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The silence lingered and for the two men in the room it meant vastly different things. One sat, extremely uncomfortable and in dire need of the silence to break, but unwilling to do so himself. The other stood, revelling in how awkward the situation had become, but awaiting the other to speak first.

The stalemate was broken by a measured knock at the door. ‘Come,’ Brennus exhaled, unhappy at having to break the silence before his General. He’s a brute, a heavy-handed barbarian, but he’s not lacking in intelligence. He threw himself into his chair and watched his steward enter the room.

‘Your Imperial Majesty, I beg your pardon,’ a short woman with round spectacles and ink stains on her dark cheek curtsied formally.

Brennus found it hard not to smile. Ejana Rishad had been with him since the beginning. A keen mind, shrewd and hard working, Ejana had worked diligently to become one of his stewards. More importantly, she knew how to read Brennus’ mood better than most.

‘Perhaps I could return later?’ She began to retreat through the door even before he answered. Brennus could see Urquhart was visibly buoyed by the presence of the steward, so he made no move to stop her. ‘It’s just that I have news regarding our guest,’ she offered weakly from the doorway.

Damnation take me, Brennus did little to hide his frustration. Ejana would only interrupt if the news was dire. He’s either dead or escaped. ‘Out with it,’ he was all impatience and aggravation. Brennus had worked extraordinarily hard to ensure the capture of Cahden Joudaar. It would be most displeasing if he had come this far and not been able to talk to the man. ‘Don’t move, Bastian. You can hear this.’ The General stifled a groan and eased himself back into his chair. No, he’s not an imbecile.

Ejana tentatively made her way into the room. She wrung her hands attempting to conceal nervous energy. Attempting and failing because Brennus knew it was unwanted words that she would speak. ‘He has, in a manner of speaking, left us.’

‘What in the cold hells of damnation do you mean? And be clear with it girl, else,’ he left the threat unspoken. Escape or death, which shall it be.

‘Humble apologies, Your Imperial Majesty. I did not mean to be unclear. It certainly was not my intention,’ an arched eyebrow put an abrupt end to her placations. ‘He is dead,’ she stated simply, looking at her feet.

Urquhart squirmed uncomfortably in his chair as Brennus stood. He could see Ejana shying away before him. He had worked hard to capture Cahden Joudaar. Too hard. And he certainly was not in the mood of letting the man die. ‘Send for the Balaur’s Maiden.’

The gasps of Urquhart and Ejana were clearly audible. Brennus hated for it to come to this, but a man with no more options often turns to the unnatural, the inhuman, the Daemons.

CW SY 2013