(124-05-24) Which Crow is Which?
Which Crow is Which?
Summary: An Imposter Black Brother turns up at Winterfell.
Date: Wed May 24, 124
Related: The Winterfell Rot Plot in general.
Players:
Carolis..Malcolm..

Carolis spent very little time in Oldtown before he was called away again. It seems his fate to be separated from his beloveds, but Winter is coming, Cregan is tending to matters in the North, and someone has to oversee the preparations in Winterfell. The second son is who they look to, and so he must be there.

So he has these past few months, doing the thing he wanted least: ruling. Sure, it's in his brother's stead, and thank the gods it's temporary, but still, he would much rather be the indolent Winter Rose.

Today, he walks among those gathering outside the walls as they busily put together their ad hoc city that will keep them near to the hot springs that run under the castle, and nearer the castle itself for those times when the snows pile too high to be anywhere else. His Lordship is dressed for the part; gone are the fine silks in exchange for the more staid, subtler greys and browns of leather, fur, and wool. To an aid, he asks, "Will there be enough wool for the weavers? There's time yet to get a shipment from the Riverlands, but we'll owe some favors."

The Steward bows, "We can always use more woll, My Lord, and the cooks have mentioned that they will likely need more of bug casks of vinegar and pickling spices as they are doing rather more pickling than expected, the Autumn rains having been perfect for the vegetable gardens, not to much and not to little and a Raven has come from Ser Malcolm in reach saying that there is…" He looks baffled by this, "A particularly vicious plague of… of lizard lions? Whatever those are. Which the Reachmen say means a bad Winter is coming.

Carolis squints. Lizard Lions. Carolis is well read, though it takes him a moment to place the creatures in his memory. "Nasty business, those. Edible, though." He sighs softly. A bad Winter. After the fighting, after the scarcity and promises to enemies that their children will eat. "Send a raven today. There should be a shipment of spices coming up from the Reach, and I would check on its progress." He rubs his chin, unused to the stubble there, but these days have been long, and he's starting to look like a rough Northman.

The Steward makes a note o it, and adds, "He also says his father and Sister are well settled at Weirwood. A Raven also came from White Harbour saying that the ship from Dorne has arrived and another grain ship from Oldtown. They wanted to know what portion to send on to Skagos, as about an eighth of the grain spoiled when they took on water in a hurricane off Tarth."

"Oh good, good," Carolis says as he walks along, observing amidst his conversing. He winces at news of the grain, but what can be done? "That blood island is a death trap," he comments. "Any news on the brewing rebellion?" A secret that everyone knows, of course. The rumor mill is ever busy. "Maybe between the two factions, they'll sink it and the seas will be smooth." As for the question of Skagos, he thinks. The vegetables here have been doing well, but grain? Still, they at least grow the stuff, whereas Skagos isn't known for its agriculture. The population isn't all that high, though. "Send a quarter, and an eighth of the honey if we managed to pick up some casks of it. Maybe an unexpected gift will help sweeten Skagos to us." He smiles. Yes, he knows what he just did there.

"It is said the Lord of Stormsend has called his banners and has marshaled all his ships, and even recalled merchant vessels. There will be blood on the Sapphire Isle soon, make no mistake. Odds are they want to settle it before the Storms get much worse." The Steward nods and makes note of the disposition, to be sent out this afternoon. "The Rills have sent a rider, come to beg ten carts of good timber, to be used to fix fortifications damaged in the Unrest, and the Commander in charge of Deepwood Motte is wanting to know what dispositions ought to be made for the Smallfolk what with the Glovers mostly still prisoner

Carolis admits, "I don't know how people can live there on purpose." Says a Lord of Winterfell discussing sending food to Skagos like it's perfectly reasonable. Carolis frowns thoughtfully, rubbing his scruff again. "Do we have ten carts of lumber to spare? If they're willing to send some logmen to cut it, perhaps? Our own are busy." He gestures to the hauling of lumber here and there as people put together structures meant to withstand the cold and snow. "As for Deepwood Motte, dispatch a raven to Cregan. He's handling that lot."

The steward shrugs, "I suppose every man likes his home ground best, midges and all… Are you sure you want to send so much to Skagos? Because of them the whole east coast will suffer? If the Ryswells sent the men, could we loan them half the carts? They are a bit short of everything still… And Lord reed has begged a cart of good bridge stone to repair some causeways lately damaged…." He nods and makes the note to pass on the message from the Cerwyn heir to Lord Cregan. "Oh, and there is a Crow passing through. I put him in that high tower room with the bits of shell in the ceiling. They'll likely be wanting provisions and men for the Shadow Tower.

Carolis considers for a moment. "You're right. There's a fine line between building friendship with enemies and resentment with friends." He glances at the Steward, the gears turning behind his pale blue eyes. "Distribute that amount among the east coast and count Skagos among them, though make sure our people get marginally more. It sends a better message. I wish I could feed every child, you know that." He's so used to playing placate-the-stranger down South, this is all new to him.

The Steward nods, crosses out the note about Skagos and writes in a different message to be sent.

"Any word on when Lord Cregan will be able to return?" Carolis asks. Casually, careful not to sound too eager to pass off this job to his older brother. "I would know if he wants me to remain here for the winter or return to Oldtown. If it's the former, I shall call for my knight and my valet. If it's the latter, then I shall protest." Then probably go anyway, because he's opinionated, but he's dutiful.

"I believe he intends you to go South again to better oversee supply shipments where you can, especially once the eastern passage to White Harbor gets worse, but his business is delaying him." He gives Carolis a conspiratorial look. "It is mere talk, I am sure, but it is said a certain young lady may have caught his eye. Whether anything comes of it…."

"By the old gods, I hope so," Carolis says wryly. It's well known the younger brother has no desire for his brother's seat. "By all means, let us not hurry him back unless it's to show off what a wonderful home Winterfell would make. A fine place to raise strong Northron children." As he says that, a pack of children run past, laughing and playing. Carolis smiles. Despite the troubles of the North, these little ones are hale and hearty. They'll probably make it through til spring.

The Steward gives his fervent agreement as to his hopes for the healthy future of the House. "Is there ought else, My Lord? Shall I send for the Black Brother?"

"Do," Carolis says. "Also let it be known there will be music tonight after dinner. Let us open the hall to dancing." The weather hasn't been terrible today, so a lot of work has gotten done. At least Lord Carolis is known for one thing wherein Lord Cregan cannot compare: he knows how to celebrate. Besides, it's about time to start teaching the youngsters the winter songs they'll be singing to get through dark days.

The Steward bows, sending a boy off to warn the musicians and another to summon the Man of the Night's Watch, before heading to the raven Tower to send his dispatches. In a little while, a vigorous, but greying man, neither tall nor short, but fleshy and sharp eyed arrives, dressed in the characteristic clothes of the Night's Watch. He makes polite obeisance, but he has an air of weighing the Winter Rose. He is not the usual man, the one who'd been doing this circuit for the length of Lord Cregan's life at least, but someone new.

Carolis arches a brow. This man is new, and given Carolis' past with the Maester, his willingness to trust things to be what they seem has been compromised. Still, there's such a thing as paranoia. "Where's the man who usually comes to us?" he asks. There's nothing unpleasant in his tone, but his manner is brusque. In Oldtown it would be rude. In the North, smiling too much, being too friendly, it's just as insulting. Time is precious, get to the point.

The man bows again. His accent suggests the Rills, though his travels have muddied it somewhat, "He's laid up with a broken leg, and it was thought not to lose the month or more 'til he might travel, Autumn being Autumn, and extra hands for cutting and hauling wood and the like being wanted and Winter supplies always being a concern."

Carolis inclines his head, accepting the answer. These things do happen. "Very well. Where are we at in our negotiations? I know what Lord Cregan has had to say. I would hear your words as well before I make a decision."

The Black Brother says, "I fear all was left in the air with all the late troubles. The election took overlong and then there was… the setting to rights which took longer. Then Grandin had his bad fall and had to be carried back by the recruits from them Mountains a bit North of here and they had to pull me off Ranging… I've only got three lads so far for my trouble and not much by way of promises for grain and pickles. I did get a cartload of onions….""

"Right," Carolis says. "Right, of course. We've got grain coming, and there's a portion for you and your boys. The pickling spices will be here soon, if the weather and brigands allow. We're running a little late, but we haven't forgotten you." He leans on the man's accent as he casually mentions, "They've need of timber in the Rills, so we'll have to see what we can do on that front. We've mead to spare right away." The Autumn has been good for berries. Lots of berries.

The man does look relieved, "That'll cheer them up at the Tower. Good mead never goes amiss when the chill is in the bones… I suppose you had a raven. How are they doing, after the raids?"

Carolis admits, "There's some fair news, and some not so fair. Most of us will make it through the winter, I think, but where the trouble was at its worst, it'll be hard to make up the time lost. We're sending what aid we can. We've done good trade though with the Andals this year. We'll make up the loss one way or the other."

The man nods, "That's good to here, and we do appreciate those Islanders and Wildlings you sent us, though the taming's been hard."

"They'll either become civilized men or learn not to trifle with those who are." Carolis looks out over the area, where his people work hard to build against the coming snows. He remembers the battles of the past couple years, driving the Wildlings back from as far south as the Reach, everything with the Maester, so much suffering to see him seated on a throne he doesn't want. His lips draw thin. He doesn't pity them, no.

The Crow nods, "It is better to serve the greater good than to tear down the bulwarks against death and chaos." He studies Carolis, "They are singing songs about you, even up by the Shadow Tower. Something about single handedly freeing a castle of raiders?"

Carolis's brows lift. Clearly, this is news to him, and though he thrills to it, all that shows on his face is a small quirk of his lips as he says, "I had help. The dowager was already halfway into a plan by the time I showed up. She just needed a few good men to do the heavy lifting."

The man raises his brows, but does not make any of the obvious comments, "And there a song about the Battle of the Bay of course, and one just come up from the South about you and your brother…." He trails off, "It involves two Princesses and is not fit for mixed company."

Butter wouldn't melt in Carolis' mouth, given the look he offers the man in turn. He snorts then and says, "Perhaps we'll hear it when the winter wind is blowing and the men are singing to drown it out. I'm sure it'll be fascinating. I've not heard the one about the Battle of the Bay, but it was quite the fight. My men made me proud that day."

"Aye, it's a beautiful long one, very heroic and full of lovely images and rallying the North to stand as one at the end. Perfect for a bad blizzard to keep morale up. You… didn't commission it yourself then?" He eyes him knowingly.

Carolis's brows lift again. "I tell you truthfully, I did not. I've not commissioned a song in my life." Usually he just writes them, but never yet about himself. He claps the man on the arm amiably and says, "But an honor it is to inspire others to verse. I look forward to hearing all of them."

The man laughs, pleased the heir to Winterfell has a sense of humor, "May I ask in the Wintertown and in your dungeons, if you've men there as is customary?"

Carolis says, "Of course." The men loyal to Carolis have stayed in Winterfell rather than travel with Cregan. He's got them posted in all the regular places and, after this, will send scouts into the woods in small groups to watch for brigands. He's just not a trusting man anymore. Alas.

The Man bows, "I am looking forward to dinner then." And he is off to try to lure as many men as he can to celibacy in the frozen North.

It is at this point there is a bit of commotion at the gate.

Carolis gestures to two guards within sight and says, "Go see what that's about." Not that there aren't already guards near the gate, but Carolis is going that way, and having two guards ahead of him is sensible. "What's this now?" he calls as he shows up, shoulders squared, doing his best What Would Cregan Do impression. He's a hand on the hilt of his sword, just in case.

It is a Black Brother, with a cart with several men in it, black haired with a touch of grey at temple, leaner, but just as vigorous and weathered as the other. The gate guard calls, "Says he's from the Shadow Tower, recruiting and seeking provisions!"

Carolis clasps his hand on a guard's shoulder, describes the man he was just talking to, and says, "Tell the others. Find him. Have more men sent down to the dungeons." Then, to the other guards around him, "No one leaves Wintertown! No one in or out!" He then goes to the other guards gathered at the gate, and he tells them the description of the man he was talking to, and to find him. He does this, pushing forward til he's at the gate proper, and he looks at the Black Brother. "Bide a moment," he says. "It would seem one of your Brothers was just here."

A guard asks for clarification, "And the lads he had with him?" The man looks perplexed. His accent also sounds West Coast though more up Glover way, "From east watch or the like?" This man hasn't the look of old Grandin either.

Carolis shakes his head and says, "He didn't say. Where's old Grandin?" He glances at his remaining guards, and in fact cases the area all around him. It would be a shame to bring all work to a halt while there's still daylight to burn, but if that's what it takes to get his people to safety…

The Black Brother replies, "Dead this last while of a fever, I'm sorry to say. It's a shame too. He was a good man and brought us many fine recruits. Thank you for sending up all those Iron Man and Wildlings, by the way, though they've been quite a handful, we've hopes at least half'll come right in the end."

Guards are off searching, but Winterfell is large and with Winter Town going up, even larger.

Carolis's brow knits, and he agrees, "Aye, he was a good man. I'm sorry to hear that. As for the Wildlings and Iron Men, I can only hope they decide it's in their best interest to stop testing us. Tell me, what've you got them doing?" He watches the man's face carefully for any signs of resentment, bitterness.

He seems plausible enough, but so did the other one. "The difficult ones, we have doing the hard work of shoring up defenses, digging new latrine holes and the like. Some of the tamer ones, we've got in the armoury or training the green lads to fight. It's a slow process getting em used to a life they hadn't planned on." The guards seems to have rounded up three recruited lads, as they were having a bite in the kitchens, as farm lads are apt to do when let loose after traveling.

Carolis watches the three recruits, and he inclines his head to them, but he'll never understand their decision. Celibacy? For life? "As long as they're not giving you too much trouble," Carolis says. "Let me go check on those provisions." He smiles thinly, inclines his head, and heads off to find a guard and ask after their search.

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