A chill wind blew from the Trinsic bay, washing away the jungle’s heat and humidity in short, moaning bursts. It swept ashore and found itself blocked by a large, dark tower. Swirling about, trying to find its way free of the obstruction, the wind blew the hats off a few black-cloaked sentries that stood watch on the battlements, it wound through the drafty halls and shuffled about a neat stack of scrolls in an empty office. The chill wind blew and swirled about until it found a cluttered bedchamber and its lone occupant.
General Debinani Rahl lay awake in his bed, an ancient book standing open in his lap, staring at the simple curtains as they swayed in the unnaturally chill night breeze. There was a palpable stillness in the night, like the calm before a northlands storm. The cacophony of the jungle was subdued, there was no talk or laughing by the men on watch, even the damned cat that Damascus kept around to clear out the rats was blessedly silent.
Between the near-tropical Jhelom, and the jungle environs of Trinsic and his own hold, it had been a long time since he had taken a lungful of chill air. After taking in the moment, the General went back to his book, gingerly turning the page to reveal another wealth of secrets of long-dead leaders.
Some time, a half a candle, and many pages later, he noticed a change had come over the wind. It had come slowly, so slow that he had missed it until that moment. The wind carried with it the stench of carrion and the heady smell of wood and straw and paint aflame. Then the wind delivered sounds of screaming, of battle, and a thousand voices cheering some chant in unison.
The book cast aside, the General rose from his bed, wrapping a blanket around his form and rushed across the cluttered little chamber to the window. He tore aside the curtains and was bathed with a red-orange light emanating from the city across the bay. It was so bright the gods in the heavens above must be able to see it; even across the miles of sea it illuminated the tower and the surrounding jungle as if it were midday in hell.
Trinsic was burning.
The screams came from there, as if the entire populace were being burned in their homes, and the chanting grew louder, an army of thousands was chanting the same phrase over and over:
“MY LIFE FOR HER, MY LIFE FOR HER…”
He scrambled across the room to snatch his jerkin up from its stand, to cry to the watch to raise arms, to muster for insertion into Trinsic, but something caught him short halfway to the armoire. He stiffened, and turned slowly to the full-length mirror that hung on the wall. The reflection that looked back was not his. The man in the mirror was older, a gray streak through his hair. He was clothed in noble’s dress instead of a blanket. He wore a familiar patronizing look and a wry grin, not one of astonishment and terror. He wore a black ring on his finger, and tiny shadows danced and swirled around it in a macabre display. The General approached the mirror, and the reflection approached as well as if it were his own, smiling that wicked grin all the way.
“No…” he growled at the mirror, “this can’t be…this…can’t…be….”
When they were nose to nose at the mirror, the reflection broke form from him to tilt it’s head to the side slightly and grin even wider. It held its finger up to its lips as if to hush the stunned man to silence, and with a sinister glint in his eyes he mouthed the words “Your life for her…”
The General closed his eyes and screamed in defiance.
The screams were gone.
The wind was chill and crisp.
A violet-badged man poked his head through the door at the sound to find the General covered in sweat, sitting up in his bed, looking as if the devil himself had told him a secret.