Friday, January 30, 2009



“Well,” said Flavius after an uncomfortably long pause. “Bit of water under the bridge since I’ve last been seeing you, eh? How’s life been treating you, then?”

“It is as you feared, Your Imperial Majesty,” Papantzin said, ignoring Flavius. “The Sajal has debased herself with the lesser-sentient.”

“If Your Imperial Majesty would--” Anacaona began, but the Empress Malinche raised a hand, cutting her off as she entered the room, closing the door behind her.

“I’ve never entirely grasped how it is that the imperial cousins are always so eager to bring scandal down upon themselves with this impure fixation on... beastiality,” Empress Malinche said easily as she walked over to Flavius.

“Disgraceful,” muttered Papantzin.

“Hold on, now,” protested Flavius. “Nae need to talk that way about me! I have seen ya starkers, after all. And a whole lot more that I cannae remember...”

“His Imperial Majesty said you had no memory of the affair,” gasped Anacaona in surprise.

“People don’t always tell the whole truth, now, do they?”

Empress Malinche stepped in front of Flavius, so close he had to stop himself from flinching back. Her manner was light, but he could almost feel the heat of her rage lurking beneath the surface. The Empress examined his erection with pursed lips, then ran her hand across his chest. It came away glittering with a dusty sheen. “Oh my. This is most distressing. You’ve shed your passion all over him, Sajal...”

“Anacaona,” Anacaona said. “Your Imperial Majesty knows very well who I am, third cousin--”

“Debased Sajal should know to hold their tongues in the presence of Her Imperial Majesty,” Papantzin said.

“Gently, dear Papantzin. Sajal Anacaona is obviously beholden to her more primitive urges. We mustn’t judge her too harshly. This defect sometimes manifests itself among the distant cousins where noble blood runs thin,” Empress Malinche said, rubbing her thumb and forefinger together thoughtfully. “The only decent thing to do is to protect her from herself. Tell me, Papantzin, do we know of any likely candidates for a union?”

“Nu’n Huyng comes to mind,” Papantzin answered.

“Ah! Perfect! Nu’n and Sajal always do make exceptional marriage pairings. Their unions are always so vigorous.”

“No,” Anacaona said, eyes wide. “You can’t do this. You can’t condemn me!”

“Anacaona, think of this as an act of Imperial generosity,” Empress Malinche said gently. “Think of the scandal. You’ve irredeemably tainted yourself. What citizen in the Eternal Dominion would consent to union with you after you’ve spread your sheen all over this lesser sentient?”

”His corpse fucking glowed when they dragged it out of your bedchamber!”

Silence descended like a vacuum, sucking all the air out of the room.

“You... you...” stammered Papantzin finally, “dare to slander Her Imperial Majesty so? In front of the lesser sentient? The penalty for those words is--”

“Death?” Anacaona offered. The Sajal was trembling, but uncowed. “Her Imperial Majesty has already given me a death sentence should she follow through on her threat to force my union with Nu’n Huyng. I wonder what the unfortunate Nu’n has done to earn her disfavor?”

Papantzin struck quickly. Flavius jumped in surprise. Anacaona lay on the floor, bleeding from a nasty gash running from her cheekbone up to her scalp. Flavius eyed Papantzin warily. The handmaiden had moved so fast he hadn’t seen the blow land. The notion crept into his mind that she might be somewhat more than a mere handmaiden.

“Hoo! Nae need to be getting rough on my account,” Flavius said, easing on his kilt. Not an easy task, unwilling as he was to unbuckle his swordbelt to do so. “Why dinnae we sit down and discuss this over a pint?”

“An interesting suggestion, friend Flavius, although I don’t believe the Sajal will be joining us,” Empress Malinche said, rubbing Flavius’ bare shoulder with her over-jointed fingers. He pulled on his shirt then, using it as an excuse to slip from her grasp. “She has overstepped herself by a wide margin, and needs time alone to contemplate her transgression.”

“She means I get a knife in the back and a toss over the side of the palace walls,” Anacaona said, wiping her bloody cheek. “She can’t stand it that I bedded you out from under her.”

Papantzin hit her again, a lightning strike to the opposite side of Anacaona’s face. Anacaona cried out.

“Hey!” Flavius shouted, and lunged to interpose himself between the two. In an instant, he found Papantzin’s hand at his throat, holding him with more force than he’d thought possible.

“Flavius, take me with you,” Anacaona pleaded as she used the bed to push herself to her feet. Blood streamed down both cheeks now. “She won’t kill me in front of you, because she still wants you in her bed. But I’m dead the moment we separate. Please, let me travel otherwhere with you.”

“Friend Flavius, do you really take us to be so barbaric?” Empress Malinche said.

Flavius managed a strangled wheeze in response.

“Oh, yes. Papantzin, let him go.”

Papantzin released her grip, and Flavius took a staggered step back, rubbing his throat.

“Her venomous attacks on my person must not go unanswered, but all justice is even-handed and well-considered. Papantzin will escort the Sajal back to her suite while you come with me to the Imperial wing. I’ll show you we really are a genteel and loving people.”

“She’s jealous and selfish and loathsome,” Anacaona said. “It’s not enough that she had you to herself for four days last time, she has to possess you again this time as well.”

Papantzin moved to strike Anacaona again, but this time Flavius was ready. In an instant, Memory came unsheathed, its gleaming edge interposed itself between the women.

“There now,” Flavius said. “Nae need to punctuate everything with fisticuffs, eh? As I was saying before-- Wait, did ya say four days?”

“Do not--” began Empress Malinche.

“Four days. Give or take,” Anacaona said, matter of factly. “Then they tossed your body over the wall.”

“That’s nae how I heard it,” Flavius muttered.

“I’ve tried to be tolerant, but your insolence...” fumed Empress Malinche. “You should not have bedded Flavius.”

“It’s not like you left me many alternatives, Your Imperial Majesty,” Anacaona shot back. “You’re the one who had all the peq castrated, after all.”

“Whoa there! I dinnae need to hear that.”

Empress Malinche closed her eyes and breathed deeply. “Just so,” she said softly. “Papantzin, kill the Sajal.”


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