B2 — 47. First General Conference

PoV :

1.  Elinor (Our Goddess Lich!)

Recap:  We learned what it was like for some of the kids in this new world.  Sal Vences, the 15-year-old brother of our Maid Adoncia, Alisa, his girlfriend tried to sneak away to be alone, only to be caught by his overprotective older sister!

Unfortunately, Sal’s been struggling with his sister’s resurrections as an Undead, wondering if it’s even her anymore, and focused heavily on her changed brown to blue eyes from past experiences in his sister’s arms.  Saying some harsh things, all parties break away to settle their emotions, and Alisa encourages him to try to understand his sister—to give her a chance, and they are able to patch things up.  Some wholesome stuff from natural troubles in such a situation!  =)

Now, we proceed to the Empire’s First General Conference!  Ahem, all bow, the Empress will address you!

I want to thank my patrons for continuing to support me:

DustHurricane, VerethragnaD, Jan L, Kyle Hirshson, Name Pending, Foo, Brandon Stiles, Lanitos, Ryan Devine, and my other Patrons!

The cool evening air of the humid jungle environment pressed against Elinor’s skin as her portable throne carried her through the dirty streets of Nethermore.  Sari’aél hovered beside her, absently exploring their surroundings, and Theresa stood to the back left of Elinor’s throne, atop the spider’s back.

Violet returned to the palace to build the platform they’d be using to Edmon’s specifications after the Seraph joined Elinor.  The angel hadn’t been able to meet with even half of the various creatures she now presided over but had gained a decent enough understanding of them, with Aileen acting as a buffer.

The little twelve-year-old Maid was currently engaged in making sure everything at the palace was in order for her arrival with the others.  This was a big moment for her growing Empire—the first Semiannual General Conference.

She’d talked it over with Tiffany, Edmon, and Sari’aél about the topic, and it seemed to be a good idea for her to address the direction of the Empire.  The event would give the people something to look forward to and build trust, thereby strengthening her bond to them through the Religious System.

Once decided on the format, Elinor returned to the mines, spending the remainder of the day organizing the spirits Amra’Cora’s group found.  The complicated maze of a mine was another testament to the pure strength of the Quen’Talrat Empire; it functioned in a much different manner than Elinor would have considered, yet had Ke’Thra’Ma not hollowed out a base for her to use, they would have been set back decades.

Having an underground network that connected the two locations was more convenient than Elinor could imagine.  Completing the project would accelerate the overall reconstruction of her capital city and provide a safe transportation method.

She looked up at the two rising moons, noticing a third purple one far beyond the two large spheres barely visible in the dimming sky.  Now that she was focusing on the twin celestial objects, she thought she could see smaller orbs in their orbit.  This world is so foreign, but it has its beauty.

Her thoughts returned to Sar’ollaz’s comments about the mockingbird-like creature that could seemingly teleport across the planet with ease.   Arsheh is currently investigating an invisible moon.  How many wonders does this place hold?  It’s far more magical than Earth … and dangerous.

Turning her mind to the Spider Sisters upon sensing Camellia still isolating herself in a random building far below the city’s surface.  The word sulking passed through Elinor’s mind, but it wasn’t the right one.

Camellia was far too hyperactive and driven to sulk; she was going through a unique form of depression that Elinor didn’t entirely understand.  An array of complex emotional triggers had been struck during her mission to recover Jumi’kerune.

Violet and Azalea were currently in the Great Hall that served as the bridging point between the grand tower and palace wings; the pair had built barriers between the Quen’Talrat rail guards for the thousands of people that would be clustered across each floor’s edge.

Elinor sensed the inner turmoil that each of them was going through, and it varied between them.  They didn’t blame Camellia for the outcome, but something unusual stirred inside each of their hearts.  Sari’aél played a part in that complicated cocktail Elinor was trying to dissect.

Camellia’s never been hurt to that extent—the only comparison would be when they all died at the hands of Ke’Thra’Ma, yet they managed to get over that to a certain degree … No, Violet’s emotions are linked back to that event … All of them are hurting, but the one connecting factor is their new sister.

Iris is somewhat ashamed that she had to be rescued and sees Sari’aél as a rival … It’s more than that, though.  There’s something instinctual that’s clouding her hearts and mind that … When did I start recognizing it?

Her lips pursed, vision sliding to the blurred buildings they passed; they still hadn’t made it to the clean areas that her subjects had been hard at work restoring to their former glory, and what appeared to be a storm was moving in from the west, according to Azalea’s update through the Nexus.  Elinor’s mind was still stuck on the issues plaguing her Assassin Branch.

The Spider Family were by far the strongest within it, and with their internal balance upset, it could spell problems, such as the chaos that filled Camellia during her mission.  There were things about the eight-legged creatures that went deeper than she understood or could interpret.  Still, it didn’t mean she couldn’t try and help them, and even that train of thought surprised her.

It is efficient to solve the problem … I want them to be happy, though.  I don’t know if I can do anything but keep them occupied until we gain more information, though.  Iris is getting what intel she can from Jumi’calro before bringing him back after Tal’tamine is cured … I’ll have to wait until then.

She hummed at a passing thought.  Contacting Camellia, she added a neutral tone to give the girl what she wanted.  I’ve decided your punishment.

The spider’s mind went in a dozen different directions faster than Elinor could interpret before gently moving out of her stationary position in the abyss of the fortress.  “Anything, Empress … I have failed you.”

From what Elinor understood, that statement was directed in over thirty connotations that hadn’t even crossed Elinor’s brain.  She may not have understood what she was exactly going through, but she could feel it, and one path came to mind.

Your task is to mingle with your previous food—human, Yaltha’ma, Nalvean, Ri’bot—move between them, and learn about the creatures you’re seeking to protect.  Study their fears and joys … See how you can be a hero to them—a light in their darkness.

“Empress?”  Camellia’s voice was slow and confused.  “How can I be a light in their darkness … What does that mean?”

A small smile brightened Elinor’s lips.  That is what your punishment is, Camellia.  Talk to them, and discover the answer for yourself.  This is your punishment.  It will not be easy for you.

Camellia’s mind lifted out of the darkness at the challenge.  “I see … I will accomplish my task, Empress!”

I have no doubt.  After all, you gave me Demon.  Return to me when you have the answer.

“Yes, Empress!”

Cutting the connection to the Thélméthra, she let the girl find her own path.  Feeling better about the eldest Spider Sister, Elinor started to see signs of the clean-up as she neared the palace.

Sari’aél turned to give her a teasing smile.  “What compassion.  You are changing, Elinor.”

How much were you listening to?  Elinor asked with an accusatory glare at the radiant Seraph.

“Enough,” Sari’aél snickered.  “You are terrible at keeping your conversations private.”

No.  I think you’re just too perceptive, Elinor grunted, fingers tightening around her chair.  The Religious System is affecting my judgment.

The Seraph hummed, hiding her hands behind her wings as she spun in a slow circle.  “I am new to this lying business, but is hiding things from one’s self a normal activity of what you term humanity?”

How am I lying to myself?  Elinor challenged, knowing she’d probably eat her words but honestly not knowing the answer.

Her golden irises narrowed with a small smile.  “It comes in how inaccurate your previous statement was.  Is it your Religious System affecting your judgment, or is it affecting your Lich Empress System that ‘has’ affected your judgment—a key difference in that.”

Elinor looked away as a low groan rumbled in her throat.  Funny.  So, you’re saying the Religious System balances out what my Lich Empress System has clamped down on.  I was a teenager before coming … this.  It’s far too late to turn back now … I have nothing left of that life.

Sari’aél’s kind, penetrating eyes were unnerving.  “I’ve realized something significant from listening to those under you, Empress.”

Releasing a soft sigh, Elinor shook her head against the back of her silken chair; her focus moved to the silver gem between the woman’s bosom.  What radiant truth have you uncovered?

The Seraph looked up at the moons, and her six wings pulled in upon touching her left breast.  “It’s too late to be afraid.  We all have our fights, Empress, hoping we’ll have the courage to be the light in the darkest hour.  And even when hope fails us, we can rely on the harmony to push through until the war is won—to answer the cry for help.  You can be the hero they need; you’ve had the power within you all along.  A world won’t save itself.”

“Hmm…”  Elinor closed her eyes, breathing out a long stream of air.  I wonder if you even know the meaning … No, I suppose you do if they’re being translated to me, but when have I ever said I want to be a hero?  I only want to have a safe place where I’m allowed to exist in peace.

“Time will tell,” Sari’aél mused.  “Right and wrong … you blazing your own path in defiance, and you take chances despite your doubts.  Life eternal is the path that lies before you, yet where it leads is a shifting course.”

I can’t think about that right now, Elinor groaned.  Are you ready to introduce yourself to those that are now relying on you, Ms. Heroine?

Sari’aél’s chest shook with laughter.  “Always, Empress.”

Studying the angel, Elinor released the stress in her chest.  What are you feeling … Your emotions are so beyond what I can see.  Maybe it’s because it’s too simple or too complex … I don’t know, but you’re so serene … All the time.  I know you like the whole bondage thing, but what else?

Her wings tucked in a bit as she smiled, looking inward.  “You want to understand me?”  She looked up at the sky, searching for something unseen to Elinor.

“I’m trapped at the start of all I know—obscuring my way in days long lost to my soul.  A memory turned wrong that I cannot recall—so far that a whisper of fear caresses my hearts … the lingering sensation of guilt and shame that I cannot comprehend as I am—helpless in the flames.”

The angel gave her a smile Elinor couldn’t place.  “In the beat of your soul, I can still hear a spark to follow across time and space that you’ll know me.  If I can be weak … If I can be strong, to give it all up for a new rebirth—that it’s worth it now that I’m lost … knowing victory’s cost is like a whispered prayer to guide me home into the deep unknown.”

She reached up to trace her resplendent halo, and a small, golden tear fell down her cheek; the maid behind Elinor couldn’t help but be captivated by the angelic figure’s radiant emotions that spun through them like a song.  Elinor couldn’t quite understand the words but what wove through her was more than could be expressed under the crimson skies.

“You are the lifeline that will sustain a promised future I can come back to when all I have is you.  My father no longer fills my breast, which breaks me … my hearts fade, yet I’m not alone—I cannot do it alone, and when all the stars align, I’ll find peace in my soul for that which I have lost.”

Feeling oddly heavy as the Seraph finished, Elinor rested her head against the back of her hand.  A final catharsis … How can you be such a beacon of hope and glory if that weighs you down?

She looked away with a soft giggle, staring up at the obscured floating island while clearing the liquid away from her markless cheeks.  “I can only be who I am … nothing more, nothing less, yet there is a mist I must find my way through … where nothing else exists beyond absolution where we’ll slip away, unseen, back to the start, to begin again.”

Elinor was utterly lost by what the Seraph expressed, but it filled her with a sense of dread, hope, loss, and gainShaking her head, she sighed, unable to do anything else in response.  I can’t grasp it in the least.  Alright … Well, it’s time for the first Semiannual General Conference.

The front of the palace came into sight with the beautiful front groundworks that the humans and Ri’bot had accomplished over the past two weeks.  Entering the Great Hall, the noise died down immediately upon Sari’aél and Elinor’s entrance.

She swept the area with a small smile; her Empire had grown so much.

Hundreds of Undead Ri’bot and dozens of Undead Quen’Talrat stood in formation around the ground floor.  Over ten thousand Ri’bot lined the left side of the hall across multiple floors.  To her right were the humans and Yaltha’ma, and strung near the center of the levels and hall was a small platform where almost everyone could see the speaker.

Tiffany had crafted a ritual to allow the person standing in the place to reach everyone to hear the speaker as if standing right next to them.

The Witch exited from the ground-level West Wing while Edmon came from within the Throne Room.  All of her Undead, excluding Amra’Cora, her unit, the Defense Systems Monitor, Quin, and those in the Nalvean Empire, were present.

“I’m so excited!”  Tiffany squealed.  “All the work I’ve done over the past two weeks is coming together!”

Edmon’s helmet was off, allowing Elinor to see the smirk he directed at the woman.  “Calm down, Tiff.  If you mispronounce a word, they’ll turn into chickens.”

“I wish!”  Tiffany sighed.  “What I wouldn’t give for a good chicken sandwich.  Anyway, everything is prepared, Elinor.  Your subjects hang on your every word.”

Theresa promptly hopped off of the Thélméthra to join the other maids, and a golden light illuminated Elinor’s frame as Sari’aél used some kind of skill to lift everyone that would be speaking today.

Elinor smoothly landed on the edge of the suspended platform and turned to gaze upon those that had been selected to address the masses.  Sari’aél was the only one that didn’t take a seat, simply floating in place between the elegantly crafted chairs Violet had created.

The critical figures that they should know would each have their turn to introduce themselves.

Her glowing emerald irises turned to survey the hushed throng of nearly eighteen thousand people, using the wide railing and other safety precautions in place; the sound was cut to a whisper as she took in her audience.  Not a hint of hesitation fluttered in her stomach; she was made to give orders and guide the masses.

Six humans had been bowing from the moment she entered the hall, two female and four male, but their part would be for the close of the meeting.

The thing that drew a frown from Elinor were the two Nalvean corpses Camellia had brought back, and judging by their location, it was meant to be a spectacle for her citizens to witness.  Tiffany informed her of what she had planned, but she did not expect to see both.

Glances were thrown across the throng as she fixated on the bodies, opening a private channel between Tiffany and Edmon.  Camellia was currently making her way up through the city’s depths, and involving her in this meeting had proven to be a secondary punishment for the girl’s mind—Elinor didn’t want to humiliate the struggling Thélméthra.

Why are they both here, Tiffany, Edmon?  Has Demon’s device been cleansed from the infected one?

Tiffany’s focus darted to Edmon.  “Device?  I haven’t heard anything about a device in her … As in, a similar contraption to the one in Tal’tamine?”

Edmon released an internal hiss.  “Apologies, Elinor, I have not had a chance to explain the details of Camellia’s encounter, nor how Demon’s artifacts work given her busy work with the ritual.”

“Oh?  Do tell!”  Tiffany chimed in fascination.  “Are you saying Elinor cannot resurrect those with this device?”

“We’re busy…”

Elinor restrained a sigh.  Which one was infected?  Do we need to call Camellia into the chat?

“Not necessary,” Edmon instantly replied.  “The one known as Giliri was infected.  Fini was killed by her; they are both Seaweavers.  We will need to wait for Jumi’calro to return to remove it from her corpse.  I also recommend we keep Iris out of the discussion for obvious purposes.”

Thinking about Edmon’s request, Elinor slowly nodded.  I can see the existence of an Assassination wing being problematic for many.  Iris has been seen by quite a few humans and all of the Ri’bot Clan, but allowing her to fade into obscurity shouldn’t be an issue.  Violet can speak in her place since she’s already in the public’s eye—they know more about her than me.  Back to the matter at hand, though.

Violet, Elinor said, bringing the girl into the chat, go check the two corpses for the technology Jumi’kerune uses to mind control people.  We don’t need a repeat of the horrific soul ripping event we had at Shi’Shuka.

“I’m very interested in this incident now!”  Tiffany hummed, practically squirming in her seat while watching Violet’s actions.  “Oh, and I agree with Edmon’s recommendation.  Let Sari’aél be the light and Iris operate in the shadows.”

Edmon opened a private connection to Tiffany, explaining the incident in more detail as everyone’s attention followed the young black-haired girl’s fall from the platform.  It didn’t take long for her to discover which was Giliri, leaving Fini.

Lifting her gaze to her subjects, Elinor started the meeting in a soft, neutral voice that carried to every listener.  “I welcome you to the start of the first Semiannual General Conference of the Undying Empire.  You are the first citizens of this great, rising nation and have gathered to hear what has been happening within the Empire and the direction we are heading.  As such, it is befitting I open this first address to my people … And you are all my people.”

She let the sentence hang, allowing it to sink in.  After a time, a small smile lifted her lips and tone as her gaze moved between the targets of her words.  “I have had personal audiences with a few of you, but many more humans have been saved, healed, and brought back to recuperate.  Hundreds of you are contributing to restoring the beauty of this once great city.

“Ri’bot clans have been brought in by the thousands, and Clanless gather in the hundreds each day as the good news of our growing Empire spreads.  You have been the backbone of the labor force, and I could not be more pleased.

“And the Yaltha’ma show their faith and dedication by pulling in more to the cause; without their diligent effort, we would not have clean water and an operating sewage system.”

Each group straightened the moment she called upon their race, and her head shifted to the humans; she could feel the budding embers of faith in many of them, but it was slow compared to the others.  “You have faced great hardship, snatched away in the dead of night to this harsh new lifestyle.  Forced to adapt, you have shown phenomenal resilience, and I have done everything within my power to provide a safe environment for you to once again flourish and be happy.”

A sad note caught her throat.  “That being said … I will not exert my power over those that do not wish my protection, and twenty-four humans have chosen to live beyond our borders and my security.  I do wish them the best, but that is their choice, and so too is staying within my land, yet it is my land.  Order must be maintained, and all are subject to my rule that lives upon it.”

Her voice hardened a bit.  “Make no mistake, this is not a democracy.  You have no claim to my decision other than a voice, and that is the price of stability.  You will all take vows to adhere to the rules of the Empire.

“That being said, you will have representation through your democratically appointed spokesperson that will meet with my intermediary; more on that will come later.

“Military service is not required, and you may live in peace as citizens of the Empire … You are my priority as the Empire is everything to me.  However, avenues are opening for those that wish to ‘volunteer’ to take a more active role in defense of their families and homes.  I understand that is the desire of some, and I will oblige, but again, you are a part of ‘my’ army.”

She took a deep breath, expression turning mournful upon seeing the tight faces of the humans.  The Ri’bot were ecstatic to be her soldiers, yet the humans showed restraint.

“Six individuals have made it clear that they wish to partake in that offer, and the ritual will be explained later on in this conference.”

A hot edge of steel stoked in Elinor’s throat upon turning to the Ri’bot as a frown touched her lips, causing the toads to tremble.  “Humanity will be the first to be offered the gift of my power due to the treatment the Ri’bot showed the One Above All.  I have already exacted appropriate punishments to those that crossed me.”

Noting the discomfort of various groups, her tone softened.  “Also, I am aware not all Ri’bot showed such disrespect … I see the Clanless, Lethix, Wixum, Prune, Flex, and Xaltan Clans that rallied to my presence.  I do not hold grudges, and opportunities will soon arise for you to partake in the ritual.”

Cheers erupted from the various parties, chanting her name.

Holding a hand in the air, they swiftly quelled their excitement.  “To the Clavex … you have done a great deal to redeem yourselves.  The Delthax…”

She trailed off, finding the blue-skinned toad people on the 2nd-floor; not one could look at her from their kneeling position.

“Repentance means drawing closer to me, and … I have felt your souls,” she smiled, causing the creatures to raise their heads in shock.  “You have humbled yourselves, and those that stood against me are serving their penance.  Your condemnation is lifted.”

A shiver ran up Elinor’s spine as the emotions flowed from them through her Religious System.  Tears ran down their slick faces, hugging one another and whispering in their children’s ears.  They turned brightening eyes to her as she continued.

“The wheels are set in motion … Valdar, your beloved former leader turned Great Chief, has shown dedication unmatched by any other Clan.  As many of you may know, the High Priest is not present because he is currently leading a mission to the north to gather more of your brothers and sisters, spreading my word.  Rest easy at night knowing you are drawing closer to the Great River in the Sky.”

Pausing to control the emotion in her voice at their outpouring hearts, Elinor turned to those behind her.  “High Lord Edmon will announce the itinerary.”

Walking back across the thin platform, she heard the soft mumbling echo throughout the hall, and a portion of anxiety lift after her initial speech.

The Doom Guard rose to his feet, proceeding past her as she took her throne with Sari’aél above her.  She could feel the excitement bubbling within those preparing their own speech beside her; they would be quick, but the point was to get across their station and make their presence known.

Edmon brushed back his black hair, and Elinor could feel Tiffany’s lips tighten; Elinor rolled her eyes at the woman’s hidden desire to strip him of his armor.  His deep voice forced every gaze on him.

“We will begin this session by introducing the Royal Court, which makes up the Empress’s primary advisors and this Empire’s greatest defenders.  It is to these individuals you can look to in order to feel safe at night, knowing we never rest and never cease to perform the Empress’s will, which is to protect her citizens.”

Clasping his hands behind his back, he smiled at the throng.  “I will start this Royal session, followed by High Lady Tiffany, Deputy Commander Violet will then address the congregation, and High Lady Sari’aél, the Seraph you have all seen, shall make her address after.

“Following their remarks, you will hear from those currently in charge of the Lower Court, which oversees the non-military functions of the Empire.

“Empress Elinor will then give her closing remarks, and High Lady Tiffany’s ritual will conclude this first general assembly.”

Letting the information sink in for several seconds, Edmon donned his helmet and summoned his shield, sending a spray of frosted aura across the Great Hall.  “I am High Lord Edmon, Leader of the Elite Defender Branch; the Gatekeeper and Bulwark of the Empire.  The Empress has given me charge of this great city that she has named Nethermore.”

Elinor grimaced.  Great, steal my thunder.  I should have said it sooner, to be fair.

Shivers ran down every frame from the mist, slowly falling to the ground collecting around his armor.  “I am the highest authority beside the Empress when we are under siege.  Rest easy, knowing I am your shield as citizens of the Empress’s Empire.”

The atmosphere broke as his helmet and shield shattered into ice, and he walked off stage, passing a grinning Tiffany.  “You could have shown off a bit more; simple and to the point, as usual.”

“What, did you want me to take off my armor, spin my shirt around and make it create an iceberg or something?”

Edmon rolled his eyes while taking his seat, watching the Witch spin to give him a wink.  “Stripping would have certainly spiked blood pressure rather than chill it!”

A smirk lifted his cheeks.  “Is that a compliment from you?”

“You need to be competent in one area, and in looks, you certainly excel,” Tiffany giggled.  “Shh!  I need to dazzle them!”

Tiffany stood on the edge of the platform and snapped her fingers;.  A red sphere with an unusual design appeared in front of her, and the lights above dimmed as it was pulled into the orb.  “Welcome to the Empire, dears!”

No one could move as the swirling mass of light erupted into dazzling stars that spun around into a vortex, and a galaxy complete with celestial objects formed.  “I am High Lady Tiffany, but Tiffany is fine by me!  I am the Royal Ritualist of the Empire, in charge of the occult and obscure alchemical arts.”

She hummed, brushing back her long black bangs.  “It’s a little challenging to define exactly what I do … A little of everything, I suppose.  If something needs to be done, then I can research a way to see it happen.  The things in my mind are … Oh, you’ll learn in time,” she laughed, causing an uneasy stir, especially among the Ri’bot.

“I can heal, kill, twist, organize, disorganize, bond, and sever among dozens of other words I could employ!  Of course, witchcraft always has a price, which is why I’ve learned to love this world—it just has so much for me to utilize.  You likely won’t see me around too often, seeing as I like to operate … in private for obvious reasons,” she snickered.

If Edmon reassured people with his bold declaration, Tiffany shattered it.

“Is that it?  Oh!  Right!  I am over the Witchery Branch, which functions as I stated before—a jack of all trades, master of few, and I am its matriarch!”

Snapping her fingers again, the sphere and galaxy collapsed onto itself to send a pulse through everyone present; Elinor felt a warmth spread through her, easing her into a sense of unnatural comfort.

“You can do wonders with the proper knowledge,” Tiffany finished, turning to return to her seat.

Confused mumbles rumbled through the chamber, but it was soon quelled by Violet’s swaying movements as she took the stage.  Her voice was even, yet Elinor could sense the nervous jitters in her gut; it wasn’t from the act of speaking herself, but that she was taking her mother’s place and the fear of incurring her disapproval with the plethora of compounding issues spinning around her complex mind.

“My name is Violet.  As stated, I am Deputy Commander within the Empress’s army.  To put my task simply, it is my duty to provide information to the Empress and protect her interests from those that would harm the Empire.”

A small smile brightened Violet’s lips as she looked toward the humans on the 2nd-level.  “I am indeed the lady that created many of your clothes and decorated this hall—although I do not understand the context of Halloween.

“Web Weaving is a hobby of mine, and crafting new designs is thrilling.  I have enjoyed the regular use of my art and the input I have received in the craft of new compositions.  I look forward to hearing your unique ideas to make use of my specialty when I am given time to exercise it.”

Elinor hadn’t expected as much support as the spider girl seemed to be getting by the bright-eyed faces of the men and women.  However, it soon came to light that Gwen requested custom underwear for the women, which Violet was more than happy to provide, granting them more comfort than anything produced on Earth.

“As a Thélméthra, we adapt to our surroundings, and if it is the will of the Empress, we shall defend you against all enemies … Yes, and make boxers when there is time,” Violet replied, causing Elinor to put two fingers to her temples; obviously, they’d grown quite accustomed to the Arachnid Sisters.

Terrifying spider assassins, reduced to tailors in the minds of the people.  This would have taken a one-eighty if Iris was giving the speech.  Violet’s mingled with humans, too much.  Although, I am trying to get Camellia to open up a bit more.

The elegant human-shaped monster folded her delicate sleeves together at her front, smiling at the reception she received.  “We will continue to serve the Empress to the best of our abilities and expect everyone to do the same.  A nest is only as good as its drones.”

Elinor could see the confusion fill her subject’s ranks at her departing nod; Violet thought she nailed it, and Elinor would let her believe it, pleased she’d applied a more natural element compared to the Witch’s performance.  Tiffany was snickering to Edmon about the girl’s speech.

Sari’aél’s presence stilled everyone, though; she hovered down to the platform, and not one head could turn away from the Seraph.

She stood in silence for a time, golden irises observing the crowd, and when she spoke, it was music to all that heard it.  “My name is Sari’aél.  Unlike the other Royal Court members, I am not Undead.  I was a Daughter of the Sun and chose of my own free will to join Empress Elinor’s Court as her Warlord, presiding over the Elite Warriors.”

Her golden radiance increased as she moved off the platform, floating closer to each floor and slowly hovering to every level for them to have a more complete vision of her.  “I can feel so much pain and suffering from every soul … Have hope in the Empress.

“You are fearful of what your future holds—uncertainty clouds your minds, but there is strength in pulling together when suffocating in the strangling darkness.  I am here for you, and it would not be possible had Empress Elinor not risked herself.”

A soft smile brightened the Seraph’s full lips as she lifted in the air to look at Elinor.  “Your Empress rose to impossible heights to face beings you cannot fathom and stand in defiance to crushing opposition … I am proof of her indomitable will.  All those that put their faith in her, she will not give up on you, and neither will I.”

The gem on her chest illuminated, and her fingers clasped around a celestial ax.  “All our enemies will be reduced to ash inside my divine light.”  The six humans stood in awe as she spoke.   “We are an Empire.  We are one body.  We have the will to fight any who would stand against us.  And even if we are bruised and broken, we will rise from the ashes to win.”

Elinor couldn’t breathe from the fire the Seraph lit inside the people, and it was at that moment she felt hundreds of humans finally believe in her.  She’s inspiring thousands … Not by a trick or show of force but by belief in a path.

Sari’aél slowly returned to the platform, musical voice strengthened.  “The road ahead has an unforgiving toll, filled with fire and ice, but anything of worth is born through splintered bone and a threatening song.”

She turned to the humans, hand pressed to her breast.  “We must walk in the deepest of footprints.  Step into the fog to combat the darkness inside our own hearts and the hidden enemies within the shadows—to follow the way of the strong and find our soul inside the madness of this foreign land.  Temper your spirits to keep the focus, even when the battle’s odds are hopeless, know you are not alone—the Empress is with you, and through her, I am with you.”

“Wow…”  Tiffany mumbled.  “She’s good.”

She’s authentic, Elinor whispered, feeling inspired herself by the Seraph’s words.

The angel swooped low to a teenager as he suddenly started to cry.  “I’m scared, though…”

She smiled, hovering before the boy on the rail guard.  “Everyone has fears … Fear is good.  Allowing it reminds us what is important, yet it is also the tool we can use to press through the flames to cause our enemies to quake.  Mountains will move against you; it is inevitable, but it is the will to stand defiant that will define your soul as worthy to grasp the power the Empress offers—the power to break mountains.  Step into the fire, and follow the way of the strong.”

Tiffany’s mouth dropped open.  “My goodness … She’s perfect.  Did you tell her to do this?”

Edmon folded his arms.  “No … I think this is just her.  She’s a true believer herself.”

Elinor’s own hand touched her breast, speaking to herself.  A true believer … of me.  What have you seen in me that I haven’t yet, Sari’aél?  How far do I need to travel to reach where you see me standing?  Heh … You’re even inspiring me.

Returning to her place, the Seraph’s voice softened.  “A chorus resonates within our soul that can be gathered into an unbreakable canticle that will temper our will against the demons that claw at the door to our hearts.  Let the sound of metal sharpen your resolve and become a power so great, you can only look at those that call you their enemy with pity.”

Brows set as yet more spirits connected to Elinor.

The Seraph’s ax vanished in rays of brilliant light as she rose off the platform.  “Through the Empress, you will feel my own song resonate as a vessel of her will; I stand by your side.”

She moved back to her previous location.

Elinor’s mind turned inward as the others rose to discuss their roles in the Empire.

Pepe Fontanez, the Treasurer, started, going over his duty and the fascinating joy he found in categorizing and recording the Empire’s riches; they would succeed in trade with allied nations.

The people seemed happy at the prospect of trade; merchanting meant new products that could make life easier.

Mauricio Ojuda followed, but almost everyone knew the Groundskeeper.  The man had been teaching classes on carpentry and working with the Ri’bot to create complex metalwork for bed springs.

Lucky Blue Smith introduced himself as the middleman between them and the Royal Court, making jokes throughout his speech.  Most of the representatives had already met with the man, but he elaborated on the method of voting in their representatives and the process of further turning it into a more democratic republic process once the Empire grew too large to accurately count vast numbers of ballots.

Antonietta Briseno took the stage next, discussing the importance of diet in this new world as their bodies adapted; she’d been doing cooking education courses in her free time that anyone could join in.  Understanding what their stomachs would accept would be of vital importance, especially for newborns and children.

Finally, James Escobedo took Emelina’s place for both the Butlers and Maids.  He reported that great strides were being made in making this place their home rather than a dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare, which drew several laughs from the crowd.

The mood had lightened considerably when the Lower Court connected them to everyday life; these were the people they’d be interacting with far more than the soldiers or Royal Court.

Once the handsome man took a bow and exited, Elinor rose to her feet; silence immediately followed.  Slowly walking forward, she took a deep breath and appraised her subjects—those that were under her care and guidance.

“You’ve met many of those that are in charge of helping you adapt to this new way of life.  As to a report on the Empire’s activities … We have entered into a peace agreement with the Nalvean Empire.  High Ruler Nukulara recognizes us as the Undying Empire and is ready to open negotiations for trade.  In fact, he plans on sending his daughter to observe and study our budding nation.”

She paused, allowing the news to soak in; the Ri’bot were stunned at the revelation, seeing as they’ve dealt very rarely with the mighty Empire.

“This comes with the expectation that we will become a trade Empire, acting as a bridge between the surrounding nations, which means roads and communication.  We do have enemies, many of them, but I have established ties to national powers and built our own army to protect the Empire’s interests over the past two weeks.

“We are on the rise, and you are a part of that—little as it may seem to you, every moved piece of rubble is one step closer to a functioning capital city.  You have seen the Quen’Talrat around the hall … We’ve discovered a place where I can get every specialist I need to get our home back to its former glory.  We’re on the cusp of building a new, safe life in this world.”

Taking in a long breath, she smiled.  “As I promised, throughout this week, now that things have settled down and I have secured our place in this valley, I will bring back your loved ones with the conditions that have been previously mentioned.  This includes the Ri’bot, Nalveans, Yaltha’ma, and humans … there will naturally need to be a limit, but we can start returning to a semblance of normalcy.”

Lips tightening, Elinor summoned her butterflies, looking down at the singular Nalvean girl on the ground with a hole in her chest.  “An enemy I call Demon, one of our greatest opponents in this world, was dealt a decisive blow by three soldiers—two of those lost their lives for your continued safety and freedom.  Imiunarus, a Nalvean, and Lecra’Moro, a Quen’Talrat Elite Hunter.”

Violet and Azalea’s minds sent mixed signals at the mention, thoughts returning to the terrible state their eldest sister was in.  “Camellia came back a hero … Demon’s capture, our stable relationship with the Nalvean Empire … A massive loss would have befallen the Empire had not these three brave soldiers risked their lives for your peace.  Treat Camellia with care when she’s among you because she could be the reason you are alive at this time.  After all, I doubt Sari’aél would be here without her actions.”

Silence held as everyone thought on her words and the two faceless creatures that had given their all to build a safe place for the Empire to flourish.

After an appropriate time, Elinor sent the butterflies to examine Fini’s corpse.  She’d be an Uncommon Grade if she raised her as she was, but after learning more about the System, she scanned for alternative Classes she could fill the role of and discovered she was an excellent shot and could barely scratch into the Rare-Grade in the Hunter Unit as a Water Sniper; it was the best Elinor could see of the girl’s potential at her current level.

“Imiunarus’s dying wish was for me to raise the two young women that died during their mission … A noble request to allow the youth to live in his place.  I honor those that serve.”

The emerald flames consumed Fini’s frame, reshaping her into the perfected version of herself at her age of thirty-four.  She blinked her bright blue eyes after slowly rising to her feet.  “E-Empress?”  she slowly whispered, confusion in her young voice as she looked up at her; she sounded no older than fifteen.

Whispers were heard around the room as Elinor mentally directed her to move to the side of the room.  You have been reborn into a new Empire, Finila, she said, realizing the girl’s name had been shortened by her friend as she connected to the Nexus.

“What about … Wait, why do I think his name is Imiunarus?  No, it’s Hubrix … No?”

A sad note was in Tiffany’s tone.  “No, dearie.  Imiunarus was undercover, and I suppose he used that name.  He did not survive the encounter with Jumi’kerune, but his dying wish was for you and your friend to have a second chance at life.  Romantic really … or is that considered creepy?  I can’t tell, he-he-he, eh … anyway!  Edmon will explain everything!”

“I will?”  he mumbled, looking over at the Witch.

“Of course!  I have work to do!”  she chimed as Elinor prompted her that it was time.

Elinor turned to the six humans on the ground floor.  “In conclusion of this conference, we will see the birth of a new order.  Sari’aél…”

The Seraph lifted the two women and four men into the air; they didn’t flinch, and Elinor could feel the absolute trust they held in her, having been the first to fully believe in her as a growing goddess-like entity.  Currently, there weren’t any better candidates among the humans, yet a few dozen Ri’bot could match their devotion.

“It is an honor, Empress,” Vergil said in a humbled tone.  “We, of the Argent Dawn, won’t disappoint you!”

Smiling at the six, Elinor held her hands behind her back.  “Remember, you still need to practice and gain mastery over these new abilities.  How they will manifest is totally unknown.”

“We accept the risks,” Gloria replied.  “High Lady Tiffany has made us aware of the conditions.”

Tiffany snapped her fingers with an impish smile, causing the strange globe to appear again; twirling her fingers, it shifted and spun into a new formation.  “I’m not sure if it will hurt, but we are talking about changing your very spiritual anatomy—it’s complicated.  Let’s begin.”

Sari’aél separated them around the Witch’s artifact and at another snap of Tiffany’s fingers, it lit with orange flames.  The Witch hummed.  “A Pentagram Merkaba, in the Flower of Life formula to bond their lives to the union—the power, their faith.” 

It spread out, each point touching the men’s and women’s forehead before brilliant rainbow colors radiated across the flower patterns, filled with various symbols of magic.

Tiffany’s voice was firm as powerful energy welled up within Elinor’s core; she could feel the six changing, reaching through fathomless darkness and pulled through the haze by their guiding belief to grasp the seed within her.

“Strengthened by faith, bound to the Empress’s will—allow this splinter to bloom, and take your place within the Empire as a servant of the highest!”  An amused smile brightened her lips as she looked at the Seraph.  “Begin your journey—walk into the deepest of footprints, step into the fog, and follow the Royal Court’s path—follow the way of the strong.”

Muscles tightening, all six of them refused to back down, letting their faith blaze a trail through the distance between her two Systems; sweat beat down their foreheads, hands in fists as they pressed on, and Elinor felt the words that allowed them to reach the source—Sari’aél’s words to temper their will.

Golden rays gathered around the pair, including the horse below that linked to Vergil.  When the light faded, they returned to normal, causing Tiffany to lift an eyebrow and look at Elinor.

“Huh?  I expected something … more flashy?”

Elinor was smiling.  “Welcome, Argent Dawn.”

Gloria bit her lower lip, palm pressed against her forehead.  “I … can hear Sari’aél’s voice in my head…”

“Hmm?”  Tiffany glanced between them.  “I can’t talk to them.”

The Seraph giggled, lining them up before her.  “That is because you are not connected to the Empress’s Religious System, Tiffany.”

“Oh … Humph, well, I’ll have to fix that,” she mumbled, looking away and scratching her neck.  “It worked, though?”

“It did,” Elinor replied, feeling her System expand with their presence; it was becoming more assertive.  “They just need to practice interpreting my will.”

Vergil cleared his throat, holding back tears as the Seraph presented him in front of the stunned masses.  “Behold, the Empress’s power … I feel Sari’aél’s warmth and the Empress’s will in my breast.  She truly is divine!”

Elinor could hardly believe how unusual it was, having people reach out through faith, asking for her strength to empower them.  Is this what it’s like to be a goddess?  I take another step closer to my goals and Sari’aél’s.


Post Conquest

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