Cold Light

Cold light stretched across his bed, angling from open windows. He breathed in the chill and turned over, laying an arm across his wife’s waist. Her skin was warm. Adel inhaled and closed his eyes.

He opened them at the sound of soft footfalls. A cloaked figure padded past the edge of the moonlight and paused. A gesture from a gloved hand waved him over. He drew his arm back and pushed himself up, extricating himself from the bed and its mussed sheets. Khelo bowed to him as he stood.

Adel went to draw his dressing robe from its hook. Khelo, with all but eyes obscured by her dark cowl, shook her head. He understood immediately, they were going out. Adel moved instead to the wardrobe, dressing as quietly as he could manage. Khelo faded into a corner and waited.

On the bed, his wife stirred. He smiled at her and the way her russet hair fanned across the pillow. Once she’d quieted Adel pulled on his shoes.

Khelo didn’t follow him through the door. His staff didn’t know of her existence and Adel took pains to keep it that way. Servants talked, no amount of wage, work ethic, or loyalty changed that fact.

She found him under the yellow illumination of a streetlamp. The paving stones were slick but her wrapped feet were sure and silent.  Khelo fell into step behind him without a word. He knew the way now.

The paving stones gave way to dirt and then to mud. Adel walked on, keeping the cowl of his own simple cloak pulled well over his face. At the end of a sharp corner Adel moved beneath the overhang. Khelo reached down to haul open the basement door.

Flickering light from lanterns and candles opened into the street. Adel took the steps, hardening his face as his boots cracked against the aging wood. Khelo folded herself behind him, cutting off their way back.

Inside two men stood, while another sat. The man in the chair sagged against the ropes holding him while his head lolled. Adel noted the captive’s eyelids beginning to twitch into consciousness. Khelo handed him a pair of soft black gloves.

Adel rolled the last of the sleep from his shoulders as he pulled the dark leather over his fingers. By the time he pulled back the captive’s hair the man was wide eyed and awake.

“Do you know who I am?” Adel asked.

The man swallowed and nodded, wincing at Adel’s tight hold on his scalp.

Adel took the thin knife Khelo pressed into his palm, “Good.”

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