Just what she needed, thought Megisa, two young, fiery spirits, with reckless desire spilling from their breathless lips. Bad enough that her scheme to use Lurotriga had been discovered by Catoriga, now these two presented yet another obstacle. Though she did not doubt their passion, their ignorance would put them, their lovers and everyone else in grave danger. What was already a long night was only going to get longer…
“I am Megisa,” she told them. “And you two are fortunate to be alive – only because of Gabinus here.”
“Thank you,” said the elder girl. “Were you one of those we saw yesterday?”
“First then, girls, tell me who you are,” ordered Megisa.
Once the girls told her, the floodgates of inquiry burst open as they sought answers to their many questions.
Holding up an exasperated hand, Megisa said: “Don’t speak; just listen, or you’ll learn nothing!”
When the two fell silent, Megisa began to explain: “You have stumbled into more trouble than you know, for the Durotriges are a divided people. Imagine a camp inside another camp; one man commands the whole camp without realising that it harbours a group of people, with different loyalties who answer to a different leader.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” muttered Inga.
Megisa ached for an end to the whole wretched business. She wondered now whether she should have just ignored the arrival of Ambrosius Aurelianus. But, in her desperation, she had clutched at this one last hope. Something about him – and what little she had heard about him – suggested he might be the man to deliver the Durotriges from their present misery. By offering him Lurotriga, she hoped to bind him to the future of her people: he was to be the hammer to crush her son, the smooth-tongued tyrant, Hargotrix. Yet, Ambrosius seemed less than receptive to the considerable enticements of Lurotriga and Megisa wondered whether the arrival of the two Saxon girls explained why.
Looking at the fair-haired, blue-eyed Saxon, Inga, Megisa studied her scarred face – what stories could that face tell, she wondered? The girl’s bold attempt to rescue Ambrosius certainly showed a deep commitment on her part, but how important was she to Ambrosius? Would he care if he never saw her again?
Even if Lurotriga was still prepared to bed Ambrosius, the presence of Inga might well make an immediate, formal marriage impossible.
“What are you to Ambrosius?” Megisa asked Inga.
“I am his; he is mine,” replied Inga simply.
Megisa nodded for, as she surmised, Inga was going to present a most regrettable complication. She could, of course, just hand the pair over to Hargotrix, but that would hardly endear her to Ambrosius. If she had read this man right, he would never forgive her for such a betrayal. Though she was prepared to sacrifice all to secure the future of her people, she knew that Ambrosius must be won over to her cause, not deceived into it.
Yet, delay was impossible for, the moment Vortigern arrived; her one opportunity would be lost.
A sly, dark thought slid into Megisa’s mind; perhaps there was a way to employ these Saxons. If she could get them close enough to her son, might they not do the deed themselves? Hargotrix could never resist new flesh – especially new, young flesh – and she judged that this pair would not surrender their bodies without spilling some blood. Even if they failed, the girls would still be a powerful tool, for the story would almost tell itself: two brave, young girls trying to free the men they loved and perishing at the hands of a cruel ruler.
What might Ambrosius be prepared to do to someone who had killed his lover?
Though Megisa felt a pang of regret that two girls so young must be used so ill, she judged that the fate of a whole people outweighed a few individual lives. All the same, it would need to be done cleverly; Ambrosius must never suspect that she had put the girls in harm’s way.
“I think I might be able to help you,” said Megisa. “Your menfolk are being held by my son, Hargotrix. As you’ve discovered already, you can’t get close enough to free them; but there might be another way of getting them released…”
“We’ve come this far,” said Inga. “Just tell us what we must do.”