A young woman and three men stand over an unfurled map on a table. The men wore blackened chain shirts beneath darker plate. Next to the girl they loom like monoliths, towering and casting long shadows on the tent walls. Without great helms the men are unmistakably professional soldiers. Strong, stern faces, some scared, others regal, study the mass of tokens and lines set upon the map. The Hand of Bane, a white closed fist, dominates their breastplates.

“High Horn has never been taken for a reason,” spoke a man whose beard was shot with grey. “We’d lose thirty to a man before reaching walls which we cannot scale or topple. Impossible.”

The girl listened to his council. Meurik Rothcer had toppled temples and burned cities decades before she’d learned to walk; yet the Captain of the Baneguard tended to think along the lines of siege towers and arrows, of maces and broken bones.

The girl moved her hands in a quick fashion while Rynalt Sayer interpreted. “Poison the wells,” he said.

Nennoc, bearer of the greatmace Tyrant, laughed, “Better luck blasting the walls with flatulence. Gethan’s man Ren guards the aqueduct tighter than his daughter’s wet spot,” he mocked, purposely lowering his gauze beneath her navel as he leered. Leader of the Bannite death squads, Nennoc cared little for courtesy, and the young woman hadn’t cared enough to teach him.

“Do you know what town Ren hails from?” Reynalt forwarded the the girl’s signed question.

“The fuck I care?”

“E…l…t…e…r…e…l,” Rynault spelled the letters in the same way she signed them, slow and deliberate.

It took Nennoc a few seconds to string the letters together, looking down he smiled. A black “x” cut across Elterel. When his deathsquads sacked the village, hed called the girl soft, resisted the order to take the villagers alive, and only acquiesced after Meurik promised to feed him his own manhood for disobediance. Tyrant went hungry that night, now he knew why. “We have his Ren’s family?” he asked.

“Mother, father, two brothers, child-heavy wife,” Reynalt listed, “Even the aforementioned daughter, virginity and all.”

The girl’s gauntleted finger pointed at High Horn, mountain keep and winter garrison for half the Purple Dragons in Cormyr. “We have them,” Meurik said, interpreting without need of hand signals.

Nerroc laughed; mute little bitch or not, she had style.


The Mural on the Wall lynx1482