She and the group of others walked through the halls, looking at the guards and personnel that maintained the Temple. They looked to be the dead walking, but it would not be hard for Nizana to pick out the signs of life. These people had all but sacrificed their lives to serve the Empress, never capable of leaving. Some priests felt the zealotry of the Temple Guards bordered insanity, but it allowed for the Empress to remain safe at all times, and so they allowed it. Before such terrible measures were taken, the Temple had been infiltrated. Now, the guard are born within it, and they die within it.
Though, perhaps this was not the interesting aspect of the Temple. Instead, that whereas most all of Vekimen architecture was built from stone or steel, the Temple was made out of metals Nizana could not quite identify. This building was drastically more advanced than anything she knew of that the Ikate Keda had engineers for. Either that, or it was just being kept from the population. Smooth, polished metal cut in intricate angles, softly glowing in the faint red light. It all looked so alien.
To push the look even further, they came up to a chasm along the path, and one of their escorts activated a terminal. Before she knew it, pale red light extended out from one end, and to the other. The bridge was long, wavered, and she could see the defensive properties of it. Someone could simply turn it off with people on it, and the bridge would dissipate as quickly as it had formed. It was a hard light bridge. It wasn't until the Escort walked across that most of the party dared step foot onto the bridge made of nothing more than light.
Still they walked, the defences of the Temple growing stranger and stranger. Technology and devices that an insignificant fraction of the Ikate Keda knew about. Platforms that moved silently, automated sentries that moved about without a trace, easy to miss if you were not looking directly at or for them. Eventually, however, they made it to the Throne Room.
Inside, looked similar that to the rest of the Temple, only dominating the room was a platform to which three Vekimen were. Two, looked just like any other Vekimen, staring at the group as they approached. Alive and well. The third, sitting upon what seemed to be a chair, dead and decrepit. Her scales were dull and cracked, while what was once soft, white scales were now brown. Vacant, empty eye sockets stared at them endlessly, and tight skin bared her teeth.
"Welcome, blessed Priests and Priestesses. You have all been chosen to witness our Empress, Voice of the Gods, Khelena Sraralumee, and we are honoured to relay that she greets you in kind words of admiration to your dedication," The two live Vekimen stated in unison. The Voice of the Empress. They stepped down, their movements telling why they were referred to as an individual. They moved as one, either through decades of practice or through a connection only they had.
"I am pleased to see such loyal followers before me," The female voice said, as the two made an incline turn away from each other.
"Though, in spite of such awe you surely have, it would be appropriate to genuflect in the presence of one in my position," the male followed up. The two continued to talk, but Nizana was distracted by a something playing with her mind. Every time her eyes fell upon the Empress, the vision would shimmer, and Nizana could swear she moved.
"Idiots... I grow tired of their song and dance. You would think after over a millennium, they would start to realize they can't hear me," A tired, bored voice muttered. It was like someone was talking to her, only, not expecting to hear a response back. "If they could, they would have followed my orders. Eat your tails and sing a pretty song. I grow bored in this hollow monument of the Gods. Mate, have younglings, bring me the infuriating joy of youth pittering around and in the name of all that is holy don't let the messengers kill them by accident... Actually, thinking about it this place isn't exactly suited to younglings. Too many chasms that they can fall down. What do you think, Litera? Ranikhet? Nizana? Oh what is the worth, not like any of you idiots can hear me either," The voice rambled on, sounding as if they were talking to just clear their own bored and lonely existence.
She wasn’t a high priestess, but she wasn’t so lowly that anyone could call her idiot and escape unscathed. She had been born under an auspicious star, or she wouldn’t be here; she carried, in general, all the proper bits that allowed her to do as she willed with whom, or what, she willed, and most of her peers either hated her and wished her to die in some horrible fashion, or gathered around her feet, pawing like sycophants for a chance to climb the ladder using her intricately fashioned armbands and leg baubles as rungs.
‘Idiots’, the Sraralumee had said.
Nizana’s gaze shifted subtly to include the two Voices.
In doing this, she realized two things; first, that they couldn’t hear whatever it was she was hearing. She entertained, because she did have a whip-crack amount of common sense, that their show was just showmanship. Smoke and mirrors. Utter dung. However, if she were in fact the only person to hear the voice – a glance to the side showed that her peers were still enthralled with the ‘idiots’ – then saying so out loud would get her thrown off into the pit.
A thought occurred, so when she straightened, she proceeded, addressing the Voice as one, like the ritual dictated.
“I am pleased to hear your voice, Sraralumee, and humbled by your attention. If I ever bear or sire children, I shall bring them here to witness its glory, should it please you.”
"This, is not the time for jokes priestess. I would be careful of my next words, and we will consider your outburst an effect of your... Overwhelming pride..." One voice stated, but the pressure in her mind didn't end.
"You can actually hear me, and even after I said the fools can't, you answer me to them?" The voice asked in a mix of amazement, suprise, and a touch of amusement. "Be careful, and know once you have my attention, I can hear you without them needing to."
In her mind, she went through the necessary mental hoops to wall herself, her private self, off from the rest of her, and then she thought at the corpse of a god; If I were to start just talking to you, they would probably kill me.
She still half disbelieved what she was hearing, but the other half of her worked hard to piece together the puzzle bits that she had been provided so that she could take a guess at the appearance of the bigger picture. The bigger picture being, basically, that she was the new Voice of the Sraralumee, and that the current Voice were frauds, which made her the closest living equivalent to a prophet, just sort of the prophet herself. It struck her as a fun, but presently useless bit of knowledge, unless she could find some way to work it into actual action as opposed to sounding like a raving lunatic for the sacrificial alter. Oh, wouldn't her 'friends' be concerned? Snort.
Naturally she would have to keep on living if she were going to take advantage of this, which meant going through all the proper motions, playing along, and then eventually throwing these insufferable twin bastards off the edge of the nearest pit which, all in all, looked pretty damn impressive.
Unless they didn’t. What would you like for me to do?
"You are correct to believe these two will kill you. The position as my voice has become such a political scheme it makes me sick. They believe in our gods merely to benefit themselves, not to benefit our species as they should. They have taken our people, and have made them a hollow shell of what we once were. We used to be powerful, a force to be feared and never reckoned with. If we rose our banners for war the very galaxy would tremble over the coming bloodbath that would soon take place. I wish to bring the Vekimen of old back, reunite our people under a single banner, and return the true pride that has been ebbing away decade after decade. Bring me back... And I would happily let you throw all your enemies into the deepest pit you can find, or, teach you Necromancy that has been long forgotten. The ability to torture their very souls even in the afterlife, and tear away the attention of Xagoki they so long for," The voice continued, a hint of sly amusement taking her tone.
"Bring my soul together once again, and have me resurrected, and I will give you anything within my power to give... And I may not need to tell you Nizana, but my power is greater than you could even fathom..." The Sraralumee's voice trailed off.
But in the other half of her mind, Nizana was watching the actual voice, and she had questions.
Not only could this being give her much greater power, but it could put her right there in the place of those two pompous shits. After all, by custom, Nizana could play both the male and the female parts. She suspected this was part of the reason why they detested her, and others like her. Too close to Khelena's form to be given too much power. That had changed as time went on, after the civil war had slain the Sraralumee, and old habits died hard culturally, but Nizana had noticed that these two and the other high priests and priestesses typically didn't give Priestesses like Nizana a good, fair chance at power.
That made sense to Nizana; if she were in their position, she'd be scared of herself as well. But neither was she going to accept being forever stuck in a middling position on some border world too close to the Tai Pen and Kowloon to earn herself any real glory or prestige.
Where, then, is your lost phylactory?
Around them the ceremony continued. The voices went about telling them all how much their faith was respected by Khelena, and that continued faith and sacrifices to her glory will ensure her return. They at least played that part of the game correctly.
"I personally grant you position as my voice. I do not care what you have to do, what you have to offer, I will back your words. Return me to life so that I may once again steer our people onto the correct path, and should anyone move to assist you, then they will in turn earn a blessing. Know this. You speak for me, but should you fail my voice is worthless. I can raise armies and torment entire peoples. I can do none of that without my soul back in my body. So be careful what you offer, and make sure you do not fail, or I will not be able to help you..." Khelena finally stated.