A Hint of What's to Come
The sun was low in the sky as the three people in black jackets stepped out of a back door of the chapel in Haliburum. They paused as a young man in a beige robe approached, his hands clasped in front of him.
The woman with the snow white hair spoke first.
"Well, young priest, what can we do for you? You're a little far away from your Lady's temple."
"Mom, I forgot my keys again."
"Sam," sighed his mother in exasperation, "That's the third time in two weeks."
"I know, I know. Do you have the spares because I'm gonna be late for services if I don't hurry."
"You could have come in," said one of the other figures.
"I feel kind of awkward, Uncle Eli. I know it sounds silly, but I do."
"I have the keys inside. How about you hustle back and I bring them over. I can leave them with whomever is on duty at the front door, does that work? Demma won't like it if you're late again."
"Do you want company?" asked the third figure.
"Thanks, but I'll be alright, Uncle Jensen. And thanks, mom. I think it's Jeanine on duty. Thanks again," said Sam giving his mother a quick hug and sprinting off.
"He's not gonna make it," said his mother checking the sky. Nan, her jacket companion agreed with a ripple across her back. Gwen caressed her right sleeve in acknowledgement.
"Does Demma send home report cards, Courier?" smiled Eli.
"Actually, Rider, she will have her people contact parents or guardians if someone who has taken First Vows starts to mess up," answered Gwen starting back up the stairs to the chapel offices, "And I have a feeling I may get a message on this one. Look, guys, I'll run the keys over and then head to the restaurant. You go ahead."
Eli and Jensen paused and then both said, "No."
"Worrywarts," scoffed the Courier.
"Rules, Gwen, King's rules," Eli reminded her, "You don't go anywhere alone anymore. I believe his exact words were 'The Courier has a tendency to attract trouble'."
"P-shaw, those were the days when there was trouble to attract. Things are different now."
"That's alright," said Jensen, "It's a beautiful night for a stroll. I haven't been over by Demma's in quite a while."
"Fine, let me get the keys. Be right back."
While the Riders waited, big red-headed Jensen asked his colleague, "Why do you think the King has been so concerned about her? She's right about things being different. Not only does she have Nat's protection and that of basically every other Top Ten god with that hair of hers reminding them what she did, but she's friends with Demma and Gethen. What or who could possibly threaten her?"
Eli shrugged, "Your guess is as good as mine. But at least she doesn't make it difficult."
As he finished Gwen re-appeared and skipped down the steps.
"Let's go and give the folks at Demma's a thrill, huh? But it bothers me that Sam felt so uncomfortable about coming in here. I'll have to ask him about that."
"I don't think that's really unusual," said Eli as they set out at a quick pace, "He's caught between two worlds and doesn't have enough confidence to feel comfortable in either one. That will change as he becomes established at Demma's. Before long he'll be knocking on the office door here asking for the spare keys."
Gwen and Jensen laughed and the banter continued as the trio of King Nathao's employees briskly walked the several very large blocks in the city of Haliburum to the goddess Demma's temple.
Once there, they followed the well-groomed sandy path that wound its way through a garden of grains, ornamental grasses and flowers to the main entrance. Several of the doors were already closed for the evening, but one double door was open and just inside, sitting at a desk, was a young acolyte.
Her eyes went wide as the three people dressed in black jackets walked in. Instinctively the Riders fell back to stand behind Gwen, unintentionally presenting a rather threatening picture.
Gwen smiled as she approached the desk and raised a hand in greeting.
"Jeanine? I'm Sam's mother. He forgot his keys and I told him I'd drop them off here. Would you see that he gets them?"
"Yes, ma'am, Courier," said the young woman recovering from her initial scare and taking a close look at Gwen's hair and then her ice-blue eyes, "You're Sam's mother? He never said anything about that."
"Well, I suppose it isn't something that he would want to flaunt publicly, but if he keeps forgetting his keys, then word gets out."
Gwen smiled as she handed them over to Jeanine.
"I remember seeing you here with Sam and his sister when you were guests," said the acolyte, "I should have put two and two together and never did."
"There's no reason you should have," said Gwen, "But now you know. Can you make sure Sam gets his keys?"
"Of course, Courier. Did you want to leave any message?"
The white haired woman thought for a moment and then said, "Yes, but not for Sam. Could you get word to Demma that I'd appreciate a few minutes of her time if she could spare them? I have an appointment at Ryanskill the day after tomorrow and will stop in. She knows the time."
Nan offered a mental question and Gwen promised to share when they were alone.
"Of course," said the young woman dealing with familiar ground. "I can pass that along."
"Thank you and have a pleasant evening."
"You, too, Courier and Riders," she added looking at them and smiling shyly when Eli and Jensen both smiled at her.