“I find you very vexing Uman.”

Slovenia had bade the captain kneel before her throne. He looked up when she spoke and she thought she detected the faintest hint of fear in his eyes. Why was he afraid?

“Forgive my insolence my liege.” He replied, “I did not intend to offend. I was merely looking out for the safety of my men.”

“I am not vexed by your desire to protect your men.” She said dismissively. “In fact I wish that more of my captains would speak up on matters of strategy. I am confident in my abilities as a general but I am mortal too, I cannot be expected to think of everything.”

She rose from her seat and descended from the raised plinth that supported her throne. She approached the kneeling captain with feline grace and he lowered his eyes in supplication.

“No, there is something else that troubles me.” She continued as she circled him, gently tracing a line along his shoulders with an outstretched hand. “Do you love me Uman?”

“I…that is,” He stammered, caught off guard by the directness of the question but he recovered well. “Of course I do your highness. I would die for you.”

“Be that as it may,” She said stopping in front of him. “That is not exactly what I meant.”

She bade him stand with a soft hand beneath his chin. He rose but kept his eyes lowered.

“If I was to offer myself to you, would you take me?” She pressed her body into his as she whispered the words. She sensed him tense and recoil ever so slightly before he caught himself and responded in the expected manner. It was too late, she stepped back pushing him away.

Israel grabbed his head from behind, pulling it back to expose his neck. With a deft stroke of his dagger he opened the captain’s throat. The eunuch stepped back from the man as blood gushed in gurgling torrents from the wound. Uman flailed around, a look of terror on his face. He fell to his knees again, clasping his hands around his throat in a futile attempt to staunch the flow.

“Fill my goblet with some of that blood before he spills it all.” Slovenia ordered as she walked towards the pile of furs and pillows that served as her bed, not giving the dying man a second thought. “Oh and fetch me that slave, the ebony one with the horses cock. I find I fancy a ride this evening.”

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