After tense minutes of silence waiting for the High Priestess to arrive, she finally entered. She was being led by security, however, they dare not touch her. No one had ever heard of a priestess inflicting any sort of damage on any living creature. However, this did not diminish the fear that people felt in her presence.
“Priestess, did you deal this card?” the Emperor asked, maddened.
With a slight, soft bow of her head, she motioned her reply that she had.
“How dare you! Are you openly challenging me?”
She said nothing.
“Priestess, this is treason. I will not take ease on you because you are holy. State your case or perish like any other criminal.”
She simply looked upon him, her eyes cloaked and hidden like the rest of her. She stood tall, but modestly. If she was afraid, she showed no signs.
“Priestess, I command you, explain yourself! You will not ignore me. You will give me the respect that I deserve, and acknowledge my query.” He rose and stormed closer to her. “Answer me or die!”
“You cannot threaten me,” the soldier standing to her right said.
“Excuse me?” the Emperor asked, more angered than confused.
“You may rule the men of this land, but I rule their destinies,” erupted the man to her left.
The Emperor drew a sword and held to the man’s throat, but he did not even blink.
“I will gut you myself for talking out of turn.”
“No punishment you could deliver would be worse than if I disregarded my scared duties,” said the sentry on the right.
The Emperor took a step back. He looked back and forth at the two men who spoke but paid him no regard. He then turned all of his attention to the Priestess. He realized that these words did not belong to treacherous guards, but were instead a conduit for this woman’s monologue.
“Priestess,” he said amused, “you speak.”
“I speak through certain means if the situation calls for it,” said the right sentinel.
He came within inches of her, breathing hard on her cheek.
“Do you feel my breath?” he asked.
“Yes,” said the man on the left.
He raised his sword and tucked the metallic edge under her veil, touching her skin.
“Do you feel my steel?”
“I do,” said the right.
“Then, Priestess, for your life, explain to me why you dealt this card. Why you have betrayed me.”
“I have not betrayed you,” said the left.
“I serve the kingdom,” the right continued. “I serve a higher power. A power that you seem to have forgotten was something that was given to you.””
“It was my birth right.”
“And this destiny is hers,” said the left.
“You would have me destroyed?”
“Would you not have the same for me?” said the right.
“Before this treason? I see no reason. But now…”
“This is only treason if you choose to see it this way,” the left said. “We are guided by our destinies, but there are still some things that are left up to us. She doesn’’t have to be a threat to you. She doesn’t have to be your adversary. Embrace her and her ways. Let her better you rather than destroy you. Friend or foe, the choice is yours.”
“You would like me to believe that, wouldn’t you? Have me let my guard down. Have me raise and coddle the very creature that lives to bring my reign to an end? I could never abide such a thing. The child must die. If you can’’t or won’t take her destiny, then I’ll simply have to take it, and any other, from her.”
The woman fell silent once more.
Satisfied, the Emperor turned to his audience.
“Bring me the infant. Dead or alive. And bring me her parents. I must verify that it is the right child. Whomever does this will have a permanent seat in my counsel and more coin then they could spend in a lifetime.”
A soft roar of conversation erupted from those in attendance. The bounty had been put on my head.
“And for you, Priestess,” he said, rotating back to face her, but still speaking so the room could hear, “I find you guilty of high treason. I sentence you to die for your crime. Your divinities cannot save you. You said you serve them, but where are they now?”
He still held the blade in his hand. He rose it to his waste, and gripped it tight in both hands. With a thrusting motion, he plunged it towards the priestess. However, when his weapon arrived to the space that the priestess had occupied, it was met with no resistance. A flutter of cloth filled the air with the sound of sheets being laid out on a bed. The veil draped over the sword, but there was no flesh. The priestess had disappeared, leaving only her mask behind.
Dumbfounded, the Emperor threw the sword to the ground.
“Find her!” he demanded.
Everyone rose from their seats, in awe of what they had just seen and in fear of the Emperor’s mood. They dispersed quickly. Some were just trying to escape, others, going on the hunt.