Chapter 7

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DOMINIC PRESSED HIS BACK to a cold marble wall. Vibration emanated from the rock and he lost himself in the peculiar sensation while he waited. Gragrafel had disappeared around the far curve of the lengthy corridor quite some time ago. The bend appeared a mile away. He stared into it, thinking. He hadn't raised a sword since trading in his legion kit for a paintbrush and fatherhood. A delicate curl turned the corner of his mouth with nostalgia. He'd never regretted the choice, happy to work at home and be his wife's rock while she made Trailokya safer for his and all kinds. He was proud of her and proud of being a part of her. This was the problem: When would it be his turn to achieve? He'd showed his paintings in the White City and through Arcadia, starting over two incarnations ago, but the work never gained the admiration it deserved or the success that was comparable to his service in the legions. His talent was no more impressive than grass growing; it was simply expected of him as a budding muse.

Pocketing his hands, Dominic stared at the floor. He saw the edge of Alex's robe as it hovered just above the marble slab. Perhaps he still hadn't chosen the right path. Perhaps he was blocked from advancing because he couldn't decide where he belonged. All around him, the others knew where they fit in, but he was never so sure. If he returned to service in the legions, it might be seen as competing with his bride. He longed for his own accolades and to be free from comparison to the exceptional Maiel. Perhaps he needed to stop rethinking things, but he couldn't help but wonder about what Alex had said to him back at the house. A muse might be just what he was cut out for. In a way, a muse's work was quite similar to that of a soldier. Their resonance filled others with inspiration, and their work could be likened to the strength of a blade. He imagined himself inspiring others, filling them with the will to achieve wondrous things. That ability alone was greater than any skill known in Zion. It was kith and kin to Adonai's talents.

"When we are summoned in—you'll see things rarely afforded your kind. Please remain calm and stay focused on the task. This interview is my daughter's only hope. If Adonai senses a change in her—" Alex said, cutting herself off. She watched the hall before them and touched her forehead as she fought with her emotions.

"Adonai will see the truth and send us to retrieve her." Dominic filled in the right words for her, grateful to see his wife's family felt something.

Because he was a mere human, Dominic couldn't sense Alex's heartache and needed to see it acted out to discern it. Despite their differences, he still empathized with that part of his family. All duta struggled to understand souls, like why humans struggled with decisions that were so clear to them. And those very questions could be applied to each incarnation of duta up to their king. Thus, their differences united them in the goal of attaining ascendance. He worried what the council would say, so far removed from a struggle they were likely to find wasteful.

"Yes, but Metatron little understands or sympathizes with emotion and that's all we have to explain our situation," Alex said, looking to him.

"If we're doomed, what is the point of dragging me before them?" Dominic asked.

"Adonai will hear you from the chamber, that's the point. It's him we really implore," Alex replied.

Alex turned back to her thoughts, waiting for Gragrafel to return. She clasped her hands together at her waist, squeezing the fingers tight. Dominic smirked. They could be just as manipulative as those they'd cast away millennia ago. He started to wonder if any of this really mattered against the tableau of time. They ran their world under a tight bureaucracy of string-pulling alders. An unseen king reigned over them all, his power even more influential because his intentions were supposedly those of a loving father. Hard work never really amounted to a thing. Plans were orchestrated behind doors and set into motion with or without the agreement of the one expected to carry them out. For instance, punishing Ian's lack of faith in his own path by denying him service in the legions.  Furthermore, Alex didn't just happen to mention muses. She covertly directed him the way the council wanted. He rubbed the back of his neck. He wished they would stop the show of individual sovereignty and be honest that there was no real choice in what a soul, or any atman, did.

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