The old rules no longer apply, it would seem. The chosen leaders of today are selling their souls to keep their seats of power.

This is wrong. This is wrong. This is wrong.

The chants in Peetor’s head clanged like an alarum bell as the shadowy figure on the ebon dais began to materialize in its smoky cocoon that smelled vaguely of burning leather.

Peetor averted his eyes. Maybe refusing to witness the proceedings would reduce his culpability in such nefarious affairs. He was a good man and had risen to Vizier to one of the great Ghaultic Lords.  His ability to chart the motion of the heavens and provide precognitive information to his liege had made him rich. Powerful. Indispensable.

But this… this cabal sundered one the most basic moral tenets of humankind. He would not keep mute. He recently suspected his liege had been in contact with the Autumn Folke, but to ask Peetor to attend contact? The Gods would refuse absolution in the afterlife should he allow his liege to continue these aberrant trysts in the long-forgotten shrines far beneath the castle.

“Our patience wanes.”

That voice. Somehow, it filled Peetor with equal parts dread and desire.  A siren’s song. It was decided. He would stare only at the ancient stones of the dungeon floor. But what were these scrapes in the stone?

“Did the information prove false?” This more corporeal voice came from the scheming Royal Alchemist visiting from Greyarch, Peetor’s associate in these proceedings with the Folke Lord. Tolerating treason. Another sin to account for.

“Indeed.” That Folke voice was chillingly pleasant. Seductive. “But the heavens are maddeningly complex, aren’t they, seer?”

Peetor focused on the scrape on the floor. “They are what they are. Only a fool would deign to think he could know them.”

“So, still no components?” the alchemist asked, betraying a hint of desperation in his voice. “Our lord will not be pleased.”

Your lord showed foresight in forging his contract with me,” the Folke Lord responded. “Where your seer has failed, I have laid bare the location of a single Dormu-lily.”

“No,” the alchemist gasped, a mix of disbelief and excitement.

“I have found it. You will obtain it. Do it immediately. It is an ephemeral thing and will dissipate like ash in the wind in all but the most nurturing hands. On this scroll, you will find its exact location.” The voice was sharper now, with a focus that bore into Peetor’s brain. The alchemist stepped forward and received the parchment.

I will not look, Peetor repeated. I’m done with this treachery. It will out.

“Every petal more precious than your crown jewels, obtain every one, even if only one still remains. Kill anyone who has seen one. Leave nobody alive.”

“Of course,” the alchemist responded.

The lapdog. He’ll pay for this, Peetor promised.

“And now, recompense is due,” the Autumn Folke Lord purred. “The seer is mine.”

Peetor’s blood went cold, and his fingers tingled, growing numb. For the first time, he looked up. The dark figure with the smoky aura towered over him, staring through him. In a flash, Peetor saw an endless void in those blue-white eyes. A bloodless aeon of despair reflected back at him.

“What? No,” Peetor whispered, his throat tightening. “My liege would never… I am Vizier. I have divine sight!”

“Dear friend,” the Folke Lord replied, “your liege is the one who proffered you.”

The Autumn Folke’s lithe arm reached forward and clasped onto Peetor’s forearm. Impossibly strong. As Peetor was pulled into the musty vapors, heels scraping the stone, and the ancient shrine with the scraped floor faded from view, he marveled at the depth of volume and piercing pitch of his screams.