Seoc MacInnes was at the top of the world no longer, but still, he thought as he squinted down into the dark of the abyss, there remained an awfully long way to fall. Now, though, the risk of it struck him as more nauseating than exhilarating.
Presently, the snow, which had ceased some minutes back, resumed. It fell lightly at first, but within the space of a minute it was coming down harder than ever. The snowflakes were slow and wet and fell in large clumps, some nearly the size of Seoc’s hand. The world around them was lost to the frozen torrent, painted over in white. The only colorful thing left was Seymour’s frustrated cursing.
“Rezyn damn it!” the Aechyed shouted at the storm, shaking his clenched fist in the snowy air. “This would be hard e-fucking-nough without you trying to thwart us at every Rezyn-damned motherfucking opportunity! Fuck off, will you? Go snow on someone who deserves it, you shit-headed, arse-biting, bloody rotten old bitch!”
Seoc laid a tentative hand on Seymour’s arm. “Shh,” he scolded gently. “Everythin’s goina be alright, Sey.”
Seymour fell silent and bowed his head. He was, Seoc noted, shaking with anger and helplessness. The human’s initial impulse—instinct, really—was to hug the Aechyed, but he thought better of it and turned away, pulling his cloak tight about him to ward off the cold. Seoc had learned his lesson when it came to showing Seymour too much affection. He wasn’t going to make a fool of himself again.
Oh yes, Seymour de Winter fancied him. He was sure of it. But, for some reason (translated as: the unnamed male who shared Seoc’s eyes), the Aechyed didn’t want to admit it.
Seoc felt a sudden wave of resentment towards his ocular doppelganger.
Immediately, he tried to suppress it, disgusted with himself. It was a petty thing to be jealous of this man he had never met. True, this stranger had probably been Seymour’s boyfriend, but since Seymour had referred to him in the past tense, they clearly were no longer involved with each other. In fact, judging by Seymour’s attitude toward the entire subject, the fellow was most likely dead, and thus in no way deserving of any blame Seoc might subconsciously foist upon him. Neither, then, was Seymour at fault for mourning him. Therefore, the only culpable party was Seoc himself, who had made the mistake of forcing the issue. Now it was time to step back, reevaluate the situation, and proceed with caution and patience. The Aechyed would come around to him eventually.
After a while, the snow turned finer and began to lighten, allowing them to see the other side of the chasm once more.
“Right,” Seymour grunted. “Let’s go.”
“But it’s still snowing!” Simon protested.
“We don’t have all day to wait and see if it stops,” the Aechyed replied. “This may be the best chance we get.”
They crossed without incident, Seymour in the lead, Seoc behind him, holding on to the back of the Aechyed’s belt with one hand and leading Wyrinther with the other, and Simon following with Elêganor. The path on the other side of the bridge was too narrow for them to mount their steeds again, so they continued on foot in the same configuration, picking their way along the snowy trail, ever aware that one false step could send them plummeting to their doom.
The snow did stop eventually, but only for a few minutes, allowing them a brief opportunity to scout out the road ahead before the radius of visibility decreased to an arm’s-length once more. What they saw was not a hopeful picture—the trail continued haphazardly along the canyon wall as far as the eye could see.
Around noon, they stopped to rest. The trail had widened a bit in the course of the past half hour, and while it was still too dangerous to proceed on horseback, no longer was their every step a matter of life and death.
“I have the profound sense,” Simon informed them, tearing a bite from a strip of salted venison, courtesy of the goblins, “that we haven’t made particularly much progress.”
Seymour leaned back against the cliff and sighed heavily. Seoc noticed that he wasn’t eating anything. “The sun doesn’t set until shortly after five this time of year. By my esti—for Rezyn’s sake, Simon, close your mouth when you’re chewing!” he snapped. “You’re making me sick!”
Simon closed his mouth.
“Anyway…by my estimation, we should be clear of the pass in the next hour or so. After that, we should be able to cover much more ground in a much shorter time. Simon,” Seymour groaned. “You’re doing it again.”
“Doing what?” Simon asked through a mouthful of meat.
“Eating like a Rezyn-damned cow. It’s repulsive.”
Seymour closed his eyes and massaged his temples. His face was very pale, considering that the cold temperature—plus the rigorous exercise of trudging through the knee-deep snow—should have colored it.
“You dinna look very weel,” Seoc observed. “Are you feelin’ alright?”
Seymour smiled half-heartedly. “Dead tired,” he replied, “but otherwise fine.” Letting his breath hiss out between his teeth, he pushed away from the wall and began to plough along the pathway once more. “We must be going. Time slips away, after all.”
“Are you no’ goina eat anythin’?” Seoc called after him.
Seymour made no acknowledgement of having heard the question.