“A dæmon? Certainly that accusation is a bit rash,” Reuben reassured Wulfrik, “Still, he seems...unpredictable. What say ye? Shall we ride to the capital?”
“Well, we’re already on the horses. Who knows? This may make for a good laugh,” chuckled Wulfrik.
“Lead the way,” Reuben demanded.
Wulfrik kicked his horse, signaling it forward in a hurry. Reuben followed not too far behind, with the lingering doubt of their current situation. However, those thoughts conflicted with an insatiable bloodlust, hidden by the facade of Obitulem. It was about time to kill.
Who would that victim be? Reuben yearned to sink the crown of his lance into the minister’s pelvis, to symbolize that he had such balls to command the Brothers of Purgatory. Perhaps impale him with his daggers in each of his beady grey eyes. And if he screamed enough, he would let Wulfrik have a few slashes with his sword to finish him off. Reuben would love to hang him in the middle of that tavern.
Ten miles, just about. The capital disgusted Reuben. He grew weary of the extravagance of aristocracy. His existence revolved around the duplicitous campaigns of his father, and the massive quantities of gold that would pile high against the walls. Why not make an honest living, and practice your religion also?
Wulfrik read the lowered corners of Reuben’s lips, “You never were one for nobility, were you?”
“My father taught me to hate anyone with more money than me,” Reuben spat at the cobblestone road.
“Don’t fret. We take whatever job and we don’t come back.”
“Anything to get me out of this heavenly steeple.”
The Brothers approached the castle, which was the pinnacle of grandiose self-indulgence. The outer bastion was constructed entirely of marble, with spires crafted by ornate jade. They were separated by thin strips of gold. A filthy display of arrogance among the upper class.
“Where is the minister?” asked Wulfrik.
“Asserting dominance over the king, if he is the dæmon you believe him to be.”
The doors began to creak open. These were not gilded with gold like the rest of the castle, but with silver. Reuben was no stranger to this tactic; his parents did the same thing. Pytham was running low on gold, so they substitute it with silver. Reuben laughed at the lack of subtlety.
The minister slithered through the slight opening between the doors, calmly surveying us.
Reuben sensed it almost immediately: bows trained on each of them, yet again. It was difficult to hear, but the slight twang of a bowstring being pulled back vibrated against the air.
He whispered to Wulfrik, “How many archers?”
“Around fourteen. The front door will be a terrible escape route.”
Reuben smirked at the thought of a battle.
“I guess I cannot hide a single soldier from your keen senses,” the minister shrugged, “I assure you they are only outposted for the protection of the king, if his safety were to ever be compromised.”
“I will believe when the king tells us himself, and not his lap dog,” Reuben laughed.
“Well,” smiled the minister, “allow me to take you to him.”
The throne room was nothing new: a parade to flaunt their fleeting wealth. The minister took his position underneath the throne’s right, and occupying the left, another man draped in similar garments. Pytham had two ministers? They should just stick with the one and appoint the grey-eyed one to court jester. Make him actually work for his pay.
His Highness was a jolly glutton, reminding Reuben of Santa Claus. His salt-and-pepper beard fell to his chest, and he was smiling. If Reuben was not receiving a job, he would spit on him.
The minister introduced the Brothers, “The Brothers of Purgatory, as requested, your High—”
“I have eyes, Minister,” he spoke sternly, replicating an entirely new demeanor. “You two,” he glared at them.
He examined them cautiously, reading us, “are certainly the Brothers of Purgatory. Your tattoos don’t tell a lie.”
Reuben stepped forward, “Reuben Mast—Mattinson of Austantis.”
Wulfrik joined him, “Wulfrik of Roktar. I do not garner a surname.”
“Very well. Now, I will assign you your mission. I need you both…”
He stopped again. This time, to steady his breath.
“...to hunt me a witch.”