Monday is always the day that everyone in the office gets together to discuss what happened over the weekend. Someone’s gone out of town, someone had a major bender with their friends, and Anya gets held hostage inside a whole country.
Anya wins the “worst weekend ever” award.
Sitting in on an elaborately decorated throne of gold and red cloth, the General waited for them. He was unusually young and looked extremely bored, idly picking dirt out from underneath his fingernails, paying them little mind when they entered the throne room.
“General,” the scary escort announced, “Anya Kerran of the First Kingdom is here to see you.”
“Is she now?” he asked, making no attempt to hide his boredom. He was unusually young looking; Anya would have guessed that he was only a few years older than her, but it was hard to tell with serlael, since they aged much differently than humans. “She was also here last week, and the week before that.” He finally looked up to see her. “Tell me, Anya Kerran, how many times must I see you?”
“Um,” Anya bowed apologetically, “I apologize for the inconvenience, sir-”
“So does everyone else!” He shouted viciously. “I am bored with their games! Just tell me what border town they picked you out of so I can send you back there.”
“I’m sorry?” Anya asked.
“They always send street walking whores,” the General said, “and I assume you’re no different.” His eyes shifted slightly to the side as he took notice of Hidalgo. “Do you incorporate the dog into your act as well?” He asked. Hidalgo’s ears immediately flattened as he snarled loudly, bearing his teeth. “Keep your beast in line!” He yelled.
“Then keep your tongue in check,” Anya retorted calmly, letting Hidalgo creep slowly forward, transforming into an unusually large mountain lion. “But then again, you’re not the real General Markoth, are you?” Hidalgo stopped short of the dais, keeping his eyes on the General who remained unblinking on the throne.
“What brings you to that conclusion?” He demanded. “I could have you killed right now.”
“No you couldn’t.” Anya turned to the scary attendant behind her. “This is a stupid fucking game,” she spat, lifting up the back of her shirt and retrieving the letter from inside of her brassier, “and I’m done.” she pulled the other two letters out of the inside of her pants and shoved all three into his chest. “I’ve done my job,” she snapped her fingers and Hidalgo returned to her side, “now if you’ll excuse me, I would like to find an inn to spend the night.”
“You’re very good, Anya Kerran.” Anya stopped in front of the door. With a wave of his hand, the fake general on the throne vacated the room while the real Markoth pocketed the letters inside his coat. “You’re the first foreign visitor to realize my game.” he smiled making Anya immediately uneasy.
“It’s a stupid game,” she countered.
“A stupid game that keeps everyone guessing,” he pointed out, motioning for her to follow him. “I make it a point to have an open door policy,” he explained as they traveled down several very nice, yet empty hallways. “Anyone may request an audience with me, or simply show up unannounced. Having a double stand in allows me to weed out the real problems from the fabricated or frivolous ones.” Eventually, they arrived at Anya assumed was his private meeting room.
“I’m still insulted,” Anya said, sinking into a chair as Hidalgo settled around her feet, remaining in the big cat form.
“It was merely a test,” he said, “I wanted to see how quick the famous Anya Kerran’s skills of deduction worked.”
“I wouldn’t call my skills famous,” Anya said.
“I would,” Markoth countered quickly. “I have eye witnesses that can attest to your skills working with the hadesus.” He glanced towards Hidalgo, and he responded with a snarl. “He’s not very friendly towards strangers, is he?”
“He’s an excellent judge of character though.” Anya pointed out. “I learned that if Hidalgo doesn’t like you, it’s probably for the best.” Markoth smiled and the feelings of unease returned.
“Then he’s a good judge,” he said, “because I have no intention of letting you leave here alive.”
“If that’s your way of letting me know you have an assassin waiting for me when I leave this room, you’re a really bad General.” Markoth laughed.
“I’m not stupid enough to kill you when your General Vriss has so willingly sent you into my arms.” He pointed out. “Consider this a job offer to say here and train my pack.”
“Pack?” Anya repeated. Markoth motioned towards the guards posted at each door.
“I have an impenetrable fortress only because my most trusted men aren’t capable of human speech.” He explained. “Sadly, their forms are limited and their skills need refining.”
“So you want me to train them?” Anya asked.
“I want you to interact with them,” he corrected her, “I want them to learn from you how a horse and rider should interact.”
“And if I say no?”
“You are free to leave anytime.” He pointed out. “Travel all throughout the Third Kingdom if you want, I will not bother you.” his face went from friendly to serious. “But the instant you try, or even successfully, cross the border, I will have you killed.” They sat in silence for a moment as Anya debated her decision. “Have the night to think it over,” Markoth offered, “in fact have several if you want.” He pulled a small bag of coins out of his pocket and tossed it to her. “Call your mother and ask her about the last time she was in Mexico.” With that, the General left the room.