Chapter Twelve: Of Frost and Frayed Ends (2)Mature

Henry didn’t put out the light, but he did dim it and move it so that it was no longer shining directly into Seymour’s eyes.  “Can you get up?”

            Groaning, the Aechyed rolled onto his front and raised himself to his hands and knees.  “I…think so.”

            “Here.”  Henry offered a hand.

             Seymour took it, and the mage helped him to his feet.

            “Lean on me if you need to,” Henry instructed.

            It was a bit of a challenge to navigate through the narrow doorway with a drunken Aechyed hanging about his neck, but Henry managed it.  From there, he transported Seymour to the bed without any difficulty and deposited him there on top of the sheets.  Not knowing what else to do, he left him there, took his key, and locked him in, resolving to come back and check on him later.  There was a dull anger smoldering in the back of his brain, anger at Seymour for putting everything in jeopardy for his stupid addiction, and if he didn’t get away from him, something bad was bound to happen.

            There were still people in the bar downstairs, raising a clamor.  Henry slipped through to the exit, pulling up the hood of his cloak as he went, and stepped outside.

            The air was cold.  Harsh wind stung his cheeks and burned in his lungs. The pain was a relief, really: it distracted him from his rising stress and anger.

            He started uphill without any destination in mind, but it wasn’t long before he realized that he was going to the citadel.  To the spring.  It was as if he was being drawn there by magnetic attraction—for that matter, he could very well have been.  He didn’t know how magic worked. He knew how to use it, but other than that, he was quite ignorant on the matter.  Perhaps the spring had established some sort of connection with his magic and was indeed pulling him there.  Or, more likely, it was all in his head.

            “Hello, Henry.”

            He jumped and whirled around with an exclamation of surprise.

            It was Aita, the ram-horned co-owner of that peculiar establishment known as Olde Moribinu.  He was leaning languidly against a wall, twirling a pocket watch around his hand and back again on its chain, an expression of mild amusement playing on his face.  Henry noticed now that the Ancient seemed to be glowing, giving off an aura of golden light reminiscent of the warm sunlight of a summer afternoon.  His smooth, shoulder-length flaxen hair shimmered with it, as did his amber eyes.

            “What do you want?” Henry demanded, thoroughly unnerved.

            “Nothing,” Aita replied with an air of innocence.

            Henry was not convinced.  “Why are you here, then?”

            Aita shrugged.  “Thought I’d take a little stroll, get some fresh air, you know.”

            “It looks to me like you were lying in wait.”

            He stopped twirling the pocket watch and looked Henry directly in the eyes.  “Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t.”

            “So you were, then.”

            “I never said that,” he said nonchalantly, swinging the pocket watch like a pendulum until it had picked up enough momentum to wrap around his hand again.  “But you can think what you like.  I don’t care.  I don’t care about much of anything anymore.”  He jerked his hand, prompting the timepiece to unwind and loop about his hand in the opposite direction.  “Immortality does that to a person.”

            “You don’t care about anything?”

            “I never said that, either.”

            “Yes, you did!” Henry insisted.

            “I said, ‘I don’t care about much of anything.’  There’s a difference.”

            The mage sighed and rolled his eyes.  “Fine.  What do you care about, then?”

            Aita tucked the tiny clock away into a pouch on his belt and folded his muscular arms across his chest.  “The fate of the Six, in fact.  After all, I shall live until the end of time.  If you fail, time ends.  No more Aita, no more anything.”

            “So…will you help us?”

            He smiled slowly and shook his head.  “No.”

            “Why not?  You said—!”

            Aita stopped him with another shake of his head.  “I know what I said, magey boy.  You just misunderstood me.”

            “But…if time ends, you’ll die!”

            The Ancient stared back at him so intensely that Henry’s blood ran suddenly cold.  “Baby, I was here before there were such things as mountains.  I am older than all of the seas.  I have lived through the passing of thousands of generations, of years innumerable.  I have never once slept.”  He smiled again, but only slightly.  “Death would be the most welcome gift I could ever receive.”

The End

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