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Thread: [M] The Sword and the Fang [Namingtoohard & Ashen]

  1. #21
    The Ashen One
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    Issa’s blatant curiously was endearing, if not jarring. In Lec’s culture, that elated expression, the elevated tone of his voice, the giddiness so clearly flowing throughout his entire body; those were things only ever seen on children. It wasn’t proper for an adult to display such enthusiasm in public, so the appreciation Issa was showing for the layout of this city—and the thought of more, even further beyond his forest—seemed off. Yet, as Lec watched him, they realized there was another reason that smile was so misplaced.

    This creature was a thing of legend, of warnings whispered to misbehaving children. How many times had Lec been told by schoolteachers, their father, close friends, that if they didn’t behave, they would be stolen away by some Lucet of the night, doomed to be slashed apart and made a meal for the enemy’s kin? They, like most people in their city, had grown up hearing tales of ferocious eyes, of overeager hunters without restraint, a race of not-humans so lost to their primal instincts that they would never again know reason. Issa was one of them. But, as he bounced towards the market on feet that couldn’t get him there fast enough, Lec could not make the connection. This was no monster. This was a boy trapped in the vicious caricature Lec’s people had made for him.

    Issa pulled them out of their thoughts with the suggestion of new clothes. They would certainly help the Lucet to not be stared at while in the city, at least not by anyone who didn’t catch his gaze. But what would he wear? Lec’s eyes trailed the man, mentally measuring the bulge of his shoulders, the width of his waist. Outfit ideas flashed through their mind. A smile tugged at their lips as they imagined Issa in one of their outfits, an outfit meant for a dancer. Lec was smaller, they guessed, thinner in some places and thicker in others. If Issa would be staying around long, Lec might even make him an outfit, adorned in gems and earth tones, perfectly fitting his body, displaying his muscles.

    Breaking from their distraction again, Lec cleared their throat. “Yeah, we could—” But Issa wasn’t paying attention to them anymore. Lec followed his gaze, expecting a tragedy in the market square from Issa’s fixation, but there was nothing there. Townspeople scurried along buying fresh meats and produce, others talked with vendors about furniture pieces or tools, children ran through maze-like legs of their parents and aunts and uncles. The food vendors were facing the midday meal rush, and the smell of smoked, fried, and baked meats filled the air. Spotting nothing out of the ordinary, Lec turned back to Issa, thoroughly confused.

    Lec didn’t know how to respond to his question. They had said they were going to the marketplace, right? Lec glanced back at the square before turning their attention back to Issa. “Yes?” they answered. “But please, don’t… make a scene, okay?” Already people were noticing the two, a red-eyed predator lingering on the outskirts of the market with a washed-up dancer, two misfits in the center of town. Lec shifted awkwardly, trying to think of ways to hide Issa’s eyes before they got them both killed. “Here,” Lec said, holding their hand out in front of them. “Hold my hand. I don’t want you to get lost, and I see tourists do it all the time here. It’ll be easier this way.”

    Was Lec offering their hand to the enemy? Why? Doubts shrouded their logic, trying to convince them that soon their palms would be impaled by some claw. Just as quickly, Lec could summon a spark, a small flame, to keep the Lucet in check. So why did the suggestion—their suggestion—send a quiver through their arm? They shook their thoughts; now was not the time to be so childish.

    Once Issa took their hand, they began to walk forward. “The market is organized by goods,” they explained, motioning with their free hand to a collection of stands on the perimeter of the square. “Food items are along the edges. There are snacks in the front, while the groceries are in the back. Off in that part, there’s the sewn stuff, so clothes and blankets, tapestries. Tools are over there, behind the furnace, and that’s where the smith shapes metals for things.” As Lec explained, they watched Issa, but they also watched the people around them. Countless double-takes, all gazing at those same scarlets. Lec, a dancer by profession, suddenly hated the attention.

    They went on to explain the entire layout of the market before taking Issa to the food stalls. “Why don’t you pick something out?” they suggested. “I can cover it. Consider it… a treat. A welcome to Evimaire.” Lec scanned the stands, eyeing the sweets and baked goods. Their stomach rumbled at the sight of the things they shouldn’t have, and they looked away. “Where do you want to go after this? I’ve been here hundreds of times, so you should pick.”
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  2. #22
    Mistborn
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    Once Issa had managed to recover some small semblance of his composure, he spent the next few moments surveying the market in silence. What little he could see of it from here, at the very least. Such a confined place, crowded with so many humans, seemed like a bad idea on the surface. If any of the people within took offense to the presence of the Lucet in their midst, it would be a simple thing for them to sneak up on him unnoticed. This was exactly the type of exciting new experience he had insisted on coming here for, however, and Lec seemed to think it was safe enough. They were the expert, and trust had to start somewhere.

    Issa was about to point out that it’d be a little difficult for him to avoid causing a scene if he didn’t know exactly what was and wasn’t normal here, and that it was technically Lec’s job to keep him out of trouble, when the human went ahead and offered him their hand. Issa didn’t so much as hesitate before he reached out to take it, seemingly thinking nothing of the small but often meaningful gesture.

    And just like that, they were off. Within moments, Issa and Lec had slipped passed the boundaries and into the market proper. The place seemed to wrap itself around them as they moved beyond the outer edge, much like the trees did back home. The sensations seemed much the same as before, but infinitely more present. Overwhelming and overpowering in much the manner he had guessed at, but never truly could have prepared for. Everywhere he looked some strange new oddity or flash of colour seemed to catch his eye, and he wanted to see and experience it all, if such a thing could ever be possible in a place like this. It was only Lec’s grip on his hand that prevented Issa from dashing off and likely causing another commotion.

    Every now and then, he’d find that his gaze would meet that of a stranger. One of the stall owners, usually, but occasionally another customer would meet his eye. Issa had just enough time to witness their eyes widen in surprise, anger, fear, or any other of a few select emotions, before Lec would drag him onwards, and they would disappear into the crowd once more. Probably for the best, though it did leave Issa wondering if his people really deserved the reputation they seemed to bear consistently throughout the human population.

    When Lec suggested that he pick something out, Issa gave a simple of nod acknowledgement. He did his best to avoid looking overwhelmed as he wandered past the stalls nearest at a more casual pace than had been set during their journey here, keeping his eyes directed rather blatantly at the dishes on offer. After a few moments of idle wandering he tilted his head skyward, before sniffing at the air for a moment. After that, the Lucet was quick to locate a stand where a man was folding dough around pieces of seasoned meats and vegetables, before dropping them on top of a hot plate. Several finished batches waited nearby, cooling, and presumably up on offer. It even looked as though a few of them had been drizzled with a touch of lemon juice, or honey. Issa eyed the flames beneath the grill warily, but it wasn’t enough to deter him from his newfound desire.

    “That one. I want that one” Issa announced, in much the same tone a demanding child might use. He spun to face Lec while he spoke, simultaneously jabbing a finger on his free hand towards his choice of treat.

    Whilst he waited for Lec to complete whatever exchange was necessary, Issa began to ponder the other question that his guide had posed. He allowed his mind to wander, trying to come up with suggestions for what he wanted to see, now that he had the opportunity. He might not have known everything that the humans did, or the exact words that they used, but surely he’d be able to get some sort of message across, even if that required speaking in broad terms.

    The Lucet would offer up a quick thanks to Lec when the food was handed over. The freshly cooked dough was warm in his hands, and the smell was enough to make his mouth water this close. He briefly delayed taking that first bite, however, to quickly voice his opinion on what he wanted to see next.

    “You said that there were humans shaping metal or something nearby, right? I’d like to see what other things your people create, after…well, all this” he said, gesturing vaguely to their surroundings.

    Once Lec had set them going in the right direction, Issa would eagerly turn his attention to the treat he now held in his free hand. The Lucet would eye the thing greedily for a moment, before finally giving in and taking a bite. The mix of savoury flavours and spices were totally unlike anything he had experienced back in the forest, and made the meat they were used to eating seem downright juvenile in comparison. The Lucet hummed softly in something akin to satisfaction, mostly to himself, before hurriedly helping himself to the next bite.

    The sounds of his eating would fill most of the time that they spent walking towards the next section of the market, save for one brief moment. The silence was briefly interrupted when the Lucet started to cough and splutter for a moment, seemingly having bitten off more than he could chew. Issa released Lec’s hand briefly so that he might bring it up to his throat instead. Once he had worked it down, he gave Lec a wry smile.

    “Man, I always forget how narrow human throats really are. Things can be damned inconvenient, sometimes” he said. That was far from the reason as to why he had started to choke – rather, the Lucet had simply gotten carried away and tried to eat a little too quickly. To Issa, though, this seemed an amusing way to play off the difference.

    Once the moment had passed, he quickly took Lec’s hand, so that the two of them might continue on their way.

  3. #23
    The Ashen One
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    As they traversed the marketplace, Lec was surprised to find themselves not only warming up to Issa’s presence but even enjoying having him there. He was so childish, so enthusiastic about all these things that were far too commonplace for even Soren to get excited over. Lec couldn’t remember the last time they’d felt quite like this. It was as if they were an older sibling presenting to their brother a gift, but this was different. Soren’s wide grins and flailing hands were familiar, were home. Issa’s unfocused gaze, the bounce in his every move, the tug of his hand wrapped by Lec’s; what was this? They weren’t friends; Lec had been quite clear about that earlier. But the way Issa’s palm pressed warmly against theirs, the grip of his fingers when he saw something new, the sparkling glaze over his eyes before he realized they were moving on… A blush came running to Lec’s cheeks, its heat pulling them from whatever line of thought they were about to follow. You just met him, a voice inside him warned. And he is your enemy.

    Unaware of Lec’s fixation, Issa chose his treat from those displayed, and Lec almost laughed at the scene. Here was this man, this red-eyed muscled man who could easily slaughter anyone in this market, and he was but a child pouting to their mama. “Those are tasty,” Lec said with a poorly hidden grin. They continued to speak as they dug around for their coin purse. “We call them zhiros here. My favorites are the ones with lamb inside them, but they’re made with any meat you can think of. My mother used to make them with potatoes too, though I haven’t met anyone else who does so.” They counted out the coins and handed them to the vendor who seemed fixated on Issa. Lec waited for several moments before clearing their throat, pulling the vendor’s attention away from the curious hue of Issa’s eyes. Lucet? he mouthed, but Lec just smiled and took the zhiro with a warm thank you. They handed the food to Issa and grabbed for his hand again, ready to escape the scrutiny of their own townspeople.

    They set off for the smithy. The smell of Issa’s zhiro sent a soft grumble through Lec’s stomach, but they bit their tongue. They would eat later, somehow; right now, their task was to lead the Lucet around their city. “I don’t know how our tools differ from yours,” they admitted, trying to distract themselves from their hunger with idle conversation. “I hope you learn something from them. Maybe you’ll have to show me your tools sometime.” They glanced towards Issa, and another smile blossomed across their face. Issa really liked the treat by the looks of things. That soft hum, those eager bites; Lec wondered if Issa would have a similar reaction to a home-cooked meal. With no kitchen now, they didn’t know how such a thing would be possible, but as the two of them cheerily walked through the market, Lec couldn’t help but fantasize. The thought brought them comfort, preparing a meal for someone they could trust to enjoy it as much as they would enjoy preparing it.

    Their thoughts, however, screeched to a halt. I always forget how narrow human throats really are. Instinctively, Lec raised a hand to their scarred neck, tracing the area where the soft caramel of their skin met the jagged red of ruined tissue. They stopped walking, bracing against the quiver that ran through their arm. He didn’t mean it like that, they reminded themselves, but the words had been said, were hanging in the air between them, forcing back blurs of memories. Issa thought Lec’s throat was narrow—narrow enough to suffocate, just like his kin had done, so many years ago?

    Their hands grew cold, icy; their subconscious had chosen fight, and already a weapon was materializing in their free hand. Lec clenched their fist, shattering the barely formed icicles. They choked out a chuckle, mirthless. It was a joke, they begged, over and over, a plea to calm down. After several deep breaths, Lec continued walking, not willing to address the war Issa had thrown their thoughts into.

    The smithy was not far, but now the way seemed torturous. Lec found anything to distract themselves: the cloths for sale at the nearest stand were deeper and more vibrant than anything else around; the cobblestone beneath their feet was more cracked then they remembered; the paint beneath the K in the bakery sign was almost entirely chipped away. Things too commonplace for them to notice before suddenly seemed out of the ordinary, and Lec grasped at anything they could use to ward off unwanted memories. Finally, when they arrived at the smith’s forge, Lec let out a small, wavering sigh of relief.

    Lec brushed their hands against a glass display case, suddenly enamored by the shaped metal beneath it. The glass counters stretched on three sides of a small forge, one rusted and smoking. By the forge was a thin woman, her bright red hair tied messily into a bun. The spots on her face were either freckles or smudges of dirt; no one knew anymore. Her apron was too short, and the cut fabrics of her pants would need to be replaced soon, lest she flash the entire market. She did not look up from the metal she was working until Lec cleared their throat. As soon as she saw the mage, her brown eyes widened, and a toothy smile split her face. “Lec!” she sang, her voice too high and bubbly for her profession. “How’ve you been? It’s been a minute, hasn’t it? Your father told me you were working on a new number! I’m sorry I couldn’t make it; how’d it go?” She set her metal down and approached the counter. Now closer, she could clearly see their face, and she frowned. “You look a mess, Lec.”

    Lec straightened. “Thank you,” they mumbled. “I was, um, bringing my friend. He’s not from around here, and he wanted to know about blacksmithing.” Lec awkwardly motioned towards his “friend.” “Issa, this is Evelin. She works with my father.”

    “Howdy!” Evelin chirped, offering a hand for Issa. If she noticed his eyes, she didn’t say anything. “Right now I’m not working on anything interesting, unfortunately. I’m shaping up a set of kitchen knives is all. But here, why don’t I show you my latest projects?” Whether Issa had taken her hand or not, Evelin would motion him to a set of tools and weapons protected by the scarred glass case. Inside were everyday tools: hammers, scissors, wrenches, pans. They had numbers near them, price tags. Evelin bowed under the counter for a moment and pulled out a long, jagged sword. She laid it on the counter for her audience to admire. “Commissioned,” she explained. One side of the blade was solid, blunt, powerful, while the other had deep, murderous thorns. The hilt was decorated in shining gems with the design of some family crest. The blade itself shone under the sunlight, never used, eager for bloodshed. “Isn’t it a pretty one?” Evelin mused, clearly proud of her work. She let Lec and Issa gaze at the blade while she fetched another piece from behind the counter. This one was a small mirror made of steel. The glass in it was spotless, and the designs snaking around the handle and frame were intricate, painstaking. Swirls and vines came together at the base into a lion’s messy mane and his untamed roar. “Took me weeks,” she complained proudly. She glanced over at people waiting for her at another end of the counter. “You take your time looking around. I’ll be right back.”

    Lec turned to Issa, watched the way the sunlight reflected in his eyes. “These aren’t normal at all,” they explained. “The sword and mirror both were probably commissioned by some noble or something. Most people can’t afford such impressive work.” They motioned towards the metals under the glass, the more ordinary irons and coppers. “A lot of our tools are that brownish color because we have a mine nearby. I think it’s considered rare in other parts of the world. Unfortunately, it turns to green after being exposed to the air after not too long.” They grabbed their hand behind their back and swung on the balls of their feet. Were they being a good guide? “Evelin would probably show you how she makes them, if you ask,” they added.
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  4. #24
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    Issa seemed largely oblivious to the distress that his words, tossed out so casually, seemed to cause his companion. The majority of his attention was fixated on what little remained of the zhiro in his hand, and the rest belonged to the large symphony of new sights and sounds that were currently competing for his attention. At least, up until the moment where Lec suddenly decided to stop walking. Their grip on Issa’s hand made the Lucet jerk to an unexpected stop all of a sudden, and it was only then that he took proper notice of the sudden coldness of the human’s hand.

    Issa turned to face the human good and proper then, his head tilted slightly to one side, and a confused expression plastered across his face. He tried in vain for a moment to follow Lec’s eye and see what it was that had managed to grab their attention so totally, but came up short. He turned his attention back to Lec and opened his mouth to ask a question, but before he got the chance, they finally resumed walking, acting as nothing had ever happened. Once again, the Lucet found himself jerked along, and quickly fell back into step beside them. The question that he had wanted to ask died on his lips, but Issa still made a point of noting the strange behaviour.

    Hestayed silent for the remainder of their stroll, under the false pretence of finishing off his zhiro, which was proving both a tasty snack and a convenient excuse. Once it was gone, Issa spent a few brief moments licking his fingers, as if doing his best to savour every little remnant of his treat, which was gone much too soon for his liking. He spent the few brief moments that followed by glancing at a few of the stalls they passed, and continued to pick out new curiosities right up until the moment that they arrived at their destination.

    Issa’s first glimpse of a human smithy proved to be an exciting moment, all things considered. He had no idea what manner of wonders Lec was planning on showing him, but the glass cases that surrounded the stall on three sides all whispered promises of new, exciting wonder. The forge itself Issa eyed with a little more wariness, once he realised that the structure itself and the process of shaping metal as a whole relied upon the roaring fire that sat nestled within. The humans seemed to think it safe enough, though, considering that they allowed it right in the middle of the city like this. The woman standing so close to the flames, especially. Issa had known that the people here used fire much more freely, but something like this couldn’t help but put him on edge. Still, he was here to try and experience new things, right?

    It took Issa roughly ten seconds to decide that he liked Evelin, all things considered. She seemed both friendly and cheerful, and cared enough to ask Lec about their own work. What’s more, she was perhaps the second person Issa had met that had both seen his eyes up close, and failed to give anything vaguely resembling a damn about them and his heritage. He was quick to release Lec’s hand and take Evelin’s one instead when it was offered to him, wanting to be polite, and voiced his enthusiasm quickly and loudly when she offered to show him the most interesting and impressive of her latest projects. When Evenlin gestured towards the cases, Issa finally let his attention drift downwards, and his eyes widened at the sight of all the various tools stored within. Even from a position of such limited experience, there was no denying the difference in quality between those shown here and the tools that the Lucet used back at home. He would have called Evelin a master on that basis alone, but Issa didn’t even know how she compared to others of her kind who practised the same craft.

    Issa’s jaw practically dropped at the sight of the sword Evelin produced next, whilst he had been busy pouring over the more mundane of her works. The tools he had seen before were temporarily forgotten as he eyed the intricate metalwork that made up the blade and hilt. Issa even reached out to touch the bejewelled sword absentmindedly – not to pick it up, but to simply run his fingertips over the safer parts of the weapon. Evelin’s modest words seemed to float right in one ear and out the other, but his awed expression seemed enough to satisfy her…though it didn’t quite hint at the interior conflict that seeing such a fine weapon had brought bubbling up inside Issa.

    “It’s a gorgeous piece of work, but I’m not entirely sure how I feel about humans making weapons seem so appealing when they’re at war with my people” Issa said softly, once Evelin had occupied herself speaking to one of the human customers who had just arrived. He kept his eyes locked on the blade throughout, though he was clearly still speaking to Lec. Would the noble who had ordered this weapon use it to kill one of his siblings, if they were given the chance? How many of the humans that he had passed in the marketplace might be tempted to pick it up, if they decided that they took offence to his presence here?

    “Of the two, I definitely think I prefer this one” Issa added as he turned his attention to the mirror alongside it. His fingertips drifted over familiar vines that weaved their way along the outside, marvelling at their intricacy. “Though something like a nice, functional pair of knives seems more useful, regardless of the detail.”

    The information about the ore in this region was interesting enough, but it was Lec’s suggestion that he try and observe the process up close that really piqued Issa’s curiosity. The Lucet waited until she was done with the human customers that she had been dealing with, using the spare moment to muster up his courage at the thought of moving so close to the fire, before calling out to Evelin again. Once she had made her way back over, he was quick to pose the very same question that his guide had just suggested.

    “Sure thing. Just try and keep from getting underfoot, yeah?” Evelin offered, a hint of a smile turning up the corners of her mouth as she retrieved both the sword and the mirror that she had laid out earlier. Grinning like it was his birthday, Issa wasted no time in ducking under the table holding up the nearest row of glass cases. The Lucet had to resist the urge to change momentarily to fit through the smaller space, and ended up bumping it a little on the way up, causing the displays to rattle. Thankfully, though, he’d avoided hitting it hard enough to cause anything to fall.

    Issa was quick to join Evelin as she turned her attention back to the forge, though he made certain to stay a good few steps behind – enough to avoid jostling her if she were to move suddenly, and enough to keep her between him and the flames. Even from back here, Issa could feel the heat rolling off the furnace, and it wasn’t long before sweat began to bead on his forehead. After a quick glance to confirm that Issa was ready, Evelin was quick to turn her attention back to the metal that she had left sitting in the edge of the flames earlier.

    Issa listened attentively as the smith explained the most basic concepts of her craft, speaking about how the metal became soft and easy to shape at high temperatures, and how the furnace was specifically constructed to reach the level of heat required. At the same time, he watched whilst she stoked the flames, and turned the metal over with the use of a big pair of metal tongs.

    Once she had judged the metal to be hot enough, supposedly by looking at the colour, Evelin withdrew the metal from the flames. Issa took a few hurried steps backwards, eager to stay out of her way, before circling around to watch as she placed it atop the anvil she had positioned next to the forge. The Lucet watched with wide eyes as she hammered and folded the steel, which bent in ways that should have been impossible for something that was normally so hard. He could see for himself that there was some merit to her words, though that fact was largely unsurprising in and of itself. Once the metal began to cool, she was quick to shove it back into the flames, before dusting her hands off and turning back to Issa good and proper.

    “Satisfied?” she asked, placing both of her hands on her hips. Issa thought to himself in silence for a moment, before quickly nodding. After a second of silence, however, he was quick to voice a question that sprung to mind.

    “Why don’t you use magic to help?” he asked after a brief moment, at which Evelin raised a questioning eyebrow.

    “Because I don’t have any, of course” she answered matter-of-factly, as if it were the simplest and most natural thing in the world. Issa opened his mouth to ask a follow-up question, but the smith was quick to continue as soon as she realised that he was unsatisfied. “I’d have to pay someone to come down here and lend me their talents. Why would I want to make myself reliant on someone else? Besides, nobody ever improves by taking the easy way out”

    Feeling much more content with his newfound knowledge, Issa thanked his new friend for her demonstration, before seeking Lec out once more. He would take a few casual steps towards them, a pleased grin plastered across his features. The Lucet remained on the inside of the stall for a moment, taking up a position opposite his guide. Should Lec seem to be daydreaming, or if they had found someone else to talk to, Issa would rap his knuckles against the top of the glass case again gently, producing a clattering sound that would hopefully garner some measure of their attention. Once he had it, Issa would lean across the display towards them, before speaking in a conspiratorial whisper. He’d even go so far as to hold one hand up alongside his mouth, despite the obvious fact that doing so only made his actions all the more obvious.

    “Hey, what would I have to give Evelin for her to make something for me? I’d be willing to give up one or two of my furs if necessary. I’m probably not going to need all of them if I’m going to try out wearing human clothes at some point, right?” The Lucet asked, his free hand subconsciously going to one of the furs that accented the rough cloth he wore over his torso. “I could probably get more too, though that might take a couple of days.”

  5. #25
    The Ashen One
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    Issa seemed impressed by Evelin's work, surely comparing it to whatever he had at home, but Lec knew there was something off about the way he looked at that sword. It was only when Evelin went to tend to her customers, when Issa commented about the current war, that Lec grew uneasy. Did this sword to Issa mean the same thing as his fangs and claws meant to Lec? They traced the sword with their eyes, the rigid edges, the shining gleam. It was more than likely a decoration piece--they hoped. Swords like this one littered human history, were favored as torture devices for the way the curves tore apart flesh, organs. Would someone want to harm a Lucet in such a way? Knowing their neighbors, Lec wasn't sure they could say no.

    As Issa went behind the counters to watch Evelin work, Lec pretended to busy themselves with the other tools on display. After a while they moved onto a vendor beside Evelin's forge, all the while keeping an eye on their companion. Issa was so excited to be watching this foreign craft. Lec noticed the way he shied from the flames. They had grown up with it, had been the child of a blacksmith themselves, so they could not imagine having a fear like that. Fire was too useful, and Lec wondered how Issa survived without using it.

    The scene reminded them of another, long ago. Evelin, excitedly showing off her craft, detailing her process, bubbling with a pride and love that couldn't be compared. And Issa, listening to every word, watching every move, understanding little but being supportive nonetheless. The familiar scene made Lec avert their gaze, once again caught in memory. Their parents had been like that, once. Back when their father still showed emotion, still had love in his heart, eager to share it with the woman he'd married. Back when Mother was still around. Lec picked up a wooden toy from a nearby stall, lost in thought. Would they ever have someone look at them like that? Putting the toy back, they walked back to the forge, chuckling to themselves. It wasn't even worth the thought.

    Lec had seen this process dozens of times, so they were uninterested in how Evelin shaped her metal. They instead spent the whole time watching Issa, oblivious to how they might have looked to any onlookers. Issa asked something about magic, and Lec shifted, uncomfortable. Did he think every human had magic at their disposal? They thought of Soren, of the boy's determination, of long hours spent reciting spells to no avail. For a long time, Lec had figured Soren couldn't perform magic. Magic was uncommon, and most magic came in short bursts with great costs, even for seasoned mages. To think Issa believed otherwise, Lec wondered what other rumors were taught within his forest.

    They startled when Issa turned to them, and suddenly they pretended like they hadn't been staring, pretended to pay attention to two people talking nearby. They jumped a bit at Issa's knocking and smiled at the Lucet man's smile. "You want a tool?" they repeated, surprised. Already the Lucet was impressed enough to want something to take with him. "There are some for sale, here. The numbers next to them are their prices, so for example, this fork would cost--ah, you don't have money, do you?" Lec didn't know where to begin explaining the Evimairian economy to an outsider. "I can talk to her," they said. "Wait here."

    Lec waited for Evelin to finish speaking with another customer, and they flagged her down. "Lec," she chirped, "your friend is so interesting! Like he's never seen a forge before."

    Lec smiled politely. "Are your commissions open at the moment?"

    Evelin straightened and raised a brow. "You looking to have something made?" she asked. "It's fine, I won't tell your father. What are you thinking?"

    "Oh, it's for Issa," they said. They cast a glance towards the Lucet, still eagerly waiting. Remembering something he had said earlier, they asked, "Do you think you could make him twin knives? He wants to take them home, so maybe something to remember us by?"

    Evelin's gaze fell to Issa. She lowered her voice to a whisper. "So he is a Lucet?"

    Lec shifted. "Well, yes-- I owed him a favor is all, so he's... he's here for the day, I think."

    Evelin watched the way the mage stumbled over their words, and she put a hand on their shoulder. "You don't have to explain yourself to me, sweetheart," she soothed. "I'm sure you have your reasons. If he's a friend of yours, then I have nothing against him either." She half-turned away so that she was facing her forge, looking for the proper metals. "Besides," she added, "I don't think he could be bad, not from the way you're looking at him."

    Lec's cheeks colored. "What do you mean?"

    Evelin smiled softly. "When your children are born, I expect to be the godsmother, you hear?"

    "Er--what?" Face now turning scarlet, Lec shifted awkwardly. "Evelin, I'm not-- he--- um, what did you want for the knives?" Changing the subject was easier than questioning where her conclusions were coming from.

    Evelin laughed a jolly laugh. "If I had boys on me like you had on you, Lec, I'd have had armies of children by now. Never mind the price. I'll talk something up with your father later. Shall I send them with him when they're done?"

    Lec swallowed the lump in their throat. "No, I can pick them up," they mumbled. "Thank you. I'll see you again soon, yeah?" And before Evelin could utter another word, Lec was speeding away from her. They grabbed Issa's hand as they walked by, not breaking their stride, hoping they didn't look as embarrassed as they felt. "Some furs would be fine," they muttered. "I just remembered, I have to show you the library. Come on."

    Had Issa heard any of that? Just how were they looking at him, anyway? Lec tried to dismiss the thoughts, not wanting to think of his enemy on him in any way. "We have a big library," they explained, not knowing if Issa was listening or even if he cared. "It's a collection of literature. We're a port, so we get books from all over the world here. There's a lot of knowledge. I always found the tomes to be most interesting, myself." They dodged bodies and shops as they made their way through the market. Eventually, the chatter fell away, and they were on the outside of the market, back on cobblestone streets. Lec continued on about some of their favorite books while they walked several blocks. They stopped in front of a large building with thick columns supporting its towering roof. "Here it is." Turning to Issa, a sudden realization struck them. "You... you don't know how to read our alphabet, do you?"
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    With all talk of payment supposedly ended before it had even really begun, Issa nodded in simple agreement as Lec announced that they would handle it themselves. More than content to let the local expert do the negotiating, Issa turned his attention back to the collection of tools displayed in the glass cabinet that lay before him, instead busying himself with another quick inspection of Evelin’s wares whilst he waited for them to be done. This time he took specific notice of the little tags that sat adjacent to just about every item on display, but no matter how hard he tried, Issa couldn’t make sense of the little squiggles that marked them. He took a few small steps to the side, following the cases around the perimeter of Evelin’s forge, but found no greater success there.

    Issa’s attention was forcibly dragged away from the wares beneath his fingertips when Lec and Evelin began to chat. A few small snippets of their conversation reached his ears, and the Lucet found himself listening in on their discussion. How could he not, when they were chatting such a small distance away? He could hardly be blamed for that…or that was what Issa told himself, at the very least. His cheeks immediately coloured at the mention of the way Lec had supposedly been looking at him, and all the talk that followed. No, he surely would have noticed if that were the case, and Lec had made it very clear earlier that the two of them weren’t even friends. Evelin was simply poking fun at them. Yes, that had to be it. Consoling himself with that knowledge, Issa did his best to push the thought from his mind, and prayed that the burning in his cheeks would go with it. Hopefully before Lec noticed.

    When their conversation finally came to an end, Issa did his best to look busy. That is, as if he had actually been inspecting the rest of Evelin’s wares, instead of listening in on their conversation. The Lucet was a little surprised by the abruptness of their departure, but he followed along willingly enough when Lec began to pull him away, claiming that there was more they wanted to show him. Unwilling to give up the chance to see something else new, and thankful for the distraction, he tagged along without objection.

    Issa did his best to listen to the explanation Lec was giving as the two of them moved through the marketplace again, though he wasn’t quite certain he caught all of it – partially due to a lack of understanding, and partially due to the athleticism required to avoid knocking anyone or anything over. When the two of them left the marketplace behind, Issa found himself feeling strangely conflicted over the experience. On one hand, seeing so many people in such a small place was a little but unsettling, unused to it as he was. At the same time, though, it had been an exhilarating experience. Issa thought that he could find it quite enjoyable, if he was ever able to get used to the crowd. If he was ever provided the opportunity to get used to the crowd, that is.

    The Lucet was only half-listening as Lec talked at him about all of their favourite stories, supposedly contained within this ‘library’ place that the two of them were going to see. He kept throwing subtle glances at the human throughout, as if trying to catch them out. Evelin’s thoughts echoed throughout the quiet places of his mind, at odds with the ones that Lec had spoken themselves earlier. Truth be told, the Lucet wasn’t sure what he wanted to believe. It would be nice to consider this human a friend, at the very least, but he hadn’t considered the possibility of…more. Lec was attractive enough, certainly. From the colour of their hair and eyes to their wide hips and muscled body, even the most subtle glances left little room for doubt about that particular fact. The physical aspect had never really been his only concern, though.

    His train of thought was interrupted when their journey came to a brief end, and Issa looked up to find himself staring down one of the larger human structures he had seen. The Lucet continued to stare up at the building even whilst Lec spoke, and was quick to provide the obvious answer to the question that his guide had asked.

    “No, but I don’t think that should stop us. You can always translate anything interesting for me, and I’m yet to see the inside of any of your buildings. Either way, I’d consider the detour worth my time” Issa answered. Any other time, he might have considered asking to learn. However, the Lucet wasn’t sure that they had the time that would be required for him to make any significant headway, and didn’t want to lose any on such a frivolous attempt when he had no idea how long his presence would be tolerated. Without any further delay, he’d be quick to make for the door, trusting that Lec would keep pace.

    When the two of them slipped inside, Issa found that he understood…surprisingly little. He was greeted by the sight of an old scribe sitting behind a large wooden desk, working on something out of view. The man looked up when they entered, but Issa paid them no mind, content to let their human companion handle the social side of things for the moment. Instead, he wandered to the side slightly,where his attention grabbed by the rows and rows of wooden shelves that greeted him, and the strange things they held. Individual little leather rectangles, packed together so tightly most of them were only distinguishable by size, or colour, or the fancy squiggles that seemed to adorn them. Similar to the ones he had seen in the marketplace, but not quite the same. All thoughts of the building itself were blown away by this new discovery, and once again Issa found himself determined to learn more.

    The Lucet strolled towards the nearest row of shelves and reached to pluck one from it. The thing came free with surprising ease, and Issa was quick to pry it open. His eyes scanned the pages within, but the mass of confusing lines they contained proved as far beyond his understanding as some of the things he had seen in the market had.

    “All of these…contain stories? There are so many. As many as there are leaves on an oak” Issa mumbled, his voice tinged by his awe. No matter how hard he looked, though, the words within the book refused to give up their secrets, and trying too hard only threatened to give him a headache. Issa promptly closed the book he had chosen and placed it back on the shelves – not in the same place that he had retried it from, but horizontally, lying on top of some of its brethren – and promptly moved on.

    Issa wandered the stacks in silence for a moment, with one arm outstretched. His fingertips brushed against the spine of each and every book he passed…at least, on the specific shelf he had chosen to run his hand along. Now, more than ever, he was confronted with the true weight of his ignorance, and the barriers that stood between him and understanding. Even so, he was determined to persevere. After several moments spent wandering, he’d pluck another book from the shelf, open it to a random page, and turn towards Lec.

    “What does this one say?” Issa would ask, almost demand, holding the book out towards him. The Lucet would listen when the human began to speak, before promptly deciding he wasn’t interested in this particular story. Issa would close the book without warning, before promptly shelving it in the same manner he had the first, before moving on. It’d take only a couple of seconds before he’d pick another, before repeating the process.

    “What about this one?”

    The odds of him finding something interesting in this manner were low, Issa knew. Even so, if he had come to this place filled with stories, he was determined to find at least one that he could try and take back with him. In memory, at least, since he knew the physical form of the book wouldn't do him any good.

  7. #27
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    They cursed their oversight. As Lec lingered outside the tall doors of the library, they wondered why they had brought Issa here. It was the first place they could think of to get away from Evelin's forge in the marketplace, the expansive trove of knowledge their city was even famous for, to scholars anyway. Schoolchildren and scribes were often the only audiences the library saw frequently, as well as the occasional tourist or aspiring young person looking to pick up a new hobby. Lec was part of none of those groups--a mage who had read every magic book contained in these walls. It was one of their favorite places in all of town, but... They glanced back towards Issa, his curious gaze. What could he get out of this?

    They made their way inside, and instantly Lec was greeted by the familiar smell of aged tomes. The scribe at the reception desk only barely glanced at them. Lec offered a small wave, recognizing the man instantly and knowing he wouldn't care for Issa. They were relieved at that. Just as they were about to explain where they were, Issa was wandering off towards one of the bookshelves. Lec jogged after him, again made aware of how flashy their outfit was as it jingled and reflected the light of the overhead lamps. They concentrated on Issa, watching his expression flash from puzzlement to fascination, to relentless determination. He must have had no idea what any of these things were--had he never even seen a book? Lec couldn't image a world like that. He had no literature, no simple tools; just how barbaric was the world Issa had come from?

    They didn't want to interrupt him, instead watching as he encountered obstacle after obstacle. He seemed to study the books, and Lec had to keep a chuckle to themselves as they watched the Lucet try to read a book upside down. Instinctively, they righted the book he improperly put back, shaking their head softly. If only he could read, what sorts of things would he be able to take away from this library? What pieces of history, of culture, of fiction would he remember most fondly? Lec almost wanted to teach him, to display the alphabet and go over the pronunciations, just so that Issa might get a little more out of this trip, but the Evimairian knew teaching someone to read was no simple task, and they had no idea how long the Lucet would be in their territory.

    They startled when Issa turned to them, open book in hand, and demanded a reading. Lec fumbled with it for a few seconds before looking over the cover. It was some young adult novel they had never heard of. They looked to where Issa had been pointing and began, "It was almost as if knowledge was contagious. People constantly claimed to 'know' something when they didn't have the facts and tools to uphold their claims..." They continued for a short while before having the book closed and put back. Lec began to protest, but their words faded as they watched Issa look for another tome. They took the next one he gave and read over a few lines of the poem it contained: "Enough. Let bygones be bygones now. Done is done. How on earth can a man rage on forever? Still, by gods, I said I would not relax my anger, not till the cries and carnage reached my own ships..." But with book after book, Lec could tell Issa's attention was going elsewhere. Lec closed the book they were holding and neatly put it back on the shelf. "Here," they said, offering their hand. "Why don't we try something else?"

    Lec led their friend to a section of the library further from the entrance. This place had far more color than the other sections, and a toy box sat wedged between a couple of the shelves here, well worn. Lec let go of Issa and walked to a shelf by the box. They scanned the titles, considering, then pulled one off the shelf. "Here," Lec said, offering the book to Issa. On the cover was an elephant, drawn simply and with a smiling face. The outlines of the art were thick, the colors vibrant. Lec had given Issa a children's book. "Why don't we sit down on the carpet?"

    They made their way to the colorful patterned carpet and motioned for Issa to do the same. Maybe it wasn't conventional, and they could catch the eyes of dubious parents nearby, but what else were they to do? If Issa couldn't make sense of the words, he could at least admire the picture books. Lec opened to the first page where a bright landscape met them. "Ethor the Elephant is going to a party," they read, pointing to the words as they did. "Who can he invite?" They looked up to Issa, wondering what was going through his head. This was stupid, they knew. The last time they had done this was when Soren was still small, smaller than he was, too small to read by himself. Now, they were reading to a grown man, to a Lucet no less, and a book about a fantasy elephant going to some hippo's party. What had they been thinking?

    They turned their attention back to the book, red dancing on their cheeks. "He wants to invite his friend, Lileen Lemur," they went on. "Where is Lileen Lemur?" Why weren't they stopping? They were hoping Issa would humor them, at least until they got through the book. They read on, their voice free of their doubts, until the elephant was reunited with all of his jungle friends at his friend hippo's house. Lec closed the book, not daring to meet Issa's gaze now. "That's one of the first books Mother read to me," they explained sheepishly. "She'd told me, once I could read it all by myself, that she'd buy me more books." They offered him the book again. "I don't know how interested you are in literature, or how long you plan to keep this up, with humans, with me, but... Well, it's not mine to give, the book, but I wouldn't mind... coming back here?"

    Their hands were shaking. Could he see their hands shaking? Lec didn't know what they were getting into. Hadn't they been at Issa's mercy a mere twenty-four hours ago? Hadn't they thought this beast in human's clothing was going to tear them and Soren to shreds? And not only had they agreed to this stupid tour like the Lucet was some guest, they were inviting him back? A bloodthirsty monster? But the way he'd looked at their tools, their books, the fascination he held for everything he didn't understand... Evelin's words snaked back to Lec's mind, reminding them of the ridiculousness of their actions. It was too late not. What had been said was out there. They cleared their throat. "It was just an idea," they added hastily. "Sorry. We don't have to stay here if you don't want to."
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    Just like the first time he had tried to demand Lec read for him, it didn’t take long before Issa’s attention began to wander. It wasn’t that he struggled to understand the words, though they were a touch more…flowery than those he was used to hearing people speak. Whilst the words on the pages may have remained indecipherable squiggles, all those that flowed from Lec’s mouth were familiar enough in their own right. Even so, they struggled to hold his attention, his mind dismissing the passage as a whole as unnecessary, or irrelevant.

    Perhaps he merely lacked the prerequisite knowledge or context to understand, or appreciate, whatever it was these books were trying to tell him. Whatever the answer really was, Lec seemed to realise rather quickly that this wasn’t going to work. When they spoke next, their words – clearly so much more genuine and natural than the ones they had been reading aloud just a moment ago – were quick to draw Issa’s attention back. The Lucet glanced down at their extended hand briefly, before reaching out to take it, silently consenting to whatever solution it was the human had come up with.

    He followed along obediently whilst the human led them off towards some unexplored corner of the building, before watching as Lec selected a book of their own choice. Issa was quick to look down at the cover when they presented it to him, and was promptly taken aback by what he saw there. The picture on the front was…simplistic, for lack of a better word. And yet, the design was immediately recognisable as an elephant, despite the artist’s apparent lack of ability. Or perhaps that was a form of skill in and of itself. Regardless, Issa couldn’t help but approve of Lec’s insight, or ingenuity. What better book to read to a Lucet than one about animals? It was a topic he was bound to be familiar with, and much more personally interested in. Much more efficient than simply picking out rectangles at random and praying for the best.

    Feeling slightly reassured by this new approach, Issa was quick to comply when Lec suggested they sit. He helped himself to a vacant patch of floor, plopping himself down with his legs crossed, before watching his guide expectantly. When Lec began to speak, however, the Lucet couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow, as if confused. This…was not at all what he had been expecting when presented with a book about animals. Apparently the content was just as absurd and simplistic as the drawings, and Issa could only presume that it was designed for the youngest of children. For a brief moment Issa couldn’t help but wonder if he should be offended or not. Couldn't help but wonder if this was all Lec really thought he was capable of understanding, but he quickly squashed the notion, instead deciding to try and enjoy the book for what it was. If this was where human children started with books, then it seemed only right that he start there too. Besides, there was a pure sort of joy to be found in something so childish. A joy that most people seemed to end up losing, or forgetting about, as they aged. One often squashed by the notion of responsibilities. For now, he’d simply allow himself to relax and try to enjoy it.

    Before long a childish smile had blossomed on the Lucet’s face, and he leaned forward slightly as he followed along, trying to both keep track of the words as Lec pointed them out, and admire the pictures. Towards the end, a soft chuckle slipped from his lips – not necessarily at the contents of the book itself, but at the absurdity of it all. The absurdity of the mythical party the book was describing, and the fact that he was sitting here, inside a human building, listening to one of them speak in such close proximity. Even during his frequent daydreams about visiting human society, Issa had never imagined anything quite like this.

    When the story came to its conclusion, Issa wasn’t entirely sure what he was supposed to say. Before any real coherent thoughts sprang to mind, Lec began to speak once more, explaining the more personal reasons behind their choice of book. Once he had gotten his bearings enough to relax, the Lucet had considered the entire situation rather silly. Now, though, he saw everything that transpired from a slightly new perspective. One that lent it a slightly more rosy hue.

    He knew he likely should have thanked Lec for it, but it was the question that came next that really snagged the Lucet’s attention. Issa didn’t find their choice of words particularly clear, but he thought he understood what his guide was getting at. As with most things, however, his mouth seemed to move faster than his mind could keep up with. Buoyed by excitement borne from what Lec seemed to be suggesting, the words just seemed to spill out of his mouth, seeking confirmation.

    “Do you mean…that you wouldn’t mind bringing me back here?” Issa asked. Without even realising he was doing it, the Lucet began to lean forward a little more intently, his gaze expectant. Cautiously optimistic, even. That alone likely should have been enough to hint towards his answer, but that wouldn’t stop the Lucet from voicing it himself, mere moments later.

    “I think that I had always intended to come back, truth be told. This place is simply too big for me to be content with, with just one day, no matter how much we managed to pack into it. There’s too much more out there I want to experience, and I’m not sure I could ever content myself with just a small taste, now that I know” Issa said. The Lucet averted his eyes here, turning his head to one side, as if he were searching the far wall for what he was to say next. Lec was presented with a view of his side profile, but it was one that didn’t quite hide the Lucet’s burning cheeks quite as well as he might have liked.

    “Given the choice, though…I think I’d much rather keep exploring the city with you. If you really don’t mind, of course” Issa said. As soon as the words had slipped from his lips, a thousand excuses bubbled up inside the Lucet. Reminders that he was only here to explore, and was only sticking with Lec because of their usefulness as his guide, and a great deal of other thoughts similar to that one. His lips remained sealed, however. Partially by the knowledge that he had already probably babbled on too much about it, and partially because the Lucet wasn’t exactly sure he wanted to remind Lec of these things. Not for the first time, Evelin’s words from earlier that day seemed to replay themselves in the back of his mind.

    When your children are born, I expect to be the godsmother, you hear?

    The burning in his cheeks only seemed to get worse, and Issa was quick to scold himself for letting those words affect him so badly, and for getting so far ahead of himself. Such thoughts didn’t seem to help his situation, however. It was about now that the Lucet realised that he had been toying with the hem of his pants, however, and he quickly forced himself to be still. It felt like a losing battle, however, and Issa quickly blurted out the first words that came to mind, seeking any sort of distraction.

    “I don’t know how long you intend to stay around, but if we aren’t quite so pressed for time anymore, then perhaps you could teach me to understand these things myself. Not sure how long that usually takes either, but if you think it would be worthwhile…well, I’m sure you would appreciate not having to do this for every single one that I want to look at. Especially if my first attempts at picking were anything to judge by.”

  9. #29
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    A cacophony of thoughts seized Lec's breath in the time between their last word and Issa's first, and they wondered if the Lucet could see their heart pounding through their thin top. Were the gems and sheer fabric rustling with their palpitations, or was that their imagination? How had they managed to read while this nervous? Why were they nervous in the first place?

    But Issa spoke calmly, his voice holding none of the anger or offense Lec had feared. In fact, the man sounded cheery, friendly, happy. Perhaps he hadn't misunderstood the situation, then. The sigh that escaped Lec's mouth left their cheeks a darker hue. They tried to shake their thoughts clear and turned their attention back to Issa. He intended to come back anyway, he said; well, of course. Evimaire was a city after all, and no one person could see even a fraction of all it had to offer in just a single day. The library alone would take years to fully explore, an undertaking even Lec was nowhere near completing. They nodded simply, wondering what they would show Issa next time, surprised at how easily they believed in a next time.

    Issa's next words gave Lec pause. "I think I'd much rather keep exploring the city with you." Had Lec heard him correctly? The hope in his cadence, the perk of his shoulders, the flustered averted gaze once his words had escaped... The color in Lec's face drained. Were they on a date? "Er--wait," they started, panic already setting in. How had Issa gotten the idea that they were on a date? Had he heard Evelin after all? Had he noticed Lec's blushes and shaky hands and mistaken them for affection, for the wrong kind of nerves? Was Lec on a first date with Issa in a skimpy dancer's outfit and ruined eyeliner? No, they told themselves, over and over. This wasn't a date. Issa was an enemy. They were on a tour. Lec was doing this for their brother. This was not a date.

    They hastily stood, nearly dropping the book in the process. They needed time to process all of this, their newfound homelessness, their raging emotions, the dangerous stranger beside them; they needed fresh air. However, for some reason, they didn't feel quite ready to say goodbye to Issa yet. In a city where they knew most of their neighbors, where they'd been abandoned by the man who should have loved them most, Issa represented untouched potential, a new hope, a new... friend? They looked back to him, and they were surprised to find a red hiding in his cheeks. He was embarrassed? Around them? Lec quickly looked away. He did have the wrong idea, then. Memories of schoolyard crushes fluttered to their mind, somehow still less embarrassing than all this. "Um," they started, "yeah, I can teach you how to read. It'll be easy. But... It would take months, and I think we should start... some other time." They weren't confident in their own reading skills now, let alone their ability to teach the person who was causing so much emotional turmoil. "Why don't we... try going somewhere else?" they suggested. "Follow me."

    Lec set the book back in the shelf they'd found it, and with Issa not far behind, they started out of the library. Lec was glad to be away from the people there who had been watching them, the gazes they'd pretended to ignore. What were they thinking? They all knew Lec--anyone who went to the library did--but what did they think of the one he'd brought? It didn't matter, Lec told themselves, dismissing the idea. Besides, if things continued like they and Issa were already planning, the townspeople would get used to them together sooner or later.

    Back outside, Lec paused as they considered where else they shoud bring their tourist. "You've probably never seen the port?" they asked, nodding towards the sea. "The great port of Evimaire is what our city was named after." It was on the side of town opposite the border to the rain forest. Issa might have glimpsed it while they walked through the market, but Lec doubted he would have noticed much in light of the other distractions around him. Mind made up, Lec started off, walking the familiar roads to the docks.

    Eventually, as they weaved through people, passing by buildings painted in pastel hues, cobblestone turned to wooden planks. Songs of seagulls filled the air, audible over the tide of the blue-green sea below. "Here's our port," they announced, waving an arm towards the boarded pathways and docked ships. "I used to play here a lot as a kid. I liked the sound of the planks under my shoes as I ran across them, and more than once I've been attacked by those gulls for whatever food I'd convinced Mother to buy me." They waved to a group of men standing by a ship as they walked by. "We see traffic from all over the world here," they went on. "It looks like..." They squinted into the horizon, and their gazed followed the puffs of smoke rising above a distant vessel. "Looks like a trade ship just took off. Want to see what it brought?"

    They took Issa's hand and led them further from the city, further out into the sea. The boardwalk creaked under their weight, and the supports on either side seemed to sway with the waves. They walked past ships large and small, business vessels, personal vacation voyagers, small fishing boats. Finally, Lec stopped when they reached the end of the pier. Men were loading crates and sacks onto a cart to take into the city. "Oh, rice," they murmured, reading the brand names of the various goods. "And meat, too." At the mention of food, their stomach growled. When had they last eaten? The realization seemed to bring a headache. They didn't want Issa to know of their hunger, so they quickly switched gears. "There are some restaurants and merchants on the docks, as you can see. Usually stuff for tourists, since we see some vacation boats here." Lec stopped talking, suddenly aware of their own ramblings. Were they boring their guest? "Um," they muttered, "I guess that's the port. Do you... have any questions?"
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    The knowledge that it would likely take him several months of effort to learn the strange written language the humans had invented for themselves caught Issa slightly off-guard, but it wasn’t the only thing that gave him pause. The odd cadence with which Lec spoke was enough to draw his attention, as did the sudden suggestion that they move on and visit something else. Issa couldn’t help but wonder if he had done something wrong, somehow, or if something else had thrown Lec off and he had simply failed to notice. Feeling a tad uncertain, perhaps even uneasy, he decided to fixate on the one thing he knew for sure. Confronted with the opportunity to experience something else new, Issa nodded on in silent agreement, quickly rising to his feet.

    It wasn’t until the two of them had left the library behind and were well on the way towards the port that Issa had time to reflect on what Lec had said, and the full extent of what their words implied. Whether intentionally or accidentally, the human had just suggested that the two of them would be meeting up at least semi-consistently for the next couple of months. For the purposes of his lessons to begin with, certainly. By the time they were done, however…well, who knew?

    The trip towards the port passed in much the same manner as those that had come before. Issa found his attention drawn by several of the buildings and other strange new displays they passed, and the urge to run off and explore the possibilities proved difficult to resist. Both Lec’s presence and the knowledge that their guide was intentionally leading them towards something he would find truly special were enough to curb the Lucet’s impulses and let him restrain himself for the moment, if only just.

    Then they arrived at the port, and all thoughts of other distractions were blown away.

    The first things that Issa noticed were the sounds. The dull thumping that the floorboards made under his feet as they walked, distinct from the cobblestones that had come before. The roar of the tide as it battered against the hulls of the humans’ creations, moving back and forth in an endless dance. The call of sailors and seabirds alike, somehow both the same and different to those he had heard before. The appearance of the buildings and the behaviour of the humans around them had shifted noticeably, too, but since those particular things seemed strange to Issa normally, inexperienced as he was the differences felt less striking. Harder to pick out as oddities, compared to the other things he could hear and see.

    And then, of course, there was the ocean itself, and the large, metallic monstrosities that floated atop it. Lec’s explanation quickly faded into the background when Issa caught his first clear glimpse of the water, and his jaw promptly dropped. From where he was currently standing, it seemed to stretch on endlessly. A restless and violent lake so impossibly large, so incomprehensibly vast, that its mere existence defied belief. Even the largest body of water in his forest paled in comparison, and Issa found the sight both enthralling and unsettling. All these strange human wonders around him, and they were temporarily eclipsed by the sight of this natural wonder. Unless the humans had actually made this too, somehow.

    When Lec finally asked if he had any questions, Issa voiced the most obvious one first. “Can we get closer?” The question was quiet as it slipped past his lips, the Lucet speaking the words as if he were dazed. He began to walk forward with slow and tentative steps, pulling Lec along by the hand gently. He felt a little unsteady, and wasn’t entirely certain if it was due to the shifting of the boardwalk beneath him, or something else entirely. After a few moments spent carefully weaving his way between the people, coils of rope, and boxes of cargo that seemed to litter the boardwalk, the two of them came to the end of the nearest pier, and Issa was afforded with a slightly more unobscured view of the ocean beyond.

    “How far does it go?” Issa asked, finally. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t feel the need to clarify what, exactly, he was referring to. The Lucet sounded a little more steady now that he’d had a little time to adjust, and true to form, he was quick to continue. “It definitely seems much too big to swim. That much goes without saying, I think. I imagine that’s a big part of the reason why you created those floating buildings, too” Issa offered, his gaze flickering to a few of the boats out on the water as he more or less answered his own question.

    After a few moments Issa’s gaze would shift downwards, towards the water that lingered just below the edge of the pier, ever-so-slightly out of reach. Without any sort of care for how he might appear or who might be watching, Issa dropped to his knees. Gripping the edge of the boardwalk with both hands, he’d lean out over the edge of the wooden planks, lowering his head down as close to the water as he could manage. Just one unexpected jolt or jostle from being tossed into the drink, the Lucet would glance back over his shoulder, searching out Lec’s face from this new, unconventional angle.

    “How deep does it go, do you think?” he asked. Another question that he couldn’t really expect the human to answer, Issa knew but it slipped from his lips regardless. Slowly, his gaze would drift downwards again. “The fish that live here must grow to be gigantic. Larger than any I’ve ever seen, certainly.”

    Feeling a little more secure now, after he’d spent a few moments in this new position without falling in, Issa would peel one hand away from the boardwalk. He’d reach out towards the water below, dipping just the tips of his fingers into the ocean, before swirling them back and forth idly. “Once upon a time, I could have occupied myself for hours, trying to imagine what was down there. I spent plenty of time doing that about this place, after all. If this trip has taught me anything, though, its that the truth is probably too far beyond my reckoning for me to even try and guess at.”

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