Edge of Darkness: The Broken Circle
Episode 7 - Midnight Guest
Moira Brightguard awoke with a start from her first untroubled sleep in what felt like decades. She sat up in bed while saying a swift prayer to Rozerus as she clutched the blankets around her with one hand and held her holy symbol up with the other. As the prayer was completed, a soft white light shone from the holy symbol, revealing a large figure standing in her doorway.
Her relief in recognizing the figure was short-lived as her mind raced to catch up with the situation. While it was certainly a friend that stood in her room, the fact that he was here at this hour could only mean that something was very wrong.
She greeted him by name, as cordially as she could at this early hour while holding the blankets around her. She felt extremely vulnerable, and she hated it. “Is there something wrong? What has happened?”
The large figure laughed quietly and entered the room. He took a seat at the foot of the bed, and Moira pulled the covers up around herself a little tighter. This was odd behavior, and a warning bell sounded in the back of her mind. “No, Your Eminence,” he said. “As a matter of fact, things are going quite well.”
Moira took a look at the water clock on her mantle and looked around in the darkness of her room. “Then I see no reason that this conversation, whatever it may be, could not wait for a more decent hour,” she said, allowing a fine edge of steel and annoyance to enter her voice.
“Ah….Moira,” the figure said with a sigh. “You have done a great deal in the service of the Empire and Vallisuvas during your time here. I did not believe it possible when you arrived, but you have managed to bring the rebels to the negotiating table. Indeed, had you told me a month ago that a treaty would be on the verge of being signed I would never have believed it possible.”
Moira smiled, but the graciousness did not touch her eyes. “I am grateful that I could be of assistance. It is my duty to see to the spiritual welfare of the people of the Empire. These rebels had some just complaints, but violence against other citizens of the Empire is unacceptable. I thank you for your compliment, kind sir, but this is hardly a reason to barge into my room in the middle of the night. Why are you here?” Her gaze went to the door. “And where are my guards?”
“They are safe, Prophetess. They are quite safe,” the figure said. “You are correct. There is another reason that I am here in the middle of the night.” He paused significantly, a dramatic gesture which further irritated Moira. “I thought it only fair to tell you that the Red Friars are coming tomorrow to speak with you.”
Moira smiled, and did her best to conceal the icy chill of fear that suddenly reared up in her belly. “To see me?” Moira asked. “I will of course be happy to meet them, and assist them in any way that I can. Do you know to what honor do I owe their visit?”
The man seated on the bed sighed deeply. “Come, High Prophetess Brightguard, you need not play games. We both know the reason that they are coming. Your daughter is a fugitive and she has somehow foiled all of their attempts to locate her. And they believe you have remained in contact with her, and that you may know where she is.”
The cold feeling grew stronger. “I….I don’t understand why that would be so,” Moira said dismissively. “I have not sent any letters to my daughter. Nor have I met her since before her escape from the custody of the Red Friars. What evidence do they have that I have been in communication with her? Such charges are ludicrous.”
“You are a cleric, High Prophetess. It is well in your means to communicate with her by sending, or to summon some messenger of an otherworldly nature to carry your messages for you. You do her no service by hiding her. The artifact that she has come to possess is preying upon her soul and corrupting her. I have assurances by the Red Friars that their interest is only in the weapon. Once they separate it from your daughter, she will be free to go. The bow is dangerous, High Prophetess.”
“I appreciate your concern for my daughter’s safety,” Moira replied. “I have tried to communicate with her, yes. But I have been as unsuccessful as the Red Friars have. Whatever shields her from them also shields her from me. The Red Friars may ask me what they will, but I do not know where she is and I do not know anything more than they do. I thank you for alerting me to the arrival of the Red Friars, Sir. But now if you shall excuse me, I would like to resume my rest.”
The man smiled sympathetically in the white light cast by the glowing holy symbol. “Of course, Your Eminence. I’m sorry to hear that you have no answers for the Red Friars, but I’m not surprised. I shall leave you now so that you may rest.”
Moira watched the man stand up and walk to the door. There, he paused and looked back. “I truly am sorry that it has to be like this. I did not expect you to be so successful in your negotiations with the rebels. I thought that you would fail. And this success of yours I cannot allow.”
Moira stared in shock, the cold feeling returning. “I don’t understand, Sir,” she said.
“Oh, High Prophetess, I’m hardly going to divulge all of my plans to you. Suffice to say I need the rebellion to carry on and even intensify. You are standing in the way of that. Further, you and your daughter have drawn the attention of the Red Friars which I also do not want. Imagine the rage of your husband and the clergy when they discover that you have been slain by the rebels here in Vallisuvas. That they pretended to negotiate with you only to earn your trust, and how they attempted to kidnap you to use you as a political prisoner. Alas, their plans went awry when some courageous Knights stumbled upon the scene. In the ensuing battle, you were regrettably slain.”
Moira couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What madness is this? You cannot kill me! Remember your oaths, Sir! And I have healing and defensive power enough to hold off any attack you make upon me until aid can come. You are unwell,” Moira said. “I can help you….it isn’t too late.”
“Ah, but it is High Prophetess. You are correct. I cannot kill you in a straightforward manner. Which is why I had you killed two days ago. Nightshade, if you please.”
There was a flicker of movement from one shadowy corner of the chamber. Moira had reacted quickly with a prayer, but not fast enough. One of Moira’s hands clutched her heart. The words of her prayer cut off into silence a moment later. With eyes wide with shock and betrayal, the High Prophetess of the Church of Rozerus died. The light shining from her holy symbol winked out.
A humanoid, shadowy form moved over to the silhouette of the man standing in the doorway. The man stared at the still form of the cleric and shook his head. “A pity,” he said. “On the other hand, my dear lady Nightshade, your reputation is not exaggerated. And your impressively high fees are indeed worth every draan.”
The figure stepped into the light. She was a little under five feet tall and her body was lithe and and her every movement graceful. Her skin was dark black, and she had short-cropped white hair and the pointed ears of her kind. Long ago, Nightshade had turned her back on the misogynistic practices of her race to make her own way in the world and to prove that a dark elven female could be every bit as deadly as a male.
The dark elven assassin shrugged. “Humans are fragile. I’ll take my pay now.”
The man smiled and hefted a purse of coins. “And how would you like to double your fee?”
Nightshade took the purse and hefted it, then attached it to her belt. “And why should I do that? You said yourself that the Red Friars are coming. You just had the High Prophetess of Rozerus assassinated. Knights Inquisitor will be crawling all over this place. You could pay me triple and I wouldn’t stay around until tomorrow.”
“Just listen. If you don’t like my plan, then you can take your fee and depart a free woman.”
Nightshade nodded, and listened to the man describe his plan. Once he finished, she considered carefully.
“You really believe that you can do all of that?”
The man smiled confidently. “Of course I can.”
Nightshade considered and looked at the body of the High Priestess. “Very well. But I want quadruple my normal fee. Half up front, the other half upon delivery. And if you betray me or the Knights Inquisitor or the Red Friars get too close, I’m gone.”
“Quadruple!!!” The man cried out. “That is outrageous!”
The dark elf smiled. “Your plan is outrageous. But it intrigues me enough to stick around to see if you can pull it off. And if you can, I would love to be a part of it. You have seen that I am well-worth the fee.” Nightshade gestured back at the body of Moira Brightguard. “And I anticipate that there will be a few more of those before my work is complete. You are actually getting a bargain. Take it or leave it.”
The man frowned, but didn’t disagree. “Very well. I agree to your terms.”
“Excellent,” the dark elf said with a smile. “And let Moira Brightguard be a reminder to you. If I can kill a High Prophetess with but a gesture, imagine how much easier it would be for me to deal with you if you cross me? It would likely not be that day, nor perhaps even this year. I can wait decades for my revenge. Eventually, I shall slip under even your guard.”
The man cast a glance at the corpse of the High Prophetess and nodded. “I understand. But now it is time for you to start earning your exorbitant fee. I need you to take Moira’s body and stage it precisely like this…….”