He yanked her against him, and buried his hands in her hair, his face against her neck. Her scent was oak moss and cypress and it spoke of an ancient, shadowed stillness. His sense of existence fell into the familiar track of wanting and being wanted in return. Gareth's trembling hands quickened as they moved from her hair to her back. The mere touch of her body against his awakened a kind of mental ecstasy.
He had no words to explain it, this maelstrom of emotion. This was what it was like to leap an abyss, or race across the moors, or hopscotch merrily down into madness. A wild energy thrummed through him, unrivaled, unnamable. It reduced him to nothing more than the core of what he actually was with all the trappings cast aside.
Alora shoved his face away from her neck with a well-executed forearm and stared into his half-lidded eyes. There was a foreign light there, an aberrant blindness, which was as frightening as it was irritating. She had a child's grasp of the forces at work, forces concocted from that briny smell and Gareth's urge to make every woman his own.
She was angry. Not so much at Gareth as she was at herself for simply not understanding something she'd had years to grasp. Situations like this never induced a heart-pounding panic. It was more like shame at being...outfoxed. Run to ground by hounds she'd vastly underestimated.
But,in the end, it wasn't something difficult like the things she'd never learned. Or easy like Gareth's puggish arrogance. It was the simple touch of his flesh that caused Alora to bring the dagger up and bury it in the stomach which was pressed so queasily tight against her own.
Gareth made a queer, gargling sound in his throat as she drove the blade in and up. He felt...something…in him, something so edged, so hot, it went beyond pain. He had a moment in which he realized it hurt so much his mind couldn't comprehend it.
"Stabbed me!" He thought in his last, coherent moment before his thoughts were overrun by a huge, walloping slap of pain. The face before him began to fade in and out in time with the beating of his own heart. A whisper rose like rain,and pattered against his boots. The summer warmth was hot on his legs and he looked up with an odd detachment. "No rain in days." He thought as he contemplated the night sky.
He'd forgotten about Alora. Forgotten about everything. He wanted to lay down on the ground and stare up at the stars and wonder how it could rain and only half of him be drenched. His legs buckled. He trembled like a newborn foal but the arm around his waist was strong. He looked down at her with amazement.
He wanted to ask her if she felt the strange rain too.
And about the stars. And why everything he touched turned to shit and why did he have to die out here all alone just because she'd decided he'd run out of time to make amends, yes, he wanted to ask her because she'd know. The Twiceborn would know everything. All the whys and how comes he'd hidden from and maybe, just maybe, she could tell him of things he'd missed. Love overlooked.
Those melancholy black eyes had to hold at least one good thing for him if he could only form the questions he needed to ask.
Gareth opened his mouth, all of those questions on the tip of his tongue, and some of that rain sprayed out and settled in a fine mist on her features. She didn't turn away, only watched, her black, black eyes nothing more than objects of dark existence, being rather than seeing, and he loved her and hated her with emotion so intense it stole away precious seconds of his dying life.
He was so tired. His head dropped onto her shoulder, forehead heavy, and a memory fought its way through his slowly ticking thoughts. Of how his mother had set her apron full of shucking beans aside and taken him onto her lap back when he was old enough to be bothersome yet too young to be heartbreaking, and rocked him, smelling of lilacs and lemongrass and fresh shelled beans.
The arm around his waist loosened, and gentle fingers ran through his sweaty hair and soothed him,unhurried,and he knew that the rest of the beans could wait. He was so tired. He'd just played himself out, but tomorrow glistened like morning dew for boys like him...
Gareth slid to the ground with a boneless ease, his eyes unblinking and strangely eager as they stared up at the icy stars. A bittersweet wash of sadness caused Alora's throat to ache and she recognized the hateful flavor of tears in her mouth. Gareth blurred and swam in her vision. She scrubbed a vicious hand across her eyes.
"I didn't ask you to come out here." She muttered. "I didn't ask you."
Oh, but somehow, some way, maybe she had and just didn't know it. Those strange workings destined to always end with her standing like this over foolish boys like that and who was it who'd told her that from the moment of birth until the night of death, life was just one long wearing away?
For a eulogy it wasn't much but it sure did sum up the situation. She looked at him a few moments longer. She finally turned away when she realized her eyes were fastened on his trembling right hand. She picked up one of her waterskins and tilted it over her chemise.She hoped some of the blood would wash out.
Why do I do these things?
The thought came over her suddenly and it had a pleading sound to it she didn't want to claim as her own. "I couldn't help this. Some things are all ready on a set track and I just follow them through. That's the way it is. I can't be responsible for his stupidity."
She smiled bitterly and crouched down by the fire. As badly as she needed to, she simply couldn't buy into that one. Not all the way. Loki wandered over and gave her a quick, exploratory nuzzle. She patted him. He just wanted her to get up and fetch him some tobacco out of her saddlebags. It was his special treat.
"Well now, " She crooned, and ran her fingers through his thick mane. "Aren't the best lies the ones you tell yourself? Huh? And I'm good at it, no doubt there. I get that from my Daddy's side."
Loki closed his eyes, and dozed beneath her soft touch and soothing voice. He'd heard it all before. She petted him, instinctively searching out burrs and tangles. He needed a good brushing. Maybe when this catastrophe ended (if it ended) she'd go to Leomedon and put him up at the Livery. They could both use a few days' rest and Duran, the stable boy there, liked Loki. Rest a few days and then head out and find another catastrophe, maybe even one of more cataclysmic proportion than the one she was currently bungled up in.
Loki's head abruptly shot up and he stared into the darkness, nostrils quivering. Alora watched Sar step out of the treeline and she shot a guilty look at Gareth's body, her cheeks as crimson as the blood staining his tunic. She clambered to her feet, painfully aware of the matching bloodstains on her chemise. She struggled to appear nonchalant, sorrowful, defiant, and mortified all at the same time. And failed miserably.
"Well. Shit." She thought.Her lips twisted downward. There was Gareth's eulogy all over again and now it just made her want to laugh. It seemed to be her only recourse.