Behrin recoiled as though Islinn had shouted instead of whispered. His mouth opened as he searched for words but none came. His eyes snapped back to Alora, who'd been watching the exchange with avid interest.
"You just think this is over." He choked. "I've just started and you better fucking well understand me, when I say that."
Alora calmly nodded.She didn't have any more time for this. She wanted to leave while the crowd was still stunned into submission.
"All right. Let's you and me go. Right now." Alora drew her sword.
She hoped she looked and sounded confident because it was nothing but a bluff, pure and simple. Her face hurt all the way down to her toenails and Behrin's image shimmered in her vision like a desert mirage.
Blood still ran from her chin. She had almost become accustomed to it at this point. Her hands and reins were gummed with the heavy flow. Her heart stepped up its already fast beat.
"If he thinks I'm afraid...or weak...he's got me." She thought as she watched him.
Behrin's face sagged. He hadn't expected an out-and-out challenge. He stood there and looked away from her black eyes. He knew no one expected him to go up against The Twiceborn but he'd expected it. Always thought he could, thought he would,but now that the time had come around...
"Right." Alora said softly and sheathed her sword.
She took an inward sigh of relief. Her horribly witty tongue started to leap out of control and only by biting down hard was she able to keep from asking: So,who's the peckerwood now?
She turned Loki away from the platform and let him pick his way through what was left of the afternoon crowd. Her little display had pretty much cleared the area but there were still a few diehards left. They shuffled about as they lit chastefires and burned trinkets in an attempt to appease Brede. She ignored them, concerned only with getting Loki to a side street so she could access his wound.
Loki pulled and champed at the bit but Alora held him to a walk. Anything faster and she'd lose Islinn off the back. The girl was loathe to touch any part of her. She must be pretty precariously balanced.
The streets grew quieter and more ramshackle. Away from the main roads, the buildings were empty and garbage was piled roadside. Scavengers dug through the refuse. They watched her ride by,their eyes blank. Alora spotted an alleyway between two abandoned shops and guided Loki over. A pungent whiff of rotted vegetables and old urine drifted up her one good nostril and made her dimly grateful that the other one wasn't in working order.
Away from all the curious eyes,she relaxed and the pain settled in like white fire. With no distractions,it became her focus. She wasn't sure she could even climb down off Loki's back. Everything looked very far away.
Alora leaned back, swung her right leg over Loki's neck, and slid to the ground. And kept on sliding as her knees gave way. She caught herself with her hands. She was hazily aware of the slick feel of garbage beneath her palms. She stayed there on all fours and watched her blood drip and puddle on the sun-baked ground.