The Crone went before me, leading the way, until the guard blocked her.
“Only the girl may enter,” the man said. The High Priest came over and stood behind his guard.
“My daughters have the right to my protection when they are in the presence of The High Priest,” The Crone replied.
“Are you suggesting this girl needs protection from me?” The High Priest barked.
“According to the laws, she cannot be questioned without my presence. This rule is found in the fourteenth chapter of our Sisterhood Covenants,” The Crone said.
“Are you suggesting that I do not know the laws?”
“I would never make such a suggestion,” The Crone said as she entered the room.
I took a deep breath and followed her.
The High Priest seated himself in an ornate chair that sat upon a dais, and I was ordered to stand before him. I was grateful The Crone was at my side.
“What do you know of The She-Beast?” The High Priest asked.
I touched my forehead, and The Crone said, “You are to speak freely answering every question of The High Priest.”
“I was never taught of the existence of a She-Beast,” I replied.
“And you never heard this legend growing up?”
“No, Sir—I am from Blinth.”
The priest frowned and glanced toward The Crone; she nodded.
“I am told you have a way with animals. Is that true?” the priest questioned.
“I have always loved animals, but I have not spent time around them since I joined the sisterhood,” I replied.
“Some of your sisters say you converse with wild animals.”
“Even if that were true, those sisters must be lying, for they would not be present for such a conversation,” I replied tersely.
“So you do converse with wild animals when no one is watching?”
“No, Sir, I do not. When I see animals in the wild, I am grateful for their presence. I have spoken of the animals I have seen amongst the sisters, but I have never pretended to have conversation with them.”
“So you are accusing your sisters of lying about you?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Why would they lie about you?”
“Why does anyone lie?” I shot back.
“I will ask the questions here!” The High Priest thundered.
“I do not know why my sisters would lie about me. I am foreign and unaccustomed to the ways of The Beast; perhaps they gossip because I am an oddity.”
“Do they gossip because you are The She-Beast?”
“I do not know why they gossip, but I am not The She-Beast.”
“You will be tested to prove you are speaking the truth.”
“Which of the tests do you propose?” The Crone asked.
“She will be placed in a cage with a wildcat. If she tames the creature, she will prove herself The She-Beast.”