They made good time on the open road; still, even at a full gallop, they couldn’t make up for the hours they had lost on the pass. By the time they had achieved the end of the marked trail and began to pick their way along the banks of the Waelyngar, the sun was hanging low over the western mountains, and the peach-and-rose stain of sunset was starting to light the sky when they arrived at last at Carvil Crossing.
The town was a small and quiet one, its simple wooden buildings blending with its forested surroundings. Seymour noticed a few windows illuminated, but nobody seemed to be about. The only audible activity seemed to be the shutting and latching of doors and shutters as the inhabitants of Carvil Crossing barricaded their homes and businesses against the oncoming night.
They skirted the town as the Uarla had advised—even though there was little risk of them being seen or pursued had they chosen to parade down the main road—and came upon a flat beach on the Carvil River, some ways northwest of the point at which it joined with the Waelyngar. Here, the river was wider and calmer than it was in the stretches immediately upstream and downstream, and would thus make for a longer, but safer, crossing.
“This will have to do,” Seymour announced, dismounting. The world swam in and out of darkness for a moment after his feet touched the ground, and he had to seize Wyrinther’s reins to keep upright.
“Are you alright?” Seoc asked.
“I’m fine,” the Aechyed grunted, shaking his head to clear it. “Felt a bit faint for a second, that’s all.”
“Weel,” Seoc stated in a tone that Seymour could only describe as bossy, “you ha’e no’ eaten anythin’ today. What else did you expect?”
Seymour ignored him and limped over to the edge of the river. His legs were sore and stiff from spending most of the day on horseback, and there was a cost to sharing a saddle designed for only one occupant, a cost which was born mostly by certain sensitive regions of his body. Next time he was asked to participate in a dangerous rescue mission, he mused to himself bitterly, he would insist that all travel and transportation be done by carriage. Preferably a carriage with padded velvet seats.
“It may be too deep for the horses to ford,” he observed, squinting into the crawling waters. The last remnants of sunset glimmered on the glassy surface.
“Must we find another place, then?” Simon inquired.
Seymour rejected the idea with a shake of his head. “No time,” he replied. “If it becomes too deep for them to walk, they’ll have to swim. Check the saddlebags, will you? Make sure they’re closed and watertight.”
He started to turn back to Wyrinther once more, but something caught his eye and he stopped.
Something had changed. He had no idea what it was that was different, but he knew that something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
A chill ran up his spine as his gaze landed upon the river, and he blinked hard, hoping that a trick of the evening light, in combination with his imagination, had supplied the image that he there saw. But it made no difference. It was no reflection of the setting sun, nor was it a hallucination of his tired mind.
The Carvil River ran red with blood.