The rains were pattering at the roof of New Palace of Montalban, a building whose antiquity stretched so far back as to add irony to its name. They were heavy late autumnal rains that chilled the skin, if they hit it, and were something a promise that the winter that was to follow this autumn would be harsh one.
But they didn’t hit you in the New Palace. From there, you could sit in the warm chamber, enjoy a bit of wine, and stare at the poor bastards who were trying to kill you beyond the white walls. The poor bastards in their soggy, disintegrating camp where a sizable number of tents had collapsed into the mud.
It almost, Allard felt, made one willing to forgive the ‘trying to kill you’ part.
“They should be here shortly,” stated Mansemat. “They’ve happened upon the Leonais relief army, and…” He shrugged. “The Mongranes believe in taking their opportunities, when they chance upon them.”
Rainald nodded to himself. “So then--it’s to be a dual rout.”
Guiscard gave a bleak chuckle. “Almost makes you wonder why we feared Leonais, doesn’t it?”
“Geography is still very much in their favor,” said Mansemat quietly. “Once this is over, Amfortas will merely have to fall back to Joyeuse, and from Joyeuse--head up north. Base himself in Almace, or Durandel, and raid us into submission.” He gave a shrug. “It has, after all, worked before.”
“Those times, the folk of the Cities looked to Leonais for protection,” stated the Duke of Montalban. “This time--they look on them as ravishers. As invaders. As--”
“As they have often looked on my folk in the past,” stated Mansemat. “Something I doubt they will all be so quick to forget as you would wish.” He sighed. “And then there is the matter of your Synod. I doubt the Flamens will discard their Protector of the Faith so quickly as the Free Cities have discarded their Lord Protector…”
Allard sighed. “You can be a very gloomy man at times, Mansemat Cthonique. I’m amazed you’ve won as many battles as they say…”
“I’ve won that many because I’ve been leading troops since I was sixteen,” noted Mansemat. “And I tend to be gloomy, because experience has taught me that those who don’t realistically evaluate their chances die young.” He shook his head. “And that is not something I intend to do. I have flowers back at home I intend to see bloom. And I will not be disappointed.”
There was a gust of wind and the Badb entered. Allard noted that the wind seemed to part around the Witch Queen, allowing her to walk through the rain and remain perfectly--or at least remarkably--dry. “Okay. Rats and vermin in the food stores are dead and gone,” she announced. “We can hold out--probably another six months. Which I think we can all agree is more than those jerks out there can.”
Guiscard gestured to her husband. “We probably aren’t going to find out. Your army’s coming to break the siege. And its apparently grown to become… several armies.”
Viviane nodded. “Well, that’s good. Any personal stuff from Nissy and Morgaine…”
“Apparently, they’re enjoying Monleone very much,” answered Mansemat. “And Nisrioch has already set up a lot of his portable apparatus there, so soon we may enjoy the full benefits of his Sight in the field.”
Viviane sat down next to her husband. “I have to admit, this experience is much better than my last war. Being able to sleep in actual buildings is a very, very nice touch.”
“One would hope so,” said Mansemat.