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He was her slave in one land, her lover in another. When the king’s sister saves a rebel from a troubled province, her act of mercy changes her life irrevocably and influences the course of her country’s future.
When they made the long slow turn at the river, she caught a glimpse of the rear of the procession. Yes, there were the prisoners still, most of them somehow still walking though they were roped to horses that dragged them every inch of the way. The riders seemed careful not to kill them just yet, which suggested an even worse fate when they reached the city once more. Some sort of execution platform would have been erected in their absence—something that didn’t require too much time. Lucien would not give rebels the honor of a protracted lifespan, though he might draw out their deaths if it pleased him. She already knew it would please him.
That was why she maneuvered Cloud adroitly to come up beside him when they reached the square in Primecta. He nodded very slightly, signifying that she might join him.
“You do me credit, Sister,” he complimented her. “Most women shrink from flaying.”
It explained the relative lack of preparation. Little panoply was required to simply whip a man to death in the street.
“Oh, I shrink, Lucien,” she assured him, with a brilliant carmine smile for the onlookers. “But never in public. I only thought…”—she let her smile grow winsome, “…perhaps as an act of mercy you might give me one for a slave. You did not gift me for my birthday, after all.”
“The horse was your gift,” he said, shortly, but she could see the thought had engaged him. Crowds were fickle. There was no telling how the people would react to the first public execution in years, though his agents had been hard at work stirring up emotion against Parthia. His father had left him an untroubled kingdom. Now, under governance of the stick, there were rumors of dissent.
“Just one?” she wheedled. “I care not which.”
“Oh, all right,” he said, with an eye to the crowd. “You choose. If you let him escape, however, I will not forget it.”
Invanine surveyed the motley bunch, her heart beating strongly. Lucien did not have a forgiving nature. Was it worth risking his anger to save a life? Her slaves never tried to escape; they knew how good they had it. It would be a real headache containing one who did want to leave. And yet—this was neither war nor sport. It was slaughter. Her hunter’s heart rebelled against it.
There were several men, all gaunt and bearded, all young. Several had sunk to the ground, unable to stand, but the guard had not bothered to beat them for it. They were going to die momentarily, so why bother? A couple were spitting on their captors and those were beaten. Another stood apart showing no emotion—no capitulation, no defiance. He looked like the soul had already left his body. Invanine pointed to him with her quirt.