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Release date: February 13th 2015
Publisher: Wibbs Ink
The temple wasn’t empty, however. She stopped when she saw a man standing on the edge of the pool. He wore long sweeping robes of deepest red.
Clio shivered. Something about Mannix had always unnerved her. He came to Sheehan not five years ago, and already he had somehow gotten himself a position as the King’s prized adviser. She knew he had played an instrumental role in brokering a peace with Morek.
A thin-lipped grin spread across his pale face as his eyes fell on Clio. His head and face were completely hairless. In the place of eyebrows, Mannix wore a multitude of ruby piercings. He turned to her, his red eyes lighting up as she approached.
She barely spared him a glance. She was racking her brain for ideas of where Ali could be. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“Is that so? Tell me, why is it that men cannot come in here unattended?” His gaze fell on her like flames.
“Not my temple, not my rules.”
“Ah, but it may be your temple one day.” He walked around the pool to get a better look at her.
“Not likely. Youngest of four, remember?”
“I do. And yet you really are…flowering.” His grin ripped itself higher into those hollow cheekbones, giving light to those red, empty eyes.
“It’s probably comments like that why men aren’t allowed in here.” Ali could be anywhere, doing anything by now, and Clio was stuck dealing with Mannix in an empty temple.
She could still feel his eyes moving over her body. He wasn’t like the other men who came to see the Oracle. Their stares seemed to strip Clio of her clothes. Mannix looked like he was stripping the very skin off her bones. Rage flickered up in her chest, but the best way out of this was to move him along as quickly as possible. She had to find Ali.
“Can I help you with something, or are you just here to bother me?”
He ignored her and bent down at the pool’s edge, skimming his fingers along its surface.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she warned.
“The sacrificial waters, yes? I wondered if the lore was true. They say it carries the power of the Oracle. That she cannot be the servant to the Deities without it. Have you ever gone in?”
“I don’t know about all that, but yes, once. I fell. Came out covered in blisters. Truly, you are ugly enough already.” The water was another of her mother’s flashy tricks, poisoned in a way to seem like it held power from the Deities.
“Interesting. So only the Oracle herself can touch it?” he wondered to himself, his fingers curling around his chin. “But Clio, that mouth of yours will get you into trouble one day. Learn to guard yourself in the presence of powerful men.”
“Is that what you are now? You serve the King — the servant of men. I serve the Oracle — the servant of the Deities. Whatever power you have stops at the doors of this temple.”
They glared into each other’s eyes until —
“Clio, escort Mannix out of the temple and help him with the offerings.” Her mother’s voice broke their eye contact.
Unnoticed by Clio, her mother had entered the room. She stood at the top of the steps, a vision in her white robe and headdress made of pure white pearls almost indistinguishable from the striking white of her hair. While all of her daughters had hair the color of darkest night, hers was whiter than sunlight reflected on a snowy field. She stood at the vestibule to her private chamber that attached to the temple. Clio didn’t know what was in there, and she never would. It was for the Oracle’s eyes only.
Mannix lowered himself into an obsequious bow. Clio couldn’t help but snicker. The Oracle looked down on her. “Clio, I won’t ask you twice.”
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