This is a preview to the chapter Chapter 14 from the book The Weeping Empress by Sadie S Forsythe.
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Valdis looked down at the open book on her desk. It was familiar, handwritten, and elaborately decorated, the most decorated book she owned actually. Just what you would expect of such an important text, she sometimes thought. She had painstakingly embossed every spare centimeter of the pages over many years. It wasn’t as expertly done as it might have been had she passed it off to the artists, but she couldn’t—not this book. No one but she and one other could see it and that other person had no need for Valdis’s text or its distracting adornment because its words were inscribed on her very heart.
She ran her fingers along the depressed reds, golds, and greens. They rippled pleasantly underneath, pulling her attention away from the pages’ content just as she had hoped. As always when facing these pages, she was procrastinating, admiring her work that garnished it rather than reading the unpleasant reality of the words.
Unlike the limned mass of symbolism in the margins, what was written wasn’t pretty in any way. The words weren’t the sort that flowed sonorously, nor were they the sort that when strung together produced an uplifted spirit. Their content was dark and heavy. It left the reader’s heart polluted, like poison in the bloodstream, and Valdis had read them so many times.
She’d spent years meticulously ornamenting their vellum environment just to reduce the words’ melancholic affect on her. She had memorized the pages’ content long ago, but when serious thought was required, she always pulled the book from its locked drawer. She needed the buffer that her illustrations provided, the comfort of quotidian totems, and the Mother Goddess’s moral support, and on those pages Kali was looking out at her.
As she so often did, Valdis traced her beloved Goddess’s squat, rounded figure. Kali had always been a balm for her, and Valdis prayed for guidance and strength of will. She wished to leave the long, uncomfortable path she walked. It plagued her, drove her, and was finally ending.
A knock at the door disturbed her contemplations. Unfortunately, it was expected and the reason she was sitting at her desk with this hateful document before her.
“Enter,” she called.
The guest came in without comment. She and Valdis had long passed the point of needing to fill the silence between them. It was a comfortable third party to their meetings. Valdis simply gave her a wry smile and waved her in.
Relda closed the door and observed her old friend and coconspirator’s demeanor. She recognized her own words on the desk and the demoralized look they engendered in Valdis’s hunched shoulders. The two women had stood over these same pages many times before. Their time with them seemed endless.
Relda could see the strain in Valdis’s face and pitied her. She secretly thought Valdis was the bravest women she knew, willing as she was to function on faith alone. She was underpinned by an unshakeable piety that intimidated those of lesser faith. Relda’s respect, however, made her burden no easier to bear, so there was no point in telling her about it
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