Chapter 50 - Petitioning the King (BONUS!!!)

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Kastali Dun

Claire waited with Desaree as the doors to the Great Keep's throne room swung inward. They had already drawn their hoods, allowing themselves to remain unnoticed...for now. She wasn't interested in attention, especially since people still liked asking about her kidnapping adventure.

A surge of patrons swept forward. She and Desaree hung back, allowing the people to push their way through the opening. Rumor had it that the patrons often used their positions to fight over good vantage points before court began. Whole arguments often broke out, resulting in very unprofessional behavior. Those of higher birth always won the better spots, closest to the throne.

Court was considered an important part of Dragonwall's society. It was a time for those of nobility to gather for news, airing of grievances, witnessing of important cases, involvement in rulings, and the like. It was an especially popular time for one to flaunt one's wealth. Those who attended wore their most expensive attire and worked hard to look their best. Wealth gave the appearance of power—people in Dragonwall's court always wanted to look powerful.

Claire glanced down at herself. Beneath the velvet cloak pinned about her shoulders, she wore a gray and silver gown. Desaree's recommendation was well placed. The dress looked astonishing on her. It had long sleeves and a rigid bodice made of silver satin. The fabric of the skirt was of a darker gray satin, but it still shined just as much as the bodice. The neckline of the gown was a deep scoop, leaving her chest heavily exposed. Ties in the back pulled everything tight, accentuating her breasts.

The crowd had thinned when she and Desaree moved forward. They decided to link arms and sneak in, keeping to the back. They made their way through the crowd until they were fairly close to the throne, but well hidden within the many bodies present. As others shuffled in, the noise grew louder until it was nearly impossible to be heard. She and Des did little more than exchange scarce whispers.

It wasn't until the steward announced the king's entry that the hall fell silent. Everyone went down on one knee with their heads bowed in respect. The king swept in. Claire lifted her head a smidge to see him take his seat. A thrill of excitement shot through her: She watched him, but he couldn't see her. When he was settled, everyone was instructed to rise.

Announcements were given first. Most of these warranted bored expressions from those in the hall, and even a few yawns. However, their boredom quickly changed when updates on the Fall Tournament were announced. Just the mere mention of the tournament seemed to lift the mood in the room.

Every year, Kastali Dun hosted a large tournament on the middle-most day of fall. People came from all over the kingdom—some to compete in the tournament, some to sell their unique wares, and others to simply enjoy the festivities. There were various combat events, large vendor fairs constructed from bright tents, and various forms of entertainment offered by traveling troops of acrobats, actors, and all other manner of performers. It was an exciting time for everyone.

"As a reminder," said the steward, his voice ringing through the hall, "the tournament will last a full week. The champion's ball will occur on the final evening. Attendance for the ball is by invitation only. Invitations will be sent starting tomorrow." The steward's words earned many excited whispers. The prospect of a ball was a conversation topic everyone was eager for.

Having finished the announcements, the steward rolled up his scroll. As he did so, Claire overheard those closest to her discussing plans for the Fall Tournament and the ball to follow. Of course, all the nobility would receive invitations to the ball. She and Desaree kept their heads down, listening with quiet interest.

When it was time to shift their attention, the steward slammed his staff into the slate floor to shush the hall, then he spoke again, "There are no new cases or rulings set for today. Let us move to grievances." He unfurled a different scroll. The chronicler sitting at his little table in the corner of the hall leaned forward and begin scribbling notes on a fresh sheet parchment. His quill could be heard especially well in the silence.

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