Chapter 21

Previously… Having few options left, Este goes to the Temple of Twilight to make one last bid for Soshay.  After her meeting the Telmax and her growing horror at Este’s actions, Setch has begun making her own choices about her fate and the fate of the temple.  One of those choices leads to a meeting with Soshay. In the final days of her confinement, before initiation, Soshay fulfils one of her promises to Tez.  

Este left the Temple of Dawn with a now clean but still veiled Zantin following her retinue of servants.  The plaza was still bustling with vendors and devotees, but her guards forced an unfettered path for her.  Este walked slowly, enjoying the attention she received.  It was rare for the people to see a High Priestess, and she felt the Unnamed God approve of the adoration she received.

When she arrived at the Temple of Twilight, she was ushered quickly into Tenoch’s audience chamber, her retinue, except for Zantin, were left behind.  His under-priest greeted her politely. She scanned her memory for his name, knowing Setch had spoken of the young priest often.

“Greetings under-priest Qent.” Este inclined her head.  She noticed he covered his surprise at her knowledge of his name.  She hid her amused smile.  Este understood the importance of names, and remembering a name, no matter how insignificant helped create a faster rapport.

“Please, High Priestess, be seated.”  He gestured toward one of the chairs.  “Second Priest, Tenoch, will be with you shortly.  He sends his apologies for the delay.  As you must know, our High Priest has recently returned from the City of the Lake.  All of the Servants of Twilight are occupied with this visit.”

Este nodded at his words, but she did not fail to notice that the Under-Priest’s slip.  So Tenoch is not currently part of Mitlan’s council about Soshay.  Has he already fallen from favor? Has Mitlan decided to believe Soshay? Making certain that none of her thoughts were betrayed by her expression, Este removed the tilma, laying it carefully over the back of her chair, with a languid serenity.  She could feel Qent’s gaze taking in the rich fabrics and feathers of her gown. Once out of the Imperator’s favor, Este had been raiding the temple offerings to maintain her appearance of status.

She watched him artfully set out the cups and pot of chocotle.  She thanked him as she took the cup, and shifted her fingers to brush his hand.  She hesitated and let the opportunity to use her power on him pass.  I do not need to waste magic on this boy, she thought; I can bend him to my will without Him.  For a moment, she thought she heard an angry wail from the Unnamed God

She sat back with her cup, “My under-priestess speaks highly of you.”

Qent blushed and stammered his thanks.

Este suddenly realized the young priest was infatuated with Setch.  This explains how she gathers so much information from him, but why has she failed to mention this.  She must have noticed his feeling, she thought.  I will have to question her about this matterIf Setch truly missed his interest in her, then maybe she is becoming less useful to me.  Before Este could question the under-priest further, Tenoch strode through the doorway, visibly harried.

“I apologize for the delay, High Priestess” Tenoch nodded, trying to compose himself.  “Our temple has had many upheavals lately.”

Este inclined her head, “All is forgiven.”

Tenoch allowed Qent to pour him a cup of chocotle, before waving him away.  Este watched the young-priest leave, slowly.  So he wishes to know why I am here, Este thought.  Who else does he report too within the Temple of Twilight?

Tenoch’s eye fell on the veiled figure of Zantin, “What is this?”

Este smiled, “This is my Memory-Keeper.”

Tenoch shook off his blank look and scowled, “But why is she here?”

Este ran her tongue over her lips, “To record our meeting of course.”

Tenoch narrowed his eyes, and began to protest, then ceased with a shrug.  “So, what have I done to receive the honor of a visit from you?  I do not doubt that you are aware that Mitlan is back from the Capital.”

Este nodded, “Of course I know he is here, but my business is with you.”  She paused, letting him wonder about her motive.  “I want Soshay sent to the Temple of Dawn.”

Tenoch choked on his laughter.  “You are still straight-forward, Este.  Soshay is to be initiated.”  He sat his cup down with a thud, his annoyance clear.

Este sat back her lips curled into a smile.  “Oh, I will have her.”  She watched his face redden in anger.  “I know about your relationship with my under-priestess, Setch.”

Tenoch shrugged, “She comes at your bidding for temple business.  It is a common enough practice.”

Este laughed, “It is not so common for my priestess to return from bearing messages, bearing a child.”

Tenoch blinked, then his face resumed its annoyed expression.  “What does that have to do with me?  Your priestesses are free to couple with whomever they wish.”

“Can we cease posturing?”  She snapped, and without waiting for a reply continued, “My Priestess of Births has already confirmed the child is yours.”

“That is not possible.”  Tenoch said, his voice taking a deeper tone.

Este did not hesitate, “You claim my Priestess of Births is wrong?  Drioux has served the temple in that capacity for over ten years.  She is never wrong.”

Tenoch glared, “She is wrong.”  His voice was compelling, low and soothing.

This time Este felt the ripple of power in his words, she had expected this.  Given Amox’s intelligence, she knew Tenoch would try and use his gift against her.  “You would try and use your gifts against me?”   She hissed, feeling the unnamed one stir within her.

“I use no gift.”  He snapped, “I simply speak the truth.  It is not my child.”

Este blinked at the force of the power in his words.  “You bear the gift of diplomacy.”  Her words were hushed.  “Everyone thinks this gift has been gone from your temple for a century of more. I wonder what Mitlan would give to know this.”  She paused, “I wonder how the Imperator would react to learning his pet priest has been your tool for all these years.”  Este smiled as she spoke.  “While the Naiglen adores Mitlan, you have never been a favorite of his. And a child of your blood could carry your gift.”

Tenoch scowled at her.  “You play a dangerous game, Este.”  This time the power was gone from his voice, and Este heard the waver in his words.

“A game I will win, Tenoch.  The Temple of Twilight sought to discredit me once; I will not allow this again.”

Tenoch leaned forward, “Then your issue is with Mitlan and not me.  Fifteen years ago, my plans at the War Council were destroyed by Mitlan and Keron too.”

She shrugged.  “Mayhap they were, but it is against you that I have leverage.  I can prove the child is your get, and with it in my control, it would not be difficult to prove your gift as well. After all the restoration of such a powerful gift would be cause for your Temple to rejoice.”

Tenoch glared, “Why do you want the girl? She sows discord and is obstinate on a good day.”

“She belongs in Temple of Dawn.”

Tenoch laughed, “She wears Tez’s mark.  He branded her to his service.”

Este shrugged, “What mark she wears matters not.  The Temple of Dawn can use her and her gift.”  Este gazed at him, “You must stop her initiation and have her sent to us.”  She sipped from her cup, “Once this is done, I will make sure Setch’s unfortunate condition is fixed.”

Tenoch shook his head, and his hands gripped the chair in white-knuckled anger.  “I cannot simply stop her initiation.”  His voice was flat.

In that moment, Este knew she had won.  The Unnamed One’s influence began to recede.  “Have her sent to me, and I will take care of Setch’s condition.  There will be no lingering threat to you from that quarter.  Unless you want the child?”

Tenoch scowled and shook his head stiffly.  “Then we are agreed?  Soshay,” his voice was tight, “For the end of this pregnancy and your silence on your erroneous suspicions?”

Este smiled broadly, “I am glad we have come to an accord.  When Soshay arrives at my temple, I will see that Setch’s condition is terminated.”  She set her cup down and prepared to leave.

“Wait,” Tenoch snapped, “What will it take to prevent rumors about my alleged gift?”

Este placed the tilma across her shoulders, shaking it gently so it hung smoothly.  “That is a bargain for another day.  For now, I will hold this knowledge as a surety of our agreement about Soshay.”  She paused, “And stop wasting the effort on me, as you can see I am wholly immune to your gift.

Tenoch remained pale with anger, but said nothing.

“It is not my intention to destroy the Temple of Twilight, Tenoch, only those who injured me.”  Este smiled, “Consider me an ally in your little schemes to discredit Mitlan and Keron.  As long as it is advantageous to me, I will keep your secret.”  She lowered her eyes, “And maybe I will be able to find a use for you in the future.”

She smiled at him, “May the goddess’s blessing be upon you, Tenoch.”  She left the room and rejoined her retinue for the return to the Temple of Dawn.

***

Setch watched another group of first-year priestesses leave the temple on a “pilgrimage.” The excuses for sending away priestesses were wearing then.  The last group of novices sent with a few midwives to the same plantation. The official records stated these priestesses and novices were being sent to preside over an unprecedented number of pregnancies at this plantation. Drioux went so far as to claim it was a sign of Zel’s happiness with the Cetza, rather than the truth. The women who ran that plantation honored Zel, and they had offered to shelter the priestesses.

But it was not the inane excuses the Sisterhood concocted that angered Setch, rather, it was the Sisterhood’s refusal to attack Este head on. All the subterfuge only served to keep the influence within the temple even longer. Drioux acquiesced to my demand to start removing the priestesses, after the young priestess Tlazm  disappeared, but she and the Sisterhood still refuse to confront Este directly. We all wear the stone, and it has been proven to give us some measure of protection. But, Setch had to admit to herself, Drioux’s reasoning was sound. Even the small protect would not be enough to defeat the Unnamed God. And she knew that Drioux sought to protect her as well, but she seethed at Drioux’s orders intended to keep her outside of the temple and out of the Unnamed God’s eye.

As the line of priestesses leaving on their pilgrimage disappeared into the crowded city streets, Setch followed in their wake, not to fulfill the list of errands that Drioux ordered, but to meet with Telmax from the Temple of Twilight.

As Setch walked, she realized that for the first time in months, maybe years, she was confident that she was making her own choices.  The doubts that plagued her when she followed Este’s orders were gone.  Today, she decided, she had finally made her own decisions and her fate was hers alone to decide.

She found Telmax waiting at the same drink stall.  He offered her a drink as she arrived.

“No, thank you,” She replied, “I am ready for the alliance.”  Telmax hides his surprise well, she thought watching his eyes widen only slightly at her abrupt words.

“I did not expect that you would get to the point so quickly, Setch.”  He gazed at her a moment, “Shall we go then?”

It was Setch’s turn to hide her surprise.  She knew the alliance needed to take place soon, but did not expect such alacrity. She managed a nod.  “Is there a ritual? Something I need to know?”  She asked as they began to walk.

Telmax shrugged.  “That will be for you and Soshay to decide.  This is unprecedented in our records.”

They passed the main entrance to the temple, “Do we go to meet her outside of the temple?” Setch asked confused.

“No, but we do need to enter with the fewest witnesses possible.  There is an entrance through the novice’s courtyard.  I hope you do not take offense at the secrecy.”  He smiled at her.

She only shook her head and followed him to one of the high walls around the temple.  He walked to what appeared to be a solid wall and after a moment of running his hand over the wall, a slight opening appeared.  He pulled on it, revealing a door.

He glanced back at her before slipping inside.  Setch took a breath, and followed him inside.

She found herself in a small garden.  Directly in front of her was a statue of Tez.  She clambered after Telmax, trying to avoid crushing the plants between her and the courtyard proper.

“I take it this door is not used often?” She asked indicating the overgrown path.

Telmax shook his head, “I doubt it has been used since I left the temple.  I found it when I was a novice.”  He shrugged, “I used it often then, but it seems it has been all but forgotten now.”

Setch noticed a man standing in the courtyard.  He was not wearing the mantle of a priest, and while fine in quality, his clothing was clearly not that of a priest, but he was also clearly not Cetza.

“Priestess Setch,” Telmax said and nodded at the man, “Ohili will help you get into to see Soshay without anyone knowing you were here.”

Ohili bowed slightly at Setch.  His eyes flickered over her.  “You are pregnant.”

Setch started.  How could he know, and who is he to say such things?  She thought.  She frowned at him, “And you are not of the Cetza,” she responded lacing her words with contempt, “Shall we sit about and state the obvious all day?”  Her voice was cold.

Ohili colored slightly, “I apologize if I offended.  I sometimes forget the customs of the Cetza.”  He bowed his head in apology.  “You are a respected guest, and I should remember my manners.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, unable to decide if he was genuine or not.  “How will you get me into to see her?”

He smiled, “Witchcraft, my lady.”

She raised an eyebrow, “An art forbidden in the Temple of Twilight.”

Ohili sighed, “Yes, forbidden to the priests here.  But not to me.”

“And who are you?” Setch asked.

Ohili smiled, “You and Soshay will get along well.”  He gazed at her a moment, “Who I am, does not matter.  My only concern is the small-minded fools who put their desire for power and revenge above their calling.”  He looked away a moment, “Because of them, Soshay may well die.  For all her power, she is also a kind young woman and my friend.”  He glanced back at Setch, “She does not deserve to pay the price for others’ desires.”

Setch felt herself soften a little at his words.  He did seem genuinely concerned for Soshay.  “Then use your witchcraft and take me to her.  We have a pact to make and gods to unite.”  She wondered if the bravado she forced into her words would last before this night ended.

Telmax bid them both farewell, promising to return to lead Setch out of the temple.

Setch entered the Temple of Twilight following Ohili.

She found it strange to walk through the underground corridors of the temple.  As she glanced at the beautiful friezes so artfully carved and painted, and she realized that these corridors were the true heart of the temple.  Tenoch’s rooms and all of the rooms above ground were for show.  They gave the appearance of power and piety, but in these shadowed cold hallways, she felt for a brief moment, Tez’s presence.  Lord of Death, I am not your servant and am sworn to another, but for the first time in my life, I begin to understand those who serve you.

Her eyes flickered quickly over the many friezes and mosaics that lined the hallways.  She realized that without her guide, she would be hopeless lost in the maze of intersecting tunnels and closed doors.  She wondered if the labyrinthine tunnels were purposeful, if they signified something to Tez’s servants.  She almost asked Ohili, but he gestured for her to remain silent.  He stopped at a blind corner and motioned for her to wait.

She waited and heard his voice.  He seemed to be speaking to someone, but it was a language she thought she recognized as Suyuian.  He spoke quickly and quietly for a minute, and then called out to her.

Setch peered cautiously around the corner.  Two temple guards stood as if they were frozen.  They had no response to Ohili, nor did they turn as Setch rounded the corner.  “What did you do to them?” she whispered to Ohili.

He grinned, “I told you, witchcraft.”  He knocked on the door, “Are you ready to meet Soshay?”

Setch nodded.

***

Soshay waited in her chamber.  Pelo had already left her dinner tray, and had whispered for her to be prepared tonight.  She did not know if that meant she was to meet the priestess of Zel tonight, or if she should expect Ohili to return, or if the servants who worshipped her had something planned.  She sincerely hoped it was not the latter.

She had spent her time after Pelo left copying her prophecies.  It occurred to her that giving copies of her prophecies to Zel’s priestess would be wise.  If all else fails, at least someone will have access to Tez’s warnings.

Soshay no longer trusted anyone in the Temple of Twilight to heed her words.  She was certain that Keron would find many of her prophecies altered by Tenoch or Neldo.  And Mitlan had proved to be just as bad as Tenoch.  He listened, but only so long as my words pleased him.  She decided that maybe this priestess could use her prophecies to warn someone who would listen. She even had a copy of her prophecies to give to Pelo for the cult of the true bride.

She heard footsteps coming down the hallway, and was not surprised to see Ohili appear at her door.  She was surprised by the woman following behind him.

“Soshay,” Ohili said and nodded toward Setch, “Priestess Setch of the Temple of Dawn.”

Soshay smiled at the woman, “I am glad to finally meet you.”

Setch returned the smile and the greeting

Soshay noted Setch’s calculating gaze but was too stunned by the priestess’s beauty to say anything.  She is achingly beautiful, Soshay thought.  She could easily have posed for the images of goddess Zel, herself.

Ohili broke the silence between them.  “My magic is short lived, so you both must complete your alliance quickly.”

Both women turned and looked at him confused.  Finally Soshay collected her thoughts and tried to ignore how inferior she felt in the presence of this woman.

“Priestess Setch,” Soshay began, “I have had a vision of your goddess and I know both our gods desire this meeting, but while I was given a vision of the ritual, I believe the Unnamed One, the Corrupter, kept the actual words from me.” Soshay looked to Ohili, “How long will your magic last?”

Ohili shrugged, “An hour, more or less.”

“Then let us hope for more.” Setch said, “Please, may we,” she gestured at Soshay, “Be left alone?”

“Yes, that seems best.” Soshay agreed.

Ohili nodded, “I will be outside if I am needed.”

Again the women looked at each other, both seeming to wait for the other to lead.

“May I ask,” Setch began, “What did Zel say?”  Setch was unsure of the rules that governed such questions in the Temple of Twilight.  In the Temple of Dawn, it was considered rude to ask about another’s vision; in the Temple of Twilight it could be breakfast conversation or forbidden entirely.

Soshay pulled a chair out and offered it to Setch and seated herself on the bed.  She crossed her legs under her skirt, and to Setch this made Soshay look much younger.  While Setch could clearly see her resemblance to Chacon, the younger priestess’s social ineptness lessened the resemblance.

“Of course you may ask,” Soshay responded.  Her eyes grew distant as she remembered, “She was not entirely happy about setting aside her disputes with Tez, but she accepts the need.  Somehow, what we do today will help them to,” she paused searching for words, “To put aside their dispute.”  She paused, “I think more will be demanded of us, but I don’t know.”  Soshay closed her eyes briefly.  She feared the loss of clarity that her visions provided more than anything else.  In her years in the temple, they had become the only thing she could trust.

Setch nodded, “And what of the Unnamed God, what do you know if him?”

Soshay shivered recalling the God from her vision and the trail of blood and fire that followed Him. “Our alliance will lead to His destruction.  At least that is what I have seen.”

Setch nodded again, “Then let us enter into an alliance because His destruction cannot come soon enough.”  She held out her hand.

Soshay took Setch’s hand hesitantly.

“What do we do?” Setch asked, she had opened her mouth to say more, but her eyes found Soshay’s arm and she stared a moment at the shimmering gold glyphs of Tez’s constellation.  “You really are his chosen.  None can deny that upon seeing this.”

“My mark may be visible, but it has not stopped anyone from questioning my place here.  Your goddess has not marked you visibly, but to those that choose to see, you are Zel’s chosen.”

Setch felt the air around them grow heavy, like feeling that accompanied a rainstorm.  “You see this?” she whispered.

Soshay tightened her hold on Setch’s hand, “Zel told me this.  She named you as her chosen.”

This time Soshay’s eyes widened as the air shifted.  “I have felt this before…” She looked at Setch wide-eyed, “The night I swore myself to Tez, I felt this.”  She gestured about the room, unable to describe the feeling that permeated the small chamber.

“Our words are true here; they bind us to our purpose” Setch replied, suddenly confident in this undertaking.  She took Soshay’s hand and began to speak.

Soshay listened to the prayer, one that called upon Zel’s blessing.  Setch spoke the words with confidence and genuine emotion.  Soshay noticed none of the empty tones she had started to associate with so many in temple service.  Every word Setch spoke seemed to hold power and emotion.  After Setch finished the fourth recitation of the prayer, she paused.

Both of them felt the heavy weight of power in the room.

Setch began again, “As Zel’s chosen, as priestess within the Temple of Dawn,” she paused a moment, “I seek alliance with the Temple of Twilight, and the Lord of Death, Tez.”

Time seemed to stop in the room.  Soshay could only focus on the resonance of the words; words that seemed to flow through her body.  “I, Soshay, chosen of Tez, his True Bride, seek alliance with the Temple of Dawn, and Zel’s True High Priestess.”  She felt the words come to her without effort.  All her fears that the Unnamed One had defeated them by hiding the words of the ritual fell away.  Somehow both of them seemed to find the words they needed.

Setch’s blinked to hear herself called the high priestess, but before she could consider the implication, but Soshay continued speaking.  She began the prayers that invoked Tez’s blessing.  She hoped they held the same ring of truth and power that Setch’s words carried.  She repeated the prayer three times, and felt the power grow.  Soshay then repeated the request for an alliance between their gods, between their temples and between each other.

Setch responded, “The Temple of Dawn accepts this alliance and I offer my allegiance to you, the True Bride, to Tez the Lord of Death, and the Temple of Twilight.”

Soshay responded in turn and watched Setch shiver and run her free hand over her lower back.  Soshay shot her a questioning glance.

Setch whispered, “I felt something.  Like a touch at my back.”

Her quiet response did not seem to disrupt their ritual.  Soshay shifted and glanced at Setch’s back.  She plucked at the fabric of Setch’s gown and caught her breath.  She could just see the top of a mark, shimmering green lines running down Setch’s back.  She smiled at Setch, “I told you that Zel had marked you.  And now she has in truth.”

Setch raised her hand again, feeling her back.  “Marked? Like you?”

Soshay nodded, “I cannot see the whole of it, but Her mark is there.”

Both women remained silent a moment.  Each felt the presence of power in the room.

Soshay drew a small kitchen knife from the bed.  Soshay drew the blade across her own forearm, lightly, but enough to draw a small line of blood.  “With my blood, I bind us to our purpose.”  She handed the knife to Setch.

Setch held the knife awkwardly for a second, before mimicking Soshay’s gesture.  The blade stung for moment, but as her blood appeared she felt, for a moment, the warmth of the dawn sun.  “With my blood, I bind us to our purpose.”

Their blood dripped slowly toward their clasped hands, mingling between their palms.

The blood seemed unnaturally warm to Setch, but then Zel was not a god who demanded blood, so she had little experience with it.  She slowly drew her hand away from Soshay, noting both their palms were coated in blood.  She used her clean hand to pull the stone free of her wrist.  She wrapped Soshay’s bloodied hand around the stone, and clasped her own with her free hand.  Both women felt the hum of power in the action.

“By this stone, I bind us to this alliance.”  Setch said, feeling both stones grow warm and throb with power.

Soshay repeated the words and her hushed tone, told Setch that she too felt the throb of power.  Setch handed Soshay the stone.  Soshay placed it around her neck without pause.

“We are bound.”  Both women said in unison.

The pressure in the air built again, and then was gone.

Soshay looked at the stone she wore, noticing the blood that should cover its surface was gone.  She rose, slightly unsteady on her legs and found two bandages.  She wrapped Setch’s arm, and allowed the other woman to wrap her own.

“I did not expect that.”  Soshay whispered, not wanting to disrupt the moment.

Setch nodded, “In this we agree.  I…” She frowned, “I do not know what I expected, but it was not this.”  She rubbed the bandage on her arm.  “But, the deed is now done.  We are bound together, and together we will defeat the Unnamed One.”  She craned her neck, trying to see her back.

Soshay smiled, “I am sorry I don’t have a mirror for you.”  She shrugged, “But when you see it, I think you will finally know that Zel had chosen you.”

Setch’s hand unconsciously went to rest against her abdomen, “Thank you Soshay.” She paused, and seemed consider something more than her new mark.  “Soshay, I understand that you are sworn to Tez, but I fear that you are in danger here.  If your High Priest is fool enough to believe Tenoch’s lies, I have a way to save you from his machinations.  I could offer you sanctuary in the Temple of Dawn, but I think you would be safer in the Temple of Midnight.”

Soshay raised an eyebrow, “You have such sway over Mitlan?”

Setch grimaced, “Not him, but Tenoch.  What I know will destroy him, and while I am loath to use my…” she paused, “My daughter in such a way, I will to save us all.”

Soshay gasped her eyes darting to Setch’s stomach, “You carry his…” She let her words trail off.

Setch laughed, “No, but he will believe I do.  I carry another’s child.  He is a worthy man, a good man.”  She locked eyes with Soshay, “The child was fathered by Qent, Tenoch’s under-priest.”

Soshay tried to remember the man’s face.  She had seen him with Tenoch, and could only remember that she thought he looked sad. “You trust me with a great deal, Setch.”

Setch smiled, “We are allies; we must trust each other.”

Soshay grinned at her, “Then I will trust you,” her expression became serious, “Zel has cursed me to love a man, when I am only supposed to love Tez.”

Setch stared at Soshay, noting how sad she appeared.  The young woman seemed far too serious and far too tired for Setch’s comfort.  “It may seem to be a curse, but love,” Setch paused thinking briefly of Qent, “Love is a rare gift.  Do you see this man you love?”

Soshay looked up at Setch, feeling on the verge of tears, she nodded.  “I love the High Oracle.  I see him almost every day.”

Setch smiled softly, realizing that Soshay had probably never had a female friend, that she had no one to talk about love with.  “He’s a handsome man,” Setch paused, “Remember that you can see him, speak to him, be near him every day.  Even if you cannot consummate your love, you have far more than I do.  I love Qent, but I don’t know if or when I will ever see him again.”

“Now we both hold each other’s lives and status in each other’s hands.”  Soshay said softly.  “Maybe, maybe we will both find happiness, despite the lives the gods have given us.”

They sat in silence a moment before Soshay spoke again.  “Setch, I appreciate your offer, but I must trust in Tez.  I cannot leave the Temple of Twilight.”

Setch nodded slowly, “I had expected as much, but I wanted to offer.  But be wary of Tenoch, he seeks to destroy you.”

Soshay nodded, “I have something for you to take with you.”

“For me?”

Soshay nodded and picked up the tightly rolled bundle of her copied prophecies.  “These,” she said indicating the rolled pages, “Are the most recent of my prophecies.”  She offered them to Setch.

Setch took a step back.  She may not be clear on etiquette on the Temple of Twilight, but she did know they guarded their prophecies with great fervor.  “I cannot.”

“You must.”  Soshay paused, “I no longer trust that my prophecies are being recorded accurately.”  She shook her head, “I know they are not being recorded correctly.  Tenoch has changed them to suit his will.  I don’t know if I can trust Mitlan, and Keron doesn’t have access to anyone in power outside of the temple.”  She held the bundle of pages out again, “Please take them.  You live in the world outside.  Maybe you can find a way to use them to help our people.”  Soshay pressed the pages into Setch’s hands.  “If you don’t trust your own temple, give them to the Temple of Midnight.  Perhaps Tzi’s servants will use them, even if they abjure the gift of prophecy.”

Setch took the roll of pages, staring at Soshay.  “You would give me these?  Don’t you understand how much power these represent?  That with this information, any temple could shift the balance of power to their favor?”

Soshay shrugged, “I don’t care about power, or prestige, or even which temple is the most powerful.”  She heard her voice grow stronger.  “Tez has given me this gift to help our people.  If the Temple of Twilight fails in this, you are my only option.”  She took a deep breath, “and I trust that you will use these prophecies to help our people or at least give them to someone who can use them to help us.”

Setch clasped the bundle of pages to her chest, “Thank you for your trust in me.”  She smiled looking Soshay over again, “You know you are not at all what I expected.”

Soshay frowned, “What did you expect?”

“I knew your sister, Chacon.  We were novices together.  We worked closely together for a few years, before she left the Temple of Dawn.”  Setch paused a moment, “I think I feared that you would be like her.  I will not lie to you Soshay.  Your sister was, is ambitious.  She reveled in games of power and politics – and in her spying for Este.  She manipulates everyone around her, and this makes her powerful.”  Setch gazed at Soshay a moment, “You look like her.  You have the same coloring and features.”

Soshay offered a sad smile, “So she has not changed at all from the girl I remember.”  Soshay offered a sad smile, “She was manipulating as a child.  And made everyone in the household love her.”  She fingered the stone around her throat, “I had hoped that maybe, maybe she would become something better.”

“I am sorry to be the one to end that dream.”  Setch laid her hand on Soshay’s cheek, “But, you are nothing like her.”

Soshay looked up at her, “And I wonder if that will be my downfall.”  She sighed, “If I had learned to manipulate those around me, to trick them into bending to my will, I wonder if Tenoch would be trying to destroy me.”

Setch nodded.  “If you were like your sister, you would be working with him.  You would be selfish and self-serving.”  Setch gestured to the prophecies, “And you would be selling these, not giving them away.”

Both women jumped hearing Ohili clear his throat.

“I am loath to separate you both, but our time runs out.  I can feel the magic wavering, and I must get Setch out of the temple unseen.”

Setch leaned down and quickly whispered to Soshay, “There is a door behind the shrine to Tez.  You may yet need it. Remember look to the Temple of Midnight, it may be a haven for us both.”  She straightened.  “We will speak again Soshay.”

Soshay nodded, “Yes, we will.”

Soshay watched Setch follow Ohili out of the chamber and was once again, alone.  She rubbed at the bandage on her wrist, so the magic ends she thought.

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