Kyriala made it to the Imperatrix’s Seat tucked in under Selinae’s outstretched hand, out of breath but still managed to sink into it without showing that she was panting. My balance has shifted even though I’m not showing yet. There he comes. She could just see the horse’s ears and then Minis from the mounted waist up. If I know him, he’s probably worried sick about doing it right. But it doesn’t show. He looks like a Messenger of the Ten, the mechanical being that was given the strength of the Gods.
Her fan waved slowly, calmly, as she joined her voice to the first hymn that welcomed the Sun, the bringer of life and as he stalked up to the second mark, she and the Fenjitza sang the ‘Weary Road’. He matched the Hymn and accepted a stick to lean on, at the third mark.
The fourth mark was now in the opening to the new Temple, beside Muunas and she could see him bend, leaning on the stick, just for a moment, then straighten, gauntlet on the hilt of the sword. The lamps in the Temple were doused as he stepped to that mark, dimming the glittering Great Hall.
“Noble Sun, your yearly duty,
Holding back the darkened void.
Burdened with increasing care...”
The Fenjitzas’s bass held more import than normal, and as the hymn finished he stepped through into the new part, invisible, and the choir sang the sunset as he went behind Muunas.
Narilla offered her water and she took it gratefully. The Temple was so hot. Thank goodness that the stone of the Imperitrix’s seat was cool, even through her layers of dress. This part, that in the old Temple had been the Imperator disappearing behind a curtain and the Coronet emerging from behind his, was now Minis walking the sunwalk all the way to the back of the new wall where he and Ili would exchange ten ritual sword blows.
The choir hummed the dirge and then sang Support for the Sun. Kyriala looked out over the congregation, the families of the Honourable Assembly Members all here, all attentive. The wives’s fans waving slowly in the warm and darkened Temple.
Distantly she heard Ili’s challenge, his piping voice ringing out clear. “You are old, oh Sun! I am here to take up the burden from your shoulders! Let me shine!”
Minis’s response was in his lowest, growliest voice. “You would steal the Light? I defy you!”
A ringing of swords. One, two, a pause, three, four, five. Another pause and then a flurry of five. “Youngster... I concede. Take up the burden!”
The choir burst into praise song and ‘Hail, Glory! Glory to the Eternal Sun!” and as Ili came running through the other opening, carrying the helmet of the Old Sun by it’s plume, the whole congregation broke into ‘Rise New Sun’ with the women singing the ‘Defend Us’ harmony, fans raised as Ili slowed and walked respectfully before the Goddesses and then circled to the kahara circle to raise the Imperial sword over his head to the wild cheering of the crowd.
Then he was escorted out by the priests and dekinae to the horse that Minis had arrived on. The crowd would strew fresh flowers before him as he rode back across the square.
She leaned back in her chair and Minis, already stripped of the ceremonial armour, wearing a simple priest's robe, whispered in her ear. “How did I do?”
“Perfectly,” she whispered back. The choir began the traditional hymn for leaving as the crowd rose and began the slow, social shuffle to the great doors where the Fenjitzae now stood on either side. The great lamps were being lowered to be relit, behind the departing crowd. “So, tell me what the armour is about and why and where Arkan blood is being shed?”