Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 47

“Let me do the talking,” said Sir Ambrose Chasmallim as the two Eremites made their way to the Prince.

“That was very much my plan,” replied Sir Jerome.

Ambrose nodded. “The Prince is a… great man, but he is… difficult. He must be handled with care. Care that I fortunately, am capable of.”

“You hope,” added Sir Jerome quietly. If he was expecting a response from Ambrose, he didn’t get one. His superior merely moved ahead silently, lips pursed tight. And so the pair moved on in silence.

The Prince was at breakfast when they reached him, dining on a thin slice of ham and some potatoes. “Sir Chasmallim. Sir Erelim,” he stated, not even looking up from slicing his meat. “This is unexpected. How go things in Joyeuse?”

Ambrose glanced at his partner, and then turned again to the Prince. “I… My lord, we come bearing ill tidings. Prince Pellinore is gone, sir. Kidnapped right under our noses.”

Amfortas who had skewered a piece of ham with his knife and was lifting it carefully to his face froze, and turned to look at the pair. “Indeed.” He brought the piece of ham to his mouth, tore it off with his teeth and then began to chew. After a moment, he swallowed. “That is worrying,” he declared mildly.

“I agree, sir,” said Sir Ambrose rapidly. “I--the Prince’s Men are looking for him as we speak. Serjeant Equitan feels that the Duke of Tranchera is behind it…”

Amfortas seemed to consider this, as he rose from his seat. “Eustace de Calx is a man one can believe almost anything of,” he said with a considered nod. “Sir Ambrose…” The Prince paused. “Ambrose… Amfortas… We have very similar names you know…”

“It… is my holy name, sir,” said the Eremite. “Given to me by the Church. Not my given name.”

Amfortas’ eyes remained focused on the man as he stepped in front of him. “Really. What was that?”

“Adalbert, sir,” began Sir Ambrose. “Now… I have had my men surround the Duke’s manse in Joyeuse, though it appears to be empty, and…”

“Not very alike at all then, really,” said Amfortas.

Ambrose and Jerome both blinked at that. “Sir…?” said Ambrose.

“Our names,” replied Amfortas with a smile. He gave a low sigh. “Sir Ambrose, you have failed me.”

Amborse nodded. “I know, sir, and it galls me. Still, it was for my honesty that you gave me this job, and I have dealt with you very honestly in this. Sir Jerome and I rode out many horses, all night, without any rest for ourselves, to get this news to you as quickly as possible…”

Amfortas began to nod. “Indeed.” He nodded again. “Indeed.” He began to nod with increasing speed, to such an extent that it looked like he might be beginning a seizure, though his voice was as calm as ever. “Indeed.” And then with one sudden motion and Ambrose was screaming as the Prince’s knife slashed through his eye. Jerome watched in horror as the Prince kept ramming it into the hole, and then moved the blade around within it. Ambrose screamed and then went slack, flopping upon the ground, and then going still, save for the occasional off-putting moan.

“I thank you for your honesty,” said Amfortas pleasantly, with another nod as he watched the Eremite on the ground before him. “Sir Jerome?” Jerome nodded, unable to speak. “By my authority, you are now Sir Jerome Chasmallim, commander of the Eremites in Joyeuse.” Jerome nodded again, only for the Prince to turn suddenly towards him. “You seem very quiet. Has your good fortune struck you dumb, perhaps?”

“I… yes, Your Highness,” said Sir Jerome. “That was the case precisely. How perceptive of you to note it.”

Amfortas stared at him for a moment, then smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder--a hand, the Eremite, realized, that was stained with Sir Ambrose’s blood. “Indeed. I am most perceptive,” agreed the Prince. “Tell me, Sir Jerome, did you and your predecessor really ride all night on many horses to reach me?”

Jerome gulped, then nodded. “Yes, sir.”

Amfortas turned away and walked towards his seat. “Well then, I hope you can ride back as quickly,” he noted, taking his seat. “Oh--and tell the staff that I shall need a new knife to finish my breakfast with. My old one is filthy.”

“Of course, my lord,” said Sir Jerome, trying to leave the room as quickly as possible.

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