In order to save the floating cities from destruction, Riwenne must learn how the Synthetic Ethereal Apparatus works. But the best source of information she has is her mother, the former priestess, Lyda. Is Lyda finally ready to help the daughter who betrayed her?
As we left our house for the second time that day, I felt a little more confident. We’d had some setbacks, but we had a plan again, and I knew what I was doing.
Even if it meant talking to my mother.
Most of my life, I had no idea who my parents were. Like all children of the Empire, I was raised in a nursery and then a school, cared for by teachers. As the High Priestess of Lyndamon, Lyda had been an aloof figure even to the other members of the temple and never talked to me except for the day when she declared that she would train me as a novice. I hadn’t suspected that she might have a personal connection to make her choose me.
Since I’d overthrown her rule of Lyndamon and stopped her attempts to create a new floating city, the balance of power had changed between us. Now I literally held her life in my hands—I was the one who had chosen to spare her. She was kept under house arrest in the city. I wanted to talk to her more, to learn what she knew and maybe see if we could create a new relationship, but one crisis after another had kept me away from her.
What would I say? I couldn’t call her mama and pretend to have affection for her. If I felt anything for her now, it was pity.
I forced myself to knock on the door of her new house. We’d confiscated her original, luxurious building that she had as the head priestess, but her new home wasn’t bad. It was a smaller home, still near the temple at the heart of the city, taken from another senior priestess. There was room for her to live comfortably with an on-site guard and a caretaker.
The door swung open and the guard, dressed in a temple uniform, looked at me in surprise. “P-priestess Riwenne,” she said, bowing her head. “I didn’t know you were coming.”
I shook my head. “Sorry it’s such short notice. May I, uh, see Lyda?”
“Yes, right away,” the guard said, stepping aside and holding the door open for me. “I think she’s still upstairs, but the caretaker can bring her down.”
She showed me into a sitting room. The expensive artwork had been taken down, but the room was still comfortable with nice furniture. I sat and waited for a few minutes while the guard told the caretaker that I was here.
Lyda had to be guided down the stairs by her caretaker. A blindfold was tied around her face to hide her burned-out eyes, but the signs of her ailment were all over her body. She was hunched over and her skin sagged like a much older woman. Her hair had been cut shorter and bound back into a gray bun, instead of the glorious red that once cascaded past her hips.
It was only a few months since the last time I’d seen her. I was shocked to see how much more she’d deteriorated. The power she’d once wielded had taken a heavy toll on her, and even though it was gone, she was still paying the price. Would she even live much longer?