6. The Feeder

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I heard the lush curtains pulling themselves back for my entrance. On time, as one would expect from a Fourth Stage Listener. Especially one like me. With my propensity for healing, I was sure that I was soon to be Palleman's right hand. I repressed my smile and stepped into Palleman's quarters.

The workers had dressed me in proper clothing for the mission they had heard Palleman was going to give me. I could not contain my pride when the winged ladies told me of how easy the choice was to make.

One of them, Saera, was Tane's personal attendant. She was eager for news of Tane, but I had had little to give her. I heard the disappointment in her voice and the saddened flutter of her wings as she hovered over me. I reached for Saera's hand and silently communicated a promise of good news of Tane as soon as I spoke to Palleman.

With my Prestigious' coat and hand-sewn pants, I waited to be addressed by Palleman. My Listeners' sash was tight and comfortably so around my eyes. I held my hands out at the elbows—palm down to acknowledge a higher rank and bowed my head to my chest.

“And he of the highest prestige, of the highest heart, shall know all honor,” Palleman's stern voice came from somewhere in front of me. He quoted an Elder Septar with sacred certainty.  “Granted speech, Listener.” I lowered my hands and heard Palleman walk to me. “Rejoice, young Listener. I have news of your half-sense.”

My head jerked up, though I could not see. I took a hasty step forward, eagerly awaiting the news he spoke of. My heart sped up and I was glad that Palleman was not a Listener, else he hear what my body so readily offered to speak. He seemed to sense it anyway; most likely the anxiety was what he could smell on my skin.            

“What news, Brother Palleman?”

He chuckled and though it did not sound dark, it seemed almost tainted. Not pure. Prestigious Ones did not laugh. I kept my face composed and hoped my scent would not give away my suspicions.

“What news, indeed. A joyous thing, I assure you. Tane is safely earthbound. Not only is her secure passage a reason for celebration, but she has located the Septar. I knew I had chosen correctly. The Septar Council agrees.”

My suspicions vanished and elation washed over me; I would gladly drown in it. This time my smile was unrestrained. I was proud and happy and relieved. There was nothing else for her to do but retrieve the Septar and Initiate.

None of the news reached my ears so cheerfully as the promise of her safety. Tane was always the most fragile Listener. She needed looking after. It was why we had been paired in our Third Stage. It had been a bit unusual, since I had had a half-sense before her, but he died in training by a Feeder's hands. Luckily, Tane had just been dragged and we grew close.

“I am pleased, Brother Palleman,” I said, hoping that my voice sounded hoarse because of its lack of use and not overflow of emotion.

“And so shall you be more, if you accept the honor the Council has decided to bestow upon you.” I nodded, immediately accepting anything Palleman wanted from me.

 He had already given me so much. Anything to repay him and show my loyalty to the Septars would be done and done without complaint. “You will become earthbound as well to aid in Tane's retrieval of the Septar. The highest Watchers have held audience with the prophet Septars and have found most intriguing news. The earthbound Septar is a new breed of Prestigious. We have no name for the Gift the Septar has.

“The Septar is able to construct new realities, twist perception. It is within the Septar’s power to make one believe something that is not truly there, to the smell and the touch of the apparition. You understand now why Tane cannot attempt to complete this mission alone.” I trembled with excitement and nodded my head to show my acceptance. “I have given much thought towards promoting your station, and with you, your half-sense. Because of this new breed of Prestigious it is of the utmost importance that you conceal all you know of this child. Even from Tane.” I frowned but said nothing against him. “You will leave as soon as you are taught to Initiate.”

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