Theobold took another sip of the thick, somewhat fruity wine and smacked his thin lips in
satisfaction. As a young man, he had been called Theo the Bold due to his cunning mind and the
seeming lack of scruples he exhibited in dealing with opponents of The Faith, as well as the way
he used these very attributes in his climb--frequently over the fallen bodies of any rivals--through
the ranks of the priesthood. Now, some twenty years later, he was Master Theobold, First Priest
of The Faith to the One God, answerable for his actions only to that deity and to a somewhat
lesser extent to King Kroydon, the ruler of Stanyshaul.
Kroydon had long been at war with his neighboring monarch, King Stenich, and for nearly three
years, save for the cold winter months when long term sieges and even short term battles were
not feasible, the king spent little time at his castle or even within the confines of his kingdom.
The daily running of the kingdom had thus been left to his son and heir, Prince Valyrae, although
most policy decisions were in fact made by the advisory Panel of Six, which Theobold
controlled with a heavy, albeit nearly invisible, iron hand.
Theobold had become quite comfortable with his lot in life in recent years and expected things
to continue moving smoothly along, just as he had planned them to do. True, there had been talk
that some of his flock were reverting to the old ways--worshiping the pagan gods once again--but
Theobold was confident that this was just a phase and he planned to call a conference of his
priests to look into the matter. At the castle, his mornings were spent going over church ledgers,
as his order controlled the king's orchards and vineyards, as well as the local mill and bakery.
His monks also produced a palatable wine, which Theobold sampled as often as possible, for
after all, just as fruit and bread were the food of the earth, so was wine the blood of the earth. So
the One Book states.
He took another sip of the wine and rolled the spicy liquid around in his mouth, before
swallowing. Sighing, he set the goblet down and returned his attention to the thick ledger on the
table in front of him. Theobold was momentarily distracted as he heard the sharp slap of sandals
rapidly approaching his door.
"Master Theobold!" a young monk cried out, as he burst into the old priest's room without
bothering to knock.
"Aye, and what be it then?" Theobold snapped in exasperation as he slammed his hand down on
the ledger of grain production he had been reading over. "What could be so important that ye
must interrupt me privacy without the simple courtesy of knocking before entering me
chambers?" he demanded, swinging around in his chair to glare at the intruder.
The young monk took a step back toward the open doorway, his face and ears now bright red
from embarrassment where they showed beneath the dark cowl that covered his head. He bowed
deeply, his steepled hands held together in front of him. "I offer most sincere apologies for this
intrusion, Master," he said quietly, without straightening up. "I was told to report to ye at once
and the urgency of me mission was cause to forget all manners."
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