Author : Clare Tong Lee

Elizabeth stared at herself in the mirror as her ladies flittered about twisting her hair into elaborate braids and adorning her with jewellery. In less than an hour they would be docking at the Rammajek spaceport and then they would be out of time. They would all be out of time.

Morana III had fallen eight months ago and her people had finally given an unconditional surrender. Not that they hadn’t tried to sue for peace before, they did after the destruction of Idona Prime and again after the Ralla Massacre. Elizabeth’s father hadn’t even objected when Arishkah Vehn had demanded her as a wife. A wife on Rammajek was nothing more than a body slave.

Still, Elizabeth had been born to serve her people as much as she had been to rule them, and she knew her duty. From the cradle to the grave her thoughts would be of her people: their protection, their happiness, their honour. Today, that meant marrying the Butcher of Fenna. Vehn was so pleased, so triumphant on the holobroadcast, a well calculated blow in demanding the Jewel of the Empire. ‘The spoils of war go to the victor’ he had said, ‘and I shall make spoils of it all.’

Elizabeth rubbed her fingers as the ship docked, and considered the poison sacs that had been implanted under her nails in the days after the surrender. Her marriage bed would be christened by blood like in the days of old, but this time it would not be that of her maidenhead.

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