An eerie silence had fallen over the splendid galleries and staterooms, where only the night before laughter and courtly conversation was intertwined with the tone of the kingdom’s most talented musicians.
But what was amiss?
The sound of iron shod boots echoed through the marble halls of the palace. Three armoured men strode towards the throne room, and the central figure, a tall man of about forty entered in without ceremony while his companions stopped and stood at either side of the door.
A weary looking man, in a blood stained silk suit sat heavily on the throne. At his feet was a bloodied sabre and in his right hand was a partially filled goblet of wine.
The general took six more measured steps before bowing his head and taking to one knee.
“Fyngaul, what is the news?” the injured monarch inquired as a surgeon attended to the wound on his left bicep.
“The raiders have been repulsed, Sire,” the general reported, once again taking to his feet.
“And our losses?” the king asked.
“Seventy guests in the ballroom, Majesty, five more with in the palace grounds and one hundred thirty of the guard.”
“And of the Barbarians?” the ruler inquired.
“Two hundred slain, and a dozen taken, Sire.”
“Their treachery will be dealt with!” the king demanded.
“Of course, Majesty. The messengers have already been sent to our garrisons. We will strike back swiftly.”
The king winced as the surgeon’s needle closed the wound.
Two soldiers entered from a door to the right of the throne. They positioned themselves at the entrance as the queen and the two royal children entered.
“Harold, I knew we should have never trusted those savages!” the queen spat.
“And right you were, My Dear. But they will now feel our anger,” King Harold said in an attempt to calm her.
The evening before, a ball had been held to celebrate the new treaty with the Spaldik. Their ambassador had been all smiles and graces at the banquet in the Great Marble Hall. Even as they ate members of his retinue had drifted from the hall to secure the South Gatehouse. Then just after eleven, the gate was opened and the raiders poured in.
It was the ambassador himself that slew the Lord Chamberlain with a concealed dagger, and then turned on the king. Harold, however, was swift with his ceremonial blade and dispatched the man, before sending his wife to the nursery chamber along with a dozen guards.
The king then abandoned his rapier and seized a cavalry sabre from one of his fallen men. He had then fought to clear the palace at the side of Fyngaul.
The palace secure and the bleeding not yet stemmed, the king was taken to the throne room, while the general led the counterattack.
Such is the nature of diplomacy in the Green Realms.