Duke Blancardin Valfonda glanced at the forces assembled on the shoddy walls before him. If he was not mistaken, many were armed with farm utensils, others with large sticks, and at least one was now wearing a pot for a helmet.
This would have been underwhelming enough. When added to the fact that the wall was about the size of his garden wall back home, and had several large gaps knocked in it, it became downright sad. All these weeks, we've been hearing that he'd holed up in Goldenrush, thought Blancardin. We never thought to ask what sort of state Goldenrush was in.
It struck Blancardin that he was very much the wrong man for this--the peaceful duke of a peaceful city, famed for its docks, its ships and its guitar-playing, not for war.
But then, he'd been the man who'd been available, and the one to find Astolfo's forces.
Such as they were.
As he waited for his emissary to arrive, he recalled the last time he'd done this. That time, he'd been a part of a large group, ready to strike the glorious blow for liberty, as they listened to Osric de Ross tell them they were doomed.
Well, the blow had been struck. And then afterwards... it had become all much less glorious. Somehow, Blancardin had thought the Prince's forces would prove a terrible army of evil, instead of what they quickly proving--a swiftly disintegrating group of doomed and desperate men, under the thumb of a cruel lunatic who didn't seem to care if they lived or died, and indeed, only seemed to have a vague interest in whether he won or lost.
And that somehow didn't seem grand. It seemed sad.
Astolfo came himself this time, surrounded by several ragged Eremites, on the back of a starving horse. "You!" he snapped as he saw Blancardin. "Valfonda! They sent... you to deal with me? YOU?"
"Me, Astolfo," said Blancardin quietly.
"The insult," seethed Astolfo. "The insult! This is all they've sent to deal with my army!" He gestured back to the walls, as if trying to will them to strength. "You! Blancardin Valfonda."
"That's right," agreed Blancardin.
"I thought that... Belengier would be here," muttered Astolfo quietly.
"He's not," said Blancardin. "He is elsewhere. I am who you are dealing with." He regarded the young noble quietly. "Will you surrender?"
"I... a Rabicano never goes down without a fight," said Astolfo very quickly.
"You already fought, Astolfo," said Blancardin levelly. "And lost. Handily. Do you want to lose again? By a larger margin?" The Prince of Monteriano bowed his head. "I'll send the men in to secure your people's... weapons."
"You should bring some food," muttered Astolfo. "They're hungry."