The Obsidian Tower

'Your lordship?' The voice was dryly sarcastic in the darkness.

Instinctively, the Lord of the Obsidian Tower jerked awake from his restless slumber, although sleep and wakefulness were little different for him. 'What?' But he already knew the answer, and the other made no reply.

A light flared suddenly, causing the Lord's eyes to flinch shut briefly at the unaccustomed brightness. His visitor stepped a pace closer to the half-reclined chair upon which the Lord had been resting; in one hand, she held up the lantern that illuminated the glistening black walls of the chamber, and in the other, a blue glass goblet. Not moving from his recumbent positions, the Lord watched her impassively, taking in with a cool unreadability her features: the imperious face, the mouth turned up in a slight smile, the scaly wings folded neatly behind her. He had seen all this four thousand times and more, yet it was as if they had been presented to him anew every time. She returned his gaze calmly, even smugly. Coming level with the chair she stared down at him for a moment, then held out the goblet to him. 'Here.'

With the smallest of resigned sighs, the Lord extended a bony hand and closed the talon-like fingers around the goblet's stem. Under the watchful eyes of the other, he sat up slowly, lifted the goblet to his lips, and drained the dark, acidic liquid within. Finished, he returned the goblet without looking inthat direction, and waited. Behind him, his visitor exchanged the goblet for a tray of food that sat on the floor: bread, cheese, and a tankard of water upon a wooden board. This she passed over to the Lord, who took it automatically and began to eat, beginning with the water in an attempt to clear the taste of his first beverage from his mouth.

His visitor regarded him silently, still smiling subtly; he, on the other hand, was overly intense in his careful study of the opposite wall. This seemed to amuse her further, for her smile broadened marginally as the silent meal progressed. The Lord's expression, however, never changed.

When he had eaten the last of the repast, she reached over his shoulder to take the tray from his hand, then retreated to her original position, collecting the empty goblet on the way. 'Will that be all, your lordship?' she asked in a voice that was much too sweet.

At last, the Lord rose from his chair and turned slowly to face her. A quiet, bitter sort of amusement that had nothing to do with humor had appeared on his features; it was a look the other knew well and it caused her smile to grow wider still. 'You do enjoy these visits, don't you.' The Lord tried to make his voice remain flat, but his disgust was quite apparent even so.

His visitor bowed slightly. 'You make it so easy, your lordship. I will see you later.'

'Yes.' Without further comment, the Lord of the Obsidian tower turned away and began to walk at a leisurely pace down the narrow hallway that was, apparently, the only exit or entrance to the black-walled room.

The other waited until he was out of sight around a bend in the corrider, then extinguished the lantern with a soft breath and prepared to leave through the other way.