of her sister and her aunt to her own.

With her foot, she pushes the resting lute gently aside, compassionately, as if to blanidsh it with that repellent little movement. Ser Kaspar's wine skin still resting in her hand her eyes now fall upon Ser Tameron's young squire. They linger long enough to speak of hope for an potential ally among the more hardened warriors around them. Bathing in the sound of her thoughts alone she leans back on her cloak.

Gidion's look to Riderch now suddenly elicits a wide and off-kilter grin. The Heir to Raventree is amused by the oddest of things, and this cranky Stark just made that list. He lifts up his arm a little in salute.

Magden watches the dancing bears and the thunder and the cliff wall do as they do. She blinks bright blue eyes, then asks Tameron, "Has the gristle-chewing man brought us allies, or will there be killing soon?" She probably isn't going to be braiding anyone's hair, more's the pity.

"Allies," Tameron answers. "He's a Stark, I think. Or a Northerner, at least." His eyes squint and his head cants, though. "Has me brought…" looking to Gidion, he asks more directly, "Do more of your men come now, my lord?"

"That's not the story I've heard." Maera says with a stony expression as she reaches out for the paper, and folds it open to glance down at what is written. She looks up to cast Hellan a glance before asking, "How did they get so far South? I've only received orders from raven, and even then what happened is muddled. I keep hearing that it is a horde, or members of the Watch helped them, or that they've boats."

"Gidion Stark," Hellan pronounces firmly, a forboding omen rather than heartfelt reunion speech. The news he brings serves to readjust her view, but not her judgment; the lady's square jaw shifts from side to side and sets. Her voice hushes again, the same low thunder against the solid cliff of her husband, "We shall have words of this." But not here. Here, she keeps a noble, hard-pressed silence. Hoofbeats are a distant drum on her attention, but ignored.

"I wouldn't know. I was not on patrol." Gidion replies evenly. "What we do know is, they got right round th' crows and came on down. I wouldn't be surprised if it were boats" he adds before he is looking to Maera "Y' heard poorly." and with that he leaves it be. A snort, and his hand remains there by blade, though only switches to move to his sword, at the sound of more horses. He turns his head-though he cannot place them.

For Hellan's words, she's given a nod, and a grunt. Which is about as positive a return someone could ask for.

"That's nice," says Magden. She watches a moment longer, then tells Tameron, "I'm going to go roast some apples." She untangles her arms and legs and stands.

Kaspar Royce looks to the Stark and his brows descend in. He looks from Stark to fire as the bloody gob flies. "You ought to have a Maester examine your throat, Ser. Blood and phlegm do not mix. I have heard it likened to wedding Andal and Rhoynar." Kaspar moves to sheath his dagger, then sits upon. He losens the belt round hsi waist and sets belt, sword, and daggers down beside his saddle purse. "A hoard? How can that be? There was naught but one ship, yes?" Kaspar draws a second skin from his saddle purse, this one all but empty. He squeezes a trickle of wine into his mouth, rubs at the bandage round his arm and closes his eyes.

"I'm still clinging to faint hope that it's really Ironborn that just decided to strip down to their smallclothes and smear their faces with dung." Riderch offers flippantly, holding back a little sigh as Maera discusses the specifics of the Wildling threat. He smiles with out-of-place cheer, tapping the hilt of his sword as his eyes twinkle.

Tameron blinks slowly at Riderch, brows lifting a little higher. "…Would that be better?" As Magedn head off to get her apples, Tameron glances down at his water skin. "Needs refilling," he murmurs before he stands and heads off to do so.

The canny among the listeners might call it quite a few hooves by now, nearer a score than a dozen of the riders, though certainly no more than that. And if anyone with a sharp glance happens to throw it in precisely the right direction that guess will be justified; a small squadron of armed horse…carrying two banners, their colours still claimed from clarity by the night air.

"We heard nothing," Hellan breaks her silence to hiss a well-formed whisper between Maera and Gidion, her eyes sharp upon the latter. Reading her husband, however, she gives pause and a calculation to the sounds approaching, sternly ignoring the comments of the Riverlander to do so. With a purely practical wariness, she asks Gidion, "Are those not more of your men who ride for us?"

Indeed, surely they must be? As the contingent comes a shade nearer into the influence of the torchlight, their banners do look to be grey…more Stark riders…surely?

Maera's lips press into a thin line as well. Mormont women are, it seems, rather good at scowling. It is not Gidion she scowls at, however, but a general look of displeasure at not knowing what is going on still. Her head turns slightly to Hellan again, "What do you hear?"

"Of course." Tameron's question earns a confused look from Riderch. It's as though the Dornishman asked him if fish swim. Oh well. He's Dornish, which probably explains why he has no idea whatsoever. He too stops, though, clearing his throat. "Riders approaching, sounds like." He tilts his head, not unlike the ravens seen upon his sigil.

"No." Gidion says quickly, "They are not mine. We have maybe seven of us with horses." Gidion remarks before his hand draws the long blade from his side with a rather practiced calm. "Banners." he adds and turns so as the light of the fire doesn't case his steel to glint out too much and serve as some piss poor beacon.

Under normal circumstances, the Blackwood would have gotten a good laugh from the Stark-however it seems them riders approaching have his collective attention.

"How can anyone get any sleep around here with all the fucking hoofbeats?" asks Angharad, pushing through her tent flap with a great big yawn. "Gods be good…" She scratches her bum. "I'm assuming they're friendly, since we're all standing about, gawping?"

Slowly, Kaspar's eyelids ascend; the valeman looks utterly spent. Grey eyes brush past Maera, Gidion, Hellian, and Riderch. "You are a noisy lot." He rises and nearly trips over a spaulder and sets his cloak of stones rattling. Only then does he hear once distant, now alarmingly close hoofbeats. Kaspar looks to Tameron, then to Maera. "My Lady, how many horse did you bring and why do they not drop to a canter this close to camp?"

As the circle dissolves more and more into apple-roasting and seeking rest Ulyka decides to yield to the warmth and cover herself with the bits of conversation that she overhears from her sister and the Starks. Maera's scowls and the scent of the forest melting into a mixture that speaks of 'home' to her. For a little moment, the tiniest of them all she closes her eyes to embrace the memory of the Bear Islands, yet the tiny moment seems to widen into just a minute, a tired, syrupy minute.

As Angharad approaches she looks up, her attention to any possible approaching group nothing but a half-hearted excuse.

"Maera?" she finally asks instinctively.

Hellan's eyes flare to attention upon the banners upon Gidion's remark. As he draws his blade she draws a plain dagger length of steel from beneath the overhang of her cloak at her hip and man and woman in sync rather than at odds.

A few peculiar things about the newcomers all gradually become noticeable at about the same time. First, their banners are grey indeed, and one spools itself against the fire-lit dark with white, as well - again recalling House Stark; but one of the shadows of the flame against it…isn't a shadow at all, but woven of crimson cloth. The sigil of House Hightower. The other banner is more indistinct, especially by night, because it shows not grey and white, but grey and black.

Third, and most notable of all, these arrivals, though they look to be heavily armed and armoured, are poorly mounted…or else slack in chivalric discipline. As the band reaches within clear sight, some of these warriors even begin to dismount in evident relief.

Fourth is the presence of a clear leader, though his face is still shrouded in the black air; not especially tall, but with an undeniably confident mien. "Lady Mormont's camp?" he calls, in a harsh, though not entirely unmusical voice that may be unaccountably familiar. "The Hightower does not forget its allies. Not you…and not me."

Riderch's spear is helpfully stowed with his horse which is a short run away. His hand hovers towards his swordhilt — as the banners are made out though, he would know this banner. His hand falls to his side shortly afterwards as he again breaks into a wide grin. There's a cheer from the Riverlander.

A grunt and spitting as he looks back towards his wife. "Hightowers. Southerners." The word is almost spat out. Which, clearly the Vale and Riverlands don't fall into. Southerners are saved for the pony reach men, crownlanders, Stormlanders and Westermen. Gidion then seeks to resheathe his sword. "I'm going t' grub up and make sure I get my helmet.." As one never knows when this will happen again. There's a look given his wife-before he is pulling himself out and walking of awkwardly, but quietly.

"Honestly?" Angharad looks about the inert group, then hurries back into her tent. A moment later, she back out, shrugging into her coat of brigandine and quiver, bow in hand. She's ready to put an arrow through the first son-of-a-bitch that comes into camp, but lowers her aim to the ground when they announce themselves. "You should sent a rider ahead when you're approaching a camp at night," she tells the clear leader, clearly. "If we'd been on better alert, you'd've got a face full of arrows."

"TO ARMS! NOW!" Maera roars out, and her own hand goes to the bow slung on her back. She whips a arrow out of her quiver, and notches it. The string pulled back, she points it in the direction of the oncoming approaching riders. "Not southerners!" She recognizes that voice, "Ironmen, may the Old Gods damn them all to hell!"

"There's still time," Hellan adds in harsh addendum to Angharad's words; by the looks of things, her teeth clamping into the expression hardly short of a snarl, she's undecided that some of the approaching riders do not deserve arrows to the face either, a sentinment all the more fired by that of Lady Mormont.

"Not Southerners, indeed, by most lights," the Hightower-sworn leader, who unlike most of his men has not dismounted, "and so I had reason to doubt a polite reception, were I to adopt the…stratagem…your little ladyship just suggested. But I would counsel you, Lady Mormont, not to fire on your host's men, sent to reinforce you. And much needed, it seems. As your charming friend just pointed out, you didn't even maintain a proper watch over your camp. If we had been the wildlings…" And Lord Sylas Volmark removes his helm with an infuriating, entirely typical smirk.


— Wait a minute. What? Riderch's just spun here and the cheer stops in mid-utter as his hand /drops/ to his swordhilt again as he looks to Maera as she mentions a word that should trip every hair on the back of his neck. He stares up at the man who just spoke. That's not Brynden Hightower, for damn sure. His hand curls even tighter around his swordhilt.

Hey! That's not cool. Angharad is allowed to dis the defenses because they're hers, by extention, but Squido is not. She raises her bow once more. "I will absolutely shoot him for you, cous. Just say the word."

The valeman stands midst the wolves, bears, and ravens, still quite groggy. He loosens his sword in its scabbard. Ernarr and Burton fumble for his mail surcoat. More awake than their still-wounded knight, the begin to tug at the Vale lordling. The elder boy crouches and the younger boy jumps on his back so they might throw mail onto the shoulders of their groggy lord. Then, Maera's voice bellows across the camp. Kaspar pushes his arms through his surcoat and grabs at his sword. Grey eyes squint at the man atop the destrier, the man in Hightower colors. "Who are you, Ser?" His voice is still groggy. The valelord still has the pale look of a man who has taken three deep cuts only four days past.

"To hell with that! We certainly don't need your lot!" Maera doesn't unnotch that arrow. "Get back on your goddamn horses, and ride back to the Hightower! The last thing we need is treachery from the Iron Isles. So get back on your shit ponies and go back to your masters." She lets out a snort, "What were the Hightowers thinking sending them?"

The Lady Mormont's aunt stands tensely by, silently and coldly seething, just as unwelcoming of Iron aid. "Ironborn are ironborn no matter their banner." A dagger is too measly for Hellan's liking, yet she holds it blade-down in an instinctual preparation for an inelegant stabbing.

Her sister's roar catapults Ulyka towards her sword that has been abandoned in a way less gentle way than her lute and half leans, half lies near their tent.

When the identity of the arrival is revealed she half mutters, half huffs "Can't they just drown in peace?"

More relaxed she returns, positioning herself closer to her cousin and her sister. (Not without slily ensuring her lute returns into the safety of a sheepskin nearby).

"Maybe they want to keep them busy in a place where they could not spoil the city with their caprices. " Ulyka comments with a shrug . "Or maybe they were hpoing one of us could tell them how to tend to a horse. Poor things, those mares."

"Give the word, Maera Mormont, Lord and Lady Stark. Just give the fucking word." Riderch turns moods on a dime here, and the presence and identification of Sylas' identity is apparently the catalyst for it all. The baleful gaze directed in Sylas' general vicinity clearly indicates this, and further examination of their forces earns a sneer.

The Volmark looks oh-so-terribly disappointed. "My lady. Our association has hardly led me to be surprised by this intransigent attitude right now, but you might consider your words and deeds. As should your friends. I don't know who named you to the leadership of this grand expedition, but so far you have been taken by surprise by an ally, then threatened to attack him, then turned him away, all without giving a thought to the true enemy. The enemy the realm unites against. Do you think we send no men to the Watch from the Isles? On the contrary," Lord Sylas smirks richly, "we tend to supply Eastwatch's finest. I heard on the road you harbour a man accused of helping deserters escape within your party. Now you turn away a contingent sent to hunt wildlings, a well-equipped and seasoned one at that. If we follow you in any case, as we are ordered, I suppose you undertake to attack us? Consider that Lord Hightower's heir harbours a Greyjoy within his court, and I strongly advise you to show a little more…latitude."

To Ser Kaspar, the smarmily voluble Ironman bows but slightly, "Ah, a bold knight of the vale. I am not vowed and oiled myself, but I am a Lord of Westeros, Sylas Volmark by name. I come to seek the same prey as your party. Do you share your…impetuous…commander's complexion upon affairs, I wonder? Or can reason avail you to some degree?"

"Here's a modest proposal," says Angharad, through gritted teeth. "If they want to stay and fight wildlings, let them. They can go make nice among themelves in their own camp. Away from here. No one will abide to put down their bedroll beside a squid and no one will sleep for fear of treachery, with them among us." She takes a deep breath. "But whatever you decide, cous, do it fast, for there's no one can stay drawn much longer than I have and not 'lease the shot." She's still staring at Sylas down the length of an arrow.

Maera glances to Harry before nodding stiffly, "I can't stop you from following us. If you weren't protected by the Hightowers I'd kill the lot of your right now, but since you have such esteemed friends." Her features harden, "But you are not welcomed to our fire or our provisions. Keep to yourselves. We want nothing to do with the likes of you." That said, she relaxes the draw on her own arrow. "There's a clearing downstream you can have. Go and stay there."

Kaspar moves, or rather takes three sidelong steps to stand beside the heir to Raventree. "Hold your shaft, Ser. If you loose, twill be a bloodbath, their numbers are close enough to ours and half our men haven't donned mail." The vale knight turns to the Ironborn Captain, his eyes sink deep into his sockets, his lip curls in a half sneer. He turns then to Maers. "My Lady of Mormont, Runestone is no stranger to the rapine of the Ironborn, I would like nothing more than to try my steel 'gainst Volmark and his, but, they took us unawares, as though we were naught but green children playing at Lord of the Castle and we are but ten and four score, my lady."

Kaspar looks to the Lord of Volmark and squints. Visible, albeit dimly, the prizes purchased with the iron price. "Make him swear the oath, Lady Maera, on the sword, or cut him down and we'll have done with him and his, but if we make the steel sing, we will, like as not, be naught but five and twenty when the find the Wildlings."

Harry breathes out and aims her bow at the ground in a quick sweep, relaxing her draw and shaking out her hand. "Fuck," she sighs.

Hate burns fiercer when Volmark references Hellan's black-marked husband despite her rancor for the same man's reputation, but upon the decision, her weapon — a sentiment more than a threat, here — starts to lower. Her head rises in compesation, glaring Sylas and his bretheren down as though from a higher standpoint. "Yes," she concurs, firm but viciously skeptical. "Make him swear the oath. And through him, the Hightowers may lie accountable."

"This isn't my war. Yet." It appears that for the moment, Kaspar's fairly good judgment has won Riderch over on some level. At least to let his hand fall from his swordhilt. The Riverlander's reaction, though, was very much an irrational, personal, daresay /absurd/ thing given the circumstances. "I swore an oath to return with my head. And just look at me." Even now he chuckles. It's hollow, though.

"The gallant men of the Vale. Ever a prudent folk…if somewhat stolid," is Sylas's cheerful vardict. "I'll accept your handsome proffer, Lady Maera, though my own camp and counsel shall be open to anyone," he gives Ser Kaspar another sly, appraising examination, "who appreciates the company of hardened victors. In the meantime, my men and I would hate to disturb any of your fair ladies' sweet dreams."

Amid raucous chuckles from the other Ironmen, he replaces his helm - that perfect opportunity for target practice missed. Through it, he hisses, "I shall not swear a single codicil to men - and women - with so little grasp of courtesy. You're lucky to have us by, and soon enough you'll know it. The wildlings come this night. Sleep well, ladies all, but not too soundly."

At an earlier motion, most of the ironmen have already, somewhat gloomily, clambered back ahorse, and the 'Hightower allies' file off in the downstream direction Lady Mormont had reluctantly indicated.

Positioning herself somewhere between her sister, her aunt and her cousin Ulyka's look at the Iron Islanders indicates that at least the handling of words seem to have proven manners courtly enough to convince her of their harmlessness.

"I've seen the men at the docks… Some of them may pass as gentle company, but some of them seem to prefer loathing 'oathing'. Look at their horses…" she remarks with an emphasis of the compassion with the mounts that has risen in her and grown stronger the longer she observes the group.

"I want the watch doubled." Maera commands sternly as she watches the Ironmen depart to their designated camp. She waits until they are out of earshot before she calls out, "Ser Riderch." She eyes the Riverlander a moment before deciding, "You seem like a sneaky sort. Take some men and watch them. If they look as if they are up to treachery we will descend on them and kill them all when they do not expect it."

"I'm going back to the archer's camp. Let Lord Carolis and the rest know," says Angharad, slinging her bow and headed for her horse.

"The first one of them to step out of line will be cut into so many pieces his bloody ancestors will be crying, 'Why did we ever leave our salty rock? WHYYY?'" Riderch wastes no time in responding to Maera. This just got a whole lot more interesting. And with that, he follows suit.

The knight of pebbles and runes stands totally still, his grey eyes darting from Iron Lord to Bear Maid. Dressed in naught but an old coat of mail, his palms are cold and clammy on the hilt of his runed sword, he scarce twitches when Sylas Volmark buries the barb. When Maera relents, his relief is palpable if not easily discernable by the dim torchlight. What's more? The hereto fatigued valelord is quite alert. "Doubtless my compatriots and I are grateful for another ah, sixty swords, My lord of Volmark." Turning to Maera, Kaspar nods. "My Lady, permit me to take the first watch."

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