Deirdre’s meditation is interrupted as an acolyte arrives in the small audience chamber. The boy clears his throat softly and waits for acknowledgement before speaking.
“A thousand pardons, Oracle. The feda-ghazi begs a brief audience with you.”
The young woman nods as she sighs inside. Her fury at Faisal’s rejection had softened to angry resentment, tempered with a more intellectual understanding of the proscription against intimacy with the Oracle. Experiencing a person’s past, present and future with a simple touch would undoubtedly become an overwhelming nightmare with more prolonged contact. Still, it had hurt her deeply when he had so easily and callously set aside her love and his professed devotion.
The young woman arranges herself on the dais, hoping to look both divine and alluring at the same time. She gazes at the doorway, trying for a serene countenance to hide her anxiety at seeing him, and to ensure he realizes that she is still angry at him.
The boy returns, stepping into the chamber and clearing his throat.
“Honoured and Most Holy Oracle of The Sarenrae, I present Faisal Salaam ibn Abd Al-Wasi ibn Kalilah ibnt Dilawar ibn Amahalmuta al-Tuskany, here to seek your divine wisdom.”
Deirdre’s composure is disrupted by her surprise at the boy’s use of al-Tuskany in place of al-Qadira in the man’s name. As the warrior kneels before her, she stands, causing him to do likewise.
“You have taken the domonym al-Tuskany?”, she asks, forgetting her intention to make him speak first.
Faisal bows his head. “Yes, Oracle. I have come to the realization that this land is dear to me. There is more holding me here than pulling me back to Qadira. It also relates to one of the reasons I came to speak with you. It would not be proper for me to stand as an outlander and yet rule as Duke.”
Deirdre’s eyes widen in surprise. “Duke!? Duke of Tuskany?! Faisal, that’s wonderful news! I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful ruler! Not that dear Scarlet was a poor choice! But what will she do now? Surely not disrupt the faithful by deposing Jonas? Not after the fine job he had done, and the ordeal he endured to take her place. Oh! Perhaps Restov! Surely they need wise guidance with Brother Morric’s passing. She could even help to mend ties with Brevoy. She would be missed terribly, of course, but duty must…”
“Oracle”, interrupts Faisal, shifting uncomfortably. “Ten thousand pardons, but I have misled you. I am not replacing Dawnsister Scarlet, but ruling jointly by her side.”
Deirdre stares in disbelief. "Rule jointly…? But then…
“YOU’RE MARRYING HER?! After proclaiming your love to me just a month ago?! After claiming that it was the Karain’s proscriptions that kept us apart?! HOW DARE YOU!”
Faisal steps back in shock at Deirdre’s slap, blood quickly welling up in the scratch marks left by her nails. The young woman also staggers, disoriented by the images and emotions flooding through the brief contact.
Anxiety that the Duchess would consider stepping down…
Relief that Scarlet has agreed to co-rulership…
Anger at the possibility that Deirdre murdered Jaiyana…
Confusion at the priestess’ choice of attire for the ritual…
Arousal at the sight of Scarlet’s naked body…
Helplessness at being unsure if he can trust either woman…
Faisal drops to the floor in supplication. “A thousand thousand pardons, Oracle. I have again caused misunderstanding. The Dawnsister and I are not marrying, and she remains Duchess. I am only stepping in to assist in the administration of the Duchy as co-ruler until…”
Deirdre has stopped listening, horrified by the imagery she has felt.
She tries to seduce him and turn him against you in the same moment. See how she entices him with naked skin and poorly veiled temptation, clouding his mind with the desire of his body? You have been too lax. Too kind to the red-haired witch. You must win him back and remove this threat.
The holy warrior lies supine on the marble floor, waiting for a response. Deirdre composes herself and speaks.
“Faisal, please rise. I am so sorry. That was unforgivable of me. I should have realized that neither you nor the Duchess would seek to cause me harm. She has been a true friend and mentor since that terrible day you nearly died in my arms, and I should never have thought so ill of her. Even if you were getting married I should be congratulating you both, not drawing blood. Can you ever forgive me?”
The young man rises, earnestly searching her face for the true meaning of her words. Apparently finding what he was hoping to see, he bows his head. His gaze lingers for a moment on the pendant hanging at her throat.
“Oracle, it is I who should beg forgiveness. I came here to confront you about matters that were unjust and unkind. I am ashamed for having doubted you, and for causing you such distress. Please accept my most humble apologies for the failure.”
Deirdre smiles and bows as well. “All is forgiven, dear Faisal. Safe return to your new duties. I’m certain that you will serve your new home faithfully. Please convey my very best wishes to Dawnsister Scarlet and let her know that I’m most pleased with the wisdom in allowing her Duchy the benefit of your dual guidance. I look forward to seeing her again soon.”
The warrior gives a final deep bow, backing from the audience chamber and leaving Deirdre alone with her thoughts.
I’ll not allow her to turn everyone against me. Or to attempt to seduce him again.
It is time for her to share the foolish Oracle’s fate.