Chapter Seven

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The walk did not take long, despite the Grand Hall being on the opposite side of the keep. Narris struggled to keep up with the guardsman, Sir Yareck, who spoke sparingly the entire way—though Narris would not complain. They arrived to an already bustling hall, filled with what appeared to be half of the kingdom. Narris asked one of the servants how many heads the Grand Hall could endure, and a response of over six hundred seemed almost inconceivable. It is true that Panthos had great dining halls, but extravagance was looked at as impure and obtuse. Everything was done with a purpose and within reason in Panthos—at least compared to the northern country.

Sir Yareck put him in a chair at the top of the dais, directly beside two empty chairs that could only have been for the King and his future wife. Everywhere Narris looked he gained curious glances and suspicious stares. These northerners do not wish me here, he thought. He scanned the room and did not immediately spy Barost, but he finally spotted the large captain seated at the bottom of the dais near the eastern wall, already enjoying a flagon of mead and deep in conversation with a man that Narris did not recognize.

“It is a gracious sight.” Narris turned to the voice behind him and rose as King Maras moved into his seat. The entire room had quieted upon his entrance, all patiently waiting for the King to take the first drink.

“Your Grace,” Narris said with a slight bow.

King Maras waved a hand at him. “Sit, sit, my lord of the Uthari.” With a radiant smile, King Maras scooped up his jewel studded goblet and raised it high above his head. “Lords and Ladies of the Vint, welcome these noble Uthari warriors.” The King motioned for Narris to rise. “May the Vint and Panthos be one for all time!” The toast was met with a mixture of applause and utter silence, proving the controversy of the potential union between the two nations. Indifferent to his countrymen’s reaction, the King sat in his chair and leaned over to Narris. “I was thinking on all that business from earlier and, I must say, you were right. Our laws differ for a reason, and I was wrong to think otherwise. Regardless, I have sent the knight, Sir Veran, away on a dubious task as a form of punishment. I hope you will not think less of me as a king, or a man, based on what you have seen today. Justice is not a game and I should not have treated it as such.” The King watched Narris’ face for any movement and then loosed a large smile when Narris nodded in agreement. “There is much we can learn from each other I think. Yes. Servants! Wine and mead, let the feast begin!” Finally, the King took a long pull from his goblet, opening the feast.

Music lit up from the right of the dais, and the entire room erupted with cheers and applause. Narris lifted his glass and took a long pull of wine. He hated celebrations. Pointless jabbering and a waste of good food was all he witnessed, that and an elaborate show of dancing and other forms of movement on the floor by those less talented in the art. However, the night went surprisingly well by all accounts. Narris spoke when necessary and, more importantly, he listened whenever the opportunity arose. Wine and mead loosened moods as well as lips; one had to but open their ears and hear them.

After he was confident that nearly everyone in the hall was piss-drunk and care-free, he stepped off the dais and went over to Barost. The large man was still sitting in the same spot, though his attention had shifted to a maiden who was as fair as she was young. To everyone else in the hall, the Panthosi Captain looked good and drunk, but Narris new better. Barost spotted the nod from Narris, and downed the rest of his drink.

“Walk with me,” he said to the large man.

Barost nodded and turned to the young maiden seated next to him. “Apologies, my dear, but I must take my leave.” He rose gracefully for a man of his size and matched steps with Narris.

“How are the men?” He spoke quietly to the big man, hoping that their conversation would be drowned out by the boisterous hall.

“Privy to the on goings of this shabby kingdom.” Barost glanced around casually as they walked through the room. “This hall has ears, my lord.”

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