Deran Karstark had almost succumbed to the belief that the Northern bastard had failed him, and that no word—or word of his failure—would return. Though that was disappointing news, the task he'd sent the bastard on hadn't been one of great importance. The third-son of a lower Northern noble had raped a girl within Deran's lands. Worse, the girl was the daughter of one of Daren's bannermen men, and so her father had demanded blood.
Deran's advisors initially sought to ignore the angered cries, or to take only nominal revenge on the man's house for fear of inciting a war in the North. But Deran had been eyeing the land held by the Umbers—especially after butchering a distant relative of the noble Umber line for having incited a rebellion. The Last Hearth would make a fine addition to the Karstark collection. Deran, despite not being born an heir to the Karstark lands, was an ambitious man. He sought to build up his lands and influence, not to honor his father or his House, but to bring more power to himself.
He'd sent the bastard and his boys with climbing spikes to the holdfast near Last Hearth where the lower-born Umber lived. They were to scale the walls, pillage the holdfast by night, and bring him proof of death for the rapist Umber. If they did, tensions would be sufficiently high between the families for Deran to launch an offensive on the Last Hearth without provoking a sudden undue war in the North. If they'd failed.... well he may have his fight with the Umbers after all, but on terms he'd hoped to avoid.
As he stood atop the walls of Karhold, he could see a party riding towards his gates in the distance. It didn't look large enough to be an advance attack party, and they didn't seem to hold Umber banners. Deran held out hope that his ploy had succeeded, and braced himself for what the bastard may ask for as payment.
The cold moonlit woodline encircled a modest holdfast flying an Umber banner. The trees and darkness provided enough distance and cover for the horses to be tied off awaiting the return of the small band of men. Led by their youngest, a foster son of sorts raised by the company of particularly peculiar sellswords and his mother a camp follower.
She was wench, and lady of the night whom also shared the company’s unique viewpoints and strange level of education when their profession came into question. But the mind and spirit are as deadly a weapon as any blade held by a man. But Logrulf The Bastard didn’t consider himself just an ordinary man. The very details of his birth both provided him with the satisfying poetry that he was destined to shape his own path and yet still shrouded in mystery. He know his father was of nobility, but to whom house or hold he cared little. His mother and the men he looked up to were all well spoken enough to seem noble to most and they shared all their knowledge with a young Logrulf. He listened and learned from them until the day came when he began to have them listen and he led. The respect he gained came from their sharp refinement of the boy now not aged more than twenty-five.
Brilliant and ruthless in his pursuits Logrulf was known as The Bastard throughout The North but of course we wasn’t the only bastard born but he earned that reputation early on.
With this reputation came the task he was given, it was to remain between the parties and not spoken of. One Derran Karstark wanted to remove both a threat to his power, and nothing better than filthy scum deserving nothing more than retribution for his actions.
“Alright horses tied down lads, we most push on low and slow. Three of you take the opposing towers and silence the watchmen. You two come with me, when the time comes we will strike terror into the people here and remove the rot from this northern flesh.”
Logrulf bellowed in a low quiet tone at his men whom nodded as they slowly weaved through the cold night, ducking through thick undergrowth and branches until the made it to the wood edge. With a simple gesture the men split off with Logrulf hitting the wall first and planting his climbing spikes into the hard wooden palisade with superb athleticism displaying his pure upper body strength as he ascended.
As he clambered over the edge planting softly he immediately scanned the area noticing a walkway extending from the central tower with a large base to serve as a common area within the fast gold. He awaited his men knowing that this would likely be the way in which the lazy Umber Lord strolled to his walls for a good view. A mistake in the design when it came to would be assassinations, proving to make the journey almost too easy.
Logrulf and his men moved down the walkway silently until the reached a balcony doorway. Slowly pushing the door Logrulf knew the creaking of old wood and iron was much louder to him than to anyone nearby. As the moon light pierced the room it revealed a large man fast asleep with another whore of his to be assured. The group moved silently into the chamber, one unsheathing his knife preparing to silence the lady of the night as Logrulf unsheathed his bastard sword before standing at the foot of the bed. Logrulf was quite adept with this blade often seen wielding it one handed as his fighting style was both savage and elegant as they come, but surely not much of a fight to be had here. As the man placed his blade across the wenches throat with a swift and surgical drag across her flesh she ceased to live as the other man smacked the large drunkenly asleep Umber man to have him regain conciousness as the two then promptly restrained him.
Either out of his drunken stupor or pure shock the lowly Umber Lord did not mutter a word, only trembling with whimpers and weeping.
Logrulf knelt at eye level as his men held him.
“Raping little girls, now that. That is something even I won’t let go unacknowledged. So you see I’m going to have my men carve your crimes all over your flesh, while I take your head to the man who ordered your sentence. Lord Karstark regrets the decisions you made truly, who wished you could have deserved something more honorable but your a rotten excuse for a lord and a man. You deserve less than the butchering we give a common pig and that is what you’ll get. As for the everyone else here. They will die a quick death if they don’t put up too much of a struggle.”
Logrulf smirked as the large Umber man’s eyes flinched and widened before more tears streamed down his cheeks and pathetic whimpers began to fill his chamber. Logrulf smacked the man hard with his chain mail laced greaves bloodying his face.
“p..please... I”The lowly Lord began to mutter
Logrulf raised a finger in his direction.
“Is that what the little girl you raped said too?” He said before gesturing his men to get on with it and horror filled the mans eyes as the two men began carving the words...
I raped an innocent child, this is what the gods have decided my fate to be...
Eerily legible and they also wrote it again and again along with the little girls name.
One week later...
As Logrulf rode for Lord Karstark and drew closer he recalled leaving the lowly Lord strung up to his own gates for the world to see, and his guards and retinue stacked in a funeral pyre to smoke signal the nearby settlements to investigate. Meanwhile the severed head of the accused rode on Logrulf horse in its own burlap satchel. His medium sized company galloped the northern countryside for nearly a week before arriving back.
The gatekeeper hailed his company recognizing them from their last visit and promptly had the gate parted so they could enter.
“Men tie down the horses and get yourself settled Lord Karstark and I shouldn’t be long. I’ll buy out a whole barrel of wine for you Men when I return. Jon if you could see my horse is tied down and keep the men out of trouble... we are.. guests here so act accordingly” Logrulf bellowed to his ragtag company of northern sellswords.
Unsaddling his horse and handing the reigns to his companion he left in charge he set forth for the main keep, burlap sack in hand as two of Karstarks men greet him and escorted him to the main hall...
As the men drew nearer, Deran Karstark immediately recognized it to be the same band he'd sent out a fortnite prior. A smile danced across face like ice creeping across a chilled lake, and so the Lord began his retreat from where he perched atop the Karhold walls. Waiting by the staircase was a pair of his bannermen, sworn to follow the Karstark Lord about—despite how unusual it was for a simple Lord to have constant guards. Deran was a man learned in the ways of fighting, but not seeking a fight at any time or place. He preferred his fights planned, organized, and lopsided, if possible.
"Yorrin," Deran called out lazily to one of his aides.
"Yes Lord Karstark?" The man asked, hurriedly crossing the yard to attend to his Lord.
"I'd like a case of tobacco brought out for our guests, as well as myself, and some rolling paper for it. Have Roderik bring out caches of gold, equal to what we promised the bastard's sellswords. He was privy to the discussions, he'll know the amounts."
"Aye, m'lord, as you wish," the shorter, hairy man bowed down half his height, and then turned to scurry away.
Deran continued on his path, lazily approaching the group of mercenaries as they tied off their horses to his hitches. Already, Yorrin was approaching with a sterling silver tray, carrying bowls of shredded tobacco, papers to roll it with, and enough pre-rolled cigarettes for each of the men plus Deran.
He swiped one from the passing servant, and then motioned for him to light it while Deran held it to his lips. Yorrin nervously struck a match and held it to the tip of the cigarette, nodding pleasantly when the end caught aflame. Deran motioned with his hand for the servant to see to their guests, and moved to speak with Logrulf himself.
"I've yet to receive ravens speaking of the Umber rage. However, I presume, as you have returned, that this is because they're still reeling from the blow dealt to them?" He waved a hand to dismiss the concerns that Logrulf may have failed. "My men are on their way with your gold, but feel free to make Karhold your home in the time-being. Our food is yours to eat, our beds yours to sleep in, and our whores yours to fuck."
The banners of The House Karstark, flapped diligently in the light northern breeze. Logrulf looked onwards as the two men stopped before reaching the main hall. Deran had made a point to greet them himself. Bearing gifts of sour leaf rolled and ready to be puffed by his men, as well as the payment he was bartered for the task.
Seeing Deran’s servant light his rolled sour leaf for him Logrulf stood where he and the two Karstark bannermen had halted. Reaching out to the tray as it passed by to retrieve one for himself and lighting it off a nearby sconce. The sour sweet smoke filled his lungs and relaxed his mind, as the whispy trails left his nostrils painting him as a cold hearted dragon in a sense. His eyes met Deran’s as he closed the space between the two. He let out that sly grin of his as more smoke escaped his lips.
The servant had seen to entertaining the rest of Logrulf’s small band of men. Serving them sour leaf rolls and offering them drinks as they all walked away from the courtyard together. Logrulf noticed that the two bannermen had also returned to their original posts leaving Deran and himself to speak. Taking a long drag as Lord Karstark spoke welcomingly he would exhale slowly while studying The Lord. He read people well and he knew Deran was cunning, but he also knew this was a shared trait amongst them. Logrulf was enticed to further this relationship and pick the mind of such a scholarly and open minded individual.
“Yes, here he is now actually.” Logrulf stated in response to Deran after he finished. Revealing the contents of the burlap sack he had slung over his shoulder. “You’re too kind, much kinder than this lot have ever had a chance to get used to.”
They began to walk and smoke as Deran finished his piece Logrulf would stop and turn.
“Aye, as I’ve said your too kind, I am sure the men will much appreciate it. Now if I may, there is much discussion to be had and you and I we share a common trait and possibly interests. Tell me Lord Karstark, what is it that you want more than anything? I’ll tell you a man’s ambition can be often matched with his character. And if need be I can explain the question further or tell you what I want for a fair comparison.” Logrulf’s eyes like shards of glass piercing into Deran’s, not in a way of disrespect but that of interest and intrigue.
What is the bastard getting at? Deran silently wondered. As he welcomed the man and his company in, with gold and sour leaf, he noticed that Logrulf had slowly worked the situation until he and Deran were alone. Now here he was, asking what Deran's ambitions and desires were.
The Karstark lord took a few moments to consider the queer question, mulling it over while smoke roiled from his nostrils unceremoniously. He didn't speak while deep in thought, and instead fixed his face with a contemplative look. He took the cigarette from his lips, letting out a puff of smoke from his mouth this time, and twisted his mouth like he was about to speak, but no words came out. A few more puffs of smoke, and he finally spoke up.
"Power, I suppose," he offered. "Power comes in many forms, knowledge, land, men," Deran explained. "I want all of these."
He snorted a laugh, which brought more smoke from his nose, "Why? What would you have, Logrulf?"
Logrulf exhaled a large plums of smoke from his mouth and nostrils before another grin formed on his face. Listening to Deran’s humble answer yielded the result he expected. Men of Westeros usually covet these things, Logrulf did as well but he also craved a deeper understanding of what some would consider long lost ideas and arcane practices often not seen.
“Aye, that is a mutual aspiration Lord Karstark. You see I wish to break the foundations of what is already set in stone, bastards like me you see we often not get as many chances as you born to a wedded mother of higher birth. I have had to learn and fight since I was a lad, no disrespect for I wished my father hadn’t discarded me and my mother but it may have been for the best. The things I learned from that women and these men ought not be wasted on wishing for a different lot in life.”
Logrulf turned and looked at his band of men, fathers and sons all brought up in a hybrid mix of northern and old first men customs. Grinning again before turning back to Deran and continuing his rant.
“Now you see, we share that in common. But what if I told you I have seen and learned things, truths that would change most men’s perspective on the world we inhabit. I have seen the Children under a great Weirwood, they are all but gone still many convene in recluse hidden away from the eyes of man whom all but forgot their truth. What if I told you The Long Night and it’s all truth sifted through the murky legends and myths surrounding these tales of old. What if I you that wildlings speak of rituals and the sleep by white walkers being disturbed from their slumber. Would you think I mad if I told you these things Lord Karstark? Would you think I mad if I told you that when they awaken they will take a new king, The Night King and what if I told you the time is sooner than later. Lord Karstark what if I told you power has many names and tools to which a learned man may harness for his own goals? Firstly what say you to the madness I have brought to light?”
Inhaling again and exhaling light wisps of smoke in the yellow light of burning fires and wall adorned sconces all reflecting off his misty deep blue eyes as the gazed upon Lord Karstark awaiting his mindful thoughts on these topics. Truly Logrulf may have exposed himself and looked a loon but if not he knew a man like Deran would be too intrigued to simply brush aside the ramblings a man so sure of himself and proven of worth.
At first, Logrulf's had the same meandering response about power as Deran, the response of a Westerosi noble or lord. The man had his points, Deran admitted. He'd only been born lower in his family's line, and for years Deran had been passed up and looked over honor and station in his family. The only thing that had pulled Deran up the ladder had been the death of his older brother and father—and still Deran had been afforded more than Logrulf. No man's death would see Logrulf climb higher on the social ladder. Everything he had would have to be taken by hand.
Then he continued, but his tone and subject went macabre. He spoke of old magics, related to the Northern Old Gods, the Children of the Forest, and their Weirwood trees. Deran couldn't help but raise his eyebrows in surprise a few times. This man was spewing out information and accusations that Deran had a hard time comprehending. Some of it due to lack of belief, others due to lack of knowledge. The Long Night, had many myths and legends about it.
"You're accusing some hefty things, Logrulf," Deran replied slowly, his voice as tempered as steel. "Things that do sound quite mad. You're a capable man, obviously based on the ground." Deran paused, and took another hit of his sourleaf, letting it soak into his lungs and set his mind at ease. "I'll need to see more proof of this. As it stands, you sound akin to a Night's Watchman fleeing the Wall. "