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.
The princess, surprisingly, gave Devin no problems. She maintained her silence, trudging behind him, hands tied to the improvised leash. Hine continued to shoot her uncomfortable looks. Devin could tell from the older warrior’s expression that he was having misgivings about his part in the plan. When they had planned the mission, Hine hadn’t been certain whether kidnapping a Kkoloss violated his oath or not.
“Reconsidering your part in all this?” Devin asked quietly as they paused for a short break.
Hine took a slurp from his canteen, then shrugged. “Too late now, son,” he mumbled.
A twig snapped behind them, and Devin turned slightly to find a chagrined Voko trying to sneak up on them. Devin raised an eyebrow.
“Occupational hazard, Dev,” Voko mumbled, trying to take another clandestine step. He snapped another twig. The squat man raised his eyes to the heavens, then shook his head and strode forward. “Are you two wondering the same thing I am?” he asked quietly as he reached them.
“What’s that?” Devin asked.
Voko nodded toward the princess. “What’s she planning in that devious Kkoloss mind of hers?”
Devin regarded the princess. She looked awkward in her thin nightgown—even though the summer days were warm, she was obviously used to wearing much more. She sat upon a large rock, Devin’s end of the rope loosely tied around a nearby tree, a couple of curious lills flitting around in the air behind her. She could escape easily, if she wanted—though she probably couldn’t have outrun Devin and the others. As Devin studied her, she met his eyes with her calm emotionless ones, and he shivered, turning away.
Voko’s right, he decided. Those eyes could be hiding anything.
“There’s no way to know, Voko,” Devin said. “She’s been cooperative so far.”
“Except for flattening Hine a little bit,” Voko noted, still regarding the princess with wary eyes. “I tell you, Dev. She’s planning something. You can’t trust Kkoloss—their minds don’t work the same way ours do. Why, one of the generals once made poor Ralan sit neck-deep in cleanwater just to see if his skin would eventually blister, like Skaa skin does when it’s touched by cleanwater. They’re cruel, emotionless creatures.”
Hine shook his head. “No,” he said. “They’re people, Voko. Just like you. Just like me.” There was pain in the large warrior’s eyes—in a way, Devin empathized with him. Despite everything he had seen, despite everything that had been done to him, Hine still wanted to believe in his oath. It was noble, in a way—if, perhaps, misguided.
“How long have you known Ralan, Voko?” Devin asked, trying to turn the subject to lighter topics.
Voko raised an eyebrow. “Ralan? Actually, to tell you the truth, not long. I had my . . . accident with the Kkell Oath about two years ago.”
“So long?” Hine asked with a frown. “You should have become accustomed to the strength by now.”
Voko shrugged. “I just can’t seem to get it down, Hine. My body refuses to react like it should.”
“It happens sometimes,” Hine said, turning away again. “Some people never get used to the strength. They tend to die quickly in the Games.”
“Well, Ralan’s the reason I didn’t,” Voko explained. “He watched out for me, kept me out of trouble. Or, at least, as out of trouble as I can get.”
The conversation waned. Hine, troubled by his thoughts, pulled out his knife and began whittling on a piece of wood. Voko wandered off to see if he could scrounge some saltberries from the woods, and Skeer sat on a rock a short distance away, mumbling to Ix—the only one who actually seemed to like talking to him. And, since Ralan had gone to look for signs of pursuit, Devin was left alone.
Devin suddenly felt eyes upon him, and he glanced up. The Kkoloss princess was staring directly at him, her unblinking eyes studying him with quiet consternation. Devin smiled at her and nodded, but got no reaction.
She’s so incredibly expressionless, Devin thought with amazement. Of course, that was the way Kkoloss women were said to be. Cold and lifeless.
Beside the woman sat the small canteen he had left for her. He approached, feeling her eyes on him as he reached over to pick up the container. It was still full.
“You aren’t thirsty?” he asked with surprise.
The woman didn’t respond. Devin sighed, taking a drink himself. “It isn’t poisoned,” he promised. “We have no reason to hurt you.”
Still no response. Devin sighed, setting aside the canteen. He had seen the sweat pouring down her brow during their hike—she’d probably never been forced to endure any extended physical effort. He would have thought that she would be parched. . . .
Devin paused, then he picked the canteen and sniffed it. “Hess,” he mumbled, realizing his stupidity. Like the other canteens, it bore saltwater—perfectly edible for Eruntu, and required for Skaa, but Kkoloss were different. They needed cleanwater.
“I’m sorry,” Devin apologized. “I forgot. We don’t have any cleanwater now—I’ll get you some when we get back to camp.”
The woman, of course, gave no reply. Devin simply sighed, tucking the canteen into his belt and walking over to see what Skeer was talking about.
Vvenna watched him go. He was an odd one, the young leader. The other one, the one called Skeer, acted as if he were in charge, but the men all obviously gave deference to the tall young boy. He was the true leader. Yet, when Skeer claimed the title, the boy did not object. What kind of leader let another claim his place?
Vvenna was parched—she’d nearly been thirsty enough to drink the canteen of saltwater. However, she’d known that it would have done her little good. It would have dehydrated her body, making her even more thirsty than before. Saltwater was not poisonous to Kkoloss like cleanwater was to Skaa, but it wasn’t edible either. Fortunately, the boy had discovered her discomfort—perhaps she wouldn’t die of thirst after all.
She felt like she was going to die anyway. Her feet felt like they had been rubbed raw—they had found her a pair of crude shoes somewhere, but they fit poorly, and had quickly formed blisters. Vvenna had never walked so far in her life—she hadn’t even realized the island was so big. Whenever she traveled, she went by carriage with the shades drawn on the windows. Walking was what one did when one traveled between carriage and throne.
If it hadn’t been for her Kkell power, she would never have made it so far. By lightening her body, she could take some of the pressure off of her feet. However, she couldn’t grow too light—otherwise she would find it difficult to move against the wind. So, while the balance helped somewhat, she still had to suffer a great deal of pain and exhaustion.
Hopefully, the King would rescue her soon. It had been hours since her capture—noon was quickly approaching. She would have expected the Sserin Guard to find her by now. What was taking them so long?
When they did arrive, these poor, deluded Eruntu would find themselves in quite a predicament. There was no way they could be shown mercy; they had not only kidnapped a member of the First Sept, they had taken the Emperor’s betrothed. They would not be able to escape execution, and the expulsion from paradise that would follow. In a way, she was travelling with dead men—they had forfeited their lives and their souls the moment they laid hands upon her.
And, of course, there was the matter of the shadowling. When Vvenna had seen him, she had nearly been stunned enough to break Posture. They were Desicrates after all—despite her fears, she hadn’t believed that she would actually see a creature formed from the Living Darkness. The old books—books forbidden to anyone not of the Imperial Sept—spoke of such creatures.
Only a little longer, Vvenna, she told herself. Perhaps she would escape relatively unharmed—though she doubted her feet would ever recover from the strain she had put upon them. The flesh of Kkoloss women was much more delicate than that of others. Still, as long as she wore enveloping shoes, no one would notice—and she probably wouldn’t limp as long as she had her Kkell power.
As she contemplated her predicament, sounds came from a short distance away. In a few moments, the middle-sized warrior appeared on the trail. He didn’t look too concerned—perhaps the Sserin Guard wasn’t as close as Vvenna assumed.
Ralan shook his head—there were no signs of pursuit.
“I am very happy that we appear to have escaped without anyone chasing us,” Ix said happily.
Skeer nodded his agreement. Hine, however, grunted to himself. The older warrior met Devin’s eyes—something was troubling him, and Devin thought he knew what it was.
“There should be pursuit,” Devin guessed.
Hine nodded. “I agree,” he grumbled. “They shouldn’t have let us get away with the Emperor’s betrothed so easily. We should be scrambling for our lives, not taking leisurely lunches in clearings.”
Ralan shrugged, and Ix—watching Ralan out of the corner of his eye—did likewise. “I find your words very troubling. But Ralan is a very good tracker—Voko told me so.”
“There’s none better,” Voko agreed, leaning back against a tree trunk. “If they were coming after us, then Ralan would have found them.”
Devin met Hine’s eyes. Could their luck really be that good?
“The Glorious Rebellion prevails again,” Skeer announced. “Come, enough waiting. We’re only a couple of hours from the camp—let us continue on, lest Quin and the others grow worried for our safety!”
Devin shrugged. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t return,” he agreed. “If no one’s chasing us, then we can’t lead anyone to the camp, can we?”
The group prepared to go, tying on swords and picking up canteens. Devin retrieved the end of the princess’s leash, though he was beginning to suspect he didn’t need it. Despite Voko’s misgivings, for some reason he didn’t think the princess would try to escape. She seemed to accept her predicament calmly—she almost seemed to be waiting for something.
As he left the clearing, princess in tow, Devin noticed that Hine had left something on his rock. Devin approached curiously, picking the object up—it was the piece of wood he had been carving. Devin blinked in surprise as he turned it over—it was a carving of the Kkoloss princess. The detail was amazing and its proportions exact. Devin had rarely seen a carving so impressive.
“Hine,” Devin said, turning. “Did you do this?”
Hine paused, turning as the rest of the group began to hike out of the clearing. He shrugged. “I did,” he said with a nod of his head.
“Why did you leave it behind?”
“I didn’t—I remember it’s there, son.” With that, Hine turned and followed the others.
He watched Hine go. The man was more than he appeared—Devin’s experience with people told him that much. Every time he thought he had Hine’s personality figured out, he did something just slightly odd. Nothing overt—just things like the carving.
With a shrug, Devin moved to set the carving back down. Then he paused. Something so beautiful shouldn’t be abandoned. Devin turned and placed the carving in one of his pouches, then hurried to catch up with the others.
Devin peered through the trees. Just beyond lay one of the major roads that passed through the forest—they had to cross it in order to reach the camp. If pursuit hadn’t mattered, they could have taken the road directly here in half the time, but the others agreed that a path through the forest was harder to follow.
“We get on the road and travel a short distance to the east,” Voko explained. “That way, if anyone did follow us through the forest, they’ll lose our tracks on the road. But if we hear anyone coming behind us, we have to duck into the underbrush. Understand?”
“Seems simple enough,” Hine agreed.
Devin nodded his agreement. The camp was about an hour’s travel from the road—it had to be close enough to the road to facilitate raids.
They pushed their way through the bushes and climbed down onto the road, then began to walk east. They were a skittish group, and they kept looking over their shoulders to check for pursuit. Of course, their eyes wouldn’t do them much good—the road twisted and wound through the woods, making it impossible to see very far ahead or behind. Their ears would do a far better job of detecting pursuit. Of course, that was going to prove difficult as long as Skeer was along.
“I can’t wait until we get back,” Skeer was saying. “Quin didn’t really think we’d make it, you know. He kept it well-hidden—he’s quite the optimist—but I can tell. Underneath, he was worried. He thought we might get captured again. Won’t he be happy when we return, and with a captive too!”
Voko smiled. “I’m certain it will be . . . an emotional moment, Skeer,” he agreed.
Hine snorted beside Devin. “You’d better be ready, son,” he said quietly.
Devin nodded sickly to himself.
Hine placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, but there’s no getting around it now. Quin thinks he gave you an impossible task—if you return, he’ll have no choice but to threaten you directly.”
Devin sighed. Why does this have to be so complicated—can’t he just leave me alone?
“I don’t want to fight him, Hine,” he said.
“You might not have a choice, son.”
Devin ground his teeth. “I’ll find one, Quin.”
Hine didn’t respond. They walked for about half an hour on the road, until Ralan pointed to a certain place, indicating it was time to cut back into the forest. Skeer went first, chatting happily with Ix. Devin moved to follow. He paused, however—Hine wasn’t looking at Skeer. He was staring at the other side of the road.
Devin frowned, looking up—had Hine heard something? As soon as he turned, Devin jumped in surprise. A man was kneeling in the forest, almost unseen, watching them.
“Hess!” Voko swore, pulling out his sword—but yanking far too hard, throwing himself off balance. Hine and Ralan responded more dexterously, falling into defensive positions. Everyone quickly realized one fact, however—their observer was no threat. He was Skaa.
The small man bowed his head, continuing to kneel, a pitchfork leaning over his shoulder. He didn’t look up—he simply waited for them to pass. He must have heard them coming, and bowed, just in case they had Kkoloss in their presence.
Devin frowned. Turning to Hine. “It’s just a Skaa,” he said. “Let’s keep moving.”
Hine shared a look with Voko, then he turned back to Devin. “He saw us with the princess, son,” he said, nodding toward the woman. “He also saw where we were going to leave the road. We’re only an hour from the camp.”
Devin snorted. “He’s Skaa, Hine. He won’t be any danger.”
Hine ground his teeth. “He’s still a witness, son.”
Devin froze, unable to believe what he was hearing. However, Voko and Ralan had serious looks on their faces. They also thought that the Skaa was a threat. Suddenly, images returned to Devin. Images of what he had been forced to do. A dead man’s eyes stared into Devin’s, haunting him with their lack of accusation.
Not again. “Bring him with us,” he ordered.
Hine nodded, walking over to the Skaa. “Stand up,” he ordered.
The man continued to kneel.
“He doesn’t speak Eruntu,” Voko guessed.
Hine reached down to grab the Skaa on the arm and lift him to his feet. The Skaa continued to look down, his eyes confused. He was a little over five feet tall, and had the distinctive blue veinlike colorings crossing his face and hands. He obviously didn’t understand what was intended of him.
“Hga,” a soft voice said.
Devin turned with surprise. Ix stood, motioning to the Skaa. The small man quickly moved forward, walking up to stand beside Ix, his eyes still downcast.
“You speak Skaa?” Devin asked the shadowling.
Ix paused. He looked to the side nervously. “I thought we Eruntu spoke Skaa, because we are required to translate for the Kkoloss. We Eruntu give orders to Skaa so Kkoloss don’t have to.”
“Some Eruntu speak Skaa, Ix,” Voko said. “But only those who need to.”
Ix frowned. “Um, yes. Of course. I don’t speak Skaa. Why would I speak Skaa. I am an average Eruntu.”
Devin rolled his eyes. “We don’t have time for this, Ix. Please tell the Skaa to come with us.”
“I don’t speak Skaa, Friend Devin,” Ix insisted. “We Eruntu don’t usually know how to speak it.”
Devin frowned, looking at Ix as if for the first time. He was of average height, average build, and average looks. He was moderately good at swordplay, moderately good at cooking—in fact, he was completely unremarkable in every way, except for his strange skin and odd style of speaking.
Devin stepped closer to the shadowling. “Ix, you don’t have to be completely average in everything.”
“I do,” Ix whispered quietly. “Friend Devin, I can’t stand out. I want to be normal.”
“Even normal people have a few abnormalities, Ix,” Devin explained.
“I do not understand,” Ix said. “How can something be abnormal and average at the same time?”
“It’s just that . . .” Devin trailed off. He didn’t have time to explain right now. “Look, Ix, we just need you to speak to the Skaa for a short while.”
“I . . .”
“How about this,” Devin proposed. “You can start teaching me how to speak Skaa. Then you won’t be abnormal, because there will be two of us who can speak it.”
Ix paused for a moment, then he gave Devin a relieved look. “That is a good suggestion, Friend Devin,” he agreed. “For now, I will speak to him.”
“I suggest we move before anyone else sees us,” Hine suggested, nodding toward the forest.
“Good idea,” Devin agreed as Ix walked over and began talking to the Skaa, motioning for it to follow Hine. Then the entire group moved back into the forest.
From the moment Siri left the King’s chambers, she had no opportunity to escape her fate. She cursed herself several times, wishing she had put up a stronger front before Sarn. However, despite her anger, she knew there was little she could have done. As King, Sarn’s word for House Sserin was unquestionable. She’d never really had a choice—all complaining would have earned her was punishment.
Such thoughts—and justifications—ran through her mind as Veca dragged her to the Queen’s quarters and ordered her personal handmaidens to prepare Siri for the ceremony. They produced Vvenna’s brilliant red wedding gown, and didn’t make any comments when Siri’s form failed to fill it out quite enough through the bust—they simply added padding in discreet places.
Siri sat stunned while the handmaidens dressed her. She’d been forced into a full-veil by the Queen before any of them arrived—could it be that none of them recognized her? She’d never really been accepted by the court; most people tried to ignore her. But how could they possibly mistake her for Vvenna?
The women put her hair up under the veil in braids, then moved to paint her face. Surely they would recognize her now.
“No,” the Queen said. “That will not be necessary. She will wear the veil through the entire ceremony, after all.”
The handmaidens paused, then quickly moved on to preparing Siri’s hands and feet. They were finished a few moments later, and Siri regarded herself in the mirror. She was stunned by what she saw. She did indeed resemble Vvenna.
The clothing made the biggest difference. The wedding gown of a First Sept woman was much more intricate than Siri’s more common Fourth Sept dresses. This one followed the basic Kkoloss design, tight on the top with a high collar and loose below the waist. However, the wedding gown had six extra folds of material on the lower portion, including an enormous train. The sleeves, like always, were far longer than the hands—and these sleeves puffed out with pink lace ruffles. The veil was an intricate pink contraption that felt more like a bulbous hat than it did a piece of cloth hanging over her face. With all of the clothing on, even Siri didn’t recognize her face.
Oh, Hess! Siri thought, realization finally setting in. This might work. They’re going to marry me . . . to him!
She opened her mouth to utter an objection, to voice the dissention that would ruin the ploy. If all of the Queen’s handmaidens discovered who she was, the ruse would be over. However, even as she began to speak, a booming knock came at the door. A second later, a herald entered.
“The time has arrived, My Lady,” he said with a bow. “The guests are already gathering, and the Emperor has sent his carriage.”
“Very well,” Veca said. “Come, daughter, let us go.”
Siri couldn’t speak—couldn’t object. Her voice caught in her throat, surprise, confusion, and utter stupefaction holding her back. It had to be a nightmare. She couldn’t be marrying the Emperor, the vile insect of a man who played Kkoloss against one another like common Skaa. She was Siri—she was free from courtly politics. She could marry whom she wanted.
In a daze, Siri let herself be led from the room.
Despite her worries, Siri felt a bit of curiosity at what was about to happen. She had rarely seen the Emperor—he never left the consecrated land of his palace, and he rarely gave audiences to women, especially those below the Third Sept. Siri had seen him only half a dozen times, always when she was attending Vvenna.
Now she stood outside his throne room, waiting to be announced as his bride. The entire day seemed rushed—but then, it had been. Vvenna’s disappearance and the death of the king had thrown House Sserin into chaos. It was a miracle she was even here. Had Vvenna still been around, her handmaidens would have spent ten hours preparing her for the ceremony. Siri had barely been given one.
Around her, the purple Amberite walls seemed strange. She was used to the red of House Sserin; the dark violent was strange and oppressive. The broad doors before her—fully twelve feet tall—were said to be constructed of pure silver. Beyond them lay the audience chamber, where the first three Septs would be waiting in their seats—waiting, and probably gossiping. By now, the death of King Sserin would be known. They wouldn’t be surprised that the wedding was still taking place. That was the Kkoloss way. The nobility were supposed to be unperturbable. Even with the old King dead, the good of the House had to be furthered. Something as important as the Emperor’s wedding couldn’t be postponed because of a simple death.
“You know the words?” Veca whispered beside her.
Siri nodded. She had gone over them hundreds of times with Vvenna. In fact, as irony would have it, Siri was probably the only woman in the city who had the ceremony memorized well enough to imitate Vvenna. Sarn had chosen well, even if he didn’t know it.
There has to be a way out of this! Siri thought to herself. Yet she knew it was too late. She had imitated the princess already. If she were discovered now, the Priesthood would see her executed.
Oh, Hess . . . what have I let myself get pulled into?
“Then, before you go, tell me one thing, girl,” Veca hissed.
“Yes?” Siri asked dully.
“Is my daughter really dead?”
Siri paused. “I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “But no, I don’t think she is.”
Veca nodded curtly. “I will find her, girl. Remember that. If you ever want to escape this palace, make no mistakes. All must think you are Vvenna. When I locate her, I will find a way to switch you. I’ve seen you in court, Siri Kes Dass. Keep your mouth closed, your opinions to yourself, and try not to look at anyone. Perhaps you’ll be able to fool them long enough for me to find Vvenna.”
For the first time in hours, hope glimmered within her. “Thank you, My Lady,” she said.
“I do it for House Sserin,” Veca countered, “not for you. Hess help us all.”
With that, Veca left her, off to take her seat beside her new King.
Siri waited nervously, her only companions in the small pillared waiting room a line of white-robed priests. They were all Kkoloss, of course—Eruntu weren’t allowed within the palace walls. Rumors said that any Eruntu or Skaa who tried to pass within its boundaries would immediately be struck dead by the hand of God himself.
Stop fidgeting, Siri berated herself. You’re supposed to be Vvenna—the model of feminine perfection. A Kkoloss woman doesn’t fidget, even before her own wedding.
Suddenly, behind her, the priests began to hum in unison. Siri nearly jumped at the sound—how did they know when to start? In queue with the humming, the broad silver doors began to crack open. They groaned, swinging ponderously on their hinges, revealing the room beyond.
The enormous chamber was lit by lanterns wrapped in thin Amberite covers, giving a lavender hue to the illumination. A field of chairs extended to either side, each filled with a brightly colored form. The Houses sat in uniform clusters of bright color, all eyes upon her. Directly in front of her sat the Emperor.
He squatted like a dark beetle on his throne, his exaggerated robes so dark a purple they were nearly black. His face, however, was a bright white—this man had never once seen the sun. It was a young face; the emperor had only been ten years old when his bride had been chosen. However, there was no innocence or joy in his face. His visage was flat and emotionless enough to make even Vvenna seem effusive. Siri was glad her own face was obscured by the veil—she knew that she was staring openly, something Vvenna would have had more sense than to do.
The Emperor sat on a round dais that rose fifteen feet in the air. Slightly below him, each on their own dais, were the eight Archpriests—the Emperor’s mouths. The Emperor was said to be half-divine, and was too holy to speak to lowly Kkoloss himself. He communicated through the Archpriests. The eight stood in their formal white and black robes, high minns extending ornately from their heads like enormous fans.
“The Emperor gives you leave to enter, Vessel,” one of the Archpriests announced. “Step forward.” They spoke the Holy Tongue, a language above even Kkoloss. Most Kkoloss knew it, though few had spoken it.
“I obey,” Siri replied, hoping that her accent wasn’t atrocious enough to be suspicious. She glided forward, horribly conscious of how she must look. Vvenna’s Kkell power made her capable of walking more smoothly than regular women. What was Siri thinking? She could never successfully imitate Vvenna. No woman could.
“You are blessed above all women, but are still filthy in my sight,” a second Archpriest said, speaking for the Emperor. Perhaps he hadn’t noticed her awkwardness. “Do you acknowledge your station?”
“I am filthy and unworthy,” Siri said, trying to keep her voice from wobbling. She took another eight steps forward. “But I am all there is. I ask Hess’s forgiveness.” That much is true.
“You are unworthy,” a third Archpriest agreed. “But you are all that there is. You shall be the Vessel. Until the day that the Mythwalker comes, the Emperor must rule. And, for the Emperor to rule, he must be born of woman.”
“It is an unfortunate state,” Siri intoned with eight more steps, “but one commanded by Hess. I shall not abuse my position or seek influence over that which is above me. I shall be the Vessel and no more.”
“You shall be the Vessel and no more,” the fourth Archpriest—Hasm—said. “You are no more of the Eight Courts; you are above them. They are not for you—all ties you once had are no more.”
“I am without father or mother,” Siri agreed, walking eight more steps. She was halfway to the throne. “I am without brother or sister, friend or acquaintance. I have no Sept. I am as the Emperor.” The words weren’t completely true, of course. House Sserin would receive enormous prestige from having Siri in the Imperial Palace. But she was not to acknowledge them as her family.
“You are not as the Emperor,” the fifth Archpriest said, speaking the ritual words. “But you are closer than any outside the priesthood. Since a woman is required, you are accepted.”
“I seek not acceptance, only to do my duty,” Siri said, moving forward again.
“Your duty is to be the Vessel,” the sixth Archpriest informed. “And it is only in this that you are accepted. For one year, you are to show yourself to the Eight Courts. You will attend me in my audiences, so that all may come and acknowledge that a Vessel has, indeed, been chosen.”
“I shall do as I am told,” Siri said, stepping forward. Then she paused, groping for the next words in the ceremony. She began to sweat, feeling hundreds of eyes upon her. “One year is enough time for me to make myself known. Then I shall retire.”
“Retire to contemplate how you have been blessed,” the seventh Archpriest said in a booming voice. “Yours will be a life free from outside influence. Such is fitting of the Vessel.”
Siri took eight more steps forward, then slowly knelt before the Emperor’s pillar.
There was silence in the throne room. “You are the Vessel,” the final Archpriest informed. “I accept you.”
Siri continued to kneel, breathing heavily. I just married the Emperor, she thought with amazement. I’ll never leave this palace again.