NB: This text is from a working draft.
The King sat in silence upon his throne. The air of the chamber was close and haunted. His tainted eyes searched it for signs of movement. There were none. He was alone, as a King so rarely is. He had thought long on the night in Castle Barneth when the ravening creatures of the Thoughtless Dark rampaged through its halls. Something that should not have been took place that night. The memory was as terrible as the weight of the knowledge it had given him.
Khale, a wanderer no more, thought the world had dealt him every pain possible until that night of mounting horror. With increasing bitterness, he had learned there was no end to the suffering of existence and the many forms it might take. He held his fingers up to the bronze-hued light of a nearby lantern, watching the colours shimmer across the rings clasping his thick fingers and the ornately decorated circlets that bound his wrists and forearms. Here were riches, here was wealth. Here were the spoils of war.
The long walk south had ended in victory. Tumenfell was his by conquest. It stood on the borders of the south overlooking the great forest-sea known as the Gorenwald. It had fallen to him easily enough yet the weight of past days was ever on his shoulders. The pain of loss was ever there, gnawing away in his broad breast. Even the most exquisite and perverse ministrations of his odalisques could not banish the shadows from his thoughts for long. War had come and gone, come and gone, as ever it did over the passing years. Khale knew it would come again for he could always taste the foetor of its harbingers on the air – blood, fire and death. To him, they came like the bouquet of a fine wine.
Melancholy, the King arose from his throne and walked around the court chamber, admiring treasures won from those who thought they could wrest the city from him – a man with his centuries of experience was not so easily usurped. This city and its lands belonged to him.
There came a rapping at his chamber door.
Khale turned and spoke, “Enter.”
The door opened. It was Promeneus, one of the Seminae; a chinless, servile creature with thinning hair, protruding eyes and a broad, wrinkled forehead. The old man bowed before Khale, “My liege, it is time for you to sit in judgement and show the King’s justice to the people.”
“ Aye, I know. Approach, Promeneus. Will you share a cup of wine with me? It is a fine vintage.”
“Thank you, my King, but I must decline. My stomach is delicate these days and does not bear wine as well as it once did.”
Khale’s lips scarred his rugged face with a smile, “First, you drink with me then we may go.”
Promeneus’ wan eyes flickered, and he inclined his head briefly, “Aye, my King, and I thank you for your generosity.”
“Piss on my generosity, elderling. I am your King and I give you a command. Drink.”
Promeneus drank from the proffered goblet, swallowed the wine quickly and hard before licking his lips clean, “Fine. Very fine, as you said, my liege. Now, may I escort your Highness?”
“There is something also you must see, sire. I would not have believed it with my own eyes if it had not been shown to me in the flesh. A most strange … visitant from the Gorenwald.”
“Hm,” said Khale, “and I thought the bouquet in the air was the wine’s own for once.”
“Nothing, Promeneus, just a thought. A memory of blood and fire. Lead on.”
(c) Copyright Greg James 2016