The first thing that struck him was that she was not human. Rather than teeth, she had fangs like a vampire, and her ears were slightly pointed. Her skin was the color of porcelain, her lips were a deep crimson, her eyes dark blue and pupil-less, and her hair was as black as the feathers of a raven. She was rather scantily clad, her clothing torn and ragged. She wore a long, bloodstained veil that drifted slightly despite the absence of wind, topped by a spiked, iron crown. She was terribly beautiful. Had he been interested in females, he might have melted.
“Where is this?” he asked, mysteriously finding his voice once more.
She merely looked at him.
“When is this?” he amended. He knew perfectly well where he was. This was precisely where he had kissed Henry.
The new question seemed to please her. “Long ago. So many centuries ago that it no longer matters.” She smiled again, baring her fangs. “But if it brings you closure, the castle that here stands has a name, a name you know. Moribanu. Here resides the king of Magramland.”
The blood-sea had gone entirely now, but the land was different than that which he had seen from here this afternoon. The Waelyngar River, winding below, was running an entirely different course, and the land was much greener. It must have been spring, but there was something sinister in the air, something ominous and foreboding.
“Why am I here?”
“Do you know who I am, Seymour?”
He shook his head, bemusedly.
“They worship me here, young one. They named their castle for me.”
“Yes. I am Moriba.”
“But why am I here?” he repeated, unfazed by the fact that he was speaking to the Queen of the In-Between.
“To warn you, Seymour. This land here is very much alive, and it is prone to taking sides.”
He looked at the ground, bemused. “What do you mean by that?”
“You intend to free two prisoners on the morrow, do you not?” She paused, but not for long enough a time for him to respond. “From Waelyngar Penitentiary, built deep into the cliff side. But the rock, you see, the very stone feeds off of their blood and suffering. It will not be happy to let them go.”
“Why do you tell me this?”
“I tell you because I can help you,” she replied. “For a price, of course.”
He studied her. “What sort of price?”
“A bit of blood. Fittingly.”
“It doesn’t matter. Whatever hurts you most. Your answer?”
He hesitated. “No,” he decided eventually. “My answer is no.”
“Very well,” she said, turning away. “But if you change your mind, you need only call for me.”