William scowled. It was his fault, truly, but could he help it if the pain in his bones had reduced him to little more than a figurehead? He thought he’d learned all these was to know of pain in battle, but this was different; this pain was a hunger that gnawed at his bones. The picture of kingly strength he’d hoped to present to the populace, as well as the acolytes gathered for the Winnowing, had vanished. Indeed, at times he could scarcely hold up his head. For the past three nights, since the beginning of Open Court, William had refused the bitter, quince colored tonic that the earth wizard, Elymas, carried nightly to his room. HIs mind was clearer for it, but now his body cried out spasmodically for the relief it brought. Tonight, he knew he would not dismiss Elymas when he brought the tray.
But he would deal with Baltico now, now when his mind was clear and the ground solid beneath him. He knew Blatico was the epitome of all that was rotten at his court. Articulate and cruel, the lantern jawed noble had nonetheless been chosen by Elymas to arbitrate the smaller matters while he, William, was forced to take a rest. Until now. After today, the court would no longer be burdened with his waspish tongue. Elymas had taken too much on himself. The King dug his spine into the hardness of the throne. From this day forward, he would set the tenor of these sessions. He’d have to learn to endure the pain, that was all.
“This is your last decision, Blatico,” said William. “Reach it and be done.”
Blatico searched out his mentor, but Elymas wouldn’t look at him. The Skyll’s eyes had, narrowed and he seemed to be studying the double-entrance door.
“As you wish, Sire,” Blatico said meekly, but as he turned to the couple, he assumed a defiant expression. His last judgement? Well, so be it, but they would leave with more than a memory of a pig licking his boots.
Blatico walked to the peasant woman and knelt. It took every ounce of his control not to kick her, but he managed, even stroking the pig’s snout.
“It seems to me this p..p..p..pig must be p..p..pardoned for he is a p..p..porker who p..p..prefers two p..p.. properties.”
It was rich. It was splendid. He had mimicked the woman to perfection, and now it was laughter he should be hearing, despite the King’s reprimand. Instead, there was a hushed silence. Had he overstepped his bounds? Blatico looked to the throne, only to see the King as well as all the Skylls and Ondred, staring at the entrance doors.
Blatico turned. His cape flapping as he forgot the matter at hand as well.
Filling up the doorway was a giant of a man, hair white as snow loosed from a leather band.