FROM: First Sergeant Alexander Rahl
RE: The Lady”s Hand: Part One
The pain was unbearable, like a million white-hot needles
piercing every inch of his body. He had lost the will to
scream hours ago…weeks ago maybe…he really couldn’t
Alexander lay strapped to the machine that through the will
of its Strangler master caused him excruciating pain from
sunrise to sunset every day for the last year. He had
counted the hash marks scraped on the wall of his cell this
morning. One year of suffering. Ironic really.
As if knowing what was to come, the Lady glided into the
torture chamber up to Alexander’s side and drew her cold
fingertips across his cheek.
“I…” he stuttered in pain, “I can’t take it anymore… I
just can’t…just make it stop…” He broke into tears then,
his sobs being cut short at regular intervals as the shocks
of pain lanced through him.
“I’ll give you the rings…you can have them back…just make
The Strangler manning the device’s controls sneered at the
boy and gave him another large jolt out of sheer malice.
Kishara looked up at him sharply, disdain curling her lips,
and the sweaty man dropped to the floor, dead.
Relieved of the pain, Alexander tried feebly to remove the
Ring of Spirit from his finger, to finally give up the
battle he had fought for so long, but he was too weak. The
Lady laid her small, soft hand over his and gave it a
“Now, now…” she cooed, “There’s no need for that.’
Alexander looked at her curiously, the meanings of her
words not quite registering in his traumatized mind. She
ever-so-gently helped Alexander into a sitting position on
the pallet, and silently wiped some of the sweat from his
dirty brow with the sleeve her sheer gossamer robe.
“I don’t want the rings, Alexander,” she whispered. “You
keep them. You’ve earned them.”
And then the Lady of Darkness leaned forward and kissed him.
His ice-blue eyes widened with surprise….
Time moves differently in Tablenhelm, or so they say.
Faster. And time did pass.
Fifteen years in fact.
His ice-blue eyes narrowed slightly….
General Alexander Mengst, The Lady’s Hand, watched this
newest company of Terath-Ambul silently emerge from the
thickets and form a line in front of their Lieutenant. Not
the best batch he had seen in his years of training his
mistress’ deadliest of assassins, but far from the worst.
During the last month of their training they were not
allowed to make a single sound at any time, even when
performing daily tasks such as bathing. Well over half of
this batch had survived the harsh punishments of failure.
It was a fair number for this final phase of their training.
A gust of wind blew in from the mists that surround the
island, blowing his long auburn hair about. He had
forsaken his topknot over a decade ago. She didn’t feel it
was a complimentary look for him.
A wash of dust blew up into the faces of the Terath-Ambul,
and none of them even blinked. Save one. Private Salmnow,
who had been an underachiever from the start, blinked as
the harsh sands irritated his eyes.
And he sneezed.
The company didn’t move, but they tensed. The eyes of
Lieutenant Serat widened in outrage (for he too may suffer
the consequences if too many men in his unit fail), and
Colonel Tarek in his place beside and a step behind the
General let out an audible snort that pierced the absolute
silence like a death toll.
The Lieutenant did an about-face and looked up to the
General, hoping that he wouldn’t die for his man’s
mistake. The Lady’s Hand showed no sign he had even
noticed, save for the fact that he slowly clenched and
relaxed his left hand, the five rings on his five fingers
rubbing together to create a dull ringing that was washed
away in the sound of the wind.
“Private Salmnow,” he began softly, giving all present a
jolt of surprise at the sound of a human voice, “you have
repeatedly shown weakness during this training regime.”
The young man paled.
“However,” the General continued, his voice now at his
normal powerful speaking level, “you have also shown a
great amount of initiative and intuition; a trait that many
new recruits often lack. Lieutenant,” the man looked up,
paling slightly, “Private Salmnow will someday be a great
asset to our Mistress; but he must be tempered. Take him
to the prisons. There he will remain for one year under
Priest Akumanhir’s tender care.”
The young Private’s knees became noticeably weaker. Death
was better than the tortures of the Priests.
Alexander looked to the man, “If you survive this time,
this…tempering of your mettle, you will be placed highly
within the ranks of my Terath-Ambul. You have my word.”
With a gesture from the General, the Lieutenant grabbed
Private Salmnow and led the dazed man away towards the
tower. Captain Tzech moved up from the cluster of officers
surrounding Alexander and saw to the remaining men. The
General turned and walked away at a fast clip, the officers
scurrying to keep pace.
“Have Lieutenant Serat killed,” he said casually to Tarek
as he paced up the path to the barracks, “make sure he
feels it. I grow weary of his repeated inability to
control his men. He’s wasteful.”
“You’re will, m’Lord…” responded the Colonel with a deep
nod of his head. “Personally, I would’ve had that whelp
killed,” he continued with a sneer. ”He’s just of common
stock. Wasn’t even raised as a warrior.”
The General cocked his head slightly as he walked, “No?”
“No indeed, Lord General. He was raised in the camps as a
blacksmith. Wasn’t even bred really. His mother was a
tailor, made uniforms for the troops. She was used by a
Terath-Ambul after a long and lonely mission and out spat…
that. I can’t imagine why Tzech even admitted him into the
training in the first place.”
“Hrrmm,” responded the General, having slowed his pace a
bit during the Colonel’s discourse.
“And…another reason Lord,” he said, having obviously gotten
the ear of his master, “some of the other officers and I do
not feel the…medicines…affect him as much as the others.
He may become a threat, especially after his time in the
prisons. I wouldn’t be surprised if he attempted to take
out his unsuppressed impulses on you.”
The General stopped suddenly at that and uttered a single
“Whisper!” he said.
The white-jeweled ring on his hand flared to life and
Colonel Tarek jerked to a halt and stiffened unnaturally as
the bonds of air enveloped him.
Alexander turned slowly and walked up to the Colonel, a
soft smile playing across his lips.
“And I, Colonel,” he whispered in the mans ear, “don’t
believe I like your tone….”
The dagger pierced Tarek’s skin slowly, and the man’s eyes
widened as he tried to articulate an argument to save his
“No,” continued the General, “I don’t like your tone very
much at all….”
The knife slid in deeper, agonizingly slow, through flesh
and between the man’s ribs. He jerked within his bonds,
trying instinctually to free himself from his doom. A
panicked gurgle escaped the man’s lips as the black blade
finally pierced his lung. He jerked violently, a pink
froth trickling from the corner of his mouth.
“Shhhhh…” whispered Alexander, gently kissing the man’s
forehead. “Sleep now….”
Another minute or so passed before the man finally drowned,
and the Lady’s Hand silently removed the dagger from the
Colonel’s chest and wiped it on the man’s pristine uniform
before releasing the bonds of air that held the lifeless
He looked up at the blank faces of his officers and aides,
they had seen him kill before, but Tarek had been by his
side for over a decade. One man, Major Thames, did not
have a blank look, but instead a vicious sneer of delight,
having somehow enjoyed Alexander’s kill vicariously.
“Major Thames,” he said, “I take it you agree with my
decision to retire Mr. Tarek?”
Thames leer faded into a purely professional poker
face. “Sir, I did indeed feel his casual tone and
insistence in this issue went beyond the bounds of tactical
and strategic advice, sir.”
“Did it?” responded the General raising an eyebrow, “I
really hadn’t noticed.” He turned and continued up the
path, his entourage scurrying behind him.
“Colonel Thames,” he said sharply, turning his head to find
the man beside and a step behind him, “I sincerely hope
you’re not one to become too…casual.”
“No sir,” responded the other man.
“And Colonel, see to it that Private Salmnow is not killed
outright in the prisons. I look forward to seeing that boy
in a year.”
“You’re will, m’Lord.”
The Lady’s Hand paced up the hill with a bit more spring in
his step than before, anxious to see how The Sackcloth
Rose’s training was coming along.