Alora shut the door and walked over to the water trough. She knelt down and splashed water on her face and arms. She tried to scrub off some of the larger, more stubborn spots of blood with her nails.
Duran watched, astounded. His fear of the situation was slowly being taken over by a strong need for survival and the woman bathing in his horse trough held the key to bringing this mess to a screeching halt. Yet there she was, freshening up as though she were placidly seated along a riverbank somewhere. He threw a glance at Islinn, who'd taken up residence in the hay again, and saw that she was just as spooked as he was.
"They're going to tear down the Livery to get to you." Duran stated,his voice flat and devoid of emotion. Alora frowned as she ran her fingers through her hair and worked some of the blood out of the strands.
"Nahh, they won't do that." She said, after some consideration. She put both hands along the trough's edge and ducked her head beneath the water. The throbbing ache pulled in its claws and she was finally able to muster a few clear thoughts. She surfaced and sat back on her heels. She reached up and began to wring water from her hair. She glanced at Duran.
"You know..." Her long fingers worked their way through tangled dark curls. "You shouldn't get so worked up over things. You should go out and leave Havnor here for a change."
Duran closed his eyes. He had to be dreaming. The vision of the Livery being torched and The Twiceborn's calm suggestion that he needed a change of scenery could not be a part of his rational waking existence. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest.
Please..." He stuttered. All the fantasies he had of her prancing through his dreams had gone belly-up. He wanted her gone. And he wanted the Livery to still be standing after she left.
"Please?" Alora cocked her head, a half smile on her face as she looked at him with her licorish eyes.
"This is what feeds her." Duran thought bleakly. "Just like a vulture on a rotted corpse, she feeds on fear."
Alora softly laughed and Duran felt his skin draw closer to his bones. There was a dark tone behind the lilting sound that made him realize how flawless her world was. Honed to perfection through the misery of others. Alora stood up and Duran involuntarily took a step back.
"Just make all of this...stop." He muttered. A sudden bang against the Livery doors caused the both of them to jump.
"What was that??" Duran nervously asked, his eyes on the doors.
"Rocks." Alora answered with conviction. She had an intimate knowledge of rocks, having had them bounced off almost every part of her body at one time or another. "They're throwing rocks."
Islinn watched, an icy fist firmly planted between her shoulder blades. Goosebumps prickled her arms. "I'm so tired of being afraid." She realized. Fear had become a constant companion. It lay against her heart closer than any lover she'd ever have in her lifetime. It was always waiting, and always there.
She pressed herself tighter against the hay bales.
"I should go out there. I'll be the last to go, hiding back here." She thought. And wouldn't that just be fitting? After everything in her naive and eager life, this is what it all came down to. The open and shut of it all. She breathed in the scent of hay and alfalfa and closed her eyes even though she knew what was waiting for her in the darkness.
It was the same thing that always waited...the wet, furry smell of Casper, the sweet scent of hay as she forked it down with blistered hands, and shadows on a wall. Shadows on a wall made by a dead man with dead hands. Islinn couldn't believe this was her place in this world, her last place, and these were the memories called to fore. Still, she clung to them fiercely because she knew they were the closest she would ever come to going home.