“How many bolts?” asked Rainald.
“Roughly seventeen-hundred,” said Guiscard.
Rainald frowned and turned to his younger brother. “Roughly? How many is that? A bit more than seventeen-hundred, or a bit less?”
Guiscard rolled his eyes. “Does it matter, Rainald?” They’d been going over their weapons’ inventory for some time now, and Rainald had been getting increasingly shrill.
“Well, if turns out we need seventeen-hundred bolts, and it’s a bit less, than yes, yes, it will matter,” said the Duke.
Allard scratched his chin. “Don’t they have a great deal more than seventeen-hundred men? Making the entire matter… rather moot?”
“Well, to be fair, in a siege it’s not like we’re supposed to kill them all with the bolts,” said Guiscard. “You hit a few important men, a few stragglers, hit them hard if they try to storm us--that sort of thing. And then you let the rotting bodies finish them off.”
Allard blinked. “That is disgusting. In a way I wasn’t expecting war to be disgusting.”
Rainald gave a dark smile at that. “You best get used to it, Allard. Father always told me in a siege, nine times out of ten, the losers wind up shitting themselves to death.”
“Please stop you two,” said Allard, burying his face in his hands.
Suddenly, a swirling vortex of mists appeared in the middle of the room, the sound of booming laughter emanating from them. “SALUTATIONS, MILESIANS! I COME BEARING A MESSAGE!”
The three brothers stared at it in surprise. “Who… who are you?” asked Guiscard.
“A WORTHY QUESTION!” said the mists. “I HAVE MANY NAMES! I AM CALLED THE SON OF FEAR! THE MASTER OF THE THREE TIMES! DARK LORD OF THE HOWLING AND/OR SCREAMING WASTES!” The mists shifted slightly at that. “THAT ONE IS A MATTER OF ONE’S PREFERRED TRANSLATION! PERSONALLY, I PREFER 'SCREAMING', BUT THERE ARE THOSE THAT PREFER 'HOWLING'!”
Allard glanced at Rainald, who merely shrugged. This was going… oddly, it had to be admitted. Which considering how it started, was saying something.
“I AM NISRIOCH CTHONIQUE! SON OF SHADDAD AND ZAMIAL! BROTHER OF MANSEMAT AND MORGAINE! FATHER OF ANTHEA! SEE PRECIOUS? FATHER LOVES YOU VERY MUCH AND IS SO VERY PROUD OF YOU!” The mists made a noise that sounded very much like a cough magnified to an enormous extent. “PARDON ME. ANTHEA’S HELPING WITH THE PANAUDIOTHON AT THE MOMENT. AND DOING A MAGNIFICENT JOB AT IT! NOW THEN, LORDS OF THE WHITE MOUNTAIN--THE CTHONIQUE OF CASTLE TERRIBEL HAS HEARD YOUR PLEA AND COMES TO YOUR AID! LOOK TO THE SKIES, SONS OF LASLIEZ! SALVATION SHALL COME--FROM THE SKIES!”
After a long silence, Allard spoke. “So… the Cthoniques are coming after all. That’s… good. Right?”
Rainald and Guiscard simply looked at him.