“You are doing the right thing, Dawnsister.” Brother Morric smiles reassuring at Scarlet as they stroll along the cobble path lightly covered with snow surrounded by beautiful winter daphnes, honeysuckles and fruit trees bare of leaves belonging to the secluded garden nestled within the confines of the Dawntemple in Restov.
The troubled Scarlet nods reluctantly and attempts to return his warm gesture but fails delivering a brief apathetic smile instead.
Brother Morric smile disappears replaced with an expression of worry.
“In light of recent events regarding our king’s quest for your council’s capture, I must urge you to proceed with caution when leaving the city.
Yes, it is true that the alerts have subsided. Yet the entire city remains filled with wanted signs for your arrest. Guardsmen will still be on the lookout for you and your companions.“
“I appreciate your concern, Brother. Beppo and I have our disguises and will take leave at nightfall.”
Scarlet pulls out 2000 gp from her pouch and places them in Brother Morric’s hand.
Immediately Brother Morric furrows his brow in confusion prompting Scarlet to explain.
“This is for Dawnwarrior Faisal restorations. I am grateful once again for all your assistance. You have my word that your hospitality will be returned should your clergy visit Tuskany.”
Brother Morric nods appreciatively then places the coin pieces in one of his pockets.
“Our Brothers and Sisters will care for him and set him on the righteous path.”
Scarlet frowns. “Sadly one week will not suffice but I simply cannot afford to have him stay longer. With the current political situation in Tuskany his services as a spiritual leader and healer to our people are much needed.
I believe he has the makings of a fine High Priest … yes a little misguided and difficult but he has heart. Though lately I fear he has lost his way and is reverting back to his old practices.
“You musn’t worry, Sister. Dawnwarrior Faisal will find his way again. His presence is always welcome here to resume his teaching should he wish to do so at a later time. ”
Ignoring Brother Morric’s last remark, Scarlet continues with her train of thought.
“Even Deirdre, my lesser acolyte, who has been taken in by him has also gone astray. Her affection for him has clouded her judgment. She exhibits inappropriate or disruptive behaviors during my sermons and other public functions and displays unwarranted resentment and disrespect towards me. Lastly she undermines my teaching and abandons the tenets from the Book of Dawn to follow the Karain. Therefore, I am left with no choice but to appoint my most experienced acolyte Jonah to fill the Dawnwarrior’s position until his return.”
Brother Morric frowns gravely, “I see… that is quite distressing. This acolyte, Deirdre, you speak of is in dire need of obedience. Now, what shall you do to rectify this problem?”
A perplex expression crosses her face and she pauses. She takes a moment to ponder and then carefully replies,
“Hmm… I am afraid there is not much I can do but send her off to a monastery in the west where she is distanced from temptation and his influence. She is free to return once she is properly disciplined and has proven to adequately control her emotions.”
“It is a shame it has come down to this. Despite her recent behaviours she shows tremendous faith to our goddess and dedication to aiding our community. She will be missed by us all but it is for the best.“
Brother Morric nods in agreement. “It is for the best but will Dawnwarrior consent with your decision?”
Scarlet shakes her head with uncertainty. “We shall see. He may try to persuade me otherwise. He will likely insist that either of us should discipline her but it will be of no use.”
They continue walking leisurely along the path until Scarlet suddenly comes to a halt and stares profoundly at the frozen pond to her side.
A moment of silence passes by and she comments, “I have failed him.”
She pauses to take a deep breath and then continues, ”I have failed him as a mentor. I have failed Deirdre for refusing to take the corrective measures in time. How do my people expect me to govern Tuskany if I am incapable of completing a simple task such as managing my acolyte.”
As Scarlet begins to sob, Brother Morric comforts her and replies, “You musn’t be hard on yourself. Correcting the error of your ways will lead you on the path to salvation. You must rise above your mistakes and let your guilt fuel your ambition to do good in the eyes of our goddess.”
Scarlet takes Brother Morric hands into hers and smiles at him. “I am most grateful Brother Morric for your inspiring words.”
After releasing his hands, she wipes a tear and contemplates. “If it is not too late I can save Marcus Porter from an unjust death penalty. I pray Kesten has followed my order to detain him until my return.”
“But first I must explain my departure to Faisal when he rises.”
Reading her mind, Brother Morric guides her back to Faisal’s quarters.
“Beppo! What in the name of the Goddess are you doing?!”, exclaims Scarlet in astonishment after she and Brother Morric opens the door to Faisal’s chamber to find Beppo smudging mud all over Dawnwarrior Faisal’s face.
Faisal appears to be sound asleep undisturbed by Beppo’s work. His face is unrecognizable with animal hair similar to a horse or donkey covering his outer face while the remaining area is filled with dirt. His ears masked with pointy elf-looking ears.
The abashed Beppo suppress a grin, “Oops, practicing my disguise. Dressing him up as a bugbear. Wanted to try see how it will look on Faisal first.”
Brother Morric takes a whiff of air and cries out, “What is that foul stench!”
“Well, I had a limited amount of paint to save for myself so I had to improvise for Faisal”
“It smells like manure”. Scarlet comments as she attempts to identify the odor.
Beppo hesitates for a second and shyly replies, “The stables were close by…” And then says defensively, “Well, I couldn’t help myself”.
“You smeared horse droppings on Dawnwarrior Faisal’s face!” Brother Morric retorts in disgust.
The enraged Scarlet approaches Beppo and glowers down upon him with disdain. “Beppo, wipe it off immediately!”
Beppo stammers, “But… but… I haven’t completed my disguise yet. There are still the bugbear teeth that I got from a witch a while back. She gave me a discount because it smelled. Can I put it in Faisal’s mouth first?”
“No!” Scarlet and Brother Morric yell in unison.
Suddenly and without warning, Dawnwarrior Faisal awakes springing into a seated position and cries out something incomprehensible startling Beppo, Scarlet and Brother Morric.