The altar room in the Haárin transept of Elyas Station proved much more suitable than Imea nìaRauta Rilas had feared, warm and quiet as any in Rauta Shèràa. A place of clean, white stone, dark woods, and polished silver metal. A place of preparation, and acceptance of the will of the gods.
She had spent half the station-morning in prayer, as was proper for a godly bornsect. She had stood with her back straight, arms raised above her head, and intoned supplications to her favored goddess until the dry air rasped her throat and she grew light-headed from having stood so still for so long. Now, she lowered her arms in a smooth downward sweep, the cramps in her muscles and pain in her joints blending to form yet another prayer.
As her hands fell to her sides, Rilas felt the cuffs of her shirt tumble over her wrists. How she hated this shirt, its blue as blinding as that of an alarm illumin. How she hated her trousers, as purple as her shirt was blue. She thought of her usual clothing, her flowing trousers and overrobe in subtle shades of sand and stone. Her soft tan boots, so much more appropriate than the stiff black things she wore. She imagined her hair as it should have been, arranged in the braided fringe of a breeder instead of as it was now, loose as a mane, its only binding a leather coil. A horsetail. Such was what the Haárin called the style, in imitation of the humanish.
Rilas turned and walked to the narrow bench next to the entry, where she had set her slingbag. She hoisted it to her shoulder, felt its comforting heft bump her hip. So many things did it contain. And still a few more did she need to add. Such I must do, and quickly. Before it came time for her to board her shuttle to the city of Karistos.
Yet as much as she wished to depart, still she hesitated. She felt agitated, angered, as she had so often over the course of her journey from her blessed homeworld of Shèrá to this most ungodly of destinations. So much planning and preparation. And now I am here. At that point where planning and preparation transmuted into action and realization. Completion. Triumph.
Rilas let the bag slide down her shoulder onto the top of the bench. She opened the flap and hunted, through the clothes and the tile samples and all those other objects of no importance. Once she reached the bottom support panel, she touched first one corner, then the one diagonally opposite. The panel separated from the bag frame with a soft click. She pushed it to one side and reached into the shielded compartment beneath, felt the tension leave her as soon as she put her hand on the shooter.
She lifted the weapon from its hiding place, confirmed its standby setting by pure reflex, then turned to a bare wall and sighted down. The case fit the curve of her hand, the weight filling an emptiness she had not realized she felt until that moment. Yet she knew she should not have felt surprise, for such was as it had always been. She possessed metal in her soul, nìRau Cèel had once told her, and as always he spoke truth.
Rilas bared her teeth. Such is as I am. Joy filled her as the air she breathed. Even her godless apparel no longer angered her. She always felt most as herself when she held a weapon in her hand.
She stood for some moments, arm extended, imagining targets past, targets yet to come. Then she lowered her arm, this time more slowly. Turned back to her slingbag and returned the shooter to its hiding place. Refastened the bag, raised it again to her shoulder, and departed.