Dark Times

Balancing the wine cup in his hands, Pietr stared at the pattern in the floor tiles. Plain and simple white marble tiles formed a square around a smaller tile black as night in the centre. Each set of four large white tiles was also bordered by the same narrow black tiles. It was a plain and simple pattern of neat straight lines. The dark tiles that bordered the larger white ones seemed to fit his mood. Dark. These were dark times, war seemed to have engulfed most of the world there seemed to be no end to the troubles. So far there had been little here in this outpost – but it would come, eventually. Trouble had a way of spreading like wildfire. But tonight it wasn’t the news of the the war on two of the countrys borders, or even the destruction of the old country village where he had grown up. As sad as it was to think that people he had once known and loved were all dead, he had more to worry about than the small village of Morton’s Hollow.

“What do you think, Brent?” He found himself asking, turning his attention to the other occupant of the room. Brent Longman was every inch a solider. The two men were of the same age, and had been friends since the day they met almost ten years before. They had fought side by side from Arethna to Japthir and beyond. Even sitting, Brent appeared taller than most men with his long legs stretched out towards the fireplace as if the fire did not give off enough heat. Handsome enough Pietr would have said, although he hadn’t really taken any notice. The women didn’t seem to find him ugly at any rate. But more than a fellow solider, Brent was his friend. He cared for Brent’s opinion on this matter – and weightier.

Brent grunted softly, a sure sign that he was deep in thought. Rising to his feet, he knuckled the small of his back draining the last of the wine in the cup as he did so. Brent licked his lips and crossed the room, pouring himself a little more of the mulled wine that gave off the scent of rich spices. Raising it to his lips, Brent sipped it thoughtfully before placing the cup on the heavy wooden table that shone dully in the torchlight under its layers of polish. Rubbing his chin, Brent made it clear he was unsure of what to say. He always like to think clearly over his decisions.

“Is she or isn’t she?” Brent asked quietly, his dark green eyes turning towards his friend. He shrugged his wide shoulders and paced the area before the white marble mantle that lay over the fire burning in the grate. “She does not appear to have the age, nor the look, although she was found with that.”

Brent indicated his head towards the table, a ring lay among the papers scattered across the table. Pietr leaned forwards, picking it up and examining it slowly. Well made of seemingly a whole piece, it bore a single gem of firestone. The firestone was large and glowed in the flickering light of the embers. Pietr licked his lips and tossed the ring back on the table, sighing wearily.

“On its own it is enough to Question her.” He said softly, his voice emphasised the word, making the capital clear. “But I do not like it Brent.”

“We do not have to like it.” Brent said softly. “Young or no, the law stands. The teachings of Seraphim are outlawed here, if she is a daughter-” The rest of his sentance remained unspoken it was almost as if he did not wish to pass sentence hinself.

Pietr nodded thoughtfully. “There is no other evidence against her? Her age or lack of it cannot be brought against her. We cannot charge a woman with sorcery just because she looks old enough to wield it! Light preserve us, we’d have to arrest every female above twenty!”

“And younger.” Brent said quietly with the hint of a smile. He clapped Pietr on the shoulder. “I shall have her brought to you.”

Pietr nodded and rose, slipping the small ring into a pocket sewn into his breeches. It was not a thing to be left lying around. Looking around, he saw the room as if for the first time and felt surprise that this was his chamber. A small ante-room near his office usually set aside for visiting dignitaries to refresh themselves before making their appeals. It was not a large room, fifteen paces along each of the four walls. But it suited well enough for its purpose. The furnishings glowed with the richness of age and quality. The table, built of mahogany was obviously the work of a master craftsman and glowed softly with years of polish in the candlelight.

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