Jorzen led Luke to one of the bench seats that were laid out in a semicircle before a gilt throne, inlaid with sapphires and rubies. A rich red carpet covered the floor, and the walls were hung with thick tapestries. In contrast, the benches were of simple, unadorned design, and made from wood. The king himself was seated on the throne. He was a tall man, with a strong face and thick brown beard. An ornate gold crown rested on his head, and he was attired in rich robes of black, trimmed with fur. He had a heavy build that suggested strength, yet a pronounced pauch and his many chins spoke of indulgence, wealth and indolence.
'Good morning to you all' said King Rhys. 'Now there's two things that need to be sorted this morning, then we can all get on with our lives.'
Luke noted an obvious segregation between the noble classes, who were fat, richly attired, and covered in jewellery, and those who had become knights through merit in battle. These men sat straight, muscles showing a lifetime of struggle. Some were heavily scarred; one man appeared to have had the left side of his face burnt away, leaving him with a lopsided appearance, with burn marks down the melted side and a patch covering the eyesocket.
The bald man rose to his feet. 'Your Majesty, several villages are refusing to pay the King's levy. Indeed, as they are so near the northern border, they are threatening to swear fealty to the King of Jorlmungardn, Snorri Lufthausen. I therefore propose that we send a punishment expedition of Your Majesty's Dragoons to teach them a lesson and to curb their excesses.'
Rhys looked up to the gathered courtiers. 'All those in favour, raise your hand.'
There was an explosion of arms from the side where the nobles gathered, whilst the knights glared at them with barely suppressed loathing, keeping their arms by their sides. The king frowned. Just under half of the assorted men had raised their hand. One in particular, a youth with close-cropped brown hair and an angular face, stared resolutely at the man seated on the throne keeping his hands clearly in his lap.
The king sighed. 'Thank you for your advice. With it in mind, I have decided to approve the punishment expedition. One member of each household shall be killed.'
Luke was stunned and horrified. Despite being outvoted the king had decided to carry out such a barbaric act. What sort of monarch was this?
'Now, the second item. Knight of the Realm Jorzen Rhyffawr has applied to adopt the youth who came to him last week, Luke. Does anyone here have any objection?'
No-one raised a hand. The bald man gave Luke a leering grin. As he had been instructed, Luke rose to his feet, walked to the the front and fell to his knees, raising the longsword to present it to the king flat.
'Do you, Luke Rhyffawr, swear fealty to your king and to Cymeria?' intoned the king.
'Your Majesty, I do' replied Luke.