When Monsignor Nigel von Thornbird entered the Presence Chamber, also known as the throne room, his heart was beating so hard that it felt as though it might burst from his chest. The Chamber was basically a long, wide hallway, fifty feet wide and one hundred and fifty feet long. On the left and right were galleries where the curious could look down upon the royal grandeur. Poor Nigel could feel the pressure of all these gazes weighing down upon him. He thanked the fact that he was employing a walking stick to help him maintain his equilibrium as he moved carefully, one careful step at a time, toward the Queen who sat enthroned on a dais at the end of the room.
As he progressed closer to Queen Pirouette, he could hear the hissing of the courtiers as they whispered to each other about this new intruder into their realm. The new Imperial ambassador chose to recite in his mind a childhood nursery rhyme in an effort to drown them out. Ring around the rosies. A pocket full of posies. Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down! Surprisingly, it worked rather well and he was able to concentrate his attention on the woman that he’d been sent to meet. While he used his right hand to clutch his walking stick, in his left hand, he held the letter of introduction for the Queen that had been written in the Emperor’s own hand.
Once within five feet of the bottom of the dais, he fell to one knee. The Royal Chamberlain struck the marble floor of the Presence Chamber with his staff and shouted, “Monsignor Nigel von Thornbird, ambassador extraordinaire of His Imperial Majesty,” he paused, not daring to speak the name of the Emperor in front of his Queen, and so he concluded the introduction with the words, “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”
Against all protocol, the Monsignor couldn’t resist the urge to look Queen Pirouette directly in the face. He had to suppress the urge to gasp. Never had he seen such beauty. Most striking were the Queen’s eyes, the deepest shade of blue that he’d ever seen on another human being. While she gazed straight ahead, as if concentrating on something in the distance, he felt drawn to the young woman on the throne. Cobalt, he thought. Her eyes are made of cobalt!
“You forget yourself, sir!” Said the Chamberlain angrily, shocked by the ambassador’s temerity.