Naonet slapped a hand across the surface of the water, dispelling the image from its surface. He sat back against the high back of his stone chair, pushed a hand through the few strands of hair he had left and growled when half of those came out in his fingers. Soft giggling echoed from high above. A smile, or what could be halfway considered a smile, twisted the corners of his cracked lips. He shifted his gaze up to the pool of shadow that clung to the ceiling.
“Hello my sweets.” He held up his arms. “Come to me.”
The pool giggled like small children as bright red eyes blinked open. One by one, shapes emerged from the great mass of shadow and dripped down onto Naonet. They danced across his thin frame, nipping occasionally at the small bits of bone poking through the layer of solid darkness. As his shadow children fell over him, Naonet felt a surge of strength as they melded onto him. He stood from his chair and stretched, feeling the way his new armor moved with him and the unyielding hatred from the souls. He turned his gaze upward and noticed the usual cracks in the ceiling were growing bigger but not fast enough.
He stretched out his hand and flexed his fingers. His gauntlets had extended so sharp spikes protruded from each finger. They squeaked like a small animal’s whimper as he balled each hand into a fist. “Excellent,” he hissed.
A small glimmer of light caught the corner of his eye. Biting his bottom lip, he squinted against the light and found a piece of mirror had been uncovered from the water. He stooped and grabbed a handful of muck and soot, throwing it across his cell. The gunk stuck and plunged the room once more into an eerie reddish glow. Pacing a tight circle about his cell, barely four strides across, Naonet kept flicking his gaze to where the light had shone through. For good measure, he smeared more gunk across the walls. Once he was satisfied, Naonet returned to his chair. His fingers traced the cracks and scratch marks along the chair’s arms.
“Soon,” he whispered to himself. His voice echoed back as if it could answer. A small rumble shook the room. The basin of water by his chair bubbled and glowed a ruby red.
I wonder if they’ll like me.
Naonet took his seat once more and waved the basin closer. He leaned over the water’s surface and cleared away the fog bubbling over the sides. Four figures swam into focus. His attention was immediately drawn to the taller of the two young women. Her white hair was pulled back into a long braid. As she walked, she kept tugging at the too tight bodice. Her brows furrowed as she nibbled on her bottom lip. The voice he heard was coming from her. All of a sudden he felt something stir from his shadow armor.
He watched the four disappear into the queen’s chamber. He waved his hand over the basin, whispering, “Follow them. Watch the one with the white hair and the blue eyes.”
The queen’s parlor swam into view. From his limited perspective, Naonet got a good view of the queen’s face. Anger bubbled inside him until he saw the other young woman’s face. He waved a hand over the basin and zoomed in on the queen and the young woman.
“It can’t be.”
The queen placed a hand on the young woman’s cheek. After so long, my daughter.
Naonet’s shadow armor sprung to life, half hissing and half giggling. Naonet gripped the basin tightly with both hands. “My child! Get her, get her!”
As the image in the basin got closer, the water grew blindingly bright. He felt the sudden pain his servant felt, forcing it to retreat into the darkness. “What are you doing?! Get her!”
The image faded to black as he stared into the bottom of the basin. Naonet shoved the basin away. “Who is protecting her? Probably some seer, and she’s guarded by Trinity Knights. I’ll need to speak to the king it seems like, and perhaps this Brennus could be useful.”
“My Lord Naonet.” The voice floated in along the scent of rusted iron. “I bring before you High Senator Brennus.”
Naonet sat back in his chair and watched the pool in the middle bubble and collect into two figures. One was kneeling while another stood behind.
“Rise Hallon.” Naonet looked from Hallon to the figure behind him. “So you are the High Senator now?”
Brennus stepped forward. “Yes, and who am I speaking to?”
Naonet chuckled. “I’m apalled. You do not recognize me? From a dream long ago, perhaps? Or maybe when you look into the darkness and you see, for a second, a pair of red eyes? Or when you dream and you see a world ravaged by war?”
That wiped the smile off the spoiled brat’s face. “Who are you really?”
Hallon folded his arms. “Your rightful ruler and master. You’d do well to remember that, boy.”
“He doesn’t seem all that powerful, drunkard.”
“Silence!” Naonet waited until his voice’s echo died. “Brennus, your work with the seers has not gone unnoticed. Tell me, what do you know of the Trinity Knights?”
“They fought a war a long time ago with the goddesses.” Brennus looked at Hallon. “But they died a long time ago.”
“Alas the leeches still live,” Hallon sighed. “And I command them.”
Brennus eyed the old man. “Then why have we never seen you? In fact, why have we never seen this Naonet? You tell me he can give me an army, but how can he when he’s trapped who knows where?”
“Who do you think orchestrates the attacks on the outside villages?” Naonet leaned forward. “Get this through your naïve mind. I killed your goddesses, but they trapped me in this hellish prison. You get me out, I will give you an army beyond compare. An army that never sleeps, never feels hunger or pain. An army that obeys without question. You get me out, and you will rule this pathetic world with me as my top general. No one would ever question your right to rule again.”
Naonet smiled, knowing Brennus remembered those who whispered about the mysterious way he became the High Senator. He could feel the darkness inside the young man twitch to life, pulsing with the boy’s heart.
Brennus’ eyes were darker as if a shadow had passed into him. “You will give me an army? An army… at what price?”
Naonet conjured an image of his daughter on the surface of the basin and pulled it up so she stood on the water’s surface. “Do you know this woman?”
Brennus furrowed his eyebrows. “I’ve heard she was found in a far away village in my kingdom. They claim she is the Kaitu heir.”
“An heir she is, but an heir to my kingdom. She is my daughter. I want you to find her and give her a sash from your robes… as evidence of your betrothal as decreed by Zurla. When you get her alone, take her heartstone and bring it to me. Do this and my army will sweep across the land and destroy all of your enemies. Do we have a deal?”
Brennus’ eyes grew wide for a second and Naonet almost thought the boy began salivating. Naonet had barely gotten through his proposal before Brennus bent the knee, placed a hand over his chest and swore, “It shall be done my lord.”