The diplomat was escorted down from the brightly painted and pennant-ed wherry, through the white-painted wrought iron gates of the riverfront and up the wide stone steps leading into the palace’s eastern wing.
His black-booted feet touched plush, crimson carpet as soon as he was through the doorway. Above his head a glittering chandelier holding nearly a thousand teardrop crystals spun bright shards of light through the reception room.
“You will wait here, please.” The escort said.
With a tap of his heels and tucking his musket into his shoulder, the escort marched back out into the piercing sunshine of the palace gardens. For a brief moment, the diplomat caught a last glance between the closing doors of men in flowing robes or tailcoats walking with the arms of brightly-adorned women linked through the crooks of their elbows.
And then the doors closed, throwing the reception room into heavy darkness. The diplomat’s eyes adjusted and saw his surroundings in all their emptiness. For the moment, he was safe. But his comfort would not last long if his true purpose was discovered, and the bead of sweat running down his back was a stinging reminder of how much he was risking.
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