Amitzas was awake when one of the girls came hammering at his door. He was an old man and he and sleep would often spar in the depths of the night. He would lie down every evening wondering if this night he'd be able to lose both quickly and gracefully. This evening, unfortunately, he'd defeated sleep and was sitting up rubbing the cream into his hands that helped with the pain.
“Pharmacist! First!” It was Jorasa. When he flung the door open, pulling his gloves straight, he saw his daughter coming up behind. “Someone tried to poison Minis and the Fenjitza in the Temple!”
His kit was right at the door and he threw a cloak over his sleeping robe. “Daughter?”
“I have my test kit as well, Father.”
“Excellent. Did the Temple defend our charge?” That was asked of Jorasa.
“I don't know, First. The girl who carried the tea collapsed, not breathing, after she'd delivered it.”
“Hmm.” The guards from the Marble Palace were clattering up behind them, Idiesas unarmoured but his sword in his fist. “I believe that the need for swords might be past, Centurion.”
“Perhaps, but I want to be sure.”
In the Temple up behind the Goddess Anae, upstairs, behind her head, the cleansing flood poured down, around and over the statue, but Minis and the Fenjitza stood under the cascading water that foamed down around them, into the basin behind the Goddess's statue.
Amitzas nodded at his daughter, indicating where she should investigate, while he slowly eased down to examine the acolyte. They had stopped trying to revive her and her eyes stared fixedly up into space. There was a bluish tinge to the whites of her eyes, the ends of her fingers and a trace of foam at her mouth. “Hmmm.” He nodded at Jorasa and she pulled back the corpses lip. “Don't drip on me,” he said absently as Minis leaned over his shoulder, wrapped in towels. “You're all right, Imperator?”
“The tea she was carrying only touched us outside, before Socks began barking. I think I have to get a few new trained puppies.”
The Fenjitza raised her head from the towel where she'd dried her face, slipped her silver mask back over her face. “The acolyte... she was new... from Mirianama on the coast.”
“She is rather young for heart failure, but it is not impossible,” Amitzas said and sniffed. “A sweet smell.” He actually allowed himself to frown.
Inensa came out with test strips laid out on the tile. The varying shades of colour showed up clearly against the white ceramic. “First,” she said formally. “The poison in the tea... is a Mahid poison.” Her normally pale face was even paler than usual. “It is present in concentrations standard with the old Imperium's field kit, pre-conquest.”
Kyriala, now standing next to Minis, with her arm around him, exclaimed, “Mahid? You mean there's still old-style Mahid out there?”
Gan and Fara both had their hands on their shoulders. Minis put his own hand up to cover Fara's without taking his other hand away from his wife. His face didn't change but Kyriala could feel his muscles tighten up. “It's not like it's 2nd Amitzas back from the dead,” Gan said, roughly. “We got the others. We'll get these.”
Kyriala nodded then suddenly her hand flew up to her mouth, suddenly looking very ill. “I... didn't have any... why...”
One of the priestesses thrust a basin before her, to spew. “Let my daughter check you, Imperatrix,” Amitzas said calmly, turning Kyriala away from his corpse.