She had the uncomfortable feeling that this moment would stay with her, tucked in the forest of her heart and only a hand's breadth away on wide-eyed nights.
(the road, its so dark and so long and I follow it by placing my feet in the footprints I made before)
Alora hissed and sucked in air through her clenched teeth. The content of the thought was as painful as its presence and she resisted the urge to roll about like an animal in pain. Digging her fingers through the hay, she located her dagger and held it out to Duran.
"Here,cut her loose. I can't." Alora realized she still held the end of the rope. She tossed it away and pushed it as far from her as possible with the toe of her boot.
Duran's eyes skimmed over the dagger and lit on a small blade he used to cut leather. He walked over and picked it up, feeling as though every step was being taken underwater. His fingers felt like nothing more than twigs of wood and he gazed down,amazed at his shaky dexterity. He wished he gone with Havnor to buy feed. He wished he'd never taken her horse in. And he wished he didn't love her.
Alora threw up. She knew it had been coming, had expected it for quite a while,but it still caught her by surprise. She sicked up a huge glurt of blood and water that set her head to singing. When she was done she lay down in the hay, her stomach hitching with ominous twitches. She knew, and not without a certain sense of bleak humor, that when Behrin's men came and beat her unconscious it would be the high point of her day.
Sorry Duran for all the trouble and it's a good thing I paid in advance. See ya Islinn, that rope thing was sure a bitch and Loki...it's high time you learned I'm not the only one blessed with the ability to fill your feed sack.
The superstitious bastards would probably kill him though; hang him upside down from a tree. Well, good luck boys hoisting all two thousand pounds and by the way, watch out for your feet.
Alora curled up, her arms around her belly.
Beneath his state of horrified suspension, Duran's mind busily clicked over ways to salvage the situation. He looked at Alora, lying motionless in the hay, and his heart ached at being forced to see her for what she was. It disturbed him. She was the basis for an emotion in him that he had suddenly realized was far greater than he ever could have imagined. And this emotion came with consequences far beyond idle daydreams. He'd admired her like a good stone skipped across a river but this was the first time he'd ever noticed the widening ripples of water after the stone sank from view.
He glanced at Islinn, his mind still working, and decided what to do. Let Behrin have The Twiceborn and good riddance. His heart twisted at the thought. Would the decision still seem like the right one on all those hot, sleepless nights when he lay alone in his bed? He wasn't sure. But what he did know was that there would be no room for lies when it came to just himself and the late night-early morning blackness.
He could, at least, still save the girl. He walked over to Islinn and knelt down. She looked at him with a grievous dignity and Duran knew he was seeing someone struggling to hold on to a situation hopelessly beyond their grasp. It calmed him. He gave her a reassuring smile in spite of the sweat that started up across his forehead and in the palms of his hands. He cut the rope around her neck.
"Islinn?" He whispered. He thought saying her name might offer her a measure of comfort. Her brown eyes narrowed.
"How do you know my name?"
It wasn't quite the response Duran had expected. He studied her and saw his own fear reflected back at him in her sad, sorrel eyes. She tilted her head and gazed back at him, calm and undemanding. The unknowing power in this simple act made Duran realize she deserved so much better. He didn't know what to say.
"I can't believe this is happening to me." Islinn whispered and shook her head. She looked away as she crushed the palms of her hands against her eyes in a forcible attempt to hold back her tears.
In the still, musty air of the barn, surrounded by the shifting of horses and the silence old buildings always seem to have regardless of their inhabitants Islinn's sorrow, once again,came for her. It caught her unaware and dismantled any ragged bit of comfort she'd tried to wrap herself in.
"It doesn't have to happen." Duran whispered and shot a hunted look at Alora.
A crazy idea had begun to take shape and the consequences of it were frightening. But he knew, as he looked at Islinn, that there were worse things than being afraid. Duran looked into his heart and he knew the situation before him was a chance for redemption.