The Civita Maria council greeted the victors with grace. Their friendliness seemed most advantageous to Pietro di Calvacasa - not to be perceived an oppressor in a new strip of acquired territory could be more than benevolent to his cause.
"In all honesty, Sire", Judge Marconi said, "the provincial army stationed in the town was such a rabble, and their commander, Franco di Palletto, did nothing to protect our citizens."
"You can rest assured that no such atrocities will hapen under my rule" was the Count's reply.
"The city wishes to assist you in our limited ways", the Judge continued. "The guilds' militia had already equipped a battalion of a hundred and sixty men. The taylors provided them with light blue coats. This was the only paint available as the provincials took all the red."
"They're infantry, I suppose", Major Bjorn Halmarson of the Varangian mercenaries remarked.
"Sadly our region is not suitable for horse breeding, and the stock the city has is required to keep up trade."
"Of course, riverine trade and the easterly routes to Böhnstadt must be maintained", the Count agreed.
"We would like to convey the word of our citizens that a further two battalions of volunteer foot will soon be raised", Councilman di Grasso said.
"Foot, of course", Halmarson grumbled.
"We are in great need of cavalry, Councilmen", Calvacasa said. "We have but one squadron of eighty, and too much effort is wasted on finding their best place in our line of battle. Even with one small squadron on another flank..."
"We shall see what we can do", the great geologist Ravanelli hastened to say.
"The next order of business is artillery. I see you were kind enough to transport the heavy pieces to the main square", Calvacasa said. "My adjutant Captain d'Arson will inspect them."
The Glambrian soon reported back. "Bad news, Count; the cannon are no more useful than our wooden ones. Their carriages are worm-eaten, the iron rusted. One shot and the whole thing falls to pieces."
"The barrels are more important", Calvacasa replied. "Replacing the carriages is a matter of a few days only."
"No trouble with that, sir, and I have also seen a working foundry when we entered the town."
"It is only a small one, but three- or four-pounder barrels could indeed be cast there", Ravanelli said. "You may also inspect this device, which we call an amusette, a large two-pounder musket on a small carriage. It serves the same purpose as a regimental cannon."
"Heavy artillery is more important to us right now", the Count said, "but it is indeed a handsome weapon."
"I shall order the craftsmen of the city to build carriages of this size, if that pleases you, Count", the Judge indicated the old guns. "We are going to have luncheon in half an hour, then you can inspect the volunteers."
"Sire, I believe these amicable Councilmen might just not want to give us all this equipment for free", the Varangian said in a low tone.
"So what do you wish in return for all of these favours, my good men?", the Count was fond of being direct and to the point.
"You know, Sire, that cities below five thousand souls had paid, in these last few years, a tax of one silver thaler per capita to the central treasury. We are an ancient municipality, founded at the time of Saint Giacomo, and we find this tax very offensive", the Judge said.
"Of course I will not require such a tax be paid", Calvacasa said. "And the collectors of the Chancellory will not easily approach Civita Maria now."
"Will you then tell us of your plans?", di Grasso asked.
"No, and not even over the meal. I do not care if your citizens support me or the Parmigiano government, but I will not feed any spies so deliberately."
"The next order of business", the Judge cleared his throat, "is command, dear Count."
"Command?", d'Arson raised an eyebrow.
"Of course. It is only natural that the volunteer citizenry shall be led by people they know."
"Such as your humble selves."
"Exactly, sir. Geologist Ravanelli and I shall be dubbed honorary Majors, and the two councilmen Captains and adjutants to us. The city volunteers and militia shall be placed under our command."
"We are in need of engineers", Calvacasa contemplated. "How versed are you in such things, Signor Ravanelli?"
"Not much, Count."
"I have, on the other hand, learned from direct disciples of General Vauban", d'Arson exclaimed, "and I am more than happy to share that knowledge."
"Signor, excuse me, Major Ravanelli will join the artillery, then, and the two gentlemen will attempt to recruit a unit of engineers as well", the Count decided. "The infantry you raised and promised will fall under Judge Marconi's command. Understand one thing, though: my officers are experienced, and even if you nominally outrank them, you must listen to their suggestions."
"Then it is agreed", the judge nodded. "The last thing is the trial and execution of General Palletto and his staff."
"You were quick to tell us the verdict", the Count said.
"Their crimes had been seen and can be proven by countless citizens, Sire."
"And imagine what the loyalists will do, should any of my officers be captured, if they are informed of such an execution."
"Then what reparations will the city receive? They oppressed us, ignored our revered customs, and their debauchery filled our poor people's hearts with fear!"
"The man can be really dramatic, I give him that", Halmarson whispered the Glambrian.
"We send a messenger to the south. As the loyalists have no prisoners yet, an exchange is not possible, thus the messenger will ask for a veritable sum of gold to set the General and his staff members free. That gold will go directly to your treasury."
"Quite right", the councilmen nodded. "What if they would not pay?"
"I can pay a lesser sum if negotiations fail, but the loyalist officers will be under the guard of my soldiers in the citadel, and should any further harm come to them, the liberties I am willing to give you right now will be severely limited."
"Absolutely understandable, Sire", the Judge said. "Shall we proceed to luncheon then?"