Of Frost and Frayed Ends
Henry couldn’t sleep. The drowsiness brought on by the mead had worn off, and his nerves were on edge. He tried to lie still, but he couldn’t; there was enough energy in his legs to dance a set of one hundred jigs—if he had known how to dance a jig, that is, or dance at all. To make matters worse, the stress was beginning to give him an upset stomach, and his skin had broken out in painful, itching hives.
If he could only stop thinking.
But he couldn’t. All the horrible things that had already happened and might yet happen kept scrambling around his mind. The stupidity of confessing his crime to Seymour. The shame of breaking down in tears in front of him. The thought of facing him again. Tomorrow’s plan going wrong. The matter of the Six. The end of the world. Death. The horrible suspicion that he was going mad; mad like Simon—it ran in the family, after all.
He got up, pulled on his clothes, and left the room, locking the door behind him. Then he turned down the darkened corridor, took a few steps, and—
—stumbled over something warm and unyielding that was lying in the middle of the floor. Flinging his hands out in front of him, he managed to catch himself, mere inches from falling on his face.
Henry crawled away from the obstacle—which was definitely alive and breathing—and conjured a light. He saw that he had scuffed his hands, but he hadn’t skinned them. No other injuries; none that he’d yet noticed, at least. That settled, he turned back the way he had come, casting a circle of bluish light over the floor in order to determine what had tripped him.
It was Seymour, passed out drunk, no doubt. Henry knelt there for a long moment, a strange mixture of disgust, pity and love crawling through his veins. He didn’t know quite what to do, but he knew that he couldn’t leave him here. Not like this.
The unconscious Aechyed had a key in his hand, a key that clearly did not match the door to his room. Wrong type of metal, wrong shape, wrong everything. It was probably, Henry assumed, the key to his flat back in Brysail. With trepidation, the mage approached his silent form, found the pocket of his cloak, and dug inside for the correct key. He found it, used it to unlock the door, and was just about to see if he remembered how to execute a levitation spell when Seymour stirred.
The detective’s eyes flickered open, and he squinted at Henry in a combination of puzzlement and irritation. “Pud oud the fugging lighd, will you?”