Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 20

Sir Jerome Erelim glanced at the list before him. “This cannot be right,” he stated to his former partner, now his superior. “These figures… they don’t match what I’m seeing. They don’t even match the other figures.” Sir Ambrose Chashmallim frowned, as Jerome slammed the list on the table before him. “Do you understand me, sir? Not a thing in this massive, blundering mistake of an army matches! The army we have on paper doesn’t resemble the army we actually have--in fact, the army we have on paper can’t be bothered to even make sense!”

Sir Ambrose took a deep breath before looking. “Do you have anything of value to say, or are you simply going to complain?” He shrugged. “There irregularities. Well, aren’t there always? Regulate them. That’s our job.” Ambrose stood to his feet, and shifted slightly. “The Great Army of Subjugation moves out in two weeks. It is our job to see that it is ready for its great and holy purpose.”

“Sir, unless that purpose is to starve and freeze, it will take two months to prepare it,” said Sir Jerome. “Two months of regulating all those irregularities. At least.” As Sir Ambrose walked past him, Jerome turned, and followed him out into the hall. “Ambrose I have at least three different numbers of men, none of which seem to match the actual force that’s been assembled. I have a number of purported winter cloaks which is grossly inadequate, and made worse by the fact that most of them are not in fact winter cloaks at all. I have a supply of tent pegs that doesn’t match the supply of tents. I have an extraordinary number of boots that would cheer me if I were sure of their quality, which I am not. I have a mysterious supply of something called ‘sarsaparilla’, which I must hope is adequate to our needs, as I have no idea what it is. And this is simply a sampling of my difficulties.”

Sir Ambrose paused, and regarded Sir Jerome for a moment. “Do you know what you need, Sir Erelim? Faith. Faith in the Holy Seven and Their ways. Faith that when we go forth, to do Their will, and fight Their enemies, they shall hold us in the Holy Light, protecting us, and aiding us. You must have this, if you are to be a true Knight of the Faith.” Ambrose placed a hand on Jerome’s shoulder. “This has always been your weakness, Jerome. Always. And it is a weakness that must be overcome.”

Jerome stepped back, allowing the hand to slip off him. It was at times like this that Ambrose’s recent promotion became actively irritating. “Well, thank you, Sir Chashmallim for the spiritual lesson, but it does not help me feed and clothe this army that will be fighting for the Holy Seven. Despite your good intent.”

Ambrose gave Jerome a sympathetic glance. “Doesn’t it, Sir Erelim? Doesn’t it?” Jerome considered stating that no, it did not, but decided against it. Ambrose stepped backwards, his hands behind his back. “I am attempting to keep the Prince informed of our… difficulties Sir Jerome, but you must understand--he is adamant that the army is moving out in two weeks. And quite firm in his demands that any difficulties that would prevent that be… surmounted.” Jerome felt suddenly cold. “Naturally, if you wish, I could allow you to speak with him on these matters directly. If you truly feel the matter is beyond your ability to deal with.”

Jerome stood there quietly for a long time. Eventually Ambrose nodded. “Good to see you getting some… perspective. Now… if you’ll excuse me…”

Ambrose walked quickly away. Jerome stood there, watching him go and considering his options.

After a great deal of consideration, he decided to see how many men could share a single bedroll.

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