Cedric stood frozen in shock for an extended moment, processing the fact that his uncle had awoken. Then he lowered his head in shame. "Yes, sir."
"Good. Now what seems t' be the problem?"
Seoc sat up, rubbing his bruised torso, and tried to explain. "He was accusing me o' conspiring against you. He thought I knew what was out there better than you did. I suppose...I suppose I made no attempt at dispellin' the notion, so...well, no' that he would have believed me if I had."
"I see." With effort, he raised himself into a sitting position. "Cedric, come here and sit down."
Cedric did as he had been told.
"To begin, you and I need to get onto the same page about some things. For one, I trust Seoc more than anyone else alive. Thus, by even insinuating that he is not worthy of my trust, you are, in fact, insulting me as much as you are insulting him. That is not to say I forbid you from thinking critically, just that you would need definitive proof of his treachery before accusing him of wrongdoing. Clear?"
"Now, to the main point. I knew we were up against something supernatural from the moment I set foot in Alyaport. That was why I found us a house with wards on the door. By the time Fern and I took our little excursion in the dunes, I was fairly certain that it was the demon Jhra, and after hearing the wind in the desert, I had little doubt of it. So no, Seoc did not know more about our opponent than I did. And seeing as he has just saved all of us, I suggest you apologize."
The merboy looked at the ground. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"Yer forgiven," Seoc replied, his voice scarcely audible.
"Good," said Seymour de Winter with a slight smile. "Now that that's settled and morning is well underway, I think it is time to eat and rest. Any objections?"
* * *
The demon Jhra waited until sunset to drag itself out of the ocean and onto the beach. Once on land once more, it stretched its formless being and began to trudge back through Alyaport, leaving a trail of large, wet footprints. It looked in through the window of a mud hut as it passed, and saw four mortal beings inside, talking, laughing and eating soup. It recognized them, but it had not the energy to attempt entry. Anyway, it detected magic about the structure, so the task would have been too much trouble to try even if it still had a hundred souls at its command. The demon thought to itself that it actually preferred to be formless. It was much more frightening this way. Well, had it had any power at the moment, it would have been frightening.
Jhra left the City of the Setting Sun as the final blood-red tinges of day drained from the sky and into the sea. The winds of the desert stirred as it entered, and softly, the breeze began to sing an ancient melody, one Jhra remembered from the last time it had spread terror in Alyaport, so many centuries before. If it had had a face, it would have smiled.
"Come, O come, O come with me," whispered the dunes.
"For us the setting sun to see,
"For it the final one will be,
"Into all eternity..."