Mehnaz crouches in the shadows of the shrine, cursing her failure in the castle. She had carefully planned each step, from her entry into the fortress to the timing of her strike. There should have been no-one in the passageway to hear the false priestess die, let alone a witness standing in the doorway. The assassin had been sure the door was closed and locked before she approached the target, and was equally certain she was magically cloaked before even entering the room.
Why was that foolish girl at the doorway? And how did see me before the strike? Something is not right.
The assassin has returned to the shrine to contemplate her failure, and plan her next steps. The building is a familiar comfort in this Goddess-forsaken frozen land. Despite his fallen status, the former feda-ghazi had at least ensured that a proper place of worship had been constructed.
A soft sound near the building entrance alerts the Qadiran woman, and she drifts even further back into the shadows. It is very rare for anyone to come to the shrine at night, although the murtadd did still come to conduct the isha-salat here in person. She had observed him quietly on several occasions while she was planning The Divine Inquisitor’s retribution for his apostasy.
Mehnaz is surprised when a young girl approaches and kneels on the cold stone before the Goddess’ visage. The child had been in the castle at times, but the assassin had taken little other note of her. The woman is even more intrigued as the girl discards the heavy cloak worn by the barbarians in this ungodly cold, revealing a Qadiran kukri at her side. Realizing the child’s purpose, Mehnaz gives a brief salaat for the midnight hour, carefully watching the more intricate prayers performed by the newcomer.
She has been taught well… Even using the ancient forms that so many at home have allowed to lapse… This must be someone else’s teaching. Surely the murtadd and his heathen witch could not have done this…
Intrigued, the assassin steps lightly from the shadows and approaches the girl, surprised again as she gets close enough to recognize the sound of chanting in proper, if heavily accented, Kelish. She waits for the completion of the ritual before making enough of a sound to attract the girl’s attention.
The child jumps at the noise, eyes open wide at the sight of the dark-clad woman standing so close. Taking a step back, she speaks warily in the barbarian tongue, “Who… who are you?”
Mehnaz extends both hands out and begins speaking in Kelish, “You have nothing to fear from me, nur’eyni…” Seeing the incomprehension on the girl’s face, she switches to the barbarian tongue, repeating the reassurance. The child remains calm, but a questioning look crosses her face.
“That’s what mualim used to call me. Who are you?”
Interesting… Why is she calling him ‘teacher’?
“I am a traveler from the south. I was giving prayer to The Goddess and was surprised to find someone here. Who is this mualim you speak of?”
The girl relaxes, apparently accepting the assassin’s friendly demeanor. “He is Faisal Salaam ibn Abd Al-Wasi ibn Kalilah ibnt Dilawar ibn Amahalmuta al-Qadira, Holy Warrior of The Sarenrae, Divine Justicar of the Eternal Light, Destroyer of Undeath, Wielder of the Fiery Blade of Justice, General of the Duchy of Tuskany.” The child manages to produce the formal introduction with little difficulty, only stumbling briefly over the last title.
“His is my mualim ”, continues the child. “One of my teachers in learning of the Wisdom and Glory of the Eternal Light of Justice and Compassion.”
The woman gives an understanding nod, but follows it with a quizzical look. “I had thought that feda-ghazi Faisal was High Priest of this land.”
The girl shakes her head. “He did the job only because Dawnsister Scarlet had to be Duchess, and they didn’t want an unbeliever to take her place. Dawnbrother Jonas finished his tazkiah and is going to be High Priest now.”
“A tazkiah? This person underwent a ritual of purity?”
“Uh huh. And it was really hard. He was all frozen and blistery when he came back from the outside part. But it was amazing when he stood in the Cleansing Flame and it didn’t hurt him or anything.”
“I see. And what is mualim Faisal helping to teach you?”
“Oh, it’s not only him, the Duchess and Dawnbrother Jonas and Deirdre all teach me things too. But he’s going to train me to be a feda-ghazi. A holy warrior like him. So I can help people and protect them and cleanse bad guys and stuff. Oh, and ‘Defend the Glory and Justice of The Sarenrae’. That too.”
Train you as feda-ghazi? Tazkiah for the barbarian acolytes? Is he still clinging to the Proper Forms despite his fall from grace?
“I am very impressed, nur-eyni. Perhaps we could speak more, and you could tell me of the Dawnbrethren of this land and what you learn from them?”
“Well… I don’t know… I’m not supposed to be out at night like this, and I should go home soon.”
“I understand. I shall walk back with you, and you can tell me on the way. Perhaps I can offer to teach you something as well…”