Tata Sous-sus arrived at court in the dead of night, so there were only footmen, grooms and valets to greet her. Her maid helped her find a bed in an out-of-the-way corner of the palace and she threw herself into it without even disrobing. The maid found a comfortable divan and placed it at the foot of the bed where she too collapsed without taking off her riding cloak. Tata Sous-sus, a distant cousin of the old king, was not a beautiful woman. Rather she could be described as handsome. As tall as the average man with regular features, her face would have been charming were it not for her predilection always to frown, giving her a stern countenance that did not invite smiles, much less kisses. Because of her near-sightedness, she squinted and this gave her a look of grim concentration.
Probably the least favorite of His Majesty’s few surviving relatives, as a young girl, she’d married beneath her station and thus lost all claims to titles, lands and fortune. After less than a year, when her husband abandoned her, she was left to shift for herself, becoming a fixture at whatever little castle that would grant her entry. With all the circumspection of a shark, over the years, she gained a reputation for, shall we say “sticky fingers,” causing more than one host to count the silver whenever she departed. But what was she doing at court? Who had invited her? To what purpose?