Like a soft whisper crimson silk slithered across the cold black stones and spread behind the slender shape of the woman entering the hallway. Without even pausing taking slow and majestic steps she moved towards the lonesome dark throne. Faced away from her it almost looked tiny in the vastness of the hall. Walls so far they were lost in the shadows, the ceiling so high one could not tell where it ended and the night sky began, for stars shone high above.
- All this gloomy scene is so unlike you, Ashgard, dearest. – her voice was sweet and soothing. She placed hand on the throne, sliding her fingers along the dark stone as she walked around it. She then sat on the broad armrest and leaned towards the man sitting on it - her hair spilling like dark waves over her shoulder.
Ashgard’s tall and thin figure was relaxed in the huge black throne. Silverly locks surrounding the oval lines of his face. His skin was so pale it almost shone in the darkness as he indulged his visitor and leaned towards the woman who was gracefully perched on his armrest.
- Moorgaze. – He simply said acknowledging the goddess.
She reached out for him and her fingernails traced the line of his delicate jaw. Stopping under the chin she lifted his face towards hers – an image of sharp outworldly beauty meeting his equal.
-I hope you haven’t forgotten our deal. – she purred.
Ashgard signed and gathered her fingers in palm, again relaxing back in the throne. He gave the dark haired vision a sidelong look.
- Could I ever?
Her plump red lips thinned in a pleased smile.
- You better not – she spoke and in an instant her form dissipated in thin air.
Ashgard signed again further sinking into the dark cold throne tightly gripping the armrest. He then waved a tired hand and as a big mirror was summoned into existence stood up and with a hand clutched to his chest walked to it. It was a huge heavy thing seemingly made of wrought iron. Ashgard placed a white palm on the surface and leaned to examine his reflection. He seemed so mortal now. His flawless image cracked with wistful sorrow. He felt it too – old, tired and broken. With slouched shoulders he pressed his forehead against the smooth glass.
He let out a ragged breath and moved back.
- This is all. This is all I can spare. – Ashgard whispered and raising his eyes he let his hand drop. In the cold dark of the mirror his reflection’s palm was still against the glass, fingers slowly curling into angry fist. – Now wake up.
- Wake up, Madam. Madam, please. – Garen Irdane Supreme Commander of Greland’s armies over the Last War, presently in charge of the defense of the seat city Varn and head of His Highness Royal Guard, garbed in his pristine white and gold uniform was now with one knee in the mud bent over a homeless woman. The female was covered in filth and reeked positively revolting of dirt, alcohol and cheap opium drugs. She was lying facedown in a ditch where she seemed to have passed out the previous evening.
The guards accompanying Garen dressed in the same uniforms were nervously shifting from one foot to the other as they watched their Commander reduce himself to such unnecessary tasks. After all there was the local guard that dealt with problems like these.
They were at the end of the city rearing Berzilien Forest in one of the six storey buildings turned into ruins during the Last War. The area used to be trade district and was also the location of the city that was hit hardest and worse. Many houses were turned into mere piles of rubble, from others like this one only skeleton of a building remained. They were unstable, collapsed often and attracted homeless hopeless people and hordes of criminals. It had been almost five years since the Peace was sealed but renovations in this part of town were scarce. Naturally the royal quarters had to be attended first.
The two other guards stood alert even though there was hardly the possibility that someone would take their chances against Commander Irdane and two of his best. However caution was one of the first lessons each of them learnt in the academy and they were all taught too well to get careless now.
- Madam. – Garen repeated his steady voice raising barely a notch up and gave her shoulder another soft shake.
Finally the woman began to stir. With a grunt she slowly rolled to her side and looked up at Irdane. Her face was smeared in more dirt aside from the two lighter streaks across her cheeks where probably tears have run down. Her sight was still clouded with sleep and she took several moments to realize she was awake and had company. Her eyes then focused on Garen’s face and widened slightly. She had recognized him. Everyone who spent enough time in Varn eventually did. And if she didn’t know his face, his epaulettes spoke volumes about who he was. She stared at him for several long moments before realizing he was again speaking to her.
- …you can not stay here. This area isn’t safe. We will escort you to one of the shelters at…
The crisp morning air rang with the sound of her hand slapping across his face.
- Get your hands off me, you scum. – The woman spat through her teeth and Garen slowly released her shoulder. As she stood up on her feet, she now had the full attention of all three guards. The initial shock on their faces was gone and a grim shadow has descended in their eyes. Sensing his men’s mood Garen lifted a stopping hand and raised to his feet as well.
The woman had retreated few steps back and regarded them warily. Her shoulders were pulled back now, her spine so uptight it could break, her chin raised as if she was an empress.
Irdane knew her now as well.
She was of noble blood, one of the many supporters of their enemies during the Last War. When the Peace was signed some of them fled the country, others were apprehended by the law, judged and swiftly executed – their titles, land and riches stripped by the crown. Others were not so lucky, because before the soldiers could get to them – the mob did.
That were bloody terrible times after the war. The general population was extatic with happiness, while others took advantage of the chaos to settle old scores. It took months before the army maintained some kind of order in the country. By that time all the guards could do was bury the corpses, if they even found any.
- You are all so smug and pleased with yourselves. – The woman began in a nasty low voice. – Stealing from my family, taking my estate, my children. – Her voice broke into a sob but she stifled it and gathered her composure.
- My lady, no one wishes you any harm. - Irdane began with soft voice. He took a step towards her but she backed even further away. – You can not remain here.
- Stay away from me, you beasts! – She suddenly screamed, her eyes burning with madness and with hatred as she bore them into Garen. – It is all your fault! – She shouted and pointed at his chest. - You will all pay for this! You will PAY!
Her heels reached the rim of the floor and she just let herself fall over the ledge. With a shout Garen lunged trying to catch her. His extended hand barely brushed against her fingertips.
She fell without as much as a scream. A long moment of silence and then a single horrible thud.