Childermass did not tarry on the road but hurried himself and Vinculus to the nearest inn: a small, shabby public house on the outskirts of a dour village. It suited his purpose, being out of the way and nearly deserted, and he sought a room immediately.
His gaze crept over to Vinculus as they waited for the landlord to be roused. Vinculus was still wrapped in the blanket, but a brush-stroke of blue ink could be glimpsed beneath his collar. Childermass stared with academic appetite.
Childermass turned to find the landlord peering at him crookedly. He coloured. "Two rooms."
His consideration proved his undoing. He thought to give Vinculus his rest (seeing as the fellow had nearly died) and left him while he secured his own room. He sent a serving girl to fetch all the paper and ink that could be laid hands upon and then let a polite hour pass before looking into Vinculus's room.
Vinculus's empty room.
Alarmed, he rushed downstairs...only to halt when he saw who was holding court with cards in front of the fire.
Vinculus caught sight of him and gestured expansively to his new friends. "Next round's on him!"
He left his room in the small hours of the morning, determined to catch Vinculus asleep. The rain had moved in, tapping lustily at the roof as he crept down the hall and opened Vinculus's door.
There was a lamp lit within, providing just enough light for Childermass to perceive naked skin. It was, however, dim enough that it took the full length of a second for him to realise that he was not seeing one form.
The serving girl, astride Vinculus's lap, turned to stare at him.
"Join in or get out!" Vinculus bellowed.
Childermass beat a hasty retreat.
Five o'clock in the morning seemed more promising. It was an hour he was well-acquainted with, as was the serving girl, and only Vinculus was snoring away as the sun rose.
Childermass peeled back the blankets, gazing upon the full wonder of the writing on Vinculus's form. With near-trembling hands, he took up his quill and wrote a heading for his transcription: "Right Shoulder."
Vinculus rolled over, snuffling in his sleep.
Undaunted, Childermass scratched out the heading, replacing it with "Left Arm."
Vinculus rolled over again and then undid the next heading with a bout of somnolent scratching.
They were simply astonishing. Childermass's pen flew over the paper as he drew each symbol—character?—letter?—with keen-eyed devotion. The ink moved, he now perceived. It pulsed subtly with each beat of Vinculus's heart, and the rhythm of it was infectious, making his stomach and hands throb.
"At least make yourself useful while you're down there!" Vinculus spat, straining at the ropes and lifting his hips lewdly off the bed.
Entranced, Childermass refused to rise to the bait. "Hold still for an hour," he said, a smile of contentment upon his lips, "and I will see what I can do."