Rikka ceased stirring the contents of the heavy pot, turning her attention to her portly, idle son.

‘Ye lazy useless good fer nothing,’ she muttered in a whispered breath. ‘Go get more firewood,’ she screeched, hoping to waken him with a start. ‘I need to keep this pot boiling until the Master sends more orders.’

Reluctantly, the short chubby man moved towards the hot air at the opening of the cooled cave. Even this high up in the mid-mountains of Ginnung the sun burned brightly. He left the shelter and headed to a gathering of prickly gauze bushes. A slight breeze occasionally wafted and cooled the sticky sweat that lingered in the folds of his plump body. A yellow bush was close at hand but he had already stripped it of all the branches he could reach, without scratching his flabby arms. Ambling along he turned onto a narrow dry dust path that wound downhill towards a small bubbling spring. Wood was scarce in this region of barren lava fields. This would mean effort and hard work, not to his liking. Lighting a fire in this heat was an arduous chore but brewing a poison for his Master could mean an interesting mission lay ahead. Finding a shady spot by a large black jagged rock, he crouched down. This should hide him well should any of those wretched dragons happen to fly over. Kneeling, he cupped his hands in the luke warm water of a small rock pool and drank the sweet refreshing liquid, greedily. This was a good place to have a quick nap. Concealed in the grey shadow of a looming rock, he lay down, closed his eyes to the bright blue skies, and soon entered into a blissful slumber.

Rikka, on her part, was glad to be rid of such an unpleasant companion.

Memories stirred in her idling mind. In the silence she drifted deeper into a thought provoking dream, remembering her herb nurse mother Nealther, whose own parents had perished in an attack upon their village, resulting in Rikka’s father taking Nealther for his prize. She knew how much her mother had hated her husband and that she had not married the large loathsome man through choice.

Her own loathing for her father had been the reason she had studied the darker magics in the first place. Her unwanted son was the result of her father’s repugnant desires. Thankful that he had died in a drunken brawl at an inn, only a short time after she had discovered that she was to have his child. She had never divulged to her son who his father really was. Her father’s cruelty had inbred into her son’s bloodline. This had proved useful when luring innocent victims to the slaughter to provide their Master with the pitiful human souls he so cruelly devoured.

Shortly after her father’s death, her mother had wasted no time replacing him with a gentle poet named Ryan. They were quickly wed following her mother’s announcement that she was with child. Rikka had hated her for this. Never able to admit to her mother that she was also with child in her womb, which by rights should be her sibling. She did not linger around to see her baby sister Minnah born. Her own labour had been long, painful and lonely. Rikka had despised her unwelcome son and begged her Master to devour its soul. Showing no compassion he had commanded her to raise the spawn to aide her in his services.

She was his minion. He owned her. She would never be free. Her soul had become trapped within the labyrinth of dark magic. Long ago, she had given up being afraid of the unknown. She believed that her soul would never pass on to the Realm of the Dead and find peace; it was tainted with evil. If her Master chose, he could reward her with youth and eternal life. This was her hope.

This was all she lived for. Now her body was old, but still she served him well. Fedros was but a constant memory of her vile and loathsome father and every time she looked into his face, she could see her cruel father pounding on top of her, sweating and stinking of sour alcohol and stale smoke. She would gladly poison this living image of him, if only her Master would allow it, but her Master needed all of his servants for the forthcoming battle.

Soon he would destroy the protective spell holding the Magic Wall and then go on to invade the Lightlands and eradicate all the weak and pathetic creatures that dared to live and breath. Soon he would rule the whole world of Aarabassa, and then she will receive her long awaited reward of youth and longevity.

I see your designs are faithful to my services Rikka, the Mindtalk of her Master roused her thoughts as she felt the sudden impact of his powers.

Ah Emperor, I live only to serve you, Rikka conveyed her loyalty. I’ve prepared the poisons as you instructed me Master. I keep it fresh and await your command?

Perched on a hard grey boulder she continued to stir the pot so that the potion of swirling putrid oils did not settle. She would gladly let the fire die down in this blasted heat, and bottle the vile liquid but instead she had kept it fresh while patiently waiting for her Master’s contact.

As I have suspected for some time, the Emperor sounded pleased, there is a new Changeling living in our time.

‘Can this creature serve you Master, in your plans?’ Rikka said aloud, her lonely voice echoing in the damp cave.

I do not yet know the Changeling’s identity, the Emperor admitted. This displeases me. I hold information that Prince Leon of the human royal family is closely connected to this Changeling. It may even be him. I wish for you to instruct your seed Fedros to go directly to Lairkland. There he will enter the Royal City of Beldroth, he commanded. He will feed the poison to the guard who watches this Prince’s chambers. He must then obtain the duty of this guard, so make sure he is ready for this task. I desire him to stay close to the Prince until I instruct otherwise.

‘And meself Lord?’ Rikka asked jealously. ‘What part am I to play in this plan?’

None yet, the Emperor replied. You will go and find a village in Lairkland. I expect you to execute the deaths of as many souls that you can feed to me. My strength needs to grow in preparation. Chaos will shock this slumbering world. Go do my bidding, the voice echoed in her head. You and your seed have served me well thus far. My revenge on the race of creatures who seek to detain me in this damnation, is near.

As her Master withdrew his Mindtalk, Rikka toppled off the large boulder and hit the cold hard floor with a painful thud on her brittle bones.

Where was that stupid oaf, she wondered? Closing her wrinkly eyelids she recalled the corpulent image of her son so she could Mindtalk him to hurry, their journey was to begin at last.

Fedros awoke abruptly with a sensation of angry bees buzzing around in his head and devouring his brain. Recognising the unpleasant familiar touch of his mother stabbing at his wits with Mindtalk, he had no desire to listen to her ramblings. He thought drearily that it must be time to return and rolled heavily on to his side to ready himself for standing up. Unsteadily, he retraced his way back, forgetting completely why he had come here in the first place.

Rikka greeted him with a look of surprise. ‘Where’s the wood ye lout?’

‘Wha... Oh yeah, I had some but lost it when I saw a dragon flying over me,’ he lied, perfectly aware that he had forgotten to collect any, in his sleepy state.

‘It’s as well that I don’t need it then, for your sake, is it not?’ she leered.

‘So you sent me, knowing I had to melt under that hot sun, for nothing,’ his temper flared.

‘No, you fool. Of course I needed the wood then, but the Master has now given me new instructions.’ Rikka was eager to move on. ‘Seeing as ye have already rested, I suggest that we set off now so that we can get the Master’s plot in motion.’

‘It might help if you let me know the details of this plot, if I‘m to take part, that is?’

‘Ye are indeed. The Master wants ye to administer this poison to a guard at the human palace,’ she informed him.

‘Why poison? Why not just murder him, if he’s in our way?’ Fedros asked, unsure why his Master was being so cautious.

‘Our Master seeks to be discreet, so it must appear to be an illness. No suspicions are to be raised. The guard in question protects one of the nobles while he sleeps and ye are to replace this guard and secure yer position in his duties. This Prince is of importance to our Master, so mind ye behave,’ Rikka warned her bloodthirsty son, aware that nothing cheered him more than a killing.

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