Darkness and a feeling of eternity, then warmth and pressure and then light. My emotions are overwhelming and I don’t try to stop them, crying as a woman pulls me away. Unlike last time, the worried voices do not stop and people are rushing around in confusion. My first surprise didn’t make much of a dent in my emotions, it was hard to care about the screen in front of me.
[Congratulations, you are now a Level 1 [Imperial Princess]!]
[You have learned the Skill (Imperial Decree)!]
Even if I had cared all that much, I wasn’t given much time to do so, as I was hastily put into my new Mother’s arms. She… Didn’t look well. Her face was pale and her arms were shaking and I suddenly had a terrible feeling.
She was trying to smile at me, and I was sane enough to try and hug her - to try and comfort her - because I had an idea of what was going to happen. She held me and I held onto her even as I thought, “I am sorry, I should have never been born…”
“He- Hemetre…” She says, stroking my head with a shaking hand and then she seems to slowly fall asleep. I am not so naive as to believe that though, my Mother is dead. All I could do was cry.
I think my grief was worse this time around, although it is hard to compare them, but there is something exceptionally painful in knowing that my second life had been worse than my first. With Mother already dead giving birth to me, my third life was shaping up to be worse still. My worries, long forgotten, that this was some kind of hellish afterlife had returned and I was terrified that this would be an endless loop of suffering where I could do nothing to end it.
My new life was strange as well. I had a wet nurse and there were servants who took care of me and worked to teach me to walk and talk, but I don’t think I ever saw Father for the first few years of my life. My rooms - which I was too small to leave very much yet - were richly decorated and obviously part of a palace, but I wouldn’t describe them as comfortable. Everything was made of stone which had been painstakingly carved with decorations and painted, but all there were for rugs or bedding was thin linen. So everything was beautiful, but hard.
It didn’t help that nobody gave me any clothes! I had jewelry - golden necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and armlets - adorned with rubies and sapphires, but not a single thread to my name. The very first question I asked in this new language was why they had clothes but I did not, and I was told I was too young and had to wait until I was six!
Not that I was all that different than anyone around me, because no one wore all that much. Not because they were perverts or anything, but because it was unacceptably hot basically all the time. I learned I was in the Ra’Sharon Empire, which translated roughly to “Streams through the Sun’s Land.” It was a civilization in much the same kind of place as Egypt, stretching along a great river that wound throughout an otherwise inhospitable desert.
Men wore little more than a linen skirt most of the time and women a linen dress and no one wore shoes. You could tell the class, but not the Class, of the people around you by their jewelry and the color of their clothes, with bleached white being reserved for some of the higher classes. In the distance, I had seen [Slaves] working, and they had worn nothing at all!
Those thoughts distracted me from my misery, but I always came back around to it. I had [Servants] and [Tutors] and [Guards] but at the end of the day, I was alone. I had half brothers and sisters, and more than a few because our Father had a harem, but I had little in common with the younger ones and the older ones viewed me as competition. So I was alone, surrounded by people. At least it gave me time to think.
Most of that thinking was just self pity, but I started to get a handle on myself after four years of self-loathing and depression. I was five years old when the realisation hit me like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky.
Of course, it was my fault that my previous life had been so painful, how much effort did I really put into it? I didn’t leave my home for ten years and after that I had done nothing but drift through the years as a [Maid]. Oh, I certainly had purpose, but it was nothing that couldn’t have been provided by anyone else.
I had occasionally had conversations with Cat where I brought up ideas from my world and time, but did I ever bother to put pen to paper and try to spread concepts that could benefit people? No, I didn’t. Did I ever try to invest, or get Cat to invest, in research towards technology I knew could exist? No, I didn’t. Did I ever even try to improve the health and safety of my family by teaching hygiene practices I had learned from a more scientific world?
No, I didn’t.
I could have shifted that world’s course and improved it for the better, and I simply didn’t. I should have remembered the dangers associated with medieval history, because when you take out the Classes and the Skills, the death of my family and myself was utterly predictable. Even if I couldn’t know the exact cause, I should have known about all the dangers lurking in the shadows.
If I wanted my misery to change, I had to change and I had to do it soon.
“Princess Hemere,” a [Servant] called out from behind me as I strode forth. “Please, wait!”
“For what? My mind is set on this,” I didn’t stop walking, but they still caught up easily because my six year old legs weren’t that long. “I see no reason I shouldn’t gain the [Scribe] Class.”
“It is beneath your station!” The [Servant] tries to explain, but he cannot stop me. If he were to lay hands on me, he would lose them soon after. It is a punishment I personally find atrocious, but that is the least terrible option I could choose - my siblings would likely have him executed instead. More mercy than that was not an option because it was Father’s decree, and in Ra’Sharon his words were inviolate.
“You can already read and write Princess,” he protests. “What need have you for a lesser Class?”
“I have no interest in competing with my siblings for the throne,” I reply, exiting the cool shade of the palace complex and stepping out into the harsh sunlight that bathes the city Shar. “Undoubtedly, one of my brothers will claim it and any rivals still alive will be purged at that time.”
The [Servant] sputters as I say that. It certainly is true, but it isn’t the kind of thing you are supposed to say out loud. Palace intrigue hides behind euphemism, with the losers “retiring to an oasis” or “sadly returning to the Gods of natural causes.” Well, the last one is certainly true, as a dagger through the heart naturally ends one’s life.
The Scriptorium is just across the plaza from the palace. It was a busy place, as the main temple complexes were also here as well. While the public couldn’t enter the palace, they could enter the plaza and visit the temples, and the area was crowded. And yet, I had no fear of being trampled or of being kidnapped.
Where I walked, the crowd split for me. Men and women bowed or kneeled or prostrated themselves as I passed, because they believed I was descended from the Gods and that the blood of the divine flowed in my veins. It was a bitter amusement that I was more in danger from my own family than I from even the most criminal element of the lower classes.
The commotion I caused was noticed, and there was a [Head Scribe] at the entrance to the Scriptorium awaiting me. His many bracelets were stained with ink and so was the linen skirt he wore, a sign that I had interrupted him at work, but that was always going to happen. The business of an empire never ceased.
“Princess Hemere,” he said as he knelt down, as much to be eye level with me as to show respect to my station. “I greet you and ask that Emre and Thijo bless you this day.”
“In Emre’s name and by His blood I bless you,” I reply, offering him respect in turn with a response that gave him honor by calling my line’s Patron - the king of the Gods and God of the sun, Emre - attention to him. “May his light ever illuminate the shadows and his wrath never strike you down, [Head Scribe] Djept. Rise, please, and let us discuss in the shade.”
The Scriptorium is less decorated than the palace, but it is no less intricately carved. The difference between the two is that the palace is decorated with art for the pleasure of the viewer, and the walls of the Scriptorium are covered in writing. Stories, myths, legends, and history fill the halls here, although it can be difficult to tell which is which when it comes down to it. After all, this is a world where [Priests] can actually call on the Gods and be answered and where monsters prowl the desert and prey upon unwary travelers and unprepared towns alike.
We were seated in a garden courtyard, meticulously maintained by [Gardeners] so that it was lush and green even in the brutal heat of the summer. [Servants] brought chilled drinks in cups of gold and ivory; wine, well watered in my case. [Scribes] were part of the upper class of society, equal to [Warriors] and below only the [Priests] and the Royal Family.
I was grateful for the drink. The heat of this land was unlike anything I had known in either of my other lives. Even the cool, white linen dress I wore seemed oppressive during the day, although I blamed not being allowed to have clothes for years for that feeling. I was quite thankful that my skin was not pale like before, but an olive-bronze that resisted burning much better than my previous bodies. I was less thankful for my black hair, despite how excellent the straight black hair looked with gold bands and rubies woven into it, it was hot as hell in the sun. Why did men get to shave their heads? Lucky bastards.
“I won’t take up much of your valuable time Djet,” there isn’t a table between us, so I hand off the drink to a [Servant] to hold for me as I speak. “I wish to gain the [Scribe] Class, and as soon as possible. You will help me in this.”
Watching Djet bow and acquiesce to my request, I thought that I could understand why nobility lasted so long. A girl could get used to this kind of power.
This world wasn’t like the one before it. Now there is an obvious statement. Next I might start thinking that the ocean was different from land, or some other outlandish insanity! The differences in the system were major though, and it changed things greatly.
In the previous world, it was only possible to have one Class at a time and you had to be Awakened to it at age ten. In this world you could have multiple Classes at the same time and not only could they evolve like they could in my previous world, they could also consolidate. A [Warrior], for example, might evolve into a [Spearman] and that [Spearman] might evolve into an [Elite Spearman] or a [Veteran Spearman] or something else. However, if that [Spearman] was also a [Dancer], his two Classes might combine into a [Spear Dancer].
Still, few people had the time or resources to gain and level multiple Classes. They had work to do, after all. The [Priests] were the only group that reliably could get consolidated Classes and it was still less than a third of them. The Royal Family was, of course, too busy leveling their main Class to worry about consolidation much. After all, how could combining an Imperial Class with a lesser one improve it?
I found this shortsighted and foolish and as a six year old [Imperial Princess], I had both time and resources on my side.
“Princess! Singing is for [Servants]! You need not lower yourself to entertain your lessors by becoming a [Singer]!”
“[Dancer]? But such a thing is not even a religious dance honoring the Gods! Princess Hemere, please listen to reason and reconsider!”
“Princess, forgive me, but you aren’t even tall enough to use that harp yet! Even if it was proper, you literally can’t become a [Musician] right now! What do you mean, ‘order a stool from the carpenters!?’”
Four years later, I met my Father for the first time. I had seen him before now, at official functions and religious ceremonies, but I had never met him personally until he summoned me. At ten years old, I met what I suppose I would call the Pharaoh of Ra’Sharon, entering the throne room and kneeling down before him.
Even as an [Imperial Princess], I was not allowed to meet Father’s eyes. Instead, I kept my gaze on the floor as the silence stretched on. For a few minutes, you could hear a pin drop in the throne room and anxiety started to grow in my chest. Then, the Pharaoh sighed.
“My daughter,” his voice was powerful; the air shook when he spoke. His level was high, and his Class was very powerful. “I have to confess that I do not understand you. My other children, I know their desires despite how they think to hide them from me. My empire is well served by letting my progeny compete so that the best may rise to take my place when Emre calls me to the afterlife.”
I kept silent. He had not invited me to speak, nor to stand, so I simply kept my gaze to the floor and my mouth shut. I was honestly afraid of Father, because he was less of a father to me and more of a Pharaoh. Calling him Pharaoh He’Umpet felt more right than calling him dad.
“You, on the other hand,” he spoke again, the power of his voice causing me to shake where I knelt in front of him. “You started moving, and with purpose, so young. You act like you have a vision of where you will end up, and yet your choices seem random or at least unsuited to rule. Why have you chosen the Classes you have?”
I swallowed, my throat dry and did my best not to stumble over my reply.
“Great Father, I have no desire to rule,” I answer, hoping that the [Servants] listening in for my more ambitious siblings will relay it back to them. “And yet, I know my duty as one of the Blood of Emre, my duty to your empire. I seek to enlighten your subjects as Emre lights up the sands, and the Classes I have taken are in service to this.”
“You are so arrogant as to believe that at a mere ten years of age, that you can enlighten anyone? The wisdom of Ra’Sharon is ancient child, what do you think you can bring to it?”
“My soul sometimes feels older than my body, Great Father.” I hope he doesn’t have me executed, not as I am getting so close to starting. “Please, watch me, and I hope you will be impressed.”
“We shall see.”
The paper of Ra’Sharon was crude. Most writing took place on a papyrus like reed or on tablets of clay. Paper was not nearly so common as either of those, although that was partially because it had not been invented all that long ago. I had been eight years old when I had surreptitiously sold a piece of my jewelry and funded research into paper.
I didn’t know enough to make it easy on them, but I also didn’t exactly mind if it took a lot of time. I had tons of jewelry of different kinds, possibly literally, and even a single piece of it was worth more than the average worker's entire family. That single bracelet I sold at eight would fund work for decades.
It was three years later that I was able to present paper to the Scriptorium, and that moment was worth the wait. Already, I had done more to improve the people around me than I had in my previous past two lives combined. Admittedly, it would be a long time before paper found its way to the common man, but I knew with certainty that it would and that I had accelerated that process.
I had kept up my studies of the arts over the years as well, and I had my first Class consolidation at only twelve years old, giving evidence to a theory I had been working on about how Class consolidation worked.
My [Singer], [Dancer], and [Musician] Classes combined into the [Muse] Class. My theory on how Class consolidation functioned became my first “paper,” although I actually wrote that one on clay tablets to preserve it. Unfortunately, Father was less than pleased at my insistence that it be shared with the whole empire, lower classes included.
My theory was, essentially, that Class consolidation was the result of intentional overlap. It wasn't just that two or more Classes could overlap, but that you wanted them to and used them in conjunction. It sounds obvious, I know, but if I could test it I might have been able to prove that any two Classes could consolidate.
But Father had my notes taken and restricted to everyone but [Priests] and the Royal Family. He also took my work on researching Skill combinations, forbidding me from sharing them as I wanted to. I asked him, begged really, for him to share them with our soldiers, but was refused in that as well, despite the growing danger of monsters wandering in from the desert.
It wasn't completely pointless though, as my [Scribe] Class advanced to [Scholar] by the time I was thirteen. Advancing one Class and consolidating three others would have made me threatening to my siblings, but my choice of Classes - and the fact that I hadn't advanced or consolidated my [Imperial Princess] Class helped to ameliorate that. Which was just fine with me, as I wanted nothing to do with their bloody intrigue or fighting in general.
In fact, I spent much of my time arguing for peace. To the south and west was nothing but desert, and the east was nothing but sand until the coast, but the northeast, along the northern coast, there was a stretch of land between the two bodies of water that connected us to another continent. There, the Ra'Sharon Empire bordered the Hin'Tye Empire and the conflict was unceasing, if usually restricted to small skirmishes.
Neither side could really win, after all. The Hin’Tye had qualitatively superior [Soldiers] and [Warriors], but our Empire had the desert on our side. So neither side was able to push into the other’s territory. And of course, I knew it wouldn’t matter if we did. An ancient civilization, still using bronze of all things, would not be able to maintain the level of communication needed to manage an empire much larger than we were right now. We would expand, and then contract or collapse. It would be far better to maintain our size and improve ourselves in defense and social stability.
Still, when I learned why the Hin’Tye had such superior [Soldiers], there were more than just practical or moral concerns that drove my efforts. There was fear as well, because east of the Hin’Tye, between them and another empire whose name I did not know, were the Chasms of Hell. A name that I would have dismissed as hyperbole in my original world took on a new meaning here in a world with monsters.
The Chasms of Hell spawned monsters, or at least the monsters crawled up from them. They were a series of canyons, miles long and whose depths were shrouded in mist, from which monsters of all kinds would climb out of and terrorize the countryside of the Hin’Tye. The Hin’Tye Empire, of course, garrisoned the areas, but monsters still slipped through.
It had been a long time since we had tamed the Ra’Sharon Empire’s land. The desert was our shield, and while monsters did wander in from it, it was very few. So I pushed for peace, because I realised that if the Hin’Tye Empire collapsed, there would be a disaster in the east as the monsters spread unchecked.
I did not realise where my efforts would lead me when I turned sixteen.
Name: Hat’he-Emra Hemere Age: 16
Class List: [Imperial Princess] (lvl 9) [Muse] (lvl 14) [Scholar] (lvl 11)
Abilities (Incarnator Tab, hidden)
[First Words] (Incarnator Skill, hidden) [Better First Impression] (Incarnator Skill, hidden)
[Imperial Decree] [Eyes of the Empire] [Loud and Clear] [Perfect Pitch] [Inspiring Voice]
[Improved Footwork] [Find the Rhythm] [Dancer’s Grace] [Always in Tune]
[Instrument of Bliss] [Art is an Experience] [Muse’s Inspiration] [Magic Stylus]
[Better Paper] [Everything is a Record] [Scholar’s Eye]
[Imperial Decree]: Your voice carries the command of your station. Any commands you give or demands you make are harder for the target to refuse. This Skill is heavily affected by your Charisma Stat.
[Eyes of the Empire]: You can immediately see and recognize those who attempt to harm you or your empire. This Skill is heavily affected by your Perception and Acuity Stats.
[Loud and Clear]: You can project your voice over a great distance and be heard clearly even in loud environments.
[Perfect Pitch]: You have a supernatural ear for pitch and instinctively sing in tune.
[Inspiring Voice]: Your voice - especially when singing - inspires emotions in your audience depending on what you desire to to inspire. This Skill is affected by your Magic Stat and heavily affected by your Charisma Stat.
[Improved Footwork]: You have improved balance and instinctively know where to place your feet while moving, fighting, and dancing. This Skill is affected by your Agility, Dexterity, Perception, and Acuity Stats.
[Find the Rhythm]: You can instinctively sync your movements to the rhythm of music or combat, even predicting sudden shifts in tempo. This Skill is heavily affected by your Perception, Agility, Dexterity, and Acuity Stats.
[Dancer’s Grace]: When dancing, your Agility, Dexterity, and Charisma stats are massively increased.
[Always in Tune]: Any instrument you use will automatically be tuned correctly.
[Instrument of Bliss]: Any instrument you play has a smoother tone and is easier to listen to for your audience.
[Art is an Experience]: When combining artistic styles (singing, dancing, instrumentation, etc) it is easier to use them together and the relevant Skills have improved efficacy. This Skill is affected by all of your Stats, and heavily affected by your Agility and Acuity.
[Muse’s Inspiration]: You can charge your art with emotion and your art will share that emotion with the audience when experienced. Those who view your art are more likely to have a feeling of awe and other artists may become inspired by your work, boosting their Acuity and Dexterity temporarily. The stronger the emotion used to charge this, the greater the effect. This Skill is heavily affected by your Charisma, Willpower, and Magic Stats.
[Magic Stylus]: You can summon a stylus to write with. You can also create ink to use when writing on certain materials.
[Better Paper]: Paper you write on becomes stronger and more difficult to damage. This Skill is heavily affected by your Magic Stat.
[Everything is a Record]: Every day you can store your memories of the last twenty four hours perfectly by meditating. Stored memories can be recalled after a short amount of meditation. This Skill is heavily affected by your Acuity and Willpower Stats.
[Scholar’s Eye]: You are able to examine any object you can see and obtain information about it. The amount of information you can obtain is dependent on your personal knowledge as well as your Class quality and level. This Skill is heavily affected by your Perception, Acuity, Magic, and Luck Stats.
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