First Impressions

Purple clouds swirled on the horizon. From the parapet of the Tower Semalian watched, eyes narrowed. The Takings had been dropping more and more Pilgrims on the outskirts of his Mistress's realm of late. And they only came stranger. He stroked the ghastly head of the displacer beast crouched atop a nearby crenelation. Lightning speared into the earth from the funnel cloud, splitting into a portal, violent and unstable. He sneered at the figures to come stumbling and dazed from that temporary doorway. The Tower bells clanged and the black city came alive with movement. From behind him, a familiar voice spoke.

"Shall i meet them my lord?" Tourmaline was a mystery even to Semalian. The Queen's new Marshal managed to carry a lady's grace in her haunted full plate. He genuflected elegantly, sweeping back his prismatic cloak. "Let them face the gates like any traveler. Should they reach our hall, we shall treat them with all hospitality. So it is written."

"So says the Queen." Tourmaline replied in deadpan. Semalian rose, and uttered a word of Command. Tourmaline disappeared, banished from his demesne until further notice. He scowled. If that woman meant to drive a wedge between him and her Majesty she would rue it. He fixed his attention on the maze of corridors below and bade the streets turn mean and narrow, whispering to its shadows, calling on the Dark Tapestry to turn fate against the trespassing mortals.

Everywhere he saw weakness, foolishness. Everywhere but in his Queen. The Legion needed wit and strength. It could spare no charity.

He picked up an ornate spyglass from the wall and peered down at their furtive advance...