In the Kingdom of Rezzia, inside the highest chamber of the grand minaret, ten-year-old Lucia looked out to see her father, King Vieri, on the balcony. He lifted her newborn brother high above his head, and the masses, hundreds of feet below, roared with devotion.
Father, what are you doing! she thought. Be more careful with our savior.
Lucia glanced down at her mother resting in the birthing pool. The queen’s black hair clung to her neck, all of it soaked by the holy waters.
“You did it, Mother!”
Kindness brightened her mother’s face. “Thank the gods, dear. You have a brother now. A very special brother. Go, join your father and wave to the crowd.”
“You stay here and rest. I’ll wave to them on your behalf.”
Her mother laughed. “Thank you, Lucia. That sounds perfect.”
Lucia crept toward the archway leading to the balcony, which wrapped around the circular chamber. She squinted, fighting the midday sun. Tears soaked her father’s cheeks as he presented the pink baby to the faithful. Nature had tattooed thorny red and black vines on little Caio’s hands and forearms: the holy markings of the Haizzem.