“I am not prepared for this weather,” Zale admitted.
Salimah had to agree. Despite having the proper gear for the mountains, Zale didn’t appear at all able to hide from the snowy chill. “Use this.” She removed her over cloak, handing it over to him.
Zale smiled, but shook his head. “I won’t take your warmth, lady Salimah. I might be uncomfortable, but I can survive this.”
She did not retract her offer. “I live in this ice. It doesn’t cause me the same discomfort. My temple garb in its entirety protects me from this, under my faith. I am simply sharing a portion of it with you. Please, while we traverse this snow at the very least.”
He did not deny it again. It came down to his ankles, but it was better than prior. “Thank you. I see why you wouldn’t make this offer when we are with the others. You always wear many layers, but that is certainly not enough to share with all.”
Salimah nodded. “Let’s keep this between you and me then. I am trusting in your strong arm to protect us, if we are attacked.”
Zale nodded. “Of course.”
The two of them trudged onward.
Kya and Temperance were not quiet people. To remain silent in this place of worship was uncomfortable, but Temperance knew how much more uncomfortable she would feel if she broke that silence. Kya’s usually impassive expression now included the occasional twitch of her lip. Temperance feared that she might actually speak. Kya’s religious practices included a lot more sound than Salimah’s did.
However, Kya remained respectful. Even when the air chilled from Salimah’s musicless dance. The shaking of her layered dress, made specifically for the winter, for the north, for her worship, shone like water droplets under the sun.
It froze Temperance’s emotions, little by little, into a state of calm she barely ever attained. Even Kya’s near smile finally faded into her regular expression, though with eyes that saw more in this ritual than Temperance could understand.
Beads of sweat appeared on Salimah’s cheeks, from the limited amount of her that ever could be seen from under her dressage. Her exertion outweighed her prayer. For the moment.
Then Temperance realized why she felt uncomfortable. It was not staying silent here, it was the fact this place was silent despite Salimah’s dance. No sound of breath, no sound of footfall. Her exertion was the prayer, the fact it showed rather than not was more impressive than if the appearance was of ease.
Kya placed a hand on Temperance’s elbow. She looked over at her friend. Kya made a motion that Temperance didn’t understand. She would have to ask. After.
Salimah continued to pray.
Salimah had hung it on her wall, making it the only such framed work in her abode.
The rest of the art were symbols of her belief, the only things she had ever needed. Images and items she used for displays to the other devout. Things she had missed during her travels, that returning to she had been glad to know were saved from the calamities which had ravaged so many other places.
This, however, she framed. Her first letter from abroad that she needed to see at all times.
She kept many others. Those who had thanked her for her services, her healing, her faith. Each note of gratitude meant the world to her and she kept each within her collection. She read through them on a regular basis, a reminder that her position was not only for her own sake.
This had nothing to do with that. This letter did not thank her at all. It spoke of building and friends. It asked what she was doing. It threw forward the question of when to see her again.
It told her more letters like this would be coming.
Salimah smiled when she looked at it, Roland’s handwriting clear from a distance.
Even far away, her faith had told her that her friends were always with her.
Now there was something physical that said the same.
There was something about how Salimah had completely given herself over to a higher power that Temperance wished to understand. Not that she was religious or wanted to be. She knew which gods existed and appreciated that, but to be a part of a temple closed off so many other options she had always wanted to keep open.
“Did you always want this?” she asked her friend, sitting down at the table across from her. They were alone in this common room, their companions not here.
“Want… this?” The soft smile, the complete patience and compassion that Temperance lacked. It made her wonder.
“Yeah. What you have now.”
“Part of it was always my duty. However… yes. I wanted to take this task on from my mother. I wanted to be able to sooth the hurts of others. For that, I was lucky.”
Salimah said it so matter-of-factly. “Giving yourself to a single god?” Temperance asked.
“It is nice to know that my faith for one thing will always be rewarded.” Salimah smiled. “That’s what you’re looking for, isn’t it? My selfish reasons?”
That made her flush. “I-I didn’t mean it like that.”
“No, it’s fine. I understand. We all have those reasons. And what I said is true. Having one thing in life I can never doubt is reassuring. But not for everyone. One doesn’t need something so all-encompassing to be devoted. Don’t doubt yourself, Temperance.”
She sighed, feeling so see through. “Thanks.”
“Of course, Temperance. Of course.”