Lord Henry Thomas Mantoux Edmund of Carvil awoke with a hoarse shout of alarm and tried his best to claw away the cold, wet, limp object that he perceived to be attacking his face.
“Calm down, you lanky reprobate,” a female voice scolded him. “I’m just cleanin’ the blood off o’ yer face. No need ta have a conniption.”
He opened his eyes momentarily and a stream of soapy water ran into his blue one, prompting him to snap them both closed again. “What…what happened?”
“You tell me. Uncle Alasdair an’ Aunt Mia found you an’ yer brother fainted in a broom cupboard with blood everywhere. That’s all I know.”
Fiona NicInnes withdrew the wet rag from his face and wrung it out over a basin. Henry heard the water rattle on its metal bottom, and the sound seemed strangely chilling. “Where’s Simon?”
“Just a few feet away, in the bed next ta you.”
“Is he…all right?”
She hesitated before speaking, and in that moment of silence, the young lord felt the icy hands of dread clamp down on his bowels.
“He’s…” she began.
“He isn’t dead, is he?” Henry interrupted urgently, making an unsuccessful attempt to sit up. “Please tell me he isn’t dead!”
“No, no,” she whispered, running a hand through his hair to calm him. “He’s alive. He’s just, weel, we are no’ entirely certain he’ll make it.”
With great effort, Henry raised his hand to rub the soap out of his eyes and looked frantically around. He was in the castle infirmary, situated at the end of the row of cots. On his left, there was a sturdy sandstone wall adorned with a large, stained-glass window. To his right lay Simon, sprawled naked and unmoving on a bloodstained mattress. Crimson fluid still oozed languidly from his nose, and his skin had a horrible, mottled yellowish hue to it. The dark figure of Alt-Mage MacQuarrie was hunched over him, fingertips to the younger man’s temples, the dull glow of magic emanating from the points of contact. At the foot of the bed sat another form—Mialina—head bowed and apparently asleep.
“Let me,” Henry rasped, jerking his head in Simon’s direction.
“No,” she replied firmly. “You are no’ yet recovered, Lord Henry. You can do no good.”
He struggled to sit up, but she pushed him down again, her face stern in the torchlight. Surrendering to her greater strength, he let himself fall back to the pillow. “But he’s my brother,” he protested weakly. “I can’t just let him, you know—!”
“Shh,” she breathed, stroking his hair again. “Let it be, lad. He’s in good hands.”