The Lord Chief Adviser was a tall man of advancing years. His hair and beard were snow white and he walked with a limp. He smiled at me and I breathed a sigh of relief. It stood to reason that a king had others to advise him who were, well, smarter smarter.
'I remember the last Dragonslayer, my Lord, perhaps you do not.'
'Of course I do,' snapped the King. 'Frightful bounder by the name of Spalding. He was insolent too.'
'Perhaps. Then you know that a Dragonslayer has a position quite unique. They are answerable not to one king, but to all of us. The independence of the Dragonslayer should not be compromised, and never coerced.'
'Speak English, d.a.m.n you! Besides, who's coercing?' asked the King in a shocked tone. 'I am ordering. It is quite quite a different matter. Guards, lock this Dragonslayer up in the most frightful room of the highest tower and feed her on powdered mouse until she agrees.' a different matter. Guards, lock this Dragonslayer up in the most frightful room of the highest tower and feed her on powdered mouse until she agrees.'
'You cannot, Sire.'
'Cannot?' asked the King, his face growing red with anger. 'Cannot? I am the King. I WILL BE OBEYED!'
'As powerful as my Lord is, not even your finest squadron of super-dreadnought lands.h.i.+ps can come close to the power of magic.'
'Magic? Pah!' scoffed the King. 'This is the twenty-first century, Lord Chief Adviser. I think you accord too much relevance to antiquated notions.'
But the Lord Chief Adviser was not going to be defeated.
'Your father never dismissed magic so readily, and neither should you.'
The young King bit his lip and looked at me. The Lord Chief Adviser continued: 'I do not advise you to hold a Dragonslayer against their will, Sire. I also think you should apologise to Miss Strange and welcome her to the court.'
'What?!' said the King, his monocle popping out of his eye again. 'Outrageous!'
At that moment the footman arrived with a small plate of meat for the Quarkbeast.
'What's that for?' asked the King, who had forgotten all about it.
'Quark,' said the Quarkbeast, who hadn't.
The King took the plate and placed it on the floor next to the Quarkbeast, who looked at me obediently. I nodded my a.s.sent and he demolished the food, then chewed the pewter plate for a bit before spitting it out in such a mangled and ugly state that one of the ladies-in-waiting fainted and had to be carried out.
'Goodness,' said the King, who had never seen a Quarkbeast eat before. The greyhounds saw it too and wisely scurried away to hide.
The Lord Chief Adviser took advantage of the distraction and leaned forward to the King's ear and whispered something for about thirty seconds. The King's face gradually broke into a smile.
'Oh, I see. Of course. Will do.'
He turned to me again but his manner had abruptly changed.
'I am so sorry, my dear. Please
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