Simon sheathed the straight razor and set it carefully on the floor. He had heard the scuffle down the hallway, and now there came footsteps—two pairs, by the sound of it, accompanied by the sinister creaking and clunking of the wheels of a corpse-cart.
He got to his feet and approached the cell door, grasping the bars and peering out into the gloom.
There were two merrow women now: the older one that had given him the razor, and a younger one that he had seen before, but only rarely. There was also a guard, naked and unconscious, lying atop the pile of bodies already in the cart. The older merrow carried the man’s clothing in a bundle under one arm, and his ring of keys in the opposite hand.
Simon understood, and when the door was unlocked and the clothing was handed to him, he stripped out of his rags and donned the new apparel, tucking his dirty, tangled hair up into the helmet.
The old merrow looked him up and down. “Good enough.” She nodded to her younger companion. “Help me with the other one.”
They lifted Seoc off the ground, one at his arms, the other at his feet, and transported him to the corpse cart. The naked guard, an ugly bruise forming on the side of his forehead, was deposited unceremoniously in the cell and locked inside.
“Marka,” the old one said to the young one. “Thank you. If there is anything I can do to repay you…”
“No,” replied Marka. “Dere is noding.”
“You don’t want freedom?”
She shook her head. “I only be in de way. You go. I stay. I belong here, you not.”
“You don’t belong here. Nobody belongs here. But if you’re sure—”
“I sure. Goodbye, agmerro. It be nice I see you again.”
And the younger merrow slipped away, vanishing into the darkness of the tunnels. The old merrow gazed after her for a while, then shrugged and smiled crookedly at Simon. “Well, shall we, then?”
Simon adjusted his new helmet and clipped the keys to his belt before mirroring the smile. “Let’s.”