Sun Lian raised the goblet to her lips, her sleeves sweeping over the table in one graceful motion, and in one movement the golden rim was kissing her lips. Dark red fluid flowed down her throat, hot and sharp at the same time.

"Where is she?" She asked the Captain of the Guard. "At the arena again?"

The officer bowed low before answering. "Yes, your Highness."

The wine made waves heat roll through her body, coiled itself in her stomach like a fiery snake. She could hear her ministers' voices in her head, complaining. It was only her fifth cup that morning. Or was it sixth? What did they care what state her mind was in, anyway? They knew how to run the country. They had each their tasks lined up like the little stripes on each their magisterial robes. The Empire didn't need her. The Empire didn't need any of them. Their time of glory was past. What else was there for heroes of another age?

"Tell her that if she gets drunk and destroys the tavern again, this time I won't bail her sorry ass out. " said Lian. "And call my maid. I need another drink."