"Fuck!" screamed Lord Roman like a wounded baby seal, as he recoiled into the foetal position. He continued to scream like a sentient tomato with vocal capacity that had been squashed beneath the boot of a clumsy, drunk farmer, even after the five swishes of gold had quelled the hunger of the wolves by killing them. The hark, hark, hark of a huge crow resounded above Roman's unceasing whimpers and the snarling snouts retreated from the fiery clearing. Roman lashed out at the hand that touched his shoulder with the force of a sheet of paper in the wind.
"Calm down, Roman," said the oval wrapped in black, one fat arm protruding from the dark orb. The arm sunk into the black, before reemerging with a flask of water. Roman got most of it on his face. His mouth managed to collect a few refreshing droplets.
"Thank you stran-" said Roman, before he was dragged to his feet by the orb and whisked inside its cloak.
Roman could not see his own hand. The noise of the world was muffled and consisted only of his breathing and the rhythmic beating of something that made his stomach rise and fall. He dared not move, for what felt like the sweaty stomach of a rotund pig was mere centimetres away from his elbow. Whatever dark pit he was in, it smelled of hot sweat glazed in jasmine. This secondary aroma clearly attempted to veil the outstanding primary one. Perhaps it managed to when a nose was not in such close proximity to the source.
After a while, the darkness began to shoot colours across its infinite chessboard and the concept of time was no longer a concept. Roman felt weightless. His limbs were distant memories. The consistent beating noise became more and more like that of a heart. The thick, rounded chalk colours that marked themselves in arcs across indefinably distant darkness veered toward a more geometric, skeletal construction and soon vaguely swirling geodesic domes came into focus everywhere. In the centre of the polygon matrix was an extremely bright point of no colour that Roman recognised. His gaze was fixed and the longer he stared into it, the higher this wash of energy pushed upwards in, him, not his body, just everything.
A split second before his soul left his body to explore the realm of unseen colours, he was shoved out of the cloak and rolled onto cold concrete. He groaned and as his eyes focused, the giant, pale face of the clocktower loomed over him from the balcony. The only welcome aspect of his harsh new environment was the freshness of the air, which did well to flush the stank of sweat from his nose-pipes. A sweeter smell still flowered, when the end of a shisha pipe was held before him. He drifted up towards the wisps of smoke, seemingly without the help of his limbs, and plonked into a large-cushioned red chair, where he drew deeply on the bubbling pipe and released a slow, sweet cloud as large as the clocktower's face. Well, this makes a change from grovelling to those hungry, four-legged mongrels. He went went to draw again on the shisha, when a silky voice interrupted him.
"What drove you to Arfandol so late in the terrible night?"
Roman, only just made aware of his company, gasped like a small ape and dropped the shisha, which his compatriot picked up, wiped with a cloth and gave back to him. "Trempklin! I thought I recognised that bloody smell, you smelly bastard!" he shouted and held out his hand for a quick shake, "I never thought I'd rest so close to your bosom, for all the wealth of bosoms your patronage offers."
"So eloquent, my lord, as always," he said and passed him a small glass of clear, ruby liquid.
Roman waved his hand. "Oh, my dear friend," he said, missing the quick grimace that flashed over Trempklin's face, "I would very much like to wait a moment longer before entering that zone, if you'll excuse me."
"Of course, you must be shaken after the events of tonight."
"I tell you, Trempklin, boredom does drive a man to insanity," he drew again on the shisha and a cumulonimbus apparated from his mouth, "even with Publin's skill in the art of death, I should have known that the forest was too dangerous. Wait, Publin! What of him?"
"Probably dead, my lord."
Roman sank into his chair and a grieving moan squirmed out of his chest. He slammed his fist on the arm of the chair. Trempklin handed him the glass of ruby.
"No, Trempklin," Roman said, brushing it away again, "I am afraid the night's fiery carnage has left me too sombre for your delights. My actions have led to an innocent, well perhaps not innocent, but a close-friend's death."
"He was merely a servant."
"I'm not like most lords. He wasn't like most servants," he said, standing up, "Trempklin, I would simply like a room for the evening. Nothing more."
"But sir," he said, scrambling in his cloak for some other concoction that might loosen Roman's decisiveness.
"No. No. None of that. It's bed time," said Roman and Trempklin bowed, leading the way into the depths of the steaming clocktower. They delved downwards, spiralling past aromas of sweet, bubbling baths; the laughter of delighted humans; and writhing silhouettes. Unfortunately for Trempklin, none of the scenes stirred an interest in Roman.
At the door of his room, which was warm and fragranced, Trempklin asked to see his payment. Roman nodded and reached into his pockets. He pulled out some fluff and soil. He checked everywhere, but found only bits of twigs and leaves. Due to the lack of payment, another room was suggested. Roman was led down, down, down the spiralling clocktower to a large set of double doors. Two boulders of men grabbed him by the arms, opened the doors and chucked him onto the cobblestones, some of which gave a rough glint of moonlight.
"I risked my life for you this evening, Lord! And you arrive with nothing in return? Bah! The thieves can have you tonight," shrieked Trempklin. He disappeared into the darkness and the giant doors slammed shut. Roman sat on the stone steps, head in hands. For the second time that night, he returned to the foetal position. Just as he was about to curl up entirely, he heard the scampering of footsteps that sounded far colder than the night air.