“Councillors.” Scarlet raises her voice slightly to gather the attention of the room. “Thank you for your input and guidance once again. I am pleased that we have been able to come to a consensus on these matters. If there is no other business for today, I propose that we adjour…”
The conclusion of the Council meeting is interrupted by the opening of the chamber doors. The guardsman enters and gives a brief bow before speaking.
“Sorry for the intrusion, Your Grace, but there’s one more petitioner for you. He says it’s a very important matter.”
The Duchess scans the Council members, and seeing no evidence of dissent, nods to the guardsman.
As the doors swing wider, ten elaborately dressed gnomes file into the room, each carrying an enormous heraldic trumpet. As they take up positions flanking the door, a trio of young girls dash in, scattering flower petals on the floor, before rushing to quiet positions on the side of the room. Deirdre slips in behind the children, edging along the wall to take up an unobtrusive vantage point along the wall. Another ornately dressed gnome in pseudo-military garb strides proudly into the chamber and stands before the Council. The horn-bearers blast out an impressively loud fanfare as the herald makes his announcement.
“MY LORDS AND LADIES! IT IS MY GREAT HONOUR TO PRESENT CARSON DAVID IBN NORMAN IBN COULTON AL-TUSKANY, CAPTAIN OF THE ARMY OF FIRENZE.”
As the herald steps aside, the man in question enters, strutting proudly in an ostentatious uniform festooned with medallions and ribbons. The hilt of an elaborately engraved rapier hangs at his hip, and a large hat, rivaling the worse of Beppo’s fashion sense, is perched jauntily on his partly balding head.
“Lords and Ladies of the Council”, he begins, giving a deep bow. "I hope that you will forgive my intrusion into your important business, but I come for a joyous reason that I am sure you will all wish to witness.
“My dearest Scarlet, daughter of Talreth the son of Sibrari, Duchess of Tuskany and Servant of The Lady of Glorious Light and Justice. I have been honoured by the affection and attention that you have bestowed upon me for the past months. I have cherished the time that you devote to me, although brief it must be at times. I have gloried in the glances and utterances that have been directed to my most unworthy person. Never have I felt so alive and loved as when I am in your presence. I had never imagined that my unworthy self could be so blessed as to have met and loved one so beautiful.”
The Captain holds out his hand and the gnomish herald scurries forward to place a small box in his palm. The sweaty little man steps forward, dropping to one knee at the foot of the step up to the Council table. Opening the box, he holds it forward, revealing a small gold ring inset with a small starburst cut diamond that appears to glow slightly even in the bright lighting of the room.
“My darling Scarlet. Would you do me the great honour of becoming my wife?”
“YIP, YIP, YIP” laughs Mikmek as if suddenly afflicted by an uncontrolable hideous laughter spell. “Mikmek find new court jester, replace one killed by adventures.”
Mikmek suddenly becomes serious all signs of mirth gone and starts walking toward Carson, his new tail spike and symbol of office swinging behind him.
“Mikmek says Son of Car no ‘love’ Scarlett, till Scarlett become Duchess. Then you scurry like rat to declare throbbing loins. Mikmek sooner let Beppo marry Scarlett than you!”
“Mikmek protect kingdom from agitators” Mikmek declares as he walks past Carson and shifts his gaze to Deirdre “regardless of the source and by any means necessary.”
Mikmek disappears in a puff of red smoke and appears back in his chair. Carson is left choking on red smoke and the advice “to next time hire kobolds”.
“Anything to add your Grace?”
Deirdre stands quietly to the side as Mikmek’s tirade comes to a conclusion, misunderstanding the words directed at her by the Royal Assassin.
The little dragon knows of Scarlet’s treachery as well? Perhaps he was behind the attempt on her life…
The acolyte directs her attention back to Carson, hoping the obsequious fool wouldn’t forget his purpose, or his spine.
The simpering little man looks crestfallen at the kobold’s harsh words, glancing toward Deirdre as he straightens his ridiculous outfit. He wrings his hands together as he whines in response before Scarlet can speak.
“Most revered Councillor Mikmek, you wound me with your words, but this is a most unfortunate misunderstanding. In your great wisdom, you are correct that I had not proclaimed the love for my dearest Scarlet until after her rise to the throne, but that is not when my feelings began.
“I had loved from afar for many months, longing for those few moments when my duties to the honoured General allowed me to be in her presence. I had resigned myself to merely pining from afar until the Solstice Ball, when I found the courage to ask the most beautiful woman in the world for a dance. It was that connection, that fateful waltz across the stone floor of this very castle, that gave me the hope and determination to pursue our love.
“As to your other words, I would assure you and the other revered Council members that it is the throbbing of our hearts, not… other areas, that draws the Duchess and I together. I believe I only exaggerate slightly when I state that there has never been so pure and chaste a love in all of Tuskany.”
His voice and body posture having grown stronger and more confident throughout the speech, Carson again bows and looks expectantly toward the Duchess, happy anticipation apparent on his make-up caked little face.
Deirdre smiles inwardly, pleased at the Captain’s performance.
Now Duchess, shall we all see you for the monster you are, as you crush this pathetic little fool’s heart in full view of your devoted Faisal?