Chapter Two: Set The Table For One More

Damian slouched in his throne; idly he traced the gold dragons carved into the arm, and considered what he'd ransack next. He entertained these thoughts quite often, which was why a haze of smoke hung permanently across his ever-widening borders.

"Can't burn the Kuri village… did that last week," he muttered with a frown. Being an absolute king was no fun after a while. There wasn't much left to burn. If the imposing bulk of the D'jat Mountains hadn't been in his way, his armies would have captured the entire continent by now.

But Damian was nothing if not logical. If he conquered everything, he reasoned, then there wouldn't be anything left to conquer. And that just wouldn't do. He had to give future generations of pillaging warlords hope, didn't he?

He sighed and stretched. Yes, he supposed he did. Still, today wasn't shaping up to be a particularly interesting day. He'd already been down to the village and demanded the gratitude—and money—of the tribesmen. His stroll through the torture pits afterward had cheered him up only slightly.

But now he was back on his throne and sinking further into the gloomy muck of his thoughts, which made the most awful slurping, sucking noises when he tried to pull away. He was just settling down to a good bout of sulking when the palace doors burst inward and bounced off of the sandstone walls behind them with a resounding smack. Jakre, the captain of his elite guard, hurried in and bowed hastily at the young lord's feet.

Damian arched one sculpted, inky eyebrow as his catlike eyes narrowed in a mixture of annoyance and curiosity. Rarely was he disturbed during his alone time. In fact, the head of the last man who'd disturbed him was decorating a stick outside the palace gates right now.

"Yes?" he inquired with a dangerous edge to his voice. It was the sort of edge that went with a hilt.

Jakre bowed again nervously and shuffled his feet. "My Lord Damian, a man has washed up on the southern shore. A very strange man, m'lord. In strange clothes."

Damian tapped a hand thoughtfully to his chin. "How… strange," he commented.

Jakre, seeming to realize that he was not immediately going to be fitted with a tasteful ax and his own spot outside the gates, took heart from the young lord's apparent interest.

"Indeed, m'lord. He sleeps the sleep of the dead. We have not been able to wake him. Not even with the hot irons," he added helpfully. Jakre was the type of man who held the opinion that hot irons applied generously solved most problems. Usually by eliminating them.

Damian was, in fact, intrigued. "Where is this man now?"

Jakre looked slightly troubled. "I, that is, we… we all decided that he needed a place to recover from his wounds, since m'lord would want to speak with him eventually. So we… definitely we, m'lord, it was a generally agreed on thing, of course… puthiminaguestroom," Jakre finished in one breath.

Now Damian's other eyebrow rose and his golden eyes glinted. "A guest room?"

"Er, yes, m'lord. We hope that pleases m'lord." Jakre couldn't begin to express how much he hoped it pleased the lord; very unpleasant things tended to happen when he wasn't pleased.

Damian looked tilted his head in a very predatory manner. "And exactly which guest room did you place him in?"

"The red and black one. It was the only, uh, clean one at the moment." He wasn't about to say that it was the only room where a bloody death hadn't permanently stained the sheets.

Damian smiled slowly. It was quite obvious to anyone that Damian's ancestors hadn't evolved from anything as silly as monkeys. No, his ancestors had obviously been of a toothy, carnivorous stock that had taken great pleasure in eating defenseless monkeys. A smile like that was enough to set any man back a few thousand years to campfires and things that went crunch-crunch in the night.

Today might not be so worthless after all. He had something new to occupy his time.

Though Damian did have to wonder how 'strange' a man who'd earned such a label from Jakre would be. The guard had once condemned a young woman as unnatural because she'd had one toenail longer than the rest.

Damian shook his head sadly. It was no wonder he hadn't conquered the world yet. Look at what he had to work with.

He stretched in a leisurely, feline manner and hopped down from his gilded throne, tucking a strand of dark hair behind his delicately pointed ear. He really hoped that the wounds were nothing serious enough to kill his unexpected guest. At least until Damian had a chance to talk to him. There was always time for killing later.

He hummed a nice funeral dirge to himself as he walked down the hall.