As Kail lulls the king into a false sense of security by playing the part of a coward who wants to sit out the war, Yuri second guesses the wisdom of his strategy. They are unarmed in the heart of enemy territory with only five servants for back-up. With their army outside the city gates, they have nothing to stop the palace guard from murdering them. Kail shows Yuri off, bragging about his beautiful new concubine, and kisses her openly to give the impression that he is feckless lech. After he’s played the part of a decadent idiot to the hilt, he announces he is retiring to his guest chamber to boink Yuri.
The king concludes that Kail is a harmless fool, nothing like the talented and shrewd general his reputation paints him to be, and decides that they will take no action until Prince Mattiwaza returns from the battlefield. He will let the prince have the pleasure of striking Kail down. In private, Kail finally reveals the full scope of his plan to his followers. Now that they are in the heart of the fortified city they will take it in five days through sabotage. They will learn the guard’s patrol routes and then set fire to the armories. Once their soldiers are deprived of a way to fight back, they will open the gates, allowing the Hittite army in during the dead of night. Out manned and caught by surprise, the Milatians should have no choice but to surrender.
Kail sends the sisters and his personal vassal, Kikkuri, to go find the map of the city with the patrol routes on it. Yuri is anxious about being alone with Kail at night because she fears that, since he has helped her so much, he might start to demand her tit for his tat. Again, I think her new found fear stems from Zannanza’s attempted assault, as she had gotten used to sleeping next to him before that happened. She elects to go along with the servants on their mission to avoid being put in the awkward position of denying him.
While sneaking through the palace in search of the map, Yuri notices a rider being deployed. The sisters tell her not to worry about it as the soldiers outside will stop anyone from getting a message to Mattiwaza. However, the men on watch spot the rider but they are killed by Urhi, who has disguised himself as a priest to spy on their movements.
Unaware that Mattiwaza will return soon, Kail and his conspirators move on to the next phase of the plan – compromising the city’s defenses. While the servants handle the dirty work, Kail needs to keep the royals distracted at their nightly banquet. This leaves him and Yuri alone in their room for a few hours. Yuri is anxious and tries to keep Kail distracted from the subject of sex by playing Egyptian chess. Kail notices how uncomfortable and nervous she is and tells her point blank that while he’d like to hit it, he’s not going to force himself onto her. It would also be nice she could tell him what he could do to hurry things up though.
Yuri uses some wine to draw a heart on the table and tells him that he will not be breaching the gates of paradise until she’s sure that they love each other. Kail counters by drawing a wine-heart on her palm and kissing her hand. This puts Yuri at ease enough to let Kail kiss her. I will admit that is a very cute scene. Servants interrupt their moment to summon him to the banquet.
One of the Kail’s generals arrives with news that Mattiwaza is on the way, but commoners aren’t allowed in the banquet hall. Yuri decides to go in anyway, risking being killed on the spot for her insolence, to warn Kail that the enemy is coming. She strides in brazenly. The captain of the palace guard pulls his sword, but Yuri sashays over to Kail and puts on a great show of being a clingy dimwit. Kail is able to disarm the incident and Yuri whispers to him that the jig is up. They make a hasty retreat from the party.
Kail gives the signal to open up the gates earlier than planned. The Hittites swarm in just in advance of Mattiwaza’s return. Kail’s army has the upper hand but they get word that the Mitanni are raiding the treasury. Yuri remembers that they need to find the dragon’s eye so the Mitanni can’t use it against them and goes to find it before Kail can stop her. Yuri tosses the royal treasure vault in search of the dragon’s eye. Urhi stumbles in on her. She doesn’t recognize him because she’s never seen his face before (he’s always covered it with a cloak). When they unearth it from a pile of riches, he knocks Yuri out and steals the treasure. Since dragging Yuri back to Nakia would slow him down, he decides to leave her to the tender mercies of the enemy soldiers which is rather stupid when you think about it. They’ve made such a big deal about killing Yuri up to this point. If she is taken captive, there is a chance that she could live for years as a prisoner of war.
Urhi flees but before he can escape, he runs right into Mattiwaza’s chariot. Mattiwaza spares him because he is a priest and tells him to deliver a message back to Kail- the Mitanni will abandon Malatia to their control but he swears vengeance against the Hittite Prince. Unfortunately, he drops the dragon’s eye and the Mitanni seize it as plunder.
The Mitanni load Yuri onto their cart of stolen treasure. They intend to sell her as a slave. The sisters are manning the battlements with bows and spot Yuri as they take her away. Hadi goes to tell the prince what happened. Kail completely loses it and tries to go after her. His general have to physically restrain him as the move would put his life at risk. Kail yells out that he loves Yuri and won’t abandon her. His chief advisor Ilbani reminds him of responsibility to the troops under his command. Kail calms down to an almost disturbing degree and issues the commands to restore order to the city. This is another really great scene as the art just really conveys the moment reason reasserts itself and he makes the terrible choice to let her go without more than few words. Kail resolves to push on to the Mitanni capital as that is where they would take a slave for auction. He hopes that he can find her there and reclaim her.
Fortunately for Yuri, the twins get themselves captured by the Mitanni so they can try to protect her. Rumor has already reached the Mitanni prince’s ears that Kail’s concubine, the woman the Hittites believe is Ishtar, is among their captives. He orders all prisoners of war brought before him. Yuri is unconscious and dressed in fine clothing. One of the twins exchanges her simple dress for Yuri’s expensive one, hoping that she will be mistaken for the concubine. Ryui, the twin tasked with impersonating Yuri, risks being executed to taunt Kail, but she is that loyal to her mistress.
Yuri wakes up just as they are being corralled before the prince. She sees how scary he is when he beheads a woman who offers to be his concubine because she thinks he is looking to expand his harem. The prince examines the women. Just when he gets the end of the line and Yuri thinks Ryui is safe, Mattiwaza reaches over and grabs her. She may be dressed in plain clothing but he can smell the frankincense in her hair which tells him that she is the royal concubine as only a royal can afford that perfume.
Mattiwaza drags Yuri back to his capital, Wassugani, intending to make her execution into a grandiose production and let everyone see that she is just a normal woman. He kills any slave that collapses during the march as they are unfit for hard labor if they falter. To be extra cruel, Mattizawa tells Yuri that he won’t sell off his captives until after they watch her die. Yuri notices her horse among the plunder. Mattiwaza makes a deal with Yuri. He is going to tie her to the stake and set a lion on her. If the lion doesn’t eat her (lions are Ishtar’s sacred animal), he will grant her anything she asks of him.
In the pit, Yuri watches the lion prowl toward her. It leaps at her but, instead of shredding her to ribbons, it knocks over the stake she’s bound to. Aslan, her horse, breaks loose and jumps into the pit. Yuri frees herself from the ropes and jumps on the horse’s back. Mattiwaza has the twins tossed into the pit. Yuri doesn’t even think about leaving them. She picks up a jagged piece of the broken stake and stabs the lion to death…like a boss. We get another really awesome shot of a triumphant Yuri astride her horse as the crowd cheers. Mattiwaza’s plan has backfired. With her victory over the lion, the Mitanni accept her as Ishtar’s avatar too.
So starts one of Yuri’s long separations from Kail. She is evolving into a strong and courageous heroine (when she isn’t being assaulted) and I think she does her best work when he isn’t in the picture. The downside is that Yuri tends to run into prospective rapists when he isn’t in the picture as well so there is a tradeoff.
Mattiwaza anticipates that she’ll ask for her freedom. He plans to let her go and have his men kill her before she gets too far from the city. Instead, she knocks him for a loop by asking him to improve his treatment of the Hittite captives and gives a speech advocating for human rights. When his soldiers lead her off, Mattizawa asks her why she didn’t ask for her freedom. Yuri replies that she knew he’d have her killed if she did. If she remains in the capital, it won’t be easy for the prince to have her assassinated while in his custody. Some of Prince Kail’s savvy is rubbing off on her.
They lock Yuri and the twins in a cage. The sisters praise her for her courage, but Yuri breaks down into tears, admitting how frightened she is. She wanted nothing more than to return to Kail’s side. No sooner than she dries her tears than Mattiwaza comes down to the prison and makes her another offer. She can either remain locked in a dreary cell or stay in his harem. He guarantees her that he will not touch her as he finds her physical appearance not to his taste. (Again with treating her like an ugly duckling!) He only wants to demoralize Kail and the Hittites with the knowledge that the Mitanni have their goddess.
Yuri refuses at first. She doesn’t want to play into his hands and harm the Hittites, but she gives in when the twins assure her that being made a royal concubine to the enemy won’t change Kail’s feelings. Kail hears what’s become of her and sends a clay tablet begging Mattiwaza to agree to an exchange of prisoners. One of Kail’s generals delivers it and is allowed to see Ishtar to confirm that she is well. Mattiwaza tells the general that he will not release anyone, but the general manages to realize his true objective by slipping Yuri a small clay tablet.
When she is in her chambers, she asks to twins to help her read it for her. Kail’s kiss gave her command of the spoken language only. After they break open the seal on the tablet, Yuri sees that it is engraved with a heart. Kail is literally sending his love. Yuri cries tears of joy, reenergized with hope and resolves to wait for Kail to rescue her. However, she is not safe. The final scene of his volume is Urhi extracting a vow from Nadia, Nakia’s sister who happens to be one of Mattiwaza’s concubines, that she will kill Yuri.
I like this volume a lot. It has a lot of really heroic moments for Yuri and some really striking art work. The harem adventures will continue in the next book.