A tall man in scarlet robes [came down] the ornately inlaid staircase in the manner of all men accustomed to power. The cascade of granite and marble steps afforded his descent the air of something hard, cold, and inevitable. Emerging from the final, glacial, turn in the grand spiral, he surveyed the wealth his position brought him. His servants stood uneasily down the full length of corridor wider than most homes in the realm. Its walls were covered from floor to ceiling with tapestries spun of gold and, some said, the souls of those they depicted. To either side of the staircase were carpets with scarlet scripts and sigils of flame and blood, each said to protect the master's house from intrusion. They fabrics were as beautiful as they were oddly terrifying. Even the most innocent of observers understood that the rugs, like every object of beauty in the house, were not to be spoken of, or even remembered in passing. Each of the treasures was cursed, or so the rumors said. The robed figure enjoyed both the rumors and their partial truth. His home was indeed filled with accursed trinkets, but their evils did not affect him, hence his interest in them. The message to the casual observer was clear: ' A man whose very home is filled with the stuff of nightmares is a man to be feared, and preferably avoided.'
Despite their obvious discomfort, the staff remained attentive and prepared for inspection. Every morning this happened, and every morning the staff dreaded it. Such was the curse of their birth. A child born in the house of the Omet Sorrielenen was doomed to serve. He passed the twin columns of servants and began his morning ritual.
He rarely looked to either side, choosing instead to indicate his displeasure with an almost imperceptible tilt of his head toward the offending servant. Every ten steps or so, he would incline his head to one side or the other and say quietly, as if to himself, "Hanging." A moment's swift glide past a doorway might result in a momentary pause during which the words "Burning, then beheading," could be heard. As his lengthy strides brought him nearer the courtyard of his expansive residence (and mercifully, the end of the servants ranks) he began to spice things up a bit. Such was his custom, for even a powerful man must remain entertained. He was a man of habit, and as an almost singularly powerful and wealthy man of habit, it was also his privilege to behave so, without interruption or prohibition.
Today seemed especially interesting, for he was going to be late for an appointment with a man he greatly disliked. He smiled at the thought of this and stopped abruptly before exiting his home. So unexpected was his halt that his voluminous robes wished to continue into the yards. He looked to both his left and right, seeing two indistinguishable uniformed girls in his employ. After a moment's creative thought, he spoke to the tears in their eyes, as well as to himself.
"Eaten by rats." He said, indicating the trembling kitchener to his left.
As he turned to face the second girl, he smiled even more broadly, as though surprised by his own decision. "Dropped from a great height." The near-child at his right shouted and began to weep loudly.
A look of concern appeared unbidden on the face of the great man. He placed his hand on the girl's cheek and clucked and cooed until she began to quiet.
"I didn't mean to offend you, little one. Perhaps instead…Dropped from a very great height, while being torn apart by falcons."
The girl fainted and her head struck the marble floor with a wet crack. An older woman near her lifted the girl to her feet quickly and tried to revive her, before more servants were punished. He stared at the girl, waiting for some new response. Perhaps she had learned her lesson. Blinking her bloody eyes, she began to inquire groggily about her parents and some long dead uncle. He turned, quietly, to the woman who had helped her off the floor and pointed at the expanding pool of red at the girl's feet.
"There seems to be blood on the floor. Someone might be hurt."
As he passed from hallway to day-lit courtyard, the sounds of the remaining servants returning to work and the chosen being gathered by his guardsmen followed him, but only briefly. He opened his mouth to speak and a guard appeared within whispershot before the first word fell.
"Take the girl to a healer."
The guard nodded, bowed, and ran to aid the fallen girl. A voice, barely more than the plucking of a spider's web by the falling of dew, spoke from the air about the man's head.
"Why pay to have the girl healed, only to execute her? The cost of a cleric's services, combined with the not inconsiderable expense of raising to great height and the eventual use of trained falcons seems a waste of valuable funds, at least on a house girl that could just be thrown to the dogs."
He clasped his hand over his mouth, twisted his face in mock horror, and then chuckled again. He had, for a moment, forgotten about his normally silent companion. The voice, hardly the memory of a whisper, possessed nonetheless a sarcastic note that the man found simultaneously tiring and endearing.
"She's not going to be executed. These are my personal house servants. I just transfer them around the estate periodically." He spoke as though addressing a child whose table manners he wished to refine.
A breeze in his ear offered, "Those people didn't act as though they were being transferred to a different washroom." The question, more the hint of the beginnings of a question, hung for a moment in the man's ears.
"Well they think they're to be executed of course. Each one thinks they are the only one to have been granted life, and so are forever grateful. The only thing more pointless than the culling one's own house staff is allowing them to become complacent. You have forgotten much."
Sorriolenen swayed and almost stumbled, his features pulled taut by both pain and his efforts to remain standing. His head felt as though it were being crushed. "Much, but not all, Omet. There are things you have yet to learn. Almost as many as I hope to remember."
He allowed the pain to pass and resumed his comfortable stride towards the palace. A few minutes passed in silence. Sorriolenen wondered whether or not to speak again. He heard a question from the same distant place inside him.
"These things and more you will remind me, eh?"
The mage nodded in spite of himself, as the point was made. "Indeed. But for now we have to wait. I have an audience with his magnificence Harrin Furrowbrow. That dolt. My brother and I will be done with him soon enough. Once this obstacle is cleared, we can speak more, and at great length. The northwinds fell their hammer kiss…" Sorriolenen sang quietly to himself the words of an old Thysmannic hymn.
The voice continued the refrain, "…whose frosting touch brings sleep and death. I have not forgotten everything. I remember more and more with each passing day." The voice sighed, if an expression of such subtlety may be described by so brutal a word. The man heard the sound clearly.
"Patience. I meet with him this morning. After that, we have nothing but time." Pressing close to his ear, a voice which might have been a kiss in another life, said finally,
"We will see, great Omet, we will see."