Kaliah watched as the acolyte disappeared down the corridor that lead to the laundry rooms and the Temple baths. Still sweating from the heat outside, Kaliah took a step toward the bath hall before she could stop herself. Duty warred with desire as she brought herself to a stop. The High Priestess was not such an understanding woman that she would forgive Kaliah’s frolicking in the baths when she should be attending to her duties and waiting for her next errand.
Closing her eyes, she fell into the meditative trance than she had been taught to achieve here at the Temple. Within moments, she felt the anger and hostility draining from her body, leaving her calm and centered once again. Her hands laced lightly together in front of her waist, she made her way quietly down the carpeted hall leading to the Sanctuary. Just beyond it, through a narrow, crooked hall that was once merely a crack in the stone wall, were the High Priest Cassandran’s private quarters.
No one ever went there.
Turning her attention from that hallowed hallway, Kaliah surveyed the Sanctuary with a critical eye. As Mishrey, ultimate responsibility for the Sanctuary was hers, in addition to being the High Priestess’ personal errand runner. The two occupations kept food on her table, clothing on her and her mother, and afforded her a treasured bit of independence.
The Sanctuary was quiet, deserted, though freshly lit incense wafted up toward the ventilation hole in the ceiling in tight little eddies of smoke. All the acolytes and students were at midday Services. No doubt the room would fill in another hour, as the most pious of the residents would come for devotional time before evening Services. Kaliah herself would be home by evening Services; Mishrey’s were not required to attend Services more than once a week.
Plucking wilting petals from the wildflowers on the altar, Kaliah made a mental note to pick some fresh ones when she next found an opportunity.
“I trust that there were no problems with your last delivery, Mishrey.” Though it was not a question, Kaliah knew that Cassandran, High Priestess of Ishlia Temple, was expecting an answer as though it were.
“There were no problems, my Lady. Merely a delay, as I was forced to seek Caffran at his Farm, as he was not at his shop at the appointed hour.” Kaliah kept her manner subservient as she reported, and her eyes trained on the floor. “He bade me to give you this,” she said, withdrawing a small paper-wrapped parcel from the pouch sewn into her wide belt. She presented it in the flat of her palm, lifted above her head as she knelt on the floor in front of the priestess. She’d assumed the position as soon as she’d heard Cassandran’s voice, though she’d never lifted her gaze to confirm the speaker.
She kept herself from flinching, barely, as the soft scrape of the other woman’s nails tickled her palm as the package was taken from her. The first and most important duty of a Mishrey was trustworthiness. She must always demonstrate impeccable trustworthiness. No Mishrey ever knew what they carried to and from the Temple. Kaliah was very careful to never set eyes on even the wrapping of the packages and missives she carried. Her fingers had become very deft in the two years she’d been serving as Mishrey.
There was the sound of crackling paper, then silence. Evidently, the package from Caffran contained a message. Anyone with common sense could deduce that, Kaliah thought with a touch of scorn. Just because she never knew what was in the packages and parcels didn’t mean she didn’t speculate. She was only human, after all.
Just when she thought she’d been forgotten and was about to indulge herself in a little harmless fantasy, Cassandran spoke. “Sindai Tarzia will have a package waiting for you at the door after you’ve eaten. You will take it to the jeweler, Master Volster. After that, the rest of the day is yours. I will not have need of you tomorrow, either, so return the day after.” Cassandran swept away, presumably back to her private quarters and Kaliah slowly rose.