He assists a neighbour with her skin care. XXX Images

Next-door neighbor spies on Abby & her brother.

The stories always went on to describe the chaos that followed the collapse of the Goddess's power: unbelievable nonsense about the men of the city turning wild and killing each other before turning on the women of the Temple. Talla didn't quite put such tales in with the myths of dragons, but she was too wise to believe that the boys she had sex with almost every night of the week would suddenly attack her.

In the end, each story had a happy ending, with the necessary Conduits coming in from remote cities to restore the Perfections and let a new Goddess Ascend to the Obsidian Throne.

'When I make this Temple Fall,' she thought, 'I'll make sure to destroy the throne. I never want to be ruled again.'

There was a dogged relentlessness about her. Amongst the repetitive tales, the quest she had set herself often seemed pointless, but she reassured herself that accumulating the knowledge of the library gave her the best path forward.


For Maksa, the week was frenetic.

With the permission of her Sorceress, she prepared a list of requests to be sent to Beshenna.

The biggest question to ask, "What data did Beshenna have?"

Not knowing what her sisters of another city held in their records, she was forced to take guesses and ask more questions. Every time she thought she had the right set of questions, however, she realized an important item she had missed, or a word choice that had been ambiguous.

Maksa had her numbers and her charts. She could take guesses as to how various lineages of women fared when it came to producing Heroes, Catatonics and Enraged but that was taking her measurements at one remove from their true sources.

She really wanted to know how women acted when a Temple fell, but the exact nature of the differences between their normal actions and their actions during a Fall had to be left to the discretion of the people who held the records.

'Find me every report on any odd behaviour of women during the Fall of Beshenna in 788,' she wrote for what had to be the ninth time. 'The most important records are those relating to criminal court proceedings and genealogies of any women who were found to have committed unusual crimes during the three weeks before the Temple was restored.'

Maksa would write on like this for some time, trying to cast as wide a net as possible in her search for the ways in which women might be affected by the strange inheritance that so deeply controlled the fortunes of men.


By the time Maksa had finished composing her letter and had her Mistress carefully seal it for delivery to their co-conspirators in Beshenna, Zhair'lo and the other seven Recruits were beginning their second week of weapons training.

After the first seven exhausting days, they approached their practice field with a wary look in their eyes, for the wooden dummies had been replaced by their instructors, clad in thick leather armour.

"At the end of this week," Sergeant Yung promised them on the eight morning, "you'll be ready to run four patrols in a day. That would be enough, should you have the need, to reach the northeastern Barracks. For now we will curtail the patrols in favour of more intellectual exercises while we also improve your sword skills."

"Now we will find out how well you've been paying attention," the Sergeant explained. "These soldiers will now attempt to strike you, using the same attacking poses against which you have been practicing the past week."

"Boys first, girls in the second row. Let us begin."

Within a bell, it was clear to Zhair'lo that the instructors were not above using pain to teach their lessons. They weren't stupid, so they used wooden swords, but they could still deliver a painful blow to make it clear to each Recruit where his or her weaknesses laid.

Zhair'lo discovered his weaknesses were everywhere, but didn't let that trouble him.