|Favorite Civic:||Fend for Themselves|
|Favorite Wonder:||Pillar of Chains|
Do you have a name?" the Chamberlain asked her. He had the signs of nobility: the dull yellow eyes, the pale complexion, and most of all, the perpetual sneer. She held back a shudder.
"Taerry, sir," the young lady murmured.
"Listen close, girl. Don't give him your name unless he asks. Don't call him anything but My Lord or Master. And if you ever want to see you family again, do everything he asks. Are we clear?"
"Yes sir," she replied, and the Chamberlain turned away without another glance at her, shutting the door as he did. Taerry allowed herself a few furtive glances around the bedroom as she sat on the very corner of the bed. It was filled with extravangances she didn't even know existed. She noticed silk sheets and curtains, tapestries centuries old and still vibrant, furniture carved from ancient fir trees imported from half the world away, and a tall mirror coated in pristine silver. Taerry know she was out of place as she looked at herself in the mirror, huddled small and dirty in her wool gown.
The door opened suddenly, drawing her attention sharply to him. He made the rest of the room seem as ordinary as the dirt on her boots. He was handsome in a way she had never seen before in the weary folk of her village or the arrogant nobles that lorded it over them. With piercing eyes and a tall, sleek frame, he looked like he stepped out of an earlier time, when men were one step removed from the gods themselves. And he carried himself the same way, with an air that simply acknowledged the rest of the world as belonging to him with no need to prove it.
Taerry felt all the smaller when he stood facing down at her. "Hello child. Don't be afraid," he said. "I'm sure you have heard all sorts of stories about me."
He smiled. "I saw you working in the field, my dear, and asked for you to be brought here. Living in the castle, as I do, can be very isolating. It is not good for a ruler to forget what his people are like. What's your name?"
"And have you a family, Taerry?" he asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. She started involuntarily at his touch, and his eyes narrowed sharply. "I asked you not to be afraid, Taerry."
"Milord, I'm not, it's just... I've not been with a man alone before. Since mother died and my father sent the suitors away so I could help the little ones, I mean."
He grasped her other shoulder now, forcing her to look him in the eyes. "Ah, Taerry, relax. Forget about that now. You don't need to worry about suitors or your parents any more."
She wanted to protest, but she saw the menace in her eyes. "Yes, Milord."
The pain wasn't as bad as she'd been told it would be. After a bit, she let her mind wander, imagining that she was not being taken in this King's bedroom, but rather in her own humble, flee-ridden bed, and that this man was not her King, taking royal prerogative, but her husband-
She let out a sharp gasp of pain. "Master, stop!" The pain in her neck intensified and she felt her blood pour down her neck. She cried again, thrashing around, desperate to get away. The man gave no response to her plea for mercy. At last she fell silent, and the world faded to black around her.
The Chamberlain met him as he open the door to his bedroom, clad in a silk robe. On the bed behind him lay a young girl, her skin drained of all color, lying in a puddle of blood. Flauros wiped his mouth.
"Is she still alive, Milord?" asked the Chamberlain greedily.
"As much as she ever was. Do with it as you will."
Alexis noted his unkempt appearance with a sneer as he walked into the throne room and slouched into his throne. "Must you play with your food, brother?"
"Alexis, if you are around until the end of world, you won't have lived a day in your life with that attitude. Food is to be savored, and there is no flavor quite as exquisite as a maiden with that heady mix of emotions as she's plucked. So did I miss the Kuriotate ambassador?"
"Yes, just. He offered peace, naturally."
"And you sent him home with a 'no'?"
"See, sister dear? I have my games, and you have yours."