Hauptmann Karessa double-checked the guard routes one more time before heading to her office at the aisle. The guards had been doubled for the night after Bishop Maxfel Hedrin announced his visit. She felt anxious about the notorious bishop’s sudden appearance. After all this could be her opportunity to impress the top brass of Asmodeus’ church. Yet this sudden visit worried her. It was not unheard of for the notorious inquisitor to audit the temples’ authorities, which included her, but his visit coincided with some disturbing rumors.
Two days before the Bishop’s arrival a couple of Karessa’s men overheard a woman asking questions about the temple. Her questions and the proximity to the bishop’s visit were too close to the mark to be a coincidence. Unfortunately when she sent her men back for the woman she was nowhere to be found.
She had them chastised, of course, but she herself was left with making sure nothing happened while the bishop was around. Earlier she met the man himself and decided to redouble her efforts. Tall and broad-shouldered, long black hair and eyes the color of the amethyst, a sign of true Azlanti blood on him. He was beautiful to behold. But what had impressed Karessa was his commitment and strength of personality. She could feel his soul burning with purpose; he was the calm before the storm.
Karessa stopped with the last of her men in her route of her aisle. One was standing against the wall, looking toward the city; the other was sitting against the same wall. None turned toward her and saluted, failing to act as they were trained, and Garin actually looked asleep sitting like that.
“Damn you men! I will teach you to salute your superiors even if I have to make a bloody pulp of you both!” Karessa said with a hiss as she took her crop and slapped both with it, though neither one reacted.
Karessa narrowed her eyes, kicking Garin with her boot. The guard fell to the ground unresisting. With this new posture Karessa was able to see what should have been evident to her from the moment she arrived. Garin was dead. His eyes were open in wide shock, his neck pierced from side to side with a thin silver stake. Karessa’s hand grabbed Algus by the shoulder, the corpse balance broken by her touch. The body had been kept against the wall using his own sword, pierced through its belly, to keep him in place. And now, as the dead man fell Karessa could see what his body hid: a rune – blue and bright in celestial language. She did not understand the words, but she understood the meaning well enough.
The Hauptmann quickly jumped trying to escape the rune’s effect, but the mystic writing shone brightly and exploded. Most of its strength hit her in the back and sent her flying, crashing hard into the corridor’s wall. Her body and ego wounded, Hauptmann Karessa tried to keep herself awake, but the wounds on her back were too grievous and all too soon, oblivion took her.
The tall, broad shouldered man walked toward the chapel. He and his two bodyguards traveled illuminated by two rows of hellish torches. Their red light made lesser men advance in anxiety and fear, but Bishop Maxfel Hedrin didn’t pay the torches the least of attentions. His mind was elsewhere.
Mentally the inquisitor summarized what he had learned since arriving at the temple. He was unhappy. His intelligence had never before been inaccurate. But it was now. The reports had called for action because of the grievous heresies committed against Asmodeus’ church, so he had come and made his surprise visit. But the temple’s authorities were clean, nothing beyond the small heresies and innocuous sins. Perpetrators would be whipped and tortured, of course… but he had not found what he had come for: The archbishop’s head. His informant had assured him that the archbishop consorted with a priestess of an enemy faith. But no proof had appeared. If the man had had a lesser place in the hierarchy of Hell he would have taken him prisoner and had him tortured until he gave up the name and location of his lover. But he was an archbishop. And without proof the Inquisitor was the one with the executioner’s axe hanging over his neck.
Bishop Maxfel Hedrin stopped suddenly. He turned his head instinctively toward the east. The inquisitor was sure he had heard an explosion in that direction. Curious he turned around to order one of his men to go to investigate, but as he did he saw a shadow tinted in red fall between the two guards, hitting them both in the neck.
His men crumpled to the ground, their eyes open in shock, unable to register their own deaths.
A woman in a tight, short dress tinted the blood red of the torches’ light, stood between the still warm bodies. Her arms and legs were free for ease of movement, but wrapped almost entirely in bandages as those of the arena’s fighters. Her head was covered with a hood, shadowing half of her face but it did not hide the gleam of the metallic collar around her neck – identical to the shiny gold chains around her waist.
The bishop’s eyes went directly to the collar and smiled.
“So you really exist? I thought you were but a myth. Something the slaves told themselves in the hopes of freedom and comfort from a goddess that couldn’t exist. But here you are,” the man said eyeing the woman’s every movement.
She remained silent.
Besides the golden chain whip wrapped around her waist, metal stakes were sheathed in a belt below it. Sheathed on her back was a rune-covered longsword – the symbol of her office. Her hand moved quickly toward this last weapon, but the bishop expected the move and charged her, his shoulder hitting her squarely in the chest, knocking her back. Hedrin fully expected to knock the wind out of her and pin her against the floor. Then, when help arrived, he would give this slave the treatment she deserved. She would reveal every secret of her Order, and then he would guide the inquisition to purge Golarion of them and their goddess. But for now she was a jewel, a price he would not let go.
But she didn’t comply. Instead, as she was about to land on her bottom, she pulled her legs upward, forcing her body into a somersault, pushing herself backward with her back and hands. She fell with one foot and one knee on the ground, her sword in one hand… the unwrapped chain on the other.
The inquisitor bit his lip and narrowed his eyes
“By Asmodeus’s barbs, you are a tough one. So you want it the hard way Sister?” He said as he extended both hands forward forming a triangle with his fingers. He had wanted to capture her, but he was not risking his life. He could always find more of her kind if he was alive. The bishop opened his mouth to chant, but it was not his voice that came forward but a deep cavernous one that filled the place and sent shivers to anyone able to hear it. His eyes burned like coals as the smell of brimstone filled the corridor just moments before it erupted with flames the color of blood and death.
Bishop Maxfel Hedrin smiled as the fires subsided. He looked for whatever was left of the assassin, but he found nothing. The inquisitor narrowed his eyes and turned around. Dead bodies don’t disappear like that. His hand went for one of the dead bodyguard’s flails, but before he could reach it a golden chain, shining with the red light of the hellfire torches, curled around his arm grappling him back.
Behind him was the girl, holding the other end of the chain.
Hedrin’s instinctually reacted immediately. The inquisitor’s eyes shone with infernal power as the cavernous and unnatural voice filled the corridor again, cursing the assassin to a horrendous death in the obscene hell’s tongue. With inhuman strength he grabbed the chain with his hand and pulled the girl toward him. His left arm, burning with the black flames of hell’s hate, sprung like a ram in collision course with the girl, punching her squarely in the sternum with all his strength and Asmodeus infernal might. The blow sent her flying backward as it broke a couple ribs and shredded in pieces her mystical protections, her dress smoldering where the punch had landed.