With Copper, Silver, Electrum, and Gold dead, it was time for Platinum to re-think his plans. The news of Delphina’s passing did not sit well with him. His study was in disarray with the fury of his response. Servants were cleaning up the mess even as he settled into his desk.
The many papers scattered across the surface, and on the floor around him, were all related to his original plans. All of these were now ashes.
“Burn everything that you pick up in here,” he instructed the servants sullenly.
“Oh, whatever is the matter, little man?” came a soft, hoarse call from his balcony.
He knew that voice.
“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at your tower awaiting my instructions?” he shouted.
All of his anger, usually seething beneath his surface and masked expertly by his calm demeanor and the scholarly persona he had taken, threatened to tear down its walls.
“Out! Out of here, now!” he bellowed at his servants, leaping from his chair and wheeling toward the balcony.
A low, throaty chuckle echoed his roaring.
“All of your plans, they were for naught, weren’t they?” she called as he approached, and he saw a whimsical grin upon her face.
“Not entirely true, witch,” he replied angrily, “I still have that which you want and need most. And I am protected from your magics. I will find use for you yet.”
“I have already found use for you, my dear, deluded little man,” she responded, with an edge of vinegar that soured her sweet smile.
He tried to gasp as the loop fell over his head from behind, but it closed tight over his throat. He didn’t have time to run his arm between the garrote and his neck, there wasn’t any. There was only agonized attempts to draw breath as the edges of his vision turned gray.
“Slowly, my pet. I wish to savor this moment,” she called to whoever was behind him.
She looked into the dimming light of his eyes.
“You sought to control me, to own me, to master me. I have been a slave once, so long ago. No more. Never again. Now you learn what it means to threaten me.”
He choked, kicked, tried to rasp in air. There was none. The loop around his neck had closed too tightly. Dimly, he was aware that his resistance met iron-hard, unyielding flesh. And naked bone. He wondered in the back of his mind what he’d turned his back on, what sort of monstrosity Taizee had summoned to do her will.
The last thing he saw was her smiling face as she leaned in towards him. She was so ancient, and so horrifyingly beautiful. As his vision dimmed to black, he struggled with the last ounces of his strength, and cursed himself. He should have been more cautious, he should have set forth more contingencies, he should have…
“You should never have played with things that you cannot understand,” she hissed into his ear.
Taizee bent and opened her mouth as her servant loosened its garrote and the gnome slid to the ground, dead. She sucked in deeply, and devoured his departing soul before it could slide off screaming to Dolurrh. Rising, she slid a handkerchief from her purse and daubed daintily at the corners of her mouth.
The bloom of youth began to return fully in her features, and her lips curved into a sensuous smile. Her hand rose to caress the shoulder of her soldier, her servant, her lover.
“You are next, sweet Quarion,” she assured the shambling, rotted thing that stood before her, running her fingertips over the ruin of his face.
Turning, Taizee looked out of the balcony window and over the city of Sharn spread out before her.
“What a wonderful city! And so many souls to feast upon. Have our servants bring my baggage to our apartment. We shall wait for Syele to contact us—hopefully she’s rid us of that pesky Changeling spy.”
The undead thing turned from her and slid silently from study. The witch Taizee stepped out onto the balcony, leaning against the railing with both hands, the breeze running through her hair.
She thought to herself about the tasks now at hand. The ambassador from Aerenal would be arriving soon, as would the Cyran entertainer. Their contact would need to be silently disposed of. And then she would never again be anyone’s slave, and they would be together again, finally, after centuries.