Simon had his eyes closed, but he was not asleep. It felt good just to lie there with the light blocked out, cocooned in warm, soft sheets with the cool castle air brushing across his face. Safe. Fatigue weighed down his limbs, and he was vaguely queasy, but still he was feeling better than he had in a long time—since before Waelyngar, at least. He had lived so long in constant pain that he had forgotten the sensation of being without it. It was wonderful.
He heard voices nearby—it seemed as if the Alt-Mage had caught Seymour and Seoc, wherever they had been hiding—but he paid them no mind. He did not want to be reminded of his existence in the Real World, where evil lurked in the shadows and fear hung in the air. He wanted only to relish his relative comfort while it lasted. He did not want to be pulled out of it until it was entirely necessary. For now, he was warm and safe, free to conjure up in his mind images of cities that sparkled like gems. The future was kind, he philosophized, so long as there was some distance before it.
His visions of utopia were interrupted by a familiar voice. “Simon? Are you awake?”
He smiled and opened his eyes halfway. “Now, Henry, that is a rather complex question. For the sake of time, I’ll assume you mean it in the literal sense, so I shall reply that yes, I am conscious, if I have not already made that clear from my vocalizations.”
Henry found Simon’s hand beneath the linens and squeezed it tightly. “Feeling better, I see.”
“Better than you do, judging by your appearance, little brother. Sit down. You look as if you might collapse.”
“Why do you call him yer li’l brother?” Fiona inquired of Simon as she helped Henry into a nearby chair. “Are you no’ twins?”
“Of course,” Simon replied unhelpfully. “That’s just the way things are.”
“He’s twelve minutes the elder,” Henry explained. “And I used to be smaller than he was.”
Simon smiled ironically, running his eyes over his brother’s lanky body. “Then he went and outgrew me. By half a fucking foot, no less. Now, is that fair? Is it?” He hit Henry playfully on the shoulder. “Now people can’t even tell that we’re related, let alone twins!”
“Ouch!” Henry exclaimed in mock indignation, pouting and rubbing his shoulder. “There’s no need for violence. And watch your language, Simon! We are in the presence of a lady!”
Simon raised an eyebrow at his brother. “A lady? Are you sure? Methought she was a goddess walking in our midst.”
Fiona rolled her eyes expertly. “You pair o’ coquettish fools! No, I’m no’ a goddess, an’ I’m no’ a lady, either. I’m just an ald maid, so you can say what you want aroond me. I dinna care.”
“Ah,” cried Simon, deliberately donning his most doltish grin. “She speaks! What light in yonder window breaks! It is the east, and Fiona is the sun!” He stopped then, rolling his tongue around in his mouth and scowling in concentration. “Just doesn’t have the same ring to it,” he muttered. “The stress is on the wrong syllable. Fiona. Juliet. That's what. Ought to be Fionette.”
“Simon,” Henry sighed. “What are you on about now?”
“Elizabethan tragedy," he replied with a slight smirk. "Never you mind.”