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The fire crackled loudly, and popped as a log fell down into the coals. The room was in total darkness except for the warm light from the fire. A black leather chair was in front, high-backed and shining in the light. A deep, smooth voice sounded from it, calling for someone.
“William! Bring me that map! I need to work out where our little friend is going. I have an idea, but it never hurts to be sure.”
There was a hurried movement from the end of the room as someone inclined their head, and then slid out through the door. The figure in the chair shifted, clearing their throat.
A hand appeared over the arm of the chair, a refined, strong hand. It looked as though it belonged to a man. A man who had never done a day’s work in his life—a rich man.
The flickering light of the fireplace revealed other areas of the room. Tall mahogany bookcases lined the walls, filled with rich literature of every kind, on every subject. There was a large painting hanging above the fireplace, in a classical style. It showed a young man, dressed in the costume of the aristocracy in seventeenth-century England. His face was handsome, and yet had an undeniably cruel look about it. The fireplace was carved out of almost black marble, glinting in the fading and rising light.
The figure sighed contentedly, and stretched in the chair, making the fabric squeak with the sudden movement. The figure that had rapidly disappeared through the main door reappeared again, holding a rolled up map in their hands.
They passed the map to the person in the chair, inclining their head once more as they did so. The figure grabbed the map, almost snatching it. After a few seconds of silence, the figure spoke, in his suave rich voice.
“So, it would appear he is coming to us—up to his beloved Scotland. To his home, I’ll wager. I wonder who the woman is that has made him return to us?”
“Sir…if I may be so bold…even if he comes up here, I don’t think you’ll have much chance of getting him to do as you wish. After all, he believes-“ The figure, timidly speaking, was cut off by the rich-voiced stranger in the armchair.
“Are you arguing with me?” The figure spoke quietly, but the voice dripped with venom. As he spoke, the flames from the fire burst upwards, as though also fanned by his fury.
“, Sir, I would not dream of-“
“Because you know how I deal with insubordinates, don’t you?”
“Yes, Sir, I beg your pardon, I wasn’t thinking.”
“Yes. I do believe that is the problem. You weren’t thinking.” The fingers of the hand drummed a steady rhythm. The man who had brought in the map swallowed nervously.
“But I do think-“
The figure never got to finish their sentence. The stranger in the chair moved his hand, as though directing something invisible towards the figure. A great flame shot out from the fire, following the path of the stranger’s hand, and flew onto the timid figure.
He screamed in agony, rolling in pain on the carpet, somehow not setting fire to anything else. The flames grew and licked at him, turning his skin black and cracked, his mouth still open in an endless scream. He became more frantic as the flames grew hungrier, flapping at himself wildly, trying to beat the flames off. After a few minutes, the figure slowed his movements, eventually ceasing effort altogether.
The figure in the armchair beckoned to the flames, which leapt from the charred servant lying on the floor in a terrified pose…one he would forever be trapped in. The flames lingered on the stranger’s wrist for a second, wrapping around it as though it were a snake. The figure in the chair spoke to it softly, lovingly, as a mother would her child. The flames licked at him for a second, before leaping back into the fire.
“I hate backchat,” the figure murmured to himself, his voice smoothly ringing around the room.