The Shadow Priestess Part 2: Power
Author: Moanna

Chapter 16
Chapter 16

Lord Niklaus had me on an energy draught for almost four days, and I could feel the toll it took on my body. My muscles did not seem to want to cooperate with the commands from my brain. I made foolish mistakes: so many that Lord Niklaus eventually got annoyed and sent me to bed.
I woke up the following day near noon, went downstairs for breakfast and then headed back up the stairs to Lord Niklaus's room when I heard a scream coming from Lady Victoria's room.
Without hesitation, I ran at full speed toward her room just as several other maids appeared around the corners of other rooms. I smashed the door open to see her cowering in the corner, clutching her own head, the needle attached to the drip lying on the floor in a small puddle of blood. Other than that, there was nothing amiss.
"My lady?" I asked, "What is the matter?"
"There's a wolf!" she screamed. I looked about the room, but I did not see anything.
"Where, my lady?" I asked.
"Right there, can't you see it?!" She pointed to the wall opposite her bed, where a massive poster of a wolf was hung. It was in a menacing position, blood dripping from its jaw and paws.
"It's just a picture, my lady," I said, keeping my distance because I knew what she was capable of when agitated.
"Then get it off!"
I looked over my shoulder at the small crowd of maids behind me. I nudged my head at a few, "Please help me take it off."
They nodded and we worked together to take the poster off, eventually rolling it up and placing it in the corner.
"My lady?" I said tentatively, "It's gone."
She slowly lowered her arms and got up. For a moment, she was silent, staring about her room, and then--
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" she yelled, "You think a bunch of servants are allowed in my bedroom? How dare you touch my posters? What is in this drip that was forced under my skin? Why am I so drowsy? ARE YOU TRYING TO POISON ME, THE GREAT VICTORIA BLACK?! GET OUT, THE LOT OF YOU! OUT!"
By the end of her fit, she had been swinging her sword around manically, her eyes wild and red, her hair tangled. Just as I had closed the door while backing out of the room, I saw her fall to the floor and cough up blood.
"What is going on with her?" one of the maids, Jayla, asked.
"I honestly don't know," I said, "I'll find out if Lord Niklaus knows. In the meantime, I think it best that all of us stay out of her way."
"I always knew she was crazy," another maid, an arrogant, selfish girl named Alice, said.
"Yes, well, look at her background," I snapped, "Wouldn't you be crazy if your father killed your entire family while you watched? Just get to work already, Alice, and leave the proper work to the grown-ups around here."
Jayla snorted with laughter and left with one of her friends to do their chores.
I passed Claude on my way to Lord Niklaus's room, and told him, "I think you should check on Lady Victoria. She's awake."
"But the sleeping draught-"
"Seems not to be working," I said, "I'll inform Lord Niklaus and get his opinion. In the meantime ... you're the closest thing she has to a friend around here, so it would be best if you stayed with her until Lord Niklaus can help her."
"Are you giving me an order?" he asked menacingly. I cringed with fear. I had forgotten my place. I bowed my head.
"No, Master," I said, "I was just-"
"Do not forget your place, Sapphire," he interrupted, "You still have one eye left."
I nodded, curtsied, and continued my way up the staircases until I reached Lord Niklaus's room. After knocking, and receiving permission, I entered.
"My lord," I said, "Lady Victoria is awake."
"Who removed the drip?" he asked, not looking at me.
"It seems as though she removed it herself," I said, frowning to myself, "I heard her screaming, and when I entered the room, she was crouching in the corner, fearful of a poster that was hanging above her bed. I took it off."
He stopped what he was doing, placed the bottles filled with liquid on the table and ran a set of fingers through his hair. Only then did I realise how greasy it was.
"Nothing seems to be working," he said.
"Not now, my lord, but you'll figure it out," I said, trying to sound soothing.
"Has there been any news of Lunarian?" he asked.
"Not that I know of, my lord," I said.
He turned around for the first time, and I hastily lowered my gaze to the loosened buttons on his waistcoat.
"Sapphire, do you still wish to fight for me like you did when we first met?"
My heart skipped several beats, and I feared I would pass out. "G-gladly, my lord."
"I have a mission for you. No one may know of it, and you must do exactly as I say and nothing else."
"Yes, my lord!"
"You must leave immediately for the Country of South and confront the king yourself. Find out exactly what Lady Winter has told him, and to what lengths he is willing to go for the girl he loves."
"Certainly, my lord," I said, "But if I may be so bold, why do you want his help? You are much better than him in every sense, so what could he possibly have that you do not?"
"Resources," he replied, "There are certain ingredients that only grow at the base of the High Tower."
"What kind of ingredients, my lord?" I asked.
"Healing ingredients," he said, "You will convince him to assemble a team and find an ingredient that has the same level of healing as Sungrass, but ultimate sustainability. Once you have this ingredient, you will make the potion I instructed you to, and then come back here immediately."
"What should I tell King Lunarian if he starts asking questions?" I asked.
"You will make it clear that my intentions are in the favour of Lady Victoria, and that, that is all he needs to know. If he tries to force you to talk, threatens you, abuses you or even hints at harming you in any way, contact me immediately with this."
He reached into the inside pocket of his coat and handed me a black metal bracelet with an onyx encrusted in the centre.
"Rub the stone, and I will know that you are in danger," he said. "Go, now, and return as soon as you can. Tell no one who you are or where you come from, apart from the king."
I placed the bracelet on my wrist, curtsied, and ran from the room. Finally, I was going to prove myself!

***

Lunarian.
I was sitting on the roof of the High Tower for the first time in my life. I had remembered that it was something Victoria used to do as a child, when I had just been employed by her father. Roofs were her favourite place to be when something troubled her, and right then I was more troubled than ever.
My life had taken such a dramatic twist that I feared I might lose control of it. I often asked myself why I did not simply find another, age-appropriate girl and moved on with my life, but just as I started listing the names of such girls, my mind would simply stray back to Victoria.
Ever since her birthday party, everything had just gone down-hill. I fell in love with her, and then lost her to one of the country's - and the world's - greatest enemies. She lost any and all feelings for me and everyone else and, on top of it all, one of the four Spirits wished for me to ally with the aforementioned enemy.
My head fell forward and hit my pulled up knees, and I clutched handfuls of my hair, not knowing how to proceed.
Whichever warriors I sent in search of Klaus simply did not return. Each bird with a message I had sent to the place where rumour said his place of residence was, returned without the leg that had carried the message. It was impossible to contact him, and even though I found it difficult to admit, we needed his age and the experience that came with it. I even found myself thinking about what I could learn if I started training with him.
As if all this was not enough, Lady Winter was plaguing the entire village with snowstorms, thunder and the occasional minor hurricane in some part of the village.
Just as I had this thought, a particularly strong gust of wind nearly had my toppling over sideways, and carried with it, a voice, "hurry."
"I'm working on it!" I shouted angrily. A crack of thunder sounded in a distance, and a massive strike of lightning forked down somewhere at the edge of the village.
Groaning irritably, I got up, off the roof and into my office, where Demetri was standing by the door.
"Any word from Klaus?" I asked without much hope.
"No, your majesty," he replied solemnly, "No word from the missing warriors, either.
"I figured as much," I said, "I think you should organise another training session in the week. The villagers are improving, but we need more Warriors, elsewise I fear we might meet our downfall sooner than any of us would want. Have Ylnor train all the guards in groups, daily."
"Yes, your majesty."
"You may go."
I did some more admin until what little sun was left started setting and then went home. The following morning, I awoke as a bolt of lightning hit the ground right outside my window. Growling angrily, I got up, ate, got dressed, and went back to the High Tower. When I reached it, I stormed into my office and fell down in my chair, getting started with the admin I had been supposed to finish the previous day.
There were a few knocks on my door.
"Yes?" I said irritably.
Demetri entered, followed by a red-headed girl clothed only in blue and bearing several piercings. One eye was bandaged, and a strangely familiar bracelet circled her wrist.
"Who is this?" I asked, in no mood to entertain.
"She won't say, your majesty," Demetri replied, "She fought her way through security."
"Excuse me?" I said, more annoyed that she injured my guards than impressed by her strength. I sighed and said, "Leave, Demetri."
He bowed his head respectively and left, closing the door behind him.
"So, who are you?" I snapped.
"My name is Sapphire Sandath, your majesty," she replied, "I work for Lord Niklaus-"
"What?" I said in outrage. "How dare you-"
"You majesty, if you would please let me finish," she said with a slightly timid edge to her voice.
I had the sense that she was not good with strangers, but was trying her best to stand her ground. I stood up slowly to ensure that I am the dominant one here, but I did not say anything, allowing her to continue.
"Lord Niklaus is aware that you have tried contacting him," she said, "His villages protect him with their lives. He wishes to know exactly what Lady Winter has told you that suddenly made you want to ally with him."
"That is none of your concern. Get out," I snapped. I wanted Klaus to come here, not for him to send his poor servants.
"King Lunarian, right now, I am the only link and communication you will have with Lord Niklaus," she said, vigilant, "He is busy working on a cure for the Tampered Mark, so he has no time to quibble over issues such as this, which is why he sent me. If you truly love Lady Victoria as much as she loves you, you will grasp every opportunity to save her."
I found myself unable to speak. My tongue seemed to have stuck itself in my throat. I cleared my throat and asked, "And how do you expect me to trust you?"
"I have no way of proving that other than with time," she replied, "I owe a great deal to the Village of Water, more so the Black family. Please, give me the opportunity to repay my debt."
I considered what she was proposing. True, she probably took out most of the guards outside my door, but they have not had much training. I had never wasted much time on them, but luckily Ylnor was working on that now. If this girl truly was who she said she was, she would come in very handy, indeed. I sighed.
"Can we come to an agreement that, whatever is said within these four walls, remain here, and only with us?"
"I'm afraid not. Everything anyone says to me will be reported to Lord Niklaus," she replied. Boy, she was difficult.
"And no one else?"
"That, I can promise," she said with a nod.
"Very well," I said, "Sit down."
She did so.
"Lady Winter warned me that one Morrow Obsidian wishes to fulfil a certain prophecy earlier than it was intended by Fate. He wishes to train Victoria to kill her father."
"What do you mean, earlier than intended?"
"As I understand it, the four Spirits of the Seasons work under another, stronger spirit, Fate. He weaves every occurrence into the threads of nature. Victoria is destined to avenge her family by killing her father, but it is too early now. She is not ready, mentally. Lady Winter instructed me to either find a way to kill this Morrow Obsidian, or to ally with Klaus and keep Victoria from him.
"That name is forbidden to be spoken in Lord Niklaus's home, so I was not able to find out who he is without being tortured," she said thoughtfully. I swallowed heavily. She talked about torture as though it was nothing out of the ordinary. "Do you have any records of him here?"
"No," I replied, "I have also been trying to find some record of him but, according to any and all libraries in the country, no such person exists, or has ever existed."
"One of the butlers back home said that any person who ever knew how to kill him died hundreds of years ago," she said.
"And you have no other idea who he might be?" I asked desperately.
"All I know is that he was the one who made Dominatio Per Malum," she shrugged, "This prophecy you speak of: I think Morrow Obsidian means to purify her sword and, in doing so, cure her."
"How is she?" I asked, not sure if I wanted to know the answer.
"Not very good," Sapphire replied, "We have had to untangle her Ceilos system several times now. We're trying to keep her asleep, but it's not working. I think that she might lose her mind before she loses her life, so we need to get to work as soon as possible."

***

 

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