Thick fog swirled in the wake of Salacial's determined progress down the narrow alley. Her boot heels clicked on the rust-red cobbles, the sound returned in a muffled echo. Anxious to reach her destination, she gave little heed to the chill damp creeping into her bones and instead blessed the heavy white shroud that allowed her to evade detection.
Ochre-colored walls pressed close on either side, their stones barely discerned in the predawn light. She paused to read the lettering on the bright red directional arrow that appeared on the building to her left. Two more turns and she would reach her destination.
Her brilliant blue eyes bespoke a depth of loneliness and longing that few recognized beneath the ever present compassion and serenity in her face. At the moment, her concern for the sick child she had been called to heal caused a slight furrow between her brows. It lent her the look of an angel in distress. That her face was an inherent makeup to inspire security and love in those she attended was well known to her. She had been thoroughly tutored by her mother in the ways of the fanesia, the healers.
Salacial caught back a gasp as a shadow appeared out of the fog. She quickly stepped back as a large ostre warrior stumbled into the wall. "'Ere now," he slurred as he caught sight of her.
Salacial turned away and lifted the cowl on her cloak to hide her cornsilk-colored hair. She headed toward the other side of the alley. A drunken ostre was a dangerous ostre.
"Come 'ere now," he spat as he reached out to grab her cloak. "Le's ha'e a look at ye."
Salacial skirted the wall as the ostre reeled across the alley. "'Ere now," he growled. "Come back 'ere."
She quickly slipped past him. As she continued down the alley he yelled after her, "Tha' she-demon's been seen in the city. Bes' come back 'ere afore she finds ye."
Salacial paused. So they already knew she was in the city. She looked back to be sure the ostre wasn't following, then quickly turned into the next alley, hoping he was too inebriated to remember seeing her in this area. She shivered as she hurried to the next turn. There she stopped a moment to rest.
Always, the sound of her mother's voice played through her mind. "You must remember what I teach you, Salacial. The fanesia were once loved, protected, and revered by the other species of Arton. When Arton is ready to heal its past, a fanesia must be ready to lead the way. Find your mate, my daughter. You are the last of the healers. Pass it on to your children. The fanesia must not die." Her mother had not found a mate until thirty-two moon glows had passed. Salacial was their only child.
She remembered every lesson, every story, every rule, every law, every event in fanesia history. She often gave voice to her rememberings, and she tried to believe that one day her children would be listening. Yet she had now seen the passing of thirty-eight moon glows and with each passing, it had become increasingly difficult for her to move safely about Arton. This land of the Indigents was a dangerous area for her and one she had previously avoided. The stories of the she-demon were particularly ferocious here. Even those who called on her for help, who professed to believe the healer stories, all too frequently looked upon her with fear and hate in their faces. This, however, did not deter her from fulfilling her destiny.
With a composure present only in those of learned fanesia blood, she listened for a moment to the utter silence, adjusted the cowl on her head, then drawing her heavy omvok cloak tighter, turned down the last alley.