Chapter Twelve: Of Frost and Frayed Ends (4)Mature

When the job was done, Henry broke the connection, stumbled back from the wall, and sat down in the frosty grass again.  The potency of the new magic had made him feel a bit lightheaded.  Anyway, he was flat-out exhausted.

            As he sat, breathing heavily, he began to scrape absentmindedly at the cold dirt with the fingers of his right hand.  He had managed to work his way a few inches down when his fingernail struck something solid.  Something that felt like metal.  He snapped his fingers, conjuring another blue mage light, and peered down at his find. 

            It seemed to be a small, round object, still mostly imbedded in the soil.  After some investigation, he determined that it probably didn’t extend much beyond what he could see of it, and thus it would be relatively easy to free.  But his fingernails were too short to give him enough leverage.

            He took his dagger from its sheath on his belt, and used it to pop the object loose of its earthy tomb.  Sheathing the blade, he reached into the miniature excavation site and picked the thing up.

            It was a pocket watch.

            Henry’s first thought was of the one that Aita had been twirling before attacking him, and his blood curdled in his veins.  Perhaps Aita had escaped, found him here, and some how left him an omen of his impending doom.  But no—that pocket watch had been larger than this one, and anyway, it seemed unlikely that Aita would want to warn him again, not unless he could be sure that Henry couldn’t get away like he had the last time.

            He polished the dirt off with the hem of his cloak and held it to the light.  It looked strangely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.  He flipped it open with the dirt-caked nail of his thumb, and saw that it had stopped.  No wonder: it had probably been buried there for years with no one to wind it.

            Then, inexplicably, he knew where he had seen it before.  He had been fidgeting with it earlier that night, when he had been sitting with Seymour.

            This was Seymour’s pocket watch.

            But that didn’t make any sense.  If it was his, how had it come to be buried on top of the bluff, looking as if it had been there for a few centuries?

            Henry thought about it.  There were two possibilities:  either this was not Seymour’s pocket watch and just happened to look an awful lot like it, or it was Seymour’s pocket watch and something exceptionally strange had occurred on this spot.

            He shivered, tucked the timepiece into a leather pouch on the side of his belt, and started warily back to the inn again.

            When he had reached his destination, he slipped into Seymour’s room, hoping desperately that Aita—or any other Ancient with similar inclinations—hadn’t found him while Henry was away.  But Seymour was sleeping peacefully on his side, breathing evenly and gently.  There was a raven perched on his bedpost, watching like a sentinel, and some part of Henry knew that it was no normal bird. 

            He stood there for a moment, unsure how to proceed.  Seymour’s room was safe.  The raven stood guard.  But Henry had a horrible suspicion that if he returned to his own room, he would find something else waiting there.  Something that wanted him dead.

            There was only one thing to it, then.  He would have to sleep here tonight.  And the Lord of Carvil was by no means planning to spend the night on the cold stone floor.

            “Right,” he muttered, rolling Seymour over by one full rotation, making room for himself on the mattress.  “I have no other option, I hope you understand.”

            The Aechyed slept on, oblivious.

The End

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