Chapter Sixteen: The High Road to Carviliet (1)Mature

Chapter Sixteen:
The High Road to Carviliet

Henry wasn’t entirely certain why he hadn’t told Seymour that he had found his pocket watch buried in the topsoil of Waelyngar Bluff.  He justified his silence by telling himself that the timepiece wouldn’t be of any use to the Aechyed anymore—it was stopped, and even though Henry had wound it and run sparks of magic through it, it wasn’t going to start again.  Its workings must have rusted together.  Anyway, Seymour was unlikely to need it until they reunited at Carviliet.  He would return it then.

            Or so he pretended.

            For some reason unbeknownst to any rational, logical being, the young Lord of Carvil was unwilling to part with the detective’s small, inexpensive pocket watch.  Perhaps it was the mysterious way in which it had come into his possession that fixed it to his heart.  More likely it was the fact that it belonged to Seymour.  It had, at one point, been warmed by his touch, and thus was—to Henry, at least—sacred.

            He held it now, gripped tightly in his closed fist.  It fit almost perfectly in his palm.  The sensation of its smooth, round presence gave him comfort, like some unusual sort of lucky charm—and there was something morbid about that, wasn’t there? Calming his nerves with the thought of a clock, that universal symbol of mortality?  Well, at least it wasn’t as gruesome as carrying a rabbit’s foot in his pocket, as the Barroughthenians were wont to do.

            Acres upon acres of forested land stretched on beneath the flying carriage.  Henry had ceased looking out the window hours before, but he knew what he would see if he glanced down.  There wasn’t much variety in landscapes between Waelyngar and the Carvil Valley, at least not as seen from above.  Just trees, fiery now in their autumnal splendor.  Pretty, yes—but after a while the sight grew boring.

            Henry shifted his position on the narrow bench seat.  He felt sick.  Sick with worry for Simon and Seymour.  Sick from the lurching of the airborne carriage.  Sick from the thought of the hundreds of vertical feet that lay between the carriage floor and the cold, unforgiving ground.  But mostly, he felt sick over the prospect of the Six and the unknown quest that lay before him.

            Someone must have made a mistake.  He was no hero.  He was a murderer.

            He wondered how many people knew.  Simon knew.  Seymour knew.  All of the Ancients probably knew, as they seemed to know everything.  His parents knew too, of course, although they weren’t in any condition to tell anyone.

            But he wasn’t sorry.

            He amended that thought the moment it crossed his mind.  Yes, he was sorry that Simon had taken the blame for it and had wound up at Waelyngar in his place, but he was not sorry—never would be sorry—for killing them.

            They had deserved it.

            He glanced across the carriage to where Alasdair and Mialina were seated on the opposite bench.  They were both asleep, leaning on each other.  They didn’t know that they were trapped in an enclosed space, high above the ground with a man who had slit the throats of his own mother and father without a speck of remorse.  They didn’t know, and Henry wanted to keep it that way.  He wanted them to think he was harmless.

            On that note, he wished he were harmless.

            He didn’t regret the murder itself, but he regretted that he had had to be the one to do it.  If only someone else had snapped before he had.  A servant, perhaps, or a fellow nobleman.  The spilling of their blood had been inevitable, but Henry hated that it had spilled on his own hands.

            Henry looked again to the Alt-Mage and his wife, dozing peacefully in a shaft of afternoon sunlight.  He wished that they had been his parents instead of the late Lord and Lady Edmund of Carvil.  That way, none of these awful things would have ever happened.  Maybe he would have known what it felt like to be genuinely happy.

            Sighing heavily, Lord Henry of Carvil, mage, murderer and overall nervous wreck, closed his eyes and crossed his arms, the pocket watch still clutched safely in his right hand.

The End

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