"Aye sir." The messenger shifted from one foot to another. "T' Duke wants y'r opinion as t' which side we'd be better off helpin'."
The Governor frowned, moving to study the map of the Road, the Duchy's principal sea trade route that wound down from the port of Northferry in Elland, in through the western straits of the Grossmeer, through his own holding, the rocky, cliffside port of Anafor Gri, and thence to the quaintly named Byzarbian port of Tel-i-Tubi. Either the Duchy could side with Grandprix, newly defeated by Grenouisse, and defend their trade interests that way, or they could go in with the victors...
Remembering some of the reports of the battles around Grandprix, he chewed his bottom lip for a moment, then looked up. "Tell 'Is Grace my recommendation is t'side with Grenouisse. If I were a bettin' man, I'd back them. Might open us some trade wi' t'likes of Prunkland, too."
The messenger nodded. "Aye, Sir Robert. I'll tek word, then."
Three weeks later, he watched from the balcony of the residence as four transports bearing the yellow and blue flag of Elland docked. By his shoulder, his sister trained a telescope on the dockside. "So what did they send us?" The statuesque Lady Jacqueline Carleton was bordering on 6', towering above her brother by a good handsbreath. She snapped the telescope shut. "It looks like the Ninth, at least."
He chuckled, and fished the dispatch that had arrived a week ago out of a pocket. "Aye. Mickey Jones and the Ninth. The Sniffers...."
She smiled at that, "Good. Happen we could use some decent cavalry."
He nodded. "Aye. Y've got Johannesson's native horse as well, of course, and Byter-Legge's Jägers."
She grinned, then sobered. "We're taking half the garrison, if you count my regiment."
"I know, lass. But you're goin' t'need the Fifth more than we will, I reckon."
She turned at movement on the docks, raised the telescope again. "Ooo." He smiled to himself at his sister's enthusiasm, as she pointed. "The Don sent us guns?"
"He sort of did, aye, Seein' as how we can't spare ours."
A puzzled look. "How so 'sort of'?"
"Turns out the trades guilds are keen that we should keep t'Road open. So they got up a subscription, an' both the barrel makers an' the folks as makes horse harness bits paid fer them, and fer a couple of professional gunners. Master Terence and Master Peter."
She watched as a red-haired man in a gold-trimmed blue officer's uniform, twin to hers, disembarked. "No way!"
Laughter, "Aye. Sir Billy himself." Sir William Braemar was a legend amongst the Elland army - victor in countless down-and-dirty border wars with Stretford and Roker, hard as nails, a leader of men. "He's t'defer to you should it come down t'treaties an' such, but..."
She smiled. "No. That's just fine." A sigh, and a quick hug for him. "I'd best go see to getting the Fifth aboard. I'll come see you again before we set sail."