Female mercenary leader, Mariqah, puts faith in an organisation of rebellious world changers in an alternate history where the British colonialism still exists. These world changers seek to abolish all form of imperialism. Mariqah is in tw minds however, as she has friends in both camps. Things go horribly wrong when she sets foot into Bengal which is torn by civil war - where there seems to be deceptive conflict between factions.


24. 20

The Church of Masyaf was only a small building, very simple in its construction and shallow in its foundation. It needn't be lavish or grand, as it was for only the handful of nuns that were led under one named Britney FeCamp, Abbess of Masyaf.
She was a small woman - perhaps no taller than four-and-a-half feet - who always dressed in a plain dark habit, her body covered fully, save for her hands and her face. She wore a large wooden crucifix around her neck, and a rosary made of round green stones was always in her hands. She was a very beautiful woman - with large green eyes and a fair face.
Britney had travelled with Richard's small contingency of like-minded world-changers and had found Masyaf most homely for her purpose. The Church had begun with only herself, and now several women had applied to join - vowing celibacy and frugality for the love of God.
There wasn't much that nuns could do in politics and war - but they were held in great regard and often held the tongues and ears of those in high places.

Spying on of behalf the Brotherhood became their primary occupation.

But, with Mariqah's disappearance, Britney had a new problem on her hands.
The Brotherhood's Keeper, Master Richard Shankar, was visiting her on a regular basis to vent his frustrations and confess his troubles. It was awkward, in the beginning, as nuns were not supposed to take confessions; but having no proper mental welfare system in Masyaf - Richard decided this was the next best way to go about it.
“You understand me, don't you?” Richard said one morning on their way to the Church.
Britney kept her eyes lowered and her hands clasped to her breast, “In what sense, sir?” she asked quietly.
“Why I could not help Mariqah. Why I did not send out a search-party for her aid,” Richard clarified, “She's not even one of us.”
“I cannot say, sir,” the abbess said meekly, “I cannot judge your actions. They are not mine to judge. But I am certain that you bear no ill intent.”
They walked into the dimly-lit Church and sat on the pews side by side. A modest podium was before them, standing in front of a large cross bearing the body of the rough likeness of Christ.
Britney did not look in Richard's direction - keeping her covered head lowered - but Richard gazed intently at Britney.
“If only the others would think the same,” he muttered, “They accuse me of being neglectful, and only Dr Brown offers me what support he can with his words. And Myra...” he looked away, scowling at his ill-fortune, “I fear Myra hates me. She has not spoken a kind word to me in weeks and she glares with disdain whenever she sees me. It is as if I had slain her own mother, the way she behaves now.”
“Miss Mariqah has a way with her mercenaries, sir,” the abbess mused, “I am unsure of her methods, but her men show no hesitation and bare no objections to her orders - as if she held each man's mind within her grasp. Miss Myra Castelle is no exception.”
“God alone knows how she does it,” Richard sighed in exasperation. He leaned back in his seat, spreading his arms across the backrests.
Britney shuffled away from him, “It is peculiar. In all my travels, I have never seen such obedience - not to a god, not to a king; not to a father, not to a teacher. All followers err in some way, and yet... Miss Mariqah's teaching is followed to the dot and tittle.”
“Those men are probably in constant fear of their lives,” Richard chuckled.
“Pardon me, sir, but I don't think fear has anything to do with it... Perhaps it is a fraction of the stimulus, but by no means a complete explanation.”

Richard waved a hand in the air, dismissing Britney's ponderings, “It is of little importance to me. I am more concerned with the effects of her popularity on members of the Brotherhood! Callum and Amaal went sailing off to the rescue with Mariqah's brute lieutenant, Evet and Mendossa have become sore to hear my words and carry out my will,” Richard sighed, “And Myra refuses to enter our headquarters.”
“You like this girl? Myra?”
Richard smiled to himself, “She has a charm I find comely. Mariqah questioned my tastes also. But Myra is a girl worth my interest; charming, beautiful and independent. I had caught her attention for a time. Now, however...”
“You could rectify this, salvage the situation.”
“And how would I do that?”
“The Bengali Brotherhood has probably established itself by now. You could search for Miss Mariqah through them.”
“That could work,” Richard considered the idea, a finger tapping his chin, “but the Brotherhood forces in Bengal are probably spread thin. I don't know if I can rely on or even expect them to help.”
“It's worth mentioning to the other members - whether it is do-able or not. That way you will win back their favour,” Britney paused, “And Myra is bound to hear of it.”
“Perhaps you are correct. I shall forward this idea to the others and write to Javed Singh in Bengal. Although...” Richard hesitated.

“Although, what?”
“I have not heard from Javed in a while. I was expecting a letter from him some time ago and I have yet to receive it.”
“Who is the messenger?”
“A merchant captain working with the East India Company, but bearing sympathies for the Brotherhood. He was suppose to arrive in the ports weeks ago.”
“It could be that your messenger was set upon by pirates... unless the Brethren of the Coast know this vessel to belong to your courier?”
Richard didn't reply. He made a face, as if the question irritated him, and then stood up slowly.
“I should return to my post,” he said, “As always, Sister Britney, I am grateful for your counsel. I hope that it will heal the rifts within our Brotherhood.”
“I hope so as well,” Britney said, “Good fortune and sweet blessings go with you.”

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