"You can get out of here, go back to Behrin and get married and it'll be like none of this ever happened." Duran said, hurriedly. He was never good in these lose-lose situations.
Islinn gave him a blank look. Whatever madness she'd felt nibbling along the edges of her sanity must be contagious. This boy wasn't making any sense and he looked ready to come out of his skin, to boot. Married?
"Me and Behrin? Married?" At any other time she would have laughed.
Duran risked another peek over his shoulder at Alora. He nervously licked his lips.
"Yes. Look,I know everything. A man came by earlier, one of Behrin's men. He told me what happened."
"And...what happened?" Islinn felt a weird doubling back to her childhood of when her father would sit on the edge of her bed and tell her stories.
"How she murdered those people and spelled Behrin. But it's going to be all right. I'm going to help you get back to him. See that side door?"
Duran's rapidly blinking eyes cut to the left and Islinn looked over to see a door which probably led to a set of stairs going up to the caretaker's room. She slowly nodded.
"Okay. I'm going to go over and pretend to help her." Duran's whisper tripped along at a dizzying speed. "I'll block her view and you just head to that door and up the stairs. Cut through the room, go out the back, and down the outside stairs. There's a holding pen there. If you head left, you'll see Fetch's tavern. That's where Behrin is, you got all that?"
"So. Behrin was spelled." Islinn settled back, with a bemused expression. A tiny smile stole across her face.
Duran decided the girl was in shock. The exaggerated composure. The thoughtful expression. All of it told a tale of how the invisible world had collided with the visible and Islinn hadn't found the common thread needed to combine the inherant qualities of both into a rational, speaking form of sanity. In other words" nobody was home." He resisted the urge to reach out and shake her.
"You see that thing behind me?" Duran hissed. "It killed a lot of innocent people and when Behrin comes here for you, don't you think for a minute that it won't do the same to him. You have a chance here. Get yourself together and take it."
Duran rose to his feet and turned away. He had the feeling that his spectacular, possibly heroic idea was going to turn into one giant goose egg.
Alora lay still curled on her side and Duran visibly winced at the sight of all the blood. He tried to push the memory of Havnor's shoulder to the back of his mind. His throat slickened and he swallowed a sour taste.
He knelt and studied her.
"I wonder what she'll do when she discovers Islinn gone?" He wondered uneasily. He suddenly wanted to laugh. "Started out this morning scraping horseshit and now headed for the UnderRealms." He thought.
After all was said and done he could rest assured he'd finally gotten Alora's attention, of that he had no doubt.
The blacksmiths hammering away inside Alora's skull picked up their pace as she opened her eyes and looked at Duran. There was a desperate unhappiness etched into the boy's face and Alora knew she was the cause.
"Time to pay for what you bought, Duran." She suddenly whispered and the words fell from her cracked lips like prophecy.
Duran wiped a shaking hand across his brow and looked up at the old barn's loft. The shadows were long, and he felt the hot shift of tears in his chest. The only way to live was to not be afraid to die and suffering only stopped once you'd almost suffocated to death in it and oh god, did this thing that he loved so much laying before him know that?
Alora pushed herself up on shaky hands and leaned back against the stall. Her eyes stung, burning hot with blood, and the air she was breathing felt as if it were being filtered through a too-thin reed. Duran stared down at a spot a little off to the left of her blood-splattered boots.
"I'll draw up some water and get some rags." He murmured. "You can clean up a bit."
Alora looked across the stall at Islinn, surprised to see her still there and Islinn gazed back with an expression Alora didn't understand. Yet Alora was struck by the beautiful simplicity of it. The beauty didn't come from the expression itself or from some unknown emotion: it arose from its own fleeting existence.
It was gone in a second, maybe never to be repeated, but in that still moment between her and Islinn...it was complete and utter perfection.
Once again, Alora saw something deep within Islinn, something the girl didn't know she had. Alora watched her for a moment longer then turned away. But she wouldn't forget. One thing she'd learned in her short life was to never dismiss what she couldn't grasp.
Duran suddenly loomed in front of her and sat down a half-filled bucket of water. He hunkered down and wet one of the rags and held it out. For one horrible moment, Alora thought he was going to try and help her clean up.
"Give me that." She snatched the rag from him. A strong whiff of horse assailed her nostrils along with some dank aroma she couldn't identify.
"Where'd you get these, out of Loki's ass?" She snapped. Duran remained silent. His eyes darkened. It appeared as though the torch he'd been carrying for her had suddenly been blown out by a gust of foul wind. Which suited Alora just fine. She pressed the smelly cloth to the side of her face and struggled to think.