God of Shadow – Chapter 5

Sielahiel brushed her sleeve across her brow, and then wiped her hands on her apron. Now that she had finished with her morning chores, she could go back out to the fields. The sky was bright as the sun crested over the hills east of her modest home, and she smiled as she looked out toward the sunrise. Yellow wildflowers had sprung up all over the hills, and Sielahiel delighted at the sight. They had not bloomed like this before. Rather than question it, she strolled away from her home and lifted the skirts of her favorite yellow dress, walking through the grass and wildflowers. Fog lingered about the hills, creating a mysterious, but tranquil atmosphere. Birds whistled merrily as they danced through the air, and Sielahiel breathed in deeply, savoring the scent of the wildflowers.

The young woman paused at the top of a low hill, looking out over the region. She could see the road in the distance – the one that led east out of Lorre before winding back north toward Thornin. She gazed at the road in thought, wondering if Adahmri had truly already left along that path. He had not said goodbye, and she had heard a troubling rumor about him when she had gone to Lorre and looked for him. When she had returned with water for him after he had told her his story, he had been climbing the hill back toward Lorre. She had called out to him, but he had not heard her – or worse, ignored her. Worry etched her fair features. She had hurried back inside to tell her parents she was going to Lorre, and then had rushed after him without waiting for a response. But she had lost him and had only arrived at the Orphanage too late. He had already come and gone, and apparently, he had taken a hefty sum of coin with him.

Sielahiel sighed heavily. “Oh, Adahmri,” she murmured to the breeze, as if it might carry her voice to him. Her gaze shifted toward movement in the grass amongst the hills, and Sielahiel had to rub at her eyes. She thought she had seen someone materialize out of nothing, but that was absurd. She focused on the figure moving toward her – a woman in a red dress, wearing a black traveler’s cloak with the hood drawn up. Sielahiel scanned the area around the woman, but there were no other travelers. She had come alone, wearing a dress like that? She didn’t appear to have any other supplies with her, and Sielahiel began to worry after the woman’s safety. What was she doing out in the hills alone?

Sielahiel took a step forward as the woman drew nearer, but before she could call out, the woman looked up and met her gaze. Sielahiel froze, and the woman stopped several feet away.

The woman was stunning. Her long black hair, her pristine cloak, and her scarlet dress billowed gently in a breeze that appeared somewhat stronger than the one which tousled Sielahiel’s dark locks and apron. Her skin was bronze, and her eyes were pools of white which shone like diamonds. A vague glow surrounded the woman, and Sielahiel’s fingers began to tremble as she perceived the powerful aura which accompanied the stranger. She had never encountered magic before – magic was for the elves, not for humans – but this woman was no elf.

“Sielahiel Berristan,” the woman called in a voice that was smooth as honey. Sielahiel dropped to her knees. She stared at the beautiful visitor, who smiled warmly in reply. “I am Ariana, sweet child, and I have come to ask you to do something for me.”

Sielahiel’s heart pounded so forcefully that she feared Ariana could hear it. Her voice trembled as she replied. “A-anything, my lady,” she said.

Ariana drew closer and knelt next to Sielahiel. Sielahiel gazed at the goddess Ariana with wide eyes filled with awe.

“My son has begun his quest,” Ariana said soothingly, and then cupped Sielahiel’s face with the palm of her hand. Her skin was warm on the young woman’s flushed cheek. “I fear he will fail if he does this alone. He has only truly known solitude. I wish for you to go to him. Gather traveling supplies, bandages, herbs, and food. Catch up to him; be his companion.”

Sielahiel was stunned. Her breath caught, and she realized that Adahmri had not been raving mad, after all. She gaped at Ariana, her lips parted. When her wits returned enough that she could speak, she shook her head and whispered, “But why me?”

Ariana chuckled. “You, sweet girl, are his reason to succeed,” she cooed. “He will seek to protect that which has ensnared his heart, and you will not let him send you away. Go to him. Take the road out of Lorre and meet him in Thornin. Look for him in the The Golden Limb.”

Sielahiel shivered and did not resist when Ariana took her hand and coaxed her to stand. The goddess smiled warmly once more, and then turned away from her. The billow of her cloak swept the glistening black cloth around her form, and then she vanished. Sielahiel blinked rapidly, and then her breathing began to quicken. Her heart thundered in her chest as she spun around and raced back to her farmhouse.

She didn’t say anything to her startled parents, even after they followed her into her room and she began to pack her bags. She said nothing as she gathered food from the pantry and stuffed another bag full. Her parents shouted at her when she then entered the stables and retrieved Cayil, her stout work-horse. He was not a riding horse, but he would do well for her purposes, she hoped. When her father shouted at her once more, Sielahiel realized that she had ignored them completely. Her father was angry, and her mother’s eyes glistened with tears.

Sielahiel embraced them both, speaking an apology. She had never left the farm or the area surrounding the city of Lorre before. She didn’t know if she even wanted to. But the goddess Ariana had given her a task, and that task settled neatly next to a spot of warmth in the young woman’s heart. As she departed her family’s farm on Cayil’s back, she looked out toward the distant road which Adahmri had presumably taken.

“I’ll be there soon, kid,” she whispered fondly, once again wishing her words would carry on the breeze. “Keep safe till I get there.”


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

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