Garthort sat in his worn armchair and sighed. It had been a long day. Of course, they were all long days right now. The search for the rift continued and it was dangerous slow work. A dozen Griffin-Riders had been lost so far and yet more went out.
After a day and a half of pouring over arcane tomes and consulting with other wizards, Dansey Bigbritches insisted he take some rest. A small apartment had been provided for him. While nowhere near as opulent as his former keep at least it wasn’t a dungeon cell.
The furniture was mismatched and clearly had been taken out of some storage room. The table had stains from cups, the upholstery was a bit threadbare at the corners, and the armchair creaked every time he sat or got up. And yet, he found it… Cozy.
This was not a word that he had used often in his life as a fell wizard. Not a lot of call for cozy when you’re plotting evil deeds. However, given the horrific state of the land having a little place he could call his own was comforting. If he had been a nautical man, he might have called it a safe harbor. He wasn’t, so he didn’t. But you get it.
Pulling back the napkin on the tray that had been left for him was dinner. A sausage and some roasted vegetables. He hadn’t eaten for a while. Time flies when you’re trying to keep the Land from being consumed by hideous creatures from the outer realms. He was about to tuck in when…
“Are you really going to eat that?”
Garthort yelped and dropped his fork. Hovering in the middle of his chamber was Darvinia. Well, an astral projection of her. He could tell because of her pale blue translucency.
“Why, are you hungry?” he asked as he picked up and fork.
“I just thought it might be poisoned.”
“Yes, of course! I was captured, held for months, and persuaded to help save the Land, only for them to poison me before the job is done. Brilliant!”
“Well, you’d never see it coming.”
“What do you want?”
“I just thought we might have a little chat. For old times sakes,” she said in a nearly sincere tone.
“When you say ‘old times sake, do you mean like when you kicked me out of the Society of the Night?”
“Nothing personal, just politics.”
“Politics is nothing but personal!”
Garthort wiped his fork with his napkin.
“Are you going to use a fork that fell on the dirty, dirty floor?” asked Darvinia.
“Five-second rule! This fork is fine!”
“If you say so.”
“I shouldn’t even talk to you like this,” he said moving the roasted veggies on his plate.
Darvinia smirked and observed, “Wow! They have you on a short leash.”
“Don’t be stupid.”
“They’ve made you their pet.”
“I am a consultant!”
“You’re literally wearing a collar.”
Garthort took a deep breath to calm himself, and asked, “What do you really want?”
She stared at him for a moment.
“I wonder, are you happy?”
Spearing a hunk of sausage, Garthort observed, “Like you ever cared about anybody else’s happiness.”
“I’m not joking.”
Darvinia floated closer to him.
“So you enjoy your captivity? No judgment. Everyone has their kink.”
Ignoring her, he continued to eat.
“You think you can ignore me, but what if I did this?”
Floating in a tight circle around him, Darvinia began to sing in an atonal aria. Her pitch varied wildly and she avoided any sense of rhythm like she owed it money and couldn’t pay. It was cruel, which tracked for her but also astoundingly childish. Of course, she couldn’t physically harm him in astral form. Emotionally, on the other hand, all bets were off. Garthort finally snapped and shouted, “Are you like five years old!”
“Ooooooooo… I can do this forever! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…,” she intoned then stopped, “Wait. No, I can’t. I’ve got lots of stuff to do.”
“Well then, don’t let me keep you. Goodbye!” insincerely said Garthort.
“I have to admit, I’m impressed.”
“Don’t care,” he said before putting a hunk of turnip in his mouth.
“Okay, sure,” she chuckled.
“Did you come here just to screw around with me?” he asked, “Tick that off the list.”
“No! Well, not just that.”
“Oh, look at time! So sorry you have to leave. NOW!”
“You are an opportunist,” she said with satisfaction.
“What?” Garthort asked while wondering how much longer this would go on.
“I mean your life was pretty much over. Robbed by your own Goblins, out lawyered by Daemon, expelled from the Society, lair sacked by adventurers, and then you get captured.”
“Yes thank you so much, I had completely forgotten all of these shameful moments in my life. Now I can relive them afresh.”
Then Darvinia did something terrifying. She smiled. Not an evil grin, full of the promise of pain and if you were lucky, death. No, it was, there’s no other word for it. Sincere. The sort of smile you might have when seeing an old friend from years past. On her face, it was wrong.
Garthort said nothing, but in his head, all he could think was, ‘Nope. Nope. Nope.’
“You saw a chance and you took it. Some fell wizards would rather die than work with these so-called heroes, but not you. You don’t care about any of that. Now you have the ear of some very powerful folk. Nicely done.”
“That’s not how it happened.”
“Sure. I understand.”
She did not sound as if she did.
“Are we done?” he asked hoping it was.
“Like I said, stuff to do. See you around,” she said as she began to fade.
“Wait!” she unfaded, “One last thing. Remember, there are always opportunities. All you have to do is see them. And act on them. So, two things actually.”
Garthort narrowed his eyes.
“Just a thought. Later.”
And with that Darvinia was gone. From this room. Garthort sat and finished his dinner and mulled.