Seymour awoke with the dawn as was his custom, but he did have a bit of a headache. It was no matter; he had had worse. Still, he had no great incentive to get out of bed. The air had a distinct, frosty chill to it, and there beneath the covers it was pleasantly warm. Plus, Seoc was still asleep, smiling slightly in his dreams, with his head on Seymour’s chest. To move would be to wake him.
He watched the sunrise through his easterly-facing window, waiting for the low, misshapen clouds to turn their customary golden hue. But they did not. Instead, the sky adopted a horrible shade of red-orange, such a color that he had not seen since the days of the Blood Plague, when the air of Brysail had been so polluted with the smoke of burning corpses that the sun had seemed to be a crimson disk floating overhead. Unease settled in his lungs.
Seoc stirred, eyes still closed. “Hmm?”
“Is it normal that birds don’t sing here in the mornings?”
The human groaned and rolled over. “Sey, it’s nearly winter. They’ve probably all gone south.”
“But they were here yesterday—or they were where we camped. They woke me up with their chirping when it was still dark.”
“So they let you catch a few extra winks. I dinna see the problem.”
“What if they know something we don’t? What if…what if it’s about the Serpent, Seoc?”
Seoc opened his eyes and glared at him grumpily. “Fuck the Serpent. My stomach hurts an’ I’m dead tired an’ I’m tryin’ ta sleep, you ken? Please, Sey. Please just…shut up.”
“Sorry, little fish,” Seymour sighed, getting slowly out of bed and pulling on his clothes.
Once dressed, he wandered out onto the balcony and leaned against the wall, gazing out into the ominous morning, inhaling the thick silence deep into his lungs, hoping that the cold air would ease his worry. He felt the rime on the stone melting beneath his hands and brought them up to his face, pressing his numbed, wet palms to his cheeks, wanting for the chill to invigorate him. He felt helpless and scared, and he did not like the sensation one bit.
“Be strong, Sey,” he ordered himself in a whisper, unconsciously using the pet-name Seoc had bestowed upon him. “Think, for Rezyn’s sake.”
But he could not think, could not concentrate. His brain felt as if it had melted, leaving his cranium full of muddy slush. He noticed that his hands were shaking.
Mother of bloody fucking Rezyn, he thought. What’s wrong with me?
“Seymour?” Seoc asked from behind him, standing half-dressed in the doorway. “Are you alright?”
“No,” he answered bluntly.
“Look, I’m sorry I snapped at you—” Seoc began.
“It’s not that. It’s just…dammit, my mind’s turned to mush…but I just know…just know something’s wrong…this feeling that something horrible is about to happen, and I can’t…I can’t do anything about it and…” He broke off, dropping his head into his hands. “Shit. Shit!”
“I’m crying again. Why am I crying again?”
Seoc put his arms around him from behind and hugged him tightly. “It’s alright, Sey,” he assured him quietly. “There’s nothin’ wrong with cryin’.”
Seymour swallowed, wincing at the painful lump in his throat. “I’m scared, little fish,” he admitted. “I’ve never been so scared in all my life.”
He wiped his eyes on his sleeve and looked out into the distance, vision swimming. “Because I’ve never had so much to lose.”