God of Shadow – Chapter 3

“Would you like something to drink?”

Adahmri looked at Sielahiel, and then at the tipped bucket next to him. He rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly.

“Ah…yes, thank you,” he said. “I had brought some water from the well, but…”

Sielahiel laughed. “That’s all right,” she said. “We have plenty of our own water.” She winked at him, and then jumped up and glided away toward the farmhouse.

Adahmri sighed wistfully, his gaze lingering after her. If he was to do as Soragen had instructed, then he would have to depart Lorre. He would have to say goodbye to Sielahiel.

Perhaps that wasn’t so bad. He had been hopelessly in love with her for years, and she had never done or said anything that suggested she might one day return his interest. If anything, she seemed to indulge his attentions out of politeness – probably only because they were at least somewhat flattering. And if he didn’t have any real chance of winning her affections, then he should back away before she found someone better suited to her. He knew that if he had to see her with another man, his heart would crumble, and it would be entirely his own fault. She had never led him on, nor treated him any differently than she treated others.

That did not change that she was the kindest person he had ever met, and thus she showed him more compassion than any other ever had. It had coaxed his innocent crush on the young woman to blossom into something more over the last few years.

Adahmri’s heart suddenly began to pound painfully in his chest. What was he doing? He couldn’t be here. Even if she did eventually develop stronger feelings for him, he was about to leave this place. He was going to go out and become a god or die along the way. Where would that leave her? The logical part of his mind told him that such a relationship could never work. What would he do? Take a break from his obligations as a newly-Ascended god to visit his mortal wife? No, she deserved a warm and attentive husband who could care for her every day. She deserved a family, and all the love in the world.

Sielahiel didn’t believe a word of his talk about Soragen’s visit; he knew that. And why should she? The gods didn’t make appearances anymore. They simply acted through their occasional blessings, apparent in the state of the harvest, or in the way their shrines pulsed with light in response to a worthy petitioner. Sielahiel likely thought Adahmri was mad, or at least distraught enough to believe in mad incidents.

Adahmri’s muscles protested as he stood and looked over the pasture on the other side of the fence. A handful of sheep had separated from the flock and made their way to the western wall of the enclosure, as if searching for the greenest grass. The breeze had died, and all that remained was the steady hum of insects calling out to the afternoon sun. Adahmri dragged his arm across his forehead, but the sweat gathered on it only smeared the sweat on his brow.

Resolved, he turned on his heel and strode away from the fence – away from Sielahiel’s farmhouse. She had been inside for that water for longer than necessary, anyway; perhaps she had wanted an excuse to leave him again.

Adahmri trudged along the hills toward the gates of Lorre. He thought he heard a distant voice call out to him, but he ignored it and hoped that he had simply imagined it. As he neared the city, his hand came to rest on the sword on his belt. He looked down at it, contemplative. He did not yet know how to use this blade, and he reasoned that he should take something more suited to him. He had a knife back at the Orphanage which he could use to defend himself if need be, and it would not be as unwieldy as a thin-sword meant for a trained warrior. With a jerk, he ripped the sword from his belt and threw it to the ground with a clatter.

As usual, he passed through the city as if invisible. The citizens and shopkeepers had long grown accustomed to ignoring him and the other Orphanage children. No one stopped him as he made his way inside the building in which he had grown up, and Miss Inger barely spared him a glance when he passed her in the foyer. She shouted after him that she would let him stay for another week, but he would have to find other housing arrangements after that. He clenched his jaw and ignored the comment. Miss Inger meant well. It would not do to snap at her when his emotions were so erratic.

Adahmri snatched a backpack from the storage closet, and then ran up to his room on the second floor. He stuffed his clothes into the bag and left everything else behind. He did not have any valuables or keepsakes. He cursed his previous anger and decided he should pick the sword back up on his way out of the city, so he could sell it elsewhere. The militia swords were well-made; it would be worth a few dozen coins, at least.

He snuck through the Orphanage, peering around corners in the hopes that he would not encounter anyone on his way out. He paused next to a door with a square sign nailed to it. Miss Inger’s office was normally locked, but the door was slightly ajar. He slowly pushed it open, glad that it did not creak and give him away.

Miss Inger was not inside. His brow furrowed, he stepped inside and looked around at the bookcases. He had come in here a few times before; Miss Inger’s personal library was impressive, and she had liked to loan him select tomes. The office was as neat and orderly as it always had been, and Adahmri’s heart began to race when he saw the small chest resting on her desk, a key nestled in its lock.

He would need coin if he was going to travel. He had none, and the Orphanage had more than it needed. His face grew hot as he approached the desk and gazed down at the chest. Perhaps it would be empty. Miss Inger surely wouldn’t have just left the office open like this if the chest was unlocked and filled with donation money. His fingers shook as he reached out and lifted the lid of the chest.

His stomach somersaulted when he saw the plump bag inside.

He did not even think first. He snatched the bag and stuffed it into his backpack, and then spun around and bolted for the door. When he reached it, he barreled into Miss Inger. The woman yelped and stumbled into the wall, but Adahmri did not stop to make sure she was all right. She shouted after him as he ran down the hallway and took the stairs three at a time till he reached the landing. Another of the residents, a boy of about seven years, stared at him with wide eyes when he raced across the sitting room toward the front door.

His pulse raced, pounding in his ears. He didn’t know how much money he had just stolen from the Orphanage, but he didn’t want to wait and find out, either. He ran through the streets as quickly as his feet would carry him. The eastern gate was nearer than the northern gate, so he decided to just leave the damned militia sword where it had landed out north of the city. He couldn’t tarry now. They would label him a criminal, and then he might never be able to leave on the quest Soragen had given him.

A pang of guilt crashed through him as he passed the startled gate guards and continued running down the path. His parents had abandoned him as an infant, presumably because they had had no choice. Now, he was supposed to prove himself to them and take his place at their sides as a god.

“Good start, Goose,” he spat, using his hated nickname to underscore the disgust rising in his chest. He slowed his steps until he stopped, panting heavily. His hands shook as he looked back toward the city he had just left.

He was meant to become a god, and the first thing he had done was steal from a bunch of kids and a woman who had raised him when he had had nothing and no one else.

He trudged forward, his gaze lingering on the city for a time longer before he looked eastward, to where the road curved north toward Thornin.

He would do better. He had to.

 

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Jes A. Condrey
Line Art by Jolme. Colored by Mike Lisle.

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