“Where are they?” Skade’s fist slammed into the table so hard it that the sturdy wood groaned.
“I-I’m sorry Skade,” the young scout stammered. “W-We’ve looked everywhere, but –”
“Don’t give me your feeble excuses!” Skade snapped at him, leaning over the desk with her teeth bared.
The scout quailed. With amusement, Skade noted that his legs were trembling like saplings in a gale. She smiled pleasantly and turned to his companion, an older man with greying hair, who was watching his companion with concern.
“Why have you not found them?” she asked sweetly.
“They are not in the castle, nor in the surrounding grounds,” the scout said. His voice was firm, but his eyes betrayed his inner fear. “We believe they may have left earlier, and the rider is still searching but ...”
“Then find them!” Skade snapped suddenly, making both scouts jump. “I don’t care if you have to overturn every rock from here to the goddam mountains, but if you don’t bring me their heads within a week I will take yours as a consolation. Do you understand?”
The older scout nodded, bowed, and took his companion – who now looked as if he might collapse in terror – out of the room. The youth’s legs were shaking so hard he almost fell over the doorstep on his way out, which made Skade smile darkly.
“Any luck?” Nanye’s voice reached her mind from somewhere outside.
“They’re gone alright,” Skade replied. “Little whelps have done a run for it.” She gnashed her teeth. The girls were no threat to her now, but they could be in future. And if there was one thing that Skade would not tolerate, it was potential threats.
“We could send more riders,” Nanye suggested. “It would be far easier to do that way.”
“True,” said Skade. “But I want this done properly, no half-jobs. If anyone screws this up, I will have them torn apart. Literally.”
“What of Arrin and Tabor? They should be back from the Uplands soon, and the others shouldn’t be long in returning. The lords are being more compliant than we thought.”
“They are being compliant because they know what we will do to them if they are not,” Skade said viciously, digging her nails into the table and baring her teeth at the empty air. “Gods know they don’t deserve this. Swine the lot of them.”
“We will have our vengeance,” said Nanye. “One way or another. After all,” – Skade felt a ripple of laughter run through his thoughts – “we may need a few demonstrations to prove how seriously we feel about ... misconduct.”
Skade laughed harshly, “I like your thinking. Arrin and Tabor it is, we can send others later if necessary. Doesn’t Tabor have something of an ugly history with Aryanna?”
“Very ugly,” said Nanye. “But it was very funny when she slapped him last, don’t you think?”
“Funny? I laughed so hard I nearly choked.”
“I don’t know about that ... but you were a very interesting shade of purple.”
“Oh shush,” Skade tried to suppress a smile. “Go and get them then, you great lump of dragonflesh. They can join Nikolai. I'm sure they will get along swimmingly.”
Nanye chuckled, “Oh yes. Swimmingly indeed.”
The link faded, and Skade was left staring across the room. She cracked her knuckles absent-mindedly, hissing as one of her nails chipped in the process.
“They will pay,” she whispered to herself. “They will pay in blood.”