When I was a girl I was chosen for the harem.
King Wato liked my legs, I am told. What was there to like in the legs of a nine-year-old high-born girl? I was fortunate that he had so many others on which to spend his… attentions. It gave me time to learn.
In the harem I began to learn the ways of power. These women may have had nothing, but still they found ways to manipulate and control one another. I saw that those with the smallest fragments struggled to keep what they had, and lord it over others, while those with true power moved among them and did whatever they pleased, whenever they pleased. Does that remind you of someone? You’re thinking of the wrong person.
When old Queen Xiomeinde died, and I was brought to the throne, my education in the sources of power continued. How it was begat by money, by land, by birthright and ruthlessness. Visiting dignitaries sometimes reminded me of the older women in the harem. More wealthy – less ruthless. The solution was the same in both cases. Power needs structure. Provide a little freedom and it’s like setting a house on fire. Does that remind you of someone? Still the wrong people.
When my husband died and I became queen, you said I acted rashly. You said that I was too quick to send the Immaculate Order away, too quick to free the harem women, too hasty to raise the taxes. You said that I should consider my actions. You urged… caution. Languor, even. Let all remain as it is. “For now.” But that is the way of power, you see. Power can afford to be slow. Greater power can wait, and think, while those with less scramble for what we can get. Does that remind you of someone? Do you genuinely imagine that the merchants and nobles, that they hold the true power in this land? No, you fools. Wrong. Again.
You should be thinking of the Dragon-Blooded.
Their civil war will not hold them forever. They will return, they will take their old power back, and we will be beneath their boots once more unless we do something about it. Our king was not the only man to move through the harem untouched, nor through our streets and our markets. They. Will. Return. And they will want to resume where they left off.
I will not rule over a weak and divided country when that time comes. Shirakh will be more than a city. It will be an empire. An empire devoted to one thing: keeping what is ours.
If you cannot be party to the founding of an empire, you may leave the room. I suggest you keep running.
Xerith looks the part for nobility. Her neck is long and elegant. Her skin is a deep umber. She has dark brown eyes, with golden eyeshadow. She typically wears a ceremonial crown, an inverted frustrum made with black-dyed silk. It was once bound in silver; now it is bound in gold.
In the court and when she is carried around Shirakh, Xerith wears a variety of intensely colored silk gowns, each of which displays a different gemstone and precious metal. Her dressmaker has an eye for striking color combinations. When she leads troops into battle, she wears ceremonial plate coated in black. For Xiomeinde, this would have made her harder to find on the battlefield. For Xerith, with her anima banner blazing, it makes her into a fearsome silhouette of death.
Cold, calculating, and ambitious. Xerith is serious about creating an empire and doing it quickly. She’ll use any means at her disposal, from setting enemies against each other to hiring outside mercenaries to pressing the Telet serfs into military service.
Xerith has a reputation for fearlessness. This is the case even though she speaks openly about her fears – especially of the Dragon-Blooded returning. As she shares these feelings, others gain respect for her, seeing her as someone who can overcome her own demons. Those who see her in action often go from respectful to outright intimidated.
Intimacies: Rule Shirakh well (defining), Don’t trust anyone from the harem (major), Don’t trust my family (major), We must achieve victory before the Realm returns (major), Beauty has value, Unity will lead to victory
Xerith is a clever, ruthless politician who knows how to wield power like a scalpel. What she lacks in physical prowess, she more than makes up for in an intimidating personal presence. This was true even before her exaltation; now, when the icon of her anima blazes up about her, few can even look at her.
Presence is Xerith’s supernal attribute, but she is also familiar with the arts of war, the ways of the courtier, and the ebb and flow of trade. Shirakh’s bureaucracy speeds her wishes to completion and move sluggishly for her opponents. Those who would act against her find themselves second-guessing, to the point that many of them lose sleep over the matter. She can hold court for days on end, and will use this to grind her opponents into agreement.
As an Eclipse-caste Solar, Xerith has no qualms about throwing around her oath-making power. Many of her advisors and courtiers are now bound to her in ways they cannot escape. She is careful to make minimal promises of her own.
Xerith does not enter combat herself. She may be on the battlefield, but she is well protected by her warriors. When attacked directly (as happened on the very night of the meteor), she relies on her majestic presence and her bodyguard, Padathra.
- Zife, her dressmaker. Reserved, candid, imaginative.
- Eshaja, her chamberlain. Thin, cheerful, insistent.
- Ketash, the captain of her guard. Serene, conceited, committed.
- Shvelak, the general of her armies. Jaded, crafty, resentful.
- How much does Xerith know about Kala’s army?
- How much has Xerith consolidated her power? How much weight does Prince Visho have in court?