I enjoyed this piece, especially the last line, "It appears his face was torn to pieces." However, I got thrown as I encountered three instances of the word "serious" on the very first page, plus a similar word, "somber." Every word on the first page needs to have a purpose for being there. It needs to push the narrative forward in some way. I would suggest that the writer trim down the use of "serious" to one instance. Rather than simply repeating the fact that people seem serious, find another way to heighten the tension on the first page.
The description of the palace was too nonspecific to draw me into the setting. I would suggest highlighting one outstanding thing about the palace--something that's familiar to the narrator, but that underscores its opulence--to bring it to life.
Your thoughts? And while you're at it, can you share some of your personal "story killers"?