(121-05-05) The Ride to Oldtown
The Ride to Oldtown
Summary: On the ride to Oldtown, Cregan and Maege talk about current affairs.
Date: 5/5/2014
Related: Wildling Plot Logs

The host that moves south towards Oldtown is notably smaller than the one that engaged the Wildlings and their treacherous conspirators. The bulk of the northern troops return north by way of the trade cogs borrowed from Bear Island to ferry the strike force south in the first place. They take with them the majority of prisoners, to be interrogated and punished or, in the case of the more sympathetic souls among them, pressed into service in one holdfast or another, or across the Gift; the North is too often short of men.

Only a small selection of the most prominent bandits are brought along for further questioning: among them, a tribal chieftan and several deserters who were once Night's Watch. They're led in the midst of the host, shackled neck to wrists and one to another. That core group also contains Lord Stark, several dozen of his household guard, and a number of the other commanders who road to aid them, along with fractions of their initial gathered forces. While a contingent marches together, escorting the prisoners, those on horseback are under no such compunction: today, Cregan and several of his rangers have ridden out in front to survey the road ahead as they move farther down the Rose Road away from Highgarden, and the capital's protection.

Though Maege Mormont traveled South with the Starks, her main objective was always to meet up with her sisters and continue to Oldtown with them. So, it is little surprise that she did not return to North with the others. While not exactly one of Stark's rangers, she moves to the front of the host, searching out a certain man. The bear is a skilled rider and is known to most already from her stay at Winterfell, though while some may grumble at her passing, they do not stop her. "Forgive if I am intruding, Lord Stark," she calls out once near enough. What she may be intruding on is up to negotiation, but she thought it polite to begin as such. "It has been a bit hectic and I had yet to thank you for the hospitality of Winterfell."

Maege's approach is witnessed by several amongst the scouting party, including Lord Stark, as she rides out over the fertile grasslands along the well-traveled road. Really, the caution is all but needless this close to 'civilization': it's entirely possible it's mostly to keep himself from going crazy on the long, slow march, on Cregan's part. Half the rangers are sent over hilltops to the east, the others to the west to run a short perimeter and report back to the host.

A trio of large, loping dogs, two of them tailing along behind the brindle-coated beast that's Cregan's personal wardog, linger whilst sniffing and roaming about in an area that follows the passage of the Winter Wolf's black horse. A passage that slows considerably once Maege makes her way near. "No intrusion, Lady Maege." Cregan offers with a polite smile, turning his horse to fall in step beside Maege's to make the conversation a touch easier. "And the protection of Winterfell is always open to the Mormonts. Truth be told, I worry for you riding south now, before the matter is fully resolved." Though Glover seems to be imploding around itself -without- his help, at the moment.

Allowing her horse to slow slightly once she has reached her target, Maege gives a few cursory looks toward those of the scouting party and others. The dogs, even, get a bit of a smile when she glances at them roaming about the grassy hillocks. "That it may be, but I know we all appreciate it the same. It was good to see Winterfell." As for the Glovers and danger, she shrugs. "I would not worry too much, though I am sure Maera will be grateful for the concern. I am sure that my sister's protection will be sufficient. And, as you are also making for Oldtown, I might think myself quite safe without even the need to unsheathe a sword." She allows her horse a few steps in silence before adding, "And I had only the briefest notion as to the danger until recently, I think consolidating the Mormonts only makes us stronger. To be honest, I worry more for this heat. It's oppressive."

"Gods willing." Cregan concedes. If things go anywhere near according to plan, they should all indeed be quite safe. "You were not so much seperated…" even if that was the literal truth, ".. as spread between the various forces loyal to your sister and your House. Even if a conspirator possessed the forces and the folly to strike at any of you directly, they would have to be able to best us all to truly win." There's a musing smirk on the young Wolf's face, as he notes, "One thing we do not have in Oldtown— and it would be a bigger issue if we did, I suspect— is the bulk of the warriors and holdfasts the North can rely on; and yes, there is the heat. I always feel a bit out of place riding this far south." This brings a quiet chuckle to the Lord's lips: 'always'. This is only the second time he's travelled so far.

"I know it makes sense in a logistical way. However, it did not feel the same in our hearts. Or, at least in mine. We will always be loyal to our sister," Maege replies, then, with a smirk, adds quickly, "As we are to you, my lord." Then, continuing on, "However, it is one thing to serve her by remaining in a safe haven and another to be out assisting her with our presence and our swords. Hiding is not our family's strong suit. Even if our enemies fought through our allies, they would still be faced with an angry bear. I, for one, am glad to be riding to Maera's aid, even if we do not have quite the stronghold where we are going." She gives him a mischievous grin, "But, as you are the expert here, I will simply have to follow your lead."

"Of course." Questions of Mormont allegiance don't seem to be predominant on the young Stark's mind, and he seems to understand the sentiment very well. He even has the good grace not to raise an eyebrow at the suggestion that the loyalty to House Stark is the same as their loyalty to Maera; there's only a small, knowing smile, there and gone in the passage of moments.

"I am no seer." Cregan notes simply, "I can't tell you whether riding south, or staying north will assure your safety; in fact, I'd rest assured none of us is fully safe wherever we ride." Maege might have memory of a younger Cregan, the boy who thought war was a grand game; a contest in which he excelled. The persistance of raiders and dissent, the realities of personally spilling blood and ordering it let over the first years of his time as Lord Paramount have certainly cast a cynical light over that attitude. "What I can assure you, is that we will be just as ready, and just as fierce." Despite the content of his words, there's no particular gloom or distress to them; Lord Stark even smiles as he punctuates, "And our enemies, sorely regretful."

The smile is caught by Maege and she returns it with a quick one of her own. "No, I do not think we need a seer to tell us that we live in dangerous times." The bear looks back toward where the Wildlings are being marched down to Oldtown with them. When did they think they would see such a thing? Her expression turns more serious as she looks to Cregan. "Such is our lot as Northerners." Perhaps her serious turn is due to memories of the younger Cregan. Or, perhaps due to the more recent troubles that have plagued her own family. "We do not forget our friends. Or our enemies." This time, she does not meet his smile. Though not grim, her words are earnest. "I think we just proved to those who might think us weak that we are no such thing. You have led us well into battle, Lord Stark. It is something that could not be easily dismissed."

"And some will see that it happened at all as a sign of weakness." The irony doesn't escape Cregan, who simply shakes his head at the complexities of it all. "At least in the North, threats are things one can frequently see coming. These southerners play a different game; but I suppose greed and ambition are universal." The Wolf spits once to the far side of his horse, turning his eyes back down the roadway after. "Besides. I've found moments of apparent weakness are excellent indicators of who one's allies truly are." There's a silver lining to everyone with a knife for one's belly, or some such thing.

"Wildlings being this far south is more the fault of the Watch than anything else." Especially this group of Wildlings - as they were led by a member of the Watch. Maege follows suit and looks ahead of them and to where they are heading. "From what I have heard, the Southerners are soft. I am sure whatever game they are playing is nothing compared to a Winter in the North." She nods at the wisdom. "I guess I cannot argue with wisdom of that. But, I would still see this as a strength. Otherwise we would never have known that a Watchmen was among them."

"The Watch, and whoever helped them escape the coast." Because Cregan doesn't put that much initiative in the minds of pirates. "We're not done holding villains to account, yet." There's a grim eagerness to it; not the zeal of a boy or a knight who still thinks war is some grand thing, but the predatory intensity and obsession of his totem. "I'd caution you against assuming the Southrons weak or soft, Lady Maege. They say we're all barbaric fools who pillage our own lands, after all." And look how true -that- is, as a rule. "They may not be able to survive a winter's night in the Wolfswood, but pomp and ceremony don't detract— much— from the skill of their knights, and many of the courts are rife with betrayal and assassination." Yes, he reads; and not nearly as much as Carolis, for that matter.

"No, I doubt that we are." For, as she traveled with the Starks and he is their liege lord, Maege will help where she can while they both remain in Oldtown. Her own declaration lacks any blood thirst. She was never one who lusted for battle - her skills lent more toward keeping the peace between her stubborn and sometimes ill-tempted family. "It is Ulyka who gives the Southrons their due, so I have heard some of it," she tells Cregan. Plus, she has read some. "A knife in the night will kill just as quick as one in a fair fight - it is true. But, that does not make a man or woman tough. It makes them craven." She pauses, before adding, "However, if you suggest caution, I will be cautious and judge for myself. As much as a I can, of course. It is hard for a barbaric fool to behave oneself in front of such fine lords at a dinner party. But, I will do my best." She grins at Cregan.

"It also doesn't make them weak." Cregan observes simply, without arguing the point. He may have no great affection for the tactics of cutthroats and politicians, but an awareness of the dangers and the myriad people who employ such tools? All but essential to survival in a position like his. There's a hearty chuckle at the assessment of Northron difficulties in 'proper' banquets, and then another. "It's only because they have so /many/ bloody stupid customs and rituals." Yes, he has trouble keeping up with decorum and political climate when out of the North— at least the young Stark realizes it.

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