She stood upon her secret stair, willing the voices echoing quietly to move on.
Surely I’ll be found out, and be cast from this place forever! She thought, desperately looking for an escape.
But then the mumbling voices grew clear and she froze.
“And when it is completed, the sign shall be given from the highest tower,” growled a voice. It was harsh like a winter’s night and it chilled Sybil to her heart.
“As it must,” lisped an all too familiar voice.
“You serve your Mastre well,” the Sister Superior spoke, “even for a Sicari.”
Sybill all but fell down the stairs in shock. The Sister Superior’s voice held a note of respect for her dark companion. Sybil cocked one pointed ear to the side, her dark hair spilling down the front of her dress.
Respect? The Sisterhood despised the Sicari, she thought, placing her feet carefully as she descended the stairwell, moving toward the glowing embrasure.
Everyone knows that these two despise one another, almost as much as siblings. Sybil’s mind wandered to the propaganda and pamphlets that seemed to run rampant through the city each day. It was a bitter rivalry fought from both sides as each sect vied for the Imperial family’s attention.
My imperial family, she thought, feeling a pang of longing as she reflected upon the separation. Memories hung before her in the chilled air, willing to be reviewed, but she pushed the thoughts away. The conversation beyond had continued, shifting to one side as the pair continued to walk upon a cobblestone path.
Sybil descended a few steps more, intrigued and terrified by this unprecedented exchange. Standing tiptoe on a stair she was given a covered view of the courtyard beyond. Torches burned along stone walls outlining the trees and shrubs of a covenant garden. Two forms walked side by side, one robed in moon silk, the other wrapped in a garment of raven black.
They would bring their most despised rival into their inner sanctum? Sybil breathed out her shock. This was the Superior’s own garden, tended by her hand for over a hundred years.
What are they playing at? she thought, pressing herself against the cool stone wall. At that moment Sybil’s foot slipped and she all but lost her purchase on the wall. A few small stones skipped down the stairs, echoing into the night. She clung to the wall for dear life, kicking her feet for a second before her slippers regain purchase on the rough stone. The tower was an old one, having been the companion to many a weathering rock and stone. Viens of cracked obsidian traced their way through roughly carved blocks giving the walls a chaotic structure.
Please don’t hear me, please don’t hear, she begged as her fingers slipped over the stone. Sybil felt her garment catch and fray and the front of her slippers tear as she regained her purchase and pushed her head up over the curved lip.
Both figures had stopped short and were facing one another, their words pouring in through Sybil’s embrasure. Neither had heard the young elf or her panicked scrabbles.
“It will be done, Daughter of the Moon,” hissed the Sicari as he bowed his head and shoulders low, “your cause is a most honorable one.”
The Sister seemed to stiffen for a moment, her gaze going beyond the robed figure.
“It must be done, Sicari. But I doubt this city . . . and these people. . .will call it honorable.” she said, with what Sybil thought was regret.
“Yes, I taste it in the air, Superior. Many will turn, and in their folly greet a death most horrible,” snarled the Sicari. Mercy abandoned his words as they left hidden lips. And Sybil instinctively knew the creature was excited at the prospect of death, of innocent death.
But what are they to do? Why are they meeting like this? She thought, pushing her self into the embrasure, willing both forms to stay where they were.
“As Sister Laureece would say, ‘the wound must be cleaned, and bone set from the inside before it can properly heal,’ and we will do this Ceptor,” the Superior said, reaching a cowled hand to touch the Sicari on his shoulder, “by the blood of the Emporer we will set the bones of this Empire, Her Empire.”
“Your bidding comes from the Burning Goddess herself, Superior,” hissed Ceptor as he again bowed his head, “We do as you and She would command.”
Sybil felt rather than heard her heart pounding in her ears at these words, but she forced herself to listen.
“Rise, Sicari,” commanded the Superior, “the Emperor must die, and upon the light of the full moon. You have a fortnight.”
“Upon the rising of our Blood Moon, the Usurper will die,” promised Cetpor, his voice shaking with suppressed energies.
The Superior waved a hand across their path saying, “Now go, there is work to be done.”
And as quick as a forming stormcloud the Sicari was gone, melting into the darkness.
Sybil watched as the Superior surveyed the garden scape around her, silent as a grave. And then she began to laugh. It was high simpering tones at first, and then the laughter came as if torn from her throat and mouth. The horrible noise filled the garden, bouncing from wall to wall until Sybil’s hidden tower stairs vibrated.
The young elf lowered herself down onto the stairs, placing hands over her ears.
“No,” she whispered, rocking back against the stones,”no.”
She looked up through a vast crack in the tower wall and saw a sliver of stars where the moon should have been.
Sybil sat shaking, torn between rage and fear, the Sister Superior’s words echoing in her mind even as she listened to her laughter. Sybil could do nothing, her airway squeezed off by this terrible secret.
“Father,” she croaked, knowing there was nothing she could do.