waited. He always had to wait. He had to remind himself why
he put up with this. First, it was the law of the land, fieldy to
one’s liege lord. Second, and by far the most important, he was
a powerful lord. He possessed power to punish and reward richly.
It was hope for the later that motivated Consus to suffer through the
terror of his position. He was usually not disappointed.
he heard the distinct voice of his master in a low crackling noise that
fell dead in this tent of thick, sound absorbing cloth. As the
voice warmed up, it grew louder but still more of a hiss than a voice,
like the bones of an old man waking up after a long slumber.
“What have you brought me?”
fear, Consus held out the cloth wrapped small chest with trembling
hands. “Only what you have asked me for, Gray Wolf.”
the throne did not turn around. “And what of its owner?” the
Consus stood there shaking hoping upon hope that the tone of his voice
would not betray his true cowardly actions. He believed his master
could tell truth from a lie by just hearing one word, and since Consus
was not telling the whole truth, he hoped his master could not tell in
just one word.
throne swung around to reveal Araknik the Gray Wolf: cold, heartless
eyes; tight placid skin pulled tautly over the cheekbones; thin strands
of long jet black hair hanging down, uncut for years and draped over his
shoulders; curved beak-like nose; and absolutely no smile. He
looked wearier than ever. His voice cracked again, “Lie.”
stood still, heart almost stopping.
lie,” his master continued. “You took the chest when you saw
the other knights kept the drakard occupied in battle, didn’t you?”
heart did skip a beat. The
rumors are true, he thought.
shook and cowered back a step. His master rose up to his full
height with fists clenched, a tall man, as tall as Firesmyth Mancuso,
almost a head above the rest even
without the couple of steps that ascended to his throne. He
looked more menacing now than weary.
dropped to his knees and begged, “My lord, he was a real Firesmyth.
I beg you to accept your gift and have mercy on me. Was it not for
this that you sent us?” With that, Consus fell prostrate before
him, hands splayed out in front offering the now revealed chest.
master showed no emotion but took the chest. He studied the
exterior for a long time. Consus remained unmoving on the floor
before him. Then Araknik pointed a stylus of some kind at the
brass inlayed lock. A brilliant red beam of light flashed from the
tip of the stylus to the lock casing. Tucking the stylus in the
folds of his robe, he lifted the lid up just enough to glimpse its
smiled. For a man of 678 years, it was amazing he still had teeth.
Then he spoke. “You may have redeemed yourself, Consus son of
looked up still afraid but in time to see his master withdraw an old
scroll from the chest. He dropped the chest, which tumbled down
the stairs and came to rest near Consus’ hands. The Gray Wolf looked
over the scroll. With every second the half-pleasant expression on
his face turned sterner, from incredulity to abject anger. He
hissed a long, slow hiss. A cold breeze seemed to touch Consus and
a chill ran down his spine. He feared his last moments of life
were quickly approaching.
is not it!” screamed Araknik. “This is a love