I wonder what you will think of this section. Here Miss Helen Travers is toyed with. The chief sorcerer of the Black Company enjoys a little recreation.
MISS TRAVERS AND THE SORCERER
She had been dragged most of the way because she refused to walk. They didn’t beat her for it: that was the prerogative of their sorcerer chief. The men would take recompense later. Dumping her on the floor of the Master’s appartment they retreated, one or two of them sniggering; one or two sporting bruises, bite marks and scowls.
She sat there, as they slammed the doors behind them, skirts in a tangle, wondering what would happen next.
‘So you are here at last, young lady.’
The voice, unexpectedly urbane, came from her left. In that side of the room she saw a fireplace. The mantlepiece was a huge affair of heavy oak standing six feet high and nailed to this mantle were a pair of manacles at least five feet apart. The fire was not lit because of the oppressive heat.
Before the fireplace a man of formidable size lounged in a large brocaded chair, the back of his red-necked head towards her, his black hair greased and combed back, his shoulders nearly too large for the chairback.
‘Come and sit here,’ he commanded, indicating a footstool with a kick.
‘Why should I?’
There was a pause before the sorcerer spoke again. Could it be that he was surprised by her defiant tone. He changed tack and in a softer voice said:
‘Because I ask you to, My Lady. Only that I can see you better by the light of these candles.’
The room was indeed brighter where candles clustered on candelabra by the fireplace. Helen considered her choices and concluding there was little point in trying to run away she decided to comply with this modest request. Even so she hesitated before seating herself at his feet. Was this the first of his many victories over her? Unsure she looked up at his face and nearly knocked over the stool in surprise. He wore a black mask and though there were holes for his eyes she gained a disturbing impression that nothing stared out of them.
He seemed pleased by the effect but that was not all his desire.
‘You are very beautiful,’ he said. She had been told this before but from this man of power the flattery was something to be blushed at.
She was beginning to experience an unfamiliar feeling of inferiority and she didn’t like it. She glared at him to disguise her doubts.
‘Well done. I am bored with the gutless women of this petty house. Where is your home? It sounds like more of a challenge than Moreda! No don’t bother: there’ll be plenty of time for questions later. I am pleased that your resentment is not veiled like those other bitches.’
‘They have a cause for resentment, sir, and reason to be cautious with wicked men like you ruling their lives. You have them all wrong. The women here are not gutless. They demonstrate the true meaning of bravery, though I doubt you know the word.’
‘I do not. What does it mean?’ His tone was sarcstic. Not wishing to be a foil for his enjoyment she held her tongue. He reached out a calloused hand to stroke beneath her chin, as though she were his lap cat. Helen recoiled at the touch.
‘Do you hate me so much?’ he asked. Her reply was the contempt in her eyes. ‘You see, it’s very wearing to meet only frightened people: people who hate me without knowing me. I had thought, perhaps, that such a fierce will could forget fear. They said you were a fighter. It would be good to talk to someone who could listen and respond as normal people do. Do you understand?’
Helen was sure she did, but wouldn’t admit it. Was he a lonely man? Because of the power he wielded, because of his mask and because of his cruelty he had become loathsome and loathed. But eventually even evil men must tire of their games of violence and yearn for some less fraught relationship. Perhaps this evil man was looking for a friend.
‘No!’ she said firmly. ‘I will give you nothing of my self. You are repugnant: a murderer, a torturer of children, a violator of all things proper, and I should be worse than you if I—’
‘If you what? Let me save you, Miss Travers, from your conscience,’
Helen shuddered. The sorcerer bent over her, his mask inches from her face and when he spoke his voice was the most frightening thing she had ever heard.
‘Whatever you wish to deny me I will demand; whatever you seek to refuse me I will take. You have no free will in this place. I will take what I want from you. Grubb! You see, Helen Travers, I have complete power while you have none. My pleasure is to exercise that power and your role is to suffer it. Grubb, get in here!’ A hard looking man followed by two other leering thugs entered the room. ‘See here: this pretty maiden wants to dance for me. The fireplace, if you please.’
THE BEST OF MEN
SONG OF AGES
An epic fantasy of monsters, gods, warriors and wizards, of heedless villains and decent everyday people.
Available as a Paperback Original
at £17.99 / $22
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COINCIDENT - The Best of Men Pt 1
is available as a kindle serial edition
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