Sunlight streamed through stained glass inside the cathedral where Ensign Shalee Lianne knelt before the statue of Empress Jamyl.
Pulling back the hood of her cloak, she lifted her face and gazed up at the Empress, lost in thought.
A kalediscope of colors played across her delicate features. The reflected light illuminated the statue, giving the eerie sense that it was animated. Alive.
Shalee started to pray automatically, her voice a soft whisper in the empty chamber.
"The word of the Lord is pure,
It is a shield for the faithful,
Brought unto men by the Angels,
As a guilding light in the darkness."
As she prayed, her thoughts drifted to the confrontation in the Amarrian Basilica with Lieutenant Garst Tyrell.
"I don't BELIEVE in your God." she had screamed.
They had argued hotly, each struggling to make the other understand. Somewhere along the way he had broken through her resolve and forced her to confront her feelings.
"Repent Shalee..life is too short and meaningless without God. He loves you and it's time you loved him back."
"Love? He can't love me Garst. How can he love me and let me suffer all of those years? How? I am just so angry with him!"
"Of course he does! Maybe we can't see his plans. He works on scales we can barely imagine but everything he has done has made you stronger. More independent. And now is your final test. To return his love and bring things full circle...God has a plan and you are part of it."
She stared at the statue of Jamyl, musing on Garst's words. The Empress had been a beloved heir then forced to commit a ritualistic suicide. How horrible it must have been for her in those final days, knowing that she would have to die. How betrayed she must have felt. A thousand questions flickered through her mind. Did Jamyl ever doubt God in those final hours? Was she brave? Did she ever question his plan for her?
She uttered the scripture from the Apocalypse Verses as she stared at the statue, finding real meaning in them for the first time in her life.
"At the end of days when they descendWatch for the coming of the ArkFor within itSalvation is carried."
Shalee made the sign of the cross, dropping her head revently as the words from her coronation speech echoed in the back of her mind.
"I am the harbinger of hope. I am the sword of the righteous, and to all who hear my words I say this, what you give to this Empire I shall give back unto you."
In that moment she realized that the Empress represented everything that Shalee was desperate for. Hope. Strength. Change. Rebirth.
Jamyl was a living incarnate of God's plan. The Empress had suffered far more than any capsuleer and despite it all, she survived it and was stronger for it. She never faltered.
Shalee dropped her head again and started to fervently pray.
"Benevolent leader, mother of mercy and hope, forgive me. Help me to walk the path of your righteousness, to be an example as you have been to your people. Give me strength to prevail in battle in your name, the faith to uphold all that is good and holy, and give compassion and mercy to those who deserve it."
She tipped her chin up and stared at the statue.
"Great Empress, I dedicate myself to you."