Zolique raised his goblet in a mocking salute and then drank deeply from the silver chalice.
"May Ka, the Master Maker shine bright on your endeavours Lord Prince," he said once he had swallowed.
Reclining on the opposite pillow Prince Likia ah-Hakk grimaced at the ironic toast but also drank. The wizard had demonstrated now that none of the food or drink was poisoned and he felt slightly more at rest.
Around them more than two hundred courtiers, merchants, and nobles rested on great silken pillows arrayed around the long tables that took up the centre of the gilded hall.
The prince had received the elegant invite the week before - a long papyrus scroll, sealed with black silk and wax and written in a fine hand.
Curious to be invited to a feast by his one his primary rivals he had accepted and now found himself in the great hall of the wizard Zolique.
"I am glad you came Lord Prince, I feared that some of my... indiscretions had caused a great gulf between our houses," the wizard said, gesturing with one hand for more wine while using the other to stroke his wispy grey beard.
The city's ruler almost barked in laughter. The dammed wizard had appeared less than a year ago and in that time he had erected this great, slab-sided, pyramid near the centre of the city without permission and then turned the entire kingdom on its head.
First he had drawn half of the women in the city to his bed - never to be seen again and then he had incited the bloody peasants into open revolt by declaring that taxes were a sin. That, that had cost the prince dearly in soldiers and gold.
The sorcerer flouted the rules of the city at every step.
"On the contrary my friend. You must forgive our provincial ways here in Ulldulla, it is far too rare that sorcerers of your calibre live among us," the prince said oily.
Never let it be say that I cannot honey my words like the best of them, you snake headed bag of shit, he thought inwardly.
Drinking from his goblet once more Zolique craned his head, looking over the lord's shoulder.
"Ahah! at last, the entertainment begin," he said as a sudden wave of drum and flute music flooded from a corridor.
"You will have to forgive me, Lord Prince - until recently I was very much unaccustomed to the pleasures of high society."
Likia knew this from the rumours he had sourced: the wizard had been a mere beggar child in some far-flung city before being discovered by a magician who had taken him in.
The wizard suddenly clapped like a child, as dozens of beautiful women swirled into the feasting hall to the tune of flutes, drums and bells. Each woman - some dusty skinned others pale and flaxen haired was clad only in the briefest of silk girdles and jewellery. And all of them had glazed over, totally empty eyes.
With a start the prince recognised several former ladies of the court - the ones who had disappeared into the wizard's lair months ago. Most he didn't know but he guessed they shared a similar fate.
Hours passed in a blur of good food, strong wine and the swirling, twisting flesh until finally Zolique stood, raising both gaunt arms to the domed roof as he did.
The music stopped and the drunken diners finished with a clatter.
"My friends - it has come time to tell you all why I have gathered you here!"
Around the table there was nervous muttering, which dissolved into laughter at the drunken belch of a fat silk trader at the far end of the table.
"Enough!" the wizard shouted. Letting the room sink once more into silence.
"More than 40 years ago I was nothing more than a beggar child on the streets on this very city, a nothing living in the gutter,"
Likia's eyes widened at this revelation - he had not known the wizard was born here.
"For years he scratched out a living, and not once did any of your ilk bother to notice me- none of you.
"Tonight we have gathered the riches traders and merchants, nobles who live in opulent villas and the great men of the city - including our lord prince."
As he spoke the wizard gestured wildly at the gathered host. His dark eyes bored into the soul of each one - a brawny soldier rewarded with a title, a fat wine merchant and his young wife who had drunkenly pulled down her gown to reveal great, pale breasts and finally the hawk nosed Prince.
"Tonight you die"
Suddenly with a collective feral growl, the dancing girls leapt at the guests - their mouths warped into hateful grimaces and their fine fingers suddenly hooked like sharp talons.
Gore flew as the screams rang out - all the while Zolique cackled with glee.
Watching as his subjects became red puddles Likia spun, kicking aside his pillow as he fled - only to be confronted by the wizard who had moved with blinding speed.
"I think not, Lord Prince," he smiled mockingly.
Turning, Likia saw he was the only one left - the others were crumpled, bloody messes, and the girls had now gathered around him.