“If everyone isn’t in a line by the time I cross the threshold then there’ll be no dinner for the lot of you.”
There was a bustle of feet as two dozen children ran through the drab corridor to line up before a simple stone fireplace. Their clothes were well worn and they all bore a uniform haircut regardless of their age or gender. At a glance they looked to vary in age from three to twelve, though all of them looked underfed and overworked. Their eyes weren’t the mature eyes of adults or the haunted eyes of soldiers, but neither were they the eyes of average children.
A nervous ripple ran through the line. Every head swiveled to the doorway where a tall man stood beside the rat-featured speaker who called himself the Orphan Master. The master’s given name of Ral Colcot was far less grand and suited him much better. The children examined the stranger with every inch of scrutiny that he gave to them.
“Listen well,” the orphan master announced. “This is Sir Theaspin Rothsgrave and he has graced us with his presence. None of you deserve to even share the same air as such an esteemed lord but he has gifted you all with just such an opportunity. Muster what dignity you have and obey his every word. Is this understood?”
“Yes, Master!” the children answered as one.
Rothsgrave sneered. This ‘orphan master’ seemed to derive great pleasure from his complete command of these children. He was lanky with thinning hair and sunken eyes. A failure of a man who took out his frustrations on the one group of people who couldn’t resist him. Pathetic. Rothsgrave took a step forward, his presence filling the room. Continue reading