The buzz of cicadas droned lazily through the half-shuttered window,
heralding the setting sun. Iphicles had checked and double-checked the
shutters to be sure they wouldn’t open wide enough to allow an adult’s body
to pass through, for his quarry was know to be slippery.

As he turned away from the widow to scrutinize the rest of the room,
Chancellor Iphicles tugged at the cuffs of his richly embroidered tunic, a
gesture that he compulsively performed even though it was mocked snidely in
court, oftentimes before his back was even turned.

Court. Iphicles’ lip curled as he thought of the disgusting toadies pressed
body to body, inhaling the stench of sour, trampled rushes, hoping to be
mediocre enough to escape the Sovereign’s notice for the day. Iphicles would
have hung himself by now if it was his rump in that hated throne. How
fortunate that he’d been able to maneuver his younger brother into it in his

He smoothed the front of his somber raiment in another much maligned
mannerism, then tugged at the high, stiff collar that covered him to the base
of his chin. The echoes of sly laughter -- hidden behind jeweled hands --
haunted Iphicles’ ears as he surveyed the rented room to stake out a
favorable position. The mammoth high-poster bed seemed such an obvious place,
but perhaps that would make it the wonderfully ironic culmination of his
carefully orchestrated snare.

The Chancellor suspected the handsome courtier who called himself the
"Dashing Prince" was selling classified information about Corinth for some
time, though suspicion rolled off the fellow’s back like sweet oil. Men and
women alike would elbow one another out of the way to bask in his perfect,
white smile. His popularity was so great that he easily obtained alibis in
other courtiers’ beds whether or not he’d actually warmed their sheets.

Though the Dashing Prince was popular, he had plenty of weaknesses to
exploit. A perfumed note, a scattering of rose petals and a clandestine inn
room would serve to lure him from the relative safety of the circles in which
he traveled. Yes, Iphicles mused, Hercules’ court was safe, for if one was
droll or interesting enough to amuse the Sovereign without offending him, one
could enjoy a secure enough existence, an existence at least as palatable as
that of all the insipid nonentities one would be surrounded by. The
Chancellor had been warned not to take the rake down in front of the other
courtiers; it would discourage handsome, charming men of his sort from
fraternizing in the courts of Corinth in the future.

Iphicles rolled his eyes and took notice of the lacy cobwebs spanning the
tops of the hangings as he tugged his sleeves down over his wrists to cover
the backs of his hands. His brother was very particular about the way things
were handled in his court, and they were either done his way or no way at
all. He supposed following Hercules’ orders was the price he paid for having
freedom from the yoke of the crown.

The Chancellor’s muscles tensed as a light scratching at the door caught his
ear. A few moments later, the unlocked door squeaked open and a lightfooted
arrival showed himself into the room.

"Ah, you’ve got a pink candle burning," purred the guest. Iphicles’ heart
leapt at the sound of the voice; the Dashing Prince had taken his bait.
"Praise Ares."

Iphicles shuffled in the bed and gave a tiny giggle, almost a sniff. His
voice was too masculine to imitate the woman whose identity he had borrowed
in his notes, the daughter of the Spartan Ambassador, but he sensed that the
charade would last longer if he gave the courtier some indication that the
room was occupied, as the Dashing Prince had expected it to be.

"What’s it to be first, my darling? Shall we get the ugliness about that
psychopath out of the way first so as to better enjoy the remainder of the
evening, or are you as randy for me as I’ve been for you?"

"Tell me," Iphicles whispered.

"What? You prefer stories of the corruption of the Corinthians to my hot,
naked flesh? Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’ve got plenty. Of stories, that is. I
even have floor plans to go with ‘em."

Iphicles tilted his head, tracking the motions of the Dashing Prince with his

"Ah, I see you’ve ordered some wine. Can I pour you a glass, my darling?"

"Please," Iphicles breathed, snugging his collar tightly around his neck. The
traitor would be much easier to take down with his hands full. He listened to
the splash and gurgle as two glasses were filled, and made out but faintly
the whisper of the other man’s soft soled cloth shoes on the carpet. Iphicles
pulled open the bedcurtains as the Dashing Prince approached, obscuring his
body behind the deep folds of fabric.

"Here you are, my love," the traitor said, low and sultry, entering the
shrouded bed with a full wineglass extended before him.

Iphicles lunged at his unsuspecting target, and in a flash the other man’s
face was ground into the bed, Iphicles’ knee between his shoulders, his hands
clasped in the Chancellor’s iron grip at the small of his back. "The secrets
of Corinth aren’t meant for the ears of Spartan whores."

"Please," Autolycus whispered. "Don’t kill me."

Iphicles plucked his favorite stiletto from a sheath on his wrist. He had no
inclination to exchange meaningless banter with his target.

"Iphicles!" The Dashing Prince’s voice went up half an octave as if he sensed
his captor meant business. "I’ll make it worth your while. I’ll – I’ll be
your personal concubine. Surely you’ve never heard of anyone I’ve left

Iphicles studied the man he’d subdued. He was handsome enough, if one was
interested in perfumed, silk-wrapped Ares worshippers. His body had clean,
straight lines and his features were noble, but a handsome face didn’t buy
any mercy from the Chancellor.

"I’ll take your entire cock in my mouth," Autolycus pled, "swallow it whole."
He was trying to sound sexy, but Iphicles detected a tremor in his voice. "I
bet your cock is huge."

Iphicles punched his stiletto into the base of Autolycus’ skull in a swift,
economical motion. "Sorry. You’re not my type."


"Clear the baths," demanded the Chancellor. One of the guards was apparently
new, for he challenged Iphicles with cocky eyes. The others knew enough to
obey him, spiriting the other bathers away and swabbing down the facilities
in preparation for their Sovereign’s brother.

Iphicles approached the brazen guard. He’d allow the insolent fool to keep
his head, for now; the guard’s ignorance was not enough to dampen the high
he’d gotten from disposing of the Dashing Prince. Feeling particularly
magnanimous, Iphicles offered further instruction to the underling. "When I
visit the baths, you clear them. If anyone interrupts me, they die. No one is
to enter for any reason. Am I clear?"

Iphicles stared at the guard, allowing the man to gauge the Chancellor’s
relative size. He was actually broader than his brother, though not quite as
tall. Few truly realized how large he was until he loomed over them, for his
bulky muscles were always modestly clad.

"Clear, your highness."

Iphicles stared at the guard until the man’s eyes dropped to the floor. "Very
good," he said icily, striding into the newly vacated hot spring baths and
securing the door behind him.

A bowl of fine, white sand had been placed beside the smooth marble tub that
was recessed into the floor. Iphicles worked the sand into his knuckles and
under his fingernails, then rinsed it away fastidiously. The rest of his body
was treated to a gentle soaking in the delicately fragranced waters.

Iphicles stepped from the baths and blotted himself gingerly with the soft
towel. He dressed himself slowly, carefully, trousers tucked into boots,
undertunic tucked into trousers, tunic covering his wrists, collar laced
securely to the top of his throat. Only once he was completely clad would the
Chancellor face the looking glass and begin arranging his crowning glory, his
lustrous waves of copper colored hair. Iphicles’ hair glowed warmly in the
candlelight and blazed in the sun. Hercules had always hated him for it, he
was sure, having had to settle for the mousy, limp mop that he’d been born
with. The real jealousy, though, was Hercules’ envy of Alcmene’s love. She’d
never tried to hide the fact that she favored Iphicles, and the Sovereign had
grown quite bitter over the years from the lack of maternal warmth.

Hair combed so that it would dry properly, Iphicles marched from the room,
his posture impeccable, and informed the guard that he could again open the
baths to the public. He was presentable now and could visit his wife. He’d
learned the hard way not to visit her with blood on his hands.

Taking a ring of keys from his belt, Iphicles unlocked a row of locks on his
stout, oaken door and pushed the portal in cautiously. If every lock was
secured, it meant his wife was there. "Hello, my delicate flower. I’m home."

Iphicles’ eyes darted around his drawing room. It was quiet and dim, one
hanging lantern casting strange shapes of light about the room. He delved
deeper into his cavernous chambers. In the far corner, a large black box lay
open like an unfilled casket. Above the box hung a huge, double bladed axe.
"Gabrielle, my sweet, I’ve brought some new toys for you." Autolycus had
plenty of shiny trinkets on his body, gifts from his many, ardent suitors, no
doubt. The pieces that the Chancellor and his wife passed over could fatten
the treasury, hidden away for a few years until their ties to the missing
courtier were forgotten.

Iphicles strode past the arched nook that held a modest table and two chairs.
His wife dined with him on rare occasions when the mood struck her. It was
fascinating, the precision with which she cut her food.

"Are you sleeping, sweetness? Shall I go elsewhere?"

A few stout candles burned in the simple, nearly monastic bedroom. As
Iphicles eased into the room, he spied a glint like the eyes of a wild animal
reflecting a hunter’s torch.

"Gabrielle. It’s me."

The Chancellor’s wife crouched between the bed and the wall in a dark corner
of the room that Iphicles thought of as "her place." She stared at him with
huge, glittering blue eyes.

"Come now," he said, lighting a few more candles, keeping his movements slow
and non-threatening, "let me give you your present."

As more light cut the dimness of the room, Iphicles saw the reason for
Gabrielle’s reticence. Ruddy brown markings were painted on her face and her
lovely bare shoulders in an all over pattern such as one would see on a great
cat. Blood. Iphicles squinted at the long, black cut she’d made on her scalp
shaving her head with a knife. The cut had been deep, but was far too old to
account for the current source of her rouge.

"It’s your moon, isn’t it?" Iphicles usually kept track of her cycle, but
he’d been completely engrossed in his ambush for the past several days.
"Don’t worry, precious, I won’t touch you. I know, after all these years, I
understand." He sat on their bed, hands in his lap, palms up. His face was
almost turned away from her in a gesture of casual trust. "I really do have a
gift for you, though."

He lay a small, silver dagger in the center of the bed. "I took this from
Autolycus, the one I told you about. The plan went off splendidly."

Gabrielle gave a small bark and Iphicles smiled. She’d been listening to him.
He couldn’t always tell for sure. "I’ll leave you be, then." He backed away
slowly, smiling as she lunged for the shiny object he’d left for her. The
wide, crescent scar on her chest where she’d sacrificed her right breast in
an Amazon initiation caught the candlelight as she reached for the knife.
Iphicles shivered in anticipation as he watched her strike like a panther,
the spots of dried blood on her skin sliding so alluringly over her supple
muscles. She spun the blade in her deft fingers and licked it, breathing
harshly. In a few days, she’d be ravenous for him, mounting him hungrily and
riding him, milking him of his seed, then taking his limp member in her
strange, small hands and working it into a state of hardness again and again.

Iphicles squirmed as he imagined Gabrielle grunting above him like some feral
thing, her tit bouncing as she bashed her pelvis into his. Unfortunately, his
conjugal visit would need to wait. It was no pleasant thing to touch her
during her cycle, he’d learned. The Chancellor left his wife reluctantly,
taking one last look at her as she scraped away half her eyebrow with the
fine silver blade he’d given her. "I love you, darling," he called before he
slid out the door and refastened the series of locks. "Good night."


A meandering passage joined the hallway near the Chancellor’s chambers to his
brother’s rooms. Iphicles’ ears pricked up at the sound of Hercules’ voice as
he came to the tapestry that covered the terminus of the passage, and he
paused to learn who was in the room besides the Sovereign.

"I can’t believe you – why can’t you just – look what you made me do!"

The Sovereign’s voice was agitated, but clearly he was with someone he knew
and trusted. Iphicles waited for the room’s other occupant to speak, loathe
to reveal the passage to just anyone by emerging from it.

"Stop it. Stop. It. Right. Now." Hercules’ voice again, with the everpresent
rage bubbling through his pleas. "Can’t you just do it right? For once? Hm?"
Flesh sounded upon flesh, and there was a small grunt that was not the
Sovereign’s. "This was supposed to be – special. Stop crying. I said, stop
crying, dammit!"

Iphicles leaned against the wall, curving his lips in an evil grin. While he
hadn’t set out to eavesdrop, he wasn’t one to pass up an opportunity to hear
a pathetic courtesan debase him or herself.

Another slap rang out, followed by the sharp intake of breath.

It was probably a man, Iphicles thought. Hercules hadn’t cared much for women
since his wife Serena died in childbirth years before.

"Say something, dammit, before I fucking kill you." The Sovereign’s voice was
lower now. Iphicles wondered if his guest knew it meant he was getting

"You, ah, ah," stammered a broken, hesitant male voice, "you looked so
handsome tonight." Though it was barely a whisper, Iphicles easily put a face
with the voice. Iolaus. He was a fairly permanent fixture, though Iphicles
never quite figured out how he’d survived as long as he had.

"Did I?" Hercules spat, more a statement than a question.

"I – I wanted you. Just from, ah, watching you. I couldn’t wait till you
asked me here."

Iphicles shook his head. As clever as the jester was, he sounded about as
horny as a eunuch. The fear he broadcast was delicious, though. The fear, per
se, didn’t turn Iphicles on, but the sound of Hercules evoking the terror
caused a stirring between his legs.

"You want me. That’s all you can say? That’s all you can think of?"

Iphicles slid from behind the massive tapestry, arms clasped before him. The
jester had been aware of the passage for years, so he wasn’t learning
anything new.  "If you kill him, he’ll never say those three magical words,
little brother."

Hercules straddled the tiny jester’s chest, gloriously nude, his cock in only
the earliest stages of arousal, the tendons of his broad neck straining as if
to break free. A muscle alongside Hercules’ jaw twitched convulsively.
"Iphicles," he grated.

"Iolaus, you’re excused," he said carelessly, his amber eyes sliding away
from the gratitude the little blond radiated at him. He didn’t care to look
at the man; his nose bled and one of his eyes was swollen shut. Iphicles
simply wanted to be alone with his brother. Gazing at the jester forlornly,
Hercules remained where he was while Iolaus squirmed. "Sovereign, we need to
talk," Iphicles prompted. Herc grudgingly swung his leg over the small body
that quickly scampered away.

"What?" Hercules said sullenly, staring at the jester-shaped impression in
his feather bed.

"Good news," Iphicles declared, warming slightly now that he and his sibling
were alone. "I’ve caught him. The Dashing Prince will trade in Corinthian
secrets no more."

Hercules’ great back heaved in a sigh.

Iphicles’ eyes hardened. "What? You’d rather he was still licking and sucking
his way around your court, making a fool of you, of me, of our royal name?"

"I just thought that, maybe, if I had the chance to get to know him, he might
have become an ally."

Hercules didn’t have time to dodge the neat box to his ear. "Pathetic
ingrate! I should have known that he had you bedazzled, just like he had the
rest of the court. He was blowing the guards to travel through the palace as
he pleased. He had access to your private documents. He met with delegates
from other city states and sold them information. You think he’d be an ally?"

"You’re right," Hercules mumbled, ducking a bit even though Iphicles hadn’t
raised his hand to strike. "Of course, you’re always right."

Iphicles clucked his tongue and sat heavily on the edge of the bed.
"Hercules, he would have told you anything you wanted to hear, and you would
have eaten it all up. I’ve saved you from becoming his fool, if anything."

"Yes, I know," Hercules whispered.

Iphicles glared at his brother’s back. "Stop whining, dammit. Must you ruin
my every victory with your continual, womanly mewling?"

"Iph, I’m sorry," the demigod rasped, turning his wonderfully sculpted body a
quarter turn to face his brother sheepishly. "I know I wouldn’t be the
Sovereign if it wasn’t for you."

Iphicles placed his hand on Hercules’ cheek, rubbing his thumb over the
smooth spot next to his goatee. "That’s right, little brother. And I know
what’s best for you." Hercules leaned into his hand like an overlarge dog.
"Someone like that isn’t good enough for you. He wouldn’t love you, he’d just
claim that he did in order to get what he wanted."

A line appeared between Hercules’ brows.

"Trust me," Iphicles said, his voice dropping, now low and sensuous. "I’m
your brother, your only family. I love you."

Hercules released a breath he’d been holding while Iphicles watched his cock
stiffen. Keeping his eyes closed, Hercules turned and grasped the Chancellor
by the back of his head, pulling his face forward and claiming his lips
hungrily. "I love you, I love you so much," he murmured into Iphicles’ mouth,
sucking at his lower lip, grazing his teeth with his tongue, his breath
coming faster.

Iphicles endured the kissing and the nauseating endearments. It was the only
way to arouse the big ox, the occasional murmured, "love you," sending him
into a frenzy. Hercules’ enormous hands closed around Iphicles’ biceps in an
iron grip, and his sensitive skin stung from the contact. His cock stirred

"Oh yes – mm, so good – ahh, lover," Iphicles groaned as Hercules stripped
him, running callused warrior’s hands over the flesh Iphicles took such care
to conceal. The Sovereign’s palms rippled over the scabs that covered every
bit of his body that Iphicles could reach, opening some of the tiny wounds
and causing them to bleed.

"You feel incredible, Hercules," crooned the Chancellor. "I’ve been waiting
so long, couldn’t wait to touch you, to kiss you."

Hercules lay his brother back, lifting him easily, like a child. He tongued
Iphicles’ navel reverently, calling it the "beautiful dimple," and his "sweet
little hole," while Iphicles struggled not to roll his eyes. If he could work
the beast up sufficiently, Hercules would lose himself to his preternatural
strength and give Iphicles a good fucking; otherwise, it would be a night of
ridiculous endearments.

"Show me how you love me," Iphicles whispered. "Look how hard you make me. I
want you to kiss it, little brother. Kiss my cock, deep and wet." The
fellatio didn’t really do much for Iphicles. He hadn’t bothered to teach the
technique to Gabrielle at all, preferring instead a few no-nonsense tugs
followed up with her hot, wet gash enveloping him and her hard little body
thrashing about on top of his hips. It meant a lot to Hercules to think he
pleasured his brother this way, though, and a few minutes of patience
garnered the Chancellor a nice, rough ride later.

Hercules ran his slick tongue around the swollen head of Iphicles’ cock,
probing the slit gently, slicking it with his saliva. His stony face, the
face that was feared throughout the peninsula, lost its harshness as he
suckled in blissful abandon. Slowly, he engulfed the thick shaft, sucking,
pumping, swallowing around the very tip, blissful in his servitude.

Iphicles watched the Sovereign critically, admiring the golden, muscled
plains of his flesh. He wasn’t compelled to pick at himself as Iphicles was.
He could march around in his studded vests, flexing his huge arms with their
encasement of unblemished skin. Which was the worse need to be cursed with,
though, Iphicles wondered: The need to prod and scrape at one’s own flesh, or
the need for continual "love?" He stared at Hercules, nursing away like a
lamb, and decided he much preferred his own affliction.

"Oh, Herc," Iphicles purred, sliding his fingers into his brother’s hair. "By
the gods, that’s sweet. I feel like – could you – I want to feel your love
inside me."

Hercules met Iphicles’ glance with huge blue eyes dilated with lust, sliding
his lips from his brother’s cock so he could speak. "Yes," he growled,
scrambling to his bedside to retrieve his vial of oil.

Iphicles took the opportunity to give himself a few quick strokes and roll
onto his belly. "Be gentle, little brother," he murmured, grinning into the
silken coverlet.

"No pain, just pleasure," Hercules assured him, massaging the bland oil
carefully between his cheeks, sliding in a gentle, thick finger.

"Please, Hercules. I want you inside me so bad, it’s been so long. Hurry."

"Just want to – make sure – you’re ready." Hercules was puffing like a plow

"My body is your sheath, lover, it remembers your contours," Iphicles lied.
He only took it up the ass with his brother. Who else, besides Gabrielle,
would he trust to view the atrocity of his skin? Hercules was somehow under
the impression that Iphicles was more experienced, though, so he treated the
Chancellor’s ass as if it was accustomed to such invasion. Iphicles was of no
mind to correct him.

Iphicles felt the blunt, thick head prodding his burning sphincter. "Take me,
Hercules, love me."

"Oh, gods," Hercules muttered, shoving insistently against the tight hole.
Iphicles winced as salt sweat splattered his back, stinging where his skin
was broken on his sides. "Oh, gods, Iph."

"Love me, little brother, love me," Iphicles chanted, eyes closed, rocking
back against the stiff, invasive cock.

"Oh, oh, oh yes," the Sovereign moaned as thrust his cock through the
tightness. Iphicles clenched his teeth hard and ground his cock against the
coverlet. Tiny white pinpricks of light danced behind his closed lids, and he
held his breath against the intense, searing pain in his asshole.

Iphicles’ mind wandered as his massive brother rode him, gently at first,
whispering sweet nothings, then harder, faster. The beast could fuck him half
the night, Iphicles knew, so he was in no hurry to directly stimulate his
cock. He lay with his face in the purple silk, casting his mind back to the
rented room, to the Dashing Prince begging for his life. That small tremor of
fear had been intriguing, wrapped as it was inside bravado. It was nothing
like the defenseless whining of the jester or the pathetic tears of the
foppish courtesans who’d thought themselves sturdy enough for the Sovereign’s
bed, only to become another broken body in the river by morning.

Hercules rumbled on about Iphicles’ lips, how luscious they were, how
handsome his face. He didn’t mention the skin, hadn’t dared since they were
boys and he’d been on the receiving end of a black eye for his mouthiness.
Though the Sovereign’s words were gentle, his huge hands gripped Iphicles’
hips savagely, bruising him nearly to the bone. Iphicles shut out his
brother’s blathering and focused on his brutal fingers.

"More oil," Iphicles gasped, the mammoth cock that plundered him chafing and
burning but failing to arouse.

The Sovereign pulled completely out, leaving Iphicles splayed on the bed,
shaking, and coated his cock with a thick layer of oil. He pressed the head
against Iph’s battered bottom and paused, breathing harshly. "You like that?"
he growled. "You like me fucking you?"

Iphicles’ cock stirred at the change in Hercules’ voice. "I’m in the Elysian
Fields when you make love to me," he whimpered, leering into the bedcovers.

The Chancellor was totally unprepared for the sound smack across the back of
his head that accompanied the invading cock. A cry of passion escaped
Iphicles, unbidden and sharp.

"That’s right, you little bitch," Hercules growled, riding his brother
brutally, slamming Iphicles’ broad, well-muscled body into the stout bed,
setting the bedframe thumping against the floor beneath their combined weight.

Iphicles ceased his wool-gathering and concentrated in earnest on the hot,
muscled body pounding against his. "Hate you, stupid bitch, hate you,"
Hercules chanted under his breath, drawing a long moan from his brother as
his Iphicles’ cock hardened mercilessly. "I’ll teach you. I’ll teach you to
leave me."

The Sovereign thrust his hand into Iphicles’ curls, grabbing a fistful and
wrenching his head back cruelly. "Look what you made me, you fucking cunt,"
he snarled, pounding so hard that the wooden bedframe shrieked.

Iphicles clutched at the sheets as his balls tightened deliciously. Hercules
was so tasty when he got ugly. No matter if he fantasized that Iphicles was
Serena; the Chancellor got what he wanted, to be fucked like a piece of
loathsome meat. He supposed that Hercules got some sort of release as well.
"I hate you!" Hercules rasped, one hand wrapping around his brother’s chest,
arching him up off the thundering bed.

Iphicles’ hand found his cock and he pumped the gleaming, straining member
ecstatically, the feel of Herc’s hand mauling the flesh of his already
sanguineous chest sending him soaring. "Should. Have. Killed. You. My. Self."
He accented each word with a thrust that Iphicles thought would rip through
his belly.

Iphicles shouted as his brother’s teeth tore at his back, the only
unblemished flesh on his body. A jolt like lightning shot from the skin
between Herc’s teeth straight to Iphicles’ cock, and stars danced behind his
closed lids as his seed shot out in a long ribbon before him. He jerked
blindly like dead weight as he  blacked out, held up only by the fist in his
hair, the hand grappling his chest and the teeth in his back.

Iphicles came to with pain searing his body, Hercules’ tirade reduced to
frenzied, animalistic sounds, the Chancellor’s knees banging against the bed,
his broad body being worked up and down upon his brother’s cock like a
stuffed puppet. "I love you, Hercules," he said hoarsely, the roaring in his
ears hinting that another bout of unconsciousness threatened. The pain was
incredible. "I love you."

Hercules moaned, an eerie noise, as hot semen flooded his brother’s body. He
ceased pounding upon Iphicles and let his body slide onto the bed. The
Sovereign’s whole demeanor seemed to deflate as his eyes glazed over.

The room spun perilously, then righted itself. "Call for the healer,"
Iphicles barked, mopping up the mess between his thighs with a priceless
silken sheet from the East.

Hercules grunted and staggered to the door, unlocking a series of stout
locks, opening it and conversing with a guard in low tones. "And bring water,
plenty of boiling water," he snapped as he shut the door behind himself and
turned back to Iphicles.

"The new healer -- is this one any good?" the Chancellor asked, wincing as he
tried to find a more comfortable position for himself.

"Good as any," the Sovereign shrugged, pouring himself a tall flagon of wine
upon a small, ornate table near the bed. "I think they’ve figured out that we
kill ‘em once they’ve treated you, though. We have to take what we can get."

Iphicles rolled his eyes and picked at a scab on his belly. "Send your
procurers farther abroad, next time. Certainly they won’t know any better as
far away as – oh, I don’t know, Rome."

"Rome," the Sovereign whispered, a predatory gleam in his eye.