Each chapter in this story was written in response to a seperate challange posted on the No Rest for the Wicked forums. This chapter is for Kytha.
The Grand Hall was massive, easily three stories from floor to ceiling in most areas, and had been created countless centuries ago by some sadly forgotten magician/artisan.
Its high ceiling was supported by hundreds of intricately-carved beams, each depicting some scene of historic importance in the history of the Hall. It was interesting to note that whoever first decided on this theme had thought ahead with regard to historic updates, as time passed; only the first few dozen had scenes depicted, the rest left blank and prepared for some future sculptor to continue this massive history record.
Perrault considered the priceless jewels that had been incorporated into one of the foremost scenes, showing a band of warriors returning to the hall in victory, newly-acquired treasures in tow. Though he could more than likely climb the distance required, it would prove to be more trouble than it was worth; the guards here were annoyingly alert. He returned his attention to the princess at his side, swiftly snagging her arm a moment before she collapsed.
November was unlikely to become any less sensitive to the various 'perils' around her, but at least was able to maintain her composure more than before, he observed with a small smile. Aside from a wince of pain and raising the affected foot to relieve the pressure, there was little reaction, and she hadn't carried on as she had on earlier occasions. Even Perrault couldn't help but wince in sympathy as he saw the bruising that already rose up her ankle. Swiftly removing her shoe, he dislodged a small, rather pointy pebble, which had fortunately stopped short of breaking the skin. He led November to an ancient bench where she gratefully took a seat, relief for the pain in her foot overwhelming any discomfort caused by the unyielding stone bench.
"Thank you for your assistance, Perrault." November leaned against him, relaxing slightly. Well, he was the softest thing there, only sensible.
"I'm very selfish in my reasoning, I assure you. Pausing here will not only add to the King's sympathy for our plight but also give me an additional moment to iron out the details of my plan . . . we simply need to convince him that we are but a pair of down-on-our-luck sculptors, yourself being an artisan skilled in work of such detail that not even the smallest chip of stone would be out of place in the finished work . . . then, when he provides us with the riches we must include in our work to give the full effect of the majesty of his reign . . . "
Perrault was interrupted by the approach of the Mountain King himself, who was beaming widely at the princess. "November! What a delight to see you again. How fares your father? It has been far too long since our last visit."
November smiled warmly at him. "Indeed it has, Uncle Alistair. I've been on the road for some time now, on a quest. . . it's quite a long story."
The Mountain King beamed at his niece. "You and your companion shall have to tell me all about it over dinner, and I'll ensure you have any supplies you require at the ready once you must depart." He gave Perrault a careful look, then leaned close to November and lowered his voice to a whisper. "A lord, you've managed? Don't tell your father, but he's a far better match than the commoner the messenger told me you'd been betrothed to."
Perrault stared at November wide-eyed as the Mountain King departed to make preparations for the banquet. She said nothing but blushed a deep red.