Disclaimer & Copyright: This story deals with Adult content like, graphic scenes of violence, sex (between two women yeah), drugs, incest (nothing graphic), heterosexual activity (hinted at but not graphic), any resemblance to any other story is strictly coincidental. If this is not your cup of coffee then go and drink tea. Otherwise read on. Comments to Lucienstclare@yahoo.com be nice this took ages to write and it hurt my head and my shoulders but I would also welcome constructive criticism.
This story is very roughly based on Tomyris (Tiirmirise) Queen of the Massagetae as recorded by Herodotus the Historian in the Histories. The Amazons of legend were supposedly descended from the Scythians and their Massagetae cousins. This story is a blend of fact, legend, fiction and in some places pure fantasy. I have taken some liberties with the customs of the Massagetae. Some I made up and some are taken from Nigeria and Dahomey or Cameroon as it is now known was an African Empire. The Kings of Dahomey maintained an elite bodyguard which was exclusively comprised of women. These female warriors were the only ones the Kings trusted to protect him and his family in the Palace. Palace politics was what actually decided the succession and such women were therefore held in the highest esteem since they effectively decided who would be king.
~The Falcon and the Handmaiden~
She was caught and dragged unceremoniously back to Tiirmirise chambers. As soon as she entered the angry Queen’s chambers, Tiirmirise grabbed her by her upper arms from behind and forced her over to the bed. She literally ripped off her clothing and pushed her face down on the bed, and straddled her.
She took her arms and extended them over her head and bound her wrists with the torn material from her tunic. She then bound her wrists to one of the bedposts.
Tiirmirise was going to beat her at least that was her initial plan. Instead as the girl lay on her stomach shaking with fear, Tiirmirise took deep breadths to regulate her now erratic breathing. She held her whip in her hand and trailed it across her flesh.
She groaned inwardly at the sight of her plump buttocks and the lean beautiful lines of her back and her calves.
“I’m going to beat you!” Tiirmirise said softly. She fully intended to but then as she started stroking Saronne’s plump white quivering flesh she was assailed by a wave of Red hot lust.
She kneaded her bottom spreading her butt cheeks and felt her arousal harden into an unbearable ache that pooled in her centre when she caught a glimpse of her blonde curls and pink slit she found herself gently caressing the blond and sensuously stroking her sex.
Saronne’s legs quivered from the anticipation of the beating. She had no doubt that Tiirmirise would chastise her and she was terrified and aroused. She waited anxiously for the bullwhip the queen held to punish her unprotected body. Tied as she was she felt utterly helpless and vulnerable. She shuddered as the felt the bull whip stroke across her flesh and tensed waiting for sting of the whip.
Tiirmirise went to the chest in the room and pulled out one of her toys. It was a present from Minae but they had never used it together. It was black like her skin and shaped like a penis thick and make from something the Dominion called rubber.
The large protruding phallus felt like skin. The wearer strapped it on over her waist and one part of it fitted over the wearers clitoris with a suction cup and the third piece had a smaller finger sized phallus which Tiirmirise pushed inside her own wet cunt. So that with each thrust the wearer gained her own pleasure, with each withdrawal the suction cup sucked on her clitoris.
Saronne moaned as her aching wet sex was penetrated slowly by the thick black ebony phallus. Tiirmirise left arm was wrapped around her waist holding her tight as she thrust in and out while her pelvis ground against her bottom. It was rough, not particularly painful but it was also extremely pleasurable.
Saronne gasped lost in her pleasure. Behind her she could feel Tiirmirise juices from her sex against her. As she moved in and out of her. Her fingers tugged and pulled at her nipples as they swung with the motion of the fucking she was receiving. “I ought to beat you for running away.” She muttered thickly.
As Saronne’s body responded to the Queen’s increasingly sensuous caresses a whimper escaped her lips as her breath caught in her throat her breathing was so heavy, she struggled for breadth, the pleasure… she was so close.
Unfortunately for Saronne, the Massagetae were a cruel breed and Tiirmirise was no exception. Whilst Tiirmirise was extremely reluctant to physically cause her pain there were other ways in which to discipline a recalcitrant body slave and the Massagetae Queen was extremely knowledgeable about such ways having owned many such recalcitrant body slaves.
They should have climaxed at the same time but Tiirmirise would not let her. Between the Queen’s phallus, tongue and fingers, Tiirmirise used her body tormented her body teasing her until she climaxed several times but she would not allow her helpless slave to do so.
She would skill fully bring Saronne to the edge again and again but would never let her fall into the abyss of fulfilment.
Her senses became heightened, she screamed, pleaded, begged, cried, cajoled to no effect. All she wanted to do was come yet Tiirmirise seemed to know just when to stop and start again turning her into a quivering sex starved wreck.
Eventually she released Saronne from her position on the bed and after having her kneel and lick her sex so she climaxed again. She then motioned for Saronne to get into bed so they lay spoon fashion, the phallus inside her,
Saronne’s hands still tied behind her back. Tiirmirise cupped her sex with her hand. The only way Saronne was going to find any release was to rub herself against the Queen’s hand and Tiirmirise knew it.
At first she lay still hoping that the Queen would fall asleep and she would find her release. However Tiirmirise other hand would squeeze one of her nipples, or caress her cleft stimulating the sensitised bud between her womanly folds or she would simply slide slowly in and out of her and stop.
“Please…Please…” Saronne begged almost whimpering with unfulfilled need.
“You know what to do slave.” Tiirmirise said coldly “take your pleasure.”
Saronne closed her eyes and felt a tear fall, slowly she moved against Tiirmirise’s hand now afraid to show her pleasure in case the Queen stopped but Tiirmirise did not and Saronne surged on to reach her climax at last crying out her pleasure and Tiirmirise watched her climax. Yet even when she was at her most vulnerable and her weakest she still refused Tiirmirise kisses determined to keep a part of her separate.
Tiirmirise cut her bonds and took off the phallus. In the night Saronne turned into the Black Queen’s body for comfort and cried herself to sleep. Yet the Queen’s reassuring arms and gentle touch were to soothe her troubled state.
Tiirmirise was absolutely furious with Saronne for attempting to runaway. She did not hit her. She couldn’t, she did not particularly like hurting her slave. Another major annoyance since Tiirmirise had never had any problem using capital punishment to discipline slaves before.
Instead she had her taken to the goldsmith and had her pierced. Her ears sported gold earrings, just like the queen’s, her nipples now had gold nipple rings and gold bracelets and anklets adorned her wrists and ankles. Her generals were horrified and Candace made her feelings clear.
“Do you know what you have done?” She fairly shrieked at the petulant Queen.
“What have I done Candace?” The black Queen sneered. Saronne sat in a corner of the room crying. A sheer silken robe protected her modesty. Tiirmirise was still angry. I have treated her very well and she decides to run away.”
“I was not running away, I just wanted to get away!” Saronne cried forgetting that Candace was present.
“Runaway getaway what is the difference!” She threw her hands up in the air exasperatedly. “Do you know what they do to run away slaves in Ado? They break their legs.”
“Maybe I should break her legs.” Tiirmirise said to no one in particular.
“That would be infinitely better than giving her gold nipple rings. Dreaded Lady I know you are angry but only married Massagetae women wear gold piercings. Slaves do not wear gold piercings of any kind!”
Tiirmirise whirled round and glared at Candace. “Get out and take the little slut with you.”
Saronne wept. Candace tried to comfort the slave. Candace unlike Tiirmirise had grown up in the bosom of a loving family where slaves were a part of the family. That she had chosen a military career did not impact on the fact that she had a stable up bringing.
Whereas Tiirmirise had been born into a family of over achievers, Candace had been born into a well balanced Massagetae family. She had not lived through assassination plots and was not married to a weak conniving husband who had to try and keep his head and family alive through a maze of intrigues and plots.
She had a Massagetae wife, who wore her gold piercings proudly and willingly, but she also understood that being stolen from your home and forced into a life of slavery was not easy.
Eventually when Saronne stopped crying Candace made her something warm to drink. “ You know you should not have run away. Anything could have happened to you out there.”
“I know.” Saronne sniffed.
“I wasn’t thinking I just wanted to get away and….” Saronne subsided unable to say another word.
“The only way you can be free is if Tiirmirise herself frees you. Even if you were to steal money and escape and you were caught especially in Sarmatia you would indeed have your legs broken and not even Tiirmirise could save you as she did today.”
The time had come for her to accept that unless Tiirmirise freed her she would become a slave forever.
After Candace left, Saronne began to wonder why Tiirmirise was so cold unfeeling and cruel, why could she not be kind like Candace. Unable to control her emotions she dissolved once more into tears and could not think, she kept forgetting that Tiirmirise was a brutal evil woman, capable of great acts of cruelty.
Well into the night the door of the room she shared with the other Massagetae women slowly opened to reveal the Queen in all her terrible glory. The other Massagetae sat up immediately and she cleared her throat.
"Saronne," she commanded. "Come back to my bedchamber now." It was a demand. As soon as she said it, the door closed. She left without looking back. Saronne took her time, she felt sulky, surly and rebellious. Tiirmirise herself had ordered her out of her bedchamber she could wait until she was good and ready.
Saronne got up and was embarrassed to be escorted to Tiirmirise’s bedchamber by two grinning Massagetae women. She found the Queen lying in bed. She climbed in on her side defiantly keeping her sleeping cloth on. When she looked over at her, she was naked. She was also staring at the ceiling and had her arms folded under her head.
The torches burnt flickering in the breezy night, illuminating the chamber well enough to give her a good look at the Queen’s face. The Queen stared solidly at the ceiling looking straight upwards. She noticed the Queen’s jaw moving almost as though she was grinding her teeth. It was almost as though she was ravaged by some sort of emotion.
What was she thinking Tiirmirise had no emotions she was a pitiless, merciless warrior queen she was probably plotting another diabolical scheme of some sort. She risked another glance at her, she did indeed look troubled and then when she realised she was being watched it was replaced by her mocking smile. Her arms reached for her and Saronne closed her eyes and surrendered herself to the gentle lovemaking that followed.
When they reached the border of Sarmatia, Nnandi sent her a message. Prince Spargapises is being held prisoner in the palace dungeon at Ado and the Council had named her co-regent with Ninyas.
“That must really piss him off! Candace you must go and gather intelligence. I will need to know what is going on in the capital. Unfortunately I cannot keep you by my side. Send a message to Makeda ask her to join me. We will let you know what we have decided.”
“Where you command I obey, Your majesty.”
Tiirmirise rode to the Palace of light in Ado. The first person she consulted was Bierae. Although young she had Qastursh’s political astuteness and insight. She had grown up on palace politics all her life and although she was young Tiirmirise valued her opinion. They would need to move carefully if she were to survive this time at all.
“So I am Co-regent with Ninyas. That must have really set the cat among the pigeons.”
“Well the threat of the Dominion army is very real and Ninyas is not known for his military genius. The viziers need you as a balance against the faction of Vayanes and Ninyas. Already some nobles feel they are getting too powerful.”
Tiirmirise nodded thoughtfully.
“There are a few other matters I wish to discuss your majesty.”
Tiirmirise frowned “Bierae what is this? Always in private you have called me by my name? Have I done ought to offend you?”
“No it is just that whilst you have been away other things have happened.”
“Spargapises and Pradae have been having sexual relations since they were children.”
“No!” Tiirmirise was horrified.
“Yes and Ninyas knows.”
“How did he find out?”
Bierae sighed “It was my fault. I was long promised to Prince Volpi. A prince of one of our tribes. He is strong handsome and vigorous. But he does not want me he wants Pradae. In my jealousy I told him of their relationship and he challenged Spargapises to a duel before father’s death. Spargapises won and Volpi was injured.”
“You would say that!” Bierae said disgustedly
Tiirmirise cleared her throat “Continue.”
“Well Volpi was injured and I think he might have told Ninyas.”
“Then again he might not.”
“I’m sorry Bierae but I will have to marry Pradae off to Volpi before this scandal breaks.”
“I was afraid you would say that.”
“You would make a very good vizier.”
“You would make me a Vizier?”
“Why not. You are of royal blood. Pasiphae commands an elite Massagetae unit, Minae is a Princess of the Simian and as you cannot hold the throne I have no doubt you will always have Samartia’s best interests at heart.”
“I notice you said Sarmatia and not Spargapises.”
“The two aims a very different. I believe only a person with your experience of diplomacy and intrigue can appreciate the difference.”
“Now I know why father loved you so much. You seem to be clearly focused on the most important things.”
“So no broken heart over Volpi?” Tiirmirise teased
“You know I really did not want to marry Volpi. I wanted the chance to be able to plot and intrigue which you have given me. Volpi is like Spargapises not much good at plotting and intriguing. I thought I could compliment him but his powerful mother would never tolerate an intelligent wife as you well know.”
Tiirmirise winked and the new slave Bierae had heard so much about entered. She appeared to unsettle Tiirmirise. Her blue eyes screamed innocence. Her pale golden hair which fell about her in heavy luxuriant waves fell past her shoulders.
Her complexion was flawless, her teeth white everything about her was perfect from her small delicately formed hands and slender neck to her flat belly, trim waist and dainty ankles and feet. At first she made Bierae feel inadequate and ugly. However Bierae had to remind herself that she was a Princess and the girl was no more than a body slave.
Everything about her fired up a lust in Tiirmirise such as she had never known. She was barely twenty three with the maturity of someone twice her years. She was an excellent physician and she could also read and write. Already Tiirmirise had engaged her in the role of a scribe.
Often Tiirmirise felt herself aroused from her scent alone. It was elusive. She used Jasmine and Lalie she was told by the eunuchs, exotic flowers whose perfumes were not found on the continent. Extremely expensive and rare they were also Saronne’s favourite.
Tiirmirise ordered the eunuchs to always make it available for her. She had also replaced the eunuchs in the harem with totally emasculated men bought from Arabia. The ones who had no inclinations towards women at all.
“This is your new slave?” Bierae asked inquiringly “The one everyone is talking about?”
Tiirmirise barely heard her when Saronne arrived in the dress she had commissioned for her from an up and coming seamstress. Her heart seemed to have stopped beating, her stomach clenched in knots. She was absolutely gorgeous. Desire knifed through her, as she caught her tormenting scent. Tiirmirise knew that if she did not get herself under control soon she was going to ravish her on the spot right in front of the Sarmatian Princess.
Bierae was surprised. Saronne wore the transparent red silks of a slave. Her clothing was cut to hint at her curves without revealing them. Her lips and nipples were rouged in the Gyptian custom. However she also wore gold earrings, bracelets and anklets. A privilege only accorded to wives of the Massagetae.
There was also the matter of the scandalous price Tiirmirise had paid for the girl. Her weight in gold? It was like something out of legend but surely it could not be true could it? Tiirmirise was the most sensible woman she knew. Surely she was not falling in love with a….a…..slave??
Bierae walked around the girl who stood watching her warily. The girl was indeed beautiful, but then most of Tiirmirise bath attendants and body slaves were beautiful. She was about the same height as herself which was barely up to Tiirmirise shoulder but then Tiirmirise was a tall woman. Taller than most men.
“The one you spent a fortune on in….”
“She makes healing herbs for my eye. Bierae and you should learn to mind your own business.” Tiirmirise interrupted her testily she could finish speaking.
Bierae smiled “I make everything my business. That’s why I am so useful to you.”
“Well go make yourself useful somewhere else.” Tiirmirise stripped off her clothes methodically. Bierae left and Tiirmirise sighed and got into her bath.
Ordinarily Saronne shared the duty with several others but more often than not she found she was the only one.
“You have bathed and eaten?”
Ever since the day she had tried to runaway Tiirmirise had tried to distance herself from the girl. She rarely referred to her by name unless they were in alone.
“Are your new quarters to your liking Saronne?”
Again she answered “Yes.”
That was an understatement. Firstly Saronne had her own room. The only bath attendant and body slave who slept in the harem. Her new quarters led right to the Queen’s apartments and they were sumptuous. She actually had other slaves at her disposal and was in charge of overseeing Tiirmirise’s household which included her slaves, her horses, her meals and even her medicines. She actually enjoyed it.
The only concubine in the harem of princesses, the other occupants were Bierae and Pradae. Olayrae the eldest Princess she had never met because she lived in the temple and often travelled throughout Sarmatia.
Minae she’d met when the Simian delegation came for a short visit to bring tidings that Princess Minae was now pregnant. Pasiphae she’d also met and Pasiphae terrified her.
Pasiphae was the kind of person that Tiirmirise could have been but was not. She had often had to tend to Pasiphae’s slaves after spending a night with the princess. She flogged, whipped, burned and assaulted them. She enjoyed inflicting pain on others.
She could not remember a time that Tiirmirise had ever laid a hand on her in anger. Except perhaps for the time she tried to escape. The piercings she understood that not only was it an honour it was a protective device.
Anyone who assaulted or even touched a woman wearing gold piercings without her permission was liable to execution. Only the women who belonged to Massagetae warriors could wear such. The Male and Female Massagetae were extremely protective of their womenfolk.
Saronne herself had at her disposal two Eunuch body guards who followed her everywhere she went. The were in charge of her diet, her exercise and beauty routine and her safety.
Tiirmirise stepped out of the bath and Saronne patted her down with Gyptian towels. Tiirmirise was not wearing her eye patch for her eye no longer wept when exposed. Saronne had been applying a herbal ointment to dry out the wound and it was working very well.
After applying the ointment to her eyes she placed an eye patch made of silk cloth over it. Tiirmirise still felt self conscious of the wound and insisted on covering it even though it no longer wept.
Saronne washed her hands dried them and then proceeded to rub oil on her body. The Queen was tense and Saronne forgot her plan to keep an emotional distance between them and began to knead the tightly corded muscles on her neck and shoulders.
It was when Tiirmirise released an involuntary moan that she realised several things. Firstly she was enjoying touching Massagetae Queen way too much, in fact she was now caressing her, secondly Tiirmirise was fairly smouldering at her and she enjoyed the effect she had on the powerful ruler and thirdly she could not breathe because she was holding her breadth.
They rolled over so that Saronne lay on her back on the bed and Tiirmirise knelt between her legs and when the Queen leaned forward to kiss her, Saronne placed her bare foot against the Queen’s chest. Her toe rings glinted in the candle light.
“You promised.” She whispered.
The Queen stared into her eyes for a long moment, her glittering black gaze held the blonde woman captive, then she captured her ankle and proceeded to suck her toes one after the other. Saronne’s blue eyes widened in shock and then her pupils dilated as they darkened with desire and a low moan escaped from her throat. The kisses continued in a burning trail down her ankle, over the calf of her let up her thighs and hips before rubbing her face against her belly.
By the time Tiirmirise’s hot mouth closed around Saronne’s turgid nipple she was definitely ready to be kissed. The Queen dispatched the rest of her clothes with ease, a mocking sneer about her lips which evaporated when Saronne’s knowing fingers caressed her sex, stroking her expertly till she reduced the queen to a quivering wreck.
Their love making was intense, a hot burning passion that seemed to blaze out of control as they made love all night long. Sometimes Tiirmirise was domineering demanding her abject submission and settling for nothing less and other times she was tender even gentle and in rare moments even playful.
Saronne snuggled against the black Queen, their bodies lay in a tangle of limbs, Tiirmirise rhythmic breathing and her steady her beat lulled her into a deep slumber.
When she woke up Tiirmirise was gone. Saronne sighed as she noticed the tattered remains of her clothes on the floor. Tiirmirise could be very demanding and this was not the first nor she suspected would it be the last of her garments the shredded by the passionate.
Tiirmirise herself had commissioned the dress a beautiful long-sided silk transparent robe (All her clothes were virtually transparent except for during certain times of the month when only the top half of the long robes she wore were transparent.)
Which she had then proceeded to shred to pieces last night. Even worse she had brushed her lips against Saronne’s. She knew what Tiirmirise wanted, surrender. She was playing a game. There was no war so she’d decided to conquer her slave and everyday she made sure she brushed her lips against Saronne’s trying to get a response. Every night Saronne refused to return her kisses but it was getting harder and harder.
The wind blew violently and she went to close the shutters. Suddenly she realised she was no longer alone. She screamed and scampered under the bed covers.
A young woman sat at the end of the bed watching her carefully.
“Who are you?”
“You know me. You have seen me before.”
The voice did indeed sound familiar. The woman was blind. Horrible scars marked her face where her eyes should have been and Saronne reached forward.
“Do not touch me!”
“But I can….”
“Help.” Olarae finished her senctence for her “I know what you can do healer. You have all but healed Tiirmirise's eye. Only the scars remain. If you touch me though you will heal me completely. I have the sight and I am not ready to lose it.”
Olayrae moved closer the young woman who sat on the bed.
“You are the handmaiden. The one that will tame the falcon.”
Saronne shook her head. “You make no sense.”
“I have brought you a gift. It will help you to focus and channel your healing power but you will have to continue to meditate everyday.”
Olayrae gave her a pendant. It was a hand with an bird with outstretched wings flattened against it as though the hand was holding the creature and keeping it safe. She slipped it around Saronne’s neck. “Come I will show you how to use it.”
Tiirmirise had gone to the palace dungeons where Spargapises was being held in relative comfort far away from the other prisoners who had been tortured and bleeding, far away from the stench of death and human suffering. Yet for the once powerful and mighty Prince of Sarmatia it was still a prison.
When he saw his mother he could barely look at her. This was not lost on Tiirmirise. She said nothing for a long time just stood there staring at him. Drinking him in happy he was safe.
“What I would like to know is how with Twenty thousand troops at your disposal you still managed to end up in prison.”
Spargapises blushed beet red “I believe that Ninyas scheming and…..”
Tiirmirise shook her head exasperatedly. “Ninyas had no army. You were in the driving seat. When he made a move to arrest you, you should have used the army why didn’t you?”
“It would have meant civil war.”
“Is that what your idiotic and cowardly advisors told you?”
“You would have me war on my uncle?”
Tiirmirise shook her head. “No!” Spargapises was not as utterly ruthless as she had thought perhaps there was hope for him perhaps……
“Did you kill him?” The question slipped out from her lips and she cursed under her breadth.
“Did I kill who?”
“Your father. Qastursh the King?”
“I did not.”
“I’m your mother. You can tell me the truth.”
“I did not kill him.” Spargapises turned his back on his mother as he said the words.
“I do not believe you. No one in the country believes you. The assassins who were tortured all named you and Ninyas in this plot before they died.”
“Why have the council not named us in this vile murder”
“Because I gave instructions to have the other plotters all killed. I do not want my son executed for Parricide but where I will not punish you God will and….”
“There are no Gods.”
“Do not say such a thing! It is one thing to anger me it is quite another to anger the God of the heavens. You should do some form of reparation perhaps a sacrifice to appease….”
“I will do no such thing! I will not connive in your stupid mumbo jumbo. That man deserved to die!” Spargapises spat. “He was a fucking sodomite! What he did was unnatural just like what you do is unnatural!”
“And sleeping with your blood sister is that natural?”
“Well there must be something irresistible about my sisters because you were fucking Minae!”
“Minae was no blood relation to me.” Tiirmirise hissed
“No but by law she was your daughter and you fucked her!”
Tiirmirise backhanded him and strode out of the palace dungeon. She was furious. She was frustrated she was confused. What had happened to the sweet little boy who had adored his father?
It was still early morning and she decided to go to her offices. She would need to appraise herself of the financial situation, treaties alliance and other financial and intelligence reports.
She would then go and exercise at the barracks with the other Massagetae. The High Council would sit tomorrow. She would have a meeting with the viziers who would be favourable to her cause in the evening after dinner.
After a full day she returned to her chambers and ordered the bathers to attend her. All except Saronne who would be having her own bath. They were going to go to the theatre. As a rule it was also a good idea to patronise the arts and to be seen socialising with the people.
The opening night of the new play by the Bard and Poet Ptalanes and his talented wife Aero would be an excellent opportunity to unwind with her family. It was also an opportunity for her to quietly observe the political affiliations of the viziers.
She wore the purple, the colour of the ruling house. They were not at war so there was no need to wear any ceremonial armour so she decided to wear robes of white and gold with her purple cape. On her head she wore the Regent’s crown.
It was made of gold leaves and Ninyas would be wearing something similar had he been attending. The Prime Vizier would be wearing silver leaves and the rest of the royal family would be wearing Diadems.
She had her litter brought to the front of the palace. It was palatial as befitted a queen and was carried by twenty four slaves. There was enough space in it for four women.
If she had been going alone she would have simply walked, riding would have meant she arrived smelling of horse which was most uncivilised. However since Saronne was accompanying her she would take the litter.
Saronne lay reclining inside the litter amongst a pile of soft cushions. Once Tiirmirise was settled she gave the order for them to proceed. Tiirmirise could barely take her eyes of her.
“You look beautiful.” Her voice came out in a rasping whisper.
Saronne had decided to wear blue. A modest colour and modest attire. She did not think she was daring enough to go about the city of Ado half naked no matter that custom dictated she wear the transparent silks of a body slave. She decided to do this in spite of the protests from eunuchs about protocol and her status. Tiirmirise did not seem to mind.
“Thank you. I took the liberty of arranging something for you to eat. Before we have dinner tonight I know you did not eat lunch.” Saronne produced a bowl of fruit and a wine jug and two goblets. Saronne poured the wine into a goblet and passed it over to Tiirmirise. The Queen’s eyes narrowed dangerously, Saronne stared innocently back.
“Where did you get the food and wine from?”
“I bought it myself from the market. I washed all the fruit myself and I have had all the items with me at all times.” Saronne was not offended by the question any more. She herself had seen what happened to careless slaves who brought Tiirmirise her meals.
One of Tiirmirise body servants in charge of preparing her meals had been careless and paid for it with her life. The level of intrigue in the palace so high. Tiirmirise's meal had been poisoned. The slave tasted the food as was her custom and had died a most excruciating death screaming in her death throes and scratching off her skin.
Saronne herself had only escaped death because Tiirmirise would not let her act as a food taster and had made the unfortunate slave Soraia taste the food herself.
Saronne took the goblet from Tiirmirise and was about to drink it herself but the Queen shook her head and taking the goblet from Saronne drank deeply.
“It is fruity.” Tiirmirise was surprised “I like it. What is it?”
“It is called cider. It is made from fermented apples and is not as strong as wine. I also have a large selection of fruits. Watermelons, Papaya and Passion fruit to tempt you.” Saronne gave the Queen a provocative sideways glance from under her long thick lashes.
“I see much that tempts me.” Tiirmirise said hoarsely
Saronne picked up a cubed water melon and fed the queen with a piece of fruit and Tiirmirise caught her finger between her lips. She ate slowly her tongue licking the fruit juices from Saronne’s fingers all the while training her steely gaze on Saronne’s blue eyes.
Saronne wanted to look away but found she could not. The anticipation of watching the Queen, feeling her touch and watching her taste the fruit was like a fire in her blood.
“It would appear I am hungrier than I thought.” Tiirmirise said wryly when Saronne moved her fingers away.
Despite the fact they were in a litter and on their way to the theatre Saronne knew it was inevitable they would make love and the thought of it made her want to scream with excitement.
One of the slaves stumbled jolting the litter and throwing Saronne up against Tiirmirise and the need to taste her was so overwhelming that Tiirmirise simply enfolded her against her body and her lips came down on Saronne’s in total possession and once they started kissing they could not stop.
Her lips opened to the Queen’s fierce demands as Tiirmirise was lost in her sweetness. Saronne’s senses overflowed with Pine and sandalwood, the fresh clean scent that the queen wore, and the sensual erotic love play of their duelling tongues. Tiirmirise nibbled and sucked on her mouth taking endlessly till Saronne’s lips were red and swollen with the excess kissing.
She wrapped her leg around the Queen and arched her back so that when Tiirmirise dipped her head to lick at her rouged pierced nipple, it hardened with arousal and then the Queen drew the whole luscious crown into her hungry mouth before devouring her lush breasts.
She needed Tiirmirise’s fingers to play with her, even go inside her. She slid her lips up the column of the Queen’s throat and closed her teeth around the skin just under her ear.
Saronne forgot that they were on a litter being borne by 20 odd slaves who could probably hear their cries as they melted into their orgasm. Tiirmirise shocked her with her wickedly intimate lovemaking.
Her lips nuzzled her, then her tongue sought her tiny bud of pleasure melting away her prudish inhibitions as she arched herself against Tiirmirise’s glorious mouth screaming out her pleasure with wild abandon and then when it was her turn to give Tiirmirise pleasure she gloried in the helpless cries of pleasure made by the Queen of the Massagatae.
When they arrived at the theatre it was packed. The performance would not start without either the Queen or Ninyas and since Ninyas would not be attending they waited for her. Everyone stood up as they made their way to the royal box.
Saronne was seated on her left and on her right the next High ranking Person in the Royal family after Tiirmirise, was the princess Bierae. Through out the entire performance Saronne giggled and made hilarious observations to the Queen who chuckled along with her as Saronne pointed out the subtle comic nuances of the play.
The play was funny indeed. Generally light hearted amusement, filled with witty jokes and poking fun at all levels of society from everyday slaves to rich merchants, aristocratic farmers and their spoiled brats, not even the co-regents Ninyas and Tiirmirise were spared the comic’s lampoons.
Tiirmirise enjoyed Saronne’s presence. Her lover was very tactile and the Queen was extremely amused and pleased.
She enjoyed Saronne’s touch on her arm to catch her attention, she especially loved her unconsciously lingering caresses on her face, her forearms, her chest and was utterly captivated by her infectious laughter and consequently she was in such a good mood she did not take offence even when the jokes were directed at her personally or the laughter was at her own expense and the people loved her for it.
At dinner that night held at Nnandi’s townhouse in the city they discussed the play and eventually the talk turned to politics. Epiphany, Nnandi’s partner rolled her eyes at Saronne and giggled “Politics, Politics, politics always politics.” She was relaxed and feeling happy with the wine.
“I am going to take Saronne on a tour around the townhouse to see how the simple people live. I hear you have not allowed her out of the Palace of light since she arrived in Ado.”
Tiirmirise’s lips twitched in amusement. “I would hardly call your sumptuous villa with 2,000 slaves simple. You just want to show off”
“Off course I do. Come” Epiphany got up “Let me show you around and we’ll leave these two old war dogs to their tales.” She gave her embarrassed looking partner Nnandi a long lingering lusty kiss and led Saronne out of the parlour.
“That was diplomatically done.” Tiirmirise smiled amused at her friend’s sheepish glance.
“Epiphany knows her place. Just because she’s bigger than me does not mean she can boss me around.”
“Right.” Tiirmirise drawled disbelievingly
Nnandi threw her head back and laughed heartily. “I am not fooling anyone am I?” Tiirmirise shook her head and whole heartedly joined her laughter with Nnandi’s.
Saronne was startled she rarely heard Tiirmirise laugh. She was always so serious so commanding so imperious. As a slave she had not expected kindness from Epiphany. At court she was despised by a lot of the Sarmatian nobility.
The noblewomen hated her because they felt she was not entitled to the gold piercings and the slaves were terrified of her because the piercings denoted that she was not one of them and therefore could not be treated as a slave.
Epiphany was the first person to treat her like an equal since she had arrived in Ado. Even Tiirmirise's Massagetae women called her Lady and bowed when she entered the room.
They chatted desultorily about different things for awhile, supervising the slaves, keeping track of expenses in the household finding the balance between a healthy diet and impressing the different courtiers and guests that they both had to entertain on an almost daily basis. Saronne liked her.
“Tiirmirise is in love with you. You know that don’t you?”
“I am nothing more to her than a slave.”
“You are so naïve it is frightening. You control her household. You already said you are personally in charge of her food and medicines. You have an honour guard larger than most Sarmatian nobles, she paid your weight in gold, You wear piercings of the purest gold and most scandalously of all you carry her personal seal.” Nnandi lifted Saronne’s left hand on which rested a large gold signet ring. Not even Spargapises her own son carried her personal seal.”
“But I am not free. If she loved me she would free me.”
“None of us is ever free.” Epiphany sighed. “I may be a Massagetae noble and first cousin to the Queen of Sarmatia and as much as I love my partner and life mate our marriage was one of duty but I fell in love with Nnandi. Makeda was actually my first love. ”
Saronne inhaled sharply. Makeda was quiet thoughtful and extremely intelligent. She was tall with a muscular physique. Unlike Tiirmirise who was all lean whip cord strength, Makeda was a handsome woman with bulging muscles and raw strength.
Nnandi on the other hand was smaller. About the same height as Saronne.
She was studied elegance personified. She surrounded herself with beautiful things and was more into details. She was personable and witty and liked challenges just not on the battlefield. She was a competent warrior but the art of war itself did not interest her.
She was more an administrator, a logistics person. She liked to inspect uniforms, make sure supplies arrived in time. She was ideally suited to be a merchant. She was one of those people who whenever you needed anything whether it was obscure or impossible to find like ice in the desert Nnandi would invariably find a way to get it.
She successfully managed to feed and clothe Tiirmirise’s army on a shoe string budget, in areas where it was difficult to forage for food and always managed to turn a tidy profit whilst doing it too.
Saronne was surprised Epiphany had not become a Massagetae warrior herself and she said so.
Epiphany looked horrified. “Most Massagetae women have a choice unless they are born into an aristocratic family like that of Tiirmirise or Nnandi in which case the choice is taken from them when they are five years old.
Usually we get to choose at about thirteen summers and I would never deliberately have my right breast cut off I am way too vain for that. Besides I enjoy being a spoiled and pampered Massagetae wife.”
Do you have any idea what type of barbaric military training those women go through. It dehumanises them and turns them into animals and killers. It is why most Massagetae are married young. Otherwise they become cruel and wicked in their old age without a partner to stabilise their excesses.”
“Like Pasiphae.” Epiphany agreed.
“What about the Men?”
“Massagetae men are just as bad as the women. Rarely will you find a Massagetae who is not a warrior. A few are merchants but most are ferocious fighters.”
“How is it you were not married to a Massagetae man.”
“I made it very clear from the beginning that I wanted a woman. After that my parents simply sought someone for me from the Massagetae tribe.”
“I don’t know anyone in my country married to another woman.”
“Which probably explains why you do not know how to handle our troublesome Queen.” Epiphany muttered under her breadth.
There was a long silence before the next question came.
"Saronne," she started. "When you and the Queen are physically intimate, do you enjoy it?"
Saronne blushed and stammered "W… w… why… why do you ask that?"
"Well as I said before Makeda was my true love but my parents contracted a marriage with Nnandi’s family and I had to marry her. Nnandi like all Massagetae can be very demanding but as I got to know her and I came to enjoy her touch and now we are happy together. I know what you do is a ‘service,’ but do you ever get any pleasure from it."
"I… I…" Saronne stammered and then blushed. "She’s a woman."
"So is it impossible for you to feel pleasure when you are with a woman?" Epiphany asked gently.
"Yes, I mean no. I mean," a long sigh followed. "Sometimes She can be so gentle and so… so tender and… and sometimes…." Saronne trailed off into silence. And sometimes she simply took her breadth away, Saronne thought unable to actually say what she was thinking.
Into this silence She heard Epiphany’s hesitant question "Saronne, do you love her?"
Saronne stared at the floor. How to answer that one? How could she have fallen in love with such a person? She couldn’t help it she started crying.
"It’s alright." Epiphany whispered embracing the trembling younger woman as she stroked back the strands of Saronne’s golden mane.
Inside Tiirmirise was reclining on the couch with Nnandi sharing a companionable bottle of wine and playing chess.
“Jurugun of Numer in our Western Provinces has rebelled against us. The high council is all in an uproar.” Nnandi sipped her wine.“But then the Numerians are always rebelling.” Nnandi drawled “And, I expect the sitting at the High Council tomorrow will be all about the war with the Numerians.”
“Why are they rebelling this time I wonder?” Tiirmirise stroked her chin thoughtfully
“Same reason all our vassal states rebel. We send out a governor they start off well then they become corrupt, they rape the women, enslave the children steal all the gold and come back to Ado with money to run for Prime Vizier. The people get pissed off they rebel, we crush them send out a good governor. He does well builds up the place, makes too much money he gets greedy and corrupt, they rebel….”
“I get the picture!” Tiirmirise said wryly “Although I was rather hoping I could stay awhile longer. I seem to be spending more and more time at war and less time on construction projects and trade treaties.”
“Tiirmirise I am horrified. I thought you wanted to be the greatest warrior in the land. You know live for war, blood and glory and all that.” Nnandi waved her hand negligently in the air whilst taking another sip of wine.
“There are many paths to glory my friend. When I walk in the Bazaars and the Docks, I see statues and temples, roads and sewers, Queen Candace built this, King Mauro built that, even warrior Kings and Queens build something to remember their reign. Mine has thus far been spent in a saddle with a sword in my hand. I don‘t even know what my grandson looks like.”
“Ye gods Tiirmirise is this slave making you soft in the head?”
Tiirmirise scowled and knocked back the rest of her wine. “The quest for glory is not for the faint hearted.”
“There is one good thing about this war I suppose. It will give Spargapises a chance to make himself useful. The council may even forgive the part he played in Qastursh‘s murder”
“You believe him guilty?”
They had been at Ado for several months now. The intrigue and political cauldron that was the city was simmering gently waiting for an explosion. Plot and counter plot. The political casualties were few. Apart from the murder of the king. A few Viziers had been exiled in disgrace. They were still in a state of war and Tiirmirise unwilling to let the political situation escalate further had decided not to prosecute Ninyas.
It was not just because she feared the political repercussions that would befall her son but also because she did not want the country to descend into civil war. It had become rapidly clear to her that she did not have a majority in council but then neither did Ninyas. The political situation was poised on a knife edge something was going to happen. Everyone could feel it in the air.
I have been body servant to the Queen of the Massagetae for several months now and I can say with all sincerity that it has not been easy. Sometimes she acts like all Massagetae treating her slaves like their lives are meaningless. Although most of the time she is extremely considerate and caring.
As her body slave my duties stretch from the mundane to the sublime. I run her personal household which is quite apart from the palace. As well as being in charge of the welfare of her personal bodyguard who are not attached to the Palace, I have to care for her clothes, her armour her weapons, ensure her apartments are clean, buying and cooking her food, Tiirmirise will not eat anything without a taster unless I bought and cooked the food myself.
I actually enjoyed this because it gives me an excuse to leave the Palace and explore the market. My other duties included bathing her and off course pleasing her sexually. I would be lying if I said I hated every moment. In the evenings I would read to her or she dictated to me and asked my opinion.
Sometimes I felt like she was coming to see me as person and at others that I was nothing more than a slave. When we share a bed my body burns with her every caress and I ached from her touch, at other times I would be filled with self loathing for wanting her and wishing I could just throw something at her head which I did in private on occasions when I was annoyed.
Tiirmirise is a curious mixture of civilised barbarity. One day she could toss a goat into a crowd of Massagetae in some ancient ritual and watch them rip it apart with their bare hands whilst she was sprayed with its innocent blood in a frenzy of adulation and that same evening she would be dining in a banqueting hall in silks and conducting harmless conversation with socially studied elegance.
At night I was not allowed to sleep anywhere but her bed. Whether or not it was during my monthlies. Sometimes she would come to me stinking of another woman or palm wine or even the revolting alcoholic brew made from milk and yet she would still expect me to have sex with her.
Other nights she would just fall asleep in my arms whilst I stroked her head. I dared not leave the bed till morning when she was awake unless I went to use the chamber pot and even then I had to tell her where it was I was going.
During my first month at the palace when I slept in her bed, I woke up late in the night and sought to use the chamber pot, her eyebrows had furrowed in her sleep and her arms tightened around me.
The more I tried to slip away the tighter knit her eyebrows became as her arms closed around me like steel bands. Eventually I was so desperate I yanked myself out of her arms and slapped her.
“Let me go you lecherous goat I need to use the chamber pot.”
I did not see the smile that played about her lips as she rolled away. When I came back I trembled realising what I had done unsure of myself I waited at the edge of her bed expecting some repercussion for my foolish actions.
At length she started to get fretful and her arms started searching my bed space. Perhaps I had got away with it and she was so far in sleep she had not heard me. Gingerly I slipped into bed beside her thinking her asleep.
“Lecherous old goat huh?” She chuckled and wrapping her long powerful arms around me went back to sleep almost immediately.
As her scribe I often went through her papers every morning. Military dispatches trade treaties even personal letters. I was reading one such personal letter when I read about Xango’s daughter Nitocris, Tiirmirise’s niece. I began to weep for my own daughter who I had not seen since the day I gave birth to her.
I had not had time to grieve because I was so busy just trying to survive in Gypsos. Suddenly I started crying and I couldn’t stop. It was in this miserable state that Tiirmirise found me.
If I didn’t know better I would almost say she cared. She swept me up in her arms and cradled me against her as I just let long held tears out. I might have been wrong but I imagined I even felt her lips on my hair.
“Why do you cry Saronne?” She asked softly
I shook my head still unable to speak it was so painful to think about and just started crying again till my head hurt and my eyes were red.
“I asked you a question why do you cry? Has someone upset you? Tell me who it is and I will deal with them sorely.”
I heard the note of command in her voice and I started to pull myself together.
“I was just thinking about my daughter.
“You have a daughter?” She corrected herself “You had a daughter with another master?”
“Yes.” I whispered the last. It was the first time I brought the subject up and Tiirmirise looked absolutely furious.
“Is this why you cry? You miss your last master?”
Saronne sighed. Saronne did not make the mistake of answering that softly asked question. Tiirmirise had a jealous streak wider than the River Araxes. She shook her head knowing she had to measure her words carefully. She got off the Queen’s lap and Tiirmirise did not prevent her leaving.
“Did he hurt you?” She asked curiously
“No he was very kind. I don’t miss him I miss my daughter.”
The queen stood up and paced the room. Eventually she turned around and folded her arms across her chest her lower lip jutting out belligerently.
“You say you had a child with this man.”
“I miss my daughter Nitocris, not her father.”
“My niece is also called Nitocris.” Tiirmirise looked at her thoughtfully. “It is an uncommon name amongst the Massagetae I am told it means..”
“Hand Maiden. I know, that is what it means in our language also.”
Tiirmirise frowned thoughtfully. “Of course I have never met her. Margravine her mother refuses to let her come to court. Something about turning her into her wicked old witch of an aunty.” Tiirmirise grinned
Saronne smiled back reluctantly and Tiirmirise laughed “I take it you agree that I am a wicked old witch.”
“Well I didn’t like to say.” I smiled reluctantly through my tears.
Tiirmirise came to the bed and beckoned for me to come into her arms. I obeyed watching her warily and tried to smile up at her through my tears. I did not struggle when she scooped me up in her arms. I often enjoyed being held like this by Tiirmirise.
“Tell me about your daughter Afereni.” She said softly.
Afereni was a word I did not know the meaning of. I spoke Gyptian and Angle the language of my people. I was fluent in the language of the Massagetae but only spoke a smattering of Sarmatian.
I had learned the language when I lived with Nitocris’ father. However there were some words that I still did not understand like “Afereni” which I assumed was probably Sarmation for slave.
“My daughter has black hair like her fathers, but her skin is golden like the daughter of the sun god Apollo.”
“I thought you didn’t worship the pagan gods.”
“I don’t I’m just using an allegory to describe her. Poetic license I believe it is called.”
“If you remember the man’s name and tribe I will search for him.”
“I do not know his name but I have seen him at court with her.”
“Well then you need only point him out to me and I shall kill him and have your child brought to you.”
The frightening thing was I knew that Tiirmirise spoke the truth. “Kill him!” I was horrified “Why would you do that?”
“The child of a Massagetae is never a slave. So the man will probably adopt her and make her his heir. If he has taken the child from you chances are he will never give her up so I will have to kill him.” Tiirmirise said matter of factly as though it all made perfect sense. I did not want to believe what she was saying.
“Does that mean that somewhere my daughter is being raised as a free woman?”
“Yes. A Massagetae no less.”
I did not want my child to be raised as a Massagetae. I did not want them to chop off her right breast and make her undergo all sorts of physical hardship to turn her into a cruel unfeeling warrior. I felt like weeping and I did.
The Handmaidens’s Tale
It was March before things got moving again. The beginning of the campaigning season for some but for the farmers and common folk a time when the crops needed planting and for the traders when they traditionally sought financing for their trading concerns. If they had not already secured funds in the winter months.
The morning was crisp with a bit of chill in the air. The High Council was in session. The new Prime Vizier for the year had just been installed. Scaures was a man of integrity a conservative a challenger for Vayanes position in the conservative party and he was firmly neutral for he had not yet declared his support for either Ninyas or Tiirmirise.
It was now clear that there was going to be a clearly demarcated line in Sarmatian politics. Ninyas made no bones about the fact that you were either with him or against him. His palpable hatred for Prince Spargapises and by extension Tiirmirise was too tangible to be ignored.
He had bested Tiirmirise in the council but as usual the bloody woman had come out of the Gyptian encounter not only smelling of roses but having improved trading relations with Gypsos and considerably increased her own personal fortune. The Gyptian Royal family had showered her with gold.
The tale of her confrontation with Eugertes Grossbelly was still being told to school children as a shining example of Massagetae courage and pride as an example to emulate. The people loved her.
Tiirmirise sat in the council chamber draped in her royal robes of purple and, her house colours of red and white and off course Massagetae black. She sat pensively listening to the proceedings with her supporters Bierae, newly admitted to the council, her father, Jbenga, her brother Xango, Makeda, Nnandi, Candace, Osumares, Osamaye and Spargapises newly released on lack of evidence. There were other supporters but these were firmly in the camp of Tiirmirise, the most vocal and the most loyal.
Ninyas listened carefully to the debates raging in the chamber. He gauged who was with the Queen, who was against him and who was neutral and could possibly be persuaded to enter his camp. He was well satisfied with his political gains so far.
He had successfully removed Qastursh and shifted the blame to Spargapises. He knew people suspected he had a hand in the King’s murder but the thought that the crown prince himself might have murdered his own father dominated people’s minds.
He hated Spargapises. The spawn of evil. Tiirmirise he respected as a fellow adversary and sometimes even admired her. Spargapises on the other hand angered him because he was really the main contender for the throne. All he had to do was find a way to separate the arrogant shit from his mother and his life and the throne would be his.
However to achieve that goal he needed an army and to get an army he needed funds. A lot of funds. Tiirmirise was rich from her years of campaigning and resolving disputes and all the trade concessions she gained as a Queen also she came from a wealthy aristocratic family and was able to use her royal position to full effect.
Tiirmirise the queen was richer than fucking Sarmatia. She must be because even Sarmatia could not afford to pay the weight of one body slave in gold. At least not without bankrupting the treasury and causing a riot.
The only other ways to raise money apart from war and trade was through taxes. The viziers were stingy when it came to spending tax money. Squeeze Sarmatians too hard and there would be riots. Riots were bad for business.
He had a cunning plan to get his hands on gold and it involved getting the command to fight the Dominion whilst ensuring that Tiirmirise was sent off to fight a real war against the Numerians were she or Spargapises would hopefully be killed in battle. He rubbed his chin as he schemed and directed his mind to the debate that raged in the council chamber around him.
“The Dominion are not going to invade us this year they are embroiled in a vicious civil war.” Candace stormed
“Nevertheless the Simian have requested we send them an army of fifteen thousand troops.” Scaures interjected “They must fear an attack.”
“The Simian always fear an attack.” Vayanes said dismissively and the chamber snickered.
The debate raged on for three days. The outcome was just as Ninyas planned. He was given the mandate to march against the Dominion which was camped at Ijebu, just out of reach of the Simian but enough to make them feel uncomfortable.
He informed the council that he would not use landless peasants and the city poor for his army. Instead he would recruit from the traditional tribes of Sarmatia. Landowners.
Men and only men who had a stake in the land and who were willing to fight for their country. The clique of conservatives led by Vayanes followed Ninyas as he appeared to represent the old ways and Tiirmirise was roundly defeated in the council. She would be dealing with the rebellious King Jurugun and the Numerians.
The High Council allowed Ninyas an army of Fifteen thousand strong and his recruitment techniques were appalling. Men were press ganged into service without their consent, victims of state sanctioned kidnap. Mature looking 14year olds were hauled from their beds. In some homes both father and son were pressed into service. This worked a great hardship on many citizens as the entire male line could be wiped out leaving the women vulnerable to the unscrupulous.
Since few women were trained in managing farms and estates. Even among the Massagetae the women were essentially a warrior/merchant tribe. Those that did not fight were traders, sailors, merchants even bankers. Few were farmers. Farming was predominantly a male Sarmatian occupation.
In fact the only innovation that Ninyas decided to use since the last ten years Tiirmirise had been leading the army was the saddle and stirrups. These allowed the Sarmatians to have excellent dexterity and control of their horses. They controlled their mounts with their knees leaving their hands free to fire arrows or hurl javelins all at the same time, thus mounting lightning raids and attacks against an enemy infantry army without ever engaging them in hand to hand combat during battle.
The journey to the Simian lands took a little over 70 days which meant they averaged less than 15 miles a day. They rested in Warbo a delightful little seaside port with pellucid waters alive with shrimp, King Prawns, large lobsters, crabs and fish of different varieties. In the muddy waters of the salt water pools were oysters and dug mullets, fish that burrowed in the mud.
The local teenagers were no different from those all over the world crazy for men in uniform and for the 16 days that Ninyas left his army there Warbo hummed with irate fathers, vengeful lovers, giggling girls, lecherous soldiers and tavern brawls which kept the Military marshals busy keeping the peace and the military police in a foul temper.
Then Ninyas packed up his army and led them down into the lush alluvial plains of Ijebu. Ninyas luck was in. Prince Aresteion of the Simian had recently won a battle against the Dominion and was pursuing them back across Simian territory. Ninyas purred when he realised his diabolical plans were coming to fruition. The real reason he had sought this command was to find the rumoured gold of the Ijebu Simian.
A century earlier before the arrival of the Dominion at the lands of the Simian. The Simian had been in the ascendance in the plains. They had plundered the temples of the surrounding peoples and even ventured into the lands of the Dominion.
The Dominion were Polytheistic and dedicated a lot of gold, silver and bronze to their many gods a lot of this wealth was kept in the temples and oracles which acted as banks and economic centres.
The Simian had plundered the largest of these and melted everything down in to gold bars to hide them from the Dominion whom they noticed had begun to increase in power and influence. Ninyas had heard the story whilst he’d been intriguing at the court of the Simian.
He conveniently overlooked the fact that he would be stealing from his allies possibly jeopardising the Sarmatian alliance with the Simian. All his inquiries about the gold came to naught. Most of the Simian regarded the existence of the gold as myth.
Ninyas shed his armour and leathers, wore his white tunic, purple cloak and gold leaf crown which signified him as Co-Regent of Sarmatia and wandered the town picking into every little nook and cranny.
He ordered suspicious looking fields to be dug up and excavated pastures and fields. When he found nothing he took to searching for the gold as though conducting a treasure hunt in a gala atmosphere conducted by troops who were relieved not to be facing a ferocious enemy.
He promised a share in the booty to encourage them to be more diligent in their search. The only gold to be had were those in the Simian temples the taking of which would violate the treaty in such an obvious manner it would lead to war and the disapproval of the council. The gold diviners brandished their forks to no avail and the landscape of Ijebu began to resemble the demented burrowing of a sex starved rabbit.
The rivers and lakes were alive with fish and the soldiers preferred fishing in the lakes than the swift flowing rivers. They could laze in the sun under their wide brimmed hats chewing grass and snoozing. Lost in thought Ninyas walked down to one of the larger sprawling lakes absently watching the play of light on the scales of the fish glittering and gleaming as they darted about sparkling gold and silver and then it dawned on him.
He called his generals and made the engineering corps drain the lakes. The engineering corps was an important part of the army. They built bridges and dismantled them to cover the army’s retreat. They helped oversee assembling the camp and siege machinery.
There at the bottom of the lake was the Ijebu gold. It was hidden by a century of mud and weeds. 50,000 bars of gold, 20,000 bars of silver and 40,000 bars of sky metal steel. He decided to ship the steel first. Sky Metal steel belonged to the state and to keep it meant certain death. He had no intention of touching that.
It would be used to make swords and weapons for the army. The silver he melted down and paid the army completely ensuring their loyalty and gratitude. The gold would go to the treasury and he would be entitled to a quarter share for finding it. He sent his second in command with a century of men to guard it.
The gold set out from Ijebu in 400 wagons. The soldiers minds on Warbo’s idyllic life and how they were going to spend the silver that Ninyas had given them and they did not take sufficient precautions. So that when a raiding party of 1000 strong swooped down on the wagons they had little time to react and every single one of them was slaughtered to a man.
A dispatch rider encountered their bodies as he rode from Warbo to Ado. Ninyas donned mourning clothes to inform the army who wept for their fallen comrades. However now that the gold had been found Ninyas suddenly found Ijebu stifling and could not wait to get out. It was noticed that he paced and fidgeted and had sleepless nights.
In comparison Tiirmirise’s army who had spent their time in Baria in Numer had more or less settled in a semi-permanent home at their base camp. Despite the constant movement, the forays and expeditions the base camp began to take on the aspects of a town.
Most of the soldiers had lovers both male and female, some even had babies. Shops and taverns multiplied outside the wooden fortified walls with a haphazard system of narrow streets. Tiirmirise used the period of winter rains to drill her army thoroughly and sorted out the army into tents of ten who were expected to live together and mess together.
It was during the winter rains that an incident happened which whilst Tiirmirise dismissed Saronne worried about incessantly. The Chief Priestess had summoned them to the temple and she had also requested rather commanded that Saronne attend.
One of the Sarmatian soldiers had raped a temple priestess something forbidden both under Sarmatian law and Simian law. However he was also one of the Queen’s best engineers.
His punishment should by rights have been death under Simian law but Tiirmirise chose to apply castration the penalty under Sarmatian law for rape and the priestess had been furious hence she had summoned Tiirmirise to the temple with Saronne.
“The Gods are displeased by your actions.”
“Well since I only worship one God and he preaches an eye for an eye I believe I have discharged my duties.”
“He requires that you spend a night in the temple. You and the Lady Saronne.”
Tiirmirise’s eyebrows rose. The high priestess had bestowed an honorific on Saronne when she and everyone else knew Saronne was a slave.
“Is that my punishment?” Tiirmirise asked mockingly
“I do not know your majesty. The ways of the gods are unknown to us. Ours is just to obey.”
“And If I do not?”
“That is between you and the god. I am only a messenger and he requires that you and your lady spend the night here and that I mark it as a special date.”
Tiirmirise sighed “Is there any special ritual I must perform, any special donation I must make?”
“None the God only asks that you spend one night in the temple with the Lady Saronne.”
Tiirmirise bowed mockingly “As you will your Grace.”
The arrival of spring brought with it a great stirring within the camp. The soldiers sorted out their weapons for the coming campaign. Mail plates and helmets were oiled and polished and the latter padded to withstand the heat and chaffing, swords and daggers horned, chain mail skirts mended and leathers oiled.
Saronne supervising Tiirmirise’s household had her own administrative duties which included compiling accounts for each member of her bodyguard as their accounts were administered separately because they formed part of Tiirmirise household.
Each soldier male and female had funeral expenses (where the death was not in battle.) If a soldier died in battle the state paid for it. Each soldier also had a savings account which did not release the pay till he or she was discharged and yet another from which they could draw funds from during campaign. This particular system was really a paper system of promise to pay backed by gold.
Most of the accounts were seen to by Nnandi and Makeda but Saronne oversaw that of the 1000 strong Massagetae military bodyguard who accompanied the Queen into battle and who formed a part of Tiirmirise’s household. She also saw to writing dispatches, letters and as well as the other household accounts. She even had her own slaves and Sarmatian assistants to help her.
Saronne found that with each new added responsibility that she had the generals no longer treated her as they would a mere slave and some even came to ask her advice.
Well most treated her with respect except off course Pasiphae who just intimidated and bullied her. She had felt sorry for herself till she realised
Pasiphae intimidated and bullied everyone even the generals but no one said anything because she was a royal princess of the blood and stood in good stead with Tiirmirise. Even that stopped once Nnandi’s wife Epiphany arrived at camp.
Epiphany had not been joking when she said the Massagetae were extremely protective of their life partners. Epiphany came from a merchant family and since most of her family were involved in some military enterprise or another it fell to her to carry on the trading side of their business.
However Epiphany used it as an excuse to travel and she decided to visit Nnandi who was absolutely furious that she put herself in danger. After a blazing row that could be heard by all in camp the Little general had stormed off on exercises and left her weeping wife alone in camp.
Saronne took a deep breadth and went into Nnandi’s quarters. She was carrying a tray of wine and some fresh fruit she had managed to scrounge from the supplies.
“Oh thank-you!” Epiphany smiled through her tears. “You are the only one who has made me feel welcome since I arrived. “Makeda hates my guts, Nnandi does not want me here because she’s terrified I’ll be captured or hurt and Pasiphae is just…”
“A cow!” Saronne laughed “I know. I think they are all just annoyed because they now have to be on their best behaviour.”
“Why what were they doing before?” Epiphany’s eyebrows shot up inquiringly.
“Well not bathing for days after crawling around in the mud is one of my pet peeves.”
Nnandi and Candace were generally well behaved but Makeda and Jbenga despite the fact the latter was married were always drunk and whoring and Pasiphae flogging her slaves and any other unfortunate person who sought her bed. Although Saronne did not think she should mention that to Epiphany who as she could see was a very gently bred lady.
Epiphany‘s eyes widened in disbelief “My perfect little, I can’t work in this environment Nnandi going for days without bathing?”
“Sometimes the command tent smells like some of the sewers in Ado.” Saronne wrinkled her nose distastefully.
Saronne managed to cheer up Epiphany and after much wine and hysterical giggling the two young women fell asleep in Nnandi’s tent. In the evening when they attended dinner, just as Saronne predicted when generals all assembled in the command tent they were all in formal military wear. Bathed washed and well groomed.
They all sat down to a formal dinner following tradition and because Epiphany was the only non warrior Massagetae present she got to bless the salt.
Tiirmirise barely looked at her or addressed her all evening. However she was used to this especially when her generals were around. After dinner in the command tent Saronne supervised the clearing of the tent and made her way to Tiirmirise tent to get her bath ready and ensure her tent was clean and comfortable.
When She entered Tiirmirise’s chamber, she looked around for the other slaves but did not see them. In fact the chamber was eerily quiet. Suddenly someone grabbed her and before she could open her mouth her scream was cut short by a hard punishing kiss that crushed her lips ruthlessly and then just as quickly as she was in the embrace Tiirmirise pushed her away. Saronne stumbled over one of the cushions left lying carelessly on the floor and fell.
When she looked up all she could see was the blazing fury in the black queen’s one eyed gaze and something else she couldn’t quite discern.
"So you were not satisfied with being my whore, you decided to fuck little Nnandi’s wife yourself," She snarled.
Her heart sank. "I don’t know what you’re talking about, Tiirmirise" Saronne bit her lower lip anxiously.
"Don’t lie to me, you fucking bitch!" Tiirmirise grabbed her by her hair and dragged her over to the white animal rug in the middle of the tent. She glared down into Saronne’s face for a moment as though looking for something and then with a feral growl she pushed her away and started pacing the room restlessly.
The Massagetae Queen moved effortlessly and economically like a big wild cat, stalking her prey, she walked around the room circling Saronne as though waiting for a moment to strike. Saronne felt she now had an inkling of what it actually felt like to be hunted, like the quarry of a predator that was about to be devoured. Tiirmirise was going to kill her right there and then.
"Did you think I wouldn’t find out?" She sneered. "You and that fucking over pampered cunt. You’ve seemed to forget whom you belong to. You belong to me! And she will pay for daring to touch my property! And make no mistake YOU ARE MINE!!!" She roared out the last words with such menace Saronne fairly quivered with fear.
As she ranted and raved, Saronne tried to think of who it was that could cause her to think that she would betray her in such a way.
She groaned inwardly as she remembered the events of the afternoon. Herself and Epiphany had got drunk and fallen asleep on Nnandi’s bed. When she woke up she realised the time she was late for all the other things she had to do.
Anyone could have seen them and misconstrued the situation. After all Epiphany was a Massagetae and Saronne only a slave. No one would think that they were doing anything other than having sex.
Saronne tried to reassure her. Epiphany was one of the few friends she’d made since coming to the land of the Massagetae and if the Queen felt that she was… she could barely think it through.
Suddenly she pounced again pulling her to her feet by the simple expedient of grasping her hair and holding her in a crushing embrace. They were so close, face to face, eyeball to eyeball she could feel Tiirmirise’s breadth on her lips.
"Tiirmirise, nothing happened between myself and Epiphany. I didn’t experience any physical intimacy with Epiphany." She said softly.
The sound of her name on her very lips caused the black Queen to glare at her. Saronne felt like shrivelling away from that furious stare but she held her ground and bravely did not back down.
“Oh Cack!“ Tiirmirise released her grip on Saronne and immediately began pacing again. She didn’t say anything for a long time.
“The Eunuchs say they came and found you sleeping together in Nnandi’s bed.”
“That was all we were doing Tiirmirise…sleeping I swear it!”
“I cannot imagine anyone being in bed with you Afereni and not fucking with you, I should kill you and that bitch too!”
Suddenly Tiirmirise was on top of her, straddling her. This time she had her left hand on Saronne’s throat and a dagger appeared in her right. She put the dagger to the younger woman’s throat and her face within a hair’s breath of Saronne’s so she could smell the wine on her breath.
If she was intoxicated there would be no reasoning with her. In her heart Saronne knew she had done nothing wrong. She had not lusted after Epiphany or even done any of the things Tiirmirise was now accusing her of. If Tiirmirise wanted to kill her let it be because Tiirmirise wanted to do it not because of one Massagetae woman who had shown her kindness and extended the hand of friendship.
"I know that if you want to kill me you can. You are stronger than me Tiirmirise but know this, as God is my witness I did not share my body with Epiphany.”
Tiirmirise looked down into the innocent blue eyes and somehow knew she was telling the truth.
Saronne closed her eyes and waited for Tiirmirise to plunge the dagger into her throat. The death blow never came. Instead the black hand released her hair which she had used to bend her neck back painfully.
The next sound she heard was that of Tiirmirise’s dagger fly through the air and embedding itself into one of the support poles that held up the tent.
Tiirmirise did not get off Saronne instead she waited until Saronne opened her eyes, and she held her gaze. "There are other ways to find out if you lie?“ She sneered menacingly.
All Saronne could do was stare at the woman who held her heart if did she but know it. She was no longer afraid she would strike her. Her anger had passed. No she was afraid of something else Tiirmirise would use her sex as a weapon to bring her into line. Make her beg and plead for release and they both knew it.
Instead Tiirmirise groaned and lowered her head to kiss her neck and throat. Gentle butterfly kisses, that burned her skin even through the robe she wore.
She cried with relief each sob that came out of her mouth was like a sword that pierced Tiirmirise very soul. Saronne wanted to say something, but was too shaken.
Tiirmirise gently undid the robe she wore. It was designed by one of the Eunuchs to be taken off easily. When she was naked, Saronne found herself flat on her back, Tiirmirise held both her wrists in one hand above her head.
Saronne shut here eyes tightly and waited. Instead of lying on top of her, Tiirmirise lay beside the younger woman and caressed her body, stroking her neck, her breasts, running her callused thumb over her nipples and caressing her belly.
“Look at me Afereni.” Tiirmirise whispered putting her fingers under her golden haired lover’s chin and turned her head to face hers forcing blue eyes to gaze into one black unrelenting one. More often than not when they were like this, her eye was glazed with lust. Now though it was a searching gaze that met her blue eyes.
Tiirmirise caressed her cheek gently with the back of her trembling fingers and cleared her throat "She is your friend, Saronne?" The black Queen said hoarsely.
"Nothing more, Tiirmirise." Saronne whispered.
It was one of the few times she slept with Tiirmirise where they didn’t have sex. Confused by Tiirmirise behaviour and too exhausted to think about it Saronne fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.
She woke up early the next morning, the sun had not yet risen above the horizon, she was lying on her side, Tiirmirise’s muscled arm wrapped around her waist. She could feel the tickle of her steady breathing in her hair and her warmth behind her as they lay like two spoons in a cutlery chamber against the Queen’s naked body.
At first she was afraid to turn her head to see if she was truly sleeping. She had spent countless nights in Tiirmirise's bed since she had come from Gypsos. Even after the most exhaustive sex, They almost always ended up in an intimate embrace like this one.
Now here was Tiirmirise, holding her when she expected to be thoroughly ravished especially considering the fact that they had not had sex since Tiirmirise first set out on a scouting expedition with Candace seven days ago.
Saronne turned to watch the sleeping warrior Queen seized with an inexplicable urge to study that arrogant battle scarred face. Her movements caused Tiirmirise to moan and her grip on Saronne’s waist tightened.
Then she let out a big breath, followed by words that stopped her heart.
"Saronne, I love you, I‘m sorry." she muttered agitatedly. A second sigh and then her breathing was steady again.
It was sometime before Saronne realized that she was holding her own breath. She just lay there, staring into darkness too afraid to hope too afraid to believe.
Epiphany returned to Ekiti before the army went on the move. The army of Tiirmirise marched under a different style from that of Ninyas. Every soldier carried his or her own gear. Which they carried in shoulder bags everything from spare tunics, women’s rags, shaving kits, socks, spare tunics, cold weather breaches and leather to necker chiefs to avoid chaffing where the mail shirt rubbed against the neck.
The soldiers were also issued with a red cloak, the Massagetae wore black, the archers wore green, the cavalry wore brown and engineers, artillery and other non-combatants wore grey. The cloaks were covered with a special resin to keep the material water proof on one side and keep the soldier from getting wet. Each soldier also carried a cooking pot, water bag, 3 days rations, wooden poles for the camp palisade, whichever entrenching tools they had been allocated.
As they marched the soldiers carried their shields, strapped across their backs when they were not expecting combat but they carried it on their arm when in expectation of attack. The twenty pound chain mail shirt and its leather under pinning were always worn for marching and the breast plate protected the torso.
The mail shirt protected the joints as did the leather and then there were greaves to protect the shins also worn over the leather trousers. Unlike other soldiers the Sarmatian wore their blade on their right so they could use one hand to draw their short stabbing swords. The dagger was worn on the left also in a small scabbard like a sword.
Each group of 10 soldiers also had a mule which carried their tents, poles, spears, extra rations, spare sections for the camp palisades. The cavalry had their own mules also and generally carried any excess baggage that could not be carried by the ranker soldiers. The heavier carts carried artillery and Engineering equipment.
When Tiirmirise went after King Jurugun in Spring she left some of her artillery behind in Baria and further deployed her cavalry on either side of her army marching abreast so that she reduced the total length of each column significantly.
They sang marching songs to the beat of the military drums and horns at the top of their voices to keep pace and also to build military camaraderie amongst the army. Sometimes Tiirmirise marched on foot with the infantry other times she rode with the cavalry.
She was every where and spent time with engineers, artillery, medics, non-combatants, infantry, cavalry, archers so that she knew most if not all the soldiers male and female on a personal basis.
At least one had felt the force of that penetrating gaze, or been privileged to that elusive secret smile or yelled at or applauded. They saw her suffering with them, wearing down her military boots, getting saddle sores, pulling out splinters. She shared their joys and woes and earned their love and respect.
Saronne threw up for the third time that morning and she felt utterly miserable. Fortunately for her because they were in no real hurry she had ample time to get herself ready. She had just finished cleaning herself up when she came out of Tiirmirise tent and saw a blind woman leaning against a wooden stick. Her eyes were horribly scarred and she looked vaguely familiar.
“ I think ye’ll find fresh lemon and ginger tea a good cure for what ails ye child.”
“ B…but that’s for morning sickness!”
“I am not pregnant.”
“Are ye not?”
“Certainly not. I am…I mean…I have…its impossible.”
“Here child. Worry yourself not. Take some every morning it should stop what ails ye.”
She watched the woman hobble off into the distance and went to make herself a tea from some of the herbs the woman had given her. She sighed with relief when late into the morning she stopped throwing up.
She began to wonder. She had not seen her last menses for two months now was she pregnant or did she have some sort of illness? She couldn’t be pregnant. She hadn’t been with any man apart from Nitocris father and that was almost a year ago. Perhaps there was something really wrong with her.
In the tent after they had made camp and everyone was safely within the military forte Tiirmirise was talking to the generals and discussing the strategy for conducting the campaign.
“We are going to sack, rape, pillage and loot every town, village and city we encounter.” Tiirmirise said softly to the generals who stood around watching her intently.
Saronne gasped and everyone in the tent turned to look at her. She covered her mouth with her hands and the generals turned back to their conversation. She lowered her head and continued taking notes.
She dared not speak out because to show disrespect to the queen in public meant certain death and she also knew that there were some laws even the Queen could not disobey. Spargapises her own son had been incarcerated and Tiirmirise had been helpless to intervene. How much more a slave like her?
Tiirmirise continued speaking as though she had not heard her.
“I want to break Jurugun,” Tiirmirise was saying as she restlessly paced the tent.
She was surrounded by a restless energy which had long since dissipated in the other generals after a long days march but it still crackled around Tiirmirise like the sparks in a lightning storm.
“I want to break Jurugun so that the people understand that if they so much as give him a blade of grass they will suffer dire consequences. We will give no quarter. ”
“Dreaded Lady” Makeda said reasonably “If we leave a trail of destruction will we not suffer when they are unable to contribute to our tribute and our own food supplies?”
“We have enough stored in the Granaries for this year and well into the next because the harvest was good” Nandi interjected.
Makeda shook her head “It grieves me sorely to say this but I agree with the Queen, let them suffer the consequences of their actions. They only attacked because they thought we would be at the mercy of the Dominion and not able to repel this attack.”
“Besides the rebuilding will take their minds off war and give them something constructive to do like their survival.” Pasiphae retorted.
After the generals left Saronne had almost bitten off her tongue, trying to restrain herself. Only the slave girls and a few members of the Massagetae military staff remained to tidy up the Queen‘s tent. The meeting had not taken place at the command tent because it was currently being mended.
She had cooked evening the meal herself, a steaming whole turbot caught in one of the rivers and served with a light fennel sauce, vegetables and bread.
There were also olives, cheeses, chickpeas and chillis which she had brought into the Queen‘s tent herself which was how she was opportuned to hear their discussion.
“I can see that you were extremely annoyed about my orders today.” Tiirmirise tossed her cloak onto one of the chairs.
Saronne sat on the couch she did not recline. Her hair was in a long pony tail held by purple ribbons, a slender gold torc adorned her neck and her upper arms.
She was completely naked beneath the diaphanous green silk gown which was strategically designed to accentuate what it hid and understate that which was not hidden. So it moulded her breasts and nipples clinging to her curves yet was sheer when it covered her flat belly.
The outfit was completed with an anklet chain and two toe rings to emphasis her red painted toe nails. Her eunuch a Gyptian was like most Gyptians exceptionally fond of make up. So not only were her eyes lined
with kohl but her lips were rouged as were her nipples.
Tiirmirise's eyes caressed her appreciatively
“May I please tell you when we are private your majesty?” She begged softly.
Tiirmirise’s eyebrows drew together in puzzlement. Ever since her jealous episode she had sought out her cousin determined to confront her. Epiphany had told her off in no uncertain terms and she was trying to get her relationship with Saronne back to when they had first met in Gypsos. She therefore wanted Saronne to forgo the formal mode of address between them.
She tried again. “You looked really tired after the day‘s march did I disturb you when I returned to our bed?”
“May I please speak of it when we are private your majesty?” She did not look at the Queen as she said the softly spoken words.
Tiirmirise was exasperated. The little baggage was deliberately being annoying. “No damn it you will answer whatever questions I put to you!”
“May I have permission to answer your questions truthfully your majesty?”
Tiirmirise'ss black gaze narrowed but her voice remained uncompromising. “You may answer my questions any way you like as long as your answer pleases me.”
Tiirmirise took a deep breadth and inclined her head arrogantly. “Now we shall begin again and you will tell me what you did not like about my decision in the command tent today.”
“I like whatever you like Dreaded Lady.”
Tiirmirise grit her teeth at her subservience but soldiered on. “Did I disturb you last night?”
“Your nearness always disturbs me Dreaded Lady.”
Tiirmirise's patience snapped and she ordered the slaves out of the tent. Saronne cast the queen an innocent glance from under her eyelashes.
Tiirmirise sighed and tried again turning round she faced the younger woman.
“Have you any idea how beautiful you look tonight?”
“For a whore you mean?” She asked sweetly.
“You don’t look like a whore,” the Queen said softly “You look like the pagan goddess Aphrodite just before she sails into the sea at Cyprus on her sea shell, all you need is to have your robes falling about your feet.”
“Yes well I expect you will soon rectify that.” Saronne murmured suggestively
Tiirmirise laughed “You are absolutely delightful.”
“My only wish is to please you.“ Saronne replied her every word dripping with sarcasm.
“If that is true then come here and lie beside me on my couch.” Tiirmirise wriggled her eyebrows wickedly.
Saronne’s heartbeat quickened. She knew perfectly well that if she went anywhere near Tiirmirise in the mood the Queen was in all thoughts of food would be forgotten and she would most likely be the main course.
She needed to change the subject. “I can’t believe that you as a woman would give an order to rape, pillage and loot.”
“This is war and Jurugun is the enemy. I must crush this rebellion ruthlessly.” Tiirmirise said unloosening the ribbon from her Saronne’s and gently brushing the long golden wavy hair from her cheek.
“Perhaps he is rebelling because your terms are harsh have you ever thought of that?” Saronne asked earnestly
“A conquered people should know when they are beaten.” Tiirmirise said arrogantly and lowered her head to give Saronne a kiss. Saronne turned her head away and long recognised this tactic for what it was an attempt to distract her from the conversation at hand. Further she was not sure if Tiirmirise included herself in that statement.
“Would you? Would anyone?” Saronne whispered and Tiirmirise turned away from her all seeing penetrating gaze.
“He is rebelling because he thinks we are weak. If I allow him to continue in this erroneous vein of thought soon others will follow his example, they will rebel and disrespect me until my people are overwhelmed. I will not allow that to happen. The Numerian must be taught a lesson.”
“Fine punish Jurugun by all means but why punish his people they are innocent?”
“Innocent?” Tiirmirise raised one black perfectly shaped eyebrow. “They give him shelter do they not?, they give him food, they give their sons to fight in his armies. No I would not describe them as innocent.”
“But they have to he is their King!”
“Then they are not innocent are they. Still you are not Numerian. What do you care for their fate?”
“I am a slave Tiirmirise. I know what it is like to be captured and treated like a chattel. I, once a princess know what it is like to be dishonoured, to go from a loving home to being treated as one whose life is as nothing more than a few coins.”
“We Massagetae did not invent slavery besides, I believe that in the Northern lands women are treated as chattel anyway. So what difference between that and a slave.”
“That is no justification for slavery.”
She usually enjoyed her conversations with Saronne although the other Massagetae thought her impudent. Tiirmirise liked being with someone who challenged her to think and not people who said yes to her every whim all the time.
Naturally she demanded obedience from her soldiers but from her equals she expected an honest opinion. She did not know when she had elevated Saronne a slave to the position of an equal.
“The economy depends on slaves. Slavery will always be with us.”
Saronne glared at the maddening woman and started earnestly explaining to her the evils of slavery.
Tiirmirise poured two goblets of wine and mixed in water for both of them. Unmixed wine was drunk in the safety and confines of the city not on campaign.
Wine was mixed in with water when they were not sure of the water supply just as chilli was used to season beef for the same purpose to stop a person from being sick. She had yet to discover if that was an old wives tale or just a device by a sadistic cook.
The rest of the army drank beer or a revolting brew made from goats milk. In the south where the Massagetae Homeland was located they drank palm winea liquid sap that was tapped from the date palm tree, chilled and drunk.
When first tapped it was sweet after a few hours it became extremely alchoholic and if left for longer than a day unchilled it turned into what could only be described as vinegar. The Massagetae were famous for surviving on the blood of their livestock and its milk however it was a practice Tiirmirise actively discouraged except when the army was in dire circumstances.
Saronne took a breadth mid-tirade and sat down she realised that Tiirmirise was amused by her passion and not a bit moved.
“Perhaps if you eat you shall feel better.” Tiirmirise gently offered her a plate of food. The queen had cut up some Fish and vegetables and even a little bread for her. Tiirmirise ate her own food which she arranged for herself with gusto. Saronne pushed hers around her plate unhappily.
“Is the food not to your liking?”
“I suddenly find I am not hungry!” Saronne felt like throwing one of the silver dishes arranged in front of her at the queen’s beautiful black head.
Tiirmirise held up her hand. “I have no intention of debating the merits and demerits of slavery with you.”
The Queen wiped her mouth with a cloth set on the table for just such a purpose and continued “Besides I find that at this moment I am more interested in savouring your…” the glittering black gaze swept her up and down smouldering at her with undisguised sexual intent. “Exceptional loveliness than your intelligent debate on slavery.”
“That is too bad, I had planned on entertaining you with my intelligence and not my exceptional loveliness.”
“That would be impossible.”
“What a challenge you are Tiirmirise!”
Tiirmirise smiled wickedly “Shall we adjourn to the bed and we can continue this discussion in earnest.”
“Is that an order or an invitation?”
“Since you had me dismiss the slaves, I believe it is an invitation.”
“Well I am glad you are playing by the rules.”
“The beauty of being in command is that I can change the rules whenever I wish.” So saying Tiirmirise lifted her up against her chest. Her nipple pierced breasts pressed against the Queen’s body, her naked thighs rested against her powerful forearms and the heat from her body seemed to melt her bones.
As they made their way over to the bed she caught their reflection in Tiirmirise mirror which lay propped up against her desk. Their reflection was overtly sensual. Saronne rarely thought about the disparity in size between their bodies or their colouring but it was such a startling contrast; her’s so fair and Tiirmirise as dark as ebony.
Tiirmirise laid her down on the bed and she gasped as her hand slipped between their bodies, tracing her mound of Venus and spreading her fingers through her golden pubic curls whilst her rasping tongue teased at her engorged nipples.
Saronne was gasping for breadth from the sensation those questing fingers aroused as they searched her cleft with callused fingertips till they found the sensitive bud within and then Tiirmirise moved her fingers in an excruciatingly slow circular motion until she was moaning with pure pleasure.
Saronne writhed beneath Tiirmirise unrelenting fingers panting as the her fingers now slid inside her and her palms cupped her sex. Tiirmirise other hand squeezed her now breast with a slow rhythmic motion that matched the rhythm of her encircling fingers.
She wanted to beg her to go faster but she could only moan her pleasure as sensation after sensation flooded her body with the slow steady rhythmic circling that that made her pleasure go on and on and on.
She arched her back as her climax came sweeping over her so hard and fast she screamed thrusting her self onto Tiirmirise hand. The Queen cupped her firmly intensifying the sensual pleasure each pulsating contraction brought her. By the time Tiirmirise possessed her trembling mouth she was too far gone to complain.
When at last Tiirmirise lifted her mouth from Saronne’s she murmured “That is just a taste of the pleasure we will share this night. Now that I have entertained you, it is your turn to entertain me. Do you imagine your intelligence can hold my interest or will you have to resort to your exceptional loveliness?” She challenged.
“I am not happy that you use sex to distract me Tiirmirise.”
“To distract you from what?”
“The conversation we had earlier about Jurugun, I just do not believe that this policy of rapine and pillage is what is called for perhaps it would be better if…”
“And perhaps if your own King had been as ruthless as I you would be the one enjoying the services of this barbarian queen instead of the other way round.”
“If my father had been as ruthless as you we probably would never have met anyway and you know in your heart that Jurugun will not care that these people have been hurt because of his reckless actions.”
“By all the heavens, Saronne you try me sorely. I do all I can to please you and you keep pushing our relationship to…”
“Relationship?“ Saronne said scornfully “We don’t have a relationship Tiirmirise you own me!”
“And you would do well to remember that.” Tiirmirise said angrily.
The Legend of the Hidden Queen
In the morning Tiirmirise's orders were carried out to the letter. Granaries and smoke houses were pillaged to augment the armies food rations. The local populace were thoroughly brutalised and absolutely anything of value was carted away and contributed to the army’s haul.
No one was allowed to keep such items for it identified which soldier committed which atrocity and apart from leading to vengeance from the locals also created martyrs and martyrs were a rallying point she could do without. Tiirmirise wanted no heroes. She wanted to break their spirit of rebellion so she could concentrate on keeping the Dominion off Sarmatian lands.
Every eighth day the army rested wherever they reached a river or lake they stopped for three days so everyone could swim fish and rest well. Swimming was for obvious reasons only the higher ranking officers had slaves draw baths for them everyone else jumped in the river or lakes. It kept the camp clean and helped to replenish their water supplies. Fish supplemented their diets.
So far it had been an easy campaign. Jurugun’s army never appeared the cities and towns were incapable of resisting her armies and by living off the land they had not run short of food or water.
The army supplies of bread, lentils, or chick pea soup were often seasoned with either smoked beef, smoked fish or smoked salt pork gleaned from Numerian smoke houses and had been varied by salty soft sheep’s cheese.
There was enough goatmeat, fish, veal, mutton and vegetables to keep everyone in good spirits. The fermented goats milk which the army usually drank was supplemented by barley beer which the locals called burukutu and sometimes if they got lucky dark rich red Numerian wine.
They reached a town called Ogbuku about 5 miles from the Western fortress belonging to Jurugun and where he held his western court. The people woke up the next morning to find Tiirmirise army camped outside their gates and with nowhere to go.
The elders of the town came out to beg for mercy. Old men with grey hair and long beards dressed in sack cloth and ashes. They were met by Nnandi and Makeda and led to Queen’s tent.
Inside the tent they fell on their faces and begged for mercy. They were ready to give up the town, its goods every thing they owned if only Tiirmirise would spare them.
As was her custom Tiirmirise put the question to the commanders around her. “Well let me have your opinion?” The Queen asked of her generals. “What is to be done with them?”
At first no one spoke and Tiirmirise shook her head. “And people say I am a tyrant.”
Pasiphae slapped the table making everyone jump with the loud and sudden sound. “I say we kill them all. Every last one of them and burn the city to the ground. Loot pillage and rape to our hearts desire.”
Nnandi rolled her eyes. She was the least bloodthirsty of the Massagetae and notorious for her extravagant tastes and love of the finer things in life. She knew Pasiphae would say that. The blood thirsty princess would never say anything else.
“I think we have enough supplies at the moment. We can afford to proceed to the Western fortress without sacking the town. That is not to say we should not sack or loot it. The more of King Jurugun’s gold we have in our coffers, the less Jurugun has to finance a war against us.”
Makeda was tall unlike Nnandi and well muscled like Tiirmirise. They had grown up together in the southern Massagetae lands. Unlike Tiirmirise’s lean muschle her’s was very bulky giving the impression of strength and like all Massagetae had a scar on her right breast. She was a very methodical person but her size and dreamy brown eyes, long thick eye lashes and thick sensuous lips did not give a hit as to the depths of her intelligence and she was very clever.
A brilliant military tactician. She was the one in charge of the details of battle. She made sure the army knew what tactic to employ and where. Unlike Tiirmirise who understood the larger picture and strategy which made her excellent at commanding whole armies, Makeda’s attention to detail and little changes when employed with the far seeing Tiirmirise made the Massagetae an excellent lieutenant and together they were a devastating combination.
“It is a difficult question your majesty” Makeda said thoughtfully “Certainly we do not need to attack the town or loot it but if we are pursuing a scorched earth policy why spare this town. Besides if we spare this one town will not the others also come begging?”
Osamaye shook his head. “I never thought I would see the day when the Massagetae got soft. Some old men come a begging with rheumy eyes and we are even considering mercy?” This can only be due to the influence your slave has on you.”
Osamaye said what the others all thought but had been afraid to say. Before the advent of Saronne this would not even have been an option.
“I agree entirely Xango stroked his beard. What do we gain from being merciful?”
“If I may be permitted to speak Your Majesty?” Saronne asked softly but confidently.
There was utter silence in the room as the Massagetae and Sarmatian generals turned their attention to her. She could be executed if Tiirmirise did not give her permission to speak but the Queen turned round and lifted her hand for her to continue.
“DreadedLady, I would suggest that we honour their request for mercy.”
Pasiphae snorted “What else would you expect from a slave!”
Saronne bit her lip, the Queen’s expression was totally unreadable. She only gained the strength to continue from Candace and Nnandi’s encouraging smile. “We would lose nothing if we showed them mercy. Indeed if we show mercy perhaps we would not need to fight so many battles.
The cities and towns would give themselves up. You could take what you wished without losing soldiers in an encounter as would happen when the people defended their homes. Sometimes your Majesty, one catches more flies with honey than with vineagar.”
Tiirmirise nodded at turned to the delegation still cowering at her feet.
“I have heard you all and these are my words. We will not kill the people nor will we sack, pillage nor rape the town. Your town will swear allegiance to the Massagetae and to me Tiirmirise. All your citizens male and female. Old and young you will take blood oath.”
Tiirmirise looked down where they knelt she wanted them to know at what price their freedom and lives would be bought.
“You will obey my edicts and my laws without question. You will choose one man and one woman to represent you at the council in Ekiti and should I hear that you give succour to Jurugun or any of mine enemies at anytime. I will burn the city to the ground. I will not sell its inhabitants into slavery I will slaughter every man woman and animal and plow the fields with salt. I will desecrate the graves of your ancestors and make it as though you had never been. These are my terms.”
“Your majesty!” Osumaye gasped but Tiirmirise voice continued as though he had not spoken.”
“These are my terms. Take them or leave them!”
“We shall take your message to the town elders and return at noon tomorrow. Your Majesty.” They left and the other generals were in uproar.
“Your majesty is that wise?” Xango asked thoughtfully
“Those men were spies!” Pasiphae stormed. “Given half a chance they would return to kill us in our beds!”
“A scorched earth policy that is what we decided to pursue and that is what we should continue with.” Osamaye reiterated forcefully
“That is my decision.”
Pasiphae roared with frustration “This slave has…”
“That will be all.” Tiirmirise said in a quiet voice which brooked no further argument. “You may all leave me now except the slave Saronne.”
Nnandi and Candace winked at Saronne on their way out but the other generals glared at her.
“Well Afereni,” Tiirmirise said at length after they had all left. “We shall see where your policy of mercy gets us.” Then she grinned “Are your luscious breasts getting bigger?”
Saronne’s eyes widened but before she could say anything further, Tiirmirise lowered her head to lick over each nipple then covering them with her mouth till she felt them spike into sharp little spears. Her tongue licked a burning wet path from her breast, across her belly downwards till they reached her centre.
Saronne moaned and The Queen’s name came out on a sibilant hiss. “Tiirmisssse.” Her name was as much a supplication as an admission.
Unable to deny herself another moment, Tiirmirise tongue dipped into her cleft and traced each pink fold as though they were the petals of a flower.
Saronne’s fingers were buried in Tiirmirise's thick black hair, urging her helplessly on to devour her. From beneath languorous eyelids she watched the black head between her legs and realised with a deep sexual thrill that with this most intimate act Tiirmirise was on her knees pleasing her.
She groaned as the Queen’s tongue pressed against her, plunging and curling, curling and plunging stroking her bud again and again until it swelled to bursting point until she could contain her climax no longer and arched into her mouth with a piercing cry of pleasure.
After making love till they were both exhausted Tiirmirise tiredly laid her head down on Saronne’s breasts and relaxed under her soothing touch falling into a deep and dreamless sleep.
Saronne could not sleep however. She was extremely worried and she was also beginning to fear that the old woman had been right perhaps she was pregnant. How else could she explain her increasing breast size and thickening waist and swollen ankles. No one would believe she had not betrayed the Queen.
In the morning the town surrendered and took blood oath to the Massagetae Queen before the Sarmatian army continued its relentless march.
The first fortress Tiirmirise encountered was on a volcanic outcrop a thousand feet high. It functioned as one of Jurugun’s Economic centers and was therefore loaded with treasure and for that reason was well defended and appeared almost impregnable. Further due to Tiirmirise scorched earth policy the citizens had slammed the gates and retreated into the citidal.
The generals gathered in the command tent to have a crises meeting. As usual Saronne was the only slave who attended them.
Makeda sighed flopping on one of the couches in the command tent. “Well we can forget a frontal assault and I can’t think of anyway to besiege it.”
“That’s because there isn’t anyway to besiege it. I have been scouting the bloody mountain for days ahead of you and even after we got here.” Candace said disgustedly
Pasiphae sat down and accepted a cup of wine from Saronne who though veiled was virtually half naked in her slave’s uniform. She did not miss the assessing glance the Princess Royal passed her way nor the frankly lecherous look Xango the father of her child and Tiirmirise brother was now directing at her.
Xango Tiirmirise brother, Xango Tiirmirise general and Nitocris father. When he had ridden into camp her heart had almost stopped beating. She could never betray that fact to Tiirmirise. She did not particularly like Xango but she did not want to see him dead either and they both knew Tiirmirise would kill him. Further with her pregnancy the last thing she wanted was to be seen in his company.
“We’ll have to starve them out.” Tiirmirise rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Nnandi you will work with Candace, scout around for a reliable drinking source for our army and allocate pools for them to swim in. Osamaye you seem to have a knack for foraging for food you can organise fishing parties and allocate others to find fruit and vegetables.”
“When am I going to be blooded?” Osanes one of the newly appointed lieutenants asked and Saronne made an involuntary sound of disgust. Tiirmirise turned to her.
Osamaye was appalled “You should discipline her. A slave should not show such disrespect.”
“If you can’t do it I shall be happy to do it for you.” Pasiphae grinned evilly at Saronne who shuddered with distaste. She still remembered her first meeting with Pasiphae in the brothel.
“I will deal with my property as I see fit. Now as to your question of being blooded. You should have been but the town surrendered…”
Osanes glared at Saronne who looked away. She was the reason Tiirmirise accepted the Town’s surrender.
“Why are you getting bored with military life already it is not all blood and gore you know a good general is one who can win a fight without spilling a drop of blood.”
“Indeed,” Jbenga agreed “Why I remember when…”
Saronne was bored by tales of war they held no interest for her and she let their words drift over her. She wondered what Tiirmirise planned and mentally went over the words she had written in her diary that day.
Tiirmirise could be cruel in her own way. During our stay at the palace, she forced me to drink an aphrodisiac telling me exactly what it did as she held me down and poured it down my throat, explaining how it would heighten my senses and dull my inhibitions.
Then she brought me to the brink of sexual pleasure again and again never once letting me experience fulfilment and all the while she was so cold and unfeeling. Her not reacting to me hurt me, and seeing that she so obviously did not derive any pleasure in the act was soul shattering.
I did not known how much I had come to enjoy giving and receiving pleasure. Again and Again she brought me to the abyss of pleasure yet she did not allow me to enjoy it. She seemed to get off on the power it gave her.
I begged, I pleaded, I cajoled, I wept my pride in tatters, I hated her, I wanted her, I loathed her I loved her. In the morning I wept in the arms of the Eunuch Merses who gently drew my bath.
When she tried to get me to kiss her and I refused she punished me. For weeks she no longer pleasured me only forced me to pleasure her then she would roll over and fall asleep.
As I said earlier one of her body servants had died of poison. Well during our time at Ado there had also been an assassination attempt on the queen. A female assassin stabbed her with a poisoned blade and by rights she should have died.
The city had been thrown into chaos, armed gangs roamed the streets and the authorities did nothing for by that time Ninyas had gone to Narbo and Spargapises was still under house arrest. It was the first time I used the amulet Olayrae had given me.
I gave the one my mother had given me to Nitocris. I used it to channel and remove the poison and close the wound a little and though I could have healed her completely I did not wish to arouse suspicion. Ever since that day Tiirmirise had changed towards me and I believe it was the reason she changed her mind to leave me at Ado but allowed me to accompany her on campaign.
In private she indulged my tantrums, scolding and naggings in public she did not tolerate them.
Pasiphae on the other hand was touched. When she had stayed at the Palace I had to tend many slaves with whip marks and some of them were even tortured and it was not uncommon for others to disappear never to be seen again.
Tiirmirise never did anything to reign in the princess. Pasiphae I was told was the best warrior on the battlefield and had saved Tiirmirise life in the battle on countless occasions.
I knew it was for that reason that Tiirmirise turned a blind eye to her cruel habits. The Queen sometimes referred to her as a necessary evil. I however could never forget having seen myself the result of Pasiphae‘s passions.
When Tiirmirise rode out to battle or rather pillage and loot some unsuspecting town, she was usually dressed in her black armour and purple ankle length cloak or cape which swirled about her whilst her two long curving scimitars hung from her waist.
She always insisted I see her off and one of my duties was to give her packed lunch. I remember one particular morning which was cold, the dew had just settled on the grass. My nipples always erect because of the piercings were almost painful in the cold. My modesty was barely hidden by my transparent robes though I wore a black cloak with a purple border announcing to one and all that I belonged to the Queen.
Tiirmirise held me in an embrace against her slender armour covered body and covered mine in a fiercely possessive kiss which I did not return. I was still smarting from an argument we had earlier. I did not bother to fight her I simply let her take what she wanted without returning her kiss. The cold steel pressed against my body the plates rubbed against my skin and I cried out involuntarily.
“You’re hurting me.” I whispered unable to keep the tears shimmering in my eyes hidden from her. I tried to ignore the look of longing in that black gaze as she released me and gently wrapped the black cloak around me and then she clambered her horse Mordenes and left.
As I tidied her things and made the fire in her tent a little warmer a sound made me turn and I found Pasiphae inside Tiirmirise’s private tent.
“Tiirmirise has been distracted of late.” She said softly
“I am not responsible for the Queen’s state of mind.”
“Oh but you are. Any fool can see she is smitten with you. Tiirmirise has not indulged in bed play with another slave since she bought you. You must remember slave if she loses this battle you may yet find yourself in another brothel and you may not find yourself lucky enough to be given to a Queen who worships the very ground on which you walk.
Instead you could be spreading your legs for anyone with enough coin or having your back bloodied by a depraved princess like me. You should think about that the next time you decide to mind fuck the queen.”
“Get out!” I hissed at her and pointed to the exit of the tent.
The warrior princess laughed and leaned forward to grab me. A whip flashed through the air and caught her hand.
“Touch her and die.” The voice was deliberate, quiet and instantly recognisable.
It was Tiirmirise. She pulled Pasiphae forward and backhanded her. So that blood issued forth from her nose. Pasiphae laughed and held up her hand for Tiirmirise to help her to her feet which she did. She was utterly unrepentant she bowed mockingly to Tiirmirise and blew a kiss at me.
Afraid I tied my robes tightly around me “I did not encourage her.”
Tiirmirise smiled “I never said you did.” She nodded at where Pasiphae had just been “That one is a bitch on heat. I saw the way she looked at you and decided to return to see you are well. The security lapse is mine it will never happen again. I shall put the Massagetae at your disposal. The eunuchs are obviously too afraid of her.”
She looked me over, I could feel her eyes sweeping up and down my body and before she turned to go.
“Tiirmirise….” The word came out almost as a whisper.
“Thank-You.” I smiled at her hesitantly.
End of entry.
“We could spend the next ten years marching up and down and never encounter Jurugun,” Makeda was saying “He’s too crafty to risk a pitted battle with us he knows we will beat him. Our only alternative is to break his people to the point where they will either have to fight or starve.”
Suddenly outside the tent there was a commotion. Tiirmirise and the other generals drew their swords and made their way outside. Once outside they saw a man retching on the ground and two soldiers were hitting him with a stick.
When Tiirmirise came out she put Saronne behind her after assessing the situation she wordlessly sheathed her sword and returned to the command tent. The other generals followed her back in.
“Stop that can’t you see he’s sick?” Saronne said exasperatedly.
“He’s not sick he’s drunk. He’s not even a ranker he’s one of those scum arse bandit boys from the town.”
“Nevertheless take him to the tents on the west side of the camp I will tend him.”
“What if he is contagious?”
“You‘ll just have to quarantine me won‘t you?” Saronne said exasperatedly
The unit leader looked horrified “The Queen won’t like that.”
“Right now I don’t particularly care what the queen likes. Now help me. Its better to quarantine just me and not the whole high command which we will have to do if we leave him here.”
The tents on the west side were set aside for sick soldiers. They had supplies of liniment, ointment, ogogoro, which was a kind of distilled alchohol the Massagetae used for cleaning wounds and tables and other medical equipment.
Seunion couldn’t take his eyes off the beautiful woman. She was so gracious and kind he just started babbling about his family and before he knew it he was telling her how he had been assigned to forage for food and found a snail patch and how he had been stuffing himself with snails in garlic till he was sick but he found a way up the fortress but he had not told anyone because it went through his snail patch and would the Queen forgive him for not saying anything sooner?
Saronne had been amused calmed his fears and given him a herbal tea which made him feel much better. She had also asked him to come to the command tent on the morrow.
When she returned to the Queen’s tent it was late in the evening. She had time to bathe and prepare Tiirmirise’s meal and draw her bath.
Tiirmirise wiped her feet on the mat and entered the tent. She looked absolutely furious. Saronne gauged her mood exactly and wordlessly helped her undress and into her bath. After her bath and her meal Saronne straddled her and began to massage the taut corded muscles on the Queen’s neck and back until she could hear Tiirmirise moaning submission.
“I have an interesting tale to tell you, if you are but minded to listen.”
Saronne could not keep the smug tone out of her voice and Tiirmirise laughed.
“I am minded to listen Afereni.”
“There was a man today outside the command tent who..”
“Ah the arse bandit.”
Saronne gasped “You heard us?” She stopped the gentle kneading and asked hesitantly “Truly I did not mean to offer you disrespect in front of the high command are you going…to..?”
“Saronne don’t mind the high command they are all jealous and lust shamelessly after you. I have no doubt that after telling me what a disrespectful slave you are they will be queuing up to take you off my hands.”
“Now what were you going to tell me?” Tiirmirise asked gently
Saronne rubbed some more almond oil on her hands and went back to massaging Tiirmirise’s muscles. “Well the man I treated today, Seunion, I believe his name was, he told me he was from the town and was gathering snails to eat.” Saronne wrinkled her nose.
“What a lovely addition to the menu. I love snails. snails in garlic, snails in pepper sauce, snails in…”
“Tiirmirise this is not about snails.”
“No it isn’t. Seunion found a way to get inside the fortress. I told him to come and see you tomorrow at noon when I know you normally have your meeting.”
Tiirmirise froze and turned round “Are you serious?”
Tiirmirise whooped like a bandit. She got up and threw her up in the air and caught her swinging her around.
“Oh Saronne you are wonderful. I will give you anything you desire truly name your price. Diamonds, rubies gold what?” She finally set her down standing before her.
“Tiirmirise, I am your slave, I belong to you like this pot or chair belong to you. Giving me anything is like giving a present to yourself.”
“But if this man is right you will have played a large part in winning this war.” Tiirmirise was too jubilant to be deterred.
“Yes, causing the enslavement and rape of people is not something for which I wish to be rewarded.”
Saronne spoke so softly Tiirmirise barely heard her “My freedom, give me my freedom.”
“Truly Afereni you would leave me?” Tiirmirise asked so sadly that if Saronne had not known better she would have thought she was heartbroken. She did not want to think about it. So she did what Tiirmirise did when she wished to distract someone she changed the subject.
Saronne looked down at her hands, which lay on Tiirmirise chest. “What is this word “Afereni”? You use it all the time yet no one I have asked seems to know what it means.”
“It is an ancient Massagetae word.” Tiirmirise cleared her throat “It means “My sun, moon and stars.”
Saronne’s eyes flew upwards to the Queen’s anguished gaze. There were tears shimmering in her eye. One of them slid down her cheek and Saronne reached up to catch it on the tip of her finger.
“Kiss me.” She whispered
Tiirmirise lowered her head hesitantly and their lips touched. Their mouths melded together. A meeting of bodies and minds their tongues gently explored each other. Soft kisses, gentle kisses not that shared between a slave and her master or a queen and her subject, these were lover’s kisses, shared between equals, partners two people becoming one. Tiirmirise lifted her up so her feet no longer touched the ground and upwards above her as Saronne wound her hands into the thick black wavy hair on her head.
The Queen carried her over to the camp bed and now she gently slid the robe from Saronne’s shoulders and kissed her from head to toe. She kissed her eyelids her lips her fingers her breasts her stomach every inch of her was attended to and Saronne returned each kiss with one of her own. Each burning touch each nerve tingling caress.
Tiirmirise suckled her nipples and kissed her way down her breasts to her belly her tongue dipped into her belly button and down to her centre where her deft tongue caressed and flicked at her woman’s folds but Saronne was not ready to reach her release yet. She urged Tiirmirise up and straddled her. Her fingers traced the scar where her breast had once been and the Queen trembled.
“Did this hurt much?”
“No it was done whilst I was still a child.” Tiirmirise smiled and then groaned when she felt Saronne’s lips on her skin along the ugly looking scar, and then on her erect nipple hard and black as charcoal. Saronne slid her hands down the lean muscled body which was yet soft and womanly in all the right places and then she slid her hand between the Queen’s legs.
Saronne slid her hand between them and lowered her body on Tiirmirise so the Queen could also reach her own centre. Gently Saronne pushed till she was inside the Queen, she was so tight and hot and wet, they moved together surging as one against each other. Their lips joined and they moved together till finally they reached their destination together.
They fell asleep in each other’s arms waking up during the night to make love and steal kisses.
The Falcon Rampant
In the morning as promised Saronne led Seunion into the command tent and after he glared at Osamaye and Pasiphae the two generals let them in.
“Before I show you the way you have to promise that you will give me the funds to set up my snail export business.”
Tiirmirise bit her lip to keep from laughing “Snail export business?”
“Yes your majesty. These are the biggest juiciest snails you will ever see. Look I will show you.” Whereupon the revolting little man brought the largest snails she had ever seen and Tiirmirise accustomed to the little finger snail variety had to agree with him.
Jbenga her father the business man who always had an eye for any profit got extremely excited at any money making opportunity said “How would you like to go into business with me. I know some viziers who would pay a fortune for just one of these and I know the queen is a great fan of peppered snails.”
Tiirmirise rolled her eyes “Alright alright alright enough with the snails. Seunion I promise to protect your snail patch and buy a certain amount from you and father will set you up just show us the bloody walkway.”
On their way out Saronne winked encouragingly at Seunion who grinned back at her until he saw the wicked glare the Queen sent his way. He gulped and left the tent.
As they were leaving Tiirmirise meant to plant a quick kiss on Saronne’s lips but it became a long lingering kiss. She had just discovered the pleasure of having Saronne kiss her instead of forcing the younger girl to her will and she thoroughly enjoyed it. She was considering letting the other general’s go without her.
Only her father’s censorious words dragged her away. “Tiirmirise leave the poor girl alone and let’s get going.”
Saronne blushed and then laughed at the expression on Tiirmirise face. The Queen looked like a naughty girl who had just been told off. However Tiirmirise stole another quick kiss and strolled after the other generals.
Five days later the citadel fell to the Sarmatian army together with a vast hoard of gold coins, silver bars yet to be minted, rubies, emeralds and Sapphires and because of Saronne she did not allow her army to rape anybody but she definitely plundered and pillaged ruthlessly. They stripped the city of anything of value and left not a single stone standing.
In the fortress the army celebrated the victory. Tiirmirise had commandeered Jurugun’s bed chamber no less for her own use and was now enjoying the defeated king’s hospitality.
Tiirmirise lay on her back on the bed whilst Saronne straddled her with her silky thighs and lowered her plump luscious breasts against her body. The flames from the fire added to the heat in their blood and once Saronne began to kiss her they could not stop.
It occurred to Saronne that Tiirmirise had been holding back and there was an element of self-control that was creeping into their love making. Tiirmirise displayed much more control than her. She wanted to test the limits of the Queen’s resistance and test her allure.
She lifted one of her long golden curls and teased the corners of her mouth with it then she touched the corners of the Queen’s lips with the tip of her tongue tickling Tiirmirise till she laughed helplessly.
Then she trailed her tongue down the strongly corded column of Tiirmirise’s throat, then she followed that with her tongue, leaving a hot wet path to dry by the flames of the fire. She moaned softly and Saronne sat up so that her knees gripped the Queen’s black hips and her bum cheeks rested on Tiirmirise’s muscular thighs, then using the same golden curl, she stroked her nipple till it became erect.
By now Tiirmirise was breathlessly anticipating her movements and knew that where she played her tongue would soon follow. She relished the freely given attention being lavished on her.
When Saronne tickled her belly by dipping her golden tresses into her navel and around it all Tiirmirise could think of was that soon Saronne would dip her tongue into the sensitive indentation, to lick and nibble at the helpless Queen.
When she did it her rasping tongue sent a delicious shudder running down the entire length of Tiirmirise backbone.
The love play degenerated to tickling and Saronne loved it when she could make Tiirmirise laugh and she laughed easier lately. However She stopped laughing when Saronne trailed her curl from her navel down her muscled ridged belly to her woman’s centre lightly sprinkled with curling black pubes.
Tiirmirise drew a shuddering breadth. Saronne turned around to give the Queen a view of her aching sex and then lowered her tongue to tease the trembling Queen. Soon they were pleasing each other encouraging each other driving each other wildly closer and closer to the abyss till they fell in at the same time and came shuddering on top of each other.
Saronne turned around and curled into the safety of Tiirmirise body.
“So when were you going to tell me you were pregnant? Or perhaps your current capitulation was to soften me up before you told me who the father of the child you carry is?” Tiirmirise said matter of factly.
Saronne said nothing for the moment as terror seized her. She could feel hot tears fall down her cheeks. What could she say? “Tiirmirise I swear to you that I have not betrayed you with another.”
“You will give me his name. The father of your child.”
Saronne shook her head “I cannot.”
“You will and I will kill him.” Tiirmirise said softly. She was angry. She was angry and hurt. She knew that no Massagetae would have touched her which only meant she must have either seduced the man or he raped her. Either way he would die. His fate was sealed.
“The only thing to negotiate now is your life.”
“Guard!” She shouted and two Massagetae guard appeared at the entrance of the tent.
“Tiirmirise please do not do this.” Saronne begged.
“Get her out of my sight!” Tiirmirise said coldly.
Tiirmirise spent the next three days in a drunken stupor trying to hide her pain. The Sarmatian command were extremely worried if Jurugun attacked, which he was likely to, because the loss of the citidal was a huge blow to the Numerian economy together with the scorched earth policy they had been pursuing and with his own people refusing to send new recruits they knew Jurugun had to stand and fight and that would be sooner rather than later and that could be a matter of days and they were wholly unprepared.
“That girl has brought us enough grief. I think we should just kill her and be done with it.” Osamaye stood up to address the other leaders in the command tent.
“Without that girl we would never have won the western fortress!” Makeda slammed her fists on the table knocking off one of the markers on the map of the terrain.”
“Makeda are you defending her? I can’t believe it. The woman is a menace! She has turned Tiirmirise soft in the head. Mercy! Next she’ll be persuading the Queen to forgive her enemies and take up knitting! I say we should kill the bitch now!” Osanes tossed his wine goblet at the kneeling slave who had taken up Saronne‘s duties as a scribe.
“What you would kill the innocent child she carries?” Xango said
“What care you? At least with the faithless bitch dead we would no longer fear for your life when Tiirmirise finds out you are the father of Nitocris?” Jbenga sat down wearily rubbing his head.
“Father!” Jbenga gasped.
“Is this true?” A dark voice inquired from the entrance of the command tent.
“Your Majesty we did not know…”
“Are you the father of Saronne’s child Xango?”
Xango knew his sister well and recognised the murderous note in her voice. Her eyes glinted with a wild blood lust and her hand was already at her sword. She was his sister but she was also Queen of the Massagetae and co-regent of Sarmatia. She could either kill him or order him to fall on his sword.
Saronne wore Tiirmirise’s gold and was inviolate. Any man or woman who touched her she was honour bound to kill just as she was honour bound to kill Saronne for the betrayal. If he had made Saronne pregnant whilst she was wearing Tiirmirise’s gold then their actions amounted to nothing less than high treason.
“I am the father of her daughter Nitocris but I swear I am not the father of the child she now carries.”
“Guard bring chains for this…” she glared at her brother “One.”
Jbenga sat down on unsteady legs. “Tiirmirise please you need to calm down before you do something you will regret.”
“I am calm father. I am extremely calm.”
Jbenga knew his daughter well. She was furious. The quieter she was the more furious she was. He had no doubt that she was about to execute both Saronne and Xango. He was not surprised when her next orders were to make ready a yard arm from which the two of them would be executed in the morning.
She returned to her chamber and paced the floor of her tent. She couldn’t eat she couldn’t drink, she couldn’t sleep. She wanted Saronne, she wanted to kill her, she wanted to hold her and hear her laughter, feel her soothing touch, kiss away her tears. Tiirmirise fell to her knees and for the first time in her adult life she started crying, really crying.
Jurugun gathered his troops and sent out his scouts. It was three days after Tiirmirise attack on the Western Fortress and he was surprised at the way the camp seemed to have fallen into disarray.
They were vulnerable. The sentries were sloppy, there was a marked lack of discipline and Jurugun began to wonder if the military genius the black queen was noted for was not all fame and myth arising simply because no one could believe a female leader could win so many battles. However she had been fighting barbarians and wild men not a sophisticated military machine like his army was.
Already they had won several skirmishes and even managed to get away with one of Tiirmirise supply wagons. He needed more time to get recruits to fill his army to get enough strength to fight the Queen. He needed to crush her completely because this was a make or break battle.
If he lost he had as good as lost the war. Jurugun planned to deploy his troops 12 days after the Western fortress was taken and attack just before dusk when he thought the Massagetae army would be at its most vulnerable, when they were in the middle of pitching a half finished camp and the army was relaxing and getting ready to close down for the day.
The yard arm had been completed for the last three days and just sat there sinisterly in the Numerian landscape. Tiirmirise changed her mind and asked them to build two huge pyres instead then she returned to wallowing in her misery.
Eight days after the attack on the Western Fortress Tiirmirise decided that she would pronounce judgement on her two disloyal subjects. Saronne refused to name the father of her child and Xango continued to deny he was the father.
Pasiphae and Osanes demanded that Tiirmirise torture them to find out the truth. Pasiphae even offered to carry out the torture personally. Makeda and Nnandi urged caution, Jbenga forgiveness and the ever practical Candace thought she should take control of the camp and stop worrying about details.
In her tent Saronne sat in abject misery. It seemed that every time she was getting close to Tiirmirise, every time she thought she could reach her she would withdraw and become this monster of cruel violence fuelled by blood lust.
Two nights before Jurugun’s planned attack Tiirmirise found herself in the tent which she had reserved to hold Saronne prisoner, and then in the dead of night she slipped into her bed. She had been far to indulgent with the silly girl and needed to take a firmer hand with her blonde captive and show her that she would carry out her threat to execute her if she did not give up the name of the father of her child.
The Queen reached out with ungentle hands crushing her mouth with a savage kiss intending to use her, punish her may be even kill her. Saronne did not fight back instead she simply melted against the tortured Queen. Lying between her marble hard thighs, she was all soft womanly compliance.
Her luscious breasts brushed against the Queen, her small soft hands caressed Tiirmirise’s shoulders and her scented mouth opened to Tiirmirise marauding mouth with an invitation that was irresistible. Even as the Queen plundered her mouth with her thrusting tongue, when she withdrew Saronne whispered her name breathlessly against her lips.
Her fingers traced the scar on the Queen’s face and her faintest touch seemed to dissolve the red mist of rage that gripped her emotions caressing her anger away. Her fingers slid inside Tiirmirise who inhaled sharply and then it was Saronne’s turn to gasp as her intimate caress was returned.
She felt like hot silk and Tiirmirise could feel herself drowning in need as they moved against each other, their lovemaking became a driving tempest primal in its intensity.
Heat flamed between them as they made love sounds which started in soft whimpers and soared to searing screams of passion till finally they shattered together and Tiirmirise held her close till long after their last tremors stilled.
The Queen watched the flickering flame of the candle light her eyebrows wrinkled in confusion. She had gone there intending to master her in an act of domination and using sex play as she had done before as a weapon.
Instead Saronne lay across her body in silken splendour, her pale golden tresses spread out about the camp bed and sleeping furs, she began to suspect that she had been defeated by her gentling presence as she felt all the anger all the rage all the confusion seep out of her and she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. The first time she had slept since she had her blonde captive kept under house arrest.
When she woke up Saronne was sitting up in bed, her hair fell about her in soft waving curls, she held the sheet up against her body and she looked extremely shocked.
Tiirmirise followed the line of her gaze and saw a woman sitting at the end of the bed. It was the princess Olayrae, recognisable with her gouged eyes and the silver falcon she wore around her neck.
“Olayrae?” Tiirmirise got out of bed and advanced towards her in the dark her sword which she had picked up when she sensed Saronne’s discomfort still in her hand.
“Yes Tiirmirise” The princess exhaled “Are you planning on killing me too?”
“Of course not. I wasn’t planning on killing anybody!”
“Could have fooled me.” Saronne muttered.
“Saronne are you well?.” Olayrae asked softly
“I know you. I saw you before at the palace. You are the one who told me I was pregnant.”
“Well now that we have had our reunion what are you doing here your highness or should it be your Grace now that you are a high priestess?”
“I was never one for titles Tiirmirise you know that. I came here because I promised I would be with you in your hour of need.”
“Why? Do you believe I will lose to Jurugun? He is many miles away from here probably skulking under a tomb and licking his wounds now that I have plundered his western fortress.” The Queen said arrogantly.
“I will get you something to drink you must be thirsty.” Saronne tried to hold the furs and sheets to her to maintain her modesty as she got out of bed.
“There is no need for prudishness Saronne, Olayrae cannot see you.”
“Tiirmirise just because you prefer to stride around naked does not mean others feel as confident. Let the girl go there is something I need to discuss with you in private.”
“Ah if you have come to tell me that my niece Nitocris is also Saronne’s daughter I am already aware.”
Olayrae accepted help from Tiirmirise to sit down though she did not need it and she also accepted the glass of cold fruit juice from Saronne and tried to smile reassuringly at her.
“This is all your fault you know.”
“What is all my fault Olayrae and please don’t be cryptic.”
“You spent the night in the temple yes?”
“The temple on the Simian borders so what of it?” Tiirmirise wrapped a sheet around her not just because it was starting to get cold but because she realised that whilst Olayrae might appear physically blind, She could still see her nakedness. She put some more logs and kindling on the fire.
“And before she left the priestess told you both to be sexually abstemious did she not?”
Saronne shook her head “No she never said anything to me.”
“Tiirmirise?” Olayrae inquired of her step-mother.
Tiirmirise said nothing and had to be prompted by Olayrae. “Well?”
Tiirmirise shrugged “She might have mentioned it, what of it?.”
“You didn’t tell Saronne did you of the warning?”
“What warning?” Saronne looked from one woman to the other and saw dawning comprehension on the face of the Queen and then to her astonishment Tiirmirise looked uncomfortably sheepish.
“Don’t be silly those are only legends. Myths! I know it was a fertility temple but what you are suggesting is impossible.” Tiirmirise stuttered to a halt.
“Well since you obviously have been keeping her in the dark I better tell her the truth. “ She turned to Saronne and said unequivocally “You are going to have Tiirmirise’s baby!”
Saronne stared at her incredulously “I am?”
“Yes you are. When you stayed at the fertility temple Tiirmirise should have told you what would happen if you made love there. If you think back you will probably find that you cannot remember most of what happened that night.”
“You are right, I felt hazy the next day and I can only remember certain details of that night, like how Tiirmirise’s eyes glowed almost green, at the time I thought it was the light from the crystals in the temple she was different too.” Saronne finished thoughtfully.
“Olayrae none of this makes any sense and even if it were true only a fool would believe you. There is no evidence.”
“The priestess she told you she would mark the date did she not?”
“Yes but no child is born nine months to the day of conception some come earlier or later.”
“There is another thing Tiirmirise.”
“What is that?”
“You are from one of the oldest Massagetae lines in Sarmatia. You have a pure white birth mark shaped like a tear at the back of your ankle. Your mother, has two on the back of both her ankles. Xango, Nitocris, Spargapises, and Derastes also have a birthmark on the back of their ankle. If this child is born with a birth mark also as I predict it will prove that…”
“It will prove that I should kill my brother!” Tiirmirise stormed.
“Xango and his daughter Nitocris have their birthmark on the back of their left ankle. Your son and Grandson, Spargapise and Derastes have theirs on the back of…”
“Their right ankle yes yes I know all this.”
“So if our child has a birth mark on the back of his or her right ankle then…” Saronne was too afraid to say the words and she watched Tiirmirise as comprehension dawned on her disbelieving face.
“That can never happen!” Tiirmirise spluttered.
“Can it not? Why not?”
“Tiirmirise you of all people should know better. The God spoke to you did he not? Besides I am here to tell you that the child will be a girl and you are to call her the golden one - Chryseis”
“Tiirmirise closed her eyes in defeat. “If it is so willed then so let it be.”
“So how come no one asked me how I feel about all this?”
“Because Lady, you agreed in the temple already.”
“When Tiirmirise asked if circumstances were different and you met in a different time and place if you would bear her child?”
“I said yes.” Saronne whispered and sank on the bed remembering.
“Tiirmirise, you asked why I am here? I am come to formalise your betrothal to Saronne and that she will be your wife and to hear your vows.” She turned to Saronne “And I am here to hear your commitment to this union.”
“What if I object?” Tiirmirise said testily.
“The only person who is in any position to object is Saronne.” Olayrae said sternly. “You disobeyed the God that is why you are in this position this is your punishment. Even worse you failed to warn Saronne of the consequences.”
Tiirmirise grinned “It’s the best punishment ever.”
“Yes I rather thought you might see it like that.” Olayrae said dryly
“Marriage is a punishment?”
“No not the marriage, the procedure. Tiirmirise will be the one to perfect the union you will not.” Olayrae glared at Tiirmirise who shrugged.
“Saronne?” Olayrae asked gently “Are you willing?”
Saronne looked up at Tiirmirise and then down at Olayrae. Tiirmirise looked unconcerned but Olayrae had a certain look about her all though Saronne knew the other woman could not see her. She did not know what made her say the words “Yes I am willing.”
“Place both your hands in Tiirmirise’s in and repeat after me. I Aeslynn Votigernsdottir also known as Aeslynn the fair and now called Saronne,”
Saronne looked at her for a moment “You know my name?”
“The vows child.” Olayrae said firmly
Saronne hesitantly put her hands in Tiirmirise’s. They were warm and larger than hers yet strangely re-assuring. Obediently repeated her vows to love, cherish and honour Tiirmirise and to place her above all, forsaking all others and to give her heart and soul into her keeping until by death we are parted.
The Queen knew the words and said them without prompting. “I Tiirmirise, daughter of Danu, Queen of the Massagetae, Dreaded Lady of the Plains, The Queen of two cities, Lady of Battles, the….”
“Tiirmirise….” Olayrae said warningly “Enough with the titles finish your oath.”
“Do hereby take blood oath to take Aeslynn Votigernsdottir also known as Aeslynn the fair and now called Saronne as my wife, to love, honour, cherish and protect with my life placing her above all, and forsaking all others and to give my heart and soul into her keeping until by death we are parted. I shed my blood for her that it may be so.” Tiirmirise took the knife Olayrae gave her and cut her own hand so that her blood dripped on the floor.
“So has it been said so let it be done.” Olayrae sprinkled them with water, earth oil, honey and salt. “Water for tears of joy that wash away the tears of pain, oil to smooth your way, honey that your love is sweet, salt to cleanse and prolong and earth to which you will return. Your souls are bound on earth and bound in heaven and fire that your love for each other will always burn hot.”
Saronne’s eyes widened “Fire did she say fire?” Saronne whispered not wanting to spoil the solemn atmosphere that Olayrae had managed to maintain.
“This is the part where you,” Tiirmirise pointed to Saronne “get to cauterize my wound,” she pointed to her bloody hand “and Olayrae heals it.”
Saronne had to be persuaded to place the burning brazier on the Queen’s hand but Tiirmirise did not break a sweat and Olayrae’s touch on Tiirmirise’s hand it was almost as though the cut had never been but there was a little scar on Tomyris left hand and its equivalent was sported in Saronne’s left hand.
“The God is pleased your sacrifice is accepted.” Olayrae smiled
The night after Olayrae’s visti Jurugun attacked. Candace’s scouts had sighted nothing unusual and whilst the Sarmatians were building their camp they kept their weapons near. The Numedian attack came in the brief lustrous dimness before night fell. Most of the fighting took place during the darkness. A desperate business which went against the Sarmatians for some hours.
Soldiers tore into the Queen’s personal tent killing the two eunuchs before they had time to react and Tiirmirise was hard pressed to hold them off. She put the younger woman behind her and her skill with the blades was frightening to watch. She fought naked with two blades flashing in both her hands slashing hacking and beheading.
Saronne screamed and hurled a jar of oil at one of the figures in the darkness then she grabbed one of the torches and threw that too for good measure.
The Numedian went up in flames and ran shrieking out of the tent. Another one was sneaking up behind Tiirmirise and before he could sink his sword into her Saronne leapt onto his back. She didn’t know what else to do so she pulled his ears as hard as she could. He howled and threw her off so she landed in the corner of the room on one of the cushions. A relatively soft landing.
Tiirmirise dispatched the last of the intruders. “Are you alright?” Her hands searched Saronne’s body desperately making sure she was not injured.
“Yes Tiirmirise.” She whispered.
Saronne was shaking with shock and the queen wrapped her in her Purple cloak and held her. Tiirmirise stroked her hair and kissed her tenderly. “Hush Afereni it is well.”
She shuddered as she felt Saronne’s gentle touch on her naked scarred breast and groaned inwardly. In the midst of the war and carnage and fear, a gentle touch from her Afereni inflamed her. Tiirmirise groaned as she dragged her lips reluctantly away from Saronne’s.
Tiirmirise would have liked to hold her and comfort her longer but as commander- in- chief she needed to go to the command tent and save her army who were probably panicking at this very moment.
“Saronne, help me put my armour on. I dare not leave you alone here so we will go to the command tent together.” Saronne’s tears were forgotten as she was distracted now she had something to do.
Tiirmirise acted so blasé, she was like a rock in a storm she made Saronne feel like everything was going to be alright and there was absolutely nothing to worry about.
They made their way to the command tent on foot. All the high command were there. Some injured others were not most were armed some were naked but all were ready to fight.
Jurugun was not prepared for that last fact.
An army that was able to fight on its feet as well as on the back of a horse. An organised army which once Tiirmirise and Makeda got enough torches going and could discern the situation began to mobilise.
Pasiphae and Jbenga worked extremely well together and that young woman distinguished herself. Her job was to rally the troops who were flagging or were beginning to panic whilst Tiirmirise deployed men and troops to counter the attacks and check the Numedian advance.
Nnandi was put in charge of guarding the physicians and Saronne. A job she was ideally suited for since she was more an administrator and her strengths lay in defence rather than in offence.
Tiirmirise was everywhere encouraging her army, encouraging the high command encouraging the physicians mounting attacks and rallying troops when they were about to rout or run. By the time the sun came up they were holding their own and victory went to the Sarmatian army.
The Numedians mounted a strategic withdrawal in good order and yet despite the element of surprise they had managed to come out the worst in the encounter and that sat heavy on Jurugun‘s mind.
Tiirmirise gathered up her army in battle formation and decided against a rest. The armies marched in a square. The cavalry were deployed at the front and back so that if Jurugun decided to mount another cavalry attack on their march all the soldiers had to do was face outwards in each square whilst the cavalry was ready to form wings.
Every soldier from the Massagetae to the rank and file soldier marched with his helmet and carried their shield uncovered by its protective hide with both javelins at the ready. The javelins were weighted heavily so as to collapse and bend on impact so they could not be hurled back at the Sarmatians.
The archers carried their bows at the ready and on the fourth day after Jurugun’s night attack the Numedian King attacked again but this time Tiirmirise was ready for him.
The Sarmatian and Massagetae army fell into an organised formation of battle squares as ordered by their Queen. Jurugun counted on his cavalry to unsettle the Sarmatian infantry with their lightening attack hoping to ride them down. He had every reason to put his hopes in their abilities too. They were excellent riders trained from birth.
They neither used saddles nor bridles like their Sarmatian and Massagetae counterparts, and wore no armour relying for their punch and power on fleetness bravery and their deadly accuracy with the javelin and long sword.
Nnandi guarding the physicians and the baggage train was thoroughly beset and was really up against it as the Numedian archers sent a wave of arrows at their position.
She yanked Saronne under her shield and hoped the girl did not come to grief on her watch because she did not want to be responsible for the death of Tiirmirise’s life mate. She knew Saronne was Tiirmirise’s life mate even if her stupid Queen did not and it was now her duty to protect her with her life. She gasped as an arrow pinned her leg to the ground and suddenly the Numedians were upon them. Her shield was yanked away and just as the sword blow was about to fall, her body covered Saronne’s.
She was spattered with gore and a beautiful voice that she recognised very well said “That’s a fine job you’re doing with Tiirmirise's life mate. Imagine here we all are fighting and there you are making out with the fair Saronne not to talk of the amount of trouble you are going to be in when I tell Epiphany.”
“You freaking slapper, Pasiphae stop fucking about and pull the fucking arrow out of my damn leg.”
Nnandi, gasped and struggled to her feet after Pasiphae had done as she requested. She grunted picking up her shield and sword and they closed ranks locking shields so that the next wave of arrows lodged in their shields instead of their unprotected bodies.
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
“I saw Tiirmirise shitting herself when she saw where Jurugun’s archers were heading. So I decided to come here and play hero. You alright there Saronne?”
Saronne was terrified. She nodded wordlessly unable to form a coherent sentence.
She had never been in the middle of a battle before. All the poems made it sound so glamorous. The reality was bloody screaming men gurgling out their life’s breadth as they choked in a sea of blood. The stench of sweat, vomit, shit and blood. It was everywhere, death was everywhere.
She reached out and touched Nnandi’s ankle channelling her power to heal the smaller woman. She had watched battles before from the safety of the command tent far away from the action, she knew sooner or later Pasiphae would have to leave to deal with another desperate situation and Nnandi would have to manage the one they were in alone.
Across the battlefield the Massagetae archers were firing their own volleys and the sky darkened as the shafts flew at the enemy Numedian cavalry decimating their ranks effectively because they wore no armour. When what was left of the Numedian cavalry finally crashed against the ranks and file of the Sarmatian infantry square they were unable to break through.
Tiirmirise was shouting herself hoarse. The trumpets and bugles issuing commands telling her army which manoeuvres to perform. She had ordered the infantry to hurl only their shorter javelins at the charging cavalry and to use the second longer one as a spear to direct at the horses.
She knew full well that horses will not run at long sharp pointy things so once more chaos descended on the Numedian cavalry. Finally left with no choice Jurugun had to commit his infantry to close hand to hand combat.
Outnumbered 3 to 1 the fighting was desperate. The numbers of the Numedians threatened to overwhelm them and Tiirmirise sent her own cavalry to charge into the side of the Numedian infantry by the time the beleaguered Numedian infantry clashed with the better trained Sarmatians they were more than a match for the Numedian army.
The Sarmatians wearing more protective armour though slower cut into the Numedian bodies like a knife through butter. Makeda fought on the front line like Pasiphae going where she was needed. Candace female Massagetae assassins cut down the Infantry general and Xango and Osumaye held the centre fighting a fierce battle over the body of Jbenga who had fallen in battle. The male Massagetae surrounded him as he lay bleeding on the on dark rich Numedian soil.
Tiirmirise could only commit to battle in desperate situations and now she carried her fathers living but broken body back to the command tent. She had no time to mourn occupied as she was with the overall strategy of the battle. Desperation and annoyance at being beaten by a fucking Massagetae female kept Jurugun in the battle for too long, and by the time he decided to disengage it was against a vengeful Massagetae army sensing victory.
A vast majority of the Numedians and their allies perished. Jurugun escaped much to the annoyance of Tiirmirise though Osamaye managed to kill his charioteer.
Tiirmirise stood on a wooden dais so that the army could see her as she gave them her speech of approval.
“Today you have all shed blood, sweat and tears for the Massagetae and the people of Sarmatia and the Plains. Today you have shown yourselves to be worthy sons and daughters of a proud and great nation.”
Tiirmirise looked round and continued her speech. “You have proven that you are the bravest of the brave. You have taken impregnable citadels, it was not for you to march up and down digging ditches and draining lakes,” this last was a dig at Ninyas which they all understood and snickered at.
“When we return to Sarmatia we do so in a well earned triumph and no Sarmatian can say that you did not care well enough about Sarmatia to shed blood for her, to kill for her to lay down your life for her, today your deeds will echo into eternity long after generations of men are dust.”
Two weeks later a triumphant Tiirmirise riding at the head of an exhausted column caught up with the straggling rag tag Numedians and made them clean the field of battle. Burning the dead of both sides and observing the funeral rights. Then they ensconced themselves in the Numedian capital which surrendered and opened its gates readily.
Saronne’s influence resulted in Tiirmirise not conducting the usual scorched earth policy. Luckily for the Queen there was no need for it. The Numedians it seemed were learning their lesson.
In November Eugertes Grossbelly of Sirahn an ally of Jurugun asked for parley. Tiirmirise sent Xango and Osumaye and when they returned Xango reported that Jurugun had already infiltrated Eugertes court with spies.
“The last time I met with Eugertes we did not part on the best of terms.”
“Hmm he well remembers you step-mama.” Pasiphae grinned
“I am glad to hear it.” Tiirmirise smiled nastily.
“He is an arrogant pompous man, overly fond of sweet meats and honeyed wine. He is also terrified of Jurugun. If we can give him a strong enough guarantee I am sure he would be willing to change sides.” Osamaye said thoughtfully.
“But as I said Jurugun has his spies in the Sirahn court whispering, threatening and working on him. I advised him to ally with us because as everyone can see the writing is on the wall.”
“He wants to marry either Pradae or Bierae to cement the alliance.”
“Pradae is already married to Prince Volpi.” Tiirmirise rubbed her chin.
“It is a simple matter of divorcing her from Prince Volpi and then Pradae would be available.” Candace drawled
“Bierae tells me that marriage is prospering well I would be loathe to break up a happy home.”
“Well,” Osumaye interjected, “Consider that the Princess Bierae is now a high ranking vizier in the Council with position and power. If you sent her to Eugertes you would lose a lot of supporters. I would suggest that you keep her by your side to keep an eye on Ninyas, Vayanes and that thief Magba Massinassa.”
Makeda turned around irritated to find that Candace had slipped out of the tent and once more no one had seen her do it. It exasperated her that as chief security officer in charge of the command tent, Candace was able to slip in and out so easily without being seen.
“That is so irritating Candace how the hell do you do that?”
“If I told you I would have to kill you.” Candace grinned unrepentantly.
“Continue with your report brother.” Tiirmirise ordered.
“We also found out that Jurugun has come to the end of his tether. The scorched earth policy has worked very well. His own tribe have refused to send him any more men. Numedia is tired of war and they cannot see the remotest chance of winning.
Their neighbours are currently prospering under Sarmatian rule. Their taxes are obviously lower because they are not funding a war and the prospect of being a province of Sarmatia is especially appealing at this time.”
“I hear Scaures and Vayanes have removed the corrupt governors who started this war and the Council of Viziers in Sarmatia has passed a new law that no governor can remain in a province for more than two years.” Nnandi put forward her own piece of news and then couldn’t keep the silly happy smile off her face. “Epiphany wrote me.” She finished shyly at Tiirmirise's raised eyebrows.
“How is Saronne?” Xango asked softly and all the generals turned around and looked earnestly at the Queen.
Saronne had been an excellent physician and she had earned the respect of all the generals even Pasiphae. Nnandi had told them the story of how she managed to rally the troops after Pasiphae left to deal with another emergency in the battle when she Nnandi herself was hard pressed.
Even though she did not fight or even know how to fight. Her contributions in other respects like her bravery on the battle field, supervising the tending of the wounded and saving many lives with her skill had earned her a lot of respect amongst the generals.
As a slave she was not expected to be brave but as Tiirmirise’s life mate she was and she had been. Consequently her standing amongst the generals had increased tremendously.
Tiirmirise smiled proudly “My Afereni is well. I thank you for asking.”
“Now that we have cleared that up do you thing the Numedians are ready to give up their king?” Osamaye asked the thoughtful looking queen.
“The short answer to that seems to be no.” Tiirmirise smiled “Never fear though we will get him next year.”
The next year Jurugun appeared to have guessed at the possible relationship between Eugertes and Tiirmirise. Pasiphae as princess royal was sent to negotiate terms and get the Sirahn emperor to betray him.
Saronne was having nightmares remembering the battles and all the people who died. Tiirmirise often forgot that she was not a trained warrior and she would need to have an excuse to send her back to Ado.
Saronne needed to recover and truth be told Tiirmirise did not like having her on the front line. The last battle against Jurugun brought home to her how unsafe it was for her and how much Saronne meant to her. Tiirmirise held her close and stroked her hair.
Saronne sighed enjoying the comforting embrace. Who would have guessed that the Lady of battles would be come the Lady of love. She cupped Tiirmirise’s naked breast and flicked her thumb across the hard charcoal black nipple and was rewarded with a moan of pleasure.
The Queen was naked, her ebony skin glowed in the candle light a stark contrast to Saronne’s pale white skin. Saronne wore a night shift for it was cold but Tiirmirise never wore anything whether it was hot or cold. She always seemed to be cold and Tiirmirise was always warm. In summer it was annoying but in winter like now it was delicious.
Saronne lay on top of the black queen and was absently caressing her face. They were like that for several moments, kissing each other softly and caressing each other gently. Saronne touched Tiirmirise's face, neck, hair and ears.
“My beautiful, Saronne," she whispered and smiled then turning over so she lay on top of Saronne she lowered her head and kissed her lips. Her lover it seemed was in tune with her mood and feelings for where Saronne expected a bruising rough kiss full of hunger and passion she was pleasantly surprised when the Queen’s lips caressed and pampered hers especially as she was currently feeling a little delicate.
They were very soft, as she invited her tongue into her mouth. They must have done nothing but kissed passionately for what seemed like a candle mark. The kisses grew deeper, more intimate, and more passionate.
Tiirmirise lost herself in her, her warmth her scent her touch, she could feel her heart beating against her, blood pounding in her ears as Saronne moaned against her lips, Tiirmirise’s body was wracked by a burning soul wrenching desire such as she had never known.
When she finally removed her lips from her golden haired lover‘s, it was to place little butterfly kisses on Saronne’s cheeks, forehead, ears, nose and neck. Saronne’s hands dug into her hair combing through her short thick curly black hair.
Saronne’s mouth to suckled Tiirmirise's neck and she flicked at Tiirmirise's earlobe with her tongue even as she ground her sex against Tiirmirise questing fingers. Tiirmirise hot breadth caressed her neck.
Needing and craving to hear the sound of Tiirmirise’s own pleasure she slid her hands between them till she could feel Tiirmirise’s sex then she bent her knees and straddled her thigh between hers wrapping myself around that long glorious length.
In that position, she could feel her wet sex grinding into the crook of her hip and thigh as Tiirmirise continued the rhythmic thrusting of her hips. Saronne was thrusting back as well. All she could think about was reaching fulfilment at the pinnacle of pleasure.
She loved touching Tiirmirise, It was something she admitted to only to herself and she loved Tiirmirise touching her. She slid her hands down Tiirmirise silken smooth and ebony skin down to the center of her back, kneading her muscles. She loved feeling them ripple beneath her fingertips as she rode her. Saronne grasped Tiirmirise bottom her hands wordlessly urging her to surge forward against her needing to feel more pressure, more pleasure.
Tiirmirise moved her hand, stroking her skin and caressing her body, her hands seemed to be everywhere, alternately caressing her breasts, her tongue flicked at her nipple and her teeth grazed the tight little buds alternately tugging and flicked at it with her tongue.
Tiirmirise’s callused hand moved between their bodies till her questing fingers found their way to Saronne’s hot centre. "You are so beautiful," Tiirmirise whispered as the tip of her tongue trailed along her earlobe. Saronne could feel her desire pooling in her centre.
“So soft and so hot.” The Queen groaned the last words against her throat as her fingers explored Saronne’s aching centre.
When Tiirmirise slipped two fingers inside her, Saronne gasped and the moan forming in her mouth was swallowed by the black Queen‘s kiss. She was hot and wet and thoroughly aroused, Tiirmirise moved inside her, Saronne thrust her hips upward against her thrusting fingers.
She squeezed her eyes shut and gloried in the pleasure she was receiving as she grasped Tiirmirise tightly against her and began kneading her bottom and pushing her body further onto her.
She could feel Tiirmirise wet and slick centre rubbing against her thigh. Saronne found herself lost in the incessant fucking of Tiirmirise fingers found her whole being concentrated on her centre.
Tiirmirise kissed her again, hotly and desperately demanding, crushing her lips beneath hers, Saronne sobbed with desire and whimpered with need, the need to climax and reach culmination.
Their bodies were soaked with perspiration and the smell of sex and the incense Saronne used to freshen air permeated the Queen’s private tent.
Saronne found herself screaming out her pleasure against Tiirmirise as she reached fulfilment and she was rewarded a moment later with the sound of warrior groaning against she as she shuddered out her pleasure.
A gentle evening breeze blew in and around the royal tent, Their bodies came down from release and they settled into the afterglow of lovemaking, the Queen lowered her head to rest between Saronne’s breasts and Saronne stroked her head absently.
They were both still breathing heavily from their lovemaking and lay there for several moments till their breathing returned to normal. Saronne pressed a gentle kiss to Tiirmirise’s forehead.
“Saronne my father is not doing well is he? and his wounds are grave.” The Queen spoke softly into the darkness.
Saronne raised her hand to caress her cheek in an effort to comfort her. Tiirmirise acknowledge the gesture by kissing her hand. It pained her to say it but she had to. “You will accompany him back to Ado and oversee his household.”
“You are sending me away?”
“I am sending you to safety. It is too dangerous here and a good and gentle person such as yourself has no business on a battlefield.”
Saronne was not going to argue with that but she was still having horrendous nightmares about the battle.
“As you wish Tiirmirise.” Saronne said at length
“I do not wish it Saronne for I cannot bear the thought of being parted from you. But I am doing it to protect you. You must know that.” Tiirmirise finished earnestly.
Saronne gave her another one of those freely given kisses that Tiirmirise had come to treasure and which fairly made her toes curl.
“I know.” She said simply. Tiirmirise sighed with relief. She had not known she was even holding her breadth.
Then two weeks later, Tiirmirise received a letter from Bierae. She summoned Saronne to come to her tent and read it to her. Whilst Tiirmirise could read she was not a woman of letters. She found it easier to read plans and diagrams.
She had no problems with maths and geometry but the Sarmatian royal script she struggled with and was not as fast a reader as Saronne. She often had to read out her letters out loud as she struggled to differentiate the characters.
“Is anything wrong Tiirmirise?”
“No I just wanted you to read me Bierae’s letter.” The queen handed her the folded scroll.”
Saronne broke the seal and untied the ribbon. She sat down on one of the couches and began reading.
My Dear Tiirmirise
I hope this letter finds you in good health. How is the lovely Saronne? I have no doubt she is reading you this letter, so I will take the opportunity to inform you that your generals think she would make you an excellent wife and mother even Queen if you are considering to free and marry her.
Now that I have made her blush and thoroughly discomfited you I will give you news of Ado. Ninyas is up to his usual tricks. It is rumoured that he consorts with Deioces, (or Cyrus as he is better known) the King of the Medes and the Persians although those are rumours and are yet unsubstantiated.
This news is worrying because Cyrus has imperialistic tendencies. He is from the Archaemenid dynasty and has managed to single handedly unite all the tribes of the Medes and the Persians like the Parsagadae, the Maraphii, the Maspii, the Derusiae and the Germanii.
Even worse he also has the Nomadic Dai, Mardii, Germanii and Dropici tribes as allies. He has been receiving tribute from Armenians, Parthians, Drangians and Arians since he conquered them and became king of Asan.
He defeated the Median King Astyages by bribing his best General Harpagus. His father Cambyses was married to Mandane a daughter of Astyages which probably explains why the Medes accepted him as their King. He has also married another daughter of Astyages, one of his aunts in a bid to secure the throne.
He then went on to conquer Lydia which he took from Croesus and captured and executed the mad King Nabonidus. You know Nabonidus, the one who wanted to put a statue of demon in one of our temples, you went crazy and almost caused an international incident, well he did so in one of the temples belonging to the one God in Akkad( well it is now known as Babylon, Cyrus renamed it) and the people hated him for it because they suffered 5 years famine. Cyrus takes over and they have their first year of bumper crop harvest.
Since Nabonidus also controlled most of Syria and Palestine you can imagine how big his Kingdom is. He is now very rich and very powerful with the largest army in the known world and the means to finance it.
Our Scythian cousins have already sent a delegation from Bactria and the Sacae, our Massagetae cousins have humbly begged permission to relocate to Southern Massagetae lands in Sarmatia because they fear Cyrus is planning to invade them like he invaded Gandera in India.
I have a feeling we shall soon be hearing from Cyrus. His expansionist policies seem to be heading towards the plains and especially the Simian and Sarmatia. Let us hope he clashes with the Dominion before he clashes with us.
Spargapises has entered the game of politics with a vengeance. We now know the new leader of the conservatives is Vayanes. He has consolidated his power and controls a large faction of the aristocracy. However I am told that because he used to be a slave and a Eunuch and because his promotion took place under Father’s regime he is still regarded with some suspicion.
The new leader of the Progressives is Scaures and he loathes Ninyas. Ninyas has his own faction which is mainly the merchant population. However his faction is split because half of the merchant population are Massagetae who support you and the other Sarmatian half who support Ninyas. The new threat on the horizon seems to be the Dominion.
The council has suggested that Spargapises stand in your place as Commander-in-Chief and will be sending a formal request for your return and that of Ninyas home.
Since you are quelling a rebellion and restoring peace to a region whilst Ninyas is kicking up his heels doing very little in Narbo except fishing we managed to persuaded the council to order that Ninyas wait for Spargapises before handing over his command. We also managed to persuade the council to given Spargapises authority and money to deal with the Dominion.
Apparently the rumour is that I persuaded Vayanos and Scaures that to leave yourself and Ninyas at the end of the confrontation with the Numedians and the Dominion with half the Sarmatian army each was a possible step towards civil war. They both agreed with me and decided to give Spargapises command and recall Ninyas.
Spargapises is to raise a further army since it is felt that the army of fifteen thousand at Ninyas disposal will not be enough to deal with the Dominion. You would be proud of him he has chosen to follow your policies and recruit from the landless peasants and the city poor.
Unfortunately my brother is a bit of a snob and has chosen to recruit his high ranking officers from amongst the Sarmatian aristocracy and very few from the merchant class or experienced soldiers with the result that they are sadly lacking in experience. He has also become exceedingly arrogant, a bit like you really but unlike you he does not have the brilliant militaristic flair. This will be his first campaign without supervision and he is very excited.
When the council ordered Ninyas to return and hand over his troops to Spargapises, you would have thought that Ninyas would have seized the opportunity to return home and make mischief like launch a few coup plots or at least one diabolical underhanded scheme to take over the throne.”
At this point Tiirmirise laughed and Saronne raised an inquiring eyebrow.
“That is hardly likely to happen. He must be fuming. Bierae doesn’t know it but she has effectively outmanoeuvred Ninyas. Power in council is nothing if you do not control the army. I am surprised that Vayanes and Scaures though expecting Ninyas to just give up his troops without protest?”
“Why shouldn’t he give up his troops?” Saronne asked curiously
“Because that would leave me in command of one half of the army and Spargapises in command of the other half comprising of at least 45,000 men. He is not going to make the same mistake as last time.
This time he could hold the city of Ado to ransom and force the council to banish Ninyas or even execute him. No I do not expect Ninyas would likely give up his command so easily”
“You mean Spargapises would actually march on Ado? Your own city?”
Tiirmirise rubbed the back of her neck “Well history has proven that Spargapises would not.”
“But you would?”
“If it needed to be done yes.” The Queen finished softly.
Saronne was beginning to appreciate just how ruthless the Tiirmirise could be. The Queen waved her hand negligently a gesture motioning her to continue reading Bierae’s letter and after a long searching look at the queen she continued.
Saronne continued reading the letter in her controlled melodious voice.
“Well Ninyas was furious. He was perfectly willing to march against the Dominion but he expected to be commander in chief of a force of 30,000 men not sharing command with Spargapises.
He sent a letter to the council to that effect and further that as co-regent he was like a king and the council should not give him orders. He gave them orders. However he was willing to allow Spargapises to learn the trade of war from him.
He then addressed the letter not to the current Prime Vizier Magba Massinassa whom he absolutely loathes and blames for a coup plot which resulted in the death of two of his children, but to Scaures the Speaker who read the letter out with ghoulish enjoyment since everyone knows there is no love lost between the Prime Vizier and the Speaker.
Naturally Massinassa was furious and the insult lead to fisticuffs in the Council chambers between, the royal supporters, Ninyas supporters and Massinassa’s toughs.
There were purple robes torn as Ninyas son Almeyedes and Spargapises actually brawled on the council chamber floor. When order was eventually restored the council sent orders reiterating that Ninyas relinquish his command to Spargapises and return to Ado.
At the moment all of Sarmatia is agog with the fear of the Dominion who have managed to defeat the everyone and have even temporarily quelled Cyrus advance on our territories.
All the country talks about are the Dominion. The Dominion, the Dominion, the Dominion. Everyone is terrified of the Dominion. At the rate they are expanding and conquering, they are well on their way to building an empire.
I don’t think either Ninyas or Spargapises have the brains or intelligence to stop them. Olayrae is right you were made for this hour. Yes, Olayrae she has come out of the temple service temporarily and she says she is directed by the divine to assist us as the our hour of need will be upon us soon, whatever that means, I hate it when she is cryptic. It has been nice having her around though I did not know she was such an excellent politician.
Hurry up whatever you are doing in Numedia and come home I beg of you. I am not up to battling the High Council of Viziers single-handedly especially when my own brother is part of the problem.
On a lighter note I was remembering a conversation with Epiphany where she said you were telling Nnandi you wanted to leave a lasting memorial of your reign. I would like to suggest a military academy in Ekiti or even the Massagetae lands so we don’t lose the fighting skills of our veteran armies.
Finally I have some sad news for you. Your mother Danu was very ill and died suddenly of an illness. I arranged for a state burial for her. I hope this meets with your approval. I also suggest that you send Someone back to take charge of Derastes. Since your mother’s death, he has been staying in the palace but I know you are reluctant to have him at Ado.
That is all my news. I have no doubt Epiphany will have written to Nnandi with all the details.
Your loving daughter and most humble subject. Bierae”
Pasiphae was to accompany myself and Jbenga back to Ado for the Queen’s father to recuperate. The Queen Mother having already died, Tiirmirise gave orders no one was to tell him of it until he was safely in Ado. I did all I could to make him comfortable. I had already channelled my powers to try to heal the wound but it was a fatal one and I could only make him comfortable for the long journey ahead.
As we prepared to leave, I who had once loathed Tiirmirise now found myself saddened by my departure. Everyday we were together each moment was precious, every kiss was saved in my memory and every touch treasured.
Finally when the day came for us to return to Sarmatia everyone was loaded up. The entire Massagetae guard and Sarmatian army were there. It seemed the whole camp turned up to see us go.
I was very embarrassed when Nnandi and Makeda each pinned a silver Falcon on my modest robes for services to the empire. (Now that I am Tiirmirise’s betrothed I am always dressed in modest blue robes and she sulks if I wear the transparent silk and chiffon outside of the tent.)
They each winked at me and stepped back. Makeda pinned her own solemnly and gravely and then gave me a hug as well. I had managed to save her son’s arm from amputation during the last battle against Jurugun and the hug went on for so long that I glanced nervously towards Tiirmirise who looked on in amusement.
She only released me when Pasiphae coughed loudly and Tiirmirise's delicately arched eyebrow which promised some form of retribution. Makeda looked sheepishly at the queen who tried unsuccessfully to hide a smile.
Osumaye and Xango also gave me silver falcons, Xango gave me one on behalf of Jbenga and kissed me in a most uncircumspect way before winking at his sister. I dared not look at Tiirmirise who was being physically restrained by Pasiphae.
“That’s from father.” He grinned and stuck his tongue out at Tiirmirise.
Pasiphae pinned a silver falcon to my dress robes. I was surprised when she smiled at me.
“I hope that I too will find one such as you to lead me out of my darkness.” She said softly
I raised my eyebrows enquiringly at her. “Pasiphae I…”
“You know what I am talking about Saronne. Never mind we will speak on the journey. I do not wish my queen to question my loyalty now. Only know this you have earned all of the silver falcons pinned to your robes.” And with those puzzling words She stepped away and got onto her horse.
Finally it was Tiirmirise turn to pin a silver falcon on my robes. Her hands shook and when she was done I stepped back and dropped a deep curtsy as was custom.
She made a funny sound and when I looked up I realised she was looking at my cleavage and her eyes were dancing a smile played about her lips for she lifted me up and kissed me thoroughly till I was breathless. I could faintly hear the sound of the army cheering in the background.
It was awhile before I realised that actually her hands cupped my bottom and she had lifted me completely off the ground eventually she buried her face in my neck.
“Please put me down.” I begged, I could feel myself blushing furiously with embarrassment. Most Massagetae were black skinned and the Swarthy skinned Sarmatians were almost as dark and didn’t blush or if they did it was not noticeable. It was therefore a constant source of amusement to Tiirmirise when I did blush however she did as I requested.
I cupped her head in my hands and caressed her cheek. “Please be careful.” I whispered. “Caressing the long scar that ran across her face lovingly.”
“I shall my sun, moon and stars. I shall.” She whispered back.
I loved it when she called me her sun, moon and stars. It meant her world revolved around me although of course it was the other way round. She gave me one more heart wrenching kiss and then we were on our way back to Ado.
I spent many evenings with Jbenga cleaning his wounds and changing his dressings. He drifted in and out of delirium. I had earlier tried to heal him by channelling the Falcon Olayrae gave me but I could summon nothing. Sometimes the gift worked and other times it did not. It was highly unreliable so I did the best I could to make him comfortable.
The first night we stopped we made camp. As we were in enemy country we kept away from the settlements. We were accompanied by one hundred and fifty Massagetae guards.
I knew that each member of the royal family is entitled to an honour guard of fifty. So I puzzled who the third complement was for as I had to record their orders and obviously their expenses. I simply assumed they were for Jbenga because he was very sick.
After I had the Queen’s father comfortable, I bathed and returned to my tent to do my accounts. As a small army we had a little forte, the Massagetae had built a palisade to surround us. I had my own tent, it was not as large as the one I shared with Tiirmirise but it afforded me privacy, since most of the other soldiers tented together.
As I sat with the parchment making entries, a breeze blew making the candles flicker and I turned to find Pasiphae regarding me thoughtfully. I had not even realised when she entered the tent.
I held my breadth and watched her warily.
I wanted to refuse but I dare not, Pasiphae was a princess of Sarmatia and although Tiirmirise honoured me greatly I was still publicly little more than a slave until we were formally married. I obeyed and walked hesitantly over to her.
She walked around me watching me, circling me moving closer and closer to me till we stood face to face.
“What is it about you? What is it about you that has enchanted the Queen. You are beautiful, it is true, but there are many beautiful women at court, you are clever, but I have also many clever slaves who are better at book keeping, you are a healer, but there are many healers at Ekiti, why does the Queen trust you so? I would know woman tell me.”
I said nothing. Pasiphae reached out and undid the pins that held my hair so that it tumbled down my shoulders. She leaned forward and stared into my eyes as though searcing for something. She caught her breadth and her hand went to my breasts.
I flinched away but gently very gently the princess removed the falcon that nestled between my breasts and fingered it.
“Olayrae gave you this?”
“How did you know?”
“There is a myth about the Silver falcon. It is an ancient legend of the Massagetae. Her other name is the hidden Queen. The silver Falcon represents the Queen of Sarmatia and the Massagetae, she is often thought to arrive in our time of greatest need. I had always thought the hidden Queen would be Tiirmirise or even Olayrae but I never considered that you a slave would be the hidden Queen.”
“You are speaking in riddles Pasiphae. I do not know what you are talking about.”
“How could you? You are not Massagetae or Sarmatian. “No doubt you are afraid of me. After our last meeting in Gypsos I do not blame you. I know you care for the slaves that I use and for that I am grateful.”
“Why do that to them?”
“There is a curse on the children of Qastursh. Qastursh was Tiirmirise’s husband and King of Sarmatia. His father and grandfather seized the throne from the rightful Massagetae Queen. The High priestess of the One God placed a curse on them to continue until a Queen born of the Massagetae once more ascends the throne.
Spargapises and Pradae indulged theirs in an incestuous relationship, Minae is a nymphomaniac, Bierae is a weaver of lies a deceiver, Olayrae harms herself and I…” She smiled ferally “I inflict pain on others.”
“Olayrae harms herself?”
“Yes. There is a common belief that the my sister’s eyes were gouged out by assassins but they were not. She did that to herself. Her sacrifice to the God for her prophetic eye sight.”
“But Tiirmirise said…”
“I know what Tiirmirise said. But she is not related to us by blood. She does not have all Olayrae’s confidence. I do though. They all talk to me.”
“So you think that if Tiirmirise becomes Queen, you hope your torture and torment will cease?”
“When Tiirmirise becomes Queen.” Pasiphae said forcefully an almost fanatical glint in her eyes.
“ Your highness are you telling me that you blame this curse for your actions and not on the fact that you genuinely like hurting people.”
“You do not believe?” The princess looked at her incredulously and then a smile broke out on her face.
“I believe your highness that your torture and torment will cease when you cease torturing and tormenting others.”
“Perhaps it will at that.” Her hand reached out to stroke Saronne’s jaw. “You are so tempting. Were you not Tiirmirise’s property I would take you now…”
“You mean whip me till I bleed?”
Pasiphae smiled ruefully. “I do not only beat my slaves Saronne, some of them derive pleasure in my bed.”
“The one I saw in Gypsos did not appear to derive any pleasure from any of your actions.”
“If you did not belong to Tiirmirise…I would seduce you.” Pasiphae’s thumb caressed her lips gently.
“But I do belong to Tiirmirise.” Saronne removed the thumb from her mouth. Saronne could not believe she was saying the words and with such relish too.
Pasiphae unsettled her. It was not that she touched her inappropriately but that she always seemed to be touching her. She never did anything that could be overtly construed as threatening but everywhere she went her eyes followed her.
The first few days of the journey to Ado were tortuous
Tiirmirise was to hear news of the situation in Ado not from Bierae who was caught up in the politics of the whole situation but from none other than Saronne.
When the letter arrived at the Numedian palace several months after they left, Tiirmirise retreated to the privacy of her rooms. She sniffed at the envelope which carried Saronne’s special scent and opened it.
My beloved Tiirmririse,
I hope this letter finds you in good health. I have missed you very much. Your father is well and is coming to terms with your mother’s loss. I believe that little Derastes is a great comfort to him.
Derastes is nothing like you or indeed any Massagetae I have ever met. He is sweet yet charming and more interested in books than in swordplay much to his great- grandfathers disappointment.
I have a lot of news to give you and as I am still a slave Bierae has warned me to write official news and not to waste expensive parchment on words of love but to inform you of the tragic and grave circumstances here.
Six months into the year, the month called June after Juno, the Dominion goddess, Spargapises left on a long march towards the land of the Simian and the lands being ravaged by the Dominion. Pasiphae marched with him as a junior lieutenant. Spargapises insisted on lugging enough grain to feed his entire forces for two months consequently his progress was slow and after 16 days he had yet to reach the river Masene.
Eventually Pasiphae was able to persuade him to leave his baggage train in the escort of one battalion and push forward with the other 14 battalions. Ninyas did not make the same mistake and reached the Simian border ahead of Spargapises.
He took only three of his fifteen battalions. One he left behind, he disbanded the cavalry as an unnecessary expense and pocketed the money. At one stage he refused to move forward till he received a letter from the Sarmatian High Council giving him command of the army and had to be persuaded by his lieutenants.
The letter never came and despite his delaying tactics he still reached the rendezvous destination ahead of Spargapises. It never occurred to him that the council would not take supreme command from his nephew and give it to him.
The Dominion were now sighted by the Massagetae scout corps attached to Spargapises army. (Ninyas refused to allow the Massagetae in his army as far as he was concerned they were your spies. This however I know is not far from the truth.)
The Simian allies unable to fight the Dominion in a pitched battle (having learned their lesson years when they fought with you under their King Silenion) harried the Dominion using guerrilla tactics but never actually engaged them. They retreated into the Apennine mountains to await relief from the Sarmatian Army.
Ninyas sent the council a letter refusing to surrender his troops to Spargapises and take orders from a boy and those were his last words on the matter. He deployed his troops at Masene on one bank of the river Masene and waited for Spargapises to appear on the opposite bank.
Spargapises arrived ahead of the councils reply and placed his army and non-combatants in a heavily fortified camp on the edge of Masene 5 miles north of Ninyas troops at the town of Masene.
Thus making the river serve as a defence as well as a water source. He thought the ground to the north of his camp would be ideal for battle. He sought to use the river as his greatest protection. That in itself was a mistake.
His next mistake was to appoint Pasiphae his most experienced and able general to command the cavalry thereby depriving him of his sister’s counsel. His grand strategy was to treat with the Dominion, find out what they actually wanted and try to sue for peace.
His first task was to get Ninyas from the West bank of the river to the East bank. However still smarting from the insulting insensitive letter Scaures had read in the council at Ado, Spargapises dictated a curt undisguised insulting letter to Ninyas to get himself and his army across the river and inside his camp at once.
Ninyas replied that he was Spargapises uncle and he would not take orders from the get of any pretentious silk traders (reference to Qastursh’s ancestry and not yours) and he was staying. Spargapises then ordered him to hand over the army and return to Ado for punishment. Ninyas refused and threatened to institute treason proceedings against the young prince.
So the bickering continued till September. Bierae appalled by the situation was in the Council everyday trying to get the High Council to send viziers to resolve the problem but has been blocked at every turn by Magba Massinassa. Why I don’t know but I suppose we shall soon find out why.
Eventually Scaures in order to keep the peace allowed viziers to attend but they were only the most junior of viziers and members of the royal family. Olayrae came after a hastily written panic not from Bierae, although I am of the opinion she was already on her way since barely was the note written than the princess was in the palace.
Olayrae is the only one who appeared to understand the gravity of the situation for all that she was not a military strategist.
Sarmatia could not afford acrimonious in fighting just before facing a terrible enemy like the dominion. Back and forth went Olayrae who could see the Dominion advance.
She informed Pasiphae that she should be inside Spargapises camp. However Spargapises wanted to treat with the Dominion and Pasiphae felt it imperative that Spargapises join with Ninyas.
Olayrae then hurried off to Ninyas who terrified of the princess agreed with her but then crossed the river ten miles away from where Pasiphae was encamped with her cavalry and then began preparing to build a fortified camp. Olayrae unsuccessfully tried to convince him to join Spargapises camp instead of building another one. Ninyas refused.
Olayrae returned to find Spargapises treating with the Dominion generals. Also at the meeting were the newly crowned King Aresteion, and princess Pasiphae. Olayrae desperately asked him to make a truce till you returned and he refused. He said the only person the Dominion fear is Tiirmirise and we need to beat them otherwise we are doomed.
The next morning the Dominion moved swiftly.
Pasiphae did not have enough time to rally the cavalry so she sent the Massagetae horse ahead to protect the royal family and warn Spargapises. I am sorry to say that She was cut down in battle.
Apart from the 100 cavalry she sent to protect her sister Olayrae and King Aresteion the rest of the 200 Massagetae cavalry corps into was cut down to the last. I send my condolences my beloved I know how much you loved her.
One hundred thousand Dominion troops overran Ninyas camp and literally destroyed his army. He barely got away with his life on a boat. Spargapises did little better, fighting against gargantuan odds. His army at least inflicted severe casualties on the Dominion.
The Simian armies were decimated and despite Aristeion’s protests Spargapises had him taken off the field and ferried to safety along with Minae’s complement of Massagetae guards which he is entitled to as he is married to a member of the royal family.
The most senior observer after Olayrae was the Vizier Maecenes, one time ally of Ninyas but after that day at Masene he has allied himself squarely in council with Bierae and by extension you. Out of the 200 senior officers only twenty four survived. Amongst them was Spargapises though his injuries are grave, Olayrae remained behind to tend him.
Then the Dominion looted the camp and disappeared. As in they simply packed up their army and marched away back to whence they came. We have had rumours that there is another civil war or some sort of battle for succession so the Dominion have returned back to their homelands.
Others say Spargapises killed their leader so they must return to their homeland to elect another. Either way the Dominion did not press on their victory and invade Sarmatia.
Well after the battle Olayrae informed Maecenes that Ninyas was on his way to Ado go give his version of the news there. Olayrae could not leave as she was tending Spargapises so instead Maecenes, bone tired and filled with fury took horse , and then boat to race Ninyas to the council chamber.
Ninyas for his part travelled by road and with a two days start managed to reach Ado in 7 days. However fortune had a greater favourite and Maecenes reached Ado in 4 days aided by a perfect sailing wind.
By noon of his arrival that day, the council had been summoned to an emergency meeting whilst Ninyas and his son Almeyedes were trotting up the main road into the city. Maecenes told the council the whole sorry tale.
How foolish pride prevented Ninyas from taking orders from Spargapises, how Spargapises had against all odds managed to kill the Dominion leader and how they had to return to their lands to elect another leader which was why they were not now attacking Sarmatia.
How thirty thousand men and women of Sarmatia and the Massagetae lay slain on the field of battle, twenty thousand of whom belonged to the land owning class as they were recruited by Ninyas. How the Princess Pasiphae lost her life covering their retreat.
Her body was being returned by the Massagetae to be burned on a funeral pyre and to be given as state burial as befitted a royal princess who gave her life for her country.
How Ninyas stubbornness had divided the army and finishing with his utter cowardice and flight in the face of the advancing Dominion horde.
Many of the viziers wept openly. Two hundred lieutenants who fought at Masene only twenty four lived. Many were sons of viziers, aristocrats, high ranking Sarmatian nobles. Not one noble family in Sarmatia from the Royal family to the lowest ranking aristocrat has not lost at least one or two family members in the disaster at Masene.
The chamber flinched as Maecenes damming words echoed around its hallowed walls. I quote from his speech which was pasted in all the law courts and bazaars.
“All of you here must take the blame. I, one of your youngest and least experienced members of this house was sent with Princess Olayrae, a priestess, not even a vizier, who even now tries to save the lives of the survivors to persuade two generals who couldn‘t agree on the colour of shit to work together!”
It is plain to me that we must now have one commander-in-chief and that person must lead us otherwise when the Dominion return they will destroy us and do not doubt that they will return.”
Well Tiirmirise we all knew who that commander-in-chief was and it wasn’t Spargapises and it most certainly wasn’t Ninyas.
Bierae got up and said your name with relish. “Tiirmirise!!!”
“You want that barbaric and crude Massagetae female to rule over us? Are you suggesting Princess Bierae, that the jumped up get of a horse trader be made commander-in-chief of the host of Sarmatia?” Magba Massinassa got up and manoeuvred his huge bulk off the Prime Vizier’s seat.
“It is one thing to sit on the back benches and make pretty speeches it is quite another to rule. What you need Princess Bierae is a husband and a good shafting.” The disgusting man waved a short stubby finger at her rudely.
He made a rude gesture with his fingers and your princess Bierae, that lovely calm elegant woman, that epitome of Sarmatian womanhood exploded with what can only be described as unladylike rage.
“Do you know what Ninyas has done? He has landed us in the shit! Deep in the shit!! Need I remind you that Sarmatia is open to attack right now. Her legs spread like a woman waiting to be raped.
If you idiots have your way we will all be raped by the fucking Dominion in every sense of the word. They especially derive pleasure in emasculating men in such a fashion. Think before you fall into the same trap as Prince Ninyas, allowing foolish pride to rule your actions. Actions which cannot be taken back. So what if Tiirmirise is a bloody woman? At least she will keep us alive.”
Well the council was shocked into silence. Someone moved a motion that we should all go into mourning and wear black and everyone should contribute towards the war effort to beat the Dominion.
Scaures called an end to the session and the next day Osamaye moved a vote that you should return from Numedia to fight the Dominion. Which was granted the only other business was to decide who was to be governor.
The vizier Cephanes asked not to be considered because he felt that he had financial commitments and he would probably rob the Numedians blind so he asked a more well off governor be sent there so the people be allowed to recover from the war. The house was amused but agreed.
I have seen Nitocris, she is beautiful. Margravine is divorcing Xango, Bierae is trying to convince her not to because of the scandal. I now have charge of both Derastes and Nitocris in the palace. I enjoy their company. I do not think you would recognise me these days I sometimes feel like Olayrae was being economical with the truth for I feel like I am carrying twins.
I miss you my love and I hope you will be careful.
Your loving wife
Tiirmirise read and re-read the last three lines of the letter again and again and her heart swelled. She had cried for Pasiphae when she first read the letter so had missed those three vital lines. However when as now she was in the cold or the rain or simply down because things were not going her way she read and re-read those three short lines.
Return of the Falcon
In Numedia Jurugun was executed by his own people before he could be taken prisoner. So Tomyris gathered up her army and returned to a heroes welcome in Ado.
There were vague dissatisfied rumblings in the Council of Viziers however. Ninyas had come into a lot of money and had put on the Chariot games from his own purse. Everywhere they turned it seemed the infernal man had bribed one ally or the other.
Suddenly everywhere in the city Ninyas began projects. He completed the Race course began by Qastursh and abandoned by that King when he ran out of funds and then started on an ambitious project of bridge building, road building and aqueduct building in an effort to buy away the stain of Masene.
In the meantime Tomyris decided the problem with the Dominion was that they simply did not have enough intelligence about them. She needed to know how their society functioned, how their warriors fought and what was their greatest weakness.
She was loathed to let Candace go because firstly else she was a woman and from what they knew so far of the Dominion they had a patriarchal society. Further Candace like was a Massagetae with Ebony skin and would instantly arouse suspicion if she went amongst them. The only way she could do that was as a slave and she knew from experience that when talk was confidential the first people to be banished were slaves.
Secondly and more importantly she needed Candace in Sarmatia. Candace for all intents and purposes was her Chief of Intelligence. It was imperative her intelligence gathering skills were utilised efficiently to find out what Ninyas was up to and also to co-ordinate the rapidly escalating threat that was Cyrus of Persia.
In the end she had entrusted the mission to Osanes one of the lieutenants who fought beside her during her campaign against the Numedians. Candace had pointed out that he would be perfect for the job.
He was from the Gaetulae, a northern tribe related to the Hellenes and who also claimed descent from the Nordic barbarians from Chaldea. They closely resembled the black haired swarthy skinned Dominion though more often than not they were on average a taller tribe. Tiirmirise did not think that would be a problem and had dispatched him to go and spy on the Dominion for the past two years.
He kept her informed regularly and he had risen high enough up in their ranks to become a warrior of some standing. At which point Tiirmirise had asked him if he had killed any Sarmatians in his rise to power to which he had replied that she was better off not knowing. She was expecting them to return soon with a briefing and she would then know how best to approach the Dominion.
Saronne lay on the bed fast asleep with little Chryseis on her bosom. She was indeed a golden one. Her hair was like that of summer wheat, a darker shade of her mother’s. Her skin like caramel, neither Tiirmirise’s ebony nor Saronne pale ivory.
Her eyes were neither blue nor black but green with flecks of yellow and as predicted she sported a pure white birth mark in the shape of a tear drop on the back of her right ankle just as Olayrae said and she was perfect.
Tiirmirise stopped to stare at both of them for the moment just drinking in the sight of them.
The moment of calm however was shattered by two screaming children running into the bed chamber. One was Nitocris toddling into the bedroom as fast as her little legs could carry her and she was followed close behind by her cousin Derastes.
They both woke up Saronne who gave them a welcoming smile and they clambered unto the bed to join her. They smothered her in hugs and kisses unaware Tiirmirise was watching.
When Saronne caught her gaze she smiled “How long have you been there?”
“Long enough.” The Queen said ominously
“Derastes immediately did a bow before his grandmother and Nitocris who worshiped her cousin Derastes did the same.”
Tiirmirise returned their bow with a formal one of her own and then held her arms wide open for them to run into which they did with childish glee.
Despite all the formality concerning royalty at the Palace Tiirmirise in private was a warm and loving parent. Saronne had expressed surprise but the newly married Bierae told her it was because of the way she was with the children of the harem that she had developed a good relationship with all of Qastursh’s children.
The Queen carrying Nitocris came over and pressed a gentle kiss on the head of the sleeping Chryseis before giving Saronne a lingering kiss on the lips.
“Yeugh when I grow up I am never gonna kiss girls.”
“Me either!” Nitocris copied her beloved cousin and folded her little arms across her chest.
Much to the amusements of the two adults. It was afternoon and the meal was served in a private dining room.
There was a green pea and smoked pork soup for starter, Tender slices of lamb marinated in rosemary and ginger, a salad, Bread, ziziphus, faba beans and for desert a spread of grapes, figs, dates pomegranates and plums. The children drank a fruit sweetened yoghurt drink, The Queen and Saronne drank wine mixed with a little water.
The meal was light hearted and fun. Bierae had recently gotten married to a Grand Vizier, a member of the High Council and was on honeymoon, Pradae was happily married to the Emperor of Sirahn’s son, Tiirmirise did not have the heart to acceed to Eugertes’s request and Minae and Areisteion came to visit from time to time.
She enjoyed the peace although it rankled that Ninyas had so much influence and money. It made her position precarious.
“A penny for your thoughts?” Saronne asked kissing Nitocris on the head and ruffling Derastes hair.
It was nice to see the Tiirmirise relaxed and not constantly in battle armour.
“I was just wondering where Ninyas got so much money from.”
“Everyone loathes him for it but he has so corrupted the higher echelons of Sarmatian society that no one wants to point fingers because he is so powerful now.”
“Aye and extremely stingy. He only spends money if he thinks it will get him something.”
“Candace told me that she suspected he took the long buried gold of the Simian. The gold meant for the treasury as booty he apparently appropriated for himself.”
She said she thought he suspected that he killed the 100 Sarmatian soldiers sent to guard it and paid some bandits money to stash it away somewhere for him. I expect that is not news to you though is it.”
Tiirmirise nodded “No it is not but I fear Candace may be right.”
“Tiirmirise Candace also told me to tell you that Osanes was back and that he would like a brief meeting with you sometime tomorrow morning.”
The children apparently bored with their conversation began to misbehave and Tiirmirise carried both of them and dumped them in the pool and then climbed in after them. Saronne and Chryseis joined her as they frolicked in the pool till their teachers came to take them for lessons.
Saronne and Tiirmirise played with little Chryseis till having eaten and eased herself she fell asleep. The two parents retired for the afternoon.
Tiirmirise was co-regent and since Ninyas had undertaken to shoulder most of the responsibilities for the building work she had more free time on her hands. Time which she enjoyed spending with Saronne.
Although they were supposed to be attending a musical recital together in the afternoon. Tiirmirise had firmly and politely declined by informing them by messenger that Saronne was ill and unable to attend and since it was a formal dinner it went against protocol for her to attend without her betrothed.
She didn’t inform Saronne of the change of plan however she just never got round to it. So when Saronne retired to her dressing room Tiirmirise simply followed her in.
Saronne gasped when the door of her dressing room swung open and then sighed in relief when she saw Tiirmirise at the door.
“Are’nt you going to get ready for tonight’s recital?”
Tiirmirise didn’t answer as she came into the room and slid her arms around Saronne’s waist and lowered her head for a kiss.
“Oh dear heaven don’t kiss me,” Saronne placed her hand on Tiirmirise’s chest pleadingly “Once we start we can never stop.” She breathed. Tiirmirise whole heartedly agreed even as she lowered her head to kiss her lover.
“I thought we have a recital to attend.” Saronne said breathlessly moaning as Tiirmirise’s lips dropped butterfly kissed down her throat till they reached her cleavage.
“I am Queen. I don’t have to do anything.” Tiirmirise said arrogantly wrapping her arms around Saronne’s waist, still slightly thickened from pregnancy and suckling on her nipple through her silks. “ I have sent our apologies and my sole intention from here on in is to lure you to my bed by any expedient device.”
Saronne chuckled and her laughter was infectious “I consider myself successfully lured.
Osanes finally returned from his sojourn with the Dominion. Tiirmirise demanded he attend her chambers immediately. He started with the military situation because he knew its importance to Tiirmirise. She was a firm believer in the old adage know thine enemy, so that as well as spying on the enemy Osanes had also explored the area the Dominion intended to launch their attack and drawn maps. Osanes was an excellent cartographer it was one of the reasons Candace had recommended him for the mission.
He was just settling down when he spied Saronne. He had not seen her since the year they spent in Numedia and she looked even more beautiful than he remembered, softer and more content.
“Married life agrees with you Lady.”
“Thank-you Osanes.” She marvelled that Osanes who once hated her treated her not just as a friend but as a Massagetae noble with all the respect that rank commanded.
She was about to offer him the Massagetae greeting when she saw the silver skulls he wore around his neck and recoiled.
“Take those wretched things off.” She shivered and Osanes grinned.
“Barbaric isn’t it. Its my good luck charm.” Osanes sat down and sighed. He did not realise how much he missed the comforts of Sarmatia. His eyes widened when Saronne personally served him and he felt emotional eating Sarmatian food he had not eaten for almost two years.
A spicy bowl of lentils, a salad of fresh vegetables, olives, sheep cheese, More cooked vegetables, grilled fish, roast lamb seasoned with herbs and root vegetables delicately cut into thick yet juicy mouth sized bites, snails in pepper sauce, (he laughed as he remembered Seunes), crabs, shrimp, fish and a sweet milk and egg desert followed by fresh fruit all washed down with a mixture of wine and water.
“Oh how good it is to be continent again.” He sighed
Saronne settled into Tiirmirise’s arms and nothing was said until he had eaten his fill. And then he began to give his report.
“The Dominion do everything to excess. Eat and drink till they spew all over each other or starve-half to death because they went out raiding and forgot to pack lunch. They are brave, fierce tough and quite well organised all things considered.”
“Here have some more wine.” Tiirmirise smiled wryly. Osanes was a product of her own way of military thinking. She did not remind the younger man that discipline in the army was a fairly new thing for Sarmatians.
When as a child of 17 she had started training Sarmation armies in the style of the Massagetae and using the information gleaned from studying Military Treatise like the Art of War by the oriental prince Sun Tzu, she had to fight every step of the way to get the changes instituted.
“Oh wine I have missed you so.” Osanes took another sip from his goblet of wine and continued speaking. “The Dominion are great ale drinkers. I don’t care if I never see another horn of ale again. When you drink ale you become a walking cistern always looking for the next piss.”
“What is the difference between a horn and a tankard?” asked Tiirmirise curiously
“Excuse me your majesty, I forgot my manners.” Osanes apologised. “ A horn is the horn of an animal which unlike a goblet or a tankard cannot be put down. Once you have poured yourself a horn you must down it immediately. A tankard is a very large cup often made with wood sometimes from a sheet of steel.
It carries several goblets of ale and can be rested down on a table between meals. Mead is another favourite of the Dominion Soldiers made from a brew similar to Gyptian beer and sweetened with honey. Ale is darker and looks like honey, it has no bubbles, a flat beer often served with pork scratchings, the crackling off a pig and an acquired taste.” Osanes grimaced he still remembered the taste.
He continued his report however. “It is rumoured that the Dominion are descended from the Lands of the Hellenes or the frozen North. Certainly they do not regard themselves as a single race and they do indeed speak several dialects although to me it sounds like variations of the same language. They live off the land they are cattle herders.”
They are beef eaters, despising fish. They often eat a black hard bread and a porridge of oats. They are not overly fond of vegetables or fruit. Their lands suffered greatly from floods and they are looking for an area in which to migrate and settle preferably somewhere that will not offer them much in the way of resistance. They covet our wealth and envy our lifestyle. They will not stop till they destroy us.
Moreover their society is based on war. It has no place for the infirm and the weak. Every warrior who dies in war leaves orphans and a widow. In such a patriarchal society as theirs, such women become a liability unless they have male children who are old enough to quickly become warriors so the widows have to scramble to find husbands amongst the warriors not old enough or enterprising enough to have women already.
If a woman finds a husband she is allowed to continue. If not herself and her children are killed and their wagon is given as booty to a successful warrior. They kill any who are too old to contribute to society and also excess girl children.”
Saronne gasped “And I thought you Massagetae were barbaric.”
“Oh the Massagetae are barbaric. It is us Gaetulae that civilised them.” Osanes teased Tiirmirise who accepted it with good grace and an amused smile. “And off course you are ably continuing that work Saronne although it is a difficult job.”
“I do not think the Massagetae are so difficult to tame.” Saronne teased Tiirmirise and caressing her jaw and the Queen turned her head to place a kiss on her open palm.
“Please Osanes continue with your story.” Saronne said with a breathless smile.
“Well It was this that gave us an opening into their society. I found a woman and climbed into her wagon. Naturally I fight quite well and soon was able to make myself a part of the tribe.
Their current leader is a man called Marcellus Cornelius. He is a 7ft Giant. He is possibly the tallest man I have ever seen and built like a shit house. Err sorry for the language.” Osanes looked sheepishly at Saronne.
“He is educated and can read and write. He has at his disposal I believe a force that numbers almost 800,000 men. He has divided them into three. One group under Marius Lepidus numbers about 300,000. They I believe will be in Sarmatia in about six months.
Another led by Sextus Livianus consisting of about 250,000 and finally a third group led by one Gaius Formica also consisting of 25o, 000. They know we have a standing army of 50, 000 and if they attack from different directions at the same time we will never be able to defeat them all.”
Tiirmirise cursed. At the time she recruited she had thought 100,000 soldiers would be enough to see off any threat from the Dominion. However Ninyas infernal meddling, scheming and plotting meant the council only approved 50,o00 soldiers. They were hopelessly outnumbered. She could train 50,000 men in six months but by the time they sorted out all the bureaucracy and the political bickering that was likely to be involved it could take even longer than that.
“Excuse me I wish to consult something in my study I will be right back.”
“Did you have any children with your Dominion wife?” Saronne asked quietly
“Yes actually I had two twin boys.”
“Did you leave them to be killed when you left since there would be no warrior to care for them?”
“Actually I brought them back here. I was hoping to marry Hermana and that the Queen would bestow citizenship on them so they can become true Sarmatians. Would you speak to Tiirmirise for me?”
“Why do you not ask her yourself?”
“Because Saronne I have seen the changes you have wrought in the Queen. I believe you are the best person to broach this delicate matter with her. As a Massagetae she might wonder whether I had gone soft in the head. However coming from you, well it would seem a reasonable request.”
“I am glad you didn’t leave them behind to die, Osanes.”
Tiirmirise was saying as she entered the room. “Yes I got a correspondence today from Bierae I had wanted to read out in the light of your news.”
Tiirmirise returned and only heard Osanes say “So am I although I couldn’t afford the time. I had to reach you before you returned to Ado to answer the summons of the High Council.
He turned to Tiirmirise and said “Apparently Ninyas is feeling vulnerable because you have an army of 50,000 at your beck and call and he has only a council of old men and women. He will urge the grand council to take your command.”
Tiirmirise gave Saronne, Bierae and Candace’s letters to read out. They confirmed that Ninyas had indeed concluded another diabolical scheme. Bierae’s report stated that Ninyas had managed to convince the High Council of Viziers that the Dominion would not invade at all and that Tiirmirise was simply using this opportunity to grab power for herself. Vayanes , the wily old fox now held a substantial minority in the council. If he voted with Ninyas, they would carry the day.
But if he voted with Tiirmirise’s faction Tiirmirise would win the vote. However as more and more people start to perceive him as a power broker his political influence would increase and he would soon become a major force to be reckoned with.
The next day Osanes saw Saronne, this time with a formal petition. He worried for his Dominion wife and he introduced her and his children to Saronne knowing full well Saronne had compassion and hoping the sight of the two beautiful little boys would move her.
Osanes came from the Trigantii tribe and they looked more like the Parthians or the Beri Beri. Their hair was usually black as minding, though and they were fairly pale skinned. Certainly she could see why Tiirmirise chose him for the mission he would easily fit in as a Dominion citizen. Well except for his height. He was tall like all Sarmatians and at least 6 foot tall.
Their children were beautiful and very well behaved. Certainly nothing like her unruly brood. Hermana looked more like someone from the land of the Angles. The Dominion women she had seen in the slave markets were tall, large strapping women with flaxen or red hair yet gracefully built.
Hermana was a good deal shorter than even Osanes. Her hair like Saronne’s was extremely thick but where Saronne kept hers at a manageable length, halfway down her back, Hermana’s fell past her waist and was thin brown and straight. Her eyes more grey than blue. Otherwise she looked very much like a Dominion woman.
The bones of her skull were well defined, her nose was a short straight blade, fine and thin and she had a wide mouth which was virtually lipless. She eyed Saronne suspiciously and the younger woman put her at ease with a gracious smile.
“This is Queen Tiirmirise’s betrothed, she has promised to speak to the Queen on our behalf.”
Saronne spoke haltingly in her own language curious to see if her theory was correct.
“I am Aeslynn, Votigernsdottir, I am pleased to offer you welcome.”
“Princess Aeslynn it is well that we find you. Your brother Leif Redbeard has journeyed widely throughout our lands searching for you. Your father has offered a great reward for your return.”
Osanes whirled round aghast “You are Votigern’s daughter does Tiirmirise know?”
Saronne nodded. “Yes she knows I am his daughter but she does not know who Votigern is.”
“My lady,” Osanes said excitedly, “ The Dominion have asked King Votigern to give them land to settle. His people are few and his lands are wide and plentiful. If Votigern agrees we may yet avoid a war with the Dominion.”
“You will have to discuss this with Tiirmirise.”
“Besides my people will only return to Votigern’s lands if they cannot take Sarmatia. I am afraid there will have to be war before there is peace. Unless you can persuade King Votigern to make an offer before it comes to war.”
“Tiirmirise would never let me go.” Aeslynn said sadly
“You have to try.” Osanes said desperately “It would be suicidal to war with both the Dominon and the Persians at the same time.
“Haven’t you heard? Candace says that Cyrus imperialistic policies are looking increasingly ominous for us.”
Saronne shook her head “Well I can’t do anything about that. But what did you come to see me about?”
Osanes motioned for Hermana and the children to leave. He did not want her to get her hopes up only to be refused.
“As you can see Hermana is not a young woman. When I first met her she was barren. Her first husband an autocratic Thane refused to cast her off. She is not beautiful, but she is all that I have ever required in a woman.”
Osanes spoke so passionately about Hermana that Saronne began to wonder if the once bloodthirsty general had not fallen in love. She listened patiently as he earnestly continued pleading his case.
“I chose her because although she had no children she reminded me of one who was nobly borne. Aloof, yet powerfully sexy much like you Saronne, although she is not as beautiful as you.”
“You don’t need to compliment me you rogue.” Saronne smiled. She could not quite believe that this same young man who had wanted to kill, who looked down on her was now paying her compliments and asking for a favour. If she was a vindictive person which she was not, she could well imagine how she would have enjoyed the situation.
Osanes eyebrows knotted. He was a very earnest young man. “I only speak the truth my lady. I offered many heads of cattle much gold and even a plot of our ancestral land for you after I first met you in Numedia and I was not the only one. The Queen refused of course and threatened to kill me.”
“But you all wanted to kill me and…”
“Nothing more than a ruse. The entire high command had a major crush on you especially Makeda and Osumares. ”
“Makeda I can understand, she was ever kind to me but Osumares? But he just used to spend the whole time glaring at me.” Saronne finished incredulously.
Osanes laughed and Saronne shook her head. “ We digress please continue with your story.
“As I was saying Hermana and I, we got on quite well, very well. She is intelligent sensible, passionate, articulate, hardworking..”
Saronne hid her smile as he continued praising Hermana. Osanes was indeed smitten by the Dominion woman.
“…she bathes twice a day, kept her wagon and utensils clean, she is everything my wife is not except Tigrantae.”
Saronne’s eyes widened. “You are married Osanes?”
“Yes I was married at fifteen an arranged marriage for political reasons. She turned out to be a drunken abusive woman whom I have never touched. She prefers her slaves.”
“Female slaves?” Saronne queried
“If she preferred her female slaves I would be happy for then I could have spoken to her father and arranged an annulment. No she prefers her male slaves and has whelped several bastards none of whom bear my name.” Osanes said bitterly.
“I am sorry to hear that.” Saronne sympathised.
Osanes shrugged. “Well I originally chose Hermana because like me she was an outsider. I noticed her because like I said earlier she had no children. If er husband had not been a powerful noble the women in the Dominion army would not have tolerated her presence especially as she was a half breed.
She is half Dominion half Chaldean. Her husband’s body was barely cold in the ground when the women were already making arrangements to club her to death and cast lots for her wagon which she kept in excellent condition and was thus the envy of every warrior there.
I chose her because in my estimation she needed me more than any Dominion woman there and after the treatment of the other Dominion women towards her I thought she would be less likely to betray me if she knew I was a spy.
So when she got pregnant and gave birth to two twin boys not only was she vindicated but my position was elevated. Twins are rare amongst the Dominion. They have an obscure prophecy about twins.
Once Candace summoned me back to Sarmatia I knew I could not leave her behind nor could I take her to my people. I am Trigantae and my people would never let me marry a slave, at least not unless she was a Sarmatian citizen. It is the reason I have used to avoid giving any of my wife’s whelps my name.”
“Is that why you believe Tiirmirise might not grant Hermana citizenship?”
“Yes. Tiirmirise believes in the sanctity of marriage. Whether it is between a man and a woman, two women or two men. I mean look at Spargapises, he has many concubines but only one wife. Qastursh was allowed more than one wife because he needed a male heir.
My wife is Sarmatian and a Samartian takes their citizenship from their mother unless of course he is the King. Hermana must have citizenship otherwise my children will be treated as little other than slaves.”
“I will speak to Tiirmirise and let you know what she decides. Osanes.”
When Tiirmirise returned she was in a bad mood. Candace had just been debriefing her on the situation in the Persian court. Cyrus was planning on sending a deputation for her hand in marriage.
Naturally she would refuse but she had wanted a bit longer to convince Saronne that a marriage between them would be a good idea. If she did not marry Saronne before the deputation arrived Ninyas would pressure the Council of Viziers. She might be pressured into a marriage she did not want.
She had lost a lot of ground in the council it was Ninyas arena. She dared not risk a confrontation with him in Council. She had already brought the issue up with Nnandi whose advice was that she should simply announce their wedding before hand and then deal with Saronne’s indignation later and such high-handed action did not sit well with the Queen.
Tiirmirise was strangely quiet over dinner and Saronne recognising her mood did not bring it up until after dinner.
“Why don’t you come here and let me rub your shoulders? You look tense.”
“You don’t have to do it I can always get one of the slaves to do it for me.” Tiirmirise said curtly.
“I want to do it.” Saronne said softly.
The Queen exhaled and wandered over wearily. In truth she had missed Saronne’s hands on her but had not wanted to burden her with sexual demands especially with the birth of Chryseis so she had engaged a couple bathers.
Now she sat between Saronne’s creamy white thighs, tension apparent in every muscle in her body. Saronne reached out for some Eucalyptus oil. She started stroking and kneading Tiirmirise’s shoulders then her neck and back till she was rewarded with what sounded like a soft purring noise.
“Osanes was here today.” Saronne began matter of factly.
“Indeed and what did he want?”
“He wanted me to meet Hermana the mother of his children.” Saronne explained the situation to Tiirmirise.
“I would categorically deny such a request.”
“Well first I have to grant a divorce, a divorce which Ninyas has to agree to then I would have to persuade the censors to enrol Hermana’s name on the list of citizens again with the co-operation of Ninyas and that is as likely as the sun rising in the west and setting in the east besides as Queen of Sarmatia I must protect the sanctity of marriage.”
Saronne was irritated “And having sex in with your bathers is that protecting the sanctity of marriage?”
Tiirmirise got up and turned around. “I have sex with my bathers because I do not think it wise to overly burden you with my sexual needs. You insist on breast feeding and caring for Chryseis personally and you are therefore constantly tired.”
“Because I love her, did you not care for Spargapises personally?”
“No! he had nurses. Besides I am Queen I can have as many lovers as I wish.”
“So can I have as many lovers as I wish? Can I sleep with my bathers?”
Tiirmirise‘s eyes narrowed and she got up to glare at Saronne “Do you sleep with your bathers?”
“No but If I wanted to wouldn’t you be upset if I did?”
“I would be absolutely furious.” Tiirmirise said without hesitation.
“So what makes you think I am not angry.” Saronne placed her hands on her hips.
“Saronne the fact that you have not already points to one thing. You only have sex with people you care for. If you did not you would have had several sexual partners by now.
So if you were to have sex play with another it would mean you cared for them. I am not prepared to tolerate that.” Tiirmirise continued arrogantly “I on the other hand can separate love from sex. So whilst I may fuck my bathers, I make love to you.”
“I can’t even get angry with you because you have absolutely no idea that what you are doing is wrong!”
“How is it wrong?” Tiirmirise asked genuinely confused.
Saronne closed her eyes and counted to ten. “Tiirmirise, I never want to share you with another woman or man again otherwise I will not marry you.”
The Queen froze. Her heart pounded in her head “If that is your wish?”
“Yes that is my wish!” Saronne stamped her foot angrily.
“Whilst we are on the subject of marriage I would like to have it arranged within the next three months.” Tiirmirise said silkily.
Tiirmirise relaxed now that she knew Saronne was going through with the wedding and allowed a smile to play on her lips.
“Would my Afereni require anything else?”
“I am still angry with you.” Saronne glared back at her.
“What can I do to make it right?”
“You can start with sending away your bathers, Osanes request for hermana’s citizenship, and I will think of other things.”
“Shall we kiss and make up now?” Tiirmirise was perfectly ready accede to any request Saronne made so long as they got married soon. By the time the Persian delegation arrived Saronne would be her wife and Queen.
Saronne was suspicious this had been easy way too easy. She didn’t fight as Tiirmirise gathered her up in her arms and surrendered herself to their gentle lovemaking.
As Tiirmirise predicted the granting of Hermana’s citizenship rights became a political issue but not in the way anyone could have foreseen.
Osanes father, Shaluga was a consumate politician. He had managed to maintain good relations with Magba Massinassa, Ninyas and Vayanes as well as the Queen. So that there was no debate in Council about the granting of the citizenship papers to Hermana and her sons since they were duly signed by Ninyas and Tiirmirise.
Theoretically therefore there should have been no opposition to registering her papers. The censors, who enrolled the name of every Sarmatian on the citizenship lists all agreed except for one. The Chief Censor who was also Osanes father-in-law. He stood with his iron grey hair and his face was a picture of abject defiance.
“I will not enrol your whore as a citizen!”
“But I have papers from both the Co-Regents of Sarmatia. Lord Ninyas and Queen Tiirmirise, signed and sealed as ordered by the Council of Viziers.”
“I don’t care how many bits of paper you produce and I don’t care who you bring forward to nominate her, you vulgar adulterous little toad, may the fleas of a thousand camesl infest your arsehole before I enroll that Dominion slut as a citizen!”
Osanes tried to reason with him “But Lord Ninyas and Queen Tiirmirise…”
The Chief‘s censor‘s cultured aristocratic tones echoed in resoundingly in the Bazaar.
“Did’nt you hear me you spawn of a jackal. As censor I have the ultimate word here. The law says so. I can refuse them all. I piss on Tiirmirise, I piss on Ninyas and I Piss! Piss! Piss! on the High Council of Viziers and As for you, you can just Fuck right off if you think I am going to stand by and let you disgrace my daughter.”
His face red with anger veins bursting from his neck the old man threw a right fist which connected with Osanes jaw flooring the younger man.
“I piss on the lot of you now get that slut and her little bastards out of here!” He spat.
In an example of unity and utter ruthlessness that no one had ever seen before nor likely ever expected to see again Tiirmirise and Ninyas ordered the palace guard to relieve him of his appointment and beat the living daylights out of the old man and.
It was a light punishment under Sarmatian law since Ninyas had in fact insisted on bringing the full weight of the law down on his reckless head and having him executed and it was only Vayanes and Tiirmirise’s intervention that saved his life. The junior censors immediately enrolled Hermana and her sons as citizens.
It cause a lot of furore in the Council of Viziers and also in the High Council. The Chief Censor had indeed been right, Scholastes was the only one by law allowed to register their names on the roll of citizens.
However by insulting the two regents and the Council of Viziers so publicly he had sealed his fate. The viziers would have let it go but neither of the regents could have tolerated such a challenge to their rule.
Scholastes the Chief Censor was now relegated to the political wilderness of the backbenches and was in no position to protest to the quiet divorce of his daughter from Shaluga’s son Osanes. As he smouldered on the back benches he plotted to get his own back on Shaluga.
In council the viziers desperate to keep a lid on the animosity between the Queen, Spargapises and Ninyas decided to divide power once more. This was once more due to political manoeuvring.
Spargapises was given command of 50,000 to go and deal with the largest Dominion army that had been sited. The army consisting of 300,000 men led by Marcellus Cornelius and Marius Lepidus. Tiirmirise had ensured that Makeda was to go with him as his senior legate.
Tiirmirise would be given the job of training and recruiting another army of 50,000 within six months. Candace had managed to buy them the time. The Trigantae and the Urhobae tribes working together had managed to slow down the advance of the other armies led by Gaius Formica and Sextus Livianus.
Tiirmirise’s strategy was to prevent the three armies from converging at once. If she could fight three battles then they stood a chance. A hundred thousand strong army fighting three separate battles whilst outnumbered 3-1 gave them better odds than allowing Marcellus Cornelius army to congregate as a solid mass of eight hundred thousand fighting one battle against their much smaller army of one hundred thousand.
She called Makeda to her chambers and after explaining her battle plans made her instructions clear in no uncertain words.
“Your job is to save the army of 50,000 at all costs. Under no circumstances are you to engage enemy unless you absolutely have to.”
“Even at the cost of the Crown Prince?”
“You do what you have to do even at the cost of my son.”
The Jewell of the Araxes
Tiirmirise reclined on her couch with Chryseis curled up fast asleep on her chest. She wore her black silken draw string trousers and a long vest tunic belted at the waist with her dress sword hanging on her right.
Saronne was being been fitted for her wedding gown which would consist of her sheer tulle lace, satin silks and chiffon. She had regained her figure and was watching Tiimise’s lusty glittering eyes as they fairly caressed her from across the room. Although they discussed politics the atmosphere in the room was replete with sexual tension.
“I think that if I negotiate with King Votigern he would be more than willing to allow the Dominion to settle and we could avert this war.”
“I disagree. We have to beat the Dominion into submission before they will agree to settle on Votigern’s lands. Besides Lady you need to be here for your wedding. Travelling to the land of the Angles now would delay it and I am disinclined to accept that.” In this Tiirmirise remained uncompromising.
Ever since the Princess Olayrae, and the other seven high Priestesses had formerly announced their betrothal before the Grand Council of Grand Viziers, Saronne’s status had changed.
She had been bestowed with her own coat of arms which depicted a silver falcon perching on hand and all on a sky blue back ground. She was also given an official honour Massagetae honour guard with its Sarmatian equivalent. She had not just a room but her own apartments and her own household and income from the civil lists.
After the wedding and the coronation she could take her place in the chamber if she wished as a vizier.
Once decided on the wedding Tiirmirise had moved with breath taking speed. Tiirmirise was actually extremely easy to handle. Feed her water her and pet her and she purred. There were few things which annoyed Tiirmirise recently, one of them was any talk of Saronne going to negotiate with Votigern or any delay to their wedding. The other was Ninyas and his infernal scheming.
“In my country a groom is not allowed to see his wife in her wedding dress before they get married.”
“I am not going to be a groom Afereni. Secondly you have already had my child. If you think I am going to let you out of my sight for even a moment you are mistaken. I believe the Massagetae custom that requires I spend a night in armour in an overnight vigil in the temple before we wed is sufficient proof of my commitment to you.”
“And I what am I supposed to be doing?”
“Well ordinarily you would be getting your piercings but since you already have those I guess you would be getting your beauty sleep and you will need it for I intend to wear you out.”
The royal wedding was attended by all their allies. The Simian, King and his wife Queen Minae, The Gyptian Kings and their wife Queen Nefer and of course emperor Euguertes Gross belly and his son with him the Crown princess Pradae and the King Votigern from the land of the Angles.
It was a lovely day too. The sun shone in the blue sky and the crowds lined the streets the air was full with the petals of lilies and roses imported from far flung lands. As well as arranging a banquet for the country’s population held in the various civic centres for the citizens at Ninyas expense, another show of one upmanship that infuriated the Queen, there was also games, plays and theatres on a large scale.
The Race Course was not yet finished but Ninyas in an effort to impress threw chariot games anyway, held in honour of the Co-Regent’s wedding. Tiirmirise had been extremely apprehensive when she met her father-in-law. He it was who would be giving Saronne away.
The meeting had not gone well. Votigern would have returned with his daughter had not his minister of protocol advised him against it. This made Tiirmirise extremely wary and exceedingly possessive though neither ruler let Saronne know something was wrong.
The wedding went well. Tiirmirise said her vows loud and clear in a ringing voice. Saronne’s was spoken haltingly. When Tiirmirise smiled at her and held her hand she took courage from her warm hand and it was as though something wonderful flooded her being.
On the balcony of the Palace of light the newly married co-regent presented her queen to the nation and kissed her lustily to the roar of the appreciative crowd.
By the time the Dominion descended down from the mountains Tiirmirise had an army of 50,000. However she knew the area well and she also had Simian, Gyptian and Sirahn allies to help her out. Minae sent her news of the allied position as well as her love and a portrait of her son Tomyseion.
When she received a missive from Candace to the effect that the Urobae and Trigantae tribes had effectively slowed down the attack from Gaius Formica. However once they felt they could no longer hold them they would retreat to the mountain fortresses with as many supplies as they could carry and burn everything else so the Dominion would not be able to forage from the land.
Eager to remove the stigma of the loss at Masene, Spargapises did everything by the book. He set up camp, marched in formation ready to attack, Makeda could not really fault him yet Makeda managed to irritate Spargapises exceedingly.
Makeda was the most helpful second in command a general could have. She took on all the day to day burdens of army administration and supervision that it was almost as though she was a lurking like a stalking Panther. You could always sight her in your periphery vision but always at the corner of your eyes but when you turned to confront her she had disappeared.
Spargapises suspected something was wrong. His mother was extremely devious and especially cunning and she must have had good reason to send Makeda who was for all intents and purposes her second in command when it came to military matters. Makeda for her part wanted to unsettle the prince and so achieve a mental edge over him.
Makeda made it her business to know every military officer and a great deal of the many ranker soldiers too. As they were kept at a distance by the arrogant and snobby Spargapises Makeda became the senior officer that the army respected and trusted.
It was necessary that this be accomplished because Tiirmirise had given her explicit instructions to neutralise Spargapises if it became necessary. This did not mean she was to kill him, Tiirmirise loved her son but she had the Queen’s permission to arrest and incarcerate him if necessary. Marcellus’s army arrived first in late June and though She thought she had prepared for every eventuality she had never dreamed of the situation that was now unfolding before her very eyes.
“So long as I live, no Dominion soldier will set foot on Sarmatian soil.” Roared Spargapises when the matter was discussed in the command tent. Then arising majestically from his ivory general’s chair he pointed upwards dramatically with his left hand and said “We march!!!”
“Eh We march? We march where?” Makeda’s words dripped sarcasm.
“Up the the river.” Spargapises said arrogantly giving Makeda a condescending smile. “I shall turn the Dominion back from the mountains before an early snow makes that impossible.
“So how far up the river are we marching?”
“Until we meet them in a narrow valley like say the valley of Olokun. We will be in a better situation than the Dominion. We are much better organised than them.”
Makeda disagreed shaking her head “ Our best chance is to fight in an area where we have enough room to deploy our troops.”
“There’s more than enough room along the river to deploy our troops.” And that was that. Spargapises would hear no further arguments.
Makeda was absolutely furious. All the plans she had made to deal with the Dominion were now useless. Nor would the maddening idiot change his mind so up the river they went with Spargapises riding ahead of his officers.
“Don’t worry Makeda, it will be just like the Spartans at Thermoplyae. This is the ideal place to hold the Dominion and turn them back to their lands.” Almeyedes, Ninyas son and heir elevated to position of general said airily.
“The Spartans holding Thermoplyae all died.” Makeda said flatly.
“So long as we push them back what does it matter. We will be covered with glory and our deeds will ring out through the ages.”
“Push them back? They will not turn back. Their provisions are low from the scorched earth policy of our Simian and Gyptian allies and with only the snow to look forward to why turn back when they can have all the wine supplies and women they can fuck that they need in Ekiti.” Makeda shook her head sadly “No we will not stop them here.”
The other officers shifted nervously.
“We fight here.” Spargapises said confidently
In the command tent where all the other officers were gathered sitting morosely in a circle Makeda was saying “Well gentlemen Its been a pleasure knowing you all.”
“Aye Makeda.” One of the lower ranker officers agreed and they all drank a deep toast.
“What’s that supposed to mean? Why are you all so negative?” Almeyedes, Ninyas eldest son asked
“Well young prince Almeyedes we are all going to die here.”
“Die? Why?” The young man asked in puzzlement.
“We have been led into an impossible military situation by another member of the high born incompetent and incompetent family.” Qadar was the father of Qastursh and Ninyas. Spargapises and Almeyedes were cousins so he would not take such a slur on his honour even though Spargapises and his father were mortal enemies.
“No you are quite mistaken. You don’t understand Spargapises strategy.”
“What strategy is that, pray enlighten us Young Prince.” Makeda drawled.
“Well there are 300,000 Dominion troops and only fifty thousand of us so we cannot possibly face them on an open battlefield. The best way to beat them is to squeeze up into a narrow area where they cannot use their greater number of troops against us then go at them hammer and tongs till they retreat.” He puffed out his chest proudly.
“Oh is that how you see it asked Petrides one of the Massagetae commanders.”
“That’s how it is.” replied Almeyedes impatiently.
“Is that how it is Makeda?” asked the cavalry commander Gnaes
“That’s how it is!” said Makeda laughing as the rest of the command tent burst into hysterical laughter stopping only to wipe tears of laughter from their eyes. Eventually Makeda stopped laughing long enough to point up at the entrance to the command tent.
“Look up there what do you see?”
“Mountains.” Said Almeyedes.
“I see footpaths.” said Petrides
“Footpaths? I see bridle tracks and cattle tracks” said Gnaes.
“Haven’t you noticed all the little trails? All the Dominion have to do is take any one of those many tracks and they will out flank us. We’ll be caught between hammer and anvil.” Makeda flat palmed a little spider in her hand.
“They will crush us like this.”
She slapped her palm on to her hand splattering the poor spider with a loud clap for dramatic effect and making the young prince jump.
Almeyedes left the command tent to throw up to the sound of male and female officers laughter ringing in his ears.
When next Spargapises called his meeting to discuss tactics deployment and strategy, Makeda walked in dressed in full battle armour.
“You’re late.” snapped the young prince.
“I was busy.” smiled Makeda baring all her teeth in an almost frightening smile.
“If you have more important things to do then go.”
Makeda hopped onto Spargapises desk lazily swinging her foot. It was an incongruous action for the big boned muscular woman. “Oh I am not going anywhere.” She drawled in her perfect aristocratic Sarmatian. “I’m here to inform you that we are not fighting the Dominion tomorrow are we ladies and gentlemen.”
“Did Ninyas put you up to this? I heard he has been buying support. No matter I’ll have your head for this you treacherous traitor!”
“We shall see your highness but when I tell the council of viziers that our general is a military imbecile whose only concern is for his own personal glory and not protecting its citizens,” Makeda turned around to address the other officers “which is essentially the reason we are here.”
“This situation is untenable Makeda.”
“Oh I completely agree. In fact our very presence in this location is untenable. Tomorrow the Dominion are going to swarm down all the little footpaths and descend on us like a swarm of locusts.
You are a Sarmatian, a Massagetae the son of one of possibly the greatest military genius of our time not a bloody Hellene. I am surprised your memories of Thermoplyae are Greek rather than Sarmatian.
You forget how Queen Tiirmirise used a foot path to out flank Jurugun’s troops in Numedian campaigns so many times it is hardly worth mentioning or perhaps you feel that because she is a woman and your mother she does not serve as an adequate example beyond your foolish pride.”
Makeday took a deep breadth now she was absolutely incensed and intent on giving the stuck up Prince the dressing down he needed. “ It is your mother Queen Tiirmirise I admire not Leonidas and his royal guard dying to the last man.
The Spartans were willing to die because the Ephors had been bribed.
Leonidas needed to expunge the shame of Sparta so they gambled on trying to delay the Persian advance for the Greek fleet to ready itself but it didn’t work. The Greek fleet perished and Leonidas died for nothing except perhaps sparing the blushes of Sparta. Thermoplyae did not influence that war in any way.”
“You are mistaken!” Spargapises said stubbornly.
“No you,” Makeda pointed to him with her finger. It had been broken during a wrestling match with Candace so it was a little crooked never the less it made her point.
“You are mistaken. Your army is now my army. Queen Tiirmirise sent me here to care for this army until she can take direct command and she cannot do so till she has defeated the army of Gaius Formica or Sextus Livianus whichever breaks through first. Therefore these are your new orders. This army will retreat and the retreat will begin tonight. That shall be the end of it.”
The prince got up and stared hard at Makeda who stared back hard at him. They stood face to face. Nose to Nose. Eye ball to Eye ball and Spargapises blinked. He dismissed the other officers.
“There was no need to…”
“There was every need your highness. If I had not done what I had done you would have sent me away with a flea in my ear.”
“You Massagetae are all the same, from the lowest 5yr old in training to Queen Tiirmirise, bloody arrogant.”
“Oh please, spare me your tedium. Queen Tiirmirise is the best general I have ever had the privilege to fight with and you still have not learnt your lesson from Masene.
The Queen is a brilliant general. All I know I know because of her. If you would stop seeing her as your mother and see her as a Queen which is the way a Sarmatian would see her you would not be so confused about your role.”
“Hah!” Spat Spargapises.
The Sarmatian army started retreating as Makeda planned over the bridge to the other side of the river. Although what had happened in the command tent to cause the change of tactics was to all intents and purposes a mutiny that word was never mentioned. By the time the Dominion realised the Sarmatians were retreating most of the Sarmatians were across the bridge which was slightly wobbly.
There was one unit of Sarmatian cavalry on the other side watching under cover in the trees. Makeda could not recross because the bridge was filled with the last of her army and she did not want the last of her men to realise the bridge was being weakened.
In re-organising she had forgotten that young Almeyedes would be in charge of the last unit of horse.
“Lead a charge young Almeyedes lead a charge.” shouted Makeda till she was hoarse but the young prince could not hear her.
Finally the charge came. The Sarmatian horse dashed sideways into the Dominion troops decimating their front ranks before they had a chance to reach the bridge.
Makeda swore as her eyes searched frantically for Almeyedes and then wondered why Ravon a Massagetae soldier, and second in command was leading the charge. Surely the young prince had not been cut down.
Makeda feared the worst. His father Ninyas would be furious and would probably claim it was all part of a plot by Tiirmirise. The cavalry unit galloped across the bridge safely back to the Sarmatian side. The Dominion swarmed after them on foot and the bridge wobbled dangerously.
The cavalry armed with composite bows especially adapted for the saddle that came with stirrups and bridles as well as spurs were able to fire on the Dominion as they retreated.
Yet more Dominion continued to pour over the bridge charging over the bodies of their fallen comrades. As the horse finally reached safety, Makeda arranged a welcome party for the Dominion warriors.
A hail of Javelins struck down more Dominion soldiers as the Sarmatian engineers worked frantically to pull the bridge down. The fighting was ferocious. Shields locked as the Dominion warriors clashed with the Sarmatian soldiers on the bridge. The Sarmatians retreated slowly till finally a few hundred Dominion soldiers found themselves on the Sarmatian side.
Thousands were on the bridge when it finally crashed under their weight into the river below. The 100 Dominion stranded on the Sarmatian side were massacred. It would take time for the Dominion to build another bridge and the Dominion were not known as a nation of bridge builders. Makeda had no doubt they would get across but it would take them time to find out how to do so.
Ravon was injured but she was alright. “We did it eh Makeda, we got them all across.”
“What happened to Almeyedes?”
“He panicked, shat himself and fainted. We had to carry him over the bridge.” She winced as a slave bound up her wounds.
“Well what do we do now?”
“We retreat. When they get tired of the pastures and the peace they’ll lose focus and hopefully take up Votigern’s offer to settle in his territories. Heaven knows he needs men to take and farm the land from the beasts who now swarm it.”
Spargapises like all the members of Qastursh’s family possessed an exquisitely refined sense of cruelty. He sent a report of the military situation. The unvarnished truth complete with the cowardice of young Almeyedes.
He took great delight in writing personally to Ninyas with the horrible details of his son’s failure and then gave the letters to Almeyedes to deliver together with a contingent of soldiers to ensure he personally delivered the letter.
By the time Ninyas finished reading the letters he could barely tolerate the sight of his son.
“Father how can I tell you of the pain and sheer terror I experienced when I saw those savages with their awful shrieking running at me. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t even control my bowels, let alone my heart.
I fainted thinking I had died and when I awoke full of terror, my bowels still loose, to see the male and female soldiers who carried me to safety washing themselves free of my shit in the river under my very eyes. I could barely stand their contempt and loathing.”
Almeyedes continued to weep as Ninyas replied in a cold flat voice his heart breaking with every word. “I disown you. I never ever want to see you again.”
Ninyas went to the council and told them what had happened including his son’s treachery. He bore the looks of sympathy with stoicism as he stood waiting outside the council chamber for Vayanes.
“I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Still I am sure you will understand my friend that my niece cannot marry your son.”
“I understand.” sighed Ninyas. “No one would want a coward for a son.”
Vayanes clapped him on the back “No reason why she shouldn’t marry you though. I mean she is a pretty little thing. Yes I think she’ll be just the ticket. She’s poor, you have loads of money and more importantly you have no heir. Yes I think it could work.”
Ninyas shook his head morosely. “People would call me a randy old goat.”
“But my dear Ninyas, you are a randy old goat. Don’t you have sex with your bathers?”
“Well yes but everyone has sex with their bathers.”
“Well there you go then.”
“Absolutely not I forbid it. You cannot come to war with me. You will stay here and continue your very successful role in council Saronne.”
Tiirmirise shook her head.
“You are a born politician and your place is here. Your offer to Marius Lepidus is being considered as is the corresponding one to Votigern and the largest of the Dominion troops might yet return to Votigern’s lands and save me the prospect of fighting three battles.”
Saronne hated to admit it but she was enjoying her role in the council. She was able to hold her own in the chamber of viziers. She was more patient, more polite and possessed an excellent political savvy. She had after all been trained as a princess whereas Tiirmirise had been trained as a general and a warrior.
She had actually managed to check Ninyas schemes and Magba Massinassa was at present languishing in jail after he had been goaded by Saronne into confessing the role he played in assassinating Helle, Augur and the murder of two of Ninyas children.
Whilst Ninyas hated Tiirmirise he appeared to have a soft spot for Saronne and had even approached and promised her a truce if he ascended the throne before Spargapises.
She no longer supervised Tiirmirise’s personal household it would have been too much work for her on top of her work load as a vizier and looking after Chryseis. However that job had gone to a nubile young Sarmatian female from the Gaetulae tribe in Sarmatia called Isasha.
Tiirmirise hated having Eunuchs in charge of her household due to her experiences in Qastursh’s harem and preferred to have a woman in charge of her personal household. This in itself was not a problem except that many ambitious young women, saw it as a chance to seduce their way to power.
Isasha was beautiful with long black waving hair and a dark swarthy skin. She was endowed with a lush body which she displayed at every opportunity. She always managed to be in some state of undress when Tiirmirise was around and now she would probably be going on campaign with Tiirmirise and Saronne was unashamedly jealous.
“Isasha is going on campaign with you?”
“Isasha? What is she going to do fuck the Dominion to death? Isasha will be staying here. The Massagetae daughter of the speaker of the house Scaures, will be accompanying me.
She is also an in-law of Epiphany and related to Nnandi. I believe her name is Raiden she will be organising my household. She knows how to wield a whip you on the other hand spoiled my slaves rotten Afereni.”
Tiirmirise came to stand before her wife brushing her lips, temples, cheekbones, eyelids and throat with gentle kisses before claiming her mouth. Saronne’s jealousy evaporated in a pool of desire.
In truth Tiirmirise had never given her any cause to doubt she was anything other than faithful since she had put her foot down about having sex with her bathers.
Saronne could not resist touching her. “You promise to be careful Tiirmirise.” She stroked the scar on the Queen’s face and touched her lips with her fingertips.
Saronne gave Tiirmirise one of the hot kisses that made her toes curl and her centre tingle. Her tongue played with Tiirmirise’s, deliciously endlessly, they kissed till they were both panting and their need for each other was ravenous.
It wasn’t long before the blonde queen was swept off her feet and carried to bed. Her arms slid around Tiirmirise’s neck and she clung possessively to the black Queen‘s. Saronne’s smallness excited her, as did her passionate kisses. Tonight they would hold nothing back because tomorrow Tiirmirise would be fighting the Dominion and might never return.
Saronne moaned as Tiirmirise’s hands powerful callused hands roamed her body as though committing every detail of her to memory, remembering her scent, her softness, her taste.
“You are so lovely.” Tiirmirise whispered against her throat as they clung naked together on the bed in Saronne’s chambers, her fingers threaded into her golden mass of hair that crackled at her touch. She wanted to wrap herself in the golden silken tendrils and just sink into her.
They made love passionately all night as though it was their last time and in the morning Tiirmirise left for the battle front before dawn. Before Saronne awoke. She had kissed the children the night before and told them she was leaving. She did not like long emotional good byes.
She knew they would all expect to see her in the morning before she awoke but she changed her plans at the last. She had to go and keep her loved ones safe from a marauding Dominion horde of barbarian warriors.
The Dominion which finally crossed into Sarmatian lands first was the army lead by Sextus Livianus and they were confronted by a huge Sarmatian Stone fortress manned by the Urhobae, a small but fierce tribe of Sarmatians and into which Tiirmirise shamelessly retreated.
The Dominion attacked it fruitlessly. The Sarmatians from their battlements let loose a hail of arrows, javelins and rocks and the Dominion impatient and unsuccessful retreated deciding it was not worth taking. Instead they turned their attentions towards the city of Quaresh. Quaresh was the third largest city in the kingdom of Sarmatia after Ado and Ekiti that the Dominion had heard of in Sarmatia.
They looked forward to a nice booty of women, slaves, food and other luxuries. The last of the Dominion had barely left the Urhobae fortress when Tiirmirise shipped out her army.
Quiet, disciplined and overjoyed at the prospect of battle. Guided by Candace information network and the Urhobae guards they were able to march around the Dominion and take up a perfect position ahead of them in front of the city of Quaresh at the top of a hill with a shallow stream at the bottom.
The Dominion now found themselves facing a Sarmatian army which impeded their advance to Quaresh and which further was ensconced behind a wooden fortress. Frustrated and without waiting for orders or reinforcements 150,000 Dominion warriors stormed the Sarmatian position across the shallow stream and up the hill.
Arrows came flying at them then the javelins and spears and then the two armies clashed. Odds even two three to one and the wooden palisades reducing that even further the Dominion came away with huge losses. Midday saw 30,000 fallen Dominion soldiers and casualties continued to rise.
Tiirmirise piled up the dead as an obstacle the Dominion would have to climb to reach the Sarmatian camp and it was just the beginning. Tiirmirise took several thousand cavalry troops under cover of darkness and directed them to cross the river and wait in ambush. She had to horses were not much good going downhill and the bulk of her infantry was at the top of the hill safely behind the wooden forte.
The next day they set fire to the Dominion troops in a gesture intended to rile them. The Dominion believed fire was sacred and to feed a body to fire well that was a desecration of the corpse. The enraged Dominion charged up hill and their ranks were decimated by archers and Javelins and when they clashed with the Sarmatian infantry metal tore into unprotected bone and tissue.
It was the first time in a long time since Tiirmirise fought without Makeda and Pasiphae at her side and she had to lead from the front. She went straight for Sextus Livianus and killed him in single combat. A great groan was heard to go through the Dominon host as he fell headless to the ground.
The Massagetae horse committed to a frontal charge fell on the rest of the Dominion army from the rear and by sun down the 250,000 Dominion army was no more. 50,000 Dominion Women, children who had travelled with the Dominion warriors were taken as slaves as well as 20,000 Dominion warriors.
They would be sold in foreign slave markets and the money from their sale used to augment the salaries and expenses of maintaining the army in the field.
Saronne read the news of the victory to the Sarmatian High Council and the city of Ado and Ekiti rang with bells for nigh on 14 days. The ugly spectre of the Dominion had been lifted.
They were no longer undefeatable. Saronne returned to her letter and in it she informed her that the embassy from the emperor Cyrus of Persia had finally arrived. He offered for the hand of Tiirmirise the Queen of the Massagetae.
Makeda was right the Dominion were not really bridge builders and decided to find another way to cross the river than build a bridge so they never actually crossed the River at the place Almeyedes had disgraced himself so badly.
Instead they hesitated. Tiirmirise’s victory had given them pause for thought. Marcellus despaired of ever persuading his army to attack instead they spent a comfortable summer on the pastures. They were a Dominion army made up of citizens not landless serfs and therefore not bound to obey every command. Marius Lepidus lost discipline of his army.
Each soldier brought four cows to see to their needs. Their long stay on the pastures meant their cattle had, feasted on the lush green pastures and thus multiplied their herd. They were also inundated with camp followers during their march up and down they decided to head towards Ekiti.
By the time they reached the river Araxes, the last river before crossing into Sarmatian lands proper, lands not belonging to the Simian, the Gyptian or the Sirahn allies, Tiirmirise had combined her two armies which now numbered a 100,000 strong.
Spargapises, Makeda, Candace, Osanes, Nnandi, Xango were all reunited and they were joined by Osumares and Osamaye. This time there would be no hiding behind a wooden palisade because they were under strength. This time Tiirmirise was determined to crush the Dominion. The two leaders met at a conference and fixed the day of battle.
Once more Tiirmirise deployed her troops. Archers and cavalry on the wings to protect the infantry from any flanking movements. Javelins, Catapults, and Ballistas (long range artillery that fired, rocks, bolts long enough to bring down horses and napalm an incendiary device) were also placed strategically.
The Dominion cavalry charged them terrifyingly across the plains. Huge stallions with long pointy things attached to their foreheads. Unlike the Dominion lead by Sextus Livianus this army wore armour. Heavy plates mail, a long sword and carried a heavy spear the Dominion called lances.
The Dominon horse massed in rows of 4 deep along four miles with the Dominion infantry behind them charged and wheeled right causing the Sarmatian line to move left and create an opening for the Dominion foot soldiers to outflank Makeda, who was in command on the right and thus take the Sarmatians from behind.
The plan almost worked too. Tiirmirise barely managed to pull the Sarmatian troops to a halt and the Units she was commanding took the brunt of the cavalry charge in an almighty clash of steel, horse and human flesh.
The Queen’s Falconier was killed and Tiirmise herself went down when Mordenes was charged from the side. A wave of despair fairly rippled across the Sarmatian army. Her Massagetae bodyguard surrounded her determined to give their life for their Queen and they fought bravely fighting the Dominion soldiers to a stand still. The fighting was ferocious and brutal. It was the first time the arrogant Queen had ever doubted she would see the end of the day.
She was gravely injured in the clash, leaving Makeda her second in command to deal with the first wave of Dominion infantry. When the Massagetae were eventually able to carry her to safety and patch up her wounds Tiirmirise ordered them to strap her to her horse and went back into battle knowing that if her horse was ham strung she would be exceedingly vulnerable.
Sarmatian fitness and training and Tiirmirise’s sheer cunning, guile and determination won the field. Marcellus Cornelius a gargantuan 7ft giant with arms and legs like tree trunks seeing which way the battle went charged leading his bodyguard straight at Tiirmirise intending to kill her in single combat.
His horse ploughed into her already bruised horse who collapsed under the strength of his larger steed flinging her off. His battle axe shattered her sword and she slipped on the bloody ground as she raised her shield to protect her from the force from the blows that reigned unrelentingly down on her. He kept moving striking on her blind side. Tiirmirise threw off her helmet which was impeding her breathing and limiting her periphery vision.
He dislocated her left shoulder arm on which she carried her shield and she slipped in the blood. She groaned as the wound in her side opened undoing all the good work of Raiden’s stitching. Raiden herself unable to come to her Mistress aid was battling three Dominion warriors.
She gasped as Marcellus stabbed her abdomen with his dagger. His eyes rolled with frustrated fury when he realised her armour prevented any damage to her body.
“I will make you barren. I will rip out your womb. She-devil!”
He raised his sword and Tiirmirise said a quick prayer and waited for the death blow.
Return of The Queen
As the sword came down its blade slid off another and sparks flew at them. It was Spargapises sword.
In the moment of her greatest peril when she was about to be slaughtered everything had suddenly become clear to him. He saw her standard go down felt the army’s confidence deplete palpably around him and for the first time in his life he was truly afraid.
He charged at the giant with the last of his own Massagetae honour guard behind him, fear in his heart with every blow that Tiirmirise fended off with her shield. He could see the other generals fighting to get to her side but there were so many of them. He almost despaired of reaching her on time.
The flashing scimitars of the Massagetae women taught personally by Tiirmirise to fight against odds of upwards of three even five to one was like an extra injection of 15o not just fifty and when Marcellus’ blade came down aimed at chopping the vulnerable Queen in half it crashed down on Spargapises sword.
The prince trained by his mother did not bother to cross swords with the giant. His mother’s words ringing in his ears, “War is war, duelling is for impressing the ladies. If you need to kill be quick and efficient.” He dropped to one knee pulled out is dagger and plunged it into the giants groin. He fell backwards like a great oak tree. His bodyguard surrounded him as Nnandi’s Massagetae reached them and started fighting over his body. Thus covering Tiirmise’s retreat.
Slowly but surely the battle began to go the way of the Sarmatians. Around them the morning sun in their eyes. As Osanes had reported the Dominion did everything to excess. They had consumed large amounts of meat and drink the night before and were sluggish. The heat which was a mild inconvenience to the Sarmatians used to living there all their lives became like a furnace for the Dominion in their heavy armour.
Spargapises leaned over the fallen warrior, afraid to hope. “Mother?”
“My son! Am I glad to see you!” Tiirmirise said fervently and he hugged tightly then cradling her gently he carried her off the battle field himself. It was the second time Tiirmirise returned to the command tent.
“You will stay here!” Spargapises roared at her. “You are in no condition to return to the field.”
Tiirmirise scowled at him as he continued speaking. “Nnandi will carry your commands to us. You will stay here and direct the rest of the battle.”
The Queen was about to protest until Makeda said “I agree with him Tiirmirise and I am quite prepared to sit on you to keep you here if I have to. If you go out there now you will be a target for every single Dominion soldier if they kill you they will rally. Right now they all know you are alive they saw Spargapises carry you off the field.”
The Queen subsided and directed the rest of the battle successfully from her sick bed.
They returned to Ado stopping first at Ekiti where they honoured the crown prince and Tiirmirise was extremely proud of her son. Her pride was so evident that they made peace between each other and were inseparable for the journey back.
At every city and town they passed there were displays of horsemanship banquets, gifts and at Ekiti the city presented the prince with a solid silver crown which was too heavy to be actually worn but would be carried before him.
In Ado the people loathed to be outdone by the city of Ekiti despite Ninyas protests in council held a triumph displaying the captured banners, booty slaves and treasures of the campaign. The feasting lasted three days and was interspersed with plays, recitals, and of course chariot racing.
By the time Tiirmirise arrived at the palace her wounds had begun to heal. She was no longer completely bed ridden but she was still unable to walk or stand for long periods of time.
Although by the time Saronne saw her she’d been bathed and fed she still wept with relief that she was safe. Raiden had sent regular dispatches back to the Council of viziers, a job she once used to do.
“You look terrible!” Saronne said through her tears. Her hands touched Tiirmirise’s face. There was another scar, a new one that went from her temple to her jaw in a straight line. “This is new.” She finished softly.
“I thought you liked my battle scars. I thought they showed my bravery in battle.”
“They show Tiirmirise, that you are not heedful of your face!”
“But you didn’t marry me for my pretty face.”
“Did’nt I?” Saronne teased
Tiirmirise pulled the hand at her face so that Saronne fell against her. “You married me for my…” Tiirmirise wriggled her eyebrows suggestively “other talents.”
Saronne chuckled “You are incorrigible!”
“And you are irresistible.” Tiirmirise kissed her capturing her lips and enjoying her taste, her scent her softness. The black Queen moaned. She was finally home.
When Tiirmirise was well enough to take her place in the Council of Viziers it was to a deafning applause even Ninyas stood up to congratulate her.
“You have received a lot of gifts and money from Cyrus asking for your hand in marriage.”
“I hope you refused and desisted on my behalf.” Tiirmirise said soaping Saronne’s back.
They were sitting in the large wooden bath tub. Their only bathers were Nitocris and Chryseis who splashed happily away.
“Yes I did. Everyone agreed with me that Cyrus wanted Sarmatia and not you. Everyone that is except Ninyas who argued that a marriage alliance would not tie down Sarmatia since he would be ruling in your stead.”
“What did you argue?”
“Well after defeating almost a million dominion warriors with barely a hundred thousand troops I asked the council if you were the kind of general we should gift to Cyrus? What if he decided to come after us?
I must commend you Tiirmirise it was a brilliant political move to take Raiden, I didn’t know she was a favourite niece of Scaures, the speaker is now firmly on our side and so is Vayanes, his daughter is married to Osumares, and with Magba Massinassa still in exile we appear to have a majority for now. I think now that Bierae and I have a plan to rid ourselves of Ninyas now is the time to make our move.”
“That sounds ominous!”
“Oh don’t worry your pretty little head about it, I will take care of everything.” Saronne said lightly turning around to face the amused Queen and plant a kiss on her hard lips.
Tiirmirise held each child in one arm received a sloppy kisses from the giggling children and a more passionate one from their mother. Saronne cupped her face and her hand traced the new scar that ran from her temple to her jaw.
“Why are you looking at me like that Tiirmirise?”
“Because I love you and I realised I don’t say it often enough Afereni.”
Saronne smiled “I love you too Tiirmirise, with every breadth in my body, and every beat of my heart, yes even my soul is yours.”
In the council Bierae and Saronne were a formidable team as they tackled Ninyas headlong in a political battle that would decide the fate of Sarmatia.
“Would the Queen of the Massagetae tell us what we are to do with the Dominion problem she has foisted on us?”
The Dominion captives should have been slaughtered but because of Saronne’s influence on the Queen they had not been.
“I don’t know what the problem is?” Tiirmirise pretended to look confused.
“We cannot dump such a huge amount of slaves especially male warriors into our community they are a threat.” Ninyas slammed his hand down.
“Indeed only consider your majesty, The Dominion inter breeding with our people, soon we will have a nation of half-breed, a mongrel nation!” Vayanes stormed at the council chamber.
Tiirmirise and Candace rolled their eyes. This was nothing less than racism and bigotry. Although everyone knew Vayanes was extremely racist and tolerated it not because he was a powerful man but because they all used it to manipulate him. However no one had tried to tell him his thinking was wrong, No one except Saronne. It was inconvenient to do so.
“What is your suggestion Vayanes?”
“That every Dominion barbarian slave be slaughtered.” Vayanes suggested and Ninyas seconded him.
“I thought you said he was on our side.” Tiirmirise hissed to Saronne.
“He was, but I didn’t know he was such a racist, I may have badly miscalculated.” Saronne replied back to Tiirmirise
Saronne took permission from the speaker and joined the debate. “If I may honoured founders, We have a need of these slaves.” Saronne did not think it was politic at this point to start discussing the evils of slavery. She needed to save their lives first before even thinking of freeing them.
“They can be put to good use” She continued “building roads, repairing sewers, the water cisterns and aqueducts, completing the Race Course, maintaining the temples and theatres, the Lighthouse at Maros , we also need more public baths, Parks and Latrines and The Queen Tiirmirise would like to build a great big leisure bath complex for the people of Sarmatia in Ekiti.”
Saronne listed an impressive list of public works which if completed would make the viziers and the Regency look like the golden age. They would pass into immortality and it would boost the economy. The slaves would do the grunt work with the option of buying their freedom” Saronne argued passionately.
“Even the Sarmatian artisans and the landless poor would benefit from such projects.”
The slaves would certainly ensure the work was completed quickly because even at a 100% employment there were not enough Sarmatians to complete the projects she had outlined.
“I commend your attempt to save your people, after all are not the Dominion said to be descended from the land of the Angles and whilst, this is all very fantastic, it is not very realistic is it.” Ninyas said after the applause had died down from Saronne‘s speech.
He drew himself up confidently as he continued his speech “But where would you get the money for such an ambitious building program. The booty collected from the last campaign will replenish the treasury but I do not think it would be enough for your vain glorious ambitions.”
“Why Ninyas you will pay for it.”
“I will pay for it? Where would I get the money from?”
Saronne smiled innocently and put on her helpless little girl look. A look she had perfected on the Massagetae Queen to get her way many times.
She knew Tiirmirise was going to be furious with her next words so she did not glance at her but continued bravely speaking.
“Are you not curious why Gaius Formica’s army never attacked? Well I will tell you why. The Princess Olayrae escorted me to meet him. He promised he would take his army and settle in Dominion lands once I obtained the permission of my father Votigern Redbeard.
I asked if he would be willing to pay Votigern some form of compensation for the land and he told me he would but that most of the gold kept for such things had been taken by a certain Lord Nincompoop.
His scouts had watched as 1000 Sarmatian soldiers from Lord Ninyas’ mother‘s tribe the Ambronae, and belonging to Ninyas personal honour guard changed their clothing to that of bandits and attacked and ambushed the gold meant for the Sarmatian vaults. He very kindly provided me with eye witnesses from the Dominion and I also have several Ambronae eye witnesses also who went into hiding after Ninyas unwilling to pay them had them executed to keep them quiet.”
Tiirmirise stared at Saronne and Ninyas in Shock. “Candace did you know about this?” Spargapises hissed to his cousin.
“Well the rumours are old and I’ve never been able to substantiate them but I simply just though that perhaps Ninyas was spending the substantial inheritance he received from his father.” Candace whispered back.
“I don’t understand he could have recruited an army and taken over.” Tiirmirise whispered to Candace
“Not everyone thinks like you!” Saronne sat down next to the Queen.
There was silence then the whispering and murmuring till finally the chamber erupted. Ninyas found himself on the receiving end of vicious glares from every man and woman in the room. He had used the money to bribe them and bribed them heavily in return for high interest rates and political favours.
Most of the Viziers in the chamber owed him money and as Saronne had rightly speculated most of the viziers would be more than happy to be rid of him. It meant their debts would be cancelled. They bayed for Ninyas blood.
“Are they?” Princess Bierae got up “When queen Saronne informed me, I in formed the High Priestess and she had the gold picked up from your little hideaway by the temple guards.”
The temple guards were inviolate in a way neither the Massagetae body guards and Sarmatian Palace guards were not.
“Your ancestral tribe the Ambronae were so disgusted by your treachery and unable to carry the burden of guilt in this debacle they have washed their hands of you. They insisted on delivering the gold to the chamber.”
At Bierae’s command the Ambronae titular chief and second in command to Ninyas, (Ninyas took his seat in the chamber of viziers by virtue of being the highest ranking Ambronae in Sarmatia and a son of Qastursh.) entered the chamber and the Ambronae began to pile up the gold in the council chamber.
There were gasps of outraged anger and hissing as it formed a tower that fairly touched the high vaulted ceilings of the council chamber.
“Death is too good for him!”
Scaures banged his gavel for order and the chamber only subsided after Scaures had the magistrates (the guards of the council chamber) eject one over enthusiastic vizier.
The chamber was silent and Tiirmirise got up from her bench. “ As regent I reserve the right of punishment. I agree with the viziers, Death is too good for you, therefore this shall be your sentence.
I banish you from the Plains forever. I will spare the Ambronae for they have expurgated their guilt. But if you dare to set foot in Sarmatia any man woman or beast may take your life without fear of retribution and claim a reward.
Your wife is the niece of a very honourable man, the vizier Vayanes so the life of your wife and child shall not be forfeit but they shall return to Scaures house and her son shall take Scaures name with the requisite compensation. Your cowardly son Almeyedes shall inherit the rest of your estate. The gold of Sarmatia will be returned to Sarmatia.”
Then to Ninyas abject fury Tiirmirise got up and went to the loan ivory chair that had for so long been unoccupied since the death of Qastursh and sat on it. She drew her sword and laid it across her lap.
“I hereby claim the throne of Sarmatia as sole Queen and in my own right and first in line to the throne shall be Spargapises, then Derastes, then Chryseis then Nitocris. You all owe me fealty and by the God I will have your oaths this day.”
The Regency was over. The order of succession determined. Her victory was complete.
The departure of Ninyas from Sarmatia did not put an end to the infernal man’s plotting. Instead he crossed over to the side of Cyrus in an attempt to regain the throne. There he started whispering about the gold, about the people and their life style, how rich and beautiful Sarmatia was whispering rumours till finally Cyrus was convinced and began his plans of invasion.
In Ado, Nnandi had risen to the position of Prime Vizier and was in charge of the building and restoration works. A job she loved. Tiirmirise had persuaded her to finish the race course first and since both were a lovers of chariot racing and horse racing it had been completed first. Every seven days the population of Ado would troop to watch the games after their weekly sacrifices in the temple.
Candace was busy monitoring the Persian court. It was important that she keep an eye on Ninyas plotting and schemes. Makeda was bored and unlike Tiirmirise who threw herself wholeheartedly into trade treaties and economic policies the big woman still hankered after Epiphany and had yet to choose a wife.
Although she did quite like Isasha, the young lady in charge of Tiirmirise’s house hold and Isasha’s parents anxious to advance their other children’s political career had approached her with what would have been an interesting proposition, Isasha was very young only twenty three whilst Makeda was in her early forties. It felt like cradle snatching. She tried to pay attention to what they were saying in the cabinet meeting.
Votigern remained stubborn over the negotiations. He would not allow the Dominion to settle in his lands until he had seen his daughter and grand-daughters. He insisted they return to the land of the Angles and before he would agree to conclude the negotiations and Tiirmirise could not fight her father-in-law. She was extremely frustrated by the whole situation.
“We will not be gone long. Your majesty” At official meetings such as this they used their honorific titles unless they were alone.
“I do not trust Votigern. He hates me.” The Queen paced the floor angrily. She was sitting in the cabinet chamber surrounded by her closest advisers.
Spargapises the Crown Prince and heir, Nnandi, the Prime Vizier, Makeda the Chief-of-Staff, Candace her spy master and Chief of Intelligence was in Persia so her second- in- command Osanes, took her place, Osumares head of the tribal council which represented the countryside, Osamayes head of the tribal council which represented the cities, Vayanes the Chief Censor, Scaures the Speaker in the Council of Viziers, Saronne now Queenette of Sarmatia, and finally the brilliant Raiden, a war veteran at only sixteen and her personal scribe.
Isasha came into the room and smiled at Makeda who studiously pretended a deep interest in the papers Raiden distributed amongst them. As the young girl served them with iced juices and water.
When she neared Makeda that young lady discreetly turned Makeda’s papers the right way up and continued her work before disappearing with Makeda staring longingly after her.
Nnandi whose eyes did not miss a thing winked slowly and obviously at Makeda who glared back at her.
“I believe you have no option but to let the Queenette Saronne return to the land of the Angles.” Vayanes shook his head knowing full well the Queen would not take his advice because she was aware of the distaste he had for foreigners. Although he did actually like Queenette Saronne.
“Cyrus is making plans to invade with nigh on one million troops. We cannot fight a war with Cyrus and have the Dominion troops lurking on our borders.” Osanes said passionately.
“We have only an army of 100,000 and even if we decided to train more we cannot raise more than 50,000 in the time we have.”
“I will think on it.” Was all Tiirmirise was prepared to say.
It was early evening and the children were playing in the garden. Little Chryseis was able to walk now and run after big sister Nitocris and her nephew Derastes. They rolled in the freshly hewn grass with the Queen laughing and giggling as she picked them up and swung them about kissed their bruises soothed away their fears till their nurse came and carried them away.
Saronne was busy with affairs of state. The issue of Cyrus pending attack was a hot topic and Saronne was battling the Council of Viziers to release funds to train not 50,000 troops but a 100,000 because of Cyrus’ alarming troop movements.
Tiirmirise loathed the politicking and dinners they had to attend to garner support in the council, and the attention to detail required to study the laws and its loopholes to allow this but it was Saronne’s forte and Tiirmirise had left her debating with Viziers and Lawyers over how she should approach the next political battle.
The Politics was now more sophisticated. Ninyas had his adherents still in council working to bring him back, obviously they had not recovered all the Simian gold, so it was hard to know who actually supported his policies and what they were since they moved underground.
She had seen the children playing in the gardens with their nurse from one of the council chambers and sneaked out to spend time with them. She had hardly spent time with Spargapises as a child and she did not want to miss Derastes growing up so she left the raging debate for the innocent play of the children.
She was therefore slightly irritated when Isasha came in to announce they had a guest.
“Send them away.” Tiirmirise said irritably
“She can’t do that Tiirmirise and you should know better than to ask.”
The Queen got up to embrace her and placed a kiss of greeting on her lips.
“I do enjoy these little changes Saronne has wrought in you.”
“She is wonderful is she not.”
“Well I am glad to hear that after all these years you are still in love with her.”
“Four years is not so very long.” Saronne pulled out a chair for her and the children came and hugged and kissed her as well.
“It seems like yesterday the harem was crawling with beautiful but depraved young men and women hell bent on drowning in hedonistic pleasures but today it is filled with the happy sound of laughter and the patter of little feet.”
“You are getting maudlin in your old age Your Grace. Come let me pour you some wine I am sure you are thirsty and I am dying to know why you have come here.”
“Derastes will be reaching the age to choose his right of passage soon. I have come to tell you that…”
“He does not wish to become a warrior I know. It grieves me sorely but each to his own.”
“He is marked for the God.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It is the custom that the eldest child of the ruling King or Queen serve in the temple. I was the eldest child of Qastursh at the time he became King and Derastes is the eldest child of Spargapises.”
“He won’t like it.” Tiirmirise shook her head “He will not like it one little bit.”
“It matters not what Spargapises likes. All I want is your promise that when the time comes you will let him go willingly.”
“I accede to your request Lady.” Tiirmirise bowed.
“I am also to tell you that you should allow Saronne to see her father, she will return to you never fear.”
“And the children? Nitocris and Chryseis?”
“Nitocris wishes to be a Massagetae like her aunty, I hardly think she will want to stay in a land that will not appreciate her military talents.” Olayrae d wryly. “And Chryseis is much too young to be separated from her mother.”
Tiirmirise sighed “I will miss them.”
“You will be on campaign. Cyrus is coming to fight you and Mithradates of Pontus wishes for you to negotiate a truce that you will not attack him so he can seize Cappadocia from Cyrus whilst Cyrus is busy attacking you.”
“But I wasn’t going to attack him.” Tiirmirise said exasperatedly
“He does not need to know that. If you wish to avoid heartbreak you will send someone else to negotiate and not go yourself.”
Votigern was extremely happy to see his daughter and formally agreed to allow Gaius Formica to settle his people on the land. The negotiations complete Saronne was delayed in the land of the Angles. The weather was bad and no ships were leaving because of the thunderstorm.
Winter came early and the snows were especially heavy. No ships were willing or study enough to risk the weather and carry the Queenette and her 1000 strong Massagetae bodyguard. The Queenette would have to wait till spring or summer at the very least.
When Summer came Votigern refused to let his daughter and grandchildren leave. He gave no reason and began making noises about looking for a husband for Saronne. Two of the Massagetae left to give Queen Tiirmirise news of the situation. Her brother Leif was in total agreement Saronne was to stay they would not allow her to return to the land of the savages.
“Father you do not want to cross Tiirmirise, I have to return.”
“Cyrus has invaded the Massagetae lands with almost a million Persian troops in purple and saffron. It is said they have been drinking whole rivers dry. They have been slaughtering any person, beast or thing they encounter leaving the land in their wake a smoking ruin. I will not return you because you are safer here.”
“Therefore here you shall remain. At least until I hear news of Tiirmirise. If she still lives then I may allow you to return. If she is dead then you will obviously remain here.”
“Father that is not possible. Nitocris and Chryseis are third and fourth in line to the throne of Sarmatia.”
“That is not what I heard. I heard that Derastes is to be removed from the line of succession from the High Priestess. It is the will of the Gods. The eldest child of the ruling King is always dedicated to the God. Spargapises is a young man he can always have other children.”
“Yes he can but he has not.”
“Well perhaps he needs to have 3oo wives and concubines before he can have other children either way Chryseis and Nitocris are now second and third in line to the throne respectively and you yourself have told me that Tiirmirise and Spargapises were a victims of so many assassination plots it made them paranoid. Well I do not want my grandchildren to grow up in such an atmosphere. They will remain here till I deem it safe for them to return.”
“At least let me write to her.” Saronne pleaded earnestly.
“So Lord Ninyas and all those scheming viziers will send assassins to my country? I think not. You will remain here till I feel it is safe for you to return.”
Everyone kept well away from the Massagetae Women. They were a fiercesome bunch ferocious and single minded in the defence of their mistress. They never left her a lone for a moment and the children were extended the same protection. Everything from their clothing to their food was searched closely and examined in detail.
Saronne spent a year at home and she remembered how when she had been first captured she had wanted to return. Now she just wanted to leave. Home was in Tiirmirise’s arms and that was where she wanted to be. She told the Massagetae that come spring they would be leaving for Sarmatia even if they had to build a boat and sail it themselves.
So when the first day of spring came and a ship sailed into port Saronne asked the captain of her Massagetae guard, Nkiru, to go and investigate. The ship was empty and came to buy goods to sell. On it was an old bard who claimed he brought news from Sarmatia which he was willing to swop for bed and board.
The old man sat in the long hall and regarded his audience with glittering eyes. His hair was white and his beard long. The Angles loved a good story. They spent many a long winter gathered around a wooden fire telling stories. The old bard took a sip of dark bitter ale and after grimacing began his tale to the accompaniment of the sitar he carried.
“After the death of her husband Queen Tomyris ascended the throne.” He stroked his Sitar slowly, his eyes darting around the room. He had used the Anglo Saxon term for the name Tiirmirise because if he had called her by her Sarmatian name they would have been suspicious of his accent.
Osanes was fair enough to pass as Sarmatian but not dark skinned enough to be mistaken as Massagetae. Although he was actually descended from one of the ancient Massagetae families who married into the Gaetulae. It worked for him because he was able to slip in and out of Dominion lands and the lands of the Angles.
Saronne found the stranger suspicious indeed. His story had no tune and did not rhyme although it was compelling because she knew the people in the story personally.”
“King Cyrus of Persia wooed her with gifts and ambassadors with offers of marriage however the Queen rejected all his advances for she knew he wanted her Queendom and not her.
Cyrus marched his army to the river Araxes and began building a bridge on which his army would cross the bridge. He did this by building Towers on boats. Queen Tomyris no doubt ascertaining that the king was a poor engineer sent him a mocking message by herald.
“King Cyrus of the Pasargadae, king of the Medes and the Persians desist in this futile undertaking, be content to rule your own people and endeavour to see us reign over those countries that are ours to govern.
However if you wish to act like a bone headed idiot, (here the herald swallowed and quaked for the anger of Princes has ended the life of many an unfortunate herald,) Cease your useless bridge building and let us retire from the pier and give you the chance to sail across with your soldiers. If you wish we can even meet you half way on your side of the stream and give battle.”
Cyrus interested as to how the Queen would cross the Araxes, as were all his viziers voted for Tomyris to give battle on Persian ground. All except Croesus and Ninyas the traitor. The Queen’s brother-in-law on account of whom Cyrus had used as an excuse to invade Sarmatia.
Croesus was a King of Lydia conquered by Cyrus. He had an oracle which said if he went to war with Cyrus a Kingdom would fall. So he went to war never imagining that it would be his own Kingdom that would fall. Cyrus valued his council and treated him with respect.
Whereupon Ninyas gave Cyrus wicked counsel saying “ I have arranged for king Mithradates of Cappadocia to lure Queen Tomyris away with an offer of truce. He will claim to take Cappadocia whilst your majesty is otherwise engaged.
Queen Tomyris will not get back in time to fight and Spargapises will take command. He cannot help it. He will be eager to show he is a good fighter. I know my nephew Spargapises, He is a good general but he is prone to his father’s vices that is the best way to defeat him. Once we defeat Tomyris we march on Ado and Ekiti and if we can take the city before she returns we have won the day.”
Croesus too gave his own counsel. “Let us cross over to the other side and prepare a feast in the camp. Let the best cooks you have at your disposal prepare a feast for them in our camp. Let us make the best wine available. The distilled one the and the fortified wine. We shall also leave some beautiful slaves both male and female and we shall leave our worst troops behind to guard the tents.
When they attack we shall fall back leaving the worst troops to take the full brunt of the charge. When they are tired from celebrating we shall attack them and beat them easily. Cyrus seeing the wisdom in their counsel agreed to their plan and followed their advice.
Yet that night, whilst the Persian King slept he thought he saw one of the sons of his vizier Hystapes an Archemenadai, usurping the throne. So he called Hystaspes the next morning and took him to task. Hyastapes was so afraid his son might indeed be plotting against the king and he took permission to go and investigate.
As Hyastaspes hurried away they carried out their plan. When the Sarmatians were drunk, drugged and tired of raping the slaves left behind they fell into slumber and the Persian army fell on them and slaughtered them all. Prince Xango died defending the young Prince Spargapises who was captured.
Cyrus himself had prepared a tub of Water in which he wished to boil the unfortunate prince but his sister the blind seer Olayerae stayed his hand.
“If you kill him then your death will surely follow.” He believed her for she was a high priestess of the God and though she was blind she described his appearance and walked without aid amongst his men sight unseen to his side.
He taxed her greatly and asked many questions indeed he even offered her marriage but she refused and when he threatened to imprison her she cursed him that he would never leave Massagetae lands alive and just as soon as she came she disappeared.
When Tomyris heard of the defeat she was furious for her own brother had fallen in the fighting. She sent a message to the Persian king.
“You bloodthirsty heathen! Pride not yourself on this cheap victory that you have won against a boy using trickery and the treachery of a traitor. Restore my son to me and get you gone from my lands for know that you have triumphed over only a third of my army and I will let you leave . If you fail to comply with my requests I will end your life and give you your fill of blood.”
Certainly Cyrus should have heeded her words but he dismissed it as the rantings of a deluded mother. As for Spargapises when he realised that he had been captured he asked that Cyrus release him and when he was released he took a sword from a nearby soldier and killed himself.
When the news of his death reached the Queen there was wailing and lamentation in the Sarmatian camp and the Queen locked herself away and shaved her head. The following day the entire Sarmatian army and their allies wore black and it was a sinister sombre looking army that fought the brightly coloured saffron and purple host of the Persians.
The battle itself was said to be the most savage encounter ever fought.”
Osanes had just arrived at his favourite part when he called for more ale and began a very gory description of the battle itself. The serving girl, a pretty girl with flaxen hair like everyone else in the Long Hall obliged.
Saronne noted that Nitocris like all the men and Massagetae in the long hall were enraptured by tales of battle. She had seen war herself. No one ever talked about the smell of death and the screams of dying men or the foul odour of decomposing flesh. No the talk was always about glory, feats of bravery and derring do by dashing heroes and gallant warriors.
She wasn’t interested in that. All she wanted to know was that Tiirmirise was alright. She heard the bard say Cyrus was indeed killed and that the dream he’d had about Darius taking over his throne was a warning from the gods about his death and he died horribly from the account of the bard.
The bard continued his story with relish frantically strumming his sitar when describing the fight scenes and playing a melancholy note when describing the death of one of the protagonists in his story.
“Some say the Queen had them tie his manhood and testicles so that he could not piss and then collecting the blood from dead Sarmatian men they forced him to drink it till he burst. Others say she made his skull into a goblet from which she drank his blood.”
Everyone gasped and Saronne realised he was simply trying to draw emotion from the crowd.
“Yes but what is the truth?” Votigern asked quietly.
“They say, and I believe this version, that she decapitated his corpse and dipped the head in gore saying “Thus I make good my threat that you will have your fill of gore but you have the last laugh for you took my son and brother by guile and treachery.”
“What happened to Ninyas?” Saronne asked
“He died a noble death on the battlefield, a traitor fighting for another country’s king.”
“The Queen is on her way here to claim the Queenette Saronne and she comes with a navy and army determined to give battle until the Lady Aeslynn the fair, the jewel of Araxes, Hand Maiden of the Sarmatia and the Hidden Queen of the Massagetae is returned.”
She knew him and his name came out in a gasp “Osanes!”
He threw off his disguise. “It is indeed I, Osanes. I am come to offer you terms King Votigern.”
“Terms? What terms?”
“The Queen Tiirmirise requests that you return the Queenette and the princesses Nitocris and Chryseis to her care and protection.”
“I will not allow my daughter to return to that barbaric woman!” spat Votigern “Didn’t you just tell me she drinks blood from skulls! No way Absolutely not! Seize him!”
“Father you cannot you have offered him hospitality!”
“Very well. Get you gone from these halls!” The king commanded in a booming voice.
Another war this time with Cappadocia and more fighting with the Persians till they were thrown out of the territories of Sarmatia and its allies for good. The Persians signed a treaty of peace and retreated never to return. It would be another year before Tomyris could see to recovering her family.
A month after the last of the treaties were signed a fleet of ships were sighted and they were flying the flag of the Massagetae Queen. A Silver falcon with outstretched wings on a black background.
Saronne was scolding Nitocris who had an aversion to sums. The young girl at seven was a complete handful with dreams of becoming a Massagetae warrior. Chryseis on the other hand was a tranquil well behaved child with more peaceful leanings like playing with her dolls.
Tomyris stormed into Votigern’s hall alone dressed in black with her purple cloak swirling behind her. She wore her helmet and the silver mask and Votigern’s Thanes quivered in fear as her booted feet echoed ominously with every step she took. She wore her spurs and high black boots and she looked absolutely terrifying.
When she removed her helmet Saronne felt a wave of tenderness sweep over her for she looked like she had aged ten years with the death of her beloved brother and son. A grey lock of hair a shocking, testament to her hard fought life, fell across her forehead. The rest of the hair on her head was jet black.
Her face was gaunt and hard, her high cheekbones stark and the lips that once caressed Saronne’ skin so tenderly were hard and uncompromising. Yet in the black depths of the eye not covered by an eye patch glittered intelligence and a depth of love that Saronne’s soul had missed during their separation. She was going home and her heart felt like singing.
“Our greetings King Votigern.” She bowed ever so slightly to show respect yet enough to be vaguely insulting.
“Queen Tomyris to what do we owe this pleasure?”
“We are come,“ Tiirmirise gritted her teeth “On behalf of myself and the People of the plains to formally request the return of the Quennette Saronne and the Princesses Nitocris and Chryseis.”
“What if I refuse?”
“I would be extremely pleased if you refused Votigern.” Tiirmirise said dangerously. “I promised the council of viziers I would ask before taking them and burning down your long hall. I have fulfilled that promise. Now I would be more than happy to burn down your long hall and take my family back to Sarmatia where they belong knowing full well you would not be alive to spirit them away again.”
Saronne gasped. She knew her lover very well. Tiirmirise felt threatened and would do all to secure her family.
“After all you were careless enough to lose her to slavers. I am surprised to find them still here.”
“How dare you! We do not have slaves in my kingdom and…”
“I could not give a flying fuck what you do with your kingdom Votigern. I will have my wife and children.”
“Or what you will start a war?”
“I have 1000 armed Massagetae soldiers in your long hall and an army of ten thousand waiting outside the doors of your long hall.”
“That is not enough to defeat me!”
“Aye You sound like a dead king I once knew his name was Cyrus he too underestimated me.”
Votigern swallowed hard. He had only a thousand household thanes. It would take him months to even get an army if his people even agreed to accede to his request.
“Very well you need heirs you can have the brats my daughter stays.”
“I will not leave here without ALL my family Votigern.”
“Aunty Tomyris can I come with you?”
“Who said that?”
“I did I am Nitocris.”
“You wish to come with me?” Tomyris asked quizzically “Without your mother?”
“Well I certainly don’t want to stay here!! Er no offence Granpa!”
“None taken.” the old man drawled lazily.
Tomyris moved so fast she was a blur. She stood In front of Nitocris and struck a hand going to the child’s face and Nitocris ducked the first blow and avoided the second blow blocking it with her wrist.
Tomyris grinned “You will make an excellent Massagetae warrior.” The Queen scooped her up into her arms and kissed her forehead “How I have missed you little one.” She whispered the last words and smiled wryly as the young girl threw her arms around her neck.
“I missed you to! Aunty Ti.”
“Oh no she will not!” Saronne stepped forward from where she had been waiting anxiously hidden by Votigern’s household thanes.
Tiirmirise stood watching her for what seemed an eternity, her black-eyed gaze just drinking in the sight of her and then they were in each others arms. Tiirmirise wrapped an arm around her waist and captured her lips in a kiss she had fantasised about for what seemed like eternity.
“What about me?” Wailed Chryseis plaintively and Tiirmirise laughed and picked up the little girl and gave her a gentle kiss.
Votigern sighed and Leif, Saronne’s brother placed a hand on his father’s shoulder.
“I guess that answers your question father. I believe Tomyris does indeed love Aeslynn and you might as well let her go with your blessing.”
“But she just got here” Votigern wailed sounding exactly like his granddaughter Chryseis.
The rest of the Sarmatian delegation attended Votigern in his long hall and amongst them was Bierae. She had accompanied the Sarmatian Queen and she was gloriously pregnant.
“Why did you make such a journey in your condition?”
“Because Tiirmirise was insane with jealousy. She has missed you terribly and she is feeling particularly vulnerable and someone has to pound some sense into her until you two got together. Epiphany is here also. This is an official Trade delegation..”
“Yes Tiirmirise told the Chamber she was coming here to trade.” Bierae said wryly. “If she had told them she was coming to war on your father they would never have let us come.”
After signing trade treaties and taking their leave on a favourable wind the Sarmatians returned to Sarmatia with Saronne and her children. All the way back Nitocris had pestered Tiirmirise about becoming a warrior. Saronne was vehemently opposed to it and Tiirmirise had given Nitocris lessons secretly on fighting and weapons and other basic weapons training. It was after all a long voyage.
She also learned literature history and diplomacy from Saronne although she preferred to read military treatise and books on engineering and military history when she thought her Saronne was not watching.
When Saronne found out about the secret lessons she was furious and called Tiirmirise out. “You are teaching her to become a war monger!”
“Saronne,” Tiirmirise said reasonably “She will need to learn how to protect herself and look out for her little sister. Chryseis shows no inclination in swords or anything!” Tiirmirise looked exasperated “All she wants to do is play with dolls and even worse she thinks everyone loves her!”
“Everyone does love her!” Saronne replied
“That is not the point!”
“But I wish to be a Massagetae. I will be a Massagetae!”
“I want to be a pwincess.” Chryseis smiled and gave Tiirmirise a wet kiss.
Tiirmirise kissed Chryseis back and ruffled Nitocris’s hair “You are as stubborn as your mother Nito. Very well if you are able to take the right of passage you can be a Massagetae.”
“Right of passage, I don’t like the sound of that, I don’t like the sound of that at all Tiirmirise. What exactly does it involve?” Saronne chewed her lip worriedly.
“They will tattoo your back with wings. You will not be able to lie on your back for three days and during that time you must fend for yourself in the wilderness with only a knife. If you succeed you become Massagetae and they will burn off your right breast.
All that you will be left with is a scar. If you fail well you will still be a Massagetae because your father is one but they will not burn off your right breast and you will never be able to bear arms as a warrior.
“It is the training!”
“I bet they don’t burn the men’s breasts off?”
“No they have their penis mutilated. I believe you call it circumcision but they too will be tattoed with wings and have to survive in the wilderness.”
“Tiirmirise I am not entirely sure this conversation is appropriate for…”
“It is life. She will be Queen one day and she should not be overly pampered. Spargapises and Qastursh were overly pampered and look what happened to them.”
Tiirmirise eased out of her armour with a sigh and flexed her muscles. Nitocris was fascinated by the wings tattoed on her back
“Can I touch them?”
“Did they hurt?”
“At the time it was very painful but like all things the pain passes away and only the beauty and pride of being a Massagetae remains.”
“Wow!” Nitocris exhaled as Tiirmirise shrugged into her tunic. “I wish I could be a Massa…”
“Don’t say it. Don’t even think about it I absolutely forbid it!”
When they finally arrived in Sarmatia they were welcomed back with fanfare. There was feasting and banqueting and games. Chariot races plays games. There was even a wine fountain which flowed for three days.
At the first sitting of the Council of Viziers Saronne sat beside Tiirmirise in her own ivory currule chair side by side on the same dais as equals.
Hail Tiirmirise Queen of the Massagetae, Dread Lady of the Plains, Falcon of Sarmatia and the Lady of Battles.
Hail Saronne Queenette of the Massagetae, The Hidden Queen of the Plains, Hand Maiden of Sarmatia and Jewel of the Araxes.
Hail! Hail! Hail!
…And they all lived happily ever after except for Princess Nitocris who wished to become a Massagetae warrior but that is a story for another day.
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