Chapter One. Kushlar
As Lord and Trask of Corduwaine, Master of the World, it was expected that I take my wife and children to the annual victory and independence celebrations in the Bay of Lue by the Sea of Blue.
At this moment, a few hundred special guests were on the high bleachers overlooking thousands on the plain below. A reddish sunset wallowed amid dusky, sweet clouds in the peaceful atmosphere. Fliers of all types, with winking belly and tail lights, nuzzled in the clouds looking down with videx and glittering windows. The sacred avenue stretched a ceremonial mile across the glassy plain from the Holy Mother's throne to the darkly, tragically looming obelisk that recorded our deadly struggle for existence not so many years earlier.
"Lord Trask," a young military priestess or MP in black combat gear addressed me without ceremony or due respect. "The Holy Mother requires your presence."
The MP popped up so suddenly at my side that I nearly jumped out of my skin. They are not required to stand on ceremony, these young women who with their lives guard the Holy Mother, civil and spiritual leader of all humankind across the seas and arms of the galaxy.
The young priestessís tone conveyedimmediately, if not sooner.
The unnamed young military priestess, who spoke with a slight offworld accent, had mussy blond hair, a bruised face, taped grimy knuckles, and a frayed tunic. She wore a dagger in her belt, and a compact side arm strapped to the other side. Her brown eyes were large, direct, and expecting no questions. The Holy Motherís word has absolute authority, on my world and all others. Thousands of celebrants around me were dressed in their finest, washed, and perfumed. Not these holy fighters, dressed almost in rags, who are of this world, and yet not.
I exchanged looks with my wife, who apparently knew something I didn't. So I nodded to the MP and said: "We'll follow you."
She stepped back like a black shadow, impatiently awaiting that Iand my familywould immediately follow her. She raised her wrist to speak into a com bracelet with her companions. Security was tight, extending across this parade, and the city, and far across the Corduwaine system for our all-important guest, the Popess, who had just oddly summoned us to Her august presence. I had no idea what was about to happen.
My tall young wife, finely dressed for this occasion of state, wearing a gauzy white gown and velvety black wrap, nodded while giving me a significant look I did not yet fully understand. "We are coming along," she said brightly. She took the hands of our two smaller boys, twins, while my older daughter took the little girls in tow. We followed the young military priestess through the crowd of festive citizens, who politely made way amid their excitement as they prepared to see marching bands, floats, patriotic units, passing flyers in review.
I had no idea of the surprise that lay in store.
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