“Is there anything I can do to show you how grateful I am?” she asked.
“Look after Caelan.”
“Because if Sam is really as unwell as Gabriel says, the ritual will only poison Zeke too. Sam won’t go through with it. Zeke wouldn’t side with Nalael, which only leaves the one option.”
Beth’s heart fell as she realised what Cassius was trying to tell her.
“He’s going to die,” she whispered.
Cassius nodded once. “That’s why I need you to look after Caelan.”
“Well I’ll definitely do that.”
“That’s all I need you to do for me, Beth. Make sure he doesn’t try and kill himself.”
“I won't let him, I promise.”
“I believe you. Now, go get your stuff so you can leave,” he said with a smile. She returned the smile and turned to go but he called her back. “A word of warning: don't trust Gabriel.”
Beth frowned. “Why?”
He shook his head. “Go on. I'll see you again soon, I'm sure of it.”
Frowning still, she left and took the stairs two at a time, bumping into Caelan on the landing.
“Slow down, Beth, you'll hurt yourself,” he murmured, handing her the bag she'd brought.
“Thanks,” she replied, taking it from him.
“What's up?” he asked, a worried furrow appearing in his brow.
“Hm? Oh, nothing, just... All of this,” she lied smoothly. He seemed to accept this, nodding.
Zeke emerged from the room Caelan had slept in the night before, their bag over his shoulder. He glanced between them and frowned.
“What's wrong, Beth?” he asked.
She shook her head. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing,” she replied.
His eyes narrowed fractionally. She could tell he didn't believe her one bit. He shrugged slightly and walked past them.
“We need to go,” he called to them as he rushed down the stairs.
Caelan studied her silently for a moment before following Zeke down. Beth sighed to herself and walked back down, pulling the bag further up her arm.
Zeke was saying his goodbyes to Cassius, hugging the warlock, who had a single blue tear rolling down his green cheek. He wiped it away quickly, smiling at Zeke and whispering something. Zeke nodded in response. After another brief, tight hug, Zeke stepped aside.
“Caelan,” Cassius said, smiling warmly. “It was lovely to meet you. I hope to see you again one day. Remember, you're always welcome here - with our without Zeke.”
Caelan smiled back, taking the warlock's outstretched hand and shaking it. “Thank you for letting us stay. It's been good to finally put a reason behind all Zeke's mysterious trips north.”
Cassius chuckled, shaking his head. Caelan suddenly hugged him tightly for a second, stepping back.
“Thank you,” he said, “I mean it.”
“That's okay, Caelan. And remember, with or without Zeke.”