Clifford has spent the past couple of months helping the Redwoods prepare for their assault on the mountain man stronghold. Marlin leads the Redwood garrison and has been given increased responsibility since he proved his loyalty during our last visit to the Redwoods. Leo marches from the Teeth with his army unit to join the war effort. He has Maester Meera send a raven ahead to House Starskin and stops there on his way to Hearttree.
Lord Dennis Starskin greets him warmly at the Bay of Comets. The Starskins have already agreed to join our anti-pirate coalition, but Leo wants to ask him to provide troops for the mountain man fight as well. Lord Starskin says their priority is protecting their area against pirates, as ordered by House Waynwood. Leo asks him to simply provide a small band who know the lay of the land and would know the area better than the Slagathor scouts. He offers his eldest son and a handful of troops to work with us and Leo agrees to it graciously. Lord Starskin says his son is a good archer, but lazy, and he’d be happy to see him go out more. Gene Starskin is in his 20s and doesn’t seem thrilled with this, but he can’t refuse his father.
It takes about a week to reach Hearttree from there. They pass by the strange inn we visited last time (which is now under new management, as the old “mayor” was supporting the Lord of Light fanatics), but the party doesn’t have to stop there this time. Clifford rides out to meet his brother and fills him in on the training he’s been doing with the Redwoods. He says he’s been treated well, though he misses Jayne’s coffee. Marlin greets Leo as well and mentions how the castle is much calmer than the last time the Slagathors visited. He’s got the town secured against Lord of Light fanatics and hopes that this campaign will spell the end of mountain man influence in this area as well.
Clifford reports on his scouting. Many tribes have been gathering north of here, including the First Shadows (led by Valamir, brother of Brennos who was slain by Leo), the Moon Sisters (led by Sister Siph), the Damned Mutts (led by Gos), the Red Eyes (led by Asi), and a few smaller tribes, numbering at least eight tribes in all. They’ve been gathering at the First Shadows village. Many of these were once united under Brennos’ command but splintered when he was killed. It is known that the Moon Sisters are not as close to the First Shadows as the rest are. Scouts report there may be some sort of ritual being prepared in the town.
The Redwoods are committing most of their soldiers to this campaign (2 infantry units, 1 scout unit). Lord Aaron and Marlin will each be leading an infantry unit. The Highsuns arrived this afternoon. Lord Highsun himself will be leading a cavalry unit and he brought an infantry unit as well. Leo will be leading the Slagathor archery unit with Clifford and Archer Joe part of his group.
They head in and find the Great Hall decked out for a feast. Sonya sits at Leo’s side at the Slagathor table. Surprisingly, the Crowmore and Bloodhand tables are empty— they were expected to send troops. The Crowmores declined because the Bonebreakers have been harassing them and they have to deal with them. The Bloodhands sent a raven via House Coldwater explaining Houses Coldwater and Melcolm requested their help with a pirate-hunting expedition and that effort was more critical for the stability of the Vale.
Sonya speaks with Leo about the plans to fight the mountain men. She wants to know that Leo won’t show mercy. Leo assures her he won’t show mercy to mountain men, trying to hide the mercy he showed the group we’re currently sheltering at the Teeth, and she seems to believe him. The Highsuns mainly keep to themselves. Leo goes over to greet them. Lord Highsun is as friendly as he ever is and commends Clifford for his information-gathering efforts. He says the First Shadows used to be almost respectable, but Valamir is different. He expects Valamir would have gotten himself killed soon enough and almost regrets that we’re rushing Valamir death rather than letting it happen naturally. He’s concerned about the Lord of Light element, but he expects people will eventually realize this god doesn’t care about us more than any other. Leo points out that the cultists have been murdering maesters and sowing chaos by impersonating them. Lord Highsun seems more inclined to think that people are murdering maesters just to usurp their comfortable places in the castles.
Leo mentions our theory about the pirates and the Lord of Light cultists working together and the increased threat they pose. The cultists may be prompting the mountain men to mount inland attacks to weaken the coastal defenses for the pirates. It’s unfortunate we don’t know which particular Lord of Light church is training and sending out these fanatics. Leo notices that Lord Highsun checks to make sure no Redwoods are listening before he speaks again. Lord Highsun says he’s always found that peace and reconciliation is the best way to resolve things. He hints that allying with the Lord of Light followers might be the easiest way to put a stop to all of this since they’re the link between the mountain men and the pirates. Seeing Leo’s confusion, he clarifies that the ones we’re going after right now all need killing, but it’s an idea to keep in mind for later if an opportunity arises. Capture is always an option.
Meanwhile, Clifford is drinking as heavily as usual and chatting up any girl he can. He likes the redheads in particular. One of them swings at him for his advances, a boyfriend gets involved, Gene Starskin gets punched, and it turns into a minor brawl that Marlin has to break up with his men. Even so, Clifford eventually wins over a redhead named Leila and he can’t remember if she was a noble or a maid.
In the morning, the war party marches for Shadowvale— or as it’s now known, the West Arm of R’hllor. Clifford and some of the others move ahead of the party to scout. They follow an ancient road that used to lead to First Men town that has long since been taken over and destroyed by the mountain men. At some point, a volley of arrows suddenly falls on them in ambush from the trees and kills four of Clifford’s men. They appear to be members of the Red Eye tribe (they have red paint around their eyes, tend not to sleep, and specialize in overnight missions). Clifford engages the commander while one of the Slagathor soldiers, Alan, brings down a mountain man. The enraged Clifford drives his spear through the commander’s shoulder and nearly severs his arm.
The Slagathors are much better-armed and prepared and quickly take the upper hand. Seeing how badly things are going for him, the Red Eye commander goes for broke and hacks away viciously at Clifford. The Slagathor retaliates and rips both of the mountain man’s arms off (Wookie-style). A few more of Clifford’s men go down, but the mountain men break and run when they see their leader’s fate. Clifford sends his men after them; two are captured alive and the other five are killed before they can get away. With 9 of Clifford’s 20 men killed and several wounded, he decides to head back to the main group with his prisoners.
He presents the captured mountain men to the Redwoods. Both are young men, maybe teenagers. Clifford and Marlin intimidate them into talking. The boys mention a fire ritual that will involved a good chunk of the town (which they still call Shadowvale). They were sent ahead with their boss, Savaki (the man Clifford “disarmed”) because their group were still firm followers of the mountain man gods and Valamir, who has converted to the Lord of Light, wants to get the holdouts killed. Most of the tribes aren’t as devoted to the Lord of Light as the First Shadows, but they’re here to see if there’s anything to what the fanatics say. If the mountain men win this battle, the word of the Lord of Light could spread among all the tribes… A Scarlet Shepherd named Diferi has taken command of the mountain men and is always seen in company of his personal bodyguard, Jack Redwood.
The boys report there are 8-10 mountain men units in town. Their tribe, the Red Eyes, provided two units. Most are infantry and some are archers. They only know of one group of horsemen among the mountain man forces. The questioning done, Marlin recommends executing the two as Lady Sonya would wish. Ax Dan is called in. Elza (the pseudo-maester) patches up Clifford’s wounds.
The party crosses through the remains of the First Men/First Shadows town. It looks like whatever was left was burned to the ground at least a few months ago. By the sixth day of marching, we expect to arrive at the main mountain man town. We can approach from the front, charging down the slope, which would probably be defended. There’s also a side path we could take that would be slower going but grant us the higher ground. Then there’s a third path on the other side that passes by some ruins where the Moon Sisters may be located. The scouts weren’t able to determine that path for sure. We could also, with difficulty, charge through the hills or forest.
The night before the assault, it begins to rain hard. Morning dawns rainy and foggy. This reduces visibility for all sides, but might give us an advantage if the Lord of Light fanatics can’t use fire-based attacks or complete their fire ritual in the rain. Our scouts report what they can see of the mountain man placements. They know of eight units: Valamir and Jack Redwood are in the city; the Moon Sisters are by the ruins; Red Eyes units are in the hills to the west; First Shadows are waiting for us on the plains; and that’s all we know for now.
The Slagathors start things off by firing at the First Shadows as we emerge from the trees. Leo recognizes that Lucas, the son of Valamir, is leading that unit. Lord Aaron orders Marlin’s unit to follow up, so he charges and hits hard enough to disorganize Lucas’ men. The Red Eyes rush Marlin from behind and flank his forces. A Highsun unit charges the Red Eyes. A unit of Damned Mutts pops out of the woods behind the Highsuns (interestingly, their unit is composed of a mixture of mountain men and mercenary criminals brought in for this fight).
The Slagathors and Redwoods team up against Lucas’ unit to try and wipe them out; Lucas’ unit winds up fleeing away into the hills. The Red Eye infantry unit runs to join Valamir in the city. The Highsun unit engages with the Damned Mutts. The criminals in the Mutts refuse to listen to orders to change tactics and just continue attacking the Highsuns until the Highsuns become disorganized.
The Slagathors fire into the Mutts and cause them to become disorganized in return, leaving them open for Marlin to rout them and send them running with their tails between their legs. The Highsuns are unable to rally their disorganized troops just yet. Meanwhile, Valamir moves deeper into the city doing who knows what… Leo, Lord Aaron and the Highsun archers run forward to press towards the city.
An archer duel between the Slagathors and the Red Eyes begins, soon joined by the Redwood archers. Lord Aaron spots his brother and gets in position to charge Jack down. Lord Highsun gallops up to join the fight as well. The Slagathors managed to rout the Red Eyes archers and finish them off.
Suddenly a fire springs up in the city. The Scarlet Shepherd is burning the mayor of the mountain man town alive. The fog abruptly, unnaturally clears up, and the rain starts to lessen. Valamir and Jack Redwood stand shoulder to shoulder in the city and wait for us to come. As Lord Redwood and Lord Highsun charge into the city, the rain fully dissipates.
A hidden unit of Mutts bursts from the trees behind the wounded Redwood archers. Marlin notices the Mutts and charges them to defend his fellow Redwoods. A new group of First Shadows mountain men led by a woman named Clara emerges from the forest. Leo focuses on finishing off the Red Eyes and wipes out the last of them, singlehandedly ending the Red Eyes tribe in Westeros.
Marlin causes the Mutts to become disorganized. Leo, getting his archers into position on the hill, spots the Moon Sisters watching from the ruins. They’re displaying a flag of truce and seem content to stay out of things. The Highsun troops move to make sure the new mountain men can’t attack their lord from behind. Marlin manages to rout the last group of Mutts and send them yammering.
Suddenly the Scarlet Shepherd unleashes a new spell that engulfs the entire town in flames. It traps the lords inside the city limits and sets everything ablaze. All those who don’t believe in the Lord of Light take penalties to attack in the flames, and the remaining townsfolk who aren’t devotees start burning to death in their collapsing homes.
Leo’s archers fire into the city and severely wound the Scarlet Shepherd but don’t manage to take him down yet. Inside the burning city, Lord Highsun battles Valamir and the Redwood brothers get to dueling. Sir Zachary of the Hills (Highsun forces) moves to help his lord and gets in some great hits. Lord Aaron takes a series of bad hits from his brother in a clearly one-sided fight. Leo keeps firing at the Shepherd to try and finish him off and end the magic. With a flare of magic, the Shepherd manages to fend off a killing arrow from Leo.
Lord Highsun rushes Jack Redwood to try and protect his fellow lord, but it isn’t enough to deter Jack. Just as Jack would have gotten a killing blow on Aaron as they duel throughout the burning town, part of a roof collapses between them and cuts them off from each other. Jack assumes his brother is dead under the timbers and turns his attention back to the Highsuns. Leo’s archers finally cause the Scarlet Shepherd to flee, instantly lessening the magic of the flames.
While the Highsuns focus on taking down Valamir together, Jack Redwood tries to flee with the last of the First Shadows. Leo’s archers disorganize Jack’s remaining forces while Marlin comes racing up to help. Valamir limps away from the Highsuns as fast as he can. Seeing the Scarlet Shepherd escaping, Lord Highsun changes targets and successfully chases down the Shepherd. The rest of the Highsun forces effectively deal with Valamir. Leo’s archers finally manage to defeat Jack Redwood’s forces, but in the confusion Jack manages to escape yet again. Leo’s forces then take out Clara’s before she can kill off Marlin’s men.
Lucas gets away but loses quite a bit of his men and probably ends up wounded. The First Shadows cavalry that never participated in the fight gets away scot-free. The Moon Sisters are long gone. As for the Damned Mutts, leader Gos and his unit get wiped out by the Redwoods in the aftermath but the other Mutts get away.
Leo finds Aaron in the smoldering ruins and pulls him out alive. As he does, he seems to feel Nina’s presence around him, almost like this was the will of the gods. (Later, Nina tearfully hugs Leo and shows him a painting she made while he was in combat: Jack Redwood cutting off his brother’s head.)
A ton of Jason’s troops (Redwoods) are killed in the fight, but he gets out alive to rebuild his unit anew. Marlin loses some as well, but not nearly as many. Lord Highsun loses some men to the fire, as does Zachary’s unit. It’s almost as though the fire actively went after them, especially those who most fervently believed in the Old Gods.
The Highsuns take some prisoners away before anyone else can examine them and says they’re his to deal with. Leo advises him to kill any Lord of Light followers that happen to be among them. Lord Highsun agrees, but Leo can tell he’s leaning more towards trying to use them than kill them.
As thanks to the Slagathors, Lord Redwood grants them much of the loot found in the town (1 Wealth) and shares the credit for the victory (2 Glory).
In the aftermath of the victorious battle, Lord Aaron insists on officiating Leo and Sonya’s marriage this evening at the heart tree. They’ll have another ceremony later at the Teeth in the eyes of the Seven, but this will be the one to honor the Old Gods. Leo agrees and is officially wed; Sonya will return with him to the Teeth.
Glory: 2 for Slagathors (5 for Redwoods, who were in command)
Warfare Kills (more or less): Marlin (2), Leo (4), Highsuns (3)
XP: (TBD after Episode 11)