******** I am sorry for being so lazy, but you know the UNI and the work... So here another little chap, I hope, that I soon can provide more. Special thanks to Bella and Arwen and a warm greeting to Halewyn's Lady and all other new readers. **********

The iron bars were slam shut. And Mab sat there in the cell, breathing heavily. This couldn't be. She was exhausted, but firmness could be seen in her face. The other captured women just looked at her pityingly. "Don't you think you can escape", the oldest of them said. "They brought us in a well guarded fort. There are many armed men." Mab just snorted. Men. They were just men. But though they had captured a fairy queen not even knowing what treasure they were holding. And now she even had to share a cell with those stinking barbarian women. For the moment she could do nothing but wait. She placed herself into the far corner, leaning on the wall she closed her eyes trying to ignore her surroundings, trying to focus on her powers. But no, there still was a feeling that was always penetrating her thoughts – the stabbing pain in her back. It didn't work. She would have to rely on the time, when her wound was healed or at least when the pain faded. But who could tell how long it would take her? She couldn't tell from her experience. Three weeks and still it had not gotten much better. She decided that she probably had to use other methods to get out of this situation. Maybe she could convince the leader of those men who had taken them. They had to be men from Uther's kingdom. So maybe she could make a bargain with them. On the other hand she knew it was impossible to come at peace with those Christians. She had to try her best, so she waited for the guards to return. But the minutes got longer and became hours. The more of them passed the more it seemed that the walls around her came nearer and nearer. She could imagine how Merlin must have felt, when he had been thrown into Vortigern's oubliette.

Meanwhile the city of Durnovaria was vividly busy. Ships were entering the haven. Merchants met on the market place preparing their wares. Goods from all parts of the kingdom were brought by the British traders and continental goods like wine, cloth and fruits were debarked by traders from Byzantium or Gaul. In the afternoon the marked was filled with the noise of many bargainers and chafferers. Every man tried to sell his goods for the best price. Aurelianus wandered down the lanes between the market stands. At several blacksmiths he stopped over, inspecting the swords, lances and armors which were kept for sale. He would buy the new arming for his troops, the payment would be provided by the selling of their captives. In the center of the crowded place, workers were constructing the podium for the public sale of the slaves. It was time to look after his own wares, Aurelianus decided. He went to for a last check on the prisoners.

Mab was startled from her reverie when the gates of her cell were thrown open. Three servicemen entered followed by a man, who looked superior according to his armor. The later was scanning one after another of the prisoners. Then he gave commands and his lackeys were obeying with "Yes, my Lord". They were taking the selected persons and were handing them to the guards waiting outside the cell, who brought them away. For a moment Mab watched this suspiciously. Then she realized what was going on. Oh no, she thought not with me. She reasoned that the one giving commands must be the one person in charge. She spun directly at him, with clenched fists she called: "How dare you to do this? Have you any idea who I am?" Before she could reach him, two of the soldiers got hold of her stopping her with firm grip. The third punched her into the stomach. All air was pressed out of her lungs and if she would not have been held by the two others, she would have collapsed. The third was just attempting for another hit, when he was ordered back by his Lord. Aurelianus took a closer look. The woman they had found among the Pictish warriors. With a grin on his face he asked mockingly: "And to whom do I owe the pleasure?" Mab had to blink the tears in her eyes away. Then she looked up and with all possible grace she answered: "I am Queen Mab of the Old Ways." To her distress Aurelianus had no idea what that meant. He had been raised in the Romano-Christian ways, he held no knowledge of the old Celtic myths. "So you are a Queen…I guess of the Picts, or of which tribe?" Mab was indignant. But what could she answer? "No no you don't understand," she said, "I don't belong to a tribe – I am a Queen to all the pagan folks of this country!" Aurelianus laughed. He had heard many excuses and pleadings to this day, but this was just the top of it. "That I believe is not really a reason for me to let you go.", he stated, "First – my brother is the only king I obey and second – we are at war with all pagans." He nodded towards his men. They tightened their grip on Mab and started to drag Mab out of the cell. "Wait!", she screamed, "Wait! I know your brother is king Uther!" Aurelianus looked questioning. "And?" "His consultant is a friend of mine", she declared hoping that her connection to Merlin could be of use now. But the lord seemed unbelieving. "Don't tell me you – a warrior Queen from the north have anything to do with my brothers court.", he stated. "But I know his wizard – Merlin!", she nearly pleaded. Aurelianus snorted. Of course he had heard of this man, everyone in this kingdom had. He wouldn't be surprised if the reputation of that man had even reached the continent by now. This woman was making something up just to save her neck. "I will hear none of your excuses.", he decided and to his men he said: "Take her outside now."