Deirdre stares at the saddlebags, loath to call a porter to carry them down to the courtyard. She hates the long trip back to the barren loneliness of the holy city almost as much as she delights in the weekly journey to the capital. If it were not for the hope that Faisal would take note of her dedication and persistence in the face of hardship, and the surprisingly enjoyable company of Grok, the young woman doubts she would be able to tolerate her duties in Abu-Al-Bazit.
She has been lingering in the castle, hoping to see the dark-skinned warrior again before leaving, but he and some of the council members had descended into a newly discovered crypt below the structure. Deirdre’s offer of help had been rebuffed, no doubt because of Scarlet’s jealousy and fear of losing her grip on the handsome young man. But the acolyte can delay not longer, unless she wants to be traveling through the forest after nightfall.
Raised voices in the hallway provide a welcome distraction, and the young woman hurries to the door, hopeful that her wait has finally been rewarded. Stepping out, Deirdre gasps in horror as she nearly crashes into Faisal, covered in blood and gore, carrying the limp and badly mangled body of the Duchess. Scrambling out of the way, she joins the procession of council members and castle denizens following the grim warrior to the priestess’ chamber.
Slipping into the room before Brother Shin blocks onlookers from crowding in, Deirdre watches the holy warrior place the woman’s body gently on her bed and begin wrapping it with a heavy blanket. Snippets of conversation and explanation drift in from the hallway, describing a terrible battle with horrible creatures in a sealed tomb.
The acolyte steps to Faisal’s side and places a hand gently on his shoulder. She is about to speak when the warrior pulls away from her touch to complete his task. Deirdre’s anger surges at the implied rejection and she places her hand more firmly on his arm.
“You’re hurt, Faisal. We should tend the wounds and make sure it isn’t more serious than it looks.”
The young man rounds on her, fury in his expression as tears glisten in the corners of his eyes.
“WOUNDS?! WOUNDS!? The Dawnsister lies dead before me and you are worried about WOUNDS! It is the smallest penance to pay for failing her once again! You have duties to attend to talib, and if you want to make yourself useful, go find Dawnbrother Jonas so he may preside over this properly!”
Deirdre recoils from the man’s anger and grief and flees the room in tears, pushing through the crowd of onlookers. Returning to her room, she rips open the saddlebag and extracts the small leather scrollcase carefully hidden in the bottom. Tearing open the container, she extracts one of the yellow scrolls within, tossing the rest on the bed.
The acolyte steps back into the hallway and moves away from the crowd near the Duchess’ chamber, heading to Faisal’s room. Slipping through the door, she retrieves the young man’s copy of the Karain and places it on the desk. Unrolling the yellowed parchment she carefully studies the ritual before beginning.
We’ll see how much you love her once I help you discover her true nature!