In The Temple of KaosbyNamazu©
Rumor had it, and if there was anything Eris followed it was rumors, for there was always some truth in them, that the Citadel of the Cult never slept.
And there was some truth to the rumor, but the city, like all cities, did sleep. For most people. There were always guards around, yes, always trainees and newly appointed eager studiers of the old laws and practices awake, there were always late night sessions of various practices, but overall, when the final bells after the main dinner sounded, most of the Citadel slept. Or did other activities in their rooms. Of course, as the High Priestess, in technicality second only to the High Priest, and above just slightly the Council, such rules did not apply to her.
But with Kronos the High Priest away on some form of spiritual journey that could not, for whatever reason, happen within the safe halls and walls of the maze-like Citadel, and some of the Council with him, it was, for now, simpler to remain in her part of the massive quarters. Not that she and Kronos did not share a master bedroom and most of the elaborate apartment, but she had her personal rooms as he did his.
And for now, the last somber bells of the night service summoning certain lower priests to their duties, she remained on the dark marbled balcony overlooking the main Citadel plaza. To be sure every guard in the plaza knew she was there. To be sure the guards posted outside the main doors knew she was inside.
And she was not a prisoner. In fact, as she reclined and watched those below, she was waiting for such news from the private Inquisitors. She had received notice only a night ago, that some trespassers had been captured near the high gates, but until any of them were awake, there was no point in venturing to the dungeons. As soon as most of them were functioning, she would, of course, take her place below for some interrogations. For now, she could afford to rest, idlely inspecting the black tattoos that covered every inch of her hands, and indeed body overall.
A good part of her wondered what idiots would dare trespass so close to a largely hidden city. In fact whoever had dared would have had to land any form of ship miles away, travel over harsh terrain, and know the city was here in the first damn place...
A sudden and rather loud knock echoed sharply in the room, and slowly she turned to the source, eyes narrowed. For the briefest moment her gold eyes flashed green, and the word "Enter" died on her lips, instead reaching into the daring knocker's mind, and planting itself there.
The door opened almost instantly, a white uniformed guard quickly saluting with his closed fist over his heart. "High Priestess," he said quickly, eyes downcast, the smart lad might live to see another day, despite his foolish knocking, "the Head Inquisitor has requested your presence, post haste. Three of the four prisoners are awake."
A bare glance at this guard, and she rose carefully, barely nodding at him as she stalked from the balcony through the rather opulent room, dousing a few of the large candles in the process. No need to leave indications of her presence.
"Good. Return to your post." The luckless boy (she could not think of him as a man really, so young this one! A fresh recruit no doubt, and she wondered if time would heal the wounds of the newly initiated, or it was simple blind faith that would.) saluted again, careful to keep his eyes off her, and stepped back into the stark white hallway. Much of the Citadel and the palace was dark white, almost blinding white, as her skin was. As a young one herself she had often had thoughts of being able to stand pressed to a wall, and blending in perfectly. That was, of course, long before her appointment as the High Priestess, and the tattoos that came with it.
There was no need to ask for this guard's name, and in fact she would no doubt forget his face within minutes, which was a trait many guards hoped to keep for long-term employment. Council aside, if the High Priest or Priestess grew weary of a guard, disposal was simple.
It was not as if there weren't dozens of eager young recruits vying for a spot closer to those in control.
The 'post haste' comment she filed away for later memory. The boy, physically an adult as he was, might need a little reminder of his status. But later.
Still there was some protocol to be followed, and she wordlessly took down her long crimson cloak, a stark contrast to her white form, clasping it around her with its ornate bronze clasps, and sliding the hood up as she stepped out, the door sealing silent behind her. Her private quarters of course had a dozen guards at each end of the hallway, but she did not, this time, require an escort, a sharp nod to the armored men stepping forward her forcing them back, and to their posts.
If anyone near this level in the Citadel saw her in such regalia, small as it was for a small ceremony, they would have shied quickly from her gold-eyed vision. She was on a patrol, on some high duty here; this particular cloak was worn for special ceremonies, for initiations of certain castes, and, on a more personal note, when she wanted to be noticed with her status, as if the tattoos were not enough, but not enough notice with her full cloak and crown.
As she passed down to the lower levels to Rhamadan's keep in the dungeons, simple enough to ignore, or barely nod to the guards on heavier watch duty here, all bowing, eyes downcast.
Kronos was well known to select nightly entertainment from the guards, from indeed most any caste, and few would ever think to deny him, but it was quite another for a priestess to summon for such reasons outside of certain dates or ceremonies.
Not that any would balk if they wanted their lives spared. The two large guards on duty right outside the main cell hold quickly opened the doors for her, the horns of Kaos deeply detailed indeed on nearly every door down here. It gave the place a rather oppressive air, but that was a point for a prison.
And she looked first to the cells rather than Rhamadan, knowing he had the prisoners secured and would likely start detailing his findings as she viewed the new arrivals.
Eris had long since made it personal victory never to show emotion save for a few, rage being one of them, to any member of the lower castes. Rhamadan was only a few steps below the Council, as Head Inquisitor, but despite her cool face, he could see from body language alone she was rather surprised. Four prisoners, all wearing their ceremonial garb still, though with some clear bloody marks that indicated they had not gone down easily from patrolling guards.
Four members of the Covenant, their ancient enemy.
Three men, she noted, and one woman, the latter and one of the former still unconscious. The oldest member of the quartet was awake, as was the youngest man, perhaps just slightly younger than the guard who had summoned her. But unlike the guard, or indeed any guard in the Citadel, this young man stared at her, his gaze brimming with a dark fury and hatred she had not witnessed in a long time, and a simple smile played over her black lips.
But the smile she turned to Rhamadan was, at least in part, true. It was a predator's smile to be sure; even he was not safe from her wrath if she chose to dole it on him, but so far he had done as ordered, even beyond the scope of her demands. He was quite good at getting information from wayward poor recruits of the Cult, in weeding out spies.
"You know, Inquisitor....Kronos is never going to believe what guests we have now. Nor the Council. Almost a shame they will be smelted down by the time the High Priest returns, isn't it." But her optics were locked onto the youngest Covenant prisoner (or whatever level he was. lower in training? His garb was muddied and bloodied and she could not fully see any ornaments on him, save for the standard tattoo above his eyes)'s as she spoke in that soft voice of hers. It was not like the High Priestess to raise her voice. Not that she needed to.
"If I may, High Priestess, they may yet be alive," stated the Inquisitor lightly, not turning his back to her, to be sure, he would never dare such a slight, but half turning from the cuffed and chained prisoners to inspect a long tray of his well-used instruments. Knives were the very least of what he kept on easy hand.
"It depends if they want to divulge their information the easy way or the hard way. Well, you as well as I know the hardheaded nature and foolhardy valiance of the Covenant..."
A sudden but low creak of chain received a low look from them both; the youngest priest's glare was still open, still full of venom, and he would have no doubt spit on both had he been close enough.
"San!" hissed the other awake priest, his eyes and face more lined with fear, outright terror, than righteous fury. "San, cease!"
For a good moment the youth kept his gaze on his hateful targets, then dropped it silently; Eris could see how tight the cuffs dug and cut into his wrists and legs, leaving slight indents and the smell of blood. A very large one, this, and she reminded herself to have the guards retest all restraints here.
But for now.
To be sure she saw that, that flicker of defiance despite an order from an elder. And casually she pulled her staff from subspace, the aid taller than she was, a dark black with harsh gold etchings. Runes likely even the Covenant priests before her never knew existed. Old magic. Powerful magic. And she trusted enough just drawing out a beacon of her power would make at least the older awake prisoner shudder.
"You should listen to your elders, San," she said with that damnable smile. And she stepped not toward him, but to the other priest, fingers lightly coiled around the icy staff, letting it touch the bars before this older priest; it was instinct by now, to mentally feel for the terror in a mind, and if she concentrated enough, in the soul direct.
If any of these fools had doubt to her identity, the staff, one of only two in existence like so, would quell those. "And I am not so sure, Inquisitor. Four prisoners, that is a good deal of mouths to feed. Easier to dispose of three and keep one for information. .....of course I would not deny you disposal rights or the time it would take to fully end them. I do enjoy bonfires this time of year. And I see a priestess as well. I am sure the guards who brought these in could use a reward as Covenant woman."
Not that, she knew, any of the prisoners would know how rape was frowned upon, unless it was, in essence, permitted by the High Ones. Any guard who dared to touch a prisoner without permission would suffer a worse fate than the prisoner themselves. Insubordination would never be tolerated. Not that the Covenant would ever believe that.
"In fact, I think the priestess here would be quite good for a few hours restrained in the main courtyard." All bluster, for now. In fact she was testing the youngest priest....how defiant he was, and if he would dare try insubordination against his own elder, who likely, even if he would call her bluster, would never think for a second she was not serious. And she could turn that way far too easily.
"You are far too kind, High Priestess," came the soft reply from Rhamadan. "But I am certain many would exchange their indulgences for a viewing of her."
Another creak, and this time she turned her full attention to the young priest, his blazing blue eyes back on her, his large body straining in the sharp restraints. A creak, no more, no less. Still time for the guards to remake the bonds.
"San, hold!" whispered the Covenant priest desperately. "Please, for the love of all that is holy, be still!"
A low growl from San, and Eris noted privately how he shuddered, shaking really, his hands locked into tight fists against the cold stone of the cell wall. And his voice was tight, as if being forced out under extreme duress, as if the torture had already begun. "You expect me to keep silent?"
"I rather do." Eris stepped from the older priest's cell, back to inspect the lot of them. "As for you, were you one of my priests I would be highly dishonored if we were captive and you showed such disrespect to an elder. Especially one who so outranks you. If nothing else I do respect the status climb.
".....in short, speak out of turn again and I will turn over your priestess to anyone who wants them tonight. Perhaps in this very room to see if you can hold your tongue or if my Inquisitor will keep it as a trophy. Now, as a final warning, any attempt to escape your bonds from here out will result in your comrades being presented to my lower castes for full torture of every nature. My Inquisitors will use them as specimens and training guides. And when I have grown tired of hearing them beg to die, I will cut their throats myself and shatter their souls to atoms. In the future, assuming you have one, remember these words, if only for their lives."
Only then did her gaze pass back to the older priest. "I do apologize for interfering with your discipline but unfortunately your trainee should learn respect when speaking to a member of my rank.
"I am the High Priestess of the Cult of Kaos. You will oblige me by stating your names and how you came to my Citadel, and if there is any deceit I will be more than happy to rip the information from your mind. Those of you who have read even a slight gossip of me know I can do so half asleep. So don't, please, try your luck since San here already has."