Darkness loomed over the Sixteen Temple. A tribe of Thraki were circling over, their draconic forms casting shadows over the normally brightly lit stone. High winds did nothing to interrupt their flight. Lightning did nothing to dissuade them.
Below, Zoi, the eldest of the Sixteen, watched on. By her side was her brother Thanatos. Despite his powerful, brutish, overly-armoured form, it was Thanatos who was more worried about the Thraki. He had not seen so many gathered in one place. They had always been rather solitary creatures, only leaving their lairs to find mates. Whenever Thraki gathered in numbers larger than four, everyone would know something was wrong. Today, with what looked like about fifty flying around, there had to be something incredibly bad happening for them all to be here.
“Zoi, Thanatos, my Lords?”
A voice spoke up from behind them. It was Zoi’s assistant, Azoa. Unlike Zoi who was standing around naked, she was wearing standard Thanatian attire – simple fabrics wrapped around her chest and crotch.
“What is it?”
“Kindyna and Dilitir have arrived.”
Zoi tutted and stormed off back towards the temple. Thanatos nodded a thank you and followed.
The rest of the Sixteen had gathered on the top floor of the temple, a place sealed off and protected by heavily armed Thanatians. In the centre of the main room was a large, shimmering chandelier. Everything else was decorated in gems, gold and crystals, glued onto the walls and furniture and depicting historic scenes of victory. Each of the Sixteen were dressed in beautiful clothing, matching the elements they represented. They all also wore a single silver medallion around their necks, tied on with simple string, the symbol of the Sixteen carved into them. A stark contrast to their extravagant looks.
“I see you failed to convince the Raptor to join us!” Zoi growled as she dismissed the guards, slamming the door behind her. The door quickly reopened though, as Thanatos walked though, rubbing his snout. “You’re supposed to be the Mistress of Seduction, the Queen of Mind Control, yet I see no Raptor here!”
Kindyna simply rolled her eyes. “You don’t simply mind control the Raptor. Perhaps you’ve forgotten the injuries sustained from the last time we attempted that. Why are there fifty Thraki circling the temple? What have you done?”
“I have done nothing!” Zoi screeched, catching everyone else off guard. “I do not know why they are here!”
“Perhaps a natural disaster is on its way?” Photianos, adorned in glowing gold and white gems, suggested.
“Or maybe they are angry at us for removing the King and Queen?” Magnetin had always been loyal to the Sixteen’s heritage, and she hadn’t been happy since they’d taken over.
“The Thraki were never that loyal to anyone,” Neraida countered as she swirled around, her translucent clothes flowing like water. “No, they must be here for a solemn reason. But none of them have come down to speak to us.”
“We haven’t exactly done well to listen to them in the past,” Anemos interjected. “While I do my best to cater for them in my own territories, we do often leave them by the wayside.”
“Even so,” Pagia butted in, not letting her wind-swept brother finish. “The only reasons they have done this in the past is because of incoming disasters. They have been right in the past. Always correct. That MUST be what it is.”
In the corner of the room, Photios listened to his siblings squabble. He had been sitting quietly in his chair, mulling over each of the Sixteen’s ideas and questions. Photios was once the leader of the Sixteen, but illnesses and poor health over the last decade or so had meant he’d allowed a more democratic way of doing business. Unfortunately, they had all played neatly into Zoi’s claws, and now she was considered in charge.
“Why do we not simply ask them?”
The rest of the Sixteen turned to face Photios. Some of them felt bad for ignoring him.
“That’s a good idea,” Kindyna smiled as she walked over to the glass door that lead out onto the balcony. Photios slowly got out of his seat and followed Kindyna, prompting the others to do the same.
The largest of the Thraki, a dark wyvern with far more spikes and spines coming out of its head and back than it needed, spotted the Thanatians and awkwardly landed on the balcony ledge, its winged arms reaching forward and leaning on the temple walls.
“What is your name?” Photios asked.
Behind him, Zoi hissed something about not getting to the point, but he ignored her.
“I am Virliyaan.” The Thraki’s voice was deep and harsh.
“It is nice to meet you, Virliyaan. Why are you here today?”
Virliyaan looked up at the other Thraki, then down at the Sixteen. His eyes scanned each Thanatian, silently judging them. With a long, rumbling sigh, he answered.
“Us Thraki feel oppressed by your new… direction…”
“How so?” Photios didn’t get angry or anything. His voice remained calm.
“Normal Thanatians have been taking our lands, extending their territories into our feeding grounds. Those have always been standard problems. But now your kind are pushing religious beliefs and corrupting our magia rituals. These rituals are important to both our tradition and our protection, and interrupting them upsets us.”
Photios gently placed a claw on Virliyaan’s snout. “I understand. We shall work out how to rectify this issue together. Do you know the names of the tribes that bother you? Perhaps we could speak to them.”
The Thraki shook its head. “No, no, you do not understand. The Thraki I have gathered here are from across the planet. We are facing discrimination from all angles. We would like our own private territories, rather than share space with intruders.”
Photios fell silent. “We… we will have to consider some better solutions then… Some more… all-encompassing solutions.”
Suddenly, Zoi burst forward, interrupting both Thanatian and Thraki. “Are you really telling me that you all came here to essentially complain about noisy neighbours?”
“Actually, I came here to warn you all of a coming heatwave, followed by tremendous storms. But while myself and my fellow Thraki were heading this way, I wished to speak to you. It seems you do not care.”
Virliyaan straightened himself out and flapped his massive wings, leaping into the air. The other Thraki who had been listening started to fly off in various directions, away from the Sixteen Temple.
“Perhaps it is a waste of our time to offer further services to the Thanatians…” the Thraki growled as he flew away.
The Sixteen fell silent, all staring at Zoi. Most of them weren’t really sure what had just happened.
Finally, Photios limped towards to Zoi. “It seems you wish to fix your problems without me. Perhaps I have done something wrong. But you do not seem to value my presence any more. Perhaps now is the time…” He ripped his silver medallion from his neck and forced it into Zoi’s hands. With a sigh, Photios calmly walked away, a weight lifted from his shoulders.
“You are the Fifteen now. Use your power wisely.”