(122-04-16) Impossible Mission (Pt. 1)

The feast is long over. The benches and tables cleared for the men at arms and servants to sleep. No dogs have appeared to eat scraps, nor has there been a single bark all evening. The Ladies and guests have all retired to their rooms for the night.

Carolis has made it to his chambers alive. He wasn't sure that would be the case, but he regrets nothing. No dogs, though. One of many things that aren't right. Carolis freshens up, and he considers bed. It has been a long day and a nerve-rattling night. But he's unfazed, because Starks aren't bred to be flappable. No, he will need to find out more. The daughter? Seductive but probably not as useful in terms of information. Lady Mouston? She's too guarded. She won't risk exposing herself and her family. The dowager, though. Carolis doesn't dress down too much. He won't take liberties. But the doublet he changes into has some daring lines.

As is at this point that there is a soft knock on the door.

Carolis arches a brow. Curious. He pads over to the door quietly, and he lifts the bar. There was a dagger in his boot, and now it's in his hand, but out of sight. No need to be unpleasant. He opens the door just enough to look at who's there. "Hello?"

Though she is wearing the head cloth and dress of a married servant, it is unmistakably the Lady Lylla. She puts her finger to her lips, then looks worriedly over her shoulder and back, beckoning.

Carolis slips the dagger back into his boot, and he whispers, "Should we be out at this hour?" He winks at here. But as she beckons, he opens the door further. "Whatever may I do for you?"

Malcolm looks at him with alarm and touches her finger to his lips. Heavy booted footsteps can be heard descending from above. She darts downwards, her bare feet knowing the irregular steps from toddler hood.

The Lady looks at him with alarm and touches her finger to his lips. Heavy booted footsteps can be heard descending from above. She darts downwards, her bare feet knowing the irregular steps from toddler hood.

Carolis slips out of his room and follows after. His boots are soft-soled. Better for intuitive footing and stealth. His name is Shadowcat for a reason. He's barely a ghost behind her, traipsing over the uneven steps as if he knew them like the back of his hand.

She leads him to the second floor of the keep, and simply opens the Courtyard side door which opens on a long chamber with wide cliff side windows and arrow slits on the other two exterior sides. up above a man's voice curses the steps loudly, having stumbled. This room is clearly the master bedchamber, with pretty bright paint on the details and cozy tapestries on the wall. The bed is massive. Two cloaked figures sit on the oversized chest it's foot, well away from the one candle near the door. The Lady Lylla shuts and bars the door as quietly as possible.

Carolis relaxes as he comes into the chamber and sees the cloaked figures. On, to be sure, he wants to swive the lovely Lylla until the down breaks, but he's also a man of duty and a certain kind of moral character. But temptation is temptation. And cloaked figures are effective cockblockers. He cases the room, like he does. Exits, weapons, cover. He finds a place to lean where he has his back to the wall and can see the door.

The cloaked figures approach, lowering their hoods. They are well chosen to blend with the outer walls at night. The young Lady's Mother and Grandmother turn out to be under the hoods, dressed in hose and tunics. They are armed with long daggers, as is the Lady Lylla soon enough. Lady Mouston looks Lord Carolis over with an assessing gaze and then hisses softly, "What is your plan?" The walls and doors are thick, but better safe than sorry.

The plan? Is Carolis making the plan? Well, he did sort of declare the war. Keeping his tone low, to be safe, he says asks, "What can you tell me about the Skagosian?" It's a long shot, but he's pretty sure. "And what as he got on you?"

The Dowager sighs, takes up the candle and says, "Come away from the door. Best we sit." Lady Lylla set up several backless wooden folding camp chairs so they might sit. The Dowager selects the chest. "Their leader… has an odd accent. The rest seem Skaglike enough." The Lady Mouston takes her place with dignity. her tone is grim, "It's not a proper accent at all. He's not… He sounds like someone trying to sound northern, not someone who is." The Lady Lylla wrinkles her nose, "He's meant to sound like us? I thought he was some sort of peculiar foreigner…"

Carolis takes a seat, still remaining in the part of the room where he's got a view of the door. His lips press thin, and he confides, "The wildlings south of the Neck didn't arrive by boat without help. We suspect Southron interference. Someone down there wants to unseat my brother." And put Carolis in his place. He shakes his head. Madness. "Where are your men?" he asks. There is no accusation there, no displeasure. Rather, his expression is soft with compassion. These ladies aren't to blame, whatever it is.

Lady Mouston sighs. She looks genuinely tired an like as not she's had little sleep in this crisis, held up be sheer stubborn so far, "My husband and eldest are at the Bolton siege of the Glovers, Banners having been called. I've not seen either in months. My next youngest went with most of our remaining men, to see about some trouble on the Coast. We'd had a raven, you see…. Then another came saying the Bolton heir was coming, so our gates were open and they road in. They killed or captured our hounds and most of what was left of our guards in the night." There is barely a quiver in her voice as she adds, "My three youngest are imprisoned above, and if we do ought their throats will be cut." She may not be a Northerner born, but she keeps her chin up and her eyes are angry rather than full of tears. The Dowager very lightly touches her hand in sympathy though she too is all iron rather than water otherwise. Lylly whispers, "Then your raven came and they released enough of us to keep up appearances for you. We weren't sure if they meant to slit your throat or capture you, but we did all we could to warn you with their eyes on us. you were quite clever!"

The wives of Northron men either become strong or they don't survive, and Carolis nods to Lady Mouston, attentive and not shy about showing that he respects her. He offers Lylla a smile and inclines his head to her, though his eyes remain serious and troubled. "I knew I was walking into a trap," he admits, and he half-smiles, then he leans forward, eyes bright. "We need to time this perfectly. One small group rescues the children and sends a signal to give the all clear. That's the cue for the rest to box the in our 'merchant' friend's men. Slaughter them, capture him. Then we open the gates for no one until we sort this out."

The Lady Lylla is clearly smitten. The older two are rather more troubled. The Dowager says, "We have we four, the Steward, the Captain, the Cook, the Stable Lad, and the Keeper of Hawks. The rest are guarded in the Hall or upstairs at night." Lady Mouston says, "We had the servers go as heavy as we dared on the ale, but that won't help with those that are doing the guarding.

Carolis is quiet a moment. There is a lot going on behind those eyes. He's not the tactician his brother is, but he's no slouch. "All right," he says. "We have two objectives to start: kill the leader and free the hostages. This must be done silently. Once the men are free, we will have to move quickly." He remembers the sniper points he checked out when he came in. "We will have to take care of the archers. Have you side passages that will allow us to move unseen and byass the courtyard?"

The women look at each other. It is the Lady Moustoon who sighs and explains. "Not many. They guard the Hall Upper gallery and the Hall roof, which would be the fastest ways to the walls from here normally. There is…. a passage to the guard towers, but you will not like it." It is the Dowager who says, "Have you arms and armour in your baggage?"

"I do," Carolis says, and he produces the key to his room to indicate he has locked it up, and tucks the key away. "I took the liberty of borrowing some ink for a little added security. If we see a man with black hands, we'll know he came to steal." Because Carolis isn't covering his weapons in waxed cloth in his pack and tying a small vial of ink to the flap on his satchel. Turn it upside down to open the flap, and. Lord Carolis has sisters. They taught him a lot about non-violent treachery. He rubs his chin, then says, "If we can send a raven into town, I have men. It's a long walk up here from your village, but it's a faster ride. They'll be visible from the towers, but once we've engaged the battle, our enemy will be busy fighting a threat from within these walls. If they divert manpower to engage my men, they won't have enough to stand against us. Either way, they will be making a sacrifice. I've got fine archers. Anything that can fire at them can be fired at."

Lady Mouston says, "If we can take the roof, we can send a raven. The lad who helped tend them is with the hostages in the guard room below. The Leader sleeps one chamber above this, in the Tower proper. What would you have us do?" The dowager says, " The cook and the stable lad are in the kitchen. They've locked the others in above the kitchens. I've one suit of Old fashioned ring sewn leather, a bow, five arrows, and our daggers under hanging the piss ledge. " The Lady Lylla looks scandalized, "Grand Mother!" She blushes bright red and gives her a look that says, 'You are embarrassing me in front of the second most desirable bachelor in the North and a sexy one at that.'

Carolis's lips twitch. Poor Lady Lylla, but Carolis does like Grandmother's style. "We'll gain more armor and weapons as we kill them. Arrows can be salvaged. If we strike before dawn, we won't be nearly as prepared than if we wait a day and pretend nothing is going on. If there is anything the cook can serve them that will make them sluggish or sick, without affecting our own, we could use that edge. What about the archers on duty while we dine. Do they get their food separately from the kitchen?"

The Ladies all look at Lord Carolis with some alarm. It is Lylla who says, "Oh, they'll be coming to take you just before dawn! Didn't I mention? something about needing you to raise the North, which makes no sense, really. I mean, won''t the North rise anyway to fight them?"

Carolis arches a brow. "You might have left that part out," he says. He shakes his head and says, "I suppose I've forgotten to mention that I've been looking for whoever is raising an army in my name against my brother. This narrows it down." He scratches his chin. "They won't kill me if they do take me, and if they remove me, it will be more of their number gone from here. If they lock me in with the others, it might be possible to rally an escape. That's not something I would stake the safety of children on, however." Hmm. It's not *that* late into the night. "I will write the missive for my men. We release the hostages and kill our 'friend,' silently. We will need the tower archers dispatched the moment we engage, and we'll need to position an archer on the one with the best view of the road. Once the tower archers are taken out, we send the raven. When my men are close, our lookout sends a signal telling us to open the gate. In the meantime, if there is another meal or round of drinks going to the posted men, have the cook give it a little something." He glances to the women. "I assume you never broke bread with them."

Lady Mouston offers him ink and a raven parchment scrap to write on. The Dowager says, "Mostly we've been kept close, though we were allowed out now and then. Drinks can be sent. Lylla will see to it as you write to give it time to work." She gives the young lady a nod and a commanding glance. Lady Lylla looked about to object, but rather than cross her formidable grandmother is soon unbarring the door. Then she and her Good daughter are drawing up the bundle from beneath the piss ledge.

Carolis writes quickly and neatly. He also obscured the words in code. It's a mix of words, Old Tongue runes, and pictographs. He's gone over this sort of thing with his men. The gist of the note is: castle, battle, come now. If one can make out what all the marks on the page need. Once he's done, he glances at the women and says, "Shall I see to our friend? No matter what happens, free your people, send the raven."

The women nod and the Dowager makes the paper disappear into her cloak. "What help can we give with the taking? Ought we gather our few allies, or would you rather we come to help?"

Carolis says, "Gather your allies." He thinks on how he'll get into the leader's chambers. They'll be guarded, unless the leader is arrogant enough to think he's got this situation under control. Breaking in will be difficult. Poisoning him would be low, but effective, but there is no way the man would trust him without him drinking as well. Seduction? No. Unlikely. Surrender? Eagerness for the chance to rise up against his brother? Then again, if they think he's foolish enough to be turned, maybe he can play the fool further. "Tell me where I might find him. We'll attack on the hour."

Lady Mouston nods, "Normally there is a guard on the leader's chambers. We waited until he went for the garderobe before Lylla went to get you. He'll be back now. So you've one guard and the man himself within to worry about. The Man sleeps in the chamber above this."

Carolis glances up. "And the guards who were coming down the stairs after us, Lady Lylla?" Hmm. Could climb the window. The man will only kill him as a last resort. Might even go out of his way to save him if he seems to be falling. He starts to work out the deceptions in his mind. Who has Winterfell's Maester been in contact with that Carolis has discovered from finding his papers? He weaves a tale in his mind of contacts and messages never sent (but could have been), and the old gem 'I didn't want them to find out.' Hells, for that he could just ask the guard to let him in. Climbing up from the Lady Mouston's chamber would look suspicious, and he wouldn't risk her reputation on a lewd alibi. As he thinks, those blue eyes remain steady on the ceiling, like he could see his prey through the stone. And it is definitely his prey. Had he a tail it would be ticking at the tip. Far more shadowcat than wolf.

Lady Lylla has indeed returned, the stable lad with her. He is a small youth, but strong looking and likely about fourteen. Lady Lylla giggles, "We've been making trouble in the the lower privy. He went up for an overhanging one." Lady Mouston says, "There are two on the door with the hostages. I have a spare key to release them and our other two men, though if they have barred the door from within there is not much I can do. There are two men with… with my children and the rest, and a lookout man on the roof of the Tower with the ravens. Take him and they'll be relying on the archers to watch the road. The women wait, Their own blue eyes watching him think.

Carolis looks the youth over. Gods, he's barely older than Carolis' baby brother. He rises to his feet, and he offers the stable boy his hand to clasp arms. Children who go into battle are not children anymore. The boy shall be greeted as a man. "Have you hay hooks?" he asks. "With a length of rope, they are grappling hooks. A pitchfork can run someone through or bar a door. If you've got juice of belladonna for killing vermin, we've got big vermin to kill tonight, and Cook is going to bring them food and drink." He looks the stable boy in the eye. Is he ready to become a fighter? He then looks to Lady Mouston and asks, "Do they ever let you see them?"

The stable boy was in the Hall earlier and has a serious case off hero worship. He clasps arms, proud to near bursting. Ten his face falls, "The roof archers will see me if I go get them, but we've poison for rats and the kitchen knives and spits?" He looks hopeful at these last offerings. After some though he adds, "And there's the hooks we use at hog butchering time…. There's no heavy ropes, but there are such as are used for lighter things, like hanging meat?" Lady Mouston says grimly, "They let us out in advance of your coming. They were alive this morning."

Carolis claps the lad on the shoulder. "Perfect. If we can't use them to grapple, they're passable weapons. We'll let Cook see to their drinks, then." He looks to Lady Mouston. "It wouldn't be untoward for a worried mother to be unable to sleep without first seeing her children. Even if they don't open the door for you — and I don't see why they wouldn't if they thought it would shut you up — you'll still create a distraction. Believe me, Lady Mouston, a mother's tears can unsettle a man far more than a soldier's threats."

The women nod with grim determination, the Lady Lylla and the youth with enthusiasm. "Should we wait for you, or start without you?

"Prepare your people," Carolis says. "Make them aware of their roles. I will look to the window of the room your people are kept in. When you've succeeded, light a lantern on the sill. I will make my way to you, and I'll rid you of however many of them I can on the way. Remember the raven, Lady. We need all the help we can get."

And so they scatter, trusting to their overlord's heir to know what is best for them and the endangered children. Surely a stark of Winterfell could never fail.

Oh, never ever. Carolis leaves the room, and he creeps up to where his room lies. Not ''that'' far from his target. He's no assassin. This doesn't feel right. But it's what must be done. The bastard may as well be holding a knife to those children's throats with his own hand. Carolis quells his rising uneasiness. He has his dagger in his boot. He'll kill the man to his face. He can do this. Making it look like it's his idea to go in would be a mistake. Too direct. He's been going to the privvy up above? A lot of ale flowed tonight. He'll probably want to go again. If nothing else, Carolis lets the guard outside the bastard's door see him, and he even smiles as he passes by. There is an alcove with a window seat overlooking the courtyard within view of the stairs. He can also see the tower. If the light comes on before the bait is taken, he'll brute his way past the guard. One way or another, the job is going to get done.

The two older women trail after him, waiting at the bend in the stair, out of sight, as they will need to get past this guard to go above. The guard looks startled, "Where'd you come from then?"

Carolis blinks at the guard, and he spreads his hands and says, "I couldn't sleep. I thought I might wander a bit." See? Not armed. And the gestures is friendly. He's a friendly man. They've said he's an odd one for a Stark. A charmer, as if those people could produce one. He approaches the guard to engage him, and to distract. "Oh goodness, I hope my footfalls haven't woken up your master." He stomps those soft-soled boots on the floor like they'd make enough to penetrate. It does make *some* noise, though. Enough to perhaps distract from the whispering of cloaks and small feet upon stone stairs. "How is he, by the way?"

The guard grins a nasty sort of grin. He's a whole order of magnitude craggier than even his master, "My Master is away at present." After a pause he adds, "Hunting." He's a Skag all right. To a Northern bred ear it is obvious.

Carolis's brows lift. "Hunting?" he says. "What game does a man of his calibre hunt at this hour?" His demeanor does grow dimmer as he sees *this* one is Skagos filth. It would be expected of him. Too friendly would be too much. "Are there a few rats in the great hall? Or sheep in a paddock somewhere?" He smiles thinly, then adds (only a beat too late for pure innocence), "Since he's here for wool."

The man rolls his eyes, and says slowly, as if Lord Carolis might be simple, "Lord Mouston is off with his hounds and sons, hunting and isn't expected back another week." He gives an elaborate look of confusion, "you mean Master Djoller? He's a guest of the House, not it's Lord."

"Of course I mean Master Djoller. I'm sorry I thought you were one of his. Though why he would need a guard when he is a guest in Lord Mouston's home is beyond me." Carolis moves toward Djoller's door. Yesss, guard, look this way, not toward the stairs. "This is his room, isn't it? I was hoping I might get a chance to speak to him. We've also a need for wool and I'm sure we could work out a trade."

The man moves to block his way, keeping his eyes on a potentially dangerous Stark. "Oh, I'm set here to make sure he's not disturbed, is all…. Though I suppose, you being the Heir an' all…."

Carolis draws himself up this full height as he's blocked. Too friendly would never do. He gazes at the guard with the stone cold face of a Stark, though perhaps softer than his brother's, and he's a pale lily compared to the man his father was. Ah, but those eyes are like ice, and his brow stern. Yes, he *is* an heir, and you are a Skagasoi dog. Do remember that. Then he smiles slowly. "I wouldn't want to disturb him," he says gently. "But if he were inclined, I wouldn't need but a moment of his time."

A Lily or a rose, especially to the rough men of Skagos. Up close there are bits of meat in his very sharp looking yellowed and uneven teeth and his breath is far from sweet. Odds are, he'll be losing another within a fortnight. He looks inclined to argue, but then the Heir of Winterfell gives him that Look, and he sighs and taps lightly at the door, keeping an eye on Lord carolis. A gravelly voice comes muffled through the door, "Get Stuffed! Vulvai!" The women's ears are good. The man within is trying hard to sound like they do 'round Winterfell way, but it is subtly wrong. Not wrong in a way an outsider would pick up, but just exaggerated enough to ring false.

Carolis clucks his tongue and murmurs, "Goodness, Vulvai. I guess he doesn't want too see me after all." He pitches his tone that a listening Djoller might hear the timbre of it if not the words and place voice to man. "It's all right. I can talk to him as we dine tomorrow. I've no more interesting battle stories to tell, and the one about the dragon… well, you had to be there, I think. It flies more with Targaryens anyway."

Indeed the man within must have picked up enough, "By the Gods…." It sounds as if he is considering expletives, but changes his mind, "Let him in Vulvai! Why not!" Vulvai sighs a long suffering sigh and steps out of the way, turning to watch Carolis less he is quick with a knife. The women are past in a flutter of fabric matching the pale stone of the stair, barefeet nigh soundless on familiar steps.

Within the supposed Wool merchant is naked in bed with two of the entertainers from earlier, one on each side. The women have long suffering looks, but are not distressed. They look like they are putting up with a bore and wishing to be done with it, not as if they are frightened and silently begging for help. There are weapons aplenty in the weathered man's reach, and thus in that of the Ladies. One rolls her eyes, "It's double for two." The blankets cover below, but the man's chest is heavily muscled and scarred, more fitted to a warrior used to heavy weapons and sheilds, than to a bean counter.

Carolis gives Vulvai a hapless look. Life is hard in the service of a mercurial merchant. Then he stands before Master Djoller's bed, takes in his company, and he purses his lips as his brows lift. It is all the shock he allows himself. He's a Stark. Nothing rattles them, and they don't titter like adolescents (where anyone but their friends can hear). He inclines his head to the entertainer who rolls her eyes and says, "Not to worry, dear woman, I shall not subject you to the burden of my appetites." Shall not! Not could not! He's all man. He regards Djoller with some wry amusement. "Master Djoller, had I known you were otherwise occupied, I would have not dreamed of interrupting you."

The first woman eyes Lord Carolis with some amusement, the second, younger one, looks him up and down in a way that suggests he might get a slight discount on a solo venture later if he played his cards right, as he is clean and she rather liked his singing earlier. she may pick up extra coin this way, but she _is_ a Northerner. Master Djollar sighs, "Why else would I not want disturbing?" He eyes Carolis in that dead fish way he has, "What had you so worked up about wool, it could not wait until morning?"

"Ah, see, for me it's books," Carolis says. Maester Haeyden instilled in me a proper love of learning, and it's impossible to study with people coming and going at all hours." He is politely pleasant, though he shoots the younger woman a wink. Mostly he keeps his eyes on Djoller to see how he'll react to hearing the name. "But of course, I should have assumed a man of your calibre had more robust tastes." He gestures back toward the door then and says, "I was just having a wander. Couldn't sleep. I was hoping to talk about a possible trade agreement with Winterfell. I'm sure my brother will take notice of my efforts if I secure resources for the coming Winter." Because Winter is always coming.

The stony faced man gives nothing away, not even a blink. Either he knows nothing or he's very hard to read, or both. Still he sighs and doles out the coin, patting them each on the rump with a large, heavily calloused hand he croaks, "Off you go." He sighs and moves to the side of the bed where the sword and knife are, but actually reaches for a tunic and not iron.

Carolis gives the women a passing once over in parting, languid as a cat. It's not that he doesn't want to, ladies. Maybe next time. "I hate to disturb your entertainment," he tells Djoller as the man starts to dress. Blinded for a moment. A knife between the ribs. It would be so easy. But witnesses. Screaming witnesses and an alerted guard when the woman probably aren't even to the tower yet. No, he needs to distract for awhile, and his glimpses out the window show no lantern lit yet. "But I am so glad you are willing to see me. Don't get me wrong, my brother is a man of impeccable character and courage. The apple of our father's eye, really. Me, I'm sure I'm better suited to bean counting."

The women efficiently grab up undergown, overgown and small clothes, glad enough to be done for the night and off to get some sleep."Open the door, Vulvai you beast!" And they are off. Dressing is rather exaggerating the point, he pulls tunic over skin, but doesn't bother with hose at this hour. Luckily it's a long cut Northern style one instead of a short Sothron Doublet, such as Ser Malcolm wears. he grunts encouragement as he does. he cocks his head, "And you are telling me because…" Though the glint in his eyes says he knows why, but is waiting for Carolis to say it first.

Like the doublet Carolis is wearing. Oh, it's a little longer than what Ser Malcolm would fancy but it still shows more than a small glimpse of cod. He tilts his head as he regards Djoller, and there's a canniness about him, though there are equal parts playfulness as well. "Because you sell wool," he says with a wink, the kind that tells a man he's in on the joke too, honest.

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