The mid morning light was excruciatingly bright on the open aired palace patio. Mortana squeezed her forehead trying to will her headache away. The heavy arm of Duke Karvon was wrapped around her chest, his slow sleepy breath hot on her neck and smelling of wine. She slid out from under his arm as Karvon slept on without budging. She sat on the edge of the bed rubbing her temples with the tips of her fingers. She was hungry.
Naked, she walked over to the plush lounge chairs overlooking the city of Krist. Before she sat down, she poured herself a glass of wine from a carafe on a small table next to the chairs. She sat down and sipped from the glass. Out of the corner of her eye she glanced movement. It was Karvon’s manservant, a young beautiful man who looked no older than sixteen. He wore only shiny golden silk pants and sandals. She caught his glance for a second before he turned his head away quickly.
“Come here.” She waved him over.
He quickly came to her side and bowed low, “Can I be of service?”
“Bring me something to eat. An orange, mango, maybe some cheese. Yes cheese.”
“Of course. Of course.” He quickly retreated.
She thought about what it would feel like to kiss the young man, but quickly she shoved, that thought away. To play the role of a royal lady she must always show a certain class superiority, but this game she played was growing tiresome. She was much better at killing people than dancing the deceptive game of dissembler. She didn’t like how it required a higher level of danger either. As an assassin she could move under cover of dark, punch a poisoned crossbow bolt in someone’s chest, and then get out. Clean, simple, safe. Dissembler required another level of deception. Social deception, the art of the actor, and seduction were her tools.
Social deception required her to meet more people than she was comfortable with, everyone with the potential to expose her gambit.
Acting on stage had always been fun for her. There were no consequences. If you mess up maybe some slight embarrassment, but most mistakes go unnoticed, and if they are noticed most of the time would get a laugh. Win win. The cost of making a mistake as dissembler was death. No do overs. Done.
Seduction proved easier and at times enjoyable. She could bait the royal pricks with not much more than a glance, then deny their advances until they were drunk. These men were used to having anyone they pleased, so the cat and mouse game drove them crazy and sunk the hook deep into their flesh. She did have to be cautious about their wives and consorts. Catching the eye of one of them could lead to public execution, so she made sure to charm them as well.
The slave returned with a platter of grapes, sliced oranges, mango, strawberries, and three colors of cheese. He set the platter down on the table next to the carafe.
“Anything else?” He folded his hands behind his back.
He hurried off again. She grabbed the platter and set it on her lap and went to work. The slave quickly returned with a glass of water. She reached out and grabbed it from him before he could set it down on the table. She drank deep as drips of water dribbled from her lips and landed on her breasts. The cool water felt good in the morning heat. She finished a few more strawberries and grapes, and rose to find her clothes. She quickly slipped on her silk robes that were laying next to the bed. Karvon was snoring now, his head back on the pillow and his mouth open. She thought about what it would look like if she pinned him to the bed with a sword through his open mouth, blood trickling down the corners of his lips and pooling on the white sheets. Maybe, she would get the opportunity sooner than later. She needed to seek out her friend Chalk.
Chalk finished his prayers, and blew out the candle sitting on the outstretched hand of the statue of his beloved, the Matriarch Selovinus. She was the female aspect of the blood gods, and represented life in the aspect of wild animals. Often there were statues of her as a female antelope . Other devotees, in dark threadbare robes, lay prostrate or kneeling in front of the eleven gods and goddesses that formed a circle in the middle of chapel facing outward. Chalk stood and walked silently across the circular hardened clay floor of the chapel. The ceiling was a low dome that sat squat about two feet from the floor at the edge. As Chalk reached the edge he had to lay flat and crawl outside onto the hot rocky dirt of the desert. From outside the chapel looked like a giant mushroom cap rising out of the desert with skinny hard packed paths stretching away from the chapel in all directions. Chalk chose the path that headed out into the desert away from the walls of the city of Krist. He threw his hood over his pale white head to protect from the blazing sun and wrapped white cloth around his face revealing only his red eyes.
As he walked along the path, he could see in the distance to his left the crowds of people surrounding the Well of Sisters. Nomads with camels, women with goat stomach water bags, and children playing tag among the crowds all staying close to the source of life, precious water. Chalk had filled his bags the night before, so had sufficient water waiting for him at home. He quickened his step at the thought of home. A cup of water along with a few puffs of spider weed sounded glorious at the moment.
Moments later Chalk came to the edge of a bank that overlooked a small ravine. He paused at the edge and looked back towards the city that looked like a tiny shallow boat floating on a mirage. Before he dropped down the bank of the bluff he always checked to make sure he wasn’t being followed. He scanned the horizon and just like every other day there was no one to be seen. He turned back to the bank and leapt down into the rocky bottom of the ravine. He quickly made a sharp turn right and began running across the rocks down the ravine, careful not to miss a rock and risk making a footprint in the sand between the slabs of rock. He bounced from rock to rock with the agility of a cat, and long after he had begun to sweat profusely he reached a solid wall of stone on the left of the ravine that reached about ten feet above the ravine bank. At the corner of the giant rock slab sat a square cut block of stone with a ancient rune on it. Chalk laid his hands on the rune and slowly the edge of the rock cliff began to split open to create a crack large enough for Chalk to squeeze sideways through. Once inside the crack closed behind him. Darkness closed in on Chalk, but he knew every detail about his house, so found it quite easy to walk across the room to where his lamp would be sitting on the small table next to his favorite chair. As he made his way across the room his toe stubbed on a book that was laying on the floor. A sharp sting of fear rushed through his body. He never carelessly left his books laying on the floor. Someone was there.