If the villagers were so scared of the little boy with horns twisting from his skull, then Ico would have happily led them to the Shadows. He would have let them feel the real demons, those who lurked in every corner of the castle and the corridors of his mind.
The whole atmosphere was haunting; his breathing was too heavy and heartbeat too fast. Time stood still, and his throat dried up—yet still, he didn't feel the urge to drink. He barely needed to think, and so he wondered if his body was slowly giving in.
He wasn't a fighter, but he knew that he wasn't a coward either. Ico wasn't going to abandon anyone, not like they had done to him. And even if all he had was a stick (already cracked at one end and splintering his hand) he would wield it as if was some god-sent blade, until that all was left were the ashes between his fingers.
The fear never left him, though.
When he was alone for those few moments (or was it days?) he hadn't worried so much. He couldn't let himself down, nor would he have to endure watching the horrid scene of those... those Shadows tearing innocence into the sickly depths.
She was all he knew now, and it was her who made him feel like this; lost and confused, and scared half to death. They didn't have words to share, and so their language became that of silence. Ico held her hand not only to guide her, but to ease his own fears—and when she almost tripped and fell off some ledge into the sea so far below, it was his heart that jumped and slammed painfully against his chest.
Ico could say "I'll protect you," and "Don't worry, I'll get us out of here," over and over, but in the end he was only reassuring himself. She could never comprehend just what he was saying, but somehow he knew she understood him when he let her sleep against his shoulder on one of those hard stone benches.
But the devils always came, no matter how close Ico kept her.
He knew they shouldn't be, and the sight of them alone made him sick to his stomach. At first he had fought blindly, harnessing the fear that should have had him frozen to the spot and lashing out against the nothingness. And they didn't make sense either; he felt the stick hit against them and rebound, but he saw it pass right through.
They were paradoxical creatures, neither good or bad, but made purely of darkness. The light was the only thing they cared for—and too often they would ignore Ico altogether, and dive right towards her.
That's when he panicked, when he knew he only had two options. The first was to attack the Shadow regardless, hitting her in the process; and he knew that the bruises that never quite showed up on her skin were less painful that the other path he could take. He just hoped she wouldn't hate him for what he did.
He wouldn't let them pull her into the darkness, not again. The Shadows never did hurt him, but if he made so much as the slightest hint of contact with them he felt his world spin, and it was as if these creatures had mastered gravity, bringing him to his knees in a cold sweat. It was pain without feeling. Ico couldn't begin to imagine how it felt to be pulled into the depths.
They had taken her once, and he watched as her pale finger-tips disappeared into the black. There was no need for second thoughts, and instinctively he plunged his arms down towards her. He could think of no words to describe the feeling; but the freezing cold burnt his skin and left no flaws.
From then on he was always sure to hold her hand when they attacked, to make sure she was close behind him, where he would take their attacks and she would be safe from both the demons and the boy with horns.
He panted, out of breath and sweating as he thrashed out again and again, against numbers which only multiplied, no matter how many he killed—if indeed the nothingness ever died—and as they surrounded him, he pulled her closer.
For a second he turned to her, and through a smile whispered simple, haunting words. Ico felt her squeeze his hand even tighter, and her eyes flickered, almost as if she understood him.
And through the fighting she barely heard herself repeat his words under her breath, quietly and secretively, as if she feared what they might mean—
"It looks like the devils dance here."