“What exactly is this?” Prain asks while kicking over yet another charcoal blackened piece of wood.
“I’ve never been to these parts before,” Brand admits while turning in a circle in order to take in the sight.
“If memory serves, this should have been a small outpost just outside of Glass Gate,” Gall surmises. “Twenty years ago it consisted of barely a dozen buildings. They called it Quess for some reason.”
“Well it’s much larger now,” Brand mutters as he stares out over the expanse of ash and wood. There is not a single structure left standing more than a meter high.
“You mean it was much larger,” Prain corrects him. “Face it, this town is dead. What do you suppose happened to it?”
“I’ve never seen anything like it.” Brand continues to stare in awe.
“It must have been a ghoul uprising,” Gall surmises. “The damned creatures saw a chance to strike and they took it.”
“I didn’t realize they could be so… organized,” Prain is equally impressed and disturbed.
“Ghouls are no less intelligent than the creatures they descend from,” Brand explains. “With more and more people getting turned, they are only getting smarter. I don’t know why they decided to demolish a whole town but I can say this; it wasn’t for food. They gained nothing but the satisfaction of knowing they destroyed an entire town. These fires were actually probably lit by the townspeople to scare them off. I'll assume several of them tried to flee.”
“Do you think they made it?” Prain is hopeful.
“If they weren’t picked off in the forest one by one after the town was destroyed,” her father is brutally blunt, earning him a stern glare.
“This is just too sad,” Prain adopts a disheartened expression. “Why would they do such a thing? Ghouls have been amassing in the forests for years. If this wasn’t out of desperation for food, then why?”
“Something about this town upset them,” Brand surmises. “They have always avoided it or been forced to avoid it by something. Perhaps it was the preferred hunting ground of a particular bloodsucker. Once the bloodsucker finally moved on, the ghouls decided to demolish it so people braving the forest would have no place to stop.”
“That doesn’t make it any better.” Prain crosses her arms. Brand can't help but smile at her. She has always been overly sensitive to the suffering of others. As a demigod, he is on a completely different level than normal humans and he often forgets that all life is precious. Watching the young girl he’s known since she was a child helps him pretend he is normal. He can emulate normal human emotions better when she acts like this.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Prain gasps as Brand wraps his arms around her from behind, resting his head on her shoulder.
“I'm trying to see this from your point of view,” he whispers.
“Um, okay…” she stutters nervously while blushing. Her father is ignoring both of them. He seems almost intentionally oblivious of their actions from time to time.
“This would have been the inn,” Brand mutters as he stumbles through the ashes of another building, pushing Prain ahead of himself as he goes. “Here was a stable house for animals, and here was a brothel.”
“A what?” Prain’s eyes widen at the mention of the derogatory word.
“Uh, nothing.” Brand clamps his mouth shut.
“No, you said something weird. I don’t know that word,” Prain spins around on her heels to face him, almost causing him to fall backwards in the process.
“It’s better if you don’t know everything,” Gall mutters without tearing his attention away from the remains of the building he is examining.
“Wait, you know what he said?” Prain turns her curious stare on her father.
“Of course he knows what a brothel is, that’s where he met your mother,” Brand spouts.
Gall rises to his feet immediately, giving his master an icy glare. “Is that true, Father?” Prain does not realize that Brand was joking. Gall does not dignify his daughter’s question with a response. Brand sighs with relief when he realizes that his vassal will not be taking revenge on him for his thoughtless comment.
Suddenly the demigod lurches forward though. Prain manages to catch him before he falls. She presses his head into her shoulder again while turning a worried face toward her father. “It’s happening again,” she moans.
“Dear god,” Gall’s expression is one of pity. He can not imagine the pain his master is going through. It is not simply physical; he is losing the closest thing to family members that he has ever known. “Who is it this time?” Gall asks solemnly.
“I… I think it’s Husk,” Brand sighs while clutching his forehead. “I feel hot all over. I think he may have been burned alive.”
“Come on, he’s got to be around here somewhere.” Gall begins to dig through the rubble of the buildings. He stops when he unearths a trove of bodies both ghoul and human. He tries to cover it up again but Prain has already seen it.
“What is that?” she demands. “How many are there?”
“I, I don’t know.” He shrugs.
“There are dead people in these ruins,” Prain moans.
“Well that’s to be expected,” her father tries to calm her.
Despite being a vassal to a demigod and being a fully capable warrior when fighting ghouls, she still can't seem to stomach the idea of human bodies. “Why do we come to these places?” she whines. “I don’t like it here.”
Gall tries to sooth her as best he can. “I know, dear. I know, but…”
“No you don’t know. I want to leave!” she snaps at him. “Let me leave this place.”
“Quit being so selfish!” Gall loses his temper. “Look at your master and tell me he is in any condition to ride? He will not recover until we find Husk’s body and lay him to rest properly.”
“So now we dig through the piles of corpses,” Prain whimpers.
“We do whatever it takes,” Gall’s voice is stern.
Brand slips from his vassal’s grasp and sinks to the ground clutching his forehead. He can practically feel the sensation of lightning coursing through his body and his bones snapping under the weight of Arma Sorn. By far it is the most painful death of the three. Whoever is killing his comrades is a violent person and they are only getting worse. He has to stop them before they kill every last one of the nine.
“Come on you two, wake up,” Nuve calls into the back of the carriage while turning his head sideways so he can see the path ahead of him and the two children in the back. It is midmorning and the sun is visible high in the sky. The forest is behind them and there are no ghouls chasing them anymore. Nuve has been up all night steering the carriage while Seamus and Row have been sleeping.
“Where are we?” Row groans groggily as she wipes her eyes on the sleeve of her dress.
“We’re not far from the capital now,” Nuve informs her. “Look, you can see the white walls of Glass Gate from here.” He directs her attention toward the view in front of them.
“Wow.” Row’s mouth hangs open as she gawks at the magnificent city. It is larger than either Bos Stad or Massmede. In fact, it puts her home town to shame. Lord Glasstien is a much wealthier lord than her father ever was, with more territory and more citizens. “Seamus, wake up.” She taps her servant, who still holds the appearance of a child.
Slowly Seamus rises to his feet, almost effortlessly. He wobbles from side to side as the carriage jostles about but he remains standing. “Seamus?” Row is starting to worry. He grabs and lifts Arma Sorn in his left hand while brandishing the coil of wire still wrapped around his right. His right eye is flickering silver while his left is flashing bronze. “Seamus?” Row squeaks in a terrified voice.
“Lucious Corwin, you stand accused of feeding on your fellow human beings!” Seamus shouts at Nuve, who is still facing forward.
“What?” the confused driver turns his head sideways again. “How do you know my father’s name?”
“You have caused the death of sixteen people that we know of, Lucious, including your own wife,” Seamus continues to rant. “By the rights of the nine I have permission to execute you. Do you have any last words?”
“What’s he doing?” Row asks Nuve while trembling.
“He’s talking like Husk,” Nuve realizes. “This is exactly what he said to my father the day he executed him. The memory both Wan and Husk share is overlapping.”
“He thinks he’s Husk and you’re Lucious,” Row sputters. “He’s going to try killing you.”
“He’s only sleepwalking,” Nuve assures her. “If you can wake him up, everything should be fine.”
“How do I do that?” Row panics.
“I don’t know; hit him I guess,” Nuve answers with a shrug. Row tries to slap Seamus across the face but his hand moves faster. He blocks her with Arma Scov and swings Arma Sorn at Nuve’s head simultaneously. The ghoul hunter is skilled enough to dodge it but the carriage lurches in the split second he loses control of the reins. Seamus sways from side to side but remains standing.
“That didn’t work,” Row whines.
“Remind him who he is,” Nuve gives another suggestion.
“He doesn’t know who he is,” Row admits. “He has no memory save for the last few weeks.”
“Ironic; considering the fact that he looks like a child again,” Nuve chuckles. “Wait, why doesn’t he remember who he is?” His expression changes to a serious one.
“Lodar did something to him,” Row answers.
“Well doesn’t he have the Golden Clairvoyance now? Can't he do something about it?”
“He has no idea what he has forgotten. How can you look for something you don’t know?” Row shrugs.
“Wait, how long have you known him for?” Nuve’s eyes light up with a new idea.
“About five years.” Row tilts her head in thought.
“What if he reads your mind?” Nuve suggests. “He can at least remember every moment you two were together during, right?”
“Well…” Row looks extremely reluctant.
“What’s wrong? You want him to regain his memory, don’t you?” Nuve asks.
“He and I didn’t always get along,” Row admits. “He’s been so much nicer to me since he lost his memories. I don’t want to lose that.”
“What?” Nuve is taken aback. “Is that what this is all about? Could it be that you thought of doing this a long time ago and just didn’t mention it? God, bloodsuckers can be so selfish. I mean, yes it’s amazing that you’ve even grown to be able to emulate jealousy and pettiness but you lack the morals that would help you overcome them and do the right thing.”
“What are you saying?” Row’s eyes narrow. “Are you telling me his memories are more important than the way he treats me right now? I am his master, he should worship me.”
“And now we’re back to the blatant selfishness of a bloodsucker,” Nuve groans. “Alright, let me try this again. Who were your parents?”
“Why ask this now?” Row raises an eyebrow.
“I want to know if you were spawned by two bloodsuckers or if you are technically part human.”
Row shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter. Bloodsuckers are like parasites. Their blood does not become diluted over generations. I'm full bloodsucker.”
“Maybe there’s a small hint of humanity in there somewhere,” Nuve argues. “Try to think about how humans act. Summon the emotions they use to guide them.”
“Shut up, Seamus already tried this once. I'm not wrong. The same way a servant gives their life to their lord, Seamus has given his life to me. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have human emotions; I’d still demand his loyalty.”
“Selfish lords often think that way, but some of them feel the need to earn their subjects loyalty and respect. They have more morals than…”
“Maybe I don’t have morals,” Row cuts him off. “Maybe I'm just like those selfish lords who demand obedience without earning it.”
“This is why I hate bloodsuckers,” Nuve sighs. “No sense of pride, no sense of humility. All they are made of is the instinct to feed and to survive. Answer me this, bloodsucker; is there anything you do care about?”
“I… I don’t know,” Row stutters. “Sometimes I really wish there was.” She is staring up at Seamus who is still standing in the carriage, wobbling from side to side as he manages to keep his balance.
“Maybe you care about him,” Nuve offers hopefully. “Please, can you see what’s happening to him? He has no identity and the memories of three demigods boiling inside him. Without some sort of anchor he’s going to go insane. Be his anchor, Row. Show me that you care about at least one thing in this world besides yourself.”
Row looks like she is about to cry. “Fine,” she whines. “I'll let him look into my mind. How exactly will we do it though?”
“Think fast.” Nuve tosses the reins at Seamus. Instinctively he drops Arma Sorn to grab them. Nuve manages to slap him on the side of the face but quickly has his hand encased with silver wire in response. “Alright, Lodar, I know you’re in there.” Nuve leans his face close to Seamus’s. Slowly the glow in his eyes begins to change from silver and bronze to yellow. “There you are.” Nuve smiles at him.
“What’s going on?” Seamus’s voice deepens as he channels a different demigod.
“I need you to read the bloodsucker’s mind,” Nuve instructs him. “Try to regain some of your host’s memories. He needs an identity or Wan and Husk are going to destroy him.”
“As ingenious an idea as that is, it could cause more problems than good. If I take in all of the bloodsucker’s memories then her identity will be added to the three he already contains.”
“I'm banking on him recognizing himself,” Nuve explains. “Only take memories she has of him.”
“I'll try but I must warn you, this body does not have the same control over Arma Venture as I had. It will be very sloppy work compared to my elegant style.”
“Quit bragging about yourself and do it.” Nuve yanks his arm free of Arma Scov before taking the reins back.
Finally Seamus sits down, causing Row to sigh with relief. She is immediately startled again though as he grabs her hands and links their fingers. “This will help,” he mutters as the remaining shards of Arma Venture begin to grow out of his forehead again.
“I'll never get used to that.” Row cringes. Suddenly she jolts away from him as images of her childhood begin to flash in her mind. She can see herself growing up in the lonely castle at the edge of Massmede. The most common image is her mother’s face. She starts to shudder as the memory of her escape from the castle five years ago reemerges.
“Here we are,” Seamus whispers as she reaches the memories of arriving in Bos Stad. A smile spreads across both of the children’s faces as they remember the day they first met. “Wow, he can really move,” Seamus is impressed with his own actions when he tried to scale the walls of the blacksmith shop in order to escape becoming Row’s servant.
“That’s you, silly,” Row laughs. “I was faster than you, wasn’t I?”
“You have an unfair advantage,” Seamus reminds her. “Wow, did I really do that?” he gasps as he remembers the many times he insulted her simply because she was a bloodsucker.
“You were so mean to me.” A frown spreads across Row’s face.
“I know.” Seamus touches her cheek. “Look at all that blood.” He is in awe of the memory of fighting Rashad. “That’s Champaign, isn’t it? She rescued us.”
“She was my guardian.” Row starts to snivel. “I miss her so much.”
“Now this is interesting.” Nuve turns his head to watch. “This creature’s got more emotions than I thought. Maybe Arma Venture can implant some proper feelings in her brain.”
“Not without her consent,” Seamus’s voice deepens again as he channels Lodar for a moment. “Arma Venture can not control people more prominent than its wielder. No demigods, no vassals, no lords, no royal bloodsuckers.”
“Huh?” Nuve raises an eyebrow. “I’ve never heard that term before. How exactly does a bloodsucker become royal?”
Lodar has already retreated into Seamus’s mind again though. “Wow,” Seamus sighs as the images finally stop. “I can't believe how much we’ve been through together.” He squeezes Row’s hands.
“You were a horrible servant.” She holds her nose in the air pompously.
“Wait, you’re not mad at me for things I only just remembered, are you?” He frowns.
“You never apologized,” she argues.
“Well there’s no need to apologize now,” he counters. “It’s in the past. We’re adults now.”
“You sure don’t look like adults,” Nuve snickers while bringing the carriage to a stop.
“What’s wrong?” Seamus turns to stare out of the front. His jaw drops when he notices the gigantic white wall directly in front of them.
“Welcome to Glass Gate.” Nuve waves his arm in a presenting motion.
“We’re really here.” Row’s eyes light up excitedly.
“I have to ask, are you two planning on living here?” Nuve is skeptical.
“Isn't it a perfect place for bloodsuckers and ghouls?” Seamus asks.
“Just because it has a higher population of them does not mean they are welcomed with open arms. If the city watch finds out who you are, they’ll have you locked away or killed.”
“I didn’t expect you to be so worried about us.” Seamus smirks at him.
“I'm more worried about what you will do to innocent people in your mad quest to survive,” Nuve admits.
“Then you better make sure that doesn’t happen… Father,” Seamus emphasizes the last word to remind Nuve of his current role.
“I can't pass for a grown up,” Nuve whines. “I'll be your older brother, is that okay?”
“Just think of something fast, the welcoming party is here.” Seamus gestures to the fact that a small door has opened in the gate so several armed guards can investigate.
“Isn't it strange that we just arrived out of the blue?” Row asks nervously.
“Dozens of travelers enter and leave Glass Gate daily,” Nuve assures her. “We’re just a small group of refugees.”
“You there, on the double,” a loud guard in shiny white armor waves them over to the opening in the gate. Once inside they can see that the surround wall is actually made up of two separate structures. They are in a sort of limbo area between them. The walls are so tall that they can not even see the sun. The white walls reflect the light from it like daylight though.
There are many more carriages, wagons and coaches also being examined by the guards than just theirs. Rows upon rows of people are being lined up before being allowed to advance past the second wall and into the actual city. “Down and out,” the loud guard orders them. All three quickly disembark. “Reason for visiting?” he asks suspiciously.
“Have you heard? Quess was overrun by ghouls last night,” Nuve spouts quickly.
“Ah, more refugees.” The guard’s expression softens. “Right this way.” He leads them into a separate line behind several other people. Most of them look tired and downtrodden. Several are holding burnt remains of their belongings.
“Are all these people from Quess?” Row asks in a low voice, not wanting to draw attention from anyone.
“Some are refugees from other areas,” Nuve answers. “Ghoul attacks are happening all over, not just in Quess. Glass Gate provides a safe environment for these people in exchange for cheap labor.”
“That doesn't sound fair.” Seamus frowns.
“You two are no different,” Nuve informs him.
Slowly the line advances as one group at a time passes through a checkpoint before being allowed through another small opening in the second wall. “Alright, this is your house.” The loud guard reappears when they reach the front of the line. He hands them a piece of paper with directions scribbled on it.
“Our house?” Row gasps. “We have a house?”
“The sale of your two horses and your carriage covered most of the expense,” the guard explains. “You will have to work to pay off the rest though. Feel free to take the week to settle in though and look for a proper job.”
“Thank you, sir.” Nuve bows. Soon they have been shuffled through the checkpoint.
“Wow,” Seamus and Row are both equally impressed with the sight that meets their eyes; an entire city hidden behind the high white wall. Each building is touching the next, leaving so space between, something neither of them have ever seen before.
“Come on, this way.” Nuve leads them down a cobblestone street. “I'm afraid you’ll be living in the slums,” he explains as they walk. “Your neighbors will mostly be refugees like you but that doesn’t mean you should trust them. Everyone is down on their luck and out of money here. If you leave anything of value unguarded, they will take it.”
“And you say bloodsuckers have no morals,” Row mumbles. Seamus turns to look at her with an intrigued expression. He is beginning to believe that humans are not so much better than bloodsuckers. In fact, he has met more morally corrupt humans than he has even met bloodsuckers.
“So this is our house?” Row stops walking as soon as she spots the tall stone building, set directly between two others. Seamus jerks his head to look as well. It is obvious to Nuve that he was staring at Row before. “Why is it so tall?” Row asks.
“To save space,” Nuve explains. “You won’t have much space on each level but there are four separate floors. By the way, this isn’t a castle. There is no room for a tower stairway. You will use an iron ladder to get from floor to floor through trapdoors in the ceiling.”
“This really is the slums, isn’t it?” Seamus frowns once again. Despite being just as amazed by Glass Gate as Row, he is not quite as excited to actually experience it first hand.
“I'll leave you two to get settled in while I head into the market area for a bit.” Nuve turns to leave.
“What do you mean settled? All of our belongings were in that carriage,” Seamus reminds him.
“Yeah, I had a trunk full of at least four different dresses,” Row whines.
“Your stuff should be along shortly. The guards just have to make sure you’re not smuggling anything into the city,” Nuve explains.
“Smuggling?” Row cocks her head. “What exactly would we be smuggling?”
“Anything of value,” Nuve answers. “Gold, for example. Despite the best efforts of all of the territorial lords, the value of gold is not universal. The price of an expensive piece of fabric could be twice as much in Lord Ironglave’s territory as in Glass Gate. One of the simplest ways to earn money illegally is to buy items and resell them across the border. Then you simply have to smuggle your gold back in and repeat the process.”
“I still don’t understand the whole smuggling thing.” Seamus scratches his head. “Can they really do anything if it’s your gold?”
“They can detain you and tax you if they find you carrying large quantities,” Nuve informs him. “One of the best smuggling rings I ever saw was run by a man named Delik. He would come to the city with nothing but a wagon and leave with tons of gold. Any guesses on how he did it?”
“Obviously the wagon was made out of something valuable,” Seamus surmises.
“That’s very good.” Nuve nods. “The axels and spokes of the wagon underbelly were made from copper. Once inside the city he would take them to a smelting factory and have them melt them down into copper coins. Then he’d take them to the treasury and trade them up to their proper value in gold.”
“Isn't that counterfeiting though?” Row asks.
“Basically but the price of copper is about the same whether it’s in the form of a coin or not. The real problem was that he used the gold he got to buy more copper wagons from a man across the border who made them for less than a fifth of the price.”
“How is that possible?” Both Seamus and Row have become absorbed in his story.
“The man lived on a part of land rich in copper deposits. He could pull it out of the ground for almost nothing. It was cheaper for him to build his wagons out of it then to buy iron from a supplier.”
“But he could have just melted the copper down into coins like Delik,” Row interjects.
“There are several reasons why he probably didn’t,” Nuve assures her. “First of all, he may have had higher morals than our friend Delik. Second of all, he may not have had the means to actually shape it into coins like Delik did. Finally, and this is most likely the real reason, he probably couldn’t sell the copper without everyone realizing what a rich depository he lived on. He had no way to protect his claim, just like prospectors searching for gold. The only thing keeping him from being driven off his own land was the fact that no one actually knew its real worth.”
“That’s a stupid reason,” Seamus grumbles.
“Well it’s the truth.” Nuve crosses his arms.
“Stories are supposed to have meaningful endings. You can't just say something boring like that. What’s the real reason he didn’t just trade the copper to someone who could do something with it?”
A smile spreads across Nuve’s face. His opinion of Seamus’s intelligence is growing. “You want to know the real reason? Fine. The price he sold the wagons for was nearly triple what a wagon should cost. He made a fortune just selling them to Delik without having to get his hands dirty at all. Is that a better answer?”
“That makes sense.” Row and Seamus nod contently.
“Well I feel like a father teaching his kids a life lesson,” Nuve laughs. “Oh great, you’ve made me late. I really need to get going now.”
“Where are you going?” Seamus is curious.
“To relax a little,” Nuve answers with a yawn. “I’ve been up all night and I need some rest.”
“But there are beds right here.” Row points at the house.
Seamus grabs her hand and pulls it down. “That’s not what he’s talking about,” he whispers.
“Then what does he mean?” Row raises an eyebrow.
“I’ll explain when you’re older.” Seamus pats the back of her hand condescendingly.
Row’s face turns red with anger. “I’ve told you a thousand times, I'm older than you are. Besides, you look the exact same age as me now, so we’re even. Just tell me where he’s going!”
“You really don’t want to know,” Seamus is trying to keep from smiling. For some reason he finds it extremely adorable when she is mad at him. She looks like a child throwing a fit. How is he ever supposed to take her seriously when she resembles a twelve year old?
Row looks like she is about to hit Seamus just for laughing at her. “Tell me now!” she demands.
“There is a place men like to go for fun when they don’t have wives yet,” Seamus whispers. The redness in Row’s face moves to her cheeks as she realizes what he is saying. “Do you understand now?” Seamus asks. Row nods slowly as a frown spreads across her face. “What’s wrong?” Seamus is suddenly worried. “I didn’t mean to upset you. He might not be going there actually. Is it really such a bad thing if he is?”
“Not him,” Row mutters. She looks like she might start crying at any moment.
“What did you say?” Seamus cups his ear. “Not him?”
“It’s not him I'm worried about,” Row raises her voice slightly. “Have you ever been to one of those places?”
“Me?” Seamus is taken aback. “I’ve never had the chance to. My mom knew the women who worked at the brothel in Bos Stad so I couldn’t have gone even if I wanted to. Since I left I haven’t had the chance.”
“If you had the chance, would you go?” Row’s eyes are filling with water.
“I don’t think they’d let me in,” Seamus tries to laugh while spreading his arms to show that his shirt barely fits anymore. His sleeves have to be rolled up just to stay above his wrists.
“Men who aren’t married go there to have fun,” Row repeats. “You’re not married.”
“Well no, but…” Seamus tries to respond but Row interrupts him.
“Do you plan to marry someone someday?” she asks bluntly.
“That’s a very serious question,” he gulps. “I haven’t really given it much thought since we fled Bos Stad. I’ve just…”
“What about before we left,” Row cuts him off again.
“I don’t have any memory of that, remember?” He stares at her sadly. “Everything I remember comes from times we spent together. To be honest, I know you better than any other girl. If I had to choose someone I would be married to…”
“Stop.” Row holds up her hand.
“Why?” Seamus takes a step towards her. “You’re thinking about it as well, I can tell.”
“You don’t have your memories, Seamus. You have my memories of you,” she reminds him. “Any feelings you associate with those memories are mine.”
“You’re right.” Seamus’s eyes widen in realization. “This is amazing.”
“What? What?” Row’s interest gets the better of her.
“Everyone says that bloodsuckers don’t have any feelings but I know that’s a lie now. I have memories of everything you felt when we were together for the past five years,” he explains. “It’s incredible. You try not to show it but you’re chalk full of feelings. You get jealous when I talk to other girls. You get angry when I make fun of you or say bad things about bloodsuckers. You… you loved Champaign like a mother.”
“Please stop.” Tears are falling freely from Row’s eyes now. “I don’t want to think about these things right now.”
“Then what do you want to think about?” Seamus asks calmly.
“I don’t know,” she whispers while staring into his eyes.
He moves towards her again, causing her to step back. “Just let me do this,” he begs. She shakes her head rapidly. “Why not?” he is visibly upset. “I can't tell if these are my feelings, but they’re the only ones I’ve got.”
“Do you think I'm pretty?” Row asks while blinking the tears out of her eyes.
“What kind of question is that?” Seamus frowns at her. “Of course I think you’re pretty. A blind man could tell you are pretty. You have the palest skin, the softest hair, the pinkest lips I have ever seen.”
“My dad thought my mom was pretty too,” Row responds oddly. “She seduced him, did you know? She used his status as a lord to hide from Turok for sixty years. She had three monstrous children with him and made sure he never had any other children with his concubines. She effectively ended the bloodline of human Ironglaves. What do you call that?”
“Something a monster would do,” Seamus answers honestly. “I think I understand now. You don’t want to do what she did.”
“Exactly.” Row nods.
“Does that mean you’ll let me go to a brothel whenever I want?” Seamus spouts suddenly.
Row is utterly shocked by his request. “Hold on a second, I thought we agreed that…”
“You can't have it both ways.” Seamus smirks at her. “You can't tell me not to go if you’re not my wife; or at least my fiancée. You have to make up your mind.”
“But, but, but,” Row starts to stutter. “I can't decide something like that so suddenly. I need to think about it.”
“You have until I return to my proper age,” Seamus continues to taunt her. “After that, I'm asking Nuve to show me around.”
“Fine!” she shouts.
“Fine what? Fine, I can go to the brothel? Fine, you’ll marry me? Fine what, Row?” Seamus’s voice suddenly trails off as a serious expression spreads across his face.
Row can tell that something is wrong. “What is it?” she asks while dreading the answer.
“I think I just remembered what my mom looked like,” he mutters.
“What do you mean?” Row is confused.
“You only met her a few times,” Seamus explains. “She’s in these memories but I didn’t realize who she was. She’s the angry woman who didn’t want you staying over when Champaign led the expedition into the forest.”
“I remember her.” Row nods. “I think she was one of the people Lodar took control of…” Row stops mid sentence as Seamus’s eyes shoot open. “Oh no,” she whispers as she watches the pain spreading across his face.
“She killed her,” he mumbles. Row doesn’t respond. She has no idea what to say. “Champaign killed my mother,” he raises his voice slightly.
“I'm sorry.” Row tries to touch his arm.
“Don’t.” He slaps her hand away. “I think I'm gonna be sick.” He promptly turns his head and vomits on the ground. To his right he can see his sword leaning against the building where Nuve left it; the same sword he has been carrying this whole time, the same sword that struck down his mother. Row starts to rub his back to comfort him but he moves away as soon as he can. “I need a moment to process this. Let me walk around the city and clear my head.”
“You will be back… won't you?” Row is worried. Seamus is unable to answer her. He honestly doesn’t know where else he would go. She is his entire life now. In fact, he wants nothing more than to seek comfort from her; to hug her and let her console him.In the back of his mind though he can't help but blame her. A lot of what has happened to him in his life is due to her being a bloodsucker. Why couldn’t she have been a normal girl? Why couldn’t he have met the actual daughter of an actual blacksmith that day and started an actual friendship. Why did everything have to happen the way it did?