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The small Tagmatine advance column picked its way towards the village ahead. Even in the cold air, and after the night's snowfall, the smell of burnt wood, amongst other odours, was still strong from the ruins in the clearing. Some of the soldiers dismounted, but no-one looked in the burnt shacks. They knew what they would find.

The native guide urged his horse over to the commander of the unit, Comes Nicephorus.

"They passed through here yesterday. The tracks are gone after the snow, but we could still catch up with them." The man's eyes could be seen under his fur hood, and they burned with a vengeance against those who did this to his people.

The comes removed his helmet with its mail hood, in order to talk to the man. "We need Commenus and the rest of the men to catch up with us before we can do anything. We'll stay here until they do."


The second group, the infantry and remainder of the cavalry, advanced towards the village as well. The village was of a local tribe they'd allied with and were fully expecting to be able to re-stock at, or at least get some food. The traitors they were pursuing knew this as well, and burnt it and the inhabitants to the ground. Commenus suspected they should move out, before they attracted the wrath of the local tribes. They may not be the ones who carried it out, but they could be confused between two groups of Tagmatines.


OOC: Oops, I've been writing this for three-quarters of an hour blink.gif

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Captain Xau's raiding fleet had been burning, raping and pillaging its way along the coast for nearly a month. The fleet had been hoping to find a northeast passage to circumnavigate the world. Instead, they had run into ice in the northern waters and had lost two of their ships. Now running low on supplies, they had to make landfall.

The ships were very large ships, similar in general design to Chinese junks, but with a triangular rigging setup. Perfect for sailing quickly in coastal waters. Horses whinnied as they were bought off the ships, and campaign tents were taken out of the holds. Already several light cavalry patrols had headed off to find high ground, and any settlements that may be ripe for raiding. Biting winds blew in off the north sea, it was vital that a sheltered position was found to make camp soon.

Having reached high ground overlooking what seemed to be a waste, the foremost cavalry patrol saw something more interesting. A large group of pale-skinned troops making their way across the waste. The view was only momentary, as the snow soon clouded the cavalryman's vision. His squad of 14 divided in two, seven would keep tracking this band of troops, whilst the other group would see what they found in the wreckage of a burning village, a few miles back...

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OOCheh, I'll refrain from killing (or eating) anyone...


The cavalry group rode into the burning village. No survivors. The lead cavalryman thought - "What has happened here? Our raiding parties never struck this far inland, who did this? and..."

His train of thought was cut short. A native ran out of the darkness and hurled a spear. He couldn't have been more than a teenager, judging by his poor aim. The native soon had a nasty surprise, as he found he was being chased by 7 heavily armed cavalrymen. The commander struck the person across the back of the head with the flat edge of his sword, knocking the boy out cold.

The group took the native back to the encampment, and staggered into the commander's tent, breathing a sigh of relief as they stepped into the warm. Jimantai folk were used to the biting cold of the south Ide Jiman plateau, but the temperatures here were in another league. Deerskin coats were being made as an extra layer of insulation, but until then they would have to use what they had to put up with the cold.

They threw the native on the floor. He was bewildered - he had been expecting to find pale-faced Tagmatine troops, not these foreign raiders. A translator from a tribe who had helped the Ide Jimans before they had a chance to destroy them sat to the right of Xau. This tribe were now allies of the Ide Jimans

Xau: Why did you attack my troops?

Native: They destroyed the village, and killed everyone whilst I was away!

Xau: You fool, we are coastal raiders! We wouldn't strike that far inland - and at such a pathetic target. You shouldn't come blundering into things you don't know about!

Native: I am sorry ... I had no idea!

Xau: Of course you have no idea. You're only a child, you don't know a thing about what happened there. This time you escape with only punishment. Next time it may be your life you lose. Kensai!... Give him 40 lashes, and leave him out in the waste where we found him. Maybe now you will think twice before throwing a spear at commander Kasura.


Later that evening, one of the horsemen from the other group returned. He said that he had followed the mysterious troops to their camp. He requested supplies and a fresh squad to track the troops the next morning. Within the hour he had left, with another 10 horsemen, and fresh horses for the other 6 troops already up there.

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The farmers across the area went once again to their daily lives, trying to prepare for the winter.

The new army advanced over the dirt path, and a few farmers looked by at their shining armor. Up the hill, the column stopped, and a man came out of the house on top.

"Excellent show! The Lord will be proud of the new army he is building."

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Their orders were simple. Find the Pope. Grab the Pope. Protect the Pope. Get the hell home as fast as possible. But carrying out those orders was not so easy. There was thought to be several armies in the area, but no confirmation as of yet. However, that was of limited importance to Lord O'Connor. What was more on his mind was the mission at hand. He had two units of pikemen, some archers and a handful of knights, plus the possibility of reinforcements. All in all, he wasn't terribly worried. He did not want to pick a fight he couldn't win, however, so he waited for the local rabble he'd paid earlier to scout the enemies in the area. And he waited...

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The second Tagmatine column by-passed the village, partly through the idea that the advance party would have moved on by now, party because the scouts had seen a handful of cavalry in the area. Dux Commenus, thinking that they were angry locals, had ordered his soldiers to march on by. The force he commanded was stronger than that little unit, but stirring up the tribes was not what he wanted. The weather was worsening, and, through his experience of campaigning against the Deltanoi in the north of the Holy Empire, Commenus knew that he needed to get his force into better cover.

"Guide!"

"Yes, dux?" The leader of the small group of locals he had hired turned his mount towards Commenus.

"We need to get to better cover. How far is the tree line?" He swore it was barely 100 metres away, but as he looked, the snow swirled even more. "And can you spare a few men to find Comes Nicephorus?"

"The treeline's just ahead, dux. I'll send some men soon."

Ha, just ahead. Commenus turned to the ranks of heavy spearmen, archers and the cavalry that he hadn't sent ahead. "Right, lads! The treelines just ahead! Once we're there, we'll make camp."

The officers nodded, and the advance was sounded again. Relaxing a bit on his horse, despite the biting wind, his mind flicked back to the mission in hand. That bastard Bardas, and his motley bunch of troops, were still free in the world. The Holy Emperor had personally ordered Commenus to capture the pretender, and so it must go on.

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OOC: Last post for 2 weeks - I will be back  :borg:


Yian's cavalry unit were watching the Tagmatium encampment from the heights, but now snow was falling. They had to return to the base - they would surely not survive the cold of the night if they did not fall back.

They galloped through the snow for several hours. Retracing their steps they found their way back to the base. It was a cluster of tents, wooden huts and Yurt-like structures surrounded by a palisade of sorts. It was built into a hillside, in amongst dense pine vegetation. Basic stables had been built - but there were not enough, and horses were being kept in officers lodgings whilst more stables were built. As Yian and 16 other cavalrymen rode into the camp a smell of cooking drifted into their noses.

Smoke was rising from a forge structure, as arrowheads were made - specially styled to whistle as they flew through the air to disorientate any enemies and cause panic. A group of crossbowmen sat beside the archery range shivering whilst a leader lectured them on the art of war. In the doorway of the captain's tent, a man dusted the snow off the plume on his helmet before visiting the leader.

All the supplies were in, now all the seven hundred troops had to do was wait for events to unfold. One of the ships had sailed back to meet up with the war fleet that had been shadowing this smaller vessel for its entire voyage...

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Captain Hartop surveyed his ship, like the one sailing beside it, it was a sturdy vessel, capable of many miles of travel, especially in these northern seas, with the fast eastern winds pushing the small boats up to high speeds.

The lookout had spotted a single ship sailing to the North of them earlier, and they had quickly changed bearing to intercept it, they were flying trading vessel flags, and the ship had slowed to make contact, as one ship pulled alongside, the Stick Pirates threw their grapples, and jumped onto the opposite ship.

The first ship were keeping the enemies on deck, as the second ship pulled along the other side, the Stickmen piled out of the second ship, and into the hold, they met little resistance, as the majority of the opponats were on deck fighting, or piling out of the guard room at the other end of the ship, barrels and boxes of food were thrown randomly onto the decks of the pirates ships, and as they were filled, the Horn was blown, the stickmen retreated back to the ships, and disengaged as fast as was possible.

Casualties were expected, but were few considering, the fast ships were quickly outdistancing the larger one chasing them, and as he sailed off, Captain Hartop chuckled as he went below to survey the takings. He did not know who he had attacked, he did not care, their food was as good as any others

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Lord O'Connor's men had been marching since dawn. Lord O'Connor had been upon his horse since dawn. Both were tiring quickly of the long road.

"Sir, one of our scouts came back with some news."

"Yes, squire, what did he say," Lord O'Connor growled irritatingly back.

"Well, sir, he said there were some other troops around, and they're trying to kill the Pope before we get to him.

"Then we'll just have to get there first, won't we, squire?"

"Um...well...yes sir." Lord O'Connor rolled his eyes. These men were not playing with a full deck, that was for sure. And he had to deal with them for the next several days, or weeks, or months until they could find His Holiness and bring him back to Vanarambaion. A thankless job, and he knew it. If he'd only been able to keep his mouth shut while he was at court...

O'Connor snapped to attention. The sun was near to the horizon. "Alright men, shack up!" The order fell on their ears like water on a parched man. The men broke formation and began setting up tents. O'Connor got off his horse. If they didn't have his tent ready in ten minutes, he'd take off someone's head. Perhaps in the morning, some of the promised mercenaries would arrive. Some of the horse-lovers he'd heard so much about, or perhaps their coastal cousins. O'Connor threw the reins of his horse to a waiting squire and strode toward the middle of camp, where he could see his tent slowly rising above the rest...

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Raousic reined in his horse just below the ridge and dismounted in the fluid motion of one who had begun riding before he could walk. As he landed softly on the ground there was slight clinking as the gold torque he wore around his neck was bushed by the gold and semi-precious stone beads in his hair.

One of the other men with him, Pathao, also dismounted the other three remained on their horses alert for any indication of possible threats.

"The childskins should be over the ridge, at least that is where Lathoric said they should be this evening. He says most of them are on foot and the horses their leaders ride a large and slow."

Raousic smiled, the tattoos on his face seeming to twist together like snakes locked in combat as he did so.

"Lathoric is a good tracker and warrior, Pathao. I have every confidence the childskins will be there as he said."

Pathao nodded, readjusting his sword belt as he did so so his sword would be less of a hindrance while crawling. Any educated person would have recognised that the weapon could have still be drawn at a moments notice despite the adjustment. Raousic did likewise. The two men then got down on their stomachs and crawled through the long grass that crowned the ridge until they go to a point where they could survey the steppe below. Lathoric had been right. A large group of men were setting up tents and preparing campfires under the watchful eye of a heavily armoured man whose annoyance was obvious to the two Akiiryan horsemen even at a distance of several hundred metres.

"That is the childskin warchief we are to talk to. His name is Oohconnaa."

"How much gold do they offer?"

"That is what we are to discuss...Let us go back to the others. We will let Oohconnaa know we have arrived."

"Oohconnaa! I greet you!"

Then he and the others with him waited.


OOC: There are more riders not far from this place. This is merely the negotiation party.

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OOC: Hahaha, that has to be one of the greatest posts ever. laugh.gif


Lord O'Connor's wrath was obvious. They'd broken one of his bottles of Scotch. Now a week's supply was gone, and someone was going to pay for it. His face was nearly as red as the ceremonial cape draped around his shoulders. It was lucky for the rat that had committed the act that he could run faster than a man in full plate armor. Even a giant like O'Connor was slowed down a little by the clanking armor he wore like he'd been born into it.

Suddenly, on the horizon, a call broke through his rage. "Oohconnaa! I greet you!" came the call. O'Connor stopped clanking about for a second to see five men in strange garb astride horses at the top of the ridge. "Horsemen, sir!" yelled an aide standing nearby. O'Connor hit him with the flat of his sword in the back of his head, dropping him like a stone. "Useful information, I brought you along to give me useful information, you pathetic band of ninny bar wenches, " O'Connor muttered. Without another word, he began walking toward the band of horsemen. When he was outside of the general mill of the camp being set up, he jammed his sword into the ground, bowed slightly, and waited for the riders to approach.

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Pathao turned to Raousic with a smirk on his face as they watched the aide collapse to the ground in a heap

"It would seem this Oohconnaa leads well."

Raousic, also smiling, nodded.

"Yes, only a strong leader who is feared or respected by his troops can discipline like that."

Pathao surveyed the stunned faces of some of the troops standing behind O'Conner and let out a snort.

"I am thinking it is the former rather than the latter my friend, at least among those ones."

Raousic grimaced.

"We shall see. I hope the quality of the rest of his men are better. The last thing I wish to do is babysit a column of childskin weaklings across the steppe."

Pathao nodded

"The Yathoric Clan have been ranging widely lately I doubt we have enough men to stand against on of their war parties if these childskins can't fight for themselves."

The two Akiiryans stopped talking as they watched O'Conner stride force and plant his sword in the ground.

"Pathao, come with me. The rest of you stay here."

Raousic and Pathao rode slow down the ridge towards the place where O'Conner was standing - hands still presented in the Akiiryan sign of friendship and peace. As they reached where O'Conner was standing Raousic hailed him again.

"Oohconnaa, Raousic of the Clan Rothric greets you. May the Great Stag watch over your path and cover your way with his antlers."

Raousic pulled up his horse and waited for O'Conner to speak.

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O'Connor was lucky. He'd been schooled at the best schools in Vanarambaion. He recognized the dialect, though it wasn't his best language. He also wasn't sure what the sign meant, exactly. It looked friendly, so he wasn't worried, but he didn't know if returning it would be some grave insult. He chose to err on the side of caution and simply bowed instead. As the men neared him, Lord O'Connor began to speak.

"Thank you, friends. May your swords cut like butter through the vitals of your enemies. We have much to discuss. We can talk out here if you like, or we can enter my tent." He turned around and glared in the direction of the tent in the center of camp. A few of the aides who were standing dumbly watching the proceedings jumped into action to avoid their lord's wrath. Lord O'Connor turned back around to face the horsemen. "It is up to you."

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OOC: cut like butter?


Raousic smiled, it was hard to tell whether it was due to the obvious terror O'Connor instilled in his aides, or because he was simply being friendly. Those who knew anything about Akiiryan culture would have probably picked the former rather than the latter.

"Let us speak here Oohconnaa. The Great Stag has blessed us with a clear sky and cool winds, it would be a shame to turn our backs on such a gift by retreating to a ger."

Raousic leap from his horse, a skin full of liquid seeming to magically appear in his right hand as he did so. He softy landed on the ground, the gold he wore in his hair, at his neck and on his wrists flaming in the setting sun.

"Besides, it is best to drink and discuss business under the watchful eyes of the Great Stag and our ancestors."

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OOC: I bet gone-off butter would go straight through you tongue.gif


As night closed in on what the Tagmatines thought of as the frozen wastes that made up the Uncharted East, wolves howled in the night. Most of the men, by now seasoned campaigners, shivered in their small tents and pulled their swords closer. There was no palisade, mainly as the small force didn't intend to stay there for long, and also because no spade could bite into the icy soil. Comes Nicephorus was awake still, waiting to see if any word would come from the other force. He stood next to the fire, tuning into the conversation of the soldiers guarding the horses.

"Bloody place. Nothing here except snow, forests and emptiness."

"Ha, don't forget the animal worshipping barbarians that litter the place. Bet they've never seen a bath."

"Well, neither have you, George. I can smell you from here!"

Movement on the edge of the clearing made him turn. A pair of horsemen, dressed in the outlandish garb of the local tribes, bear arms covered in tattoos. Nicephorus' hand tightened on his spathion sword, as did the men around the campfire.

"You're the comes Nicephorus, yes?"

"Yes, you are...?"

"The dux Commenus sends his greetings. He'll meet up with you on the morrow."

Nicephorus relaxed. That made life all the more easy. Safety in numbers in this unknown land. Soon they would be able to strike out properly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Things were not going well for the war fleet that had been shadowing captain Xau. Strong winds had blown them off course, and one of the largest boats had run aground, leaving 200 dead. The others had been forced to make landfall, 50 miles north of the main encampment. Upon meeting the ship sent back to find the war fleet, the war fleet had received orders to set up a base, and keep eyes open for pale-skinned soldiers that had been spotted in the area.

A base similar (but a lot larger) than the first was set up in the hinterland of the lands they had meant to explore, but something happened that the base there had not been expecting. They made contact with a group of pale-skinned horsemen, who appeared to be on the run from something...

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The horse stumbled, throwing its rider into the snow. The man rolled away as he hit the ground, avoiding the falling weight of the horse. He scrambled up right as his companions reighed in and stopped. One of the men pulled off his mask helm, and shouted towards the fallen man.

 

"Sir! Are you hurt?"

 

Sir, the fallen man thought. It was a long time since his body guard had stopped calling him by his proper title, even though it was his birthright. They would only call him by a generic military rank.

 

"No, I'm not injured. Don't know what the bloody animal tripped on." The horse was uninjured, and was standing a few metres off, unworried by its fall. Movement to the left drew his attention. Several oddly dressed soldiers were watching them several hundred metres away. He and his bodyguards scrambled for their equipment. He drew his paramerion sword, whilst several members of his bodyguard dismounted and took falx's from their saddlebags, preparing to fight in their preferred style. No move was made on the part of the barbarians, and an idea slowly dawned on the Tagmatine leader.

 

"Back down, lads. I don't think they're here to fight."

 

"Sir?" The leader swore in the privacy of his helmet. His bodyguard, only just civilised after spending time in the Imperial court in Tagmatica, still did not quite comprahend the idea of not fighting.

 

"They've been watching us for a while, I bet. Wait here, I'll try to talk to them."

 

OOC: What's supposed to be shown below the bit of information under my avatar in the sidebar? I don't remember it, as my PC now refuses to show it.

Edited by Tagmatium Rules (see edit history)
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The village of the Lord was normally a quiet place, everyone went about their business, working to sustain themselves and their Lord and King. Today, in the shop of William Brown, there was a different story.

 

"An army he's raised up in his manor."

 

"He'll call all o' us to arms!"

 

"Silence!" shouted William, at the head of the table they sat at. "Our Glorious Lord is raising an army far greater than the King would allow. Then it is our duty to our King to stop him."

 

"But it's our duty to serve our Most Glorious Lord!"

 

"Then what would you have us do? Choose our King over or Lord?"

 

The man stood up. "Our Lord is a much stronger man, much more than the weak man over this land. If you support the maggot, then you have no place among us!" He took his bag, and left the shop, running up the hill.

 

"quickly then, we won't catch him, but we'll stop our mad Lord."

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There were 14 troops in the patrol who had made contact with the Tagmatines. Several of the younger soldiers had drawn Katanas, but quickly put them back at the order of the patrol leader. He could only speak a few words of the Tagmatine language, but he knew a man back at the settlement who was fluent from his years travelling at sea.

 

The patrol leader, who was a prefect from the Seikan region, had seen the banner before somewhere, and he knew it to be Tagmatine. Upon meeting with the one man of the group who had ventured forth to meet them, the Leader asked one word, (pronounced very badly), "Tagmatine?"

 

After the initial greetings, the Tagmatine band was invited to the Jimantai northern settlement, to meet with the general and to discuss the matters at hand.

 

It was a 45 minute ride to the encampment, and upon arrival there was a brief stir in the encampment as the 1700 troops in the second of three bases to be set up came to have a look at the new arrivals.

 

A larger campaign tent was set up at the back of the encampment, against a sheer rock face, inside was general Lan, waiting to here the Tagmatines explain their situation.

 

 

 

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"Sir, is this wise? They could do anything to us!"

 

The Tagmatine leader turned around to the speaker. "It's better than letting the other lot catch up with us. We've about fifty, whilst they have more than ten times that. And those mercenaries haven't turned up yet." He lapsed into silence.

 

"But, your Majesty, does any one talk their tongue?"

 

The leaDer made a mental note of the title the bodyguard had just used. "Samuel from the Borea does, I think. Go and find him, will you?"

 

Once the man from Borea had been found, the leader could tell his story to the Jimantai.

 

His name was Bardas, rightful heir to the Holy Imperial throne of Tagmatium. His uncle, Demetrias, had been his guardian until he came of age. When the birthday came, he was kicked out of them Holy Empire, and left to fend for himself. That he did, killing several assassins who came for him.He gathered an army from the states around Tagmatium, who had suffered at the hands of Tagmatine armies as the Holy Empire expanded. The war had gone well, until a freak flood washed away himself, his best general and a large part of the army's cavalry. He had manage to get the heavy mail off in time, the others sank like stones. Once back on land, he'd found his army beaten, routed and destoryed. He gathered up as many survivors of his elite bodyguards as possible, and left the country as fast as possible. His uncle had sent pursuers after him, experienced soldiers. They'd chased across half of northern Europa, before landing in the Unchartered Eastern Lands.

 

"That's my whole story, your honours. Have you seen any of the pursuers? How far away are they?"

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It was just three days after his great celebration of adulthood that the prince strolled through the capitol city. He had lived in the center ring for all his life, because that was the palace and temple section. It was surrounded by the grand Royal Gardens, which looked different every season, but always beautiful. The second ring is for the most wealthy and most important people of the Empire. It housed the highest generals, the best dragontrainers and the most succesful merchants, but it also had a section for the royal guard, because it comforted the Emperor.

 

He passed through the corridor between the second and third ring. This corridor was just as wide as the Gardens, but seemed a lot smaller because it was packed with people buying and selling wares at the many merchants' stalls. He and his three guards slowly progressed towards the next corridor. The passages through the third ring were so crowded today, that they had to push people aside to get through. The rings looked newer towards the outside, which they were, because the city was permantly expanding. When one ring's finished, another ring is being built around it.

 

The prince loved to see the construction in progress. Every section is usually 8 or 9 stories high, built of lighter material towards the top.

 

However, he was not even half way towards the outermost ring when he was done walking.

 

"My dragon, please", he said to one of his guards who then beckoned a dragonryder flying high above them, to come down. The ryder immediately reacted and landed in the corridor where he dismounted. "Your dragon, Sire."

 

"Good", the prince responded. He mounted his own dragon, which looked beautifully muscular and fierce, worthy of an Emperor. As soon as the dragon lifted itself to the sky, the three footguards and the ryder ran towards the next passage towards where the prince also went.

Edited by Dragonryders (see edit history)
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The story was of great interest to General Raikan, after having thought about the possibilities he spoke,

 

 

"As a matter of fact we have seen another band of troops, who clearly don't belong in this region. Cavalry from the southernmost of our three settlements were tracking them, but that was some time ago and by now they could be anywhere".

 

"We will help you, but as you would surely understand nothing comes for free in this accursed corner of the world. What would we stand to gain from helping you?"

 

The room fell into silence for a few moments. Wind whistled through the tentflaps, and outside a horse whinnied...

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O'Connor pulled a flask from beneath his armor, drank deeply from it, and offered it to the tatooed speaker. "Then let me be straight-forward with you. We want you to fight with us, should fighting become necessary. We do not have many horses, so we don't have many horsemen. You do. We want you. Name your price."

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