Simon too had found the cemetery. He had happened upon it several days before, when the mages had finally decided that he was fit to leave the infirmary, and now returned, seeking a place where no one would stumble across him. He was quite fed up with people for the moment.
He passed a statue of a hooded angel and sat down upon a headstone—culturally disrespectful, he knew, but what did it matter to its owner? Whoever it was was dead, and therefore would never know that Simon Edmund was seated atop his or her weathered tombstone, and if by some metaphysical unlikelyhood he or she did find out, if he or she did his or her research, he or she would discover that Simon was quite certainly as mad as a March hare’s hatter, and thus his actions were pardonable on the grounds of insanity.
Simon, however, was too lazy to do his own research, which would have involved bending over to see whether he was sitting over the top of a he or a she. It didn’t matter, anyway. Whatever sex the entombed had been, it almost certainly was no longer determinate by observation of the corpse, unless mummification had occurred. What was the point of fussing over the original gender of an inanimate object?
The thought crossed Simon’s mind that he may have been being excessively cynical. He told it to shut up.
There was a thin layer of snow on the ground, sparkling in the early-morning sun. The reflected white light shone on the face of the wristwatch as he took it from his pocket. He studied it, for what may have been the thousandth time since he had picked it off the oily ground of the crystal city. There was a knob on one side, which set the time, but there was no winding mechanism, and no matter how many times he had disassembled it, he could not get it to start again.
He wasn’t sure where the words had come from; he had, after all, no recollection of thinking them before they came out of his mouth. But that happened all the time. He was used to it. So, unperturbed, he repeated the phrase, rolling it about his mouth. Had a nice, though rather ugly, sound to it. Something beyond alliteration. Something special about it.
Yes. This was a Truth. He had no idea what it meant, but that was of minimal importance.
Clockwork cat in a patchwork palace.
He let his breath fog the cracked glass that covered the face of the watch and wiped it clean with his sleeve. The sun hurt his eyes. The cold hurt his fingers. But it was of no consequence.
“Simon Marandur Edmund.”
He did not turn towards the voice. He knew where it had come from. He had almost been expecting it.
“You are so very much like your namesake,” whispered the voice of the statue of the hooded angel. “That one who came to meet me so very long ago. The resemblance is uncanny.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“A great king was Marandur,” the voice went on. “You are of his blood, if I’m not mistaken.”
“Of his blood, but not of his line. Descended from his daughter.”
“Royalty still runs in your veins, Simon Edmund. You have as much right to the crown as any other. It would only take a little…force.”
“I don’t want to be a king, thanks. Far too much stress.”
The voice laughed behind him, no longer coming from the angel statue, but somewhere to the left. Simon heard the rustle of skirts, but no crunch of snow.
“A sensible young man, I see. The world could use more like you.”
“’Sensible’ is not a descriptor commonly used to portray me,” Simon remarked wryly. “You are generous with your words, Your Majesty.”
“Nor is ‘generous’ often mentioned in the same sentence as ‘Mortua,’ child. Often that which is the most accurate is what seems the most counterintuitive.”
All in masks of falsehood wrought…
“Yes,” he replied, pocketing the wristwatch and turning to face her. “Often.”