Sahal placed the yellowed quill in the inkwell in front of him, and lifted his gaze from the contract he had been reviewing. His jet-black eyes went to the source of the noise that had caught his attention, the opening of the wooden doors leading to his quarters.
The woman had white skin, pale as the moon, and her night-black dress flowed to the ground in a cascade of fabric. At the center of this contrast, a bright red scarf wrapped around her neck gleamed like the largest lighthouse in the largest port of Elessia.
The guards were dead, of course, thought the commander of the largest mercenary army east of the Holy Kingdom. No one would ever have come to him without being announced, were that not the case.
Without saying a word, the woman stepped forward, flanked by shelving where trophies and spoils of dozens of campaigns were deposited – weapons of princes and kings, works of art from the most beautiful palaces, rare books from the richest royal libraries. The corridor leading to Sahal was long, but she did not seem to be in a hurry.
Sahal sat back, leaning against the back of his armchair. Most men would have begun to tremble when they saw that, whenever the woman’s slow pace led her past one of the candlesticks attached to the shelves, the candles would go out. The closer she got, the darker the room became. But Sahal was not like most men, and instead of fear, a white smile blossomed on his face, a face tanned by the light of dozens of suns. He knew who he was dealing with.
Memphalarissala. A creature of legend, perhaps the last higher vampire in Elessia. Vampires were mythological beasts, of course, almost forgotten in the Elessian folklore. All had been exterminated or forever sealed, many generations in the past. But when the armies of the Daughter of Ice emerged from the icy plains to conquer the northern city-states, some unsuspecting soul had broken the seal that imprisoned Memphala in her eternal slumber. And now, perhaps for the first time in millennia, a higher vampire walked among mortals.
Almost nobody in the world knew about it, of course. For the common mortal, the supernatural existed only in story. But for Sahal, knowing what no one else knew was a key element for survival. And so he smiled as the legend advanced, but his right hand rested on the pommel of a silver dagger.
The vampiress halted in front of the desk where the commander of the Ravens of the Sands sat. The flame of the candle resting on it trembled, threatened to go out, but was not quenched. It was now the only light in the room, and it illuminated the irresistible silhouette of the woman in black.
Without a word, moving her arm as swiftly as a viper strikes, Memphala threw a cloth sack on top of the papers resting in front of Sahal. As it landed on his desk, the sack opened, and from it exploded a tide of golden doubloons, which flowed into Sahal’s lap and onto the floor.
Sahal looked at the vampire, raising an eyebrow. And his smile doubled in size.