Just when I think my luck can’t get any worse, it doesn’t. Instead, the Mistress of the Robes lets go of my arm. And as she stands up, she says to me, “Pick up your sword, put it away, and come with me. I don’t have time for this nonsense. And neither do you.”
I stand up with some difficulty, because my right arm still feels a bit numb. So I pick up my sword with my left hand and look to the Mistress of the Robes.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” she says, and heads down the corridor.
I sheath my sword and have to run to catch up. She sees me, nods, and while she keeps walking speaks to me in a low voice. “You and your assistant are a pair of fools if I ever saw any. You excite his lust, and expect him not to do anything about it? Why couldn’t you just fail like the others?”
Trying to keep my own temper under control, I point out, “There’s this little business of being sent off to the galleys as a slave.”
She snorts. “The auditions are a fraud to keep the prince entertained and busy. No one actually gets sent to the galleys. I’ve seen to that.”
I think of what to say, and resort to, “Pity you didn’t tell my assistant that.”
She shoots me an angry glance. “I’m supposed to share state secrets with lying Auspulians? Just what are you people doing here?”
“Would you believe looking for a woman named Chypa the Stranger?” I ask.
That earns another snort. “You have a poor way of doing it.”
I have no reply to that. We walk in silence. Every time we meet guards, they salute the Mistress. When we arrive at the prince’s personal quarters, she simply orders them to let us in, and they do.
What is in front of us is nothing I expected. It’s the prince’s receiving room. It’s gorgeously decorated. The prince himself is splendid in a flashy green and gold uniform with plenty of medals. Standing in front of him is Inacha. She’s wearing a low-cut gown in matching colors that flatters her figure. They make a splendid pair.
There’s just one thing that ruins the effect: the sword Inacha has thrust through the prince’s body, pinning him to the wall behind him. Blood ran down the sword onto Inacha’s hand, and there’s a pool of it on the floor. The prince is clearly dead. And Inacha is standing there, hand still on the sword, with a blank look on her face.
The Mistress of the Robes curses under her breath, and then sighs. “This is going to require some changes to my plans.”