Everything had changed once their horns had grown in.
For starters, Perré found herself using Matar’s name far more frequently. Their conversations were rarely the involved, contentious affairs they had undergone when Stell was alive. No more did they argue over appropriate tactics, desperation had refined their interactions. She was eyes, ears and voice, he was merely the hand that carved a path from one objective to the next. Since The City had killed Stell, it seemed like Matar had nothing left to say to its denizens. When it became clear that Kelasho did not mind the occasional death in its halls, so long as they were careful, Matar had taken more than his fair share of lives, usually in those short periods they were out of each others’ sight. When he was vocal, it was clear he blamed all the Idolators for Stell’s death, and Perré had a hard time arguing the point. In their ignorance they supported The City, and in that they were enemies, even if malice did not enter into it. Somehow in Kelasho they had found something resembling allies. They were doing the right thing, trying to fight their prison, but for all the wrong reasons. Arrogance, power, wealth. These creatures were not Aniconists, she reminded herself. They were tools, Perré knew.
And the beak she wore could not treat them as anything more.
Matar was restless with his mask now, as though it itched, and would now remove it when he was out of sight of the Idolators, rolling the damaged wood in his hands, running a thumb along the place where a piece had been scorched off by arcane force. It exposed part of his lower jaw, now, but he hadn’t tried to repair it. He hadn’t discarded it entirely, but still didn’t seek anything to fill the space. The violence in his youthful face was obvious to her, but Perré did not prod at it. The changes in the masks affected everyone differently, the Iconoclast had said.
“Do any of the Trios return from their tasks?” Perré remembered asking of her.
“Some.” the Iconoclast had answered. “There is a point beyond which you cannot return. If faith overcomes you, you will not seek sanctuary.”
The ancient woman had paused a moment, then added “You will create it.”
Perré caught Matar’s eye, and they shared an imperceptible nod. The masks came down, and she was looking once again at his tusks. She no longer saw the uncertainty, the violence or the youth in his features. There was only gently curving horn, jagged tusk and the flat expression that the mask bore, all etched in black wood. They slipped out of shadow and into the light, merging with the crowd of orcs as though they had every right to be there.
Perré briefly wondered if she would die with her mask on, and which face was really hers.
Stell had seemed so certain.