Dominic turned away from the window and the beam of light shining from the box on the side of his head swept down and across Sera, playing a fractured image of the Fool’s reflection across her body. She realized that she had been holding her breath and began, suddenly, to breathe again.
“Do you know anything about the sword?” Dominic asked her, his voice harsh.
Sera realized that her hands were trembling. She swallowed and did her best to keep her voice steady as she said, “No. I mean, King Ahan was holding it during my trial, and pretty much everyone has seen the king holding the sword at the Festivals of Giving, but I had no idea that it was a weapon.” Sera paused to gather her thoughts, feeling like a complete idiot. Of course the sword is a weapon. She shook her head and moved a hand up to fidget with her hair, then said, “I mean, obviously the sword is a weapon, but I didn’t know that it was more dangerous than any other sword. It is, right?”
Dominic nodded gravely at her. “There are nearly half a million living minds on the Drake. If your king uses the sword, if he performs whatever ritual Connor Norton was talking about, then everyone will die.”
Sera thought about that. She had never thought about a so many people living together in one place. As a healer in the fourth ward she had been responsible for nearly a thousand people. She knew that there were many more people living in the kingdom, but she had never been told, or bothered to ask, how many there were. And the thought of so many people dying at once, without purpose, made her skin crawl. To Sera, life and death were a commingled experience which you shared with the people of the kingdom during the monthly Festival of Giving. If a crop in one of the protein farms failed, or a plague swept through the packed hovels of the sixth ward, then several hundred people might be sacrificed at a time, but such occurrences were rare. More often, one or two people would be brought to the priests from each ward.
She lowered her hand and froze, staring at the clump of hair still grasped in her fingers. What is happening to me?
“Don’t be afraid, Sera,” Kamon said.
Sera looked to her, holding up the hair mutely. How can I not be afraid? she thought. What is this?
“It’s the radiation. Your hair will grow back someday.”
Sera nodded and gingerly set the hair on the bed beside her. She focused on the view out the window and tried to imagine so many people living in one place.
“Where do they all live?” Sera asked, looking out the window to the incomprehensible swaths of light-speckled darkness. The most distant lights, the ones that Dominic and Kamon had called “stars”, never seemed to move or change, but she could see the closer lights, those arrayed around the central expanse of the ship, occasionally wink out or come on in a new location. It seemed impossible that so many people could live in one place, but the ship was larger than she had ever imagined. Even if it is not the body of god, it is still a powerful and amazing thing.