The animals moved as a herd to a large clearing. About 100 creatures of different breeds and colors gathered in the clearing. From a meek and mild rabbit to the fierce and noble lion, every creature looked up at the five pillars.
Kyera glanced at the pillars trying to understand their significance. Each pillar was as tall as a tree with a mouth carved out seventy feet above the floor. Inside hung a lantern and a draping of fabric.
The central tower was largest, and inside it hung a lantern of solid gold. The adornments reminded her of the Emperor and the deep crimson fabric glinting in the firelight solidified that feel. Kyera had a feeling she knew what these towers were now. The five pillars of their crown.
Directly to the king's left was a slightly shorter tower, but taller than the other three. In its mouth a smaller golden lantern hung, suspended by a red and gold chain. The blue fabric draped behind it shined almost royal purple in the conflicting lights. This belonged to the Empress.
To the Emperor's right was the twin towers of equal height. One held green cloth and the other pink. The identical lanterns were silver with small touches of gold at the joints. They represented the two queens of equal standing, a step below the Empress as it should be.
The last pilliar had a candle in a ornate holder. The cloth behind was white and red to represent the humblest of the castle women, beauties and concubines who had born children.
Kyera watched as the Queens were helped by their sons into the mouth of the pillars. The winding staircase within giving them a easy way up. They sat beside their lanterns as their sons stood below on the stone foot of the respective towers. Clovis however watched from the base as his father escorted his mother to her place. Kyera was pleased to see her healing had not changed his treatment of the Empress.
Once they were in place, and the children stood at the base of their mother's pillars, the two lions one dark and one light followed the Emperor and sat at the feet of his pillar. Then there was silence. No one moved. The sound of soft breathing all that could be heard.
Kyera could feel the mark urging her to pledge her loyalty. She knew to walk to the steps and sit… but she refused to move first. Her eyes searched for the lion ring leader who was already on the move.
The proud lion stood tall and led his three lionesses to the center tower they lowered their heads in respect. Having done so, the four made their way to Bastil. The lion climbed the steps and sat beside the First Prince. He held his head high as Bastil grinned. Kyera noticed the subtle glance he tossed at Clovis, almost a snear. That self righteous look made her blood boil.
Kyera stood and began making her way through. Most the animals were quick to move aside as the shadows moved beneath her feet. The human eye would never notice, but the animals could feel the power swirling like a soft wind. She came to the center and met the Emperor's gaze. His surprise was painted on his face, but she did not mind.
The lion's pride watched her as she gazed at each of the four towers for a long moment, the fifth being unoccupied. Her eyes paused on Alexi, standing beside his brother for a moment, but then again at Bastil. That smug, uninterested expression, as if he already knew her choice. It made the decision for her.
Kyera turned and walked to the Pillar of the Empress, looking up into the mouth. The soft, questioning roar that left Kyera's maw was heard by Tears. The Leopard stood looking down at Kyera.
"No pain between us?" Kyera called in the language of the forest. Tears raised her head slightly before tilting it to show her surprise.
"Your choice is yours to make, I will abide." Tears roared back and Kyera nodded pleased at the way she one had spoken. Kyera looked to the Lion, who had risen to his feet, now alert. Something was not right.
Kyera looked up at Clovis who was watching her with Interest. No familiar had ever spoken with another in the tower before. Even though no human could understand the words, there was no anger in the tone of the roar. The white tigress gracefully ascended the stairs and approached Clovis. The fourth Prince smiled at her, there was a joy in his heart as another worry was lifted. She sat at his side looking out at the others.
Though she had made her own choice, and moved alone unlike the lions, it seemed more impactful. The spell was broken.
SO here is chapter 2 for tonight. Things are about to get interesting.
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