Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 38

“Oh, you had to accept the challenge, didn’t you?” said Viviane, pointing at her husband. “He started badmouthing your honor, and so naturally, you turned into Mr. Chivalrous Warrior!”

“It’s more complicated than that,” said Mansemat, going through his sword dance.

Viviane raised an eyebrow. “How much more? Are we talking a Recital of the Unnamed Names, or just the Five Stones That Must Never Be Insulted here?”

Mansemat paused. “How is that last one complicated?”

“You’d be surprised,” said Viviane, with a wag of her finger. “These are very old stones, and they have a very long list of things that set them off.” She frowned. “Actually, I’ve pretty much been leaving them to Mother Meg. Who is trying to train some of the other members of the Coven to do it, because the Badb has other matters to deal with.”

“You are hard on your underlings,” noted Mansemat.

“It’s tradition,” she replied. “I’m supposed to stand over them like this big, looming… standing over them… thing. It inspires them to new heights of… umm…” She bit her lip. “Bowing before my will?” she suggested.

Mansemat regarded her for a moment. “I forget how relatively new you are to leadership.”

“Hey, I headed the Marsh resistance during the early years of your father’s rule,” she said. “We may have been completely ineffectual, but we tried. Very hard.”

“Viviane, let me make something clear--I am not doing this for my honor,” said Manesmat simply. “I am doing this, because the Montalbanese need to see we are winning this siege.”

Viviane blinked. “But… I’m burning all the siege engines. In big fiery fires! Some of which I let burn in funny patterns! Doesn’t that count?”

“Some but less than you might think,” answered Mansemat. “Remember, Viviane, many people are… hungry, and that puts them on edge. Makes them start thinking they might be losing. The longer any siege goes, the more it becomes a war of nerves. And nerves call for more and more things to soothe them. Which is why I went out to heap abuse on Amfortas’ name, and then accepted the Eremite’s challenge. To show them the sort of man they’re following, and the sort of man they’re fighting.”

Viviane stared at him for a moment. “You know, when you say that, it all makes sense.” Mansemat smiled and resumed his sword dance. “And I did like all the insulting of Amfortas.”

“Oh, so did I,” agreed Mansemat.

“‘Prince of Piss and Shit’,” she noted with a nod. “I liked that. It was catchy.”

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