Lily turned from Terence and was drawn towards the top of a small barrel. A pair of praying mantis were engaged in a mating ritual when, without warning, the female turned on the male and began to devour him. Lily grimaced at this display of nature’s cruelty.
‘What is this?’ she asked.
‘I’m surprised you don’t recognise him,’ Loven replied, resting one hand on the surface of the barrel and leaning in close as the female mantis continued her feast.
‘Him? You don’t mean…?’
‘I see you finally understand. This is none other than your good friend Oliver.’
Lily looked at the lifeless remains of the male mantis and tried to picture the young, handsome and cocksure Oliver, who had reigned back in Winterwood as the greatest player of heartstrings.
‘How could you do this?’ Lily asked, approaching Loven with her fists clenched but finding him unmoved by her display of bravado.
‘Oliver did this to himself,’ Loven replied. ‘He was easy to break, just like the rest of them. He assured me that Amarstrea was all he wanted but his heart was transparent and I could see his greatest weakness. I offered him a lifetime of beautiful women and he accepted with glee. You think me evil, Lily? Well, let me ask you this. What did Oliver give to the world aside from disease, unwanted bastards and broken hearts? He gave nothing. Oliver simply took without giving anything in return. That is why, like Terence, he suffers the same daily punishment. Every day he satisfies his lust but is then consumed by his mate, a just sentence for all those he has chewed up and spat out once the novelty and challenge of seduction is over.’
Lily felt tears welling in her eyes. ‘What of my sister, Loven?’ she asked. ‘Does she haunt this place as well?’