On the plus side, I learned about temple oaths. Learn something new about this world every day.
And I even got to see these various bits of metal when Priest Miurian met us at the temple door and walked us up the stairs to the second floor and through a golden door. It was a long hall, or just a really long rectangular room, with the walls lined with metal objects ranging from plates to swords to shields, with the boxy writing of this world over the top followed by a signature of whoever had made the oath. A lot of the ones made of iron or some iron alloy had rusted over time. Copper had grown green, brass and bronze had dimmed, and silver had grayed. But the ones made of gold hid their age, gleaming through time, along with the newly minted oaths.
“The oath will vanish from the plates if broken, and the one who made the oath shall have their names dashed from the book of heaven,” explained Miurian.
His blond hair gleamed much like the gold on the walls. I wanted to know what shampoo he used. Or maybe just the genetics that made his hair look so perfectly composed and Hollywood ready. Thank heavens his face was normal or we’d have a heartbreaker on our hands.
Gus, who had accompanied me here as he always did, despite my protests since it wasn’t our day off, looked as interested in the plates as I was.
“Look up there, Lilly. The king’s name is on that sword.”
Up above, right next to the curving ceiling, a beautiful rose gold blade with a jewel encrusted handle stood in line with many other expensive looking metal objects, like an overly-extravagant, 3-D wallpaper trim.
“All the kings and kings have their oaths of office up there,” said Miurian as gestured to one of the cushioned seats along the wall, every two set up with a side table. This particular pair was one of the few with a coffee table and rug as well. “Though not the seat of the throne, Livitia is still the capital of Nehcor’s Church. As the state religion, it is tradition that the ruler of the Lisuania make their oath here.”
“What’s the oldest one here?” asked Gus.
“Oh, they’re in chronological order. The oldest should start on the east side, that bronze sickle far over there. You can go see if you want, young man.”
Gus did so, showing the first sign of new fearlessness from his changed eye color by looking the priest straight in the eye as he spoke and then trotting away with a little skip to his step.
“You have a rare thing, there,” said the priest with a friendly smile at Gus’s back.
“Yeah, he’s a good boy.”
“I mean his hair.”
I turned from Gus’s hoping figure to Miurian. “Pardon? What about his hair?”
“You don’t know?” But the priest didn’t look too concerned. “I guess it’s not surprising if it’s not common knowledge among the common folk. Unusually bright colored hair is a trait of those with phenomenal magical capacities. I’m surprised yours isn’t by how large of a capacity I sensed in you.”
“Yes. Um, if it isn’t too rude of me to ask…was one of his parents perhaps a noble?”
“Not that I know of,” I said.
“You don’t sound surprised. Did you already know of his talent?”
“More or less.”
“What’s his affinity?”
I hesitated. Ugh, why did talking have to be so difficult.
“Um…” think fast, think fast, why’d I have to be such a bad liar.
Thankfully, Miurian sensed my discomfort and drew the best conclusion.
“I apologize, you don’t have to tell me. Though, since I assume he’s a relative of yours, I had hoped it would be divine magic like you, but now that I reflect on that it would be foolish of me to expect you to answer that positively. Healers are far too taken advantage of, and you’ve must have made tremendous efforts to keep yourself hidden for this long.”
This long being into my adult years. Usually, when a child hits puberty, they are tested for magic at a coming of age ceremony at the temple and those with healing magic are then sent straight to the capital for training and distribution to wherever the king saw fit. If they’re lucky, they have weak enough magic to be sent back to where they were from to serve their local temples. Such as the lone healer who was assigned here—which was depressing, if you thought about it, this being the capitol city of the religion who supported healing as a divine magic.
Fortunately, a priest came to inform us that the visitor that had come to meet with Priest Miurian had arrived and been situated in one of the blessing rooms, which I assumed was the rooms with the facing mirrors, seats, and alter.
Sure enough, Gus and I were lead to a copy of the same room I had been before previously, though through a back route that didn’t go through the hall of the un-look-alike-Nehcor statue. It was basically down a hall that went along the otherside and had doors that were usually covered by white tapestries.
In the room were two men. One was dressed quite fantastically as an escort knight, with colorful livery in red and blue and gold tassels with a long sword on his side and the broad shoulders to hold up the title.
The second was a stark contrast dressed in black, hunched and twisted, with a bumpy, malformed face and lank dark hair. If misery had a personification with money, this would be it.
The knight looked up as we walked in, but the man in the chair did not. I suddenly got the impression that this wasn’t the first time he’d been here.
‘And you’d be right, little sister.’
I jumped at the voice in my head.
Holy crap, wear a bell or something! And I’m not praying, what are you doing in my head? Especially since anyone with eyes could see I’d need all the energy I could get fixing this dude.
‘Do your best for this one. He may not be the hero you are raising, but he is still very important for the future of my world and has also suffered quite a great deal. I send you to him as well.’
Nehcor’s unusually grim and, well, benevolent god-like sounding tone threw me off a bit. I looked at the black, bent figure with new eyes as the priest led me forward.
“Miss, this brother here has also requested to remain anonymous, so please forgive me for not giving you a proper introduction.”
At the word ‘introduction,’ the man in the chair looked up, the first sign of care in his surroundings waking up in his eyes.
And beautiful eyes they were. Though framed in a face dotted with strange bumps and a crooked jaw, they were the brightest green I’d ever seen, and was moderately certain didn’t exist back on my world. Solemn, well groomed eyebrows spanned above them, and thick eyelashes outlined their almond shape.
My heart quivered as I realized he couldn’t be much older than me, though it was difficult to see past the face. If I looked closer, his crooked shoulders were also broad. His large hands rested on his thighs, each knuckle knobbly and a different size from the others.
The green eyes then squinted.
“Are you the healer?” asked a deep, rumbling voice. The squinting eyes followed me down to Gus, or rather, the bright silver hair. “Or is that it?”
It. So his vision was bad enough he couldn’t tell Gus’s gender.
“No, she is it. And she’s the strongest I’ve met yet.”
Something like hope softened the straining eyes. The man’s hunched over figure attempted to straighten.
“Thank you for your sacrifice,” said the voice, surprisingly soft for how low it was. “Please do not feel bad if you can’t do anything. It is enough for you to clear away some of the wayward bone on my joints.”
“Have a seat, miss,” said the priest, though it was the knight who brought over one of the chairs against the walls.
Gus sat himself on another seat against the wall, drawing the attention of the knight.
“Who is he?” he asked.
“My charge,” I said. “And my apprentice. I hope you don’t mind if he watches. We won’t talk about anything that happens here.”
“Of course,” said the crooked man, though his knight frowned.
I fidgeted my hands in the air before I asked, “Is it okay if I touch you?”
“Naturally. It’s easier for healers to work that way.”
He did say he’d already seen a few, which made me wonder just how high up this man was. He was obviously a noble, if the dress and the knight standing next to him weren’t an indicator. But only those with a worth to the crown got visits from healers—though, granted, the healer here wasn’t all that big of a deal.
So, cautiously, I took up one of his big, lumpy hands and closed my eyes.