Moth Ch. 034byellynei©
Submitted to literotica.com by the author.
"Where do I deliver the dress and the jewellery afterward?" asked Zoa, looking at the reflection of herself, and the tailor, and the ceremonial advisor. There was plenty room for all of them in the mirror. It filled nearly half a wall.
"You don't do that, darling," said the ceremonial advisor with a smile. "It's yours. Call it an unofficial gift."
Zoa wanted to smile gratefully at the woman, but she was still having trouble making that expression. Her body hadn't been wounded in that forest, but something inside her had been torn apart.
"Thank you," said Zoa.
"Have you figured out what request to make to the Emperor, darling?"
"I have thought of something," admitted Zoa. "But, I don't know if it is appropriate."
"You can whisper it to me," said the ceremonial advisor, and leaned her ear to Zoa's mouth.
Zoa whispered and the advisor listened.
"That is an unusual request," whispered back the advisor. "You'll need to give me time to think."
Zoa nodded. She guessed that 'time to think' meant time to ask someone higher up whether the Emperor should come face to face with such a request in public.
"Now, let's rehearse and see how well you bow and kneel while wearing a dress," said the smiling advisor, clapping her hands.
Zoa withheld a sigh and demonstrated her bow, and her kneel, and her bowing kneel. The ceremonial advisor always smiled and was always friendly, but she was as merciless as any flight drill master. Through the last days Zoa had 'rehearsed' her legs sore and her knees blue.
"Very nice," praised the advisor. "You're becoming very graceful. Now, let me see it again."
Her ceremonial advisor only made her rehearse for an hour before sending her off with instructions not to tire her legs and to do get a good night's sleep. Zoa promised to do her best to both ends.
She was looking forward to the ceremony. Not for the reasons a child would dream of being awarded by the Emperor himself, but because that, maybe, afterwards, she would feel that she had made the right decisions.
After redressing to her simple courier clothes, Zoa went straight to the military center her courier center was attached to.
"Brave Zoa," greeted the officer who had military command of the monster-hunt.
"Sir," greeted Zoa. Couriers, as such, were deemed civilians, and didn't perform military salutes.
"Speak the talk but can't walk the walk," commented the officer, who wore scars as his only medals of recommendation. "Have you considered a military career once your wings dry out?"
"I have considered many careers, Sir," said Zoa.
"You're too good at this to take another path," said the officer, "but there is no harm in dreaming of a better life."
Zoa said nothing.
"The blood preserved well," informed the officer, finally moving to the matter at hand. "It still provides a clear connection to our tracksters." Only Zoa and the officer were present. Otherwise he wouldn't have used the unofficial, derogatory term, for the half-sighted seers the military had at its disposal. "All of them are still depicting the same route for the monster's travel."
"There's no sign of interference then?" asked Zoa.
"Any word on whether or not the first traps had any effect?"
The officer shook his head. "The spider is still alive and it is still on the same route, that's all I can tell you. From the blood, the tracksters can tell us where the spider is and where it is headed. Don't expect more than that from military seers, Zoa."
"I understand, Sir."
"The real seers are being cuddled and spoiled like larvas. We won't be getting access to one of those unless they ask to be accessed."
"I understand, Sir," said Zoa.
"Don't let it get to you," warned the officer, who seemed to have a hard time not letting it get to himself. "Or you'll end up where your friend Keme is."
Zoa said nothing. Keme was not her friend and she didn't feel a loss for him being detained for a few months. The world was likely a safer place with Keme locked in a cell. She had good reason to believe he had known how many lives the sample of monster-blood would cost them. There had been plenty signs that Vumanesco had told Keme more than the madman had shared.
The officer again shook his head.
"How did that kid get it into his head to seek out the seer Evelin? Didn't he know that the child is under the Emperor's protection?"
"He knew, Sir."
"Then why did he keep trying?"
"He is mad, Sir," informed Zoa.
"Evelin," whispered Keme, staring into the darkness of his cell. "I know you can hear me, Evelin. You can hear everything, can't you, sweet, little, Evelin. I'll be coming out in a few months. And you can figure out a way to get out too. Can't you, Evelin?
Intellectual property of Nanna Marker.
"A little chain is no real obstacle to the world's greatest seer, is it? You'll figure out how to free yourself. Then we can meet. I will pick you a flower, Evelin. You want to see me. You know you do.
"You remember how pretty I was. Don't you, Evelin?
"You will tell me what I want to know and I will give you a hug."
Keme had been whispering to Evelin ever since he was put into this cell, and he would keep whispering till he got out. If he couldn't get to Evelin, then Evelin would have to get to him.
Zoa slept well the night before the day of the ceremony. She expected that the 'special tea' her ceremonial advisor had given her had had a part in that. If it had, she was grateful, she was happier to face the Emperor without purple depths under her eyes.
The ceremonial introduction took her breath away. Even sooner than she came face to face with the Emperor himself, Zoa felt cleansed. She really had done the best she could do under the circumstances she had been in. She had saved many lives and needn't spend the rest of her life burdened with guilt and shame for those she hadn't been able to save.
Zoa knelt that final time and raised her face to her Emperor. With the strangest mix of pride and humility in her heart, she listened to his praise of her. His voice was majestic, calm, and fatherly.
He placed around her neck a medal of gold, and Zoa held her breath at the proximity of his hands.
"What will you ask of your Emperor, young hero?" he asked, his eyes locked to hers.
For a moment Zoa couldn't remember what she had meant to ask. It had been something important. Her ceremonial advisor had agreed to the question and had helped her rephrase it. It was...
"I humbly ask a privilege far beyond me," said Zoa, the words coming back to her only as she spoke them, "I ask for access to my Emperor's library, I ask for the assistance of my Emperor's librarians in my fight against the abomination."
"You could ask for gold, jewels, or land," said the Emperor. "Instead you selflessly request Our aid in your fight against evil." The Emperor paused. Zoa felt like she was falling up into his eyes. Gone was all the pomp and the ministers and officials with their silk, gold, and jewels. There was only Him in all his might, and her awaiting his word.
"We will grant your request, young hero."
"You will come to me, Evelin," whispered Keme to the darkness of his cell. "You know where, you know when." He was hoarse from whispering every waking hour.
"Evelin, come on out. It's time for breakfast," he called, putting the trey onto the floor. The child had always refused to eat at tables. "Evelin, you can go back into the closet after you've eaten."
There was no sound from the closet. No, complaints. No humming. No singing. Evelin had been dead quiet since he got up.
The chain sticking out of the closet didn't even rattle.
"Toot toot has food for you," he called. "Toot toot. Toot toot."
No giggles. No nothing.
"Evelin!" he commanded, his voice stern. Fear was gathering in his stomach. When he had made her bed it had been cold. She had been up far earlier than he. "Get out here right now, young lady."
"If you don't come out right now, I'm coming in to get you!" More than a year had passed since he had last opened the closet while she was in it. Any threat of doing it, usually caused hysterical shrieks of anger.
There was no sound.
"I warned you," he said, slowly walking to the closet. His stomach was an uneasy stone of anxiety.
He reached the closet and pulled its doors open.
Evelin wasn't there. The chain's ending, the tiny ankle cuff, lay alone and open in the bottom of the closet.
"Evelin," he whispered, and turned his eyes to the front door. The key was in it. It shouldn't be, but it was. "No, Evelin. No."
He ran to the door. It was unlocked. He ran outside. First he ran to the pond, fearing to find her drowned. Then he forced himself to run back and raise a courier flag. Then he ran on, screaming the child's name.
He found her laying on a leaf not far from home. She was writhing with the sight. Evelin couldn't be outside, even the wind gave her connections.
"Evelin," he wept, and lifted her off the ground. He brushed dirt and debris of her, and dried mud off her feet, all to remove physical connections.
"Toot toot," whispered Evelin, her writhing lessening with his efforts.
"Where have you been," he wept, still drying mud off her feet.
"I don't remember," wept Evelin, sounding like the little girl she was.
He took off his coat-like outer shirt and wrapped it around her to spare her from visions of wind and sunlight.
"I think I did something very bad," wept the child. "But I don't remember what it was."
"You'd never do anything bad," he comforted and carried her back to their home.
"I did," wept Evelin. "I know I did."
Posted on literotica.com with permission of author: Nanna Marker; literotica ID ellynei.