The Two Castles Carviliet
—1216 (present day)—
“What the deuce,” demanded Simon, “is going on here?”
It was, mostly, an honest and perfectly reasonable question, as the room was quite dark and all he could make out were shadows—those of furniture, and of three hominoid figures, one unusually short, one of a reasonable, if slightly elongated stature, and one extremely tall. The element that made his question—slightly—dishonest and unreasonable was that he already had a pretty good idea about what the deuce was going on there. That was why he had entered the chamber at a run, sword drawn, towing Fiona MacInnes along in his wake. He remembered what had happened the last time he had seen his brother with that look in his eye. If Simon had been more familiar with the floor plan of the Castle Carviliet—or if he had bothered to listen to Fiona’s suggested directions—they would have arrived in time to head Henry off before he could succeed in doing anything rash, but as it was, they had taken a wrong turn and had to backtrack up three flights of stairs and down three more, arriving after whatever confrontation had taken place.
The three figures already present in the room did not move in response to Simon’s entrance, and he found this dreadfully worrying. But then he stopped to listen, heard the sound of their ragged breathing beneath the noise of his own and Fiona’s, heard the relieved and wordless squeak of Seoc’s voice, heard Henry muttering, “You wouldn’t. I say! You wouldn’t!”
At first he thought he was the intended recipient of his brother’s quiet declaration, but then, upon receiving from Fiona a torch taken from one of the brackets in the corridor outside, he investigated closer and saw that Henry had hardly seemed to notice him. He was staring at Seymour, his mismatched eyes glazed over and empty, his face pale and contorted. His sword was sheathed but there was a dagger in his hand, tucked into his sleeve so as to be kept invisible to the unsuspecting eye. His body was stiff and motionless, frozen, apparently, by shock or terror, or, perhaps, madness.
Seoc and Seymour were rendered similarly immobile, but not by the result of any internal strife. They stood bound, horribly, in a tangle of thick, thorny vines, which looped about their bleeding wrists and ankles in steadily constricting manacles.
“I would,” said Seymour to Henry. “You’d better believe I would.”
Simon’s initial instinct to intervene faded into curiosity, and he let down his blade and stood there holding the crackling torch, looking back and forth between the two faces, uncertain of how to proceed.
Henry was silent a moment, then he unfroze just enough to flip the dagger out of the sleeve of his tunic and hold it, rigidly, at his side. “What makes you think I care?”
“Did you not start this because you wanted me to love you, Henry?”
“Well, I can’t very well love you if I’m dead.”
“Perhaps I’ve changed my mind. Perhaps I’d rather prefer him to be dead—” he pointed the tip of the dagger at Seoc’s throat, paying no mind to Fiona’s horrified scream—“than you to love me.”
“But if you don’t want me,” Seymour probed, “Then why are you jealous?”
Henry took a step, panther-like, towards Seoc so that their bodies were nearly pressed up against each other, sliding the point of the dagger up Seoc’s neck and stopping it under his chin. The blade left a thin line of blood to mark its trail. “My dear Seymour,” he observed condescendingly. “You still seem to be lingering under the impression that I am not…what were you’re words again? Ah, yes, ‘not a bad person.’”
Simon couldn’t move. Even if he could, he could not have successfully disarmed his twin without putting Seoc in even greater danger. He could only stand there, just as rooted to the floor as the brier vines, holding a torch and a useless sword. He felt sick.
“Henry,” Seymour pleaded. “Please! Don’t…!”