The night screamed outside, raw and ugly, and they were quickly soaked to the skin and cold. Stavo knew he should turn back, gather their harps and wait out the storm, but his anger prevented him. He turned his shoulder into the wind and shielded Luus as best he could. Carrying his injured sister didn’t shut out his thoughts, his failure. A pacifist who had murdered another thinking, feeling being. He felt dumb and hopeless in the face of the accusations he made to himself. He wanted to scream his rage and despair into the storm, to howl with a sound to shock the storm into silence. Murder and more than murder. In the time of his greatest need, his friends, or those he had called friends, had deserted him.
Stavo struggled forward, each labored step a battle he must win. He locked his teeth against the pain, the cold, but he could neither fight nor silence the anguish in his soul. Murder. Despite all reasons and excuses, he could not justify his actions. Provocation didn’t matter, yet North had struck Luus, struck her hard enough she had yet to regain consciousness. Yet he believed, had always believed it wrong to kill another. Even blustering bullies like North and his ilk had hopes and problems, probably more than many. They hid their fear and disappointment behind meanness, bragging and a willingness to find fault, insult and challenge. Such as these confused aggression with boldness and fighting with courage. He had always thought them fools and phonies, acting a part but not living it. They shielded themselves with drink, rage and hatred; little boys who had never grown up.
Luus moaned in his arms and opened her eyes briefly, bringing Stavo back to where he walked. The rain had stopped and, though the wind still came in gusts, its force waned. Though the dark clouds still shadowed the east, here they were being shredded. A sliver of moon shown down as it danced into and out of the clouds. Stavo nearly collapsed, but he wouldn’t allow himself to fail. He saw he had nearly reach Pharis’ mansion, and his feet carried him there with a volition of their own. Luus moaned again as Stavo lowered her to the steps. He felt their bitter cold, when his fingers touched the polished stone. He prayed by all that he held sacred that Luus would survive, that they both would survive.
Stavo stepped up to the door and pounded weakly. He waited, then gathered his strength a pounded loudly. Nearly defeated, he prepared to knock a third time and then turn away if there was no response. As he raised his fist, Pharis opened the door. He swayed in the gust that snatched the door from his grip. It crashed against the wall and something inside, hidden by the gloom within shattered with an almost musical explosion. Stavo fell to his knees and pleaded their case, told Pharis of their plight and need for haste. He poured out his dread, his pain and his fear, though he didn’t know if the Pharis would listen or hear. His eyes pleaded as he looked up to the Pharis tall above him.
“I’ll call none of them a friend,” he said. He stood and gathered Luus into his arms, stepping further into the muddy light from within. “But I need your help.”
Pharis turned without sound or gesture and went inside. He didn’t close the door, but that was hardly an offer of aid. Stavo turned away, his heart burdened, his last hope gone. He trudged down the path, unsure he could take another step even as he did so. Though the storm had passed, it had left them both cold and shivering in the bitter cold night air. He looked up as he they cleared the gate and saw his own fields in the near distance. He knew that the wind and the rain probably ruined his carefully-plowed furrows. His plans a dreams of tenderly caring for what he had planted tasted like ashes in his mouth. Had it only been this afternoon. Yet, cutting across his fields would save a little time.
Holding Luus’ safety in his mind, he turned toward his fields. He knew neither he nor they were likely to survive. What did it matter if he walked there now? He surrendered to his fate, but before he could take a single step more, Pharis came with his chair and took them home.