A/N: I want to thank Nerweniel, Evilwoman, and Jacqura for your
reviews. With much prodding from Nerweniel, I have decided to turn this
into an actual story. Thanks a bunches for reading! Let me know how I'm
doing. : )
I could hear the wheezing sound of the magistrate's breathing as clear
as a bell. That's how quiet the herald's announcement made the square. I
felt cheated. Plain and simple. This was my moment; my chance to finally be
free of this world and it was taken from me by a man whose hat was much too
large for his head. I should have done the honors myself and followed my
mother into the great beyond. Of course, she herself told me that suicide
is only for cowards. Two large soldiers fought there way through the crowd
"You will release her into His Majesty's custody!" said the herald.
"Now, hold on there. We have His Majesty's express consent to execute
this girl. I demand to know what is going on!"
The two soldiers reached the scaffold, but as one tried to remove the
noose from my neck, the executioner stepped forward. The other one's blade
greeted him. "Not another step, sir," he threatened.
The herald seemed greatly annoyed by the magistrate's rantings. "You
are not in any authority to question His Majesty's motives. He feels that
his consent was given too soon. He would like his own judges to evaluate
her and if they deem necessary, she will be executed."
"This is an outrage!" the magistrate shouted.
Really, if he keeps up that temper, I think he's going to give himself
a stroke. I looked to the two soldiers. One of them grabbed the rope
attached to my wrists and began leading me down the steps. The crowd parted
to make way for us. This time they are silent and no one dares to throw
anything at me. I am now the property of the king and if they were to
attack me, the king could interpret that as an attack on himself.
The herald spoke one last time. "If you would like to question His
Majesty's orders, you are welcome to the palace on the fifth and twentieth
day of every month. He hears petitions only on those days."
After we reached the carriage, a footman opened the door for me. The
soldier holding my rope cut it, freeing my hands. The footman held out his
hand to help me into the compartment. Why am I being treated with such
dignity? I would have expected to have to sit with the driver. I took his
hand and stepped into the carriage. The interior was a rich cream color.
Soft leather, cleaned to perfection. My dingy clothes looked dreadful
against such a backdrop. I sat down and looked across to the carriage's
only other occupant.
"Do not be frightened, child, I am here to help you." He was dressed
in dark blue robes that had symbols embroidered along the hem. I
immediately recognized him as a member of the Priesthood. Even though his
hood was up, I could tell he was bald. His face showed multiple scars and
his eyes were an unfeeling dull gray. He spoke with a faint accent that
reminded me of my mother's. "What is your name?"
I was reluctant to speak. Even though I didn't fully understand what
the Priesthood was, I didn't trust them, but something made me talk.
He smiled, looking more frightening than congenial. "Marguerite," he
repeated. "That is a popular name from the Dasion province. It means pearl.
I am from there, originally."
"My mother was from Dasion." I said automatically. I was jostled a
little as the carriage started moving. "Where are you taking me?"
He looked at me thoughtfully. "We are going to Nichea. To my temple,
to be exact."
He seemed so arrogant and imperial. It intrigued me and I couldn't
keep my impertinent tongue from getting me into trouble. "Your temple? Do
they worship you there?"
To my surprise, he laughed. "Certainly not! It is the main temple of
the Priesthood. I call it my temple because, as Archbishop, I lead them."
He reveled in the shocked look on my face. Not only was I in the presence
of one of the priests, he was the most powerful one of them all! "Delano
Legrange, at your service, Mistress Armande."
I didn't like this at all. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my
stomach and something was telling me that my life before was much better
than the one I was entering into now. "Why was my execution stopped?" The
words came out heated.
He arched an eyebrow and frowned. "You sound as if you are not
grateful to have been spared. Such feelings are not healthy, especially for
one so young."
"There was nothing left for me to live for. This was a chance for me
to escape and your king took that away from me." I knew I'd insulted the
king by not claiming him as my own, but I never agreed with his rule, even
though it's the only one I have known.
"It would do you good not to speak in such a manner when you meet our
king. He can offer you a better life than what you had before and for that
you should be grateful. You will show him, and me, the proper respect."
Defeated, I folded my arms across my chest and stared at the floor.
Childish of me, I know, but what more could I do. There was enough power in
this man to burn me to a crisp with just a wave of his hand, I knew better
than to challenge his anger further.
Legrange regarded my dirty brown hair with a sneer. "When we arrive at
the temple, you will be made more presentable for His Majesty. We will
provide you with suitable clothes."
I looked up in surprise. "Why would the Priesthood do that for me?" I
couldn't help myself.
He had an all-knowing look upon his face. "We take care of our own."
His words sent chills down my spine. The Archbishop turned away from
me to stare out the window, effectively ending our conversation. I still
had a dozen questions for him, but I suppose those must wait. What did he
mean by that? Is it because of my powers? We spent the remainder of the
ride in silence. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, but I would
occasionally feel his stare. I didn't open them again until I felt the
carriage come to a stop and voices outside. We had arrived at the gates of
The driver shouted to the guards to let us in. The two large black
doors blocking the entrance creaked and groaned as they parted. The
carriage started to move again and I watched as we passed dozens of people,
all peasant or middle class citizens. I noticed a large marketplace with
many different colored stalls, selling everything from vegetables to
jewelry. I had never been to such a large city, let alone the capital. In
the middle of Nichea was a large square with a giant three-tiered fountain
sparkling beautifully in the sunlight. The people in this part of town were
more richly dressed and the peddlers worked in shops, not stalls. We must
be nearing the palace, I thought.
Once again the carriage slowed down and came to a halt. The door
opened and the footman appeared. The Archbishop exited first. After
steadying myself on my feet, I looked up at the building before me. My
mouth hung open like a fish, but I was too busy taking in the sight before
me to care. This was the famed Nichean Temple of the Priesthood. I had no
idea it was so large. Two large pyres flanked the stone stairs that led up
to the main doors of the temple. Even in daylight, the fires were lit and I
could feel the magic coming off of them. They weren't natural fires, but
rather the products of sorcery.
"Come along, Mistress Armande."
I followed him up the stairs, noticing the large columns that
surrounded the building. As we got closer I realized that they were marble
statues. Each one was unique, depicting a different person. All men, I
thought sardonically. Atop the great building was a massive blue dome with
a flag at the tip depicting the royal crest waving majestically in the
wind. There were guards posted at the entrance. They bowed to the
Archbishop and opened the doors for us.
The interior was just as beautiful. I looked down at the mosaic
covering the floor, its blue, white, green, and purple tiles forming
patterns I had never imagined possible. The centerpiece of the lobby was a
fountain, similar to the one in the square, but not as large. It was made
of white marble and inlayed along the base with more mosaics. Never in my
life had I been anywhere close to a place this regal, this enchanting -
this clean. I looked upwards toward the underside of the dome and saw that
it was covered in paintings. I couldn't make any of them out; it was too
high. I was so caught up in the ceiling that I didn't realize we'd stopped.
I ended up running into the Archbishop. I mumbled an apology.
"That is quite alright, child, the Temple is a wondrous place. I
forget how awe inspiring it can be to one who has never visited before.
You're room is down this hall."
We moved through an archway on the left side of a set of iron doors.
People bowed their heads to him as they passed, but they paid no attention
to me. Even though my dirty face and clothes stood out in this pristine
place, I was still invisible. I moved a little faster to walk beside the
Archbishop. "My room? You mean I am to stay here?"
He continued staring straight ahead. "That is correct. You will learn
more after you are received by His Majesty."
Our small group finally stopped at one the simple brown doors lining
the hallway. One of the guards opened it and the Archbishop motioned for me
to go inside. It was large but sparsely furnished. It contained a desk, a
bed, an armoire and a small sofa. Still, it was more luxury than I was used
"A maid will be here shortly to help you get cleaned up. I will return
in an hour to collect you and we will proceed to the palace. His Majesty is
most anxious to meet you," said Legrange. He and the rest of the group
turned on their heels and left. I looked around, still in shock over the
day's events. This is certainly better than the cramped prison cell I was
in this morning, but as I opened the door slightly and saw the guards
posted outside, I couldn't help thinking that I had only traded one cell