Someone must have raised the alarm the moment he had kicked the gate-guard. Seymour knew this thanks to the sounds of clanging armor and shouting voices drawing nearer and nearer.
There had been three other guards stationed at the gate, aside from the one he had so elegantly dispatched. One had turned tail and bolted as soon as he realized what was going on, but there were two more outside, on the ledge directly above the open gate, waving their pikes menacingly down where he could see them. The message was clear. Anybody to walk through that gate would be impaled on sight. Something would have to be done about them.
He tried to concentrate, staring blankly for a moment through the westward-facing cavern opening to the world outside. The sun was low on the horizon, and glared through the water-like distortion over the gate caused by the magical wards to dapple the walls with ripples of bright, warm sunlight.
There was no time left. He could hear what sounded like every guard in the penitentiary pounding down the torch-lit tunnel towards him, so close now that their footfalls made the ground tremble beneath him. Dust trickled down on him from the ceiling.
What could he do? What could he do?! What could he do?
Simon tapped him on the arm. There was a sly smile on the man’s gaunt, dirt-smudged face, and, Seymour noticed, there wasn’t a hint of madness in his pale blue eyes. There was intelligence in them, though. Intense intelligence. Perhaps even genius.
You are not the bravest of the Six, nor are you the smartest, nor the most powerful, nor the agilest, nor even the most perceptive. That was what Moriba had told him, wasn’t it?
Well, now he knew who was the smartest of them.
Still smirking, Simon removed his metal helmet and held it out in front of him. The polished steel shone brightly in the late afternoon sunlight. Seymour stared at it, brow furrowed, unable to comprehend what the human was trying to accomplish, until Simon pointed at the ceiling.
A small spot of concentrated light had appeared on the tunnel roof, just above them and a bit farther back. Pure sunlight, caught and precisely reflected by a slight concavity built into the front of Simon’s helmet.
Simon grinned. “Two thirds pi, plus or minus, setting the horizon at zero radians. Two guards, two of us, two helmets, what?” He pointed to the guard that Seymour had kicked. The man was still lying there, unmoving. “You take his. He isn’t jolly well using it, is he now?”
Seymour blinked, finally understanding. “You think we can blind them?”
The man sighed melodramatically. “Of course we can. Now hurry—we don’t have all bloomin’ day!”
The Aechyed retrieved the helmet of the fallen guard, then jogged over to the corpse-cart, lifted up Seoc, and slung him over his back like a peddler’s bag. The human was limp and bony, but he couldn’t have weighed any more than a hundred pounds. This was an advantage for the moment. Later, it would be a cause for concern.
If the little fellow even lived that long, that was. That would remain to be seen.
At that moment, the approaching mass of guards stampeded into view, running as fast as they could in their bulky, clanking armor, their weapons at the ready. It was time to go.
His left hand gripping Seoc firmly by the ankles, Seymour copied what Simon was doing, holding the helmet in his right hand, as far ahead of him as possible so that the guards would be blinded before they had time to react to his presence, and ran towards the open gate as fast as he could. He hoped desperately that he had the helmet angled correctly, and he could only guess whether he would emerge in the right place relative to the guard he was supposed to target.
He broke through the magical ward at a flat-out sprint and closed his eyes as he passed into the outside world.