His face crumpled in on itself and a small, shocked hiss exploded from between his pursed lips. Alora looked into Behrin's empty eyes and realized she'd engaged him in more than just a simple contest of wills.
He loved this girl. Loved her with a strange, dark emotion as black inside as he was white on the surface. This emotion lay in him, a moist, malignant pod, and fed off of his instability. Part of him wanted to be rid of the girl so he could have his life back. The other part wanted her with him because his life was nothing without her. The odd, still place Alora sensed between these two emotions made her wish she'd never started this. But she'd gone too far to back out now.
Behrin looked out over the crowd with desperate eyes. Alora had, very neatly, boxed him in. Deep down, he was afraid not to accept her bid. Once all the skin, muscle, and bullshit was peeled away he was just as afraid of what she could do as the next person. And she was, obviously, on the prod for him.
But to lose Islinn.
He turned and looked at the girl. His hands kneaded the rope he held as though it were a lifeline. Islinn didn't notice. She had withdrawn into herself. Her brown eyes gazed off over the crowd. Distress transposed itself over her features, making her tragically beautiful in the beginning-to-gold daylight. It hurt him to see her look that way. And, just like that, he knew what to do.
He turned towards Alora, his smile intact.
"Well now, I never knew you had such an interest in the slave market. But...interest is not knowledge." His face was calm and professional. Only his eyes retained his anger. A tic fluttered one eyelid.
"If you knew anything about slaves, you'd see she was worth far more than twenty-eight gold pieces. Market's down today,for some reason. So...I couldn't accept less than fifty."
Alora sat back on Loki, crestfallen.
"Fifty gold pieces? That's your price?"
Behrin gave her a quick nod then looked away. He went through all the signs of impatient boredom but inside,his heart sang. The game was just on hold. It would resume shortly. She didn't have fifty gold pieces.
"No one does; except maybe for the sand pounders. They've been hanging on to their money cheek to jowl all fucking day." Behrin thought as he waited.
The extra dollop of fear Alora had injected into his game was well worth the trouble. He could almost feel Islinn's fingers on his sleeve as she hesitantly tugged. He'd turn to her,and take in the fearful eyes. Her face as she furiously worked to hold back tears. Then he would make her ask him (maybe twice) not to do this.
Only then would he have something she wanted. He shied away from his own frailness, brought about by love, and instead, chose to embrace the power that came from having something to hold over someone he couldn't control. It may not have been sweet wine and sonnets composed on a spring day but it would have to do.
Alora let him have his moment. Behrin wanted to win this so badly.
(So special. And,by the way, who owns who?)
She decided to wait a few moments before she played her final card. Meanwhile,she looked at the girl. A pretty little thing, probably not more than sixteen or seventeen winters. It was easy to see why Behrin had such a knot in his tail over her.
The girl possessed a litheness beyond her years, glaringly evident in even the smallest of movements.
"I'll bet she gave them quite a run when she got loose." Alora thought as she picked up the memory off the soft glow of the girl's skin. Here was a fascinating paradox.
This young girl had managed to retain an innocence in spite of Behrin but, in return, he'd given her an air of sexuality. Alora sensed that the girl was completely unaware of this curious mixture of purity and passion so eloquently displayed upon her features.
"Will you please leave?" Behrin's voice was sharp enough to cut glass. The crowd was turning ugly in the blistering heat.
'No." Alora snapped. "We're not done measuring dicks yet."
Behrin glared at her as she grinned and leaned towards him.
"And I've got the biggest one." She sang softly as she pulled out her purse. "Fifty you said, right?"
The combination of fury and loss dissolved him. It turned the rest of his emotions into nothing more than shallow supposings and destroyed any caution he might have had. He'd just thought he knew what loss was before this.
Loss was when your horse ran off. Or you set something down and it wasn't there any longer when you went back to pick it up. This though...this was something precious squandered with a carelessness that tore his soul. All he could manage was: "You don't have that kind of coin."
"Oh,but I do." Alora corrected. "With quite a bit to spare,actually. What was that you said last night?"
She paused for a moment and pretended to think back.
"Oh yeah. People shun us until what we have is needed and then they pay. Well...when I'm needed they pay rather well."
Alora gave him a wide ain't-life-grand smile and went back to counting out coin.