“There is too much,” read the Viscount from what Rookh had written on his piece of paper. He looked at Rookh, shrouded in the darkness of the cellar, and asked, “too much what?”

“... what?” said Rookh, and took the paper back, and wrote one additional word down on the paper, which Price read: “EVERYTHING.” He squinted back at the Naga, trying to understand. “You want there to be less— to be fewer things in the world?” he asked.

“...world,” said Rookh, but he violently shook his head, side-to-side. Price tried again. “You want there to be fewer things around you?” Rookh’s head only shook harder.

“...you!” said Rookh, agitated. “Well,” said Price, beginning to be exasperated, “what do you want?”

“...want?” said Rookh, and then said it again, as he took the pen and wrote another word on the paper. “Want?” Price looked, and saw that Rookh had written, “NOTHING!” underneath the word “EVERYTHING.”

Price closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Rookh,” he said, but Rookh interrupted, hissing loudly, and pointing at his face. When Price opened his eyes, Rookh’s arm was still outstretched, and shaking slightly. It was unnerving.

“What?” he said, loudly. Rookh hissed more, withdrew his arm, and wrote “WANT” on the paper.

“What do you want?” asked Price, again, and Rookh jabbed his finger toward Price’s eyes again. Price narrowed them.

“How morbid,” he said. “...morbid,” echoed Rookh. “You don’t mean ‘you want me,’ do you—? you want my face, is that it?” asked Price, but Rookh rapidly wrote, “No!” on the paper, and Price frowned.

“You want my eye—no? My eyes?” Price leaned back, as Rookh extended his finger just that much further, but then he steeled himself and let Rookh actually come in contact with his skin. Rookh’s finger touched his eyelid, and then quickly withdrew his hand, and pointed at his own eyes.

“Theesse,” hissed Rookh, and unexpectedly retreated, hiding himself behind a wine cask.

Price blinked. He imagined Rookh’s skin with Price’s light-colored eyelids, and rubbed his eyelids as if to reassure himself that they were both there, and going to stay there. “What,” thought Price, “is wrong with his eyes, that he wants my eyelids?” Suddenly, he replayed, in his mind, all of the (few) experiences he had had when Rookh was around, and couldn’t remember in any of them if Rookh had ever blinked. He blinked several more times, as if processing the thought, and held the light he had been carrying up in front of him, as he rounded the corner, to find Rookh huddled, hiding his face from the light—or trying. Price raised the light higher, and looked closer, verifying what he had begun to suspect, just moments before: Rookh had no eyelids.

He shaded the light for the sake of Rookh’s eyes, and muttered in a low, disgruntled voice, “Well, that, we cannot let stand.”

He straightened. “Come, Rookh. We are all nothing, but if you can’t help but see us as something more, then there must be a correction made. I have darkness within me, and mayhaps airing the darkness within us will allow you to withstand seeing the world without blinders on, but if not, we will have you covered.”

A thought struck him, and he smiled, darkly. “After all,” he said. “This is Hood Mountain.”

 

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