The following is a draft chapter of Brandon’s unfinished novel Mythwalker from 2001. Brandon later repurposed some elements of this story into Warbreaker, Mistborn, and The Way of Kings.
Skeer stood looking the empty clearing, his eyes utterly dumbfounded. It was possible to tell something had been there, once—the grasses were flattened where tents had stood, and the firepit was a dark black smear on the ground. It was equally obvious that those who had left the campsite did not intend to return.
“I don’t understand,” Skeer said slowly, looking over the refuse-strewn clearing.
Voko smiled, shaking his head. “We should have guessed this would happen. It’s always best to move a safehouse when one of your group is compromised. Why, once I thought my entire team had been killed, only to find they had switched cities without telling me.”
Skeer shook his head. “But they didn’t even wait to see if we were successful!” he complained. “Quin has been showing a remarkable lack of faith lately.”
“Imagine that,” Hine mumbled.
Devin turned, looking over their group. They were tired from the hike—especially the Kkoloss woman. She was obviously trying to retain her impassive front, but she was looking increasingly fatigued. She stood now, leaning back against a tree, her eyelids drooping and her posture bowing.
Poor girl, Devin thought to himself. She’d probably never been subjected to so much walking. In fact, she’d probably never missed a night’s sleep, either—and now she had to march halfway across the island after being woken up in the middle of the night.
“Let’s camp here today,” Devin said as Skeer wandered off, poking through discarded objects near the edge of camp. “Maybe someone will come to check for us.”
The others nodded, moving to set down their equipment. Ralan went for firewood, Voko to gather water from the saltspring, and Hine began rifling through the camp, looking for discarded cloth to make beds. The Skaa man, who had followed them without word or complaint, immediately began to help Hine. Apparently, he believed that such was expected of him.
Skeer returned a moment later, a disbelieving look on his face. “Well, I suppose we should go look for them,” he said. “I mean, they probably left some sort of clue or directions.” He turned, noting Hine’s work with a frown. “What are you doing?”
“Preparing for camp,” Hine informed.
“Oh,” Skeer said. “Um, I guess that’s a good idea. I suppose we’ll camp here tonight—pass that order along.”
Hine rolled his eyes, but Devin just smiled. As the others worked, he walked over to the Kkoloss woman. She immediately stiffened as he approached, trying to mask her fatigue.
“We’ll be staying here for a while,” Devin said. “You can sit down.”
The Kkoloss woman’s eyes flickered toward the ground.
“You’ve never sat on the ground before, have you?” Devin asked with a smile. He reached over, untying the rope from her hands. “Here, sit on that rock over there.”
She regarded him for a moment, then she did as he said, moving stiffly. She sat herself primly on the rock, as if the seat were a throne. Devin shook his head with amusement, then knelt down beside her to have a look at her feet. She immediately pulled away from him.
“Be calm,” he said. “I just want to check your feet. I don’t know where Voko got those shoes, but he probably could have found a better match.”
The woman remained stiff, but she let Devin pull off the shoes and stockings. Her feet were covered with broken blisters. The heels had been rubbed raw, and were bleeding slightly.
Hess, Devin thought guiltily. And she didn’t make a sound. Perhaps she’s stronger than I assumed.
“They’re scarred,” the woman whispered.
Devin looked up with surprise—they were the first words she had spoken. His Kkoloss was weak—he only know what the priests back in his village had taught him. However, even as he looked up, the seizure began. It was a quick one, and he was getting better at controlling them. The woman didn’t notice—she was still staring at her feet.
Devin smiled. “They’re not scarred,” he said. Then he paused—he had spoken in flawless Kkoloss. The tongue was forbidden of Eruntu.
So, it can teach me languages too. Even forbidden ones. Of course, he had just kidnapped the most important Kkoloss woman on the continent. Suddenly, words didn’t seem so blasphemous anymore.
The princess regarded him with one of her flat stares, and so Devin continued, taking a few strips of cloth bandage from his pack and wrapping them around her feet. “They’re just blisters,” he explained. “You aren’t scarred—the wounds will heal.” Then he paused, looking up. “You . . . have been cut before, haven’t you?”
The woman stared at him unresponsively.
“She probably hasn’t, son,” a gruff voice said beside him. Devin looked up, noting as Hine knelt by him, Ix at his side. Hine regarded the woman’s feet, frowning. “She lived her entire life in a palace. If she left, it was only to travel to another palace. When she needed something done, others did it for her. The poor girl has spent most of her time sitting motionless on a throne. She probably hasn’t been cut or bruised since she was very young.”
Devin looked up with surprise. Could the woman possibly be that inexperienced?
Hine shook his head. “The Kkoloss enslave themselves as much—or more—than they do the Eruntu. I would rather be the lowliest of Skaa and work my entire life beneath an open sky than spend my life locked away in their Amberite tombs.”
Hine moved away, continuing to pick through the remnants of the camp, but Ix stayed behind. The shadowling stared at the princess unabashedly, his eyes wide. “I’ve never seen a Kkoloss so close before. I am very curious.”
Devin snorted, finishing the woman’s bandages. “She’s just a Kkoloss, Ix. She’s just like the rest of us.”
“She is taller,” Ix pointed out. “And she has red hair.”
“True,” Devin agreed. “But other than that, there isn’t much difference, is there?”
Ix regarded the Kkoloss for a moment longer. “I am confused,” he finally said. “This is not a good thing, because when we humans are confused we are not happy.”
“What are you confused about?”
“What should I be, Devin?” Ix asked. “If I am to be a human, should I be only an Eruntu? Or, instead, should I include Kkoloss and Skaa too?”
Devin tied the final bandage tight, then turned uncertain eyes on the shadowling. “I don’t really understand, Ix. What do you mean?”
Ix frowned with an awkward, obvious expression. “As humans, do we consider the Kkoloss to be humans too?”
“Sure,” Devin said with a shrug. “I do, at least.”
“Then should I be Eruntu, or should I just be human?” Ix shook his head. “I am very confused. That is not good, because we humans are unhappy when we are confused.” With that the shadowling rose and wandered away.
Devin frowned as Ix turned and walked away. Finally, Devin shook his head, shrugging to himself.
Vvenna regarded her feet, confused. She wasn’t going to scar? She had seen warriors from the Games—many of them bore scars all over their bodies. One of the Guards under this boy’s control—the one called Hine—was a good example. His entire face was disfigured with scars of one sort or another—he was even missing an ear. Vvenna was not unlearned—she knew that wounds left scars when they healed. Yet, for some reason, this Devin boy had tried to convince her that was not the case.
So far, no one had come to rescue her. She was beginning to worry that she might actually have to spend the night in the forest, something Vvenna found horrifying. She was not a fool—she knew what happened at night, when men were tired and there was a woman nearby. The entire process had been explained to her in preparation for her wedding.
For the first time in her life, Vvenna didn’t know what to expect. From the earliest point she could remember, her days had been planned and ordered. She had often known what was going to happen to her months, if not years, in advance. There was nothing unexpected—nothing to be afraid of. She lived her life as she was told to.
Now, suddenly, expectation was taken away. What would happen to her? She sat in a strange place, surrounded by clutter, dying pieces of plants, a shadowling, and the strange flying creatures that looked like fish in the air. Everything was new—everything was unpredictable. The smells were odd and musty, and her entire body seemed to hurt. On top of it all, she was painfully thirsty.
What did these men intend with her? She had read varying explanations of what Eruntu were. Many Kkoloss scholars regarded Eruntu as little better than Skaa, who were in turn little better than animals. Yet, these Eruntu didn’t seem very different from Kkoloss. They appeared to have personalities, and they seemed to be thoughtful. That wasn’t the way it was—Eruntu were workers. Kkoloss had minds; Eruntu weren’t capable of such things.
“What goes on in that mind of yours, princess of Sseria?” the boy suddenly asked.
Vvenna let her eyes flicker downwards. The boy regarded her with consternation. His emotions were far more obvious than those of most Kkoloss women, but Vvenna had met many Kkoloss men who were no better at hiding their feelings than the boy. Besides the height and the hair, there seemed little to separate this boy from some of the lesser Kkoloss Vvenna had met. It didn’t hurt that he spoke the Kkoloss tongue flawlessly. Where had he learned that?
“You know,” the boy said speculatively, “I don’t even know your name. The King’s name is Dunn, and your brother is Sarn—though, he’s not really your brother, is he? The queen’s name is Veca. Why is it that no one speaks your name?”
It wouldn’t be appropriate, Vvenna thought. How can he not know that? Doesn’t he understand the Formalities?
“Not speaking again?” the boy asked. “Oh well. I suppose I should see about finding us something to eat.” He rose, turning to oversee the camp.
Vvenna frowned. She didn’t understand this strange boy. He had an air about him—an air of self-confident freedom. It disturbed Vvenna. She had seen similar traits in some Kkoloss—but only ones like Prince Vevinn of Kkeris. Men and women who were natural leaders. She had not expected to see such a thing in an Eruntu.
“I am Vvenna,” she whispered, shocking herself.
The boy, Devin, turned with a smile. Then he nodded slightly. “Well then, Vvenna, I apologize for your discomfort. We don’t exactly have this kidnapping scheme perfected yet. Forgive me—I’m new to being a rebellious heretic.”
Devin left the princess behind, smiling to himself. At least one thing was going better than he had expected—he had foreseen various reactions from the princess, everything from violent screaming to harsh accusations. This quiet calmness was definitely not what he had predicted.
“Flirting with the enemy?” Voko asked with a smile, returning with a couple of skins full of water.
“Flirting?” Devin asked, blushing. “What are you talking about, Voko? She’s Kkoloss.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Voko defended, setting the water down. “No, not me.”
Devin snorted. “Go see if you can hunt us something to eat,” he said.
“Me?” Voko asked. “Devin, I’m the clumsy one, remember?”
“You can still set traps, can’t you?” Devin asked.
“I suppose,” Voko said, rubbing his chin.
“Good,” Devin said, kneeling down to unload his pack. He had only brought a little bit of food with him, but it would be enough for one meal, if he had something else to augment it.
“Fine,” Voko said with a sigh. “Here’s Ralan anyway. Hopefully, we’ll be back soon.”
Devin nodded, stacking his cooking implements as Ralan unloaded an armful of wood. Fortunately, Devin had thought to bring a small kettle with him. It wasn’t very large, but it would have to do. He started a fire, then set the kettle up to boil and collect cleanwater for the princess.
As he worked, he noticed the Skaa they had captured watching him from a short distance away. He had the face of an older man, perhaps in his early thirties, even if he was a little shorter than most men Devin knew. As soon as the Skaa noticed Devin watching, he immediately moved back to his work, organizing and cleaning the camp.
“Hey Ix,” Devin said as he sat back to wait for Voko and Ralan to return.
“Yes, friend Devin?” Ix asked.
“Speak a few words in Skaa for me,” he requested.
“Ah, yes,” Ix said. “It is good that I teach you to speak Skaa. It is really an easy language. You just have to—”
“Just say a few words please, Ix,” Devin requested.
“All right friend Devin. Hga. Gru. Hron. Igal.”
Devin waited, but the seizure never came. He frowned. What? He thought with confusion.
“Tell me what some of them mean,” Devin requested.
“Hga means ‘come,’” Ix explained. “Gru is ‘go,’ and Hron means . . .”
Ix continued to speak, but Devin stopped listening as the seizure came. So, I don’t just learn spontaneously, Devin thought curiously as the seizure ended. I have to be shown how to do something. I understood a little Kkoloss already, so when the princess spoke, I put together how the language went.
Devin turned to the Skaa, intending to speak. However, the words wouldn’t come to him.
What? Devin thought with confusion. I thought I had it figured out. Apparently, he didn’t understand things as well as he thought. He sighed, shaking his head as Ix continued to talk.
“You can continue the lesson later, Ix,” Devin said.
The shadowling paused, then nodded, moving away. Devin sat down to make a fire, preparing for Voko and Ralan to return. It took them about an hour—much less time than Devin had expected. A proud Ralan and Voko marched back into camp, bearing a couple of small game birds and a rabbit.
“Not bad,” Devin said appreciatively.
“Ralan actually did the work,” Voko admitted, a bit embarrassed. “Though, I did manage to toss rocks into a couple of bushes.”
“You’ll get used to the body eventually, Voko,” Devin said optimistically, slapping him on the shoulder.
Voko snorted. “Sure. I’ll become useful right about the same time Skeer stops being an idiot or Hine punches a Kkoloss. Don’t worry about me.”
“Just keep trying at it,” Devin said, accepting the game from Ralan. The large man began to pluck the feathers from the birds while Devin prepared to skin the rabbit. However, just as he was beginning, a small, vein-covered hand snatched the animal away.
Devin looked up with alarm, thinking the Skaa had suddenly decided to steal their dinner. That was not the case. The small man knelt beside Devin, gutting it expertly with the knife.
Devin frowned, watching the Skaa work furiously. He tried to say something to the man in Skaa, but once again nothing came out. Why had his ability failed him this time?
“That’s all right,” Devin finally said in Eruntu, knowing the words were perfectly meaningless to the Skaa. “I can do it.” He tried to wave the small man away, but he continued to work.
“Go!” Devin finally said. The word slipped out, all most of its own volition—and it was in Skaa.
The small man immediately looked up, then bowed and moved to where Devin was pointing. Devin frowned to himself, realizing what he had just done.
“The Skaa language consists of one-word orders, son,” Hine said, sitting beside Voko and plucking the other bird. “That’s all one can say to a Skaa.”
“That’s all?” Devin asked with amazement.
Hine nodded. “I don’t speak it, but I know that much.”
“Hess . . .” Devin whispered, looking after the small man. The Skaa continued to stand where Devin had pointed. “How can they exist knowing only commands? How do they communicate with one another?”
“I guess they use the same words,” Hine explained. “That is the whole of their vocabulary—single-word orders.”
“Has anyone ever tried to teach them Eruntu?” Devin wondered. The others shrugged, but Devin knew the answer to his own question. The Skaa weren’t taught any other language because it was forbidden of Hess.
Words sounded in his mind, a message from the sermons Devin had heard week after week back in the village. In the days when the Demon God arose, some men chose to remain valiant and true, defending the light. These became Kkoloss. Some men wavered uncertainly, neutral or undecided. These were made Eruntu. Some most cursed of men chose to join with the Demon God, and further his destructive chaos. These were cursed forever—their minds were shrunk, their bodies weakened, and their capacity stunted. These became Skaa, forever cast down to serve the other races.
Their minds were shrunk, their bodies weakened, their capacity stunted . . . Not only was it blasphemous to teach a Skaa, it was futile. They didn’t have the ability to learn a more complex language.
Siri had grown up as a privileged Kkoloss. In addition, she had been prime friend and handmaiden to the most important woman in the capital. Siri knew what it was like to be pampered and to live in extravagance. That first afternoon in the Imperial palace made her previous life seem like one of poverty.
At the wedding’s conclusion, she was immediately whisked away by the palace staff. A hundred handmaidens swarmed around her, seeing to her needs before she even voiced them. She was carried away from the audience hall, familiar faces fading behind her—shadows of what had once been her life.
But it will be again, Siri reminded herself. I just have to pretend to be Vvenna for a short time. I can do that. I think. Part of her felt guilty at the thought—just a little while ago she had been thinking about how she had spared Vvenna the horror of living in the palace. But now that she had gone through the wedding, Siri realized how naive those thoughts had been. She could not imitate Vvenna—sooner or later, someone would see through her. Then she would be executed and House Sserin would be horribly embarrassed. Far better that Vvenna return.
Once Siri left the audience hall she was taken into the palace proper—a place few Kkoloss, even Kings, had visited. Her squadron of handmaidens moved voicelessly, each one dressed in a plain white silken dress. Before she even knew what was happening, Siri was taken into a plush, violet-decorated room, where her wedding dress was stripped from her.
She barely managed to keep silent as the hands began to remove her clothing, moving dexterously. Vvenna wouldn’t have said anything—she would have been expecting it. After all, Vvenna was dressed by her handmaidens every day. Still, Siri couldn’t help letting out a quiet yelp as the veil—her barrier—was torn away. She immediately chastised herself.
What difference will it make if they see your face? They won’t know the difference between you and the princess. She didn’t recognize any of the women—they must be from lesser Septs. They wouldn’t recognize her, either.
Still, the loss of the veil was difficult to stomach. As long as she had been wearing it, she didn’t need to mask her emotions. She would need to be much more careful. She stilled herself as the handmaidens removed her undergarments, trying to keep the confusion, the anxiety, and the embarrassment out of her face. Fortunately, the handmaidens weren’t paying much attention to her expression—they were busy preparing a bath in the next room.
Once the undressing was finished, the handmaidens carried Siri into the next room, an enormous bathing chamber. The tub itself was at least twenty feet wide—even Vvenna’s bathing tub hadn’t been so big. The tub, like the tiles on the floor and the room’s pillars, was constructed from sparkling violet Amberite.
A dozen of the handmaidens carried her directly into the tub, paying no heed to their own clothing. The water was pleasantly warm, and smelt of spices. Siri tried to relax as the women bathed her, scrubbing her skin and preparing her for . . .
Oh, Hess! Siri thought with shock. They were preparing her for her wedding night. Everything had happened so fast, so much of the day was a blur, that she hadn’t even considered what the night would bring. There was a reason she was called the ‘Vessel;’ she would be expected to produce the next Imperial heir.
The realization made her blush—hopefully the handmaidens would think her flushed face was a result of the water’s heat. She couldn’t help it. She’d considered such things, of course—probably a lot more than Vvenna had. The princess had listened to the instructions on a wife’s duties with the same attitude that she had memorized books of etiquette. Siri was a little more . . . worldly. However, like any Kkoloss woman, she was still incredibly inexperienced. She knew vaguely what would happen, but . . .
She blushed even further, but at the same time anxiety set in. Technically, she was the Emperor’s wife—she had said the words, after all. But she was an impostor, one that would hopefully get replaced within a short amount of time. What happened if she got pregnant? Even worse, she hated the Emperor. The thought of the his pale, emaciated fingers stroking her skin made Siri shudder in horror. What had she gotten herself into?
As the handmaidens finished bathing her, Siri grew increasingly disturbed. They carried her from the bath, wrapped her in a soft robe, then carried her to a nearby room filled with mirrors, where they began to paint her nails, dry her hair, and scrub her teeth.
I am a fool, Siri realized. She couldn’t imitate Vvenna—she should never have thought she could. The princess had spent decades preparing for this day. True, Siri had attended many of her lessons, but she hadn’t done any of the personal study, nor had she expended any effort. She’d had no reason to train herself to react like a proper Kkoloss woman—her life had been just fine as it was.
In a way, she knew that there was a reason she ignored convention. She was simply no good at hiding her emotions. So, rather than admit she was bad at something, she had made a point of flaunting her inability—exaggerating it and making it into a personal statement.
So far, she knew she had made a pathetic effort. Since the veil had been removed, she had jumped from emotion to emotion, from curiosity, to joy, to embarrassment, and now to frustration. And, because she knew herself, Siri knew that every one of those emotions had probably been perfectly manifest on her face. There was no way she could imitate the perfect Kkoloss woman—she wasn’t even close.
And now I don’t have a choice, Siri thought with a sinking feeling. The handmaidens hadn’t said anything, but what happened when she had to face an Archpriest? They would quickly recognize that she wasn’t who she said.
Perfumes and powders came next, and then finally the clothing. Siri wasn’t certain why it took dozens of handmaidens to do the job—she had always gotten by with two. Of course, the dress they put on her was far more intricate than any she had owned. The first thing she noticed was the color: purple. That enough was something of a shock, even though she had been expecting it. Every dress she had ever owned had either been Dass pink or Sserin red. It was shocking to see herself in the deep, shimmering lavender.
The dress wasn’t as bulky as the wedding dress, but the train was incredibly long. The dress she had worn before had been a billowing thing with puffs and frills—this one was far more sheer. The train wasn’t an addition to the dress; it was an extension of the same fabric, and it bled out behind her for at least twenty feet. The sleeves were the same length, and were attached to the train by tiny threads, so that the three pieces of silk seemed to meld into one as they fell behind her.
There were dozens of tassels and pieces of silk that tied together, strapping the upper portion of the dress tightly to her body. Siri noticed with embarrassment that this dress, like the other one, was loose through the bust—it had been cut for Vvenna’s proportions. That was quickly cared for, however, with a few tightenings of laces on the back.
All of this, just so it can be taken off . . . Siri thought with a kind of detached irony.
One thing she did notice was how well her hair went with the dress. It was an odd thought, considering how nervous she was becoming. However, she had always thought that the Sserin reds didn’t do much to compliment the dominant hair color of the House—with all of the clothing in red, the hair went almost unnoticed. Whoever chose red for House Sserin must have been a man.
The handmaidens left most of her hair down, only tying a little bit from each side in a simple braid. As a final touch, they added a thin, nearly transparent, veil—an addition Siri was relieved to see. It wouldn’t provide much cover, but it was better than nothing.
Once they finished with her hair, the handmaidens stepped back, waiting in an orderly line. Siri frowned slightly to herself—then immediately banished the gesture with a curse.
They’re very well trained, she noted. Why don’t I recognize them? And, why aren’t they wearing House colors? She didn’t have much time to consider the oddity. Just after the women lined up, their heads slightly bowed, the door opened, admitting a white-clothed priest. He wasn’t an Archpriest—not only didn’t Siri recognize him, but he was also wearing a much shorter head-dressing. He was a squat man, short for a Kkoloss, and walked with a cane topped by a knob of clear Amberite.
“You understand your duties?” he asked simply, his voice not as respectful as Siri would have expected. He wasn’t demeaning either—just factual.
“Yes,” Siri said, trying to make her voice sound regal and emotionless, like Vvenna’s. She failed horribly.
The priest nodded. “The women tell me you are nervous,” he continued. “I suppose that is to be expected, even for you. Try not to let the Emperor see your discomfort—he is the Emissary of Hess, free from mortal passions. However, intellectually he can still be displeased, and he will be annoyed if he senses emotion from you. Do you understand?”
Siri nodded slowly, not trusting her voice. Was this to be her first experience? Cold, passionless, and with the thing they worshipped as Hess’s chosen?
“You are not what we expected,” the short priest said. “Of course, Sserin kept you cut off from the court, didn’t he? He didn’t want to spoil the Eight Courts’ opinions of his perfect royal-daughter, did he? Well, you will find us here at the palace more pragmatic. You are the Vessel, nothing more. Hopefully, you will be able to perform your duty with minimal annoyance to his Imperial Majesty or ourselves. However, even if you can’t control yourself, it will be enough for you to produce the heir. Do you understand?”
Siri nodded again, beginning to feel sick.
“Good,” the priest said with a businesslike demeanor. “You will be taken to his chambers now. This night and every night, once the act is performed, it is your duty to take the bedsheets and burn them in the bedchamber’s central fire. As the Vessel, you are the only one allowed to handle such things. Do you understand?”
“I do,” Siri said quietly, even though she had barely heard the words. She was too worried about what everything implied. It was supposed to have been different than this—it was supposed to have been special. It was supposed to have been with Vevinn.
The Priest nodded, and the handmaidens moved forward, their heads bowed. “I will lead you, because you don’t know the way,” the priest explained. “After this, you will be expected to walk in the front, your attendants behind. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Siri said.
The priest nodded, then walked from the room. Siri followed, trying to imitate Vvenna’s dignified, graceful step. It was difficult with the long trail of cloth behind her. The handmaidens didn’t pick it up, but walked in a long ‘V’ formation behind her. Fortunately, the Amberite floor was slick, and the silk slid easily across it with a slight rustling sound.
The priest walked ahead of her, staying near to one side of the broad hallway. A piece of Siri’s mind noted how beautiful even the hallways were—back in the Sserin palace, lanterns had been good enough. Here, everything was lit by chandelier, even the smaller hallways. Of course, ‘smaller’ in reference to the Imperial palace was still at least forty feet wide. Siri walked down one such hallway, her enormous train fanning out behind her like a spill of violet ink. Everyone she passed paused and bowed their heads.
They’re all Kkoloss, Siri noted disjointedly. Even the servants. She had never seen a Kkoloss do manual labor before, but here she saw them polishing Amberite and washing floors. Apparently here even simple cleaning was above Eruntu. Of course, Siri reminded herself, if the stories are true, it is death for anyone not of Kkoloss blood to step into the palace.
The priest led her to an ornate set of doors, set with pieces of Amberite representing the Eight Houses. It was magnificent, of course—but everything in the palace was. Siri probably would have remarked on it further, had she not been so worried. It was guarded by two priests in white, militaristic uniforms.
“Enter and bow yourself to the floor,” the priest explained. “Raise your eyes slightly and look at the Emperor, then wait like that until he motions you forward. He will not speak to you—even you are beneath that. When he waves for you to approach, stand and remove the dress. I assume you know what comes next?”
“Yes,” Siri said simply.
The priest nodded. “Then, you are ready. Remember, do not speak to him—you will assault his ears, and besides he doesn’t speak the lesser Kkoloss tongue. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Siri whispered.
The priest nodded, motioning for the guards to open the door. They did so, revealing a dark, dome-shaped room with an enormous fire burning at one end. Siri took a deep breath, a solitary drop of sweat dripping down her brow, and entered.