But he didn’t walk away. He couldn’t.
He knew, with bitterness, that Moriba was aware that he couldn’t walk away. But, somewhere deep inside his heart, he also knew that she wouldn’t stop him from doing so. Perhaps she had actively primed him to accept this job, but now that he was in the midst of it, his decisions were essentially his own. Yes, they happened to be the decisions that she counted on him making, but they were still out of his own free will.
If he turned his back and abandoned the mission, there would be consequences entirely unrelated to the Six, the Ancients, the Parasite, or the end of the world. If he left, two young men—boys, really—would die in this dark, stinking hellhole, and their blood would be on his hands. To compound matters, he would have betrayed the trust of three of the most powerful mages in the kingdom (one of whom, one must not forget, so happened to be a confessed murderer), and no one would ever approach him with a case again.
That was the best-case-scenario.
The corpse cart clattered past his hiding place, and Seymour was forced to make up his mind.
In one swift motion, he delivered a formidable punch to the human guard’s temple (which was, conveniently, not protected by his helmet) and caught the Aechyed slave by the arms, clapping his large, webbed hand across her mouth before she could scream. The guard fell, unconscious, to the ground, his metal armor clanging noisily on the stone floor.
The sound reverberated off of the tunnel walls, and Seymour winced, hoping that nobody would come to investigate. Maneuvering awkwardly around the corpse-cart, he pinned the slave girl against the wall, his hand still pressed against her mouth. She whimpered pitifully, and Seymour’s insides squirmed with guilt.
“Shabushca, merra,” he whispered in broken Aechyish. “Quiet, girl. I don’t want to hurt you. Na scurg a nairgca.”
She was small for an Aechyed, an inch or two shorter than he was. Thus, it was difficult to avoid looking into her eyes, green and brimming with terror, searing into the flesh of his soul.
“Na scurg a nairgca,” he repeated, hoping that his attempt at using her language would calm her. But he couldn’t keep it up. His knowledge of the Aechyish tongue extended little beyond common phrases and pleasantries. He had, after all, been raised by humans. He probably had a terrible accent. “Algesh agkna Murknagzenta? Do you understand Murkintsenian well?”
She nodded her head slightly, so far as his grip on her would allow.
“Good. I’m going to let you go, and you are not going to scream, and you are not going to run away, or make any signal that might alert anyone to my presence. You are going to help me. Understood?”
She nodded again, and he let her go.
“What is your name?”
“Right, Marka. Are you going to cooperate?”
“Yes. I do as you say me. But…you be male. Why wear you dis?” she inquired, gesturing to the dress.
“It’s a disguise, honey. You aren’t supposed to see through it.”