It's been quite a while since the previous chapter of this story. Feel free to catch up beginning with Chapter One, or skip right ahead to the beginning of Chapter Five, but for anyone who wants a recap, and doesn't mind a few SPOILERS, I figured I'd take a moment or two to bring us up to speed on the story so far:
Conyn, our heroine, is a classically gorgeous blond beauty (see picture below) who in no way resembles what a real Iron Age warrior would look like -- deal with it! She's 30 and has been a warrior since her teens. Tough, no-nonsense, with little time for politics or subtlety, and with an outright distrust of anything that smacks of magic.
Imelda, Princess-in-exile, is 25, spoiled, prudish, and impatient. She inherited the realm of Synderia while still in her teens. Still very inexperienced at governing, she expects quick answers and instant solutions. She is thin and pale, from her porcelain skin to her light blue eyes to the white-blond hair that falls to either side of her face.
Bronwyn is Imelda's chief of staff, an attractive woman in her mid-thirties. She has known Imelda since the princess was a girl, and does her best to provide wise counsel to the headstrong young woman. Bronwyn conceals a lush figure in conservative clothing, and wears her long dark-brown hair in a thick bun.
Caressa is a member of the Virgin Sisterhood, an order of witches whose power is sustained so long as they never engage in sex with a man. She is shapely, dressed all in black, with curtains of silky black hair to her waist.
Captain Tarn is in her late forties, a gruff veteran soldier. She is short but muscular, with close-cropped iron-grey hair. On more than one occasion, she has made amorous advances to Bronwyn, who at first rebuffed them politely, but has recently grown more forceful in her rejections.
Charys, the Usurper, is Imelda's cousin: a tall green-eyed redhead with a nasty facial scar she sustained in battle with Conyn, and a thirst for revenge as great as her lust for power.
General Hynde, her brother, is a sycophantic bully, who enjoys humiliating women, and whose vile lust is fixed on Imelda.
Daunta, a member of the Virgin Sisterhood turned to evil, resembles Caressa in her dress and coloring, but is taller, thinner, and with a face as pinched and cruel as her soul.
We are in ancient barbarian times.
The realm of Synderia has been usurped.
Imelda, its rightful princess, has been deposed by her evil cousin Charys and her swinish brother, General Hynde.
Their scheme was made possible by an enchantment, the Spell of the Black Phoenix, which brought most of the populace under the hypnotic sway of the evil witch Daunta, and they remain mindless puppets at the command of Charys and her minions.
Daunta is a member of the Virgin Sisterhood, granted mystical powers in exchange for never engaging in sex with a man. While she has turned her abilities to evil, another of the sisters, Caressa, remains a loyal member of Imelda's surviving inner circle, and has devised a desperate last-ditch attempt to restore Imelda to her throne.
Imelda and her few remaining loyal troops and advisors are in exile across the border from Synderia. Her advisors, including her chief of staff Bronwyn and military advisor Captain Tarn, have approved Caressa's plan: she will place a counter-spell to the Black Phoenix into the warrior Conyn, who will then allow herself to be captured and taken before Charys, who wishes to pay Conyn back for the facial scar she took from Conyn's sword. Once before the usurper, Conyn will establish a mystical contact with Caressa, and their spiritual union will allow Caressa to lift the spell.
But it all goes wrong.
Captain Tarn, resentful of Bronwyn's spurning of her sexual overtures, has accepted Charys' bribe, and betrays Imelda.
She allows Imelda's plan, including Conyn's capture, to go through, but has Caressa kidnapped so that she is unable to lift the spell, after all, leaving Synderia's hypnotized population still under Charys' control.
Tarn also allows Imelda to think that the plan has worked, so that the princess and her retinue ride back into Synderia, expecting a triumphal return. Instead, they walk straight into Charys' trap.
As we begin our final chapter, Charys is hosting a celebratory feast for her minions in the banquet hall of what had been Imelda's palace. Most of the ordinary citizens of Synderia remain in a state of mindlessness under the spell of the Black Phoenix, while Imelda's remaining loyalists are currently imprisoned in slave pens.
The kidnapped witch Caressa has been handed over to the evil Daunta, who intends to steal her power with an obscene ritual.
And Conyn, Imelda, and Bronwyn are unwilling attendees at Charys' celebration.
Disposition of enemies and allies? Well, let's see...
Imelda's here. She's been stripped of her royal garments, and given slave rags to wear. They've hung a wooden serving tray around her neck, and it's resting on top of her bosom, which they've conveniently left exposed, so that Hynde and his bullyboys can paw her as she stands beside the table, to be used as their drink stand. She's still wearing that leather bit as a gag, and her wrists have been cuffed behind her. Not much in the way of resources there.
Bronwyn? She's seated at the table, next to that traitorous bitch Tarn, with her hands tied behind her back, but she's nearly unrecognizable, since her long hair's been pulled out of its bun, falling around her face and shoulders, and the front of her expensive tunic's been ripped open to give Tarn access to her breasts, which she alternately splashes with wine and suckles. Bronwyn would probably protest this, but her mouth's been forced to gape open by some kind of leather-covered ring strapped into it, allowing Tarn to force liquor down her throat, as well; Imelda's most trusted counselor is clearly in no position to help herself, or any of us.
Caressa? From what I hear, Daunta's got her tied up in her bedchamber, waiting for the stroke of midnight to perform some sort of unholy ritual on her before killing her. So, magic's out, too.
Up to me, then. Something different for a change...
Not that Conyn herself had been spared indignities: few of Charys' minions would dream of passing by a tall blonde chained nude to a pillar without the occasional grope or fondle. At first, Conyn glared cold death at them with her ice-blue eyes over her gag; but when one of the women got a bit careless with a fingernail at her nipple, the imprisoned warrior gave a startled jump in her chains... and felt her left wrist slide loosely in its manacle. Perhaps it had been fastened sloppily, or was just old and worn, but it was the first hint of escape that Conyn had received. When the next time came for a drunken guard to paw at her, she made an exaggerated writhing movement, as if recoiling from his touch, but using the movement to mask her efforts to work at the metal encircling her wrist: one hand loose was a long way from actual freedom, but she knew her advantage lay in concealing even this small progress.
An hour or so had gone by, Conyn's legs aching from being forced to stand at the pillar, and she had closed her eyes to try to manage some rest, when the buzz of drunken conversation died down for a moment. Opening her eyes, she saw Charys getting up from the table; in her right hand, she carried a large knife, and as she approached Conyn, she dug the nails of her left hand into her prisoner's chin, forcing their eyes to meet.
"I think I've waited long enough," she snarled, raising the blade to Conyn's eye level. "Time that we both bore matching scars."
Conyn struggled in her chains, twisting her head against the pain of Charys' grip. She desperately suppressed the urge to bring her unfettered left hand into play, fearing to lose her only advantage by exposing it, and had resigned herself to enduring the disfigurement and living to fight another day, when General Hynde appeared behind his sister.
"Not now, Charys."
"And why the hell not?" hissed the redheaded usurper.
"Not all your guests are under the Black Phoenix spell," he nodded over his shoulder to the greedy merchants and traitorous soldiers who had thrown in with Charys of their own will, "and those allies really don't need to watch that kind of carving during their meal. Besides," he went on as she hesitated, "Conyn's gag would get in the way of truly duplicating your own scar. Let's wait til later, and do it properly."
Conyn held her breath, bracing for Charys' disregard of her brother's counsel. Fingernails dug more deeply into her flesh, the blade moved to within a hair's breadth of her eye.
"It's coming, slut." She turned the blade side to side, letting it reflect orange candlelight into Conyn's eyes. She released her grip on her prisoner's face, raked her fingernails across an exposed breast, and resumed her seat at the table. Conyn sagged in her bonds, grateful to have escaped the knife, but beginning to despair that it was only a temporary reprieve.
Hynde had returned to the table, but didn't resume his seat. Instead, he stepped to where Imelda stood, miserable in her humiliating bondage, and took her by the arm.
"I think," he announced over his shoulder as he studied the mixture of fear and fury in the princess' blue eyes, "that it is time for me to retire for the evening."
This was greeted with a round of guffaws and lewd remarks from his table companions, as well as several offers to join him.
"Thank you all-- you are most kind," Hynde responded dryly as he supervised the removal of the serving tray from around Imelda's neck. "However, the princess and I have some... private business... to attend to."
Conyn's stomach churned at the resumed outburst of vulgar hilarity this produced: Imelda might be an irritating, entitled prude, but no one deserved this-much less a woman that Conyn had sworn to protect. But the bound warrior had no choice but to watch helplessly as Hynde took a moment to bestow a mocking kiss to the forehead of the fettered princess, fondle her breasts again, then turn her around and force her to walk before him, guards to either side of her, toward her doom.
Conyn's spirits were beginning to sink to the blackness she had so far avoided: before the end of the night, Charys and Hynde's triumph would be complete… and here I am with nothing more to offer than an uncuffed left wrist! She watched in bleak helplessness as more of Chary's sycophants gloated with her, while the hypnotized citizens of Synderia suffered in mute silence.
Her miserable reverie was interrupted by the sound of a chair scraping back from the table, and the muscular Captain Tarn staggered to her feet, clearly the worse for her evening of drinking and debauching.
"Well, as delightful as this has been," Tarn slurred, "I think it's time for bed," leering drunkenly at Bronwyn. She heaved herself unsteadily from the table, but collected her balance, dug her fingers into the tattered cloth of Bronwyn's tunic, and dragged the helpless counselor, reeling from being force-fed wine all evening, to her feet.
"Say goodnight, slut!" Bronwyn's dazed hesitation was met with a cuff to the back of her head, and a snarl from her captor.
"Do as I say!" Humiliated, Bronwyn slobbered a gurgling "good night" through the gag forcing her mouth open, and was greeted by laughter from Charys and her minions.
Conyn's instincts told her that there was opportunity here; without fully understanding the impulse, she made her move, pulling her left wrist free and lunging forward. Would this be a futile gesture, exposing her trump card too soon, while still chained to the pillar? But it appeared that instinct had served her true.
"Wait..." the bleary Tarn interrupted her departure. "I think I owe Conyn the chance to watch as I finally ride this filly as she deserves." She roughly took Bronwyn by the hair, yanking her head around, breathing boozily into her face. "And you can watch as I whip your precious Conyn to bloody ribbons first-- help put us both in the mood, eh?" Bronwyn's look of despair deepened, and Tarn was rewarded with the first actual tears she'd drawn from her victim. She laughed, released her grip on Bronwyn's disarranged tresses, and turned to the guards, nodding at Conyn.
"Get her off that post, and bring me a leash."
There was an exchange of uncomfortable glances; none of the guards was particularly interested in being in close proximity to the blond warrior once she was unchained. But with Hynde having retired for the evening, and Charys watching impassively, there was no one to countermand the drunken Tarn; four of the guards gingerly approached Conyn. Two of them took hold of her free left arm and held it tightly in place as they undid the locks that still held her to the pillar. With the manacles now useless, they found a leather slave harness that fitted over Conyn's shoulders with leather cuffs about her wrists at the front of her waist.
For her part, Conyn appeared to be the soul of cooperation: she needed to be away from this crowd to make her move, and it was clear that the soldiers, even armed as they were, would be happy to see her on her way, no matter what she might do afterwards. One of them handed a slave leash of light chain to Tarn then stepped back cautiously as the drunken traitor affixed it to Conyn's collar, and gave a vicious yank.
"Now, mighty warrior," she leered at Conyn, "time for your last battle!" Behind her gag, Conyn seethed with humiliation, but held herself in restraint. She made just enough of a show of resistance not to arouse suspicion as Tarn took her prizes away, leading the naked Conyn by her leash, and prodding the bleakly tipsy Bronwyn with a combination of slaps, tugs on her hair, and twisting of her bound arms.
By the time they reached the guest chamber where Tarn was quartered, Bronwyn's spirit seemed to have finally broken, and she gave no resistance when, after locking the door, Tarn flung her down on the bed, her bound wrists beneath her.
For her part, Conyn remained still and calm as Tarn forced her into the small wooden chair beside the bed, and wrapped the leash around the chair back. As Conyn had hoped, Tarn's drunkneness had made her sloppy; instead of pulling the leash tight enough to serve as a choke-collar, she left sufficient slack that, when she turned her back, Conyn was able to carefully raise her hands as far as the cuffs would allow, and get strong fingers just under the dangling chain. She watched as the inebriated traitor grabbed the exhausted Bronwyn by the hair again, pulling her up to a seated position, and forcing her to look at Conyn.
"Now, you stuck-up bitch," Tarn raged. "You're going to watch me whip this slut till she's nothing but blood and bone before I screw you silly." She threw Bronwyn back down, drew a heavy leather whip from her belt, and turned back toward Conyn, her arm raised to strike... but even in her boozy state she recognized that something was wrong-- the blond warrior she thought leashed helplessly before her had leapt up, and a length of chain was heading straight for her own throat. As Conyn whipped the leash chain, the links wrapped about Tarn's neck, digging into her skin, and Conyn put all her weight behind a huge yank with her fettered wrists, flinging Tarn against the wall, her head colliding into the stone with a sharp cracking sound before she sagged to the floor.
For a moment, there was no sound in the room, save the labored breathing coming from behind a pair of gags; the third occupant of the room had stopped breathing permanently.
Conyn gave a kick to Tarn's corpse to move it aside, then stepped over to the bed, where Bronwyn was staring in disbelief. The gagged warrior grunted a command that Bronwyn could make no sense of; impatiently, Conyn used her cuffed hands to grab the dazed counselor by her tunic, flip her over onto her face, and undo the rope binding her hands behind her. As she sat up again, Conyn held out her own fettered wrists in front of her; it took a few minutes of weary fumbling, but Bronwyn finally undid the leather restraints, and both women removed their gags with groans of relief.
"I could use some clothes." Conyn glanced down at the corpse beside her. "Pity this one was so much shorter than I am." She pulled a short sword from Tarn's belt and used it to saw the leather collar from her neck.
Bronwyn gave no reply, staring likewise at Tarn's body.
"Did you have to kill her?"
Conyn had been fashioning a rough tunic for herself from some bedsheets, but stopped short. By now, after everything she had been through on this mad caper, Conyn had thought herself immune to surprise, but the question stunned her.
"You can't be serious." She goggled at Bronwyn. "The bitch was going to rape you."
"I don't say she didn't deserve punishment. I just... I wish… Can't Imelda's restoration be done with less bloodshed?"
"She's not bleeding much," Conyn grunted as she kicked the corpse once more for good measure. At Bronwyn's cry of disgust, she turned to face her.
"Look, I know you diplomats believe that everyone, and everything, can be reasoned with; that's insanity, but we don't have time to debate it now. Follow me and don't get in the way if I have to soil my hands a bit."
"Where can we go? There will be guards posted at the exits. We won't be able to leave the palace."
"We're not leaving." Conyn tucked the sword into the rope belt that was holding her makeshift garb in place.
"We're not what?"
"We're putting an end to this madness, once and for all, by doing what should have been done in the first place. We need to find those damned witches."
Daunta wondered to herself how ordinary, mortal women ever survived. How on earth could life have any meaning without the thrill of mystic power that she and her sisters commanded? What experience could possibly equal the sensual rush that came with having the secrets of the universe coursing hotly through one's loins?
And sex with a man? How could that ever compare with the sheer animal thrill of what she was about to do to the helplessly bound Caressa?
The past hours had been filled with such anticipation that Daunta thought she should burst: Caressa, herself a strong and formidable sorceress, the only member of the Virgin Sisterhood whose abilities could match Daunta's own, had been delivered to her, a powerless captive, to do with as she pleased. From the first moment she had set eyes on the trussed and gagged figure of her rival, Daunta had felt the aching desire to take her there and then: to perform the carnal ritual that would allow Caressa's awesome power to join with her own, and, by the way, leave her captive a feeble half-human husk. But hard as it was to endure the delay, Daunta understood the puissance of waiting for the witching hour to strike before sacrificing Caressa's purity to the gods.
And now, the time had arrived: as the clock approached midnight, Caressa's essence would be stolen from her and flood Daunta with more power than any member of the Sisterhood had ever possessed.
That Charys and her minions now occupied Imelda's palace allowed Duanta to savor the delicious irony of bringing the captive Caressa back to her own sleeping chamber for the first time since Imelda's forces had been driven into exile. Tied naked and spreadeagle on the silken coverlet of her own bed, wrists and ankles fastened to bedposts with what remained of her silken garments, her mouth still stuffed with the drugged cloth, not even her narcotized state could blunt Caressa's horror at the fate awaiting her, or the sight of her captor, equally nude, poised triumphantly above her. Daunta settled herself down, biting her lip to keep from squealing with ecstacy at the heat of contact, as her loins met Caressa's. The gagged prisoner's hopeless wail thrilled Daunta, and she began to slowly grind herself against her captive. For an instant, Daunta feared she might black out at the sheer sensual force flowing into her, but she quickly recovered, and redoubled the rhythm of her assault.
The power--- it's growing!!
Daunta closed her eyes, and threw her head back and forth, her silken black hair flying like a banner, cries of animal passion ripping her throat as she lost herself in plundering Caressa's power, her soul, and her life.
Moving briskly down the corridor toward the room where Caressa was being held captive, Conyn abruptly halted, cocked her head to listen, and looked around.
"What in hell...?"
After a moment, Bronwyn heard it, too: unsettling, animalistic noises, growing in intensity as they neared the bedchamber. As the pair drew closer, the sounds became voices: female voices; one muffled and whimpering, the other roaring in full-throated abandon.
Conyn sprinted to the door of the room, the sounds now taking on an unearthly quality that prickled her scalp. She yanked at the door handle, and was surprised to find it unlocked. She threw it open and flung herself inside, Bronwyn scrambling behind her.
For a moment, all either could do was stare at the sight of the two stark naked witches: Caressa, bound to her bed and wailing through her gag, and Daunta perched atop her, rutting away like a sailor on shore leave, screaming her triumph as she flung herself back and forth, oblivious to anything happening around her.
Conyn's hesitation lasted barely a second: as Daunta threw her head back once more, Conyn reached out, grasped a fistful of tossing black hair, and yanked the sorceress off her prey. She drew back her other hand and delivered a stunning punch that left Daunta a senseless pile of trembling flesh on the floor. She turned to Bronwyn.
"Don't worry-- she's not dead. We need this one alive." She nodded toward the bed. "Free Caressa, and let's get this bitch tied up before she wakes and causes any more mischief."
The counselor had already begun to undo Caressa's bonds. Once her hands were free, the sorceress pulled from her mouth the scarf that had been used to silence her.
"Use this to gag her." Her voice was still hoarse and trembling from her ordeal. She handed the thick, sodden scarf to Conyn. "There is enough of the drug they used on me to keep her powerless for a while yet."
"Won't need it long," Conyn grunted, but she took the advice, opening the unconscious Daunta's mouth and stuffing it with the black silk, binding it in place at the nape of her neck; she waited a moment, to ensure that her captive could still breathe, then flipped her over onto her front, pulled her arms up onto her back, and set about trussing her wrists and ankles with more of the black silk that had recently imprisoned Caressa.
Conyn smiled grimly at Bronwyn. "I told you-- we finish this." She turned to Caressa. "Where would Hynde have taken the princess?"
Caressa had recovered herself enough to force a thin smile of her own.
"I don't know, myself, but I can help you find them-- if you're not above using a bit of magic." She reached down to her dressing table, and picked up a heavy black key, which glowed faintly as she raised it.
"This was Daunta's; she had my kidnappers use it to gain access to my room. It will open any lock, in perfect silence. And when wielded by a member of the Sisterhood, it can also show the location of anyone she wishes." She closed her eyes, and held the key to her forehead; Conyn saw the glow change from a pale green to a deep red. "It has found Imelda."
Conyn badly wanted to sneer at any and all things magic, but if this damn thing actually worked...
She hauled the bound and gagged Daunta up onto her shoulder.
"Get some clothes on," she snapped at Caressa. "And lead the way."
General Hynde had no particular interest in the hocus-pocus of the Virgin Sisterhood, but without knowing it, he shared Daunta's sense of almost unbearable anticipation: tonight, he would take his greatest conquest: despoiling the beautiful, haughty Princess Imelda, and the wait during Charys' interminable celebration had been sheer agony.
A better man might have admired the unbroken spirit of his captive: the way that Imelda had endured her humiliation at the feast, the way she had refused to allow being displayed as a naked captive to destroy her pride.
Instead, Hynde was precisely the opposite: the coward and bully that Conyn had immediately recognized him for, nothing less than Imelda's utter ruination and despair, to be delivered by his cock, would satisfy him, and he was near to madness with impatient lust.
He had watched impassively as the guards had shredded the rest of Imelda's garments as they finished stripping her. He debated having them leave her mouth free, for his degraded pleasure, but the glare that Imelda was giving him made him cautious about what might happen when he tried it, and he had them replace the leather bit gag with a cloth bandage wound several times about her mouth and head; plenty of time for disciplining that haughty mouth later. Her arms were tied up against the headboard of the bed, her legs spread wide and ankles knotted to the side rails.
Gods, even the sight of her blue eyes blazing at him over the gag was arousing him more than he could ever recall having been. The naked form laid out before him was not only a beautiful woman, it was power to be stolen and owned. After all, was he not about to take full possession of royalty? With the former princess as his property, even Charys would have to defer to him. He was about to rape his way to power.
He trembled slightly as he approached his captive, almost uncertain if he could reach the bed before climaxing, when something that was almost a sound, but not quite, came to his ears. Something that might have been movement flickered at the corner of his eye, and his world went dark.
Hynde was dreaming. It was a strange dream-- a dream of a world that was dark and confining. He thought his eyes were open, but he could see nothing; his head ached damnably and his senses were woozy. He tried to move, and nothing happened-- was he asleep? Was it a waking dream?
Where was he? He fought to make sense of this. He had been in his bedchamber, had he not? And was there someone... Imelda! The lovely blond princess was bound to his bed, helplessly restrained and poised to receive the first of many assaults he planned on her. God, that's right-- dream or no dream, he was still monstrously horny, and if he could just fight his way out of this blackness...
And suddenly, it all made sense. For there she was. His erect, aching member slid into the warm folds of a woman's most secret place. If it seemed odd that he couldn't see her, couldn't in fact even remembering entering her, that uncertainty was lost in the sheer sensation of plunging himself into... a virgin! By the gods, he hadn't expected that! Imelda was a cold fish, to be sure, but he'd never imagined that that he might be the first man to plunder her womanhood. The sense of triumph, of conquest, drove him harder. Something was off about it--he could feel something hard under him; he seemed to be seated, with the woman in his lap, which was not how he remembered it--but dizziness and lust drove all thought from his brain, and he found himself roaring the obscenities of a man in the final moments before climax. His voice sounded strangely muffled and far away; so, for that matter, did the woman's cries of... passion? Gods, had he conquered the princess already? The thought spurred him on in a frenzy, thrust after thrust after... and then, the explosion, like nothing he could have ever dreamed... again and again... she was grasping him now, shuddering and shaking, in a mad crescendo...
and now blackness, deep and dark.
"That was disgusting." Imelda was massaging her wrists where the binding fabric had cut into them. She and Bronwyn stood in a kind of mute horror.
On a chair in front of them slumped the tightly-bound form of General Hynde, naked, his head covered in yards of muffling black cloth.
Upon his lap was draped the trembling Daunta: still trussed and gagged, and impaled on his softening cock; she sagged against Hynde, her eyes closed, half-conscious, tiny murmurs forcing their way past the gag.
"I would never have permitted such an outrage," Imelda snapped at Conyn, who was casually observing the two bound and sweating figures.
"That's why I didn't untie you till it was done. I have to say," Conyn went on, "that damned key actually worked-Hynde didn't hear a thing as we entered." She hefted the heavy butt of the sword she had taken from the body of Captain Tarn. "And clubbing him with this thing was the most fun I've had in weeks."
"Nevertheless," Imelda continued, "You had him rape that woman."
"In case you've forgotten, that's what she was doing to your little tame witch when we found her. And what he was planning to do to you. Wouldn't hurt you to show a little gratitude."
"You had no right to make that choice. I will-"
Imelda turned to Carissa.
"The spell of the Black Phoenix." Carissa's voice was almost wistful. "It's broken. Because Daunta is no longer a member of the Virgin Sisterhood."
"I guess not," Conyn grinned wryly, looking down at the bound and gagged witch now sleeping peacefully against Hynde's chest.
Imelda opened her mouth to deliver another appalled reprimand, but was distracted by a sound coming up from the palace grounds below.
"What is that?"
"That,"Conyn observed, "Would be the sound of your loyal subjects who have awakened from being under that damned spell, and who are planning to take out their unhappiness on those responsible. Wonder how your cousin's head will look on a pike?"
"Sounds an excellent idea," snarled Imelda. She looked down at the still unconscious Hynde and Daunta. "And these two will be exiled to the Isle of Despair, where they can carry on their beastly perversions away from decent society."
"Your Highness," Bronwyn murmured, "Would this not be an excellent time to show mercy?"
"Mercy?" Imelda shrieked. "If you think-"
"By all the gods, not this again!" Conyn turned on her heel and headed for the door.
"You can't leave," yelped the princess. "There are affairs of state to be settled now that I am restored."
"If they involve more magic spells, or plots where I deliberately allow myself to be kidnapped, you can just leave me out of it."
"Conyn, where are you going?" Bronwyn called.
"To see if Hynde and his cronies left any liquor in this place, because the only way I can stand to be around any more of this 'statesmanship' is to get blind, stinking drunk."
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