"I want to see her god." Islinn thought savagely.
She watched Duran pace as more rocks hit the Livery doors. Alora didn't even look up, as she continued to run her fingers through her hair. Islinn didn't take the time to contemplate her need to see some demon materialize. All she knew was she wanted to see the being that could cause such a placid response in the face of such fear. Whatever it was, it was powerful enough to make all her days of fervent belief in Brede look like nothing but the tail-end of an horrendous joke.
Islinn didn't care what it would cost her, she wanted to see this powerful god that could make her doubt her beliefs and the very foundation they were built upon.
"But did I love my faith enough?" She wondered. She remembered her mother 's vigil...her father's return...and, in the long run, whose prayers had been answered. She choked back a sob. Nothing now but shadowhorses silhouetted on a dead wall crafted by the hands of a man she never knew. Yet at one time she'd thought he could give her every star that graced the heavens. Had she loved enough?
"No." Islinn said aloud and shook her head. But she wasn't a scholar. Or a philosopher. She was a girl of sixteen winters scared shitless over what would happen next. Simple fact: Alora's god was present. And hers wasn't.
"No." She said it again but it lacked conviction.
Islinn had never doubted. She thought back over all the days she'd walked, sweaty and dusty, her mouth dry with sand. She'd walked when the sky had turned cold and hard and the ice beneath her boots had cracked like bone. The constant sweat and dirt. She remembered how her back would throb in the sun. And how it would ache in the morning chill. Always,the road, the endless ruts and more steps always left to take. She had bought it all.
Yet...there had been moments of amazement. They had been wild and pure yet only lasted for seconds. But in those seconds...Islinn had innately known what she loved. She'd been a part of something powerful and good. Something incredibly...right. But now in the faded yellow of the sun and the stink of fear and horseflesh, that power was nothing but a memory. If it had ever existed at all.
Alora decided all of this had dragged on long enough. She got to her feet and stretched.
"Is there another way out of here?" She asked.
"There. Through that door. But...if you go on foot..." Duran left the sentence unfinished. He glanced at Loki and realized he'd come full circle. He'd thought he loved Alora enough to die for her but now he realized he could watch her be killed if that was what it took to save the Livery. But if she left Loki behind they would kill him as well. That he couldn't bear.
Alora's hand was on the door. She turned towards Duran, an engaging smile on her face.
"I'm not going anywhere."
There was a pause as Duran looked into her eyes. He felt as though he'd aged twenty years since she'd come into the Livery to drop off Loki the previous day. Yet Alora glowed. Her face was animated beneath the bruised flesh and her black curls tumbled haphazardly down her back. She stood as she always had in his dreams and he was forcibly aware of his yearning...his maddening need...for her, for whatever she was. He forced himself to turn away.
Alora took the steps two at a time. Her head throbbed from the exertion.
"Assholes." She muttered as she thought about the men outside pitching rocks like scared kids.
She reached the top of the stairs and opened a door that led into a small room. She paused. Clothing was scattered everywhere. A half-assed effort had been made at some point to hang a few garments up but the majority of it all was tossed,thrown, and pitched carelessly onto the floor, or on the small,dirty bed against the far wall. Over all of this hung a scrungy thick smell, a mixture of animal fur and unwashed skin. She saw a small mirror laying on the floor near the bed and walked over and picked it up. She stared at her face for a few moments. The word bruising didn't quite adequately describe her reflection.
There was swelling around one of her eyes and half of her face was a bluish-black color. She held the mirror closer and peered at her nose. Surprisingly it didn't appear to be broken.
"Well, I'm breathing. Sort of. I can see out of one eye and all my teeth are there but probably looser." She thought as she tossed the mirror back down.
She took one last look around the squalid little room.
"A fire would only be a good thing up here." She thought briefly before heading out the opposite door.