Years went by, the abuse Dominius inflicted having grown steadily like a vine to wrap itself and strangle the woman. So often she felt the emotional suffocation, and even more did she feel herself falling to despair. However, it was through prayer that Julianni found salvation.
The room of prayer was the only place she knew she could withdraw to in order to hide away from the heir. Lord Degario had allowed her confinement in the chamber for small periods of time, and never seemed to question her requests. While it was certainly strange to her that he said nothing against it, she sincerely felt relieved; what would she have even said if he asked her what had been troubling her? She could never lie to him.
Nor could she lie to God.
Only He knew her troubles, and only He could forgive her. From the bottom of her heart, she begged and pleaded for redemption. While the acts committed were not of her choice, she knew for certain it didn’t matter: The Wrath of God is Immense. His Justice is Swift and Decisive. His Tolerance is Limited.
Despite how excruciatingly slow time had passed by, she never gave up hope. Faith to her was more than just a belief. To her, it was placing her full trust in Him, believing that she would one day be forgiven. When her deliverance came, she was still nonetheless shocked.
A meeting had been taking place, but this was not out of the ordinary, of course. Be it matters of diplomacy, business, or religious gatherings, the South wing of the Degario manor always had something planned for the day. Julianni waited patiently down the hall for things to wrap up so she could clear the tables.
The doors finally swung open, a man in what appeared to be formal Caldari attire stepping out. After a final bow to the Lord of the manor, he continued down the hall and spared a small dip of his head towards Julianni, which she returned.
“Mutt,” came Lord Degario’s voice, beckoning her forward. He then turned and stepped back into the meeting room; there was no need to ensure she followed.
Julianni obediently entered the room and bowed her head, standing to the side of the seating area. Much to her dismay, Dominius seemed to be within the room as well, his eyes settling on her with an indifferent, if not disappointed expression.
At first, Julianni was confused as to the change of heart. Nevertheless, she began to leave the chamber without question.
“Not you, mutt. You sit there,” Lord Degario stated, gesturing to one of the empty seats. His eyes moved to fix on his son’s, a stern expression that even the most brave of men would falter under. After passing one last glance to Julianni, Dominius exited the chamber keeping his own expression neutral.
Her heart began to sink, praying that the truth hadn’t been revealed. To go this many years without telling Lord Degario was unacceptable, and she knew it. Even if she had kept it a secret to protect the honourable Holder, it was still a secret. She swallowed hard, beginning to speak.
His hand held up abruptly to stop her, moving to take a seat at the head of the table. He took his time, leaning back in his chair and studying her quietly for a few moments.
“Book of Missions, chapter five, verse fourteen.”
“Which test reveals more of the soul, the test that a man will take to prove his faith, or the test that finds the man who believed his faith already proven? If you know this answer, then you also know which of these challenges bear the greatest penalty for failure. The gates of paradise will open for you one time only; woe to the soul who dares to knock twice,” she recited clearly, her fingers folding to rest in her lap.
To Julianni’s surprise, and perhaps worry, his voice was somewhat soft. It was as if he was considering something, or even regretting something. Her brows furrowed, but she kept silent, standing and immediately attending to pouring him a cup of tea from the set on the table.
“An arrangement has been struck between myself and that representative you saw leave this room.” he explained his elbows resting on the arms of the chair. “When you and I are finished with our meeting, you will go to the entry room and find that man. Then you will leave this place with him. Is that understood?”
She paused as she poured the tea, the confusion on her face evident. Never before had she left the manor, and the thought of it honestly frightened her.
“Your time has come, as has the time of many others before you. I have seen your devotion, and I have never once believed it to waver. Your knowledge of the Scriptures, your faith in our God, and your unquestionable loyalty to my family is proof to me that it is indeed the right moment.” He paused again, taking up the cup she had filled. “What do you think of that?”
The look on her face must have been a strange one, as he soon began to chuckle. “You’re not the first that has looked like that. Unsure. Lost. Confused.” Glancing over to her, he gave her one his incredibly rare smiles. “You are not lost. You are simply on the path God has chosen for you, and it takes you elsewhere.”
While she certainly felt unsure and lost, there were other feelings she dare not speak to him. Relief, guilt, and hope were swirling in her mind, mixing like contrasting coloured paint with the emotions he listed out. Her brows furrowed and she sat back down as she thought over just what to say. Nothing came to her mind.
“This is not the first test you have faced, and it will not be the last. What I need to know from you is that you will not lose your faith. That you will be one of the pillars that we have worked so hard to create. When people look on you, I want them to see a successful citizen devoted to God and no one else. Do you understand me?”
“I do,” she finally said, nodding her head slowly. “Lord Dega-”
“Good. Before we part ways, recite to me Book of Missions, chapter thirteen, verse twenty-one.”
“To know the true path, but yet, to never follow it: That is possibly the gravest sin,” she immediately said, her voice growing soft.
“It most certainly is. Remember that when you’re fulfilling your purpose to God.”
Without another word, he stood and moved to the door of the chamber, opening it. Turning back, it was clear he was waiting for her to leave.
It felt like a harsh goodbye, but she knew he was never known for kindness. Moving towards the door, everything felt so surreal. She had no idea what to expect, where she was truly headed, nor what her future would hold. What she did know, however, was that she trusted fully in God, and that her prayers had been answered. She should not question it.
As she passed Lord Degario, he placed his hand on her shoulder, which caused an immediate flinch from the woman. He did not seem surprised. Judging by the look on his face, it only proved to him what he had suspected. Once his hand lowered, he spoke somewhat softer. “Go in His light, Julianni. And do not forsake Him.”