“I say, Bill,” whispered Sergeant Major General, “she’s rather glamorous. But where are the drums?”
This was true. Despite the sound of drums all around them, there were none to be seen. The only figures in the giant cave were themselves, the Priestess and their feline friend.
“You will approach!” commanded the Priestess. The tiger roared to reinforce her order.
Unafraid (well, Sergeant Major General was perhaps just a tiny bit concerned), the men walked closer to the throne. Close enough to see the gold stripe painted across her eyes, her golden fingernails, her long legs, bare beneath her golden gown. Close enough to see that the tiger snarled silently to itself, when it was not snarling audibly, watching them all the while. Its tail lashed back and forwards in frustration.
“She really fancies gold, wot?” Sergeant Major General whispered again.
“Silence, fool!” said the Priestess. “What has brought you here to defile my temple with your base presence?”
“My Lady,” Kirk Bill began, “my friend has been marked with the Eye of the Tiger. We would wish your curse removed and his life spared.”
“Why should I spare him?” the Priestess said carelessly, with a disdainful glance at Sergeant Major General. “He is a churl – a buffoon! Why should my beauty here be denied her prey?” With a bare foot she stroked the tiger’s back. The tiger took this opportunity to glare at Sergeant Major General once more and growl menancingly.
“Now look here – ” Sergeant Major General began, hotly. Kirk Bill placed a restraining hand upon his shoulder.
“What did he do to displease you, my Lady?” Kirk Bill asked. “Why was he chosen?”
“Because he looks tasty, of course, there’s a bit of meat on him. And he has no other apparent use to us.” Sergeant Major General’s jaw dropped in astonished outrage, though secretly he couldn’t quibble with the tasty bit.
“What about Lord Worzleham? What did he do to incur your wrath?” Kirk Bill was nothing if not persistent, though it did occur to Sergeant Major General, fleetingly, that he might have protested the “no apparent use” comment, just a little.
The Priestess leaned back in her throne, eyes glittering. “Lord Worzleham and I had a deal,” she said. “For many years he enjoyed the protection of our order, to the benefit of his business and personal fortune. It was time for him to fulfill his side of the bargain, yet he refused! His life was forfeit.”
“What WAS his side of the bargain?” Sergeant Major General couldn’t help but interject.
“That is none of your concern, little man,” said the Priestess. Sergeant Major General’s jaw worked in anger at her insult.
“So, the opium den, the gang of thugs, his lawyer, Mybug,” Kirk Bill said, slowly. “These were all part of your network. Worzleham allowed your claws to hook into people and places to which you would not normally have access.”
“Something of the kind,” said the Priestess in an off-hand manner, “you do ask a lot of questions, don’t you, Kirk Bill?”
“How did you know my name?” Kirk Bill asked, unable to hide his astonishment.
“Oh for crying out loud,” said the Priestess, apparently exasperated beyond all measure. “Don’t you even recognise me? Your sweet? Your dove?”
Both men froze in shock. “It can’t be!” said Sergeant Major General in a strangled voice.
But it was so. The High Priestess was none other than Kirk Bill’s beloved fiancé, Lady Larchmoor! Lady Larchmoor was the mistress of the temple, the Temple of the Eye, the Eye of the TIGER!
TO BE CONTINUED