Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 44

Ludovico had managed to get a place at the city gate through the time-honored Palazzo tradition of bumbling around until you got where you wanted to go, then looking like you belonged there, a technique which worked with a rather startling regularity.

This, he felt, had most certainly been one of the times it had, as he looked down below from his comfortable seat, and took a swallow of wine. A handful of Eremites had finished setting up a dueling field there, and now their… captain, perhaps?--Ludovico had no clear notion of Eremite ranks--was standing there in his plain brown cloak, his hand on his sword, glancing from side to side. A banner hung over his head, with a picture of a house with seven keys hanging on the door.

Ludovico suspected that meant something that had to do with the Eremites, but then, he’d never been much for learning holy symbols, or attending church as a child. Nor was he much better as an adult.

A pair of figures in black cloaks were at his shoulder. “Oh, man!” said the taller one. “I thought we’d have this place to ourselves!” Ludovico turned to see a tall, grey-skinned Erl, and a shorter, veiled figure with… blue skin--a Ghoul, he believed--standing there.

“Plenty of room,” he said, with a grand gesture to the field. He raised his bottle. “And drink to share for a pair of stalwart gentlemen like yourselves!”

The two Nightfolk shared an amused glance. “First time either of us has been mistaken for a gentleman, eh Quiet?” said the Erl, taking the bottle. Nodded in what appeared to be a great deal of amusement.

Ludovico watched him take a long swallow and then hand the bottle to the Ghoul. “So you here for the duel?”

“No, I’m here to watch that jerk out there get pummeled by His Magnificence,” answered the Erl. “You’ve never see the Black Dragon in a fight.” He shook his head. “It defies belief. He’s that good.”

Ludovico decided to follow a momentary impulse, and offered him his hand. “Well, that cheers my heart. Ludovico, of the Palazzo, at your service.”

“Sacripant Fenswater,” answered the Erl, giving Ludovico’s hand a shake. He nodded at the Ghoul. “And my companion here generally goes by ‘Quiet’.”

“An apt name,” noted Ludovico, his eyes returning to the field. Behind him, his newfound companions shared a snicker.

In the field below, the Eremite seemed to shift, as if putting in a great deal of effort not to pace. Eventually, he “I am here, Dark Lord!” shouted the Eremite. “Now, where are you?”

And suddenly, there was a great gust of wind, and Mansemat Cthonique appeared over their heads, his huge black cloak billowing. Ludovico turned to the two Nightfolk. “The Dark Lord can fly?” he gasped.

“When he wants to show off,” said Quiet, the Ghoul’s voice revealing to Ludovico’s surprise that she was a woman. Still, even that discovery was overshadowed by Mansemat Cthonique landing gracefully on the ground before the Eremite.

“I am also here, Eremite,” said Mansemat, with a small smile. “And now--now we begin.”

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