Any trace - and a small trace it would have been - of a smile melted away from Hesper's thin, glistening pink lips. He turned his head away and began to pace the floor, approaching the great bay window which overlooked a sprawling green meadow that was inhabited by at least two hundred majestic stallions.
"Have you ever stolen, brute?" His voice was as slick as his hair looked.
"Have you ever stolen?" the Lord repeated impatiently.
Bronn considered this a moment, a tally of a lifetime of theft and deception fleeting through his mind in an instant. "Yes."
"What have you stolen?"
Bronn shook his head, not sure where to begin. "Food. Weapons. Gold, silver. Animals. Firewood." Heck, hadn't he even stolen the stretch of wood that he'd built his shack upon?
Bronn frowned, a sick churning in his guts. "No. That is.... I've taken lives, but never the bodies that went along with them." He struggled with the idea for a moment. Why would anybody need to steal the lump of flesh and guts that went along with the human soul? What use was that chunk of pink meat?
"Next question," said Hesper abruptly, scooping a single rose from a vase next to the window. He twirled it seductively between his fingertips, eyes trained on it rather than on Bronn. "Have you ever stolen from the gods?"
Don't say "huh?" again. Ask him to explain, but ask as though you were civilised. Pardon, my Lord? I implore you to further - "Huh?" he spluttered once again. It was as though the crazy old codger had started to speak a totally different language.
Hesper heaved a sigh and massaged his temples, as though the presence of such an ignorant being physically assaulted his brain. "The gods. You know. Big sparkling people in the sky that control the outcome of mankind and all that goes along with it?" He rattled off the definition like a worn-out poem, and turned his hand over impatiently as he did.
"Oh. Yes, I've heard of them," Bronn said. "What has that got to do with anything?"
Hesper's eyes glowed with disgust and rage. Bronn deeply regretted omitting his sword for the bow on his back. Hesper was at too close a range for the bow to be useful, plus he could hardly produce it without being paralysed by the Lord's powers.
Hesper's eyes softened as they lit once more upon his red rose. "It's not important right now. All you need to know is that the gods are the only ones that have enough power to.... To take away everything I've worked for. And they enjoy playing favourites when it comes to dishing out power." He flinched slightly before correcting his composure, and proceeding to look down his nose at Bronn. "Those that are Favoured are a threat. And they have something that I want." He raised the rose to his nostrils and inhaled deeply, before planting a kiss softly on one of its petals.
"Like what?" Bronn asked, growing impatient of Hesper's endless riddles and speeches, let alone his unusual behaviour.
"An item so sacred that it's said to belong to the gods themselves. I need you to steal it for me, brute. No matter the cost. I need it to.... I need it!" Hesper closed his fist with great force, crushing the delicate head of the rose, and then the rigid stem. A trickle of blood fell from between his veiny knuckles, where he had squeezed on a thorn.
Bronn took a step back in confusion; his own temples were starting to ache at this point. He was beginning to regret getting involved with this maniac. "What sort of bloody item?" he demanded.
Hesper turned towards him, a thin line of shadow across his eyes, and the thin ghost of a sadistic smile playing on his lips. "Her name is Alysa, and she is Favoured."