Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Siege of the White Mountain; Vol. 2: Fields Running Red--Part 55

Duke Naimon regarded the map with a smile. “Excellent.” He raised his eyes to the Prince. “Your Highness--our prospects are excellent.”

Amfortas gave a pleasant nod. “That is good news.” He regarded the map. “I am… rather curious how it is you can tell all this by staring at a rather old map…”

Naimon tapped the map cheerfully. “Thankfully my lord, the territories on this map have not changed all that much, save for a few minor adjustments that are immaterial to this war.” He put a finger on Montalban. “Here is the city of the White Mountain.” His finger traveled a fair line. “And here is the city of the Mount of the Lion. Between them the lands of Monteriano, Montfort, Carrarra, and Sericana. These are the rebels, my lord. Two isolated, desperate cities.”

Amfortas brought his hand down heavily on the map’s depiction of the other side of the Murkenmere. “And their masters, the Lands of Night.”

Naimon’s finger darted to a solitary narrow spot. “Who must cross here, if they wish to do so in force.” He chuckled. “And this is not the days of old, when the Hordes of the Wolves could burst through whatever weak fortress we placed there to plunder at will. Montfort holds the Crossing, and its keeps are strong. And loyal.” He gave a shrug. “Should the Nightfolk try to cross in any significant numbers, Duke Graharz shall hold them back--at least long enough for help from us to arrive.”

Amfortas nodded. “Yes, I see,” he stated with a yawn. “Very… very good.”

“Not good, Your Highness,” stated Naimon. “Excellent. Our foes are split, and weak. While we--we are strong, united. Even ignoring those cities that have chosen to remain quiet in their loyalty--why, Monteriano and Agrismont form a solid wedge, backed by Joyeuse to the east, Tranchera to the north, and the Concordat to the northwest. We may defeat them piecemeal, as they try to come to each other’s aid, and then--occupy their lands.” He gave Amfortas a studiedly neutral glance. “Has my Lord considered what he’s going to do with them afterwards?”

“I’ve had the occasional odd notion,” said Amfortas. “But nothing definite.”

“Montalban and Monleone will need rulers, my Prince,” said Naimon. “Men who know the customs of the Cities, and can make a claim to their loyalties.” He smiled gently. “Fortune has both blessed me, and cursed me with a surfeit of sons, Your Highness. Blessed because they are my pride and joy. Cursed, because I worry about how they all will support themselves after I pass…”

Amfortas blinked. “You want your sons to be the new Dukes of Montalban and Monleone,” he said quietly.

“They have claims by blood,” noted Naimon, “they are your own kin, and their loyalty is unimpeachable. Such a decision lays well within your power as Lord Protector…”

Amfortas nodded quickly. “I will consider it. I will consider it.” He brought a hand to his chin and took on a pensive expression. “It is simpler than my plan to raze the cities to the ground, and to raise two mountains of skulls with the motto ‘Thus to those who defy me’ before them.”

Naimon stared at the Prince for a moment, then laughed. “Your Highness has a… dark and biting wit at times.”

Amfortas considered that, and then nodded. “I suppose I do, Duke Nestor. I suppose I do.”

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