Idun sighed. “So… he’s holed up in his little villa, there are… about half a dozen Gibelings in front of it, and he’s got two hostages.” She turned to glare at the little gathering of Aesir and Vanir that had assembled there. “I hope you all are proud of yourselves.” She focused her glare on Manodante and Dolistone. “Especially you two. Your meaningless quarrels have quite possibly killed your own children.”
“Ridiculous!” said Dolistone.
“Absurd,” noted Manodante.
“Why, if they’d only eloped in White Pine like we thought they would, everything would have been solved by now!” added Dolistone.
There was a stunned silence for a moment.
“Wait…” said Leodilla, quietly. “You… know that those two are involved…”
“Of course!” said Manodante.
“We aren’t idiots!” said Dolistone.
Manodante spread his hands. “Frankly we’ve been hoping for something like this to happen. Let us kill the feud in a way that doesn’t involve killing each other.”
“Ha! Good one, Mano!” chuckled Dolistone.
“Yes, Stoney,” said Manodante. “Rather thought it was clever myself.”
Dolistone glanced at Leodilla. “Frankly, we were hoping you would solve things by falling for my nephew Folderico, but no such luck.”
Leodilla stared at her father in shock. “But you forbade me to even look at the man!”
“Of course,” said Manodante. “That was to make him MORE appealing. Forbidden fruit and all that.” He sighed and gave a mournful shrug. “Too late now, of course. Still, a man can dream. A man can dream.”
“Oh, now you’re just being ridiculous,” shouted Leodilla. “And why are you two acting like friends? You hate each other!”
“What… Me hate old Stoney? Never!” said Manodante.
“Yes, I suppose the secret is out,” noted Dolistone. “Truth is your father and I have been best pals for years.” He patted Manodante on the shoulder. “Ever since old Mano saved me life.”
“Only after you saved mine!” added Manodante. “See, back Stoney and I were a pair of young heirs, we kept the feud up in the traditional manner, hurling insults, questioning the honor of our respective mothers…”
“The usual stuff,” said Dolistone.
“And one day, we did it in the company of a few cousins,” continued Manodante. “It was all in good fun, but the cousins…” The old Erl’s face grew pale. “They took it a bit too far. Suddenly, I’m staring at an arrow heading right at me--when Stoney pushes me out of the way.” He shook his head. “Took it in the back.”
“And then your father,” said Dolistone, “he picks me up, puts me on his horse, and he takes me to the best chirurgeon he can.” He sniffled. “Great man. Great man.”
Idun cleared her throat. “So--why do you two fight all the time if you’re secretly best friends?”
“Well, first of all,” explained Manodante, “the feud is a grand tradition of the Aesir and Vanir, which we are honor bound to continue. Our lessers expect it of us, as do some of our vassals. Secondly, we both love to argue. Over everything and anything.” He grinned “Frankly that’s probably why the friendship’s lasted like it has. Not many people I can argue about the color of the sky with.” He glanced at Dolistone. “It’s turquoise, you old fool.”
“Aquamarine!,” said Dolistone. “Turquoise is a darker shade you mad old bat!”
“Arrogant toad!” declared Manodante.
“Worthless weasel!” shouted Dolistone.
Idun looked at Leodilla. “And I thought they were annoying as enemies…” Leodilla merely nodded.