Chapter 19

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Nherycyn, still astride his mount, looked out across the crowd. Though a small fire flashed in his eyes, his frame was bent and he looked older than his years. When he spoke, his voice was weak and shaky and those few who were interested in his words strained to hear them. He talked of his years as King and the accomplishments the kingdom had seen, trying to draw an analogy that, like MidSummer, this was the summer of his reign. Most did not share his view. When his words were met by unenthusiastic mutterings, the King lashed out. He spoke on the lack of loyalty and trust that his subjects displayed. He held that this was a time for them to band together, to find common ground, not revel in apathy and suspicion. A nasty fit of coughing ended the harangue and the King was met only by an awkward silence. He looked angry and defeated, feeling more like a father defending his son than a King defending his subjects. And that made him feel guilty.

From somewhere near the front of the crowd, a man called out "Why not a bit o' the Argenti to help that cough, Your Majesty?"

The allusion to the wine that killed Valdhon was not tolerated by Vhyqyrd and he motioned to the Royal Guard. Setryv, leading the way, immediately made for the man. But Rhenycyn motioned them to stop. "An excellent idea, my good fellow," the Prince said as he smiled. "Drinks for everyone—on me. Enjoy the MidSummer!" Where speeches failed, the promise of free liquor did not. Loud cheers broke the silence of the night and the crowd dispersed, seeking to alleviate the dryness in their throats.

The Royal Commons was crowded with tents and booths. Some supplied various foods and ales while others were occupied by merchants hawking their wares. There were several bards, harps in hand, relating the tales of years gone by. Brightly clothed jesters mixed with the people, delighting especially the children with their tricks and agility in juggling assorted burning objects.

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