Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain, (Volume 1: Raise the Black Banner)--Part 10

Archon Septimus Seraphim sniffled. It was proving a cold trip to Montalban in the mid-fall, and he seemed to be coming down with something. Not that he could let people realize that. He must show… no weakness. His men must believe him to be invulnerable, the chosen knight of the Seven, who stood firm against Mansemat Cthonique. He could not be seen to suffer from mortal weakness and mortal frailty.

He sneezed as he walked to the tent that stood at the outskirts of his army’s ramshackle command center, then looked around nervously. Thankfully, no one had seen. He continued on his way.

He had to confess--in his private, heart of hearts--he was less pleased with this command than might be imagined. The army he stood at the head of was several sizes too large and comprised of an unwieldy mix of Leonais levies, armiger cavalry, and his own Eremites, with the Flagellants there to keep people in line. He had never commanded an army of this size before. Back in the Concordant, the Eremites’ specialty were keeping cities secure, and swift punitive actions against revolting peasants and the like. Speedy response had been their specialty, and that took small forces of highly trained men used to working together. Now, he stood at the head of an oversized version of a traditional Leonais army, with the Eremites grafted into the Sacristans’ old position. Yes, all this gave him a bad feeling. But not as bad a feeling as the man in this tent.

“Archon,” croaked the Stylite, as he entered. “You are late.” The cloaked figure stood deep in the shadows, so far in the darkness, he seemed almost a part of it. They are a weapon against the forces of Night, Septimus reminded himself, and if they use Night’s power to become so--well, what choice do we have? The memory of Mansemat Cthonique slicing his way through his men returned unbidden to his mind. He had never had much love for the Knights of the Tower, but now--now he truly knew what those who followed the Holy Seven were facing.

“I came as quickly as I could, Nitre,” said Septimus to the Stylite, suppressing a sniffle. “Keeping this army running takes a great deal of effort on my part.”

Nitre made a strange little sound that was either a cough or a snort--the Archon wasn’t sure which. “You still must keep in contact with Joyeuse. They are eager to hear the progress you are making.”

“I have entered the outskirts of Montalban territory,” said Septimus tiredly. “I am moving towards the city. I am sending out scouts to make certain we can secure the routes. And that is all that I have to report.”

“…Which is why I have reported it for you, thus making certain that we are following their instructions on this matter” said Nitre. The Stylite folded his gloved hands before him. “Do not look on me as an enemy, Archon. I am your friend here. Prince Amfortas wishes for the Holy Orders to work together as the born allies they are in the suppression of this evil.”

Somehow, Septimus did not find a solitary word of that comforting. “A noble… goal.” He felt a sneeze building and worked to suppress it.

“Indeed,” said Nitre, with a single, almost horrifically precise nod. “They inform me that Amfortas shall soon be back in Joyeuse. It is good to know the Prince shall be directing the war effort himself shortly, is it not?” Septimus nodded several times, while looking hopefully towards the tent exit. “And there is more good news. A second army is being recruited, to go on to Montleon after us.”

The Archon blinked. “But--they’ll have to pass through the same territory we’ve just gone through. This is… this is…” And then he sneezed.

Nitre made a sound that might have been a tongue clicking. “Feeling poorly?” he asked.

“This tent must be dusty,” the Eremite replied with wounded dignity.

No comments:

Post a Comment