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The woman on her knees before him was sobbing. He got so tired of their tear streaked faces, their warbling pleading voices. He took no pleasure in their pain but then again he didn’t take pleasure in anything anymore. Not in food, not in drink, not the soft flesh of a woman. The world held no color, no laughter, only misery.

He held the woman’s ten year old daughter, his gloved fingers digging into the girl’s shoulder. Any tighter and he would snap her collarbone. The girl, not even budding into a woman yet, was crying for her mother. Behind them was a precipice, a sheer drop into the river. Before them was the burning hovel of the woman and her child’s home.

“Please, sir, I beg of you,” Grey looked at her with his gray eyes, but he didn’t see her. Their faces had all blurred together, their voices all sounded the same, irritating. He had no qualms with killing them, with torturing them, man, woman, and child. If only they knew his pain they would beg him to kill them, not to let them live.

“Once again, where is your husband? Sir Nathaniel will not hesitate to throw your daughter off that cliff,” spoke Alistair Tesbel, Grey’s superior, an older, shorter man that Grey. Then again Grey was larger than most men, but Tesbel had not been blessed with height and the top of his head barely came even with Grey’s shoulder.

Snow fluttered around them. Grey hated snow, and detested the way blood looked upon it or the way fire hissed when a snow-covered building was burning. The winter had not been particularly hard, but the harvest preceding it did was not a good one.

“I do not know, my lord,” the woman blubbered. She was shivering in the cold, and so was the ten year old daughter. It was possible it was fear or the cold or both.

“I grow weary of this, Grey, make the girl scream,” Alistair ordered and Grey did as commanded without even a blink, without even a second thought that he was about to hurt a ten year old girl. Grey squeezed with hand on the girl’s collarbone, he felt it snap, sounding something like the breaking of the wishbone at dinner. The girl did indeed scream, a sharp shriek, almost too high pitched for Grey to hear.

The mother wailed louder as the girl trembled now in Grey’s grip.

“He’s in the forest,” the woman finally said. “There is cave due east of the clearing by the Queenway.”

“Thank you, madam,” Alistar replied pleasantly. He turned to Grey. “Throw the girl off the cliff.”

“No! I told you what you wanted!” The mother sobbed finally rising from her knees as Grey turned, no remorse on his hard face, and flung the shrieking child off the cliff. He didn’t even bother to watch as her body splashed into the rapids of the river below. “ELMAH!” She fell in a heap at the edge of the cliff, her face in her hands. “You used to be a good man, Lord Greyson. What happened to you?”

The words were unexpected, and rather clear when all Grey usually heard anymore were the commands of Alistair or on a rare occasion from Usula herself, the rest was a muted fuzz, like the sound made when air is blown over the mouth of a jug, but constant. Grey turned back to her, she was looking at him, right in the eyes.

“Join your daughter,” Grey said in a baritone voice that seemed disused. Grey placed his booted foot on the woman’s hip and shoved her off the cliff. Her scream was only a moment until it was swallowed by the river below. This time Grey had watched, and he turned, his black hair, greasy but still snow flecked, fell over one eye. Alistair was watching him, but said nothing as Grey walked away from the cliff’s edge to mount his horse. He knew that gaze, Alistair was frightened of him, and yet proud of him at the same time. Grey sought no approval from Alistair, but he wondered if Alistair wished he did.

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