Chapter 20

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Quin Shimmerlake always attracted big crowds for her lectures at the Golden Temple. In fact, she was the most popular of Veya's Chosen.

Out of his five children, she was the city lord's only daughter. And she looked nothing like her father, or her brothers for that matter. Other than perhaps a slight resemblance with Rilien.

Quin stood on the stage now, pacing occasionally, her heels clicking against pale marble. Her voice somehow managed to be soft like velvet yet carry across the atrium.

Leithan sat in the third row from the front – Shay and Rami had been sweet enough to save him a spot.

After returning from visiting his mother, he'd been just in time to catch the last part of Quin's lecture. Though he'd already assisted on Tuesday evening, and had even stayed a little after his own lecture on Thursday morning, to hear the beginning of hers again. Veya's Chosen needed to prepare a new lecture every week, and performed it three times at pre-assigned time slots.

Leithan was fond of Quin's lectures – the both of them had a bit of a rivalry going on, but Leithan secretly enjoyed it.

This week, especially, he thought she'd outdone herself. Maybe because she'd known her father would be here tonight. After all, they were announcing the election's results right after this.

City Lord Blane Grayhound sat in the first row, of course, opposite side of the room from Leithan and his friends. He had a tall black hat on, which, Leithan was sure, blocked the view for the people seated behind him. What a dick.

To Blane's left, Rilien. He wore a suit now – he'd made an effort. And to the city lord's right, his eldest son, Jem Grayhound. Father to the five-year-old twins whose photographs were always in the New Ri Press, sole reason being that they'd happened to be born in the richest family of New Rimar.

Jem wore a tall hat too, like his father. Leithan shook his head in disapproval.

"Why do people say she's the prettiest girl in New Ri?" Shay asked him, whispering. "I just don't see it."

There was a trace of annoyance in Shay's voice. She'd told Leithan once that she thought Quin Shimmerlake was 'too perfect' and it irritated her.

Leithan brought his eyes back to the stage.

Quin was slender with a soft-featured face, large brown eyes, enhanced by tasteful makeup, and tonight she'd woven emerald ribbons in her flowing raven hair. Her long-sleeved dress matched the color of the ribbons, beautiful against her rich brown skin. Corset-style at the chest and waist, it flared elegantly at the hips before ending mid-thigh, showing off long legs that finished in black peep toes. Bright green thread on the sides of the shoes formed a leaf design that recalled the one on the Rengleam flag.

Rami leaned over Leithan to reply to Shay, "I see it."

"I like her shoes," Leithan added.

Shay rolled her eyes and leaned back in her seat, arms crossed.

On the stage, Quin stood behind the lectern, but didn't glance at it once as she said, "So, my friends, remember – remember what Veya wanted for us. She wanted us to be more like children. Fascinated by this world, curious, eager, without any fear of the end because it doesn't exist."

"Let this certainty fill you. Embrace it!" Quin said, smiling a lovely, earnest smile. "Let it conquer your fears. Because when Veya gazed at the stars, she knew, and she shared her knowledge with us. Death is but a gateway to other worlds. And as long as there are stars in the sky, life will be infinite."

"Thank you," Quin finished.

Everyone in the room stood and crisscrossed their arms over their chest, hand to opposite shoulder, to show their respect and devotion and that they'd loved her lecture.

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