(122-08-21) Slavers in the Sands
Slavers in the Sands
Summary: Slavers are discovered in the midnight sands.
Date: 21 August 2015
Related: Dragon Rising

It was a hard ride the past few days. The small group left Oldtown in the middle of the night on horseback. They traveled lightly, and only carried what was needed to survive in the desert. They spent most of their time riding as quickly as their horses could manage, and sleeping under minimal cover once the sun had reached it's Zenith and it is too hot for man or horse.

It is dusk now and the sun casts the desert in brilliant orange as it fades beyond the horizon. In the east night has begun to claim the sky in a blanket of indigo and stars. Visenya rides next to Torren cloaked in a white desert robe and veil that repels the heat during the day while keeping her warm at night. Her sword hangs at her side along with her platinum dragon headed whip.

In the distance on the road there appears to be some commotion going on. A trade caravan has been stopped, and one of the wagons caught ablaze. The sound of swords and spears clanging accompanies grunts and screams of pain.

At the outset of their journey, Rhaegor and Emira rendezvoused with Viseyna and Torren outside Oldtown under the cover of night, and the Targaryen prince brought with him two of his best men, Velaryons both. They are no strangers to the Dornish prince; in the aftermath of the Manfryd incident at Sunspear as well as after the viper attack in the desert, their respective performances proved there to be good reason they'd each earned Rhaegor's distinction over the years. Loyal, capable and discrete. Up for the task ahead of their small party.

For his part, Rhaegor seems somehow to have summoned a shroud of clarity and focus, keeping at check the feverish mania Visenya'd witnessed and no doubt informed Torren of. He's shown no real signs of it since they'd set out from Oldtown, though Torren will still find him changed somehow. Intent on the task at hand, he's shed the diplomatic mask of the politician, as if it takes all of his energy just to stay sharp.

Rhaegor rides next to Emira, his men flanking the party at either side, one taking a signal from the Targaryen prince and moving ahead to investigate the commotion on the road.

Emira is riding the beautiful sandsteed gifted to her by Maelys after the tournament at Skyreach, but it's rider more than horse that has been the spitfire throughout most of the trip, an eager member of the travelling band. When the travelling hasn't been rough, she's taken every opportunity to talk and dance her horse alongside Rhaegor, to do her best to bother Torren, and even to ask Visenya questions — most of them about dragons. Now, draped in a loose robe the colour of the sunset sand, a whip coiled at one hip and a blade, shorter than a sword, longer than a dagger, at the other, she stares into the distance. Her eyes appear especially sharp, as they're the only part of her face visible, the rest hidden to defend against sand. "It could be bandits." She's restless upon her horse, nearly rushing after the man Rhaegor sends ahead.

Torren has brought along one man only, his own extremely loyal man-at-arms. And this one, blessedly, is mostly silent, or only speaks in monosyllables. So, not much chance of setting off any of the other members of the party, unless they're offended by quiet people. Torren himself has been more quiet than usual, as well; even Emira's barbs have not roused him to as many caustic replies as they usually do. He's following the Targaryens' lead, mostly, and when he sees the commotion in the road, he frowns, his eyes narrowing as he attempts to make out something of what's going on.

Visenya slows her mount a bit when the sight of possible bandits in the horizon greets them. She turns her head to regard Torren for a moment before finally she asks, "What shall we do?" She defers to her husband now in this despite his silence and his willingness to allow Rhaegor to send forth his own men. While she does not speak further there is an urgency in her eyes. Whatever is to be done must be decided quickly.

Rhaegor's man is quick; he's only gone a few moments before he returns at a slow and careful clip, having melted away from their group and only edged as close as the cover of night would allow him to assess the situation without alerting anyone to his presence. The Targaryen prince has pulled up his horse to halt here, silent while Visenya asks Torren for guidance. For now. The Velaryon, upon rejoining them, comes up alongside Rhaegor's mount and takes caution to speak lowly, though the rest of them can hear now that they've slowed. "I counted ten, though there might have been more. Seems like merchant men they're preying on, but something's a bit queer. They've not unloaded the wagons before putting fire to them." He glances past Rhaegor, to Emira. "Would unarmed men ferry goods across the desert by night?" It's clear he mistrusts the situation, but he defers to the Dornish princess to set him right on the subject.

Emira considers, her dark brows pushing down into sight. "I would not think so, unless they are stupid. It is known that night is cooler to travel by, however treacherous in other ways; known by merchants as much as thieves," she decides, staring past the Velaryon and to the fire. It's clear that her instinct, however unwise, is still to charge ahead and get a look for herself. Her restless energy transfers to her horse, which tosses its head.

Torren's look does not yield many answers, since they are still quite a distance away, but he does turn to Visenya, and comments, "I have heard reports of slavers attempting to cross Dorne from the Stepstones. Their eventual destination may be the brothels of Oldtown." He looks toward Rhaegor and Emira then, and continues, "I would prefer not to be waylaid. We could skirt them completely, perhaps, if we are careful. But a delay such as this is likely to be long." And dangerous, obviously, since they are outnumbered, if Rhaegor's count is correct.

"If that is the case then the cargo that is burning in those wagons are women and perhaps children." It does not sit well with Visenya. Her face is obscured by a veil, but it is obvious by the way she sits straight on her horse and stares at the blaze in the distance. "Perhaps it will take time. …I do not know if my conscience could be clear knowing we left them."

Maybe it's Emira's restlessness that inspires Rhaegor's own, tilting his head as he peers off into the distance, considering the report received from the Velaryon, but not surprised by Torren's assessment. He makes a quiet sound of agreement, though, at Visenya's protest. "But even still, we are four against ten. And if they are slavers and think we mean to bring them to justice, we suddenly face…" He trails off, and looks to the Velaryon to supply the answer. "Twice that many. But if they are armed, they aren't very handy for it." Rhaegor emitted Visenya and Torren from the headcount on fighters, unwilling to risk either in the fray.

"We could take them," Emira declares, jerking her hidden chin up boastfully; true or wishful bluster, she looks confident all the same. However, she glances to Visenya, her brows pulling down further. "If there are people inside, it could be too late," she adds. Grimness in her voice, not prone to it, sounds dismissive, but her gaze toward the caravan is more conflicted than that. She's reluctant to leave it be, although by all accounts it could simply be her reckless desire to fly into the middle of trouble. Her shoulders shift, squirming; she can't stand this indecision.

Torren nods at Visenya's assessment, and while it doesn't look like it sits very well with him either, he may be a little more practical. "If we attempt it, we may lose people, as well," he replies quietly. Rhaegor's count of their swords gets a raised eyebrow — after all, he is also wearing a sword — but he doesn't spend time arguing about it, just continues, "Prince Rhaegor and my cousin are right. It may already be too late, and the odds are against us." There's a second's pause, before he concedes, "We could attempt it. But it is unlikely we would succeed."

In the few moments that have passed since they have discussed their options Visenya has grown antsier in her saddle. "Many of them are on foot. We can ride them down first. Even out the numbers a bit." She watches as the flames on the wagon grow brighter, and there is a fearful look on her face. "It may be too late, but if we do not go then we shall have to live with having not tried."

Rhaegor's clearly had enough of dithering in the saddle, of deferring to Torren and his lack of direction. And so he takes control of the situation. "You two must hold back," he says to Visenya and the heir to Dorne. "Far enough back that you can take flight if you must. The five of us will advance, but wait for a signal before you risk approach." Already he's putting his heels to his horse, edging it forward with sideways glances to each of his men. To Emira. His hand instinctively goes to the hilt of his sword.

Visenya's words, and their combined restlessness, are enough of a spark for Emira, even before Rhaegor takes a side. She looks to him, and though her mouth can't be seen, it gleams in her eyes, fiery and battle-wild. She urges her horse forward without a second thought.

Torren looks at Visenya for a brief moment, and then lets out an almost imperceptible sigh. But he just nods once, and starts to speak, though then looks to Rhaegor as he speaks. He doesn't say anything, but just glances to the man he has brought, and gives an imperceptible nod. Once that is dealt with, he turns his horse and looks to Visenya, though clearly expects her to follow him back.

And so Rhaegor presses in pursuit of Emira, once he's content the Dornish prince will see to Visenya's protection. Torren's man and Rhaegor's Velaryons follow in kind, voicing no misgivings but rather deferring to the Targaryen's will; the Velaryons, out of habit, but the Dornishman hesitates long enough to receive a permissive nod from Torren. The wagons are burning, but their steeds cover a good deal of ground in a short amount of time. Rhaegor gives a signal to split their numbers and fan out around the perimeter, so they might do as Visenya predicted and cut down some of their opponents with the advantage of surprise on their side.

As Emira, Rhaegor, and the rest of the party rides closer it is clear that the bandits and the slavers are far too distracted with each other to see the riders baring down on them until it is too late. There simply isn't enough time for them to scramble out of the way, and they are left sitting ducks.

When numbers are split, Emira of course stays with Rhaegor's side, whipping her head around to catch sight of his signal and maneuvering her sandsteed. Her hood is flung back, freeing dark hair to the desert air just as she frees her weapon from its hilt. She rushes fiercely into the chaotic scene, descending upon the first man she sees with a slash of her blade for his throat— a near miss, but he upends himself in trying to avoid it, and her horse's hooves stamp dangerously nearer and nearer.

Torren's man and one of the Velaryons skirt the other side of the caravan of merchants' wagons, targeting the bandits with a deft bit of swordplay from the Velaryon, and the strike of a spear from the Dornishman. Rhaegor, Emira and the other Velaryon strike, at the same time, from the opposite direction, so that their coordinated attack allows them to get the drop on the first wave of opponents before the succession of wounded and death cries that follow can alert the others. Rhaegor flashes Emira a look before they diverge to lay the attack on their respective targets, his pale stare bright with the adrenaline rush of battle. He rounds on a man who's got time enough after seeing Emira's victim fall to spin and meet Rhaegor's gaze just before the Targaryen buries his sword in the man's gut with a quick, wet thrust that sees him crumpling, wide-eyed, to the dirt.

The man that Emira swings for and misses pitches forward and tumbles in the sand before scrambling to his feet. As the lethal Princesses' sandsteed hooves gain on him he manages to trip over his own feet and somehow slip out of the way just as she almost rides him down.

The bandits and slavers have become aware of what is happening, and some stop fighting each other to attack the interlopers. One of the bandits rushes forward with a spear in an attempt to take Rhaegor's horse in the chest with it while the merchant he fought with swings at the dragon knight's leg with a sword.

As the man slips from the threat of crush under her horse's hooves, Emira wastes no time in chasing after him; she's caught sight of the bandit rushing Rhaegor's horse with a spear and she's quick to unhook her whip from her other hip. It's a long, vicious thing, heavy and far-flying, and when she unfurls it and raises it over her head, round and round, it catches the spear with a crack — of the whip or the wood of the spear or both — flinging it to the ground. She raises her whip again: the man who used to be holding the spear is like to be next.

The two men that rush Rhaegor could pose a serious threat, with their close proximity putting him at a sudden disadvantage on horseback. But Emira's intervention transmutes them into little more than idle irritants, to Rhaegor at least; they unnerve his horse, who stamps a hoof and backpeddles, shying from the blades flashed in its direction. In the process, he inadvertantly tramples the man Emira had knocked to his feet moments earlier, and he catches a hoof to his gut, not a mortal blow but an incapacitating one. Rhaegor regains control of the steed, wheeling it back to put some distance between it and the men that rush them in pursuit, his sword posed and ready to strike again. His eyes catch Emira's in the midst of it all, and there's a feral gleam in them that thrills at the action, and at the deft way she came to his aid. It's quick, and then he's got his sights on his next target, the merchant who'd rushed him and aimed at his leg.

Emira's whip strikes the bandit's leather armour, and as it comes down a second time, he catches it — and pulls. Her eyes flare dangerously at his audacity; no one will take her whip. Yet as it slips away, her dark gaze turns nearly to amusement — feral, like to look she shares with Rhaegor. She slithers off her horse as fast as the whip slithered from her hands, rolling to the sand and grabbing quickly for the spear that she felled moments before, seeking to grab it thrust it upward at the bandit. When he moves at the last second, she drops low, suddenly on the ground, sweeping and acrobatic in her movements, striking the length of the spear hard and fast at his lower legs to unsteady him.

Rhaegor bears down on the merchant who'd rushed him in a demonstration of solidarity with the bandit who'd moments earlier been his own foe, and handily cuts him down. This time he buries his blade in the curve of the man's torso, riding up on him and striking him from behind, having no qualms with seizing the advantage of doing so. With a fresh splatter of blood on his face, he glances to Emira to assess her situation, rearing his horse to bring himself along side, taking a reckless swing at the spearman and narrowly dodging a dagger thrown at him in response. He swings his sword in another perilous arc, but does not find purchase; and by then, Emira has spurned her own horse to meet him on foot, and he peels off before finding himself or his mount caught in the melee.

As Rhaegor is wheeling off from Emira, a spearman presses him in an attack, and both he and his horse are bloodied in the mix. It enrages him, the surge of adrenaline accompanying the wound causing his dragon blood to boil. He fights dirtier than he would in organized combat; this is the field, and he's feverish, and there's no helping it. He pulls a boot from his stirrups and takes a cheap shot at his foe in an effort to force him back, swinging wildly at the spearman and missing, before bringing his heel firmly into the horse's side and bearing down with a mighty arc of the blade that severs the very head from his foe's shoulders. The Velaryons have had similar luck in their respective combats, and Torren's man makes a good showing, and between the lot of them Rhaegor suddenly realizes, when he looks for a new target to bury his blade in, that the remaining men have knelt in capitulation.

The man who stole Emira's whip goes crashing to the ground, his balance stolen from him by the sweep of the spear she stole from him. She's on him immediately, looming over him to — hauling her arm back to gain strength — thrust the sharp point of the weapon into his throat, yelling wordlessly as she does. She pulls the spear out bloodily and whirls, rescuing her whip from the ground and running full-speed back to where her horse skittered off to and climbing back in the saddle. Riding like a spearmaiden, she chases down a remaining man until he surrenders to his knees, the numbers of the others having rapidly dwindled; it seems for a moment that she's going to run him straight through, but she swerves her mount at the last moment and seeks out Rhaegor's gaze. "The wagons," she shouts across what distance there is.

With Torren's man standing sentry over the three remaining living among the dead, Rhaegor and the Velaryons investigate the wagons. But the smell is enough, as they draw nearer, to plant dread in the pit of their stomachs before they even confirm, visually, the contents of the charred wagons. Corpses, as Torren predicted. Rhaegor descends on the men they'd let surrender, rage and disdain mingling in unholy unison to inspire him to kick one of them solidly in the gut where he kneels in the bloodied sand. But then one of the Velaryons calls out: "This one's got survivors." And before Rhaegor goes to see, he leans over and hisses at the man sprawled in the dirt, clutching his side, "You're going to wish you'd died instead."

"And why shouldn't you," Emira's hiss comes on the heels of Rhaegor's as she pushes in behind the sprawled man, her spear pointed down at him. She hops from her saddle, the threatening direction of her spear moving little until she stomps off to check the wagon.

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