The Unthinkable
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Red Dragon Inn - Dragon's Mark -> The Scathachian Sanctuary

#1: The Unthinkable Author: IssyCan Be Found: Toujours le Vert or Batten Tower PostPosted: Wed Jan 31, 2018 6:34 pm
    —


The Unthinkable
Part 1



Smoke. That was the first thing she smelled. With a start, Isuelt sat bolt upright, her mind already racing. Get up! Grab clothes and boots! Sound the alarm! But she wasn’t in her bed. At least she didn’t think so, it was so dark. Blinking, she looked around and coughed a few times until the cloud of smoke that she was apparently laying in moved past. Her eyes were stinging and the back of her throat felt as if it were on fire. She got to a knee and looked around. She was outside, it was twilight. The first thought that came to mind is that she had been sleepwalking again. Ever since she’d been having these vivid dreams, ever since the Rage Virus, it had not been unusual for her to wake up in a place other than she went to sleep. There were far off noises…bangs? explosions? She couldn’t tell.

Standing up she looked around, feeling the wind come up and take the smoke from around her. Isuelt saw a landscape shaping before her; a sweeping hillside, dramatic mountains beyond, a meadow that swept away to a sea cliff and the ocean beyond… She knew this place: The Island of Shadow. She was home. But something was very wrong. The gentle scent of the ocean’s salt mixed with the fields of tropical lilies was missing. There were charred slopes where brightly colored fauna should be, there was smoke hovering around the once majestic skyline, marring the columns of the temples that had stood for millennia.

Isulet’s feet, which she realized were in sandals pushed off from the ground and she was running toward the main temple on the plateau that overlooked the southern beaches. She passed smoldering fires and destruction: toppled stone walls, the central training ground littered with bloodied bodies, arrows and dead horses. Her head ached, her body ached. This couldn’t be real, she told herself, it had to be another of her dreams. But her dreams were getting so real lately, so tangible. Her legs fought to come to a skidding stop after what seemed like forever. She was in front of the shamble of a temple that had once been the pride of the Scathachians; the main temple had housed the legendary goddess Scathach once upon a time. And now, its walls were all but rubble, thick black smoke rose from the dome and the High Priestess of the Scathachians lay at the foot of the stairs.

“Lenai!” Isuelt could feel her kneels scrape as they buckled beneath her weight and she landed next to her commander. “Lenai? Please…” Isuelt gathered up the tall woman in her arms, she was still alive. “Lenai, what happened here? What has befallen us?” Isuelt and Lenai had not always seen eye-to-eye; in fact, more times than not they were at perfect opposition to each other. Isuelt saw Lenai as little more than a practiced politician who cared for nothing more than her reputation and the reputation of her daughters. And Lenai viewed Isuelt as a fool-hardy rebel bent on pushing the limits of the rules. Lenai was Sheryl’s biological mother, though she had never acted like it, seeing Sheryl as evidence of one night’s indiscretion rather than a daughter. And Isuelt had never forgiven her for that.

Lenai coughed and renewed the blood trickle from her lips, “He’s here…” Her strong body, which had always been a model of the Scathachian Empire felt small and weak in Isuelt’s arms. The High Priestess’s form stiffened as she gripped at Isuelt, who had come home like the prodigal daughter. And as she died, Lenai was able to point towards the Temple and utter one final word, “Bhaal.”

Isuelt gently set down her High Priestess and stood up to look beyond the stairs to the still grand columns of the Main Temple. The seat of power in the Scathachian Empire, it was once the home of Scathach herself and now hosted the Scathachian governing body, The High Circle, and its High Priestess, the now deceased Lenai. It had stood in peace, as had this island, for generations, for millennia and now, Bhaal had come. The god of murder, the god of lies and the greatest enemy of the Scathachian nation. Mythology dictated that he was able to rise to power because Scathach had been locked in a never-ending battle with her sister, Aoife.

Isuelt could nearly feel her legs shaking as she took the marble steps one at a time, trying to wrap her head around what had happened. How could Bhaal be here? It was impossible. The Island’s location was a mystery to mortals and to gods, it was mercifully sheltered. At least, that was the myth. This was all too real for Isuelt’s taste.

By the time she reached the top of the stairs and ventured slowly out toward the dais, the putrid stench of charred flesh stung her nostrils. She rubbed her watering eyes to keep them from getting too blurry. “Why, Mother?” She called softly aloud to Scathach as she raised her chin to look upon the larger than life statue of the war goddess that was the centerpiece of the temple. What she saw sent a jolt through her body and Isuelt found herself wailing as she fell to her knees. The three story-high statue of her beloved goddess was charred black from fire. And what was worse, she was decorated in the most grotesque way imaginable: the charred bodies of her Scathachian Sisters hung from the statue like ornaments on a May tree, their burned forms swaying slowly, the chains that they hung from clanking with a sickening melody. And what was worse, was that the once magnificent statue of Scathach now sported ram’s horns that looked to shine as pure gold. Isuelt’s screaming subsided into sobs before she heard it.

The low, rumbling laughter. Bhaal.

Catching her breath, she raised her head and saw him. He was made from shadow and brimstone. She knew it was him, there was no mistaking him. Her fingernails dug into her palms as her hands made fists and she got to her feel, nostrils flared, teeth gritted tightly. She saw herself as the lone Scathachian and if she couldn’t defeat Bhaal, then she would die on the battlefield with her Sisters. Isuelt took off after him, running as fast as she could, but she couldn’t catch him. He was ducking in and between columns, behind smoldering rubble and bodies. Then, finally, she saw an in; he was headed outside. Isuelt jumped up onto a slab of stone that presumably used to be a wall and vaulted through an archway to try and cut him off. She landed on the ground, a dust cloud rising around her briefly, but she did not see him. Bhaal had eluded her again. “Damnit!” She spat as she spun around to look behind her.

“Lose something?”

Isuelt spun around to see who was talking to her. The bottom of her stomach dropped out when she saw who it was. Renna stood there in the black robes of Bhaal. The blood that was coursing through the Scathachian’s veins ran ice cold and her heart felt as if it would stop. “Renna…” Isuelt nearly growled.

“Of course it is. You expected something different? Someone different? You really are that stupid aren’t you?” A smile slithered onto her face. “I’d like to say you’ve got a nice home here, but it’s sort of a shabby *** hole, isn’t it?”

Isuelt was shaking her head, trying to put this together. It had to be a dream. It felt like a dream, but something in her made it feel as if it were so much more. “Renna…how…” She couldn’t even formulate a sentence, a question, anything. Her dark eyes roamed to the harbor, the bodies of Scathachian Sisters shuffled about like mere insects to a sadistic child’s massacre.

“How what, Isuelt? How did all of this happen?” Renna took steps toward Isuelt, carefully, slowly. “How did we get here?” She chuckled. “You really are stupid. You are so incredibly self-involved that you didn’t see it. You, who prides herself on the ability to read people and see what’s coming.”

Isuelt shook her head, she still didn’t quite understand.

“Do you think that I would share my memories with you if there wasn’t something in it for me?” Renna’s expression was so cruel, so mocking that Isuelt winced. “You knew the location of this place, so what did you think I was going to do? Just let it stay with you?”

“You didn’t get the location of the Island from me.” Isuelt was astonished and frankly in denial.

“Oh, I didn’t? Then what do you think I did? How do you think I got it?” Renna teased.

“You couldn’t have. It’s impossible!” Though she had been thinking about this scenario for quite some time. It was one of her deepest fears. “No, someone from the Temple of Bhaal…”

“Yes, someone from the Temple of Bhaal. Me! I got it from you, you sanctimonious bitch!” Renna’s arms rose as if to mock her further, the long sleeves of the Bhaalite robes hung low in the graceful black fabric.

“No!”



“YES!” Renna laughed as she continued, “I thought it a particularly nice gesture on my part to share with the Bhaalites this little nugget of information.” All the while, Isuelt was slowly shaking her head and backing away. “From the port town of Sarin on the island of Callonia, sail thirteen days south to the landmark known as Cadaver’s Rock. From there it’s a five day journey west to the primitive island called Riomeaha.” At this point, Isuelt had stopped moving altogether. This was impossible wasn’t it? Yet, here Renna was, repeating verbatim the centuries’ old directions that every Scathachian knew. The way home. “And from Riomeaha, the ship turns due south until the compass spins.” Jenna paused, sensing she had finally beaten Isuelt beyond her limits after all these years. She took special enjoyment in her next words. “Weigh anchor for the night…” Isuelt’s face blanched. “Await the mists that rise with the morning sun…” Isuelt felt as if she would be sick. “Follow the mists and you will find the high peaks of Scathach’s Sanctuary piercing the fog from afar…”

That was as far as Renna got, Isuelt couldn’t listen anymore. She lunged at Renna, her hands wrapping around her throat. The two women tumbled down the shallow hillside, battling for the upper hand. Isuelt landed a right cross, sending Renna’s chin jerking. Renna’s subsequent punch to Isuelt’s gut forced the air from her lungs.

As the women came to a stop at the hill’s bottom, Isuelt came up victorious, straddling Renna. Isuelt reached to her waist and found a small dagger there, she wanted nothing more than to bury it, hilt-deep, in Renna’s skull. Isuelt felt as if she had lost everything, and she would have asked How could you? but she knew very well how Renna could. This was the ultimate spear to Isuelt’s side.

And as if she sensed her total victory, Renna uttered one word beneath the weight of the Scathachian, “Checkmate.” Renna’s sleeves raised, but instead of her hands or even claws protruding from the cuffs to defend herself from Isuelt’s dagger, there were two snakes that lunged at Isuelt. Their mouths were open with fangs dripping with venom; they entwined themselves around Isuelt, one at her arm, the other at her leg. Isuelt managed to grab hold of the snake at her wrist and pull it across the dagger’s blade in her hand, sufficiently slicing it in two. The snake at her leg, however, plunged its fangs deeply into her thigh.

Isuelt screamed aloud from the pain while Renna, who had rolled away, began to laugh tauntingly. “Oh, Isuelt! Issy! Issssssy!” Isuelt began to panic, her throat felt like it was closing up. The snake…it must be venomous. Isuelt clenched her eyes shut, the pain was almost too much to bear. She could hear Renna’s voice jeering her name over and over. “Issy! ISSY!”

Isuelt’s eyes flew open, her thigh was on fire and she could barely breathe.

“ISSY! WAKE THE HELL UP!”

Isuelt was staring at Delphinea’s face. It was her voice that was ringing in Isuelt’s ears, just as it was Delphinea’s forearm that was forcefully resting across Isuelt’s throat, effectively pinning her back up against the wall of her room. Isuelt stopped moving and Phin’s arm slowly eased up, letting Isuelt stand on her own. Though that’s when the pain in her thigh hit her again; she winced. Delphinea stepped back only enough to let Isuelt see that Athena was just next to her. And beyond the two of them, Sheryl and Janie were by the door. They were all alive! Though Sheryl’s appearance jarred Isuelt; she had blood on her face and her shoulders. Isuelt was more than a little confused. Wasn’t it all just a dream? The pain in Isuelt’s thigh began to throb and she couldn’t ignore it anymore. She looked down and saw the hilt of a dagger protruding from her left thigh. The hilt had a sapphire in it. It was Scorp’s dagger, one he had given her decades ago and she slept with it beneath her pillows every night.


Slowly, Isuelt began to understand the scene around her. Mirage appeared at the door and handed Janie some bandages which she then used to wrap up Sheryl’s arm as they exited Isuelt’s room. Mirage then moved in further with a bowl of water, two towels and a needle and thread which she put down by Athena and Delphinea. Isuelt’s head was spinning, her leg was throbbing and she slowly slid down the wall, Phin and Athena’s hands making sure she didn’t hit the floor too roughly. While Isuelt was in a daze, Phin got to work threading the needle and readying a towel to pull the dagger free from Isuelt’s leg.

Athena pushed some sweat-soaked hair from Isuelt’s face, her expression was based in pity. “These dreams are getting worse.” Isuelt wanted to agree with her old roommate, but the question was meant for Phin.

Delphinea glanced from her work up to Athena and grunted slightly, in complete and obvious agreement.

“You can’t keep on like this, Illea,” Athena was softly addressing Isuelt this time. “You have these night terrors at least three times a week.” She held on to Isuelt’s hand as Phin wrapped the towel around the dagger and nodded. Athena gripped Isuelt as Delphinea ripped the dagger from Isuelt’s flesh.

Isuelt jolted against the wall, smacking the back of her head. Her eyes were shut and she heard the dagger hit the floor and felt the pressure of the towel on her leg. It was a moment before anyone said anything, Isuelt was first. “I…I had…the Island. The Island was gone. On fire. It was the end of all things. Bhaal was there and Renna.” Her thoughts were piecing together as best they could the nightmare that had seemed so real. It was as if the dream had left a bad taste behind and she was trying to spit it out.

Isuelt heard both women sigh, but it was Athena who spoke. “It was only a dream, Illea. Like the others.”

“No. No this was different.” She flinched as Delphinea began her sewing. “Renna was there, she told them.”

“Illea, no one who is not a Scathachian knows the location of the Island, least of all Renna.”

Isuelt kept quiet. She had suspected Renna knew of many of her secrets for some time. Renna and Isuelt had shared memories almost four years ago which was why the revelation that Renna had joined with the Temple of Bhaal was so apocalyptic to her. It was only a matter of time before Renna shared that information; if she had it, and Isuelt was nearly convinced she did.

#2:  Author: IssyCan Be Found: Toujours le Vert or Batten Tower PostPosted: Thu Feb 15, 2018 4:25 pm
    —
The Unthinkable
Part 2



After Delphinea finished with Isuelt’s leg and wrapped it sufficiently, she left to join some of the others in the kitchen. There was no moon that night, which partially foreshadowed the events at the Sanctuary. There was hushed gossip going on about the night’s events. Yes, Isuelt’s dreams were getting to be a problem, but this time she had actually injured another Scathachian. Sheryl’s forearms and left shoulder bore the brunt of Isuelt’s night terror this evening as she had attempted to waken her Sister. Sheryl, one of the younger Scathachians here in Rhydin, was stitched and wrapped and sitting at the table with a cup of tea with Athena. Janie and Phin were talking in low tones as they began to put out some food for the others. This was the scene that Isuelt came in on as she limped to the kitchen.

It was Janie who saw her first, “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? You should be off that leg!” The others quickly joined in, their voices overlapping.

“Yes, Illea. You should be resting…”
“…Just need to get some real sleep…”
“…better off in bed…”

Isuelt stood her ground, though she had most of her weight on her right leg. Her dark eyes looking from one face to another. Her lips were pressed together in a straight line that was devoid of expression. She loved each of these women; she loved them as if they were real sisters to her. She trusted them, each of them, with her life. She had trained a few of the younger ones for a time, and the older ones like Athena, she had bled with on the battlefields. There was no one she trusted more in this world and yet, here she was, keeping something so critical from them. So vital was the information she harbored that she may have put their lives in danger. No, she may have put the lives of every Scathachian in danger; those who remained within the safety of the mists surrounding their home were the most vulnerable. And it was all due to what? Isuelt’s pride? Her embarrassment?

“I…I have something I need to tell you.” Isuelt began slowly, lowly. So low, in fact, that Delphinea actually had to remove the pot from the stove because the sizzle of meat was drowning out Isuelt’s dulcet tone. Isuelt drew a deep breath as she prepared to confess. “I have reason to believe that the Island is in danger. That its whereabouts are…are no longer a secret.” There was silence from the room as the warriors simply watched their leader. Isuelt licked her lips, thinking that the severity of her news was lost on them. “It’s Renna. Renna knows where the Island is, and worse, how to get to it.” Again, silence. Was she not speaking out loud?

Then, finally, it was Sheryl who spoke quietly. Almost pitifully, “Issy, it was just a dream. It’s okay.” Janie placed a gentle hand on Sheryl’s shoulder.

“I understand that,” Isuelt barely kept herself from rolling her eyes. They clearly weren’t understanding her. “And I’m sorry, Sheryl. For…” She gestured toward Sheryl, “…for hurting you. But you all need to listen to me. Renna knows where the Island is. She’s known for almost four years. She and I, and don’t ask me how, shared memories and I know that that’s in my brain! So, know, she knows.” Again silence. Though it was Athena who flinched lightly, narrowing her eyes slowly at Isuelt. “Listen to me! She’s had this information all along, but she couldn’t do anything with it because she wasn’t here. She was in Naz…Nazgur…I don’t know how to say it, but she was on another plane. But now, now she’s back and she has joined with the Temple of Bhaal! She did this about six months ago, as far as I know. That’s what Ebon Ilnaren was doing here. He came to tell me the news. He heard it from her, himself! And that there was increased members of Bhaal here starting to raise their heads and poke around! And that’s why I was in the West End with Victor Grynyrd when that whole damn block collapsed; we were underground and found it…activity of Bhaalites! Fresh activity!” She was rambling feverishly, nearly yelling, but she just wanted to get it all out. Isuelt took a moment to catch her breath; her leg was throbbing. As she looked to the women, each one in turn, their faces were little changed. One thing was certain, she definitely had their attention now. Isuelt continued, though she wasn’t as wild, “She knows. And she’s going to do something with this information. It’s the perfect move.” She paused to contemplate the horror that Renna and the Bhaalites would rain down on their beloved Island of Shadow. “They’ll never even see it coming.” Isuelt finally had her catharsis and it left her crestfallen. The weight of what she’d finally confessed brought tears to her eyes. But hopefully, they could do something about it now. Right?

Amid the stunned silence from her Sisters, it was Athena who stood up first. “Illea…”

Isuelt’s eyes looked to her once roommate.

“Please tell me that you are still feverish from your dream, Sister.” Athena continued.

Isuelt shook her head, whispering, “No. This is real.”

Now it was Athena who looked crestfallen. She sighed heavily. “You knew that our Sisters…our whole way of life was in danger, and you said nothing for four years?” Her brows were even, her jaw was set.

Isuelt sighed and nodded once.

“And you’re sure?” Athena was praying that Isuelt would contradict her.

“I am. I…I don’t know how I’m sure, but I’m sure.” Isuelt’s shoulders slumped. It was all at once freeing and crushing to confess her secret.

Athena looked more and more disappointed by the minute. She licked her lips briefly then looked back to Isuelt with an exhale. “And we are to be made aware than even in these last six months you didn’t tell us of the additional finds that you had made regarding Renna and her allegiance with the Temple of Bhaal?”

Isuelt again nodded, but slower this time.

“And that you had found evidence yourself of this rise of the Bhaalites in this city? And these continued dreams, these prophetic dreams, were gifted to you for weeks and you still said nothing to save your Sisters? Or even share the information?” Athena continued.

Isuelt’s ears began to feel hot, as did the top of her head. Shame and guilt were beginning to be overridden by panic.

While Athena’s posture was nearly at attention with her wide shoulders set high and her chin lifted, her expression looked as if she had just been commanded to cut off her right arm. “And even now, you would not be surprised if an army of Bhaalites was on its way to our home to attack in surprise? That this may have even already occurred and we would have no knowledge of it? Our way of life? The seat of power in the Scathachian Nation as it has existed as preordained by the goddess herself for thousands of years, is now in perilous danger, and you have said nothing?” She was silently pleading with Isuelt to contradict her, to correct her, to say this had all been a misunderstanding.

Instead, Isuelt simply nodded and then hung her head as her body sagged against the doorway. Everything Athena had asked was true. Silent tears stung her eyes before they rolled down her cheeks. She could barely hear the whisperings of her Sisters, again their voices did little but overlap.

“This whole time…”
“…what do we do? We have to warn them…”
“…what if everything’s gone?”
“…go home and defend it…”
“Mother…”

That last voice Isuelt did hear. It was Sheryl. Isuelt lifted her dark eyes to look at the young woman with the curly blonde hair and the sunny disposition; her skin now bandaged and bleeding beneath because of her. And now, Sheryl’s mother, High Priestess Lenai, was she in danger because of Isuelt as well? Was she already dead? Even though Lenai had never been very affectionate toward her own daughter, Isuelt had always taken a special liking to Sheryl. And now, seeing the worry and terror in her young face, she feared that she had injured Sheryl twice in this one night alone. The very last thing she would ever want to do.

“Illea,” Athena’s voice stole Isuelt’s attention away from Sheryl. And as she looked to where Athena had been standing, she found that Athena had moved and was now standing just to her left, flanked by the hulking Delphinea. “Illea,” Athena repeated until she was sure she had Isuelt’s full and undivided focus.

“Yes,” Isuelt straightened up slightly.

Athena’s eyes were trained on Isuelt, her mouth seemed poised to speak, yet no words yet came. That is until Phin lightly touched Athena’s elbow. The hulking blonde and the tall redhead shared a saddened glance and it was only then that Athena continued. “Illea, it is with great sorrow that you force me to do the following.” Athena’s voice sounded odd to Isuelt’s ears. Athena sighed once more and Isuelt noticed that Delphinea wore the same pained expression as Athena. “Because of your carelessness and lack of action, because your poor judgement has placed the Daughters of Scathach in danger…” She seemed to forget her words, or at least the desire to say them. Delphinea exhaled heavily, almost a sigh. What was happening seemed to be surreal, for all of them. That small sound behind Athena seemed to be the push that she needed as she continued. “For vital information given to the enemy and for endangering the home of Scathach and of all Scathachians, leaving the Island open to invasion…” Here Athena paused again, hoping this was a dream of hers. She sighed and briefly closed her eyes, “As ranking Scathachian here, seconded by the current Champion of Scathach, I-“ She swallowed and forced herself to continue, “I am relieving you of duty and charging you with the crimes against the Scathachian Nation as in accordance with our Cód Iompair… I call for your dífhostú.” Her tongue darted back and forth between common and Scathachian languages. “Surrender to me your initiation sash and your holy blades, Sister. Tá tú dífhostaithe. Until a Court Martial can be convened on the Island of Shadow by the High Circle…your Sisterhood as a Daughter of Scathach…is finished.” She finally met Isuelt’s eyes and the two gazed at each other for a long while, each feeling the gravity of what was happening. “If there even is an Island of Shadow to go back to any longer…” Athena’s heart was breaking for so many reasons at this moment and her voice was barely audible. Around them, the other, younger Scathachians were all talking at once in a fury of disbelief.

But Isuelt couldn’t hear the outcry. She swallowed and nearly began drowning in the silence she felt inside of her head; she felt her world collapsing on top of her. She could only hear the voice of Athena echoing in her head over and over… Tá tú dífhostaithe…Tá tú dífhostaithe…You are dismissed. The Rite of Dífhostú in the Scathachian tradition; a Court Martial. The end of her career as a Judge, as a Daughter of Scathach.

“Treachery in battle is the highest crime that a Scathachian can commit.” Sorrowfully, Delphinea spoke and completed her task in this discharge of Isuelt. “Illea, you have shielded Renna, a known enemy to you and to us all. Further, you have shielded Temple of Bhaal, our greatest and oldest adversary. Unwillingly or not, you have divulged the most sacred secret that we possess.” Delphinea looked as if Isuelt had slapped her across the face.

Sheryl stood with tears running down her face. Janie held her shocked expression in the palm of her hand as she covered her mouth. Mirage hovered by the doorway with two of the others, looking between Athena and Isuelt. No one spoke for a long moment.

“The time for the Scathachians in Rhydin has perhaps come to an end.” Athena spoke finally and with a quieted voice. “We are no longer needed here, order seems to have found a way to Rhydin with the help of the Watch and other diligent citizens. We will go home to defend our Sisters and our goddess against whatever is to come. And if it already has come, then we are some of the last of our kind and we must set to right all that has befallen our beautiful Nation.” She turned to the others in the room and readjusted her tone, so that they would understand that these were orders. “Pack your things. Call in all of the Sisters on patrol. We leave at sunrise for the Island of Shadow. Now!” The women scattered out of the room, still in partial disbelief to the events of the evening.

Delphinea remained by the door, however, looking back to Athena and Isuelt.

“Can you go and get your things? Or do you want me to go to your room and get them?” Athena’s voice lacked the official tone she had a few minutes ago. Instead, this was an old friend trying to help Isuelt do something that was painful.

“No, I…I can do it.” Isuelt couldn’t manage to look Athena in the eye just then. She was deeply ashamed. Why had she kept silent about her breech of information? Why hadn’t she just come out and said something? What if her Sisters were in peril? What if they had been killed? What if the dream wasn’t really just a dream? What if she was responsible for the destruction of a lifestyle that had been in existence for millennia? Without another word, she turned around and made her way slowly down the hall back to her room to fetch her Scathachian sash and blessed swords.

Athena covered her face with her hands and cried. It was Delphinea who came and helped her out of the kitchen so that she could pack her things for their journey home.

#3:  Author: IssyCan Be Found: Toujours le Vert or Batten Tower PostPosted: Wed Feb 21, 2018 5:56 pm
    —
The Unthinkable
Part 3



By the time dawn had come to Rhydin, the crates and travel bags had all been secured for the trip down to the docks. The warriors had chartered a ship that would take them the first leg of their journey home. The Scathachians who had been out on patrol had been recalled and were still being fed the details of what had transpired and most of them were in a panic about what state they would find their home when they returned. It was a long and agonizing journey, especially now that the Sisters did not know what to expect. There were plenty of worried expressions and anxious ticks to go around.

The bell rang throughout the Sanctuary from the Temple next door. Neighbors would think that the clock chime was off, for it wasn’t yet seven o’clock. But the Scathachians knew what they were doing, and it wasn’t telling time. The first rays of the cold dawn splashed across the marble floor in the foyer of the Sanctuary as the double doors opened. “Move quickly, Sisters.” Delphinea called out, “Athena doesn’t want our exeunt from this city to be much of a spectacle. Though I’m sure that someone will see it published in the Post before the day is out.” Scathachians moved with the utmost efficiency as they loaded their cargo into the awaiting transport outside. Delphinea called out after them, “And see to it that Rose is found and brought up on what has transpired.”

However, Isuelt quickly interrupted Phin then. “There’s no need.” Delphinea turned and shot Isuelt a questioning gaze, imploring her to continue. “Rose is gone.” Isuelt reported with the most grave of tones.

“Gone? Dead?” Phin was confused.

“Worse.” The taste of another confession was sour in Isuelt’s mouth. “She’s been seduced by the Temple of Bhaal. She has joined with Renna and is now branded as a Bhaalite.” It was a personal defeat for Isuelt, to say the least. She viewed Rose’s defection as a direct result of another poor decision that she had made. She seemingly couldn’t win these days.

Delphinea, whose thoughts rang loudly in her head as Another one? What is with you, Illea? Are you recruiting for us or for them? Though she was kind enough to stay silent and simply nod.

Isuelt was standing near the back of the foyer when Athena came around the corner to rest at her side. Both of them, so alike in age and stature that they could have truly been related. They watched as Delphinea rounded up their Sisters.

“Seeing us leave en masse is sure to attract the wrong sort of attention.” Athena nodded to Isuelt.

“I hope that with an exit this early in the morning, most of the trouble makers will still be abed.” Isuelt quietly confided to the new leader of the Scathachian garrison. “I’ll let the Watch know what is happening, tell them they’ll be without Scathachians to help.”

Sadly, Athena nodded and looked to Isuelt. She regarded her oldest friend for some time. Finally Isuelt glanced to Athena as she felt her eyes on her. “Why?” Athena whispered privately to her.

Isuelt shook her head, returning the clandestine tone, “I don’t know why. I don’t really know what I was thinking.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t want to do this.”

“I know. But you’re doing what needs to be done. Doing what I couldn’t.” Isuelt swallowed and put an arm around Athena’s shoulders. “You’re doing your duty, keeping our Sisters safe.” And with a final nod to Athena, Isuelt encouraged her to take command of the warriors and lead them out.

Athena wrapped her friend in a quick, but strong embrace, whispering to her, “If all is well when we get back home, I know that a court martial will be lenient on you. You will be reinstated as a Scathachian before long. I will speak on your behalf. I swear it.” Athena sniffed once, holding back emotion as she stepped away from Isuelt and moved to the door.

As Isuelt nodded once to Athena, Sheryl crushed her with a hug. “I’m so sorry, Issy.” Isuelt looked to the warrior who had learned so much and come so far since her arrival in Rhydin. Still, Isuelt saw how shaken she was. And she couldn’t blame her; Sheryl would have to wait the entirely of the long journey to see not only if their Island was secure, but to see if her mother was still alive.

“I’m sorry, Sheryl. The blame rests entirely upon me.” Isuelt reassured her and patted her arm. Sheryl took a deep breath and exited past Athena.

Delphinea was next in her goodbye, extending her arm. Isuelt gripped her forearm and the two said little, but the respect was more than mutual.

All of the other Scathachians had moved through the foyer and were now awaiting departure outside. Janie, however, remained in the foyer.

“Nimue,” Athena called, “We’re waiting on you.” She nodded to Janie.

Janie straightened her posture and looked to Athena as she cleared her throat. “I’m…I’m staying.” The words seemed to surprise even the surfer as they came out of her mouth. Her baby blue eyes quickly ticked from Athena to Isuelt. Isuelt seemed the most surprised of the three of them. It was true that Isuelt and Janie rarely saw eye-to-eye on anything, and they were more often than not at constant odds with each other. However, something in Janie’s conscience told her to stay behind to support her once-teacher. Isuelt’s brows rose a little to which Janie simply implied a curt nod of respect to her.

Athena looked between the two of them and were this any other day, she would have rejoiced at seeing these two finally seem to make amends. “Very well. See to the Temple in the interim; we will send word to you when we know what has transpired.” To this Janie bowed her head in compliance. Athena then bestowed the significance of her next words with a change of tone, “And Nimue, you are now the sole representative of the great Nation of Scathach in this city.” She paused here to give her words deeper meaning. “Carry yourself as would the goddess Scathach herself. Do you understand?”

Janie fully understood the gravity of these words and the meaning behind them: no silliness, no sleeping around, no comic relief. She was to be as Isuelt was when she had first come to this part of the world. “I understand, Athena.” Janie placed a closed fist to her right shoulder and bowed. “You shall not regret your decision to let me stay.”

“Goddess, I hope not…” Athena murmured as she managed to camouflage a smile. Then another nod to Isuelt and she turned to follow the rest of the Scathachian garrison, shutting the doors behind her. It didn’t take the Scathachian sisterhood to push off and start down to the docks; their pace was a comment on their urgency to get home.

Isuelt and Janie were left alone in the foyer and for a long moment neither one of them spoke. What had transpired in only about ten hours was more than either of them could really fully comprehend yet. It was Isuelt who let her voice be heard first. “My things are packed as well. I’ll be leaving you in a few minutes.” She gestured to the two large satchels that were behind her along the wall.

“You…you don’t have to. Really.” Janie took a few steps toward Isuelt. “I mean, there’s no one here except me to really know. Besides that…where will you go?”

“Janie,” Isuelt began, “You don’t want your first day on the job as chief resident Scathachian to be breaking the law, do you?” Janie glanced at the floor and Isuelt continued.

“It’s not a real law…” Janie began quietly.

“It’s our law.” Isuelt was quick to interrupt her. “I am, at this moment anyway, no longer a Scathachian. I’ll find a place to stay.”

“Look, I’m just here to keep the lights on, and that rot, and to guard the Temple. This huge place with just me?” Janie bit her tongue. She’d be damned if she was going to cry now.

“Janie…it’s okay. I’ll be okay.” Isuelt encouraged her. This wasn’t for Isuelt to believe herself just yet; this was for Isuelt to convince her younger Sister.

“I’m sorry for always being such a hoon to you,” Janie sighed and wrinkled her brow. “You were a good teacher. You were! And a great leader here. I know people will always remember you as a tall poppy.” Her tanned hands wiped furiously at her cheeks. Damn rogue tears!

Isuelt couldn’t help but chuckle, still she was genuinely touched by Janie’s praise. “Thank you. I’ll see you around.” She nodded and turned to pick up her bags, one of which she placed on her back and the other she carried. Without her blades and other blessed weaponry, it was a bit easier to carry them. She paused and looked back to Janie, who was now beginning to understand the magnitude of her position here. “Bealtaine an bandia leat,” Isuelt softly smiled as she used her beloved Scathachian language to bless Janie and her new undertaking.

“Bealtaine an bandia leat, Illea.” Janie replied and truly did wish the best for her elder Sister who had given them all so much. “Be careful out there.”

“You as well, Nimue.” And with that, Isuelt left the foyer and the Scathachian Sanctuary for perhaps the last time. She was draped in black, which befitted her mood and her steps were in contrast to the Sisters who had left before; Isuelt wandered, wondering herself just where she would end up. When she finally did reach the end of the road before it turned to wind back down toward Rhydin, Isuelt looked back to the Sanctuary and saw the lone surfer girl whom she had so often admonished, so often regretted, standing like a guardian of old: dignified and strong. And it was then that Isuelt felt a swell of real pride for the girl; Janie had finally become what Isuelt knew she was capable of all along, and it warmed her heart that maybe she at least got that right.

And as Janie stood in the great hall by herself watching her leader depart, she felt instantly sorry for all the trouble she had caused her. Moreover and perhaps more intensely, she found herself wondering how in the hell she would ever manage to do what Isuelt had done here in Rhydin.



Red Dragon Inn - Dragon's Mark -> The Scathachian Sanctuary


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