(514-09-02) One Night in Dorset - Prelude
Summary: Elrick learns about a plum opportunity to strike a blow on Dorset.
Date: 514-09-02
Related: One Night In Dorset

Scene run by


Rumour comes to Salisbury knights through a contact that a valuable shipment of materiel is bound for the front. The driver and guard are loyalists, but another pair of hired guides are less than happy about their service. Prevent the materiel from reaching the front, and it's going to impact the war…

A camp southeast of Ebble by two hours' ride would never be the sort of place to find a lady. Knights muster here, though not the main body gathered for Salisbury defending the southern rim of the county. Horses are picketed together, attended by squires as likely to squabble as the equines, feeling the intent anxiety. Tents pitched against the summer rain glisten under the dark grey sky, choked by heavy charcoal clouds smudged there by an unfriendly hand. Whether the battle goddesses ride with Salisbury and spread their cloaks of raven feathers, or it speaks to a burning future, none may be sure. Smoke rises from a few fires, and scouting parties headed out and in answer to the knights arranging them. Cooking gives the air a thick smell of fat and burnt sausage, the odd errand boy runs about, and even the usual camp whores make their coin for those who may salute the day to die on the morrow.

Not the normal place, then, to find a woman of quality. And yet a woman is here, though not to immediately meet the eye. Three men sport the colours of Sarum, the Earl's black on blue device carried on their tunics clearly. Two hang back near the edges of the camp surrounding all the chaos, while another wades into their midst looking for a Laverstock knight. Strange, maybe; none of them directly answer to the Earl, but they all answer to him in the end.

Wherever Elrick should be, he will be found sooner or later, likely by gossip chasing ahead noting he's sought by someone official. Someone from the north.

There was no need to chase down this particular Laverstock Knight as there is no tavern for his cousin to drag him off to. He is in his own tent, most likely making sure his own tools of war are ready to go at a moment's notice. Sword being sharpened, daggers the same, his shield looked over for any cracks or weaknesses that could lead to disaster at the most inopportune time.

The man that proceeds deeper into the camp would have been directed to where the Laverstocks have camped out, and seeing someone outside of his tent, Elrick moves to greet the man. At the moment, he is not in armor though the padded clothing he wears underneath means he can slip on his full suit of mail when called for. Looking the man over and recognizing the colors, a respectful nod of head of offered in greeting, "I am Sir Elrick de Laverstock, what can I help you with?"

The man in question is gruff, an older veteran probably closer to forty than thirty, and thus explains why he isn't in the camp. He wears chain all the same and an old, scarred sword sheath at his hip to indicate it — and he — has seen many a battle. He smacks his fist against his chest in something of an old, old carryover from the days of the Romans, hinting that his ancient origins may lie in the mingled Romano-British stock that gives the south distinct character. Certainly his aquiline nose suggests it.

"Blas de Sarum, in service to the Earl," he says. To the point, then, not the sort to mince words. "Messenger for you." He glances around the camp, taking in its lay and the general hum of activity. "Too open out there to trust, and the woods are crawling with scouts that might get the wrong impression. Go to the cook fires and grab something to eat. Decent grub." A pause follows, and he looks a bit uneasy. "Cheese. I'll meet you there."

Waiting to see Elrick understands, he then means to depart, stomping off though a camp with little better to do than ready and wait. Ears will be burning, for certain, and eyes watching.

When the veteran introduces himself along with the ancient salute, Elrick can't help but mimic it though it isn't as firm or crisp as the other man's. No words are spoken by the knight as he listens to the message, puzzled at first but he eventually figures it out, or at least believes he figured it out. Which does cause him some concern, however he does offer a verbal thanks before going back into his tent.

The Laverstock will at least have his blade at his side, as well as his leather jacket with the house sigil on the shoulder as well. When he arrives at the cook fires where soldiers who are hungry are eating, he doesn't join the queue where the meaty stews are being served. Instead, his own plate has three pieces of bread and then he is on his way where the cheese are being handed out. He is actually hoping the message isn't what he believes it is.

Five minutes, no more, and Blas de Sarum has loitered around the cook fires exactly forever. The men are talking to him like a regular, or at least pointing him in the right direction of what he wants. Where he got a tankard from, who is to say? He discards this on some lucky chap and swaggers on, reaching out to clap Elrick on the back with a blow that would fell a squire. "Come along! You promised to look at that shield strap for me. Can't have it failing on us before battle." His shout is necessary to be heard over the din, and no one is much inclined to care that either of them are departing for the thick of the camp, crossing around the central tents and into the thinner edges where more than a few smiths ply their trade mending armour, leather, shields, and kit in the aftermath. It stinks, the noise unbearable.

In short, perfect for a meeting of unknown sorts. Blas walks them to a scarred, many patched tent, and holds up the flap. "You first. Armourer says it's in fine condition but needs a bit of special attention. I can't make heads or tails. You tell me what you need when you had a look." If Elrick goes through, the flap drops on a low, dark place smudged by soot where there is naught but a table, a camp chair, and indeed a plain kite shield with a strap. It looks to be inadequately secured by a nail.

More notably is someone sitting in the chair, in a very dull cloak, wearing equally dull leather leggings. More than that isn't plain to see, but the man inside the tent is another person in the colours of Sarum, and his hand rests on the hilt of his sword. It won't ease before a nod is given.

"He stays." A woman's voice, plain and simple. She doesn't remove her hood, nor does she need to, because he's seen that face in the dark every night he has been home. "Merry met, Sir Laverstock. Do see fit to observe the shield." Her lips part slightly and she exhales a breath, waiting for him to peer closer to it.

"Another twenty being sent with the swords and spears, and the men for them are already spilling Salisbury blood. I'm told a quantity of over two hundred arrows to refresh the archers, and other reserves they run low on," she adds in low tones. "They're running it through the Overcountry Track tonight. Tomorrow by dawn at the latest."

The strong pat almost sends Elrick flying forward, luckily he is a larger man and a knight, so the unexpected blow only rocks him a bit. The bread rolls are safe as well as they are a bit flatter. The deception required has the Laverstock a bit unsettled but he will play along for now, the confusion refusing to surface as he places the tray on a passing table though one roll is plucked, to be eaten while they walk.

When they arrive at their intended destination, he gives the veteran a frown when the flap is held open. There is a touch of suspicion for the moment but to have treachery this deep in the camp with the proper disguises, that would be too much for a simple knight like him. "Very well," he says before ducking into the patchwork tent, letting his eyes adjust to the darker atmosphere inside.

The shield is the first item to be noticed, then the man in leathers with a sword draws the attention next, dangerous no doubt. But since they aren't wrestling him down or stabbing him with daggers, the possibility of danger has passed. Only when a woman's voice is heard does his gaze snap in that direction. She is here. However, if she is here, with men of Sarum as her guards, it is official business. So a passive tone in his voice is used to answer, despite the mixture of happiness and anger filling him, "Well met. As you bid."

Approaching the shield, Elrick leans in to first look over the protective piece visually before extending a hand to run over the surface. At the added news, one can easily see the knight's brow furrow up in displeasure, "Twenty shields, swords, and spears, with enough arrows to little the field with bodies, even if most of them miss their mark." It is clear why she brought this to him, "Then I will seek out some worthy men to ensure that the cargo will have… proper escorts waiting for them tonight. To see that they are delivered properly."

Elrick checked his awareness of 10, he rolled 7.

Elrick may not the reality of the situation, but the reality yet remains as he sees. Cloaked wife across the table, a guard inside the door, another lurking outside. The kite shield presents a handsome diversion of sorts, though the broad strap lacks sufficient anchorage to remain connected to the interior frame. Where the stitched leather splits is a small object poking out, a scrap of torn material heavily stitched over in embroidery. It's the symbol of the town of Broad.

"A lady of my acquaintance spoke to a troubling situation," says Eirian. She does not raise her voice beyond the low murmur established before. Anger is a natural response and rolls over her in a dark wave, but she submerges beneath it to perform her task. "One of her kinsmen will be accompanying the forces north towards Salisbury. Not of his own will, understand, but as a hostage to ensure her family will not act by sending a levy to support the Earl Robert. Were their hostage to be released, the circumstances binding their honour fall."

She spreads her hands slightly. "The conscripts pressed to escort the supplies owe little loyalty to the Earl of Dorset. Given the first opportunity they might well flee, and the lady assures me that a man with black hair and a heavy mustache will answer to a specific device and lead you to the hostage. She is not positioned to come any closer than this, and pleads for justice so her family's name be not sullied. So there you are, sir. That is the best I can do. I promised to bring word to the honourable men of Salisbury."

When more details are being offered about this mission though, Elrick's frown appears again at the complication. A simple strike on materiel heading to Dorset's front offers the least risk to the men involved, when complications like searching for a particular man in the enemy outfit in the middle of battle is included, the risk increases. But he is not here to question, only to understand the mission that is being given to him.

When the information on a hostage being held by the enemy is released, the Laverstock can only release a sigh, nodding his head understandingly, "Having family held hostage is a tragic thing in this conflict. The Dorset have already shown what they are capable of, which I am sure is putting more fear into those involved." He knows that obtaining more information on the hostage information can be just as crucial as seeing the shipment being diverted to the proper side.

As Eirian reveals the symbol, Elrick studies it in detail, committing what he sees into memory just in case the item is lost. "Black hair and heavy mustache, the former may be harder to spot at night but the latter detail will be useful. I will make sure the men I select understands the critical nature of this situation. Hopefully the guardsmen flee when we arrive." But that is most likely wishful thinking.

His wife remains silent as he processes the news, taking whatever time is necessary for the details to sink in. She serves her purpose here as the instrument and the means, if not the ends, and sits perfectly upright and still upon the camp chair. The blackened tent smothers the sounds of activity without in a war camp, and her dull garb does little to set her apart. The low timbre and volume of her words aid to keep the clandestine meeting as intended, rather than shared at large. "Even among the Dorsetmen, most are clean shaven. I do think the High King has set a new standard." She taps the tabletop once gently.

"I cannot speak the lady's name here, though the hostage will be relieved no doubt to return to our lines," Eirian continues. It's hard not to drink in Elrick's face even here, the temporary absence going hard on a newlywed. As her face tilts up, the luminous sheen of her eyes and pallor of her face come into better definition. "Rheinallt is being held by the Iwernes of Dorset, and his kin are in no position to retrieve him. You can expect him to be sorely pressed in this conflict, but given his rank and likely hope of ransom, he will not be entirely mistreated one might hope. Not even the Dorsetmen have sunk to be Saxons."

"Unfortunately, not everyone is accepting the High King's new standard for peace over his realm." Though if they were, knights like him would have a harder time making a living, but certainly a safer one. As for the limited amount of information given, Elrick doesn't even blink an eye to it, merely nodding understandingly. "I require not the name, just enough information so the contact will trust me. I know the risk of knowing too much, just in case this mission goes badly on our end." If he knows nothing, he will not be able to offer up anything when tortured and interrogated, which knowing the Dorsets, they will do so most enthusiastically.

As for the man that is being held hostage, the Laverstock nods once more though he doesn't hold the same optimism as Eirian does, "Let us pray that is true, but if they are willing to execute an heir to a house of Salisbury, we do not know where their limit lies. We will focus on the first part of the mission, that in of itself will be useful to our side and damaging to theirs." Twenty sets of equipment and extra arrows may not turn the tide of the war, but it can be a painful thorn in one's side. "Is there anything else I need to know? If not, I thank you for bringing me this intel, though at the risk to your safety." There. Finally his concern is revealed, though hidden behind courteous words that even Eirian's guards will not find odd.

Eirian tips her head slightly back, addressing the most important matter. Her pupils dilate slightly to the rebuke unspoken, though the lines appearing between her knitted brows speak to something of regret on that front. "If you can pull Rheinallt free without attracting undue attention, it may go easier for you. He can provide deeper insight to strategies for the Iwernes, at least. Provide fast message back to Salisbury when you acquire him to free his family to participate." She pauses a moment, focusing her thoughts as the ruckus outside grows louder, an inebriated party carousing their way to a tent no doubt. "They would need to know, too, if he falls. Then division staying their hand would be removed. Mother Don guard him, and you, that it not come to that."

Eirian's grave, wide eyes close a moment and the faint tension around her face closes in on the neutral mask she adopts. "Believe me, the camp is the last place I expected to be. I recognize full well the danger. However, the opportunity arose and the choice was ride, or trust a messenger to come too late. The diversion is but a momentary one, then I return to Sarum to wait upon His Grace's instructions." And a city with nice, high walls, the finest between London and Malahaut.

"If he is able to ride, I will escort him back to Sarum myself to ensure that he returns home safely." That is unless the man wishes to return to Broad though that would put him back into harm's way again being the most southwestern manor of Salisbury. "But I will see what kind of plan I can come up with to secure his release without raising too much of an alarm." The distraction outside is ignored, one hears many things in a war camp, from sparring between bored warriors to loud, boastful toasts after a mission, and of course the camp followers doing what they can to earn coin in exchange of helping a soldier away from home release some stress.

As for Rheinallt falling, that is of course a possibility but one that he will not entertain in his mind, he will focus on success as that is what most bold knights do. Cup always more than half full, and of wine, not water. As for Eirian's reasonings on why she has come personally, Elrick response is delayed for a few moments before finally a curt nod is offered. "Of course, I thank you for your personal involvement, My Lady, I would offer to escort you part of the way back but I am sure that would draw too much attention." His answer shows understanding of duty, but it does not mean he is pleased with her choice. "I have full confidence your men will return you safely to Sarum." That is also borderline rude, and as one of her bodyguards, they would no doubt bristle after hearing that. But that may be his intent, to ensure they are not comfortable when performing the duty as escorts.

Taking the reproof for what it is, the woman at least has the grace to rise from the seat and bend at the knee, dipping her head and rolling her shoulders forward, her posture wrought with remorse that might just actually reach her face. Yet with the Burcombe maiden, emotions are a watercolour infusion forever on the move, like the weather over the summer itself. She does not burst into tears, at least. Her state at least prevents that from transpiring, at least. "An old friend to my family escorted me with the Earl's knights, and will no doubt remain here to attest to me talking his ear off about nonsensical matters. Sir Wilhelm de Horton can attest to taking me far as Ebble. He knows nothing of this, however."

Eirian nods to the shield, and remains standing where she is. The Sarumite guards outside can have their own opinions on the matter, but they will hopefully keep their opinions to themselves. She waits thus, demure and at her lord's grace to depart or end up thoroughly swatted.

Elrick's own expression is passive and unreadable, the visage of a warrior in a camp of war. What turmoil he may feel beneath that mask does not surface and when she dips her head, he inclines his respectfully. There will certainly be no swatting or words of reproach as she is here out of duty for her Earl and the de Broads, he cannot fault her for that. "Perhaps if I see Sir Wilhelm, I shall thank him for his service. Unless he is returning to Sarum with you," Instead of staying at the front.

As for the shield? Elrick does look down on the table again and chooses to pick up the item, "If you or your men have no need for it, I shall take it with me. Gives me more time to study the device I am to show the contact as proof, and perhaps something to give Lord Rheinallt as well, when we meet him." There is a pause as his gaze returns to the lady messenger, "I shall depart first, so any curious eyes do not find this meeting anything of the ordinary. We shall bring success to His Grace." With that the knight turns to depart from the darkened tent.

Eirian slips back into the courtier's mask, which she accomplishes with greater ease than she ever did before. Manorial duties may be lost upon one never raised much to the task, but this joust of words and trial by patience leaves her prepared for a strike. However much the heart may ache, outwardly none are permitted to know. She straightens her spine and shakes off the earlier show, efficient and quick about resetting her mantle, and the pair of them are nothing more than a diplomat and a knight meeting in a tent instead of the paramours that defied their families — or at least convention, and upset some of their families in the process — for that golden bond betwixt their souls.

"Take what you need, Sir Laverstock. Brigid and Lugh keep you safe, and guide your arm," she says as she passes, brushing her fingers aside in the ancient gesture of the evil eye. Raising her voice a notch, she says, "Sir Blas!"

The flap opens and the rather average, forgettable knight who almost knocked Elrick off his heels does not quite offer his arm to the lady. Too obvious by half. But as soon as she emerges, the other knight falls in step beside her, and the little trinity take their leave unless he halts them.

Before leaving the tent, Elrick does slow as he turns his body so he can offer Eirian a glance. At the blessings she offers him, there is a gentle nod, "Thank you, My Lady. We shall be victorious." That usual confidence evermore present when he is performing his duties as a knight, as courage is not just a bluff, but also a shield for warriors like him. To allow fear to claim your heart is to court death on the battlefield. One requires not only physical armor and shield, but the utmost confidence when riding into battle.

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