“The Penitent Damned” by Django Wexler
(Originally published on io9.)
Duke Mallus Kengire Orlanko, Royal Minister of Information — sometimes called the Last Duke, though not in his hearing — did not look particularly dangerous. He was short, balding, and tended toward the portly, a roly-poly little man with an unfortunate taste for rich purples that gave him the look of a ripe plum.
Nevertheless, it was widely agreed that the Duke was the most dangerous man in Vordan, if not beyond. This was not simply because he was the inheritor of the most powerful fiefdom in the kingdom (though he was), or even because as Minister of Information his secret police, the all-seeing, all-knowing Concordat, had an informer in every shadow (though they did). What gave Orlanko his aura of terror was the certain knowledge that he had merely to crook a finger, and grim-faced men in long black coats would go to the home of the object of his displeasure in the middle of the night and haul the unfortunate away; and more importantly that no one would ever say a word about it, whether the prisoner was a beggar or a peer of the realm. Even the other Ministers of the Cabinet walked with care around the Last Duke.
Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, with degrees in Creative Writing and Computer Science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. He eventually migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not writing, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts. He can be found online at djangowexler.com and via Twitter: @DjangoWexler.
About the Narrator:
Nikolle Doolin is a voice actor and a writer of fiction, scripts, and poetry. She has performed narrations for a number of popular and award-winning podcasts, such as The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify, and StarShip Sofa. She also narrates classic literature in her own podcast Audio Literature Odyssey. To learn more about Nikolle, visit her website at nikolledoolin.com.