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Shadows lengthened across the small room. It would soon be difficult to see, yet still the heavy curtains were pulled back. The last rays of the day were a welcome addition. The Empire of Taradien rarely saw this much sun, not for a long span of time, and Brennus was hesitant to waste it. Only a portion of the room was illuminated and that room dazzled and disappointed all at once.

As the light spilled into the room, it managed to highlight the need for more polish on the windowsill while catching the handle of a spoon, just so, and favouring any that were looking with a brilliant display. The light did not have the same effect on the soup as it did the spoon, if anything the burgundy of the beetroot soup was decidedly less appetising in the light.

The sunlight then crept along the floor, exposing the many imperfections of a section of plain carpet. Flecks of dust danced in the waining light like elated villagers after a successful harvest.

The light then caressed a simple looking chair and the brilliant looking occupant. Dressed in the Imperial livery of green and grey, the man was broad of shoulder and square of jaw. His sandy blonde hair seemed to be made for light such as this. His eyes were the colour of iron. His grey cloak was interwoven with thread of green just like the scabbard that hung carelessly at his hip. A black hand, ringed by fire was emblazoned upon it. Even in the sunlight the black was as deep and dark as the slivers of green were lush.

The light then lazily made its way up the wall, resting finally on a simple painting of ducks on a pond. In this light they would have almost looked real had the cracks in the paint not been more visible.

Brennus envied the man in the light. Deeply. Since the Empire was ravaged and sunlight became scarce, Brennus had spent precious little time enjoying what he once took for granted.

A thud of a chair moving broke his reverie. Bastian Urquhart resettled himself in the dim light. ‘It seems unnatural,’ Urquhart offered as he examined the light on his hand. ‘Light like this,’ he continued in his usual dispassionate calm, ‘Not since it happened, that is.’

Brennus’ envy quickly turned to irritation as the man opposite him continued complaining. A raised hand and a stern look quieted him. ‘You were saying that the Western Reach is unsecured. What of the Gae’karu in the south?’ Just like that, Brennus was again discussing the state of the empire with Urquhart.

The sun began silently retreating out of the the room leaving everything covered in a dull shade of grey. A tentative knock at the door halted the general’s latest talk of recruitment drives. ‘Come,’ Brennus hoped it was not more servants with food. A familiar ink stained face peered around the door.

‘Apologies your Imperial Majesty,’ Ejana adjusted her round spectacles. ‘The humble servant you requested has arrived,’ the nervousness in her voice was unmistakable. Ejana always did hate dealing with Daemons. Brennus, on the other hand, would treat with Yix himself if it meant unity in the Empire.

‘Good, send her in.’ He waved a dismissive hand at Urquhart, ‘Let us continue this later.’ The general bowed formally and made his way to the door, the jingle jangle of the sword at his hip muted slightly by how tightly he held the hilt.

The Balaur’s Maiden strode in before Urquhart could exit. She slammed the door behind her and began unfastening her cloak. Urquhart’s confusion and desire to leave we’re plainly evident, yet he made no move to shoulder past the small creature at the door.

Once the cloak was fully unfastened, the Maiden removed her hood to reveal features more reptilian than human. Scales of green, brown and black covered her bald head. Her nose was small and flat, barely more than two slits on her face. Thin, scaly lips hid inhuman teeth and a forked tongue. Her eyes flit about the room, yellow pupils radiating malice.

‘Tea. Salt,’ she hissed at Ejana. The girl whimpered audibly and made her way to the door. ‘Quickly.’ Ejana’s rapid footsteps could be heard even after the heavy door was closed.

CW SY 2013