"Bloody woman!" muttered Damen under his breath. "Me? Selfish? Yeah, standing watch in this weather all night so the little civvies can sleep safe and warm in their beds is right bloody selfish… stupid cow!" Sargeant Damen was in a foul mood after yet another argument with his wife, and as per usual it was his job at the heart of it.
"Give up soldiering indeed! There's one thing I'm good at and that's soldiering, and there's no sense her getting fancy ideas about us moving down to stay with her brothers in Hanlith."
It was bad enough when they were stuck there all those years ago: newly-weds and him with no proper job to support her. All her brothers were sooo friendly and encouraging despite his piss-poor attempts at breaking-in a colt, or roping a bull or any of that other crap, but all the time he knew they were laughing behind his back.
Even he had known all he was really good for was shoveling shit or holding a sword, and he sure as hell wasn't going to shovel shit his whole life. He couldn't get away quick enough when Baron Bradstane's men came through town, looking for new recruits to replace those lost in the fighting against the Northmen.
"Gah, maybe I should just move us down there and be done with it," he thought to himself, but in his heart of hearts he knew that he wouldn't. Worse, he knew that one of these days she was going to live up to her threats and take the kids and go on her own. "A right old Corporal Jackson I'll be then, won't I?" He sighed, and stared back out into the falling snow, welcoming the cold seeping into his bones as a perfect match for his mood.
He was so lost in his own thoughts, that he didn't even see the movement at first, obscured as it was by the snow flurries twisting in the wind. The darker splotches slowly resolved into a line of horses charging through the night towards the city gates. The poor things looked done for, great gouts of mist rising with every breath, and their gait all awkard as they tried to keep up with the urging of their riders. And the riders themselves were a motley bunch – they looked well enough armed to hold off a small army, yet they were riding their horses like The Other's hounds were after them.
"What the hell are they thinking, driving their horses like that in this weather," muttered Damen, squinting against the snow and the dark. "Lofwyr's balls," he growled, peering out even more intently, "it looks like they've even got a woman and child with them!"
"Only thing worse than a mercenary is a damn fool mercenary, and it looks like we've got a whole troop of them coming in." He sighed and stomped down the steps to waken the rest of his watch…