It was nearly four o’ clock in the afternoon by the time they started up the hill again. The sun had not yet set, but it was lost behind the mountains and the clouds. Henry breathed on his hands in an attempt to warm them, succeeding only in momentarily engulfing them in a cloud of mist. He glanced up at the Aechyed—although the small contrarian voice in his head still insisted on calling him a newt—and wrapped his cloak tightly about himself.
“You were going to tell me about the smoke?”
Seymour smiled crookedly. “Ah, yes. That.”
“Did you forget?”
“No, but I was hoping that you would.” He sighed. “It’s a simple matter, really. I told you about the blood plague.”
“Yes, you did,” Henry agreed.
“Well, it ended up that Brysail had more corpses than places to put them. A few hundred they dumped in the Murkintsen, but then, you know, they started washing up in places, which defeated the purpose. The rest they burned.”
“Just imagine it, Henry. Thousands and thousands of bodies, doused in oil and set aflame. The smoke was so thick that you couldn’t see the sky for weeks. The smell of burning flesh overpowered every other odor—soaked into fabric, food, everything. Ashes fell all over the city. Like snow.”
Henry shivered, partly from cold, but mostly from revulsion. “That’s terrible!”
But Seymour seemed not to hear him. He went on staring off into the distance, his face empty of emotion. Just when Henry was beginning to think that his presence had been forgotten, Seymour whispered—so quietly that Henry had to strain to hear him—
“Some of them were still alive.”
Henry looked up at him sharply. The Aechyed’s eyes had gone glassy, dangerously close to welling up, and something about that prospect frightened Henry at the most basic of levels. “Are…are you alright?”
Seymour raised his hands in front of his face and stared at them for a long while, as if they didn’t belong to him. Henry saw that they were trembling.
“No,” he replied, and his voice caught. “I’m not alright. Mother of bloody fucking Rezyn…I need a drink.”
With a sweep of his cloak, he stalked off, leaving Henry standing uncertainly behind him.
“Well, your lordship,” he called over his shoulder. “Are you coming or are you not?”