Sima Ling is an unassuming woman of some five feet and four inches tall with black hair that falls past her shoulders. Her eyes would be beautiful if they were not filled with the desolation of her past. She has the general appearance of a woman haunted, driven by her own goals, her own personal demons.
She seldom speaks, but when she does, her voice has the tone of a educated woman, well versed in theology and the arts of arithmatic and literature. On rare occassions she will sing, but her songs are sad, laments for the fallen and the lost.
Lightning split the sky, turning the gloom into stark white and black shadow for a second. Sima sat unmoving, the wind whipping her long black hair into her face like a black halo. Anyone else would have been screaming in pain, or weeping uncontrollably. The temple was slowly being consumed by orange flames, driven by the wind, her home crumbling in the heat. Her family was dead.
Pater Myron lay outside the temple, his body riddled with arrows, and his head cut of. He had accosted the band that had arrived at the temple, chided them for being overly impulsive and foolish, they did not know what they were doing. The battle had started then, the acolytes and adepts of the small temple of Anubis fighting to defend themselves and their home from the band of adventurers. A spell was cast, and two of the attackers were wounded but the temple was set aflame by their wizard. Her brothers and sisters of the temple fell.
Some were cut down by steel, others by arrows, but they all died. She had taken an arrow in the shoulder herself, but it had been removed already, the bleeding mostly stopped and scabbed over. She had thought it nearly over and had been hiding in the brush near the temple. One of them, a young man with zealot’s eyes approached her, he was gathering valuables from the dead.
“Do you accept the Trinity?” he said, “Anubis is a false god before the Trinity” To afraid to speak she shook her head no. They were indeed gods, but not the only ones, and she had sworn years ago, at 6 years old, to serve the jackal headed god of death.
The ache of his slap on her face was a dull thing, and the pain of the arrow in her shoulder, now ragged where it had been jerked out was cold. He had beaten her about, playing with her, not a true beating, no fists. He was angry, she wouldnt cry out, or weep, or fight back. She imagined a willow tree, and prayed to Anubis for deliverance from this. It didn’t come.
Even the savage pain between her legs was barely noticable. Each of the men in the party had had his way with her. The others would hold her down while the one would do his deed. The woman in the party laughed, and cat called at them, shouting obscenities and laughing, her hair golden like the fire that devoured the temple. Sima had fought back then, and then the beatings had become real. Thankfully, she had passed out then.
She awoke and sat up. Her clothes were gone and in their place she wore a gown of ash and dried blood, most of it her own. The temple still burned, but the large building had been reduced to a few piles of loose rubble and flaming timbers. Morning had come. She staggered to her knees, and faced the rising sun. Tears cut tracks through the grime on her face as she offered her morning prayers, though they felt hollow and dry.
“You would still worship him?” a not unkind voice said from behind her. She paused, her heart leaping up into her throat, she had the momentary urge to bolt like a hare, but she knew she wouldn’t get five feet before falling.
“I would…” she said, her voice rasping.
“Do you want to die?” the voice asked. Earlier, she had prayed for death then, but that mind destroying terror was gone for the moment.
“No.” her voice could barely be heard.
“Then stand up, Sima Ling, Daughter of Anubis.” the voice commanded. Terror slowly began to fill her belly, but she stood up. It was slow and tortorous, her legs ached, and pain flared across her savaged body. She turned to face her visitor, and her legs almost collapsed. There was darkness, and a form within. She could make out the outline of a jackal head, but it was indistinct and had no detail save for two burning embers for eyes.
“My lord Anubis…” she quivered, she had seen him once before, when she was six and her family, her biological family, had finally died from the horrible plague. The darkness enveloped her, wrapped her body in it’s arms, and she felt the pain drain out of her.
You would gain my eternal embrace, should you desire it. The voice was inside her head, it sounded like the kindly voice of Pater Myron. Or should you wish to return to the living I would do this also.
I would live my Lord, she whispered back in that secret place where they spoke to one another. To rebuild the temple, there is much to be done. she felt herself shaking.
Then live, and know I watch over you.
She staggered back into consciousness. She was still still kneeling, facing the rising sun, though it was well above the horizon. Had she been dreaming, hallucinating? The pain was all but gone. She brushed her shoulder, the one where the arrow had pierced. There was a dry scab that flaked off, revealing pink, newly healed skin. The other wounds were fading or gone. The bruises from her beating were faded to pale yellow spots.
She walked cautiously to the small well that had served the temple. She drew up a bucket, amazed that the rope had survived barbarians and the fire. She used what she could to wash away the blood and ash that covered her from head to toe. Once satisfyed by what she could do with two hands and water, she returned to the ruins that were once her home.
It took all of the day, but she pulled the bodies of her friends, her family and gave them the last rites of Anubis. Their souls were sent on to be reincarnated, and would not trouble their old bodies to rise again as undead. Once they were all laid to rest, she sat in front of them, and sang their lament. Then, she cried. It was a soft thing, and entirely selfish. Their pain was done and gone, and she was left to mourn them, and to live on.
That night, she slept by their feet.
The second morning, she woke and offered morning prayers to Anubis. Sima scavenged a rough tunic from the ruins, and covered her nakedness. She would have to leave the temple ruins now. It would be rebuilt but she was neither a carpenter or a mason. She would have to find another way, pay others to build it, or find a new congregation.
Aside from the temple, there was the matter of five men, and one woman. She had a score to settle with them. It might not be soon, but the Dagger of Night would soon be at their throats…
Until then, she gathered up a walking stick and put her ash covered feet on the road.
The Temple of Anubis was dedicated to a god of Death, but it is the acceptance of death, nt its defiance or glorification. The temple ran much like a cross between a funeral home, and a church. Funerals and burial rites were performed, while the initiates helped the surviving family grieve, and overcome their loss. Some of the initiates were taught the arts of preparing the dead for burial, and enacting the proper rites to prevent the dead from rising as undead mockeries. Others, such as Sima, were taught the liturgies and sang the laments and hymns during services. The temple would be respected in the local community, but might be an oddity outside of the immediate area.
Song for the Fallen - The PCs hear tale of the adventurers who destroyed an evil temple of Death, and looted it of its treasure. Drinks flow, and the adventuring maruaders move on, with the PCs having enjoyed their tale of battle and victory over evil. Soon after, the PCs encounter Sima, singing a lament at a nearby church for her fallen family, gathering a few brass coins from parishoners and passers-by.
Question of Morality - Were the roles reversed, would the PCs have bypassed a temple of evil, stocked with black robed priests, adorned with gold and jewels? Would they have stopped to see if the temple was good, despite being dedicated to a god of death? Who will they believe, the death cultist, or the band of adventurers?
Old Fears Come Again - Adventuring bands break up after some time, and go their own ways. Nearly ten years have passed since the burning of the temple, and now members of the old band are being assassinated, and executed in a brutal fashion. A now respected public hero/figure approaches the PCs to hire them as bodyguards.