Cloak & Dagger The Assassins' Guild - Week 7 News

Sunday, 6 March

[17:00 PM] A member of a loose coalition of players consisting of James Brotherston, Fred Alford, Gwilym Kuiper, Freddie Brewer, Claire Farey, Georgie Turner, Joe Tomkinson, Ellie Holderness, Curtis Reubens, Tom Flynn & Kai Hugtenburg (Freddie Brewer) delivers their final proof.

A member of a loose coalition of players consisting of James Brotherston, Fred Alford, Gwilym Kuiper, Freddie Brewer, Claire Farey, Georgie Turner, Joe Tomkinson, Ellie Holderness, Curtis Reubens, Tom Flynn & Kai Hugtenburg reports:

Theorem: the Mathia is dead.


Fourteen little mathmos
All bright and sharp and keen
One was shot "en route to bog"
And then there were thirteen.

Thirteen little mathmos
All cloak and dagger and stealth
One was stabbed in their sleep
And then there were twelve

Apply induction...

One little mathmo
Who very nearly won
Got a facefull of water in the duel
And then there were none!

End of proof.

[18:00 PM] The Duel

The storm swirled around Winterfell like a direwolf pack around a herd of aurochs. The guards on the ramparts shivered as ice-shards made it their most earnest duty to impale them in the face. Even the beggars on the street had retreated back into alcoves, cursing the cruelty of the cold. Through the mirk strode figures, dimly glimpsed in the mist, all moving to the set of streets in which the fate of Westeros might be decided.

It had been a quiet time in Winterfell, after Jon had ordered a ceasefire due to the low numbers of people remaining. None had been slain for several days, after a wight which had somehow made its way down south had taken the life of a woman who turned out to be the fifth assassin still alive. Jon had retired for days after that, consulting no doubt with Bran through their link, and Ned had been left to marshal the swollen numbers of the watch to scour the landscape around lest more of their kindred be present. They found nothing, but even at this collection of survivors and hardened warriors, torches were still held in firm grips, and few relaxed despite the high walls.

As the crowd gathered, the remaining champions moved to stand at the edges of the growing ring of watchmen. Raven-haired and slight stood Alexander Hardwick, who had utilised the art of deception and bribery to bring about the deaths of many of his competitors. Joseph Gregory had utilised the strategy of subtlety, gliding like a raven on silent wings around the town. Christopher Bowring had paired with another and together butchered a swathe through the populace, the feared 'Generals', as their calling card had it, before his companion had been lured into a trap and killed just as his own bolt found its mark in his killer. And finally Freddie Brewer, last of the large maesterical contingent calling itself the [THERE ARE NO MATHIAS IN CAMBRIDGE]. Heavy banter filled the air as the light snow abated and all awaited the coming of the King in the North.

In the circle, Ned looked around at the men who would die this day. He'd not seen much of them, not judged their character, and could only hope that the victor would prove to be worthy to escort his son to the north, else all this killing would have been for naught. He feared it might be anyhow. Jon had become even more erratic as the days went by, spending time with the corpse of his direwolf in the godswood and lashing out at any that might disturb him. Ned only hoped Jon had his wits about him today, as the cry went up, heralding his sighting as he galloped across the wide field which had been used for tourneys in more peaceful times. He dismounted with a flourish and smiled at the crowded spectators and the combatants girded in their mail and with swords in scabbards. He shook his head.

"You'll not need those swords, boys. North of the Wall, they'll be no use. You won't stop one of the Others with steel."

Ned had seen enough fighting to know that this was beyond true. Blades froze so solid that they shattered when they touched the flesh of one of the Others. "What'll they be fighting with then, Jon?"

His boy looked up at him, cheeks stark and eyes dark, glittering in the reflected light of the torches. "The closest we can come to the breath of dragons. The only thing that will stop one of the Others at range. Wildfire, father."

A shudder ran through the crowd and through Ned's spine. Death by fire was the Mad King's way! Seven Hells, Lys- he pulled himself back to reality quickly. "Wildfire? Jon, you go too far."

"I don't go far enough, father. They are coming closer to breaching the wall every day we wait. I have seen it." His face contorted reminiscent of a wolf's snarl. "I have seen the North frozen into ice, I have seen everyone in Winterfell slain, or resurrected as wights! Do not speak to me of going too far."

Ned stepped back, troubled, as Jon handed out the wildfire throwers. Most of the competitors divested themselves of their swords, some keeping crossbows and knives at hand. Warning the spectators to stay out of the fight, on pain of death, he led the competitors to four corners of an area where the streets formed a figure-of-eight, with passageways in between. Small children playing in the street were rushed inside by their mothers as the grim quintet strode to their designated corner. Ned waited in the opposite corner to Jon and nodded to the man nearest him. "Good luck, lad." The assassin adjusted his cuirass as he nodded his acknowledgement, then tensed as the signal to begin was given. Swiftly moving with the calm gait of a veteran, despite the unfamiliar weapon in his arms, he strode toward his foes. The game was afoot.

The winding alleys grew silent as Ned watched. In the bitter cold, the competitors fought for any advantage, but, aghast at the grisly nature of the fire-based weaponry, kept their distance from one another. Ned caught glances down the sidestreet of figures locked in a battle of daring, now taking chance shots at one another, now keeping themselves back. He rounded a corner just ahead of one of the competitors to find himself in the company of a tall woman in full armour. She glanced at him, and bowed formally, then stood and fixed him with her clear blue eyes. Like one of the Others. He pushed the memory away.

"Lord Stark. I must say I have been impressed with the skill of some of these, but why not a tourney to decide who goes North? Surely it would be more expedient."

He nodded. "Aye." He shifted his feet. This explanation had been wearing thin these past few days. "But Jon said otherwise, and as you've probably heard, his is the voice to listen too these days."

"Indeed I am." Jon's voice sounded behind them as him moved toward them at speed. "And my plan has been rewarded. One has already been slain, caught in an alley by a wildfire blast, even as his own shot hit nothing but air. Christopher Bowring is the one to look for."

The cool eyes of the woman glanced at Jon, then away again. "Indeed. However, have you noticed that Alexander Hardwick seems to have allied himself with everyone? Dishonourable, but a fair tactic. He stands a chance, I would say."

Ned said nothing, but shifted himself further up the street to gain a better vantage point. Before long, he noted one of the fighters walking down the street, clearly on guard. Christopher Bowring, he thought. One of the fellows who had cut a swathe through the competition and slain Jon's direwolf to boot. He found himself wondering at Jon's restraint.

"Aha." The tall woman was behind him again, crooked teeth revealed as her lips curved into a smile. "Now we'll see. You've noticed that Brewer favours the crossbow? Perhaps distrusting the new weapon?"

"'tis so. As would I too, were I in this mess." He patted Ice. "If I were though, I'd rather it was a melee. Much less complicated."

"Yes." Again, that slightly amused quirk of the lips. "I'm with you there, Lord Stark. Even so, note that Bowring has mastered the use of the wildfire. He learns fast, that one."

Ned shifted uncomfortably. "Speak plainly, lady. What's your point?". "Simply that Brewer is currently waiting around that corner." She pointed, and Ned saw him crouched near a cart. "We will see how the old ways compare to the new."

They looked on as the oncomer cautiously rounded the corner, and then retreated rapidly as he saw his assailant. Freddie pursued, firing as he went, but stopped as he came to the corner, perhaps fearful of the weapon the taller man carried. They stood, locked in a standoff for what seemed like minutes but was only brief seconds, Christopher in cover behind the outcropping of a wall while Freddie took potshots at him with his crossbow. "He's made a mistake." Ned glanced up to see his companion shaking her head. "Bowring will just- ah, there he goes..."

Ned sharply turned to see Freddie fire off a final shot, which missed, as Christopher rushed round the corner, firing as he came. A startled cry came from the dying man's throat as he collapsed to the floor, wreathed in flames. Triumphant, the victor turned and disappeared back into the streets. Ned stopped by the flaming man, but there was not even the opportunity to offer the comfort of a quick death. The wildfire did its work swiftly. "He died well." The woman stood with her arms folded a few paces away. "Two down, two to go, anyway. Let's go and join the others."

He stood. "Aye." They set off down the street. A cluster of people stood there, with Jon and the other survivor among them. Jon saw them coming and started toward them.

"What news?"

Still in her unemotional voice, the woman replied. "Brewer's dead. Bowring caught him with the wildfire between shots."

"Excellent, Brienne." A wolfish smile adorned Jon's scarred face. "This will all be over soon, then."

Ned could stand it no longer. "Jon. Listen. Surely two companions will defend Bran better than one? End this now, send them both North and have done with this mess. I already have two bodies to bury. There is no need to make it a third, or a fourth if the gods be unkind, and-"

"Enough, father!" Jon dismissed him. "The game will play out. It will be as I have seen. Now leave me be!" He strode off down the street to the main body of watching folk, as Alex Hardwick moved to meet his opponent coming out of a side alley, leaving Ned alone but for the presence of Brienne. The duel moved swiftly after that. Christopher was the more aggressive of the two, but for the most part they remained in a standoff. Then all of a sudden- Ned didn't see what happened- Alex was in full retreat, pursued by the wildfire-wielding warrior, and followed by most of the spectators, eager to see the end of the epic contest, which had spanned weeks and cost dozens of lives. On the first retreat, Alex avoided death, but on the second, as he turned to face his attacker, releasing a crossbow bolt which landed somewhere near his legs, the wildfire took him as well.

"At long last." Jon stepped over the body of the fallen. "Christopher Bowring, you stand victorious. On the morrow, should you be ready, you will go North, and we will win this war against the Others. Ghost's death will be redeemed by your actions. I have seen it."

As he spoke, the skies opened and hail, not snow, but solid, frozen ice, as though the Wall itself had crumbled and been smashed into pieces which now rained down from the leaden skies. As one, the remaining people ran to shelter in the nearest tavern, leaving the now-steaming bodies of the dead in the snow, still consumed by flame despite the assault of the torrent of ice.


The conversation flowed well after the event, with tales of tourneys past retold at great length, to the amusement of all concerned. Jon and Christopher disappeared to the bar, Christopher returning with ale, while Jon drank from something that looked suspiciously like blood. Gradually the crowd thinned, until it was only Brienne, Jon and Ned remaining in the emptied pub. Ned shook his head, dark eyes reflecting the fire that burned in the grate, reminding him of the three men who had died earlier that day. "I still don't understand, Jon. Or approve."

Jon placed his beaker down with a hand which ever so slightly trembled. "I never asked for your approval, Ned. I never asked for you to give your approval to Ghost dying, nor to my woundings in this affair. It was all for the greater good."

Ned stiffened. "Jon, enough is enough. You may be the King in the North, but I raised you and you will show me some damned respect!"

The younger man laughed. It had a slightly cracked tone to it. "Respect? I have far surpassed your teaching, father. If you truly are my father. Bran's visions..." his voice trailed off a little. "I have seen things which make me doubt even that. So tell me, father, do you truly believe yourself to be my superior?"

Ned rose from the table. "Aye, lad. In swordsmanship, at the least. We'll fight, now. Spar. And if you win... then you may do whatever you wish and I'll obey. But give me this."

"As you command." The slender man bowed ironically. "Brienne? Will you observe?"

"I have long desired to see Ned Stark's swordplay. Those who fought with him on the Trident from my house often spoke of him and Rob fighting side by side. The hammer and the sword." Her eyes grew sharper. "Yes. I will see this duel done."

They drew their swords in the cold, with the torches shining down. On a word from Brienne, they fought, blades flickering at each other, feet dancing on the still-damp cobbles. Now Ned took the advantage, driving the shorter man back, but then Jon gained the higher ground, parrying and dodging, until their blades caught one another's hand, piercing through the leather gloves they both wore. With a brief curse, Ned switched to his left, as Jon mirrored his action, and they were at each other again, hammer and tongs, as Brienne looked on with keen interest.

They fought on for many more minutes, using every trick they knew from sparring one another, their faces mirrors of grim determination, footwork growing more sloppy as they tired. Jon began to thrust at Ned's uninjured hand, causing Ned to retreat. He pressed the advantage, and finally gashed open the other hand. Ice dropped from Ned's nerveless grip.

"I win, I think."

Ned bowed, gritting his teeth. "You do, Jon. You truly have surpassed me. I apologise for doubting you, but when I look at you sometimes, it's like looking into the eyes of a wild animal. What price have you paid for your knowledge?"

"Not too heavy a price, father. Not too heavy." Jon paused, looking down at the man who knelt in front of him. "Not too heavy just yet. But there is one more thing which must be done before my vision is fulfilled."

And with that, he brought his sword in an arcing loop, and decapitated Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell, where he knelt.

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