Following Este’s command, Setch left the Temple of Dawn. Even so near sunset, the plaza between the temples was filled with people. Various stalls sold trinkets, food, and offerings to the faithful. Setch loved the riotous noise in the plaza, especially after the hushed silence within the Temple of Dawn. The vendors hawked their wares and the faithful wandered among the rows often with cries of delight at the objects they found. All these sounds mingled with the sounds of the city itself. While the plaza was at the center of the city, nothing could lessen the sounds of the jungle that surrounded it. The raucous calls of parrots and the songs of birds still filtered through the noise. She walked slowly, enjoying the scents of incense and oils mingled with the spice and tang of cooking food. For Setch, the plaza was living chaos, the cycle of life that her Goddess ruled over.
She stepped into the shadow of the massive gray-stone ziggurat, the Temple of Twilight, sooner than she expected, but was quickly admitted to Tenoch’s private chambers by his under-priest, Qent.
“Priestess Setch, May Tez’s blessing be upon you.” He inclined his head slightly after finishing the ritual greeting.
“Priest Qent, May Zel’s grace be upon you” she returned the greeting and bow.
He seemed more relaxed after the ritual politeness was completed. “It’s good to see you again.” He offered a shy smile.
She felt her lips twitch in a smile at his kindness. And as always, she ignored the slight flutter in her belly and her quickening heartbeat. Being near Qent always invoked such responses from her. “I am well, thank you” She responded, as she seated herself on one of the benches in the room. She had been trained by Este seduce, but with Qent she always felt like a naive girl being courted. She was troubled by her feelings toward him. She racked her brain for the right words to lead Qent into conversation, while he set out a tray with cups and a pot of chocotle, the bitter drink she favored.
While waiting with him, she had in the past, secured valuable information from him. “Has your oracle recovered?” She tried to keep her tone light, politely disinterested.
Qent stopped setting out the cups and drinks and looked serious. “I cannot gossip about the True Bride of Tez.” He stumbled on the words, his eyes not meeting hers.
Setch inwardly cringed at her misstep. She should have realized that Soshay being marked by Tez would change her status. “I apologize, Qent. I did not intend to offend” she dipped her head in apology. “I did not know she had gained such a standing. I thought she was still a novice, and still a novelty” she kept her voice light, but felt a sting at having upset him. Not the fear of failing to gather information, but the sting of having hurt him.
Qent looked abashed. “There is no way for you to have known Setch. Soshay now bears the mark of Tez. His constellation appeared branded on her arm in golden lines. She is said to be his chosen bride, but you are correct she is still a novice, and in many ways still a novelty.” He offered her a smile.
Setch gave a tinkling giggle. With Qent’s laughter, she knew that she had renewed their banter. He would tell her more. “I remember being a novice and my fears of initiation, I wonder if she is afraid too?”
Qent nodded in understanding. “She has until the next dark moon to prepare herself. I am sure, she will excel. The High Oracle, himself, has taken over all of her training.”
Setch nodded and smiled, willing him to continue.
Qent sipped at his drink, “We cannot speak of our initiations, but ours are not as gruesome as you probably imagine.”
She grinned, “And ours are probably not as sweet and light as you imagine.” At her first meeting with Qent, she had used their shared upbringing to forge a connection to the young priest. Their parents had both followed the old-fashioned tradition of sending the second or third child to the temple. She wondered if he missed his family with the same dull ache that she missed her own. She felt her smile falter.
“Is anything wrong?” Qent asked catching the slight change in her expression, as only a trained priest would.
She shook her head. “No, only remembering my family” she added a slight moue to her expression. “I wonder if Soshay misses her family to. She and I were about the same age when we entered temple service.” She noticed that Qent failed to pick up the hint she was setting out. Trying to point out her commonalities to Soshay would not get Setch the audience with the novice that she needed. She decided to try a different track, “I knew Soshay’s sister, Chacon. We were novices together. Chacon spoke often of the closeness of her bond to Soshay.” She shook her head, as to dispel her melancholy mood. “Someday maybe I will meet your Soshay and speak to her of her sister.” She offered a small smile, and had to admit that Qent was not going taking her bait today. He was far more reticent to speak of Soshay than usual. Setch dropped the discussion. “But on to lighter topics, Tenoch will not be happy to find me maudlin in my mood.”
Qent let slip a small grimace at the mention of Tenoch, which Setch filed away for use later.
“After Soshay’s initiation, maybe she could meet with you. Mitlan has sent orders that we must seek better relations between the temples. Maybe you and she could create a stronger alliance between Tez and Zel? She may be a better ally for your temple than Tenoch.”
Setch nodded, hiding her glee. Now she need only convince Qent to arrange a meeting before the initiation. Once bound to Tez, it would be too late to bring Soshay into Zel’s temple. She sipped her chocotle as she considered her next move.
Her plans were interrupted by the door flinging open. She rose gracefully to her feet and inclined her head to Tenoch. “Tenoch” she murmured.
Qent scrambled to his feet and began collecting the cups and pot. “My Lord” he nodded and scurried to leave the room, offering Setch a small smile behind Tenoch’s back.
“Well met priestess Setch. What news does your mistress send today?” He absently waved Qent from the room.
“Only well-wishes on the success of your new oracle. Word of her marking has reached even us.” She kept her eyes downcast. With Tenoch she was always deferential, his pride required it. While he had risen through the ranks of the priesthood quickly and attained the second-highest rank possible, she had learned that he craved deference. For all the power the temple gave him, Setch knew he craved more. She heard the door lock behind Qent. The sharp click echoed through the room.
Tenoch scowled. “Yes, she bares a mark.”
Setch gauged he would not be forthcoming with more information. He was angry, and that did not portend well for gathering intelligence. She remained standing as he sat. “Tenoch, let us not bother with that girl” she whispered. “We have such limited time together.”
“Take off your clothes and kneel” he ordered settling into the chair Qent had vacated.
Without a word she slid the bright emerald blouse over her head, tossing it to the chair. Her skirt, tied and twisted into pleats fell after it. She stood naked before him feeling a slow blush color her skin as his eyes traveled over her. She had carefully coiffed her hair in a high complex crown of braids and twists, far more elaborate than most adult women bothered with. Sometimes he asked her to leave it enjoying watching her become disheveled. Sometimes he wanted it down. She waited for his instructions.
“Kneel” he ordered again.
She dropped to her knees on the stone floor and waited. She served her goddess in this act, and that thought filled her with glory. She felt the wetness between her thighs, a religious ecstasy. As he rose and his hands began to run over her body, her stomach tightened with anticipation.
When he freed his phallus from his clothing, she slid her lips around it and half closed her eyes. She felt the hand of the goddess in this, and knew that Tenoch’s moan was a paean to Her. She worshipped his phallus with her mouth and tongue, until his hoarse voice commanded her to stop. She sat back on her heels, feeling her own desire burning in her blood. She murmured a prayer to Zel.
“Come,” Tenoch offered his hand to her. She followed him to the whipping post. This, she knew, was what made her successful in seducing Tenoch. Unlike the other priestesses, Setch genuinely found pleasure in the whipping. And Tenoch needed to inflict pain upon her, but perhaps his need was tempered by Tez, as he wanted a willing partner. Now she leaned against the whipping post, her hands grasping the holds above her head. Tenoch kissed her deeply, his hand twisting in her hair. “My beautiful Setch,” he whispered.
Setch shivered, her body aching for the lash. She moaned, a mix of delight and pain, as the lash met her skin. Tenoch wielded the flail of his god with skill, striking her flesh over and over, but never breaking her skin. In this act, Setch thought they both found succor with their gods. She was drenched in sweat and shaking with lust when he ceased.
She sagged against the whipping post, and let out a hiss of pain as his skin came in contact with the welts on her body. He carried her to his bed, and laid her on her stomach. He ran a light finger over her skin, and she shivered. Her thighs were wet with desire and need. “Now, Tenoch” She pleaded quietly.
She felt his phallus press against her, and press roughly inside. Setch whispered the goddess’s name as he fucked her. She let herself drown in the sensations, crying out her own pleasures as they overcame her. It wasn’t until he sagged heavily against her that she shook off her stupor. She felt his phallus slip wetly from her, and she smiled.
Setch lay curled, naked on his bed, her body languid.
He now lay sprawled across his bed, his face content. Setch knew he would talk now. She need only remain silent and still and he would speak without concern for the secrets he spilled.
She felt his eyes roam over her still naked form. “We should admit more women to our temple” he smirked at her, “I could use this type of worship regularly.”
Setch did not raise her eyes, but offered a shy pout, “Your women of death could never please you as I do.” It was these times that were the most difficult. Every expression, every word, every movement must be calculated for the greatest effect.
While the Temple trained all its servants in the arts of love and sex, it was Este who trained her priestesses to listen and wheedle secrets from them. The trading in secrets was the act that made Setch ashamed. The goddess blessed sex freely given and enjoyed, but to take this act of worship and use it to manipulate always seemed to Setch like a heresy.
Yet she watched Tenoch through her eyelashes, noting the languor of his limbs, the contented smile, and the thin sheen of sweat on his skin. He was pleased, relaxed.
“These fool priests call her the True Bride now” he barked out a laugh. He slowly rose to sit and look down at her. “However, she has proven herself to be useless to me.”
Setch forced her muscles to stay relaxed. She wanted to learn how Soshay had failed him.
“My pet, you were initiated in your temple, yes?”
She nodded, considering her next move. She needed him to stay in bed, relaxed and talkative. She turned to look up at him, letting her hand run softly across his chest.
“Hmm, was it terrible?”
Setch raised her eyes a bit, Tenoch did like an audience. “Terrible?” She noted his flush of interest. Like so many, he believed the stories that initiation in the Temple of Dawn was an orgy of hedonistic delights. “Oh no,” she laughed softly. “It was…” she paused biting her lip, and letting her eyes drop, “it was wonderful.” Let him fill in whatever hedonism he imagined, if it kept his attention.
“I think Soshay will not find her trials as enjoyable as you, my dear.” He smiled and lay back on the bed.
“If she fails, will she be sent from the temple?” It was a gamble to ask such a pointed question, but she believed it was worth it. “You would be rid of her then.”
Tenoch laughed, “Are you so concerned about my happiness my pet?”
Her lips curved into a coy smile, “Happiness?” she shrugged, “But your pleasure concerns me.” She slid her tongue over her lower lip. “Your pleasure pleases me.” She noticed his cock began to stir.
“You do please me. But no, we will not send Soshay to another’s service. She is too powerful to give to another temple. Her failure will mean her servitude or her death.” He delivered the sentence with the same disinterest he would use to discuss a purchase at a market. He reached for her, “come my pet.”
Keeping her movements fluid, she slid over the bed. “Then my lord, you will be rid of her permanently.” She smiled and ran her tongue over his stomach.
Tenoch stroked her hair. “Yes, she will be gone and Keron will be discredited. I will miss you most my pet, when I am the Imperator’s advisor at the City of the Lake.” He stroked her hair, gathering a hank in his fist.
Setch glanced up at him, affecting a pout, “I will miss our meetings, and unless Zel’s esteem is raised, it is unlikely you will see me in the capital.”
He smiled. “Zel will rise, not so high as Tez. It is Rastban and the foreign Lakiti gods that will fall.” He jerked her hair, tugging her head toward his cock. “And just like Soshay, I’ll see that foreign queen disappear too.”
Setch slid her lips around his cock, never hesitating to follow his commands.
He sighed in pleasure, “I do not think Soshay will accept servitude, so she will be laid on Tez’s altar.” His hand tightened on Setch’s hair, drawing tears from her eyes as she lowered her mouth. “But slitting her throat and tearing out her heart while Keron watches will please me.”
Setch listened as she pleasured him. Once he began speaking, Tenoch rarely stopped. Always he spoke of the ancient days of Emperor Priests. This night, however, he spoke endlessly on his deep hatred anyone he deemed not Cetza. She had never heard anyone be so focused on bloodline and heritage, but the puzzle of his plans finally fell into place for her.
Setch smiled around her work. She knew his plans, and was a bit disappointed at the banal level of them. She had heard it all before, the same carnal desire for power, for prestige. He had covered them in a veneer of xenophobia that made little sense to her. She let his words and schemes wash over her, all the while feeling her own pleasure grow. In this she served her Goddess.
She dressed, while he watched her. Her body still ached, but it also tingled with spent passion. Tenoch stay on the bed, watching. With a deft hand, she twisted her hair back into a semblance of order. “Until, I can get away again, Tenoch” she murmured, “I will remember this night.”
“Return soon. After Soshay’s failure, I will not be long in the City of the Jungle.”
She hid her indifference as she pulled on her blouse.
Tenoch sat up, “Drink with me before you go.”
Setch thought he looked wistful in the asking. It was their ritual. After everything, he would serve her chocotle, as if she was indeed an honored peer from another temple. She would sip her drink, and he would offer empty platitudes of an alliance, of their temples working together, or of holy days. She would sip the drink, feeling the memory of his hands still on her, feeling the stickiness between her thighs, drying to a memory. She would then leave the temple and return to Este to speak everything she heard.
“I wish I could,” Setch began, and realized that she did wish for this part of their assignation, “but Este demands my presence tonight at a ritual.” She rolled her eyes, feigning annoyance. “And I must have time to clean up.” She tried to make the words sound seductive. “You know that Este doesn’t approve of my,” she paused and licked her lips, “friendship with you.”
Tenoch shot her a grin. “Then, I will bid you farewell.”
Setch smiled as warmly as she could manage and sauntered from his bedroom. Once in the sitting room, she quickly straightened her clothing and hurried from the temple.
I finally have the information Este wants. As she hurried across the plaza between the temples, she could not keep the smile from her face. He is so foolishly shallow, and so bizarrely fixated on heritage. She realized that she had barely spared a thought for Soshay, the novice oracle whose life Tenoch casually planned to destroy.
As she walked through the now, nearly empty plaza, she saw that the Temple of Midnight, Tzi’s temple of witches, glittered with lights and the sounds of drums and voices in song reached her ears. She shivered a bit at the sounds, the silence of the city and the stone courtyards made the sounds echo and drift unnaturally. Something about the rhythms stirred her blood. The endless thud of the drums pressed against her, matching her heart, no speeding her heart. She realized she had stopped at the entrance to Tzi’s courtyard, only a change in the color of the stones marked the start of each temple’s domain. Tzi’s were a vast field of shimmering black obsidian. Tonight, they reflected the moon like a mirror, and the shine of the moon created a path to the entrance of the temple.
Setch felt herself swaying in time to the drums and singing. She was overwhelmed with the desire to step on to the moonlight path. For a moment, she knew to step on to the silver light would change her, would take from her for her obligations to Este. She could leave behind her fears of heresy. She took a step toward the path, the drums beating in her brain. One more step would place her on the path, and she raised her foot to move and saw it. A small snake lay stretched across the path. Maybe seeking the last of the day’s warmth held in the stones, she thought. The serpent turned its head toward her, its tongue flicking in the night air. Serpents are my Lady’s animals.
The drums and singing faded, only Setch and the serpent seemed real. The snake moved swiftly from the path, and twined around Setch’s ankle, before disappearing in the shadows. Setch felt a whisper of a caress. “Not now. Later,” she whispered, but did not know where the words came from, only that they spilled unbidden from her lips. “I trust in you, Zel” she murmured and turned away from Tzi’s temple and the shimmering moonlight.
Once safely inside Zel’s temple, surrounded by a million growing things, her encounter with the serpent grew distant, dreamlike. Normally she would immediately inform Este of her return, but tonight she went first to the altar room. The malachite tiles glistened in the candle light, become a deeper green, the striations almost black. You are a goddess of mystery too, not only Tzi can claim that she thought as she made her way to the altar.
The priestess Drioux was collecting all the day’s offerings. The flowers and plants would be used to fertilize the extensive gardens. Any fruit still edible would grace their plates. Drioux turned hearing her step.
“Setch, my child. Come in. I so rarely see you in the temple anymore.” Her words were soft, only chiding a little.
When Setch had entered the temple, Drioux had quickly become a replacement mother for her. Setch smiled, the older priestess had always been kind to her, and had arranged so many of her secret lessons. Drioux always told her that the hand of the goddess rested upon her, and Setch liked to believe it. “The goddess’s work keeps me busy. I visit for daily prayers, but sadly not often at dawn.”
Drioux sat on the steps to the altar and patted a space beside her. “The goddess’s work keeps you out until Tzi’s hours? It is mighty work you do then.”
Setch sat and pulled her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. “Este says it is important work. She speaks for the goddess, I only serve.” Sitting on the cold stone made the welts Tenoch left on her sting.
“Ah, Este says.”
Setch heard a question in the words. She knew that Drioux suspected what type of work she did, but never said anything. Setch glanced at her with a raised eyebrow.
“You know I was an acolyte with Este. We entered the temple together, albeit she was younger than I. She rose so quickly in the goddess’s service. Much like young Chacon did. But then, they are both ambitious women. I was more like you, content only to serve.” She sighed.
“But Este serves as well. She speaks for the goddess; I have felt Her presence in the audience chamber.” Setch responded with a prickling unease.
“In the audience chamber, I too feel a presence there, but in my early days of service,” she paused as if counting years, “The High Priestess Citlalmina still ruled. The goddess seemed to always shine from within Citlalmina. Zel often spoke from within her here in the altar room, and even outside of the temple. Once I saw Citlalmina call the goddess to bless the blighted fields. I saw the crops turn green and thriving in an instant. With Este, it is only when she sits in that chair.” Drioux shrugged, “but I have served a good many years, maybe I am jaded by miracles.” She offered a tired smile.
“But the throne is a mark of Zel’s favor. It makes sense Her presence would be strongest there.” Setch’s voice shook.
“Ah, my little sister, the Chair has not always been in the temple. It arrived when Citlalmina was but an acolyte; she told me the story. She questioned the wisdom of using it, but her High Priestess believed Zel desired it.” She gazed at the images of Zel on the walls, “Citlalmina never sat in the chair as High Priestess. The chair has power, and it seems Este has mastered its power. But it is not Zel’s power.” She turned her dark gaze to Setch, “Whether Zel wills it or no, Este is bound to the chair.”
The words hung between them. Setch could no longer pretend this was idle talk, what Drioux implied was doubt, and doubt in Este the voice of the goddess herself. But the words made sense, maybe it was the years of friendship she shared with Drioux, or maybe it was the hand of the Goddess, but Setch wanted to believe what Drioux implied. Setch could find no words to respond.
“Little sister the reach of the gods is vast, and when they lay their hand on you it is a heavy burden, I know. Zel’s hand is upon you. Listen well and heed Her will, not the will of Este.”
The words bored into Setch with the force of truth. “But to say such things, it is blasphemy. It is wrong.” Her voice faltered as her thoughts questions whether the assignations, ordered for gaining information, were truly the will of Zel. She felt her chest tighten and struggled to breathe. She tried to calm her thoughts reminding herself that She, the Goddess, needed Setch’s body. She commands the work Setch did. But Setch could hear the echo of Este’s words in the thoughts.
“Breathe Setch.” Drioux’s voice broke through her thoughts. “Take a deep breath. Focus on me, on my face.” She took Setch’s face in her hands and turned it toward her. “Setch, please you must breathe and be calm.”
Again the words felt right. Setch pushed the thoughts way and fought to take air into her lungs. Slowly her heart slowed and the tightening in her chest lessened. “Drioux, what have I done?”
“You have tried to serve as best you can. It is what we all do. I am sorry to have troubled you so gravely with my careless words.” She stroked Setch’s cheek. “Be at peace child. You are favored by the goddess.”
Setch stared into the darkened temple, shaken. Were the things she did commanded by the goddess, or by an ambitious priestess?
Drioux reached for her hand and Setch felt something cool and hard in her palm. She looked toward Drioux.
“It is called Zel’s tear” Drioux began, “Maybe it is only a pretty rock, but it has always brought me peace. Wear it little sister, wear it and remember She has wept for you.” She lifted her hand away to let Setch see the stone stung on a leather cord. It was small, the size of her smallest fingernail, but it seemed to gleam with hope. The blue stone was faceted and cut to resemble a tear, or a drop of water. It caught the glitter from the witchlights when Setch let it dangle from the cord. The refracted light shone across Drioux’s face.
“It is for you. I have had it for far too long, and I think,” She paused and took the cord and placed it around Setch’s neck, “I think you need it.” She leaned forward and kissed Setch’s forehead.
Setch felt the stone settle between her breasts. For such a small stone, it seemed to cool her entire body and the tightening in her chest eased. “Thank you.” She whispered, unsure whether it was to Drioux or the Goddess that she spoke. She laid her hand on the stone, feeling its reassuring shape through her blouse.
“I have kept you long enough. I am sure Este looks for you.” Drioux sounded sad. “It has been a long while since you sought me out, never forget little sister, I am always here for you.” Drioux rose from the steps.
Setch continued to finger the stone with an absent nod. “Thank you, again.” She managed and watched Drioux collect the basket of fruit and disappear into the shadows behind the altar.
Setch sat in the darkened temple alone as her thoughts ran riot. She prayed, “Zel, have I been misled? Never have I doubted so much.” The stone seemed to warm under her fingers. She jerked her head up, thinking she heard a soft sigh and tears. She gazed about the shadowed temple, expecting to see a woman seeking aid. The room remained empty, but a single drop of water fell from the stone pendent. “My Lady what must I do?” she whispered into the empty altar room. This time Setch received no answer.
She remained in the temple, finally willing herself to go to Este. She would report on Soshay, but keep her doubts to herself.
Even in the late hour, Este was quick to admit Setch to the audience chamber. Setch knelt with her head bowed. “I have done as you commanded, my lady.” She kept her eyes trained on the floor.
She listened to Este shift in the chair. “Tell me.”
Setch told of Tenoch’s plan to make Soshay fail her initiation. Her words were devoid of emotion, of even inflection. She was physically and emotional sore and tired and very confused. If Zel wants the girl, I will continue my work, but if it is only a game of power, can I continue to serve Este’s desires? She repeated the thought over and over as she spoke.
“He would destroy such a tool, why?” Este snapped.
“Because she will not abide his will.” Setch said.
Setch felt Este place a hand on her head and stroke her hair. Setch was overcome with fatigue but could not move. She could hear Este’s voice from a great distance.
“You will tell me everything. Every word, every deed that passed between you and Tenoch.”
She felt the words begin pouring forth and was helpless to prevent it. It was like a dream that she could not escape. She recited their every word with perfect recall, but it was her lack of will that sickened her. She spoke of his touch and even now her body shivered with delight. She did not want to speak of this or share it in the presence of anyone, and certainly not the High Priestess. But she was held by some greater power and she could not stop the words. The power held her fixed to the floor.
Este’s laughter was sharp as Setch finally ceased speaking. “And in all this you carry his seed and soon his child.”
Setch burned with disgust hearing Este’s voice thick with passion. Setch realized that Este enjoyed coercing her with the throne’s power. Este enjoyed knowing that it was her will that sent Setch to Tenoch’s bed, and that this was in opposition to Zel’s laws. Setch was left sickened. Este had perverted Zel’s greatest gift. Este had turned an act of love into something horrific.
“You will forget.” Este snapped.
Este’s words penetrated the quagmire of emotions and Setch realized she could move, but that she had not forgotten. She held herself still.
“Go child and seek your rest. Know that you have pleased the goddess” Este’s words were soft.
Setch assumed they were meant to comfort her, but all she felt was the bile rising in her throat. Setch rose carefully keeping her face averted knowing that to look upon Este would give her secret away. I am not supposed to know. She backed slowly from the room, “Goodnight, my lady” she almost choked on the words.
Safely outside of the chamber Setch ran to her room and vomited, until her stomach was empty and still her body sought to expel more. A hand placed a cup of water into her hand. And Setch jerked.
“Little sister, shall we talk again?” Drioux’s words were soft.
Este sat in the chair and smiled. Since the new flare of energy from the chair, Este had spent all of her time scouring the records for more information. Most of it was the incomplete legends she had searched in the past, but in one record from the early years of the Century War, she finally found the key. The chair was a spoil of war, and an artifact of the Suyun.
According to a long dead and longer forgotten priestess, the chair bore the symbol of an Suyun God. While some of his attributes were similar to Zel, he also ruled over the crops and harvests – he was also the god of destruction. The forgotten priestess had recorded a few of the tales of the god and of the chair. It was those stories that interested Este.
The legend spoke of a High Priestess to this Unnamed God and how she used the chair to rule the entire Suyun Empire. She led the generals with unerring accuracy and so thoroughly eradicated the Suyun enemy, that according to the forgotten priestess, none remembered their name. The Priestess in the tales became Empress, and she was rumored to take many lovers on the chair when the god possessed her, only a few men survived the amorous attentions of the God possessed Empress. The story was far from complete, yet the Suyun Empress was eventually destroyed and her god was bound to the chair, unable to interact with the world of humans. His demands for blood and destruction were too great to unleash again.
Este had laughed to read the forgotten priestess’s stern warnings against using the chair. It was this forgotten priestess who had sent it to the Temple of Dawn to be examined, to discover a way to safely destroy the bound god. Este sneered at the foolishness of faith. The chair had power, but it did not contain a deity. Through magic or sorcery, the Suyun High Priestess had created the chair and used it to her own ends. Somehow she had failed to hold power; this was an error Este knew she would not make, not again.
But the chair was only a tool, not a gift from any god. A tool, I may have finally mastered. To be able to use this much energy her thoughts trailed into previously unconsidered possibilities. Prior to this new discovery her store of energy was limited, good for small tricks, and she needed a person present with the chair for greater compulsions.
She was beginning to understand that there was a connection between the throne and passion. She had fumbled into this with her spying priestesses. As they reported their findings to her, they had also begun to tell of the acts of love they engaged in. At first, she only half listened to their bawdy tales, but the power from the chair drove her to pay more attention. If the ancient Suyun priestess took lovers upon the throne, maybe passion is the key to the throne’s power. She laughed with delight at the possible uses of her new power and she thought the chair echoed her laughter.