XVIII - Backstage on Opening Night

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"We're in luck, time is on our side," I tell Adras a few days later.

We are holed up in our familiar stone room. I've told the other priestesses that they aren't to go near it or enter upon penalty of dismemberment. A touch over-exaggerated and absolutely an oversell of my potential wrath, but cultivating an air of secrecy is of the highest importance.

"Why is time on our side?" Adras asks, studying a number of the maps and charts that I've stuck to the walls.

"How are you holding these in place?" Xanthos marvels, tugging on a corner of a map.

"Magic," Adras states as if it should be obvious, "but she's not a witch. She's very touchy about that."

I wave away their banter, "We are a few weeks away from the longest day of the year. There is typically a celebration when the full moon rises on the shortest night. A smattering of people will come to worship and celebrate at the temple.

"We have enough time to create a hubbub, drum up the audience, and tell the residents of Aundus that the goddess has blessed two beings who will herald in a new era of mankind. A little fanfare, a little pageantry and we could be well on our way to winning hearts and minds."

I chew on the end of a rough-hewn pencil, scribbling down the idea on a piece of parchment.

"Two beings?" Adras raises a brow.

"Well, you and I naturally. It can be our grand debut — I would position you as the dominant party, of course. Did you bring anyone with you besides Xanthos? A group of people that could showcase your power and might?"

"No." Adras looks down, fiddling with the fringe on his scarf.

"You traveled here alone? Just the two of you?" I use the pencil to point between them with startled accusation.

"Our only purpose was to seek permission from the goddess before formulating our campaign, madam. We had only rudimentary sketches of what we might do afterward." Xanthos places his hand over his heart and dips his head formally. Apologetic and ashamed.

"And what if the temple had said 'no'? You would have just...given up?"

"Well, not entirely. But I might have redirected my intentions," Adras says.

My mouth falls open and I choke back a laugh. "So there is no one in Yehpernath that is sympathetic to your cause? No courtiers who back your claim?"

Xanthos shakes his head and Adras turns an endearing shade of fuschia.

"Seems I've made a whole lot of work for myself when I didn't need to," I mutter. I consider things for a few moments and then ask, "Adrastos, why do you want to do this?"

"Didn't we already play this game?" He sighs, annoyed.

"Yes, but humor me."

He furtively looks to his left where Xanthos sits and when his eyes return to mine they plead.

Ah, so the other mortal doesn't know about his powers!

"Xanthos! I've been so forgetful! Will you run into town and see if they have restocked their lamp oil? I'm afraid we will need much more than you were able to procure."

The man jumps to his feet and sketches the most elaborate bow, "I lay at your feet, majesty. Your wish is my command." He reaches for my hand, which I provide. He kisses it fervently half a dozen times.

"Charming!" Pulling back my hand, I clap and encourage his easy servitude.

A spiky, sour, bright punch of lime explodes through the room as Xanthos takes my hand and kisses it once more. A lingering, fanciful token.

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