The King and Queen of Cormyr found themselves standing in darkness -- dusty, cobwebbed darkness.
Dusty, cobwebbed, utter darkness.
Azoun drew his dagger and willed it to glow just a trifle faster than Filfaeril laid her fingers on the stone she wore at her throat with the same intent.
A moment later, they stood together in the heart of two soft, interlaced spell-glows.
They were in a narrow, dust-lined, stone passage. By the look of its walls, it lay somewhere within a large and grand mansion or the massive wall of a castle. From its condition, they knew that it didn't see frequent use.
Filfaeril hastily licked her fingertips and daintily thrust them up her nostrils to quell any sneezes, tapping Azoun's shoulder to make him see and do the same.
Something rested on the floor about a pace ahead of them -- a scrap of parchment with writing on it.
After casting a swift glance up at the ceiling to assure himself that nothing waited there to plunge down on him, Azoun bent and picked it up.
"A treasure map?" Filfaeril asked hopefully.
"Nay so lucky, love," Azoun replied, frowning. "'Tis an ... outline, I suppose, of a state visit to our court. Or, no --- 'tis a courtier's training treatise, writings done to tell the clerks and pages under him all the steps that should not be missed."
Filfaeril extended an imperious hand. Azoun handed over the parchment, turning it to make sure nothing was written on its back as he did so.
"So we must be somewhere in Cormyr," he mused, peering up and down the passage. "I'll just have a look ..."
The arm that shot round his throat was slender and shapely, but firm. "Kings, like other folk, look with their eyes, not their hands or feet," his queen reminded him, her lips against his ear. "Stand right here until I've finished reading, and then we can go for a stroll together. I'm not getting separated from you, and you're not safe blundering about on your own."
"Oh?" Azoun growled. "Not safe? And whose opinion is that?"
"Mine. You weren't safe from Zara Emmerask, you weren't safe from Harantra Longflail, you weren't safe from Jasmra Hornhold, you weren't safe from Perrele Jalance, you weren't safe from gods-bedevil us Aumarra Hiloar -- really, Az -- nor from Belara --"
"Aye, Fee, aye, enough," Azoun growled, a trifle testily. "I don't need a herald's roll of my indiscretions paraded before me once more. You've scarred me for all of those wenches, and more, and I deserved them all, but --"
"But thus made wiser, you'll stand still until I've ... done. That wasn't so hard, was it?"
"No, my bright flower," the King of Cormyr made reply, being very sure his queen could not see the roll of his eyes. "As you say -- not at all."
The rather pedantic text of the parchment read by the Obarskyrs has been lightly edited here for clarity and brevity (mentions of "The Crown" throughout refer to the reigning monarch). It outlines the sequence of events (and preparations for them) involved in a state visit to Cormyr.
A state visit is a public (not private, for secret meetings or hunting or revelry) visit by an outland (foreign) head of state or in-favor royalty, regent, or special envoy (an ambassador, church representative, or negotiator for an alliance of countries).
1. Preparations Beforehand
The Royal Kitchens
Lord High Marshal or Acting Lord Protector of the Realm
Master of Revels
Underclerks of Protocol
Chatelaine and Clerks of the Stairs(4)
"I must confess," Azoun commented a moment later, "that my eyes began to glaze over at about the point where it discusses pets and escorts. Is that what they spend our coin on? I confess, I've managed to ride the throne for these many years without ever realizing how much fuss and foolishness all these courtiers of ours get up to!"
"That's fine, dear," Filfaeril said soothingly. "Confession's the hardest step, for kings. Now we can get to work on improving you. Did you manage to read the rest of it?"
The Purple Dragon went vaguely purple. "No," he admitted.
Do we share a common hunch that the Queen of Cormyr is going to make her husband read the rest of the document on the spot? We thought so, but we'll see in the next installment.
1. At the time of the writing of this document, the wizard Vangerdahast was both Court Wizard and Royal Magician. Alaphondar was and remains the Royal Sage. The Clerk of the Shield is responsible for security on a room-by-room basis in the Palace. "Relevant outland envoys" refers to courtiers attached to the visiting personage.
2. King's Lords are the so-called "local lords" of Cormyr. By "relevant," this entry means the heralds will contact only lords and high priests in locations that the visit is intended to involve. "Under protocol of discretion" means the heralds confer with the lords and high priests on a need-to-know basis (telling them only the bare minimum they must learn, not revealing everything about the visit -- this is to prevent treachery on the part of these persons or as a result of careless talk on their part).
3. The "experts" referred to here may be merchants, sages, persons who've dwelt in the relevant outland locale or have personal acquaintance with the visiting personage, as well as palace spies.
4. The Clerks of the Stairs are the superiors of (scribes for and schedulers of) the Head Chambermaids of each floor and wing of the Palace. They report to the Chatelaine but aren't part of her staff. The Head Chambermaids, all other maids, and Pages of the Presence (that is, fetch-and-carry errand-runners and furniture-moving orderlies attached to rooms rather than to the royal staff) are part of her staff.
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .
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