Blancardin Valfonda, Duke of Bellamarina nibbled the spoonful of sherbet idly. “Oh, no,” he said quietly. “It’s nothing… too severe. Nothing that Bellamarina can’t survive, at least.” He looked at the sherbet before him. “This is nice. Is it lime? I do so love lime…”
Bramimonde Gradasso frowned at her friend. “So they aren’t seizing your ships then?” she asked.
“Oh, they are, but only the large ones,” said Blancardin. “M-most of the business we do comes from small traders. Those are being left alone. For the most part.”
“The new River Trader regulations, you mean,” said the Countess of Druantuna forcefully.
Blancardin lifted his empty cup of sherbet and frowned, clicking his tongue. “Oh, dear. Should I--I ask for another?” He fidgeted nervously. “I don’t want to ruin my appetite for the feast, you know, but… but… well, I did skip breakfast this morning…”
Bramimonde’s fingers tapped on the table in quiet irritation. Through the long years of her friendship with the Duke of Bellamarina, she’d learnt that if one wanted Blancardin to reach the point, one would have to put up with the conversation heading in odd directions when its path was heading a way he didn’t like. “I’m sure it will be fine, Blanc,” she said. “So--what you’re saying then is that aside from the Eremites seizing any large ship that lands in your harbor to send to the Seven know where, and them doing what they can to harrow the River Traders, things in Bellamarina are fine?”
Blancardin started to nod, then stopped, then started again, then stopped. “Well… they are causing trouble for the Mikhelites,” he said quietly. “I don’t know if I quite approve of that. B-but that’s probably just me being a poor fool again. They are heretics and blasphemers, after all. It’s just--they don’t cause much trouble, if you leave them alone…” He smiled at her. “So--how are things in Druantuna?”
“Awful,” said Bramimonde. “The Eremites have got the city on the edge of a riot. And if that happens, I’ve half a mind to go down and join the rioters.” She crossed her arms in irritation. “They can’t treat us this way, damn it! We’re the Free Cities, lived in by the free men!”
“And women,” noted Blancardin softly.
“Yes, us too,” said Bramimonde, with a nod. “You can’t make us kneel and expect us to… just take it.”
Blancardin glanced around the Great Hall. “You know, I think I w-will have another cup of sherbet. It’s good for the palate, after all… And I did skip breakfast.” He began to wave at the one of the stewards.
Bramimonde nodded quietly.