“Has morning come early, Lord Fendri?” the man in the bed asked.
Fendri sat his tray on the bed and showed an expression of mild frustration. Then he set about drawing back the curtains around the room to allow the sunlight to enter. In a disappointed voice he proclaimed, “It is mid-morning, my Good Lord Mandrean. You have an eventful day planned. I would have presumed you would have made less active use of your bed. Your endurance will be needed later in the day more than it was last night.”
One of the girls responded. “Trust me, Lord Fendri. He needed all his endurance last night.” She smiled like a temptress and caressed Lord Mandrean’s face.
Fendri wrinkled his lips to one side as he beheld the absent attire of the ladies. Then he sighed and responded, “I am sure he did. Nevertheless, our Lord has greater demands this day.” He ushered the slaves to bring their trays to the concubines in the bed. Then he lifted his master’s tray and set it over his lap with sides extending down to hold it aloft. Once the coverings were removed, a huge breakfast was revealed. The plates for the emperor held steak, eggs, bacon, fresh bread and fruit. A small pot of tea completed the meal. The concubines had smaller portions of the same foods.
As the inhabitants of the bed ate, Fendri and the slaves gathered randomly discarded clothing from the floor and piled it by the stairs. “I shall have the maid come shortly to tidy your rooms Sire.” He picked up several empty wine bottles and placed them by the clothing. “It would seem your private wine cellar is in need of restocking. You appear to be dipping into vintages you seldom touch.”
“Make sure you do that,” Mandrean said with his mouth full of steak. “I was meaning to bring that to your attention. See to it that it is filled by this evening. I intend to have several of my ladies for the night.”
“Will we be among them?” the girl to his right asked.
Mandrean did not even turn his head when he addressed her. “No, you will not. I want variety. Tonight I shall have Sixty-two, Sixty-nine and Seventy-one brought to me. See to it early, Fendri, so they may have time to prepare.”
“My Lord,” asked the second girl. “Were we not to your liking?”
Again, Mandrean did not look at the girl to whom he was speaking. “If you were not to my liking I would have no use for you and you would be dead. You were both adequate. I will be calling on you again. Tonight I have different cravings.”
Fendri took a position standing at the foot of the bed with his hands behind his back and his posture perfect. It was as though he were at attention. “There is another matter, My Lord.”
Mandrean sipped his tea and then picked at his teeth to dislodge a morsel of steak stuck between them. “What matter is that,” he said without interest.
Fendri cleared his throat and said, “Concubine Number One is currently at the outer doors requesting an audience with you.”
“I did not send for her,” Mandrean said in amazement.
“To be sure,” Fendri agreed. “Nevertheless she awaits an audience and is determined to wait until you see her.”
“That shriveled up old prune,” called one of the girls. “This is our time with our Master. She has no right to infringe on our visit.”
“Quite right,” Mandrean agreed. “Send her away.”
“While it would give me no greater pleasure,” Fendri concurred. “It will only strengthen her resolve. She will need to be removed by force. The situation will turn unpleasant both in the hall and in the lower levels with the other concubines.”
Lord Mandrean set down his tea and sighed. “You are right as always, old friend. We cannot allow her to become a cancer among the girls. I must entertain her most recent tirade. Bring her before me now.”
Fendri bowed and struck his heals together. “My Emperor is wise as he is powerful. I shall fetch her straight away.”