Chapter Four – For the Empress

Sarai was in her best outfit, a long, flowing, golden dress, with azure gems at the waist and metallic black filament on the front and back, etching an ancient design from the early days of the Amarr empire.  She was dancing in front of the Empress herself, and it was just the Empress and her.  Sarai was dancing a folk dance from her world and each turn and each dip she landed perfectly.  As she danced, she looked into the eyes of her Empress-Goddess..

And found the eyes of the dead Matari woman staring right back at her.

Sarai stopped and screamed.  The now hideous empress pointed behind Sarai.  Sarai slowly turned around and instead of the etched stained glass murals, she saw windows leading out into the darkness of space.. and in that space were thousands and thousands of bodies.. all of them trying to reach her as they floated out in the black.  Sarai quickly turned back to the Empress, only to see her face begin to deteriorate.  The Empress’ mouth opened, and a shrill, continuous scream filled Sarai’s ears.  Sarai looked away, back towards the windows.  To her horror, she saw the windows start to crack, then in an instant, they shatter.  Sarai desperately tried to grab something, anything so as not to be swept out into space..

..and woke up screaming, clutching her bed covers with all the strength she can muster.  Soft, but strong arms hugged her as tears and sweat streamed off her face.  Sarai buried her face into the person, unable to resist the need for comfort.  “There, there, little Angel.  Let it all out.  You are safe now.  Let it all out..”  Meira’s voice was so precious to Sarai’s ears, the soft voice filled her heart with calm.  Sarai cried until she was exhausted and her throat was hoarse.  Sarai swallowed some of her leftover tears and asked Meira, “Where are we?”

“We are docked in one of the stations near Amarr, just a single jump I think.  I’m sure your father can tell us for sure.”, Meira said as she stroked Sarai’s long black hair.  Sarai laid her head back on Meira’s chest, glad to hear a living, beating heart.  “Your father should be here soon.  He’s been hopping between you and your mother since the battle.  He certainly hasn’t slept much at all.”

“How’s my mother doing?  Is she alright?”, Sarai was starting to get sleepy, the calm stroking of her hair, the rhythmic sound of Meira’s heart as well as her warmth.  “Were they trying to kill me?”

Sarai could feel the sigh when Meira said, “No dear, I imagine that we’re just unlucky bystanders in their old conflict.  Those two have been fighting for years, and I imagine the fighting will continue many years after we are gone.”  Sarai heard a strange chuckle from Meira before she continued.  “Your mother, well, she’s not physically hurt but she is definately shaken up.  Your father has been doing his best to keep her from panicking too much, but mostly she is relying on some tranquilizers from the ship’s infirmary.”

A strange realization crossed Sarai’s mind at that moment.  “Meira, when did they let you come up here?  I thought you were stuck down in the slave quarters?  I was going to try and go see you, but..”

Meira just smiled, “It’s okay dear.  Actually, your father thought it would be a good idea to have me come up.  Aralis protested, but your father convinced him that it may not be a good idea to have an honored guest of the Empress herself upset because of some petty bureaucracy.  So, here I am.  I cleaned the clothes you were in, as well as made sure your quarters were cleaned and ready for when you get ready to disembark.”  At the far end of the room, the hallway door slid open and her father walked into the room.  Behind him was the commander of the Fleet, Aralis.

“Good Morning, young miss.” said Aralis, “It is good to see you are feeling better.  I understand you had quite a scare back there.”

“Um… yeah.”, was the best Sarai could do.  She could still see the eyes of the dead Minmatar woman as she wiped her face with her hand.

Aralis came over to Sarai’s bed, looked at Meira, then back at her father.  Adrien then made a slight motion to Meira.  Meira nodded and gently pulled away from Sarai, got up, and stood back in the shadows.  Aralis then pulled up a nearby chair and sat next to her.  He said, “My dear, I am very sorry you had to endure that.  Our old enemies look for many ways to try and wound us, and I am glad they were not successful this time.  However, they are little more than pirates, mere fedo-scum.  And whatever they take, we will ask back tenfold.”  Aralis’ smile was reassuring and warm.  He reached over and took her hand.  “We are just a few jumps out from the Empress’ palace, so get your rest and relax.  I’m sure you will be wonderful, young miss.”  with that he kissed her hand.  Then he stood up, thanked her father, and walked out of the room.

As soon as Aralis left the suite, Adrien walked over to Sarai’s bed and sat next to her.  He smiled and said, “You know, your mother is a wreck right now and its good to see that you are handling it much better.”  Sarai looked away, just for a moment to the window.  Her father’s hand gently touched her face, and she looked back at him.  “Do you want to talk about it?”  Sarai clearly wanted to, even her own father could see that plainly.  But it was still too soon, and she shook her head. 

Adrien got up, and kissed Sarai on her forehead and walked towards the door.  As he walked he said, “Meira, go ahead and resume your duites.  Should you need anything at all for Sarai, contact me via the ship’s comm system.”  Just before he left the room, he paused and looked back at Meira.  “Be sure my daughter will be ready for the Empress, Meira.  If she does well.. I’ll permit you to teach her some of your tribes’ less… provocative… dances.”  A hint of a smile crossed Adrien’s face as he saw his daughter’s face light up, then he left, closing the door behind him. 

Meira turned around.  “Well, young mistress, are you going to be down all day?  In two days time you will meet the Empress herself, so we have no time to dilly-dally.  Hurry up and put on the blue dress, we’ll start with Orlomado’s Fourth.”  Using a remote, Meira pressed a couple buttons and one of the walls slid down to reveal a completely mirrored wall.  A balance bar had been brought up earlier by two other slaves and was soon attached to the the U-5 connectors on the wall.

The speed and pace of Orlomado’s fourth was a welcome respite from the dark thought’s in Sarai’s mind.  Meira’s was a bit extra hard on her initially because the dance routine was very difficult and required all of Sarai’s focus.  But soon, her body began to remember the patterns and she was able to keep her mind on the flow of the dance.  Eventually, her mind began to drift and as she moved through the dance, her thoughts lay on what it was going to be like to meet and then dance for the Empress of the most powerful nation in the galaxy.

.. but those dead Minmatar eyes kept staring back at her..