Behold our splendor and rejoice! We are Zenobia, bringing civilization to you pale barbarians, shivering in the shadow of the Serpent! We come, bearing arms, which we train you to use. Chains, which you can bind the Serpent’s Brood with, transforming them into your tame pets. Truly, there is no need for a savage slaughter. We shall teach you to master your enemies as we did centuries ago. For once upon a time, a Zenobia slew the Serpent. Now, that She rises once more, we are here to face her once more. We shall take your lands in the protection of our queendoom, share with you our riches, our learning…what? You say we are speaking within a Cauldron? What witchery is this? Let us out at once! Not until we share a snippet of ‘A Suitor’s Challenge’? Don’t trifle with us, petty scribbler! Fine! Behold our magnificence, as we shine from the printed page in this petty work of fiction!
“We want Stephen Jasior as an Imperial gesture of good faith.” Zenobia didn’t even look at Stefan while demanding his hand in marriage. She addressed her words to the jeweled figure seated and veiled upon the throne. “We honor him as the first Zenobia honored Daryth Nevalyn centuries ago.”
“And we know how happy she made Daryth!” Stefan spoke without averting his eyes, allowing them to roam over the queen’s body in scornful appraisal. He was being as rude as he could possibly be to a Kalanthian. “If you wish to wed me, you must do as all my suitors do.” He raised his chin with bleak pride. “Face me within the Circle. Show me your magic and defeat me with your arts arcane.”
Zenobia blinked, her civilized sensibilities taken aback by this direct attack from a male, a barbarian, and serpent spawn. Quite the triple insult.