Neither of them spoke as they walked back to the inn, Henry keeping as much distance between himself and Seymour as was possible without becoming entirely separated. Without the Aechyed, the mage would have been hopelessly lost, and both of them knew it.
The sun had set by the time they arrived. They met Alasdair and Mialina downstairs in the inn and had supper, during which the Alt-Mage and his wife spoke the most, the detective offered a comment or two, and the young Lord of Carvil kept a scowling silence throughout, refusing to look at anyone—especially not at Seymour.
The MacQuarries went upstairs first, and Seymour started to follow them.
“I should have known,” muttered Henry, just loud enough for him to hear. The human was still seated at the table, alone now. The dining area was empty but for the two of them; even the staff had gone to bed.
Seymour stopped. “Oh?”
“You wear too much jewelry. Not particularly masculine, is it?”
He knew the man was baiting him, but he took it anyway. “Taken from the mouth of a man with plumage in his hat and gemstones in his belt, that isn’t a particularly convincing argument.”
Henry stood up from the table abruptly, sending his chair toppling over. “I’ll fight you.”
“You’re half my size.”
“I have magic.”
Seymour considered this, his expression mock-serious. “I concede that. But I have something that you don’t.”
“And what is that, exactly?”
Well, he had dug himself in this deep already. The Aechyed donned his most insolent smirk. “Brains.”
It occurred to Seymour, as he leapt out of the way of a bolt of blue magic, that it probably wasn’t an extremely wise move to rile a mage who had recently admitted to murdering his own parents while in a similar state. But it had just been too much for him to resist. One day, his own arrogance was going to be the end of him—this was a fact he was well aware of.
A band of light wrapped around his middle and pulled him off his feet. He slammed into the floor, knocking his head against the lowest stone step. His vision jolted and went double, the metallic taste of pain flooding his mouth. He knew immediately, from previous experience, that he was concussed.
Two Henrys stood over him—or rather Henry’s outline stood over him, slightly offset from Henry’s coloration—mismatched eyes sparking with fury. “I could kill you now,” he hissed, the tip of his long, gleaming sword lightly touching Seymour’s exposed neck. “It would be so easy.”
“Yes,” the detective admitted, struggling to keep his thoughts in order. “It would be. But think about the consequences. For one, everyone would know you did it. Even the most incompetent police inspector would have to put two and two together. You and me alone, I turn up dead…”
“But,” Henry reminded him, “that doesn’t matter, does it? I could just tell them what you did to me…what you are. Then they’d thank me for saving them the trouble of hanging you.”
Seymour closed his eyes, which had begun to water with pain. He must focus. The key to his survival was to keep Henry talking so as to reduce the likelihood of impulsive behavior. “What about Simon? What will become of him if you kill me?”
“I’ll find someone else to break him out.”
“Do you think there are all that many others who are willing and able? It may take some time to find one.”
The sword in Henry’s hand began to quiver, transmitting his uncertainty. “Simon’s waited two years. He can hold on another few months.”
He was getting somewhere with this. “But what if he can’t? What if something unforeseen happens and he dies next week? It would be your fault, your lordship. Would you ever forgive yourself?”
The blade shuddered more violently and Henry’s lip started trembling. His eyes welled up and spilled over. He stood there another moment, trying to bring himself to slit the Aechyed’s throat, but he couldn’t do it. Stamping backwards with frustration, he thrust his sword back into its scabbard and shot Seymour a glare of utter hatred.
“Fuck you, de Winter,” he spat, tears streaming down his face unchecked, before jumping over the Aechyed and running up the stairs.