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By now Tammy had recovered sufficiently to grab hold of Todd's arm and pull him back from the threshold.

He did not do so, however. He hung back from the door, eyeing it with suspicion and awe. Though none of the light from the hallway seemed to illuminate the world on the other side of the doorway, Tammy could see the man's face quite clearly: his severely angular features, his long, braided beard, black shot through with streaks of gray; his dark, heavy-lidded eyes. He was by no means as beautiful as Todd had once been, but there was a gravitas in his physiognomy which Todd's corn-fed charm could never have approached. No doubt he was responsible for all manner of crimes-in such a landscape as he'd ridden who would not lay claim to their share of felonies?-but in that moment, in the midst of a dark journey of her own, Tammy would have instinctively preferred the eloquence of this face for company than Todd's easy beauty.

The horsemen were waiting on the other side, swords at the ready.

The horsemen were waiting on the other side, swords at the ready.

There was a terrible cracking sound, as the blade cracked Zeffer's breastbone and then the point emerged from the middle of his chest.

Perhaps she was regretting. Just a little.

And while she regretted, (if regretting was what she was doing) Tammy continued to haul Todd after her up the stairs.

The horsemen were waiting on the other side, swords at the ready.

That was not to say that she didn't want Todd safe from this place; from the house and all its inhabitants, especially Katya. So she hauled on his arm again, yelling for him to get away from the door, and this time her message got through to him.

Zeffer threw back his head, and caught hold of the edge of the door with his unmaimed hand. He had his eyes fixed on Tammy as he did so, as though he was drawing the power to do whatever he was planning to do from her. There was a long moment when in fact he did nothing; only teetered on the threshold, his eyelids growing lazy. Then-summoning one last Herculean effort of will-he gave Tammy a tiny smile and closed the door in her face.

Five stairs up, Tammy chanced a backward glance, but Katya was still standing in front of the door.

And while she regretted, (if regretting was what she was doing) Tammy continued to haul Todd after her up the stairs.

There was a terrible cracking sound, as the blade cracked Zeffer's breastbone and then the point emerged from the middle of his chest.

The sight of Zeffer's execution had momentarily distracted Katya from any further mischief. She was simply staring at the door as though she could see through it to the horror on the other side.

The horsemen were waiting on the other side, swords at the ready.

Zeffer threw back his head, and caught hold of the edge of the door with his unmaimed hand. He had his eyes fixed on Tammy as he did so, as though he was drawing the power to do whatever he was planning to do from her. There was a long moment when in fact he did nothing; only teetered on the threshold, his eyelids growing lazy. Then-summoning one last Herculean effort of will-he gave Tammy a tiny smile and closed the door in her face.

She tugged harder on his arm, in the hope of shaking him out of his stupor. Behind him she could see the horsemen approaching the door, their step more cautious now that they were almost at the threshold. Having stopped the door from being closed Katya had stepped away from it, leaving Todd the closest of them all to the horsemen. So close, in fact, that had the Duke so chosen, he could have lunged from where he stood, and killed Todd with a single stroke.

He did not do so, however. He hung back from the door, eyeing it with suspicion and awe. Though none of the light from the hallway seemed to illuminate the world on the other side of the doorway, Tammy could see the man's face quite clearly: his severely angular features, his long, braided beard, black shot through with streaks of gray; his dark, heavy-lidded eyes. He was by no means as beautiful as Todd had once been, but there was a gravitas in his physiognomy which Todd's corn-fed charm could never have approached. No doubt he was responsible for all manner of crimes-in such a landscape as he'd ridden who would not lay claim to their share of felonies?-but in that moment, in the midst of a dark journey of her own, Tammy would have instinctively preferred the eloquence of this face for company than Todd's easy beauty.

For an instant, he lifted his eyes, and his eyes met Tammy's. They had a moment only to look at one another. Then Duke Goga came at Zeffer again and drove his sword through the middle of his back.

Five stairs up, Tammy chanced a backward glance, but Katya was still standing in front of the door.

There was a terrible cracking sound, as the blade cracked Zeffer's breastbone and then the point emerged from the middle of his chest.

For an instant, he lifted his eyes, and his eyes met Tammy's. They had a moment only to look at one another. Then Duke Goga came at Zeffer again and drove his sword through the middle of his back.

Tammy didn't give her a chance to snap out of the trance. She started up the stairs, pulling Todd after her.

Come away, she urged him.

Indeed, if she had ever been in love with Todd Pickett-which by many definitions she had-she fell out of love with him at that moment, comparing his face with that of Duke Goga, and finding it wanting.

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