Chapter 2: Inside Súthburg
The old Fortress
Starday 4 Hithui(Foggy) – (First Winter) T.A. 2758
After the party comes to the gates of the fortress and pass the entry requirements, one of the guards directs the cart towards a gate in the back that opens into the Deeping Coomb to allow the cart to be protected and to get the mounts fed and sheltered. After parking the cart among the tents and lean-tos, Aramis ventures through the crowds and attempts in vain to sell some of the wares contained in the cart.
Meanwhile Dagorhir and Cúthalion go to the courtyard and asks the guards posted outside to see the King.
They are directed into the great hall carved into the mountain and shown into a smaller chamber through the back where they await the king. When he finally enters the room he looks pleased to see the two companions.
How have you fared since I saw you last?
We were ambushed by Dunlendings along the road a day from the fords.
That is troubling but I am glad to see that you have arrived safely. If you need any supplies to help recover then go to the armory and see the quartermaster Oswine and he will help you in any way that he can. Supplies are tight but I owe my life to you and your other companion and anything that you might need should be provided.
Dagorhir graciously thanks the king and asks him about his plans for the coming seige.
We will remain steadfast here in the fortress and will wait them out. This autumn has quickly grown ill and the winter will be very harsh I feel. The hill men and the rebels will not be able to last long in the harsh elements. In the coming days and weeks I may need your help with some covert missions but for now rest and make yourselves at home here in the greatest fortress in the plains of Rohan.
After leaving the King’s council chamber, Cúthalion inspects the fortress looking for secret passages and other things which might be useful in any future covert operations. Walking slowly along the walls, he searches the ancient stonework for any signs of passages that could be useful. In doing so, he comes to a set of double doors at the end of a hallway guarded by a young soldier who asks Cúthalion what business he has there. Cúthalion replies,
I am a close friend and guard of the king, and I am familiarizing myself with the fortress to help ensure victory in this siege.
The guard at the door holds up a torch and looks again at the half Elf and says
Many apologies Cúthalion, I did not recognize who you were right away and we are under orders to tighten security here. Beyond me is the entrance to the caves and you are welcome to have a look around but there is not much between here and the south gate which leads all the out to the South side of the mountains.
He steps aside and opens one of the two doors before allowing Cúthalion to pass through.
Cúthalion peers into the caves and is struck by the sight. The walls of the cave sparkle and shine in the dim torchlight and a large still lake fills the center of the cave. Along the shore of the lake, piles of goods and supplies have been gathered to help prepare for the siege. Cúthalion enters the large cavern and leaves the torch at the doorway. He surveys around the pile of goods and looks deep across the lake but decides the caverns are better to explore later and returns to the cart, continuing to search walls along the way.
When Cúthalion leaves to go explore the fortress, Dagorhir decides to stay in the long hall and offer his services to the king whenever they are needed. While waiting in the guardhall, Dagorhir hears many banal conversations had over bowls of soup and dry hard bread. When he is eating his own meal, he hears one guard ask another
Have you heard if anyone has found Áccynheorte yet since the chaos has started settling down?
The other says,
He gulps down the last bit of soup before standing and picking up his helmet and shield.
no but I hope we can find him and the others soon. but right now I have to get back my shift so hopefully I can hear some good news.
the other says as he stands to salute the man before sitting back down to finish his own bowl of soup.
Overhearing the guards’ quick conversation, Dagorhir’s curiosity is piqued. As there doesn’t seem like much to do other than the constant preparation for war, he is bored and decides to at least find out some information about this person he had never before heard of. He goes up to the remaining guard, sits down at the table, and tries to strike up a conversation with the hope of bringing up the topic of Áccynheorte and obtaining some information on the matter. Before he says anything the guard asks him
What can I do for you Dagorhir?
Dagorhir responds to the sitting guard,
I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with the other guard. Who is this Áccynheorte you two were speaking of? It sounded as though he is important and hasn’t been heard from in a while."
The guard smiles at Dagorhir’s question.
It has been a good while since he has been heard from and he is very dear to Háma and adored by everyone stationed here at the fortress. Since his disappearance the Marshall has been on edge and has been hard on those involved. I am usually stationed in the lower guard house so I didn’t see him that often. He used to like to play down at the stables and out in the deeping coomb so I’m sure the stablemaster, Wigstan, would have a better update on the situation. However, he has been put under a lot of stress with the disappearance and the huge influx of horses and livestock that he has had to deal with as well. If you don’t know how to get there just go down the stairs at the far end of the rear hallway and follow your nose.
As he says this he points towards the direction of the back of the great hall and curls his finger around an imaginary corner.
I regret I could not be much help. If there is nothing else I can do for you I too have to get back to my afternoon post.
He grabs the last chunk of his bread and sops up the rest of his soup then stands to leave. Dagorhir waits in the guard hall for a bit longer and decides that the next morning would be better to speak to the stablemaster. He then decides to leave and return to the cart.
Meanwhile, after wandering through the camp behind the Deeping wall, Aramis made his way to a makeshift tavern high in the back along the deeping stream where he seeks easier marks to sell his wares to. He approaches a young man with dark brown hair dressed in a worn travelling cloak and carrying a wooden stave with a longsword strapped to his waist. He tries to sell the youth a slightly magical axe that had once been the weapon of a Dunlending warrior.
The young man does not make any motion about the axe but instead asks Aramis if he may to buy them both a round and discuss any arrows or other supplies that he might be able to use. The two take a round and Aramis finds something in the young man that he trusts and decides that he is in need of some greater protection on the road to help distribute his goods and fight off highwaymen and other dangers. The young man sees an opportunity to travel further and decides to join the Gondorian on his quest.
After giving the location of his lean-to to his new Gondorian acquaintance, and finding out where he should meet him later,
Aramis asks around in the tavern for craftsmen who produce martial wares. Perhaps they will barter some locally accepted weapons or armor for some of the oddities from far off lands laying about in the cart. He also seeks to buy a sizable number of arrows and bolts. Among the tents and shelters, Aramis looks for craftsmen looking to barter but finds that most of the people he meets have no interest in fancy trinkets because there are rumors that the food supply might not be large enough for the number of people that have come. They realize they might have to fight before the end if some sort of peace is not brokered soon. He then encounters one man whose left arm and forehead are wrapped in bloody bandages and he limps heavily on his right side. This man seems interested in trading some extra arrows since he will not be able to use them himself so he asks aramis to see what he might have to offer for trading. Struck by a wild idea, Aramis leaves the wounded man mid sentence.
I am not going to starve to death in a castle with a large force of pre-agricultural savages at the gates. They must have a large herd out there, that army can’t forage in winter. It will be guarded by footmen, I am surrounded by famed horsemen. I must speak with the king!
He rambles to no one in particular as he rushed off to speak with the king. The injured man looks confused by Aramis’ sudden change of tone and as Aramis turns toward the keep he hobbles to turn with him and shouts after him,
If you still want to do business I will be around.
Aramis goes up towards the courtyard and enters the double doors to see a large room with high smooth stone columns and arches draped with banners of Rohan and ornate tapestries. Many soldiers are moving around and running errands. On the West side of the great hall, two soldiers stand guard in front of two long gold tapestries and an ornately carved wooden door. As he approaches, the guards stop Aramis and ask him what business he has with the King. Aramis responds,
I am Aramis of Dol Amroth, a traveller who chanced upon the King on the road to Súthburg, and a veteran of many sieges during my time amongst the Corsairs. I come to offer my sword, and if he be, willing my counsel, to King Helm.
Ah, Aramis. All our thanks go to you and your friends. You have quickly taken great favor with the king. He is taking a late lunch but I will announce your presence.
He knocks on the door and Announces
Aramis of Dol Amroth to see you sire.
After a pause, Helm responds to let him through and the guard opens the door.
When Aramis walks in, Helm rises to embrace him.
Aramis, it is such a pleasure to see you looking warmer than the last time we saw each other. What is it that I can do for you?
Aramis returns the King’s embrace with all of the gusto his lean frame can muster.
King Helm, I have come to offer my sword for a dangerous mission. I have walked amongst the refugees, their spirits are low, and the food stocks may be lower. This fortress will be beset by hard men with hatred in their hearts, the sort of hate that can carry a man through the coldest winter. But it will not feed him. The Dunlendling ineptitude for agriculture is legendary. Their inability to grow a single stalk of wheat is the butt of jokes as far as the South Seas, their notions of animal ‘husbandry’ make poor conversation for court. To feed a horde the size they are amassing they must have plundered the herds of shepherds and cattlemen for leagues in every direction. They will lack the knowledge and horsemanship to hold such a flock. I propose that a force of your finest riders leave the castle with the best horses. A few dozen spears will not be missed on the walls, while a few dozen riders could disperse the food supplies of the enemy, perhaps even bring some back to the castle. They could remain outside through the winter and by playing to the strengths of your people be of great value in harrying the enemy. If your men will have me, I will join this mission. I am no great rider, but I spent many years amongst the Corsairs and learned many of their dastardly strategies. My knowledge, coupled with the courage and ferocity of the Rohirrim cannot fail. What say you King?"
After listening to What Aramis has to say Helm looks pleased and responds,
Aramis I do agree that the Dunlendings are nothing more than scavengers and goat herds and surely have pillaged many lands to help feed this horde. But do not forget that while there are many Dunlendings at our gates, there are also rebels and traitors that have left their own homes in the Westfold and have brought with them their own horses and provisions to provide for the traitor Wulf. That being said, I also agree that a squadron of knights would be invaluable outside the walls which is why I dispatched them on the night of the battle at the fords. However, the Dunlendings are expecting them to attack and their defenses will be focused on preventing a mounted attack. Tomorrow night there will be a sliver of a moon and the knights will be faking an attack on the camp before it is completely established. When they do this, I will be leaving the fortress under cover of darkness to sneak in and take what I can. This is where I feel you can be of service Aramis. One does not come through what you and your company have without pickup up some unconventional talents and I think that together a small party of us can slip in unnoticed and take what we need. Prepare what you need in the meantime and tomorrow evening return here and we can take what we need to sneak out perform our mission. Just know that the secrecy of our mission is of utmost importance so only let your companions know and do not come here with all the necessary preparations until we are absolutely ready to leave. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to finish my meal for there are many things to be done. Thank you for stopping by Aramis. My door is always open if you need anything else.
With that, Helm again embraced Aramis before turning back to sit down to his meal. Aramis turns to leave and returns to his cart to take inventory of his goods and wait for his companions to return.
Gilfalassë leaves the tavern and heads back to where he left the four brothers he came in with. Upon returning to his make-shift camp, Gilfalassë finds the youngest of the rohirric brothers whetting swords and repairing weapons. He tells him of Aramis before heading towards the deeping wall to provide what assistance he can.
When Gilfalassë arrives at the wall, a team of masons and carpenters work to help shore up some of the defenses that have been neglected during years of peace by a garrison too small for the fortress. As gilfalasse looks on, a young lad in squires garb approaches a bald mason and briefly speaks with him before turning to head back to the main fortress. Gilfalassë follows the squire up to the courtyard and into the main keep. The squire enters a room full of armor and weapons and approaches a portly man sitting at a table with a large ledger. He barely looks up at the lad and mumbles something then waves him off and looks back to his work.
The portly man does not hear Gilfalassë approach and is startled to hear an unexpected voice. He has a frightened look in his eye and takes a deep breath to call to a guard before taking a longer look at the young man and instead gently exhales.
Nice to meet you Gilfalassë, my name is Oswine, and I am the quartermaster here. There are many things to be done and help is always welcome. I know that the stables are having a hard time dealing with the influx of horses and they need help with many things. Go down the stairwell outside the armory here and speak with Wigstan the stable master and he will be able to put you to work I am sure of it. Thank you for offering your services
With that he picks up his quill and looks back to his ledgers. Gilfalassë thanks the Quartermaster for his assistance, and proceeds down the stairs, looking for Wigstan in the stables and turns down a hallway with two heavy wooden doors on his right open to the faint sunlight filtering in from the causeway gate in front of him. A great amount of traffic passes in and out of the large doors. A boy leads a string of half a dozen horses out through the doors while knights both mounted and on foot pass in and out. The passageway echoes with the slow clop of war horses and the hurried shuffling of feet. Sheep and goats bleat amongst the shouts of stable hands and soldiers.
Walking towards the door, Gilfalassë first reaches a large archway and when he peeks inside he can see a makeshift wooden pen filled with sheep jostling to get to the stable hand with a sheaf of grain. Inside, Gilfalassë scans around and sees a large deep chamber in front of him with many stalls recessed into the smooth stone walls and many more temporary wooden stalls both finished and in progress. An archway to the left leads to a deep dark hallway that smells of dried hay and oats. On the right, a smaller archway leads into a lit room. When Gilfalassë peers in he sees a small room where a few men are sitting on barrels talking and eating a bit of bread. A second doorway on the right leads to a room where a boy is struggling to reach a saddle hanging on a slender hook.
As gilfalassë walks by he hears the room erupt with laughter one man pushes through a chuckle and says
…then he picks the fish up, wipes off his tunic, looks Henric square in the eye and takes a bite right out of the fish.
Another surge of laughter is heard as Gilfalassë enters the next room.
When Gilfalassë grabs the saddle the lad thanks him and says
as he turns towards the break room he sees a man enter and the boy runs to him.
Father went out to the Coombe but he should be back any minute now. You can wait with the other men in the break room if you like. Follow me.
I cleaned up the tack-room father. This man here was just looking for you. Though I didn’t catch his name.
The man approaches Gilfalassë and says
Greetings!! My name is Wigstan. What can I do for you?