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Chapter 11 - The Curious Incident of the Knight in the Library by A.J. Hall

“I leave you here,” the King said. “My brother detests being upstaged. Whatever he has planned – and he has not shared his thoughts with me – my presence would surely be an impediment.” He paused beside an unremarkable door. “You should know, however, that the Palace possesses numerous chambers and passages of which our visitors are unaware. You will not see me, but be assured, ma’am, I shall be close at hand.”

Her mouth was dry. Oddly enough, it was the prospect of seeing her brother again which caused her the most profound dread, not the thought of entering the room where Lady Diana had died or the threat of whatever the Crown Prince held over them.

The King reached out and clasped her hand. “It is hard for you, I know. But, with many things one dreads, the reality is often less harsh than one fears, and over more quickly.” His expression became sardonic. “In any event, it is not you at whom my brother will be directing his batteries. But have a care. Don’t be caught in the cross-fire. Stay close to John, should trouble happen.”


“John Watson. The Crown Princess’ physician. A man of unparalleled honour. And courage. When the annals of these days come to be written – ” The King paused. “No matter. I am not, you understand, expecting trouble. But death breeds death, and my brother – has a nose for death.”

She shivered. His smile aimed to reassure but his troubled eyes belied the intent. On impulse, she stretched up to her toe-tips and kissed his cheek. His eyes widened; he seemed, for the moment, about to say something, but then he ducked his head, turned the handle of the door and slipped inside. Elizabeth proceeded alone into the library.

The great inlaid table had been removed. It left a space in the end bay which was now fringed by a half-circle of chairs. The appearance was that of a stage set for a Court diversion; not an elaborate masque but something more intimate, like juggling or fire-eating. Or, she thought grimly, the telling of fortunes.

The only person in the room, a sandy-haired man in surprisingly plain and well-worn robes, rose, bowed and handed her to a seat on his left hand side.

“John Watson,” he said cheerfully. “You are Mrs Pickering, I presume, ma’am? We were supposed to meet at dinner yesterday, but Sherlock had me running all over the city. I should be used to it by now, of course, but somehow I never seem to remember how very little time he allows for anything else. Like food. And sleep.”

Before she could say anything, the library door opened and Frances stole in; apparently from the stables, to judge by the mud on the petticoat visible beneath her gown’s hem. Elizabeth shot her daughter a minatory glare, and Frances, perceptively, sank into the chair beside her without a word.

The door opened again to admit Mr Hatherleigh and Jenkins, both of whom looked first flustered and, then, inordinately relieved to discover they were not the last to arrive. Jenkins seemed horrified at the thought of being invited to sit in the presence of the quality, but John Watson would hear no argument and at length Jenkins accepted the seat on one end of the semi-circle, sitting on the extreme edge of the chair and biting his lips.

Elizabeth gave a welcoming smile to Mr Hatherleigh and waved an inviting hand towards the chair on Frances’ far side. Having been absent from their lodgings when Dimmock arrested her yesterday (could it really only have been yesterday?) he was one of the few members of her party whom she was genuinely glad to see again. Poor boy! He was clearly taking Lady Diana’s death very hard; he looked as if the simple kindness of a smile was almost enough to snap him in two. Had the little minx managed to break his heart, as well as poor Jenkins’?

Speculation on the point was interrupted by the arrival of Dr Atherton, who greeted her in an abrupt and inexplicably awkward manner (How could she possibly have mistaken the King for him? A shadow, a wraith, a clay simulacrum) and took a seat on the other end of the semi-circle.

The final members of the party – Hector, the Viscount and the Conte d’Imola, trailed by Grace – arrived in a rush some moments later. Frances captured Grace and persuaded Mr Hatherleigh to move along one place, so they could sit next to each other. Elizabeth stretched her hand across her daughter to clasp Grace’s arm.

“Thank you exceedingly for everything you have done to keep the household running under such trying circumstances,” she said. “I particularly appreciated your efforts to ensure the windows were cleaned.”

Grace nodded, but if she had intended to say anything she was forestalled by a howl of outrage from the far side of the library.

“You insult me, sir, you insult me. Have you any idea who my father is, you demmed foreign bonesawyer?”

Elizabeth glanced across the room, to the source of the riot. The Viscount stood, gesticulating, his face bare inches from John Watson’s. It seemed the court physician had opted to assign the Viscount a chair next to Jenkins, who was, if anything, even more distressed by the proximity.

The physician leant forward to whisper something in the Viscount’s ear. Whatever it was, it had the younger man flopping down into his chair white-faced and without any further attempt at argument. For the next few minutes his eyes flickered between the physician and, oddly, Frances; his expression bordering on panic, his hand clenching and unclenching on the arm of his chair.

Elizabeth had had six months of the Viscount’s moods; peacocking displays, sulks, drunken rages and storming tantrums. She had never before seen him subdued (even when hungover, his natural arrogance somehow kept him buoyant) let alone intimidated. Nor could she understand how an unpretending court physician, lacking noble rank, could cow him so.

She slid a glance at her daughter but nothing about Frances’ demeanour suggested that she was anything but baffled, either. Not that she had long to consider it.

With a sudden scrape of chairs and clatter of heels on the polished floor everyone rose. The Crown Prince had arrived in the room, without forewarning or any hint as to how he had entered (The Palace possesses numerous chambers and passages of which our visitors are unaware, a voice in Elizabeth’s head reminded her.)

“Pray, be seated.” The Crown Prince’s voice was a cool drawl. He stalked to the front of the room, elegant in black taffeta full-skirted coat and breeches after the French style, a damascened scimitar swinging at his hip, very much after the style of the East.

He positioned himself against the bookcase and then looked down at the floorboards at his feet. He gave the tiniest start of reaction and, fastidiously, moved a foot or so to his right. Elizabeth, who thought most stage acting dreadfully overdone, admired his subtlety. Somewhere in the room someone inhaled, sharply.

“Thank you for coming here at such short notice,” the Crown Prince said, in English. “You are no doubt wondering why I have invited you.”

Most assuredly. Elizabeth, though, had not the slightest intention of enquiring. Hector, on the other hand –

“What news is there, sir? Has the monster who struck down that poor, innocent maiden been found?”

The Crown Prince looked at him up and down before, after a long age, responding.

“I hope to see that individual apprehended before the day is out.”

And, Hector, if you cannot see the threat in that, you are a bigger fool even than I fear. Once more a shiver ran down Elizabeth’s spine. She could not follow the workings of the Crown Prince’s mind – it would be a lifetime’s study for anyone. Still, the meeting – called on conditions of secrecy, only the members of the English party present – spoke to her deepest fear. As, for that matter, had the King’s unspoken but palpable anxiety earlier.

One of the people in this room is a murderer.

“In order to ensure that outcome, I have prepared an experiment.” The Crown Prince turned aside, dismissing Sir Hector, and beckoned to Frances. She rose to her feet with an alacrity that told her mother she had been primed in advance.

By the Crown Princess. In the stables. Much becomes clear.

“Miss Pickering is of very similar height and build to the Crown Princess, my wife. Lady Diana, also, was of similar height, and while she had a somewhat fuller figure the difference was not so great as to prevent any one of the three women from swapping clothes with either of the others. Miss Pickering is, in fact, wearing one of my wife’s dresses now, though not the one she wore on the night of the ball.”

He sounded distinctly put out; Elizabeth had a sudden, horribly vivid vision of her daughter telling the Crown Prince that, whether or not it wrecked his experiment, she would under no circumstances don the dress in which Lady Diana had been murdered.

“Still,” the Crown Prince continued grudgingly, “it is a reasonably close approximation.”

“Your point, sir?” the Viscount enquired.

“I’m coming to it. Our new head of Palace Security, Jerome Gregson, has suggested that Lady Diana – who was indeed wearing my wife’s dress at the time she died – may have been killed by an assassin in the mistaken belief he was striking at Charis.” His smile was grim. “For many reasons, I am reluctant to accept that theory. For one thing, I believe a House gets the enemies it deserves, and I hope and trust the royal Houses of Gondal and Gaaldine combined have earned a better class of assassin than such a blunder would denote. However, Frances – Miss Pickering – has kindly agreed to help me establish whether such a mistake would even be possible.”

At the Crown Prince’s use of his niece’s Christian name – not in the least a slip, if I know anything about that young man – Hector gaped in shock, and then took an enormous pinch of snuff to cover his confusion. He employed the next few moments shooting sidelong, suspicious glances at Elizabeth, which she took pleasure in repelling with an air of bland incomprehension.

“The next part of my account of the night may seem somewhat confusing.” Particularly to dullards like you hung, unspoken but not inaudible, on the air. “During the early part of the ball, Charis and Miss Pickering chose to exchange dresses. That led to unforeseen consequences, for both of them.”

The gaze he turned on the Viscount could have cut steel. The young man cowered back in his chair, plainly unable to speak. Elizabeth found her hands clenching on the lion-carved finials of her chair arms. No matter how things had turned out, had that arrogant oaf believed himself at liberty to offer insult to Frances?

“He thought to rob the dove’s nest and found the eyrie,” John Watson murmured into her ear, in Latin. The Crown Prince directed a silencing glare in their direction. The physician seemed remarkably unperturbed by it.

“Lady Diana Scoton was among those misled; on seeing me dancing with my wife she supposed – and to make matters worse, told her companions – that Miss Pickering was behaving with unsuitable licence for an unmarried woman. I was asked to assist in correcting her misapprehension.” He paused; a tinge of malice infused his voice. “I regret, my intervention was not an unqualified success.”

An understatement of the first water, that.

Despite the death and fear and pain of the intervening hours, Elizabeth’s recollection of Lady Diana’s outrage at discovering that Frances’ dancing partner was not merely impervious to her own charms but found her frankly ridiculous still had the power to force a betraying quirk to her lips. The Crown Prince – who clearly saw everything – flicked her the ghost of a wink, before returning to his exposition.

“While some might prefer to apply the maxim de mortuis nihil nisi bonum, I have to say her acts on being apprised of the true position did her little credit. She manufactured an argument with her chaperone, Mrs Pickering, ostentatiously put herself under the care of Lady Wardale and then, somewhat later in the evening, pressured Miss Pickering into offering to swap dresses with her. I presume, incidentally, this was on the express or implied understanding that Miss Pickering’s complaisance was a necessary pre-condition to any reconciliation between Lady Diana and Mrs Pickering?”

“Express, sir,” Frances said, white to the lips. Elizabeth restrained herself, with an effort, from commenting. Better leave that sort of thing to the Crown Prince, who had no need to cultivate the goodwill of anyone in the room.

“Thought so. In any event, she did not keep her side of the bargain; she escaped the scene wearing my wife’s dress and left Miss Pickering undressed in a closet. What happened to her after that –” He pursed his lips. “The curtains, if you would.”

This was addressed to two palace servants who, evidently on some pre-arranged signal, had entered the library. They bowed, and one pulled the heavy drapery over the windows, shutting out every shaft of daylight. The other lit a few lamps, though scarcely enough to do more than create occasional pools of light around the room. The end bay, in which they sat, was especially gloomy.

The Crown Prince handed something to Frances. Elizabeth glimpsed her daughter’s hands going to her face and then – nothing. Everyone gasped. The Crown Prince’s voice had an unmistakeable note of satisfaction.

“As you see, a woman in black, wearing a mask, would have been all but invisible in the library on All Souls Eve, until she chose to make herself known. A difficult target for an assassin. Furthermore, no assignation in the library could have been pre-arranged except by someone who knew it was Lady Diana he – or she – was to meet there. Lady Diana spoke not a word of Gondalian or Gaaldine, and her Latin would have disgraced a six-year old. No-one could mistake her for the Crown Princess once she opened her mouth.”

“Excuse me, sir.” Hector’s voice, but changed, thick and slurred. “I – I don’t feel –”

There came a crash as a chair overturned, the thud of a heavy body hitting the floor.

“Light!” the Crown Prince snapped. The servitors plucked back the curtains. Hector lay, sprawled, on the floor. Elizabeth leapt to her feet.

“Keep back,” John Watson commanded. “It may be an apoplexy. He needs air.” He dropped to his knees besides Hector, thumbing back his eyelids with one hand, feeling for a pulse with the other. Hector groaned, turned onto his side, and vomited.

“Tell me how you feel,” the physician said.

Hector’s voice was faint, wracked with pain. His laboured breathing could be heard from yards away. “Ice. Ice-water in my veins. And bells ringing. Oxford bells. Can’t someone muffle those damned bells? And I can’t see. Yellow mist, over everything.”

He gasped and clutched at his chest, curling around his agony. With a snap of his fingers, the physician summoned a footman, commanding him to bring water and his instrument case forthwith. He began rolling up his sleeves, preparing to bleed his patient.

Frances, her mask discarded, came to Elizabeth’s side. “Mama –”

Dr Atherton joined her, towering over them. “Ma’am, is there anything I can –?”

“Yes,” the Crown Prince interrupted. “Take your party into the Malachite chamber – one of the footmen will show you where that is – and wait there until I send word. It seems unlikely that we will be able to resume this meeting, but I should prefer you all to remain in the Palace for the time being.”

Dr Atherton nodded, turning towards the others. At that moment Sir Hector convulsed, thrashing his limbs on the polished wood floor of the library. His hand connected with some small object, doubtless fallen from his pocket. It skidded across the floor. Frances put out a foot to stop it, bent down and picked it up. Hector’s snuff-box.

Something changed in her daughter’s expression; a sudden epiphany. Elizabeth had spent too much time around scholars – among them Dr Atherton – not to recognise the signs. Almost as if in a dream, she saw Frances flick the catch on the box, moisten the tip of one forefinger, dip it into the box, very delicately raise the finger to her lips –

And then spit, with unladylike accuracy, into a nearby vase.

The Crown Prince swung to face her. “What?”

She held out the open snuff-box to him on her palm. “Sir, look.”

He looked down and, even in this extremity, Elizabeth felt her stomach lurch at the focussed intensity in his expression, fought to find meaning in a world suddenly turned upside down.

“Miss Pickering and Mrs Pickering will stay with their kinsman,” the Crown Prince said to Dr Atherton. “But now, take the others away. Go. Now. And you. Water for Miss Pickering, at once.”

As soon as the room was cleared Elizabeth crouched beside her brother, reaching for his hand. “Hector –”

His face was caught in a rictus, as if the muscles of his face were paralysed. His eyes rolled back in his head, testimony to the intensity of his pain. He tried to say something – to her dying day she would swear he had tried to say something. The pain took him, his head flopped back and his eyes dulled and she never knew whether it was only her hopes that shaped her brother’s last word as “Sorry.”

Hector had gone and she and Frances were alone.

The bookshelf in front of her swung outwards. The King stood beside her, holding out a hand to assist her to her feet. His dark eyes carried a weight of sorrow that might have daunted Atlas.

“Trust me, lady, I take no pleasure in having my earlier fears proved justified. But I should have been more specific. It is not merely death for which my brother has a nose. It is murder.” He raised his voice, looking at the Crown Prince. “Sherlock, Milverton can do all that remains to be done here. Take John and go. I wish to see the perpetrator of this deed brought to justice before another turn of the glass. The honour of our House lies on it.”

The Crown Prince bowed, very low, and without a trace of irony.

“Not just that of our House. My personal word, ma’am, on my blood oath.”

He and the physician were gone; Frances succumbed to weeping and was led away by a female servant and she was left with the King and the chilling corpse.

Cold. After the initial flare of anger on seeing Sir Hector’s contorted face and open, dulling eyes, he had felt nothing. Only cold.

He had known the truth as soon as he saw the flash of old-gold, watched Frances Pickering pick up Sir Hector’s snuff-box from the library floor, caught the exchange between her and the Crown Prince. After that, it had simply been a matter of waiting.

Once Sir Hector’s death had been confirmed they’d been given liberty to go (Why? part of his mind asked, even while the rest of him gasped in relief at the respite.) Ignoring the others, he’d headed straight to the pantry in the lodgings which served as gun room. The monogrammed case containing the matched pair of travelling pistols the Viscount had acquired in Paris rested on a low shelf. He checked them carefully, and found powder flask and shot bag. It was easy to conceal it all beneath the cloak he folded over his arm. He had his excuse ready; given such a turn of events, it was natural for someone to alert the Legation that the Protestant chaplain’s services would be required once more.

The side door was on the latch. No-one tried to impede his departure, or even appeared to notice.

The same eerie simplicity characterised his arrival at the Legation. The gate guard had been on duty the previous day; he waved him through. No-one barred his passage through the lower reaches of the building. He did not knock when he reached the main reception room, but walked straight in. As he had expected, Derwent was alone; he half-turned at the sound of footsteps. For that split-second Hatherleigh saw Derwent’s face unguarded. It was enough.

“Not expecting to see me again, were you? At least, not alive.”

“What -?”

“Don’t waste time, Derwent. That snuff-box you so kindly refilled this morning belonged to Sir Hector, not me. Jenkins mixed them up when he was cleaning them. The old fool noticed and sent Jenkins after me to reclaim his property. Sir Hector died raving, less than a hour ago. What did you put in there? Some local poison? After all, you did say you’d made – connections – in the city. That must help with your dirty work.”

“You’re mad.” Derwent’s voice conveyed assurance, sincerity, even a touch of compassion.

None of it could touch him.

“I have been. Not now. Not when my insane trust in you means that a prosy old bore who never did anything worse than skim a bit of cream off St Jerome’s rent-rolls lies dead on a slab, his sister and niece left destitute, fourteen hundred miles from home.”

“Sir Hector? The man could have been used in the schools of medicine anywhere in Europe as a perfect example of the choleric type. He’s looked on the verge of apoplexy every time I’ve seen him. What more natural than an effluxion of blood into the brain should take him after the strains of the last few days? I assure you, I had nothing to do with it.”

“Sir, you lie.”

Derwent was on his feet in an instant, his face inches from Hatherleigh’s own. “Withdraw that damnable assertion at once.”

“Withdraw it? No, sir. You are a liar. I’ll repeat it in front of Lord Wardale, if you insist. Or would you prefer me to spit in your eye?”

“As a gentleman, you know there is only thing I can say to that.”

Hatherleigh dropped his cloak to the floor, revealing the monogrammed pistol case. “Of course. I expected nothing else. Can you suggest a location?” He paused. “I regret, I cannot supply a second; I hardly think in the circumstances it would be proper to ask the Viscount.”

“Better not, in any case. The King’s edicts on the point are strict; the fewer people who know the better. There are places in the grounds of the old Castle where no-one comes for days at a time. I have little doubt we will find one suited to our purpose.”

“Good. Then, let us go at once. I have few expectations of where I will be by dawn tomorrow.”

They walked in silence. For Hatherleigh, the bustling streets of Gaaldine’s capital seemed like those in the city of a dream. No-one could touch him, even when they bumped into him; he could not hear them, even when they damned his eyes and told him to get out of their way. Either he or they were ghosts and he neither knew nor cared which.


The space they eventually found – a glade amid the sparse, unfamiliar trees which fringed the crag on which the Castle ruins perched – might have been designed for such affairs. It ran north-south – no small relief, with the late autumn sun already westering low – and was mercifully free of roots and boulders. Hatherleigh put the gun case down on a fallen tree trunk, and opened it.

“Choose,” he said.

Derwent pointed at the right-hand pistol; they loaded in silence.

“Five paces each, turn and fire on the word?”

“As you wish.”

Back to back, the pistol heavy in his hand, two thin layers of fabric between his flesh and Derwent’s, the sun glancing down into a scene out of Arcadia, which might be the last sight he saw on earth, and still he felt nothing.


The first pace forward.


And the next.


“Gentlemen, put up your weapons, in the name of my brother the King.” A sharp shout, almost like a pistol-crack itself in the loaded silence of the glade.

Hatherleigh turned. The Crown Prince, scimitar drawn, stood at the far end of the glade. Beside him stood the Crown Princess’ physician. Hatherleigh’s hand dropped, so that the pistol was pointing downwards. After a moment, Derwent did likewise. At a gesture from the physician, they laid the weapons in the opened case.

The Crown Prince strode towards them.

“Affairs of this kind are, as you both know, prohibited in Gaaldine by solemn edict. The penalties for contravention are not slight.” His gaze flickered between the two of them. “So much for the duel. But, in weightier matters, my brother also charges me with certain responsibilities touching upon the maintenance of the rule of law. Murders taking place within the Palace most assuredly fall within my sphere. Each of you, severally, is under jeopardy on such a charge.”

“Sir, I fear you are misinformed.” Even in this crisis Derwent’s voice came smooth off the tongue, like poured honey. “Whatever wild accusations this man may have scattered to avert the blame for his murder of his sister, Lady Diana Scoton – a crime most foul – I can refute them all.”

The Crown Prince looked him up and down with icy contempt. “I am not accustomed to basing my conclusions upon anyone’s assertions. Still less those made by interested parties. The contents of Sir Hector’s snuff-box – they are more reliable than a cloud of witnesses.”

Hatherleigh forced himself to speak, though his mouth was dry. “And sir, may I know what those witnesses say? After all, I have a personal interest.”

The Crown Prince turned to him, his expression assessing. After a moment he nodded. “It contained two different qualities of snuff, the lower layer coarse and moist and the upper much finer and drier. As a snuff-taker yourself, you will appreciate that no-one would deliberately mix two incompatible styles in the same box.” He paused, and then added, very drily, “I also strongly suspect no epicure in the art – indeed, no man who valued his life – would venture to adulterate his snuff with dried monkshood.”


“There is an outside chance it may have been henbane. Miss Pickering, however, collaborated on a notable paper to the Royal Society comparing the effects of a number of vegetable toxins, and her opinion is that monkshood – aconite – is more probable. In any event, the precise poison used will no doubt be identified when the Legation is formally searched.”

Derwent went white. “Search the Legation? That is an outrage – not just to me but to his Excellency the Minister.”

“Don’t expect Lord Wardale to offer any refuge. Certain correspondence between him and his Britannic Majesty’s ambassador to Gondal has come into the King’s hands. Lord Wardale is answering for it at the Palace now.” The Crown Prince smiled, with the pitiless cruelty of a bird of prey. “He will welcome any chance to deflect attention by handing into my power a subordinate who has proved himself a poltroon, a Judas, a pander and a liar.”

Hatherleigh read Derwent’s intention in his eyes, almost before he started to move.

“Philip, no!”

His hand grabbed Derwent’s right arm, pulling the man towards him, away from the Crown Prince, as Derwent snatched up one of the pistols. The pistol went off with a roar like cannon. Hot agony flared in Hatherleigh’s chest. There came a high-pitched shriek – not from his own mouth, though for a second he was unsure about that.

He forced his eyes open. Derwent’s mouth was wide with shock and pain, his hand spread, the silver hilt of a knife protruding from it. The pistol lay at his feet. Guards burst from the undergrowth, pinioning Derwent’s arms, dragging him away.

Pain overwhelmed him. Hatherleigh sprawled, helpless, on the floor of the glade, dimly aware of hands pressing on his chest, loosening the clothing at his neck. The Crown Prince and the royal physician. He supposed he should be honoured, but the pain absorbed every other feeling. Though it was curiously comforting to know himself not alone, to hear the matter-of-fact conversation above his head as they worked.

“You still carry a knife in your sleeve, then.” The Crown Prince’s voice, unmistakably.

“Do you think I should stop?” John Watson could have been consulting an old friend about the merits of a horse or hound.

An old friend. The grey shadows on the edge of his vision thickened; the dank cold crept further up his limbs, closer to what he had once thought was the seat of his heart.

“Why tamper with a working process? I’d rather you taught Charis the art.”

Charis? A knife-thrower?”

“Why not? The day may come when she is all that stands between the heir to the combined kingdoms of Gondal and Gaaldine and an assassin.”

“God forbid!”

“I agree. But God helps those who help themselves. Should that day dawn I’d lief that Charis be the most dangerous person in that room.” The Crown Prince’s voice sounded, suddenly, shockingly near. “We’re losing him. John! Where’s the laudanum?”

“Here. No, I’ll administer it. Keep the pressure on the wound.”

He felt the metallic coolness of a spoon being forced between his lips, tasted the bitter, complex flavour. The agony in his chest retreated a little, enough to permit speech.

“Don’t – don’t waste –” His tongue flickered out to moisten parched lips. “Dying.” He tried to summon a smile, but feared the effect more grimace than gallantry. “No matter. Cheat the hangman.”

The Crown Prince’s hand on his forehead was cool but oddly sticky. His own blood, he realised.

“I assure you, whatever the outcome, the hangman is not in issue. Someone who deliberately takes a blow aimed at the heir to the throne can expect a pardon for far more grievous crimes than yours.”

“I – I killed –”

“Lady Diana Scoton. I know. But I also know why. I do not care for extortioners. Nor did you premeditate your crime. Unlike he who put the poison in Sir Hector’s snuff-box. Be assured, that will not go unavenged.”

Comfort, and not a small matter, but the ability to care had left him. Dark clouds swirled around him, weight pressed down his eyelids, forcing them shut. It seemed too much effort to fight it. He let himself sink, knowing he would not rise again.