When Tokkenoht reached the palace, it was a swarm of activity. A line of a hundred lizzies was carrying in great quantities of food through the side gate, and just inside, a makeshift kitchen was preparing that food and placing it on great platters to be brought into the throne room. The high priestess followed the line of servers carrying the platters into the largest room of the palace. It had been converted to a great dining hall. The king, his wives, and his advisors sat at a long table up on the dais, while the visitors from ten villages filled the rest of the hall. All four walls were lined with warriors of Yessonarah, each holding an upright spear. Already the assembly was becoming loud and boisterous.
“More ssukhas!” shouted Hsrandtuss, raising his cup.
Tokkenoht lifted a pitcher full of the intoxicating liquor from the platter of a food bearer, and carried it the length of the room to the dais. She filled the king’s cup, sat the pitcher down in front of him, and then reached up to straiten his gold crown. Then she sat down in the empty chair between him and Ssu.
“The king has had much wine already,” said Ssu, leaning over in confidence. “Perhaps you should not have filled his cup.”
“You will tell him he’s had enough then?” countered Tokkenoht.
Ssu hunkered down in submission.
Leaning back, Tokkenoht looked at Szakhandu, seated on the other side of the king. She rarely wore paint, but she was completely made up this evening. Her right half from the waist up, was bright red, while her left half from the waist up, the side facing Tokkenoht, was tar black. Her bottom half was reversed. She wasn’t wearing the gold necklace that she usually had on, and the priestess thought she saw it around Kendra’s neck. Instead, Szakhandu wore a necklace of gorgosaurus teeth, a symbol of strength that few females would have been allowed.
The king stood up, leaning over his table.
“What say my friends?” he shouted out, and the noise of so many voices slowly died down. “More food and more ssukhas?”
“We have food and ssukhas!” a voice shouted back.
Tokkenoht stared down from the dais as one of the village kings slowly got to his feet. He was a young, muscular male, with a very handsome tail.
“We have food and ssukhas at home!” Several lizzies around the village king hissed in agreement. “What we want is what we came for!”
Szakhandu stood up.
“What is it you came for, King Thikkik of Ar-kussthek?”
“We came for our females!” shouted the king. A dozen warriors around him stood up and hissed.
“What in the name of Hissussisthiss’s whiskers are you talking about?” demanded Hsrandtuss. “I haven’t raided any of your villages.”
“You have lured away our females with your unnatural, soft-skin inspired ideas about child rearing.”
“The way we raise offspring has nothing to do with humans!” growled Hsrandtuss. “It was my idea!”
Raising their own offspring, rather than leaving them to the mercy of predators, had in fact been Szakhandu’s and Kendra’s idea, but Tokkenoht certainly wasn’t going to contradict the king.
“It’s unnatural!” continued the visitor. “And it’s drawing away our females like moths to a fire pit.”
“If you can’t keep control of your females, it’s not my fault!” roared the Great King.
“Perhaps we should settle this with arms,” suggested the village king, “your greatest warrior against mine.”
“There’s no need for that!” cried Hsrandtuss, climbing over the table. “I’ll tear you apart myself with my bare claws!”