Silas turned his head and regarded the silvery dog that had just appeared on the tomb beside him with blank incomprehension. He was tired, and his side still ached deeply. A sluggish black trickle seeped out, making his shirt and the waistband of his trousers sodden and tacky.
"You have let the boy alone too long," said Miss Lupescu, and her voice had the ringing echo of distant hunt. She stretched and then laid her head daintily on her massive paws. “I come to fetch you for him.”
"I was under the impression Hounds of God did not join the realm of the dead," Silas said mildly, and shredded a marble wingtip which seemed to have broken off beneath his fingers. Well, the inhabitant of this tomb would not likely notice the defacement of his final resting place for some decades yet.
"No," Miss Lupescu agreed.
Silas was not entirely sure of the appropriate response for this particular situation. Before, he might have taken her hand, or laid his own upon her silken head. He had missed the warm smell of her fur and her blunt speech. To say nothing of her sharp teeth, which would have been a boon beyond measure on these last few hunts. But he now saw stars through the pale sheen of her coat, and there was no scent to her fur besides that of wind.
“And yet,” said Silas, “here you are.”
"Bod called upon the Grey Lady,” Miss Lupescu told him, teeth flashing pale in the moonlight. “And for his sake, she bid me return."
There was a long silence, during which Miss Lupescu's tail thumped once, soundlessly, not disturbing the drift of dead leaves that had collected in the eaves.
"I see," Silas said finally, pondering the late supper he had obtained before stopping at this cemetery. Potentially his supper had been on a psychotropic drug of some sort – the man had stumbled away afterward, shaking and confused, but that was not unusual. Still. It was feasible. Silas tended to be fastidious about his meal choices, but this evening he had been in a hurry; it was possible he had failed to notice the alteration of flavor that came with wormwood or opium. Perhaps it had been one of the modern substances. Acid, he thought. Ecstasy. But no, surely if that were the case the pain in his side would have ebbed.
“It is not possible," he said, able to come to no other conclusion. The Grey Lady was at the beck and call of no being—dead, living, or otherwise. Not even a grey-eyed boy whom she had chosen as a partner for the last dance of the macabray, one winter's day ten years before. “You are mistaken.”
The dog lifted her head and one wisp of an ear raised slightly. Silas looked away. She was right. Silas was not surprised so much as dismayed – Bod had a knack for quietly and carefully working through any problem he set his mind to.
"The Lady wore a red blossom, today. Not white," the hound told him. "Hibiscus, she said. Red as blood. Bod planted and tended them, had it blossom among the dead. She heard his call and came to dance."
From the shadows of the Old Town clock tower ten years earlier, Silas had seen the boy in the arms of Death, a cluster of white flowers pinned to his new grey sweater. He had worried then, watched and worried, but Bod had never mentioned the Dance Macabre within his hearing again after that first night, which for a boy with as many questions within him as Bod was saying something indeed.
Still, many times after that day, Silas had heard snatches of the song whistling through the trees just before twilight. One to leave and one to stay.
Silas was silent a moment longer, staring down at the shadows of an unfamiliar Czech cemetery, the small comings and goings of the dead folk below. Looking back over the dark winding road of his existence, he found nothing to help prepare him for this moment.
"I suppose I should have known," he murmured. “Where?”
“Bahamas,” Miss Lupesco said. “Small island, one graveyard.”
There had been the murmurs among the mist-walkers of a great coldness that had spread over a tropical sea, snow falling on a small island where coral shallows met the deeps; Silas should have known then that Bod had been involved.
"If you do not mind my asking, said Silas dryly, “I would appreciate knowing how Nobody Owens could call down the Lady and ask such a favor of her.”
"Nimini finds friends in strange places," the hound told him, thumping her tail once or twice more before continuing. "A daughter of a Yuki-onna is with him. Hana is her name."
"I had not realized Bod travelled to Japan," Silas said, turning this new information over in his head. A snow woman's daughter. He supposed that would serve to bring winter to a Caribbean world, if only briefly. “Snow would not be enough,” he said, frowning. “It must have been more.”
Then it came to him. “Snow and his own blood.”
He wondered if he had ever been so angry, in all his years – foolish, foolish boy.
“Yes, and a candle to light the way,” Miss Lupescu said, unbothered, and Silas bared his teeth.
"What Bod has done is dangerous," he said, and his voice cast a deeper chill over the graveyard, an upwelling of icy air which spilled out into the surrounding neighborhoods and made the living shiver. Silas was no snow woman, but they were his kin. "He may have lost worse than his life in such a trade."
"No keeping Death from that one," Miss Lupescu replied, and now her ears flattened. "Nor danger. Grew up on the borderlands. You know this. A new type, Bod is. Not solitary. More living than dead, but still he walks in the places between. You cannot change this.”
The Bahamas were several nights from this town, or Silas might have flown off at once. He would not feel at ease until he had seen the boy for himself, heard the blood still running hot in his veins.
“It was foolish nonetheless,” said Silas, baring his teeth. “To tread such a dangerous road.”
“Stupid,” the wolf snorted. “You know this: to exist is dangerous. There is no safety. There is only to stand and guard, to watch and aid. To be alone without need, that is foolish."
Any other being would have bristled. Silas just said calmly, "Bod is not alone. I have eyes upon him, even now – though if he has managed to perform rites to call down Death without any of them alerting me, perhaps I should reconsider the magnitude of his ability to place himself in danger's way."
"I do not speak of Bod," Miss Lupescu said in a tone Silas recognized from her first meeting with Bod. He considered whether to be offended by this. "You know why Bod calls down Death?"
"I do not," Silas replied, and he allowed that he perhaps sounded a bit sulky. He looked away from the wolf and towards the east, where the deep black of the night sky was beginning to give way to a bruised purple. Bod was thousands of kilometers in the other direction, and the sun was already rising. A sigh came from beside him and then an insubstantial snout was nosing his side, licking at the puncture there. The cool brush of her tongue was easing the ache of his wound somewhat, and so he allowed it. There was no chance of infection passing between them, now.
"You are a difficult type to find, Silas Drinker," Miss Lupescu said, leaning back and licking her chops. She flattened her ears at him when Silas bared his teeth again. "Yes, you begin to understand. He searches for you, and you do not come – you think he would not seek you out?"
"It has been only a short time since he saw me last." A statement uncomfortably close to a protest. Miss Lupescu looked as unimpressed at this as she had at Bod's statement that he had not meant to dump her borscht down the back of a crypt – it had only slipped from his grasp, truly.
"He worries; for all you are difficult to track, there are whispers, and your journey among the Fair Ones is known to many."
Ah. He supposed Bod would take exception to hearing of that.
"I did not perish," Silas pointed out. He had lost the tips of two fingers, but that was a small price to pay to put an end to their trade in children and young pregnant women. "Surely that news also has traveled amongst the night folk."
"You disappeared, is all was known. Even among the Honor Guard."
Silas considered this and hunched his shoulders slightly.
“I… had thought it better he finished growing on his own,” he said quietly. Bod had a life to live without him. He had spent enough time in shadow. Better to not have Silas hanging over him like a shroud, Silas had decided. He had not dogged Bod’s steps across the globe. Not in person, at least.
“I think your type is not so easy either,” the wolf said stubbornly, and she who had always named the types of people in discrete lists now seemed willing to blur the boundaries. “Solitary, not so much, not for some time. You do not do well alone.”
Silas placed a hand over the hole in his side and remained silent.
"You are lonely," Miss Lupescu said gently.
"My kind do not feel loneliness," Silas replied coldly, and then thought of how each evening he woke expecting to see someone waiting outside his resting place, be it belfry or mausoleum or shallow grave dug in the frozen earth. Each evening he felt a strange jolt at the absence of a familiar scent. He had woken expecting to be greeted with questions for the last ten years, only to be met with silence.
Nobody Owens would disappear from this earth in less time than it took Silas's heart to complete one beat. The time he had spent with Silas had been shorter yet, and still Silas looked for him automatically when he raised his head with the falling sun.
He tested the word again. Lonely. To be alone, to find solitude unpleasant. Perhaps the term was not so foreign as he had thought.
He felt Miss Lupescu place a paw upon his thigh, lighter than mist and yet somehow Silas felt the weight of it to the core of his bones. The sun was rising, and Silas could barely see her now, could barely keep his eyes open.
"I go now," he heard her say over the crackle of daylight in his skin. "I tell him you will come."
"Yes," Silas said, and descended into the shadows of an unfamiliar tomb to wait for the light to fade. He had waited many countless years in the darkness. He could wait one day more.