I could feel the disturbance as soon as I arrived outside the front door.
It didn’t take me long to recognise the flavour of the strange patterns.
Hell damn that little fuck.
What was he doing?
And as soon as I thought it, I shook my head and proceeded to walk inside. He was trying to rescue my wife, of course. He had been most suspicious of her sudden disappearance.
The women were gone which surprised me somewhat. My branding these days was most precise and effective. It would had to have been overridden in some way.
I disintegrated the dress, still on my bed and straightened the room in general. The bathroom too was in need of some tidying. As I made a small vortex to dispose of soldier boy’s ashes, it came to me quite rapidly where I had been going wrong.
That vermin’s nest of Serein and witchery she had created here.
A true oversight to a tidy plan.
Yet, an opportunity to put one more piece to the mosaic that was unfolding so splendidly.
I set into motion a chain of opening the doorway to the nexus on the plains, finding Headman’s Acre, moving through and out into that bizarre courtyard and translocating straight into the particular room where, handily, all the occupants of the house were assembled at that time. It was so fast now that the whole thing seemed to be a single operation of smooth transitions and that pleased me so I was still smiling as I landed in what appeared to be the kitchen of the building.
Instant panic ensued.
I enfolded them all and froze them to the spot, as much to get control of myself as for any other reason, took a deep breath and allowed myself to take my wife’s pet servants and allegiants into consideration.
Arranged around a large and homely table, with no attempt at decency or good manners, still as a painting and all turned towards me where those damnable whelps she had dragged off from the monastery, fat and slick now and grown quite a bit since last I saw them. They sat interspersed between the adults, not at at the end of the table where they might have belonged. There were four boys amongst them, one of which drew my eyes immediately and I could feel an echo of an old familiar feeling arise within me.
I breathed easily and focussed on the whelp. He was skinnier and smaller than the other boys, with straw blond curly hair cut short and an expression in his face that was disconcertingly familiar.
I had to close my eyes briefly and tighten up on myself to not stride across the room and smash him down where he stood. Yet, and to my delight, I found it easy this day to control the emotion and to have it recede, further and further away, until my clarity and balance was restored once more.
One could say that once that had happened, I could nearly hear the sound of another set of cage bars dropping metallically to the ground. It would have been inconceivable for me to control myself in the presence of a one such as this only a short time ago.
With this particular challenge out of the way, I looked at each of the other whelps in turn; I had to smile again when I touched the raging hatred of the soldier boy’s little brother, hell bent on revenge. He had sworn a blood oath in public to take my life in return. I briefly considered extinguishing him there and then but then dismissed him as unimportant at this present time.
The girl who was the leader of this pack of Serein rats was growing fast. It would not be very long before she might enter an age range which would make her of interest to me. I wondered what it would be like to fuck a Serein bitch. The thought made me smile afresh and it occurred to me that I should have come here before. This my dear wife’s little nest of resistance could promise hours of entertainment on so many levels at once.
Now I would have to think of some form of retribution for her.
Damnation, she had been my most trusted servant for three quarters of her life and for her to turn around and basically choose to walk off with my little apprentice did not please me well.
She was staring back at me because she could do no other, frozen in position as she was and I entered her mind deeply for the first time ever.
It came as a shock to see myself through her eyes.
I would have hoped that after the years we spent with each other a certain respect would be given, an understanding of sorts. I shook my head before I had a chance to curtail myself and backed away from her. It seemed that there were many more illusions upon me than I had previously expected.
Deliberately, I turned my attention to Catena.
He sat, elbows leaned on the table, barely dressed in a shirt that was unbuttoned and with bare feet. Inside his mind, he was actually quite calm.
He was not particularly afraid of me and made an effort to communicate with me, concentrating his simple mind on a few phrases he thought might get my attention.
Interestingly, there were also the two whores I was keeping branded at Tower Keep – or so I thought. Catena must have brought them here and someone had tampered with my branding. They were of no consequence in and of themselves but I made up my mind that no matter what else might transpire here, an example would have to be made.
There would be no further interference from these in my business.
I walked across and took the place at the head of the table, sat down and folded my hands.
I looked up at them all and took a breath to address them, when the room started to spin and fade and I found myself on a Serein plane, flat, glass smooth and lake blue, surrounded by a whole group of children and Catena and Marani, too.
I shook my head, gently reached inside myself and produced the sword forged from the ice. Here, it was of such brilliance that one simply could not look at it and the assembled group withdrew as one.
Clearly, I send them this:
I have tolerated your existence too long. This was a mistake and it will now be rectified.
Then, I wielded the sword and destroyed the very fabric of their space for the second time, only this time, I did it alone and did not get caught up in the euphoria of the dance, but very deliberately severed the strands then exploded them until there was nothing whatsoever left and I was perfectly alone in silence.
I willed myself to return to my body and opened my eyes.
At first it would appear that the children were dead and Marani and Catena badly damaged, blood pouring from their ears and mouths and noses, my old housekeeper on the floor and Catena struggling to keep himself from falling off the chair by holding on to the table with both hands.
Into their writhing minds, I said, If I find either of you anywhere near this space or attempting to re-construct it, I will end you in ways that you cannot comprehend as yet. If I find either of you interfering in any business of mine, I will end you. Is that understood?
Feeble acknowledgement ensued from both. It would do for now.
There was vague traces of movement which informed me that the whelps were still with us. I sighed and contemplated putting an end to it, here and now, when a thought intervened.
They may be more use in helping me to provide some further bindings for my lady, bindings that would allow me to be able to have her move with a degree of freedom and beyond the palace circle.
It was a risk.
How much did she still believe in her own illusions of being the protector of the weak?
Would she trade her own freedom for the lives of these?
I couldn’t help but smile.