He believed, at times, that the moon spoke to him. Oh, not in actual words. More like sighs and imagined whispers, nuances of need that he was unable to define. It floated over him now, the brilliant silver of its cast reflected back in his white eyes. He used to think that love was just another word for weakness.
Men re-arranging their lives or pining away to suit some woman's fancy. But none of that was true. Love was nothing but a hole. A hole that had to be filled, was all. Whether it was the hole you dug and threw your family's bodies in, or the hole between some whore's legs, it just needed to be filled.
Behrin smiled, a queer little grimace. He lay on his pallet and looked up at the stark magnificence of the moon.
He wanted her back.
Because he kept riding down the same old road and the wheel of his wagon kept hitting the same deep hole. And it jarred him every time. That sudden jolt that caused his teeth to painfully click together and sent a bolt of unexpectedness through all his nooks and crannies.
And he thought it was the road he chose but he'd been coming around to finding out that it was the road who'd chosen him. He watched a small cloud lazily skate its way across the moon. That's how roads...and holes... were.
He sat up and gazed out over the clearing at his men as they lay about the fire, drinking and laughing. They were still quite a ways from the settlement. He could hardly wait to step into that dim, dark forest that signaled the last leg of this trip. The days had been so hot he'd sworn his shadow had broken a sweat. But he'd be home soon.
"And then what?" He thought.
He tilted his head back to look at the moon again. And he was suddenly struck by what he would consider a great truth. Love wasn't beautiful or happy. It was ugly and vicious. It yearned for beauty and happiness because it did not have any of that for itself. It was a dark ugly hole that just kept getting a little bit deeper every time his wheels fell into it.
He watched as one of his men got up from the firelight and headed off into the brush. He recognized the man's slow purposeful walk and, just like that, decided what he was going to do.
"Gre. Come over here. I need to talk to you."
Gre looked over at Behrin off by himself in the glow of the moonlight and grimaced. Taking a piss was going to have to wait. He walked over and gingerly took a seat on the ground by Behrin's pallet.
He was getting a little long in the tooth for these slave expeditions. Not the rounding up and the auctioning off but the simple affair of getting up off the ground and swinging a leg over a horse on a constant basis. His name was Gregorius but the younger bucks had started calling him "The Gray" behind his back. They'd only done it once to his face. Still, the name stuck. And he'd been called worse.
He eyed Behrin as the man ignored him and gazed up at the moon. This trip had steadily gone south since Behrin had sold Islinn to The Twiceborn. Gre knew that Behrin had always had a touch of the strange in him, but selling Islinn had sharpened it, honed it into a dark edge.
"Where did that piece of filth say they were headed?"
Behrin's voice was soft and contemplative as he continued to stare up at the moon.
Gre drew a blank for a moment but when he realized what Behrin was referring to, he choked back a groan. That scab they'd run into at the tavern. Griff. The more he'd drank, the louder he'd gotten about "that devil whore and her bitch". Gre had hoped Behrin had been too drunk to take note of what had been said but that hope dwindled away as he watched the other man look up at the silver moon with his strange, pale eyes.
"Lochedge." Gre replied tersely.
Gre had ridden with Behrin for quite a while. Some of it he could even remember. They'd drank their way through every tavern from the Salt Creek Flats to the Waldrun Range. Gre had drank once for four days straight. Him and Behrin had laid up outside of Craleron and drank what had to be bucketfuls of some farmer-made ale that had raw eggs cracked into it. They'd solved all the mysteries of the universe then proceeded to puke so violently, Gre had lost a back tooth in one slimy puddle.
He'd always told himself no more after those episodes but he'd always found himself there again, one arm draped over Behrin's shoulders and all the problems of the world buried at the bottom of a tankard.
He sometimes remembered when things were different. Clearer. More hopeful. But one morning he woke up and found it harder than usual to get up off his pallet and he realized time had finally found him. He and Behrin were snared in the same trap together, the trap of chasing your tail and drinking enough every night to make you forget.
Sometimes Gre looked at all the wide-eyed women and the scared children they'd round up to sell and he'd have an inkling that maybe in the great religious scheme of things, Brede was going to put some trouble in his road, around some curve, some bend, when he least expected it. He'd had that feeling for a while now but never so strong as this moment, as he watched this man stare up at the moon.
"Lochedge." Behrin repeated softly. He was quiet for a moment.
"Do you think Islinn is still with her?" He finally asked.
Gre winced as he shifted on the hard ground. His bladder was full and starting to hurt.
"I don't know." He sighed. "Twiceborn will kill whenever she feels like it. Or so I've heard. It's hard to say."
Behrin slowly nodded his head as if digesting this bit of information.
"I think she's still alive." A tiny smile curved Behrin's lips. "Fifty gold coins is too much for anyone to throw away like that, even for her. She hasn't killed her."
"Perhaps not." Gre amicably agreed. Truth be known, he was glad to be rid of Islinn. Behrin had sulked about and wrung his hands and showed off one very soft underbelly, in Gre's opinion.