"Lieutenant Verona, I've been sent to relieve you."

"Understood."

Lieutenant Verona walked away, leaving Lieutenant Nimueh standing guard at the stairs leading to the count's bedroom.

Things had been tense among the guards lately, ever since the news of Valeera's death everyone had been waiting to find out who would take her place. The captain was the longest serving guard in Raum's army and, to be perfectly frank, one of his favourites. Because of that it was difficult to find a replacement and that also made it a less desirable position. Still, at least the perks were...

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Nimueh's thoughts were interrupted by the appearance of a young woman, her dress and mask clearly showing that she had just come from the ball. For a moment the woman looked at her, seeming a little uncomfortable as she slowly made her way up the stairs, entering the count's room. The lieutenant found herself giving the woman an encouraging nod before she was completely out of sight.

"Must be her first time." Nimueh murmured, watching her disappear around the corner.

Count Raum and Countess Empusa had been married for about twenty years now, still happily together and with a daughter, Elizabeth... but that did not mean the count was entirely faithful. In fact many other nobles had wondered if the reason he had predominantly female guards was to give him easy access to... companions. They weren't wrong, Nimueh herself had been with him three times and Valeera hadn't been his favourite for her leadership skills. With a ball going on it wasn't surprising that something in a dress had caught his eye.

There was only one thing that puzzled Nimueh... did Empusa know about her husband's affairs? Although they had never so much as yelled at each other before, any women who weren't guards seemed to disappear after their first 'moment' with Raum. So was that his orders for them to keep quiet... or Empusa getting rid of the competition?

"LIEUTENANT!"

Nimueh turned, standing to attention as Lieutenant Verona returned.

"Orders?"

"There's been evidence of a disturbance near the dungeons, one of those helot maggots is wandering around the grounds. We need to catch them before they cause any more trouble; if the ball is disturbed we will all be punished."

"Understood. Let's go."

The two of them made their way towards the west wing. Nimueh felt a little bad about leaving her post but seeing as the count should be there soon to entertain his guest it wouldn't be so bad.

Besides, what threat could there be in the count's bedroom?

A few moments later, Jen and Scree slowly crept down the stairs.

"Okay, the guard's gone. Let's get back to the tower." Scree said.

"Hey Scree, did you notice us being followed before?" Jen asked.

"Apart from Raum's daughter no, why do you ask?"

"The guard that was here... it was weird but the way she looked at me it felt like... like she knew why I was there. It was almost like she was trying to reassure me it was okay. Weird."