Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 42

Sir Gautier sipped his drink. “I have to say, the new commander is a bold man. Much better than the last.”

“Indeed.” Sir Gilbert de Ruisseau nodded, and sagely sipped his own drink. “With Georges, I at last feel we are fighting a war.”

Gautier chuckled in agreement. Truth be told, this had been a disappointing beginning to the Great War. Little glory and less trophies. The handful of battles he’d been in had involved poor farmers, and indeed barely qualified. And then this damned siege, which was dragging on and on…

He gave a sigh. At least his army was made of city-men, and thus wouldn’t be insisting on heading home soon to get the harvest. He’d had some very promising feuds end in that matter--the forces assembled all went home after a few desultory battles, and then the clan head’s had a chat and declared a peace.

Not that there was any chance of that with the Nightfolk, or the traitors who’d sided with them. But even here, he worried that the Prince might shift the war to mercenaries, as had happened in the past. His father, Pelleas had been quite fond of that--have most of the armigers “guarding the borders” while his mercenary forces did the actual fighting. Gautier could recall his father ranting about that, when he was a lad. For a warrior king, Pelleas had shown remarkable little interest in fighting wars the way they should be fought.

Gautier frowned to himself. That brought other problems to mind. “Do you think we could just… storm the walls?” he asked Gilbert.

“If we want to die in large numbers,” answered Gilbert, his rather large nose giving a wobble.

“We’re already doing that,” noted Gautier.

Gilbert gave a snort. “Yes, but this would be even larger,” he said. “And faster.”

“I don’t think I’d necessarily mind that,” said Gautier. “It’d be better than starving. Or the flux. Or the cough.”

“Perhaps,” answered Gilbert, with a shrug. “Perhaps not. What’s certain is--we wouldn’t take Montalban. Those white walls were built to stand such efforts. And with the witch guarding them…”

Gautier sighed as he rose from his seat. “This will be a long war.”

“Knew that when it started,” replied Gilbert, pouring himself another drink. He gave his younger fellow a wave as Gautier left the tent. Gautier walked on, tightening his cloak as the cold rain started to fell. He swore quietly to himself. Of course it would start now. That was the sort of luck he’d been having of late.

His boots stuck in the mud of the trampled “roads” the camp had developed. Something he wouldn’t miss when he left this place. To be honest, there was almost nothing he’d miss here, save the respect of the men. One saluted as he went past--the only other soul out in this weather that he could see--and Gautier gave a nod. He’d grown quite used to this sort of gesture. The men had learnt the hard way that he wasn’t to be trifled with and--

Gautier’s thoughts were abruptly ended by a stabbing pain in his back. He screamed as he toppled to the ground, his face burying in the mud. “Sir!” came a familiar voice. He felt a hand on his back, working to flip him over.

It did not do this gently. Gautier landed on his back and felt another wave of pain washing over. “Sir, are you all right?” said the man. Gautier recognized him--that old fellow whose name he couldn’t recall. His voice was friendly, but his face was not. And the bloodied knife in his hand was not friendly at all.

Gautier tried to form a word, but only produced a moan. This became a louder moan when the old man’s knife plunged into his stomach. “A bit worse for wear from drink” said the man calmly. “Well, let’s get you up and back to your tent!” Gautier felt the man pulling him up, and then things went black.

And they stayed that way.

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