Chapter Twenty: Home (1)Mature

[OK, so we're gonna operate under the assumption that there's a mysterious time warp somewhere between the Waelyngar Forest and the Castle Carviliet, so let's jump back approximately twelve hours and I'll worry about fixing the chronology later, all right? All right.  Onward!]


Chapter Twenty

Raif was sniffing the mud caked in the soles of Henry’s boots.  The substance contained a peculiar mix of smells.  There was that unpleasant metallic odor that the creature associated with the Bad Man in the black cloak, but there was something else, too.  A familiar aroma.  The smell of Home.

            But where was Home?  And why did Henry’s boots smell of it?

            Raif stretched its forelegs and then flopped down on its belly, resting its chin on its paws to contemplate.  The boots did not smell of Raif’s burrow, it was certain of that.  They smelled of some previous Home, one that Raif couldn’t quite recall.

            Whatever Home was, that smell made Raif miss it.

            Raif felt sad.

            It got up and nosed the boots again, circling them and fidgeting.  It did not like this sadness.  If it could remember what Home was, perhaps it wouldn’t feel so glum about it.

            Tunnels.  There was something about underground tunnels, lined with stone.  There had been rats in those tunnels—and while such animals struck Raif as a pleasant snack now, for some reason, it hadn’t liked them then.  It hadn’t…

            He hadn’t…

            Raif stopped dead, muzzle down the neck of Henry’s unoccupied boot, the concept of ‘he’ swirling about the creature’s tiny brain.

            He had not liked the rats.  But he had liked the tunnels themselves.  He used to go down there with Seymour, away from the city crowds, and they would split the treasure that they’d managed to steal.

            It was Seymour who had started calling him Raif.  Said the name “Raphael Greenwood” sounded too high and mighty for a street rat, a pickpocket. 

            But…who was Seymour?

            Raif couldn’t remember.  It didn’t matter anyway, did it?  The Raif Greenwood that had known Seymour de Winter belonged to a previous life.  He…it…was no longer the human boy it had once been, and it knew that never would be again.  There was no use in dwelling on the subject.

            But now it felt sadder than ever.

            Raif removed its nose from Henry’s boot and moped over to lie down on the hearthrug, letting out a long whine as it did so.

            Who was Seymour de Winter, you ask? hissed the Something in Raif’s head.  Who was Seymour de Winter?  Why, you loved him once, disgusting though that is…pity, it seems he didn’t care very much for you—after all, he abandoned you…left you to die alone on the streets.  You see?  That is who Seymour de Winter was.  Do you remember him now, Raphael Greenwood? Do you remember?

            Raif ignored the Something.  The Something was never particularly helpful, and its words were generally too fast and complex for Raif to comprehend.  It was easiest to pretend as if the voice had never been there to begin with.

            The creature rolled onto its side and sprawled out in front of the warm, crackling fire.  The position of its head caused its lips to stretch into a stupid sort of smile, but the creature did not care.  It rolled its eyes around until it found Fiona, asleep in the nearby armchair.  Raif liked her well enough, liked this place, the Great Big Stone Thing…but there was still something missing, and something terribly wrong in the air.  Whatever it was made Raif feel strange inside.

            As Raif was lying there, Henry returned from wherever he had been.  He was wearing a different pair of boots from the ones that the creature had been investigating.  This set was clean, shiny and smelled of polish.  Raif was not particularly fond of that odor, but it was willing to excuse the offense.  It thumped its tail in greeting.

            “Hello, Raif,” the man mumbled, kneeling down to scratch Raif’s ears.  His hands shook, and over the reek of the shoe polish, the creature could smell his fear.

            “I just did something…” he whispered tremulously.  “I don’t know how I did it…but I did it somehow…oh, Rezyn…there’s something wrong with me.  I don’t know what I…I don’t know.  I…I think I’m going…” He trailed off, then dropped his voice even further before continuing.  “I think I’m going mad.”  He glanced briefly at Fiona to make sure she was still asleep.  “I’ve been hearing things…this voice…and sometimes…sometimes I don’t recognize myself.  As if there is something else controlling my thoughts and actions.  Something other than me.  And I cannot stop it…Rezyn, Raif, I’m scared.”

            Raif couldn’t understand most of the words, but it got the gist of the statement from the few words it did know and the tone Henry had used to speak them.  It thumped its tail again and licked Henry’s hand in consolation—that was all it could do, really.  If it could speak, it would have told him that he was not in fact going mad, told him that it was only the Something that was in his head, and the Something could only control him if he gave it access.  Raif would have told him that the Something was in its own head as well, as well as in the blood of the Bad Man in the black cloak, and, Raif suspected, in the mud in the other pair of boots, the metallic-smelling layer that nearly masked the smell of Home.  But Raif couldn’t speak.  And so it merely nuzzled Henry’s hand, lay back, and closed its peculiarly human eyes.

The End

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