God of Shadow – Chapter 7

Adahmri dragged his hand across his brow and sat up. The sun filtered into his room from the shutters, landing right on that spot on the couch where he had been trying to fall back asleep. He groaned as he sat up, his blanket falling about his waist. He blinked down at it silently as he willed his mind to catch up with him. A rustling sound reached his ears and he turned his head sharply. When he saw the bundle of blankets on the bed, and the form underneath them, he recalled instantly everything that had happened the previous night.

Sielahiel had followed him and had found him in this inn. They had come upstairs to his room and talked for hours. She had had so many questions. Most importantly, though, she believed him. His mother, the goddess Ariana, had apparently spoken to her and given her instructions to come here. A part of him had resented that his mother had not appeared to him. Why had she neglected him, only to approach someone else to make sure that he was properly supplied?

In the end, Sielahiel had fallen asleep on his bed. He had watched her sleep, admiring her beauty and her bravery in coming after him. She had never left her home before, and yet she had done as Ariana had told her to do without hesitation. It painted her in a new light – one which only made him love her even more.

He chuckled helplessly to himself and rubbed his face with his palm. He was in trouble. It was a terrible idea to bring along the girl of his dreams on a journey that could be quite dangerous. What if she was hurt? What if he couldn’t protect her? What if he gained powers like the ones that had destroyed those wolves and she grew afraid of him?

He feared that the most. He had frightened himself with that power; it was only reasonable to think that she might be afraid, too. If she had seen what happened with the wolves, would she have still come with him? He had too many questions and concerns. He needed to focus on the damned Pearls and worry about protecting Sielahiel as it came up. Worrying needlessly would just cause him unnecessary stress.

Adahmri let the woman sleep, and quietly went about changing his clothes and fetching breakfast from downstairs. When he returned with the tray of food, Sielahiel was sitting up on the bed, stretching. Adahmri’s gaze lingered on her form before she plopped back down and yawned. He smiled, and then approached with the tray.

“Good morning,” he called.

She turned her head and blinked at him, as if she had forgotten that he was there. She then sat up again as she recalled where she was and why. She smiled sheepishly and accepted an apple he held out to her.

“Sorry for sleeping in,” she said. “I must’ve been tired.”

“You’ve been sleeping in a sort-of-tent before now,” Adahmri answered with a chuckle. “You were probably really sleeping for the first time in a few days.”

“Fair enough.” She smiled and bit into the apple.

After breakfast, Adahmri left the room again to give Sielahiel time to wash up and change into fresh clothes. She met him downstairs with her belongings, and they stepped out of the inn together after Adahmri left a few extra coins on the counter for the innkeeper. The sky was overcast, so they were unsure how late in the morning it was. After fetching Cayil from the stables, they made their way further into the city of Thornin.

“So do you know where we’re going?” Sielahiel said, looking aside at her companion. Adahmri met her gaze, and then looked around at the rows of tall stone buildings. The streets were quiet, with only a few travelers out and about in the gloom that promised rain. He was silent at first, hoping to catch some kind of sign that would point him in the right direction. The dream he had had after Soragen visited him had been vivid, but he suddenly couldn’t recall it in detail after he had woken up. All he knew was that he had to come here to this city. But Thornin was enormous. He needed something more.

“I don’t,” he admitted. His voice was low and quiet, but Sielahiel gave him an encouraging smile.

“That’s a’right,” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder. He looked at her again and a smile returned to his lips. “We’ll figure it out. You came this far.”

Adahmri covered her hand with his and squeezed it. Even though her presence with him would certainly put her in danger, he was glad that Sielahiel was there. Leaving her behind had been physically painful. At least now there was a chance that she might come to think of him as more than the kid who asked her twice a year if she would marry him. Maybe she would be more receptive after they had traveled together for some time.

They passed into another district, and Adahmri offered his arm to Sielahiel. Their surroundings changed from the clean and orderly buildings near the gates to broken and abandoned stone houses which were in sore need of renovation. The citizens and travelers they encountered in this part of town were wrapped in dark, hooded cloaks, and they watched Adahmri and Sielahiel in a way that reminded Adahmri of the wolves back by the stream. He kept Sielahiel close, and she did not protest when his right arm slipped around her waist. Thornin had become intimidating. What had happened in this part of the city to make it look and feel like this?

Adahmri turned his head sharply toward movement to his left, but he didn’t see anything or anyone. He narrowed his eyes and scanned the buildings and alleyway. An image flashed in his mind, and he realized that he had seen this before. This must have been in his dream. But where was he meant to go from here?

Who would be in his way?

He tried not to think about that, but everything in him screamed that he needed to be careful. With a quiet word aside to his lovely companion, he guided her away from the main road and toward the familiar alleyway. She tensed under his arm but said nothing. He was focused, as if seeing something that she could not. The horse kept in step with them, dull and unperturbed by the menacing atmosphere.

Adahmri stopped short. Sielahiel looked at him curiously. He was staring at a large wooden door at the end of the alley.

“Kid? Is everything okay?” she murmured aside to him.

He nodded slowly. He could feel something…strange. It was like a pull in his chest that wanted him to continue forward. Was this what he was looking for? Was it truly so simple?

“Tie Cayil to that post,” he said, pointing at a piece of wood that had been driven into the ground and which leaned slightly toward the building next to it. Sielahiel drew away from Adahmri to do as he said, and then stroked her horse’s face as she smiled at him.

“Stay here for a bit, sweetie,” she cooed. “We won’t be gone long.”

The horse stared at her with its big black eyes, and then nickered in her direction as she slipped away. Adahmri reached out and took her hand when she returned to his side. She smiled at him.

“Stay close to me,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to find in here.”

She laced her fingers with his and nodded. Adahmri gazed at her pretty face for a few moments longer, and then led her toward the tall wooden door that had called to him. He tested it and found that it was unlocked. He frowned to himself. Surely this was too easy.

The heavy door groaned as he pushed it open. Inside, the room was dark, but there was a line of lit torches leading deeper inside. The high stone walls were unadorned otherwise, and there were no rugs on the stone floor. A chair lay toppled on its side on the other end of the room, but nothing else was visible. Adahmri and Sielahiel exchanged a wary glance, and then made their way toward the hallway, following the lit torches.

Adahmri held his breath as they came upon a set of wide stairs leading down. The pull on his chest grew stronger, and he tugged Sielahiel quickly down the steps. He almost didn’t hear her startled yelp, but he did not slow down for her. His dark eyes were intense, looking forward toward the next torch as they hurried into the catacombs beneath the building.

Whatever he would find down here, he knew that he would have some answers to his questions by the end of it.

 

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Jes A. Condrey
Line Art by Aishuemoney. Colored by Jes.

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