Peregrine Dart fell at the lifeless body of the man he loved. A distant voice faintly echoed against the layer of wool that seemed to surround everything. Jemis would have an Old Shaian word for it. Hearing his mistake, disconsolate questions came unbidden to his mind. Was it his fault for asking Jemis to come to Orio City? Had he missed a sign that could have saved them? Why in the Lady’s name did he not make more time, not express his love more often? How could he not have understood what Jemis had been planning? As he began to wonder why no one ever mentioned the guilt that fills a soul in mourning, a sound ruptured the stark silence of his thoughts.
It was Hal. The only person who could possibly feel this pain . The unsolicited thought tasted like ash, as he sat with the futility of comparing grief. Hal’s voice a muffled plea, he turned back to Jemis and stared as if the tension would be broken by the welcome sound of a sneeze. The room dripped, instead, with the silence of things left unsaid. The agony of a broken heart was quietly deafening.
“Perry, please,” the sotto voce desperation and pain carried in the sound of his name broke him out of his dissociative musing. “We have to keep moving, the gateway is closing.”
A voice—his voice—spoke in indistinct monotone, “We can’t leave him here.
“Hal,” this time louder, despair unmasked, “we can’t leave him here.”
As though further sound might betray their escape, the two men carried their best friend out of Orio Prison. Wordlessly joined by Violet when the weight became too much. Stepping through the gate, linked by hands and by Jemis, they fell into the hunting lodge of the King of Lind. Into someone’s bedroom. Serendipity seen fit that it be someone Jemis had befriended at Morrowlea. Surely if that kind of coincidence were possible… In a spark of hope, he turned to his Jemis and called for him.
The weight of a hand on his shoulders gave way to Hal’s embrace. Propriety forgot, Mr. Dart wept.
Thoughts of a grief-stricken mind are rarely organized, often drifting to observations that wryly mingle comedy with sadness. That he had twice lost his right hand since Jemis had returned to Ragnor Bella was ants at a picnic, an unwelcome visitor. In a room full of people, Perry was alone.
They should have been celebrating Violet’s reunion with Ruaridh. They should have been laughing at the precarity of their escape. Did they remember Jemis’ hat? Oh, Lady! The last thing he had said of consequence around Jemis was his confession. Had Jemis died thinking him resentful? How was he to break the news to Major Greenwing? The Greenwings were supposed to survive things like this. Jemis was supposed to be alive. He had never told Jemis his true feelings, not after that oblique rejection. Drifting in and out of time, he watched as the sun made its slow march across the sky. Had a whole day passed? Jemis was well and truly gone. Head pounding, stomach churning, his thoughts coalesced into a forlorn prayer, and from that prayer, he met sleep.