Chapter 36

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"While the lot of you sit here and argue about who's to blame and who's innocent, a Black Knight, a Royal Guard no less, languishes as a prisoner of a traitor and terrorist," Charlotte snapped. "This isn't a matter of sorting out scapegoats. The longer we sit idly, the bolder our enemies will become."

Over the course of the entire meeting, Joanna hadn't been able to get a single word in. She, Sophia, and even the Queen herself had mostly remained silent while Charlotte and the Prime Minister bickered over the table. The sun had been high in the sky, filling the room with light through the conference room's windows when the meeting started. Now there was just a bright orange glow radiating throughout as the sun fell below the horizon.

"What would you ask our Queen to do? Declare war entirely on the Church?" Elin Connington quipped. "I'm sure the citizens would be very thankful for such a reckless act."

"Just as they would be if we left a potentially far reaching network of criminals uncontested, possibly having compromised said Church." Charlotte turned her gaze toward her sister. "I'm not asking you for any grand army or even any Royal Guards to support me. I won't even drag any of my Black Knights into this. Just give me leave to investigate at the Temple and any other location controlled by those slimy bitches."

Victoria was silent, keeping her eyes down on her twitching hands and then toward her half filled wine glass. "If I didn't, would that really change anything you planned on doing?" she said.

"No," Charlotte replied.

"Then I guess it was never really a question. Do what you must." She pulled a gold badge with the royal insignia out of her pocket and slid it across the table to her sister.

"This is madness," Connington said.

"Don't even pretend you didn't plan it out like this," Charlotte hissed. "I swear, if I see that traitorous daughter of yours, I'll skin her slowly and make her into shoes."

Elin Connington remained unphased. "You seem awfully attached to the boy who got kidnapped My Lady. Any particular reason why?"

Charlotte turned her gaze away from the Prime Minister. "I have better things to do than address low born insects like you." She stomped out of the room without another word.

Sophia, as always, ran faster than Joanna and caught up to Charlotte first. It was dark enough for the first stars to appear in the sky.

"You're not serious are you?" Sophia asked. "Brandishing a sword in the Temple only ends one way."

"I'm not asking either of you to come with me. You know I can handle myself."

"Like hell we're going to let you do something stupid by yourself. What else are friends for?" Joanna exclaimed.

"You do realize whether we have the Queen's blessing or not, if too many people die and it turns out they were innocent, there's no explaining ourselves out of the mess we make," Charlotte said.

"And that's why you got friends," Sophia said.

***

The Temple was bathed in so much white light that it appeared even more detailed than on a sunny afternoon. A handful of unarmed attendants in plain white robes were walking across the large courtyard in front of the large marble building. They all froze when they saw Charlotte, keeping one hand on her sword.

"I need to speak with the a member of the Twelve. Now." Her tight grip on her sword was enough to cow the women to Charlotte's will. They were shown in through the massive doors of the Temple, past the threadbare crew of other meek women in plain robes, and toward a large white room with bright white chandeliers dotting the immensely tall ceiling. Paintings several meters tall dotted the otherwise spotless white walls of the room, each depicting various scenes of Angels, Spirits, or even the Mother Herself, all doing something mystical or miraculous.

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