Veillen moved through the marble and alabaster halls of the palace as softly as any spirit: as though it was she who had died, she thought resentfully, instead of her father. But the One-Eyed Emperor's body had been placed within its tomb with all the proper rituals a full moon ago, and his daughter, in turn, was trapped in the palace.
My lady empress, the courtiers and servants murmured when she passed them in the hallways, and they would make obeisance, but their eyes were full of bright hard smiles, and the echoes of their laughter would come to her once she turned the corner. They would give her an appellation soon, either the Ghost Empress or the Silent Empress. Veillen possessed the dry, utter certainty that more than her father's memory remained, and it was his presence that still ruled here, as heavy as his jeweled crown.
Veillen never wore it, and she rarely attended court in any case. It was always crowded with petitioners, those who rode or walked or crawled to court to have their grievances addressed. Their raw needs and greed could never be dealt with reasonably, and it took guardsmen to make them leave as they had come, unsatisfied. He had had only one eye, her father, and they said that all it saw was justice. How could she compare?
Then there were the lords and ladies, dressed in their fine damasks and samite, who dueled with sly oiled barbs as well as with swords. They offered their witticisms to her, like velvet-sheathed blades. The velvet, they collected again, blood-spotted. She preferred the way they had ignored her when she was only the over-tall girl who drifted in to lean silently in the corner, then left again to no one's notice. The title of heir had meant little then; no one had expected the One-Eyed Emperor to ever die, and she had just been the unpretty daughter of a celebrated beauty — the only woman to hold his interest through and past pregnancy, and so the only one to bear an acknowledged child.