The Dornish Marches - Castle Larkwood
The sun was sinking over the jagged expanse of Red Mountains, as the shadows lengthened over the valley. William stood quietly atop the keep, leaned against a merlon. He read through the missive once again and nodded to himself.
It was war then, House Tyrell had called the Banners and every landed knight would be expected to follow his liege into battle. Therein lay the dilemma, a man could not afford to send a token force, but neither could he afford to leave his hold undefended.
Especially as whoever had handled those would-be raiders was still somewhere to the north. Still Larkwood had stout walls, a strong keep, its own spring and two trebuchets behind the curtain wall. Before an attacker ever got that far, he’d have to cross a moat and a barrier of stakes that lay before the castle.
He smirked, one good thing about his little spit of land’s rocky ground was that it meant a place like Larkwood would be damned hard to try and undermine. Harder for a tower to make its way over the boulder littered earth as well. As his small castle was built into the lichen-covered granite of the foothills, a besieged force could only really come at it one way.
Still he’d need to leave behind a competent enough force to maintain patrols and keep any would-be marauders off his farms and villages. He turned at last to his steward, a paunchy man with greying hair and rheumy eyes. The old man bowed and the mail-clad armsman next to him, followed suit.
“Donal, Beric,” he said, “I have been summoned to war, so . . . I will take four score bowmen on horse and mules with me. I will take two score billmen. Donal, as my steward, you will administer my lands until such time as I return.
“Beric, you will serve as my Captain and see to the defense of my land. Should you both serve well, I will grant you knighthood upon my return.”
In doing so William hoped that he could keep power divided between two men who competent enough at their roles and hopefully keep them from trying to take power for themselves. Though he was fairly certain neither of them knew about the sally port below the old garderobe in the eastern tower. Beric and Donal had never given him a reason to district them, but no March Lord took unnecessary risks.
The two men took their and William turned to his squire.
“Harlyn, you will ride with me, should you prove yourself in what’s to come, I will knight you and grant you lands.” He said.
Harlyn took his leave and William turned back to valley before him. Fields of amber grain rippled in the wind and he nodded approvingly. This year’s harvest would be good, his smallfolk would prosper and he had another good year to see him through the winter. All the more vital now that he didn’t know what exactly what was to come.
Why had the banners been called and who were the Tyrells looking to make against? If the king was truly dead, as it was rumored, then that meant that Maegor would be to the one to return and take the throne. And who would contest such a man? Only a fool would march against something like Balerion the Black Dread.
But there was more than Targaryen with a dragon . . . William lay awake the rest of the night, turning the possibilities over in his mind. It was one thing to hold to an oath, another to suffer the same fate as those who fell at the field of fire.
As before, the dawn had yet to break when William finished his morning routine. He donned his armor and strode down to the rough-hewn stone of his courtyard. William surveyed the waiting column of riders for a moment and nodded shortly. A little over a hundred men on horseback, some on mules, most with remounts. Many of which had come from the ambush of the Dornishmen.
He vaulted into the saddle, ignoring the ache of tired muscles and turned to his men. “Lads, the Tyrells have called that banners and that means coin and loot for each and every one of you.”
The waiting archers and billmen cheered at the prospect. A cold and early morning could always be brightened at the thought of extra pay. There was never a soldier who didn’t relish the thought.
“We ride light and swift, we stop when the horses are done. If all goes well, we’ll reach Oldtown in under a fortnight. There, I’ll buy you all good tents and provisions for what’s to come.”
That brought another cheer and William donned his helm and raised his gauntleted hand to the waiting sentry. The portcullis slowly rose with a groan of metal and the darkened wood of the old drawbridge fell into place with a dull crash.
The column of riders filed out of the gate and a moment later a second column under Beric rode east, where they would slowly ride north and then turn back to the castle. William ensured his shield was ready, where it hung from his war saddle and that mace and sword were loose in their sheaths. Then he urged his riding horse onwards, steadily increasing the pace until the riders were moving a steady canter over the rolling hills, as the first light of dawn slowly made its way up over the swordlike crags of the Red Mountains.