Even when things had been their most dire, she and her mother had never found themselves standing in the beggar’s line. When her mother had no longer been able to function as an adult and Kaliah had taken on the role of head of household, she’d never considered asking for help, though there were times when cabbage soup and brown bread were all they’d had to tide them over. For five years, since the hateful day she’d turned ten, she’d provided for her mother and herself. She’d become the parent, and struggled to live up to all the responsibilities that entailed.
She’d found ways to put food on the table for both of them, mostly through the labor of her own two hands. Her troubles and hardships had made her intolerant of the laziness in her fellow villagers. If a child could survive without charity, she thought indignantly, so could the adults who crowded around the tables in the midday heat.
Disgust lit her amethyst eyes and curled her lip as she raised her chin and stared down her nose at the “beggars. Sweeping the cowl of her cloak off her head, she stood a little straighter, thrusting her chest forward just a little more than she was wont to, and shook her head so that her hair flowed down her back in an icy curtain.
The shocking white color that filled most of her neighbors with superstitious fright would serve her in good stead now; she’d be able to reach the door unmolested, since the way was now clear. The guards saw her and uncrossed their spears. The Temple was never closed to her, no matter what time of day. She was the High Priestess’ favorite acolyte and personal errand-runner.
The twins guarding the door stood a little straighter, their spines a little stiffer than they might otherwise have been, as they watched her approach. Their heads nearly collided as they both hastened to open the doors to the Temple for her.
The villagers might despise her for her oddities, but the Guards knew better.
With the slightest possible inclination of her head, she swept past them. Identical down to the freckles on their noses, they were quite familiar with her moods and knew that when she’d cloaked herself in this particular haughty demeanor that they would be wise to tread softly near her. They bowed as she passed, fists to their hearts, and kept their teeth tightly clenched behind closed lips.
As Mishrey, she was accorded the highest honors within the bounds of the Temple, though she was not the Sindai, the High Priestess’s successor.
“Good afternoon, Mishrey Kaliah. Peace be with you and upon you.” A young acolyte, her hair shorn close to her scalp in a stubble in devotion to Cal and Lea, the supreme deities of Ishlia, greeted Kaliah with downcast eyes and outstretched hands. Still cloaked in the haughtiness she’d donned outside, Kaliah swept her cloak from her shoulders and laid it in the arms of the waiting acolyte.
“Good afternoon to you as well, Devoted” Kaliah replied, her voice as cool and remote as an arctic wind.
“The High Priestess bids you welcome and asks that you wait for her in the Sanctuary.” The acolyte’s eyes never left the floor as she delivered her message. “I will have your cloak cleaned and waiting for you when you are ready to leave for the day, Mishrey.” Having said more in the past few minutes than she normally did in a full day, the young acolyte turned and walked quickly away without waiting for a reply.