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The hunter descended the grand staircase, his polished boots echoing off the marble stairs. “So nice to have the opportunity refresh oneself, especially with warm water.” He joined Lord Vangley and his sons below. “But we must not breathe too easily. Rain provides the cover Enura needs.”
“Even with the downpour, there are eyes on the forest,” Vangley replied.
“There is something else, my lord,” said Lawson. “During her visit, I noticed a series of bumps rising from her back. My arm grazed them as she held me close. They were firm, like bone.” He stepped forward. “Enura is transforming; I am afraid we do not have much more time.”
“Or, that whore caught something she cannot shake,” the elder chuckled. “Do not fret, Lawson. Come, have a bite to eat. Olivia prepared something extraordinary for us this evening.”
“Did she?” He forced a smile.
They stepped into the dining hall as servants placed a large silver platter in the center of the table.
“Good evening, gentlemen. Please, have a seat.” Olivia stroked the point of a knife.
“Is everything all right, dear?” Vangley asked.
“Of course, my love,” she smiled, and set the carving knife aside.
Lawson and Laurent exchanged looks, and slowly eased into their chairs.
“So, my lovely bride, what have you cooked up this evening?” said the elder.
“Cheval.” She lifted the cover. “Roasted horse.”
Lawson gasped at the decapitated head before him, garnished with cilantro and tomato ribbons curled into flowers.
“Have you been cooking with almonds again?” Laurent caught the familiar odor.
“As always,” Olivia replied, handing the lid to a servant.
“An interesting choice,” said Laurent.
“So many interesting choices today.” Olivia gazed at her husband. “Lawson, since you are our guest, I would like to give you the eye.” She eased it from the socket.
“For vision and stamina.” She handed it to him.
The hunter tossed the eye across the room, bouncing it off the hearth and into the fire. Dionte and Deverrell sprang from their chairs, snatching the sizzling peeper from the scorching embers.
“Hey,” Lord Vangley protested, but not before Dionte took it in his mouth and swallowed. “What are you doing, Lawson? Horse is a delicacy here.”
“Is this some kind of joke? Feeding me my own steed?” He rose.
“She is the Caspian; the one Enura rode today.” Olivia pointed. “After your visit, the horse was slaughtered. I did not want her to go to waste.”
Lawson took a closer look, and realized his error. “Forgive me, my lady. I believed it to be my own.” He sat down.
Olivia sawed off a slice and set it on Lawson’s plate. Again, the scent of almonds overcame Laurent. As she gave the plate back to Lawson, Laurent snatched it away.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m famished.” He devoured the plate before anyone could object.
Olivia glared at Laurent, and prepared another serving. As she handed it to Lawson, Laurent seized that plate at well.
“My apologies, but I already require a second helping.” Laurent dove in.
The elder gaped at his son as he poured himself a glass of wine.
“And what better way to polish it off than with a glass of sweet vintage?” He swiped the glass from Vangley’s hand, and gulped it down. “Mmm…your legacy exceeds you, father.” He nabbed the bottle and took a swig.
“What has come over you, Laurent? Did the sun fry your brain?” said Vangley.
“I am afraid your wife’s cooking brings out the animal in me.”
“Your mother,” Olivia corrected, sawing down with the knife.
“That too,” he belched.
Dionte and Deverrell snickered among themselves. As they chortled, the smiles slowly melted from their faces.
“What is it?” Lord Vangley looked up.
A mangled corpse ambled forward, gazing at the feast before it.
“Mother?” Vangley exclaimed.