His Command Sample Chapter
SAERLAN si le Therian, High Priest of the Elvanarae, laid his hands on the earth’s altar. The smooth, granite looked almost white under the slate blue skin of his hands. His silver eyes picked out the flecks of gray, black, and pink in the stone. They roamed the lines of the altar until they focused on the center-piece, a rockery set within a recessed section of the stone. Each piece within it, from the loose sand to the rich soil, from the lack-luster sandstone to the rough crystals, represented the earth in all its forms.
Homely or beautiful, sterile or nourishing, the earth provides and shelters…
Saerlan closed his eyes, murmured another prayer. As he finished, he smoothed a hand over his alabaster hair, its long length pulled back in a queue. His fingers moved to touch the amulet he wore, an engraved silver disk with a rough-hewn topaz mounted in its center. It was the symbol of his office, the etchings on it his oath to nurture and protect his people.
It felt cold now, lying heavy against the fabric of his woolen white robes. The weight of it reminded him of the burden he had to bear.
He was alone in the main temple, striving to make peace with the disturbing news he’d received from the Mancer Absol Omine. In a few minutes, he would meet with the family a would-be priestess, one that he’d known since she was a child, one that he had chosen for the priesthood. He needed to tell them that, after vanishing for two years, she had been found.
He would have to tell them that she was a blood mage.
It made no sense. He was unable to comprehend how Nerisse se li Astorae – an Empath – could have been able to aid a blood mage, let alone participate in the rites. Yet Absol had been adamant that it was true. She had helped to kill a Mancer.
It should not be possible for an Empath. How…why? She was such a sweet girl, a true child of the earth…
Saerlan heard the temple doors open behind him. He would have to give this news without inner peace.
The priest turned from the altar, watching as Nerthet si le and Elisse se li Astorae, Nerisse’s parents, approached. They, too, sported the trademark slate blue skin and white hair of their race. Garbed in simple earth-colored tunics, darker trousers for the man, a skirt for the woman, the represented the typical Elvanarae living in the subterranean city of Jevanel. They stopped at the base of the steps leading up to the altar to bow. The respect engendered by the gesture held hints of their anxiety. He returned the formality, then descended to join them.
“High One, have you received word of our daughter?” Nerthet stroked his wife’s mane of white hair. It occurred to Saerlan that Elisse most closely resembled her daughter. As with Nerisse, there was a shy, sweet air about her.
Again, he wondered what had happened to her that she’d taken this darker path.
“Yes, I have. Sit.” He motioned to the steps, waiting for the couple to be seated before continuing. “What I need to tell you is…difficult.”
“She’s dead.” The flat declaration came from the mother. She raised sorrowful eyes to the priest’s. “My child is dead. Killed by that monster.”
I wish it were that easy, that her death was what I had to tell them.
“No.” He kept his voice soft, gentle. “This, I’m afraid, is much worse than death.” He reached within his white robes, pulled out a scroll detailing what the Mancers had discovered concerning Nerisse. He turned it over in his hands. “Ba’tvian Delthanurk, the Monster of Menie, has turned her. She has allied herself with him.”
Her parents paled, their minute hope – every parent’s hope – crushed by disbelieving shock.
“No, that can’t be.” Frantic, Elisse looked between the High Priest and her husband. “She’s empathic. How can an Empath be a blood mage?”
“The earth has confirmed that she has spilled blood for him. Willingly.” His heart ached for them, for himself. Their loss was also his own. “I am sorry.”
Face graying, Nerthet wrapped one arm around his wife as she crumpled onto his shoulder. He stared at the scroll in Saerlan’s hands.
“They sent written notice of this?” he demanded. “Of our daughter’s betrayal?”
“Yes. Absol Omine, the Mancer who sent the notice, has had little knowledge about us. Without personal knowledge of whom to contact, he could not send us a mage sending. So we learn of her betrayal a month after he discovered it.” He looked down at the scroll in his hands, remembering what it said.
Nerisse se li Astorae has been found to be complicit in blood rites performed by the blood mage Ba’tvian Delthanurk…
“They found her arcane signature at a horrific scene outside of Piete Town,” he said aloud. “There is no question.”
Elisse was weeping now, rocked by her husband. They both were aware what their laws demanded in cases such as this. Nerthet, bleak and grief-stricken, stared at nothing as he asked, “When will the ostracism rites begin?”
“Today. The priesthood will undergo them first, then the general populace. So many people knew her…it will take weeks, if not months, to complete.”
“Then we have time to mourn, to…come to terms.” He buried his face in his wife’s hair. “My daughter, my only child…”
Saerlan placed a hand on his shoulder.
“We mourn with you, my friend.” The High Priest sat beside them to share their pain.
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