Chapter 15

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Fuck the system. The system was dumb, anyway. Novices had one vote. Veya's Chosen had five. Priests and priestesses had ten.

How insane was that?

And the man who accepted novice applications, who decided which novices became chosen, who ultimately selected which ones of these chosen would make it all the way to priest or priestess?

None other than New Rimar's spiritual leader, sixty-three year-old Tremes Oldwoods, the Elder Priest himself.

Tremes was, of course, best of friends with the City Lord and his buddies. It was no secret that every weekend, they all went out together at Blane Grayhound's private club for the best foods, drinks and cigars, enjoying the sweet view from the Northern Cliffs. It was built right next to Blane's – also private – swing court, where Tremes and the others also played together.

Some game where you had to swing a tiny ball into a faraway hole in the ground, or so Rilien had reported. Leithan had never played, nor did he wish to.

The problem was that it was all connected.

Take Shaylan. Mommy and daddy's sweet little girl. Camila Rosethorn was the City Lord's finance advisor, and Jorand Stormwave was Headmaster of Uptown School and his elegant, rich butt had probably been sitting on that council even as they built the very room around him.

Okay, that wasn't very nice. Shay's dad wasn't that old. But still.

Camila and Jorand had three kids, as was a common average among the upper Rengleam society. One kid, their youngest, had been shipped to the Rimar Palace on the mainland to undertake a fancy education. Their oldest, Shivan, was into politics, though probably not in the way they'd hoped at the moment – but they must be reassuring themselves that it was just a phase. And the remaining kid, the one in the middle, Shay, was destined to become a priestess one day, with all the ten votes it came with.

On the meantime, she had become a novice, then a chosen at the youngest possible ages and she could give her five votes to daddy dearest, keep him in that seat.

It was like this with every rich family.

Struggling East Siders fervently wrote novice applications for their kids, hoping to give them a better future. They rarely, if ever, got accepted. And even if they did, good fucking luck getting further than novice. Being a novice sucked, by the way – Leithan had done it for eight years. You had to wash dishes, sweep and scrub floors, fill up the water tanks, do so much laundry, all the time, and clean everything.

Presently Leithan sat in the lecture hall, at the back, the last row. Alone at the far edge of the long bench. Trying to gather his thoughts, to come to terms with what he'd just done.

He didn't have rich parents or any rich relative to vote for. His situation was a little bit more complicated than that. His arrangement with Tremes was . . . quite different.

And now I failed to honor it.

For the poor and middle class, Leithan's ascension to chosen at the Golden Temple gave them hope. Made them think it was possible after all.

They should be careful what they wish for.

On the lecture stage, Ikar Blueknight paced, talked, quoted, once in a while gesturing helpfully and charismatically. He had well-trimmed facial hair and was primly clothed in a waistcoat suit whose dominant color was a rich leafy green. They didn't have a strict uniform, but Veya's favorite color had famously been green and so they all sort of went along with it for no logical reason.

At thirty years old, Ikar was the oldest chosen of the Golden Temple, soon to become a priest, no doubt – everyone knew he was sick of lecturing. Ikar's sister, Leithan knew, was on the council. And their mother too, Rilien had told him once. Soon, Ikar would be able to give them five votes each. How nice.

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