Flair sank her lush body into the steaming water with a happy sigh. Her auburn mane tumbled outside the basin where a slave began the daily ritual of washing and massaging scented oils into it. The lovely blend of fragrances that rose from the Paramour’s bathwater was exotic and arousing to the people of the Taesian Empire, as they were meant to be, but to Flair, the scents were warm and comforting and reminded her of home. When the task was done the slave silently placed the vials of oil on a silver tray, which she rested across the wide-mouthed porcelain bowl and empty pitcher. In the flickering light of the candles sat on the floor along the walls, Flair spied the shadow of the slave as she gingerly made her way out of the room before closing her eyes again.
It was a good night. The anticipation of tomorrow’s wedding of Prince Elam to Princess Ambrin, daughter of the High King of Mir had everyone in a festive mood, especially Emperor Grereg. The emperor was always an enthusiastic lover but tonight he was extra vigorous. Flair groaned as she flexed her leg and frowned at the bruise that already started to form on her inner thigh. Well, he would have to be extra good if the bruise was still evident during their next night together if she was to show any forgiveness.
Flair couldn’t help but smile herself. As Paramour to the Emperor of Taesia for the past 10 years, Flair saw the royal children grow and become their own little people and felt the tug of maternal love as if they were her own. Elam was the Emperor’s firstborn who grew into a strong man of fine character and wisdom. During their nights together, Grereg often raved about the boy and spoke of the glittering future he envisioned for his heir.
Climbing out of the tub, she carefully slipped a suppository inside herself to prevent the Emperor’s seed from blooming. It was not that Flair was not worthy of giving her lover a child but the man already had five wives who each gave him several sons and daughters. Any child of hers would come to no importance in this world and the havoc childbirth would wreak on her body would put her out of commission for good.
As she dusted her caramel skin with fragrant powder, a strange sound caught Flair’s attention. In the low light, the shadows played a pantomime of the slave being strangled, her throat slit from behind. Clamping her manicured hands to her mouth to keep from screaming Flair quickly padded over to where her robes lay and threw them on. They were purely ornamental, derived from long strips of wine and gold-colored silk, and made for titillation, not modesty but she didn’t have time to find something more suitable before fleeing from the room.
Her nimble feet flew along the marble tiles in the private hall that joined Flair’s room to the Emperor’s and once she passed through the gauze curtains, she stopped. Spread naked across his massive bed, the Emperor’s greying corpse lay split from stem to stern. Before vomiting, Flair rationalized her lover’s bulging eyes and purple tongue was a direct result of the thick rope she saw wrapped tightly around his massive neck. Dust and ashes, the emperor has been murdered!
Flair stumbled backward, falling against the wall as the curved blade of a knife flashed through the air where she had been. A shadowy figure lunged forward with the momentum, then turned as the marble bust she picked up connected with his head. She charged through the doors of the chamber and into the main hall only to be greeted by screaming and the sounds of tearing flesh and gurgles of death echoing throughout the palace. They were under attack! Who would do such a thing and why?
Hot searing pain bit into her left shoulder. She cried out and spun to find herself in the arms of a figure completely clothed in black, a pair of soulless eyes staring back at her.
“If your quarrel is with the royal family, then let me go. I am no one and nothing.” She said to him.
On occasion, her kind would find themselves caught in the middle of a blood feud or equally unpleasant dispute amongst rival factions. Long ago the government of Sapharnia authorized the statement she recited so that its people can claim non-involvement in the matter at hand and be allowed to walk away safely. Usually, it worked, tonight it did not. The assassin’s eyes raked Flair’s curves before narrowing. She knew what that look meant and what evil plans lay in her captor’s mind.
Though he held her arms with a bruising grip, she brought her knee up sharply between his legs. A steady flow of swear words poured from his lips as he dropped to his knees, silenced only by Flair’s knee coming up again to meet his nose with a satisfying crunch.
Flair ran back into the Emperor’s chambers, down the private hall, and into her own quarters where she paused long enough to load some jewels into a pouch and pull a fur-lined cloak about her shoulders. She leapt over the lifeless body of the murdered slave and ducked into a secret passage devised by dynasties past for just such an occasion. Leaving the chaos and bloodshed behind her, Flair had only one destination in mind, home.