The auction house was like a wake with pockets of people in somber attire speaking softly as they slowly moved about the room. When the tall man stepped in from outside, they turned for a moment to look, and then went back to their considerations of money and value. The man was a phantom in a black suit but he strode through the crowd with purpose. Only one item here that had his attention, one item that made his presence necessary. With a nod to the young assistant, the man took his paddle and smiled slowly. Forty-four, was he? How appropriate. Settling himself into a seat, he waited for the lot that had brought him here.
“Lot number 1314 is up next. A single hour glass in sterling silver. The bidding will be opening at…”
He didn’t much care what the bidding opened with. His paddle shot up heedless of the asking price. To the man’s surprise, another also bid for that particular item. A young woman in a fine dress and pearls sat a few rows over and held her paddle in a grip so tight that her arm was shaking. It went like this for far too long, the auctioneer beginning to cough. Finally, he waved an assistant up.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re going to have a brief break. We’ll resume the bidding in about ten minutes.”
The rest of the crowd filtered out, leaving only the man and the young woman. He stood, curious to see what kind of woman would be so very determined to acquire that which was meant to be his. She looked up at him as he approached, eyes determined but showing some fear.
“Do you intend to continue bidding against me?”
She stood then, standing to her full five feet in slight heels.
“I do, yes.”
“Why?” He asked, with a dismissive gesture. “What is it to you? A decoration for your home? Another knick-knack to gather dust on a shelf?”
She looked at the hourglass for a moment and then back up at him, jaw set in a tight line.
“I know who you are, Soul-Taker, and I know who and what that is. I won’t let you take him from me. That is my future and my life. I would gladly give anything and everything I have and I am.”
The man smiled slowly, nodding once.
“Take it, child. They will forget they ever had it once it leaves the building. Take him home. And when I come for you, it will be a pleasure to see you again. But I do hope it will be a long time, for a little fighter like you.”
For a moment, she didn’t know what to do, dumbstruck in surprise. Then she grabbed the hour glass and gazed into it, past her reflection. A young man stood there, looking so very proud in his uniform. He was so far away, but now she knew he would come home safe.