King Rája languished in a hammock lashed between two stanchions buried deep into the sand. Attendants held fans over the royal, shielding him and his wizard from the harsh coastal sun. The necromancer was divining signs in the bloody bones of a sacrificial goat.
“The portents are pointing to your reign continuing for many years, and your armies winning more and more territory,” the old man said, shaking the bones into a pile in the sand.
Letting loose with a diatribe of profanity, Rája took a weak swipe at the wizard’s fortune-telling tools, nearly capsizing the hammock.
“Your augury is piss,” the King spat. “Nothing is foretold in your sanguine bones. You are nothing more than another simpering sycophant hoping to woo my favor. I should have your evil-eyed head removed from your neck.”
The wizard gathered his bones and made a hasty retreat, sidling backward across the sand, never turning his back on the mad monarch.
Calen let out a derisive guffaw, watching the coward leave. His approach, while stealthy, did not go unobserved by Rája.
“Did it cause her great pain,” Rája asked wanting to know every detail in how Calen executed his order to break Queen Maud’s fingers.
“Did you make her suffer?” Rája began to pant in anticipation.
“Did she cry out?” The king closed his eyes, near to ecstasy.
“She wept in fear and torment.”
Rája trembled, his moan of pleasure filling the air.
Calen tasted bile rising in his mouth, but stayed on task, spinning a tale of torture worthy of Rája’s sadism.
By the end of Calen’s story, Rája was spent and his mind on to a new obsession.
“I need a new oracle,” the king announced to his sergeant. “I’m told there is a Guild in the village.”
“Yes, Sire,” Calen said. “I will inquire of their Obermeister.”
“I want the best,” Rája said.
“I will accept no one less,” Calen smile at the inside joke. Prince Duncan had nicknamed Agatha, Noone, during their first meeting.
“Go!” The king shouted. “I want her here before terce.”
Calen made a show of riding out of camp on his royal quest. Agatha had left Queen Maud’s tent the night before, stealing back to her cottage on the outskirts of town. Maud helped transform the woman into a withered hag, disguising her so Rája wouldn’t know his former bride.
Agatha was waiting when the sergeant knocked on her door. He barely recognized the woman standing at the threshold.
“Are you ready?” Calen took Agatha’s satchel.
Agatha checked her apron pocket for her ever-present string of beads.
‘I am,” she said. “Let’s make Rája wish the spirits kept him in the catacombs.”