The Principles of Maim
She had hoped Juntai would visit today, but as the sun sank lower into the sky, Adaellae found herself alone in her room with barely the stub of a candle and an empty inkwell. She stared at the pendant that merchant had left in her possession. It was a locket, actually; a lock of blonde hair was inside.
Perhaps her novitiate, Adnan, would return with a letter from Juntai explaining why so many days had gone by now without a visit. Adaellae could pray for one, anyhow.
Adaellae sat up with a start.
“I haven’t woken you, have I?” Mr. Timmons asked, brows furrowing slightly.
Adaellae shook her head. “No, you haven’t. How can I serve you, Mr. Timmons? Is everything well with our guest?”
“Oh, yes. He’s thrown up everything again and now he’s sleeping.”
Adaellae sighed. She’d hoped, coming to consciousness, Mr. William would finally be able to keep a bit of food down, but this was clearly not the case. “When the soup is ready, only give him broth, I think.”
“Seems as good a try as any,” Mr. Timmons agreed with a nod. He clasped his hands in front of him. “Two other things. The first is that Priestess Yeta is still feeling unwell. She isn’t sure she’s able to teach tomorrow.”
“Can anyone fill in for her?”
Mr. Timmons shrugged. “I approached a couple of the others, but I don’t know that any of them are up for such a long journey between their own responsibilities.”
Adaellae frowned. Only so many people in the abbey knew their letters; the rest were as much students as the people of the nearby woodcutters’ village in question were. She shook her head. “Have Adam transcribe for me and I’ll go out there. Tell Yeta I’ll see what I can concoct for her, too. I hate to see her suffering like she is.”
Mr. Timmons nodded. “I can tell her so.”
“Good. Thank you.”
“And also, there’s a guardswoman here for you.”
Adaellae studied him, then stood up. “Here for Mr. William, I’m sure. She’s in the sanctuary?”
He nodded once. “She is.”
Adaellae nodded. “Very good. Thank you, Mr. Timmons.”
She strode quickly through the building. The cold stone surrounded on either side. There had been five fires in the neighborhood since she had lived in the abbey. Each time, the abbey was the only place unaffected; a sanctuary to the newly homeless for as long as it took for them to rebuild. Or, for the unlucky few who were unable to rebuild, forever.
She entered the sanctuary and spotted a dark skinned woman standing at the foot of the dais that held the altar. Adaellae glanced at the long, colorful shadows cast by the setting sun, then approached the soldier, or guardswoman, whatever they were calling it these days. She stood with her back to Adaellae, facing the stained glass windows.
“I take it you’re here for the man?”
The woman visibly jumped, whirling on her feet to face Adaellae. She took in the high priestess.
“My apologies,” Adaellae said unapologetically. A stance like that; this woman had seen action once or twice-- unlike most of Wakegloom’s guards. That was… something. “I shouldn’t have sneaked up on you.”
“Nothing to apologize for.” The woman approached her, slowly becoming more relaxed. There was a tick about her lips, so that the right edge kept lifting. On her neck and collarbone, the tattoo of a fish in a bird’s talons-- an image belonging to J’kah. Yet, a silver earring that wrapped around her right ear had the distinct style of Flead. “I’m Captain Arial Shasetia.” She extended her hand.
Ah, the pagan soldier fallen from royal favor. Certainly not someone Adaellae ever expected to meet. Nonetheless, she accepted the hand. The captain had a firm grip. “As I was wondering, you’re here for the man?”
Captain Arial paused, then nodded. “Yes. It’s only a couple of questions, if you would be so kind. If Priest Enzo Hunter is also here, I’d like to speak to him, as well.”
Questions? Priest Enzo? Adaellae opened her mouth, then closed it again. “I’m… not sure I know who we’re talking about.”
“Oh.” Captain Arial shook her head. “I’m sorry. I meant Mr. Danick.”
“Enzo’s not in charge of the finances. If he has an issue, you’ll need to talk to Priestess Yeta.” Adaellae frowned. “No, Priestess Yeta is indisposed at the moment. In any case, we paid Mr. Danick in full. Extra, in fact.” She refrained from sighing. They needed a new butcher.
Captain Arial’s brows knitted together. “I apologize; I’m talking about Mr. Danick the Monk. I… I’ve received no complaints from any other Danicks.”
Perhaps they didn’t need a new butcher, after all. “Danick the Monk, you say?” Adaellae chuckled. “Has Derac fallen from favor? Is that what’s happening here?”
“I beg pardon?”
This captain was overly apologetic. Perhaps Adaellae should find a polite way of telling her. “The only reason you would come after me about Danick the Monk is if Dario has another threat to lay on me.”
Captain Arial studied her a moment, then shook her head. “No. I’m here because Priest Enzo told me that Mr. Danick and a manuscript he was in possession of had gone missing. I’ve learned that you and Mr. Danick know each other, and that’s why I’m here.”
Adaellae blinked. “Enzo knows Danick?”
“He does.” Captain Arial became unreadable.
“Danick is missing?” Adaellae asked now. She hadn’t spoken to the man in weeks, not since their falling out, but she had never wished ill to fall upon him. Not over a simple disagreement.
“He is. Priest Enzo didn’t tell you?”
Adaellae caught herself. This woman had all the makings of someone working for Dario. Even now, she might be trying to sow discord in Adaellae’s abbey. Adaellae’s abbey. “So, let’s cut to the point.” She clasped her hands in front of her. “You think I killed him.”
Adaellae held up her hand, brows raising. “I’m not naive or stupid. I know what people say about me.”
“I don’t think you killed anyone, High Priestess,” Captain Arial said. She had an interesting lilt in her voice. “I’m rather hoping the man is still alive.”
Adaellae nodded. It was hard to believe her. Everyone loved jumping to the conclusion that Adaellae was some sort of cold-hearted killer. Now, it was true; she’d done some things she wasn’t proud to admit in order to become High Priestess of Wakegloom Mere. But murder? Kill? She had never, nor would she ever.
She clasped her hands together. “Then what do you need to ask of me, Captain Arial?” And when this conversation about Danick was over, then the captain could be informed of Mr. William.
Captain Arial nodded once. “Just a few questions. First, what’s your relationship with Mr. Danick?”
Adaellae’s brows rose slightly. What was the soldier trying to imply, exactly? “We were acquaintances, for a short time. He came to the abbey occasionally to study, and it turned out we shared some similar ideologies.”
Adaellae waved a hand. “The ‘where should money be spent’ and ‘are our clerics doing all they could be doing’ types.” But especially the, Wakegloom’s governor spells doom types.
“Did either of you have opinions on magic?”
Adaellae shrugged. “Everyone has opinions on magic. I’m sure you do. What do you think of it?”
Captain Arial paused, studying Adaellae. At last, she said, “In my religion, the ancients used it up. It’s why we haven’t had real mages in centuries. There’s enough left for some street magicians, but even that is lessening.” She nodded at Adaellae, as if saying, Your turn.
“I don’t believe that’s true. Magic… is a gift. Our gods bestow it upon us as gifts.”
Captain Arial raised an eyebrow. “The same way they bestow tickets, no?”
“So you know how Teslal’s magic works,” Adaellae observed, eyeing the pagan in something of a different light. If the woman was even remotely learned in how their gods worked, then what would ever cause her to follow some cursed religion of another country?
The captain smirked slightly. It was most definitely a smirk; both sides of her lips lifted up in a tiny movement, rather than just the one side with the tick. “I do, yes.” Her expression turned neutral again and she said, “But the pair of you had something of a scholarly relationship, then?”
“You’re terribly observant,” Adaellae said dryly.
Captain Arial raised a brow. “You flatter me, High Priestess.”
Adaellae raised a shoulder in half a shrug.
“In discussions about magic, did you ever come to the topic of Oniman?”
Adaellae’s face straightened. “The Speaker?” What all had Enzo told this woman?
“We did not, no.”
Captain Arial nodded once. “Did you have disagreements of things Governor Dario had done?”
Adaellae maintained a calm exterior. “No. I don’t think I’m the person you’re looking for, Captain. My apologies. Is there anything else I can assist you with? Bring you to Priest Enzo, perhaps?” Or, perhaps, show her to the room of Mr. William?
“I have just a few more questions,” Captain Arial said, gaze unflinching. “I honor your word that you and Mr. Danick never talked about Speaker Oniman. But I know that you wanted her Summoning codex.”
“There’s no ‘perhaps’ about it. You specifically asked Priest Enzo to fetch the codex for you.” She paused. “I want to know, High Priestess, what you want with a book of that nature?”
Adaellae studied the soldier. She knew more than she let on. Or maybe just knew how to give off that impression. Either way, a part of Adaellae that was uncertain. Maybe it was that light accent on Arial’s words-- the way sometimes her vowels slurred together or there wasn’t proper breathing space between her words-- or maybe it was the fact that she had the markings of someone working for Dario. Whatever the case was, Adaellae answered her question with a question: “Captain, do you know what the codex is written about?”
Captain Arial quirked an eyebrow. “I do.”
Adaellae nodded once. The captain had no idea. “So you know that even for me, a woman who cannot practice magic, that it is of scholarly importance.”
Captain Arial shrugged. “A woman like you might say that all magical literature is of scholarly importance.”
That… was completely true. “Then why do you think that I want to possess this codex for devious purposes?”
“I never thought you did.”
Adaellae studied her. She had certainly implied the thought, and if this was Derac, Adaellae would say as much. But with this woman… Adaellae inhaled slowly through her nose. “The fact is, Captain Arial, that what Mage Oniman discovered, all those years ago, is still revolutionary.” So long as one could practice magic, anyhow.
“I believe you when you say it.” Captain Arial shifted on her feet, cocking her head and frowning at the altar for a long moment. Her eyes met Adaellae’s once more. “What caused the split between Mr. Danick and you?”
He wanted to act. And Adaellae, Adaellae needed a plan. They needed a plan. And so nothing happened at all.
Adaellae shrugged. “Our philosophies changed.”
“I have one more question, if you don’t mind,” Captain Arial said.
“Feel free to ask,” Adaellae said, gesturing with one hand. Then she could alert the captain to the presence of Mr. William.
Captain Arial nodded. “Has a woman, a follower of Maim, come to you about Mr. Danick?”
So. She knew of Id’en. Adaellae considered this. Id’en, maybe she could learn what things the captain hadn’t said. Adaellae nodded. “She has. Miss Id’en the Merchant.” Adaellae paused again, frowning. “The mad one.” Then she shook her head. “You think you may need to speak to her for your investigation?”
“She’s investigating Mr. Danick’s disappearance, as well?” Arial asked.
“She is,” Adaellae confirmed.
Captain Arial nodded. “Do you have any idea where I can find her?”
Adaellae smiled politely. “I’m not certain at the moment, but I’m sure I can convince her to visit the Main Tower and ask for you?”
“I would be appreciative if you did.” Captain Arial inhaled deeply. “I thank you for your time and cooperation, High Priestess. I’m sure you’d like me to be out of your business now--”
Adaellae raised a hand to interrupt her. “Actually. Do you know of a guard named William?”
Captain Arial’s brows knitted together and her eyes studied the ground for several seconds. She looked up now. “William Woodsworth?”
Adaellae shrugged. “I don’t know if he has a surname. He’s pale, follows Adaer--”
Arial nodded quickly. “I know this man. I wasn’t aware he was in your custody.”
Thank the stars. Adaellae turned, walking towards the archway that led to the rest of the abbey. “I tried to tell the commander of the district, Mr. Fram, but it would seem that--” Adaellae stopped. She looked over her shoulder at the still captain and nodded towards the arch. “I’m taking you to Mr. William.”
Captain Arial hesitated a beat longer, then caught up to Adaellae. She fell into step just behind the woman-- not quite beside her, but not all the way behind her, either. “Messages don’t always travel quickly.”
“So I’ve noticed,” Adaellae said. She whiffed the scent of whatever soup Adam was making and breathed in deeply. The man was too talented with food. It really ought to be a crime. “I’m not keen on letting Mr. William leave until at least tomorrow. He’s healing well enough, but… I’m concerned about his health if I let him leave too early.”
Captain Arial chuckled quietly. “I’m pretty sure the man lives in taverns, so that may be a good thing.”
Adaellae’s eyebrows raised. “He says he has an apartment.”
“Hm.” The captain sounded more than a bit amused.
Adaellae only shrugged. She wanted to indulge this line of thought further, but she decided against it. An Adaerite whose first thought was of all the offerings he hadn’t made, a drunk? More than possible, but difficult to believe. Adaer was a believer of all things in moderation, and the consequences of disobeying her tended to be harsh.
She stopped outside the man’s door. She knocked once, then pushed it open. A trio of lit candles had been arranged on the ground near the bed, a shallow dish of water in front of them. It reeked of sage. “Mr. William! I have news.”
The captain spoke before Adaellae could finish introducing them. “William Woodsworth, I demand to know what happened.”
Mr. William lifted his head, half asleep and pale on the cot. “Arial?”
“The one and only.”
Mr. William’s head fell back on the cot, his eyes sliding closed. “It happened that I didn’t die. That’s… good, I s’pose.”
The captain snorted, but there was a dark look on her face. “Richard didn’t tell me you were hurt.” She frowned at the man. “Are you well?”
“I can focus better.” He opened his eyes and pushed himself to a sitting position, grimacing. He looked at Adaellae. “The novitiate was unable to deliver the letter, so I’ll be leaving later tonight.”
Adaellae pursed her lips. “That would be unwise, Mr. William.”
“What’s one more night?” the captain added.
He shook his head. “I have business to attend to, that’s all.”
“Perhaps I deliver the letter for you?” the captain suggested, her arms crossing.
The man laughed. “You just want to read it.” He rubbed his eye. The sleeves of his tunic didn’t fall far past his elbows, and his arms, covered in black ink with charms and emblems and runes dedicated all to Adaer, made Adaellae want to wince every time she saw them.
So she avoided looking at them. “Maybe you should deliver the letter and then return here,” Adaellae suggested, clasping her hands in front of her.
Mr. William murmured something, closing his eyes and lowering his head. For a moment, the only sound was his raspy breathing. Then he shook his head. “I appreciate your concern, High Priestess, but I’m sure you’d rather not smell my blasphemy any longer.”
You would be correct, kind sir. Adaellae shook her head. “I value your health more, Mr. William. But, as I said earlier…” She nodded once. “I cannot force you to do anything.”
Captain Arial sighed. “You’re an idiot, but you know where to find me, William.” She turned to face Adaellae. “Priestess, if there are any expenses that need paid for, you are more than welcome to reach out to me.”
Adaellae nodded. “We’ll keep that in mind, but I think we have it covered. Do you need help to the exit?”
The captain shook her head. “No, thank you. Thank you for your time, and have a good night, High Priestess. And William… you’re going to tell me exactly what happened. Maybe not tonight, but soon enough.”
“G’night, Arial,” Mr. William said, frowning at her.
She studied him a moment more, then turned and exited the room.
Adaellae looked at the empty door. Then she turned to her guest. “You guards really ought to work on communication.”
Mr. William snorted.
“It’s a wonder to think some of these people have served in the proper military, and yet…” Adaellae shook her head.
“If I understand correctly, the guard is mostly volunteers?” Mr. William’s brows furrowed as he stared at the ground, eyes starting to lose focus.
Adaellae clasped her hands in front of her, breathing out slowly. An Adaerite in her abbey. It was… it was almost sacrilegious. Yet for her to toss out a man they were perfectly capable of caring for… A common person would not overlook the action. “It’s too soon for you to leave, Mr. William. I want you to be well aware.”
The man startled. He pressed his lips together, studying her. “High Priestess… I do appreciate your concern. If it eases you, then perhaps I return tomorrow afternoon and you see that I’m still well?”
People will not overlook the actions of their leader. They may not act immediately, but they will remember it clearly. Wasn’t that how Eric always put it?
Adaellae nodded. “I would certainly be appreciative of it, Mr. William.”
Mr. William nodded, his gaze drifting away.
“One last thing…” Adaellae unclasped her hands.
He looked at her, brows raised inquisitively. “Miss?”
She watched his face turn a bit red as he realized what he called her. She smiled slightly. “Have some broth, before you leave. Priest Adam will finish any time.”
Mr. William nodded. “Of course, High Priestess.”
“Perhaps, have Mr. Timmons or Priestess Thea change the bandages before you leave, as well. Grab some for the journey.” Adaellae walked to the door, then paused. “And Mr. William, if I shouldn’t see you again for some reason…”
“I wish you a steady recovery.” She chuckled to herself. “Don’t do anything too rash anytime soon, if you can help it.”
Mr. William’s voice was soft. “Of course, High Priestess.”
Adaellae left the door open as she left. She walked back to her chambers. The journal she’d been writing in still lay open on the desk, empty inkwell nearby.
She sighed, leaning against the door frame. Danick, missing. Dead? If Dario found out that they were suspicious of him, then it was possible. Dario couldn’t target Adaellae directly-- not unless he wanted a riot on his hands-- but there was nothing stopping him from from targeting someone that was only a monk.
Adaellae rubbed her temple. She needed to talk to Enzo--
“Priestess Adaellae?” Mr. Timmons said.
Adaellae lifted herself tall, turning to face Mr. Timmons. She barely looked at him when she caught sight of the tall, mildly effeminate figure standing behind him. She grinned. “Juntai.”
Juntai smiled back, stepping past Mr. Timmons. Juntai kissed her forehead and pulled her into a hug. “How’ve you been, Addy?”
Adaellae closed her eyes, exhaling slowly. “As well as I can be. And you, my love?”
wow it's a chapter ._.
Anyway. There's a lot of foreshadowing here sooooo
And the next chapter is half made up of Arial/Ceamath banter sooooo
The biggest concern I have atm is that the conversation ended up getting spliced a bit, so hopefully the reactions remain within the context of what didn't get cut. Though tbh I think Adaellae/Arial got quite the flow going once they started talking :P
Other than that, I guess maybe just how does this make you feel? Particularly, do you feel that the plot is like. Going somewhere. And how do you feel about the characters from what you've seen in story so far? Cuz a something is coming soon and I'm trying to get a feel on how to approach it >.>
Great chapter, my dude.
First of all... I think there's a good sense of things gradually coming to light in regards to plot. And the idea of the characters slowly becoming involved in it. I think that's a good progression. I'm very interested to see how Arial and I'den meeting will go. ^^
Arial and Adaellae's entire interaction made my day.
And I can't wait for Arial and Ceamath banter, tbh.