Hello! I first read The Oracle Betrayed several years ago, and I was so excited when I discovered there was a sequel. I tore through The Sphere of Secrets and read Day of the Scarab in one night. I could not put them down. I absolutely love these books, and I became hopeless attached to the characters.
This fanfiction is my small tribute to Catherine Fisher's great work! Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy my story!
Disclaimer: I do not own the Oracle Prophesies trilogy (The Oracle Betrayed, The Sphere of Secrets, Day of the Scarab).
It was Telia who told her.
Mirany perched on the stool in front of the small, dented dresser. Her room was almost bare now. The Nine had offered up their furniture, sold their jewelry, and opened the many storerooms of the Island to help with the reconstruction efforts. Although many of the people had objected to the Nine going about in patched tunics and using secondhand items, Mirany had been firm and Rhetia had stood behind her. In order to rebuild and restore the Two Lands, everyone, including the Nine, had to sacrifice. The tall girl had gone through each chamber, looking through drawers and closets, and getting down on her hands and knees to peer under beds in order to be sure that the priestesses were doing their part. Almost everyone had been willing to give up their belongings for those who were less fortunate. The only real problem had been Chryse, who had tried to hide a chest of dresses, cosmetics, and jewelry in the Temple.
Mirany sighed and buried her face in her hands. This was Telia's fault. The girl followed the priestesses everywhere, hanging onto Persis's hand or playing hide and seek with Gaia. She was bright, with her sharp eyes looking out from under her fringe of dark hair. But most of all, she liked to find Mirany in the evenings and have her brush her hair.
The brush lay on the dresser now, and Mirany frowned at it. She did not mind brushing the girl's hair. In fact, she actually liked to spend time with Telia. It offered a peaceful reprieve from the neverending list of the bargaining and terms and clauses and obstacles that rose like great stones to trip her on her path to repairing the Port and the Island and the Oracle. In the evenings, she and Telia sat on the steps of the Upper House, Telia on her lap, and looked out at the white froth of ocean. The little girl chattered about her day, how she had crawled through the artemisia chasing a lizard, or how she had helped Pa sweep the porches of the Lower House, or how one of the Jackal's men had shown her magic tricks. Sometimes, in between brush strokes, Mirany would point out to sea and tell Telia about Mylos, the island that lay just beyond the horizon, where she had grown up with the ocean and sky all around her, and the smell of fish from the market, and the white columns of her father's home.
And last night, everything had been normal. Until Telia started talking about Seth.
Since Argelin's funeral procession, Seth had been just as busy as she. They all were busy—Seth; the Nine; Alexos; Oblek; and the Jackal, or Lord Osarkon, as he was starting to go by again. She had seen Seth from time to time, had waved to him from across the precinct, but they always seemed to be traveling in different directions. They had shared a few snatched conversations, but nothing serious. Alexos had ordered him and the Jackal to meet with Prince Jamil and come to some sort of agreement with the Emperor. The Two Lands would need so much aid to get them through the next months, the next year . . .
Mirany shook her head. Alexos was at the head of everything. He walked around the Island without his mask, and Oblek followed after him as always, trying to keep him out of trouble. But the boy could not be swayed from his purpose; he expertly ordered everyone around, organizing clean-up crews and personally visiting the places that had the greatest damage. At first, the people had been shocked and stunned that the Archon and the Nine were not wearing their ceremonial masks, that the people were allowed to look upon their faces, and that men were allowed onto the Island. Alexos calmly explained, "There is a new order now."
Alexos's assignments never ended. The Fox and his men were assigned to oversee the renovation of the City of the Dead, to seal up the great gouges and holes carved into the base of the City by Ingeld and his army. The Nine saw to the state of the Oracle, the Temple, and the Island as a whole. The Jackal took breaks from aid negotiations to parley with the aristocrats and help Alexos reinstate the Council of Fifty. Along with the Island, the Speaker was in charge of the Port, and so that placed Mirany at the center of the efforts, going back and forth among the townspeople themselves, Rhetia and the rest of the Nine, the Jackal, and Alexos and Oblek for information about all the hundreds of facets of the rebuilding.
But her current stress was not caused by the reconstruction. No, this was because of Telia. Because she had started to talk about Seth. All of her stories that evening were about him. He had taken the afternoon off from negotiations and had played with her. He had brought her a doll.
"He told me to tell you hello. So hello, Mirany!" The little girl had turned her head and grinned, bouncing on Mirany's legs. "And he asked about you too. He wanted to know how you were and I told him that you were just fine and that you and I are great friends . . ."
Telia's chattering had continued, and Mirany had smiled because it was sweet and innocent, the way she carried on about her brother. She was touched that he had thought to ask about her. But then Telia's next words caught her completely off guard:
"You know, Mirany, my brother is silly. He likes you a lot, but he thinks no one knows. He gets this weird look on his face on his face when he talks about you, the same look that Pa gets when I ask him about Mama."
Mirany stopped moving. The brush was heavy in her hand. The little girl squirmed over her legs, slid off her lap, and turned around so her hands gripped the cloth of the tunic around Mirany's knees. Her eyes were bright and happy.
"Mirany, are you and Seth going to get married and live happily ever after?"
Mirany sighed again, pushing back her hair, as if she could push away the memory of Telia's question. There was a twisted knot in her stomach. She frowned at her reflection in the small mirror on the dresser. It was a hand mirror with its handle broken off. Originally, the Rain's Queen's blue dolphins had jumped and leaped in an oval around the glass, but the colors were faded now, and the jagged stump where the handle had been was white. Surely Telia was wrong. She was a little girl, after all! What did she know about facial expressions, about . . . Mirany hesitated to think it: what did Telia know about love?
She pushed herself up from the stool and threw open the curtains. The sun was setting, making the sky and the water burn with streaks of orange and red. She had walked the path of the sun, traveled along it in a roaring chariot of gold to reach the Garden of the Rain Queen.
She had passed through the nine gates of death and returned to the world of the living.
She was strong.
So why was she so afraid that Telia might be right?
Seth gulped down a small glass of the precious water and set the cup back on the table with a clunk. The clear pitcher refracted streaks of red from the setting sun, and the water inside it was priceless. The people in the Port would trade anything they owned for the water. Seth frowned, swallowing down a stab of guilt. As if anyone in the Port had anything left to trade.
The devastation was horrible. He had traveled with Alexos and Oblek through the streets and seen the destruction caused by Argelin's attack on the gods, by Ingeld's army's rampage through the city, by the battles, by the earthquake, by the Rain Queen's anger. He had scrolls and scrolls full of lists of everything that needed to be rebuilt. He spent day after day meeting with the Jackal and Alexos, with Jamil, with the Emperor and his various representatives, advisors, and councilmen. Each day he returned to his room and went instantly to sleep.
Seth sat at one of the outside tables on the Island, taking a much needed break and watching the sunset. He thought of Telia. They had spent yesterday afternoon playing, doing whatever she wanted to do, and he had enjoyed it. He missed spending time with his sister.
He turned, and Pa pulled out the seat across from him.
"How are things, son?"
"Slowly getting better."
Pa nodded. They sat in silence for some time. Seth clinked his ink-stained fingers against the glass. After awhile he asked, "Is Telia already in bed?"
"Tethys is helping her wash up." There was a pause, and then Pa said, "Telia keeps talking a lot about Mirany."
Seth tensed. "What about her?"
"Telia seems to think that you and Mirany are going to get married and live happily ever after. Apparently she spent the whole day creeping around corners, hoping to find the two of you together, holding hands."
Seth felt his ears burning. "Where did she get an idea like that?"
Pa's eyes fixed on him. They were steady and serious, and although Seth wanted to look away in embarrassment, he found that he could not.
"Seth," he said. "Telia's a little girl and even she can see it. I've seen it too, the way you look at her when you think no one's around."
His voice came out gruff. "What are you talking about, Pa?"
"She's a good girl, Seth. She means the world to you. Don't be too proud to admit it and let her slip away."
He closed his eyes, wanting to block out the words, but they slipped in anyway, like the desert sand that gritted under his fingernails and between the folds of his clothes, like the gnats that hovered around the lavender and artemisia of the Island, like the water from the Well of Songs that seeped into his being, like the voice of the god that had once whispered so confidently in his ear. Unstoppable. Undeniable. Seth sighed.
"Yes, I like her. I like her a lot."
He cracked open his eyes, and Pa was leaning towards him over the table. The fire from the setting sun lit up the old man's features, making his skin glow brightly. Suddenly there was a beautiful, joyful laugh, and Seth and Pa turned to see Alexos coming down the path towards them, with Oblek right behind, a lyre slung over his shoulder.
Alexos skipped up to the table, still chuckling a little. "Hello, Seth! It seems like it's been a lifetime since we've had a pleasant conversation with each other!" He pulled out the third chair, the one next to Seth, and sat down, pulling the pitcher and the cup towards him.
"Old friend," Oblek admonished lightly, "you should ask permission before you join them. We've interrupted their conversation."
Alexos did not turn but merely continued to pour the water into the cup. It splashed, and for a moment, Oblek had a flash of a place that was brilliantly green, where everything dripped and cascaded with water.
"Don't worry, Oblek," the boy responded cooly. "They don't mind. Actually, they're glad to see me. And Seth was just telling his father that he really likes Mirany."
Seth froze. He felt the musician's gaze fall on him, and he fidgeted embarrassedly in his seat. Oblek came around the table and sat in the fourth chair. He placed the lyre on the table and it let out a soft, faraway chord. He reached up and scratched his bald head.
"Is that so?"
"I—" Seth shut his mouth and looked wildly at the three faces, but he finally found himself looking at Alexos. The boy's dark hair gleamed in the setting sun, and he watched Seth calmly.
"Yes, I like her," Seth admitted again, his heart pounding, "but I don't see how that's anyone's business but my own. And don't think for a minute that I'm going to tell her, because I'm not."
"And why not?" Pa demanded.
Seth clenched his fists. "Because I don't want to!" he replied stubbornly. "Because I have no idea how she feels about me, and because we really don't know each other that well. Because we're in the middle of repairing the world, and above all, because she's the Speaker!"
Alexos's voice was soft on the evening air. "I've said before that this is a new order, a new age. Things are not as rigid. The Archon walks freely among his people, and they look upon his face. The Nine tend the Oracle without their masks. This is a new time, Seth."
When Alexos raised his eyes to Seth's face, his voice was altered, and it was the voice of the god:
"Perhaps you and Mirany can teach me about love."
The wind rustled through the precinct. And then Oblek asked quietly, "Do you love her, Seth?"
Seth stared down at the tabletop and smoothed out his hands so his palms pressed against the wood. The fingers were smeared with blue and black ink. He trembled slightly, shaken by the god's statement. He felt like he was facing himself again, as he had faced the proud reflection of himself by the Well of Songs. But this time he had to shift through himself, search through the secret cubbyholes of his emotions, peel open the scrolls deep in his heart, the ones that told how he truly felt, and read the words he had not been quite brave enough to read before. A gull screeched in the quiet, but he did not move. Instead, he thought of Mirany.
They had spent so much time apart, and although he was sure he understood her, that he somehow knew the intricacies of her personality, he was not sure how he knew because they had never really spoken to each other about themselves. But he treasured her smiles, her slightly unsure confidence, the way she walked and pushed her hair back out of her face. And he remembered all the times he had tried to chase after her, all the wild emotions she had caused — his desperation when she was locked in the tomb, his desire to run with her when he saw her at the desert gates, his terror when he feared she might be hurt or killed, his despair when he realized she had gone to the Underworld without him, but most of all, his overwhelming relief whenever she came back safe.
Seth blinked and looked up. "Yes, I think I love her." His voice was a whisper. Suddenly his composure crumbled, and he buried his face in his hands. "What am I going to do? How did I get into this mess?"
Oblek's voice was sharp. "You got into this mess because somewhere in the stillness of the world the god decided to speak your name, ink boy. And in doing so, he let your path cross hers. And now the god is giving you a chance to make both of you happy." The musician's face softened. "I don't think you can get a better blessing than that of the Archon, Seth."
Seth felt a hand on his shoulder. He took his hands away from his face. Alexos smiled at him, and his smile was the glowing dawn.
"I think you should tell her how you feel."
"Archon?" Seth asked hoarsely.
Alexos's smile grew, and he tilted his head toward the corridors of the Upper House. There was Mirany, leaning against a balustrade. She looked out to sea, and the breeze lifted her hair.
"Don't worry, Seth. You have my blessing," Alexos told him.
Seth looked to Pa. "Go on, son," his father said.
With a scraping of the chair legs, Seth stood up. He looked to them all, to Pa, to Oblek, to Alexos. Then with a sharp, determined nod, he turned and mounted the steps.
Mirany was listening to the wind off the sea. It murmured softly, like the voice of the god, and in its breathing, she could hear colors, emotions, and very dimly, beneath the crosscurrents and undercurrents of the air, she could hear words. It spoke of Mylos and of her father. Of the boy with the tousled hair and ink-stained fingers who made her heart flutter. Of the rules and regulations of the Nine. Of a new era where the priestesses could accept the attentions of a man, if they chose. Then the angle of the wind changed, and it began to speak differently. Mirany tilted her head and listened closer.
The wind was singing.
It had Oblek's gentle voice, the way he had sung when they stayed in Kreon's Kingdom of Copies, deep underground. The music tumbled over itself, rushing to greet her, to bathe her face and hair in the melody of the sea. It sang of the generosity of the water, the beauty of the trees, the smoothness of the desert beyond the city. It sang of the tremors in the heart, of the shivers that run down the human body, the cracks in the spirit that open up before the gentle hand of love and become an Oracle. And then it worshiped the god: the Mouse Lord, the Son of the Scorpion, the Bright One. The wind listed all his glories, praised his guidance and the perfect arc that his being made around the world, like the path on which the beetle pushed the sun, the hidden places where light touched shadow, where sound met silence, where the god and his Shadow clasped hands and encircled the universe.
With a start, Mirany realized that it was not the voice of the wind; Oblek was really singing. She looked to her left, and down in the courtyard, Oblek was playing a lyre, singing quietly, and Alexos perched on a chair, watching his fingers move over the strings in awe. Pa was there too, listening with a faraway look on his face.
And then she heard the footsteps.
She turned and saw Seth. He had just mounted the steps and stood on the corridor with her. For a terrifying second she wanted nothing more than to turn and run away from him, but then the voice chuckled in her head.
It's Seth, Mirany. Why would you want to run away from him? I thought you would be happy to see him. Are you afraid of him?
Mirany paused in her thinking. It was not fear she felt. It was a different sort of feeling, a twisting and trembling in her chest. It was a type of fear, but not the kind the god meant. More like worry or anxiety. Nervousness.
Don't worry, Mirany.
The words floated in her mind, and they were reassuring. Then he was gone.
So Mirany lifted her head, swallowed down the irrationality that fluttered against her throat like a wild bird, and murmured, "Good evening, Seth."
He jumped slightly at her voice. "Good evening." He rubbed absently at the ink on his fingers, and Mirany watched his fidgeting. She kept her hand anchored on the balustrade.
She saw the mask slide across his face, the bluster and assurance he slipped on when he felt threatened. He started to plaster on the arrogant smile, but after a moment the smile faltered and broke apart. He stepped forward, and Mirany gripped the balustrade tighter.
"Mirany—" Seth tried again and swallowed. His heart pounded in his ears; it was all he could hear, and his legs felt like they might give out at any moment. A shuddering fear vibrated in his throat.
Don't be too proud to admit it and let her slip away.
Seth took a deep breath. Pa was right. The gulls stopped shrieking, the sea quieted, and Oblek stopped playing. It was like the whole world was holding its breath. Or like the god was watching them.
"I like you."
There was silence. It was his turn to hold his breath.
Her eyes lifted shyly to his. "I know. Telia told me."
Seth wanted to curse and laugh at the same time. Instead, he let out a breathy chuckle and stumbled closer to her. "Of course she did," he muttered.
Mirany looked up at his handsome face. Here he was, with no haughtiness, no tales, just Seth, simply and clearly telling her that he cared for her. So different from the arrogant scribe she had enlisted to help her break a musician out of prison so many months ago. But then again, she was not the same mousy little girl anymore. She, too, had grown.
Mirany smiled. "I like you, Seth."
The relief and happiness crashed over his face like an ocean wave. With a laugh, he pulled her into his arms and held her tight. She pulled herself closer to him.
There was joy here, in her arms, and with a small movement, Seth moved his face down. He kissed her.
Mirany stepped back, smiling and blushing.
There was a burst of laughter from the courtyard, and Seth and Mirany turned to look. Alexos had leaped from his chair and was pointing to the sky, which was suddenly dark with storm clouds. Lightning lit up the evening, and thunder rolled from across the sea.
It started to rain.
Thank you for reading! Please review! :)