“We’ll watch the ceremony from the boat while Garreth and Vanar accompany your mother’s guards to keep her and your father safe.”
Miranda nodded and followed Adina onto the deck, making sure to keep her hood down low. Adina exchanged a greeting with the fellow agents masquerading as sailors. The captain was standing port side, watching his men at work. Adina bowed and thanked the captain.
“Not a problem. You may use my cabin for viewing if you wish. I will be sending two more guards to keep you company.”
“There’s no need. Have them keep watch from out here. My friend and I would like privacy.”
“As you wish, representative.”
Miranda led the way into the room. Adina had barely closed the door when Miranda flipped open her hood. “I thought I was going to suffocate from the smell. Now, I would like some answers. Why is everyone obsessed with keeping me safe?”
Adina closed her eyes, whispering a few holy words. She smiled when she saw the familiar flash of purple light that fled her fingers and fused with the wall. “You are the last of your line. There are those who would prefer the line to end with you. The church…”
“Serves the Royal Family. I know that much.”
“Times are changing. It’s only a precaution.”
“So I am to be a prisoner.”
Adina couldn’t help feeling sorry for her.
“How are the people to trust a ruler that hides from them?”
Adina smoothed the wrinkles from her white cloak as she took a seat on the window sill. She looked out across the harbor to the Grand Temple. A large crowd had gathered for the ceremony. “I understand your frustration.”
Miranda stood and crossed the cabin to stare at the maps hanging on the walls. “How could you? You rip me away from my world, force me to be something I’m just not and then all of a sudden keep me in hiding.” Miranda rubbed the bridge of her nose, whispering something under her breath.
“It’s for your own safety.” Adina sighed. “I know how you feel. I was found as a child wandering the streets after the shadow monsters attacked my village and was rescued by the Trinity Knights. They gave me a home and the man who raised me gave me a place on the Council.”
“Why has no one heard of the Trinity Knights? What have they to hide?”
“The church has the public running scared.”
Miranda was a few steps away from the door. “But why not come out and set the record straight? All the secrecy isn’t exactly doing you any favors.”
“Myself and other seers believe the Betrayer might be corrupting the church.”
“What is the Betrayer?”
Adina frowned, reaching with her mind to test the magic that surrounded them. Still solid. Releasing a breath, she looked back out to the rejoicing crowd. “Some say he was the first child of the goddesses. The only one to be carved from their flesh and souls. After seeing the rest of the races formed, the Betrayer wanted a race of his own. When the Goddesses denied him, he created his own from the filth of this world and the darkness in the next. War ravaged the land. In the end the land was soaked with blood. Destroyed by grief the goddesses sacrificed themselves to trap their child between worlds where even time would stand still.”
Miranda started inching her way towards the cabin door, flattening herself against the wall. “Stop it!”
Adina rose from the windowsill. “Miranda, what’s wrong?”
“A headache. That’s all. What happened next?”
“The churches hunted down the Trinity Knights and anyone with the gift of sight to near extinction.”
“Where do seers get their power?”
“No one knows for sure. I believe the goddesses’ magic still lingers and it chooses those who will listen.”
Miranda took a step away from the wall. “What do you have visions about?”
Adina stiffened but smiled. “Many things, good and bad. I dreamed of you and Sir Caldon. That’s how Garreth and Vanar found you the night you were attacked.”
Miranda took in a deep, shaky breath. “Have you seen my uncle?”
Adina gently bit her lower lip. “No. It can take time and the visions are sometimes jumbled.”
“I do know you miss him and I promise we will find him. As soon as the ceremony is over, I’ll make sure Garreth and the others work on finding your uncle and all the others who were taken from your village.”
A flash of light exploded within her mind. Her hands cradled her face as Adina crashed to the floor.
Screams filled her mind. She heard Miranda running to her side but could barely feel the other woman shaking her shoulder.
When the light cleared, Adina found herself standing amongst the crowd outside the Grand Temple. A rumble shook the ground, but no one seemed to notice or care. On a raised platform near the entrance of the temple stood a row of guards from all three kingdoms behind another two rooms of council representatives. Standing closest to the platform’s edge near several tall statues of Solacia were the High Priestess, her closest acolytes and the King and Queen.
Fanfare music blared from trumpeters lining the sides of the stage. From within the temple emerged a figure dressed in fine blue silk that looked like waves crashing over her body. The decoy certainly played the part well. Even Adina would be easily fooled on first glance.
The priests laid prayer beads over the young woman’s neck as she passed by each one until she stood next to Rolanda. The high priestess sprinkled holy water over the young woman, whispering something into her ear.
The procession turned and followed the priest and the decoy into the temple. Around her Adina heard the soft whispers of prayer from the citizens. Some were even weeping. Adina also noticed the increased number of guards displaying church symbols on their uniforms. Holy Warriors haven’t been seen in centuries.
Another rumble shook the ground, causing spectators to fall against each other. Adina looked around and felt something cold slither down her spine. Although she tried to move, she found she couldn’t. Glued in place, she turned her gaze back to the stage. She felt the heavy darkness crushing her before she saw the stuff begin to ooze from the temple walls. Cracks began to form in the temple walls before another rumble, largest of the three, shook the ground. Flames shot out from the temple’s entrance and the dark ooze bubbled like pus from a freshly opened wound. The explosion cracked like thunder before everything went black and the screams filled her mind.
“Wake up, Adina!”
Adina felt herself yanked from the crowd and landed on her back. Only when she opened her eyes, she found herself staring at the ceiling of their ship’s cabin. Beneath her she could feel the ship swaying on the waves.
Miranda was leaning over her along with another of Garreth’s agents. Adina tried to sit up but a hand on her shoulder kept her laying down.
Adina fought to keep her breathing steady as her eyes focused on the blurry figure above her. “Garreth? Where is he?”
“Garreth and Vanar went to the temple. The ceremony’s about to begin.”
Adina recovered images from the vision. She shivered at the thought of the black ooze consuming the temple. “Call them back. A vision. So many deaths.”
“But he’s already…”
“I said get him back here! Miranda, help me up.” Adina wiped the blood away from under her nose and swallowed the nausea growing in her stomach.
The knight had barely risen when the first rumble hit the boat. Adina’s throat grew dry. “Run and raise the danger flag. They must not go in.”
Miranda handed her a cloth soaked in cold water. The chill was a relief on Adina’s hot skin as she used it to clear away the blood. “What’s happening?”
Already she could feel the visions tugging at her mind. Flashes of the temple ruins captured her vision. Two figures rose from the ashes, a man and a woman. The high priestess was leading the other man who was cloaked in shadow. His face was scarred and his eyes glowed red, but she knew the face.
The volume of the screams turned to a feverish pitch when the second rumble hit. Adina turned to the window and looked on in disbelief as the sky was filled with billowing black clouds. Smoke from the temple rose in plumes and the flames licked every last stone until the whole thing was a pile of blackened ash. The crowd turned into a frenzy, but something was preventing them from leaving.
“Who would do such a thing?” Miranda’s face was covered in tears. “Isn’t the church supposed to protect us?”
Adina and Miranda ran up to the deck. A loud booming voice accompanied an image of a man and a woman formed by the flames and clouds.
“Ladies and Gentleman, I’m afraid to inform you that a great tragedy has befallen us. A rogue organization that calls themselves the Trinity Knights planned and executed an attack on the temples. They wish the church to submit, to tell you the goddesses are dead and blame all of you. This is simply not true. The goddesses are shamed by what we have become. We need to atone.”
A cheer rose from the crowd.
“This blatant attack on everything good and pure requires blood for the bloodshed in evil. The entire Royal Family and several important members of the Trinity Knights were caught in the explosion.”
Everyone on deck held their breath. “With the support of the Head Councilor, the church will be declaring Holy Law. We are the judges and your deliverers to a peaceful world. We begin with the sacrifice of the Trinity Knight leader, Commander Hallon.”
Adina gasped. “No!”
Another figure with a cloth bag over his head formed within the smoke. Adina and Miranda looked away just as the deed was done. Adina turned to the captain. “Captain set a course for the safe house. We need to get out of here and fast.”
“Anyone thought to be associating with the knights or seers will be taken hostage. Only the pure will live under the new reign.”