Author's Note: Just a little 'teaser' to keep you going while I write the next big chapter. This one should set tongues wagging a bit with intrigue! Enjoy :)

Chapter 18: The Price of Failure (Interlude)

Lecas stood facing the heavy black door, knowing that he had to go through it. Yes, he had to go in, but he didn't want to, because he knew there was a very good chance he wouldn't be coming back out again – alive at least.

He had failed.

Well, more specifically the bloodwraith failed. However, since he hired the bloodwraith, he failed by extension, which in some ways was worse. It had seemed like a good idea. Bloodwraiths were known for their viciousness and lethality, and since his master wanted the girl dead and didn't want to be linked to the murder, a bloodwraith bounty seemed the best solution – short of doing it himself that was.

With a frown, Lecas ran a hand through his hair trying to reason that the failture wasn't his fault. His master didn't tell him the girl was a witch, and a powerful one at that. She had to be considering the force required to kill a bloodwraith. He grimaced, feeling his blood pound through his skull. Kill? Hah! The girl didn't just kill it, she destroyed the blasted thing. She didn't even leave enough to properly identify it as a bloodwraith, much less what clan evoked it. Of course, the fact that it couldn't be identified was a good thing, he supposed. Maybe that would placate his master.

Sighing he swallowed hard, still staring at the soul-crushing black of the heavy doors.

No. Lecas knew deep down that one little fact would not absolve him of failure in his master's eyes.

He was a dead man walking.

For a moment he considered turning around and walking away. Maybe he could seek sanctuary at the High Court. While Finnavhar had a reputation as being a kind and benevolent king to his people, he could be cruel where traitors were concerned. Lecas sighed as he contemplated which would be worse, assured death at the hand of his master or a life of torture at the hands of the High King for being a traitor and making an attempt on the human witch's life – both in the Above and in her dreams – acts which violated the rialacha regarding interaction with humans.

Before he could steel himself to open the great black doors himself, they crept open, the sound slow and eerie, like the opening of a tomb.

If he believed in a God, any God, Lecas would have called upon them in that moment. But, being unseelie, he didn't; not that a God would have been able to save him anyway. His God was his master and his master was not a 'forgiving' Lord.

"Come in, Lecas." The low, icy tone of voice made Lecas shiver. Although it sounded like an invitation, it wasn't. It was the sort of command that had to be obeyed. Without willing them, his legs began to move forward into the dark chamber of his master. All around the walls, the shadows shifted and cackled as the goblins lurked restlessly, feeding off the aura of anger coming from their master. Lecas had seen what the goblin horde could do to a person, stripping skin and muscle from bone in seconds. Their hungry yellow eyes watched him as he walked down the blood red runner leading to the great circular throne, where his master lounged, one leg casually thrown over the arm of the throne, brandishing his black crop. Baring their teeth in wicked grins, the goblins slavered at him, cavorting around the base of the throne with anticipatory glee.

"You failed," stated his master.

At the accusation from his master, Lecas looked up and sealed his fate.

When the glowing red eyes of the man on the dais locked onto his, Lecas moaned, a warm flood pouring down the legs of his leather trousers, darkening the carpet in a wet pool at his feet.

Lecas thought he had known fear in his life.

He was wrong.

In that split instant before his brain and body realized he was dead, Lecas had two thoughts back to back – Death wasn't icy like he'd always thought. In fact, it was a heat so searing you could hear your very thoughts bursting into flame. And the stories were true … the Goblin King could kill with only a look.

The glowing red eyes of the Goblin King were the last thing Lecas saw before he disentigrated into ash with an audible crackling noise, only to blow away with the snickering giggles of the goblin horde as their master sneered, "Well…laugh."