They reemerged from the woods once more about five miles north-northwest of Carvil Crossing, finding themselves once more on the banks of a river.
The Carvil River, although smaller and narrower than the Waelyngar, cut a deeper channel and ran with greater ferocity, leaping over obstacles as it roared to meet its larger, more languid fellow. From there, the two flowed as one for a spell before running into the Murkintir, through Brysail, and into the Pendient Sea. That, Seymour supposed, was where the parchment poster would wind up, several days after he dropped it into the Carvil's raging current, provided that it didn't get hung up on a rock or something. He took comfort in the idea that they would be, in all likelyhood, safe and sound at Carviliet before that damning rag of parchment washed into the Waelyngar. As it stood, they were on track to see the mages by nightfall.
He watched as the poster was carried away, dipping, bobbing, and flipping over and over limply, its ink already running and blurring across its wet surface. Seeing it go took a weight out of his stomach, and when it finally vanished, he smiled and looked over at his charges, fresh determination gleaming in his eyes.
"You two ready?"
They nodded in reply. Anxiety was written across Seoc's features, but Simon was smiling pleasantly, studying a large dragonfly that had alighted on his forefinger.
"Right then," Seymour decided. "Both of you, get on the horse. She's strong enough to carry you across. Just, whatever you do, don't let go. That current will wrench you away as if you were no more than a leaf, understand? I don't want to lose either of you, not this close to the end." He flicked the insect off of Simon's finger. "Are you listening to me?"
"Helicopter!" Simon bellowed, pointing after the dragonfly as it darted away.
"Heli did what to her?" Seoc asked.
"No!"Simon snarled through his teeth. "That's not what I said."
Seymour rolled his eyes in exasperation. "It doesn't matter what you said. Just get on the fucking horse, dammit! We don't have time for bickering."
Once they were both situated in the large saddle, Seymour led Wyrinther to the water's edge, instructing them as he went. "I want both of you to hold on to whatever you can. Seoc, grab her mane and dig your knees into her sides. Simon, take the reins in one hand--wrap them about your wrist good and tight now. Take hold of Seoc's belt with the other, alright? And keep your feet in the stirrups. There's a good man."
Seoc looked over at him, sections of mane grasped securely in his small hands. "What aboot you, Sey? What are you goin' ta do?"
"I'll swim," he replied, pulling off his boots and stowing them in the saddlebags, which apparently had limitless capacity . "Don't you worry about me, Seoc. I'm an Aechyed, a merman, a merrow, whatever you want to call me. I was built for it."
"I know," Seoc sighed. "Just...just be carefu', will you?"
"You owe it ta me."
This remark caught Seymour unawares, and he had to glance sharply back at Seoc to decipher it. Then he understood. "Yes. Yes, I do owe it to you, don't I?"
The corners of Seoc's mouth twitched slightly, and the shadow of a smile crossed his face without reaching his dark, thoughtful eyes. Something gleamed there, a fiery glint of power, that told Seymour that Seoc knew--knew he had spied on him, knew he had betrayed him to the woman-shaped monster--but also that he didn't hate him for it. That he was, in fact, prepared to forgive, but not to forget. And in that moment, Seymour realized that this one small, frail man, a foot and a half shorter than him and half his weight, had him, Seymour de Winter, entirely at his mercy.
"Yes," Seymour repeated as if lost in thought. "Seoc, I--" He tried to stop his tongue, but the words slipped out, unbidden. "I love you. I'm sorry."
Seoc nearly-smiled again, but this time the emotion that struggled to manifest on his features shone warmly in his eyes. "No need ta apologize. Just be there at the other side, alright?"
"Yes. Yes, I will." And suddenly, he felt strength and energy rush into him, filling the recesses that exhaustion had left, and knew, beyond a doubt, that he would be there. The river may as well have been a creek, and he would cross it just as easily. The sun was upon him, shining down from Seoc's eyes, and all would be well.
It was in that precise moment that all three of them heard a shout from the forest at their backs.