Alora watched as Islinn got to her feet and went over to the saddlebags and dug out another bowl and spoon. Then the girl walked over to the cookpot and stood there. She was obviously having some sort of internal struggle from the look on her face. Alora waited.
It would have been funny if it weren't so pathetic and Alora had time to wonder about the mystery that was Behrin. Keeping a girl as a body slave was one thing but why treat her like a common street dog? The truly sad thing though about Islinn was she hadn't always been a slave.
"A person blind from birth doesn't know what sight is so they don't miss it." Alora mused as she watched Islinn shift her weight from one foot to the other. But Islinn was vastly different and twice as tragic.
She had grown up free born and somewhere along the way she'd been molded into this person who couldn't decide for herself if she were hungry or not. Being a slave had encompassed her life and erased everything within her that had made her a human being. She was nothing but Behrin's clean slate. She would have been better off having been born a slave.
Alora stood up and took Islinn's bowl from her hands and dipped out a hefty amount of the stew.
"Here. Next time though…you get your own food, all right? However much you want." Alora smiled. "Seems a shame to fix something this good and then have to wait for permission from someone to eat it."
She held the bowl out to the girl. Islinn studied the bowl then studied Alora. Her face was guarded.
"What? You think I'm going to offer it then refuse you once you reach for…" Alora stopped. That's exactly what the girl thought. Somewhere along the line Behrin must have played the keep away game with Islinn. Even when Behrin had tagged along behind Alora for days on end she hadn't felt his presence so much as she did now.
And people thought she was the evil one.
"Take the bowl, Islinn. I don't need to play games with any one for any reason. If I offer you something, it's because I want you to have it. It's that simple." Alora softly said.
There were not many events in life that Alora could honestly say had hurt her heart. If she'd been asked pointblank for an example and been unable to squirm out of a response, the murder of her Clan would have been her only answer. Until now.
Islinn took the proffered bowl and Alora seated herself back by the fire. She picked up her own bowl with shaking hands. She hadn't wanted a traveling companion and she now had one that reminded her of just how cruel the world could be. She took another bite of her stew.
But she damned sure could cook.
She watched Islinn as the girl took a seat by the fire and took a quick furtive bite of food. Alora concentrated on eating and hoped Islinn would relax and stop guarding her food like a dog with a bone. Alora scraped her bowl clean and got up for seconds.
"Why do they call you The Twiceborn?"
The soft question would have been one Alora, under any other circumstances, would have ignored but the heat of the day was starting to meld into the coolness of night and the escape from the stolid heat and the good food buoyed her mood and encouraged her to talk. She dished up more stew then glanced at Islinn.
Islinn had barely eaten her first bowl. Alora sat back down and glanced at Islinn.
"If you finish that and want more…well…it's there. All right?"
Islinn nodded and took another bite of her food.
"I was born once by my mother, Sylvan." Alora started haltingly. She'd never run down her lineage for anyone before.
"My father is Abigor, an incubus. When The Sentinels united the towns to destroy my Clan, I was the only survivor because I'd slipped away to attend a Sabbat I'd been forbidden to go to."
Alora judiciously scraped her bowl clean and looked longingly at the cook pot.
"Don't worry. It re-heats well in the morning." Islinn remarked casually, following her eyes. Alora sighed and gave Islinn a rueful grin.
"Anyway…the peasants were so sure that my Clan had been destroyed, that when I rode among them they started calling me The Twiceborn. Born once by demons, twice born from non-penitents' blood."
"Why were you not hunted then? If you were the only one left?" Islinn questioned.
"Abigor is a demon of war and I was born with the gift of battle."
Alora drew her sword and held it up admiringly.
"You see this? My blade was forged in the flames of the Underrealms by Xhaphan and Loki is my familiar. "
Alora proudly tilted the blade so it caught the firelight and Islinn stared at the rune-carved steel.
"I can kill like an ordinary brigand or, if I choose, my blade can deliver someone directly to Belial and…"
Alora excited voice abruptly broke off as she sensed Islinn's discomfort. She quickly sheathed the sword and shrugged.
"Anyway…that's why they call me The Twiceborn."
"And…what?" Islinn cocked her head slightly and Alora could see that even though she didn't like what she was hearing she was determined to hear it through to its end.
"And I demonstrated this…capability…in Prytoon and since then everyone has left me alone. Are you going to eat the rest of that?"
Islinn shook her head and handed the bowl over to Alora. She watched as the other woman eagerly dug in.
Islinn reluctantly had to admit that, once again, she felt cheated. The world had been painted by JoHan for her and her uncanny knowledge of what was inherently good. Demons turned the stalwart, and ridiculed bravery while the good and righteous persevered through the shouts and echoes of sin to, finally, be rewarded for their honorable service by Brede. Black and white. The woman sitting across from her and trying to scrape spilled food off her jerkin with her fingernail was dipped in a disturbing tone of gray.
"So,why do you serve the people that destroyed your Clan?" Islinn finally asked.
Alora was silent. A rabbit cried out somewhere deep in the wood, claimed by an unknown predator, and the hemlocks rustled as a cool breeze moved through. Alora got up and threw more wood on the fire.
"I don't serve the people near as much as I serve myself and honor my Clan by the gifts I possess." She replied.
"Peasants summon me but they pay a far greater price than just coin." Alora concluded as she stared into the fire.
"How so?" Islinn asked.
"There's a debt that's owed when one attempts to know or change their fate. I'm just a portal." Alora shot Islinn a sharp glance, signaling to her that this particular topic of conversation was done with.