Music filled the hall as Tarbus began to tuck in to the feast laid out in front of him. The long table he sat at the head of was filled with meats, bread, vegetables and fruits. Often he would have his finest commanders dine with him but this evening it was just his women present. The warlord was tall, strong and tanned with brown eyes and hair. His natural good looks and power attracted beautiful women to him; women who wanted to live in the luxury of his palacial home in Thrace, just a days ride away from the Greek border.
He was a man who believed in having fine things and lots of them. He had no desire for a wife and certainly had no desire for monogamy. Instead his tastes were best serviced in the arms or multiple women, often many women at a time. Currently he had twelve women living in his home; all willing to bend to his every desire and whim in return for pretty clothes, hearty meals and plenty of wine.
Tonight there was a band of musicians from one of the local town's he controlled there to entertain him. The music was lively and later there would be dancing. Not that Tarbus would partake in the dancing. Instead he would recline and admire the women dancing for him and pick his bed partners from the night.
The warlord had heard nothing from his commander, Rhesus, whom he had sent to raid a town in the forest. It was a day's ride away and he expected them back this evening. Unlike other local towns the town of Edessa was naturally well fortified as it sat within a forest which ran to the edge of a cliff face dropping down to a river. It was also the home of a settling tribe of warrior women who were extremely handy at protecting their home. The town did have good trade with other local towns and villages but was also capable of being very self contained.
Until recently Tarbus had thought Edessa had little strategic or financial value to him so had left it untouched. However, rumour had reached him that a great artifact from time of the Olympian Gods was hidden there. This artifact would make anyone who chose to wield it more powerful than every other warlord. With it he could depose the Thracian King and even conquer large areas of Greece and Dacia.
On queue the door to the large hall swung open and Commander Rhesus strode in. Rhesus was his youngest commander and an excellent fighter. He was trying to project an air of confidence but Tarbus was no fool, he could see a slight hesitancy in the mans step. There was still blood on his armour from the fight but Rhesus himself looked unscathed. Tarbus raised his hand to silence the musicians and the women in the hall. Instantly silence descended.
“That is not the face of a commander who has succeeded at what he has been asked to do” Tarbus sneered at the commander.
The Commander halted at the far end of the table but continued to stand tall and proud. He had obviously rode hard and without a break as his eyes were drawn to the feast laid out in front of him. Tarbus wondered why the younger man had rushed or even dared return at all if he bore bad news.
“We did not retrieve the artifact or discover its location but...” Rhesus began to explain.
“You told me that YOU were the man to get it and I told YOU that if you failed I would remove your head from your shoulders” Tarbus cut in irritably.
The warlord was disappointed. He had believed that Rhesus was the man for the role despite his young age. It seemed a waste to kill such a promising fighter but Tarbus was a man of his word. A threat must be carried through or others may think him weak.
“...But I did bring something else back with me” the Commander continued to explain.
Tarbus stood from his seat and glared at Rhesus. He couldn't imagine what the younger man could have brought back with him from the town that could appease him but his interest was piqued. Edessa had an air of mystery around it that meant there could be something else of value there.
“Is a weapon more powerful than any made by the hands of man?” the warlord asked.
“No” Rhesus admitted.
Tarbus sighed and placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. The women around him all looked from one man to another, all aware that the Commander was on dangerous ground.
“Is it jewels worth half the Roman Empire?” Tarbus gave the man a final chance to keep his head.
“No but...” Rhesus started to try and explain again.
When the younger man saw the ire on the warlords face he changed his approach and gestured back towards another of the men who was lingering in the doorway.
“Bring in the prisoner” Rhesus called as he waved to the soldier.
The warlord relaxed his hand on the hilt of his weapon and took a few steps around the table in the Commanders direction. The door of the hall opened further again and two soldiers entered dragging a bound woman between them. Despite the fact her arms were tied behind her back the woman was still making it hard for them to move her. She kept twisting out of their grip and throwing her weight of her own legs so they had to virtually carry her.
“An Edessian warrior” Tarbus sneered. “Its not a diamond as big as my hand but it is enough to keep you breathing...for now.”
Rhesus instantly looked relived and relaxed his tense pose. The warlord had to give the young Commander is due. He had more guile that other's Tarbus has sent to raid the town before him. They had either died trying or returned with only apologies.
The woman was short but had powerful muscles. She wore leather garments that covered only the essential areas and leather gauntlets. It was obvious she was a warrior not only from her physique but from two impressive scars she boasted; one on her upper arm and the other across the left side of her defined stomach. Had she not been of such great value he would desire her in his bed especially as she would not come willingly. Other women fell at his feet but there was something very desirable about a woman he had to break. Instead it was likely he would have to see her physically and emotionally broken to spill her secrets.
“What is your name woman?” he demanded.
The woman ignored him and even dared raise her chin and glance to the right in defiance. He smiled darkly at her even though her lack of fear irked him. Unlike Rhesus who had tried to project an air of bravery on entrance to the hall this woman truly was unmoved by his presence.
“I'm not the most patient of men so I suggest you answer my questions” he threatened; making his way closer to her so he was stood directly in front of her. Now he could easily tower over her and he wondered if she would feel quite as confident with him looming over her.
“What is your name?” he repeated his earlier question.
If she was threatened by him then it didn't show in her body language. Instead she turned her head to face him and stared directly into his eyes. That would have annoyed him on its own but when she smiled in his face it made him livid.
Tarbus snatched his hand out and grabbed a huge chunk of her raven hair, pulling her head back roughly. There was a flash of pain in her eyes but still no sign of fear. It was no wonder they were such fierce warriors if they were this brave in battle. He almost admired her. Almost.
“I...will...make...you...hurt” Tarbus growled in her face. He enunciated every single world menacingly, his spit spraying her face.
He didn't wait for a reaction, partly as he didn't expect one, and partly because he didn't want her to see how annoyed he really was. Instead he pushed her away roughly into the arms of the two lingering soldiers.
“Make her talk” he ordered the Commander who stood silently to his right still. “I don't care how or how much damage you do...just get me answers.”
Rhesus nodded in accent and nodded to the soldiers. They began to drag the Edessian out of the hall again, still kicking, with the Commander following on wearily behind. The man probably hadn't slept in 48 hours but Tarbus couldn't care less. If Rhesus wanted to impress him then he'd battle through his exhaustion and torture the woman until she spilled all.
As soon as the hall doors slammed shut behind them Tarbus turned his attention back to his own evenings entertainment.
“Well?” he directed at the terrified looking musicians. “Carry on!”
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