All weapons were piled a fair fifty paces from the meeting. Each side was allowed twenty men on the meeting grounds. You were tasking with piling the weapons, and then with listening. I fail to see the use, personally. This is you we’re talking about. You can hardly remember yesterday’s dinner. How can you be expected to remember negotiations?
King Borym was crowned with a circlet of gold, enameled to resemble seaweed. Reavers all about him wore ringmail–a mesh of chains linked into a steel shirt.. His son wore a brooch with a ruby wrought to resemble the eye of a kraken. You licked your lips, desiring it.
Lord Crom-cil-Orm said a word to one of his commanders as you approached, having organized the weapons flat against the grass. The commander turned to you and handed you a set of scrolls, a pen, and an inkwell.
You asked what it was for.
“You get to scribe our conversation.”
“Write down what everybody says. We need a record.”
“Tell the fool he can shove his quill up his arse,” King Borym said. Sunlight winked in his pupils. He seemed to remember you. “He’d look better in motley.”
“We are here to discuss your fate, reaver.” Lord Crom-cil-Orm said. Your quill was rushing. Scratching.
“My fate?” the King retorted. “My fate is to water the Rauthans’ crops with your blood–”
“Haven’t heard that before,” Dag muttered, playing with her leathered tongues.
“I will turn your flesh into sails and wright spells to wind them with the screams of your dying men. I will build a fleet from your bones for what you did to my subjects on the coast.”
He continued like this for some time. I’ll not put it to ink a second time. My hand would cramp all over again. Which I would hate, considering my shoulder still burns now and again. That aside, we’ve a splotch of bruise on our side, you and I. And I’ve no idea where we got it. Mayhaps in the pursuit. It would be wise of you to ask after this.
Lord Crom-cil-Orm listened, his face implacable, to the reaver’s many, many threats. When he was done Crom-cil-Orm remained silent for some time, as if he was waiting for the man to continue. We shared a smothering silence, thick with the King’s anger. He was quickly turning red.
“…Are you finished, Thar?”
“I am,” he said, brusquely.
“Good. Do you see that city, there on the horizon?” You guessed it was the one you stayed at.
King Borym nodded.
“You may have it. Take it for your seat, for all I care.”
“What use have I for such a city? It is far from the coast.”
“With high walls, and a moat,” Crom-cil-Orm added. “Their soil is rich, and would make you richer in trade. And the richer you get, the more swords you can buy. The more swords you can buy, the further inland you go.”
“And if I have no wish to build an empire, easterner?”
Crom-cil-Orm barked out a single laugh. “What King does not wish to expand his borders?”
King Borym bit his lip, concentrating. You hoped he remained that way, for you were still scrawling out your notes. You opened the scroll you’d been given to find something already written.
Crom-cil-Orm glanced at you and you nodded, having read what was on the parchment. Crom-cil-Orm huddled his cloak about himself, saying, “If you have no wish to build an empire, then there are other reasons that may yet suit your interests.”
“And what interests would those be?”
“You’re sure you won’t take my offer as it stands?”
“I’m sure, Lord Crom-cil-Orm.”
“As you wish.”
Obeying your instructions, you freed the dagger that the scroll had been wrapped around, lunged forward and seized King Borym’s son, dagger at his throat. You pulled him back, away from the reavers, holding one arm behind his back and the dagger steadied against the ruby at his throat. He tried to speak, but Dag grabbed his face and made him stare at her.
“Hush now, boy,” she smiled. “Grown ups are talking.”
Lord Crom-cil-Orm had a crescent of a smile. “My fool has a dagger, your Grace,” he said. “And now your son. Tell me–would he look just as well it motley now?”
“Have care, your Grace. You wouldn’t wish harm to come to your heir, would you?”
“You–you have no honor! Foul giant!” Thar sputtered. “Where is your honor now, easterner?”
“In shambles,” Crom-cil-Orm said with a shrug, “As your son will be if you do not listen closely. Assemble your army here by dawn tomorrow, or I’ll have your son’s head delivered to you by midday. Are we clear now, your Grace?”
The reaver was bright red. His eyes would not sit still–but, as if deflating, he sighed and nodded his assent.
“We lay siege to that city tomorrow, understood?” Crom-cil-Orm asked. He turned to his men and women. “Moriaen,” he called one of his commanders, “Have Prince Thar sent east, to my holdings. See that he gets there alive.”
“Yes, my Lord,” a man said that must’ve been Moriaen, and took the Prince from you. You got one final sight of that ruby before that commander ripped the brooch from his cloak and pocketed it himself.
“House of Thar now supports us in this war,” he explained. “We have the necessary defenses to hold the city.”