Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Siege of the White Mountain Vol. 3: Due to the Dead--Part 33

Duke Naimon Nestor stumbled into his family's chateau, wiping his face clean.  It'd been a hard ride, and he'd splattered a mud puddle, which of course had covered him head to toe in filth.  Which of course was actually making him regret wishing for warmer weather, but that was how it went sometimes.  He prayed to the Seven that the next part of his day would go better... that he would be able to reach Prince Amfortas and explain this latest setback before news--

"Hello, Duke," came the Prince's voice.  Naimon turned to see the Prince seated in a large chair that had been placed in a small alcove in the hall.  "You are back early, I believe."

"Ahhh, yes," said Naimon, as he tried to think of an answer. It occurred to him that the chair Amfortas was seated in had in fact been in his study, and that the Prince must have had it dragged out to this spot so he could sit here and wait for him.

That was discomfiting.

"You are wasting my time, Duke," said Amfortas in tones of mild, polite disappointent. "And your own.  You are back here far earlier than I thought you would be.  Now--did you, perhaps, defeat the rebels and their foes earlier than I imagined you would?"

"I... no, sir," said the Duke.  "They took the pass, and we were unable to force it.  I had to retreat."  He coughed. "Troops have been left at various fortresses to protect our main army from attack, but we..."

Amfortas raised his hand.  "Your son is with the rebels still, I imagine?"

"I... I believe so, sire," said Naimon.  "To my great shame.  Still, Belengier is only one of my sons.  To have one rebel among so many loyal and true is--"

"I had hoped you would remedy that," whispered Amfortas.  "Take care of the rebel.  But you didn't."

"I couldn't, sire," stated Naimon.  "Circumstances..."

Amfortas suddenly rose from the chair.  "Circumstances."  He nodded as he walked to the Duke's side.  "They seem very convenient for you, these circumstances."

"They are not convenient at all," said Naimon, as Amfortas placed an arm around his shoulder.

"Well, they seem convenient to me," declared Amfortas, as the pair walked further into the chateau.  "It fills me with doubts about you.  Doubts about your loyalty.  Doubts I believe I spoke to you about."  He gave a pleasant nod.  "Tell me the truth, Duke Nestor--you think I am going to do something unpleasant to your family for this.  That this is how I'll balance the scales for your treacherous son--killing one of your other boys.  Or perhaps that handsome little grandson of yours."

Naimon gulped. "My... my lord, that... that is..."

Amfortas gave a merry chuckle.  "Don't lie, Duke.  It is insults the Seven.  That is what you are thinking, isn't it?"

"I..."  Naimon shut his eyes and nodded.  "It is."

"Mmm," agreed Amfortas, as they approached a large door.  "And it is what I am considering.  Torture one or more of them. To make things clear to you."  He opened the door, and ushered Naimon through it.  "So, really, it's sort of a shame I already killed them all."

Naimon stared at the mutilated bodies of his family, all left hanging from the wall.  He gave a low moan and fell to his knees, inarticulate sounds issuing from his mouth.

"Yes," said Amfortas with a sigh. "I'm afraid I got bored waiting for you.  And besides, I felt you would need... correction. After all, aren't your previous failures what brought us to this present... difficulty?  They deserved... punishment."  He leaned towards the old man.  "And yet--this leaves the question what do I do now, doesn't it?"  He shrugged. "Vexing. Most vexing.  You must be punished for this latest failure as well.  What do I do, Duke?  What do I do?"

Duke Naimon turned to regard the man, whimpering the entire time.

Those whimpers turned to screams when Amfortas drove a knife through his shoulder.

"Yes," said Amfortas with a pleased, cheery nod.  "Yes, that's what I think I should do as well."

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