Chapter Twelve / Sock, PlaywrightMature

            Marka nearly dropped him.  “You’re a—”

            Seoc finished for her.  “A little bitch, I know.”  He shifted around to clutch the collar of her dress, probably to discourage her from putting him down.  “Don’t take me to the crematorium, please.  I have no interest in dying today, particularly not by burning.”

            “I would be snapping your neck before.”

            “Oh!  That’s nice of you.  But just to the infirmary, if you would.”

            “You think I am mule, Sock?  I am not here helping you from walking.”

            “Of course you aren’t.  But no one’ll let me through the doors if I don’t look half-dead, and prancing along on my own two feet won’t cut it.”

            “No.”  She turned around.  “I take you back to your work.”

            Seoc’s tone turned serious.  “I’m not dying,” he said.  “But I’m not well, either.  I’m too ill to work, and I’m only getting worse.  I need to be better by Tuesday, or else…”

            “I want not any more of your games, Sock.”

            “Games?” His voice trembled with indignation.  “That back there wasn’t a game.  It was theatre!  And I dare say Simon is a superb actor.  Not that I imagined otherwise—I mean, he’d have to be, after going to all that trouble to cover for that arrogant prick of a—never mind, shouldn’t say that.  Anyway…”

            “Listen, Sock.  I maybe get in a big trouble for doing this things for you.  You say you are too ill for working, but you seem not too ill for making a show.  What good is it for you to go to infirmary, and why you need to go in the middle of work and not before?”

            “If you must know,” Seoc said bitterly.  “I’ve got a rash.  While I admit it doesn’t directly affect my ability to pound a pickaxe into a rock wall, it’s damn painful and distracting as hell.  I bargained with another prisoner for a bottle of unidentifiable ointment, but it isn’t helping and it makes me smell like a dead thing.  And I need it gone by the day after tomorrow—well, at least not noticeable by then.  Hopefully still catching, though.  I have…plans…for a certain special someone.  I hope he fucking suffers.”

            “For what?”

            “No one threatens Simon under my watch.”

            Marka hesitated, unsure where to proceed.  She looked both ways.  There was no one around.  The nearest guard stood at the door to the mines, but that was around the corner and a good ways away, so he couldn’t see or hear them, and she knew that the next guard patrol wouldn’t reach this corridor for another half hour at least.  All the same, she made sure to keep as quiet as possible as she whispered into Seoc’s ear, “What’s in it for me?”

            “I could arrange to get you out of this place.”

            “I can leave already when I want.  No one stop me.”

            “Bullshit.  If you could leave, you would have left ages ago.  No.” He looked up at her.  “Rather, you could leave, but you’ve nowhere to go, have you?”

            “How you then help me with that?”

            “I know someone.”  Seoc smiled, shaking his head at her expression of exasperation.  “No, Marka, not someone in here.  One of your kind.  He promised me he’d come and get me out of here, and I know he’s on his way.  I just do.  Funnily enough…” He paused.  “He looks remarkably like you.”

            “It is common that Aechyed look alike in human eyes.”

            Seoc shrugged.  “That may well be, but still, the resemblance is uncanny.”  He paused again, glancing up at her face, and Marka got the impression that Seoc was referencing some sort of joke that she wasn’t in on.  His dark eyes were sparkling with mild amusement, and a slightly unsettling smile was tugging at the corners of his mouth.  “He’s from Brysail, you know.  Raised by humans.  Well, he must have been.  He has a human name.  Speaks Murkintsenian fluently.  Seems his life’s a bit of a mess, but, you know, better than living in Waelyngar Pen.”

            “What’s he matter in it?” Marka asked, though she was beginning to get a strange feeling that she knew exactly where Seoc was going with this.

            “He was so kind to me.”  Seoc went on as if she hadn’t spoken.  “And if he’s a good enough person to stop a suicidal prostitute from killing himself, then I very much doubt that Seymour would leave his own sister to suffer in a place like this, even if he hasn’t seen you since he was a bairn.”

The End

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