Ilitha Reiyiss (ILL-ih-thuh Ree-YISS)
Heir to Lower House Reiyiss
Greetings to those below. I am Death, though if you wish to be polite, I’d suggest you call me Azrael. I’m not sure why I have been asked to discuss Ilitha today. Not too many people like her, you see. And that opinion is not entirely undeserved, either, mind you. Choice is law, and Ilitha has certainly made choices, one choice in particular that has landed her in quite a bit of trouble. She has yet to realize just how much.
For my own part, I’ve never had much stake in her life one way or the other, except for what she did to poor Baläg. Still, while I agree with those who scoff at her choice, I do hesitate to judge her for it. You see, disappointment is the only emotion I can feel when I think of Ilitha. Not that I am disappointed in her. That would be different. It is more accurate to say Ilitha’s entire life is disappointing. And she would agree. Let me explain.
“Tell me, Jezryn, what was a lower nomarch with a dying House to do? Dance, dance the night away.“—Ilitha Reiyiss
In order to understand Ilitha’s life in all its nuance, you must first understand what she does and why what she does has aided in the ruin of her family. You see, Ilitha—like her father and mother before her—is a Sicarius assassin. With that comes the wraith-step. Wraith-step is the impossibly fast running employed as a fighting tactic by Sicarius assassins. The ability is only possible for Zurrinaih elves, which is why only Zurrinaih elves are ever made Sicarius assassins. Training every single muscle, a Zurrinaih can learn to perform quick flashes of speed that can almost render them invisible. To finish off what pure speed cannot, they employ long cloaks made from vapor silk that reflect light and allow them to better blend with the elements. They use them in a manner similar to a magician’s disappearing act. But while this might sound impressive, I will warn you it is incredibly dangerous. This is because, in order to perform the wraith-step, a Zurrinaih must trigger a zadrel.
The word zadrel means “lightning” in the Zishlyn language. And that is exactly what it feels like. A zadrel is the initial adrenaline rush a Sicarius assassin needs to enter the wraith-step. An assassin will trigger a zadrel by activating the voluntary adrenal gland inside their head. Once activated, their eyes, even the sclera, jolt pitch black for a split second. A current of extra energy will strike through their body, allowing them their initial burst of speed. This is the dangerous part because it puts great strain on the heart. For this reason, great discipline is emphasized when learning the technique. If a Zurrinaih becomes addicted to triggering zadrels, they can suffer a heart attack or the much worse Black Blood Disease. Unfortunately for Ilitha, Black Blood Disease is the very thing that torments her. Rather, it torments her mother.
Ilitha’s family is small, and it proceeded to shrink as time went on. Unlike First Chosen House Sulissurn who can get by having a small family, the size of Lower House Reiyiss is evidence of its struggle.
Idraka: “Ilitha! Get inside! Stop playing with the Tressian.“ Ilitha: “They are called humans, mama.“ Idraka: “No, they are aliens. Strangers to Orosta. Their ears are proof enough of that.“ Ilitha: “But I like Nima’s ears! They look funny.“ Idraka: “I will cut off Nima’s ears if you do not get inside. Now!”—Idraka scolding Ilitha for playing with Nima
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederThe Ilitha we know today is very different from who she was in the beginning. When she was three years old, Ilitha actually liked humans. But to understand why this was a problem, you have to understand how the Orostians view humans. They are seen as alien. Strangers to Orosta. I have discussed the Tressian Myth before, but in brief, it is the belief that humans are not native to the world of Orosta and instead come from another world called Tres, which is why they fair so badly on Orosta most of the time. Vānima the Veldriss certainly believes this, which is why she enslaved all the humans. Well . . . that’s not exactly true, but it’s what she tells the Rhyonian people. It’s what she tells herself some days when she wants to forget. This is why, when little Ilitha decided that Nima—House Reiyiss’s newest Tressian slave—was her best friend, Idraka throttled the budding friendship in its sleep. This almost was literal, but Saryst forbade Idraka from actually killing Nima. I was relieved. I can tell you there is nothing more distasteful in my line of work than collecting children. Though, as I have said, while I am not good, I am merciful. Perhaps it would have been merciful to have collected Nima, after all. She’s grown up alone in more ways than one, trapped in a dying castle with a breathing skeleton for a mistress. But we’ll get to that.
A Collection I Regret
“I was young when my father died. I do not remember him much. But I do remember hating he was gone. I remember hating Nima.“—Ilitha Reiyiss
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederIdraka put a stop to Ilitha’s fondness of humans, but it wasn’t until the death of Saryst that Ilitha began hating them. All Nima was meant to do was send a message. She was just a child. You can’t blame her, of course, but four-year-old Ilitha did. She still does, truth be told. You see, a message came from Sicarius commanding her father to hunt a fleeing Sithuwaye elf. Saryst accepted the assassination contract and went out to complete it. But after he had left, another message came warning him it was a trap, that there were two more Sithuwaye lying in ambush to kill the assassin that was sent. Nima received the message. I was there by this time, and I can tell you she tried. She ran as fast as her little legs would carry her, but she wasn’t fast enough. The hidden Sithuwaye revealed themselves, and with a lucky blast of their psionics, they threw Saryst into the jagged limbs of a fallen tree. Stabbed. Soon to be dead. Nima saw the whole thing. I wished I could have covered her eyes, but I’m not allowed to touch those below, you see. It’s probably for the best. As I drifted close to Saryst, I graced him with a bow as is my custom, but all he did was close his eyes. He tried to explain that his wife needed him, but his part in the story had finished. There was nothing more he or I could do. For what it’s worth, I collected him gently before returning him to my master. I might tell Ilitha that the day I come to collect her. Maybe it will comfort her, though nothing seems to comfort her these days. After Saryst’s death, I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but his plea for his wife had me curious. I drifted back to Castle Narcissus to watch what would happen. I couldn’t have known how right he had been.
There is much I will tell you about Ilitha that is her own fault. But perhaps she would have faired better if Idraka had . . . well, Idraka was always twitchy from the beginning, I suppose. Choice is law. It is the rule that binds the universe. For Idraka’s part, her choices bound Ilitha. After the death of Saryst, Ilitha was all Idraka had. She clung to the idea of her daughter, the future her daughter represented, and perhaps in those days that was what saved her . . . initially. But then Ilitha turned seven years old, and it was time for her to attend Sicarius, the school of assassins. Ilitha left, and Idraka was alone. Two years later, when Ilitha was nine years old, Anāriel Anastil the Black Unicorn came out of the east. She was spotted in the territories House Reiyiss governed, in a small, struggling town named Clearbrooke. Clearbrooke, you have to understand, was House Reiyiss’s primary investment. Without it, House Reiyiss would have nothing. But when Vānima the Veldriss caught a glimpse of her long-lost sister in one of Clearbrooke’s mirrors, she realized her old enemy had come back. She had thought she was dead, but no. There she was, terribly alive. Vānima couldn’t stand it, so she sent the red dragon, Elghinyrrok the Judge, to destroy Anāriel once and for all. But I can tell you, that out of all the collections I performed that day in the burning town of Clearbrooke, Anāriel was not among them. Clearbrooke melted under dragon fire, but for what? Idraka understood the pointlessness of it all. First her husband had died. Then her daughter had left to attend a school she may never leave. And now, her one remaining source of stability had just been blasted from the horizon. I regret to say Idraka gave up, shrank inside the safety of her own mind. She started triggering zadrels. As she did, her eyes began to turn black.“You know a red dragon came to the town. Elghinyrrok the Judge. He burned Clearbrooke to the ground, but . . . the reason the dragon came was because of me. It was my fault. I messed up, got caught by one of the Veldriss’s mirrors, she found out where I was, and she . . . burned it all.“—Anāriel Anastil the Black Unicorn
The School of Assassins
When Ilitha first arrived at Sicarius, she was seven, small, and shy. She had been quiet since the death of her father, and with no one but twitchy Idraka to raise her, she didn’t quite know how to introduce herself. But one little girl, Viett, faced a similar problem, and the two found themselves huddling together in corners rather than alone. Perhaps they bonded over that, or perhaps Viett reminded Ilitha of Nima, only this time, being friends with Viett was “proper” since Viett was a Zurrinaih elf rather than a Tressian. In any case, Ilitha and Viett were fighters against the world in those days. But while Ilitha grew stronger, Viett stayed the same, until the day came when Viett’s ability to resist fear was tested . . . and she failed. I say again, there is nothing more detestable in my line of work than collecting children. I collect a lot of children in Sicarius. More than I care to think about. As I collected undeserving Viett, I remember Ilitha’s face. I remember how it didn’t move, her expression blank while the cogs whirred in her mind. As I said, the Ilitha we know today is different than how she began. Believe me or don’t, but there was a time when she was sweet. Innocent. All the assassins began like that . . . until Sicarius changed them. Broke them. Ruined them in Jezryn’s case. I’m still gathering my words for Jezryn. I will get to him soon, I promise. I am not sure who had it worse growing up, Ilitha or Jezryn, but I suppose it is useless to compare. The result was the same. With the death of Ilitha’s second attempt at a friend, she learned the lesson Sicarius wanted her to learn. That Orosta is fundamentally cruel—filled with pain. But unlike Jezryn who, despite appearances, still managed to cling to his hatred of this truth, Ilitha embraced it. She emulated the goddess’s mirrors and reflected what she saw. She grew cruel, and a statement she would say to Baläg more times than I can count latched itself to the core of her heart.“Friends get you nowhere in our world! What? Did you go through Sicarius together, fight together, bleed together? Well, you must be brothers, then, loyal to the end. How rude of me to disrupt that!“—Ilitha Reiyiss to Jezryn Sulissurn
No more friends for Ilitha. Never again.“Allies and betrayal. That is all there is.“—Ilitha Reiyiss
An Inspiring Ceremony
Relket: “Ever attend an Initiation Ceremony?“ Tymeo: “N-No.“ Zekk: “Never attended? You must belong to one of the villages, then. They taught you about it, though, right? Prove it.“ Tymeo: “E-Every assassin initiate has to kill someone in cold blood when they turn thirteen. They have to prove themselves to Sicarius, prove they’re worthy of joining them and becoming fully-fledged assassins. Everyone gathers at the big coliseum in Sicarius Ward. Even the Veldriss’s Voice comes to watch the show.“—Tymeo Dusett to Relket and Zekk Deegh
by J. L. GryphonYou will soon come to learn Nima is the unsung hero of this story. It was she who convinced Idraka to get out of bed. Idraka was weak, haggard, and the whites of her eyes seemed to have a permanent shadow on them now. But at Nima’s urging, she managed to leave her decaying castle and travel to Sicarius to see her daughter’s Initiation Ceremony. You see, I think Idraka had convinced herself Ilitha was already dead, or that she would die sooner rather than later, so there was no point in caring. But I had not, and still have not, come to collect Ilitha—at least not yet—and as Idraka sat in the stands and watched her thirteen-year-old daughter walk onto the sands of the coliseum and complete her Initiation Ceremony, a fragile glint of hope lit itself in her chest. Her daughter was not dead. She had survived. She was strong. Perhaps she still had a family left, after all. Ilitha went to see her mother. She hadn’t seen her since she was seven years old. They were strangers to each other now. But since Ilitha had completed her Initiation Ceremony and was also a nomarch—even if only a lower one—Idraka was now permitted to send letters. Once a month, Idraka sent eager letters to her daughter, her will for life restored. She stopped triggering zadrels, and though her eyes still bore a shadow, a new light had entered them. As for Ilitha, she waited for these letters more than she would admit, devouring them each time Sicarius delivered them. And despite herself, she would always write back. Because as much as Ilitha tried not to care about anyone anymore, this was still her mother. Idraka would always be her mother. Idraka was all Ilitha had left in the world, too.
The Art of Seduction
It was in one such letter that Ilitha explained some of her more recent studies to her mother. At fifteen years—a number that holds great religious significance in Zurrinaih culture—Ilitha became old enough to become an “artist”. You see, Zurrinaih elves hold great respect for all things intimate. Every act of pleasure, especially the sensual kinds, are considered an artform. To perform badly is worthy of, well . . . a visit from me. So you can understand how important it was that Ilitha be taught the game of seduction. Not just in the bed itself, but all the little interactions leading up to that grand finale. How one was meant to approach when in a crowded room, the wordplay that would follow, the coy glances, the dusting of eyelashes, the beckoning smile. It is not just the physical that is important to Zurrinaih, you see. It is the mind, as well. To entice the body but not the mind is seen as an egregious error. It is why you must play the game—why you must be an accomplished “artist”. Sicarius began teaching Ilitha these things for the purposes of culture but also infiltration. And if there is only one thing you take away from my discussion of Ilitha today, let it be this: Ilitha is good at what she does. So good, in fact, that she has climbed higher than any lower nomarch has any right to climb. Which is why what happened is all the more disappointing. But I will get to that. At the end of her fifteenth year, Ilitha was celebrated for her efforts and invited to several year-end parties to display her talents. This is when she met Baläg.“It is a strong belief among my people that intimate pleasure is an artform, and so its rewards must be won through the game of seduction, the more skilled the player the better. To partake in what has not been won is an embarrassment and an offense.“—Jezryn Sulissurn
Simple, Happy Baläg
“He was an odd sort, what with his dyed white hair and happy attitude, as if somehow he had dodged the uglier aspects of an assassin’s life. Most blamed his mother for that. Lady Nomarch Onnissah Loperian lived in a world all of her own, and he didn’t doubt being raised by such an eccentric person would make anyone a little odd. Still, he wondered if he envied Baläg. At least Onnissah seemed to care about her son.“—Jezryn Sulissurn musing about Baläg
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederI will say more about Baläg Loperian at a later time because there is much more to say; but for now, understand that after he and Ilitha met, he soon became the one constant in her life. He is perhaps the most important person she has and will ever know. I just wish she knew that. They met the night Baläg was celebrating his graduation from Sicarius. I assume by now, with my disdain for Sicarius rather obvious at this point, you are wondering how you might succeed in graduating from such a school at all. Like Baläg himself, the answer is simple: You survive. The reasons Baläg had survived are more than what people say, because what they say is that Baläg is a fool who hid behind Jezryn the entire way, but I will tell you it may just be the other way around. Whatever the case, in his mind, because he had survived, that meant he got a party. Simple pleasures. Hm. He does make me chuckle sometimes. Ilitha, along with the rest of Sicarius, was invited to the Belladonna, the beautiful sunstone castle belonging to Sixth Chosen House Loperian. Ilitha was to be a dancer, and dance she did, straight into Baläg's bed. Though, and this is important for later, Baläg was not her original goal. You see, Jezryn Sulissurn also had come to the party. Ilitha saw the son of the king of assassins, and she wanted him. Not just because he was attractive, although that was part of it, but more so because of what his position could give her. And what his position could give her was, well . . . everything. Here is where we come to the problem with Ilitha because that’s what she wants: everything. But what Ilitha didn’t understand then is what she has never understood: Jezryn. As I said, I am still gathering my words for Jezryn. He is . . . complicated. And his lover, Jorn, had only recently left his side, which is why when Ilitha tried to tempt him, he gave her a polite nod and directed her toward Baläg instead. Ilitha took Jezryn up on the idea, because if mountains of gemstones were off the table, at least one gemstone would do . . . for now. Also, Ilitha had a theory. Allies and betrayal. That was all there was. You see, with everything Ilitha had learned during her time in Sicarius, she couldn’t believe Jezryn and Baläg were friends. Or, if they were friends, then Baläg couldn’t be the happy fool everyone said he was. Surely it had to be a trick, a tactic he had used to survive and form that coveted alliance with Rhye’s most powerful House. Except . . . Looking back at Ilitha’s life and all the disappointments that have shaped it, I can assure you this singular night was not one of them. I do believe that, perhaps, it was the happiest night of her life. Because what Ilitha discovered that night was something she had never before experienced: Kindness. Baläg was kind to her. None of her other lovers had ever been kind. As she lavished all her talents onto him, and he lavished all his talents onto her, she kept waiting for him to reveal who he truly was. They always did, you see, in the final moments of passion. The amount of true faces Ilitha has seen beneath political masks I honestly can’t tell you. But Baläg never changed. There was no trick, no politics, no lies. Baläg truly was simple, happy Baläg. And he was sweet. I think that was the moment Ilitha fell in love with him. I just wish she would let herself love him. All of it could have been hers, but . . . choice is law. Ilitha chose. Ilitha chose . . . badly.
Middle House Horak
Ilitha: “Why do you still have this mirror? We could have sold it, gotten some kessa coins out of it for a few days. Maybe even silver ones.” Idraka: “Not mine to sell. It was his.” Ilitha: “It is mine, and I will do with it what I want.”—Ilitha Reiyiss discovering Ketzel Horak’s gift
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederSoon after Ilitha met Baläg, her mother Idraka found love, as well. Ketzel Horak was a young assassin, graduated, successful, and from a family who prided itself on appearances—which is another way of saying they didn’t approve of Idraka and her low position. Even more, now that Clearbrooke was destroyed, they scoffed at her poor accommodations, the rot creeping inside the foundations of her castle . . . the shadow in her eyes that still lingered. They knew what that shadow meant. It was obvious. But Ketzel didn’t seem to care about any of that. He was always a dreamer, Ketzel, always at odds with his family and their lack of imagination. Ketzel didn’t mind being unconventional. He didn’t mind he would have a step-daughter he was not old enough to have conceived himself. He loved Idraka, and that was the end of it. And poor Idraka, twitchy and fragile, allowed herself this last glint of hope. Yes the world had taken everything from her, but with her daughter’s budding success, perhaps things were not lost after all. Perhaps she could have . . . something. I often marvel at how life is created. My master is talented at what he does in his making of new little people. Pleasure is what he makes them from, one of the last truly good things that still lingers in Orosta’s broken world. Pleasure, passion, and love. I am Death. As such, people’s beginnings so often elude me. But I was there for the beginning of Ilitha’s little brother, Theron. I just wish . . . well, I wish for a lot of things. Of course, you must be questioning why I was there. I regret to tell you it was because Ketzel was my next collection. Ilitha, twenty-one years old now, was graduating from Sicarius. She had survived. She was a Sicarius assassin and had earned her rank of watcher-class. Idraka and Ketzel attended the celebration together, and Ketzel met his soon-to-be-daughter. Ketzel intended to marry Idraka, you see. Ilitha wasn’t sure how to feel about this man just a mere ten years older than her, but he smiled when he met her, a real smile that reminded her of Baläg. And in a gesture he by no means had to make, he pulled an expensive, beautiful silver mirror from the satchel at his hip and gave it to her in congratulations. Her name was inscribed on the handle. The gift meant more to Ilitha than she has ever admitted. And despite what she said to Idraka upon finding the mirror again after Ketzel’s death, I can tell you she won’t sell it. She can’t bare it no matter how much she sneers. It is why she still has it now, safely tucked away with all the rest of her sentimental secrets she buried in the hopes no one would notice. It is also why, when I came to collect Ketzel, Ilitha buried her tears, too. I can tell you Ketzel meant well. He didn’t mean to get caught in that alleyway and die at the hands of terrified Sithuwaye elves just trying to survive. He didn’t mean to leave Ilitha without a father again. He didn’t mean to destroy Idraka with grief. But choice is law, and as tempting as it may be to blame him, Idraka’s choices that followed were not Ketzel’s fault. Idraka chose to start triggering zadrels again. In her grief, once again she forgot her daughter. She forgot her son growing inside her, the final gift Ketzel had left for her. She forgot she still had something to live for, and so she began calling my name. She begged me to come, but . . .
The Law Behind the Law
“The law is a thread. Thread will break soon. The Master will cut it.“—The voices at the edge
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederYou must understand that while the Choice Law binds the universe, there is an age-old conflict boiling behind it. That conflict, as it always does in cases like this, narrowed in on Idraka the moment her eyes turned black forever. When her body shriveled until she was nothing but bone and bulging black veins wriggling like maggots under her skin, it was clear she had Black Blood Disease. She called for me, but . . . well, this is one of the ways in which my brother gets in my way. I can’t collect Idraka. Not yet. According to the conflict, my brother is entitled to his “fun” first.
Lost Little Theron
Nima: “Lord Theron is well, my lady. He is very well, especially considering his condition.” Ilitha: “The Ministers have not discovered his illness?” Nima: “Not yet.”—Ilitha Reiyiss discussing Theron with Nima
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederAt least Ilitha’s little brother is better than mine. But I suppose Theron was lost even before he was born. The mere act of Idraka triggering zadrels while pregnant was a threat to Theron all by itself. Contracting Black Blood Disease while she was pregnant made it worse. Theron was born, but he was born sick. Ilitha, disgusted with her mother, didn’t know how to feel about Theron. She both loved him and hated him, and because she couldn’t decide which feeling was stronger, she turned her back and avoided choosing altogether. It was Nima who raised Theron. Do you see now how she is the unsung hero of all this? Because with Lower House Reiyiss destitute and rotting, she was the only slave they had left. She could have fled. She could have joined up with the Fisherhook Gang and lived with some semblance of freedom, especially since the very next year I finally collected Chabaal the Fisherman with Jezryn’s help. But she didn’t. She stayed for innocent little Theron who had committed no worse crime than existing. No one could have raised Theron better. She tried to save him, the poor thing, and in many ways she did. I just wish . . .
“House Sulissurn has been allied with House Loperian for more than twenty years, since Baläg and I were initiates in Sicarius. You and your childlike grab at power threatened that allegiance and created an entirely unnecessary situation. The political fallout you almost caused is unthinkable. You know Baläg is the only child of House Loperian, the sixth and last Chosen House of the goddess, but still you risked this? If he had challenged me, if I had been forced to kill him over you, the Sixth Chosen House would have lost its only heir. It would have been destroyed, and all because of a Lower House, no less.“—Jezryn Sulissurn to Ilitha Reiyiss
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederAnd now we come to it. If it has not become apparent to you by now, in this supposed discussion of Ilitha, I have ended up telling you more about the people around her rather than Ilitha herself. This is because that is who Ilitha is. She has, at least up until recently, been something of a passive agent in her own story. Perhaps that’s why she did what she did, made the choice that she made no matter how foolhardy it was, because otherwise I can’t tell you why. She wouldn’t be able to tell you why, either, if you asked her. It was, as the worst choices often are, based in frantic emotion rather than logic. Please understand that while such things can be forgiven in most places, in Zurrinaih culture, in Sicarius, they often cannot. You see, Ilitha was desperate. She was afraid. She was also angry. I’d advise not mixing these emotions together if you can help it. But with Ilitha’s long list of disappointments tossed in the dirt before her, she did the same thing she detested her mother for doing. She forgot her training. She forgot Theron. She forgot Baläg. Baläg intended to marry Ilitha, you see. Baläg was the heir to Sixth Chosen House Loperian, holding a higher status than anything Ilitha could have ever hoped to attain, but Ilitha decided he wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter that she still loved him, and in that moment, she convinced herself she didn’t. After all the disappointments she had endured, she got a bug of an idea inside her head that she deserved better. Remember I said she wanted everything? Here was where she decided she was going to get it. There was a hunt happening soon—a hunt for Anāriel Anastil the Black Unicorn. The largest assassin host in history was being formed to go after her. Jezryn Sulissurn, now the triumphant killer of Chabaal the Fisherman—a feat that had gotten him his promotion to superior-class—was set to lead the host. Because the art and game of seduction is so highly valued in Zurrinaih culture, with a long hunt such as this, it is tradition to call the attendant line. Here, with all of Ilitha’s skills, was her grand opportunity. Attendants are honored members of any host who requires them. They are selected by the superior-class in question to attend him or her in all matters of pleasure so issues of rank don’t become a problem. All attendants must be volunteers. It is part of the game, after all. It would be an offense to enjoy pleasure that was unearned. So it was that Jezryn’s attendant line was about to be called. Remember I said it was important to keep in mind Baläg hadn’t been Ilitha’s first goal at the party all those years ago? Ilitha stepped into the attendant line. I should at this point say there is one other important rule for prospective attendants. They must be single. I think the reason for that is rather obvious, don’t you? Ilitha was not single at the time. She was engaged still, in fact, which is why it was made all the worse when Jezryn did indeed choose Ilitha to be his attendant. Her reputation preceded her, of course, and she had made the purposeful choice to wear jasmine perfume—the same perfume Jezryn’s deceased lover Jorn always used to wear. But ah, Jezryn. He is the sort that will see an ant burrowing in the dirt a thousand miles away and correctly deduce everything about its current path while simultaneously missing the elephant straight in front of his face. I regret to say, you do have to box him around the ears every once in a while to make him . . . look. Perhaps he should have known Baläg was engaged to Ilitha. Or perhaps Baläg should have told him he was engaged at all before any of this happened. Or perhaps none of those “what ifs” matter, because the point is, Jezryn had no clue about Ilitha’s relationship with Baläg, Baläg had not told Jezryn he was engaged—let alone to whom—and Jezryn had made his selection. It was done. Of course the truth was discovered, but you must understand, it was not as simple as Jezryn dismissing Ilitha. To do so would have shamed her, made her reputation as a lover called into question. This is as good as a death sentence in Zurrinaih culture. I can confirm I have collected quite a few who have been named . . . um . . . ruk zovac. Translated from Zishlyn, it means “hand reject,” as in one is so incompetent as a lover that their own hand refuses to give them pleasure. No, Jezryn would have to keep Ilitha as his attendant to spare her that. Granted, Jezryn was prepared to dismiss her anyway, but Baläg begged him not to. Simple, happy Baläg. He could have condemned Ilitha for betraying him, but he didn’t. He saved her. Out of compassion for Baläg, Jezryn did as he asked. And so it was that Ilitha got what she wanted . . . more or less . . . except now Baläg was the one in trouble.
An Unlikely Rescuer
Ilitha: “Why are you so protective of Jezryn, Superior Rilet? I have always wondered.“ Marian: “Why did you abandon the one good thing you ever had? I think all of Rhyastil has been wondering that.“—Ilitha Reiyiss and Marian Rilet
by J. L. Gryphon via ArtbreederThis is when I got nervous. Remember I said Baläg did not survive because he hid behind Jezryn, and in fact it may have been the other way around? The truth is, the two of them need each other to survive, and Ilitha had just come between that most necessary of alliances. The conflict between Jezryn and Baläg did resolve itself without a fight, but the people’s judgement still had the chance to drive them apart. It had the chance to get Baläg killed. You see, in doing what she had just done, no one could understand such an inexplicable move on Ilitha’s part except to deduce that Baläg was the problem. Perhaps he was the ruk zovac and that was why Ilitha had done such a stupid thing as to leave him—the guarantee whom she still loved—for a mere half-baked chance with Jezryn that would sooner see her tossed in a ditch. Of course Baläg had to be the problem. It was the only thing that made sense. I should tell you at this point there is a certain grace period when one is named a ruk zovac to, well, redeem oneself. Fortunately for Baläg, he had not officially been labeled yet, but the rumors were enough. Baläg had finally worn out people’s tolerance of him. That is until Marian Rilet stepped in and saved him. I will discuss Marian some time in the future because there is quite a lot to say about her. There is even more I am not permitted to say about her. But for now, I can tell you Marian was the first commoner to achieve superior-class status. She was respected. Liked. Also, she was Jezryn’s initiate master during his time in Sicarius. Always she treated him with a level of respect she never gave the other initiates, even when Jezryn was too young to lift a sword. She treats him with that same respect to this day, though not even Jezryn knows why. I do, but . . . like I said, I am finding the words. Marian’s story is . . . sad. Lonely. In any case, I suppose this was why she stepped in to save Baläg. Like me, she knew that without Baläg, Jezryn was as good as dead; and if there is one thing you will ever know about Marian, it’s the simple fact that no one will ever kill Jezryn if she has anything to say about it. If anyone could clear Baläg's name, it was her. And that was exactly the offer she presented to Baläg before she slept with him. Apparently she quite enjoyed herself so the story goes. She ensured everyone knew it, too, and with Marian’s unquestionable word to defend him, Baläg was released from his embarrassment. All eyes turned back to Ilitha. Confusion turned to wonder, which turned to awe, which turned to a thousand minds clicking together with a single realization:
As I said, I can’t tell you why. Not because I’m not permitted this time. It is more the fact I just don’t understand. Ilitha can’t tell you, either, if you were to ask her, and various people have with varying degrees of impoliteness. I suppose that means it is a question waiting to be answered still, and I suspect that in the end, Ilitha will be the only one who discovers it.“She really did just throw everything away. Why?”—Everyone
Into the East
And now we find ourselves at the end of it all, two years later knocking on the monster of the east’s door. Ilitha has one last plan she’s hoping will succeed, but it will have to happen tonight because tonight their hunt is at an end, and Ilitha is out of time. For my part, I hope she makes it. But I have hoped for things before . . .“Monster does not care. Monster does not love you. No one will ever care. No one will ever love you.“—Idraka Reiyiss to Ilitha Reiyiss
To learn more, hop on over to the books page OR hop on over to the teaser and get a sneak peek of Chapter 1! For more articles like this one, have a peek at my Worldbuilding Journal and explore Orosta.
Image by J. L. Gryphon via Artbreeder
Honorary & Occupational Titles
- Lady Ilitha of Lower House Reiyiss
- Watcher Reiyiss
- Initiate Reiyiss
Previously Held Ranks & Titles
Date of Birth
The Month of Kafziel, Day 24, 14971 NS
Year of Birth
14971 30 Years old
- Zishlyn (1st - fluent)
- Orostian (2nd - fluent)
- Sithuli (3rd - fluent)
- Lingua (4th - passing)
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