They all sat around the elongated table in the middle of the hall, which looked too stretched and wavy, with each of them sitting in a notch of wave.
The lavish dark red curtains hung from the high ceiling blocking out the orange light of the sky which penetrated through the stained glass windows, which showed ancient battles of when each of the men had only one chin. The hall was lit with brass torches that dangled next to the windows splashing their light down on them, casting long dark shadows which stretched off along the ragged carpet floors and up the walls. The ceiling was arched with rotting wooden cross beams, which probably where all the supported the roof from collapsing, and little purple shapes fluttered from one plank to the other constantly whispering.
At one end of the hall were two iron doors which were bashed and rusting, but still stood strong and blocked out the fog which often prowled at dusk. Long wooden bolts slats crossed horizontally across the doors so they knew there was extra protection, which was needed. At the opposite end of the hall, a moth-eaten tapestry with mysterious stains took up two thirds of the wall, which displayed names and dates of people with self imposed importance. The tapestry threads were constantly writhing, always changing the picture to show who was there and who had moved on. Above the tapestry there was a circular window where copper rods created the shape of a five pointed star within a circle, the meaning of it had been long since lost, but orange light shone through window and highlighted the only thin man out of thirty two sitting at the end of the table. His hair was long and ragged, it rested on his shoulders, and the greyness showed his apparent years. As did his skin which was taught and stretched, except under his eyes where it was dark and sagging. His cheeks were gaunt and his mouth was a long stretched line, as though it had misplaced the way to smile. Yet, his skin was smooth and without a blemish, if it wasn’t for his hair, perhaps it would’ve been impossible to determine his age. He had his eyes closed and his long, bony hands clasped together, as if praying. There was no religion here. He was listening carefully, examining every word, every sound that passed between the other men in their tattered, off coloured cloths. He cracked his knuckles and as sound passed through the hall it brought silence to the men. No sound was released, not even a ragged breath, even the purple shapes had stopped. He opened his eyes. There was no pupil or iris just a bloodshot white spheres that regarded the men, and took them in, studying them. He ran his hand through his hair smoothing it back and pushed his chair back. He slowly stood to his feet, and his thinness was even more apparent, but then so was his height. He was at least seven feet tall, and he wore an immaculate suit which made the other men’s looked like rags. He wore a dark red waistcoat and black jacket and trousers, with no tie but he had done up the top button on his white shirt. He had a grey scarf which he had not tied but left hanging loosely over his shoulders. His shoes were black and polished so they let out a radiant shine. But his belt was most interesting, it was brown and leather, yet the buckle was silver and formed in the same shape as the window.
“I have,” he rasped; his voice sounded like nails across a black board but somehow it wasn’t high-pitched, “an issue.” The silence that greeted him was intoxicating, he smiled. An odd feature that just pulled ever so slightly at his mouth. His teeth were pointed and yellow and all the same, as though his mouth were filled with a small dogs canines. “Brannigan. Would you care to venture a guess as to what my issue is?”
He strolled around to the left of the table, but walked with purpose, a slow purpose. His eyes, seemed to be directed at a man seven people down, but no one could tell. Brannigan was old and fat, his skin was yellow and sickly and his grey eyes flicked back and forth from the tall man walking towards him and other men at the table. His eyebrows were quivering and a light sheen had appeared on his forehead.
“I, um, am not, er, sure,” he stammered, tripping over his words, his grey whiskers quivering like his eyebrows, as he spoke his toad like neck wobbled.
“Are you really?”, the tall man asked stressing each word, each step he took matched the beat of Brannigan’s beating heart. He was four people away. “Think again...please.”
Brannigan looked down at his feet deep in thought, contemplating every possibility as to what the tall man could mean. A purple shape cawed from the roof, and Brannigan head sharply snapped up and his pudgy face drained of colour.
“I, no, I didn’t, I mean I wasn't,” he whispered up to the tall man as he had now appeared next to him looking down staring into Brannigan’s eyes with his own soulless eyeball. “I didn’t-” The tall man, put a long finger against the Brannigan’s rubbery lips. Brannigan whimpered. The tall man stooped down to his ear, his dry lips centimetres from Brannigan’s ear
“You lost control of your barony.” He breathed. “Albeit for a day, but for a day none the less.”
He took his finger away from Brannigan’s lips, and wrapped his hand around Brannigan’s collar and pulled him to his feet, his head only coming up to the tall man's chest. The tall man placed his hands on Brannigan’s shoulders. No one dare spoke, they all were staring and they all were preparing themselves for what would happen next.
“Loss of control makes us look what?” he spoke, never raising his sharp voice above casual conversation level but you could hear him at the other end of the hall. “Brannigan?”
Brannigan sagged, tears were rolling down his fat face and becoming tangled in his moustache.
“Weak.” He snivelled, barely above a whisper. The tall man gripped Brannigan’s face holding it up, his hard fingers sinking into the fat of his chin.
“A little louder,” he said.
“Louder than that.”
“Louder!” he barked, several men jumped and looked away, before their curiosity forced them to look back.
“Wea-”, the tall man plunged his fingers into Brannigan's eyes, causing them to pop , the jelly of his eyes rolled down his face to accompany the tears. His other hand was clasped over Brannigan's mouth so no scream could escape. While some men winced, others sighed, for it could’ve been so much worse. He drew his fingers out ,which caused a squelching sound, as Brannigan was convulsing violently. He brought his fingers up to his mouth and a trail of liquid followed, and sucked off the remnants of Brannigan's eyes. Then he placed a long hand on each side of Brannigan's head, while Brannigan's hollow sockets and mouth seemed to mouth something, something to someone to help him.
“Control will be implemented ruthlessly and without mercy. Anyone who thinks this new law does not apply to them,” He exhaled and then snapped Brannigan's neck. The sound of the bone cracking like a twig sliced through the silence, and caused men to gasp and some to whimper and some to retch. “Will suffer the same end.” He flung his thin arms outwards and the body slumped to the floor, and its eyes oozed onto the floor to join the other stains.
The tall man strode back to his chair after he wiped his wet fingers on the man next to the body. He lowered himself into his chair and closed his soulless eyes. He clasped the armrest of his dark, wooden chair.
“Thank you very much for coming,” he said pleasantly, as if they all had just had a delicious tea party. “Your Baronies will receive reinforcements soon. Spread the story of Brannigan as you please. Ruthven will see you out.”
He became silent; his mouth again pressed tight over his sharpened teeth and his body was motionless.
A cough behind the men startled them and they turned their round bodies around quickly. There stood a man, except he wasn’t a man just shy of a man in years, it was common for them to be called the mid-men. He had pale white skin and he wore an aged black blazer which was slim cut and suited his frame, which like the tall man was slim, as were the trousers and shirt which were also black. His deep black hair was between long and short, it was wild and thick. Strangely his iris’ were a piercing yellow which seemed to have a cruel gleam to them. He was taller than most of the men, and a small iron blade danced over his fingers as he spoke, which drew the men's attention, and they noticed his fingernails were as black as his hair, but they weren’t filthy, that was just the colour.
The men whispered among themselves as they each came to realise what the mid-man was, terror spread over each of their faces, contorting their features.
“I didn’t mean to cause a fright,” the mid-man grinned, “I will be escorting you back to the Gate.” He paused in confusion as to why the men were slowly backing away from him, and then it clicked. He swivelled on his left heel and opened the large iron doors. The fog came flooding in, curling around the his feet. He swivelled back, still curling the blade, with the orange light shining on his back causing his front to darken and his shadow to settle on the men. “Don’t worry. I’ve already ate.” He strolled out into the fog whistling an ancient tune. The Barons had no choice but to follow Ruthven into the Highland towards the Gate.