Slovenia’s battle raiment was a dazzling beacon in the morning light. Israel had been at pains to ensure that the slave responsible for maintaining her armour had polished the metalwork to a glorious shine. She rode on her ebony warhorse, just ahead of her personal bodyguard. A heavy unit of cavalry, hand-picked from the noble houses of the western steppes. They had split off from the main column of her advancing army and were cantering due north into the perpetual dawn of the firewall.

The second in command spurred his horse forward bringing himself level with the Countess.

“Is this a wise move, your Highness?” he said, the gravelly thickness of his voice not quite concealing his nervousness.

“Leaving the line is a great risk.”

“Perhaps, but I have my reasons.” her response was as terse.

“Humph.” the second in command snorted his displeasure.

He knew better than to press the issue though so he changed his line of questioning.

“What exactly is the plan?”

“Nothing complicated.” she replied, grinning impishly.

“If all goes to plan we will have a king’s ransom wrapped up and ready for collection upon arrival.”

The Second in Command was bright enough to understand that she was avoiding giving him any details. He was also bright enough to understand that she had her reasons for keeping him in the dark and that she was not deliberately trying to insult him. He did not doubt his lady liege and had spent enough time in her entourage to have developed a very robust respect for her abilities as commander. He was also very much enamoured by her glamour and the sight of her astride her warhorse, proudly riding before him left a robustness in his groin that was almost painful.

“A ransom fit for a woman such as you would be a levy beyond the means of every man in the realm.”  he said, an equally impish grin crossing his face.

“Flattery, and so early in the morning?” Slovenia favoured him with a warm smile

“I must remember to repay the compliment.”

The Second in Command thought his heart would explode.