The candles in their alcoves flickered quietly as the robed figure swept them by. Shizzal cursed and slowed his stride, wishing again for his soft leathers that left no trace of his passing, auditory or visual.
“You are up late this night, brother,” remarked the Ordinator on night duty as he passed him.
“So are you,” said Shizzal lightly, and continued down to the Triolith. He felt the Ordinator’s eyes on his back, but after a few moments, the Dunmer moved on along his beat. There was at least one advantage to the robes, Shizzal thought. They could more easily conceal the person inside.
Shizzal knelt up front of one of the sides of the Triolith: the one inscribed with Seht, the Daedric letter for Sotha Sil. He didn’t bend his head in prayer as was proper, instead looking up at the rune. The shadows from the candles caught the angles of the carving, and danced strangely. It almost looked like the angular S was moving of its own accord.
“Well, sir,” Shizzal murmured to it. “I’ve seen Ashlanders and now I’ve seen House Dunmer. And I hope you’ll forgive me for saying this, but in some ways, you’re not all that different.”
His mind flickered back to the weary-eyed Ordinator in the cells below, and the hard face of the other who wielded the whip. “Suspicious, domineering, so concerned with your rituals, and calling anything outside of that experience corrupt. And I guess…I guess that describes all the mortal races at some point.”
The candlelight flickered. The Ordinator had passed by on his patrol. The back of Shizzal’s neck prickled, but he knew the difference between the footsteps of an angry guard and a bored guard. To the Ordinator’s eyes, he was just another praying priest who couldn’t find sleep.
“I suppose I was silly to think my people would be any different,” Shizzal murmured again, as the sounds of the Ordinator’s footsteps faded. “It’s real easy, you know, growing up in a place that doesn’t see much of your kind, to put a kind of shine to the whole thing. To think somewhere out there beyond your own wretched life is the honest world, and your own wonderful people, waiting for you with open arms.”
He grinned sardonically. “But then you grow up.”
Shizzal shifted. He was losing feeling in his foot, and stretched it out to rub the pins and needles away. “I once had this partner — partner in crime, mind, not the other kind — and he used to say you had to know the rules before you could break them. I used to think that was real odd. It’s all the same to the guy wielding the gavel — don’t suppose you use those here, but you know what I mean — and a broken rule’s a broken rule no matter you know it or not.”
Shizzal settled. “But I guess that old man was smarter than I gave him credit for. He was one of those muckity mucks in his day job. You know, exchanged wine with his rivals while plotting who to throw under the carriage of the baron the next party ’round.”
Shizzal slipped a hand beneath his robes, and taking something out and setting it on the altar. It was signet ring, like one might find on the finger of a Hammerfell merchant lord. “He took on the wrong guy eventually, but I won’t forget what he told me.”
The Ordinator came by, and Shizzal lowered his head and his voice, clasping his hands like a proper priest. The Ordinator moved on, oblivious.
“So I’m making a promise to you, Sotha Sil, and I’m a guy who actually keeps his promises: I’m going to figure out these Temple rules so I know how I’m supposed to break them. Politics is the same anywhere. Just do me a return favor, and keep my secrets for me.” Shizzal hesitated, looking up at that dancing rune with one eye. Perhaps it was the flickering candlelight, but the letter now seemed to be breathing, watching him. He raised his voice so the Ordinator could hear, “Hear my prayer, O Wizard-King, Mystery of the Three. You put me in this framework of cogs for a reason. I will do my mortal best to follow through.”
Then he stood, stretching his legs and murmuring some other things that sounded appropriately religious. When the Ordinator passed by next, Shizzal had disappeared. The signet ring still glinted on the altar, its gem gleaming red in the light of the little fires.