The Cyneweard

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Part III - All That's Left is Blood :: 68

Vice Chairman Berger sipped from the small whisky glass, its edge tickling the two day old stubble on his upper lip. His eyes were fixed to the pulsating glow coming from the alchemical chandelier in the center of the room. Soon, its energy core would be used up and he’d have to get another. He despised candles, so much so that his was one of the first homes in the Cobble to be fitted with alchemical power. No more dark rooms. Shadows unnerved him.

His gaze moved to the window across from the plush leather chair upon which he sat, looking out onto the dark cobble street. Even the famed Cobble district could look menacing at night. The moon had once again hid herself from the world, casting the night into a nearly impenetrable darkness. Even alchemical lights had difficulty illuminating the way when the moon grew shy. Berger shivered. It was too dark. He’d have to have someone close the curtains, but not now.

To his left sat Vice Chairman Pfeiffer, eyes closed and nose blasting its goose honk at ear splitting volume. Only an hour ago had the Vice Chairman of District affairs returned from a long day trying to spin the strange bath house death of their colleague Schmitt. The bather that had serviced him was gone and had yet to be found by foremen or the bolstered Sigil force in Little Mille. The Union ate up the death and their presence was growing more apparent after the news broke. Pfeiffer had done his best to get word out that it was a lover’s quarrel, not a direct action by the Union or another party. Berger honestly thought the man was fighting a battle that was already lost. The Union knew better. The people knew better. A war was waging without open conflict.

The two leaders had felt it best to team together, pooling their four assigned foremen each into a team of eight. Eight men could canvas a location much better than four. Berger felt safe knowing he had worked an interpretation of Parton’s directive towards his own personal gain. All of the Chairmen did it and he was certain Parton knew but didn’t care.

Pfeiffer’s snores were beginning to unnerve Berger. He downed the rest of the glass, stood, and sat the empty drinking vessel down on the nearby fireplace’s mantle. One of the interior guards heard the glass clink on the marble and was at Berger side in seconds.

“Sir,” he said. “Are you traveling to another room?”

Berger sighed. “Yes, I was going to go to my bedroom. It’s getting late.”

“Ok, I’ll follow and stand sentry to the door.”

“No, that’s quite alright. I think I can make it to my own bedroom,” Berger protested, waving the foreman off.

“You sure?”

“Positive,” replied Berger.

The guard nodded and moved into the sitting room.

Berger continued down a small hallway, took a left, then a right, and finally found his bedroom door. The room was dark, illuminated only by a small alchemical node to the left of the bed. The device had silver edges with a clear middle and a bobbing ball of yellow energy whose brightness could be controlled by a screw dial on the top. It really was an ingenious little lamp. Cleaner than oil or a candle, the device had been specially made for him by Vice Chairman Weber’s team with the assistance of a few alchemists. Weber had always been a good friend to him. He had known of Berger’s disgust with darkness and had the device fashioned so he would never had to be experience total darkness.

Berger yawned and began removing his clothes until only his underthings remained. He pulled back the covers, slipped beneath them, and cranked the dial on the small device. Bright light filled the corner of the room. He smiled and tucked his large frame further beneath the covers and finally closed his eyes.

A scream shook him awake. He shot up in bed, nearly knocking over the table on which is light device was set. He reached over and lifted the device, holding it in front of him as if it were a weapon. Its bright beam of light scared away the shadows directly in front of him. He threw open his door and another scream sounded. A chill crawled down his back and yet he felt heat. He saw bright light glowing from somewhere down the hall.

A right, a left, and he was met with a wall of flame. The air was smoky and carried a greasy, sickening smell.

“Pfeiffer,” he called through the flames. “Guards?”

No answer. Just more smoke. Just more smells.

And then he was pulled backward from the flames and flung to the left. He felt a cool breeze wash over his face and neck. He was still spinning, his vision blurred. He was growing out of breath. He tried to gasp but couldn’t. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t focus. Berger put his hand to his face. Warmth. Wetness. He slid it down to his throat. More wetness, hotter. A wound. Wide, gaping. Air was escaping, bubbling in all the warm wetness. He tried to look down but got dizzy. His vision was fading. The last thing he ever laid eyes on was a small trinket on a console table along the long hallway’s left wall.

A piece of the now ruined Imperial Palace’s throne.

He collapsed on to the table, felt the piece of his past dig deep into his chest.

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