Signing a peace treaty is like crossing a bridge over a crocodile filled moat, thought Andrew,  they both obscure any hint of the danger lurking beneath. The man, sitting across from Andrew, and at the other end of the long and elaborately carved table, finished his signature with a flourish of the quill pen. He handed the pen to a waiting servant, while another servant picked up the parchment. The man, a duke, actually, nodded to Andrew in what seemed to be a reverent manner.

“My liege.” He spoke in what seemed to be a respectful tone. Andrew nodded in return as the servants placed the parchment and quill on the table in front of him.

“Thank you,” Andrew told them. Now came the difficult part. He glanced at the Duke again. Was that a glint of condescension in his eyes? He sat too far away to be certain. The doubt that this peace treaty was to be permanent whispered in the back of his mind. Andrew pushed the thought, and the fluttering in his stomach, away and picked up the quill pen. He hoped no one noticed his hands shaking as he signed his name. He drew the pen over the parchment in large flowing cursive, just like he’d practiced hundreds of times. Placing the quill back in the inkwell, he sighed. That was finished, at least, and nary a spot on the parchment. Taking a deep breath he stood, smiling at the Duke with all the kingly regalia he could gather. It didn’t feel like much. What was it about noblemen, and this one in particular, that forever reminded him he was only fifteen? The Duke of Dormere stood also, smiling a little too widely, his dark imposing features negating most the friendly intent. Andrew tried not to focus on this, he had to get this just right.

“We are pleased that Dormere is once again under our great and benevolent protection, and hope she will flourish under our benevolent rule.” Andrew tried to command with his words like a king should, but the words still sounded ridiculous to his ears. He hated ignoring the rebellion, but his subjects didn’t need more conflict than had already occurred.

“Oh, I hope so as well, your majesty,” the Duke bowed. “Now, allow me to retire to my quarters. My party will inconvenience you no longer than will be necessary. We will leave tomorrow morning.” The Duke did little to hide the sinister air his words and smile conveyed. Andrew’s stomach dropped. Tomorrow? The duke was to stay at least another week. This could prove detrimental! How should he respond? Andrew quickly searched for an appropriate answer. None came to mind, and not for the first time did he wish Di, his sister, had handled this event. He cleared his throat.

“If-” His voice squeaked a bit, and the Duke’s mouth twitched with silent laughter. Andrew cleared his throat again. “If you must leave, so be it. You may retire.” He dared not drop his ‘regal’ gaze until the duke left the room. Peace treaties are exactly like crocodile infested bridges, he thought. The hidden danger has to make itself known eventually. 

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