“He’s being careful.”
“Too much?” Gerry asked.
Symon squinted. “We’ll see.” What are you up to, brother?
Three flyboats spread about in the water ahead, forming a V before their flagship. A guardship approached them from the opposite direction, bearing a square sail with the sigil of Kin Saliswater. Only vessels directly under the King’s command – or at the directive of his steward – could carry the trademark. With such a seal, the flyboat had the authority to allow them to pass or turn them away altogether. The fact the ship took such a precaution against the royal fleet – which both Dawkin and Artus knew well – spoke volumes about their trepidation.
Symon turned his attention from the grouping to the stone monolith watching over them: Arcporte Castle. Still a far way off at the opposite end of the harbor, it nonetheless commanded a presence over the city. It reminded Symon of the folktales he heard as a lad, including one about a giant who had stopped by a pond to stare at his reflection.
“Spyglass.” Symon held out his hand to Gerry.
“Where’s yours?” Gerry replied.
Symon glanced down at his garb, partly to answer him. He wore the suit of a maritime soldier, composed of light, breathable leather armor and large clasps for quick dismantling should he fall into the water. Not quite the clothing which allowed pockets for storing personal articles.
“Oh, right,” Gerry admitted. He handed Symon his spyglass.
Symon lengthened the scope as he turned back to the porthole. He raised it to his eye to scan the coast.
The lone pillar jutting from the strip of land moments before suddenly dominated Symon’s view. Every detail magnified, from the straight edges of its crenellations to the polished helms of the soldiers marching its parapets, the number of whom had increased threefold since their departure. With the landmark as his reference point, he panned the tip of his spyglass down and to his right, setting his sights on the cliffs stretching underneath the stone colossus.
Unfortunately, the Sirens’ Cavern eluded him. Due to the flagship’s current position, simply too many spires and arches stood between them and the cliffside of Terran.
Symon handed the spyglass back to Gerry. “I can’t find him. Doesn’t mean he can’t see us.”
“You worried?” Gerry asked.
“Bout, bout what?”
The slurred question came from behind them. Gerry turned, though Symon did not.
“Nothing that concerns you,” Symon stated flatly.
“You don’t know that,” Ely sputtered with a bottle in hand. Though the water had calmed, Ely managed to crash into the wall to his left. He fought to maintain balance as Gerry rushed to his side.
“No!” Ely pointed his finger at Gerry. “No. Not you. You’re the reason I’m like this.” He raised the bottle to his lips and somehow still managed to spill on his shirt.
“Me?” Gerry stood back, astonished.
Symon sighed. This again.
‘You, you took her. You put a baby inside her. So, I put a drink inside of me.”
“Twas my right!”
“Gerry,” Symon warned. “Your voice. You’re King this time around, remember?”
“Right. I’m needed on deck. Maybe if the guardship sees the king himself, we can hurry home.”
“Why?” Ely hiccupped. “What waits for us there?”
What indeed? Symon mused.
“Say as little as possible. When in doubt, nod and listen. Tell all who ask of your command you must take time to consider the wisest choice. Do not let them press you for an answer, no matter how loud they bark or roar. Hold your ground, brother. Stay the course.”
Gerry gulped. Ely glanced at him, then Symon. For once, his trademark snicker did not come into play. He withheld his eye-rolling and smirking too, for the scene before them proved too serious – even for the likes of him – to incite an airy reaction.
Companies of soldiers patrolled the wharf. Symon counted three in his view, each four wide and six deep. The crowd before them parted. Such reverence for men-at-arms typically occurred closer to the castle grounds. Here, on the wharf, a grouping of soldiers nearly always had to muscle their way through the rough folk who worked and braved the docks. Though not today. Out of respect – or fear – the commoners allowed the troops to pass, their eyes lingering on them in their wake.
The same collective sense of caution met them at their dock of arrival. The royal detail had doubled in size from the one which saw them depart. Moreover, an armored carriage awaited His Majety and the new queen, a vessel more befitting for a sovereign in a war zone than royals in peacetime.
“Your Majesty,” Sir Everitt said as he came to Gerry’s right side while Symon and Ely – in their disguises – fell back. “I did not approve of this.”
“My grandfather, then?” Gerry queried.
“Aye, I suppose. Though I insist on questioning the royal driver and the carriage attendants before we depart.”
Symon eyed the crossbowmen at the railing, with Captain Danyll and First Mate Josson among them, ready for their next order. Every one of them stood on the starboard side, their sights facing the very men supposedly assigned to accompany the royals. The strength of their focus, of their apprehension, spoke volumes of the fear awaiting them onshore.
As the plank wedged into position, Sir Everitt moved to conduct his inspection. All eyes fell on him as he approached the royal driver. A handful of Voiceless knights and castle officers joined those two, swelling the gathering around the armored carriage.
“Symon,” Gerry began. “I have a feeling about this . . . A bad one . . .”
“Do as Symon told you,” Ely urged. “He knows what he’s saying.”
Gerry offered a glance in Ely’s direction. He turned back to Everitt, who withdrew from the carriage to march back up the plank.
“See you in Terran,” Symon stated, as he and Ely fell away.
They watched as the Right Captain returned to Gerry’s side, to whisper into his ear. Too low to hear from their positions, the uttering was brief. Gerry nodded and pointed to the royal chambers in the aftercastle. Together, the two marched into the quarters, to return with Queen Taresa a short time later.
“What say you, brother?” Symon asked Ely as he watched the Captain and First Mate exchange a few words with the king and queen. “What new trouble is all of this?”
“This isn’t just from the news of the continent,” Ely whispered. “Even if all we endured made its way home, and somehow became embellished, the people would never be so unnerved. Something happened here. And not unrelated to the affairs in Afari, to be sure.”
“Aye.” The one time King Fool had to be right, Symon thought, is the one time I wish to Mar you were wrong.”
Symon and Ely departed last from the flagship, to follow in the wake of the security detail. The entourage of guards and soldiers crowded the width of the dock so much so Symon wondered if the wood would hold their weight. Hold it did, though a few creaks unsettled his faith in the pilings and their boards.
The trip from the wharf to the castle grounds turned out to be quicker than expected. Whatever efforts the castle guards had taken to clear the path of onlookers had worked, for crowds lay only at the fringes of the road, with none dallying before the procession. Symon suspected the multitude of heavy cavalry archers among the column had everything to do with the clearing, for such mounted units rode the length of the parade, their eyes keen to the movements of the crowd. More than a few times they paused, raising their bows and nocking their arrows as they scanned their surroundings in search of threats, both real and imagined.
Only when the entourage came upon the barbican’s drawbridge did the column slow, with the guardhouse captain and his men ready to meet His Majesty. Sir Everitt, atop his steed, departed from the side of the armored carriage to have a word with the captain.
“We’ll never make it through with Gerry and Taresa,” Symon noted. All in the procession had stopped save the carriage, which crawled forward to the head of the line. “The guards will let them pass ahead – as expected – while the lot of us will be searched.”
“Very well,” Ely said, scanning the crenellations above and the guards who watched from their perches. “To Terran.”
They marched to their underground lair with nary a word to each other. An occasional murmur from the passing common folk assailed their ears until they moved on past the city walls, where the sounds of distant wave breaks and chirping birds became their only aural companions. Only when they squeezed into one of the narrow openings of Terran did the familiar clang of armor meet them.
“My good man,” Ely perked, though Symon sensed the melancholy of his tone. “How good to see you.”
The Voiceless stared Ely up and down as a second, then a third knight, emerged from the shadows.
“Good Mar,” Ely gasped, hand to his heart. “A little warning would be nice.”
Ignore him, Symon signed. As always.
The Voiceless, considering Ely’s expression and Symon’s reaction, glanced over his shoulder and signed. It’s them, he motioned.
They strode the passageways into Terran, Symon noting the fresh troops at guard postings interspersed more closely than when they had left. With their visors raised, some bore the façade of squires, a mark of the untested which nary sat well with Symon. Both he and Ely forewent stopping in their rooms to proceed to the underground bailey, where a cacophony of grunts and clashes awaited them.
There, encircled by a ringlet of five Voiceless in padded sparring armor, stood Dawkin.
He breathed deeply, his hands on his thighs as he shook the sweat from his brow. He glanced up at his companions, the entrance of his brothers gone unnoticed, as he urged them to attack. “Again!” he commanded.
The five rushed in at once, thrusting their weapons forward. Though the tips and edges lay wrapped in padding, Symon still shouted. “Don’t!”
The directive came too late as the points drove inward to their mark — five at once. An impossible volley of strikes to escape.
Which Dawkin managed to avoid nonetheless.
He ducked out of range of three points, his padded sword blocking the other two. Sweeping to his far-right, he moved from the center of the circle to its outer edge, to take on one knight instead of five. He disarmed the one Voiceless easily enough with a two-step incursion, then moved on to the next knight, who exchanged three parries with Dawkin before the king found a weak spot below the pit of his right arm. Emboldened, Dawkin rushed to engage the other three. A bold – and stupid – move, which ended with Dawkin on one knee, his sword swept from his hand.
“Brother,” Ely said as he broke through the training scene, ignorant of Dawkin’s combat folly. “That was impressive.”
“Then why am I unarmed?” Dawkin pressed.
“You may have lost, but it was in grand fashion.”
“A loss is a loss in battle.” Dawkin took Ely’s extended hand as his brother helped him to his feet. “Welcome home.”
“Hardly a warm welcome,” Ely said, noting the Voiceless around them. “What in the hell happened?”
“Yes. What?” Symon interrupted, holding the padded sword Dawkin had just lost. He untied the leather wrappings around its blade. “These aren’t sparring weapons. These . . . These are from the war armory.”
“The war armory?” Ely repeated, puzzled. “We have one?”
“These arms haven’t seen the light of day since Father’s time, when the Century War ended. You dare use them now?”
Dawkin waved Symon off, withdrawing from the fighting circle to a bench where a few waterskins lay. Symon, not relenting in the conversation, met Dawkin at his seat.
“Dawkin. Answer me,” Symon insisted.
“No sense in confirming the truth you hold in your hand.”
Dawkin gave Symon a wry look before glancing toward Ely.
“Don’t look at me. He’s a bit sour, I admit. But honestly, I’m a tad curious myself. Best to answer.”
“You sure you want the whole truth now? You’ve only just returned. Don’t you want to rest, regain yourselves?”
Symon studied Dawkin. Something about his brother struck him as off.
With the side of the sword, he tapped Dawkin on his right shoulder. Dawkin winced.
“I knew it,” Symon replied. “You’re fighting injured.” Symon tossed the sword to the nearest Voiceless, who barely caught the weapon by its hilt. “Now, tell us what happened.”
Three solid hours passed uninterrupted. In that time, Dawkin – under the influence of truth serum – revealed all which had transpired since his three brothers set sail. His mind spilled forth into the waiting ears of his two brothers, who nearby on stools, listening. By the end of Dawkin’s monologue, Symon found his concentration spent, his mental strength drained. Even three strong cups of memory tea could not prevent the headache he endured by the end of Dawkin’s deluge.
Dawkin proved worse still, arising from the reclining sofa in the Fourpointe Chamber as though bruised and battered all over.
“Maybe . . . you should . . . rest,” Ely suggested as he battled his own throbbing.
“I’m fine,” Dawkin insisted, though his hoarse voice told otherwise. “I have to return to the bailey. To train.”
Symon perked in his chair. “Dawkin! You’re hardly fit to speak, let alone resume sparring.”
“I just laid down for a few hours.”
“For a truth session! That wasn’t rest.”
“Bugger off.” Dawkin waved his hand toward them as he shuffled toward the door.
Symon, as mad as he was dumbfounded, turned to Ely. “We have to stop him.”
“I need a drink. Tis not right to feel this migraine without the benefit of spirits.”
“He could hurt himself.”
“He already hurt himself. Never mind his stubbornness. He’ll try his hand a few more times, then tire out and go to bed.” Ely shuffled over to the end table to pour himself a drink.
Symon sprang from his chair. He made for the door, making it only a few steps before the full weight of the truth session weighed on him. He paused – though his head didn’t – to lean against the wall.
“See!” Ely boasted with a goblet in hand. “Dawkin will fare little better.”
Ignoring his slight, Symon braced himself as he trudged forward.
“You say I’m mad!” Ely cried after him. “Better mad than stubborn. You two are a pair of arses, you know that?!”
Good Mar! Symon thought through his headache. Turn him into a Voiceless, I beg of you.
Ely’s jests faded as Symon made his way back to the underground bailey. With each step, his wooziness faded as his equilibrium returned. By the time he entered the expanse, he almost felt normal.
He couldn’t say the same of his brother, who had taken to practicing spear thrusts with a figure of straw and burlap. The Voiceless there had dispersed, leaving Dawkin to grunt and struggle alone.
Symon slowed his approach to study his brother, who paid no attention to his menacing presence. So, Symon rounded him. He came to the bench where the waterskins lay to grab one.
Then, with his right side to Dawkin, he waited.
Dawkins shouted a war cry. His blade ripped through the burlap skin of the mannequin, splicing straw before striking the wooden skeleton within. Dawkin grunted as he pulled back his shaft, drawing the spearhead from his target. He cocked his arm, ready to repeat the attack –
Before the cold leather of a waterskin slapped his face.
He slashed his spear in Symon’s direction. “What the hell?!”
Symon, far out of range, offered a blank stare in return. “Me?”
“Yes, you, you rotten bastard.” Dawkin raised the butt of his spear and hurried toward him, ready to club him –
When another waterskin collided with his nose.
Dawkin’s free hand went to his face as Symon rushed in. Before his brother could react, Symon had disarmed him of his spear. Enraged, Dawkin grabbed the waterskin and lodged it at him. Symon, his façade as blank as ever, deflected the leather flacon with a swing of his new spear.
Dawkin clenched his fists. But before he could charge, the tip of his spear met him, inches from his chest.
“You need rest,” Symon insisted. “You have passion; I give you that. However, your stabs lack precision, your form is sloppy, and above all, you’re predictable.”
“Well . . .” Dawkin began, reddened. “What do you expect? I’ve been at it for hours.”
“Which is why you need to stop. Or at least meet me halfway and slow a bit.”
“Weren’t you listening?! The whole of Marland has gone mad. Fanatics roam the streets, terrorizing both nobles and the common folk with their random attacks, while gold fever hypnotizes the rest of the country. I’ve never seen anything like it. And then the news from Afari, which seeps in from every sailor stepping onto our docks, only adds to the mania.”
Symon lowered the tip of his spear. Dawkin, panting, turned away as he ran his fingers through his hair. The whole of him had become a far cry from the man they had left on the wharf of Arcporte weeks earlier. That version had been a scholar, a king of reason and thought, capable of sifting through a world of chaos while all others sunk with fear.
Now, though . . . A soul unsettled stood before him. A mania had overcome Dawkin, removing all sense of the practical. Symon believed it stemmed from the events of the past few weeks. Or perhaps, it was due to something more sinister?
Darkness without cause.
Symon forced the possibility from his mind. He set his sights on Dawkin, even as his brother looked to and fro.
His brother stared back at him.
“Show me what you found.”
He nodded. Then he led Symon to the castle dungeon.
The pair strode in silence. Dawkin focused on the ground before them, as if careful to watch the loose stones and not trip. But Symon knew something else resided in his mind. He considered speaking first, though decided waiting until they reached their destination would be better.
Two Voiceless waited outside the cell deep within the underground prison. With a glance from Dawkin, the knights proceeded to unlock the door with a giant key, one half the length of a forearm. The pins within awoke and groaned, their metallic sigh echoing down the length of the tunnel. With all their weight, the two knights pushed open the iron-banded giant.
Upon entering, Dawkin motioned to a single small barrel the size of a babe. It lay in the center of a chamber large enough to house a full-fledged leviathan, with portholes cut into the vaulted ceiling to allow in shafts of light. Symon peered into the shadows, half-expecting to find more barrels stacked against the walls. He spotted none.
“This is all that’s left?” he motioned to the barrel.
“I told you we sunk the rest of it,” Dawkin snickered.
Symon frowned. The truth session still fresh in his mind’s eye, he recalled Dawkin’s snippet about the cache of barrels the magistrates and their patrols had discovered, part of a smuggling operation orchestrated by the Lost Souls. Dawkin had overseen the disposal of the illegal cargo, which involved a small fleet of flyboats sailing to deep waters. There, Dawkin and a handful of Voiceless had loaded the barrels into nets weighed by stones they then tossed overboard. Dawkin had reported saving a sample of the cache, one he believed captured the might of the cargo:170Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡfCzp1DIc0n
A single, puny barrel.
“Were all the barrels this size?” Symon asked.
“And tell me again how many?”
“A total of two dozen intact. We figured another eight was part of the cache, which the Lost Souls used in their attack once we uncovered their plot. That includes the two they set off on the dock, the ones I told you killed the magistrates and their patrol . . .” Dawkin’s voice trailed off as he knelt before the barrel.
Three magistrates, five soldiers dead, another magistrate and six soldiers wounded. The planks and piling of an entire dockside blown into the harbor, while the stone length of a quay lay reduced to gravel. As Dawkin’s words reverberated through his mind, Symon struggled to wrap his mind around the power of the blast. Dywar’s Tears and oreflares in such small batches had the potential at best to dislodge rock and crack stone, unless aged for long periods to allow their properties to settle and mature. At least that was how Symon remembered the mages explaining it to him.
“You ever seen a torn body?”
“What?” Symon asked.
“A corpse, his personage mutilated.” Dawkin had drawn a small knife from the cuff of his sleeve, positioning its tip into the edge of the barrel’s lid, ready to pry it open. He paused to look up at Symon. “You’ve seen your men bloodied and bludgeoned when you led the Battle of the Chesa. We were there for the Battle of the Riverford. We’ve seen the casualties from the punctures of spears and swords. Or the cleavings from axeheads and halberds. The shafts of arrows in our troops, both those who survived and the ones who fell. All horrible atrocities to witness, without question. Yet none as frightening, so ghastly, as seeing innards strewn, tissues butchered and flayed. Parts fully removed. A leg here, an arm there. Then there are those faces, with eyes looking back at you, ingraining their trama into your soul.”
Symon knelt before Dawkin. “Brother.”
Dawkin stared at him, blankly.
“What is it you fear?” Symon asked.
Dawkin wedged his blade into the lid of the barrel to open it. He dipped the tip of his knife into the pitch-black liquid inside.
“Dawkin,” Symon continued, hoping the moment to connect with his brother had not passed. “Whatever you saw on the streets, no matter the threat you faced, we, your brothers, are here now. We can help. We can battle this evil together.”
Dawkin glanced at him. “That worries me the most.”
With a flick of his wrist, Dawkin flung a drop of the dark substance at the dungeon wall. The solid mass erupted in a flash of orange light, spewing rocks and dirt back into their faces. Symon shielded his eyes with his forearm as he leapt back to stand straight. Dawkin merely glanced away from the blowout while he remained kneeling. A plume of smoke rose above them, from one shaft of light to another, as the Voiceless guarding the door entered in a panic.
Dawkin extended his hand. “‘Tis fine. A small demonstration for my brother here. As you were.”
Puzzled and perhaps a bit perturbed, the Voiceless nodded before withdrawing from the chamber. Symon, even more astounded, turned to Dawkin.
“I should have warned you, I know. I only wanted to show the full might of what we’re dealing with, so I felt it best a moment of surprise was in order.”
“That . . . Is what happened on the streets?”
“At times, yes. Grandfather allowed Mage Wystan and his apprentice to have one vial, so they may conduct their experiments, while I did some tests of my own. We came to similar results. Best as I can figure, the color of the blast depends on what the substance comes in contact with, whether diluted in some other liquid or the object it encounters when dispensed. Or both.”
The blasts from his wedding night, from the encampment consumed by fire to the destruction of the castle tower, overwhelmed Symon’s memory. As did the annihilation of Castle Seylonna.
“No potion known to us can account for this devastation. And yet somehow, in our ignorance of alchemy, a ship carrying enough to level Arcporte made its way into our harbor.” Dawkin leaned in to whisper as if there were others around to listen. “We captured a few Lost Souls, who believed foolishly in the power of sanctuary. We plucked them from the Cathedral, and those not brave enough to fight or too cowardly to slit their throats we locked away in cells for an inquisition. With Grandfather’s reluctant approval, I wrote notes in his hand, inviting the most dangerous Century War veterans to pay our guests a visit.
“Using their methods of persuasion, the Lost Souls confessed: The contents of the barrels were meant for Highmoorr Castle.”
Symon’s eyes widened. Not so much at the ploy. But upon hearing it for the first time.
“You withheld this from your truth session?” Symon asked, astonished.
“To answer the first, with a bit of practice, truth serum can be overcome. In smaller doses, some of the time.
“As for the why . . . The incident on the Curved Wharf inspired people to talk. Bits of gossip about the Lost Souls wafted up to the barons who remained in Marland during your wedding. They pieced together a conspiracy aimed at the next Conclave of Barons, though the details of what would occur vary from manor to manor or tavern to tavern. Now that the whole Court has returned with your fleet, the rumors will only fester. No baron will dare meet at Highmoorr Castle once they know of the plot, whether real, imagined, or otherwise.
“Consider if they knew the truth, of the potency of the liquid the Lost Souls tried to smuggle, of how the potion could level any castle or even whole neighborhoods of Arcporte itself. The presence of the Lost Souls already unsettles our subjects. And then there’s this business of Fool’s Fever, with gold suddenly appearing in the countryside. Just one more mess – like this added threat – would turn the barons mad.”
Symon glanced down at the small barrel. “Who else knows?”
“Other than you and me, only Grandfather. I made sure those who helped me interrogate the Lost Souls had their share of fading potion. I couldn’t risk them going off like Ely to some tavern to spill their guts about the confessions we pulled.”
“Dawkin, you should have told us this during your truth session. Including Ely. Such an omission goes against our oaths, the very laws of Terran –”
“Forget our oaths! The laws don’t apply to us anymore. Father made them up to keep us in line, part of some fairy tale about how we were special and had to be protected as babes and all that nonsense.
“Listen to me, brother. We are Terran. The Law. Arcporte. Hell, the whole of Marland. We represent the four corners of our island – a kingdom that stands threatened on every side. I’ve seen the mania in the countryside, in the streets, on the docks. Barons and peasants brawl for a single nugget of gold. Mobs flog heretics sent from Mar knows where. Neighbors spy on neighbors, wondering when the other will lose their sense and go mad.
“And yes, all that has affected me. Me, the smart one, from this ragged family forced to hide in the shadows decades after assassins nearly wiped out our kin. So I have acted, training by day while in disguise by night, torturing and questioning our prisoners in between. Because without that action, my expressed determination . . . I fear . . . we’ll lose more of ourselves . . . much more than we already have.”
Dawkin fitted the lid back onto the barrel. The stout container wiggled under the weight of Dawkin’s hands. Symon instinctively knelt to help, but Dawkin waved him off as he finished, before slowly rising. “So you can see why a bit of fatigue and some bruises are of little consequence to me.”
Symon stood in kind, his sights never leaving the barrel until he came level with Dawkin. In the dimness of the cell, the low light enhanced the languor sown into his face. The heavy eyelids. The parched lips. Those sunken eyes.
“None of this is you, Dawkin. Your brilliance has left you. The, what is the word? Reason. You are without reason.”
“Logic is for the realm of libraries. Through hard lessons, I’ve learned that. You of all people should know. How many have you seen fall in your battles? Dozens? Perhaps by now hundreds?”
“They died with honor. But torture –”
“Is it not torture to burn by this fire in the streets? Or to suffer poison? Stabbing? And then attend the funeral of it all?!”
Dawkin’s reference to their father was not lost on him. Hell, at that moment – with his brother’s fatigue suddenly vanished – he even looked like him. The set jaw. The narrowed eyes. Along with something more –
The desire for reprisal. The hunger born out of wrath. The vengeance.
“We need a resolution to these events,” Dawkin continued, “which I know all tie together. With you three back home, I can finally stop acting through Grandfather and emerge from Terran as the king this country needs.”
“I’ll call an emergency session of the Fourpointe Chamber. The three of us will vote for you to stay bound to Terran until you return to your senses. If the Voiceless can’t restrain you, then the rest of us will.”
Dawkin turned deadpan. “You’ll do nothing of the sort.”
Symon opened his mouth to protest further. A quivering suddenly overtook him. First in his lips. Then his hands. Followed by the shaking of his knees.
“Can’t talk? A fish on your tongue?” Dawkin sighed. “I didn’t want to do it. However, I knew you would speak the loudest against me once you learned all the trouble I went through in the absence of you three. I considered withholding the revelation of Marlish events from you altogether. I knew such secrecy would be far from right, though. We’ve had too much of that in our lives, wouldn’t you say?”
“You . . . When?” Symon spat out.
“Just a dab of fading potion on the rim of your cups, the kind Mage Wystan mixes with herbs to induce deep sleep. I knew the memory tea would mask any hint of taste.”
Symon sank to his knees, holding onto the ground as the cell around him spun.
“The ill effects will subside soon enough. You’ll close your eyes soon, as will Ely. The two of you will even wake refreshed, a full day after Gerry returns and I ascend.”
“How . . . could . . . you? You?!”
“Ely did it a half dozen times to us as adolescents. Don’t you remember? You even tried your hand at it once, though I spat out the brew because your ingredients were off. And how many doses have we given Gerry over the years, to calm his nerves after every time Father chastised him?” Dawkin patted Symon on the back. “Yes, it’s unlike me, I’ll admit. It’s a good thing, I assure you. It signals I am ready to do what is needed. You’ll see.”
Darkness overtook Symon as he fought the weight of his eyelids. They won as a curtain fell over his hearing, the fading echo of Dawkin’s footfalls like an audience applauding the end of a play.170Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡhndccDQwZB