Chapter 8: Part 1
The chirping of birds, fused with the loud buzz of a bustling street, welcomed Davra as she stepped out of the city carriage reserved for councilmen. Taking her colleague’s proffered hand, she planted both feet on the cobblestone street. With an audible grunt, she straightened her sore back, whilst cursing the craftsmen that had designed the accursed vehicle that left much to be desired. With seats as hard as a rock and an overall framework that rendered the blasted thing no better than a rickety old wagon, Davra’s rear end had taken the brunt of its defects. Wincing as she adjusted to her aching muscles, she batted away Lianth’s arm and took the initiative to lead the way through the extensive garden of Doloi’s sanctuary.
The ancient castle was the trademark symbol of the city of Mareha. Its long-standing history as a temple preceded that of many of the new structures that had been built in the last century. It was not uncommon for tourists to flock the site during annual holidays, even though much of the castle itself and its courtyards had been renovated over recent years for governmental purposes. The sanctuary had become a courthouse of sorts and was often a host to various meetings held by the members of the High Council.
Climbing briskly up the, seemingly endless, granite stairs of the temple, Davra redirected her attention to her companion—who struggled to keep up with her.
“Debrief me on the current situation,” she intoned dryly, without bothering to look in the man’s direction.
Lianth straightened his shoulders at her regard and huffed in clear displeasure at Davra’s blatant condescension.
“Well,” he began snidely, “it would seem that the months your sibling has spent fighting us were all for naught. Ultimately, it was the dear director of his beloved institute that became the cause for his downfall.”
“Oh?” Her pace slowed, as she considered the news with newfound interest.
“As it turns out, although Elivar is in fact the founder of the institute, the position is of little to no consequence when for all intents and purposes it’s Lord Lathairyl who has final say on most matters as the presiding director,” he supplied airily.
“Oddly enough, I can’t say that I’m surprised.” She snorted in a rather unladylike manner. “From what I’ve gathered over the years, it’s clear that Lathairyl and my brother have no love lost between them. I’ll bet the old bastard only agreed just to spite him.”
“All the better for us I’d say. Their mutual hatred for one another has turned out to be quite advantageous. If it were not for the fact that, ‘Lord Megalomaniac,’ was well-known for having a propensity towards unheralded bouts of mass murder...” He paused for a brief second before adding sardonically, “I’d even go so far as to thank him for his rather timely and most convenient act of pettiness.”
“I’d do well to watch my tongue if I were you,” Davra muttered in warning, under her breath, as they rapidly approached the guards standing watch over the temple’s main entrance, “there are eyes everywhere here. It wouldn’t be in your best interest for unwanted ears to catch wind of your sentiments regarding the subject in question.”
“It’s not as if his past misdeeds aren’t public knowledge,” he sneered, “I’d be willing to bet my life’s worth that his infamy has gone as far as reaching the corners of all four lands. How it is that he managed to get acquitted is beyond me.”
“Well, that’s bureaucracy for you. With the right family name, influence, and wealth to back it up, the sky really is the limit,” she grumbled causing Lianth’s brows to raise northward. Davra pulled out a gold medallion from the inside of her robes and flashed it at the guards who immediately moved to hold the doors open for them upon recognition.
“You know, I find it amusing to hear you criticize the affluent when you yourself are of nobility,” he commented blandly, rolling his eyes at her cynicism. Nodding in the direction of the guards, his eyes roamed the unusually quiet entrance hall as they stepped over the threshold.
“Slow day,” he drawled at the visibly noticeable lack of persons rushing to and fro through the temple’s maze-like corridors. The entrance hall was empty, save for a few wandering souls. The stillness of the ordinarily hectic setting was almost unsettling. Lianth had always felt that the overly pretentious white columns of the sanctuary, combined with the gray undertones of its high walls and ceilings, had always given the temple somewhat of a haunted feeling. Davra herself shared in his opinion. The current atmosphere most certainly wasn’t doing it any favors, she concluded, shivering uneasily as the temperature seemed to drop by the second.
“Given the fact that the last batch of victims rounded up in the last raid are giving their statements today, the head of the official Mareha city guards thought it would be prudent to close the temple to the public for the next few days. I imagine it’ll be pretty deserted around here until the interviews are over,” she explained.
Lianth hummed noncommittally in response. “Well, shall we get going?”
“Ah… Before that I actually have somewhere I need to be.” She glanced over at him apologetically. Lianth scrunched his nose in confusion which Davra took as a cue to expound, “Anlyra requested of me to overlook one of today’s interviewees. It would seem that she’s taken an interest in one of the victims that were recovered from the raid, for some inexplicable reason.”
“It’s Anlyra. That in itself explains it all. It wouldn’t be the first time the woman became attached to one of her patients.” He arched an eyebrow meaningfully.
“Well, she wouldn’t be Anlyra, if she didn’t possess an almost inexhaustible amount of compassion now would she?”
“I suppose not.” He inclined his head in agreement. “In that case, you’d best get going. Knowing your cousin, the woman is probably driving whichever poor soul had the misfortune of being her patient, to near insanity with her incessant mothering.”
“Sounds like you’re speaking from first-hand experience,” she probed slyly, eliciting a scowl from her male companion. Davra grinned at his reaction before fixing him a pointed look. “Right then. I should get going. Try not to provoke my brother too much today. I imagine he’ll be in a foul mood.”
“I make no promises.” Lianth scoffed unrepentantly. After bidding goodbye to her companion, Davra began making her way through the network of corridors that dominated the temple. Moving deeper into the secluded lower level of the temple, she passed through a myriad of dark corridors lit by oil lamps, that lined the stone walls every few yards.
Nearing her destination, Davra schooled her facial expression before entering a large open space.
“Cousin,” a soft voice called out from a corner of the room, causing Davra to shift her attention to the direction from which the voice had originated.
“Lyra.” Davra’s eyes softened, as she looked upon her kin with affection.
“Can you help her?” Anlyra shuffled towards her, glancing at the door behind with uncertainty.
“I’ll do my best. We can try to locate her family’s whereabouts and inform them of the situation,” Davra attempted to reassure her, but the hesitance splayed across her cousin’s face was glaring. Davra pursed her lips and reached out to grasp her cousin’s hands in her own. “We’ll do what’s necessary to get her back to where she needs to be.”
Anlyra opened her mouth to object, but seemed to think better of it and chose to nod in acquiescence instead.
“Shall we?” Davra gestured towards the door, which prompted Anlyra to move to open the door.
Davra followed closely behind her cousin and stepped into the dimly lit room.
“Lady Saeksinh.” A figure moved into her line of sight, obstructing her vision. The man that greeted Davra was tall and heavy set with fairly prominent features. Taking a moment to fully size him up, her gaze eventually shifted behind him. A scrawny figure sat hunched over a wooden table.
“It’s a pleasure to see you once again.” The man pressed a fist against his chest and bowed his head slightly in the formal way of greeting high-ranking individuals of distinguishable lineage, as was common in the kingdom of Laydet.
“Forgive me, Sir…?” Davra plastered a courteous smile on her face, the unspoken question hanging in the air.
“Ah yes, I suppose it has been a long time since we first came across one another at the annual Liz’anet convention.” He laughed sheepishly. “It wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary for you to have forgotten our first meeting. Moiralt Evris, my lady.”
Davra eyed the jubilant man before her with a frown on her face. Injecting seriousness into her tone of voice she addressed the man once more, “In that case Sir Evris, since it would seem we have already made each other’s acquaintance prior to today, I hope you won’t hold it against me if I’d rather we forgo all pleasantries. I am rather pressed for time at the moment, you see.”
A look of understanding fell over the man’s features and he immediately sobered up, adopting a manner of professionalism. “Of course, then shall we get to the matter at hand?”
“Please.” Davra nodded once in confirmation. Stepping aside to clear her path, the man gestured to an unoccupied chair before her. Davra started towards the chair before her, reaching to grasp the back of the seat when something caught her attention. Davra froze in her tracks, her outstretched hand faltering midway, as she lifted her gaze towards the lone figure that remained seated before her. A quizzical look flashed across her face, as she took in the person before her.
“Cousin?” Anlyra called out softly, noticing the strange expression that crossed the elder female’s features.
“Anlyra, this… How?” Davra blinked slowly, deeply perturbed by what she had uncovered about the adolescent female before her.