Rhutgard leaned on the marble guard rail of the balcony that overlooked his Great Hall.
He knew Varley had received a bird, for he’d specifically instructed the Palace Pigeon Loft keeper to inform him when any correspondence arrived from Storden. And the Guards informed him that the Stordish horses had been made ready immediately, along with the Stordish coach. Luggage was being loaded onto it, Rhutgard was told.
Rhutgard left instructions for the kitchen to give Varley as much as he wanted to take with him on his journey home. Anything to make him feel as if nothing were out of order.
He stood above the Great Hall, for Varley would have to pass through on his way out.
Finally, Varley strode into the Great Hall.
“Leaving us so soon, Your Highness?” Rhutgard called down.
Varley almost jumped at the sound of Rhutgard’s voice. If you centered yourself just right, and used the right tone of voice, Rhutgard had learned years ago, your voice would echo down there….
Varley stood up straight then and faced Rhutgard, his chin up. “I am, actually. I just received word that my father died a few days past. You understand, of course, why I must leave with all haste.”
Rhutgard held back his distaste for the young man. “I’m so sorry to hear. How did he die?”
Varley looked Rhutgard straight in the eyes and said, “In his sleep. He went peacefully, I’m told.”
Rhutgard concealed his disgust as he nodded. “Well, then, Your Highness….” Rhutgard drawled, careful to use only the honorific Your Highness. You must get back to Storden in all haste. For the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Do have a safe trip.” Rhutgard smiled then and stood up straight.
Varley barely smiled in return as he bowed and left the Great Hall.
Rhutgard felt sure they would be meeting soon, under far less amicable circumstances.
He signaled Stanyard. “You see him leaving finally?”
“See that he is followed, very discretely, to the Romeny border. I want to know who he sees and what he does before he gets there. And then I want a guard posted all along my border.
“Varley Goddard is no longer welcome here, nor is he to be admitted into the Kingdom of Romeny, or the Eastern Alliance.”