Simon was flying.
He wasn’t quite sure how he had come to be airborne or why, but here he was, soaring over a glistening city beneath an overcast sky, his body as light as a feather, the wind gently pressing upon his outstretched arms and ruffling his hair. He wasn’t afraid. He knew he wouldn’t fall.
The air was cold and damp, and there was a bitter smell that hung upon it that became a metallic taste when he opened his mouth. The city beneath him was vast and busy, the streets crawling with self-powered, multicolored contraptions, the skies alive with flying machines. Buildings like glittering crystals sprouted from the ground, the strangeness of the architecture giving him the same sort of distal fascination that the goblin city had inspired in him upon his arrival.
But this was a human city. There was no doubt about it. It was too geometric to be the work of goblins or elves and too large and permanent to have been designed by Aechyeds. Although the great glass edifices were unlike any structure to have ever been seen in the Southlands—or anywhere else in the world that the Southlands belonged to, for that matter—they were clearly based upon the same traditions, and thus they were familiar.
Also, Simon had been here before.
He had been here many times, too many times to count. In fact—
Simon awoke with a start. “Eh, wha..?”
Seoc’s pale face emerged from the darkness of the oddly-shaped goblin room, catching the light reflected through the window by the falling snow. “Budge over, will you?”
Groaning wearily, Simon rolled over to allow Seoc room to lie down beside him. “Whatever happened to sleeping with Seymour?”
Seoc’s face flushed visibly, even in the minimal light. “I was no’…I was no’ sleepin’ with him! I mean, I was, but no’ that way! I was no’—!”
“I know, I know.” Simon sighed heavily and kneaded his eyes. “Let me rephrase that: whatever happened to sharing Seymour’s bed?”
The other was silent a moment. “I…I just dinna feel comfortable anymore—”
Simon sat up abruptly, cold panic flooding through his veins. “What? Has he hurt you? Did he try to do something to you? If he so much as haired a touch on your head, I’ll—!”
“No, no, it’s nothin’ like that!” Seoc put out a hand to discourage him from scrambling out of bed. “He did no’ try an’ make a move on me, Simon. There’s no need ta murder him in his sleep.”
Only slightly reassured, Simon settled reluctantly back into the mattress, propping himself up on one elbow. “What happened, then?”
“I’d prefer no’ ta talk aboot it,” Seoc mumbled.
Simon relented and dropped back onto his pillow. “If he hurt you…”
“He did no’ hurt me.”
“If he hurt you,” he repeated, “I’ll kill him.”
Seoc let his breath hiss out between his teeth. “Simon, just go ta sleep. He did no’ hurt me.”
“Are you sure?”
“If anyone ever hurts you again, I’ll kill them too.”
“I know, Simon,” Seoc sighed. “I know.”