ADVANTAGES


'My Lady.' Lady Bishop bows with deference that is, if anything, more than required. She is dressed in her usual purple costume with its straps and buckles, her only concession to the occasion the replacement of Madam Bondage's cowl and short cloak with a long heavy robe trimmed with the white fur of the ice bear.

'Madam.' Pauline bows. 'I see you are alone this evening. You chose not to bring your luscious slave ?'

Luscious ! Where did that come from ?

Lady Bishop's lips curl into a slight smile as Pauline feels a blush rising in her face. 'Hazel is always rather unsettled here in Harmony. As a result of her behavior I have had to ground her.' The smile tightens again. 'Temporarily suspend her...from duties that is.'

A vision of the luscious bodied slave hanging by her wrists beside Madam Bondage's cowl in her rooms in the palace pops into Pauline's mind and is immediately followed by a strange desire to be there in her place.

'Then perhaps you will permit me to attend upon you, Madam. May I bring you a drink.'

'You are too kind, my Lady. Do you have a Kagan red ? A '71 perhaps ?'

Pauline smiles, bows and turns towards the bar. She is aware of Madam Bondage's eyes following her and ensures her hips sway enticingly.

She returns moments later with the wine. 'I hope a '75 will suffice.'

Lady Bishop nods her gratitude. 'And may I enquire what my Lady plans to do with herself now she has completed her studies ?'

'I really haven't decided on anything specific yet. I feel sure I must catch up on what has been happening here in Belladonia while I have been in Angeland and spend some time beginning to learn something about the ways of government.'

'I am sure your mother and Mistress Adele will be more than capable teachers. I hope you plan to understand something of Belladonia's provinces too.'

Pauline is slightly taken aback. 'Forgive me, Madam, I meant no offense. I would be honoured to accept your earlier invitation to visit you, particularly if it would improve my understanding of your lands.'

'My Lady is most gracious.' Lady Bishop bows again.

There is a moment's silence.

'And what of the Academy ? How fairs Mistress di Grassi ?'

'You know Mistress di Grassi ?'

'I studied the Angelisch style under her while a student at Brideshead. She had just taken over the role from Madam van Aardt.'

'You attended the Academy ?'

'Indeed, though it is rather more years ago than I care to recall.'

There is another moment's silence as Pauline takes in this information.'

'Perhaps you would care for a bout tomorrow morning.' There is a thrilling challenge in Lady Bishop's eyes.

Pauline cannot suppress a smile. 'Of course, Madam.'

'Shall we say o-ten-hundred in the palace gymnasium ?'

'Certainly, Madam.'

At that moment Adele appears.

'My Lady, Madam.' She bows to Lady Bishop and takes Pauline's arm. 'If you will excuse us Madam, the Lady Pauline's mother wishes to introduce her to the Donian delegation.'

'Until tomorrow, Madam.' Madam Bondage smiles and bows then says rather more quietly. 'It would be impolite keep La Donna waiting.'

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