For a second I’m floored. How in the world did she know that? How did everyone seem to know that? Is it somehow painfully obvious that I’m an Acolyte? Do I have a floating window above my head announcing my class to everyone?
I tighten my grip on the mace, shifting my stance from relaxed to ready, as I glare at the woman across from me, “And how do you know I’m an Acolyte?”
She doesn’t budge an inch, “Answer the question.”
I grit my teeth, trying to shove down the voice in the back of my head telling me to just give her a good knock on the head. If she knew I’m an Acolyte then she’s probably well informed, if I want to get home, and I so desperately wish to go back, then I’m going to need that information. Which means I must play nice, for now. “I don’t have one.”
She blinks, obviously thrown off guard, but quickly schools her face back into impassiveness, “Don’t have one?” she repeats in disbelief. “Impossible.”
I scowl back, letting my annoyance come across clear as day, “I don’t have one,” I repeat for her, “now why do you need to know?”
There’s a flash of blue light and a beautiful pearl-studded rapier is leveled at my face, dangerously close to my nose. I eye the blade, partially wondering where in the world she magicked it from as she glares, voice like steel, “Prove it.”
I raise an eyebrow in disbelief, how in the hell do you prove something doesn’t exist? “You’re asking the impossible fish face.”
The sword inches closer, barley hovering just over my skin, and yeah I probably shouldn’t be calling the woman holding me a sword point rude names, but if she hasn’t stabbed me yet, there must be a reason she wants to know. She takes a step closer, not moving the blade, just getting into my space, boxing me in. My hands twitch, itching to push her back.
“Show me your holy symbol,” she orders, slowly lowering the blade to my neck.
A sour taste fills my mouth, even though I don’t fully understand the statement. It is a threat, it is a challenge, and it is an order. And I don’t do well with other people telling me what to do, but I steady myself, letting the annoyance ring in my voice as I ask, “What holy symbol?”
She sighs heavily through gritted teeth, “The thing you picked up to become an Acolyte.” She says, taking another step closer, “show me.”
She was talking about the metal disk. I probably should have assumed that’s what the circle was, but I had dropped it into my bag and kind of forgotten it existed. “It’s in my bag,”
She holds out her hand expectantly, I don’t hand it over, there’s far more than just my holy symbol in there. “I do it myself or things are going to get really ugly.”
“Need I remind you,” and she pushes the blade into my neck, not enough to draw blood, but enough to dig into my skin so I can feel it, “I’m the one with the power here.”
“Either I open the bag,” I repeat, hoping that my gut is right about her not wanting me dead, “or we do this the hard way.”
She tisks but seems to consider the offer, slowly moving the blade away a few inches, gesturing roughly towards my person, “Fine.” She confides, “Show it to me. Any funny business and I’ll separate your head from your shoulders.”
“Thanks,” I sarcastically say, slinging my backpack off, making sure to angle it so she can’t see inside, shifting items around to keep the artifact covered. It takes me a few long seconds to finally fish the metal disk out from the very bottom, I look up to make she’s watching as I very slowly pull it out. I hold the disk out towards her like an offering, blank silver metal glittering in the lantern light.
She stares at the symbol for a long moment before flicking her blade in my direction again, “The other side too,”
I turn the disk to its other side, enjoying how her face loses its intimidating edge and melts into shock and confusion. She locks eyes with me, body still bow string tense before she nods curtly once. With a wave of her hand, the mysterious blade vanishes with a shower of sparks, and she readjusts her stance back into the false relaxed lean. “You were telling the truth,” she notes lightly, still looking minorly confused, “didn’t know Acolytes could leave the starting zone without a god.”
I give her a tight smile, “I’m just special.”
She gives me another once-over, before turning to stare over my shoulder, “Certainly something.”
As I ponder whether I want to take the bait of that obvious jab, she sighs again, running a hand through her green hair, turning around to face the metal door, “Well as interesting as this encounter was, I do have other business.”
“Wait a second!” and I rush forward, slamming a hand roughly into the door just next to her head, it doesn’t close the slightly ajar door, but it does effectively stop her from opening it further. Slowly she turns to glare at me over her shoulder, but I don’t budge, pressing firmer into the metal. “We had a deal.” I remind her, tightening the grip on my mace in my other hand, “I told you what you wanted to know, now it’s your turn.”
For a moment nothing happens, she just stares intently at me, eyes flickering across my face as though she’s looking for something. I lean a little more on the door, causing it to close an inch, “I’m not against using force either.”
She must find whatever she was looking for because she scoffs, crossing her arms and leaning away from me, “I’m not exactly scared of a godless healer.” She taunts, but the malice from before has disappeared, hostile intentions put away for now, “I’ll answer, but I never said I would stay here. I have my own business to attend to,” and she gestures towards the door, “Follow me if you want, but you deal with your own safety.”
For a second I really do just consider resorting to violence, or just letting her leave on her own. Her secrets can’t really be worth dealing with her for the next hour, can they? But then Zeke’s face swims in my head and I sigh, pushing myself away from the door. As soon as I get my answers, I’ll ditch her and go my own way. This was just a business transaction, nothing more.
“Fine.” I agree, quickly pulling my boots back on, “Just answer me and we can keep things civil.”
“Of course,” she agrees with lazy indifference, as though she can’t even be bothered telling me to leave. I force down the anger, taking a deep breath as she opens the door again, and I follow her out into the hallway.
Outside a half-dozen monster corpses are scattered around in a bloody scene. Arrows litter their bodies, adding false quills to their backs. The woman is crouched down among the carnage, pulling out arrows and evaluating the fletching, once deemed salvageable enough she puts them in her quiver, paying no attention at all to me or what I’m doing.
“You’re a pretty good shot,” I compliment dryly, pushing one of the bodies over with my boot. It’s a clean kill, a single arrow to the eye socket. She might be one of the most frustrating people I’ve ever had the displeasure of knowing but she did have skill.
“I’m still not helping you if you get into trouble acolyte.”
I shoot her a glare she can’t see as I wrench my spear out of the monster I killed earlier, “I have a name scaley.”
She roughly pulls an arrow out of a corpse, green blood splattering over the tile as she glares at me for that unflattering nickname. “As do I,” she says, dropping the arrow into her quiver and standing up, “Samie,” she introduces with a nod.
I raise an eyebrow but don’t comment, she had the option to name herself anything and she went with “Samie”? “Nova,” I greet, “pleasure.”
She huffs a laugh at that, “Pleasure,” she repeats like it’s a ridiculous notion as she turns around to start walking down the right path. “And a little free advice newbie, ah, Nova,” and she pulls out my name as there’s a joke I’m not getting, “Don’t trust anyone, especially yourself.”
What sort of bargain bin half-assed inspirational quote is that? It doesn’t even make sense, “Mind explaining your wisdom at all there Samie?”
She glances back at me, something dark and empty lingering in her eyes before she turns away, continuing down the hallway, “You’ll learn.”
“Wow, so helpful,” I think sarcastically. With a sigh I shake my head, maybe it really wouldn’t be worth it if all I was going to get from her was fancy sounding nonsense, but she’s still the best lead I have. Resolved to my fate of following her around for the next hour or so I trail after her, keeping a good ten feet between us, “How did you know I was an Acolyte?”
Samie doesn’t look back as she answers, “Those touched by the divine are different.”
She pauses at the intersection, quickly looking both ways before taking the right tunnel, “Having contact with a god leaves an impression on the very soul, you become something beyond mortal. If you know how to look it’s easy to see.”
“So, you can see souls?” I joke, sidestepping a broken cabinet.
“Auras,” she corrects, trying the handle of a door, when it doesn’t open, she continues on, “You’re a nightmare to look at, I still have a headache from all the stupid colors.”
… Was that a compliment? What did having a colored aura even mean? “Unless the gods are fond of rainbows, I don’t see how you could tell still.”
She glances over her shoulder at me before looking away quickly, “Sorry to break it to you, but the signature sign of divine power is a nauseating concoction of colors unseeable to the mortal eye. You might not have sworn yourself to a god yet but they’re definitely interfering with you.”
A chill runs down my spine at that, did that mean I was being watched? A tool of the gods for their amusement? As they fought and argued over who would get to “keep” me? I had only viewed my lack of a godly benefactor as a bad thing, but if Samie was telling the truth, then the gods are already involving themselves in my life, just not in a way I could see. What would it really mean once a had a god of my “own”? Maybe being godless wasn’t such a bad thing.