"Begging your pardon, sire," said Dunvel as he shifted from foot to foot, "but shouldn't we be on our way?"
"Polite all at once are we?" said Hebraun without bothering to look at him. Presently Minuet swept back into the room with Herio, who was now completely composed and wearing some of Lukus's old clothes. She took her seat immediately as she guided Herio to stand right beside her. She took up Hebraun's hand and squeezed it. They held each other's eyes for several heartbeats of understanding and then turned as one to look at Dunvel.
Hebraun rose from his throne without a word and drew Minuet up to stand beside him. He nodded ever so slightly at his guards before fixing his eyes on Dunvel.
"See him to the courtyard and wait for me there," he said as they stepped up to surround Dunvel.
Dunvel shamelessly flung a conceited look at Herio as he turned to go.
Hebraun spared a kindly glance at Herio and then took both of Minuet's hands and looked into her eyes. "I love you more than words can tell," he said.
"And I love you," she said as they squeezed hands.
Hebraun stepped smartly from the dais with her, as Herio scrambled to follow, out into the courtyard where the guards waited with Dunvel.
He paused by Vindicator, his huge white march streiciwr brenhinol stallion unicorn and kissed Minuet farewell. He quickly found his stirrup, threw his leg over his mount and looked down at Herio. "I need you to stay here to protect the queen."
Herio drew himself up and nodded fiercely as Minuet drew him to her side.
"Besides," said Hebraun as he gave a beady-eyed nod at Dunvel, "You might want to testify when that thing has its trial."
Herio's eyes flashed as he nodded and stood proudly beside his queen.
Hebraun shared one last gaze with Minuet then urged his great white unicorn to the gate and vanished. Herio turned aside to see Minuet's eyes brimming with tears as she stood tall and proud, making her way back to her duties. He trailed along beside her after pausing to see Dunvel being led away to some place fitting. Herio's face firmed in resolve. That goblin would share his brother's fate if he had any say in the matter.
Ch. 47, Stone Heart
Carol Marrs Phipps & Tom Phipps