Chapter 14: Misprint
July 8, 2007
Wordcount to follow. 1124 words.
The day was warm, but the office was cold. She zipped the jacket and hugged herself. A pile of papers were on her desk, awaiting her attention. She did not look at them, instead concentrating on the screen in front of her. Around her, the office worked in organised chaos; printers worked noisily, while phones rang constantly and there were occasional screams or shouts from her colleagues. Ignoring the chaos, she worked silently and efficiently, not even stopping for the cup of hot coffee the old serving lady put at her desk. On auto-pilot, she ignored the world around her while she worked. When her phone rang, she picked it up without really looking at it, but the voice on the other end provided her with a welcome distraction. Even so, she gave no outside indication of the phone call. Instead, she reached for her mug and took a sip of the now-warm coffee, savouring the heat of the drink even as the person on the other end of the phone talked. She let her attention drift between the three, although she did pay more attention to the phone. Her mind was not focused though; she was daydreaming.
“Lady Taenia,” the voice of the speaker deepened drastically, “Is there any purpose to you continuing this charade? You have made your point.”
She drank a little more of her coffee and swirled the remains in the mug. The half-distracted, half-stressed air about her did not change, but her eyes brightened. Her voice was low, but playful. “I believe Chance was not looking when she rolled this encounter, Master. These are not the Distractions we sought to seek, but rather the True Musical Keys. They are not fully come to their powers yet,” she smiled seductively, almost like a cat who got its cream. There was silence on the other end, and she knew that he was adding this information to his plans.
“Get one of the others to stand in your stead, and come home. Ta’Lern is close to Awakening,” the voice faded, and the man on the other end continued as though nothing had happened.
She listened for a little while longer and then cut the call short. As she left the office, she informed her boss that she was taking a half-day off, as she had some urgent business to attend to. The boss simply nodded, not paying much attention as she left the office. Instead of taking the lift, she went through the stairs. She walked down stately, the camera taking a video of her back as she walked down the stairs.
The other camera did not catch her coming down the stairs.
She went down the stairs, closing her eyes and visualising the Inner Sanctum. From one step to another, the antiseptic smell of the office disappeared and she was greeted by a sickly-sweet scent of incense. Opening her eyes, she continued her descent, as two women stood at the end of the stairs, one holding her cloak and the other the Diadem that marked her position. Their heads were bowed and they were on bended knee. She stopped in front of them, touching their heads with a light hand. They stood up, but keep their heads bowed as one draped the cloak around her naked form and the other put the Diadem on her head, never meeting her eyes once.
When the Diadem was on her head, she walked away from them in a comfortably confident stride. A small light emanated from the Diadem, which fell over her as she walked and then disappeared the way it came, falling into fragments that disappeared as they touched the ground. Once the process was done, she was revealed to be a woman in her mid-20s, with striking red hair and deep blue eyes. Her skin was almost-lily white, but she glowed with the inner radiance of a healthy young woman. Her aura was commanding and authoritative. With a gesture, the large doors marked with a falling tower opened without her ever touching them.
The door beyond led to a large hall. In the hall, men were bowed before the Golden Throne, made of skulls and lined with the skin of various creatures to make the throne more comfortable. She reached up and unfastened the cloak, letting to fall before she stepped into the Hall of the Subdued. None of them raised their heads to look at her, only listening to her footsteps as the heels of the shoes she wore echoed on the marble. Her passing was a subdued whisper, each movement reflecting grace and poise, with each step, with each sound. None of them dare raised their heads till they heard her ascend the Throne, then they only got up when she whispered, “Rise.” They stood up, heads bowed.
“Send someone to replace me in Orion’s Stars on the world known as Rauch,” one of the men bowed lower and left without once turning his back on her. Once the door closed behind him, she continued to speak, turning to another group of men. “Send your Seekers to Rauch, but in secret. The Musical Keys are there,” she continued.
A young man with red hair shuffled forward after the other group had retreated and left the room, signalling that he wished to speak, even though he kept his head bowed. She stared at him long and hard; his posture, though bowed, spoke of one newly raised to his current position. There was none of the usual resigned, subservient air; rather, he was eager to serve, and his back was straight. His demeanor of waiting for her to notice him instead of the polite cough spoke volumes about his competence; he did not need to bluster or gain attention in a loud manner.
“Speak, child.” His voice was soft and raspy, as though he did not speak very often.
“My Lady, if the Musical Keys are on Rauch, would it not make more sense to capture them immediately? The Hunt has not yet begun, and if we do capture them, it would not have to begin at all,” there was a trembling note of fear in his voice. She grinned ferally.
“Who owns this child?”
“Forgive me, Lady of the Gold, but he’s mine,” an elder came forward.
“For his impudence, I will punish him,” she snapped her fingers, and another two Priestesses came and dragged the young man away. Admirably, he did not make a sound. “That is all,” she got up from the throne and followed the two Priestesses out the other door, feeling the blood run through her veins.
The Hunt would begin soon.