(Overseer Hillton plays a small role in Through the Balustrade, but his dark heart will cause much havoc in the sequel. The below story is a scene from (spoiler alert) when Hillton “fixes” Roxan up to meet the master. I hope you enjoy this evil character sketch from Through the Balustrade.)
“She’s ready.” Hillton knelt with his face centimeters from the black marble, a mixture of pride, admiration, and hunger filled his veins. His scarlet shawl fell around him like a king’s robe, strategically hiding the enormity of its owner.
“Is she?” The master’s voice said more than the two words he spoke. He toyed, challenged, and condemned, but Hillton didn’t disparage it. The lofty can mock the weak. The strong can tantalize the low.
“Yes, Master. Right down to her painted nails and colored lips.”
Roxan had been a mess to revise, but she had nice skin and shiny hair. The rest could be washed away with a good scrub. Hillton shifted to look at the hem of the master’s robe. Threads of gold on a velvety sea of black. He’d designed it himself. Magnificence.
“And how about the heart?” The question took Hillton off his pedestal of favor. The Master breathed steadily, and the Plateau’s only Overseer to Beautification could imagine his lord’s face. Stern and beautiful, set and sure. His large blue eyes would be focused on his servant, and his chin tilted slightly upward. At a quick glance, it would be a normal scene, but upon a closer look the truth could be discerned. Sheer power perched upon a golden throne, shrouded now by flesh, but so much more roiling inside. Not human, but a god. A true Lord over humanity sat before him and waited for an answer.
Hillton swallowed. Many ways to spin his confusion crossed his mind, but there could be no lying to this luminary of supremacy. “The heart, my Lord?” Perhaps a question would lead him to pleasant feet.
“Yes, Hillton. The heart.” The Master stood and walked around the humbled form. Hillton tensed, a dread creeping into his hope of praise. “Beauty of form blesses us all indeed, but for this one, I prefer the depths of the energy inside of her. Her soul.”
“Her soul?” Hillton barely spoke and lowered his head til his nose nearly touched the marble. His gut protested the lack of space to handle its enormity.
“Get off the floor, you fool, and listen closely.” The Master paused while Hillton pushed and heaved himself to teeter on his two-inch heels. He kept his eyes focused on the black floor and the perilous reflection of his angry Lord. An invitation to look upon his beautiful face had not been given, and this Overseer would not venture to be so bold.
The god stopped and leaned toward him nearly brushing his shoulder with greatness. He hovered there, his presence filling up every molecule.
“Surely, by now you have realized that this—“ He held his decorated hand up to the room. “Is not all there is. I have all of this. I am the Prince of the Oblate. The King of the Age. And yet there are things that I lack.” He left Hillton’s side and faced him. “I lack her heart. The hearts of all of those Outcasts and my little foe Altrist thinks he has them securely in the hand of his lies, but I’m going to change all of that, and that girl is going to help me.” His breathing changed. Angry power melting into a weighty smile.
Hillton still dared not look. He just imagined. He imagined the glorious face of his Lord.
“So don’t merely give me a pretty girl. Prepare her heart to be delivered into my mouth. A succulent feast of goodness dying one more time. I want all of her, not merely a devoted Guardian, but one who will rise up and defy Him and worship me.”
“Him, my Lord?” Hillton regretted asking the question before he was finished saying it. His feet lifted off the marble and a fury suspended him, his glorious robe fluttering in the air. “Oh please, Master. I did not mean to offend. You alone are the Master. There is no other. For the good of all we give ourselves.” He chanted the mantra again, then choked on the word good and couldn’t continue. The lie had not escaped him. It just fed his admiration.
Satisfied, the Master let him drop. “Go now and do what I’ve asked.” He turned toward the inner chamber, and Hillton watched that glorious hem retreat from view.
Just before the gold-plated door snapped shut, the devoted servant ventured a forbidden glance. To look upon the Master was a privilege offered, not one stolen, but the magnitude of the interaction propelled him, and Hillton watched as the Master shifted from flesh and bone to scale and fury.
“Outstanding.” He sucked in the air where the last remnants of his master had been. “And so there is another.”
Hillton tapped a chubby finger on his plump lips. Stories of Altrist and Olivope had carried around the Plateau, but never had there been mention of another. Did the two answer to this other lord? And why the great animosity? Perhaps these were questions to be left unspoken, but the seeds of them took root in Hillton’s soul, and a smile made its way onto his full face.
What of this other lord? Had he power and wealth? What kingdom did he own? How had this adversary found his defeat? Yet still, this owner of hearts plagues the master, sending girls to fight his battles and peasants to wage his war. Has he never been tempted to enjoy the master’s majesty and splendor? Has he never been challenged to display power and dominion? Has he never been finished to fight no more? How did the confrontation play when he stood before the master to hear, “Bow, my servant and worship your Lord Hyperion.”? Hillton turned on his heel and headed for the cells. Perhaps another look at this girl would bring some answers.