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Thursday, September 15, 2011
Amadea and the Divinity Blade - Chapter 19
"What?!" Luna demanded in shock. "You?" Having just realized that the Imperial Princess had taken a nap on her bed, Luna was flustered, and dropped to her knees in proper respect.
"I guess I forgot to mention that part." Zira flinched comically in apology.
"I have an idea, how would you like to come with us?" Amadea offered. "We could use a few more members on our team." This wasn't because they couldn't handle whatever came their way, but because Amadea had found herself somewhat lonely without the big group that had accompanied Zira.
"I don't know what to say," Luna replied. Kyle had dropped to his knees the same as Luna, and wondered why he experienced a tug on his heart at the thought of Luna leaving with them.
"Well, what about you?" Amadea turned to Kyle.
Zephyr protested before he could answer. "This is a bad idea. They'd be in danger of being killed if they came with us."
"They're in danger of being killed if they don't," Zira argued. "The entire Empire is being overrun by demons, and cowardly staying at home just to try to avoid them isn't going to work. The demons'll likely come to them."
"Cowardly?" Luna seethed, and tried to fry Zira with lightning.
"That was a bit much," Amadea agreed.
"Hey, I'm just voicing my opinion!" Zira defended.
"In any case, Zephyr, she has a point. Coming with us is no more dangerous than staying here," Amadea said.
"I still disagree about that, but I do agree that they should be the ones to make that choice," Zephyr stated.
"So... What will it be?" Amadea wondered.
"Uh..." Luna looked uncertainly at Kyle.
Why is she looking at me like that? Kyle wondered. No matter, his interest was piqued. "What man wouldn't want to do a bit of adventuring when offered a chance, but I don't know if I can get out of my duties so easily."
"Same goes for me," Luna added.
"Not to worry, I can take care of that. Does that mean you'll come?" Amadea pressed.
Both shrugged, and nodded.
"Wonderful!" Amadea cried happily, and gave each of them a hug. "But you have to promise, no more groveling, I really hate that."
"Ahhh!" Amadea sighed happily as she sank into her enormous bath of perfectly tempered water. Zephyr agreed, but since they were both still hovering on the brink of exhaustion, they were keeping their hands to themselves.
Zira had decided to show her sister and Kyle to guest rooms not too far from Amadea and Zephyr's, but far enough to hopefully not offend or create jealousy amongst the courtiers. Each was taking a few moments to have a sponge bath, unpack, and change into something relatively suitable to wear in a palace.
Amadea and Zephyr knew that if they lingered in their bath, it would be far too easy to fall asleep, and so they quickly washed, dressed, and made their way to the private eating room. Zira guided Luna and Kyle there shortly thereafter.
Food was served by the course, starting with pate', followed by fish eye soup, lamb chops in butter with a mix of fermented cabbage, garlic, onion, and carrots as a side; a few other mouth watering dishes, and lastly, freshly churned ice cream. Amadea and Zephyr ate several servings of each course, sacrificing conversation to combat their near starvation.
"Amadea! Where have your manners gone?" The Emperor chided. He had been watching her eat for several minutes, unnoticed by Luna and Kyle.
"Sorry Father, I'm just too hungry to care about manners at the moment," Amadea replied, ignoring the fact that her father hadn't chided Zephyr.
Luna and Kyle gasped, and were about to dive to the floor in obeisance, but were forestalled by the Emperor, who motioned for them to remain where they were. He sat next to Zira.
"Hello Zira," he greeted.
"Hi daddy!" Zira waved cheekily.
The Emperor rolled his eyes. "Since it appears that my daughter and her husband are too occupied to speak, why don't you tell me of your adventures?"
"Sure thing pops." Zira grinned, knowing that no one had ever had the gall to speak thusly to the Emperor before. The Emperor didn't respond at all, and Zira launched into a detailed account of their travels.
"Ziraaa!" Amadea protested with a blush. "You don't need to be that detailed." Zephyr covered his face with a hand.
Zira laughed, and edited her tale to suit a less adult audience. Once she was finished, the Emperor fixed his attention on Amadea.
"Please attempt to refrain from worrisome activities until after I die," he begged lightly.
"I know, I know. Get coroneted, receive my prophecy, and be careful for at least as long as it'll take to have an Heir trained in," Amadea sighed.
"I know it may seem that I don't care about your well being, but I do. I wish you to have a long and healthy life, with all of your limbs still attached. Perhaps if you had children, you would settle down," the Emperor lectured.
"Father, I'm touched," Amadea replied honestly. From her perspective, he had spent her whole life trying to shield her from everything, and being too busy to spend much time with her. Honestly, if she hadn't been chosen as Heir, she doubted he'd have any time for her now.
He knew this, of course, but still a parent loves their child, no matter how little time they get to spend with them.
By this time, everyone was finished eating.
"Amadea, we only have a few weeks left, and there is much to be done," the Emperor stated.
If left up to her father, Amadea and Zephyr would never have gotten any free time or sleep until the coronation, but Amadea had insisted that they stop all business each night at 5 o'clock, have dinner, and spend at least an hour playing cards and chatting with Luna and Kyle.
"I know I've said this before, but things will get more exciting after my coronation, we plan to resume our journey to seal all of the lesser doorways," Amadea remarked.
Kyle and Luna merely shrugged. Amadea had said that several times before, and it was clear to all that she was the one most anxious to get back on the road.
The Emperor entered the room, which was the Heir's apartment, and gave Amadea a grave look. She rose to her feet, and stared at him shyly. He came to her, and pulled her into an embrace.
"I wish I could be there tomorrow," he informed her.
"I do too." Amadea buried her face in his shoulder to hide her tears.
"I just wanted to say goodbye, rule well... and be happy."
Amadea nodded. She didn't know how this scene had played when her father was in her shoes, but she knew that she would give up several years of her own life right now so that he may live a bit longer. "It's too soon. It's all happened much too quickly."
"Life does that," her father replied sagely. He had been hiding his condition from her, but he had been suffering from heart related pain for months now. He was glad it was soon to be over, but was sad to leave her before he got to see her give him grandchildren.
It was somewhat ironic that his condition could possibly be healed by a spell, but other than a few small pain relieving spells, he hadn't even tried, because he knew that it was fated. The Gods had planned this, and nothing he did would alter the situation. It was his time to go, and he knew it. Thus, he was saying goodbye; glad he had the chance given to so few to do so.
"Goodbye father, may your afterlife be pleasant." Amadea sniffed back tears. Her father nodded, and left the room.
Luna and Kyle knew – the same as every citizen knew – that the Emperor would die tonight, but it was hard for them to believe it. He didn't seem that ill. They left the room in order for Zephyr to comfort his wife.
Amadea gathered her spirit, squared her shoulders, and prepared to enter the Imperial Temple for the coronation ceremony. Zephyr was beside her, also nervous about the impending ceremony. He had expected – like everyone else – the Emperor's death, and the ceremony that would crown them the new reigning couple. Even so, he had still been shocked when it was announced this morning that the Emperor had indeed died in his sleep the previous night.
The ceremony was surprisingly simple, consisting of a reading of the ancient Scroll of Imperial Responsibilities, the couple’s vows to do their best for their people, and the actual crowning of the new Empress and Emperor Consort. The crowns were the fabulously huge ceremonial crowns, which they would only have to wear during important ceremonies. The rest of the time, they could wear the much smaller, and lighter, circlets.
After the ceremony, Amadea sat to receive her prophecy. The priestess remained in silent contemplation for several long minutes. Finally, she spoke.
"Your prophecy is different than any other I have ever received. Normally, the Emperor or Empress receives a very clear prophecy consisting of major events and their date and cause of death, but you...
"Your prophecy is not clear at all. Either you will perish within the first year of your reign, or you will live... a very long life. The Gods also say that you have a plan that will effectively deal with either situation, and that there need not be a choosing of an Heir until your death, or the age of 60, whichever happens first."
This caused whispered speculation among the audience. Never before had the Empire's ruler had such an unclear future. Usually, when a war was threatened, and the ruler was fated to die in battle, or have an accident, or be assassinated, the whole Empire knew and prepared for it. But now, the possibility existed that the new Empress would die in less than a year, and there were no preparations to be made.
Worse yet, not a word had been said about the monsters that were wreaking havoc on the Empire, or any other major event that may occur during her reign.
Amadea felt numb. She had expected to be unsatisfied with her date of death, no matter how long her life was fated to be, but she had never expected it to possibly be within the year. She took a deep breath, and slowly released it.
"Citizens," she looked at every member of her audience, which consisted of every member of the individual kingdoms' royal families, and as many of the highest ranking citizens as could fit in the Imperial Temple. "The prophecy speaks of my plan, and this is it. I hereby name my cousin Lillian as a co-ruler of the Empire. She will have the title of Sub-Regent, and is to perform my duties while my husband and I travel the Empire to ensure its safety. I have no doubt that if I were to perish; she would be chosen as my replacement by the Gods. If I survive, her position will remain until the Gods tell me to revoke her status."
This caused more whispered speculations, but oddly enough, most of the audience felt that this was a good idea, and a way to ensure a smooth transition despite no official Heir.Lillian stood in shock, her mouth hanging wide open. She had expected Amadea to eventually arrange a fortuitous marriage for her, not this!
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