The next few months happened in the blink of an eye, the solstice going off without a hitch again for the 3rd year in a row, though there was a concern of what would happen if Amethyst did not make it back by the next year's meeting. Together they were able to come up with a solution, Amethyst herself would do the prayer wherever she was but the All-Faiths guild would handle the offering. Particularly, Asher along with Father Joshua, would lead the festivities along with the help of a massive teleportation circle that will likely take most all the members of the city’s spiritual guilds to power, given Asher and Joshua both fainted during the “test” offering sent to Siofra and Soter.
The creation of the “offering circle” had occupied the twins for two whole months, it would have been done much faster if not for Overseer insisting the circle must be protected and limited to what it could send. The system had taken grievous offense to the two of them attempting to make a teleportation circle to the divine realms, they never knew the extent that Overseer protected them as they triggered nearly a dozen safety protocols in Babylon before it had managed to convince them that the circle needed to be reworked.
What they don’t know is that once the circle was in place Babylon branded it as “forbidden knowledge” and locked it from ever working outside of the solstice offering and even then, it would require an admins approval. Himari was conflicted about approving the first “test” but given the request was made on behalf of Amethyst and not Hecatolite, she reluctantly agreed. Knowing the current unrest in the divine realms, the yearly “offering” had become kind of a big event for the divine, and she did not wish to rob them of that.
Once the matter of the “offering” was squared away, putting Amethyst's mind at ease that all her work wouldn’t go to waste, they started to plan their trip into Ecrein, deciding who to take and when they would actually depart. Much to the twin’s surprise Ethan and Mira turned out to be very knowledgeable about Ecrein having grown up in Utinora, the northernmost human nation that sat between Algamar and the elven nation Felnnor, even knowing where the gnomish territory was. On the far side of Ecrein, nearly to Felnnor. Meaning the trip would take them nearly a year to just get there; assuming all went well while traveling.
Amethyst was thankful they had already completed the circle before planning the trip, and though Saffron had been devastated when Hecatolite told her she would not be coming with them she had quelled the succubus with, as amethyst would describe it, overly sweet words and promises a girl her age should not be privy to.
In truth, Saffron realized that she would likely slow the group down given she was not accustomed to traveling through the wilderness, and though she was powerful, Saffron was far from a fighter. She was at best an insurgent, she specialized in charming magic and illusions, neither of which were very effective on wild beasts despite their usefulness in information gathering. Saffron knew she would best serve her mistress by staying here and growing her following as well as helping the All-faiths guild.
After all that was settled, all that was left was to wait for their birthday and for the snow to melt, or so they thought.
A week before their birthday Amethyst received a message, a summons she couldn’t rightfully ignore.
“Message from Queen Irithyl. Dear Saintess Amethyst,”
She never calls you saintess, Hecatolite commented as the message started, this smells fishy. I say we close it and say it was lost in the mail.
“We are not ignoring a message from the queen.” Amethyst sighed, continuing the message.
“I would like to formally request your presence at my daughter Arsis’s birthday at the end of next month. Given it will be her 16th birthday. I was hoping you could give your blessing as she is crowned the rightful successor to my throne. This act would normally be performed by the leaders of the former primary religions to show their support for the next ruler, but given the current situation it has been decided that you as the saintess of the All-Faiths guild, along with your sister who is herself a Deity, are the most fit to show the guilds' continued support of our nation. I know this event conflicts greatly with your plans to travel to Ecrien in the following weeks, however, I do not ask this of you for free. If you agree to perform the blessing, I will see to it that you and your party are escorted safely over the Dagon Maw mountains by griffin, as well a sizable “donation” to your guilds and payment to your adventuring party for escorting the saint to the coronation.”
She’s trying to bribe us! Crafty…
Amethyst read the message again as she thought. “We would lose a month, but we would make up a lot of that simply by not having to wade through the forests, even if she flies us directly north from the capital, that would still put us way closer than I think we could walk in a month.”
Yea but we miss out on all the fun hunting and camping. You know, slogging though the dense forest, lying awake at night wondering if the shadows are beast… yea fuck that, lets take the griffins. Maybe one will get “wounded” tragically by a wyvern in the mountains, and we will have to mercifully put it down. If we do, I, with a heavy heart, will have to eat it so its body won't attract a dragon…
“You are not eating a griffin.” Amethyst sighed as she rubbed her nose, Hecatolite clicked her tongue as her “cleaver” ruse was so easily discovered. “I can’t really say no to the queen, and it's not a bad deal… let's do it, it will be a nice party before we leave.”
“Babylon send a message to Queen Irithyl. My queen, it would be my greatest honor to be at princess Arsis's birthday, as well as offer my unwavering support to this nation as well as its ruling family. Your offer to escort us over the mountains is greatly appreciated, though I will have to turn down your donations as this is my duty as not only the All-Faiths saint, but a citizen of the Empire of Crown. I am positive my adventuring party will be delighted to accept a request from the queen herself and are more than up to the task of escorting my sister and myself to your castle.”
You’re really good at that political speech, why did you refuse the donations?
“It’s considered polite to refuse a gift like that once, after, she will “insist” on it and I will accept. Wait no don’t… send that part. Damn it.” Amethyst sighed as the terminal vanished, thankful that though the queen used, as her sister calls it “political talk”, the guest terminal that was given to the queen had been installed in her private office, meaning if anyone was present it would only be her close advisers. “it doesn’t matter really, she probably only used Babylon to be sure her message got here before we left. She will send a “official” summons later.”
Unsurprisingly, everyone agreed readily to the queen’s offer, though Mira nearly wet herself when she realized this meant she would have to meet the queen. When the courier arrived with the official summons, Amethyst was red in the face as the Knight announced that the queen “insisted”, as he presented a bag of gold to the All-faiths guild head, as well as another bag to the “X47” guild master, which Saffron greedily stored away in their coffers commenting that it would suffice as an offering to her mistress…
Now that I think about it, what does your guild do with all the offerings you get? Amethyst asked, realizing minus the annual guild fee, she had never actually seen any of the X47 guild's money. She knew that the guild had actually become somewhat popular in the area, mainly in the port town Sandstone where a small group of… women seemed to take a particular interest in Hecatolite.
Prostitutes, you can call them prostitutes. They put a statue of me in a brothel. Hecatolite was… proud of her small following. Though she never wished to be a Deity or be worshiped for some reason, she had taken a liking to the “hard working” women who sent her prayers. As for the gold I haven’t the faintest idea, that’s what Joshua is for, though he does ask me for a lot of food sometimes… ask Saffron what she does with our money?
“Umm… Saffron, Hecatolite would like to know where the guild money goes?”
“My mistress need not worry herself over such a trivial thing.” Saffron replied with a bow, “but if she truly wishes to know, Joshua and I have taken up funding the establishment “the night’s kiss”, we provide food, shelter, and protection for all of the women working there, to showcase my mistresses power of course.” Amethyst nodded along; she had figured they had a hand in the brothel, but she did not know they had all but taken over management of it. “As well as having opened a small orphanage not far from the establishment, Joshua has assured me this will assist in showing the great kindness of our mistress. We use the guild's funding to ensure the children are well fed and properly educated.”
Amethyst was stunned to hear they also opened an orphanage, not realizing just how much money they clearly had if they were funding both a brothel and an orphanage.
Hecatolite whistled inside Amethyst's mind, the piercing sound causing her to flinch slightly. That's not a bad use of gold. Tell her good job, I approve. Protecting the young is the responsibility of the elders. And making money off sex is not a bad way to do it, though I am worried about the girls at the brothel… Tell her to be sure they are being properly cared for, you know weekends off, 401k, all that jazz.
The two of them spent the rest of the day, after sending an official response to the queen, learning the ins and outs of… the night's kiss.
Surprisingly, Saffron had taken great care setting the brothel up, there were hired guards to protect the girls who were paid handsomely as well as given a place to live in safety, even a doctor on staff though they still used Joshua for any large healing they needed done.
Afterwards they visited Hecatolite’s orphanage that was cared for just as well as the brothel, though Amethyst did have a slight concern of using the women from the brothel as caretakers they seemed to be doing a great job. She had been worried that they would be grooming the children to work given their other establishment along with the inhuman nature of Saffron but was quickly forced to apologize to the succubus when she found out they hadn’t even been forcing the children to pray if they did not wish to.
Well, that was certainly informative. Didn’t realize the mighty All-faiths saint was racist. Hecatolite teased as they made their way back to the city.
I am not racist! I was simply concerned that Saffron may not understand that children are not old enough for certain activities. Amethyst retorted.
Speaking of certain activities, I spy with our all-seeing eyes, a snack made of apple waiting for you at the gate. Hecatolite quickly receded into the void as Amethyst noticed Applejack standing at the gate of the city.
“Hey Applejack, what are you doing out here?” she asked as he fidgeted.
“Well, I heard you were seen leaving the city with your maid.” He looked around nervously for Saffron, who had stayed in Sandstone after they departed. She would make her way back by dinner time, but she had some business to attend apparently. “Is… is it just you right now?” He knew Amethyst was the one “driving”, given the use of his name. Hecatolite had, as far as he can remember, never once said it properly, leaving it as the only sign he knew of to tell the two apart.
“Don’t worry it’s just you and me right now.” Amethyst laughed as she playfully swatted him, he had been afraid of Saffron since they met, even more so once he found out she was a demon. “But that doesn’t tell me why you’re waiting at the gate?”
“Well… I just wanted to be sure you got back safely.” He said scratching his ears, “and ask if maybe you… have you eaten yet?”
“Safely, were you afraid Saffron was going to eat me or something.” Amethyst giggled before shaking her head, “as you can see, Sir Luckyfoot, I am safe and sound.” She bowed dramatically before answering his question, “as for your proposition for a date, well I do find myself quite peckish at the moment.” She held an arm out for him to take as he blushed.
“Well, if the lady finds herself in such a mood then I shall escort her on the perilous quest to find something to eat.” He replied putting on his best haughty voice as he took her arm.
They both laughed at the silly act as they made their way into the city just as the sun began to set.