15.2 \ 197

Eyes open, ready to give and receive respect. Princess Ascendant Soleil, Magus, of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, was permitted to choose who she would meet from among those gathered. The chamber was peopled with more than she could possibly match forces with at once, though all would at least be witness to this. While those nearer her had arranged with greater anticipation, her discretion would determine a better audience by cultivating a direct sense of invitation.

Somehow, imagining herself bare nude actually helped. It was close to the truth of the feeling, presenting herself as herself. The challenge of transparency was easy to analogize with the undressed body. Imperfections would be apparent, and she had to make no effort to hide them, but consider them a necessary fraction of her presentation. So with this bareness of feeling, she walked over to the first Aureny awaiting.

They stamped and lowered their head to ground story, presenting their flat capital plate to Soleil, exceeding her height with it. One dust-clearing huff came from the four pits behind the lowered plate ridge. With a two-handed horsewhack, she set her hands firmly against the skullplate, opposite her shoulders. The manner of these people was brisk, and etiquette expressed with precisely directed force. Soleil could recognize etiquette in a new form, and she reflected it at her own volumes. On the second sharp exhale, the Aureny made a slight nod of contact acknowledgment. Then with the third breath, they gave each other weight.

The inexorable movement began at a stretching rate of moments. In the intense condensation of focus that suddenly occurred, she felt each grain of movement, responding equally in time with another grain of her own. Their masses differed, but there was an intentional equality of effort. Though she knew they’d overcome her, she fluidly gave her hands, elbows, and shoulders more of her might. Soleil’s feet planted deeper into the stone of the ledge, leveling her angle as though she could hold the other back while the pressure mounted. She held her root and sank up against this obstacle, which continued to move in knowledgable response to each drop of Soleil’s force.

Her back was to the chasm, with nothing obstructing the edge. She knew that she could die. Choosing this journey had been like leaping an edge already, and she had since chosen it again. She could be no less committed at this moment, and not only on her behalf. The lot of royalty meant that she didn’t know most of the people she was fighting for, but she knew she must – even if she wasn’t entirely sure what she was fighting in order to prevent the worst.

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