Essalieyan Chronicles 04 - The Weapon

BOOK: Essalieyan Chronicles 04 - The Weapon
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THE WEAPON

 

 

 

by Michelle West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosdan Press, 2011

 

Toronto, Ontario

 

Canada

 

 

 

SMASHWORDS EDITION: 978-1-927094-07-5

 

Copyright 2011 by Michelle Sagara

 

All rights reserved
Cover design by Anneli West.
Four Corners Communication

 

 

 

The Weapon copyright 2005 by Michelle Sagara; first appeared in
In the Shadow of Evil

 

edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers

 

 

 

Smashwords Edition License Notes

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

 

Novels by Michelle West

 

 

 

The Sacred Hunt
Hunter's Oath Hunter's Death

 

 

The Sun Sword

 

The Broken Crown The Uncrowned King The Shining Court The Sea of Sorrows The Riven Shield
The Sun Sword

 

 

 

The House War
The Hidden City City of Night House Name Skirmish*
War**

 

 

 

*Forthcoming January 2012

 

**Forthcoming in 2013

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Introduction
The
WeaponOther Stories by the Author

 

 

Introduction

 

 

 

I wrote this story for John Helfers, for his anthology,
In The Shadow of Evil.

 

Interestingly enough, the cover painting for the anthology was the original concept sketch for the anthology
Summoned to Destiny
—a concept sketch based on my story in that anthology,
The Colors of Augustine.
The artwork was deemed too dark for
Summoned to Destiny
, which was supposed to be a YA anthology, and the artist actually asked me if he could use the painting for John Helfer’s anthology. Which was very considerate of him, but entirely unnecessary.
Most of the novels that take place in Essalieyan also take place in Averalaan. Since the premise of the anthology was to write about a milieu in which evil had the prominent position, I thought I would write about Veralaan, the woman after whom the city was named. The first day or advent rites that occur on the first of Veral are a celebration of the choices she made in the very confined circumstances she was in. Those choices lead to the style of rule and governance that the Empire now enjoys.
The Weapon referred to in the title is Veralaan, herself. She is the Baron’s only daughter, and because his rule is much contested, he leaves her in the Mother’s cathedral on the Isle. His is a reign of terror and fear, and while the Mother’s many priestesses and servants adhere to worship of the Mother, they’ve all felt his shadow, and they all bear the scars.
What would you do if you were given the daughter of the man who had murdered your family? How would you feel about her? Given the oaths sworn to The Mother, what would happen to that child within the cathedral?
The Weapon
takes place during the period of the Blood Barons, as they were affectionately called. In
The Hidden City
, and actually in at least one of the
Sun Sword
novels, mention is made of the first day rites, and of the festival of The Ten.
The Weapon
is the story behind the first day rites.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weapon

 

I.

 

 

 

I
N THE QUIET of isolation and a long-nursed pain, a woman knelt, praying to her god to give her a child. Because she was golden-eyed, she could be certain that her pleas were heard, for she was Daughter to the Mother—and because she was certain she was heard, she was also
certain that Mother rejected her supplication. As a child, growing up in the certainty of knowing that the Mother
could
hear her, she had often pitied those who would live their lives in uncertainty. Time had eroded pity, or worse, begun to turn it inward.
The gift of god-born children was rare indeed in the small and fractious Baronies, for the Barons rooted them out without mercy, often destroying whole family lines in an attempt to destroy those who could willingly, inexplicably, consort with gods whose offspring might challenge their rule.
Only in the temple of the Mother, where healing was offered—and controlled—were such slaughters avoided. But even in these temples, the god-born were rare.
A miracle, denied those who lived in the shadow of the Baron’s rule. After all, what parent willingly offered a babe to death?
Mother
, she thought, rising.
Grant us your child. I am no longer young, and I must raise my successor. Grant us a child.
But the Mother was silent.

 

* * *

 

The Mother’s Daughter seldom summoned her Priests and Priestesses to this room, this hall. But when she did, she did so for a reason: blood did not cling easily to marble.
“Amalyn,” the Mother’s Daughter said, to the youngest of her attendants, “I want you to go to the Novitiates.”
“But—”

 

“Now. The Novitiates will know, when the Baronial carriage empties into the Courtyard, which member of the family our visitor is. I
do not
want them to panic.”

 

“But—”

 

“Amalyn. You are barely out of their ranks; they know you, and will trust your reassurances.”
“And if I have none to give?” “Find them.”
Amalyn’s eyes closed. It was a type of surrender. She backed her way out of the nave, toward the door that led to the rooms that housed the novices who served the Mother. They were crowded now. Every person that the temple could save, they had—and proof of it could be found in the cramped quarters the Priests and the Novitiates shared.
“You wouldn’t be the only Daughter of the Mother that the Blood Baron has killed—”

 

“You
will not use that title
,” she said, her voice as cold and severe as any autocratic noble’s. “If it is my time, it is my time.”
“We can’t afford to lose you—” Her words died as Amalyn struggled not to say what they all knew: There was no other god-born child in the temple.
“Yes,” the Mother’s Daughter replied quietly. “We can. But we cannot afford to lose the cathedral; we cannot afford to have the name of the Mother silenced across the lands.” She hesitated and then added, in a more gentle voice, “We serve those who have no other hope. And because we have obeyed the rule of our Baron, Lord Halloran Breton, we are the only church
that has not been destroyed or driven underground. Our responsibilities are to those who have no value to the Baron. And because we can heal, child, we have value.”
“Our oaths,” Amalyn whispered.

 

“Oh, yes. If the Baron kills any of those who serve the Mother at my command, I will close the healerie to his entire clan. But if that happens,” she added, with just a hint of fear, “you must be ready to flee; if we serve no purpose, we will become as the others.”
“But you could flee
now
—”

 

“Hush, child. The Baron sent word that he wished an audience; it is not his way to be so tactful when he desires a death. I am content to wait upon his command.” Amalyn left. Only when the door swung shut behind her did the oldest of the Priests bow.
“Iain,” the Mother’s Daughter said, granting permission to speak.

 

“Why has your agreement with the Baron never extended to your own life?” He said this with quiet respect—and managed to imply several decades’ worth of reproach in the almost

 

uninflected statement. He was good at that.

 

She shrugged. “It’s enough to protect those who serve.” And then she exhaled. “Not even the Baron can be offered affront without exacting a public price, and what better victim as balm to his pride than the Mother’s Daughter herself?
“Let the temple stand,” she added softly.

 

No one was certain whether or not it was a prayer.

 

* * *

 

Baron Halloran Breton was, in these times, a man to be respected. Of the Barons, he alone had managed to subdue his neighbors, binding them in ways that she did not care to imagine to his cause. And his cause?
He had not yet named himself King. But even casual analysis of the geography of his campaigns made clear that he desired a kingdom; he was first among equals, if he held any man to be his equal.
He was not a handsome man. This much was a known fact. But he might have been, had the cast of his expression been less forbidding. He was tall, and he wore his height as if it were a mantle. Age had not lessened him; it had broadened his shoulders and crafted lines across his face that made clear he was a man of little humor.
He traveled with four guards.

 

It was one third of even the most minimal number that she had seen him use before, and this gave the Mother’s Daughter pause. But not so much pause that she did not bow. The Priests and Priestesses who served her chose the more expedient gesture of obeisance; it was certainly the one with which he was most familiar. They adorned the floor, the robes across their supine backs a spill of thick cloth. A cloth not so fine as his, and not so stained by travel.
BOOK: Essalieyan Chronicles 04 - The Weapon
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