Chapter 8 – The Bad Little Sister
Three small lanterns hung about the run-down room provided sufficient light for "Sister" Iliss to admire her reflection in the long mirror. Gone were the dull grey robes sported by Tymoran clergy, replaced by a fine red, form-fitting gown. She smoothed away a few wrinkles, admiring her flawless figure. Turning to the small table beside her, she selected two small ceramic pots. Using small brushes, she applied colour to her cheeks, lips and eyes. Auburn hair, green eyes, fine nose. There - as lovely as Sune.
She smiled a cheery, friendly smile at her reflection, the smile she used to make friends, to appear innocent. She laughed at her image. 'Lady Doom', she swore! She was tired of that look! Iliss drew herself up, appearing notably taller, and offered the mirror a different look, a truer face. Impertinence and a dark mischief played across her lips. Eyes smoldered. That was better.
Iliss opened a small drawer in the table, and pulled out the Tymoran holy symbol that she'd been forced to wear for the last two months. She spat on the four-leaf clover, dipped the pendant into one of the make-up jars, and threw the thing into a corner of the shabby room. From a second drawer she pulled out a fine silver chain from which hung a small piece of blackened antler. Donning Beshaba's scared symbol, she silently voiced an orison in honor of the Maid of Misfortune, the goddess to whom she had sworn lifelong fealty.
The false Tymoran cleric pulled a long, fur-trimmed, black cloak off the back of her chair and fastened it about her slender shoulders. She took one last, long look in the mirror. Sparkling eyes, seductive smile, an easy-going charm, and nubile body – these were her preferred weapons, which she happily used in pursuit of her goddess' goals.
She'd used those 'weapons' on Sister Morssi and Brother Gregory, but ultimately to no avail. Morssi's seduction had been fun, but had taken too long. Iliss had not been able to pry the secret command words from the young, besotted Reliquarian. And when, at month end, those duties had transferred to Gregory, Iliss' affections went with them.
Gregory, too, had been unshakeable in honoring his duties. Oh, he boasted about what work he was directed to do by Kelln and the Sacristor, and had given some details of the treasures and traps that lay in the Reliquary. But never had she been able to get him to share the knowledge of how to avoid them.
With time running out, and her charms having failed twice – that was unheard! What was it about Tymorans? - Iliss had been ordered to take more direct action. Brother Gregory was always one to boast about his duties, thus she knew when he was tasked to retrieve items from the Reliquary. It was not difficult to excuse herself from the temple before Vespers, hide in a hallway, follow the callow acolyte to the Reliquary, and watch him disarm the deadly devices. Once he had entered the room, she knew it was safe to proceed. She slipped in behind him.
She'd had no qualms about knifing the young man in the back.
But then Kelln had come stomping down the corridor, yelling for Gregory. Iliss had no time to search out her prize – she'd barely had time to flee further down the hallway and into darkness before the Master had reached the Reliquary.
Then a minor hell had broken loose. People coming and going. The Preceptress herself standing guard? But Iliss had managed to draw Alline away from the Reliquary, and slip back inside and acquire the Trysech. The object of her goddess' desire was beautiful. She briefly considered disobeying her orders, and taking the relic out of the temple complex herself. Surely, she could get the Trysech past the confused and fearful priests milling about the Temple?
But orders were orders, and the cleric Braxes was not a man to be crossed. She took the relic deeper into the catacombs, using a simple light coin to illuminate her way. Iliss dropped the relic at the foot of a ramp and tapped the wall several times with her blade. She retreated back up the ramp, as she had been instructed. Pausing at the head of the ramp, she looked back in time to see a large spider crawl out of the dark and approach the holy item. It gathered up the relic and scuttled away.
In the confusion created by Gregory's death, his murderer easily slipped out of the temple and returned to the simple rooms let to "Sister" Iliss. A very different looking woman was about to leave the tenement.
Iliss carefully picked up her vampiric dagger from where it lay on the table, its long thin blade catching the lanterns' light. The metal cross guard was intricately wrought to resemble leathery wings, the bone haft had the likeness of a scaly neck, and the pommel was carnelian, carved in the form of a bat head.
Ah, if her dagger had been able to drink more deeply of Brother Gregory's blood and life-force, she would have left a powerful undead to stalk Tymora's lower galleries! But, disturbed by that heavy footed, loud-mouthed Kelln, she'd only had time to let the dagger drink sparsely. Well, even a ghoul might do some harm to the damned Tymorans!
Iliss slid the knife into a sheath on her belt, wrapped the cloak close about her, and exited her rooms. All that was left for her to do was to take a leisurely walk to the canal, where a private ferry awaited her, cross the canal, board a coach, and she'd be off to much superior lodgings in the Scribes Quarter. Braxes would be pleased with her work.
Iliss' heart was pounding. She had trouble catching her breath. There it was again! A shadow flitting across the street behind her. It was still following her!
The moment she had left her slummy rooms she got the feeling that she was being watched. At this late hour of the night, with dawn still hours away, there were few people about. But odd noises behind her, and glimpses of a dark form, convinced her that this night she was not alone on the dark streets of Capitol. She could have sworn she'd heard her name called twice, from out of gloomy alleyways.
She had to reach the canal! It was just ahead. She could see the silvery waters reflecting torchlight at the far end of the street. She was going to make it! She quickened her already fast pace. Almost there!
Tracking Iliss had been easy for Tymora's Divine Seeker. She'd had a bit of fun at the woman's expense, but it was now time to end the chase and bring Gregory's murderer to justice. She called out Iliss' name one last time.
Iliss jumped as her name was whispered from behind her. Whirling, she turned to face her pursuer. Something stepped from the shadowed alley – no, it was a 'someone'. She could not make out any details, but it was man or a tall woman.
"Who are you? I have no coin! Please, do not harm me", Iliss wailed, hoping to attract a watchman or rare passerby.
Diffuse starlight, coupled with feeble torchlight from a stable across the street, weakly illuminated Iliss. Her stalker was so positioned that Iliss could not make out any details of their face.
Daelynn marvelled at the woman's acting ability. Wide, tear-filled eyes, trembling mouth, hands held out, one imploring mercy, the other fending off a terror. She really portrayed the fearful girl quite well.
"Master Kelln wishes to speak with you on a matter of murder", said Daelynn in the terse Northern tones she used when operating as thief or Seeker on the streets of Capitol.
Iliss' mind was as sharp as her dagger. If this person was sent from Kelln then she'd not be able to play the innocent. Based on their voice, the person confronting her was likely female, young and a Norther. She quickly changed tactics to something less subtle, something to confuse or entice a simple barbarian.
"You sound like a Norther", her voice purred. "I've never met a Norther before. What is your name?"
Iliss' face and body had altered, smoothly changing – eyes narrowed, mouth smiled seductively, her body relaxed, as she opened her cloak. One hand making a small gesture of seduction and greeting used by followers of Sune, the other hand reaching down to her belt and dagger.
Iliss' small hand movements and eyes, which carried more than hint of promise, were a practiced combination used to draw her prey's focus to her face. And the voice? It held such an appeal! Daelynn leaned forward. Iliss' smile and eyes continued to work their magic as her hand stole to her belt and dagger.
Daelynn's fist struck Iliss hard on the left side of her head, rocking the woman back against a wooden wall, and breaking the "Allure" spell she'd been casting. Daelynn was impressed, again. The woman had skills. On another, her magics and natural appeal might have worked. But, like many elves, Daelynn was sensitive to charms and enthrallment spells. Her encounter with a Deva a few years ago had heightened that awareness.
Iliss collapsed against the wall, cradling her face, and covering her left eye.
"Oh! My eye", she whimpered. "You have taken my eye. I cannot see!"
Iliss' mind raced. Who was this person? She was immune to her charms, natural and arcane. So be it. She had one weapon left.
"Crap", responded Daelynn. "Your tricks will not help you."
The sound of a carriage caught Daelynn's attention. She cast a quick glance behind her. That should be Kelln.
Like a coiled snake, Iliss struck, her vampiric dagger speeding towards Daelynn's exposed breast. Exposed, but not unprotected. Before Iliss could understand what was happening, Daelynn's right hand flashed forward, grabbing Iliss' wrist. The pressure forced her hand to spasm, dropping the dagger. Iliss was pushed back against the wall, again. Her stalker stooped and caught the dagger in her left hand before it could strike the ground. Beshaba! The Tymoran had disarmed her! But her dagger could be used in another manner.
Straightening, Daelynn held the dagger up to catch what light was available in the street.
"This is what you used to kill Brother Gregory", she asked?
"Yes. Gregory… and you", answered the Beshaban agent, in a flat deadly tone. "Nikto", she snarled!
Upon voicing the command, the dagger in Daelynn's hand writhed, transforming into a minor vampiric demon. Clawed, leathery wings forcefully grabbed the elf's hand. The metal blade became a snakelike tail that tightly wrapped itself about her wrist. The creature's neck arched, and its bat-like head with gleaming fangs, lunged for Daelynn's forearm.
As fast as the demon was, Tymora's Divine Seeker was faster.
It was over almost before Iliss could grasp what was happening. The stranger's free hand moved in a blur, grabbing the bat head before it could strike. Both hands twisted, then pulled apart, each dropping an item. Torn in two, the demon was released, free to return to whatever hell from which it had been called. The remnants of the dagger clattered to the ground. The blade and guard, now twisted, useless metal. The creature's bestial head, once again resembling carved red stone, shattered on the cobblestone street.
Iliss slumped against the wall, staring at the broken remains of her once prized weapon.
The carriage pulled up beside them. Two men dressed in grey robes clambered out. One of them was Master Kelln.
"Sister Iliss", Kelln declared. "You are charged with murder, theft, aiding a Dark Power, impersonating a cleric of a true faith, disruption of temple functions, and bringing into disrepute a churchly establishment".
Goddess, mused Daelynn. The man could make the most serious of pronouncements sound pompous.
"As these are crimes against our church", Kelln continued, "or crimes that took place on church grounds, you will be tried by a Tymoran court!"
He grasped Iliss by the arm and pushed her towards the waiting carriage. Turning, the woman struck the esteemed cleric, directing numerous profanities and maledictions towards him, his Preceptress, and Tymorans, generally.
Daelynn watched the two priests grapple with Iliss, ready to lend a hand should the Beshaban agent prove too difficult for them to handle. They had almost forced Iliss into the coach, when she momentarily broke free of their hands. Rather than trying to flee, she stopped and looked directly at Daelynn. Clutching her pendant, Iliss pointed an accusing finger at the elf.
"And you, you creature of shadows! May spiders devour your flesh! May the Maid of Misfortune strike you down this very night! May you never see this day's sun!"
Kelln and his assistant increased their efforts, subduing the woman and confining her to the carriage. Someone must have placed a blanket or hood over Iliss, as the volume of her harangue decreased. From what Daelynn could make out, the attempt to silence her only increased the level of profanity and inventiveness of the dire fates which she called down upon Kelln. As Iliss was no cleric, Beshaba herself would have to intervene to curse Kelln. Knowing what she did of deities, Daelynn doubted that Lady Doom would bother.
By the time Daelynn reached her house, a faint glow in the east heralded a new day. A day she hoped to sleep through, avoiding her mother, if at all possible. She opened the tall metal gate and stepped onto the rough flagging stones of the small courtyard. Almost immediately, a large mastiff jumped out of the night's fading shadows and loped over to her, tail wagging.
"Hey, Big-boy. Is Dancer inside?"
The dog's tail stopped wagging. He turned his large head, and gazed at the wooden, double door across the courtyard, letting a soft growl escape his throat.
"Ah, well. Too bad. She will be staying a few days, at least."
The dog looked up at his mistress and whined.
"My thoughts, too. Let us enjoy this hour! We may not have much peace for a while."
Daelynn closed the gate to the roadway. The city was waking. A coach drove by, followed by a few men on horseback. Some masons, who had been working at a neighbouring house all week, arrived and started dressing stone blocks that were piled in that home's entranceway. A few birds twittered. Daelynn could hear the calls of merchants echoing up from the small market square at the foot of her street.
The chill night air was rapidly being heated by the rising orb, which peaked out between the tall stone houses across the street. Daelynn closed her eyes, enjoying the caress of the warm sun against her face. The elf leaned against the gate for several minutes, eyes closed, enjoying the sounds of the city, until Big-boy bumped his head against her hip.
"You are right", she said, straightening and looking down at the beast. "Time to face mother."
Daelynn took a last look out at the street. Maybe she could sneak past Dancer and get a few hours rest?
The sun was now a red, fuzzy half-ball sitting on the horizon, almost risen, but partly obscured by fog. Where had that come from? Odd weather, she thought, turning towards her house.
She frowned. The house and yard were also half-hidden by mist! Turning back to the look out the gate she now saw only a uniform grayness, darkening to black. A darkness spell? She reached out and grasped a bar on the gate. It was only inches away, but she could not see even that! Her darkvision showed her nothing. Even in the deepest shadows or in the middle of a globe of darkness spell, her darkvision should show something! She paused and listened. The stone workers to the south continued hammering. She heard a horse plod by. Two women were talking about the price of meat at the market, their voices and footsteps carried past her position at the gate.
Daelynn reached down to stroke her dog's head. Fumbling, she found his leather and chain collar, grasping it firmly with her left hand.
The dog whined.
"Big-boy? House! Go to the house", she ordered.
The mastiff tried to pull away, heading to the doors. Daelynn held on tightly.
"Slowly. Go slowly", she said as she stumbled on the flagstones, following the dog, with her right arm stretched out before her.
"It would seem that Iliss' faith in her goddess was not misplaced", she said to Big-boy, recalling the Beshaban's imprecations against her. "I am quite blind."