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Contents Copyright by Bruce Durham unless noted otherwise

Anezka stamped the floor and crossed her arms in displeasure. “This won’t do. This just won’t do.” Servants paused in their work, eyes focused on the elderly slave glaring from beneath thick, gray eyebrows. She flicked a wrist. “Move the chairs near the window, but not in the sunlight. The King and his guest must be refreshed by the breeze, not suffer discomfort. And the table, shade it, the fruit must be cool. King Prusias likes it that way. Better yet, you there, take that gauze and hang it across the window. Now the braziers; move those two near the columns. There, and there. And a carpet, we must have a carpet between the chairs. Quick now.” She clapped her arthritic hands, the skin of her thin arms quivering.


Chair legs scraped the stone floor. A curtain was draped over the window, its sheer weave softening the late-morning sunlight. A small stone table was placed between the chairs and the braziers repositioned. Two slaves appeared from a side entrance, manhandling a brightly woven rug.


Anezka watched; nodded judiciously as the room was set to her liking. She turned when one half of the large cedar double-doors swung open. A young male slave rushed up to her.


“Mother, the King arrives with his guest.”


Anezka nodded curtly. All slaves in the household called her Mother, even those who despised her strict ways. She swept the room one last time, found the preparations to her satisfaction. She clapped again. “To your places. Bring drink, and fruit.” She rolled her eyes. “You, get the fan. It will be stifling hot before long.”


A young girl, dark and slender, bowed and ran sprightly to a cushion. She sat and clasped a rope that led to a square wicker panel, pulling gently with a steady rhythm. Anezka stood underneath it; allowed the breeze to wash across her wrinkled features. She nodded approval.


Voices outside the hall announced the arrival of King Prusias and his guest. The second double-door swung open and two men entered side by side, deep in conversation.


King Prusias wore a purple tunic edged with gold weave. In his early forties, his once-lean body now tended to fat. Large, liquid eyes flanked a hooked nose reaching for his thick lips. Anezka found him very unattractive.


(Bruce) brought the wily old general to life in the way that I pictured him...far more like the Hannibal I’ve envisioned from all my reading than the versions I’ve seen in other historical fiction. That was nicely done. - Howard Andrew Jones, Managing Editor, Black Gate
A first-rate story, quite worthy of your attention. - Firebrand Fiction Reviews
I like history on an intimate scale... so I enjoyed this story. - Tangent Online
Durham knows his history... - Lois Tilton - IRoSF

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