Henry was growing to rather hate this small cell with the glowing blue writing on the walls. He hated that the stark environment provided so little in the way of material with which he could distract himself from his own thoughts, which ground like sandpaper upon the inside of his skull.
It had been a while since the other five had left in search of the talisman-thing, or whatever it was Seoc had been on about. He had forgotten what the plan had been exactly, but he could recall that it had made sense at the time. He didn’t particularly care anymore. The concept had been swirling around inside his head for so long that its significance had dissolved into a bland, grey soup. Henry only wished that at least one of them had stayed with him to keep him company through the door of the cell. Maybe then he would have been better. But instead, they had all gone off in a herd, leaving him alone once again.
For the first half-hour or so after they had gone, he had paced the dull flagstone confines of his prison, periodically interrupting his circuit to throw himself violently into a wall. The pain was strangely satisfying. Like scratching an itch. But he had exhausted what little remaining energy he had possessed, and now he sat in a corner, bruised and bleeding and fading in and out of reality.
Where were they? Shouldn’t they have been back by now? He missed them. He missed the sound of voices. He even missed the voice that had been living in his head for the past few weeks. The voice that had nearly convinced him to kill Seoc. The voice that the writing on the walls was keeping out. Anything to save him from his own incessant mental chattering.
He was drifting now, the turbulence in his brain taking him further and further from the present. It was as if he were in a waking fever dream.
There came the sound of heavy footsteps upon the stairs, and he tried to shake himself out of his daze. Could it be true? Had they at last returned with the talisman? He peered eagerly through the barred window on his door, desperate to catch a glimpse of Seymour, or Fiona, or even Seoc.
But it was Alasdair.
His heart sank. They should have been back by now. They needed to have been back with the talisman before Alasdair could open that door and tear a hole through those glowing blue words, the only protection he had left.
Lightheaded and shaking with fear, Henry retreated to the back corner of his cell.
“Please go away.”
Alasdair stood on tiptoes to look in through the window. “Don’t you want to come out o’ there?”
“No,” said Henry.
“I’m not goin’ to hurt you, Henry. We’ll just talk, alright?”
“We can talk through the door, can’t we?”
“I suppose we could,” Alasdair said. “But why?”
“What are you scared of?”
“I don’t know.”
“No, I can’t tell you.”
The Alt-Mage sighed, jangling a ring of keys as he searched for the one to Henry’s cell. “It’s cold an’ dark down here, Henry. Come with me an’ let us continue our discussion somewhere more comfortable.”
“No! Please don’t open the door!”
“Be reasonable, lad,” said Alasdair as he inserted the key into the lock.