The rat scurried onto Domino's left hand, icy little toes curling themselves around his fingers for warmth. He wanted to scream, but swallowed instead, settling for a short, silent prayer to Rictus. No doubt if he could hear such a prayer, it would be here, in his temple. Beneath his very altar.
The sound of boots on marble echoed from across the temple. His pursuers had arrived.
"Where is he?" This was Captain Trill; the man was old, and the name older, but the title was new, and -- should the fugitive escape -- might prove short-lived. Yes, Trill had reason to capture this rogue. Nearly as much reason as Domino had to run.
"I said--" repeated the Captain, breaking off as the Temple elder rushed to meet him.
"I heard you Captain," said the priest. "Please, keep your voice low. Rictus prefers the quiet."
"Rictus," spat one of the soldiers. "God of rats and filth."
The other soldiers chuckled, but the Captain raised a hand and silenced them.
"Priest," he said quietly, "I have no doubt you are hiding my fugitive. Will you prevent us from entering?"
"No," said the priest. "I have no problem with you entering. Nor does Rictus. He accepts all manner of vermin in his temple. Including the fugitive."
Rictus obviously had a sense of humor, for the rat chose just that moment to dart up his sleeve and down his sweat-soaked back. Despite himself, he let out a yelp.
"I do not believe in your god," said the Captain. He made as if to push past towards the noise, but the priest held out a hand.
"But you do believe in your own," said the priest, pointing at the Captain's armor, embossed with the sign of Sol. "And is it not blasphemous in Sol's eye to enter such a place in this way? I believe it is in the third book of Sol, chapter twelve, wherein we find the restriction against entering temples of foreign gods, unless one has undergone purification--"
"You are very well versed in my religion, for a heretic," said the Captain. "What you say is true."
The priest smiled.
"But it is also true that this temple has but one exit. And so we shall remain outside, and wait until this fugitive emerges. And then we shall have him."
With a flourish of his cape he spun and left the temple, his men close behind. The priest did not bother to shut the door behind them; he merely turned and walked across the temple floor, arriving just as Domino clambered from beneath the altar, shaking the rat from his trouser leg.
"You told them I was here!" he exclaimed.
"So I did. Rictus is a god of vermin, not a god of deceit. You are safe within the temple, as I promised you."
"Yet the guards await me outside!" shouted Rictus.
The priest smiled.
"I said you could enter," he said. "I never said you would be able to leave."