The rasp of the whetstone upon the blade hissed into the woodland air, accompanied by quiet humming.  "Some say all the power in the world rests in a man's eyes.  That they serve as windows to the soul," the man holding the knife said softly, still running the whetstone over and over the edge. "Sometimes you look through those windows and find something that is ugly and rotten. Sometimes, you find something beautiful.  Something precious."   The bound form at the base of the tree whimpered helplessly against the gag as the man stood up off the stump upon which he had been sharpening the knife and approached, blade in hand.  "You have such beautiful eyes..."

*  *  *  *

Elsewhere, a  fire crackled merrily in the night, its flickering light illuminating the Quinarian's body that hung from the tree, slowly swaying in the light breeze.  "That's some fine musculature you have going on, my friend," said the man tending the fire cheerfully.  "I've you pegged for the scholastic or clerical type.  Not too much muscle, good marbling.  I wager the meat right below your collarbone will be delicious."  The man stood, tall to where he was eye to eye with the elf, despite the elf's elevated predicament.  Gently prodding and testing the elf's chest and back muscles, he nodded to himself.  "Nonworking muscles.  Tender.  Oh,you'll do.  You'll do quite nicely."  The tall man raised the boning knife he'd been holding.  "Do be a good sport and don't struggle.  It'll toughen the meat."  At this, the Quinarian's eyes finally flickered sluggishly open, only to glaze over in pain as the razor sharp boning knife expertly began to carve and fillet, the fire still cheerfully blazing behind him.

*  *  *  *

Somewhere in Kormyre, a man stood on a balcony, enjoying the cool night air.  "The final preparations have been made.  The last selection has just been confirmed.  We should start receiving reports any day now," he said aloud, as if to no one in particular.  "I have done my part.  The rest is up to the others.  Travance will make a fine setting for our little amusement.  I daresay the rough and tumble people there will provide us with some rather good sport."  The man placed his hands upon the marble railing of the balcony.  "And do inform your master that should things go awry, a suitable contingency plan has been arranged.  No survivors, of course."  At his words, a shadow detached itself from the others by the wall behind him and seemed to dissipate into the night air.  The man on the balcony smiled to himself.  "The game has begun."


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