Monday, March 24, 2014

A Question of Balance - Chapter 6

I’d had enough revelations for one day. In my duties, I seen some of the worst depravities humans were capable of, and some of the greatest kindnesses. Nothing in my experience matched the truths I’d learned regarding my mother or the efforts to save my life. Part of me already knew the next set within the declaration wouldn’t be any more comforting.

“If you don’t wish to be my witness, I’ll wait until Luc is finished with supervising trade negotiations.” I poked at the chicken pie a few times before I shoved it aside.

Kam grunted as he laboriously climbed to his feet once again. “No. You’re right. I swore my oaths, and this is too messy to leave to a junior priest. One of them would surely bollox the matter. Come.”

I snatched the scroll and shoved it back into my pocket. We might as well deal with this pile of manure and get it over with. He extended his arm to me, and I took it.

Under my hand, he trembled, and pale green sweat beaded on his forehead. “Kam, if you’re not feeling well, I can wait.”

“No.” He patted my hand again as we shuffled down the hall to the main portion of the temple. “Just an old man’s anxiety that the sins of his past have caught up with him.”

“I would hardly call saving an innocent babe a sin.” I chuckled. “Though it’s difficult to imagine me as a babe, much less innocent.”

“How do you feel about executions?”

I missed a step at his abrupt change of topic. If I hadn’t been holding his arm, I would have fallen flat on my face. “Where does that question come from?”

We resumed our slow shuffling pace. I didn’t think Kam was going to answer me when he said, “You remind me of Thalia. It was the one part of her duties she hated.”

“I’ve read the stories and heard the songs. What was she really like?”

His smile was lost in the past. “Beautiful, brilliant. I know how bad my jokes are, but she’d always laugh at them. Or me. I was never sure which. Anyone who fought her thought she was sighted. She always knew what strike an opponent would use before he was in motion. I think she had a touch of precognition, though she would have denied it with her dying breath.”

Grief shrouded him. “It’s been twenty years, but I still miss her every day.”

I wanted to comfort him. I didn’t know how. This wasn’t like Marco and Katarina. I couldn’t fix the past.

We entered the sanctuary. A handful worshippers knelt before the altar. At the opposite end, a few farmers and the retinues of two traders either milled and murmured to each other or sat on the pews, looking bored out of their minds. Three wardens paced through the sanctuary as a precaution.

I didn’t envy Luc. Mediating trade negotiations would be tedious enough to make me want to slit my own throat.

Kam and I claimed one of the small consultation rooms that lined the walls between the altar and the main doors.

With a flick of his forefinger and a murmured word, he lit the wall sconce. The glow would shine through the thin alabaster to show the room was in use. He swiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve before he circled the tiny room, laying his warding. I sat at the small table to stay out of his way. The familiar tingle of magic in a tightly enclosed space prickled along my skin.

He took the seat next to me, and with a flare of his power, he lit that lamp as well. Since the priestly glows didn’t emit heat as a traditional oil lamp or a torch did, I didn’t need to squint against the painful brightness.

Kam held out his hand. “Ready?”

I blew out a harsh breath as I took his clammy palm. “No, but let us proceed anyway. Lady of Balance, show us the will of the one who has passed through the veil.”

The feeling of someone peering over my shoulder always accompanied my invocation of my goddess. Never was the impression stronger than it was right now. With a jolt, I realized this was the first time I’d done the opening of the declaration with someone other than Luc. Was that the difference?

“May the Lord of Light confirm the truth of the one who has passed Death’s door,” Kam answered.

Yellowish-white energy spiraled around the edges of the parchment until they joined at the seal. The wax cracked and parted.

Any priest or priestess from the any temple could bind a declaration of last wishes. According to Luc, the color symbolic of the temple colored the edges of the scroll. Only when Balance and Light opened it together was the declaration considered valid.

I asked him once what the edging looked once the seal was released. He whispered that it was black twined around gold.

Like us in bed.

I shook my head to clear the distracting memory.

We unrolled the scroll, the ink record in front of Kam, the raised dots and lines impressed into the parchment in front of me. I ran my fingertips over the special code my order used. My heart skipped a beat, and I touched the name of Gretchen’s heir again. I hadn’t misinterpreted.

Lady Alessa DiMara.


Anonymous said...



Suzan Harden said...

Thanks, Dee! I needed a smiley face today. It's cold and rainy. It's March, and we're normally in the '80's by now. Not the '50's!

Anonymous said...

I too had a cold, rainy and very Windy weekend. Hope everything is going well for you!


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