Double Dragon eBooks
Reading with the
Publication Date: February 2000
Cover by Nicholas A.
All rights reserved
life is over, little flower," said the horseman. As he loosened the gag and
removed it, the blue eyes looking up into his were calm and unafraid. They
closed and a tear trickled from one of them. But the captive said nothing.
The horseman eyed the glittering
earrings and necklaces with disgust, and one by one, he removed them. "You'll
have no need of these where you're going. Or perfume either." He carefully
detached a silken packet from the golden chain around his prisoner's neck and
removed the wrappings.
yellow topaz winked up from his dark palm. "Ah, what's this? She's sent a gift,
I see, and a princely one at that. Did she steal it from your father perhaps or
conjure it from the air?" He chuckled at his own joke.
The prisoner sighed and replied in
the horseman's tongue, "Neither, sir. It was hers and she said to keep it with
me always. Are you going to take this from me
By way of answer, the
horseman flipped the captive over. Taking a wicked-looking knife from his robes,
he severed the bonds holding the delicate wrists and ankles. He took a bundle
from his saddlebag. "Quickly. Put these on, before those vultures get ideas and
start attacking you for real." A nearby pile of bones bore mute witness that
this was no idle threat.
prisoner took one nervous look at the birds circling overhead and hastily
The horseman grunted.
"That's better. We have a way to go before nightfall. Have you ridden before? I
can see you haven't. Well, no matter, you'll soon
Without further ado, he
picked up the small robed figure and flung it across his saddle bow. Then he
mounted. Taking the second horse's leading rein, he began galloping toward the
heart of the desert and they soon left the city walls, the ravine, and its
circling vultures far behind.
her cloak around her, Thamar crouched in the back of the dimly lit shed and
prayed for morning. A scurrying softness against her foot caused her to squeak,
and too late, she clapped a hand over her mouth. When booted feet came to the
door, she knew she'd been betrayed. Whether out of fear or for the Plutarch's
gold, it didn't matter. The end result would be the same.
The chief eunuch held a veil in
his hand and he covered her face before allowing the guards inside. Hassan's
voice might be gentle as a spring breeze but his slanted eyes were cruel. Thamar
knew better than to trust him. "Why did you flee, little one? All you'll find
outside your father's house is darkness and misery, and this filthy shed is no
fit place for a delicate ornament like you." Taking care not to mark her skin,
he bound Thamar's wrists with a silken ribbon, then fastened her elbows to her
sides. "Tell me if that's too
She hung her veiled head in
silence and he beckoned to the waiting guards. "Bring the
When they dragged in the
trembling farmer and threw him to the floor, he scrabbled at the embroidered hem
of the eunuch's silk robe. "Please, yer honor! I knew nothin' a
"Get your filthy hands off
me! Did you behold her face?"
Honor! I din't even know she was
"Your neighbor says
saw you enter this building last night with a plate of
"If I'd a known, I'd a
locked 'er in and fetched yer
"You heard about the
"Me 'n the whole
village. If we found the slave, we were gonna
Two guards entered with a
struggling woman. Despite his fear, the farmer glared up at her from the floor.
"Lyin' whore! When the elders find out, they'll stone yer, 'n good riddance te
The woman's eyes flashed. "I
saw 'im bring 'er the food, 'n yesterday, he were dickering wi' Jayco fer a
horse 'n cart. Gave 'im a jewel fer it. Said 'e fahnd it in the field 'e were
plowin'. Shore he did!"
held out a finely wrought ruby earring and she inspected it. "Tis' a match ter
the one 'e give Jayco. After he tol' me, Ah crep' behin' the barn ter watch 'n
The eunuch gestured to one
of the guards and Thamar closed her eyes with a small moan. Unfortunately, she
couldn't close her ears, and when she looked again the farmer's headless
spurting trunk twitched at her feet.
Shaking his bloodstained skirts in
disgust, the eunuch threw Thamar's remaining earring at the woman, then he
strode out of the shed toward a waiting closed litter.
"What abaht the reward?" she
His answer was to gesture
again as he entered the litter.
When a second guard raised his
scimitar, Thamar looked away. In her seventeen years of life, she'd seen plenty
of brutality in her father's harem but nothing to equal this. With her hands
bound behind her back, she had a hard time scrambling into the litter, and the
guards knew better than to touch her. Finally the chief eunuch yanked her
inside, and she landed, panting, across his lap.
"Because Lord Azarius loved your
mother, he instructed me that no harm was to come to you. Had he not done so, I
would have first given you to the guards for their pleasure, then sold you the
following morning as a tavern whore. How else did you reward that lying farmer?
Did he lay his filthy hands on you?" He ripped the veil from Thamar's face.
"Answer me, bitch!"
never spoken to her like that before, and her eyes widened in shock. "He did
nothing, save offer me food and shelter for the night. I gave him my earring as
"That was all?"
By now the guards should have
cleaned up all traces of Thamar's escapade. If she was lying, the midwife's
examination would show it plain.
"Then you have nothing more to
When they arrived at the
Plutarch's gilded palace, they came through the front gate, and Thamar and the
eunuch alighted in the main courtyard. The courtyard was so brightly lit it
might as well have been day. The entire household had been assembled, even the
veiled concubines and their servants, and a brazier burned in its center.
Azarius himself waited at the top
of the gilded marble steps. "You found her, I
"Not for long, I fear. Unless
you keep her chained and under guard, she'll run away
Beneath his jeweled turban,
the Plutarch's blue-green eyes were thoughtful, and he tapped his ample chin
with a beringed finger. "Since she's still my favorite daughter, I wouldn't care
to see her in chains for the rest of her life. Do you have any other ideas,
"You could chop off one
A gasp from the concubines
was quickly stifled, but the lady wife was all smiles.
Azarius frowned. "And ruin her
trade value? Surely we can do better than
"Oh, I think we can." The
eunuch beckoned and two guards appeared holding a small figure between
Thamar struggled against her
The lady wife's
laughter rippled across the silent courtyard. "My lord husband, you are so wise.
This ugly little creature has cared for your daughter since her birth and it
will be a salutary lesson not soon
majestically descended the steps, and one of the guards handed him a padded
glove. He put it on and plucked a waiting iron from the brazier. Holding it up,
he examined the glowing tip. "Since she's technically a child, you may remove
her veil. Thamar, my dear, this is for your own good, and if I catch you closing
your eyes, I'll do this
Ignoring her terrified
shrieks, one of the guards casually suspended Thamar's maid by her ankles while
the other removed her slippers.
The Plutarch chuckled. "The way
she's wriggling, you're liable to get burned too. Set her on that step and hold
her down." He plunged the iron into the coals to freshen it and beckoned to the
eunuch. "Bring her closer."
screams were the stuff of nightmares, and Thamar would never again be able to
stand the odor of frying meat. When the little maid passed out for the second
time, the Plutarch straightened his back and stretched. "Carry this creature to
Thamar's alcove, give her ointments and painkillers and the services of the
physician. And let this be a lesson to all the women of my household." He took a
scimitar from one of the guards and raised it above his daughter's head. "You
alone are responsible for this, and if you ever run away again," the blade
swished down barely missing her face, "I'll chop her feet off entirely. Do I
make myself clear?"
Thamar sank to
her knees and rested her aching forehead on the marble pavement by his feet.
"Yes, honored father."
the Plutarch started mounting the steps and his lady wife hastened after him.
The chief eunuch cut the ribbons from Thamar's wrists and released her arms.
Then he gently raised her to her feet and held her against him, stroking her
back till her choking sobs subsided. He'd feed her a sleeping draft and allow
her a couple of days' rest, and after that, her real training would
Spring had come again
and Thamar stood on a hill overlooking the largest of her father's factories.
Workers boiled out of the iron gates below like a stream of agitated ants, and
despite the grinding poverty of their narrow lives, she envied them. If they
ever came face to face with her, they would stand with downcast eyes until she
had passed. Even their ragged children, on the rare occasions she ever saw them,
did the same. Had the wind been blowing from the desert, she might have been
able to see the horizon, but today the air was still. A haze of pollution hung
over Seira's capital city, and she could barely make out the twinkling lights of
the ships rising day and night from Guilliam's busy twin-towered spaceport with
their cargoes of finished
When a hand plucked at her
sleeve, Thamar's heart leapt into her throat. But it was only Nona.
Severely winded from toiling over
the hill after her charge and despite her relief at finding her mistress safe,
the tiny maid's voice was sharp. "Yer ter join the Lord Azarius at dinner, and
ye know what'll happen if yer late. Please,
Thamar turned away with a
sigh. "All right, Nona, I'll come for your sake. But if it were just me, I'd run
away again. The meanest of my father's workers has it better than I
Nona's tone went from fearful
to impatient. "M'lady, we'd best hurry. Lord Azarius has special company and ye
must be presentable."
wasn't presentable right now, she thought, as she harried Thamar toward the
Plutarch's gilded mansion on the other side of the hill. Combing the snags out
of her curly brown hair was going to be a chore by itself and that wouldn't be
the half of it.
Thamar was as tall as her mother had been, and she'd inherited her enormous
violet eyes, turned-up nose and winsome smile. Where Jerusa had been blessed
with The Book of Beauty's ideal milk-white complexion and voluptuous curves,
Thamar's skin had a regrettable tendency to turn golden-brown when exposed to
the sun and she was as slender as a reed.
To the displeasure of the other
women in his household, the Plutarch Azarius was still mourning his favorite.
Jerusa had died from a mysterious illness six months before, and to hear him
tell it, he'd been making an extraordinary effort to find a wealthy lord for
their daughter who'd treat her with kindness and give her a place of honor in
Pulling her charge by
the hand, Nona hastened through the women's gate of the Plutarch's marble
mansion, across the courtyard and up the sun-washed steps into the
blue-and-gold-tiled harem. Infected by the little maid's anxiety, Thamar pulled
her shift over her head the moment they reached her small alcove, then followed
her to the bathing cubicles just beyond the flowered swimming pool.
Two concubines lay nearby on
matching pillowed couches and one of them yawned as she passed. "He hasn't
summoned any of us since Jerusa died, but maybe he will once you're gone. They
say you remind him of her and that's why he still
Thamar's eyes stung at
the thought of her gentle mother's face. Unwilling to give those smirking
bitches the satisfaction, she choked down her tears and they formed a lump in
her throat. When they reached her favorite cubicle with its fanciful mosaics of
ocean creatures, Nona handed her a sponge and a vial of cleansing lotion. She
scrubbed herself in the scented water streaming from the golden seahorse's mouth
and finished with a swim in the flower-strewn pool.
While Nona massaged her with
perfumed oil, Thamar brooded about her father's request. "Do you think I can
take you with me? That's if he's actually found
"You can always ask,
m'lady. Now turn over and let me do yer
Thamar impulsively reached
up and gave her a hug. "Don't you know how much I love
The little woman humphed and
busied herself with the vial of oil. "I took care of Jerusa since I was a wee
girl and you from the day you were born. The Lord Azarius fell in love with your
mother first time he saw 'er and he could refuse her nowt. When he bought her,
she begged him to take me." Nona lowered her voice to a whisper. "The lady wife
poisoned your mother, and she loves you no more than she did her. That's why the
sooner you're gone from this house the better."
Thamar entered the magnificent
banqueting hall with her lute under her arm. Her face and hair were hidden by a
golden veil, and tiny bells on her wrists and ankles chimed whenever she moved.
Her lightly oiled skin gleamed golden in the shadows of the fretwork lamps, and
outside a couple of artfully placed wisps of rosy chiffon, nothing concealed her
body's delicate curves.
young man on the couch next to the Plutarch's, she was a living sculpture.
Azarius' massive features creased into a smile and he beckoned to her with a
heavily beringed hand.
This gentleman is Lord Ephraim and the Council of Five has just appointed him
our Trade Ambassador to the InterPlanetary Synod. Sit beside him so that he may
see how he likes you."
hurried forward with a large velvet cushion and Thamar obediently sank to the
Azarius rumbled on.
"Ephraim, this is my favorite daughter. She speaks several languages, can read
and cipher, is musically inclined and possesses an impeccable pedigree. Through
her mother Jerusa, herself a daughter of the Plutarch Hiram, her bloodline
stretches back to the original emperors of
This one is handsome and
he looks kind, thought Thamar.
As the young lord's fingers lifted
her veil, she glanced up from under her lashes, guessing him to be under thirty.
Unlike the Plutarch, he wore no turban and his blond hair was cropped short in
the manner of the merchant captains of the day. Plain in comparison to the
Plutarch's lavishly embroidered caftan, his Excellency's cream-colored robes
were fashioned from costly Phasgan goat hair, the lines on his handsome face
told her he smiled often, and she found the intensity of his blue eyes very
appealing. Coming from so young a man, his voice was surprisingly rich and deep,
and his faint accent came from some place other than Seira.
"She's quite lovely, Azarius, and
a credit to your house."
Plutarch chuckled. "I take it we have a
"Yes, Azarius, we have a
Thamar looked fearfully up
at her father, but much to her relief, the Plutarch's blue-green eyes were
"What is it, daughter?
You have permission to
"Honored father, there is
"Yes. Yes. Go
"My maid, Nona. She's been
with me all my life. I... can
"The little black woman?
All right, I'll throw her in as part of the deal. Is that agreeable to you,
"Of course. Tell me,
Thamar, can she cook?"
"Oh, yes, my
lord. Nona cooks very well. In fact, she has a whole range of household
"If I'd known that, I'd
have charged you something. With that tatty ship and crew of yours, one would
take you for a mere vagabond rather than the richest trader in the Synod, and
anything's bound to be an improvement over the way you've been
Ephraim laughed. "That
tatty ship happens to be extremely comfortable and it has some of the finest
engines around. I have a fancier one ordered more in keeping with my new
station, and my crew may not be the smoothest characters in the Synod, but
they're competent and
"Well, what do you have in
the way of a harem? I'd like my daughter to go where she'll have some standing
and be treated with respect."
never had the time or inclination to bother with one. Since Thamar will be my
only female companion, she'll enjoy all the standing and respect she could
It was Azarius's
turn to laugh. "No wonder you're so damn rich. You'll be telling me next you
have no lady wife either."
an entanglement I can well do without, thank
"What about a son? Don't you
want an heir?"
"Up to now, I
haven't had the slightest urge to duplicate myself. If one of my companions were
to give me a son, I'd consider making her my lady wife. So far, that hasn't
"If Thamar were to bear
a son, you'd actually consider keeping
"Smothering my newborn son
because his mother has the misfortune to be a concubine has always seemed to me
a bit extreme."
"Maybe it's just as
well you don't have a harem then. It's obvious you've been hanging around with
Nublians for far too long, because you're getting to be just like them. Although
I must say, Nublis has some of the best-looking women in the Synod. Trouble is,
they won't sell them and you almost never find one in the markets. If you ever
come across a Nublian girl in your travels, buy her for me. I'll give you forty
percent over cost, plus
"You drive a hard
bargain. All right, fifty it is. Incidentally, where are you going from
"I have to make a side trip
to Nublis. My new ship's being delivered and my investment partner just died.
His heir's a minor and I need to touch bases with whoever's managing the kid's
affairs. After that, I'm going on to the opening of the Synod Assembly session.
I need a companion for social events, and Thamar appears to have the right
qualifications. However, she'll need a different wardrobe. What she's wearing
would cause a sensation, but it'd be entirely the wrong
Azarius beckoned to a
hovering slave and whispered in his ear and the man hurried away. "Well,
Ephraim, since you're satisfied, I'll draw up a contract in the amount of 30,000
credits. It will stipulate that when you tire of her, you'll return her to me or
find her another suitable situation. Thamar's my favorite daughter and I have no
wish to see her turned out into the street, used as a gambling wager, or sold as
a common whore. Agreed?"
I'm assuming her clothes and personal possessions are included. If not, I'll pay
you for them. She and her maid can go over to the ship any time, because I'm
departing for Nublis first thing in the
Putting his finger under
Thamar's chin, Ephraim turned her face up to his and gave her a light kiss. As
his mouth brushed hers, he thought, She tastes of
Azarius raised an
eyebrow. "There's a private room next to this
"Thanks, but I can wait." He
saw Thamar trembling. "Little one, go find your maid and get dressed for
traveling. Take anything you want, but be sure to give a list to the harem
keeper so I can square it with Azarius. Someone'll take you to the ship and I'll
be along later."
After Thamar left,
Ephraim reached into a golden dish beside him. "You always did have a way with
honeyed lamb, Azarius, and tonight you've outdone yourself. Now what else do you
have that might interest
It was midnight by the
time Ephraim returned to his ship. Returning the sleepy watchman's salute, he
entered the main bay. Then he started for a lavishly carpeted corridor and the
quarters where he'd told his second-in-command to house his new
Elon intercepted him
by the bridge. "Since when are you in the concubine business? Aren't free women
good enough for you?"
shrugged, till he caught the distress in his friend's eyes. "Come on, ol' buddy,
I'll buy you a beer."
Ephraim tapped a nearby
intercom. "Galen. Take over. Elon's off duty as of
said NOW!" The younger man muttered something highly uncomplimentary under his
breath and his captain grinned. "Been that kind of day, has
"You know how I feel about
Seira. The place gives me the friggin'
"Oh, the place is all
right. It's the people running it you object
"So do you. And how much
longer are we gonna be stuck here
"Till our clearances come
through and the way I bribed that friggin' harbormaster, he'll probably die
richer than me."
"Money! That's all
these bastards ever think about. Is there anything on this whore-hoppin' planet
that ain't for sale?"
"When I find
it, I'll let you know. Incidentally, is that any way to talk about our new
"The Council of Five
just appointed me their Trade Ambassador to the InterPlanetary Synod Assembly.
Henceforth, you will address me as Your
Elon didn't dignify
that with an answer. "How
"What do you mean, how
"How much are they paying
When Ephraim named the sum,
Elon let out a long, low whistle. "Were they part of the
"Then why in Ephedra's
"I felt like it.
Besides, she's prettier than
daughter. She can read and cipher, has royal blood, and plays a mean
"Oh sure. And her lute
playing's what attracted you."
Elon rolled his eyes. "If
I'd known you were that hard up.... What are you going to do with
Ephraim clapped an arm around
his friend's shoulders. "I didn't think it'd been that long between
"Have you looked at the
women on this ship? I mean, really
plenty of tail in the port. All you need do is walk ten feet in any
"Not that kind of
"Slave flesh. Is it really
"They can't say no,
a free woman can. That's the
"I'll have to think on
that over a flagon of Melodian
"Since when do we have
"Since now. The
Plutarch sent over a case from his private
"Why? Where did you put
Ephraim steered them in
the direction of his cabin on the upper deck. "Obviously our next port of
An hour later, he left Elon
dozing in his only easy chair and set out for his original
Just as he reached
Thamar's cabin door, a tiny black woman in an enormous red silk turban
intercepted him. She seemed anxious and more than a little distracted, and
Ephraim was puzzled till he remembered who she was. "You must be Nona. I was
about to call on your lady to see whether she's comfortable and if there's
anything she needs."
At that, the
little creature became openly agitated. "Oh... are you Lord Ephraim? Ah've just
got done preparing my lady as best Ah could. Oh dear, this ain't goin' right at
He bit back his smile.
"What's the problem, Nona? You can tell
"Well, Ah'd expected a proper
harem with all the facilities, bathin' pools and the like. But there's nothin'.
Just a plain bathroom and that's it. There's no harem keeper, no other women, no
perfumes, flowers, cosmetics, central wardrobe or jewel box. Well, sir, Ah did
me best. But she's just a concubine's daughter and all that stuff's supposed ter
By now, Ephraim was
controlling his mirth with difficulty. "Are you scolding
The little maid's gaze was
unflinching but the tremor in her voice betrayed her. "Er... no... well.... Oh,
dear! Oh, dear! Ah din't mean... well, it's just not proper, me lord." She put
her hands on her small hips, looked up at him defiantly and actually blocked his
Even though he could clearly
see the poor little thing was almost in tears, Ephraim choked down his laughter
and matched her grim expression. "What do you suggest I do? To make it proper, I
"Well, Ah dunno. Ah've never
been any place there wasn't a proper harem. Ah ain't a trained keeper and Ah
dunno hah to set one up. All Ah em is an ignoran' slave tryin' to look out for
ma lady." She began to wail in earnest. "The poor lamb lost her mother. Now
she's lost her home, and she don't even hev proper surroundin's no
Ephraim decided this had
gone quite far enough. "Here's what I'm prepared to do. Right now, I'm going to
talk with your lady and see how bad things really are. In the meantime, go to
your cabin and get some sleep. Tomorrow, you'll give me a list of whatever your
lady requires, and I'll take care of it. Now, let me
"Yes, me lord. Ah'm sorry, me
lord. Does this mean Ah'm gonna be
"Punished? How? Is this
something else I need to
"Usually Ah get a whippin'.
Sometimes lashes, sometimes a cane. Once the Plutarch burned the bottoms a me
feet wi' a hot ahron. Oh dear, Ah shouldna said
"What about your lady?
Did they ever punish her like
"Oh, no. When she did
somethin', they punished me. She got very upset, 'specially when they burned me
He took her small hands in
his. "Why did they burn your feet, Nona? You can tell
She began to sob helplessly.
"After Thamar's ma died, the lady wife was very cruel, 'n Thamar ran away. When
his guards brung 'er back, the Plutarch assembled t'entire household to witness
the burnin'. He told her he'd chop 'em off if she ever ran
This was Azarius'
Nona go and gently pushed her in the direction of her cabin. "I won't burn your
feet, little one, and you aren't going to be whipped either. Now go get some
As she disappeared down the
hallway, he pushed a button in the wall. The polished wooden door slid open to
reveal a spacious silk-paneled room with a set of filmy draperies at its far
end. The crimson and rose of the hand-woven carpet were repeated in the brocaded
hangings of the elaborately carved bed and a pair of brightly cushioned easy
chairs in one corner.
Thamar was in
one of the chairs with her feet up. She wore a white gown of translucent muslin
and her soft brown hair curled over her
Seeing him, she jumped
and dropped her book. When she bent to retrieve it, he crossed the room in two
strides and took it from her
It was handsomely bound in
tooled leather with gilded pages and he looked curiously at the title. "What is
this thing? I've never heard of
Thamar flushed and lowered her
eyes. "The Book of Beauty is a compendium of all the requirements to be a
successful concubine. I... I've been trying to learn it so that I can please
you, my lord."
Ephraim was leafing
through the pages when something caught his eye. After reading the passage
through, he hurled the book across the room with a violent
It bounced off the
opposite wall with a thud and fell facedown onto the
"Forget this filth! I don't
want you to ever look at it again. Do you understand
She put an arm in front of her
face and shrank back. "Yes, my lord. I
softened his tone. "Thamar, I'll teach you how to please me and pleasure
yourself at the same time, and your first lesson will begin here and now." He
led her to the waiting bed and started a series of tiny kisses, beginning with
her forehead, eyes and mouth. As he worked his patient way down her neck,
shoulders and arms, he felt her body begin to
Finally, he went to her
feet. "You have very erotic toes," he
One by one, he took them
in his mouth, and she made a small sound in her throat like a cat's purr.
Enthralled by the magic of Ephraim's skillful fingers, Thamar felt as if she was
sinking into a bath of warm oil, and when he took off his clothes and possessed
her, it seemed like the most natural thing in the
"This is what I was made
for. Oh, please don't stop! Don't ever
He chuckled softly and
caressed her ear with his tongue. "I don't intend to, my sweet, and this is but
the first lesson of many. Tomorrow I will teach you some
Several hours later, he
awoke with his arms around Thamar. She snuggled against him spoon fashion, and
as he so often did in the small hours of the morning, Ephraim looked out into
the warm darkness and thought about his
She'd been a Plutarch's
concubine. With the help of a courageous midwife, she concealed the fact that
she'd borne a son and passed him off as a girl till he'd been twelve years old.
When it was no longer safe for him to remain in his father's harem, she faked
his death and smuggled him to freedom.
Ephraim kept his origins a secret
from the Plutarchs, who would have killed him instantly had they
On the day he was taken
away, he swore a solemn oath he'd someday return to rescue his mother. When a
message came telling of her death in childbirth, he fled from his
foster-father's desert camp, vowing never to return.
After scratching out a living as a
space rat in Guilliam for a couple of months, he hitched a ride on a cargo ship
and spent the next few years inching his way up through the ranks of the Trade
League's merchant fleet. That had been all he'd expected out of life till he
discovered his uncanny aptitude for trading. He found first one mentor, then
another, and finally a third, each one richer than the
The day he met his partner,
Ethan, on the SynoNet had been the real breakthrough. As the two of them chatted
back and forth through the ether, they found their interests dovetailed
perfectly. Ephraim enjoyed the mobility his mysterious partner lacked and
Ethan's superb intelligence network was second to none. Throughout an amicable
ten-year association, they easily maintained their reputation of being the
luckiest traders in the Synod. When Ethan explained he was a closely held
prisoner on Nublis, they set up an elaborately buffered communication system for
emergencies. The dreaded signal had just come, and Ephraim opened the letter
which was to be read only in the event of his partner's
As a frequent visitor to the
small planet empire of Nublis and an ardent admirer of its ancient culture, he
had no qualms about contacting the guardian of Ethan's young heir. When he
called the imperial administrator to whom he'd been referred, he realized
instantly this was not the right man. In an effort to be helpful, the obviously
puzzled administrator offered to contact a certain Prince Cassius on his behalf.
A friend of the boy's family, the prince would undoubtedly have the information
Ephraim had heard of
Prince Cassius. The Emperor Julian's illegitimate half-brother and His Majesty's
closest confident, the formidable prince was reputed to be one of the sharpest
lawyers in the Synod. If His Imperial Highness was like the rest of the Synod's
royalty, there'd be no way he could reach him directly, and he'd taken the
administrator up on his offer. As long as he had to stop on Nublis anyway to
pick up his new ship, that would be as good a time as any to sort things
A knock on the cabin door
interrupted his thoughts. "Ephraim? Are you
"Our clearances came through
and Nublis Tower confirmed the delivery of the new ship. She's waiting at
disengaging himself from the sleeping Thamar, Ephraim retrieved his clothes. As
he kissed her, she stirred. Then she mumbled something and settled down again.
By the time she awoke, they'd be in deep space and headed for Nublis.
The Wages of Greed is available from
Double Dragon eBooks
copyright 2000 Kate Saundby