The sun came up over the horizon pinkly, brushing Sifani’s face with deceptive warmth. The streets were mostly empty – early-morning workers crept timidly from their doors, eyes blinking open to a perfect day. Yet, Sifani and the band kept their hoods up and their stride purposeful as they headed for the abandoned garden. Though today they worried little about being discovered, it still wouldn’t do to be reckless in their recklessness.
Lorin strode at Sifani’s right side, close enough to her that his arm brushed hers every few steps. She didn’t even try to stop herself from stealing a glance at him past her cowl – his presence was the most reassurance she had.
His bold, straight nose stood out from the shadows that concealed his face, rose-tinged by the sunlight. The knot that been forming in her stomach since Nume had made her demand two days ago tightened suddenly, so that it felt hard to breathe. Was there no way to avoid this? No way stop her divine hunter, no way to keep Lorin away from the danger?
She had thought about sneaking off to the garden alone in the earliest hours of the morning, had even begun to mention that she ought to face Nume by herself. However, Lorin headed her off on both counts, shutting down the former option as if he had read her mind and cutting off her attempt at the latter with little more than a curt rebuttal. He was so frustrating! So damned…admirable. She tugged her eyes away from him and stared straight ahead.
The group turned from the main thoroughfare into a series of wide alleys, and wove in between sleepy buildings. Sifani took deep, calming breaths, knowing they had rehashed the plan ad nauseum. They swept past a row of small trees with blossoms just giving way to green leaves. Would all their planning be enough? Too soon, the overgrown walls and neglected gate appeared before them, and the thoughts that had been drifting in and out of focus clarified starkly. “Stick to the plan,” Sifani murmered to herself. From her left, she felt Namiss’ slender hand squeeze her arm comfortingly.
As Sifani strode ahead of them and pushed through the old gate, its doleful sound echoing her dark mood, she saw that shadows still prevailed inside the crumbling walls of the garden. The others filed in quietly behind her as she surveyed the interior. Jatan caught her eye and nodded, gesturing to his right and left for Namiss, Ileniel, and Antian to spread out around the wall.
Sifani stopped in the center of the garden and pulled back her cowl. To her surprise, Lorin was already un-hooded himself and looking intently at her when she turned to him.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
Sifani gave the ghost of a nod. Without turning her face away from him, she closed her eyes, and canvassed.
Blue mist fell over the world, rendering the shadows even chillier.
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