Chapter Fifty-Two

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Guin's stomach twisted sickeningly as she stared down at the cocoon of silver wire. Thesul. She'd accidentally brought Thesul with them.

She considered slapping herself in the face, but decided it wouldn't be very productive.

"We weren't sure what to do with him. Can't budge the wires," Kip said, coming to stand beside her and Lorn. "So we just sorta... left him."

"I wanted t'toss 'im in one o'them streams," Droom grumbled, reaching out and taking Mogra's plump hand in his. "See 'ow long it took 'im t'drown."

"As tempting as Mr. Ironsong's proposition was, we thought perhaps you aught to decide on that," Zolga said, easing herself into a sitting possition. "Seein' as you two are in charge."

"Thanks a bunch," Guin muttered. All of the exhilaration and relief she'd felt moments ago had vanished, replaced with a deep, gnawing dread. Her head throbbed, like a demon was banging away at the inside of her skull with a mallet. "This is just bloody brilliant, isn't it?"

"I like Mr. Ironsong's idea, personally," Lorn ventured, glancing sidelong at Guin. "I find it rather a inspired notion."

"I won't object," Talon spat.

Guin groaned and rubbed her forehead. "It won't work. He won't drown."

"An 'ow d'ye know that until ye try?" Droom asked, jutting out his chin. "Might take a'bit longer'n most, but--"

"Because I saw inside of him, okay?" Guin snapped. "Back in the city, when I was--when I wasn't myself, I saw how he's made, and he can't die, do you understand? If you lop something off, it'll grow back. If you crush him, he'll heal. Chop off his head, it'll come back and bite you! That's the only reason I didn't tear him apart!"

Her words came out much louder and harsher than she'd meant them. They echoed into silence, as sharp and shocking as the sound of shattering glass. 

The others all stared, saying nothing. To Guin's horror, for the briefest of instants, they looked afraid. It was only a tiny flicker in their eyes, but it was there, and it hurt. It hurt more than she would have imagined. 

Guin hugged herself tightly and forced her voice into something resembling normal, calm speech. "Look, I can't really explain what happened in Alavard. It all sort of feels like a bad dream. I'm not sure I was really--in full control. But I know what I saw was true. He's too old, he's had too much of whatever the hell is in that 'fountain', and it's made him into... into something way worse than a monster." 

Slowly, Lorn nodded. "It's alright, Guin. We understand."

"Do you? Really?" Guin snapped. "Because I sure as hell don't." She threw up her hands in helpless frustration. "I can't believe I brought him with us. I'm such an idiot!"

Lorn sighed and shook his head. "Guin, stop blaming yourself for everything, will you? We'd all be dead a hundred times over if it wasn't for what you did. And honestly, when you think about it--is it truly a bad thing that he's here, and not back in Alavard?"

Guin blinked. "Um, excuse me?"

"He's bound, Guin," Lorn explained, a cold little smile slowly spreading across his face. "If you had left him behind, his people would have found and freed him by now. This way, we more or less have him prisoner."

Guin raised her eyebrows. "I didn't think of it like that."

"Can he hear us, d'you think?" Kip asked, nervously eyeing the motionless bundle. 

"Oh, every word," Talon affirmed with a grim nod. "He can smell the blood in our veins, hear our very hearts beat. This beast in a man's skin possesses all the senses of an advanced predator. It's what he is."

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