There was a soft knock on the door and Nicodemus Darkwater, High Priest of Borean, head of the Church of the Griffin God looked up from his reading. He took a bookmark from the small side table next to the large, plush chair that he was relaxing in and placed it among the gilded pages. He carefully closed the large book, an illustrated copy of the holy book of the church, from which he had been seeking guidance. His wrinkled hands, skin the texture of thin parchment, shut the book reverently, and he grunted with the effort as he lifted the huge tome from his lap, setting it aside.
“Come in,” he said. Despite his age, which was considerable, his voice was firm and deep. While he didn’t often take to the pulpit these days, on those occasions when he did, he could still keep the rapt attention of his listeners. None who had witnessed the coronation had had any troubles hearing him, despite the size of the throne room. His voice had been a potent power for the Church for nearly seven decades.
The door opened and Liam Donal stepped in. He paused just inside the door and bowed low, then advanced further into the room. Coming to a halt before Nicodemus, he dropped to one knee. Nicodemus extended his hand and Liam bowed his head over it, kissing the large blue stone in the ornate ring of office that the High Priest always wore.
“Good evening, Your Holiness.”
“Good evening, Commander Donal. To what do I owe this visit? The hour is late and you are not wont to intrude on my seclusion after dinner.”
Liam rose to his feet, standing at attention before the old man sunk deep into the plush velvet cushions. “Your Holiness, our duties in the capital city are done. I am here to discuss plans for our departure, which I believe should be on the morrow.”
Nicodemus considered Liam’s words. He narrowed his eyes as he squinted up at the former Commander of the Griffin Calvary, currently in charge of the Church’s griffin training program. “And what is the rush, Commander? The Emperor has extended us his hospitality. And with winter coming, I must admit, I don’t relish the thought of rushing back to Desanth. My old bones ache in the winter cold of our mountain home.”
Liam’s back remained straight as his broadsword, his expression unchanging, never betraying his thoughts. “I understand your concerns, Your Holiness. However, I believe that our presence here is not in the best interests of the Church…or the Empire.”
Nicodemus considered the man standing before him. He had to give the man credit. He didn’t let his emotions through, remaining disciplined. It was for this reason that Nicodemus had offered him his current position after the former Emperor had exiled him. Nicodemus knew what some people thought of him. At his advanced age, there were naturally questions about his mental faculties. Nicodemus was well aware of them, and from time to time, played them up. Head of the Church he may be, but there were still politics to be dealt with.
“I believe you overstate the case, Commander,” Nicodemus kept an eye on Liam as he said this, but again, the man’s rigid discipline held. “However, I do suddenly recall that we are due for a new hatching and you will undoubtedly want to be there.”
Liam let out a breath that Nicodemus guessed he didn’t realize he’d been holding. “Then by your leave, Your Holiness, I will make ready for an early departure.”
“Very well, Commander. I will make our excuses to our host and we can leave just after first light.”
Liam turned to leave and Nicodemus reached for his book. With an effort, he pulled it into his lap and reopened it to his marked place.