Chapter Six: The City on the Hill (4)Mature

The City of Waelyngar was built atop a high bluff that rose sharply out of the ground in the middle of a wide, flat-bottomed valley.  At the very top of the bluff, overlooking a sheer, grey cliff, perched the iconic citadel tower, constructed of white limestone.  It shone brightly in the afternoon sunlight, offset against a background of creeping storm clouds.  Seymour had to admit that it was beautiful.

            Its splendor, however, was considerably diminished by the thought of what lay directly below.

            Waelyngar Penitentiary had been carved out of the cliff, at its base.  Its entrance was small, but even from high above the ground, Seymour could see it.  Tiny specks paced across the gated opening—guards, obviously—and there was some considerable traffic there, from what he could tell.  Carts, it seemed, entering and exiting, and the occasional wagon.  He didn’t care to consider what they contained.  Didn’t really want to think about the subject at all, in fact—it was beginning to give him a nervous heaviness in his lungs.  He tried to tear his eyes away before it grew worse.  But he was too slow.

            He had seen the chimney.

            It was tall, cylindrical in shape, and made of brick, and it protruded from the midst of a grassy field about a hundred yards from the prison gates.  A road led to it, a road worn into deep ruts by the wheels of wooden carts.  Carts that arrived full and left empty. 

            Thick, greasy black smoke spewed from its soot-stained opening.

            Seymour’s stomach performed a backflip, and he closed his eyes tight.

            “Are you alright?” Henry asked. 

            “Yeah,” he mumbled, pressing his knuckles against his eyelids.  “Momentary vertigo.  I’ll be fine.”

            Lord Henry reached over and touched him on the shoulder.  “Are you sure?  You look like you’re about to be sick.”

            “I’m alright,” Seymour reiterated.  He smiled crookedly.  “Why? Do I look a bit…green?”

            The Lord of Carvil rolled his eyes and sat back in his seat.  “As you wish.”

            The flying carriage circled once around the gleaming citadel tower as it came in for a landing, passing so close that one could see the masonry, then descended slowly to the cobblestone street.  Passersby cleared quickly out of its way as it neared the ground, its shadow flickering across roadway and buildings.

            The wheels made contact with the ground with a jarring thud.

            They rolled to a final halt in front of a two-story, thatch-roofed inn.  Flowering vines, now stripped bare, climbed its white walls, which were made of the same variety of limestone as the citadel tower was.  In fact, most of the buildings in Waelyngar seemed to be constructed of that substance.

            Once the winged horses had been handed off to a stable boy, Alasdair and Mialina MacQuarrie headed straight for their room, leaving Seymour and Henry to fend for themselves.

            “It’s a bit brisk out here,” Henry observed, folding his hands into his elbows for warmth.  “Do you want to go inside?”

            Seymour shook his head.  “You can if you want.  If I go inside, I will be sick.”

            “Something you ate?”

            Seymour’s stale breakfast floated upwards in his consciousness once more.  It would have taken more than a bit of moldy bread to make him this queasy, but the thought of it certainly wasn’t helping at this point.  He pushed it aside.  “No.  It was the crematorium,” he admitted.  “Just the sight of it.  Down in the field by the penitentiary.”

            “Oh.”

            “It’s a silly thing to turn ill over, I guess.  I mean, I don’t normally consider myself to be faint-hearted…I see corpses as a part of my job, rotting, dismembered, what have you…I’ve seen things worth swooning over, and they rarely bother me.  It’s just…just burning flesh.  The mere thought of it.  Gets me every time.”

            “Why?” Henry wondered.

            “I don’t know,” Seymour replied, then sighed heavily, pulling his cloak around himself to ward of the cold.  “No, that’s a lie.  I do know.  But I’d prefer not to talk about it right now.”

            “That’s alright.  I shouldn’t have asked.”

            Seymour shook his head again.  “There are no questions that shouldn’t be asked.  Curiosity is not a crime, your lordship.  At least not in my books.”  He smiled grimly and shrugged.  “I just need to wander around for a while; walk it off, you know.  If you come with me, I’ll answer your question when I’m ready.  What say you, Henry?”

The End

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