Ever since the end of the War of Revelation five centuries earlier, when the heads of the Royal Family were hoisted on pikes around the capital city, power in the land was shared in an uneasy truce between the People's Council of the Revelation and the remainder of the old nobility.
But there had always lurked rumors of a power behind the throne. Her name (for it was always a woman) was never known with certainty, nor the place of her stronghold, nor even her existence - though at various times in history, one woman or another was claimed to have been exposed as the secret leader. Over time, this phantom ruler became known as the Directrix.
A rough ride in a helicopter with blacked-out windows. The guards seated on either side of the Princess do not look at her, do not speak, do not smile. Finally a hatch opens and she's escorted down the steps to the anonymous steel doors of a roof elevator. The roof is surrounded with a cinderblock wall beyond which she cannot see. She feels her ears pop on the long ride down.
Down a grey corridor lit shadowlessly by overhead panels, coming at last to a dead end in an immense double door. The door slides open.
"The Directrix is waiting for you," says the guard to her right, and adds, almost as an afterthought, "Your Highness."
If the Directrix is a queen, she wears no crown but the cascade of silver hair that falls freely about her shoulders. Her throne hovers on suspensors, floating about a man's height off the ground. Her gown, like the throne and the great circular chamber at whose center she sits, is simple but splendid.
The Princess looks at the Directrix for the first time, feels all the blood drain from her face. She falls to the carpeted floor sobbing. The guards do not move. The Directrix does not move.
"I'm sorry - " the Princess begins.
"Silence, you little fool!" the Directrix says, her eyes still staring straight ahead. "What do you know about Dungard? And where is Avishai? And what have you done with the Ring?"
But Levana cannot think. She can only choke out the words, "I'm sorry ... I'm sorry ... I'm sorry, Mother ...".
TO BE CONTINUED