Elaine glanced down the mountain pass. Truth be told, for a woman who'd seen the Fangs recently, it wasn't that impressive a mountain pass, or indeed, that impressive a mountain range. But it was most assuredly a mountain range--the mountain range that gave all the Free Cities in this region names like 'Montfort', and 'Monteriano', and of course 'Montalban'. And as she understood it, it was a wealthy mountain range--filled with silver and gold that had made the local dukes such rich, powerful men.
Men who could hire things like the army that was on the other side of the pass, assembled under the banner of the scarlet vulture. The arms of Agrismont, she'd been told, by Belengier, whose father was out there, leading the troops, under that banner.
The young noble seemed eerily at peace with that fact. It made her envy him, in a way.
"Hey, Princess!" came the cheery voice of an individual Elaine did not envy at all.
"Hello, Faileuba," muttered Elaine, idly wondering why it was her fist seemed to be... reflexively clenching.
"So what you looking at?" She glanced out at the army. "Oh. The guys here to kill us." She chuckled and shook her head. "Man, you are as pencil as Palepole. Possibly even more so!"
Elaine considered asking what that meant, but decided against, figuring that the forthcoming explanation would likely only increase the building headache she was feeling.
Her bodyguard gave a lengthy yawn that somehow managed to involve her entire body. "Right, so, the other talky fighty people want you, to do more of the talky stuff."
Elaine glanced at her. "How is it you ever find work as a mercenary?"
"Good at killing things," answered Faileuba. "Really, really good at it."
"Right," said Elaine with a sigh. "Well, let's go." Faileuba did a quick pivot and start rushing away, to the point where Elaine had to break into a jog to keep up with her. By the time she reached the tent, she was out of breath.
"Hello, Elaine," said Bramimonde Gradasso as she rushed in. The young countess eyed here in bafflement. "Why are you...?"
Elaine gestured to Faileuba who was now trying to snatch a bottle of wine out of Meliadus' hand. "No fair! No fair!" shouted the female bodyguard. "I was doing my chivalrous duty, and you take away my drink!"
"My drink now," said Meliadus, raising the bottle over his head.
"Right," said Bramimonde.
"Princess," said Duke Brunello. "We need your help. It's about our location..."
Elaine blinked. "What about it? It seems fine to me..."
The dark-haired Duke gave a nod. "Oh, and it is quite secure... save for a small side path in the mountains that needs to be guarded. It wouldn't need much--just a couple of skilled guards to stay there and make sure enemy soldiers don't sneak through..."
Elaine considered that for a moment, then glanced at Failebua and Meliadus, who were now tussling on the ground. "Give it up! Give it up!" shouted Faileuba. "Give me my drinky!"
"They'd love to do it," she declared quietly.
"Excellent," said the Duke. He gave the pair a bow. "Chivalorous warriors of the Nightfolk--we of the Free Cities salute you for your courage."
Meliadus and Faileuba stopped wrestling over the wine. "Holdfast, why is everyone looking at us?" asked Faileuba.
"No idea, Fai," said Meliadus. "Our mutual awesomeness, maybe?"
Faileuba glanced around the tent. "Yeah, I don't think so." She blinked, and then snapped her fingers. "Oh, nuts, we've just been volunteered for a near-certain death mission."
Meliadus gave a groan. "Not another one!" He shook his head. "Why does this always happen to us?"
Faileuba gave a shrug.