The fire crackled in the hearth, illuminating the two men hunched over the board as they continued their long and arduous game. The white haired man was dressed regally, on his head was a crown-the stars adorning it glinting gloatingly at the man opposite. The king the studied the board and moved another pawn forward. His opponent calculated his options and found himself running a little short. He glanced up nervously as he moved his queen, very aware of the display of his captured chess pieces, situated at the elbow of the very important man in front of him.
"Aldertree, tell me, how have things been?" The white haired man asked, speaking very softly. If Aldertree had not been playing close attention, he would perhaps have not even heard it.
"Oh, well-th-things have been running…fairly smoothly since…" He stammered, flustered by the question. He knew that any wrong move, very much like this game of chess, could see him off the board completely.
"Since? Since what, Aldertree?" The man questioned, not breaking eye contact with Aldertree, as he moved his knight closer. The firelight danced in his eyes, giving him an even harsher gaze.
"Surely you are aware of the incident with the Downworlders!" Aldertree exclaimed, wiping his sweaty brow and taking a sip of the glass of wine in front of him in an attempt to calm his nerves.
"Of course." The man replied coolly, signalling that it was Aldertree's turn. "But, I would like to know whose fault it was."
"Well, i-it was Wayland as we all know and his son of course," Aldertree replied, stating the obvious.
"I disagree," The interrogator announced, smiling coldly as he took yet another opposing chess piece.
"But surely, my liege, it is obvious!"
"Let me make this simple for you Aldertree" Mr. Morgenstern said, voice still very calm. He took a captured pawn and laid it out in front of Aldertree.
"Wayland and his son were like the pawns, but who controls the pawns?" He questioned, leaning dangerously close to Aldertree, who moved back instinctively.
Morgenstern chuckled, but it sounded rather empty to Aldertee's ears.
"You are right of course, I do control the board and therefore control the pawns." He stated and then took a knight and held it up, placing it behind the pawn on the board.
"Let us pretend that the pawn is controlled by the knight." He then placed a castle behind that. "And the castle controls the knight, but who can you guess, is the Castle?"
Aldertree fought long and hard to come up with a coherent answer, downing the last dregs of the wine in the process. The king smiled as he noticed this, his eyes gleaming with malice.
"You, Aldertree, you are the castle. And if the castle had controlled the knight and the knight had controlled the pawn….Then, well, it would not have happened, would it?"
Aldertree chose not to answer.
"Michael has been taken care of, as has the knight, but what of the castle?"
Aldertree was once again mute.
"My, my we cannot have such corruption going without punishment, can we, Aldertree?"
Aldertree was very obviously distressed, this was not going to plan.
"Your turn," The King stated coldly, sitting back in his chair, surprising Aldertree. But when he glanced down at the board, he could only make one move.
"Checkmate." Morgenstern announced, knocking over the king daintily, his eyes full of smug superiority. The sound resonated in Aldertree's ears like the axe on a chopping block. He caught the cold glare from his superior and knew what it meant.
"NO! No, Valentine, please I'm begging you!" He begged, which only angered King Morgenstern even more. Begging was for pathetic men.
"There is nothing more that can be done," He answered coolly, no sympathy evident in his placid voice.
The door opened and a few men clad in black emerged.
"No! No! Please! I have information!"
"Really?" Valentine asked, clearly disinterested.
"Yes! Yes! There was this man-"
"Fascinating." The king drawled in reply, clearly disinterested.
"No, no. You have to believe me, it was Lucian Graymark I swear it was him!"
"For starters Lucian is not a man," Valentine snarled.
"No, no. S-sire. Th-the attack. I-it was l-l-led by-y Lucian. The downworlders-" he coughed. ",d-d-angg-erous-" He stammered uncontrollably; the words caught in his throat. His hands shook as he was caught up in a seizure, his throat closed up, choking him. Valentine smiled mirthlessly, swishing his unused cup of wine, before pouring it out gloatingly onto the carpet. Aldertree registered his mistake before it was too late and the light had left his eyes. Valentine sighed and gestured for his idiot associates Pangborn and Blackwell to remove the dead body. They did so without question.
He sat at the table, studying the fire, pondering upon the last piece of information. The Downworlders were getting stronger, more rebellious, although of course they were no match for him and his son… He could not believe Aldertreee was telling the truth about his old parabatai he decided, his fingers tracing the faded parabatai rune. No. Lucian killed himself when he was given the chance…But….if there was a chance he was alive...He twirled the queen around in his fingers until he set it down and stared at the board in front of him, before moving the pieces around until he had made up his mind. He picked up his quill, dipped it in ink and started his letter to Stephen Herondale. The army of chess pieces glinted in the firelight as they stood to attention in front of their King.