The small room was suddenly filled with the booming ring of the church bells. It was enough to make the young woman who had been lying her her bed flinch violently. At first, she wore only an expression of shock.The sound had clearly caught her off guard. But then, that look of surprise melted into one of horror. Her brown eyes widened, and she muttered a string of curse words under her breath. Then, muttering an apology to Jiskastya for her crude language, she threw back the quilts, swung her legs over the side of the bed and leapt to her feet. She was not the first dedicate to be late to the morning service, and she certainly would not be the last. It was not uncommon for a young person or two to oversleep. Of course, she had not overslept. She had merely lost track of time, as she often did in the mornings. The old, leather-bound book that lay forgotten on her bed was the culprit.
Stripping her nightgown off as she crossed the room, she briefly thought of how lucky she was to have her own room. Before, she had stayed in the community bedroom with the other female dedicates. There had been no privacy at all, and it had driven her mad. She was a woman who liked her own personal space, and there had been no great amount of that available. She had spoken with one of her superiors, someone who had seemed to take a liking to her. He had agreed to give her a small spare bedroom that was given to traveling religious men and women. As none had stopped by in months, he let her have it in exchange for her tutoring the younger members of the congregation. Often families would bring their young children to the church, and she would keep them occupied until the service was over. That was what she would be doing that morning, assuming she could get ready quickly enough.
She draped her dress over the chair to her vanity as she moved across to her small closet. There, the young woman selected a plain, modest black dress. It was hardly stylish, but it was common attire for a female dedicate. As carefully as possible, she tried to maneuver her feet into a pair of black flats, but she was so rushed that she ended up trying to cram them on as she moved back to the vanity. Plopping in front of the mirror, she leaned in to inspect her reflection. Her cheeks, dotted heavily with freckles, were flushed. She ran her hand quickly over her face, her cold hands cooling her hot skin. Her hazel eyes, large and deep-set, were wide. The rude cry of the bells had set her heart racing, and the adrenaline was still pulsing through her veins. She could not be late this time. The woman pushed herself back from the small table, and plucked her robe off of the hook on the wall. There would be no time to brush her hair. Instead, she ran her fingers through her long brown locks, tugging out any knots that she encountered. It caused her straight hair to frizz up a bit, especially along where it framed her heart-shaped face, but it was all she could do. With a loud thud, the woman hurriedly and none too gracefully ripped the door open, slipped through it, and slammed it closed behind her.
“Slow down,” someone called out as she hurried by them. Though she did not catch a glimpse of who it was, she did not recognize the voice as one of her superiors. Most likely it was one of the dedicates. So she paid the warning no mind, tugging on her robes and fastening them in the front as she neared the main hall. Just before she entered, she drew her hood over her head. She may get scolded for it later, but she would also be scolded for having messy hair, so she did not dwell on it for too long. She selected a candle, lit it quickly, and moved as gracefully as possible into the hall.
First, as she always did, she approached the statue of Elksyx. She had always liked him the best. He was strong and determined, armed with the tools to build new things. He could create. That was something she admired. Whispering him a few words of praise, she ducked her head and moved on to the next section. There, she prayed to Aselia, and then to Koromain. The whole time, she was smiling softly. She cared deeply for her gods, and speaking to them, even to their statues, made her feel closer to them.
However, her smiled faded as she approached the final of the four floor-level statues. This statue was unlike the others, as it was carved from black marble. More than that though, it made the woman uncomfortable. His features were hard, but as she stared up into his face, she almost imagine the stone lips curling into a frightening smirk. She shuddered, then glared back into the cold, unmoving eyes. Why dirty a church of such beauty with a monument to a monster? A creature that caused the world such pain for so long. “Scum,” she muttered, clutching the candle in her hands a bit tighter.