The first thing Alora noticed was the difference in sound. The serenity behind the barn was in direct contrast to the chaos out front. Several heat-sapped bushes and limp trees surrounded an abandoned holding corral where old saddles and strips of leather hung listlessly from weather-beaten boards.
Alora made her way over to the pen and propped one foot up on a bottom board and folded her arms to lean against the top rail. She jumped as loud laughter erupted from around the corner, reminding her she was only a skip away from Fetch's Tavern.
Assholes." She muttered, again, under her breath. If they were so brave, why hadn't any of them snuck around back? They could easily get in and have the element of surprise to boot. Of course, the man who suggested such a course of attack would be expected to lead it. Which, in turn, explained why she was around back all by herself.
Alora watched the night slowly take the dusky red of the sun as it began to settle on the horizon. She breathed in deeply , the air around her heavy with the on-coming twilight and the smoke and ashes scent of cooking fires as people prepared evening meals. The night hawks began to sing their wordless songs and Alora listened absently as she closed her eyes and silently cast into the sky.
The energy she sensed in the air was pure and older than time itself. Alora was unaware of how much was taken from her compared to how much she gave away when she cast but she did know she stood alone in her ability to tap into it at will. The sound of approaching wings brought a lazy smile to her lips.
She opened her eyes and watched the crow land on the fence beside her. He ruffled his feathers and edged closer to peer at her through one opaque eye. Alora held her arm out in invitation and he hopped up and made his way to her shoulder. She leaned over and pulled her dagger out of her boot then winced as the crow hopped down her arm for a closer look. Apparently nail-clipping of the various minions wasn't a high priority of the damned who were assigned tasks in the UnderRealms.
She awkwardly passed the dagger over to her opposite hand as the crow made his way down onto her wrist to watch the proceedings. She bumped her hand against the railing of the holding pen to encourage him to get back on the fence. He cawed raucously and hopped from her wrist back up her forearm. Alora growled under her breath as she held the blade out and taped the index finger of her other hand against it. Blood oozed out of the small wound and Alora slipped the blade back into her boot.
The crow flitted back and forth on her forearm as he moved from her shoulder down to her wrist, ruffling his feathers and stopping to occasionally pick at his feet.
"Stop it!" Alora hissed. He cocked his head and she saw a faint glint of amusement in his shiny black eyes. She stroked his head with her bloodied finger and he settled down and began to roost. The beetle black feathers darkened to a deep red as she crooned softly to him.
"I could always head to Satrap for supplies, I guess." She mused. Satrap was a mucky little town filled with more hollow-eyed scurrying people. She frowned, disappointed at the way things had turned out. The only thing she'd really miss about Leomedon was the almond pudding sold on the streets once it turned cold out.
It was made in large pots and sold on every corner in town after the first snow. Made with almonds, water,wine,figs, honey, and raisins she'd eaten herself sick on it last winter. Loki had even guzzled a few bowlfuls. He'd spent the winter with almond crust around his nostrils and a wide-eyed expectant look whenever she'd ridden him into town.
Alora stuck her bloodied finger in her mouth and, with a trembling strength,raised the crow to the sky. The bird took off with a heavy reluctance and she watched him until he was nothing more than a black speck in the reddish-gold sky.