Sigi sat at the tavern again, eating his second breakfast while others in the tavern sat in complete silence. No one was there from the night prior, when Sigi had first arrived. Other people sat in silence, watching him. The word of his arrival, and who he was, had spread through the keep quickly. Their eyes didn’t bother him; he simply bided his time.
Sigi sat in thought, going over the conversation in his head. He had expected a delay while Rothgard thought things over, but didn’t expect this. The travel north to scout, find and convince the other men he’d be taking would delay him greatly. He knew time was short. But he also knew he had no other choice. Lord Talgret in the west would not provide an army free of charge. The city and keep which he watched over nearly matched the size of the citadel, and the pool of people from which he could put an army together was substantial; it was there he’d have to travel next. But that was pushed much farther away with this delay, and so he set it in the back of his mind.
The door opened, and Sigi glanced over to find Relman, from last night. The small frame of a man stood in the doorway, and after finding Sigi, walked over to him.
“Excuse me, but the Lord sent me to you to help with your recruitment,” Relman started. “He also said that he wants me to ride with you.”
Sigi finished the bit of meat he was working on, then looked over at Relman. “I thought I would be doing the picking.”
“Oh! Well.. well, you would be,” Relman replied. “I don’t mean to offend you, m’Lord–”
“I am not your Lord,” Sigi interrupted, silencing Relman quickly. Sigi finally stood up, turning around fully and looking at Relman, sizing him up. Relman could feel it, and looked away, obviously nervous.
“What do you fight with… what’s your name?”
“Relman, m’L– Sigi. Sigi, I can fight with a short sword sometimes.”
“Sometimes?” Sigi walked behind him, looking him over.
“Yeah… when I can think it through. Often I’m too nervous to do so.”
“Then why does your Lord want you to ride with me?” Sigi came back to the front, the heavy steps on the wooden floor accenting his size against Relman.
“I’m well versed in reading and writing. He thinks I’m a witty one… at least, according to him,” Relman said meekly, still staring at the floor in nervousness.
Sigi crossed his arms in front of his chest, studying Relman for a few more moments. Then, Sigi began to walk outside, grabbing his leaning sword from the table. “Follow me.” Confused, Relman followed him outside.
When Relman went through the door, he found Sigi gathering several small rocks. As Relman watched, Sigi placed four of them in a line. He then took two more rocks, and set them on each side of the second rock down the line, forming a cross. He looked at Relman.
“I want you to make this so that each row has four rocks. You can’t get another rock, and you can only move one rock once.” Sigi crossed his arms, stepping back and letting Relman analyze the puzzle.
The nervousness from Relman completely disappeared when he saw the puzzle lay in front of him. Immediately he picked up the fourth rock in the longest row, looking at it for a moment, before he placed the rock in his hand on top of the rock that lay in the middle.
Relman nodded once, sagely. “There. Each row has four rocks.” He looked back up at Sigi, and the nervousness immediately set back in. He had no idea what Sigi was doing.
“A traveling jester comes to a king’s court, who performs many tricks and earns his living. He says that the longest he’s been able to stay under water, with training from the dark arts, is six minutes. A boy comes along and says, ‘I can stay under water for ten minutes. If I prove it to you, you owe me 100 gold pieces.’ The jester agreed, and the boy performs it and walks away 100 gold pieces richer. How was that possible?”
Relman’s nervousness dropped away a bit, as if dumbfounded by the nature of the question. “Well, he got a flagon of water and held it above his head for ten minutes, of course.” Sigi nodded once in approval.
“How well do you know the men here?”
“Is this another trick question?”
“Pretty well. I’ve been here all my life, and I know almost everything that goes on in this keep.”
Sigi nodded. “I want you to bring me fourteen men you’d ride for a few moons with– men you could trust with a sword, and you’d trust while you slept. Do so quickly, and tell them that they’re being summoned on behalf of your Lord. Quickly.”
Relman nodded, relieved he was leaving Sigi’s presence. He walked off at a brisk pace, and Sigi began walking over to the stables.
As Sigi walked over to the stables, located on the other side of the keep, he began taking in the structure as it was laid out. The weather warmed a bit more, indicating that there would be another warm tenure before the cold resettled itself. He couldn’t predict the weather up north though; he knew he’d have to ensure provisions were set for anything.
Arriving at the stables, Sigi began looking over the horses penned there. “Can I help you?” a boy’s voice called out from behind him. Sigi turned around, looking at what appeared to be the stable hand. He then looked back at the horses.
“I’ll need one,” he gestured. “I’ll need a saddle as well.” The stable hand seemed unphased by Sigi’s appearance. It’s likely he had seen odd things in his time at the castle. The stable boy looked at the horses, and then at Sigi, walking back into the row of pens. “Come over here. I might have one for you.”
Sigi walked behind the boy, who went down a few pens before stopping and pointing at a particular horse. A tall and broad Clydesdale stood in the pen, its mare and long hair kept somewhat trim. It was obvious that it was made to be a working horse, and its fur was set for cold country. Sigi looked over it a bit, running his hand over the chest to check for its strength. The horse reacted slightly to his touch, but was not alerted. Sigi looked back into its eyes, and the horse stared straight back for a moment before returning to its feed. Sigi nodded once.
“He’ll do. Prepare a saddle for it as well. I’d prefer one not broken in, so I can situate it properly for myself. I’m working for your Lord, so ensure it’s done quickly.”
The stable hand nodded, immediately walking back out and away from the stables. Sigi looked at the horse once more, and began exiting the stables himself, heading back towards the courtyard to the keep.
“YOU!” he heard yelled from behind him. He recognized the voice, and heard several people behind him. He turned to see Thom, the broad-chested and scarred man from the inn last night, looking at him with anger written on his face.
“I’ve heard a lot of things about you, wanderer. I heard you were thrown out on your face out of the capitol for trying to cause worry in the people. I heard you were the one who killed your own brother. I heard you were born out of some black magic. And I don’t want someone who is dishonorable walking in my lands!” The crowd gave a murmured agreement behind him.
Sigi, by this time, had turned around fully to size up Thom. He noted the short sword he had sheathed at his side, and when Thom’s eyes saw Sigi’s noting his weapon, Thom grinned a little.
“I’ll see you thrown out of here as a corpse, you sissy!” Thom exclaimed at him. Sigi gathered Thom’s nature from his words, and quickly assessed him to be the provocateur, looking for a fight.
Sigi removed his cloak and gloves, keeping all but his face covered with his long hair. Then, he set his sword aside, leaning it against a nearby wall.
“You’ll want that for me, sissy.” Sigi looked over at Thom, back to his sword and then at Thom again. After a few more seconds, he simply shook his head nonchalantly, waiting for Thom to make a move.
Thom gritted his teeth, unsheathing his sword with his left hand. “Stupid man,” he said, as a he grunted to push his stout body forward. Charging Sigi, he swapped his sword hand mid stride, causing Sigi to also shift his stance as Thom made the first overhead strike at Sigi.
In one swift move, Sigi brought his left arm up, his ringed bracer knocking the blade aside, and he stepped in close to Thom, hitting his open hand at Thom’s chest, using his hips to propel Thom backwards several feet. When Sigi hit, he realized Thom was wearing a breastplate beneath his shirt. Thom landed with a hard thud, rolling a few times before rolling to his feet. The crowd gasped into silence as Thom recomposed himself, reaching up to where Sigi had struck. Sigi’s stance had changed little. Thom grunted a bit. He began to feel what he had got himself into, and he grinned a bit for it.
Thom closed his stance a bit, and walked towards Sigi, approaching the conflict with much more training apparent in his posture. Sigi noted it, and shifted his left foot back behind his right. Thom brought his sword to his right hand again, and began his first overhead strike.
Sigi side stepped it, and Thom turned the blade inward for a thrust which Sigi deflected with his other bracer. It offered Sigi riposte, and immediately his fist came just past Thom’s head as he stepped aside it briefly. Thom tried to bring the sword across Sigi’s midsection, but Sigi brought up a foot and kicked it at Thom’s wrist, causing him to drop the sword.
Thom took his other free hand, grabbing Sigi’s shirt and dragging him in close, landing a few punches to Sigi’s jaw before Sigi stopped it, colliding Thom’s fist with his own bracer. This caused Thom to recoil just a moment from the impact of hitting the hard surface, and Sigi retaliated with two punches of his own to Thom’s face, staggering him back and causing him to shake his head.
Thom’s nose bled a bit, and he confirmed it by bringing up his hand to feel the moist blood attempting to run from it. He looked at Sigi’s face, and it bore no signs of being hit. He squinted to be sure, before picking up his sword from the ground and bringing it back to his left hand.
Sigi watched Thom as he made another approach to him, going for a direct thrust with his wrist twisted around, trying to get at his side. In a moment, Sigi decided the fight was over. He had seen what he wanted to. Sigi deflected the sword with his hand by hitting Thom’s hand, and countered with a direct punch to Thom’s chest. He felt armor under Thom’s clothes on contact. In a display of power, the hit propelled Thom back, inhumanly, into a wall where he bounced off it and fell onto the ground, gasping for breath.
Sigi looked at Thom for a moment, ensuring he wasn’t going to get back up to fight. The crowd looked at Sigi. Even if someone Relman’s size was hit by Thom that hard, he wouldn’t have been flung back like Sigi had just done to Thom. The muttered in whispers amongst one another, their eyes suddenly turning to wonder and fear when they realized it was really Sigi, born of unnatural strength and cunning.
Sigi collected his sword off the wall, strapping it to his back again, walking off.
“Wait!” gasped Thom, calling out to Sigi. He stopped walking, turning slightly to Thom. Thom struggled, but eventually got to his feet. The force of the hit should have knocked any other man down permanently. It was clear Thom had resilience about him.
“I’ll…” he coughed once, taking a deep breath before trying to talk again. “I’ll ride with you. You don’t fight like a coward.”
Sigi looked at Thom again with a renewed expression, and pointed at Thom’s chest. “Why didn’t you show you were wearing armor?”
A woman called out from behind Thom. “He never takes that damn thing off!” Thom looked back, grinning, before looking at Sigi.
Sigi nodded, walking off. “Meet me at sundown at the stables. I could use you.”