Dieter Helsm entered the dark hall and looked across to the tall man at the far side, staring out the window over the dark courtyard beyond. At the man’s feet a black panther stretched languidly, raising his head to observe the intruder. It’s master, however, stayed as still as a statue.
“Welcome, number thirty and seven. How has your trip gone?”
The voice low was low, measured and hypnotic and it seeped down Dieter’s spine and sent cold shivers down his back. His eyes dropped to the ground of their own accord, they way they always did when looking at the man in black.
“Very well, Sir. Everything has happened as you predicted. I have left the the apparatus where you asked and you’ll see in my report that—”
The man’s right hand rose a fingerswidth into the air and Dieter’s voice died in his thraot.
“I was not referring to something as simple as that. I had no doubts that would turn out well. What I was asking was if you enjoyed your first trip on the zeppelin.”
“Yes, Sir. It was…interesting.” Sweat pricked at Dieter’s brow and he could feel it trickling down the back of his neck. It was a cold sweat that turned his hands clammy and dulled his mind in what he called nerves, but was more accurately terror. Not for the first time he wondered what went on in the other man’s mind. Neither the principality of Gabriel nor the Empire knew anything about his master, and even an entity like the Lord of Nightmares, Malekith was more a marionette when compared to the schemings of the man in black.
“I am glad to hear it,” his master said, the words slipping through Dieter’s brain like a rake. He wondered what that meant. Or what exactly his master was glad of. How far down did the labyrinth go exactly? Did he even want to know?
“Now we can proceed to the second phase of our preparations. It will be very…interesting to see how events will unfold.” The panther rose from the ground and rubbed itself against his master’s legs, and the man in black tapped its nose in annoyance, causing it to settle back down at his feed. Then Dieter heard the man turn and footsteps approached him.
He kept his eyes down but when the other man passed him he looked up for just a moment, and stared into his master’s eyes.
The wave of cold that washed over him had nothing to do with the terror that threatened to buckle him at the knees. Or maybe it did. It was hard to tell.
This post was written by Matthew Lang and Eike Germann