Outer Flower, 21

Argument before the Throne

“The birth of a new Earth Skyll would be impossible without my knowledge,” said the current Earth Skyll, trembling with rage. “And the birth of the Axis Child is beyond laughable.”

Sea Star over Salt Marsh

Except for the King, Skylls, the Hunter, and Ondred, the Great Throne Room was empty and Elymas’s voice was louder than it needed to be.

Before the King, the Skylls stood predictably in the way they would go. Elymas and Sarris to the left of the dais, Vue and A’Sing to the right with Oren Hunter standing squarely in the middle. Hulse and Calibran, South and West Winds respectively, stood together in the center. If it came to a vote, there was no telling which way they would go, except together.

Hulse was all bluff and bluster and rarely caught the point of anything while Calibran, ever moody, was intelligent but with a will fixed only as far as his strongest emotion. Ondred had stepped back onto the dais, and was on the King’s right. William, his scepter retrieved, held it across his knees.

“I’m not some novice of a single stripe,” continued Elymas scornfully. “The Shautu claims to have seen the Sea Star, but the stars that speak to the Sea Star speak to me as well. Had the Sea Star appeared I would have seen it. As it is, I’ve seen nothing.”

“There was a configuration over the Salt Marsh Sea last summer,” Vue reminded smoothly. “Have you forgotten that?”

“I forget nothing,” snapped Elymas. “I said at the time and I’ll say it again: the light we saw was but a bit of swamp fire, bright and meaningless, tossed on the wind. The suggestion that this, this . . . frenzied vapor and the celebrated Sea Star are one is insane. I was taught the appearance of the Sea Star signified the birth of a child unlike any who has ever been, the one destined to usher in a new age.” He paused. “Tell me, which of you actually believe that the Axis child’s star rose and fell in a swamp?”

None of them answered. Sarris, who’d already sided with Elymas, looked pleased. Hulse and Calibran, who’d begun to believe, looked relieved. Vue and A’Sing tried to mask their embarrassment, but the sensitive fabric of Vue’s robe rippled as he shifted uncomfortably. It was Oren who spoke.

“The Shautu claims this burst of frenzy, as you call it, was indeed the Sea Star. That it should rise and fall in the Salt Marsh was not as troubling to him as the other star patterns that appeared in its wake. The patterns he feared spoke of death, the rise of evil from the Nevers, and an awful wrongness about to be visited upon all lands.”

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