He couldn’t breathe.  He tugged at his father’s wrists and kicked at his shins, but it was no use.  The determination that had taken hold of him when Seymour’s life was threatened drained away to weak panic now that it was his own on the line.  He could do nothing.  There was nothing Seymour could do about it, either—if he was too badly injured to retrieve his own flint and tinder, how could he help Seoc?

                His face felt cold, and his ears began to ring, drowning out all the other noises in the corridor.  His head seemed to be trying to turn itself inside out, and all of his internal organs contracted painfully.  It felt almost as though he was on the edge of having a seizure, but he knew this wasn’t so.  He knew he was dying.

                He stared back into his father’s leering, swollen face, his vision disintegrating into sections of color and black.  Was this awful countenance the last thing he would ever see?  He didn’t want that.  Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to imagine something more pleasant.  Flowers.  Yes, flowers were nice.  So were fluffy little rabbits.

                Suddenly, the pressure on his windpipe was gone.  Eyes snapping open, he stumbled backwards and sat down hard on the flagstone floor.  His father had let him go.  It didn’t matter why he had done so.  Not right now.  All that mattered to Seoc was to put as much distance between himself and his father as he could.  Coughing and gasping violently, he scrambled backwards as fast as possible, and, because he hadn’t been looking where he was going, slammed into a wall.  Lights of pain sparked in his vision.

                Only then did he see what had motivated his father to release him.  It was Simon.  Clinging to Dr. MacInnes’s back like a rider on an unbroken, rearing horse, he saluted Seoc with a grin and a wink. 

                Seoc tried, in vain, to shake the fuzz from his mind.  What was Simon doing here?  How had he found them?

                Slowly, the ringing faded and Seoc’s hearing returned.  He became aware of his father’s enraged bellowing, of Simon’s manic laughter, and of Seymour’s weakened voice, calling faintly.  Calling his name.

                Seoc stumbled across the corridor, giving wide berth to the skirmishing parties, and to Seymour’s side.  For the first time, he saw the true extent of his injuries.  His skin was blackened and cracked, oozing blood, in two places, each the approximate size of Seoc’s palm.  The fabric of his tunic had turned to charcoal and crumbled in these areas, one on Seymour’s left shoulder, the other on the same side of his chest, just below his heart.

                He regarded Seoc with a slight smile, relief showing in his watering eyes.  “Seoc,” he whispered, his voice scarcely audible over the nearby commotion.  “Are you alright?”

                Seoc rubbed his bruised throat and replied in a rasp, “More or less.”

                Seymour found Seoc’s hand and grasped it gently.  “I was scared, little fish,” he admitted.  “I was afraid he would kill you.”

                “I was too.”

                The Aechyed grimaced in pain and tightened his grip on Seoc’s hand.

                “Is there anything I can do, Sey?”

                Seymour closed his eyes and shrugged his uninjured shoulder.  “I’m alright.  Just…just hold me, will you?”

                “O’ course,” Seoc replied, lying down beside him and wrapping his arms about him, careful to avoid his burns.  He kissed him on the cheek.  “Better?”


The End

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