Several small but significant events came to pass at this point, all more or less simultaneously, none of which would seem particularly noteworthy taken out of context. They are recorded as follows:
- The bells in the clock tower chimed nine, which wouldn’t have been odd had there been any bells in the clock tower at the time; they had, in fact, been taken down a hundred years previously and never replaced.
- A large black bird, perhaps a raven, alighted on this very tower.
- A hooded man in a long black cloak stepped down from a carriage to join the masses outside the castle gates.
- The Edmund twins, Simon and Henry, locked eyes, stared at one another for a moment, and then began to scream as if they had seen the very face of death.
- Seoc MacInnes set his knife calmly down upon his plate and walked out of the banquet hall without a word, deaf to his mother’s demands to know where he was going.
In the corridor, Alasdair and Mialina both jumped at the sound of the bells and exchanged an uneasy look. Seymour did not know of the nonexistence of the bells, but he did hear the screams, which seemed to be issuing from down a side corridor on their right side. The Alt-Mage and his wife heard them too, and immediately set off after them, guessing, correctly, the identities of the screamers.
Seymour remained behind, feeling as if this was a dream, and no matter how hard he tried to run, his legs would not obey. He stood there, frozen, for a good thirty seconds and might have stayed that way forever had he not felt a small, warm hand slip into his palm.
“Come,” Seoc whispered.
He let Seoc lead him down the corridor and out into the cobblestone courtyard. The air was still and frigid, laced with November frost, and the only sound to be heard was that of their footsteps. The horde outside the gates had ceased its chanting, leaving an eerie silence in its lieu. The guards that had been patrolling the wall now stood statuesque in their positions, their weapons glittering faintly in the starlight.
“It isna just Henry that’s gone mad, Sey,” Seoc said, looking up into his eyes. “The whole world has.”
“What do you mean, little fish?”
Seoc shrugged. “Just that I think we’ve been pulled inta somethin’ very ald an’ very ugly, an’ it’s no’ goin’ ta be easy gettin’ out o’ it. Somehow we’ve trodden on the toes o’ someone—or somethin’—that likes to get its own way. An’ I think I know what it is. Come on.”
Seymour followed him into the north wing of the castle, the terrible silence thick in his ears.