Lilith is woken in the middle of the night and giving an offered she could hardly refuse.
|The last way Lilith expected to be woken up by was being manhandled. As she was led away from her most recent shag by two soldiers, the first thought that popped in the head that she reasoned was because of her still sex-addled brain was that they were going to take her to a secluded edge of the encampment and have their way with her. When was the last time that happened, she thought. A month? Two? She started to become giddy with excitement.
She wasn’t being led towards the edge of the camp however; instead, it was the center. A nasty feeling began to settle in her gut, and it only worsened when they stopped at an immensely large tent. The guards on duty seemed to know of their coming because one of them lifted the tent flap without a word. Lilith was ushered inside.
It was nice and warm, and there was every comfort a person could want on the march. Furs covered the ground, a matching chair and table set were off to the side with a fruit bowl placed on top, and a bed - it's pillow and mattress no doubt stuffed with goose feather - was off to the side. A suit of armor was in the corner, along with a full-length mirror.
A man was near the back of the tent, sitting in a chair, now standing and gesturing Lilith inwards. “Come, don’t be shy,” he said.
He couldn’t have been more than thirty, going on forty, if the wrinkles around his eyes and mouth said anything. He still had a full head of hair and his mustache and goatee were finely trimmed. His face did not match the loose nightshirt or woolen breeches that he wore.
Lilith curtsied and slipped into her role. “M’lord,” she said, putting emphasis on her accent and rolling her tongue.
“I trust you know why I called for you,” the man said.
“The same as any man, I should think,” she said, lifting her roughspun shift and swaying her hips enticingly as she did so.
The man held up a hand. “There will be time for that later,” he told her. “For now I simply wish to talk. Wine?”
Lilith let her shift fall back in place, and eyed him warily. “Thank you, m’lord.” She watched him fill two cups from a flagon and offered her one. She took it and simultaneously they drank. The wine was fruity and tasted of raspberries. “Tivian red,” she found herself saying.
A smile danced on the man’s lips. “You know your wines,” he observed.
Lilith gave him a feline smile, but inwardly she was scowling. There was something about this man that made her stomach twist. It was his eyes, she reasoned. They were brown and steady. They didn’t flicker or move, and there was a weight to them. This man knew how to control his eyes, knew how to control his face. That intrigued her.
“I’m from Kingsport,” Lilith told him. “I worked at one of their pleasure houses for a time, and I became accustomed to Tivian red.” Is wasn’t a total lie. She had worked in Kingsport before she was forced to leave, but not as a whore.
“I see,” the man said simply. “What’s your name?”
He nodded. “Interesting, really. You have a Synthian accent, claim to be from Kingsport - a lab of leisure - yet choose to sleep with men and boys who have nothing but the clothes on their back and not a bit of coin between twenty of them.”
“I like to travel. And I’ve found that soldiers on the march are more passionate in bed.” Lillith switched her cup from one hand to the other. “War and being absent of a woman’s touch does that.”
“True, but there is something that men covet more than a woman’s touch. Can you guys what that is?” She shook her head. “Boots. You’d be amazed what soldiers would do for a decent pair of boots.”
The silence was back. Lilith took another sip and searched around the tent. She latched onto the chessboard where the man had been sitting. “You play chess,” she asked, moving towards it. She took a seat in the chair opposite. The pieces were masterfully carved and painted: the knight on his rearing horse and lance thrust forward; the king tall and stern as any monarch should be; the queen made to look like Saint Alyssa, and the bishop with his robes, staff, and holy book clutched to his chest. Both sides were identical in every way but color. One wore blue and white while the other had red and black.
The smile once again. “I do. It’s my favorite.” He sat in the other chair and set his wine aside. “They call it the game of kings, did you know? It teaches one to think strategically. Some fools see only pieces of wood, painted and carved. I see it differently. I move a piece and hear the sound of marching feet; I win one and hear flesh being rent, screams from the depths of its bowels. Blood thumps inside these chessmen. Do you see what I mean?”
Lilith frowned at him. A mad man with chess obsession? Yes, I see that. “Who are you?” she blurted out.
If the man was upset about the bluntness of her question he didn't show it. “You may call me Adam. Now, back to what I was saying. You cannot comprehend because you are not a king. Pawns only see their comrades beside them and their foes across the field. A king has a different view of the chessboard. His greatest foe surrounds him. Fools they are, trying to win his favor and climb up the ladder, but foes all the same. That, Shea, is death.”
Lilith shifted in her seat. “If that’s true, then why does a king surrounded himself with vipers?”
The ghost of a smile again. “Because he must.” Lilith took a sip from her wine. “Tell me,” he said, “why’s Lilith, the infamous info-broker doing in my camp?”
She froze. She looked him in the eye and swore inwardly. She could see in his eyes that there was no point in lying. He had caught her. He had known from the very beginning. She swore again.
Lilith swirled the rest of her wine in her cup, downed it in one go and set it aside. She crossed her legs, leaned back in her chair, and was as casual as if she were playing cards at the local tavern. “What’s it to you?”
“I've seen you. Wandering about the camp, going from one end to the other. No doubt counting how many men we have, how much cavalry. How’s our morale by chance?”
She inspected her nails. One was longer than the rest - she began to bite on it. “It’s good,” she said. “Everyone is anxious for a fight. Some are looking forward to the loot they’ll get; others are simple praying they make it through the first battle and hopefully back home.”
“How much did Nazir pay you to spy for them? One thousand? Three?”
“Four,” she said confidently. “I wanted five but they wouldn’t budge. All I have to do is give them a report of King Ecbert’s numbers and plans and I will be on my merry way.”
“Four thousand,” Adam awed. “I guess no price is too high when it comes to conquering the Northern Kingdoms.”
“After the fall of Colovia, I should think their spirits are riding high.”
He leaned forward. “What if I were to offer you a better deal?”
Her brows raised. “I’m listening.”
“I’ll give you something that’s worth more than four thousand Nazirie drakes. If we when this war, I would make you my spymaster, and you will have a seat on my council.”
Her eyes widened, and her mind went blank. “With a single pen stroke you would give me the resources of an entire kingdom,” she breathed. There would be no need to hid anymore, no trying to scrape by… “Deal!
Adam smiled again. This time a full-fledged smile. “Good. You may leave. Report to the war tent in the morning.”
She rose and bowed. “As you command, King Ecbert.” His face didn’t change when she said his real name and title, but she caught the admiration in his eyes. She went to leave but stopped when she lifted the tent flap. “How did you know who I was?”
The king drank from his cup, long and deep. “I didn’t,” he said.