Chapter 3

The chandelier above the study table bathed the room in a faint orange light, glancing majestically off the folds of the forest green curtains which were draped from ceiling to floor across all four walls. Lord Stratagus lounged leisurely in a high backed chair at the head of the table looking over a map his general had laid out before him. Though it was nearly midday he was still dressed in his morning robe. His raven black hair was loosely oiled back but some of his unruly waves had fallen out of place and hung by his golden eyes.  Stratagus had a strange face, on anyone else this face would’ve been considered beautiful, handsome, or even godly but on him those graceful features and smooth complexion only appeared to be a porcelain mask pulled over the face of a monster. His eyes and the way his mouth twisted when he talked betrayed his true nature. Over his left eye just above his brow was a light scar. It was said when he sieged the castle to over throw the previous ruler he killed every sole in the palace even the servants and had only gotten that one scar to show for it.

Sitting across Stratagus’ lap not at all interested in the conversation around her was his youngest sister. Roshell was a ghostly looking young woman. She was born with no pigment in her body, eyes or hair. Her entire complexion was a chalky white. Her eyes looked vacant, like still water. Because of her condition, it had become common opinion that she was indeed an angel and many men desired her; her brother not excluded.  She ran her hands through Stratagus’ hair twirling each wavy lock between her long fingers.

“He was last seen here,” The general said, placing a small pebble on the map. “We’ve searched the entire area for them but we’ve not found any sign of them so we are broadening our perimeters.” The general was a sturdy looking man with a solid frame and square jaw but as he spoke he was constantly looking to Stratagus for approval, a hint of doubt in his voice. He stood silently waiting for Stratagus’ validation and dreading his disapproval.

Stratagus sighed thoughtfully. He tapped Roshell on the hip and she stood up from his lap. Stratagus rose slowly. The general flinched, bracing himself. A self-satisfied smirk tugged at the edges of Stratagus’ thin lips. Stratagus leaned over the map. He tossed the small pebble from the map with a disgusted look.

“Knowing that rat he probably hasn’t move an inch since last he was spotted. He’s just very good at hiding. I want your men to tighten the perimeters and land their dragons and walk their lazy asses over the area, lifting every stone, searching every cave and cellar until they find him. And Idon'twant to hear any excuses from you! I expect this to be done by the next cycle or I will be very disappointed.”

“Yes, sir.” The general said, giving a sheepish bow. “I shall have them do it.” He hesitantly gather his map and coat and walked quickly from the room.

“Oh Stratagus you can be a real brat sometimes.” Roshell said as the door closed behind the general. Her mouth didn’t move when she spoke but her voice resounded in Stratagus’ mind.

Stratagus watched as Roshell sauntered over to him.

“Because I know how to get what I want?” Stratagus asked, reaching out a hand to Roshell. She took it.

“Because you don’t appreciate what you have.” She replied, leaning against him. “You’re king of Devil’s Helmet you have the fear and respect of your subjects and the love of an angel. And what does he have? He’s hiding in a cave scavenging his food. What more do you want?”

“My dearest.” Stratagus kissed her hand. “What is the use of having the love of angel when I could’ve had a goddess?” He released her hand. “Try and be more sensitive next time.”

Roshell glared at him. She took up a chair by one of the walls.

There came a knock at the study doors.

“Enter.” Stratagus boomed.

The door opened and a servant dressed in black and wearing a masquerade mask entered. He bowed absurdly low the top of his head nearly touching the floor. He held that position until Stratagus ordered.

“Rise, speak.”

“There is a man to see you at the door he says he has news of Adrian Parker.” The servant reported.

“Impossible.” Stratagus said a sadistic smile twisted his features.  “Show him in.”

The servant made another lavished bow before exiting the room. The back of his head was also hidden by a masquerade mask.  

“How fun. Roshell ready to be lied to?” Stratagus asked taking up his seat at the head of the table.

“Very titillating, I’m so utterly excited.” She said sardonically, twisting her long white hair over her shoulder and running her hands through the silky strands.

The door opened and the servant entered.

“Ridnik of Wers stable, sir.” The servant announced. As he did the air seemed to thicken with a tension so strong one could taste the bitter resentment.

“I do believe we know this scum. Ridnik enter.” Stratagus said coldly.

The servant, sensing the looming discord, bowed himself out quickly. 

The End

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