The Great Palanquin wended its way down the Granite Path towards the Scarlet Palace. Hereward had heard of the place, but never seen it. Not that it was a difficult journey from his home--obviously it was quite easy. It was simply that there was no need to go there, and so he hadn’t. It was, after all, exceptionally ill-considered for a bearer to go where he was not wanted.
The palace lived up to what he’d heard. Gleaming domes of copper and gold, freshly polished, shone dimly in the moonlight. Walls of pink marble interlaid with carnelian and sard loomed high, covered with statues and images. Hereward’s breath caught in his throat. There it was--the work of centuries of Kings and Queens of the Holly Throne to create something of beauty.
The gates swung open as they approached, seemingly by magic. In truth, staff had been dispatched to the Palace yesterday to get in working order, and indeed, had been cleaning it for the last year. But that was what they did--make everything in Tintagel function so quietly and surely, it seemed to happen by itself.
The path to the Bronze Gate, the Palace’s primary entrance, was long and prone to digressions, built more to allow those traveling to it time to enjoy the Palace’s elaborate grounds. Hereward felt his arms begin to strain as they passed the twelfth ornamental hedge. Impressive as it all was, a part of him was wishing that the royal family had had a bit more restraint in their decorations.
At last, they came to the Bronze Gate. The palanquin was brought to the stairs before it, and laid down. Hereward heard the curtains flutter. “And here we are,” said Queen Yolande. “I’ve seen pictures, but the actual palace is so more magnificent.” She stepped out of the palanquin and onto the stair.
“Why, dearest, don’t you require your bearers’ assistance for that?” asked Amfortas cheerfully.
“Oh, no,” replied the Queen. “These stairs are pure-made of marble, covered with gold, and cleaned this very day with rosewater.”
“Ahh,” said Amfortas, as he joined the Queen. “How wondrous.” He turned to regard Hereward. “Now, then, I shall need you early tomorrow. My serjeant is planning a meeting with the Senate for me, and I have no plans to leave those fine gentlemen waiting. Further, I always rise early.” The Prince gave a casual shrug. “I have very little need of sleep.”
Hereward nodded. “I will not delay, Your Highness.”
Amfortas smiled. “Excellent. It will be a pleasure to see you.” He stepped to Yolande and took her hand. “Now, then my lady, would you be so kind as to show me these exquisite chambers of yours?” Yolande shyly looked away as they walked up the stairs to the Bronze Gate.
It occurred dimly, to Hereward, that this was the second time he was watching the Queen and her husband vanish from his sight.