The little thief from Vinra moved slowly through the cavernous receiving hall, while something in the heavy bag, which was slung over one shoulder, clinked faintly with his every step. Markel attempted to tell himself that this was going to be just an ordinary transaction, even if it was to be made with a member of the royal family, but he well understood the potential ramifications of this meeting and he felt sure that something was going to go wrong at any moment.
There were only a few torches and braziers burning in the long, dark hall and moonlight filtered through tall, stained glass windows on one side of the room to spill puddles of faint colored light onto the floor. During the day this hall would be filled with many a lord and their lady, not a few nobles and even some common folk who might seek an audience with the prince of Gar, but the time now being well past middle-night, it was empty save for two guards who stood on either side of the huge double doors that Markel moved toward. His meeting with the prince had been set for this late hour as the items within the bag he carried were technically illegal to have in one’s procession, but since the articles were intended for Prince Snowden himself, and the prince after all made the laws of the realm, the thief had no fear of reprisals—for the moment, at least.
The guards silently opened the huge doors as he approached without even seeming to notice him, and just as quietly closed the doors behind him after he passed through the doorway.
Markel moved a few steps into the room and then stopped to look around. This chamber was much smaller than the receiving hall he just came through, but was large enough that it could easily hold a hundred people without being crowded. Two large braziers burned at the other end of the chamber on either side of a raised dais where the king’s empty throne sat. Heavy tapestries hung from the stone walls, along with pennants, shields and numerous weapons.
“You are late, little thief,” someone said from behind him.
Markel turned to see a large table with several lighted candles on it. The table was at the rear of the hall near the doors, and behind it sat Prince Snowden with a number of scrolls in front of him, as well as an ink pot.
“Most humble apologies, my prince,” Markel said and gave a short bow. “Your palace is large and I have but short legs to travel upon.”
Snowden set the quill he was using on the table and looked up to stare at the thief. “You have what I asked for,” he said—it was a statement, not a question. A grizzled warrior in his mid-twenties, the prince waited somewhat impatiently for his father, the king, to die so that he might succeed him to the throne.
“Aye, indeed I do, my prince,” Markel said and pulled the bag from his shoulder. The contents gave a satisfying clank as he shifted the load.
Prince Snowden rose from his chair and placed both of his heavy hands on the table. “Show me,” he commanded.
Markel untied the large sack, reached inside, and pulled forth a flat, rather convex object that resembled a shield in general size and shape, but when the candlelight reflected from its surface it became obvious this item was made of no ordinary metal. The prince gave an audible gasp as green and red and yellow colors flashed from the object—it was almost like witnessing a living rainbow.
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