14 Coloine (continued)
Everyone screamed except Cederic, who probably didn’t dare move. Vorantor’s blood was everywhere. I couldn’t stop staring at his body, which landed across the gold circle to obliterate half the th’an he’d so meticulously guided the mages in scribing.
The God-Empress’s white dress was spattered with scarlet, her breasts and face were smeared with it, but she simply stood there, looking down at the body. “He offered to serve God all the days of his life,” she said. “God alone knows that number. Do not presume upon God’s gift.”
She turned back to Cederic. “Kilios,” she said, and the soldier holding Cederic moved slightly, making the knife press too firmly into his throat. Cederic let out a little hiss. I took half a step forward, and his eyes went to me again, warning me.
And the God-Empress saw it.
She turned around fast, and her eyes had that terrible sharpness to them. “You care,” she said, and the room went completely silent. “He is Kilios, but I think that’s not it, is it?”
I have a feeling Cederic was trying to tell me something, but I was afraid to look away from her, the way small animals know not to look away from the fox. “He is Kilios,” I agreed, wondering how I was going to get out of this.
The God-Empress smiled. Her gory face made the smile look like something demonic. “Cut him,” she said, and I couldn’t stop myself, I took another step forward and did the mind-moving pouvra on the knife, but I wasn’t strong enough to stop the soldier cutting the finest thread of a line across the base of Cederic’s jaw. I looked at him long enough to see his wince of pain, then the God-Empress’s bloody hand grabbed my chin and forced me to meet her mad, evil eyes. “You care,” she repeated.
“I care,” I said.
Her smile broadened. “What will you give me for him, Sesskia?” she said. “Your heart, still beating? Your eyes, those strange green eyes, still blinking? What is he worth to you?”
I don’t know what I should have said. If she hadn’t slaughtered Vorantor in front of us, maybe I would have kept my composure enough to bluff. But it was too late for that. “Everything,” I said. “I will give you everything for him.”
The God-Empress licked her lips, and made a pleased sound. “Life tastes like salt,” she said, and her eyes went unfocused again. “You always were the lucky one, Sesskia, yours is still moving and mine always fall down and break,” she said, and gestured to the soldier to release Cederic, who stayed frozen in place as if he could still feel the knife there.
“Thank you, Renatha,” I said, “it is a most generous gift I truly do not deserve.”
“No, you don’t,” the God-Empress said. “I am such a wonderful sister! Don’t let him break, I will be angry if you do.” She walked out of the circle chamber, the long train of her gown smearing blood across the floor that her soldiers’ boots made prints in.
The sound of their feet faded away, and still no one moved. I was focused on the empty doorway, and now I can’t remember why—I know I had a reason, but it’s gone now. I didn’t come back to myself until I felt a hand on my arm, and Cederic said, “Sesskia.”
I turned to look at him then. The thin line of blood was already clotting. “I don’t know what I just gave away,” I said, and then we were clinging to each other because it didn’t matter anymore who knew.
“It was my fault. She saw me look at you,” Cederic said.
“I let her rattle me. It’s my fault,” I said.
“I think we can agree that it is actually her fault,” Cederic said, and I tried to laugh, but it didn’t sound right. But I felt better, with Cederic’s arms around me, and the God-Empress gone for now, and Vorantor no longer able to interfere with the kathana—though I felt horribly guilty for that thought, and I certainly didn’t wish him dead no matter how much I’d disliked him.
Anyway, I was starting to feel better, so of course that’s when the first signs of the convergence occurred.
Even now that I’ve had time to reflect on it, and discuss it with Terrael and Audryn and Sovrin, I still have trouble describing it. There was blurriness, at first, like coming up out of the water and blinking your eyes clear, only it lasts longer. Then everything went clear, but distorted; that first time, I was standing toward the northwest side of the room, so opposite the door, but it felt as if I were standing right next to the door at the same time.
That lasted for a few seconds, then faded, giving the sensation of being pulled slowly back into place. It felt like the much harder pulling I’d felt when I was brought to Castavir. When I described it to my friends, they all said that was nothing like what they experienced, and none of us could agree on anything except the sensation of being pulled.
It’s happened three more times since then (four times in the last nine hours) and there hasn’t been any pattern to it, or any better warning than the blurriness, or whatever it is everyone else feels.
But that was later. Cederic and I held each other for a few moments after the convergence’s warning passed, then he stepped away from me and said, “We no longer have any time to waste. Everyone gather your materials and your slates, go to your rooms and change your clothes. Return here with what you are wearing now so it can be burned. This room will have to be abandoned. I will arrange for Sai Vorantor’s body to be cared for. Sesskia, take Master Peressten to find us a new chamber. He will know what we need. We will mourn Sai Vorantor later. For now we have two worlds to save.”
to be continued…