Duran got to his feet and slowly headed over to the Livery doors. He would open them first. It would be easier to herd the horses towards the opening. The 'stags? Well…that could be more problematic. A split second before he pushed the heavy wooden doors open, he detected a subtle change in the voices outside. The loud blustering of ale was gone. It had been replaced by a confused muttering and…fear.
Duran opened one door and cautiously stared out into the darkness. It was another world outside. Like something spilled forth from the earth's darkest heart, shadows tumbled and churned their way up the road. They moved and danced. They were shadows of people that weren't there, like resonance with no beginning sound. The air was thick and, for a moment, Duran couldn't breathe. Terror welled up in him like blood from an open wound.
"I'm not seeing this, it isn't real…" He thought wildly.
But he was seeing it and he found he couldn't tear his eyes away. A dark shape broke away from the rest and raced across the road. It stopped abruptly, turned, and flitted eerily back towards Fetch's. Duran caught a whiff of rain on stone. The men at Fetch's scrambled to get back inside the tavern as the night cavorted around them and Duran had the uncomfortable feeling that every dream he'd ever have again would include this whirlwind of darkness.
Alora stepped up beside him and Duran jumped at her close proximity.
"Shadowsouls?" He stammered.
Alora gazed out on the prancing silhouettes, her eyes unreadable. She was smiling a little and Duran, at first, thought she found the entire scene amusing but as he looked more closely he saw the smile was harsh and bitter.
"Yes. Shadowsouls." Alora's voice was bare and stripped of emotion. "Those that I killed and left without casting their souls."
Her smile became wider but it was nothing more than her lips pulling away from her teeth.
"They don't like me." She said. "But they come when I call."
Duran nodded. He didn't trust his voice. He looked back outside.
He was fascinated by the shadows as they jittered about. One scurried up a tree then jumped and landed flat on its back. It remained motionless then leaped up and danced away. They were like children.
Something about their random skittering spoke of a forlorn loneliness, a yearning as vast and wide as the grasslands. They were forms in frantic search of a life that had been stolen from them. Only they didn't understand that life was a sense of being and not something tangible that could be found by diligently searching behind every tree or bush. Duran watched as the figures played their bizarre version of hide and seek. He felt as though his heart might break at the sight.
"Once, I knew them all by name." Alora whispered.
Duran glanced at her but her eyes were distant as she watched all the moving, dancing beings in the darkness. She remained at the door a few moments longer then went back into the Livery and settled herself against some hay bales. She knew how it would all end because she'd seen it a thousand times before. Everyone in the street would scatter and hole up in Fetch's and woof at each other about how at any other time they'd go out there but…
Except for Behrin. He damned sure wouldn't say he was going out there in fear somebody would call him on it. The lily-white peckerwood. The shadowsouls would keep all of them inside and close to their cups all night, including Behrin.
"Looks like my work here is done." She thought. A rat's nest of screaming and general pandemonium outside, Duran's silent sullen contempt for her oozing off of him like swamp gas and, her personal favorite, Islinn , who'd taken up permanent residence behind a hay bale barricade and was struggling with her faith or lack thereof. There always had to be a Brede nut thrown in the mix.
Alora scootched her shoulders back into the hay and settled in. She felt herself starting to drift. She liked the feeling just before sleep. Like a heavy door slowly being closed, and hiding her from the world for just a little while. She decided she would work through all the problems everyone had with her once she woke up.