Interlude: The High Priest

“It’s not unheard of,” Queen Elana of Phania said softly, her husband Daniel frowned, “There have been Chosen boys, your whole bloodline claims the title.” She was watching as her younger brother Raymond was standing on the beach moving waves.

“It’s different,” Daniel said. “Your brother is unsettling, Elana, even The Mothers say so.” She sat down.

“He’ll inherit Tumona,” she said.

“Well, we’re used to Tumona being peculiar,” Daniel smirked. She sighed. “And that doesn’t even address the…other part.”

“If you mean that Raymond likes boys, does it need addressing?” Daniel’s brother Eric was leaning against the door frame. Daniel sighed looking at him.

“Why are you here?” He muttered between clenched teeth.

“Am I supposed to be elsewhere?” Eric asked. “You haven’t sent me anywhere specific, and my mother is here.”

“We’re always happy to see you Eric,” Elana said diplomatically and walked over and kissed him on the cheek.

“Just you?” Daniel said. Eric sighed.

“Lefty opted to stay in the city,” Eric said, “I can’t imagine why, when he always gets such a warm welcome.” He looked down. “I need to talk to him.”

“Raymond?” Daniel said. Eric nodded. “Why?”

“I’ve been having these, feelings,” Eric shrugged, “about her.” Daniel stared at him.

“Who?” Elana said and then paused, “oh, her.” Eric nodded. “Are we sure she’s alive?”

“Reasonably,” Daniel said with a sigh.

“Anyway, I’m going to talk to Raymond about them, and then I will get out of your hair,” he kissed Elana on the cheek wand walked down to the beach. The younger boy looked over at him and smiled. “They’re up there worrying about you.”

“Imagine my shock,” Raymond said, “The Brothers said no again, I’m out of appeals.” Eric nodded.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “You could come on The Glory.” Raymond looked at him. “You hate it here, Raymond, I know that.”

“You had another vision,” Raymond said. Eric rolled his eyes. “What this time?”

“I could just be being nice to you,” Eric pointed out. This time Raymond rolled his eyes. “They aren’t visions, exactly, more like, feelings. Like she’s thinking about me, and I can hear her, and I know she’s just,” he sighed, “waiting.” Raymond nodded. “I don’t know what to do about it, I don’t know where she is, no one does.”

“She’s in Cammadan,” Raymond said, “somewhere green, probably The Midlands.” Eric looked at him. “Rana’s not likely to let us forget she’s out there. I know everyone thinks I’m crazy, but I Dream. And sometimes she’s there.” He sighed. “They found me and Randolph.” Eric exhaled. “They weren’t happy.”

“I’d imagine not,” Eric said. “But, a strong sailor like him, and a seer who knows how to actually do all the stupid ambassador stuff that Daniel is always making me do? That seems valuable from where I stand.” Raymond looked at him. “It’s a big world Raymond. You don’t have to spend your life in a place with people who don’t see you.” Eric looked at him. “If I had to guess, it’s Brightcoast and then Rastan next. We’d be glad to have you along.” He turned and walked back to the palace. Raymond sat on the beach and hugged his knees.

Later that night he took a deep breath and worked his way to the villa on the palace ground where Randolph Eres lived with his parents. He knocked on the door and Randolph opened it.

“Ray,” he said and stepped out onto the porch, “you probably shouldn’t be here.” He shut the door behind us.

“I know you’re technically six months from getting a posting,” Raymond said, “but Eric offered to put us on The Prince’s Glory.” Randolph raised his eyebrows. “I know it isn’t perfect, but we could be together and,” he looked down.

“This is real,” Randolph said, Raymond nodded. “Prince Eric wants us on the ship?” Raymond rolled his eyes and they took each other’s hands and started walking towards the beach.

“Eric likes to feel like the Goddess herself put him here to save people,” Raymond shrugged, “but it’s convenient. We’d go to Rastan and probably Cammadan too.” Randolph smiled and kissed him.

“Cammadan,” Randolph said. Raymond nodded. “We could be together there, really together.”

“I know,” Raymond said, “I could learn magic, real magic not just control like they teach here. And you’d be out of the navy proper, really sailing.”

“Under Prince Eric,” Randolph grinned, “And Damian Lestoff, it doesn’t get better than that.” Raymond glared at him. “He’s not my type, Ray.”

“He’s everyone’s type,” he muttered. Randolph kissed him gently. “You’re sure. I don’t think we can turn back from this.”

“No turning back,” Randolph nodded. “And this way I don’t have to tell my parents yet.” Raymond laughed and they kissed again. “What did your sister say?”

“Very little,” Raymond admitted, “I think if they acknowledged it, then they’d have to you know, acknowledge it, and she won’t.”

“I’m sorry, Ray,” Randolph said softly. “I wish we lived in a better world.” Raymond nodded and they kept walking.

A year later he sat on a dock in Rastan, when Lefty bounced over and sat next to him.

“Have you heard the news?” Lefty said and bumped his shoulder, “We’re off to Cammadan. Eric has to fulfill his destiny and woo Queen Annalise.” Raymond nodded. “You can be Mastero Quents! It’s a reason to celebrate.” Raymond laughed.

“And you’ll get to find out about Cammadie warrior women,” Raymond teased back. He wasn’t great about it yet, but he’d almost gotten the hang of taking the air out of Eric and Lefty’s sails. Lefty laughed. “How is he?”

“Worried,” Lefty said, “It isn’t as thought that’s difficult to understand. If I thought the Gods were genuinely counting on me wooing a girl I’d probably need to be locked in a dark room for a very long time.” Raymond smiled and nodded. “How are you doing?”

“Alright,” he said softly, “it isn’t exactly what I expected.” Lefty nodded.

“You know when Eric told me his plan to bring you on,” he said, “I told him there was no way you’d do it.” Raymond looked at him. “I’ve never been happier to be wrong.”

“Why didn’t you think I’d come?” Raymond asked. Lefty ruffled his hair and shrugged.

“Because you’re the little boy with his books and prayers,” Lefty said, “I can’t help that I’ll always see you that way.” Raymond smiled. “It never made sense to me why The Brothers wouldn’t take you.” Raymond snorted.

“I have this feeling that was always more about my sister,” he muttered. “They don’t like being seen as They Royal Family’s dumping ground.”

“Ah, that,” he grinned, “well, I think Brinecliff would have to challenge them for that particular honor. It is our distinction.” Raymond laughed. “Come on, Eric told Raniere that we’re leaving there’s going to be one last hunt.”

“Great,” Raymond said, “something new and different.” Lefty laughed and stood up, offering him a hand to help him up. He’d been more nervous than anything about spending much time in proximity to Damian Lestoff.

The man was impossibly handsome. And kind and charming. And Raymond felt almost no attraction to him. Being with Lefty and Eric was the easiest thing in the world. He grabbed his hand and pulled up.

It was a few weeks at sea and then a whole one of careful sailing down river to Dovetail’s large dug out harbor when they arrived at what had to be these least opportune moment possible. It was before dawn and they’d missed the coronation.

“It’ll be memorable at least,” Randolph had teased him.

“It’s disrespectful,” Raymond mumbled. “We should have left Rastan earlier.” But there they were, standing on the dock, a girl, who was clearly Phanian, and a boy, tall, and lanky, with reddish hair.

“Not quite the grand welcoming comittee,” Lefty muttered. Eric glared at him. “I’m only saying.”

“Is that her?” Eric said to him. Raymond shrugged. “Alright.” It wasn’t. Instead of was Duchess Marina SanPierre, and her smile was one of the most breathtaking things Raymond had ever seen. She was also, he realized, the most powerful person he had her been the presence of, and that included the High Mother of Vacana.

“I am very glad that’s over,” Eric said flopping on a couch in the richly appointed apartment they’d been sent to. Lefty was staring dreamily out the window and Raymond wrinkled his forehead. “You’re worried.”

“No,” he shook his head, “they’re powerful. Did you feel it?” Eric nodded, Raymond was glad of that. Eric wasn’t very gifted, but he had some intuition that pointed towards it. “The Duchess especially, astounding.” Lefty looked over at us.

“She is, isn’t she?” He said and sighed walking back over. “Did you see those eyes?”

“I don’t think Raymond is talking about the same thing, Lefty,” Eric said. “But yes, even I could feel how powerful she is and I don’t have your insights, and she’s very beautiful too.” He stopped. “They both are.”

“You have the queen, leave something for the rest of us,” Lefty said kicking Eric.

“I don’t have her,” Eric mumbled, “but knock yourself out with The Duchess. I have to go see about the crew.” He stood up and walked out.

“What are you going to do?” Lefty said, Raymond sighed.

“I should probably go to the temple,” he said. “We had a safe voyage. She likes to be thanked. Want to come?”

“To the temple?” He said. “And get drowned in my sleep for trouble, no thank you.” He kicked back. Raymond rolled his eyes and stood up. “Raymond,” he said, “is she dangerous?” he swallowed.

“I don’t know,” he said softly. “She’s powerful, but it doesn’t feel dark.” Lefty nodded and he left, asking the guards for directions to The Temple of Rana.

The walk was distracting, he kept noticing things, the kinds of things he’d never see on the street in Vacana. Two women being chased by a little boy shouting, “Mamas!” at them, a merchant boy handing another boy walking into an inn a flower. He entered the temple and was greeted by a Sister.

“You’re a stranger here,” she said with a kind and giving voice. He nodded. “I’m Sister Anya, welcome.”

“Thank you,” he said. At home he was one of only a few men welcome in the Temple at all. To be welcomed as a stranger felt exceedingly odd. “My name is Sir Raymond Quents, I’m a companion to The Prince of Phania, we just arrived I wanted to thank The Goddess for the safe voyage.” Sister Anya’s lips turned up in a smile.

“Of course,” she said, “there are several salt basins available.” She gestured to the alcoves surrounding the circular center of the temple. He nodded, mumbled a thank you and he went to a Salt Basin and gently waved his hands over it before losing consciousness.

“Oh well done!” A dark skinned woman was standing in front of him. “Really, you didn’t waste any time.”

“My Lady,” He nodded sagely. “Thank you for,” she waved her hands dismissively.

“Yes, yes, safe voyage,” The Goddess Rana sighed, “as if I would imperil my Sword’s Future Husband and one my own.” He blinked at her.

“If I’m Chosen then why,” he drifted off.

“Was it what you wanted,” she said softly, “to be a monk, shunted away and alone?” He swallowed. “I brought you home, Raymond. And I ask only that you stand at the side of My Sword.” He nodded.

“I will,” he said softly. She smiled gently at him. A smile that somehow reminded him of his mother and sister, but with more love and less indulgence.

“I haven’t had a High Priest in a while,” she said, “it might be fun.” He then lost consciousness again and came to, still standing at The Salt Basin in the temple. He closed his eyes and exhaled, realizing his life in Cammadan just got very very complicated.

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