To my parents I will always be grateful for two things. For bringing me into this world and for doing what they could to keep me in it. I will always be hurt that they gave me up so easily. Especially with how much it seemed the fought at first. Again, this could just be stories that Victoria made up to ease my sadness. I will never know what the truth is and what is embellishment.
Tales or not, I will always be grateful to Victoria for them. As well as everything else she had done for me. If not for her, who knows where I would be. Perhaps I would have been sold to the Emperor for eminent slaughter. Or worse, to a pedophile or sociopath as a play thing. I truly do not believe that my parents cared much where I ended up; it was always about the best offer.
The hospital staff found the card almost immediately. Fear shot through those who tore apart the room, and no one wanted to pick it up. However, someone had to deliver the news to the Emperor, and he would want the evidence. The naive young nurse that worked my room that morning offered to take it to the tower.
Victoria told me that the nurse volunteered for this task because she was a temptress, destined from birth to weave her charms on men. Her fortune was accurate, as she had grown into the roll. Even though she was still young by many standards, having only lived two and a half decades, she had amassed great wealth through the generosity of her various suitors. Her body curved in all of the right places to bring a man to his knees. She could not pass up an opportunity to try her wiles on the Emperor himself.
She retrieved the card with a gloved hand. Not latex, as was popular in more common hospitals, but instead was made from a thin, disposable leather. She placed it into her back pants pocket and went on her way. Rather than descend to the ground level, she rode the elevator upward, towards the roof.
The hospital, though of impressive size to anyone who was not born here, was one of the smaller buildings amongst the mammoths. Standing only 50 stories tall, and near the outer edge of the skyline, it would take several transfers for her to reach the apex of the city to arrive at the Emperor’s tower.
The inside was no less opulent. There was no street entrance. If you do not have the money or means to take a ride through the sky to the main entrance high above the city, then you are not important enough to deserve an audience with the ruler. There was a small, subterranean entryway for the help, and even those who had worked inside the tower all their lives had to go through extensive security checks every morning before being allowed to go about their jobs.
Within the tower was everything that the Emperor needed to survive, so that he would never have to step out amongst the common people. Only the most elite amongst the Emperor’s personal friends and family were allowed to live in the tower.
Victoria had only ever seen portions of the tower. She knew of the grand dining room where occasional feast were held. The rulers sat at a table for two above the rest of those who dined in the room, who all sat at long tables, arranged in a large square. During the feast, there was enough food to have fed more than twenty times those in attendance, yet at the end, the left overs were destroyed instead of being given to the many who desperately needed it.
Victoria had also seen the grand ball room during other celebrations, when the massive dining hall was not enough to hold everyone. She suspected that, between the two rooms, nearly half the population of the city could have fit comfortably. Not that so many would ever have been invited.
Though at one time, when she was younger as I’ve seen in photos, Victoria was a fairly attractive woman, she had never seen the inside of the Emperor’s bedchamber. Nor any of his other private quarters. If he had affairs, he kept the well hidden. Victoria would not have been wooed by him, even if he had been interested.
There were only one other room that she was privileged to. It was the room where justice took place. As a Hierophant, a respected teacher and mentor, Victoria was regarded as a respected member of the Emperor’s inner circle. She had gone to great lengths to conceal the fact that she was born to a reversed orientation.
Criminals, who likely would have never seen the inside of the tower otherwise, are brought here to be sentenced. The Emperor stands alone as Judge and Jury. He typically allows others to perform the roll of executioner for him.
Victoria sat in the court as the nurse told her tale, listening with interest to most every part. She was concerned more about the portions that involved me, and less so about the ones that involved the nurses on goings about switching from car to car as the buildings rose in height. The tower that served as both the Emperor’s castle and the cities center was half a mile tall. It was made of dark stone, steal, and heavy crystal glass that sparkled so bright when the sun was directly overhead that you had to avert your eyes. Truly, it was a tribute to his power, and had stood for centuries.
Victoria also did not care to hear about the nurses complaints about her treatment when she demanded an audience with the Emperor. But this woman fed on attention, and went on about it until the Emperor could stand no more and demanded that she get to the point. So she recounted the tale, in her most seductive voice, of the baby born with the Wheel, how my parents tried to deny it, then ran. How silly she must have seemed, delivering such vital news as if she were preforming in a burlesque show.
Victoria, as well as the Emperor, and especially the Empress, were not amused by the temptresses attempts to catch the eye of the Emperor, or any other man in the court that would have her. Enraged by the news, and tired of the theatrics, the Emperor demanded the proof that the nurse had brought. She bent over slowly as she retrieved the card from her pocket to ensure a proper show of cleavage. As she rose, staring deep into his eyes with her come hither looks, she handed him the card.
He snatched it away hastily and studied it. He flipped it over and over, satisfying himself that it was authentic. Victoria looked on with in interest as the Emperor’s face reddened.
“Bring me the Priestess!” he boomed. The nurse had inched closer to him. She smiled coyly as she caught his eye. “And get this out of here!”” he commanded, meaning the nurse. A collection of guards came to escort her out. Rather than being worried about her predicament, or that she may have upset those in rule, she flirted shamelessly with the two men that held her arms. She laid a hand on the chest of this one, and then whispered softly in the ear of the other. They kept their eyes forward and took her out. Her delight turned to anger as she realized she was being taken away through the street exit, and not being escorted back to the sky.