“If you truly feel he is ready for such a responsibility”, says Faisal, “I would have no objection to Jonas assuming the mantle of High Priest.”
“I’m glad that you see the wisdom of my suggestion, Faisal”, replies Scarlet, casting a glance back at Deirdre, who is following the pair as they walk the streets of Firenze. “After all, Brother Shin seems uncomfortable in his role as General, and Captain Carson has spoken many, many, many times of the esteem with which your were held by the soldiers.”
“Thank you, Dawnsister”, acknowledges Faisal, giving a small bow. “The good Captain is prone to flowery language and excessive praise. Nonetheless, it remains improper for a feda-ghazi to hold a position reserved for the Dawnbrethren, and that is the most compelling argument for Jonas to step to the fore.”
Deirdre speaks up, her voice carrying the smile that she manages to keep from her face. “I would be pleased to assist acolyte Jonas in preparing for his Tazkiah, mualim.”
Faisal smiles back at the young woman, nodding. “I expected no less from you, talib.”
Scarlet frowns at the reference to the Qadiran rite of purity. “I’m not certain such an extreme step is really…”
“Even the Book of Dawn has crucial rituals for acolytes to assume the mantle of the Dawnbrethren”, interrupts Deirdre. “I am sure the Duchess would not want High Priest Faisal to relinquish his title, however reluctant he is to hold it, to someone who has not been tested with the same rites by which he proved himself worthy.”
Scarlet glares at the young woman, various murderous thoughts competing for dominance.
“But”, continues the dark-haired acolyte, “if Jonas or the Duchess do not feel he is ready for the tazkiah, I would be honoured to undergo the ritual and take his place.”
Scarlet’s fantasies of columns of flame blasting from the sky to destroy Deirdre are interrupted by the arrival of a gnome dressed in a gaudy costume, looking much like a pseudo-military version of the outfits worn by Beppo. The little man bows with great flourish and calls out to all of the townsfolk on the street.
“GOOD CITIZENS OF FIRENZE AND TUSKANY! I BEAR A MISSIVE OF GREAT IMPORT AND JOY FROM THE HONOURABLE CARSON DAVID IBN NORMAN IBN COULTON AL-TUSKANY, CAPTAIN OF THE ARMY OF FIRENZE.”
Scarlet looks at the little gnome in horror as a crowd begins to gather to hear him continue.
“THE GOOD CAPTAIN ADDRESSES HIS MISSIVE DIRECTLY TO THE WISE AND BEAUTIFUL SCARLET IBNT TALRETH IBN EVRETH AMAL-SARENRAE AL-TUSKANY, DAWNSISTER OF THE LIGHT OF ETERNAL COMPASSION AND JUSTICE, DUCHESS OF TUSKANY AND ALL ITS ENVIRONS. IT READS AS FOLLOWS:
My dearest Scarlet
I have been most fortunate and blessed to enjoy your incomparable beauty and charm for the past months, and find myself drawn more and more to your side. I had never thought to find myself so privileged to even stand in the presence of one so elegant and graceful, let alone partake of her attentions. I had not even dared hope that you shared any fondness for one so unworthy of your attentions, so far beneath your station. I had resigned to love from afar, unrequited, but satisfied with the bounty of merely existing in your glorious presence.
But I have learned that I am not alone in my feelings. That my blissful enjoyment of our time together has not been one-sided. The knowledge warms me like no other reward imaginable, in this world or beyond. My joy is so great that I cannot help but shout it from the rooftops, to share it with the good people of your realm that they may also rejoice in our happiness.
And so I wait, as I always have, for the next moment of your radiant beauty and kindness that I can steal. To nurture my heart, and our love.
Yours in devotion,
Carson David ibn Norman Ibn Coulton Al-Tuskany
The gnome concludes his reading of the speech with a great flourish and bow, to the cheers of the gathered townsfolk, many of whom have tears in their eyes.
Scarlet stands transfixed in horror, struggling not to vomit, as Deirdre is forced to hide a smile of surprised delight.