Welsley waited patiently on the edge of the tower’s audience chamber. She was accompanied by her usual companions: two of the Falson soldiers escorted her from her chambers to where she now waited. She had been summoned by the Falson matriarch early that morning and found herself waiting, seemingly forgotten, throughout the tower’s morning routine.

There was an element of punishment to the wait. Welsley had never been fond of the daily duties of her position, the idea of listening to near countless complaints that amounted to little more than pettiness and sour grapes had never caught her imagination. She had preferred to leave those duties to others. She didn’t mind adjudicating criminal cases but dealing with her citizens’ interpersonal relationships she found to be boring and tedious.

The only thing she found worse was the ministering of her flock’s spiritual needs. Reading scripture, analyzing the Goddess’ words, issuing behavioural edicts were activities to be avoided as far as she was concerned. There were members of her Illuminated that were better suited to the pursuit of spiritual questions.

Welsley saw herself more as a “big picture” type. She liked to surround herself with people whose talents were more suited to the detail work.

Standing by and watching was more painful than participating in it.

The morning’s collection of events needing intervention by the Goddess’ mortal representative did have one upside: it provided Welsley with a chance to survey the gathered populace. There was the usual mix of new faces and regulars all vying for their chance to convince the Goddess’ representative that their side of a disagreement was Her side and was deserving of Her divine intervention. Welsley tuned them all out, she could only listen to so many “this man insulted this woman” stories before she passed out from boredom. People needed to learn to settle their own issues.

Light Falson sat on the seat at the centre of the raised dais on what was once Welsley’s seat. On the right side, just behind the stone chair, stood the matriarch’s granddaughter. Four soldiers stood on either side of the throne with a second group of four at the bottom of the dais’ steps. None of the soldiers were recognized by Welsley; they must all be part of the Falson tower expedition.

Here and there, within the crowd, Welsley could make out faces she thought might belong to soldiers of her tower. The flashes of recognition were quick and fleeting and made it difficult to get an accurate count. They mixed in well with the crowd.

Welsley waited with her guards on the left side of the dais, a willing participant to any casual observer, her imprisonment hidden among the ceremony.

“We are finished for today,” Light Edith Falson raised her right hand and gestured for a halt. She sat on the throne and watched as the assembled people began to shuffle out of the chamber. Light Falson glanced toward Welsley and gestured for her to approach.

“Light Koarl,” the Falson matriarch addressed Welsley, “I apologize for ignoring you. It was unintentional, I have been busy serving the people and Her will. How have you been?”

“A prisoner, Your Eminence,” Welsley bowed her head to the other woman. “I have been a prisoner.”

“Not so much, I think,” the older lady commented.

“Why are troops being reassigned to the river?” the younger Falson demanded from her grandmother’s side.

“How would I know?” Welsley watched the older Light. “I have been trapped in my chambers. I know only what you tell me. I see only who you allow.”

“The garrison isn’t going to relocate on its own,” Molly declared.

“I prefer that my soldiers maintain themselves,” Welsley shrugged, “they know their day-to-day needs better than I.”

“Light Koarl,” the elder Falson replied, “there is no need to make this situation worse than it is. Let’s try to make it easy on all of us.”

“Leave my tower,” Welsley responded. “We can pretend none of this ever happened. It’ll be easy on all of us.”

“An interesting idea,” Light Falson mused. “It won’t happen until you are taught the correct way to rule.”

“I thought I was chosen by the Goddess to rule in Her name,” Light Koarl interrupted.

“You serve Her will,” Molly answered. “There are duties. There are responsibilities.”

“Defined by who?” Welsley shot back. “You? Or the Goddess? You came in to my tower as a guest and forced yourself onto my throne. You decided you knew better than the Goddess when you pushed me aside. What gave you the right?”

“My family has been chosen by the Goddess since She rose into power,” the matriarch snapped. “Your family has spent generations breaking every law they could to generate wealth. That is what gave me the right!”

“You are kept around for the sake of the people,” the younger Falson added, “but you can be replaced.”

“No,” Welsley replied.

Welsley allowed her glance to drift between the two Falson women. There was anger on their faces. Anger that was quickly replaced by surprise.

“We can make this easy,” Welsley offered as the Falson guards drew their swords. She resisted the urge to look behind her at the sounds of footfalls and weapons being drawn, she could see all she needed in the look on the other women’s faces. “Your choice.”


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