I entered the main hall to break my fast following morning drills with the garrison to find most of the guests had already left. The only nobles from the night before to still be here were Lady Alysse and Lucius Syndral -staying until the fate of the treacherous Captain Tygor had been decided- and Edmund Bartheld, who I suspected was putting off leaving for as long as possible as a remainder of our promise of aid. The morning was almost up, and while most of House Stav was present, the absence of Lord Ranin was odd and it wasn't long until Lady Alysse arrived asking after him, wishing to know what was to be done with Tygor. Over my meal I asked Darmin how Septon Eston faired. Surprisingly given the wound, the Septon yet lived and had come out of unconsciousness once or twice, giving Maeston Jameson hope of his recovery. I good sign indeed! Not long after Alysse had again retired to her chambers, Ranin appeared, looking very weary, although he refused to give details any further than "House duties". He asked that one of us take of a number of duties for him, mainly dealing with Tygor and then assisting Lord Bartheld. Seeing a chance to win back some lost prestige following the Red Priest incident, I eagerly volunteered. My uncle may still have some doubts concerning my abilities however, as he would not grant me the position until he was sure no one else wanted it, as well as waiting for Darmin to announce his support in me. Eventually however, he allowed me to take command, giving me a temporary promotion. I do not plan to waste the opportunity.
The first port of call was to Lady Alysse. To keep relations between our Houses high I personally would allow her to take Tygor with her to deal with as she fit (as she suggested herself) however, Lord Ranin was clear that the attack had been against House Stav and as such the punishment should be given by House Stav on House Stav lands. Lady Alysse understood and did not press the issue, although she insisted on taking custody of the body to display as a warning to others who would doubt her rule. I made plans for the execution to be carried out in the castle courtyard as soon as possible. While preparations were being made I went in search of Edmund Bartheld, planning on going through with my promise of aid and marshalling the troops as soon as possible to ride to his aid. Once I found him I told him of my plan, asking him to be ready to leave as soon as possible. He was most grateful but was unsure of our chances when I informed him that we planned on only taking three units of our strength. Personally I do not believe that a few gangs of peasants and bandits could be a match for even one unit of Stav troops, however, I kept my comments to myself.
I sent out the word for our new mercenaries, our archers and our cavalry to be ready for a 10 day march to House Bartheld. While the troops were readied I attended the execution of Captain Tygor. As most of the guests had already left there were few people to watch the deed. Perhaps for the best, the man whom I had liked when I had first met him went to his death with little dignity or pride, begging to me for mercy before Ser Freydor took his head with one swift blow. Soon after the execution I was approached by Kestrel, the leader of the mercenary unit. He was opposed to he and his men going on the mission. Stating that the contract we had signed demanded no suicide missions and the lack of information we had was too dangerous for them. Myself and Darmin soon cowed the craven into submission. I had thought of the man as being made of stronger stuff. I only hope that he is not typical of the men he leads.
By mid afternoon the troops were assembled in the castle courtyard, ready to depart. I would prefer to bring our ever faithful crusaders with us, but dare not leave the security of the castle just to the garrison, not when we would be campaigning so far away. Edmund tells me the journey will take around 10 days. With such a force on the move I suspect no problems however.
The days on the road past uneventfully and we arrived at House Bartheld 10 days after setting off. We arrived mid morning and so, after a brief meal, we set about making a plan. The mercenaries who had turned against Bartheld were holed up in a tower north of Hartshall (Bartheld's seat of power) known as Robert's Hammer. The bandits and criminals however, roamed Bartheld lands as they pleased, ambushing traders and terrifying any of the locals who hadn't already joined them. Some weeks ago Edmund had attempted to retake Robert's Hammer, however, his losses had been too high and since then, all he could do with his remaining men was hold his keep. Darmin, Freydor and Kyrilu decided to scout the lands surrounding the keep. Planning to find where ever the bandits were operating from. I good idea, however, I thought Hantu would be of more help in that regard than I would. Excusing myself to my chambers by saying I must study local maps and think of a strategy, once alone I slipped into Hantu and joined the scouting party.
Not long after setting off, I was able to track the bandits to an encampment. It did not take long to convince the others to follow me as Hantu, Darmin in particular has become use to the Snowcat's ability to guide the group towards it's goal. The encampment was small and quickly put together, while there were guards, none of them seemed to be paying much attention to their surroundings, I decided I may be able to sneak close enough to see through gaps in the wooden fence and gauge their numbers. Upon sneaking up to the pallisade however, one of the guards noticed me and decided hunting Snowcat would be good sport. As soon as I realised I had been spotted I made for the safety of the trees surrounding the fort, the archer however, struck true hitting me in the flank. While it wasn't a serious injury, it was exceptionally painful.
Not long after this, two riders appeared near the gates, riding quickly, with the size of the force we had arrived with, it was feasible that these men were outriders warning the bandits of our arrival. It seemed Kyrilu came to the same conclusion and he loosed two arrows at quick succession at the riders, bringing one down and wounding the other. The make shift fortification then became a flurry of activity and more archers began to appear at the wall, Kyrilu shot another arrow at the gathering bandits, killing another, but alerting them to our presence, 4 arrows found our scout, badly wounding the man. At this we decided to hide, stay quiet and await Darmin and the reinforcements. At this point I returned to my own body in anticipation of Darmin's return.
Not long after he arrived and we set off with our band of mercenaries, Kestrel was again suspicious of us trying to get his men killed. His obsession with suicide missions is beginning to make him more of a hinderence than a help but once again myself and Darmin were able to coerce him into coming. We arrived at the fortification to find the bandits had left. We began tracking them, by their tracks there were around 2 dozen of them. It was not hard to find their path. After a couple of hours, the group fragmented into many smaller paths, We sent the mercenaries back to the pallisade and continued tracking. Not long after we found that some of the tracks led to a tower in the distance. From what I remembered of the maps I had seen I assumed this was Robert's Hammer and we returned to Hartshall to gather our troops, as well as the mercenaries. With any luck we could take out the enemy mercenaries and the bandits in one attack.
We arrived at the tower and found a rag tag band of bandits and mercenaries numbering in the hundred gathered outside the tower. A small man mounted on a horse rode out inbetween our troops. Myself, Darmin and Freydor rode out to meet him. The small man was clearly of common birth and had little important to say. After it was clear he did not intend to surrender I abruptly ended his prattling by turning and riding back to our forces. I intended to have the man shot by Kyrilu, a man of low birth does not deserve the protection of parley. Before I could give the order, the treacherous swine shot me himself with his crossbow! The bolt hit me in the back, my armour protected my vital organs, but even still I could tell it was a serious wound. I struggled to remain on horseback and returned to our front line. Looking back I could see Darmin struggling with the small man, dragging him onto his donkey while Freydor rode quickly back to us.
I struggled down from my horse attempting to see what condition my back was in as Freydor rode up, seeing me injured he asked if I wanted to give him the commanded. I had had the breath knocked out of me and could hardly answer, let alone shout out orders. I nodded dully and went to join the mercenary band once seeing to my wound. Our archers then began shooting at the advancing enemy, covering Darmin as he tried to ride back to us with the struggling man grappled in his arms. After a few volleys of our veteran archers, some of the enemy rabble began to pause, looking around for inspiration and orders. Once Darmin arrived with his prisoner, we told the small man we would allow him to live if he demanded his men surrendered. He quickly agreed and ran out, attempting to get the attention of his men. They soon got the idea and while some surrendered, others attempted to flee, at this point we sent our cavalry forward, attempting to cut off any routing enemies and kill any who wouldn't surrender.
Not long past before the cavalry returned with a large number of prisoners, most had surrendered, some had fought back, a very small number had escaped. This left just one problem to deal with. The mercenaries were still in the tower and we were informed by the leader Darmin had captured that they had at least two weeks worth of supplies. With no siege equipment all we could do was dig in for a siege.