The Infiltration of Fort Brenton

The Infiltration of Fort Brenton
Summary: Prince Samwell and Sir Jaren Cassomir lead a party to infiltrate the Fortress of Brenton. They run into a bandit infestation.
Date: 03/11/1329
Related: Immediately follows The March on Brenton, Just before The March on Brenton, Part 2, Concurrent With Battle for Brenton
Samwell Jaren Deidra Peronell 

November 4, 1329 — The Fortress of Brenton

Sir Jaren Cassomir finished wiping his blade on a scrap of cloth from the bandit once known as Gnark, and slid it back into its' scabbard for a moment as he noticed the iron key hanging from the man's belt. He reached down and picked it up, studying it a moment before tucking it behind his belt and drawing his sword once again. Sir Deidra and Sir Peronell stood next to Prince Samwell, eyes ever alert for any sign of danger, but so far the scuffle in the abandoned garden seemed to have attracted no further attention from those remaining in the Keep of Brenton.

"We should move, your Highness." Jaren commented towards the younger man, beckoning for a few of the armsmen they had brought to take up positions near the door on the opposite side of the garden from the rotten old door they had broken through to get inside the moderately-sized fortress. "Sir Gauvain has likely begun his assault already. By your leave, I will take a couple of the armsmen and scout ahead just a bit. We'll be sure to raise a ruckus if we run into any trouble"

Samwell considered a brief moment, then nodded to Jaren once. Sir Jaren returned the nod with a slight bow from the waist, and without speaking, pointed out a handful of the soldiers that had accompanied them on this raid…two good archers and a trio of men-at-arms. A fair enough scouting party, and unlikely to be wiped out before they could raise an alarm if they ran into trouble. Briefly, the knight flicked a glance to Sir Deidra, who offered the barest of nods herself. She and Sir Peronell had already been dispatched from the Prince's side once today, and Sir Jaren imagined even the Prince himself might have a hard time convincing them to step too far away again.

Without another word, Jaren moved to the door, and finding it unlocked and unbarred, slowly swung it open. The hinges squeaked a bit, but silence still filled the dark corridor ahead. A few torches offered dim light, set at semi-regular intervals down the length of the long hallway. Another door awaited at the southern end, and a trio of doors were spaced along the right hand side. Slowly, Sir Jaren and his small band stepped into the shadows, moving slowly so as to minimize the noise they made. However, it was not the sounds of their movement that suddenly drew Jaren's attention, rather it was a sound coming through the first of those three doors as they passed….

The sounds of sobbing.

Jaren jerked his head to the right, seeing the barred window of the door, and leaned over to peer through. There was just enough light to make out the shapes of at least three people within. Jaren's hand went to the latch of the door, and found the door locked. Then he remembered that iron key, and plucked it from behind his belt. It fit the keyhole, and with a click the door was unlocked. sheathing his blade once more, Jaren pointed to the torch hanging nearby and beckoned…one of the archers pulled it from its' sconce and placed it in his hand.

Slowly, he swung the door open and stepped inside. Four women lay within…clothing torn, dirty, and ragged. A shattered look on faces that were marred with ugly purple bruises, as well as their forearms and lower legs, and, Jaren imagined, much of the rest of their bodies. A loathsome odor filled the small room as well, the origins of which Jaren cared not to speculate on even as he already knew the source. The women offered no screams as the armored figure filled the doorway, the only protest a collective whimper laced thoroughly with the utmost despair as they huddled amongst each other, tears wetting their cheeks.

A white-hot lance of rage briefly clouded Jaren's thoughts. How could ANY Knight tolerate much less condone this brutality? As quickly as it came, Jaren stamped that rage down, rendering it to little more than dying embers. Calm. Calm won battles. Rage opens one to recklessness. He needed to stay calm. He reached up and lifted the visor of his helmet, allowing his face to be seen.

"Ladies, we're getting you out of here…" He gestured to one of the armsmen "Go check the other cells." He said in a hoarse whisper. He looked back to the women, clenching his teeth as even the words promising respite from their plight seemed to fail to reach them. They sat huddled together still, staring at him blankly. He beckoned and spoke again, "Come on…you're free." Finally, one among them stirred, moving unsteadily to her feet and stepping forward a bit, close enough to see Jaren's face in the torchlight.

"You're not one of them…" The girl said in little more than a whisper. If she had seen 16 summers, Jaren would have been surprised. He was even more surprised when she threw her arms around his neck and sobbed into his chest. He was fairly sure it was some measure of thanks, but the sound was muffled, broken with sobs. Jaren hesitated, then ever-so-lightly placed a hand on the girl's back, murmuring, "It's all right. It's all right. But you need to be quiet, and we need to move." She felt so wan that he feared she might hurt herself simply by embracing him. Even so, it took some gentle prying to get her arms free so he could look her in the eye.

"You need to help me get the other girls out of here. Keep them as quiet as you can, but we need to move quickly." The cloud of fear that had marred the girls eyes seemed to have cleared ever-so-slightly, and she set her jaw firmly, turning around and moving to the other girls, rousing them. They began to move with more alacrity as they realized this was no cruel trick or hopeful dream.

"No one in the other cells, Sir Jaren." The armsmen returned and reported in a whisper. Jaren nodded and stepped out of the doorway to allow the girls to leave the cell. One of the girls was clinging to one of the others, clearly needing the support, nearly staggering beside her. One of the armsmen moved to assist, but both girls cringed away from the touch. Jaren put up a forestalling hand, shaking his head slightly, and then moved back towards the Garden, gently ushering the girls along as best he could.

"By the Guardians…what is this?" Samwell's face turned a bit ashen as the girls came into view. Sir Deidra immediately moved forward to assist the struggling girl, and this time the child didn't shy away. Sir Peronell remained beside the Prince; grip tight on her sword hilt and her green eyes ablaze first with shock, then, he thought, a brief glimmer of fear, only to have it replaced with fury. Jaren could not be sure, but he thought she might be trembling.

Jaren did not answer Samwell's question, nor did he need to, for the Prince had already surmised the answer, his face encompassing a multitude of emotion in the span of a few moments: Shock, realization, sympathy, anger. It was sympathy that dominated most of his expression as he watched the girls, but there was definitely anger in his eyes. He stepped aside to allow the girls to pass.

"Castia, Marsha, Nance." Jaren called out the three women (outside of the Blue Guard) who had accompanied them on this particular venture. Two archers and one (wo)man-at-arms. They stepped forward immediately,
"See these girls back to the camp. Take them to Lady Claire, and help her see that they are properly cared for and protected." With a salute, the three women moved to do as bidden, the rest of the soldiers parting in solemn silence as the women and their guardians passed back out of the Keep and began their journey to relative safety.

"Perhaps I should send-…" Samwell began, and then flicked his gaze to Sir Peronell, who remained standing stock-still, eyes following the girls as they left. "No, never mind." He set his jaw, his expression growing determined, "No more scouting parties, Sir Jaren. Sir Gauvain's attack will-"

As though the Prince's words were prophetic, horns of alarm sounded as Sir Gauvain began his assault on the front gates of the Keep.

"Of course, Your Highness," Jaren replied, and the remaining men had already readied themselves in the interim. He turned back to the door, and headed down the dark hallway, replacing the torch in the sconce as he went and drawing his blade once more. The door at the far end of the dungeon hallway led to a smaller hallway that turned inward, They rounded the corner to find another doorway, albeit another rickety, badly-in-need of replacement one. Jaren barely noticed as Sir Peronell drew up beside him, with Deidra and Samwell close behind, the rest of their armsmen trailing.

They weren't really able to make much attempt at stealth, but the effort was unneeded, as the rumble of several voices was heard beyond, until one voice finally shouted down the rest:

"Hey now! We're stickin' to the plan! We need to go out the back here, and sneak around and strike these bastards in the rear!" A deep, gravelly voice bellowed, causing most of the other voices to die down. "Whoever
kills the most and lives to tell of it gets the first choice of the spoils, -and- first go at our girls!"

An alarm bell went off in Sir Jaren's mind a half-second before it happened, and a half-second too late to do anything about it. With banshee's shriek of rage, Sir Peronell kicked open the doorway and launched herself towards the men. Two of them were dead before anyone realized what was happening, and a third had barely brought up his axe to clumsily deflect a third strike from the Blue Slayer's blade. But now the men were alerted.

Jaren rushed in just behind Peronell, breaking to the right and inwardly cursing as he realized there were greater numbers here than he had expected. Certainly more than the 10 bandits that their prisoners from Rikton had spoken of. There wasn't time for a proper count, but he would have gathered as many as thirty at a glance. Still, these were clearly not trained armsmen, as most bore little or no armor, and their weapons were mismatched in the extreme…not that that made them terribly less dangerous. Prince Samwell and Deidra moved in behind him, shifting left, and the small phalanx of four knights, with Sir Peronell leading the way, pushed the bandits back to buy room for their armsmen to start filling the large room and engaging the bandits themselves.

Sir Deidra's blade was a quicksilver blur as it lashed out again and again, felling bandits with nearly every stroke. Beside her, the Prince fought with the precision and grace of one that had been taught the arts of warfare virtually since birth. He and Deidra had clearly trained or fought together a great deal, as they both instinctively compensated for any gaps in their mutual defense, shield shifting ever-so-slightly this way, or blade coming around just so to deflect a strike aimed towards the other.

Sir Peronell continued to live up to her byname, cleaving a bloody swath through the bandits in a blaze of fury. Even when a few strikes breached her defense, they either slid off her armor, or barely drew blood. She didn't seem to notice, continuing her relentless culling of the honorless dogs, though eventually her advance was halted when three came at her at once. Even then, she held firm, batting aside their attacks with shield or blade, refusing to give an inch.

Jaren give silent thanks that these louts didn't seem to have any archers or crossbowmen with them, even as his shield deflected the axe-strike one of the bandits directed at him, and he pushed the blade aside with his shield arm, leaving the man open for the sword stroke across his throat. The bandit stumbled back, dropping the axe and clutching at his throat as it fountained crimson. Another fell with a thrust through the gut…that one would be a long time in the dying…and a third lost an arm when he aimed a clumsy thrust with a half-rusted short sword towards the knight. Jaren pushed the screaming, one-armed bandit away with a kick, turning slightly as he heard a terrific roar coming towards his left. The voice of the man that had been speaking earlier, he thought…

Jaren barely got his shield up in time as a massive spiked mace smashed against it with terrific force, rattling his entire body and sending him staggering back a couple of paces. He nearly slid on the now blood-slicked floor, but regained his footing….for all of about a half-heartbeat before that mace swung back up with an underhand strike. Off balance and with his shield arm aching from the last strike, he was wide-open for the attack and only instinct and reflexes saved him from practically having his head bashed right off. He jerked his upper body backwards, and the mace caught only the very edge of his helmet. Jaren felt a violent jerk, and then a snap, and the sensation of falling backward for a half-moment before he landed flat on his back, the breath being knocked from his lungs with the impact. Somewhere, he vaguely heard the clatter of the helmet that had been torn from his head hitting the ground. Were it not for the chain coif he wore beneath, those now-broken leather straps likely would have scored him something fierce before they broke. Better them than his neck, though.

The big lout that carried the mace was moving forward for another massive overhand bash with his weapon. This time Jaren brought his shield up, and braced it with both his sword-arm and his knee as the strike landed, denting his shield even further, one of the spikes very nearly punching through the steel plate, but with three limbs absorbing the blow, it did not rattle him nearly so much. Jaren noticed the man was wearing an ill-fitting shirt of mail links, and an open-faced helm that barely seemed to squeeze over his head. His legs, however, were not armored beyond the breeches he wore. As the man pulled the mace back for another smash, Jaren rolled and pivoted as he came up to a crouch, adrenaline fuelling his speed. He avoided the mace as it smashed hard against the stone floor, and brought his blade around in a quick strike towards the man's thighs. He felt the bite of his blade as it cut deeply into both the bandit’s legs, and violently jerked it back towards himself. Bright red began pouring from the vicious wounds almost immediately, staining the floor as the bandit collapsed to the ground, the muscles of those legs no longer able to support his weight. Already the cold glaze of lifelessness was starting to fill his still-open eyes as he lay upon the stone floor.

Jaren regained his feet fully, blade coming up to a defensive posture, but he found that the battle had been won…The onslaught of the knights with the reinforcing of the men-at-arms had proven too much for the bandits, and though they had fought desperately…7 of the men-at-arms they had brought had fallen in the fray, with four others bearing wounds that would leave scars…the bandits were no match for the more disciplined force. Eight bandits remained alive and mostly-unharmed, huddled in the corner, having surrendered their arms and thrown themselves at the Prince's mercy, now watched over by several of the armsmen. Somehow Jaren thought it unlikely they would receive much. A few others were more seriously injured. They -might- live to see a healer, but the wounds of the loyal soldiers would of course take priority..

"I believe you lost this, Sir Jaren…" Jaren looked over to find Samwell approaching him, the visor of his armor lifted so that he could see his face, a bit of an amused smile playing on his lips as he handed over Jaren's helmet. Aside from the broken straps and some scoring on the front edge, it looked to still be serviceable…eventually. Another glance was spared for Deidra and Peronell. All of them were splattered with blood to one degree or another, though Jaren couldn't suppress a tiny jolt of humor as he noticed the Prince was clearly the cleanest of the four. Deidra looked coldly serene, occasionally sparing a glance towards Samwell as though checking and double-checking that he'd taken no wounds, though the Prince did seem to be bearing a slight limp. Peronell still seethed, occasionally looking towards the prisoners with death in her eyes, restrained only by her loyalty to her Prince and her oaths of duty.

"Thank you, Highness." Jaren replied, an ever-so-slight smile playing on his lips despite his voice still being a bit breathless. He noticed then that the sounds of battle had largely died down completely, with only the occasional clatter or moan to be heard in the distance. He tucked his helmet under his arm and opened his mouth to speak, just as the familiar, weather-beaten face of Argyle Daleson, the master-of-arms of the remaining Cassomir soldiers, burst through one of the other doorways of the room. Deidra and Peronell had their swords half-way free of their scabbards before they recognized the blood-stained tabard he wore. The greying warrior rushed over to Jaren, offering a hasty bow to the Prince and an equally hasty salute for Jaren.

“Sir Jaren, Your Highness. The Keep is ours, but we've taken some losses." His face twisted into a mask of pain as he struggled with the words, his voice breaking a bit, "Young Bethany, she…."

Jaren's helmet again clattered to the floor, the shock of fear piercing the rush of adrenaline and the ache of battle, “What?!?” He started to take a step forward, but Samwell’s voice halted him.

“Sir Jaren, wait. I know you want to see to your friend Sir Gauvain and his squire, but I need you to deal with matters here in the Keep.” Samwell’s face was filled with sympathy despite his words, and he added after a moment, “I’m sorry, but we cannot tarry on these matters.”

“I…what?” Jaren blinked at Samwell, uncomprehending for a moment before he shook his head slightly, straightened, and bowed, “Of course, Your Highness. As you command.” He could feel his teeth clenching, but the Prince had the right of it. There was still much to do.

“If there were any other I could trust with this…” Samwell reached over and briefly placed a hand on the older Knight’s shoulder, “They will be all right. Lady Claire will see to them. I’ll go make certain of it myself.”

Jaren nodded, feeling numb inside. Almost like…no, he wouldn’t countenance that thought, he couldn’t consider that thought if he was to keep working. No…duty must come first. “I…I will have a report for you as soon as I am able, Highness.” As Samwell nodded and moved away with his Blue Guard, Jaren turned to Argyle, “Start tallying our dead and wounded and accounting for the rest of our men.” He handed the iron key still hanging from his belt to Argyle, “This is for the cells in the Western hallway. Prisoners can be stored there until we are ready to transport them. Check the Eastern hall as well, there may be others imprisoned there.” He paused, “And send a runner to Lady Claire to prepare her to receive wounded.”

The battle was over, but much grim work yet remained to be done….

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