The priestess was near death.
Matron Sel'rue had been attacked suddenly, and she had begun to doubt herself. It was very likely her house would fall this night, and even if they survived it was more likely her daughter would succeed her.
The assassin raised his knife and slashed at her midsection. She felt the pain as the blow connected, and her vision began to dim. He stood above her, and for a moment she lost her nerve and cried out in pain. He raised the dagger, "Fear not, Lady Sel'rue. I take no joy in this act, but your house has what my matron has demanded; and what the mighty demand, the weak surrender."
She bowed her head, and he moved next to her side swiftly. He meant it as a courtesy, she understood, and she was too weak to fight any longer. Her head was a blur of half-remembered spells and commands, and her vision shrinking to a narrow tunnel was nearly gone.
The sound of death.
It was not as she expected. Then she realized it was because the sound was not her end. As she fell under the weight of a body landing on her, she watched her would-be assassin's dagger topple from his grasp and clatter to the floor, a small glass bead at the head of the dagger shattering as a green fluid poured hissing to the ground beside her.
She fell backward as the body was wrenched off her, and she locked eyes with… a goblin. He stood over her for nearly two hours after binding her wounds, and guarded her until she heard the horns of triumph. Victory?
Her vision finally failed as she could hear the footfalls of her guards rushing down the hall. "Mother!" It was her daughter. One. Which? Two sets of arms—two! and the same voice calling her back from the darkness.
The goblin waited quietly, having placed the blade back on the floor. Slaves were never permitted such arms in the presence of the matron, but this creature had just saved her life. The guards towered over him, waiting for orders as her strength and voice returned. "Release him."
The guards bowed low and withdrew, and she raised a hand to him. He toddled over, and she realized that his gait was the only thing about him that reminded her of a child. "You," she said. "I remember you now."
"Yes, My Lady," he said quietly.
"How dare you speak in the presence of—"
"Silence," she said quietly, rising to her feet. "He has all the right, having saved this house and myself personally." She shook her head in disbelief. "I do not know how, but this is not the first time this goblin has saved my life. Arm him, and set him at my daughters' side. What he has given me, let him now serve them with the same distinction."
And so it was the House Sel'rue defeated its rival, and rose to the Upper Third.