Thia waited in the alcove, her soul calmer than it had been in months. I wish you were here, Papa. I wish I knew if you were proud of me. While the other acolytes chatted with nervous excitement, she kept her gaze on the doors. The next time they opened, the rite would begin.

A bell rang once. The rest of the students stopped talking and formed a line. Thia found her place at the end. She was the youngest in age, but that didn’t matter today. In all honesty, she’d done so well with her lessons that she could’ve been at the forefront. She declined the honor when it was offered. It was going to be hard enough to have everyone watch her take her vows. Leading the group in was out of the question to her.

The door opened. Thia focused her gaze on the dark brown head of the acolyte in front of her. She didn’t know the young woman’s name. She’d given up on forming friendships over five years earlier, after the chase through the catacombs.

The chapel was lit with hundreds of beeswax candles; the sweet scent was heavy in the air. Families of the candidates sat in pews on each side of the wide aisle. In the front pew, the Duke of Almair sat with his son, surrounded by the teachers who had guided them to this point.

Shifting her gaze, she caught sight of Father Philip standing at the front of the altar. Behind him, the balanced scales of Keroys shone, bathed in the first light of day that filtered through the glass windows. One by one, the students knelt before the priest and took their vows. A teacher, one selected by the student, draped the golden yellow robe of priestess or priest over their shoulders as they rose.

As the last one moved aside, Thia stepped forward and knelt. Raising her hands, she watched in horror as Father Philip did not take them. Rather, he stepped aside.

Another form, bathed in yellow light, took his place. Her lilac eyes flew open wide as Keroys’s timeless face looked at her. He folded his hands around hers and nodded once.

“I, Thia Bransdottir, do entrust my soul to Keroys. May he guide me with his wisdom, temper me with his discipline, and guide me to lead a life of balance. I shall harm none who do not wish me harm. I shall heal all who I may aid, regardless of station or circumstance. Thus do I swear.” Her voice shook as she recited the words, terrified her God would refuse her service.

“Gladly do I accept the service of Thia Bransdottir. I shall guard your soul, guide your steps, and aid you when it is needed. Trust in me, my priestess, as I trust in you.”

A single tear fell from her eye as she felt the robe being placed across her shoulders. Keroys smiled at her, whispering, “Your father is proud of you, as am I.” With those words, he vanished.

Thia rose, her mind reeling from the honor that had been given to her, and took her place with the rest.

Grab your copy of ‘Scales and Stingers’ here!

Book 2 – ‘Shield and Scepter’ – releases on 11/7/23! Now seeking street team and ARC readers!

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