The Weeping Empress

Chapter 11

This is a preview to the chapter Chapter 11 from the book The Weeping Empress by Sadie S Forsythe.
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“My love for you is boundless. My patience is not.”

Chiyo didn’t know how long it had been since she had seen daylight. The old woman, Relda was her name, had so much she wanted to impart to her. Relda threw information at her at such a terrible pace that Chiyo sometimes felt she wouldn’t be able to keep up. Chiyo often went to bed at night reciting phrases in an attempt to imprint them on her mind.

She learned about the social history of the empire, the Cult of the Goddess, the classification of snakes by their scale patterns, common cures, birdcalls, current fashions (which was a particularly odd juxtaposition coming from a habit-clad priestess), rice winemaking, and more. They spent hours on seemingly trivial information and then skimmed over ostensibly important facts.

Chiyo couldn’t find a central theme to it all. The topics seemed random, whatever had popped into Relda’s head, but Chiyo didn’t believe that having waited as long as she had for the fulfillment of the prophecy, Relda would do anything in a haphazard way. There had to be a method here. Chiyo just couldn’t identify it.

She learned no weaponry, new combat techniques, or fighting arts. Relda scoffed at the suggestion, informing Chiyo that it was the order’s position to direct modern events, not measly battles. Chiyo had Muhjah and Senka for that. Relda wasn’t going to waste her precious time on such trivialities. Chiyo tried to argue that remaining alive wasn’t a trivial matter, but Relda simply graced her with an icy stare, signaling the conversation was closed.
She wasn’t above compromising, however, and two days later she presented Chiyo with five delicate, amber-colored balls. They were the size of a teaspoon and glistened when held to the light.

“Nothing more than a hunter’s tool but as deadly as an arrow and the only weapon you’ll get from me.”
“Well, tell me what it is then.”

Relda sighed. “There’s an insect called a kerria that gathers on the Kusum tree. It secretes a sticky liquid that, when dry, forms a red lac. It’s amazing. It burns like fire in the sunlight it’s so red. The lac can be collected, and when crushed, sieved, and washed, it results in a waxy seedlac. When mixed with a more malleable resin, like gutta–percha, it can be blown into just such a small hollow ball.” Relda held the delicate deadly orb. “I haven’t made them in years. These are just holdovers from childhood really. It makes me sentimental to look at them. It reminds me of happier times, of times when I was still innocent.” She roused herself from the memory. “Anyway, you dry, crush, and boil a Death Cap mushroom. I think its name probably tells you what you need to know about it. Mix it with the venom of an Inland Taipan, and it creates an extremely lightweight powder that floats on air. So, when the shell breaks, it disperses quickly and anything or anyone who breathes it in dies. By adding the venom of a Bufo toad you can also create a strong hallucinogenic effect. It’s extremely short lived, but the victims usually die before it’s over. These were made for hunting, so there is no toad venom in them—just death, straight and to the point.”

Chiyo grinned and accepted them gingerly. I can already see their usefulness and imagine five perfect deaths. Surely they are a gift from the Grim Reaper himself. She liked the thought.

Chiyo had come into Relda’s care planning to callously take in what information she could while fostering her hatred for the Goddess and all of the cult’s representatives. She wanted to maintain the face of cooperation while secretly finding the means to undermine and destroy the order. But as time crept by, she and Relda came to know each other well. They could tell when the other had something to say, when they had pushed a subject or their counterpart to its breaking point, and to be comfortable with each other. She fell into Relda’s frantic pace and found she had no time for traitorous plots.

Chiyo knew that the peace was but a brief reprieve from her life. She would grieve its passing when she returned to Senka, Muhjah, and war. Despite enjoying her time of education as one would a vacation, she missed her companions. Her body missed its physical exertion, and the beast within her was starving for blood, endorphins, and battle. She was still haunted by nightmares and longed to return to the oblivion such violence provided.
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