Lares was sitting beside Healer Ghia during the Birthright Ceremony. He’d grown rather fond of her, and had taken to shadowing her in uncertain circumstances — much to her disgust, he knew. Regardless that, she was friendly enough with him, if maybe a bit more closed off than she’d been in Harbourtown.
Everyone was on guard constantly here in Atherton. Even more so now that the new Empress’s decrees had been made.
When they were all dismissed, he and Ghia stood and waited for the aisle to be less crowded so they could leave.
“What are you up to now?” he asked her, sotto voce.
“Going to talk to Yarrow,” she said, her voice the same level. Tension made ugly lines appear on her young face.
“Could be dangerous.”
“Don’t care. She’s my friend.” There was more to that statement, Lares could see, but she said nothing more.
“Alright, I’ll go with you,” he was about to say, when he noticed Jules walking up to the throne and bowing before the Empress. “I’ll catch you up,” he said instead to Ghia, and she disappeared into the now-smaller crowd exiting the throne room.
Pretending his boot laces were undone, Lares bent to re-lace them and cocked his ear to listen to the exchange at the head of the room.
“…our father has just died, most venerable Majesty, and so I am asking, on behalf of my sister the High Priestess Sarai and myself, for leave to Atton so we may perform the proper funerary rites.”
There was a pause before Zardria gave a response; Lares moved to his other boot.
“As nicely as you ask, CMO Jules, I’m afraid I cannot let you or your sister leave at this time.”
Lares glanced up at this; funerary rites were sacred, an important ritual whether they were in honour of Vulcanus or Muerta. Jules looked visibly agitated.
“Empress, if we don’t do the proper rites with the whole family my father’s soul may never get to the Sisters of Mercy. He could wander the earth, lost and hungry for all eternity.”
“That’s very sad, I’m sure, but I believe you were here when I declared primary worship to Umbra? Her rites are the only ones that you should concern yourself with, CMO. The Sisters of Mercy cannot do anything for you now. You are to stay here,” and she said it with an air of finality, as if she’d ended the matter.
Jules took a deep breath and stepped back a bit before speaking. “With all due respect, Empress,” he said, and started walking backwards down the aisle, “go feck yourself.” He stormed out of the throne room.
Lares straightened then and walked towards the aisle, curtsied to the Empress, and headed to the door.
“Lares, is it?” the Empress asked.
Lares turned to face her and nodded. “Yes, your Majesty. How may I serve?”
“Lares, I want you to follow him, and keep him here in the castle. Use force if necessary.”
Lares curtsied low in acquiescence. “Your wish is my command, your Majesty.” Then Lares the Fop, back in full form, sashayed out of the throne room.