*first draft for The Feather on My Scale: Book 2 of Gods of Fire*
Grant it, the massive red handprint I had splashed across my face for the next few hours I probably deserved. Wash apologized profusely. I also ended up apologizing about just as much. When he had gotten the rest of the decanter down and we had all found a seat at the table in my private study, me with a bag of ice on my cheek, we proceeded to lay out what was actually going on in this proposition. I also promised to tone down the egotistical rake bit. He made it more than blatantly clear in none too small of words that he would have appreciated not having his first kiss stolen while he was coming down off a catalyst high. Noted.
“My Lord, surely, you cannot mean for me to ascend the position of the High Lectern! I am no more than an untrained priest. I do not know the intricate runnings of the temple. This would upheave the entire structure of the hierarchies. The nobles would not tolerate it!” he protested.
“Your concerns are valid. Adom will not appreciate being forced to resign his current position. He has been aware of his tenuous statues for years though.
“I have been informed on multiple occasions by others within the temple that I must some day choose a permanent High Lectern to represent my station as god-king, and not purely rely upon the regent High Lectern of Ramses. Fifteen years I have put off replacing him. Yet, I have not wished to implement him into a permanent position. He and I are tolerant within degrees. I needed someone I could trust to replace him with and had not found a person capable of satisfying that need. He knew the most of the temple. His intransigent prejudices need not be entertained if my desires should be met.” I set the bag in a stoneware bowl.
“Needs and desires, My Lord?” Wash hedged, a glare skimming my cheek.
“Not the way you are thinking, My Hierophant, though if you would like to meet those, I would not so much mind introducing you to them,” I offered.
“No thank you, we’ve already met,” he quipped. Ptolemy snorted over his glass of water at the transaction.
“The needs and desires I would encourage you to meet with currently are this: I must find a method by which to hoble the nobility before their headstarts enter into an ambition that would upheave what little peace we have. I would see that our dome improved itself from the stagnation it suffered after the Cardinal Wars. However, at every turn, I find myself, as a figurehead pharaoh, hampered by unnavigable legislation implemented to suppress the commonality and promote the luxuries of the priests and the nobles. The people are suffering,” I hissed in frustration.
“I do not follow how I could possibly improve this situation, My Lord?” Wash hedged.
“You are both of the temple and an Mubkharatan. You have shown yourself capable of care for not only others of the same fate, but those that are incapable of caring for themselves. I watched your interactions this morning in the hall in comparison to the other wab. You were well received by them and I would suspect would be loved by the common people. You were sent to me for Last Purification. That means there were enough people from your home temple that didn’t want you to die unblessed even for committing a crime of the state. You have promise,” I studied the purple and green ripples along the dome glass as clouds shifted along the blue sky beyond it.
“How would I learn the duties of the temple, though, My Lord? I do not see myself as someone people would necessarily look to for guidance. I am,” he hesitated, scrunching in on himself, “more of a form of sympathy by which the temple might shower their grace upon. Nothing more than domestic livestock to the priests. A beast of burden, My Lord! I am half-souled.” Alexandrite eyes begged for me to understand. Inside I could only find sorrow and hope.
“Seth, what is with this half-soul business my heirophant continues carrying on about? I have not come across this term.” I folded my arms across my chest and studied the man across from me. The ice in the bag slipped in the quite, clinking against the bowl.
“A superstition within the temple, spread amongst the common folk. Albinism, poliosis, in Wash’s case, as Ptolemy guessed so accurately, he is piebald. Do you suffer deafness at all, Wash?” Seth asked.
“Not enough to significantly impact my work within the temple or to hinder me from common communication. It is difficult if you suddenly start whispering things where I can’t see your mouth, My Lord,” Wash turned his statement from Seth to me.
“Oh. I take it you missed me saying I’d keep you? I’m sorry, that, I wasn’t aware, I-” I asked, my face heating at the realization.
“No, it was whatever you said back in the temple halls before you let Ptolemy drag me into your bedchambers. For all I knew, you told him he could chop my head off!” Wash protested. “I caught the keeping me bit.” He muttered, rubbing at the back of his neck.
“But do you really believe yourself half-souled?” I pressed him.
“Yes. Why would I not be?” he blinked at the statement.
“I can work with this, but we’re going to need to fix that superstition before it causes more harm. How have I not known about this?” I touched the sour spot on my cheek. Swelling was coming down. “Nebra, Ptolemy, can you do me a favor?” I turned to them at the thought.
“Favor, Henu?” Nebra shifted from her contemplation of the bookshelves behind me.
“Would you be able to source our wab here proper vestments. Something to compete with Adom’s?” I motioned to Wash’s blue and white patterns.
“I don’t think you’re listening to m-” Wash protested.
Nebra interrupted, “What are you thinking, morning or evening ceremony?”
“What do you think, Wash? Should we announce you to the entire congregation at dawn, or dusk? Have a preference?” Ptolemy encouraged him in on the conversation.
“Mornings always have the largest congregation,” he turned, hands begging on the table, “but I can’t do anything!”
“You can summon gods.” I smiled, teeth gleaming.