“No, no, no,” it was the Mistress of Infants and Oblates, “That doesn’t mean that the temple is going to fall down. Lianne, calm down.” She was speaking soothingly to someone who, from the sobs and chest-heaving breathing the seer could hear from around the corner, was on the verge of hysterics. “The high priest isn’t going to let the Sun Emperor take the seer away. You all know what you have to do.” The chorus of youthful assent told the seer that the Mistress must have an entire class with her. “Act as if Dame Dulcine is the seer and the seer is a deaconess like Miss Meara and?”
“Don’t talk to strangers!” came the chorused reply.
“But Dame Guenna,” came one young male voice, “What do we call the real seer if we have to talk to her? She’s still the seer, it’s not like we can use her name.”
“Naal’s right,” an older girl than Lianne by the sound of it, “That would be like using the goddess’ name.” Awestruck horror painted her last words.
“In the unlikely event you talk to her,” Dame Guenna’s voice was calm, “Then call her ‘Miss’. Now back to the classroom everyone so we can tidy up before we’re finished.”
“D’you think he’s really the Sun Emperor, ma’am?” That was Naal again as they move off away from the seer.
“It doesn’t matter what I think,” said Dame Guenna, “But the priests of Jokkiel certainly seem to think so. They’ve sent him up here with enough support to show they think he’s the man who’s going to rule the world.”
The seer spent her hour of recreation in the eastern garden almost alone. At this time of year it was a cool, shadowed place when the weather was not yet warm enough to make relief from the heat a need. In the other gardens spring had moved past the flowering bulbs and the fruit trees were all leaved but here in the narrow strip between the overshadowing mountainside and the wall of the temple the leaves were only just breaking forth. A gardener sweeping fallen blossom off the path was the only other person she saw.
The seer walked, sat, smelt flowers for scent and considered the information she had while unbidden the thought, “I won’t ever be here to see the shadow lilies bloom again,” drifted through her mind. Apparently the Sun Emperor had come to take the seer away from the temple. She knew why the high priest would be opposed to that; there was an old saying ‘If the seer leaves its grounds, then the temple will fall.’ When she had been Lianne’s age she too had thought it meant the temple would collapse in an instant if the seer set foot outside the temple’s consecrated grounds. Now she thought it meant that the temple would just wither away from the loss of income and prestige the seer’s departure would create. It supported the local population, of course but without the seer this dead-end mountain valley held no interest for the outside world.
Jokkiel was the sun god. Unlike the divine lady whose spark she carried in her, he had no qualms about the whole world using his name. The Sun Emperor apparently had the support of the priests of Jokkiel, which would make his title appropriate. The children knew about him, so why didn’t she? “Knowledge is power.” The Master of Studies said that often enough. Had she been kept deliberately ignorant? She considered the matter and decided that ‘possibly’ was not a paranoid answer. Her mother and the high priest had decided that she shouldn’t progress beyond the Second Tranche of theological studies because she was beginning to exhibit unbecoming hubris. She hadn’t thought she was being arrogant or proud, although she possibly wasn’t the best judge... What if the Third Tranche of studies would teach her things they didn’t want her to know even, and her eyes narrowed at the thought, make her want to leave the temple?
She grinned to herself. There was a place you could go to find out things you didn’t know. It was called a library.
After her hour of recreation was up she had an hour of free time before evening meal and deciding that her need for knowledge outweighed the few minor chores that waited for her in her room, assuming that she could get to her room at the back of the sanctuary, she headed straight to the library. She walked in the door and started heading for the shelves on other gods’ theology. The third librarian was at the duty station desk and leapt out of her chair to grab the seer by the arm and drag her in amongst the shelves in the opposite direction to where she wanted to go.
“You can’t be here!” Her friend was almost hyperventilating, “There’s a priest of Jokkiel over in the books on him with the Master of the Library. He says we’ve got a book they want a copy of. You have to leave before he sees you.”
”Idua, calm down,” the seer could be soothing too, “Who or what is the Sun Emperor?”
Her friend looked at her in astonishment. “You don’t know?”
“On purpose I suspect,” she replied matter-of-factly, “So I came to look him up in a book or two.”
“Jokkielan theology would be best,” Idua considered, “Or comparative theology but that’s where they’re talking. I’m not allowed to tell you what I know, we’ve been forbidden to discuss it while they’re here.” She almost clicked her fingers, “I know, prophesies and divinations! Right up on the back wall and three aisles over. You want The Chambourian Verses, the originals are all out but I know there’s a translation back there. The Sun Emperor’s in between stanzas twelve and thirty somewhere.” She looked back towards the front door. “I have to get back to the desk. Good luck!” She left her friend with a worried backward glance before she stepped back out from between the shelves with a supremely serene librarian grace.
The seer found the book where the librarian said it would be. The Sun Emperor was in stanza fourteen, then eighteen, twenty through to twenty seven and finally in stanza twenty nine. There may have been more in the rest of the one hundred and one verses but the seer felt that those were quite enough to go on with. If the leader of the temple’s important visitors was indeed the Sun Emperor, then stanza nineteen was about her. She was not sure how she felt having predictions written about her. She knew she felt uncomfortable about some of this particular information. Her reading had given her a lot to think about over dinner.