The Red, Red Mountains

The Bastard's Tale

Lucian

The Ale Tower’s cyvasse board was somewhat crudely carved and used a sanded piece of plywood to divide the two sides of the board and hide each player’s preparations. Nevertheless, Lucian thought the game an apt metaphor for his current position. Trying to plan for problems I cannot see, the sellsword ruminated as he placed mountains on his side of the board. He had circulated the game through the garrison, getting tepid responses at best until he had started wagering on the outcome. Even then, no one wanted to play after his first week at the tower. Then he had placed a gold dragon on the table and his men had lined up.

That same gold dragon sat beside the board now, as of yet unclaimed.

300 men, 20 Knights Lucian thought for what must have been the hundredth time. Led by a sour old man who cannot, or will not, devise an answer for his enemies. Lord Quentyn Qorgoyle, who had more or less raised Lucian, had snorted derisively at the Stone Dornishmen. “They think their mountains keep them safe. There is no wall high enough that it need not be guarded by brave men and defended with violence.” Speartip had roughly 320 brave men, though their capacity for violence was still an open question. Lucian hoped the knights, at least, were now cognizant of their lack of security – the smoking ruin of their stable left little doubt. But even if all 320 were wolves, it appeared they were led by a sheep, or perhaps a neutered wolf.

And he wants the Darkstar to rule in his place. Ser Gerold was, by all accounts, a bold knight, but Lucian could not put his faith in knights as commanders. Too often, they relied simply on what they knew and heavy cavalry, for all its power, would not keep the peace in these mountains. The plywood was moved and Lucian had to restrain his wince. Etan, one of the older guardsmen, had either laid a cunning trap for him in the line of forest on his side of the board…or he had simply not known what to do with them. Still, he was, at least, learning to use mountains in his defense. Rely on what you know, Lucian thought as he began advancing his light cavalry.

And all was not hopeless. The girl was, at least at first impression, a true princess of Dorne. Well, better to say she had the makings of one. She was unafraid, but as self-centered as any noble. She was ambitious, but it was impossible to say if she had any plan for what to do once she had secured her father’s chair. Aimless power was like a sirocco: chaos that scoured away everything men built. He barely had the rhetorical gifts to get his own men to all face the same direction and his last name elevated the task from merely difficult to next-to-impossible. Still, ambitious nobles could be counted on to be ambitious, even as Etan could be counted on to turn to his Dragon too early in the game, leaving him wide open for Lucian’s trebuchet. A decisive victory against these bandits might give the girl a taste for conquest. Ex-soldiers or no, that was an arena where Lucian felt far more confident. He sat back and focused on his game.

The gold dragon remained on the table all night, even after four games with four players.

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