Chapter Ten / Stars in the DarkMature

            The night air was cold on his face.  Frost, he noticed, had already begun to accumulate on the grass, which crunched under his feet as he cut across the lawn in the direction of Lupe’s howling.  The fog was creeping up from the lake, and the leading tendrils swirled at knee-level, but the sky was clear and the moon was rising, a few days past full.

            It was then that he perceived the figure, tall and thin, that stood at the top of the hill overlooking the lake, silhouetted against a star-strewn canvas.  He stopped.

            “Seymour?  Is that you?”

            The shadow shifted, and a pale streak of moonlight caught in his hair, making it shimmer like water.  “Who else would it be?”

            “You startled me.”  Henry walked over to stand by the merman’s side.  “What are you doing out here?  Were you tormenting my dog again?”

            “No.  I was just admiring the sky.  I never knew there were so many stars in it.”

            “Why is she howling, if not for your whistle?”

            “Listen carefully.”  Seymour leaned his head back, watching Henry out of the corner of his vision.  His night-eyes flickered green as he moved them.  “Do you not hear another voice?  There are two dogs crying tonight.”

            Henry listened.  “I suppose there are.”

            “It’s the epitomic tragedy of existence!  Star-crossed lovers, weeping through the wall that stands between them.  Dramas are written about this.  Reams upon reams of poetry.  And here we are, lucky enough to hear it play out for free.  Isn’t it romantic?”

            “That wouldn’t be the word I’d use to categorize it, personally.”

            “Just think, Henry.  If not for that wall, in a few months time, your manor might be blessed with a litter of cute, fuzzy little Lupelings!”

            “That sounds like a nightmare.”

            Seymour sniffed.  “Well, you certainly have a stick up your ass tonight, don’t you?”

            “Between my priest divulging my private information and your antics at supper this evening, I thing I have every right to be upset, what?”

            “Henry, I’m sorry for baiting Sir Ferdinand, but I cannot sit in silence while someone insults my dignity.  He was trying to make me a fool in your eyes, and I couldn’t have that.”

            Sighing, the mage tucked his hands into his pockets and looked at his feet.  “I suppose it’s my fault, in part.  I should have warned you about him.  But…but I didn’t expect him to behave that way, really.  I knew he was hot-headed, but I never thought he would attack you like that.”

            Seymour laughed darkly.  “Men’ll do strange things out of jealousy, that’s for certain.”

            “Jealousy?”  Henry’s mouth felt suddenly dry.  “What do you mean?”

            “Mother of bloody fucking Rezyn!  You really are quite oblivious, Henry.”

            “You think he likes me?”

            “The haze of lust that man had about him was palpable.  That little display before dinner?  That was him trying to assert his dominance, trying to prove to you that he, not I, was the alpha male, so to speak.  Evidently, his efforts would have been wasted even if he had won, since you didn’t notice a damn thing.”

            “Oh,” said Henry.  “I guess that makes more sense now.”


            “Well, even if he had won, and even if I had noticed, I would still love you and not him.”

            Seymour grimaced and put an arm around Henry’s shoulders.  “There you go talking about that love thing again, and I’m honestly not sure you know what it means.”

            “Fine.  You’re the expert.  Do you even know what love means?”

            “No,” he replied, gazing up at the stars.  “But I know it’s not what I thought it was when I lost my virginity.”

            “You’re thinking about the past again.”  Henry leaned against him, resting his face on his shoulder.  “Don’t do that.”

            “Why shouldn’t I?”

            “Because when you think about the past, it makes you sad, and when you’re sad, you drink, and when you drink, it frightens me.”

            Seymour blew lightly at Henry’s hair.  “We’ve known each other all of two days.  Isn’t it a bit soon to be deciphering my behavioral patterns?”

            “You deciphered Sir Ferdinand’s behavioral patterns in approximately thirty seconds, didn’t you?”

            “His patterns?  No.  I observed an instance and compared it to what I knew of human psychology and the behavioral patterns that I had seen in similar sorts of people, i.e. myself, and extrapolated from there.  That’s my job, after all.  But that’s different from declaring a cause-and-effect sequence—that you perhaps saw once—as a recurrent phenomenon.  I don’t drink just when I’m sad, and when I’m sad, I don’t always drink.”

            “Clearly I’m just not smart enough to see the difference.”

            “Intelligence has little to do with it.  But—”  Seymour paused, wrapping his arms around Henry’s body.  “You said you were frightened.  Did I do something to make you afraid of me?  Did I hurt you?”

            “No.  I wasn’t afraid of you.  I was afraid for you.  You could have died, Seymour!”  He felt tears welling up in his eyes.  “All morning, you weren’t moving, you were hardly breathing, your heart was beating so slowly, there were times I thought it had stopped.  I was so scared, Seymour!  I mean, I have magic, I can heal cuts and bruises and things of that sort, but I didn’t know how to help you, Seymour, I didn’t know what to do!”

            “Shh.”  Seymour hugged him tightly, rocking from foot to foot.  “Don’t cry, Henry.  I’m alright now.”

            “Th…that’s not the p-point!”

            “I know.  I’m sorry.  I’ll try not to do it again.”

            They stood quietly for a while, pressed together, Henry’s muffled sobbing mingling with the persistent howling of the dogs.  Gradually, his breaths evened out, and after a while he broke away and dried his face with his handkerchief.


            “Yes, Henry?”

            “Sleep with me tonight?  I don’t want to think about today.  I don’t want to think about anything.”

            Seymour kissed him.  “It would be my pleasure.”

The End

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