Chapter Three

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Time.

He needed time to effect his plans: to enter the Grand Cleric’s chambers; to read the scrolls; to speak to The Divine and prove his worthiness to lead. And as if nudging these plans along for His own glory, Ista had given Botha the time required. The Grand Cleric was to be on the mainland for five days and Botha would use that as an opportunity to set his plans into motion.

The island upon which the Istarian clergy lived was a flat land mass, approximately 200 miles from shore to shore. On the end which faced towards E’oren were the general quarters, structured like a village. Each was assigned a house, with the lower ranking members given the smallest quarters, closest to the Waters. As one’s station improved so did one’s lodgings and in his fifty-seventh year now Botha was in the section of housing closest to that of the Grand Cleric. Botha’s home was luxurious and ambient, rivalling the comfort of even the Grand Cleric’s home. He maintained a stock of fine Lastrian wines and had fresh fruits brought to him on the weekly ship from the mainland.

Now he closed his heavy front door behind him and hurried himself off the main road and onto an abandoned side street leading to the temple. Usually when he took casual strolls he wore the ornate boots which had been tailored for him when he visited Fassith. With gold designs threaded into the brown leather they were a testament to his commitment to perfect beauty. But they were too loud for his purposes. Botha was wearing his simple slippers, padded on the bottom with soft leather so as to be silent. He would need to pass unnoticed tonight.

He walked quickly in the darkness, having memorised the path many years ago. Occasionally he would hear voices coming from the main road, and doors being opened and closed. The island was going to sleep now and even the most devout would have left the temple by now to seek the comfort of their beds. The walk took a half hour in total and Botha paused where the street opened to the grounds of the temple. He listened to make sure that there was nobody about and then stepped softly onto the grass, crossing the few metres of open space between the street and the side entrance to the temple in a matter of seconds.

Botha slipped an old key from under his robes and quickly felt along the edges of the door for the key hole. He slid it in as silently as he could and turned the key to open the lock. There was a momentary groan of protest from the old, unused lock mechanism before it snapped, far too loudly, to its new position. Botha looked frantically from side to side, checking to make sure the noise had not aroused anybody’s curiosity. When the darkness didn’t move he quickly opened the wooden door. Metal hinges creaked their protest and Botha slipped in quickly, not shutting the door behind himself. He didn’t want to go through all that again when he came back out. Somebody more accustomed to sneaking about would have thought to bring along some oil to smooth the old hinges. Somebody like the man who emerged from the shadows and followed Botha soundlessly into the temple.

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