Simon Edmund awoke sharply.
He hadn’t intended to nod off, propped upright as he was against the cell wall, with Seoc sprawled across his legs in a manner that was comfortable for neither of them. One moment he had been trying to remember what sunlight felt like, and the next he had awakened with a gasp, feeling as if he had just missed a step on the stairs.
Seoc didn’t respond. His eyes were partway open, moving rapidly beneath his half-closed lids, but he was not awake. His face was flushed with fever. His mouth was ajar, and from its corner an opaque fluid was leaking. To Simon, it looked more like bile than saliva.
Carefully, Simon withdrew his legs from beneath Seoc’s abdomen, hissing with pain as sensation returned to his feet. Shifting his position so that he was sitting alongside his cellmate, he undid the makeshift bandages around the other man’s torso to check on his wounds.
The crisscrossing stripes across Seoc’s back had stopped bleeding, but they looked awful and smelled worse. In the perpetual dimness, Simon could see that the mangled skin had taken on a greenish hue, and something yellowish was oozing from some of the deeper cuts.
Simon swallowed. He knew perfectly well that unless the infection was treated—and soon—Seoc would die. He also knew perfectly well that the odds of that happening were not in the little fellow’s favor. No, bar a miracle, Simon would have a new cellmate by the end of the week.
It was a pity. He’d grown to love the little Sysaran chap like his own kin, and didn’t particularly know how he’d cope without him.
Simon redid the bandages. There was no sense in changing them. It would just be a waste of perfectly good bedding.
Don’t kid yourself, you little brat, Snake chided him. He’ll be better off dead, and you’d be, too. So why don’t you take that sheet over there, the one you so thoughtfully spared, and make yourself a nice old rope out of it? Do you know how to tie a noose, Simon?
Simon looked at the sheet, looked at Seoc, and proceeded to state the following: “Oh, fuck the shut up, Snake. Not even nobody ever asked your bloody opinion about not even nothing. Never! You can dye your own moose, for all I care. And string yourself up in the bow, while you’re at it.”
Just listen to yourself, maaadboy, Snake sneered. Fuck the shut up? Really? Dye my own moose? I’d be fascinated to know what such scintillating phrases mean to you, because they mean absolutely nothing to me.
But Simon was not paying attention. The Lady was standing outside of his cell, smiling at him through the bars.
She was beautiful.