The diplomat was left to wait, he knew not for how long, in the palace reception room. His left foot tapped against the carpeted floor, perhaps trying to bring some sound or life to the empty space, but any noise was quickly swallowed by the thick threads underfoot.
After what might have been an hour or maybe ten, a thick oak door swung open with a creak that sounded deafening in the heavy silence. The diplomat started and turned around to see a short, portly fellow in a waistcoat beckoning to him.
The second vestibule was smaller and cosier than the first. Men sat in arched alcoves along the walls, tumbled in around mahogany tables where they were served tea and sweetmeats.
A small silver platter was laid before the diplomat. His eyes devoured its contents hungrily. There were tiny pastries of thin, crisp pastry encasing a nutty, marzipan filling. Their outsides had been generously glazed with sweet honey.
There were small roundels of thick green paste, pistachio with some sort of syrup mixed in with it. Finally there was familiar, good old tea. It was hot, amber red in a china cup so thin that even the most delicate of touches might threaten to shatter it. Served beside it were dainty wafers and slender biscuits with preserved fruit glazing.
The diplomat reached out to pick up one the mouth-watering dainties. A delicate bell tinkled on the far side of the antechamber. He looked up and saw the portly gentleman standing at a second door, beckoning him forward once again.
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