A sword of wrath book i.., p.13
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       A Sword Of Wrath, Book I: Blood And Dust, p.13

           K. E. MacLeod

  * * *

  Lucan's heart pounded heavily within his wide chest as he sneaked in and out amongst the shadows of the palace and entered a narrow door that was located behind a heavy, large tapestry. Depicted on the tapestry was, as some citizens of Lycania would argue, a slight misrepresentation of the Peacebringer's triumphant return to Odalia atop a resplendent elephant.

  The room he walked into was small and dark. A tiny window near the ceiling let the slightest streak of silver moonlight fling itself across a table that was taking up most of the space in the cramped area. On top of the table, he could see three sets of hands resting in the luminescence while the entirety of the rest of their owners' bodies remained in shadow. The pair of hands in the middle possessed long gnarled fingers, stained black. They remained clasped even as the slightly smoky voice that they belonged to spoke aloud, "Lucan, my little man, are the plans in place?"

  "They are, M'lady." His tiny eyes darted around, as they were wont to do.

  "And what of the Legate?"

  "He is on the mission to Feronia, just as we planned. I am hoping he will not return for two weeks at least. Although, as I know him, once he discovers there is no actual root blight to speak of, he will return immediately."

  "But, he is with us?"

  Lucan nodded vigorously, "Oh, yes, very much!"

  "And the Vandal? Has he done his part?"

  "You mean the munus? Yes, though...," he hesitated.

  "What is it, little man?"

  "He... he hasn't many fighters to display."

  "That is not our problem nor our interest. All we care about is that he provides the munus."

  Lucan nodded once, "Yes, M'lady, that is a definite."

  "Does he know of our plans?"

  "No, absolutely not. I made sure of it."

  "Then," the owner of the raspy voice leaned forward but all Lucan could see was an unsettling smile within the darkness, her as lips black as the shadows around her face but her teeth bright white, "gentlemen, we will put our plan into motion. The Empire of Lycania is a ripe peach, ready for the plucking."

  "Y-yes, M'lady," Lucan bowed nervously. "The Mother Wolf protects us all."

  The voice in the shadows chuckled, "Yes, may the Mother Wolf protect all of her children, even the wayward ones."

  * * *

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