Read from part one or reread part nine.

Elysia sat on the floor in front of the hearth and crossed her legs. With the first several verses of the mystery she recited, she acknowledged Hestia in her various roles as caretaker, guardian, and adviser. She implored Hestia’s guidance with the next few verses, and began again from the beginning: the verses of invocation, followed by the the call for guidance in matters of the mortal world.

Shadows formed and chased one another around the room as Elysia’s voice rose from a whispered chant to a steady drone, circled around the room playfully and melted back into the corners. Elysia kept up her chant for several minutes before she rose to her feet, withdrew a poker from the fire, and stirred the coals.

A wave of sparks rose in the air and disappeared, and Elysia felt a tickling sensation on the back of her neck, which let her know she had completed the mystery rite successfully. She leaned forward until the heat of the flame made her want to pull away for fear of singing her eyebrows, and she whispered to the coals: “Shall I take the torch and flame and leave on my own, or should I remain here and wait for the blessing of the high priest?”

In the past, she’d received a warm breeze or a reassuring crackle as a positive answer, while the rare negative response had usually been a shower of sparks or an intense flare of heat to indicate Hestia’s displeasure. Of course, her questions had always been a bit more … benign, and didn’t involve stealing from the temple.