The first sample I did of this was pretty popular, because this place is full of nerds, and I was bored at work again. So have another chapter of Game of Thrones-flavored baseball fanfic, in which we meet our unlikely villain.
Just hold on. It never really stopped echoing in his head, even when the world outside rose to a cacophony. Three simple words; one simple order. Who would think that it would stick in a man’s craw like that?
A boy in Arizona’s hideous heraldry was waiting for him in the road. “I’m to see to your horse, my lord.” He looked blankly at the boy for a moment before remembering that was him. My lord. I served in the New East for a year, and they’ll call me a lord.
“Ser will do, boy.” Ransom dropped to his feet, sword rattling. “Your name?”
“Coll. Collmenter, my - ser.” He was of an age for war, more or less, but raw-boned and fresh-faced, with an axe that seemed far too heavy for him hanging from his belt. With such things they expect me to take a crown. There’s not gold enough in the world for this. But it wasn’t about the gold, of course.
“And where does the Master of the Towers keep his seat, Coll?” The boy pointed wordlessly, an unaccountable twitch of fear on his face. “Stable my horse. I’ll be some time, no doubt.” He strode off in the direction that Collmenter had pointed, leaving the young axeman holding the reins. Just hold on.
The tents and barricades about the Towers had the look of half a hundred other war camps, sprawling and messy and riddled with holes. And yet they were still standing; they won their battles. Somehow. Not enough, or else they’d not have called for me. Few would have called for the man they named Ransom. No matter how many battles he won, the stink of failure was still on him.
Just hold on. He’d been a green boy, with no business holding a command, but Ser Cruz had died with half a hundred others in that battle, and somehow his company had looked to young Cody for orders. He had been fastening his shield in a lull, too tired to think and too frightened to rest, when the shadow of a man on horseback fell on him. “Boy. Who holds the command here?”
It had taken him a moment to realize who he was speaking to. He’d seen Lord Brian from afar, round-shouldered and bear-grizzled; the general was something else entirely in armor. “I - I do, my lord. I suppose.”
“You’ll have to do, then. Listen to me.” His brusque, clipped words still rang bell-clear in Ransom’s head. “Those blue bastards are coming back across the river, here and everywhere else they can. Ser Franklin is on his way with the reserve. You cannot let them through. Do you understand? You must hold them here.”
“I - as you say, my lord.” He swallowed. “Is the Bondsman - that is, is Sir Lamar coming?” One or two of the older men in his company, close enough to listen, chuckled, and one of the knights at Lord Brian’s side snorted. The general fixed him with a freezing glare.
“The Bondsman has done enough in this battle. What is your name, boy?”
“Sir Lamar has twice sacked the City of Angels. He took my soldiers to the foot of the throne itself. Do you require the sword of the world’s greatest warrior to keep some rabble from crossing a fucking river?” The veins had throbbed in the general’s temples, and young Cody...well, he bit his tongue and shook his head and dropped his eyes. “Then draw your fucking sword, boy, and just hold on. Franklin is coming.”
The general had spurred his horse and rode along, tailed by his officers and guards. As they moved to the next ford, he looked back and shouted, again, “Just hold on!” Maybe it had been by way of apology; maybe he had thought the boy dense enough to require a second command. It hadn’t mattered in the end.
Just hold on. He hadn’t, of course. He’d given the command to charge early, and the foe had dodged across the river and gained a foothold, and that foothold had swollen as he waited for a reserve that had come too late. That wasn’t the only error - for his money, he’d say Franklin’s suicidal charge with the reserve had ended the battle - but it was the one men remembered. So much so that after the battle, when he’d been captured, he was the only soldier of rank not ransomed by Lord Brian. That was when they’d started calling him Ransom.
And now here he was again, nearly a decade later, back in the battlegrounds of the West. His musings had taken him to the door of the tallest of the Towers, and two guardsmen were staring at him strangely. Not strangely. Fearfully. The old wrath was on his face. He thought of assuring them that they were not the targets of his rage, but then again, they might be. A sellsword never knew where his blade would end up pointing.
I know this time, though. It was pointing at Brian Sabean, the Lord of Saint’s Bay, for a humiliation that had never really ended. Just hold on. I’ll whisper that to him when he tries to pull my sword from his swollen gut. Aye, and his big-headed commander too. Tim the Maid, the Young Bear, even that bearded madman...let them come. He smiled, which did little to cheer the two guards as he passed between them. I’m coming for you, Lord Brian. I’m coming for your throne, and your heart’s blood.