Everything was dark. He noticed that he was no longer standing. In fact, he was lying on the ground, although he had no recollection of how this had come to pass. The surface beneath him was soft—sand, perhaps—and it seemed that someone was holding his head.
“More water, Simon! Quick!”
Something cold and wet splashed upon his face, drenching him. He gasped and blinked rapidly—his eyes had been closed, that was why it had been dark—and found himself looking into Seoc’s face, framed by a dusky sky.
“Thank Rezyn,” Seoc breathed, relief washing over his features. “Can you hear me, Sey?”
Seymour nodded, disorientated. “What...what happened?”
“You fainted, I think,” Seoc replied, absently unsticking Seymour’s bangs from his wet forehead. “At least that’s what it looked like. You just...collapsed.”
He tried to sit up, but Seoc held him down. “Just where d’ you think ye’re goin’, eh?”
“We can’t stay here, little fish,” he pleaded weakly. “You must let me go!”
“An’ watch you faint again?” the human inquired. “No. Ye’re no’ goin’ anywhere ’til you ha’e somethin’ in yer stomach. Simon,” he directed over his shoulder, “bring me somethin’ edible frae the saddlebags, will you?”
Simon rooted around in one of the bags and eventually returned with a single dried grape.
“You know what I mean, Simon!” snarled Seoc, and he tossed the proffered raisin back in Simon’s face.
Insulted, Simon stalked back to the saddlebag, muttering, “’Bring me something edible’ he says. So I brink him eat bring something edible anything anyway, and what thanks do I bloody well get? No thanks at all, and no please or welcome either, just a faisin in the race...not a please! Decriminaniny!”
Seoc rubbed his eyes in exasperation. “Alright, alright!” he snapped. “Please!”
Apparently appeased, Simon brought him two dense biscuits, a strip of salted meat, a handful of walnuts and a flask of clean water.
“I’m not hungry,” Seymour protested.
Seoc looked for a moment as if he was going to argue the matter, but then he sighed heavily and relented. “Fine. But will you please drink some water?”
Seymour accepted the canteen and sat up to drink from it, propping himself up against Seoc.
“You really are no’ feelin’ very weel, are you?”
He shrugged passively.
“Is yer stomach botherin’ you?”
Seymour shook his head. He didn’t quite know how to describe how he felt—a sort of dull numbness permeated his body, running just beneath the ache of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. “My head, mostly. I’m just so very...” He yawned widely. “...tired.”
“You’d feel better if you—”
“—ate something, I know,” Seymour finished with a wry smile. “I just don’t think I can choke anything down right now. I’m sorry, Seoc.”
“Just one biscuit?” Seoc supplicated. “If I made Simon fetch all this food for naught, he might ha’e an existential crisis.”
“Oh, all right,” the Aechyed relented.
He nibbled on the biscuit for a while, ingesting about half of it before he couldn’t stand to eat anymore. It was dry and flavorless and turned to a sticky paste in his mouth, making it difficult to swallow.
“That’s all I can manage,” he mumbled, passing the uneaten half back to Seoc.
The human studied the remainder of the biscuit for a moment, then finished it off. “I’m goina trust that whatever’s affectin’ you isna contagious,” he said with a grin, clapping the crumbs off his hands. “Weel, I suppose we ought ta be off while there’s still light in the sky. Simon, will you...?” He trailed off. “Simon?”
“She’s beautiful,” Simon dreamily declared, gazing out toward the river. “So beautiful...”
“Who’s beautiful?” Seoc demanded.
“The Lady,” replied Simon. “The Lady from Waelyngar!”