A Mad Woman and a Pagan

  • “Miss Id’en?” a feminine voice asked over the din of people preparing to leave now that the evening sermon had finished.

    Id’en lifted her head, blinking until she registered the small woman standing near her. “High Priestess,” she said, getting to her feet. “G’day.”

    The high priestess nodded. “I’m glad you came tonight. Do you come to the sermons regularly?”

    Id’en nodded. “Whenever I’m able.” She was out of a job, and now a house; her schedule was flexible. “Do you sermonize often?”

    High Priestess Adaellae nodded. “Every other morning, or so. Priest Adam is filling in for our normal evening sermonizer.” She clasped her hands in front of her. “I’m glad to see you. You’ve heard of Captain Arial Shasetia, I’m sure?”

    “The war hero?”

    Adaellae nodded. “Yes, the pagan.” She glanced at the congregation bustling around them and stepped a bit closer. She lowered her voice considerably, so that it was difficult even for Id’en to hear her. “I’m sure by now you’ve heard that Mr. Danick is missing?” the high priestess asked.

    Id’en nodded, lowering her voice to a whisper as well. “And that you two and him and Governor Dario had relationships.”

    Adaellae paused, then nodded. “He and I were acquainted. Mr. Danick also had an acquaintanceship with the governor. Between these and our studies, we came to suspect something along the lines of what you do.”

    “That he’s going to perform ancient magic.”

    Adaellae nodded. “He wants to summon something. We knew this. You saying that Derac was there, looking for the Gods’ Jewels…” she shrugged. “It’s clear what he wants to summon, at least.” She shook her head. “On the plus side, no one knows where the book is. I doubt if he has a copy of the spell.”

    Id’en nodded. This was true. She drummed her fingers on her arm. “Do you think there’s someone around here who could do it?”

    Adaellae breathed in deeply. “I know there are a handful of magicians in the city. There’s a chance.” The high priestess sighed. “Let me just give a bit of background you may not be aware of. A few weeks ago, when Mr. Danick and I ended our relationship, I asked one of the priests if he might go and convince Governor Dario to lend him the Codex of Summoning. Maim knows he’d never give it to me.” She waved a hand vaguely. “This priest somehow became acquainted with Mr. Danick, and he went on to inform Captain Arial Shasetia, personally, when he learned of Mr. Danick’s disappearance.” She raised her brows. “The captain learned about you, and she’d like to speak to you. It could be a good way of learning more.”

    Id’en frowned. The woman was a war hero, but even heroes could be corrupt. “You trust her?”

    Adaellae shook her head. “No. But I’ve given it a bit of thought, and I can’t think of a reason for her to investigate the matter this thoroughly if she’s working closely with Derac.”

    Id’en frowned. That was true, yes; but clearly there was pressure from multiple people, some of import, to find the man. She drew a breath. “If you’re certain I should go, then I shall.”

    “I do think so.” Adaellae pulled the chair out from under the desk and sat, resting her hands in her lap. “Even if she is working with Derac, you’ll learn something, I’m sure.”

    Id’en nodded slowly. “Very well. I’ll visit her in the morning, then. Did she say where I should find her?”

    “The Main Tower, she said,” Adaellae said. She paused; then, “Is there anything I can do for you before you leave?”

    Id’en paused. She could ask for a bed… She shook her head. She wasn’t about to admit to herself how much she had lost in front of Wakegloom’s high priestess. “No, thank you. You’ve been very helpful.”

    As grey clouds gathered and blotted out the stars, she found a porch step to rest on. An awning above offered a small bit of shelter if it started raining tonight. She clutched her small cloth package of belongings to her chest, resting her forehead on her knees. What would her brother think of her, trying to get some sleep on a porch step?

    She breathed in deeply. He’d be sad, but not angry. Yes, she had made a mess of her life again, right when she had just started piecing it back together, right when she had finally agreed to stop worrying about conspiracies she could never solve. But she hadn’t given up, either. He’d be proud of that; she knew he would. He always said so.

    He might be dead now, but it’d let him down, to give up when she still had so many years of life ahead of her. Who knew; maybe they would meet again, if she just kept going.

    Id’en stared at the empty road. Street cleaners would come through soon. Some were less kind to the destitute than others.

    She sighed. When morning came, she’d find something to eat, then go to the Main Tower and see whether or not Captain Arial would help her.

    Humidity made the air sticky. Grey clouds continued to darken the sky, but nothing indicated the rain would come anytime soon.

    Id’en ignored the sweat beading on her body, walking steadily. High Priestess Adaellae was confident that not only would the other guard captain be willing to speak to her, she might have some of her own information to share, and right now, that was enough.

    She came upon the Main Tower at last. The prison was here, and the concentration of green clad guards was never higher than here.

    The inside was relatively well lit. There was a pair of guardsmen, talking softly to each other. A ring of keys sat on a hook next to a closed wooden door. Another door was set into the back wall.

    “G’day,” said one of the guards, glancing over her. “Take off the mask, if you would.”

    Id’en paused, then nodded. She removed the plain mask. “I was hoping to speak to Captain Arial?”

    The guard looked pointedly at the other until he finally got to his feet, sighing. “Can I get a name?”

    “Id’en. Uh… the High Priestess suggested I come to her.” Id’en drummed her fingers against the inside of her mask.

    He nodded once, then walked through the door against the far wall.

    Id’en wiped at the sweat on her face, taking in her plain environment. She tied the mask back to her belt. Several minutes passed in awkward silence.

    The door against the far wall opened again and the guard waved at her to come. “She’ll talk to you.”

    Id’en nodded, striding forward. She followed him through a dim room with obscure shapes, then up a few flights of stairs. They entered a room with a narrow hole in a wall, allowing a sliver of light to enter, and a desk against another wall. There was a chest near the desk with a heavy lock on it, some writing utensils on the desk, and a woman in green sitting on the desk, her feet resting on the chair.

    The woman nodded at her. “Id’en the Merchant? The one they say’s mad.”

    Id’en hesitated, then nodded. “That’s me. I assume you’re Captain Arial, the one they say’s a pagan?”

    The captain paused, then nodded again. It was hard to see her face, but she sounded amused. “You can go, Garrett.” As the guardsman’s steps receded, the captain faced Id’en again, remaining seated. “High Priestess Adaellae told me you might know something about Mr. Danick the Monk?”

    “I… well, maybe. I’ve talked with a few people. Mr. Danick was involved with the high priestess, the governor…” Id’en stopped. Knowing what Arial already knew would be helpful. She reached for her necklace, but her fingers only brushed bare skin. She dropped her hand again. “The long story short is that I have reason to believe Mr. Danick was involved with ancient magic.”

    “How so?”

    Id’en took a moment to gather her thoughts. “I’ve had several conversations with people, especially the people he was last seen with, and the high priestess, and… well, I know they were all interested in a codex--”

    “The Codex of Summoning?”

    Id’en nodded. “That one. The spells are all ancient. The past few months, the governor has been trying to find the Gods’ Jewels.” She sucked in a breath. “In short, I believe Governor Dario is going to summon a god, and Mr. Danick was either going to help him, or else knew something about it.”

    Arial was silent, tapping her hand against her knee. “I don’t have it with me here, but I have a ritual that Mr. Danick cut out of the Codex. If I found someone to study it, would they be able to confirm or deny that?”

    She had the ritual? But not the Codex itself? “Most likely. The ingredients and the results should be able to tell you.” Id’en reached again for her necklace, then dropped her hand midway to her neck. “Unfortunately, I think the governor may already have most of the supplies. When I was still in business, I sold exotic goods. There was a man who came consistently, asking for obsidian staffs or stone torches or other things you’d traditionally see in ancient magic. Asking for the Gods’ Jewels and information on them, as well. Even if they don’t have everything yet, they must be close by now.”

    “I see. And this man who visited you, it was Governor Dario, or…?”

    Id’en shrugged. “I don’t know who it was. He covered all of his skin and wore a mask. There was once, one of the last times I saw him, that he brought another man with him. Captain Derac. He called him by the name." She paused. "They were discussing when the ‘lord of Wakegloom’ became the ‘lord of Teslal’. I take it to mean Governor Dario.”

    Arial studied her while she spoke. “I’m guessing you know that Mr. Danick has gone missing.”

    Id’en nodded.

    “It’s my understanding that Mr. Danick had a falling out with the high priestess, and later the governor. I believe that his falling out with the governor has to do with the fact that he took the Codex; without permission, by the sounds of it.” Arial nodded at Id’en. “Do you know of any reasons that Mr. Danick may have had these falling outs?”

    Id’en paused. High Priestess Adaellae hadn’t said much about their relationship, had she? “I don’t. Perhaps with the high priestess, it had to do with his relationship with the governor? And perhaps the governor and Mr. Danick fell out because of something to do with the Codex.” Id’en shook her head. “I don’t know. No one has been clear to me about that.”

    “Me, either,” Arial agreed, nodding. She became quiet.

    It was clear by now that the high priestess and Danick both knew about Dario’s relationship with ancient magic. How those relationships intersected, that was the part Id’en was uncertain about. Were they interested in stopping Dario, or was Danick, in fact, working with Dario? Was Id’en thinking too hard on all of this?

    She nodded at the captain. “Has the high priestess told you anything specific about her relationship with Mr. Danick?”

    Arial shook her head. “When I spoke with her, she insisted her relationship with Mr. Danick was purely academic. She wasn’t clear on the falling out of their relationship, but she implied they were both involved against Governor Dario.” Arial leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “If I thought she would tell me more, I’d speak to her again.”

    “She said much the same to me.” Id’en frowned at Arial. “May I ask… Clearly, I don’t have the status anymore, or the rank, to even consider it, but have you been able to discuss any of this with the governor himself?”

    Arial blinked, then shook her head. “No.” She chuckled. “I have neither of those, too.”

    “But…” Id’en gestured uncertainly at her. She was a captain of the Wakegloom guard. She was the woman that defeated the Estrellans when they were most undefeatable.

    Arial shook her head. “I’m here because the king says I must be. Governor Dario would never consider meeting with me.”

    Because the king said she must be? Id’en had heard that she came here because the royal family and the army both forsook her. If she was really here because of the king, and not out of necessity, then surely Dario would consider her of good reputation?

    Nonetheless. Id’en pressed her lips together. Was there no way for either of them to hear from Dario? Surely-- one day soon, at that-- there would be some event where Dario would have no way to ignore or avoid them…

    News had been going around town for some time now. A Puclase embassy was touring the nation, visiting the major cities. First Teslal’s capital, on the coast. Next, within the month, Wakegloom Mere. Surely the guard captains, one of title and one, pagan or not, a war hero, would be invited.

    “Captain, when are the Puclase arriving?”

    Arial glanced at the ground. “Ten days. Why?”

    “There’s going to be a big party, isn’t there?”

    Arial nodded. “A masquerade, yes.”

    Even better! Masquerades practically existed for situations like these. “Then when you go to that, you can talk to the governor.”

    Arial opened her mouth and drew in a breath to speak, then stopped. Slowly, she started to nod. “You’re right. I’ll be dressed up, wearing a mask. I’m sure I remember how they sound in Lessmurk. I could talk to him, maybe, and he wouldn’t know the difference.”

    The questions would have to be worded carefully, but maybe they’d be able to get another perspective on Danick’s relationships.

    The flow of the chapter is my biggest concern rn. There was a lot of cutting/pasting and rewriting in general, so if anything stands out as seeming off in some way, please let me know! :D

    Another concern, I feel like this chapter is a lot of recapping? If it does or doesn't feel like that for you as well, please let me know lol

    So! The next chapter has a lot going on, and I'm very curious about if you have any predictions about what's coming next, esp in terms of the plot?

    And of course, I'd love any other questions, comments, or concerns! :D

    (also the chapter title is only sticking because it sounds like the opening of a joke. >.>)

  • @typical_demigod

    Awesome chapter.

    I was waiting for these two to meet and it definitely didn't disappoint. As for the recapping. It was, but honestly... It didn't feel like it until you pointed it out.

    I love the title too. I like your titles in general.

    And, as usual... Id'en's POV makes me sad. :P

  • Thanks! :D

    I will keep that in mind. Thank you lol

    Id'en needs hugs >.>

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