Seven: Thornlatch

General Yew stood before Master Thornlatch, hands clasped firmly behind his back.

"I have come directly from the Rose Empress, Ruler of Demesne, Queen of the surrounding deserts. She had orders."

Master Thornlatch was a tall man, muscular and lean, with dark eyes and a handsome smile. His hands were covered in scars and calluses but with descent clothing he could look like a Petal.

"Orders?" Thornlatch leaned forward, white teeth gleaming. "No one orders me. You may remind your Empress that she is not the one in charge."

General Yew tightened his fists behind his back but didn't let his annoyance show. "Shall I proceed, Mr. Thornlatch?"

Thornlatch shrugged. "Do as you wish, General."

"The Rose wishes to know if any live bodies have been found outside the wall." Yew waited for Thornlatch to nod. When he did, the General grew excited. "Is he still alive? Have you already thrown him in the Abyss?"

Thornlatch smiled thinly. "It was a her. And she has not been thrown."

"Then I wish to receive her right away!"

"That's the thing, General. She enticed one of my finest men into stealing her way. By this time they could be anywhere in the Dodai Desert."

Disappointed but not willing to give up, Yew leaned forward. "You know where they're headed, don't you?"

"Perhaps, General Yew, perhaps."

"Tell me, then! I demand it!"

Thornlatch looped his fingers together, standing and flashing his brilliant smile. "As I said before, you are not the one to be doing the demanding. Don't you wish to know who it was that took you're girl away?"

Yew gritted his teeth at Thornlatch's stupidity. "What does it matter which Abyss-slave took her?"

Thornlatch's smile grew. He stepped towards Yew and whispered in his ear.

General Yew's mouth dropped. "No! Not…not him!"

"I advice you to tell you're Empress, General, that I will be handling this operation. You warriors of the Rose have nothing to worry about."Thornlatch turned away. "Go. I have to get to the Mountain of No Return before sundown and you, General, are just a distraction."

"Just bring her back, that's it." General Yew said, exiting the room. "Bring this Ward-breaking girl back to me alive so I can execute her myself."

"Now, Yew, don't be rash," Thornlatch said softly, but he was smiling.