“Lord Baskerville, it is an honour to meet you. My name is Rodrik Tassel, I am the captain of the second infantry company. My men have been instructed by Lord Stark to serve you to the best of our abilities.” A man in uniform came to me and bowed. This was the leader of the 100 men I asked for from Robb.
Last night there was a massive feast to celebrate the return of Arya and my subsequent Lordship. I was asked to tell the tale of my time in Kings Landing at least a dozen times, which has since spread to the rest of the camp.
I was already pretty popular among the soldiers. After all I am a champion knight and my humble origins makes me relatable to a lot of the men. Now I have reached superstar status with tales of my feats talked at every campfire. Everything from thwarting evil, rescuing princesses and huge rewards are all the sort of things these guys want to aim for. From the looks of this man’s eyes, he is one of my fans as well.
“Good to meet you Rodrik.” I put out my hand which he shakes with glee. “Has Lord Robb told you what I plan to do?” I ask.
“No Milord. I was only told to gather rope, a raft and make sure the men were well rested. The third one was harder than the other two. The Lords allowed 3 measures of wine and ale to be distributed to the men to celebrate your accomplishments. I kept the men to one and made sure they were well rested, though I am sure they hate me for it.” Rodrik gestures to the soldiers who look to be among the better for wear troops in the camp after last night. Set beside the shore is a small raft, suitable for about ten men
“Excellent work. Grab the raft and follow me. First.” I send a qi command to Brutus. He was sleeping until now, having digested an entire boar the previous night, and downed a barrel of ale in the celebration. With my command he bounded over to us and appeared in front of the rest of the troops, startling the men.
Brutus’s new size was talked about almost as much as my acts. In the past Brutus was already a rather legendary beast in the North, being attached to me only raised his fame. Now he has gone well beyond the boundary for the canine species and dwarfs the majority of bears as well. Many soldiers gathered to see him last night, and those who didn’t were told about it by those that did. Considering how rumours spread, and how there were already rumours about me going around, there was a lot of exaggeration.
Some said Brutus was as tall as a house, and could turn into the wind to travel the world, and it was by riding Brutus that I and Arya escaped the capital unharmed. Others said me and Brutus were the same creature, and I possessed the power to turn into Brutus. That one was quickly dissolved whenever they saw me standing next to Brutus, but it still held traction for most of the night.
Once the men settled again, we picked up the equipment, then marched down the river, swapping those carrying the raft halfway, about 500 metres down from the Twins. This was somewhere I passed when we were heading to camp, and was chosen because of the positioning of the trees on either side.
There were a few trees on both sides of the bank. Only a few and with a lack of shrubbery they weren’t suitable for hiding a large number of men. I chose them because they were close to the bank and they were strong enough to support significant amount of weight. I told the men to stop and rest here. While they rested, I told them men about the details and importance of this mission. That we needed to cross the river undetected and by midnight tonight. We would then take the Western gate by surprise and flank the Frey from behind.
I grabbed the rope and checked the quality. It was as thick as I requested and looked relatively new, with no visible fraying apparent. I ordered one of the men who recovered faster than the others to climb the tallest tree to about 5 metres up. While he set to it, though confused by the order, Rodrik came to me and expressed some concerns.
“My Lord, I don’t want to question you, but I have some doubts. I understand that if you want to cross the river, this is the thinnest area, therefore you have a shorter distance to travel. But it is also the fastest. If we try to cross here, it will still take us 30 minutes to do so, considering the time spent paddling against the current.” The river rages in a swift stream beside us.
“From sunset to midnight at this time of the year is only about 3 hours. For all of us to get across with our weapons and armour would require at least 15 trips. If we want to cross in time for the attack we would have to start while the sun is still up.” He points to the trees on the other side. “if you plan to use the trees to hide our troops, then it would work once we are across, but it won’t help while we are crossing the river. A raft can still be seen from the Twins, especially in the middle of the river with no cover. I should remind you the Frey have nearly 1000 cavalry and only a few would be needed to send out to eliminate us when we are exposed on the other side, divided and exhausted from the travel.”
Impressive. Rodrik is a good commander, analysing the terrain and making a logical guess at my plans. He has even looked into the forces of the opposing side, proving he is not just an experienced grunt who listens to the what he is told, and actively seeks information. However, he is acting under assumption that I am trying to accomplish a task while neglecting the enemies capability to react.
“What you say is true. If we tried to cross with the raft it would either be seen or take too long. So, we will not cross with the raft, or rather most of us won’t.” I am about to explain more when the soldier I sent up the tree climbs down.
“Good, have you firmly secured the rope as tight as you can?” I ask and he nods. “Are you sure? Because if you haven’t and I have to do this again I swear I will tie you to a rock and throw you in the river.” I repeat which causes him to pale. He grabs the rope and pulls tightly as hard as he can. When it holds, he turns back to me and answers in the affirmative.
I then take the rope and straighten it, ensuring there are no knots. Calling Brutus to me, I tie the other end around his waist and start to remove my clothes down to my pants. I turn to a startled Rodrik.
“Wait until I give the signal, then send the first one across.” I tell him, not noticing his confused expression. I then run forward, Brutus at my side, and we both dive into the river.
The cold-water hits us like a punch, but I keep swimming, crossing about 20 metres before I rise to the surface. When I do, I start front crawling at an angle to the stream. The water rushes over me, forcing me downstream. The constant undertow threatens to drag me under. If it was anyone else, they would have been dragged under and drown. I however have the body of a beast compressed into the streamline form of a human.
It takes about 2 minutes to reach the other side where I crawl onto the bank. Overall it was easier than swimming across the Blackwater, due to the distance being much shorter, but the flow of water was a significant challenge as well. I watch as Brutus crawls up beside me, the rope still attached. While he rests, I untie the rope and drag it to a nearby tree.
When wrapped around, I pull the rope to tighten it. It rises from the river and soon forms a nearly straight line with the other connection point on the other side, where the rest of the men are waiting anxiously, some stripped as well. It seems several considered jumping in after me, but when they saw me on the other side, they all cheered. I imagine this will be another story to tell when we join the rest of the army, though that won’t be until we complete our mission at the earliest.
Focusing on the current task, I tie the rope to the tree I found, and examined my work. The bank on this side is slightly lower than the other side, so the total height difference between the 2 points is about 6 metres. Stretched across the river it forms a long diagonal line sloping towards me. Satisfied that it is steady, I travel north-west to scout.
Once I am clear of the copse of trees, I can see the Twins. I wait for several minutes, listening for any alarms and watching for rapid troop movements on the walls. When nothing seems to happen, I am now assured that they can’t see me from this distance, nor did they notice anything wrong.
Rodrik’s concern that they would spot us from this distance was valid. Afterall, 10 men on a large raft, constantly splashing as they paddle to the other shore, would definitely be seen. A single swimmer, even one as large as Brutus, can’t. The rope stretched across the river is also so far away that they can’t see it moving even in a strong gust. From this sort of distance even a large tree by itself would be hard to spot, and only if you focused on it.
I make my way back to the rope and start waving to Rodrik. What I got in return was a confused reply from the others, lots of gesturing and looks to one-another. I start to get annoyed when I realise something. I was planning to tell Rodrik how they were going to get across when the man I sent to tie the tree returned, distracting me. I then swam across without actually telling them what I wanted.
I slap myself as I stare at the water. I debate whether I can signal them what I want, then dismiss it as it is too complicated. If I had paper and a water-proof container, I would kick Brutus back in to swim there and back. But I don’t and Brutus also has no way to convey my message to them. Sighing, I ready myself and jump back into the river. At least this way I can give them a demonstration on how to get to the other side, I console myself while thinking this is a huge pain in the ass.