Duke Naimon Nestor made his way down the staircase, his severe face looking even more severe than usual. “Kinsman!” declared Duke Uton Rabicano, Sovereign Lord of Monteriano, as he came into view. “It is an honor to…”
“Do not waste my time with pleasantries, Uton,” said Naimon. “What are you doing here?”
Uton shifted uncomfortably. “The Prince sent me,” he replied. “He is planning on using the Chateau de Nestor as the base for the second army command.”
Naimon’s hands seemed to clench momentarily, though his face remained quite calm. “I thought it had been agreed that Scolpire would serve as Leonais headquarters…”
“Yes, but… Amfortas found it… drafty,” said Uton. “He was really quite insistent that he move here.”
Naimon nodded grimly. “When will he be here, then?”
“A day,” answered the Duke. “Maybe two.”
“What?” The Duke of Agrismont’s eyes went wide. “I cannot possibly get the Chateau in the proper order to host the Prince of Leonais and his retinue…”
“And he understands that, Lord Nestor,” insisted Uton. “This is no formal soiree, it is a military operation. Merely make sure that the Prince’s immediate needs are seen to, and all will be well.” He coughed. “I was wondering… about Belengier…”
“I have sent him with to his mother’s kin, to Bellamarina,” answered Naimon. “I hope the air there will cool his blood.”
“Ahh! Good!” Uton gave an encouraged nod of his flabby head. “You see, my Astolfo is quite high in the Prince’s favor, and it would have been awkward…”
“Well, now it won’t be,” stated Naimon flatly.
“Of course,” agreed Uton.
“Anything else?” asked Naimon.
The Duke of Monteriano stared at his older counterpart for a moment, then offered Naimon his hand. “I… we must keep the faith, Lord Nester. The Lands of Light depend on it. Agrivain and the Lasliezes going traitor--who knows who else considering it… If the Free Cities fail now, then the Nightlanders will have done it. Planted a camp on the other side of the river.” Uton glanced at his outstretched hand, which Lord Nestor had never made a move to take. There was an awkward silence.
“Did you think I was unaware of this?” asked Naimon, at last.
“Well… no,” began Uton nervously, drawing his hand back. “I was simply… making it clear. How much I appreciate your loyalty…”
“Ahh,” said Naimon. “And your good opinion should be valuable to me, why?” Uton began to stammer incoherently, attempting an answer, only for Lord Nestor to interrupt him with a sigh. “Let me make it clear, Rabicano--I do not like you. Not even a little. You are a Peer of the Free Cities, related to me by blood and even a man of some wealth--but I still hold you to be a foolish crass individual who talks simply to hear the ridiculous sound of his own voice. We are allies in this matter, and I will support you--but never think you can win either my affection or my regard. Is this clear?”
Uton managed a dull nod.
“Excellent,” said Naimon. “I’ll have my servants see you to your quarters.”