“Exactly what were you doing in my chambers, Deirdre?”, demands Scarlet, standing over the younger woman, hands on her hips.
“I…”, begins the acolyte.
“You’re supposed to be in the Holy City caring for the Shrine and fasting for your Rite of Purity. Not in Firenze, sneaking through the castle in the middle of the night.”
“Explain yourself, Deirdre!”
Ildrim places a hand on the priestess’ shoulder, his voice gentle but firm. “Perhaps you should allow her a chance to answer one question before posing another, Your Grace. May I suggest you have a seat and rest. You have had a difficult evening.”
Scarlet glares at the dark-haired woman, but takes the wizard’s advice, nearly throwing herself into a nearby chair. The acolyte gives the man a grateful half-smile, appearing very upset and shaken herself.
Faisal nods to the elf. “Thank you, Magister. Talib, please tell us how you came to be here.”
Deirdre nods and takes a moment to find her voice. “I was fasting in preparation for the tazkiah, tending to the shrine as I was tasked. This morning after I had completed the fajr-salat, I had the idea that I should speak with the Council, to petition for more housing and perhaps a gathering place such as a tavern for the people of the Holy City. Something told me that I should do this right away, to leave for Firenze this morning.”
Ildrim ignores Scarlet’s disbelieving snort and interjects, “What exactly was this ‘something’ that made you leave so quickly?”
“I… don’t know, Magister. I just felt… restless, I suppose that’s the best word… as if I would be unable to sit still unless I left.”
Faisal nods to the wizard. “The passef wafers often cause unusual sensations and impulses. They have even been known to cause hallucinations in a few supplicants.”
The elf rubs his chin thoughtfully. “Yes, I see. That explains why you are in the city, but how did you come to be at the Duchess’ door?”
“Although I arrived late in Firenze, I had thought to come to the Castle to see the feda-ghazi, to explain my purpose and get his advice for the Council meeting. As I climbed the stairs, I heard a faint noise… like a voice whispering on the air… and needed to follow the sound. When I arrived at her door, it was open and the sound…”
“I did not leave my door open!”, exclaims Scarlet through clenched teeth.
“Peace, Dawnsister”, pleads Faisal extending his hands as if afraid the priestess might lunge at the younger woman.
Ildrim’s paces across the stone floor. “The assassin may have entered through the doorway as well, leaving it ajar. Perhaps the sound you heard was her speaking with an accomplice, or bribing a guard. Or perhaps it was unrelated. Please continue.”
“When I looked into her chambers, I saw the Duchess seated at her mirror." The young woman points toward the vanity table. "The assassin was standing right behind the chair with her blade raised…”
“The assassin was invisible!”, shouts Scarlet, leaping from her chair. “I saw her appear out of thin air, after you screamed. How could you have seen her?!?”
Deirdre shrinks back from the Priestess’ anger, her voice barely audible. “She was right there, as plain as day. She was about to stab you and I screamed…”
“Ridiculous”, exclaims the red-haired woman. “I don’t know what you’re up to now, Deirdre, but you’ve gone too far this time. I’m going to make sure that you…”
Scarlet stops as Ildrim directs her attention to the stricken look on Faisal’s face. The dark-skinned man pulls the assassin’s dagger from the vanity top.
The young man looks up, his brow creased with a look of deep concern.
“This is one of the daggers used by the Isha-Ghazi, the Night Warriors. The order of assassins who serve The Goddess by destroying those who have strayed from the Light and been named Heretics by the Dawnbrethren. The blade is coated with qamphir oil, to prevent the use of divine power from undoing her work.
“This is not a political attack, or a personal vendetta. This is something far more dangerous. The Dawnmother must have issued a muat-fatwa… a death order. This isha-ghazi will not stop just because one attempt was foiled by a fortunate intrustion.
“Dawnsister Scarlet is in great danger.”