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.A hugegilded throne rose before them.Brom led them in a swing around the lip of the dais to the throne.There theaaTTnnssFFffooDDrrPPmmYYeeYYrrBB22.BBAAClick here to buyClick here to buywwmmwwoowwcc.AAYYBBYYBB r rGuardsmen lined up on either side, and Catharine mounted the last half-step tostand slender and proud before the throne, gazing out over the multitudegathered below.The multitude looked like a sampling of the population.They filled the great hall,from the steps of the dais to the triple doors at the far end of the hall.In the first rank were the twelve great nobles, seated in wooden hourglass-shapedchairs in a semicircle twelve feet out from the steps of the throne.Behind them stood forty or fifty aging men in brown, gray, or dark green robeswith velvet collars and small, square, felt hats.Chains of silver or gold hung downover their ample bellies.Burghers, Rod guessed - local officials, merchants,guildmasters - the bourgeoisie.Beyond them were the black, cowled robes of the clergy and beyond them werethe dun-colored, patched clothing of the peasantry, most of whom, Rod feltmoderately certain, had been sent up from the castle kitchen so that the GreatCourt would have representatives of all classes.But in the center of the peasants stood four soldiers in green and gold - theQueen's colors - and between them stood two peasants, one young and one old,both looking awed and scared almost to the point of panic, caps twisting in theirhorny hands.The oldster had a long, grizzled beard; the youngster was clean-shaven.Both wore dun-colored smocks of coarse cloth; more of the samematerial was bound to their legs, to serve as trousers.A priest stood by them,looking almost as much out of place as they did.All eyes were on the Queen.Catharine was very much aware of it; she stood alittle taller, and held her pose until the hall was completely quiet.Then she sat,slowly, and Brom sank cross-legged at her feet.Pike-butts thudded on stone asRod and the other three Guardsmen stood to rest, pikes slanting outward attwenty degrees.Brom's voice boomed out over the hall.'Who comes before the Queen this day?'A herald stepped forward with a roll of parchment and read off a list of twentypetitions.The first was that of the twelve noblemen; the last was Durer's twopeasants.Catharine's hands tightened on the arms of the throne.She spoke in a high, clearvoice.'Our Lord hath said that the humble shall be exalted, the last shall be first;therefore let us first hear the testimony of these two peasants.'There was a moment's shocked silence; old Lord Loguire was on his feetbellowing.aaTTnnssFFffooDDrrPPmmYYeeYYrrBB22.BBAAClick here to buyClick here to buywwmmwwoowwcc.AAYYBBYYBB r r'Testimony! Have you such great need of their testimony that you must set theseclods of earth before the highest of your nobles?''My lord,' Catharine snapped, 'you forget your place in my court.''Nay, it is you who forget! You who forget respect and tradition, and all the lawthat you learned at your father's knee!'The old lord drew himself up, glaring.'Never,' he rumbled, 'would the old kinghave disgraced his liegemen so!''Open thine eyes, old man!' Catharine's voice was chill and arrogant.'I would myfather still lived; but he is dead, and I reign now.''Reign!' Loguire's lips twisted in a sour grimace.''Tis not a reign, but a tyranny!'The hail fell silent, shocked.Then a whisper began and grew:'Treason! Treasontreasontreason Treason!'Brom O'Berin rose, trembling.'Now, Milord Loguire, must thou kneel and askpardon of milady the Queen, or be adjudged forever a traitor to the throne.'Loguire's face turned to stone, he drew himself up, back straightening, chinlifting; but before he could answer, Catharine spoke in a tight, quavering voice.'There shall be no forgiveness asked, nor none given.Thou, Milord Loguire, inconsideration of insults offered our Royal Person, art henceforth banished fromour Court and Presence, to come near us nevermore.'Slowly, the old Duke's eyes met the Queen's.'How then, child,' he murmured, andRod saw with a shock that there were tears in the corners of the old man's eyes [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]

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