Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Volume 2: Fields Running Red--Part 6

Ludovico sipped his drink and wondered, briefly, how much longer beer of this quality was going to be available He suspected not very long, but then, one couldn’t give up hope. That would be a sort of death. Especially in this situation. Help would come. It would come from the other Free Cities, and from across the river, and it would cast the Leonais back to their own lands, a battered and broken shell.

He had to believe that.

“…And then he told the Senate they could join their Queen in Hell, and set the hall ablaze” declared Matteo to the crowd of onlookers that surrounded the aging barfly. He shook his head dramatically. “And that is how wicked Prince Amfortas destroyed the Holly Throne.”

Gian, a younger member of the audience, frowned skeptically. “So… how do you know what he said?”

“I have my sources,” replied Matteo, with just a dash of pride.

“Well… I’ve no doubt you do,” said Gian. “But I don’t see how they could have told you what the Prince said after he set a blaze that killed the entire Senate?”

Matteo frowned deeply, and his frown deepened when he realized he was out of beer. “Perhaps my sources heard it from the Prince, eh?” He turned towards the bar. “Filippo! Another drink!”

Filippo frowned at him. “I’ll need to know you can pay for it, Matteo.”

“Of course he can,” said Gian. “He’s got friends who are speaking terms with the Prince of Leonais.”

“I never said they were my friends,” stated Matteo. “I said they were sources. There is a difference.”

Gian chuckled to himself. “Ahh. I see. So you don’t have the money for another drink then?”

Matteo gave an awkward cough. “Well--not… at the moment, but I’m good for it if…”

Filippo stepped away. “No tabs.”

Perhaps it was Matteo’s disappointed frown--maybe it was Gian’s little smirk--but Ludovico suddenly found himself sitting up and placing two coins on the counter. “Well, Matteo does have friends as well as sources. And this one is paying for his drink.”

As expected, Filippo quietly and efficiently took his money, while Matteo gushed expansively. “Thank you! Thank you, Ludovico!” Ludovico felt a hearty, slightly flabby hand clap his shoulder. “You are truly a prince among the Palazzos.”

Ludovico nodded as the drinks approached. “Right, right. So--Amfortas killed Queen Yolande?”

“Sacrificed her to Douma Dalkial, the poor, poor girl!” stated Matteo with a sniff. “That--that is the man who we are facing! A monster!”

“With the help of the Nightfolk, who also worship Douma Dalkial,” stated Gian.

Matteo stared at the younger man with indignity. “They do not sacrifice girls to her! They praise were with incense and song, and pleasant ceremonies!” He took a long swallow of his drink, then set it down. “As I understand it, their Douma Dalkial isn’t exactly our Douma Dalkial, anyway. She’s… more complex. Not just death and darkness, but also life and light.”

“That’s impossible,” said Gian. “You can’t have opposites being the same thing. It makes no sense. Just like your tale of the Queen of Tintagel’s demise.”

Matteo slammed his drink down. “Deny it all you like, it is true! Amfortas killed her! And set the Senate’s Great Hall on fire, while the Senate was in it!” He turned to Ludovico. “You understand that I’m telling the truth, don’t you?”

Ludovico thought it over, and then nodded. “I don’t know if he sacrificed her to Douma Dalkial--but I know from what I hear that he’s an evil bastard. And really--isn’t that the important thing for us to remember?”

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