'Audience for one'
Molossus knew it well. The cold, unyielding vice on his stomach. The insistent pounding of his heart, channelling raw dread through his veins. It warmed his face and sent shivers down his arms. His weak legs were truly thankful for the chair on which he sat, covered with the exotic fur of the last creature to cross the woman sat opposite him.
Lady Khromys had yet to acknowledge his presence – he had been escorted in by an unspeaking Incubus and prompted to sit, before being left alone with her and the eerie quiet. Molossus watched, transfixed, as she gazed into an orb, her artfully filed fingernails sending up sparks as she swiped them across its surface, which rippled as dark energies spat and flowed within at her touch. The matriarch of the Obsidian Rose had chosen a particularly disturbing hue of green for her makeup palette today, which only added to Molossus’ building sense of unease.
Tearing his eyes away the archon, Molossus surveyed his surroundings. Gazing above the angular, metallic table between him and Khromys, he perceived what appeared to be wire mesh spanning the entirety of the hall’s substantial ceiling. It writhed and buckled silently at the desperate flailing of hundreds upon hundreds of encaged pale corpses, gruesomely animated and in various states of disrepair. Many were screaming as they were horrifically torn through from above by yet more bodies piled atop them, all trying to claw their way through the mesh, craving a taste of freedom from the bitter cycle of their existence. The blood which frequently found its way through seemed to evaporate before hitting the ground.
The atrocities suspended above were grim even by Commorite standards, yet Molossus found little pleasure in the carnage. The hall remained uncomfortably silent. It was then that he realised he and Khromys were not alone. Behind her throne, lurking in shadow, a disturbing creation ominously floated above the obsidian tiled floor. A pulsating red glow emanated from the creature, synchronised with the faint, sickening sound of multiple heartbeats. This light, visible through the serrated carapace, briefly illuminated its monstrous nature – Molossus caught glimpses of bone protrusions, steel drills, a rune-carved facemask. Tales of the so-called ‘Overseer’ were common in the numerous slave pits and warrior lodges of the kabal, and he had no desire to discover the truth in any of them.
Sitting up all the straighter in the chair he now felt he couldn’t leave if he tried, Molossus set his eyes back on Khromys, and barely managed to hide his shock as he realised she was staring right back at him. A tight smirk was etched on her sharp features, endless malice visible in her dark eyes. Molossus gulped, his dry throat burning. She produced a crystalline jug of red wine, and poured it exactingly in to two identical carved bone chalices, motioning for him to take one. The end of the table suddenly seemed impossibly far away.
‘Come now’, Khromys smiled. ‘Grovelling is thirsty work’.