So uh... been a while hasn't it?
Yeah. About that. To put it simply I lost my job shortly after posting the last chapter, and unemployment didn't create the best frame of mind for more writing. Add to that the fact that I had a major falling out with the GM running the game this is based on, and you can get the idea. Then there's the whole covid thing which I think its best we don't get into.
Still. After well over a year, I recently got a new job. And as it happens, this was written over the past couple of days during my first holiday for that job. So I think its safe to say my life is back on track.
Hope you guys all enjoy this. As always, reviews are more than welcome. And just once more so I can get it out of my system. Sorry for the delay.
Also slight note. If the price for the horse seems cheap. Apparently a destrier is worth only a single gold dragon in Westeroslandia. Gotta love the economy GRRM set up...
**I do not own either Warhammer Fantasy Battles/Roleplay and nor do I own A Song of Ice and Fire. I make no profit from this at all.**
Guillaume and Anguy were joined by three others that night. The room only had four beds, but it appeared the inn was overflowing, and so the innkeeper had allowed another man to sleep on the floor. They were not the most unpleasant of bunkmates in truth, though the lodger on the floor had his moments, being a person taken to giving wind freely and often. Two were sellswords looking to join the tournament as well, men of little honour but decent manners at least. The other, who occupied the free bed against the outer wall of the room, was a peddler seeking to make his fortune from the business of the tournament. That one in particular was most pleasant, as he gave news on the rest of the kingdoms to the bored lodgers. Most of it made very little sense to Guillaume, but it was still good to hear.
Most of the news was the type to concern the peasantry, certain villages were noting a particularly good harvest for instance. Some, however, was of interest. According to the peddler, or according to a man the peddler had met on his travels, a kraken had been sighted off the coast of the Stormlands to the south, which was an ill omen, and received much wagging of heads from the likes of Anguy, a native of that region. Also, there was talk of a wedding between a Dothraki Khal and a Targaryen Princess. None of those words made any sense to Guillaume, but the reactions of all the other men in the room told him it was of great interest. He did not prod, so as not to look like a fool, he never did like looking like a fool.
Beyond idle chatter about what everyone would do with their riches once they won them, the evening went easily and happily. Guillaume even indulged in a drink before sleep. It was an ale, thick and heavy. He preferred wine, but wine was not for inns, so he made do.
The next morning, they were all awoken by the passing of wind by the sellsword upon the floor. Curses were sent his way, but a toothy grin was all they received in compensation. No one wished to leave their belongings behind at the mercy of others while they were going about their business, so while Guillaume pulled his mail above his head and affixed his scabbard, Anguy slung his bow over his shoulder and belted on his quiver. The tournament may have been in three days, but all the men had business they needed to attend to. Anguy needed to practice, as would the sellswords, the peddler needed to peddle his goods, and Guillaume needed to see to purchasing a horse, for Anguy had told him that the melee was to be a mounted one.
They parted quite amiably, with only moderate threats of bodily harm given to the windy sellsword, and went their separate ways.
Guillaume knew he had to seek a stable, but to find one was not as simple as finding a smithy. Oh, plenty of folk would direct him to men who sold horses, there was no doubt of that, but it was more difficult to find a reputable stable, especially one within his modest budget. In the end, after many hours of wandering between the various stables, asking for directions, and avoiding the unsavoury looks of some of the more thuggish residents of the city, Guillaume found a good stable in a square named for their fishmongers of all things, quite a diamond in the rough. It was modest, with only a thatched roof compared to the attractive tiles of some of the others he had seen that day, but the horseflesh within all looked healthy and well tended to. There were no destriers, great beasts bred for war and little else, but he could spy a delightful courser among the stalls.
A stable hand was the first person he saw within, a boy who could not be more than ten. He was brushing the coat of a rouncey when Guillaume approached, and did not see the Bretonnian before he was called to. "Lad!"
The boy almost jumped and dropped the comb he held. "Ser! Oh. Forgive me, ser!" He said quickly as he picked up the comb, looking bashful.
"There is nothing to forgive." Guillaume said gently, to which the boy smiled ever so faintly and nervously. "Fetch your master, I like the horses I see and wish to purchase."
"Yes, Ser!" The boy said and at once rushed off, leaving Guillaume alone with the horses and the sounds of the city outside.
That meant that Guillaume could get a chance to browse the horses a bit before the master of the stable came. They all looked rather healthy, and seemed to be fed on oats and the occasional apple. The horse that truly interested him was the courser, a beautiful animal with a speckled grey coat and a black mane. A stallion too, to look between the legs, all the better for a horse to use in a tourney or into battle. It would suit very well, very well indeed.
"Ser?" Came the voice of an older man, no doubt the master. Turning to see the owner of the voice, Guillaume saw a pudgy but not overweight man in possibly his late forties, hair greying and dressed in fine clothes of green and yellow. "You need my services?"
Guillaume nodded, affecting a pleasant smile. "Yes, good sir. I wish to purchase a steed, if that is acceptable."
The master smiled back, after a short while sizing Guillaume up, it appeared his mail and sword were enough for the man to consider him worthwhile, and like everyone else in this city, the accent seemed barely to phase him. "Aye, that is acceptable, ser. But I'll warn, I hold only the finest of horses, and they do not come cheap. I take great pride in them being worth every penny. And please, I am no knight, simply a seller of horses." He looked remarkably pleased with himself.
"Of that I have no doubt, and I apologise, I was merely being polite."
"Of course, Ser." The master said, bowing his head a little and then gesturing to the horses. "Which one takes your fancy? I have many a fine palfrey for travelling needs, and sumpter horses for carrying your effects. Would you need a horse for your servant as well?"
A small shake of Guillaume's head dashed the stablemasters hopes of multiple sales that day. "I am afraid not. One has taken my fancy, however. This fine beast." Guillaume gestured to the courser. "Does he have a name?"
"He does, Ser, but I warn he is the pride of my stable." The master puffed with pride of his own. "He is worth no less than two golden dragons, for his parentage is very grand. From the Reach in fact, the grandsire coming from the stables of Horn Hill itself. Quite a pedigree I think you'll agree."
More names that meant little and less to Guillaume, but still he nodded and smiled, it would never do, to appear rude. "Two golden dragons..." It represented the greater part of his funds, after them he would have to make do with only silver moons and stags, though that was no mean sum either. "Does this include saddle and harness and feed?"
"Saddle and harness, yes, Ser." Came the quick reply. "Feed, however, is your own to provide. I know a good stall for oats though, owned by mine own brother, he is as trustworthy as they come." Why one would need a trustworthy seller for oats, Guillaume did not know. Perhaps mixing in sawdust was as common in this city as it was in the meaner places of the doodkanal of Marienburg and likewise slums. "He has it in Cobblers Square, and goes by the name of Pate. Mention my stables, and he shall give you most favourable prices, I assure you."
"I thank you." Guillaume said, and began to dig into his coin purse, retrieving the coins desired in short order. "I wish to take him now. I hope that is acceptable."
The master looked greedily at the gold in Guillaume's hand, and held out his own to receive them. "Oh, most acceptable, Ser." When the gold clinked into his palm, he called for his stable hand. "Boy! Prepare Storm, and be quick about it if you want feed tonight!"
The boy, under such threats, which brought a frown to Guillaume's face, quickly set about his duties, and within no time, the reins to the horse were being held out to Guillaume. He took them, nodding with a soft expression to the boy, and led the horse, Storm as the master called it, out of the stables. But he did not go far, instead he lingered in the square of the fishmongers, and waited.
He did not need to wait long, for the master quickly went back to whatever he had been doing before Guillaume had come, and left the boy alone with the horses once more. Using the chance given, Guillaume walked back into the stable, gently leading Storm. "Lad." He called the boy, who looked back at him nervously. "Here, for looking after these fine horses." Guillaume said, holding out a few of those silver moons.
"Ser?" The boy asked, looking astounded and suspicious, but still edging closer.
"It's yours. For good service and fine care for horses." The latter part was the soft spot for Guillaume. You could be the biggest cad or heretic in the world, but if you cared well for your horses, Guillaume would feel some sympathy for you. "How much does that master of your pay you?"
The boy swallowed, and glanced behind him to the building where the master worked, seeing if he was watching. it was only when he was satisfied that he wasn't being spied on that he turned back to Guillaume. "Food and a bed, Ser."
"No money?" A shake of the head was the answer to that question. "Well, you're getting some now then. Hide it well, lest your master take it." Guillaume thrust the coins into the boys hands, and accepted no resistance on the matter.
"T-thank you, Ser." The boy stammered, eyes agape at the sum before him. It was likely a lot. Guillaume still had little idea of the true worth of money here, so did not think that he had given the boy the worth of money years labour for a master that paid.
Guillaume smiled. "It is deserved lad. And keep tending those horses well, come the tourney, I may come to purchase more when my pockets are truly heavy."
That was how he left the stable, and the boy, who waved at him quite thankfully when he did so. It was a small act of charity, but it felt good to Guillaume. A year past he might have balked at the idea of giving a peasant such sums, but seeing the decrepit poverty of that class in person (not to mention travelling with quite the vocal peasant), had planted a feeling of duty in his heart. A knights duty was to protect the peasants, why did that have to stop at vanquishing mortal foes and not protecting them from misery.
Still, with his business done, Guillaume set to finding some feed for the animal. The merchant that the stablemaster had recommended was in Cobbler's Square, which was where he was staying anyway, so it would not hurt to go to him. He decided against mounting Storm, he preferred to walk. But then, that did bring up the matter of the name for the animal. He misliked "Storm", it was appropriate, no doubt, for a warhorse, but Guillaume preferred calmer names. His last horse, Dancer, had served him well, and he thought to name it something like that. A few ideas did pop into his head, perhaps Prancer, or Swifthoof, something like that. But eventually, he could think of only one name he truly liked. Something that would remind him of home.
"How about Brienne?" Guillaume asked the proud animal. It did not react beyond a snort, but did not seem to object either. So it was settled. He would be Brienne. Some might say it was a name more suited to a mare, but Guillaume felt it appropriate to name him for the river that flowed out of Athel Loren, home of the Fay. Besides, it would bring comfort to have something that reminded him of those holy waters, and of home.
The business of naming his horse aside, Guillaume returned to making his way to Cobbler's Square. It was easy enough going, the roads within the city, or the main ones at least, were decently paved and easy to navigate. The only thing that made it even somewhat difficult was the great throng of people. Most, of course, were the peasantry going about their business, but every now and then he could see men like himself riding through the city in mail and with swords at their belts. On occasion he also saw woven banners leading parties of nobles. This was all the be expected, Guillaume had arrived in such a party after all.
What did not expect, was to see a shape that looked very familiar. He did not see it long, catching only a small glimpse in the distance of the great crowd. But he swore he saw a steepled hat. It troubled him, for he was not fond of the men who normally wore those hats in his own country.
But just as quickly as he saw it, it dipped out of view, and did not return.
The experience left Guillaume feeling a little uneasy. Perhaps he was just mistaken? Yes, that was the most likely reason. The last few days had not been the easiest for him, nor had the months before that been, quite the opposite in fact. So the thought of imagining such a thing was not too far fetched, and to see it for so short a time. Yes, it was just his imagination. Guillaume pushed it out of mind. It was no good to dwell on such things anyway. It would cause more ill than it would fix.
So, within time, he came once again to Cobbler's Square, where the inn he was staying at was. It was busy, as all places were in this city, but finding the stall was still an easy thing. It soon turned out that the tales of cheaper oats were more of a lie than a truth. The oats were decent, relatively fresh, and not too expensive, but Guillaume did not get any favourable deals by mentioning the stall owner's kin, all he got was a disinterested scoff. Hardly the worst outcome, he had feed for his horse after all, but still not the best.
With that done, his time was truly his own. He could stable Brienne at the inn, for it had a small stable of its own, or he could go to practice his swordsmanship, like his bunkmates had decided to. Instead, he decided he would like to do something much enjoyable. It had been too long since he had ridden a horse of his own, and he still had to get a feel for the gate of Brienne, and for his speed. Besides, it would simply be a good leisure activity, Guillaume always did love to ride. In the end, it was an easy decision, and soon he was riding for the nearest gate of the city, the Gate of the Gods, the locals called it.
Brienne had a pleasant gate, for a courser. A palfrey would've had a smoother one, but Guillaume was used to riding warhorses in place of travelling horses. Knight Errants were not afforded the luxury of multiple horses, not ones from a minor noble family such as his anyway. What's more, the saddle was well made. These folk had good skill with horses it seemed, more than the Empire, and perhaps just shy of Bretonnia itself. Brienne also proved easy to direct, and welcomed orders and commands, he was a fine horse, and Guillaume was well pleased with his purchase.
This was all before he even left the city. When he did, he was overjoyed to see the fields and plains that surrounded it. Most of it was farmland, and farmers rarely appreciated random knights galloping through their fields. But there were pleasant areas of greenery as well, tended woodlands, and grasslands along the dark river. All of it made for perfect horse country, something Guillaume took great advantage of. Oh, to ride through verdant fields once again. It was something Guillaume had sourly missed. The Empire was more forest than field, and Kislev was cold and hard. It was over a year since he had ridden like this. He dashed through the grasslands, and weaved through the woodland, feeling almost like a child again. No doubt, the people of this land thought him strange, a grown man laughing like a child as he rode, but that did not matter a fig to Guillaume. All that mattered was the wind in his hair and his face and the warm sun on his back.
He continued until Brienne was panting and tired, but not exhausted, for he had no wish to be cruel to the horse. He had stopped atop a hill crested with trees filled with apples and pears. In that orchard he could turn and look upon the city, and also what lay beyond it. The river disappeared into the distance, never losing its dark colour or narrowing, the Blackwater he had heard the locals call it, and it was well named. He could also see castles in the distance. To the north, one stood alone in the distance, surrounded only be more farms and villages. And to the west, another lay nestled along the bank of the Blackwater. Even from the great distance, they looked formidable. To the south, Guillaume could only see the sprawling trees of the kingswood, where he had been found by Lord Beric and his kindly Maester.
To the south too, he could see the already sprawling city of tents that made up the tourney fields. One thing he would give this land was that its scale was never to be doubted. Even in Couronne he had not seen a tourney field so big, though he had certainly seen one more attractive. It was to be a great event, and it was one Guillaume craved to be a part of, to test the chivalry of this land.
Overall though, he considered. Atop that hill, and on that bright and clear day, he thought this a good land to be cast adrift in.