68th day of Katib, year 146, Era of Ke'larri

“Such a cold reception for a trusted comrade,” Ilophon hissed, glancing around the chamber to the soldiers posted, “And when I have brought you such good news.”

He stood before the grand stairs to the throne, wringing his hands nervously. His eyes sat sunken in his gaunt cheeks, skin the faintest yellow under the long, matted hair slicked to the sides of his face. The quality of his robes and various adornments held the air of one who had known wealth and nobility, but the fraying fabric around his ankles, the oily stains across his cloak, and the faint hint of bruises and scabs around his wrists suggested this time had long passed.

He squinted to make out the King where he sat, a silhouette in the dark. The silence pressed around them. Minutes seemed to pass before one of the soldiers shuffled uncomfortably. At the sound of it, Ilophons eyes temporarily shot away from the throne.

“Eris, shaya, my ward. Come forth,” beckoned the King. Ilophon was startled as his voice boomed through the chamber.

Eris emerged silently from the shadows behind the throne. The silver blades at her waist glistened in the fiery glow of the braziers and she was clad in black leathers, a cloak the color of dark night rippling around her. Black hair, like coal, fell around her striking, fire-bathed face. She slowly descended the stairs towards Ilophon, stopping just close enough that he could see her piercing eyes, and what appeared to be sharp fangs, glinting in the dark.

“I-I... have been nothing but loyal,” Ilophon faltered at the sight of her, looking pleadingly towards the black mass. Eris couldn’t contain herself, smirking at his unease.

“And we are grateful, Senator,” she drawled icily. Her fingers absentmindedly swirled around a small talisman attached to her belt. Seemingly lost in thought, her face quickly darkened.

“We are grateful that you’ve led so many Hnegeerans to their deaths courtesy of your empty promises. Yet… you have served Althaes so well, you could forgive me forgetting you were in our service,” she said through gritted fangs.

“Temper yourself, shaya,” the king hissed again.

Eris paused for a moment and all expression disappeared from her face.

“Where is it?” she began again, her voice flat and cold.

Ilophon’s hands began to tremble terribly and he shrank under the glare of her pale, white eyes.

“You speak of loyalty, yet several of my sisters lie in their graves. You either know where the idol is or you, too, shall lie in your grave tonight.”

“Y-yes. The idol. W-We spoke to the scholar adepts in Althaes and were able to consult the writings of an old Priestess of Hasha. All the ancient texts place it in Uzuldurr,” He stammered. Eris remained silent.

“That’s all the information you have?” the King's voice echoed in the dark.

“Yes, my lord, but I believe it is most valuable!” Ilophon went on, wringing his hands.

“It is. Thank you for your service,” the voice said, deepening into a growl.

Eris crossed the space between herself and Ilophon and in a flash he doubled over, clutching at a puncture in his neck. When her blade came to his throat a second time, she plunged it through his hand to find her mark. Clenching a tuft of his hair in her fist, she pulled his head back until hot, red blood rushed through his grasping hands. His eyes locked onto hers and she watched him choke for air until he was gone, body crumbled to the floor. Her breath was ragged, heart pounding in her chest as she looked towards the still-warm body. Whatever she felt passed from her as soon as she released him. The voice rumbled around her once again.

“Go to the Althaen camp. Execute the rest,” it snarled.

She lifted her boots from the pool of garnet blood and bowed before making her exit.

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