part II

“Yes,” Tanith said trying to quash the unsteadiness in her voice, “Of course.”

She looked to Alva who, without another word, slipped behind the woman and bowed out of the room. She stole an anxious glance back at Tanith, mouthing “I’m sorry,” as she closed the door behind her.

The striking woman standing before her was Danya. Tanith did not know her surname or if she even had one, but, as tradition dictated, sages first referred to one another as their given number before engaging in conversation. Danya was the third sage in their order and had been so for many years. And in the six short months Tanith had been a sage, she had never spoken to Danya alone.

Swallowing her surprise, Tanith gave Danya small smile and motioned for her to sit at the table, “I’m--please forgive my sister, she’s--”

“I won’t be long,” Danya said, either ignoring Tanith’s words or acting as if she hadn’t heard them. Her eyes looked over the room before settling back on Tanith, and her expression softened from its unreadable state. “How are you feeling, Tanith?”

“I--um,” Tanith stumbled, “I’m good.” She cleared her throat, steeling herself, “Just a little tired. But ready.”

Danya held Tanith in her enigmatic gaze for what seemed like a long moment before finally speaking. “I’ve spoken with the rest of the order and informed the council of our progress today, and we’ve decided to postpone tonight’s remaining rite.”

“I--I don’t understand,” Tanith said anxiously, “I know I haven’t been able to--”

Danya’s expression tightened, sympathetically, “Tanith--”

“--I’m doing my best, I--I’m trying.” Tanith implored her.

Danya slowly raised her hand to calm her.

Tanith nodded and took in a breath to steady herself, “Please forgive me.”

Danya motioned behind her towards the door, “That girl, your sister...”

“Yes?” Tanith asked, hesitantly.

“You grew up here, in Coelum?”

“Yes.” A hesitance came over Tanith, “My, um, father was--is--actually a maintenance worker for the city. He and my mother immigrated from Earth right after I was born.”

Danya’s otherworldly green eyes stared at Tanith, unblinking. “And your mother?”

“She passed. Having my sister,” Tanith said, looking away for a slight moment. “So my father raised us single-handedly, more or less,” she said, proudly, returning her eyes to Danya’s. And, after a moment, Tanith scoffed and smirked. “Growing up, seeing the Temple everyday, I never dreamt I’d be... but now...” Her smile faded.

Danya’s expression tightened, “Do not mistake your humble origins as reason for despair. You were chosen. You have nothing to prove. Fate demands that you are here, now. And, while she speaks through us, she cannot be beckoned. That is why tonight’s rite has been postponed. Nothing more. Understand?”

A little surprised at her words, Tanith nodded, “Uh, yes--yes, ma’am.”

“Now, get some rest,” Danya said turning from her, “The stars will wait.”

And, with that, she was gone.