He couldn’t help but feel proud, watching his little girl cut the man’s purse from his belt. She nearly bounced her way through the crowd, no one any the wiser. She could barely keep her smile from her face as she stopped in front of him.
He placed his hand on her head, patting it while trying his hardest not to muss up her hair. “Good job, girlie.”
He shook his head. “We’ll look through it later, keep it in your pocket right now. We’ll see what you’ve earned yourself later.”
Sliding his hand to her shoulder, they walked side by side away from their mark and toward home, where he would be able to see the spoils she would keep.
Golden shouldn’t have felt so interested, but there it was. “What is all of this?”
Fletcher didn’t stop what he was doing, arranging the instruments on the table. “I teach the young baron in his spare time. While I can’t teach him magic, which is my specialty, I can still show him the things I have seen from all of my travels.”
Golden sat on the other side of the table. He should have left, really. Well, that was only how he felt about it. What about that one? he wanted to ask, but the fact he had already asked a question stuck on his tongue. He felt more like scoffing and walking out. He struggled against it.
“Once this is put together, it will show an outside representation of the sky.”
“What?” The question left him before he could think about it. Golden continued to not think about it. “None of that looks like the sky.”
“And it won’t, from what we see down here. It took me long enough to come up with a physical representation…” Golden wasn’t sure what he was talking about now, but eventually Fletcher got back on track. “Would you like to stay and watch?”
Then the Baroness’ son would know. Golden got up and left the room. If Fletcher said anything after him, he didn’t listen.
The bartender was shy. That was the only explanation.
He’d seemed so certain, standing behind the counter. With the orders coming in and out, with the crowds giving their stories. He stood there, face like a stone that somehow was welcoming to all who knew him.
But now the child stood in the back with the bartender as the older man showed (mainly through gestures) how to use the stove. The child watched with awe- both the usage of the appliance and how the walls of the man, once so sturdy, shook when faced with being the one scrutinized.
The child listened and then reached for the spatula, only for the bartender to shake his head. The child found himself wearing an apron. The cloth had been hastily tailored, fixed for his height. Just for him.
A small smile rose on his face, looking up at the bartender.
The bartender smiled back.
Honestly, Nemissa changed nothing when the refugees began filtering in. Her city did it for her and she allowed it. Truly she could have asked for no better people than those she could claim to be Baroness of.
It was her son’s favorite thing to do: ask questions. She lifted him up in her arms so he could better see the construction going on around the harbor. “Construction. A new dock, for the new workers. New knowledge of the water, combined with our old knowledge. They’re building a shipyard there. See?” She pointed toward it, watching his eyes light up. Nemissa didn’t know how much of it he understood, but if he kept asking she would keep answering.
He looked to take after her much more than her late husband. In some ways she regretted that. In others… she hoped he was more her than the Baron. She pushed the thought away. Gods, she missed him. All what he had done while ill… not so much.
She snapped out of it. “That’s where they are going to build a trawler,” she continued. “A big ship that will catch a lot of fish with a net. Shall we go see where the trawler will be?”
He smiled and laughed. Whatever he understood, it cheered him more than anything else could cheer others.
“Then let us descend, my son.”
With her son in arms, Nemissa would walk out of her castle and see the changes of her lands.
“What did I say about running off?”
She found him further away from the playground, squatting down and focused on something in the dirt. She had a feeling she wasn’t going to like this conversation.
“What’s wrong with him?” her son signed.
The bird had been dead for some time. Insects covered parts of it, but he didn’t seem to register them, the smell, or anything other than that it was still bird shaped and wasn’t in the sky.
“Aren’t birds supposed to sleep in the trees?” he continued.
“Don’t touch that,” she said, kneeling down to move his hands back. “He’s just… going to his final home. The wild takes care of its own.”
He stopped touching it, but still stared down at the corpse. “Final home?”
“Yeah. One day everything goes to sleep and goes to their… final home. I’m not explaining this well, but do you understand? The body is dead, so the bird moved on.”
Her son nodded, understanding it either more or less than she ever could.
“Then come on, squirt. Let’s get you washed up.”
Maly waited for her father’s sentencing, all the while despising how her sister had thrown her under the bus. Channary was probably still reading the library. Like she always did.
At the very least, Maly was no longer invisible. Father had taken care of that as soon as she had spoken up. He had needed no books, no ingredients, no chanting. He had simply looked at her and she could see her hands again. Now she sat where he had bid her and waited for whatever punishment he deigned acceptable for entering his study and messing with his magic. Though she was beginning to feel that the waiting probably was the punishment. She hoped it was. She hated this already. Her father scared her when he practiced magic, though she loved him all the rest of the time.
She straightened her posture and turned her head toward her father. His face was stern, but that meant nothing. It was almost always stern.
“It seems as though there is little I can do with you. How many times does this make now? That you have found your way into some magic?”
Maly bit the inside of her cheek, but knew if she didn’t answer honestly she would be in even more trouble. “Six times, sir.”
He nodded. “Six times. I’ve had enough of this. We will change. Now.”
“I will teach you.”
The words almost missed her ears, because they seemed impossible. She tried not to react with incredulity or begin smiling like a fool. “Teach me?”
He fixed her with a stare that made her desire to smile vanish immediately. “This will not be easy. You will be under a rigid schedule now. You will no longer be allowed to do as you wish. But this is no longer a decision. This is what we will do. There is no backing out now.”
No options meant she had one thing to say. “Yes, sir.”
“Then you will receive the same dinner as I and go to bed right after. You will wake up at four in the morning and we shall begin your new procedures.”
She no longer wanted to learn magic. “Yes, sir.”