Cedric's exclamation, as it turned out, was unnecessary, for Fern would most likely have looked anyway. Just as the merboy pointed at Seoc's now twitching body, the bond that was holding him there in the air seemed to break, and the small man cried out in alarm as he plummeted headfirst to the ground. Thankfully, the sand was soft, and he managed to duck his head as he fell, so he landed unharmed on his back with a muffled thump.
"We...mus...turry," he informed them between gasps. "It...scoming!"
"What was that?"
Seoc sat upright, trying to regain his breath. "We must hurry," he repeated. "It's coming."
"Psshht!" He waved his hand at her in a scolding manner. "Dinna say the name! We need ta get out o' here!"
"What about Uncle Seymour?" Cedric interjected. "He hasn't woken up yet."
"He isna goina wake up, Cedric. The blasted thing absorbed his soul!"
"I'll explain later. Right now, we need ta move."
Fern looked up at the merman's unconscious body, which still floated in the air overhead. "We can't just leave him here."
"I know, woman!" Seoc snapped. "We'll pull him down, but we must make haste! Give me that rope."
Somewhat insulted, Fern removed a coil of rope from the saddle of the stolen horse. Seoc snatched it from her hands and flung a length of it into the air. It fell across de Winter's midsection so that the other end of the rope dangled near the ground. Seoc seized both ends and tugged sideways and down with all his might. The merman slid to the side a bit before falling limply to the ground.
Seoc looked from Fern to Cedric and back again. "Well, dinna just stand an' stare, help me get him onto the horse!"
They did, and it was decided that Cedric, who was the lightest of the three, should ride behind him so that he wouldn't fall off. Meanwhile, the sound of heavy, ominous footsteps could be heard echoing in the night, drawing nearer to them. Something terrible howled in the distance, and they all could have guessed what it was.
Seoc handed Cedric the reins. "Ride ta the ocean. We'll meet you there."
"No time. Just go!" He whacked the horse sharply on the hindquarters, and with an indignant whinny, it took off, galloping westward, Seoc and Fern sprinting behind.
Dawn broke behind them, drenching them in reddish light as they ran. Seoc started out faster than Fern, but after ten minutes or so he fell behind, and after another twenty minutes, he was trudging along, holding his abdomen. Fern dropped back and offered her arm for support.
"Thanks," he muttered, accepting it.
They were out of the dunes now. Alyaport was visible beyond the narrow stretch of desert that remained. Fern could smell the sea once more, and it gave her hope.
"Not far now," she assured him.
Seoc only groaned in reply and looked over his shoulder as the menacing footfalls drew progressively closer.