Chapter One

I cursed at my own stupidity. Yelena is now in our dungeons', the one I wanted. The one I needed, to become the next food taster and I have just given the job to Oscove and few weeks previously. Only a few weeks and he's already made himself very close friends with Rand, our cook. Our cook who I know is not to be trusted. I know it won't be long before Oscove leaks information. And knowing Rand who is easily bribed, who is he to resist not keeping his mouth shut?

I took a deep breath, in an attempt to calm myself. I was getting too worked up over this. Maybe I had assumed wrong. Maybe Oscove won't tell. In the meantime I need to work up a way to get rid of him. Once he leaks information, I then have a good enough reason to kill him, but by then its too late, he's probably told Rand already. I knew he was a bad a choice.

Ever since I gave the job to Oscove I've been in a foul mood. To say we hated each other would be an understatement. But there is nothing I can do about it now. Well not for long anyway. As soon as I get the chance, he's gone. Meanwhile I need to make sure that Yelena stays in our dungeons and no guards connected to Brazell are ordered to kill her. To be honest I know that won't happen, everyone knows that Brazell wants the drama of a public hanging for his son's murderer. He had the right to kill her immediately, but I'm glad he didn't. I need Yelena. She may be the only key I have to this puzzle. I have never been keen on Brazell, to me I think he's up to something, it's about time I got to the end of this mystery. And for that I need Yelena. She used to live in his orphanage; with Yelena I may be able to shed some light onto the reason of the orphanage. I think everyone was shocked to say the least when he announced his plans, what had made him change his mind? I suppose everyone thought he had gone soft. But I thought differently.

5 seasons have past, almost a full year and I can't stand to see Oscove live another day. He is doing my head in. I know he's confessing everything to Rand. I just know it. I've stayed up all night thinking of a plan. And I have one. I know everyone will think I killed him and there is going to be a mass amount of rumours but I don't care about that. I never have really cared about what people think of me, only when they are trying to kill me. So this is no different. I can't stand Oscove and he can't stand me, so doing this will put both minds at rest. You can't work alongside someone you hate, he's just proved that.

Later this evening, I walked around my suite with a renewed sense of joy. Something I haven't felt in a long time, not since I killed the king, although I feel even he wins over Oscove. Because killing the King was the best day of my life. The day my brothers' killer was killed. I quickly changed the subject trying not to think of that again. I changed my mind to Yelena. I haven't met her yet but I know from the file that she will make an interesting food taster. I don't know what's going to happen with her but I will be finding out in a months time. Until then, the food taster's job lies with me. Won't Ambrose be happy? I laughed to myself. He always had hated cold food. With that memory in mind I headed off to bed.

The day I've been waiting for has finally arrived. I'm currently sitting in my office waiting for Yelena to arrive, reading her file again to double check my plan. I already knew I was going to have to act; so I planned it out in my head. I cannot reveal to her that I have been planning this for nearly a year.

A knock at the door interrupted my thoughts. The guards walked Yelena into my office. She looked around the room then focused her green gaze on me. Green eyes. Not every common in Ixia. She was obviously from Sitia. Won't this be interesting?

She shuddered, making the chains clatter. I scanned her, my eyes widening in surprise.

She glanced down at her tattered red prison gown and dirty bare feet, roughened with yellow calluses. Her long black hair hung in greasy clumps, Soaked with sweat, she swayed under the chains.

"A woman?" I asked. "The next prisoner to be executed is a woman?" Her body trembled at hearing the word executed. I tugged at my hair. "I should have taken the time to reread your dossier" A lie. Ever since she has arrived at our dungeons I've been rereading it constantly, trying to gather information. I shooed the guards away. "You're dismissed."

When the guards had left, I motioned for her to sit on the chair in front of me. The chains clanged together as she sat down.

I opened the folder and read the pages. "Yelena today must be your lucky day" I was quiet for a while, waiting for a sarcastic reply, there was none. She just bowed her head instead, avoiding eye contact. I was surprised. "Well behaved and respectful, you're starting to look like a good candidate."

Still avoiding eye contact, she looked thoughtfully at my desk.

"You have been tried and found guilty of murdering General Brazell's only son Reyad." I paused, stroking my temple. "That explains why Brazell's here this week, and why he's been unusually interested in the execution schedule" I spoke to myself. Although it was common knowledge that she had killed his son and fairly obvious why he is here this week.

"I suppose you're going to protest to the conviction. Say you murdered out of self-defence." I leaned back in my chair, waiting for a response.

"No sir," she whispered, her voice sounding raw from disuse, "I killed him."

I straightened in my chair, shooting her a hard look. Not the response I had expected, but not a big surprise either, seeing as she didn't answer any questions during the interrogation at Brazell's Manor. I laughed. "This may work out better than I'd planned, Yelena, I'm offering you a choice. You can either be executed, or you can be Commander Ambrose's new food taster. His last taster died recently," for which I'm glad, I thought to myself, "and we need to fill the position."

She gaped at me. "A fool would refuse the job" speaking louder this time.

"Well, it's a lifetime position. The training can be lethal. After all how can identify the poisons in the Commanders food if you don't know what they taste like?" I tidied the papers in the folder.

"You will get a room in the Commanders castle to sleep, but most of the day you will be with the Commander. No days off. No husband or Children. Some prisoners have chosen execution instead. At least then they know when they are going to die, rather than guessing if it's going to come with the next bite." I clicked my teeth together with a feral grin on my face.

Her whole body shook and I could read the excitement on her face. She obviously didn't care about anything I had just said; only that she had a chance to live. This was going better than I had expected.

"Who tastes the Commanders food now?" she asked."I do. So I'm anxious to find a replacement." More like Ambrose wants a replacement I thought to myself. "Also the Code of behaviour states that someone whose life is in forfeit must be offered the job."

No longer able to keep still, she stood and paced around the room, dragging the chains with her.

"What should I tell the executioner?" I asked, even though I already knew the answer.

"I am not a fool."