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Tasia seemed lost for some time as she pondered the food on her plate. Returning home had been a hope for her, and now it was foreign to her. Her entire family was dead, everyone she had known. She was Lady of the ashes now. And she worried now. Half of the original forces were here, the other half she supposed stayed loyal to the captain and that could mean trouble. She glanced over Brynden. She didn’t blame him for what had happened, he wasn’t to know but she did want him to know something. She wanted to kill the man who had done this to her father, who had robbed him and left him hanging like a stuck pig. Her father had been a man of honour, always political and neutral.
Of course he returned to his usual self and Tasia expected it. She did not expect to fall to bed with him. Nor did she expect the night’s events to transpire how they did but when morning broke, Brynden was his usual self. Cold, distant and part of Tasia wanted to ask just what the Hell was going on. But he had bigger issues and so she fell silent as she raised an eyebrow and sat up beneath the sheets. Her eyes glanced over his form for a few moments, committing his image to memory.
[b “I know of my father’s old merchants. I can send word to them we need food and water to rebuild.”] She remarked quietly and watched him as she pulled on a shirt.
[b “But I will fight by your side, Brynden.”] She said to him. She wouldn’t become a pretty little bird trapped in a cage once more. She could wield a sword. And she would. It was growing more difficult to not show care or emotion. She was not like Brynden, after all. She couldn’t act cold for very long.
She ran her fingers through her hair which had steadily grown longer, braiding it back from her face as she adjusted her breeches and looked to Brynden.
[b “I’ll send word today.”] She remarked and gave him a soft nod, taking another look at his form before drawing in a breath. He really was a fine man, magnificent in all ways but she knew he wouldn’t listen if she complimented him. And besides, it would seem fruitless when he was in this mood. Besides, right then she felt like more of a concubine ê for him, an outlet and she was just as bad because she hid love behind desire and a craving to see him happy and warm towards her. But here he stood, cold as stone.
[b “Am I to fall to your bed each night and continue the farce next day that nothing happened?”] She commented to him, perhaps more cutting and sharply than intended but she would not be another notch in his bedpost for him to brag about. She shrugged slightly, not expecting a response other than some broody excuse as she made for the door. They had work to do. She paused for a brief moment, hand hovering above the door,
[b “I would like to show you something, after dark. You can meet me by the river, do not tell anyone.”] She didn’t look back.
Her thanks meant little to him at the current time, but he narrowed his eyes and smiled, nonetheless, to acknowledge her gratitude. He adjusted his hand and placed it over hers. [b ''You have little to thank me for. I am doing only what any other decent man would. It is the right thing. No, you needn't be my squire, but I do advice you follow my lead nonetheless and let me teach you in combat all the same, you may need it more than you'd like to sooner than I would prefer. We are on a dark and dangerous path, now, Tasia.'']
After that, he withdrew to his usual persona, silent and brooding. The way he lazily looked from left to right with an air of unshakeable confidence, surveying his men, made him much resemble a lion, calmly observing its territory. She could tell he was thinking of a plan, and a critically vital one at that. Not much after the feast, she lead him to what were once her old bedchambers. Brynden spoke no word, but with the grief of her father's death and the worries of striking out as an independent company fresh on her mind, it was not too hard for him to convince her into allowing him to stay the night with her.
When he awoke the next morning, her head was on his chest, hair billowing down his side and over his left arm, wrapped loosely around her shoulders. The bed was soaked in sweat and a distinctive musk gave away the events of the night prior. He felt conflicted. She was another conquest in a long list, but something about the way he had turned her grief and vulnerability against herself made him feel dirty. He acknowledged, mentally, that Tasia was different. She finally awoke a few minutes after he did, after which he broke into another speech.
[b ''We must be ever on our guard, Tasia. Evin will want to take revenge, and he likely knows where we are. We can fight him off, but it will cost us much, and that may damage the morale thusly that we suffer a coup ourselves. I give us two more days before Evin comes for us, so we must be ready and able to fight him, then. Shore up defences, set traps, the works. I will oversee this. Do you have any connections nearby with whom you could barter deals for food and water?''] He was businesslike and concise, and failed to mention what was surely a budding romance. Nevertheless, he seemed to have little problem with rising out of bed, stark naked, to dress himself at his own pace.
Everything seemed to go so quickly. But her father had a serene burial as he truly deserved and Tasia spent most of the day wandering her old home. A mutiny was dangerous. Her fingers brushed by the old walls and she sighed softly. If she had been back here, then perhaps she would have been able to help somehow, although her head told her she would likely be dead too, slaughtered and butchered like her father but it seemed like nothing could comfort her.
She stepped into the Dining Hall and eyed the men. She had long since discarded her dress in favour for the clothing she had been so used to wearing. She was not and never would be Lady Dregory. Brynden’s voice boomed over the chaos and she watched him with her family’s banner, drawing a deep breath. She could not lead men the same way Brynden could but the cheers and shouts from the men in the hall seemed to breathe new life into the place.
Tasia caught Brynden’s eye and lifted her cup to him with a nod, taking a drink before finding somewhere quiet to be. Her feet took her to one of the lookout spots. She could see for miles up here and she sighed out tin the air. Brynden’s Captain wouldn’t be happy. But for now Tasia wanted the men to feast, she wanted them to drink and to bring life back into the walls of her family home. She drained her cup and exhaled heavily. Her life was suddenly not a certain thing and she was scared, of course she was. She felt very alone and she turned when she heard footsteps. She recognised one man, too old to have any interest in her and she nodded her head to him as he passed.
[i “You are missing one Hell of a feast, girl.”] He remarked as he passed her by.
She slipped back inside and into the Dining hall, getting some food and out of habit getting Brynden some also along with a cup of wine as she set it down for him.
[b “May I join you?”] She asked him quietly as she sank into the chair nearby him.
[b “Brynden.”] She wanted to catch his attention properly despite how loud it was. She reached out and took his hand, giving it a soft squeeze.
[b “Thank you.”] He had pulled her back from the edge she had been dangerously close to toppling off when she had discovered her father. And she was grateful. He could have left her amongst the ruins to fend for herself and everything had changed so quickly. She hadn’t quite bounced back from the loss of her family but she had buried her father on the top of the hill that over looked the lake nearby. Her dress had been left behind in favour for her usual attire.
[b “Do I still have to be your squire?”] She asked him, casting her eyes over the men in the hall.
He remained silent throughout her little tirade. She pushed him and batted at his armour, ranting about how she could never pay the company, what she would like back, how he should leave [i now] and that it was all his fault. He took it all in stride, his usually arrogant expression now bearing nothing but sympathy for the woman he had seen kill grown men, who was now reduced to a quivering little girl mourning her father's death. When she went in to push him again, his gloved hands caught her wrists. She struggled, but his loose grip revealed his lack of ill intent.
[b ''You stay here and do nothing, for now. Listen to me, Tasia, I will sort this out. I will find the men who did this and I will kill them all, singlehandedly if need be. I'll leave he who hanged your father to you, don't you worry.'']
The intense stare he gave her betrayed his sincerity.
[b ''You will not be paying me, or Evin for that matter, anything. Stay here, with the men. I will find a suitable arrangement with the Captain, and you can be damned sure he'll accept it.'']
Once she agreed, he cut down Lord Dregory and had the men prepare him for burial. That evening, by the light of a dozen torches, they laid him to rest in a spot of Tasia's choosing. Brynden gave her the opportunity to say a few words, though he himself remained mute, apart from comforting the recently bereft.
The next morning, with express reminders that Tasia should stay put, and orders for the men to begin repairs on the castle, Brynden rode out on his own. For most of the day, his absence was noted, but when Tasia saw him riding towards the castle again, it was with a column of men, at least half of the company. They bore no banners. On horseback and on foot, they made their way into the castle, several carts filled with weapons, armour, provision, tents and more poured in. Men began unloading and set to repairs.
When he found her, he was carrying the book he had been writing in two days prior. He placed it on the table before her. Compiled in it were the names of every man in the company, with a small paragraph written under each name in a foreign language. [b ''I figured out which men would support me in a mutiny. I fetched them all and brought them here. Congratulations, Tasia, for you have proven fundamental in founding a new mercenary company. Name it as you will, and I will lead it on your behalf, to avenge your father and restore Fellwood.'']
Not much later, when they descended the stairs and headed into the dining hall, where everyone was gathered in a much more orderly fashion than usual, Brynden decided to finalize his decision to mutiny. He took the last remaining unspoiled standard, bearing Fellwood's banner, and climbed onto the table standing atop the dais. He raised the banner as high as he could, as his voice boomed like rolling thunder; [b ''By this sign, you shall conquer!'']
Tasia didn’t seem to care for the other men’s shocked at all, too focused on seeing her parents again. Of course, that was not to be as Brynden showed her family home in ruins and riddled with death. Her eyes settled on her father. The likelihood was her mother and brother were dead somewhere in similar fashion but she didn’t want to see. She was completely silent as she retreated from the kitchen in favour of fresh air. Her hands shook slightly as she looked around. She felt like she might vomit for a second, steadying herself as she pressed her palms to a tree.
Tasia took a deep breath because right then it felt like her entire world had collapsed with the death of her family. But words wouldn’t come. She was scared for what would happen to her. She couldn’t stay and be Lady of a house of ruins and death, she had no family to watch out for her. Her eyes travelled to Brynden and in her confusion and her grief, there was suddenly anger. She needed to blame somebody rather than admit she hadn’t been here. Of course if she had been there she would likely have shared the same fate as her family, perhaps worse. Then again, she could and would survive this. She didn’t where and she wasn’t sure how but she would manage. She hadn’t come this far to fall apart.
[b “ I should have been here.”] She whispered quietly, finally breaking her shocked and sickened silence.
[b “I should have been here but- I wasn’t. I was too busy fighting Lindwurms and chasing silly fantasies.”] A feeble, half hearted and defeated shove was aimed at Brynden, Tasia’s fists curled into balls. Now what was she to do? For the first time in a while, she looked scared.
[b “You get to go now. I cannot pay you.”] She said to Brynden, fiercely. Sadness and grief had been taken over by anger because she wasn’t sure how to process all of this.
Soon enough though, anger gave way to thesj tides and tears trickled down her cheeks. She felt utterly defeated and completely alone. This was no small thing for her. She hasn’t seen her family in a very long time and all of a sudden, she would never see them again in this life. She didn’t care how ridiculous she lookednas she made her way back to the horse, clutching at the reins but unable to mount the beast so she just sort of stood there. Where was she going to go? She had no one. She clenched her jaw.
[b “Tell your captain he can’t take money from the dead.”] Tasia muttered to Brynden as she looked down at herself and tutted.
[b “Before you leave, I would like my old clothes back. I’ve no use for a dress now.”] Tasia was in some form of shock and not thinking as clearly as she should but she had just come to know her whole family had been slaughtered mercilessly and butchered and her family home was in ruins.
[b “What do I do now? Tell me what to do. You usually like to boss me around so tell me now.”] Tasia confronted Brynden, evidently more hurt than angered but she was having trouble working out her emotions as she slapped her palms against his shoulders, as if trying to topple a mountain.
[b “Tell me where to go, what to do!”] She demanded.
The next morning, Brynden had been in even worse spirits. Tasia discovered him in his tent, a sour look on his face that would fill any man with dread, for it was clear he would be willing to ruin a man's life over the smallest slight in his current state. It didn't take much prodding for her to find out the reason behind this. [b ''I plain and simply do not want to take my leave from you, Tasia. Put on your finest dress.''] He stated. It was the only thing he said to her before he left his tent, covered toe to temple in his finest armour, with a silvered blade sheathed at his side.
He had assembled twenty of the mercenaries, the finest he could find. They all looked presentable, at least, and Brynden had them clad in the most ornate armour available in the camp on such short notice. Atop great steeds of war they sat, and once Brynden had joined them, one of the men took a standard flying the company's banner, a great black hog's head on a white field. They all seemed aghast when Tobias turned out to be a lady of stature. Brynden's smirk betrayed his feelings on the matter - he was smug as smug could be.
He rode at the head of the column, with Tasia by his side, through hill and dell and over woodland stream. After passing through a meadow and entering a sparse oak forest, Tasia began musing about her recollections. She could see Brynden clenching his jaw, fighting back whatever emotions were brewing inside him. [b ''A feast would be welcome,''] he replied, though she could feel the bitterness in his voice. When he continued, it was in a hushed voice only she could hear. [b ''But it won't compensate for parting from you.'']
Brynden could tell something was off as soon as the castle came into view. He had gone ahead to scout the road, but he doubled back. [b ''Keep the lady here or I will flay you myself!''] He barked, angrily. He offered Tasia only one look, a gaze that held something quite unexpected and inexplicable: Shame.
He galloped off and quickly disappeared over the hill hiding the castle of Fellwood. When he came back, he had removed his helmet and placed it on the horn of his saddle. His blade was in his hand, bloodied. [b ''Tasia, come with me. The rest of you, guard the drawbridge.'']
He guided her into the castle. The gate lie open, partially shattered, and the walls were manned only by corpses slumped over the rampart, arrows riddling their chests in such amount that the fletching near made them resemble birds. The doors to the stronghold themselves had been battered into oblivion alike the main gate. A dead dog floated in a well.
The true horror came inside. He dismounted and helped the shocked Tasia off her horse. The entrance into the hall sporting an old woman, mercilessly cut down. She was propped up against the doorframe. Brynden stepped over her. In the hall itself, corpses were everywhere, most stripped of their clothes and valuables. Tasia could see a few men, no more than five, lying dead in pools of crimson, their wounds still trickling the aqua vitae onto the cobblestones. A man sat in the great chair on the dais, his throat cut ear to ear, though Tasia could not recognize the man, despite being dressed in her father's clothes. [b ''I killed the five of them. Sons of the Hound.''] He explained. [b ''A rival company. Your father is... In the kitchens.'']
The sight wasn't pretty. Lord Dregory turned slowly, a pool of liquid underneath him filling the room with the stench of urine. Flies buzzed around the room. His broken neck and the noose suspending him from the beam above him revealed his fate. He was dressed in naught but his smallclothes. [b ''I am so sorry, my love.''] He whispered.
Tasia listened to him and watched his features closely. She understood by now how to read when he was agitated and it usually showed in his cold attitude. She looked back to her goblet of wine and drank from it, as if sterling herself against his words. Tears would do her no use now.
[b “That is that.”] She repeated quietly. And he was right. They couldn’t just ride off into the sunset and have a happily ever after. It wasn’t plausible. They were from different lives. If the Gods wanted them to be together then so be it but Tasia would return to her life as a lady, and Brynden would leave with his men. She drained her goblet and got up, sharply, refilling her own and Brynden’s. It was a wound that stitched couldn’t heal but she supposed it was better for Brynden to be cold to her, no matter how much she hated it and it made her feel defeated but there was little use in either of them bonding now.
Tasia set his refilled goblet down once more and gave a weak smile to him as she drained her own, quickly which was unusual for her. There was little point sitting by Brynden and his scribbles and she retreated back to her tent.
Come morning it seemed like everything hurt again. She trudged along and eyed the paths. After the siege she had been granted a pony, nothing magnificent like a horse but she was a fair rider. She looked to the trees that enshrined their pathway and smiled a little, as if lost in an echo. She glanced to Brynden.
[b “I used to climb these trees as a girl. With my older brother, Lucan.”] She explained and laughed softly.
[b “He always went much higher than me, careful I didn’t get stuck like a cat.”] She mused quietly, not really minding if Brynden listened or not. It was nice to reminisce like this.
[b “My mother would come out and drag me back indoors. Tell me little ladies didn’t climb trees.”] She said with an amused smile playing in her features.
[b “My father will have a great feast prepared for you all. A celebration for having his beloved daughter back safely.”]
He tensed up a touch when she asked about the book. [b ''Nothing you need concern yourself with, Tobias.''] He warned her, whilst continuing to write. He didn't so much as look up when he spoke to her, clearly quite focused on whatever he was writing. His concentration was sufficient to make him miss the remark about Tasia's drinking. Once he had his hands on his own goblet, he drank quickly and eagerly so as to not disrupt his workflow. Once he had finished the two pages he was currently working on, he lightly sprinkled some sand onto the ink and blew.
He had just waited for the ink to dry and turned over a new page when Tasia asked him the question he had come to dread. [b ''Yes, I do believe we are. It should be a two-day's march at most. I am certain the Captain wishes to remain here and fortify this castle, so I will pick a few trustworthy men and ride you home myself. Agreeable? Good.''] He hadn't even given her a chance to answer, as he so often did. He was in charge and he knew it. He continued writing.
When she spoke to him again his head snapped up. It was clear there was some degree of agitation to him, as betrayed by his voice. [b ''You go home, we get paid. That is that.''] He continued in a hushed tone. [b '"Sadly, Tasia, whatever romance might have blossomed between you and I is damned with that prospect, but I am a man of my word and my word dictates I deliver you to your father safely. I know it is less than desirable, perhaps, but it is what must be done. If any of us - and me especially - break this contract with your father, we are wont to be branded enemies of the Crown, and even if we are not, our reputation would still be in shambles, as being disreputable and honourless. Do you understand?''] With that, he finished another page, sanded the ink, blew it off, waited for it to dry and closed the book. [b ''We can think of alternatives, I am sure.'']
Tasia eyed the book and didn’t ask, knowing better to as she nodded to him dutifully. She fetched some warm spiced one and some mutton. She wasn’t exactly a fan of mutton but it was good and she wasn’t picky these days. Tasia set the spiced wine and the food down for him before taking a seat once more. She eyed the drunken men and remained wary.
[b “What’s that?”] She asked him as she looked to the book before taking a drink of the spiced wine. It was different than what they usually drank and she coughed a little.
A man nearby laughed.
[i “You drink like a woman lad, Brynden hasn’t been teaching you to drink!”] He roared and got a few scattered laughs and Tasia figured it was best not to comment back. She sighed out a little and picked at her food. She was of course feeling a bit strange, seeing such a grand castle filled with not so grand people.
[b “This place seems familiar. Are we close to my home? I think we are close.”] She asked him and watched his reaction. It had been another long day for sure and so much of her wanted to go home now. But then what would happen? She would never see Brynden or these men again? Or would she watch them disappear over the horizon and go and be a proper Lady that would someday marry some lofty Lord for a dusty title? Her future seemed so uncertain now. She took another drink of the wine and cringed a little more, still getting used to it.
[b “Brynden.] She said and made sure everyone in earshot was busy.
[b “What happens when we get to my home? Is that it?”] Tasia asked him as she moved some hair from her face and looked thoughtful. She couldn’t go back to being a plain old band maiden now. Not after everything. Brynden has shown her so much of the world she only believed was fairytale. It was exciting. And she would miss it, she would perhaps miss him. Home would be full of pleasures and easiness. No one would believe her stories. Brynden has a funny of being distant sometimes and close the next, but she never questioned it. Not nowadays.
The great hall had been filled with merriment. Those mercenaries who could not ply a proper trade besides warfare laughed, drank and gambled their pay away. A few fights erupted over loaded dice and other swindling, but Brynden's fellow officers quickly saw to it that those potential fires were extinguished before they could swallow up everything around them. A brawl, though sometimes good for morale, could be disastrous. Ever brooding, Brynden sat at the left-most corner of the table, the two chairs to his left empty, still.
The long table he sat at stood on a low platform, elevating him and his fellows above the common cutthroats and thugs. He seemed to be penning notes into a small, leather-bound book, all the while casting glances at the other commanders and the other men in the hall. The light falling in through the narrow windows was barely enough to allow him to see what he wrote down. A drunken man bumbled up to him. [i ''Issah, Brynden? Yous writin' up me bonus pay at las', eh?''] A stern stare was enough to dissuade the man from pursuing his line of conversation, even in spite of his intoxication. [b ''No, nor will you receive such a payment. You have done nothing out of the ordinary, Master Willows, besides coating your shit around the latrine in an area of, what, fifteen feet?''] That was rewarded with roaring laughter. [b ''Besides, such a payment would not come from me, but the paymaster. Remove your odious self from my pressure, or I'll open you balls to brains and see what in all hells is causing that stench.''] He dismissed the man with a wave of his hand betraying sheer arrogance. Willows looked as though he was about to attack Brynden then and there, but he changed his mind at the last moment.
Tasia arrived only moments later, seating herself beside him. He placed his elbow on the table, using his arm to obscure the contents of the book from her. [b ''No, lad. Though, now that you mention it, a cup of warm spiced wine would go down a treat. And fetch me some mutton too, while you're at it. Get something for yourself - Heavens know you deserve it!'']
Brynden’s stories were enthralling but sleep was a far more seductive mistress right then as she lost herself to the black. In the morning, her stomach felt it might turn as she got dressed into something suitable. The smell was awful and she had never been around anything like that. She shifted a little, testing what she could move and what was sore. Her head hurt, a dull ache lingering from the roll down the stairs and she exited the tent and looked around to see the flames rising. Then she figured what was happening. Burning the corpses of the enemy. She pulled a face and found some water to wash her face in. She looked to the corpses being piled high and she wondered if there had really been that much death yesterday.
[i “Ah!”] A firm hand almost knocked her off her feet as it clapped on her back and she raised an eyebrow to see a man who still smelled like wine and she offered a small smile.
[i “This one took on fifty archers by himself! Who’d expect anything less than a squire under Brynden?!”] He boomed and Tasia shook her head.
[b “Fifty? I think it was three, perhaps two.”] She pointed out and ducked under the man as she eyed the survivors from yesterday and the castle. She recognised it, like a sort of echo from the past.
[b “I know this place.”] She murmured quietly and it was difficult to tell where exactly from. Perhaps she had travelled this way as a child, or stayed here at some point. It didn’t matter now.
[i “Come on, there will be time to brag later with drink.”] A man said and gave her a push to start helping out as she moved corpses and did whatever she was ordered, helping as best she could without much attitude for a change and it took sometime before the castle was cleared.
[i “Come now. Go and find your master, he’ll be in the great hall somewhere.”] One man said and gestured for her to go. Tasia walked along the corridor towards the great hall of the castle and it was strange that this almost felt like a weird sort of home. She stepped into the great hall, ducking under the taller men as she slid into a seat close to Brynden,
[b “Do I serve you wine at these sort of things?”] She asked him quietly. As a slave, she would have served wine for sure but she was grateful for the warmth from the fire and the safety of actual walls rather than a tent. She wasn’t aware of a squires duties at these kind of events so it seemed easier to ask for some guidance. She didn’t know the songs the men sang and hollered, the feasts she had attended as a child had been a little more sophisticated and quiet from what she could remember.
Brynden had been a mess himself. Hair tussled thoroughly, dirt and blood stuck to his face, and a nasty bruise marred his right cheek. He seemed otherwise unhurt. He fussed over her injuries with waters, salves and bandages, his brows furrowed with concern. Eventually, she spoke up. [b ''No. I did not die. It takes better men than them to kill me. Or you, it would seem.''] Brynden offered her a fleeting smile before finishing up. He straightened himself out and spread his arms lazily, his silhouette vaguely reminiscent of that of an angelic saviour, had they been lazier and more handsome than usually depicted.
As she set to his numerous straps and buckles, he regaled her with the story of what happened. [b ''After we took the walls, with your help, we fought for the courtyard. It was hard, it was bloody, and by the gods, we took as much as we gave. Luckily, a dashing heroine managed to defeat their last few archers single-handedly, tipping the odds in our favour. We breached the keep, and then the men stormed in, presumably to kill every last living creature inside, down to the rats. And yes, I am alright.''] Now, it was his turn to wait for her to finish.
When she had rid him of that pesky, heavy armour, he rolled his shoulders. Every bit of him was stiff and sore, having either been battered or subject to too much strain as a result of Brynden's extravagant fighting style, which in all honesty was ill-adapted to wearing armour. He and the Gods all knew he prefered the quick thrusts of the rapier against an opponent in cloth. [b ''Tasia,''] he eventually said. [b ''Without me, you would be alive. You are a survivor, and far tougher than you let on, or than you yourself believe.''] He conceded as her fingertips brushed over his intact cheek. He reciprocated by placing his palm softly on the side of her neck for a moment, pressing his forehead to hers.
When she made herself comfortable in his bed, he sat on the bedside beside her. He told her long-winded stories of old battles, some of the time he was still in his homeland, others that he had fought under Evin. When she finally fell asleep he pressed a butterfly kiss to her forehead before carefully joining her.
He woke early the next morning, delivering Tasia a simple breakfast before rejoining his men. They were to move into the conquered castle and convert it into a suitable base of operations. Considering that most of the men had plenty of skills befitting proper, hard-working civilians, it would be no problem. Several men were busying themselves with the repair of the main gate and the smaller one leading into the keep proper, while others were looting the dead and piling their corpses high outside the wall. When Tasia awoke, it was with the pungent scent of her enemies having been lit afire.
Tasia was utterly lost in the fray. She didn’t know who was retreating and who was winning at that stage. She felt an arm around her and tensed noticeably, for a second almost lashing out until she heard Brynden’s voice and she eased up a little, following his instructions and being obedient as he lead her back to his tent. She didn’t even object as he cut open her clothing where it was needed. She just let him do what was needed, trusting Brynden enough because she couldn’t see any surgeons or medics, lest she be found out swiftly. She lifted a hand to the side of her head where the cut was and found it covered. She still wasn’t used to her hair being so short. She finally seemed to lift the haze as she looked to Brynden, her head throbbed painfully but she seemed okay.
Tasia finally let out a breath and looked at him properly.
[b “You didn’t die.”] She managed quietly, taking a long drink of water from the skin he offered and she was relieved it was water.
[b “What happened?”] She asked him, catching her breath and looking down at herself before looking to him.
[b “Here, let me.”] She said to him softly as she started to remove his armour carefully, remembering to give him earning. He hadn’t died like he was so afraid of, and she was relieved to find him breathing and well enough to clean her up. She didn’t speak for a while as she gently removed his armour, being careful to be gentle and not risk injuring him or harming him. There was a lump in her throat because she was truly glad he was there.
[b “Are you alright?”] She asked him quietly. She was littered in bruises and cuts but nothing life threatening. Brynden looked alright but she knew looks could be deceiving and she didn’t want to tempt fate. She unjumbled her thoughts and questions, letting Brynden answer before pushing anything further as she set his armour aside. Worried eyes looked over him, frightened perhaps she had missed an injury or something of the like.
[b “You know, you were right the other night. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for you.”] Tasia said softly and looked to Brynden. For as angry as she had been with him, he was right. She hated to admit it, stubborn as ever as she looked to him. Countless times she would have been dead, the first battle, the lindwurm... The siege was the only fight she had managed to stand on her own. And even then she had been terrified and had successfully made a mess of it. Her body felt stiff, sore and she gave a small smile to Brynden, running her fingers over his cheek affectionately for a moment before retracting the slender digits.
[b “Thank you.”]
Tasia shifted slightly so she was more comfortable and the battle had taken a lot from her. She watched Brynden with sleepy eyes, content in the moment that he was alive and she was alright.
[b “Talk to me. Just.. while I rest, talk to me Brynden, tell me a story.”] She said quietly as she pulled some blankets around her her, drowsy and Brynden’s voice was a comfort as she fell asleep.
[b ''Be safe.''] He commanded. He took one of the sets of wooden steps down the inner side of the wall just after he heard the battering ram split the gate open. The holdfast was filled with screams and shouts, and Brynden joined his voice to the cacophony as he charged, blade poised to strike, into the thick of the melee that was quickly developing in the courtyard. Arrows flew past until, suddenly, they didn't. He knew Tasia had done her job. Like a coachman driving his horses, they forced the enemy out of the courtyard and into the keep. [i ''Retreat!''] They cried. [i ''By the gods, we can't win! Fall back!''] Brynden answered with his own cries, just as the company's main force came storming in through the gates. [b ''Drive them into their keep! Kill them where they stand, no mercy! Fight like the devil himself is at your backs!'']
They hacked and slashed, tore and battered until the keep's doors fell shut before them. The ram was brought forward to deal with it and Evin relieved Brynden of his command. Brynden removed his helmet and went to find his squire, face covered with grime, sweat and blood. He found her not too far from where he left her, bleeding from her temple. He cleaned and sheathed his blade before hoisting her up, an arm around her torso to help her stand. [b ''Don't speak. Keep your eyes closed. Trust me, I'll guide you.''] He led her down the wall, warning her for steps or slippery bits, through the battered gate and back towards the camp. He took her straight to his tent, where he sat her down and rid her of his armour. He took meticulous care of her wounds, cleaning and dressing them where he could. He did not hesitate to cut open her clothing where needed. [b ''You will be alright.''] He promised, offering her a waterskin. Or was it a wineskin? Though Brynden's choice of drinks was monotonous, he did, in fact, give her water, cool and clear. [b ''You fought well, Tasia, and I am proud of you.'']
Everything was a blur for a second and Tasia heard the screams before realising she was on her back, propped up. She looked to Brynden and nodded,
[b “I can.”] She said to him, wiping her mouth and bracing herself against Brynden to stand a little. She looked to him and eyed him over. Was he alright? She supposed they had no time to figure that part out yet. Tasia might have actually been proud of herself for how well she’d done that day if they weren’t in the thick of this Hell. They had a slight vantage point on the ensuing fights and Tasia watched as men crumbled and fell, she couldn’t tell who’s side they ere on and she looked to Brynden, hoping he would know something. She didn’t understand when or how they won a siege.
She was afraid it was evident as she looked to Bryden, but she wasn’t afraid for herself. She eyed one of the walls, a couple archers still firing down at the men and she sighed a little as she gave a small smile to Brynden.
[b “I can deal with this. Go.”] She said. His strength would be needed elsewhere as she clambered up the rocky steps, slipping a little and taking the archers by surprise evidently as she shoved one off the wall and the other rounded on her, letting loose an arrow that scraped by her leg, cutting it but not deep enough. Enough to distract her as the archer drew up a dagger and Tasia raised an eyebrow.
Tasia dodged the quick attack and the Archer gave her harsh a shove, Tasia lost her footing and tumbled down a flight of steps, cracking her head on one of the steps. Blood seeped down the side of her face as the archer looked over her and she kicked out, letting him fall forwards as she scrambled to her feet and drove her blade through his shoulder, ignoring his cries as she didn’t dare reach up to the cut on her head.
[b “Retreat.”] A man called and Tasia wasn’t sure if it was their men or the enemy. She supposed the enemy had nowhere to run. She hauled herself up to a vantage point, unsure exactly how she was keeping conscious amidst all this. She was well concealed as she peered at the battle, it didn’t look like the mercenaries were retreating so maybe victory was theirs, she dared to hope as she eyed the crowds for Brynden. She slid down to the slower fighting and eyed the crowds for his familiar face and grey eyes.
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