It was the fifth year of the reign of Queen Myemi, in the third configuration of the stars, some 7,912 years after the creation of the world.
‘You’ve failed,’ said Huarch, sword in hand. He licked his lips and grinned an evil grin. ‘Her Majesty wants you taken alive, if possible.’
I glanced, once more, from one end of the temple to the other, but the only exit was through the Queensman. Arnecht, leaning on a pillar next to me, laughed and spat on the floor between herself and Huarch.
‘So she can watch us die herself, eh?’ growled Arnecht. Nyari and Fari gripped their spears so hard that I could see their knuckles turning white. They were too young for this. That, I regret – I should never have got them involved on this fool’s errand.
‘Eventually, yes. If I were in your position, I’d opt for a warrior’s death, of course. But I cannot make that decision for you.’
‘There are four of us,’ I said. Huarch nodded and took a step forward.
‘That almost makes it fair. Shall I kill you all at once, or do you want to take turns?’
This was no idle boast: Huarch was the First Sword of the Queensmen, and I could see the red shimmer of a royal enchantment over his skin.
‘Arnecht,’ I said. She glanced at me, just for a moment. ‘I’ll jump on his sword. You get the twins out and try to run.’
‘That won’t work,’ she hissed.
‘Do you have a better plan?’
Huarch took another step towards us. Arnecht grunted.
‘There’s four of us,’ she said, and raised her sword and knife. Huarch was nearly on us, now; I stepped to the side, and Nyari and Fari took their positions between me and Arnecht. Huarch stopped and laughed; he pointed his sword up to the ceiling, and the very point of it glowed like the sun.
‘Come on, then,’ said the Queensman. And we did.