Theobold closed his eyes and rubbed a hand wearily across his face. Thin enough to be
considered gaunt--dining as was proscribed in the One Book on only grains, fruits and nuts (and
the occasional cup of wine)--he was a model of austerity for his followers, his fanatical desires
frequently causing him to push himself to the limits of exhaustion. "Very well, me son," he said,
the weariness he felt creeping into his voice. "Yer transgression be then forgiven." He dropped
that hand into his lap and looked up at the monk, who still stood with eyes downcast, waiting for
permission to continue.
"So, then," Theobold said, leaning back in his chair and folding his hands across his lean
stomach, "what be this 'important message' that could not wait for proper manners?"
"Master, I was instructed to inform ye that Prince Valyrae is being most difficult," the monk
stated, still keeping his gaze on the stone floor of the chamber.
"Pah!" Theobold spat in disgust. "Said young whelp has always proven difficult. Why should
this day be then different?"
"Master, Prince Valyrae has refused to allow the Panel of Six to sit in on the morning
audiences," the young monk explained, his voice trembling. "He has banned them, one and all,
from the audience chamber."
Theobold's eyes smoldered at this news. "This be naught but blasphemy," he hissed between
clenched teeth. "I will not permit this to happen!" He rose from his chair and with his robes
swirling around his lank frame, stormed past the cringing monk and charged down the
* * *
The huge receiving room outside the royal audience chamber was packed with members of the
king's court, as well as merchants and others of the realm who sought an audience with the
prince. There was an excited murmur of voices among the crowd this morning, as word that
Valyrae had banned the Panel of Six from the royal chamber had spread quickly and everyone
knew that a scene would soon take place. The displaced priests who made up the Panel of Six
stood to one side of the tall, double doors that marked the entrance to the audience chamber,
their heads bent in muted conversation.
When Theobold swept into the room making his way toward the huge doors that sealed the
receiving room from the royal audience chamber, a path through the crowd was quickly opened
for him. The look of savage wrath on his face was enough to make even the bravest knight stand
clear of his path. One of the priests detached himself from the group by the doors and made to
intercept Theobold, no doubt to pass along details of the indignity they had experienced, but
Theobold stopped him short with a raised hand. He did not need to hear the details of this
blasphemy, nor did he want any delay to dampen the inner rage that he now felt.
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