The Visit

“Tony!”  The valet turned around and saw the doorman rushing towards him. “She is here to see the master.”

“Who is?”

“You know… her.”

“Oh, her. I see. But why come to me? Shouldn’t you inform the master?”

“Well, you see, the master is in one of those moods again. Please, I know he wouldn’t do to you what he would do to any of the rest of us. Please, could you tell him?”

“Very well, but you owe me.”

“Thank you! You might very well have saved my life today.”


Pen’reail stood at the window of his study and gazed out upon his frozen lands. His subjects, and even his wife, knew not to bother him when he was musing. Still, a discreet knock came from the door. Pen’reail spun around to see who dared disturb his thoughts.

“Lord, I apologise for interrupting you.”

Pen’reail’s face softened. “Come in, Tony.” The valet opened the door and walked in, closing the door behind him.

“I mean no disrespect, but I have a report for you that is most urgent.”

Pen’reail looked at him curiously and gestured for him to continue.

“The Avirex of the House of the Elk, her Highness, Dara Steele has arrived and she requested to see you, my lord.”

A moment passed in complete silence. Pen’raeil turned away from the desk, the door, and the valet to look once more across the fields. For just a moment, before turning away, his face showed his emotion. It might have been fear, disgust, or even guilt. Maybe even all of them.

With his back to the room he spoke: “Once again she arrives without warning or invitation. Still, I suppose an Elk must be honoured to have the Earl grace his halls, let alone a lowly Baron such as myself.”

Pen’reail, having regained his composure, turned back to the room in general. “Please show her in.” The valet bowed deeply and left the room.

For a long moment he waited alone in his study, looking coldly at the door. Only his white knuckles revealed what he might be feeling regarding the surprise visit. The quiet seemed more oppressive than ever.

Suddenly the door swung open. Two gigantic men, wielding wicked looking halberds stepped into the room and flanked the door. They wore tabards, proudly bearing the emblem of the Elk. Each man had killed hundreds—ven and veth alike—in service to their lord. Their equal was not known in all of Shanri.

Next to enter the room was his loyal valet, who immediately stepped to the side and stood at the wall so as to remain out of the way. After the valet an elaborately dressed man entered the room. He stepped to the centre of the room. Pridefully opening a scroll, he began to read:

“I, as herald to her Highness, Lady Dara Steele, Avirex of the House of the Elk, hereby have the pleasure of announcing that my master has decided to grace your humble halls with her presence. It will certainly honour you to have her in your home and you will ensure that her every request is met.” The man was insufferably smug; Pen’reail could do nothing but hold his head high and stare down this veth who would make demands of him. Even if they came with the authority of his Earl, the nerve was almost more than he could bear.

The herald stepped to the side of the room and in a loud voice announced: “May I present her Highness, the duchess of Whytingkeep, Avirex of the House of the Elk, Ohlrex Dara Steele!”

Then she entered.

Her dress was long and elegant. It was deep blue with white trim and was worth more than many Barons' entire lands. She wore black gloves made from the most exquisite silk. Her hair was grey, but impeccable. She carried a fan made of silver and silk. At her hip was a rapier, hand-crafted to perfection with silver roses engraved into the guard and hilt.

She strode proudly into the room, maintaining a respectful pace. She demanded attention wherever she went—beautiful, regal, terrible.

Her eyes examined the rooms and it was clear that no secret could be kept from her. Slowly she took in the contents of the room and one could only guess what deductions she was making. Her eyes finally fell upon Pen’reail. He bowed deeply in response to her gaze.

“It is an honour, my Avirex.” He stepped out from behind his desk and approached her. He took her hand and kissed it.

“Greetings, Mother.”


To be continued…


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