Acropolis

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Chapter 21: Captive


Kazimir at once thought he could tell Acacia of all the great lessons he learned at the temple in Acropolis, but his elders were antiquated and the desperation for the old days of the creation rulers weighed heavy in their robes and the despair, work, and loneliness weighed heavy in his eyes. He felt guilty, but Daphne was once again at sea, perhaps, in journeying with Acacia and the firebird. Daphne could not aid him. A few seagulls dropped by the windowsill of his chamber to greet him, but no news came from them.

He recalled the news of Acacia that Captain Marko relayed to him by word of firebird. Last time Marko checked in, he met a young woman in elaborate dress running away from a stranger looking mob. Two unicorns tried to board his ship. Marko was not sure if the unicorns were wild or those caught between the acropolises. He was pretty sure they were migratory and metropolitan by look of their decisive quickness and strategic speech. Kazimir, from his teachings, would have guessed they were in fact, migratory, and in fact, wild. The way Marko described their coloring, lavender or bluish and silvery, suggested their diet of colored mushroom and with hairy hooves, suggested their rugged, gypsy lifestyle. Kazimir, usually would not have believed him, especially by judge of Marko’s ruggedness, but it delighted him and lightened his overall spirit to think that Acacia was no longer the sheltered yet lost individual he once knew—and neither was he.

His elders were not what he once knew either, for they were out scouting for wild unicorn to bring to the temple so sacrifice of unicorn blood could be made. The old ways were coming back because the current fashion of celibacy did not work for the acropolises, yet Kazimir wanted no part of the old tradition.

Jason assembled ordinary citizens of Medora that attended the ten-day festival with the elder priests and High Priest of Medora, and especially, the High Sailor of Medora.

“I could not bring Acacia to my side. It stabs me in the chest. The ancient land of Acropolis lies in anarchy, but it does not rest. We shall bring forth the old days of empires and rulers to oversee all cities. Ondrea and I will lead Medora into battle after I reach consent of the judges. The unicorns of the cities will be reunited after the wild ones stick to our side. Can you drink to that?”

The crowd made a few unintelligible noises and cheers in their respective celebratory speech.

“And so, we must drink and be merry, for our celebration has ended, and after it has ended, we will give in to rest and wait twenty days, the distance from here to Siljeca, so we can prepare and wait for our troops to arrive from the stance of brute or comrade.”

The High Sailor and High Priest congratulated him by patting his back and shaking his shoulders.

When the guests ventured home and the night started its symphony, Jason felt at rest. He worried about Acacia, but he no longer felt the need to help her. He had other ventures, other strategies.

My inheritance has brought me the worst of pursuits, but it makes me gracious to think I could be doing something important with it. I don’t trust how Acacia will spend it, and I need more coverage from Domain if I’m to bind citizen and unicorn. If it’s my inheritance that brought me here, it’s mine to control. ′

He allocated the funds from the festival to his pocket in hopes the armadas full of weaponry and from other distant lands will, in twenty days, find Medora. He lay in his cot thinking and sighing, wishing Daphne had not tried to exile him for attempting to become High Priest of Acropolis. Jason only thought about climbing the social ladder, not attempting to become a high priest. Yet he thought about taking her place as current ruler of Domain.

She did mean to pass the baton to me, right? How can I become a philanthropist if I can’t do what’s suitable for everyone? It should be Daphne to rule, but she abused her power. She can’t know everything. She led us into anarchy. We have been falling ever since. Falling into tunnels, into holes, into caverns and catacombs.

And Domain has been falling ever since from fault of my father, but I miss the university, the gardens, and the church.

“Andelko,” said Acacia. “It exasperates me to get into politics, but I haven’t been frank with you.” He waited for her to continue. “Jason may have been right about Daphne. Who can trust an old ruler but an old queen? It seems everyone has turned his back on me, so why is she any different?”

Andelko confessed, “Look, I know Jason is trying to intercede in this land’s war, but he can’t unite the unicorns. Chiron said the wild unicorns don’t want new rulers or old rulers, according to you, but I know if he tries to make the unicorn conform, we shall continue in our state of anarchy.”

Chiron crept up behind him. “And there is a reason we rest in this state. The land groans beneath my hooves but it’s a necessary transition.”

Circinus followed him. “And my master knows well we can’t conform. Not under their figment of anarchy,” he quivered then stomped his hoof. “This is why we travel. Master, I can’t agree to rest in this state,” Circinus said to Chiron.

Acacia said, “Then it is better we conform my hometown. You have taught me all the wrongs of your home, but mine is most corrupt. It hides in their minds, the deceit, the lies, and if only I was the one to stop it, but I learned I am most corrupt if anything from my so-called friends.”

“That is wise, Acacia.” Chiron said, “But one who is beneficiary cannot only be beneficiary. You are executor. I fear it is not right to fear one’s self, which is most corrupt, but change—stand up for yourself like a unicorn in rearing its hindquarters! You decide what is right for your home first, then for yourself, but prepare to decide what’s right for Acropolis.”

“You are always wise, Chiron, and you too, Circinus.” She scratched each of them behind the ear.

Circinus then neighed in gratefulness. Acacia went up to stroke both Circinus’s and Chiron’s muzzles and reassured them about Captain Marko’s orders.

Acropolis:

MiricaMirza stepped in her private sanctuary at the end of the road leading away from the Acropolian temple. She climbed downstairs into an underground vault with a locked, wooden chest. She searched for the Acropolian treasury. Not one dinar was found. She frantically lit a torch and searched under tarp. Her body quaked in fear while her jaw locked in anger, leaving her lip to quiver. She eventually gave up and knew in her gut that her position had already been stolen. Mirza did not want to leave the sanctuary in case another thief broke in. She admitted, it was unwise of her to have left the capital without guards on duty or preparations for the people, but it was her duty to judge and not keep guard.

Siljeca:

NaidaDoris stepped into her private sanctuary. She climbed the spiral stairwell of white coral and came to the top of her tower. She marveled at the view facing away from the city port of Siljeca. Ancient, abandoned towers rose from the trees in the distance and often times, birds would perch in the leaning, sandstone towers. She could be equally sure and unsure that unicorns would seek private sanctuary in these fallen temples but, even in her eyes, one was rare in the outer ports. She dreamed of stepping away from her duty and venturing into the world where Daphne and her heirs sought refuge, but she knew her duties lie in the treasury and the war she was so uncertain about while her duties came upon her quicker than upon the other judges. In the high observatory, she opened a vault that led to a wooden chest that led to the treasury of defense where each and every dinar hid, out of sight.

Agora-Atlantisia:

BorkoBorna fought off the last pirate of the day before he called quits and gave the traitors up to the moot courts. He retired to his bedchamber and opened a hidden door behind a huge urn. Borna descended beneath the city. It must have taken him twenty minutes to reach the end of the tunnel. He came to a similar wooden chest, opened it, and after his discovery, he threw down the lid in rage and groaned in agony where no soul could hear him. Every dinar was gone.

Andelko collected all his thoughts and worries of the unicorn travelers. “So, I have the same reasons to travel, yet my people have always migrated.”

“Then can you decide for your crew, Andelko, whether it is better to fight off the wild unicorns, join them, or rest easy? I cannot. I don’t even know if my home companions are still on my side, but sure thing, Jason’s father is not, and Jason has been running ever since. I would have proudly made him my beneficiary if circumstances were wider and my time was longer, yet it shouldn’t be my side I’m worried about, but whether Jan turns over his exile and becomes involved with politics. I am most worried about my cousin. This land is my inheritance and he can, most easily, pilfer it.”

Andelko sighed thoughtfully. “There isn’t another way...you have become involved in their war. My people have waited for som’un to drag ‘em out of their misery and o’ mine. You are the executor and you decide.”

He bowed to Acacia’s feet while she gaped in awe, disbelief, and shock. Even if she had been familiar with the polite customs of the land, she did not know how to respond if there were such a thing as politeness and unwritten rules.

“Well...I would have the cultures reunite. I would even dispel the secret of Acropolis to Domain if everyone could unite, yet I do not know what the wild ones want. It seems I have already joined them, and if not, some of them.”

Acacia thought that if she had to do everything on her own, she would need Daphne. Andelko thought secretly that there was no way a foreigner such as the Kirin lion or wild unicorn would get involved in the takings of Acropolis if that did not complicate matters. Chiron and Circinus kept their wisest comments to themselves.

“We shall worry ’bout the wild steeds later. Tomorrow, after speaking with the cap’in, we head through the pass of Philippi.” Andelko ordered.

Ondrea entered Jason’s chamber adjacent to the temple of Medora.

“I have come to warn you. If you remember the last time I spoke with Acacia, I made a mistake. It wasn’t that I needed to tame her, but I needed to capture her. I have tried to persuade her not to throw away your generosity, but I’ve had it with parties and conquest. I came here for the same reasons and that was to find you. And I have lost myself.” His lip trembled.

“Acacia has brought me into exile,” spoke Jason, “and now into war, which she has also dragged the horned horses in and I beheld them in my very eyes. She doesn’t know what she has done running from me, running from our hometown, and running from our family, but she will know sooner than her impatience can catch up.”

“I will meet Acacia. The High Sailor of Medora told me of his secret fleet. They have spotted Marko in Siljeca. Marko, the rogue captain, now makes plans. He demanded she go through the pass of Philippi at once.” The fear in Ondrea’s own words reverberated in his mind.

Jason nodded thoughtfully. “I will equip you with maps I received from this sailor,” he whispered. “He also knows where they are headed, but you’re the first to be exact. And remember, Acacia is the only one that goes unharmed. Anyone that gets in our way will have their livers tasted before I feed them to the wild dogs. Yes, they need be tested. Even the chiefs and priests will hang the dissenter and dip him in hot wax.”

Ondrea’s eyes furrowed in deep thought as if Jason spoke new words. He did not want to appear shocked, but he felt it. His eyes then returned to their deep, dream-like gaze that seemed so distant, but so intense. Ondrea could not blame his cousin for her inner unruliness for it reminded Ondrea of his own self. Ondrea knew she thought Jason a thief but he worried she thought the same about him. He wanted to help both Jason and Acacia have what they want but his own intentions, if kept secret longer, could easily be swayed.

The judges followed Danika to Domain to declare war against Jason and his new army. However inexperienced his army may be, most of the Acropolian land was a culture of warriors.

“We don’t know who we’re up against yet,” Danika said, “but it would be more useful to me if you brought back Acacia. She has missed her day in court and soon she will miss another.”

Mirza pled, “You have had your eye on Jason the day you met him, but please, no wayward eyes must turn toward Acacia. She hasn’t completed her errand in bringing back the exiled. Keep your eye on Jason and aid Acacia’s errand.”

Borkoborna added, “We have come for an errand more important. Our treasury has been stolen and so the war you proclaim cannot be fought.”

Danika stood in fury. “I have had enough advice—all the more reason to go to war! Your High Warrior days aren’t complete, Borna.” Her voice rose while she raised her arms and the judges of the Old World became tense in the presence of her spirit.

Acacia returned with the other members of the crew that gathered at the shore awaiting the pass through Philippi. The new campers made their bonfire in the woods that lay hidden from the eyes of Siljeca. The lanterns from Siljeca gave off an orange haze. The crew brought their warmth and spirit closer to the fire, but they hid from Siljeca in careful watch. Chiron and Circinus seemed merrier in the presence of more creatures like Acacia and Andelko as everyone gathered.

Acacia signaled an announcement by clacking together her dagger and shield Andelko bought in the lost city. It took awhile for the laughter and chatter to subside before everyone looked at her.

“I have been reluctant to go through Philippi just as Andelko but because my conscience weighs heavy back home. I avoid one danger and run toward the other. No danger pleases me but I’m sure Philippi will be all the more exciting.”

The new travelers looked at each other from side to side and she could sense the rising fear in their voices as they came to a whisper.

“I’ve waited a long time to reclaim my inheritance. No matter whether Daphne wanted me to become a soldier in this war is another story but as High Warrior I must continue my mission and it mustn’t stop at the capture of Jason and luring of Ondrea.”

She sighed and looked longingly at Andelko. Acacia hoped she could bring him to Domain because he made an unpredictable and silly yet commendable teacher. Her visage changed and the orange glow of Siljeca and the fire captured her hidden fear making her appear lucid. Her black curls became limp.

“I have lost someone dear to me in Domain. The pursuit of my inheritance has brought him to his death. I know what this person would want for me, but I can’t go on. More would soon be lost. His judgment was lacking, but so was mine.”

The seven new travelers silenced one another and thought adamantly.

Andelko had a sudden revelation. “Where has Jason originally been exiled and where has Ondrea followed him to his exile?”

“Oh, and there is one more danger we speak of. Andelko and I found them in Medora and they have been exiled since I discovered Grandmother Daphne was alive. They have made secret alliances in Medora and broke their terms of exile. We might encounter them again.”

The closer Acacia came to capturing Jason, the more she realized Daphne did not just exile Jason from Domain, but rather, from his take-over of Domain and the Acropolian Empire.

Andelko continued, “Acacia, they were never a danger, or so it sounds like. You grew up with them. They have recently made themselves a danger, but if you can put up with them so long, their hidden woes don’t seem so out o’ place, do they?”

Acacia instead thought about her new companions. There was something strange about Chiron and Circinus other than the fact they found her in the woods that bright day, and other than the fact they disbanded from the other migratory unicorns.

Could it be they’re wild? They seem older, wilder than the land itself.

It was true Chiron watched the land grow from its birth, but Circinus came into the world later. The strangest part about them seemed to be how they had made Acacia wiser, and now, Andelko. He could have been unwise before, but now he definitely appeared less lost—less lost in his world and in his head.

After Acacia’s worries subsided, Andelko pulled out his flask, this time filled with rum. He rationed out his own copper cup and distributed the rest of the ration equally amongst the seven travelers.

This deed sparked an epiphany for Acacia.

My inheritance will be spread and shared throughout the lands and distant empires, to Philippi and on. Whoever becomes ruler or mayor of Domain will receive it and whoever must be ruler of Acropolis receives it, yet I still don’t know how large my inheritance!

Suddenly, her inheritance became so vast and inconceivable she felt nothing belonged to her. She owed it to the universe as she looked up to the now familiar constellations. She spotted the Horned Horse constellation Circinus once showed her and the Hunter standing next to it. The Hunter had four arms, two bows, and two arrows. One of the arrows was directed toward the unicorn but the other arrow, away.

A brave traveler spoke up. “Acacia, I have noticed that we were attacked sometime before the envoy by this heir, Jason. And I understand that many people were after you. Were they not also after him?” He asked meekly in Andelko’s accent.

It took time for Acacia to recollect her thoughts at the sudden but important question. She looked far away. Then she gathered her words. “I have come to rescue your people. I will go back and even allow Jason to capture me when times are safer just so everything can come to an end. And yes, they were after my old friend but he has worried Domain, and Domain, it looks like, is now on his side.”

At least Jason will be reunited with Domain. We shall bring him to our side.

The traveler responded, “Well, I wouldn’t be so certain. Long before you discovered us, I have seen widespread rebels, homemade bombs, and unicorn killings in the coliseums and outside the coliseums. I can’t be so certain Domain is the cause o’ it.”

Acacia came to a pivotal point in history where the two empires must reunite. She faltered on the decision of whether these two empires must come together, but the decision still rested on her shoulders. That point in history was now. The timing wasn’t her decision.

Enemies can become the best of alliances especially when Acropolis is no longer secret. Why have we forgotten the old creation rulers? Domain sat fat and happy while Acropolis lay dying in bed.

“I can’t be very certain that we are the cause of it now, but we owe it to fix their mistakes. Our condition has been handed down from our ancestors.” She sat down and stared at the fire, hypnotized once again by its power. “We can talk about this later.”

Then the conversation and rum continued; Acacia suddenly felt a part of it, but again, she tired. Acacia didn’t want the party to end in darkness of spirit, so she lifted her flask and proposed a toast.

“Conrad didn’t know what he brought upon himself, but if we are to fight, I fight with him. He may not be with me in flesh, but he is within me.” Her cheers seemed unable to lift the weary group.

She rested in her sleeping bag by the fire while everyone retired to his or her tents. The flames danced ever greater as the night became cooler. She felt comfortable but could not fall asleep. The stars, the fireflies, the pounding of the shore, and the murmurs of Siljeca entertained her in most troubling thoughts. She thought of Jason and felt pity and concern for him, she felt vengeance for Anton, and concern again for those back home. Most of all, she felt protective of the unicorns, especially Chiron and Circinus and hoped the brave part of Daphne had some play in the oncoming war. Although she had distrusted her grandmother for her deceit and caching of her title and rule, she knew Daphne had bigger plans for Domain and Acropolis. She longed again to be reunited with Daphne, and especially Conrad, but Daphne could reunite them all.

When she went on the verge of drifting into deep sleep, something arose out of the fire. She quickly sat up, her heart racing. It could be a spirit, a demon, or...Milko. The noise didn’t seem to be aimed at the fire, or behind the fire, but a form ignited and took shape within the flame. Then a noise came from the fire. Acacia was too groggy and her vision too blurry to stare directly into the inferno, but a noise came from within:

I have a message for you. Many people are looking after you but many eyes are watching you.

The voice was comforting but she became so frightened she tried to fall back asleep and close her eyes and pretend the spirit was imagined from a dream or even a vision. Then the flame crawled higher and higher, almost reaching the canopy. Acacia ran into Andelko’s tent before the flame captured the sky. Acacia woke him up by accident. Her footsteps and pounding heart must have drowned out the crackle and spit of the inflamed spirit.

When she realized he had stirred, she grabbed his shoulders and shook him into consciousness.

“Andelko, Andelko,” she whispered, too frightened to speak louder and much too mindful of the campers. She caught the rugged man half-snore. Andelko’s body shook and he blinked his eyes. She hoped he did not have much rum to sleep off.

Andelko, in a flash, grabbed hold of his hilt. Acacia could not guess how many weapons he carried with him in pack; she did not want to disturb him, but his readiness to pounce quickly melted away his warm, easy-going nature—right on time.

“Acacia! What bothers you at such an hour?” His voice was not that of anger, or fear, but startling concern.

“Oh, I hope it’s Firebird, but you must come with me and make sure it’s not Milko or a demon of this world.” Her voice quivered and sped and her heart pounded while her breathing hurried.

Andelko rubbed his eyes in confusion. He let Acacia prop himself on his knees and she led him out of the tent. Not one traveler rose, and neither had Chiron or Circinus.

“Milko? I sped him on his way. ’Haps it’s worse, I fear.”

Andelko jumped out of his tent with his hand still on the hilt. He glanced around and saw no one, no demon, nor Milko stirred. Chiron and Circinus still slept farthest away from most of the campers with Circinus curled by Chiron’s belly and Chiron’s muzzle lying atop Circinus.

Acacia readied herself on her hilt, but as her breathing subsided the campfire wore down. It shrank and spiraled down to the beautiful, ho-hum fire it had been.

It quieted itself, but once again, a voice rose from the flame.

My message comes from the High Priest.

Acacia did not know what this entailed and although her heart kept pounding; her thoughts quieted enough to continue listening.

The High Priest sends warning of sacrifice. They come from your own kind, the kind you have made kindred in Acropolis.

Acacia was too afraid to speak, like a child afraid to ask a question or a slave fearful of protesting.

Kazimir warns of blood sacrifice made to the temples—blood sacrifice of the horned horses. More now is he in trouble than your fleet and more now must you return to him.

Acacia held her breath.

If not, he shall return to you.

Andelko was ever more afraid to speak while he wondered whether this involved him or if he should help Acacia and Kazimir. He barely knew of Kazimir except news that traveled.

“Firebird, if you are it, then you know my orders from the captain, Marko. I speed through the pass of Philippi at dusk. I return to Jan for better or for worse.”

The creature or thing did not answer. Acacia’s own remark echoed in her head. Her answer wasn’t a command, but a decision.

Andelko stared into the dying fire. At once, the flame rekindled again and a winged creature shot into the air. It spiraled toward the forest, aiming in the direction of the city port’s lights. Acacia tried to catch up with the creature that seemed both mysterious and androgynous.

Its tail skidded across the forest floor leaving a miniature path of flame as the tail left the ground; Acacia tried to capture it, not worrying about the burn. She wanted to speak more to the creature. Was it the same firebird? She wanted to trust it. Acacia didn’t understand it so its touch did no more to frighten her.

“Please stay! You must help us. We have little command.” She grabbed a hold of its tail but part of the tail came off. She held in her hand a burning feather. She felt its heat, but the feather neither burnt nor pained her.

The flames did not last. The firebird left its trail behind but it was no more in sight. She no longer felt the heat of the feather she held in her hand. The flames of the feather died, but more she could see of the feather.

The feather was a mixture of black, crimson, orange, and garnet. It resembled a bird’s feather but did not resemble any of the birds she met or came across in Domain. She walked back toward Andelko with his eyes a mixture of hardness and curiosity. She showed Andelko her marvel, the rarest treasure.

“Yes—there are other creatures like firebird and they are the same creature, as I believe from folklore, and some have encountered them; but no one, I believe, has ever captured their fiery feathers.”

Warmth and curiosity melted the fatigue and fear off his face, but he swiftly returned to serious thoughts. “If I could see what the firebird could see, I would know she was talking about the return of the days of old rulers. We may soon no longer be in anarchy, but if the elders have succumbed to outdated beliefs and unicorn sacrifices, soon will they succumb to human sacrifices, especially sacrifices of the foreign sort.”

“Foreign sort?”

“I mean, you—the sort that come into our lands, not always to exploit it, but sometimes to control it. I mean that in no offense, but the land of Domain used to be with Acropolis as one empire and this one empire kept growing and growing.” His voice became quieter. “And as it grew, forts and fortresses, towers and turrets were built in the outer reaches of Acropolis to watch with the Kirin over anyone that became captive. Some of the watchmen would help our ancestors flee and tell them to never return, while some escaped and other watchmen tried to capture them. I’m sure Chiron has told you of the days o’ the Old Rulers but I want no part left out.”

Acacia nodded with slow intensity as her eyes grew bigger than her visions. She wanted no other reminder Chiron might soon die, especially before a great era. Instead, she reminded herself of Jason and what he will have her succumb to as soon as she is captured. Jason, with his bounding but dwindling fortune, and her, with her soon-to-be inheritance, she feared might force upon them a marriage or worse—slavery. But upon marriage or slavery, there appeared no difference.

The only difference was whether or not she could capture Jason first. This would take all of her alliances, all of her strength, but she knew grandmother Daphne, without her ruling, was nonetheless powerful. If the days of the old rulers came back, she would appoint Daphne as chieftain of Acropolis. Even if she hadn’t the power to do so, if the Creators cared at all, they would have it be.

If they would not have it, then she would fight for it, and if Daphne could not have it be, then she faltered at the possibility of confronting her or obliging to the title. She did not feel worthy to take command, but if she had to, it was the original blessing handed down from the first king and queen, the Creators.

Acacia thought Acropolis was a land she could seek refuge in, but she found problems no one knew existed and thus she fought alone. Her healers, navigators, and company would yet be alone without her.

With the first turn of the sun lifting beneath the sea, Kazimir retreated to his room in the temple to finish last-minute chores, contemplate, and review the day’s studies and celebrations. He held his Acropolian botany book ajar.

With all the stars and healing I am still lost.

Kazimir looked through the bay window at the shifting glow through the pane and the glittering sea that signaled the approaching stars. He could almost hear the shifting of the sands. Meeting his elders was all he could imagine. Kazimir always imagined traveling back in time and asking them questions, whether of importance or not. He even made a list in case they needed to be answered, but the questions only pertained to the past. Too many questions the current high elders, the high priests, could not answer. He wondered why he still wanted his old childhood questions answered.

Number one: Is it I who misses my old self? That would be selfish! No, only maybe I miss the past. I have missed out on quite a lot. If Acacia resents me, I understand, but I shielded her from the oncoming battle as long as I could. Her lack of experience, whether that is true, was only my overprotectiveness. I’m just as bad as Daphne.

Kazimir resented himself but sighed knowing where he had to be.

On the other side of that sunset. Impossible.

He felt no better than Jason. His greater fear was becoming him. Jason’s personality was almost unrecognizable to the once-blind Kazimir. He wasn’t sure if Jason became blinded or him.

If it was time for Jason to move on, why am I still here?

He feared even more being forced to become like Jason. Working in the temple was like keeping up appearances. Sure, he worked on what lay inside his head, but the outside world was even more chaotic and he needed to put his knowledge to use.

Barnacle gum and kelpnetter—I need to remember those. Barnacle gum for sinus pressure and inflammation of battle scars and kelpnetter for pain and malnourishment. Side effects? Too innumerable.

He took a wad of kelpnetter and barnacle into his mouth, chew, and spit the paste into the mortar to demonstrate proper healing techniques. High priests in training were also required to know politics.

I will save my least favorite task for last. What a good distraction!

He jumped at his thought as though someone could hear it, but only turning around to find his door open, and one of the high priests entering. It was High Priest Ivovan, his great-uncle, with his clunky breastplate and boots. He once was first and only High Priest of Acropolis but his new duty was tutoring Kazimir.

Kazimir stood and bowed although he was irritated at the intrusion.

“Yes, Ivovan?”

“Apologies for my barging, but I have unfortunate news.” Kazimir waited for an answer. No matter how bad the news, he wanted to get it over with.

“Janus’s family is once again in control of Domain.”

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