Mourning Sky

Lord Adus of Merriweather hurried through the shadowed back streets of the city, his hooded cloak doing a poor job of preventing the rain from soaking him to the bone. An unseen puddle of mud and water threatened to steal the leather boot from his right foot and he stumbled to his left as he tried to catch his balance, landing hard against a rough shop wall.

“Blasted rain,” he hissed through dripping pale lips as he rubbed his throbbing shoulder. The rain had begun within minutes of Lord Mannix’s murder and had been unceasing in the three days since. Any streets that were not cobblestoned now had more in common with a marsh than any passable route ever should.

After a harried glance back the way he had come he trudged onward, wishing again that he had brought some of his personal guard with him. Davide and Vadide, the hulking Coradine twins that had watched over him since his election to the Council ten long years before, would have been his first choice. But the instructions had been clear: he was to come alone and he was to tell no-one.

The other five surviving members of the Council had dismissed the killing in the tower as an unfortunate incident of a thief getting carried away by the heady mix of greed and violence. As though a man who had spared the lives of all the guards would resort to such a vile deed at the final step. As though a thief would have been able to get to a Lord of the Council without any outside help.

Lord Adus did not have time for such nonsense. So when the letter arrived under his chamber doors as he was preparing for bed three hours ago, no thought was wasted on ignoring it and no energy was spent trying to gather a covert guard to go with him. He simply snuffed the candles in his room and waited for the opportunity to arrive for him to leave unseen.

The upside to the unrelenting downpour, for Lord Adus at least, was that the streets had been deserted. Even the rats, those spies of choice for the high and low alike, were banished indoors for fear of drowning.

He reached an intersection and paused, looking left and right in an attempt to get his bearings. He was not familiar with this part of the city; besides which, he would normally leave navigation to one of his aides. Squinting at a swinging wooden sign over a doorway to his right, he realized he was on the correct street. Throwing one last glance backward he took the left turn, squelching through the mud on weary legs unused to such difficult work.

He came to a teetering halt at the third building down. The lantern which hung above the doorway lit the immediate area in fits and starts, threatening to go out completely at any moment. Lord Aldus grasped the door handle in one gloved hand, hesitated for three long breaths, then pushed his way inside.

The quiet was a relief after the constant pounding of rain on wood and water and hood that had accompanied his every sodden step outside. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust to the dimly lit interior - a lone candle resting on a wooden table on the far side of the room provided the only illumination. He stared into the dark corners of the room, his fingers gripping the dagger at his belt.

“This is ridiculous,” he finally declared, throwing back his hood and closing his eyes. He reached deep inside, travelling familiar paths to reach his gift. He liked to think it has nestled next to his heart, though he would never tell a soul such secret thoughts. As he snapped open his eyes he pushed the gift outward and the room basked in the glow of the green ball which floated in the air before him.

“Good evening and warm greetings, my Lord.” The voices spoke in perfect unison. If Lord Adus had not heard them a thousand times before he might have thought that only one other was in the room with him. As it was, he turned to regard the man in the far right corner before swivelling his head to take in the man in the far left.

“Davide? Vadide? What is the meaning of this?”

The twins turned to look at each other in unison, the top of their heads mere inches from the wooden ceiling beams, their expressions unreadable. Seconds later they turned back to their Lord, long blue-grey hair swinging about their shoulders, and spoke as one. “Perhaps you should sit down, my Lord.”

The End

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