Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 12. by Richard Walker

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They had been at it for a month already. They had begun as soon as the weather started to ease up. If they hadn't, they never would have gotten as far as they had. The repairs were always the worst, making the greatest mess, so they were always attended to first, while the weather could still show them where any leaks were, and any dampness that would lead to leaks later on. Together and separately they had toured the halls and accommodations, all the various wings and out-buildings, to see how they had fared since the previous year, noting their states of repair. In all, they made ready for the royal family and court as best they could. From the look of things, Brandon thought they should be about done. The pleased look on Hugh's face as he approached confirmed this.
"Aahh, your Grace! It would seem that all the works ordered have indeed been completed, and our early start and industry this day would seem also to have paid an unexpected dividend."
"And what would that be, Hugh?"
"Why, good Sir, we need but make a last tour of inspection and it may safely be said that we will be ready for their majesties ahead of time this year."
"Great news, indeed!"
Walking through the halls and chambers of the palace took several hours, but was well worth the effort. As Brandon had suspected, some corners had been cut in the lesser travelled areas of the palace and especially in the servants halls and passages. Hugh cracked down on the slacking staff as Brandon looked on with a stony visage. No sympathy to be had there, and well the staff knew it. Their liege the king and their guests would not sully their finery in the back passages should they wander downstairs late some night in search of the staff.
The harbingers of the various departments of the royal household had been arriving for the past couple of days to get their assignments. They were easily enough sorted around. They would all arrive and take their leave again before the official royal procession even arrived, off to secure additional accommodations for those members of those departments who had family or additional staff to house who weren't allowed the privilege of taking their meals in the royal hall, nor allowed rooms, litter, or fuel as a part of their pay. Sir Brandon made some final notes on rearranging a couple of the lesser assignments and to speak to the Keeper of the Palace about some minor work that needed to be done before it became major work next year.
Now they had but to await word from his lord, the king, the final numbers from the clerks and the instructions for where and what time the hosting would meet.

Through the thick morning mist a bleary-eyed messenger trotted briskly aback a rather unremarkable dun-colored steed through the empty streets of Fallon. His heavy cloak, wrapped up around his neck and face like a muffler against the chill, hid the fine silken livery he wore, and more importantly their colors. Between the mist and the thin pre-dawn light the brilliant blue and snowy white of the painted courier's box bouncing at his hip, were mostly washed out, even the gleam of the golden fittings, the clasp that bore the royal crest, was difficult to discern.

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