[Like the title says, this is a Mount & Blade AAR. Or, at least, its based in the M&B world; the continent of Calradia. Its not really based on any
campaign though, so dont be expecting any purty screenies.]
Lord Edmund Klargus, the Duke of Suno, looked on appalled at the man in front of him,
"Lieutenant Fechin, sir," the man said, saluting sloppily, "from the Free Company of Brígh."
The source of Klargus' shock was the appearance of the mercenary in front of him; his entire kit seemed to have been looted from a hundred different battlefields. His chainmail coat, reaching down to his knees, was pock-marked with ill-repaired rents including, Klargus noted with distaste, one reddish-stained rent just where the man's heart would be. His boots appeared to be those of a steppe nomad, and the helm he held under his arm was a guard helmet of the kind Swadian Sergeants wore. A short stabbing sword, that looked Nordic in manufacture, hung from his worn leather belt, and the chipped blade of an axe poked above the man's shoulder. The mercenary's nose had been badly broken, more than once it appeared, and his blond beard and hair were stiff with accumulated dirt and grease. His eyes were dark blue, watchful. He noted the Swadian Lord's inspection and grinned, exposing his crooked yellow teeth,
"A fine haul, isn't it?"
"Indeed." Lord Klargus' second-in-command, Lord Henry Grainwad the Viscount of Kelredan, responded drily, "You are the representative from the Free Company, the mercenaries sent by King Harlaus?"
"Aye, sir. All ready to skin some of them Nord b.astards," he paused, his grin taking on a slightly wolfish edge, "if you'll pardon my Rhodok."
"You command the Company?"
"Nah…that'd be the Captain, Corentin. He's, uh, indisposed at the minute."
"Indisposed?" Lord Grainwad asked, raising an eyebrow,
"Aye, sir…" he dropped his voice, aiming at confidentiality - though the guards at the command tent's entrance were well schooled in hearing only what they should, "I can tell you sirs," he explained, "'cause we're all men of high status, but it ain't good to let the troops hear this kinda thing. The Captain and us officers-"
Lord Grainwad interrupted him, "Officers?"
"Yeah, me and Lieutenant Roran."
Next to the bald Viscount, Lord Klargus looked disgusted at being considered in the same social group as the…creature in front of him. When he heard Lieutenant Fechin's response to Grainwad's question, his shock increased "You have just two officers in your company?"
"No! We got three, sir. You forgot the Captain himself."
"Dear god…" the Swadian muttered under his breath,
"You were telling us about why your Captain was 'indisposed'." Lord Grainwad prompted Fechin.
"Yeah, as I were saying, us officers were having a bit of a drinking contest last night and the Captain, well," Fechin's grin widened once more, "he lost."
There was a long pause. Finally Lord Grainwad drew a deep breath, and spoke, "Let me clarify this. Your Captain is unavailable to meet with his new Commander because he has a…hangover? Correct?"
"Aye. That'd be it, sir."
"As I thought. Kindly inform your Captain that when the Duke Klargus and I ask for a subordinate to report to us we mean just that; they must report to us; not send one of their second-in-commands."
A slight smile played at the corner of the mercenary lieutenant's mouth, "Tell him just that, should I?"
"Yes," Lord Grainwad snapped irritably, "Now good day."
Recognising the dismissal, Fechin turned and left the command tent - still smirking at the reaction he'd caused.
There was a long silence after the scruffy mercenary left the Lords' company. Klargus slowly drew a hand over his lined face, "Dear God, Henry." He said plaintively, "Why did the King send us such a miserable group?"
Lord Grainwad tugged at his ginger goatee beard, as he was wont to do when thinking deeply, "I admit I too am at a loss, Edmund. Though," he said thoughtfully, "we have not yet seen them in battle."
Lord Klargus' almost perpetual look of misery was replaced by another common look, shock, "Why would we need to!" he cried, "Did you not see the wretched fellow? He hardly looked like a proper soldier to me."
Grainwad sighed, his Commander could be particularly grating at times, "My dear Edmund. How many times must I have to tell you that a soldier's prowess is not only indicated by how smart his uniform is? Just look at the string of victories the Khergits have achieved over Lord Plais in the South. Their prowess is undoubted, but have you ever seen their uniforms, if they can even be called such? They dress for war like the goat herding nomads they once were!"
The Duke nodded slowly, mulling over in his head what Lord Grainwad had said, "So you believe King Harlaus may have sent us these men because of their fighting ability?"
"Precisely." His second-in-command responded, thinking that getting Klargus to accept an idea wasn't so different from killing a Nord - you just had to bash it into their thick skull; 'it' being, of course, a morningstar for the latter and an idea for the former.
"But we don't really need help, do we?"
Lord Grainwad mentally shook himself back into the present, "Uh, pardon, Edmund?"
"You were saying that the King sent us those mercenaries to help our campaigns against the Nords. But its not like we need help, is it?"
The bald Viscount smiled sadly, wondering just how detached from reality his Commander was, "Of course not. We shall win this campaign with or without one mercenary company. The King was probably just sending them to you in gratitude for your fine services so far."
Klargus still looked doubtful, "He sent me them to show his gratitude? Is that not an insult?"
"Edmund, my dear friend. You think too much. King Harlaus obviously thought some more troops could only be helpful in your campaigns. I'm sure there is nothing more to it than that."
"You are right, of course. Merely extra help…I believe the matter is done now, then? Good. I believe I shall now shave, and prepare for the day. So if you would be so kind as to…"
"Of course." Lord Grainwad took his leave of the Commander, and stepped outside into the morning sun.
As he walked the short distance to his own tent, he reflected on how this Nordic campaign was really going, Klargus' delusions aside. The Nords were refusing all major set-piece battles. Instead they launched small raids into the rich lands that formed the Vale of Suno, and endlessly harassed the Swadian scouts with ambushes. The more impetuous lords, such as Lord Ryis the Viscount of Derchios, urged for Klargus to lead his army deep into the heart of the Nords' lands, aiming to strike at the capital at Sargoth, and so force a battle upon the wily King Ragnar. But Grainwad and others had argued strongly against this course of action, telling the Duke that if he attacked that far he would leave most of the Vale unprotected, and the Nords would simply skirt around their army to strike at Suno and its environs. The Rhodoks might even attack from over the hills in Yalen. So Klargus had settled on a compromise. Currently they were now bogged down in a long siege of Tehlrog Castle, which was being ably defended by its Lord, Turegor. After his initial wave had been bloodily repulsed by Turegor's huscarls, Klargus had settled down to starve the enemy out - too afraid of loosing yet more of his men in another assault. And so outside the castle they stayed.
Reaching the top of the small rise upon which his tent was pitched, Lord Grainwad turned to look at Tehlrog. Turegor's red and white rose banner fluttered defiantly from its battlements. The Swadian sighed and, turning his back on the castle, entered his tent.
Fechin walked through the sprawling Swadian encampment, towards the Bríghan one on its outskirts. After emerging from the supremely organised main camp, with its parallel lines of tents and clearly marked zones for each separate unit, the Bríghan camp looked like a shambles. But, Fechin thought happily, it was a familiar shambles. Somewhere he was used to. He moved quickly past the ragged tents clumped in small groups around smouldering camp fires, seeing no-one. It was apparently too early for the Bríghans. Roughly at the centre of the encampment stood Captain Corentin's own tent, with Fechin's tent off to one side, and Roran's on the other. Corentin's was distinguishable from all the others Fechin had past only by the flag that flew next to its entrance. That flag was the Free Company's official banner, and had previously been the banner that had flown from Brígh's walls - before the Nordic raids. It showed a rearing white stag on a red background. Or, at least, it should have; years of rain had caused some of the red dye to run into the form of the stag - leaving its edges blurred and the body itself streaked with pink-coloured stripes.
Pushing the tent's flap to one side, Fechin entered. As he had guessed, Corentin still slept. He looked down at his sleeping Captain. He lay on the dirt floor, swathed in animal furs. A slight frown was visible on his forehead, but apart from that his gaunt face looked peaceful. Grabbing Corentin's waterskin, he emptied the contents over its owner's face. The Captain spluttered as the water splashed over his face and trickled into his open mouth, and his grey eyes flickered open. Groaning, the man pushed himself up onto one elbow; the furs had dropped, revealing his lean and scarred chest. His long brown hair dripped with water as he stared malevolently at his lieutenant,
"What," he asked menacingly, once slightly recovered, "do you want?"
Fechin grinned, "I went to the Swadians, like you said, but they said you wanted to see you! I think they were quite insulted."
Corentin groaned once more, "Didn't you mention I was unwell?"
"'Course, I told 'em you had a hangover - but they weren't having any of it. That shiny-headed fellow's a real hardarse."
The Captain groaned for a third time, unable to take all this information with such a raging headache, "Idiot! You actually said I was hungover? And who is this bald man?"
"Eh? I don't actually know, he never did introduce himself…the worried looking bloke was that Klar-something fellow, I got that much."
"Klargus, you mean? The Duke of Suno?"
"Er, sounds about right." Fechin shrugged helplessly, "They weren't too happy to see me, like I said - they wanted to see you."
"No-one's ever happy to see you, Fechin," Corentin pointed out,
"Most people'd rather see me than Roran."
"Only 'cause you probably won't kill them, you're still a whole lot uglier than the black-hearted b.astard." He grabbed a handful of the furs, and used them to try and dry his hair off, "So, did the Swadians mention when they wanted to see me?"
"Dunno, can't remember if they did."
"Brilliant bloody messenger you make," the Captain growled, "I'd be better off using that axe of yours to chop off your head. Then I could repaint our banner with your blood."
Fechin grinned easily, "You're the boss."
"Oh, b.ugger off," Corentin said angrily, "I can't deal with you when I feel like this, annoying b.astard…"
Obliging his Captain, Fechin ducked out of the tent and left him to his grumblings.