The early morning sun rose, its rays peeking through the large windows to lightly grace the golden decadence of the Degario manor. The shimmering of the beautiful metal lined within the marble walkways and pillars was certainly a sight to behold for those not used to such a lifestyle. However, there was hardly ever a chance to truly appreciate the hard work put behind the manor’s construction, and there were few who even wanted. This morning- this unimportant and quite normal beginning of the day, was quite different.
Though the sun had only just awoke from its temporary slumber, the rest of the manor was already awake and moving; morning prayers had been recited and preparations for breakfast were almost complete. The elaborately designed halls were still, the only sound dancing across in an echo through the area being a soft, yet quick patter of light steps. It continued for a time until a young girl emerged from around the corner, face set with purpose.
The age of ten is an innocent one, and in places like the Federation, children may be expected to simply discover themselves and their place in the world. A true childhood, full of imagination, open-minded knowledge, and freedom. Such a normal life paves way to creativity and individuality, after all. There were no chains holding them in place, and there were no strings controlling where they would be placed, how they acted, and who they became.
Unfortunately, (or perhaps seen as a blessing), the Degario noble family was not in the Federation. Long had this family had a Holder, the title passed down as per tradition from generation to generation within the Amarr Empire. Considered honourable and deserving of high respect, the Degarios were traditional in their teachings and held true to the calling of the Reclaiming and the Scripture.
At the age of ten, this child was deeply indoctrinated with the Scriptures. She did not dream of flying into the stars. Her mind did not dip into the beauty of self-discovery. Instead, her thoughts from day to day revolved around her duty to the family, behaving well, and above all else, God.
She embraced it, for she knew no better.
Within the grasp of her small, delicate hands, was a set of bed sheets to be changed. It was a routine she knew well, to have clean bed sheets placed each morning, and the morning duty she had been designated at the time. Tied up in a small bun, her brown hair bobbed with each quickened step she took. Similarly brown eyes kept a gaze forward along her path, yet low enough not to be offensive to the family. Once reaching the main wing of the manor, she gave pause at noticing none other than Lord Degario himself standing before one of the tall pillars. His hands were clasped behind his back, his chin raised in a regal, powerful stance.
She had seen him before, of course, but no matter how many times she had been in his presence, she always felt herself become incredibly intimidated. This was a man that demanded respect, and he was a man who could destroy you if you but said the wrong word. She had heard the stories.
The realization that she had not immediately knelt to him crossed over her, and her eyes widened with fear. As quickly as she could, she dropped to her knees with her head low, awaiting his word as to if she was allowed to continue her duties or not. It felt like an eternity before he spoke, and when he did, she could not help but jump.
“You are the mutt, are you not?”
His voice rang deeply, filled with power and confidence. The echo within the main chamber only intensified the effect, and the child held tight to the sheets, lowering her head further out of both fear and respect. She said nothing at first, confused as to what he meant, and shocked he had even posed a question to her. It was the first time he’d acknowledged her, himself. She could feel his eyes just barely glance over to her as he spoke again.
“I asked you a question, girl. Are you the mixed blood, or aren’t you? Speak.”
The question he asked finally registered, and she answered softly, her head still bowed.
Just as she could sense his eyes, she could sense his frown. It was even more apparent with his reply.
“Yes, my Lord,” he corrected sternly.
“Y-yes, my Lord.”
There was a slow nod, and then silence. Again, it was as if an age had passed, when he posed another question.
“What name do you go by?”
This time, she was more quick to reply, and even correctly.
“Julianni, my Lord.”
“Julianni. What a strange name,” he mused mostly to himself. “Look up at me.”
It was a strange demand, but she of course complied and did so, looking up just enough for her eyes to rest at where his chin was, as she had been taught. A small smirk grew, the Holder apparently pleased that she at least remembered that much.
“Book of Missions, chapter seventy-one, verse twenty-one.”
Immediately, Julianni quoted what he had demanded, knowing the verse full well and having taken in her teachings solidly.
“Surround yourself with the faithful, Stand together, for there is no strength like it under the heavens.”
Another smirk, but it soon formed into a more relaxed smile as his attention turned to the pillar before him. “Do you see this pillar? Were it not for this pillar, the ceiling of this manor would come crashing down, crushing all who stood by and did not fix it, but let it fall.”
Julianni listened quietly, looking to the pillar. The marble was swirled with flecks of gold, and the more the sun rose, the more it sparkled and shined. Even at the age of ten, Julianni could appreciate the beauty it held.
“What would I need if I built a bigger room, mutt? Speak.”
The nickname didn’t bother her, and even if it did, she wouldn’t dare show a reaction. She thought over his question, letting her eyes drift across the massive room as if to picture such a thing. It didn’t take long for her to answer him, as it was a rather simple conclusion.
“You would need more pillars, my Lord.”
“Precisely. And do you know what kind of work goes into these pillars?” he asked rhetorically, moving his hand from behind him to slowly brush it against the stonework. “More than you can imagine right now, child. Each one is built by hand, carved carefully and with devotion. God demands perfection, and that is why I demand it done without technology. When these pillars are built by hand, there is a certain…appreciation for the work accomplished. Wouldn’t you agree, mutt?”
Julianni thought on his words, slowly nodding. She was a smart girl, and she knew what he was getting at. Nevertheless, she was still confused as to why he was speaking directly to her about it, rather than having it repeated during a sermon. As if he could read, or perhaps even sense her confusion, Lord Degario chuckled lightly. The sound in itself was terrifying, yet strangely comforting. Either he was displeased with her answer and was ready to punish her, or he had some sort of sense of humor she would have never expected.
“Of course you do.” He turned from the pillar, then stepped towards her, his eyes gazing down at her. As she had been taught, her head bowed and her eyes kept to his feet. With his chin raised, he placed his hands back behind him while studying her.
“Book One, chapter one, verse four.”
“In the beginning all things were as one. God parted them and breathed life into his creation, divided the parts and gave each its place, and unto each, bestowed purpose,” she recited softly.
“Good. Your purpose is to become one of these pillars. If God deems you worthy, you will succeed and help hold high the unbroken ceiling of our Faith. If not…well…” He trailed off in an ominous, yet understandable threat; the fate of heretics was a well known one. Her head nodded in understanding.
His own head nodded and he stepped away, heading towards the dining area. “Now get back to your duties, mutt.”
The moment he ordered it, she quickly stood and set off to continue her day. As she worked, she thought over his words. While she had been fearful, there was a deep respect she had gained for Lord Degario. It was true that he was stern, and when a slave stepped out of line, he was quick to reprimand. However, his sincere devotion to the calling of Reclaiming was true, and any man that lived only for God was a man that deserved nothing less than reverence.