“Did I not tell you,” the Alt-Mage demanded, with a certain coldness to his tone that made him seem positively intimidating, “to stay out?”
Seymour studied the buckles of his own boots. He had prepared a snappy retort, but now he felt it whither and die in his throat. Beside him, Seoc shifted his weight from foot to foot uncomfortably, spider problems suddenly forgotten.
“Well? Didn’t I?”
“Yessir,” Seoc mumbled. “You did.”
“Then why,” MacQuarrie growled, “are you here?”
They both kept their silence, looking anywhere but into the mage’s eyes.
“Was I not clear? Or did you think you were a better judge of Simon’s fortitude than I?”
Seymour took a deep breath. “Nothing like that, sir. I needed to speak to him, urgently, over matters of importance.”
“Matters more important than his health, I suppose? Simon is living on borrowed energy, Mr. de Winter. He cannot afford to expend any, not until he has sufficiently recovered.”
Seymour swallowed hard and returned his eyes to his feet.
“Do you understand, merman?”
“I understand,” he muttered.
“Louder. I didn’t hear you.”
“I understand,” he repeated, raising his voice to its normal volume.
Alasdair MacQuarrie continued to glare at him. “Louder, merman. Perhaps if you shout it, the words will echo and find their way through your thick skull.”
Seymour took a step backward, surprised by the unexpected insult.
“Dinna,” Seoc hissed suddenly, “speak ta him like that. Like he’s a child. He’s more intelligent than either o’ us. An’ dinna call him ‘merman’,” he added. “It’s rude.”
Seymour picked a cobweb out of his hair. “Let it go, Seoc. I’m used to it.”
An uncomfortable silence fell, broken abruptly by the creak of the infirmary door. The three of them, plus Mia (who had gone to check on Simon), turned toward the sound to find Fiona and Henry there, framed in the doorway.
“May we come in?”
The Alt-Mage seemed to deflate. “Oh, very well. If you feel you must. Seymour,” he went on, turning back to the Aechyed detective. “I need to speak with you. In private, if possible.”
Unsure what to make of the sudden change of tone, Seymour and Seoc exchanged a brief look, then Seoc shrugged and walked away.