without sorrow

Red robes and red blood were pooled and spreading on the white marble floors, but no sound nor motion from the ranks of those who were brought there to watch, even from the Queen’s attendants who had beheld her death: for the space of breaths, all was still.

The merc leader gripped his plas-rifle and swore under his breath.

A stir. Ignoring the weapons bearing down at her, a tall handmaiden moved to the fore. Her voice echoed eerily. Throughout the planet, a million women and girl-children spoke in union; and in that pillared hall, half a hundred high, clear voices rang together:

“Did you believe that a god can die? Do you not know that the Queen is immortal? Undying. All-seeing. All-knowing.—Without sorrow—without mercy—and without fear.

“I am Antaia, and my people are immortal. Though a thousand tread them down, though a million cut them, though ten billion burn—though my cities fall and rivers choke—though my seas turn red and my skies black—Antaia will not die while one man lives who serves the Goddess.

“Hear me, my people. Rise up.”