he servants of Barezeth gathered in Erulorian’s Citadel to await Ruzenathra’s summons. They knew that their court would soon be torn apart.
Xessuralen stood by the library window, just as she had stood years ago when Liralian was taken prisoner by Daskesurul. Olemnashial sobbed on the couch. It was hard to know whether she wept for Liralian, for Mendaran, or simply for herself. Erulorian arranged her books into a pile. She longed to throw herself down and weep at Olemnashial’s side, but she had to be strong.
Her most precious books were copies of original texts that had burned when Quoraloresea was destroyed. Some of the books in her library were written in Liralian’s own hand. Tears blurred Erulorian’s eyes as she opened a volume and saw her ruler’s elegant script. Liralian had once been a prolific writer of philosophy, history and poetry, and much of her work survived in the libraries of her Esu allies, but Erulorian did not know if those texts were faithful copies.
Erulorian added the book to the pile, wondering if she would see it again.
Daskesurul would not destroy Liralian’s writings, but he would probably lock them away in the depths of his Citadel, where they would molder for centuries until he finally forgot what they were and threw them out. There were other texts in the library, written by Erulorian herself, that he would burn if he found. Erulorian had a hidden chamber where she planned to store them if her Citadel fell to another Esu.
Erulorian took The Citadel of the Mind down from its shelf. It was a book that she and Zotharan had written when they both served the Court of Barezeth. She wanted to produce a work that might bring comfort and courage to those Nayusuru who were oppressed. He wanted to publish an anonymous rant against the injustices of Askamaran society. Together, they created a book that inspired years of controversy and debate, and that many Esu still wanted to destroy.
Xessuralen turned away from the window. “It was that book that inspired me to join Barezeth.”
“Was it?” asked Erulorian quietly.
“Yes.” Xessuralen took Erulorian’s hand. “We’ve been through a lot together, haven’t we? The Eoradhan War. The breaking of the truce. The time when we rescued Lady Liralian from Thadagru, and Olemnashial showed her true courage. The destruction of Quoraloresea… I’ll never forget how you helped to free me from Gennezra. Then there were the long years when we tried to hold Tuyaz-Oa together for Lady Liralian. And now this.”
“And now this,” murmured Erulorian.
“Do you remember when we last did this? You were hiding your books from Lord Daskesurul because you feared you would be under his power?”
“Yes. You seemed fearless then. You still seem fearless now.”
“I’m not as sure of myself as I was then.”
“The world has gone mad!” wept Olemnashial. “How could Lady Liralian hurt Mendaran? He’s Wanoa’s son! Has she forgotten how Wanoa risked her life to save her from Gennezra?”
“She’s broken the law,” said Xessuralen. “She must be punished.”
Olemnashial dabbed her eyes. “Yes, Lady Liralian has broken the law. But she was also trying to protect the Tuyaz-Oans. I – I don’t know how to feel anymore.”
Xessuralen sighed. “Neither do I.”
Tears gathered in Erulorian’s eyes. She felt devastated when she considered what Liralian had done. She remembered Mendaran running around her library as a small child, pulling books from the shelves and asking her to tell him what the writing said. Now he was a young man who had slain hundreds in battle. He was lying in agony in Daramorag, almost murdered by her ruler.
Liralian’s other servants turned to her, as if she could make sense of things for them.
“Whatever happens, we must never forget the things we all believed in as a court.” Erulorian laid her hand on the pile of books. “Remember, there are no endings. Barezeth will rise again.”
“You are right.” Xessuralen seemed comforted. “It was not Lady Liralian who wrote The Citadel of the Mind. It was someone of our own rank.”
Zotharan materialized outside the gates.
Erulorian tensed. “The Sovereign’s servant is here.”
She wrapped her arms around herself, wondering if Zotharan would have anything comforting to say. Her hope died when he came up to the library. Although his manner was cold, the look in his eyes betrayed his fury. He seemed unable to meet her gaze.
“The Sovereign has summoned you,” he said curtly.
Olemnashial burst into fresh tears.
Zotharan shot her a disgusted look. “Stop sniveling. Lord Yazelern will protect you. People like you always have it easy.”
“You know that’s untrue.” Erulorian hugged Olemnashial, relieved to know that at least one of them would be safe. Her voice trembled when she spoke again. “Zotharan, do you know what will happen to me?”
“Don’t expect any Esu to save you. The Sovereign has decided that you will go to Zaresnar.” Zotharan’s own voice dripped with bitterness, but the look that he finally gave Erulorian seemed to say something more. He laid his hand on the books, where hers had rested just before he arrived. “I’ll hide these in my own Citadel, if you wish. They might be safer there.”
“Thank you,” whispered Erulorian.
Olemnashial flung her arms around Erulorian again. “I’m so sorry!”
“You aren’t to blame.” Erulorian patted her shoulder numbly.
“So, the Sovereign has summoned us,” said Xessuralen. “Let us face her.”
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