The corpse-cart was heavy, much heavier than he was, and it was even clumsier to maneuver than the food trolley had been. It was so wide that it scarcely fit between the walls in places, and its wheels were far from round. Seymour had to put all of his body-weight into pushing it up the ramp, muscles burning and joints popping, forcing himself to acknowledge how short and slight he really was, for an Aechyed at least. Not even seven feet, and considerably underweight. He wondered how Marka managed it. Her build was similar to his, and she was even smaller and thinner than he was.
At last, the slope of the tunnel floor became more gradual and eventually assumed a grade approximating horizontal. There he paused a moment, shaking out his sore arms and arching his aching back. He was exhausted already and soaked in sweat. He hoped that his perspiration wasn’t causing his layer of wrinkly fake skin to melt or slough off. He inspected his hands and gingerly touched his face to make sure that all was right, then gritted his teeth and resumed the task of pushing the cart. Simon trudged along behind him, stumbling over the ill-fitting boots of his disguise.
The air began to smell fresher as they drew closer to the entrance, and soon natural light tinged the chiseled walls with a bluish hue. Nearly there.
Thus far, they had encountered only a few people in the tunnels, and those that had seen them had paid them no mind. Seymour knew that that would change the moment that they reached the gate. He doubted that the guards would let him pass unquestioned. They might even check the contents of the cart. He would have to be prepared for anything.
He looked across the corpse-cart as it trundled along ahead of him, letting his eyes rest upon the pale, beaten, living body amongst all the pale, beaten dead ones. Seoc hadn’t exhibited any signs of voluntary movement since he had placed him there—Seymour could tell he was alive only by the slight, almost imperceptible rise and fall of his chest, his breathing so shallow that the Aechyed might have missed it if he hadn’t been looking for it. The young man’s unsettling stillness was advantageous for the moment, as it would be quite easy to pass him off as a cadaver; yet, of course, it was quite concerning.
Please, Seymour urged him mentally. Please wake up when we’re out of here. But not yet. Just a few more minutes.
But in just a few more minutes, Seoc could easily be dead.
The thought made Seymour want to throw up.
He tore his line of sight from the battered figure and looked ahead. He could see the gates now, and beyond them the light of the day. His eyes stung, and he tried to convince himself that it was the bright sunlight that caused them to well up, but he knew better.
His mind flicked back to that awful image, which would be forever burned into his memory: a young man, eighteen years old, horribly pale, half-naked and caked in grime, lying in a rickety wooden cart amidst a pile of corpses, his body motionless, dying. And what had he done to deserve this? To die so young, in a place like this?
He became conscious of a low, feral anger smoldering within him, directly behind his sternum, and he began to push the cart with renewed vigor. If the poor little fellow had to die today, then he would do so in freedom, with the sun on his face and the sky as his witness. What would come would come, but Seymour de Winter had been hired to break two men out of Waelyngar, and by Rezyn, he would.