“You know I do not like being called that, Betrimpia,” Mandrean snapped.
“It is your name, My Lord,” Betrimpia noted. “There are no secrets here, as you said.”
“My name is no secret from Lord Fendri,” Mandrean said as he moved closer. “You have never spoken the truth in your life. Touching as your story is, I have a difficult time picturing you pining for me in your chamber. So let us dispense with your tricks and come to your real reason for ruining my morning.”
Betrimpia pursed her lips and said, “Very well. I was your very first consort. I have been with you since you became a man. Yet for years I have languished in the bowels of your estate being ridiculed by the over-bosomed, energetic young maids you keep at your whim. Every year you seek my companionship less and less. I have paid my dues and now desire what I have earned.”
“What you have earned,” Mandrean interjected, “is a sound thrashing.”
Betrimpia slammed her hand on the bed. “I have earned the right to be your wife. Marry me and make me the Empress I have spent nearly twenty years training to be.”
“Marry you?” scoffed Mandrean. “You have gone insane in your room. I require no empress and even if I chose one, it would certainly not be a conniving plotter like you.”
“Think of your son,” she pled.
Mandrean harshly stuck his finger in her face. Anger erupted from his lips. “For the last time, I have no son. You have an illegitimate child of origins I cannot say.”
Betrimpia shoved his finger aside and stood face-to-face with him. “You know there has never been another besides you. No man could even gain access to the lower chambers. Yet you still deny he is your son. Look at him. He carries your powerful frame and commanding disposition. His aptitudes rival your own and he looks like the man I knew all those years ago. Surely you must see he is of your blood.”
Mandrean sighed and looked toward the window. “I have given your son everything you have ever asked. The finest tutors in the empire have taught him. Philosophers, mathematicians, literary figures, warriors and the finest generals have educated him from birth. He has grown into a fine young man. I can do no more for him.”
“You can be his father,” Betrimpia pled. “Take me as your wife and acknowledge him as your son and heir.”
Mandrean turned to her and smiled like a person who has solved a riddle. “So that’s your game. You just want me to marry you so your son can take the throne. I wonder how long I would live after the nuptials. How long would it take you to poison my wine, or choke me in my sleep?”
“You know I could never do you harm Manenvious. I love you. I always have. If you feel so insecure, keep your whores in the cellar. I would suffer such indignity to make my Love happy.”
“Oh the women will stay,” Mandrean agreed. “You will no sooner be my wife than the sun will rise in the west.”
Betrimpia was visibly hurt by his words and formed tears in her eyes. “If that is what you require from me, I will resign myself to being Concubine Number One. I beg you, do not suffer your son to a life of humiliation. Adopt him as your own and make him your heir.”
“You know I do not believe in proclaiming an heir,” said Mandrean “Once one is named, the person wearing the crown tends to have his life cut short.”
“You would know all about that,” Betrimpia said just loud enough to be heard.
Mandrean’s anger could not be contained as he threw her to the floor. “Are you saying I had a hand in my father’s death?”
Betrimpia feigned terror as she covered her face. “Of course not. I merely was saying his untimely death coincided remarkably well with your reaching the age to attain the throne. No one would ever wish such a fate on you.”
“Such fate is not to be tempted,” Mandrean fumed. “I will name no heir. Even if I were to do so, it would never, ever, be your son.”
Betrimpia crawled on her knees. “So our son is to have no father?”
Mandrean poured a goblet of wine for himself. “Every child has a father. Yours simply does not know who it was that soiled his mother.”