Henry awoke with a start from a nightmare-ridden sleep with an urgent need to vomit. He scrambled out of bed, scrabbling for the chamber pot that he knew to be beneath. He found it just in time.
The sound of his retching awakened the MacQuarries, who were sharing the other one of the inn-room’s two beds. Alasdair squinted at his pocket watch and groaned.
“Four-thirty in the bloody morning, Henry. Damn you!”
“D’thon’t be too harsh on dze boy, d’tharlink,” Mialina admonished her husband, rising and pulling on her dressing gown. “He can’t help dzat he’s sick.”
She padded over to ‘dze boy’ and knelt beside him, putting a comforting arm around his shoulders. He continued to heave uncontrollably.
Alasdair snorted. “For Rezyn’s sake, Mia. He’s nineteen years old, not a fucking baby!”
She ignored the remark. “You have dze potions, no? Find him somedzing to give him before dzere’s blood.”
Alasdair couldn’t tell whether she meant “before he starts puking up blood,” or “before I come for you and spill your blood,” but thought it wise to take the safe road and look for a vial of pre-prepared potion in his emergency stash. He couldn’t find one meant to stop vomiting, but he did find one that was supposed to decrease anxiety. Chewing on his lip, he weighed the risks and decided to go for it.
He pulled out the vial of amber liquid and thrust it into Henry’s sweaty, trembling hands. “Here. This should help.”
The young man uncorked the container and choked down the substance. It tasted awful, but it worked. “Thanks, Alasdair.”
Mia helped ‘dze boy’ back into bed and pulled the covers up over him.
“Gods, woman!” muttered Alasdair. “What do you think you are, his mother?”
She glared at him from her perch on the edge of Henry’s mattress. “No, I d’thon’t, but he need one!” she hissed. “And I know how to be modzer, so why I not try?”
Alasdair realized too late that he had crossed the line. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean—”
“Are you not rememberink, Alasd’thair?” She stood up briskly and stalked toward him, seizing him by the collar of his nightshirt. “You d’thon’t remember your daughter?”
“Mia, I didn’t mean it that way! Of course I remember Kirsti! What kind of monster do you think I am?”
She shoved him backwards onto their bed, her teeth bared. He did not resist. “I dzink you bastard gargoyle sometimes.” She paused then, looking backwards to find that Henry was already soundly asleep. “What did you gave him?”
He judged that this would not be the ideal time to correct her grammar. “Calming potion. Proving that it’s all in his head.”
She half-smiled at him. “You may be bastard gargoyle, but sometimes you may be clever bastard gargoyle.”
“Are you flirting with me now?”
“Maybe.” She ran a delicate hand through her husband’s dark hair. “Alasd’thair,” she whispered. “I want anodzer child.”
“What, right now?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Right now.”
* * *
Seymour rose with the sun as was his habit, dressed, and set about packing for the trip. He didn’t need much, as he wouldn’t have access to his bag for a fair portion of the time. Once finished packing, he combed his hair (and added the comb to his bag), put in his earrings—only a few, actually, for he didn’t want to lose any—and lit the stove to make breakfast: porridge, the only food he could cook and thus his standard fair.
Left with time to kill, Seymour made an attempt at cleaning up the flat. Generally, he didn’t let things get this out of hand, but he had been unusually busy recently and hadn’t had the time or energy to tame it.
At five minutes to noon, he collected his things and set out to meet the mages at the South Caligard Street Bridge. The others were already there when he arrived, and there was a carriage waiting, two enormous, black winged horses harnessed in front. Seymour grinned happily. He had never flown before, but it had always been on his things-to-do list.
Wordlessly, they climbed inside. Seymour and Henry sat on one side, facing Alasdair and Mialina, both of whom seemed to have become much more affectionate towards one another than they had been the preceding night. Interesting.
They didn’t take to the air until they were outside of Brysail’s city wall, having passed through the North Gate. Fascinated, Seymour watched out of the window as the ground retreated and the Murkintir River became a brownish, sparkling trickle far below. Brysail looked like a scaled-down model of itself, constructed for ants. On the southward horizon, the sea shone in the sunlight as below them passed farmland and fields ready for harvest.
“It’s beautiful,” he breathed. This was not a sentiment he had ever had while on the ground here.