Scarlet rubs her temples, trying to pay attention to the architect’s explanation of Beppo’s proposed theater construction. She had expected to be back to her duties as High Priestess by now, not struggling with the mundane decisions of Rulership.
Where is Gracie? A glass of ’09 Rivaldi might make this more tolerable.
Belvedere enters the room quietly, crossing the room quickly to stand at the Duchess’ elbow. Upon her acknowledgement, he speaks quietly, pitching his voice to not interrupt the others.
“Pardon the interruption, ma’am. There is a visitor who is very insistent that he speak with you at once. He has refused to return for your public consultation later this afternoon. Shall I have him removed? Sir Mikmek may be particularly well suited to the task.”
Relief washes through the young woman and she quickly shakes her head. “No, no, that won’t be necessary. I will attend to this matter myself.” She raises her voice to address the rest of the table. “Gentlemen, I apologize, but a pressing matter has arisen. Please continue without me.”
Scarlet struggles not to skip down the hallway, overwhelmingly relieved to be away from the meeting. She turns to the seneschal, raising an eyebrow in curiosity. “You seem perturbed by this visitor, Belvedere.”
The man keeps his face passive. “Not at all, ma’am. I was merely considering all possible options should our visitor’s persistence turn to unpleasantness.”
“Has he been inappropriate?”
“No, ma’am. Quite the contrary, unusually civilized for one of his kind. But very insistent.”
“Who is he? What does he want?”
“He gave his name as Salaam, ma’am. All he would say is that he has sought you out to offer service. He is fairly well armed, although not particularly impressive. I expect that Sir Mikmek and Lord Quinn would be able to discover more information if you preferred to give them time to investigate first.”
“No. Better a meeting now than being stuck listening to estimates of labour costs and lumber shipments for hours.”
Belvedere only nods. “Yes, ma’am.”
As the pair reach the throne room, Belvedere steps through the curtained doorway first, announcing her arrival.
“May I present, Duchess Scarlet Estelda of Tuskany.”
The young woman steps into the room and stops short as she sees only the seneschal and two guardsmen. Her attention is then drawn to the floor between the two soldiers as a smaller figure moves. A heavily armored kobold kneels, bowing so low that his leathery snout nearly touches the stone. The scimitar-like blade on his back shifts awkwardly with the motion, ringing loudly as the pommel strikes the floor.
“Thank you for allowing an audience, Dawnsister. I come before you as servant of The Sarenrae to ask that you grant me the honour of serving The Eternal Light under your guidance and grace.”
Despite the physical appearance and reedy voice, the priestess immediately recognizes the speech pattern and body language projected by the kobold. “Faisal? Is that you?”
The little creature looks up in surprise, stammering out a halting reply. “Dawnsister? I… um… but…” The armored shoulders slump and he again prostrates himself of the floor. “Yes, Dawnsister. Ten thousand pardons for my inadequate attempt to deceive. I should have realized that you would be too wise to be fooled by mere appearances. I have erred in attempting to hide my shame from you.”
Anger boils up inside the young woman. “Sooth your pride, more like. What is the meaning of this, Faisal? Why are you here in this form? Why did you not come when Brother Lanailias attempted to resurrect you?”
“The Eternal Light of Compassion and Justice has seen fit to offer a chance to redeem myself. I can only assume that She has chosen to return to me to this form for a purpose.”
“Probably to teach you some humility”, says Scarlet, her voice clipped in anger. “But I’m sure the others will be pleased to hear that you have returned. I hope you strive to learn the lesson Sarenrae is trying to teach. At least She has forgiven you.”
The young woman turns and leaves the room, stomping up the coridoors toward her personal chambers. There was a bottle of Whiterose Burgundy in dire need of opening.