“Charming girl, the Princess,” said Blancardin Valfonda, as he scooped up a spoonful of custard.
Bramimonde Gradasso eyed him skeptically. “I suppose once you get past her penchant for wearing wings, she’s all right.”
Blancardin blinked. “The… Princess Elaine doesn’t wear wings. That’s… the Marshal Mongrane.”
Bramimonde stared back him, in equal puzzlement. “What? She’s… not a princess?”
The Duke of Bellamarina considered things. “Well, in a manner of speaking, I suppose, yes, Marfisa is a princess. But she is more formally the Marshal of Tremisona. I am talking of Elaine du Lac.”
Bramimonde set her cup down, and stared at Blancardin levelly. “Which one is she?”
“The willowy young blonde,” stated Blancardin, with a sort of tired patience.
Bramimonde peered over the small crowd assembled in the Mongrane’s command tent. “What willowy young blonde?” she muttered, her voice peevish.
“That one,” said Blancardin, pointing quickly then leaving it off so as not to be seen.
“Wait--the skinny girl with the messy hair?” said Bramimonde, her eyes wide.
“I wouldn’t call her ‘skinny’,” replied Blancardin, looking offended. “More… ‘willowy’.” Bramimonde simply stared at him, a slight smirk on her face. “She has a certain… quality of grace…” he explained.
Bramimonde simply continued to stare, the slight smirk getting broader.
Blancardin turned back to his custard, and began to spoon it up swiftly. “What are you two up to?” asked a booming voice. Bramimonde turned to see Belengier Nestor standing near them, Duke Gurnemanz apparently being dragged in his wake.
“Your cousin has apparently found the next Duchess of Bellamarina,” said Bramimonde with a nod at Blancardin.
“So he finally asked you the question, did he?” declared Belengier boomingly.
Bramimonde stared at the Prince of Agrismont in puzzlement. “What?”
“She thinks I’m in love with the Princess du Lac of the Marches,” said Blancardin.
“You called her ‘willowy’,” laughed Bramimonde.
Gurnemanz shrugged. “Seems… apt to me. A little rough at the moment, yes, but… she’ll grow into it, I’d say…”
Belengier glanced over at the young Erl. “Hmmm… Fine young girl, I will agree…”
Bramimonde crossed her arms. “There’s nothing so disgusting for a woman--or at least, for me--then hearing men discuss a woman as if she were a horse they were considering buying,” she noted.
“Well, if it makes you feel better, Bram,” said Belengier, grinning at her. “I’d rather have you for my mount than her, if those were the choices.”
Blancardin stared at him, a mild frown on his face. “You know, I am suddenly convinced of the wisdom of the Countess Gradasso’s words, whatever my previous doubts…”
Belengier gave a long, loud laugh. “So, I was right! You share my opinion on the choice of mounts, don’t you, cousin? Ehhh?”
The Duke of Montfort gave a sudden cough, and tugged on Belengier’s shoulder. The Prince of Agrismont turned to see Elaine du Lac standing by his side.
“I hope you realize that everyone in this tent can hear what you just said,” she noted. Elaine leaned forward. “And I personally have been listening to this conversation… earlier than you all might imagine.”
Belengier smiled at her. “Really? Well, I’ll be damned. I always heard you Erls had great hearing, but I wasn’t sure it was true.” He chuckled. “And I always thought it had something to do with the ears, but that can’t be right, because you don’t got the odd ones. Just normal ones.”
Blancardin raised his little bowl. “Lovely custard. Give my compliments to the Mongranes. I’m considering having seconds.”
Elaine nodded. “Good. They’ll be pleased to know that.”