The Bright Children, chapter 3-4 “Meat and Bone”

Aphella watched as her father,  no doubt feeling very enlightened from Master Hamon’s ancient stash of wine, strode purposefully up toward Tellana, the younger sister of Warka, though still old enough to be eld herself, and bowed low, grasping the woman’s hand. She gave a shoulder shaking laugh and followed Dolmar out to the center square. They danced, Dolmar looking much more nimble than his empty bottle of wine would suggest.

Aphella’s eyes wandered to the center, where Ty danced with Maeven. He was smiling. So was she, though Aphella detected a trace of reservation, like the smile was held and brought on with will, not necessarily joy.

Quietly, she stood up and walked away.

*

The shards of Aphella’s spear were laid out on a black sheet of leather covering an iron folding table, lit from above by four hanging crystal lamps that were colorless, though not bright. The space between the stitching on the leather made her believe that the tarp could only have come from a Dreadtusk, though its black color and supple texture left her wondering. Frey stood on the other side of the table from Aphella, scratching at his chin, his colorless eyes running over the broken focus. It lay in four pieces, the largest and most intact making up the shaft, with smaller slivers running up to the sharpened spear edge. The interior of the bone had a chaotic grain, with arcing grain twisting in every direction at once.

“This is dragonbone,” Frey said, then cracked a smile.

“Will that make it harder to fix?” Aphella asked.

“Oh no. Not at all. Easier, perhaps,” Frey said.

“Ain’t nothing easy about it though, eh?” Graft, the leader of the caravan guards, said. He leaned against the highly decorated side of Frey’s personal wagon, chewing on a long piece of spring creep and spitting out the brown seeds.

“Everything gets easier with practice,” Frey said. He pushed the pieces of the bone spear closer together, carefully lining up each section’s grain with its neighbor.

“So I have reminded Aphella many times.” Shaenyll appeared from around a rock cropping that marked the beginning of the commons and the end of the old town wall, her long silver-white hair blowing out behind her with a constant glow. She held her focus, a long piece of carved ivory, loosely in her left hand. Her face wore a calm, detached look, and she seemed not to notice Aphella. Her eyes, bright and white, seemed fixed upon Frey.

“Ah, the ever-graceful Shaenyll, up before the first bell,” the traveler said, smiling broadly.

Aphella cursed hushed words under her breath and said aloud, “Just my luck.”

“It is your luck, girl,” Shaenyll said harshly.

“Have you come for another dance, or to watch my handiwork?” Frey said, and gave a shallow bow.

“Did you think you could work some bit of elder magic in my town without my say-so?” Shaenyll said. She strode up to the table and looked at the pieces of bleached bone strewn on the leather tarp.

“Apparently my sweet words did not broker care into the waking hour,” Frey said. “I would have called for you, had I not been expecting you to be sleeping.”

Shaenyll glared at the old trader.

“Also,” Frey added. “Technically, I am not in town.” He gestured past her to the stone wall.

“When ley lines are broken, they cannot be unbroken,” Shaenyll said. “You know this, Aphella.”

Frey raised an eyebrow. “Do you wish for me to stop? I would very much like to settle the debt I have to your pupil.”

“And your sophisticated words with the Eld did not settle it by themselves?” Shaenyll said. She narrowed her eyes. “If so than this is a sorry way to settle a debt. Gluing a bone and calling it mended.”

“I have no glue, as you can see,” Frey said.

“I know how to cast spells of binding, trader,” Shaenyll said.

“I’m sure you do,” Frey said. He added in an almost affectionate tone, “One so bright as you.”

“Please,” Aphella said. Finally, Shaenyll’s gaze was drawn away from Frey. “It is an heirloom. Even if the ley lines inherent in it cannot be mended, I would have it be whole, even if it makes it just a memory for me.” Clearing her throat she added, “For my mother.”

Shaenyll crossed her arms and sighed. She looked back toward town and, not looking back at either Aphella or Frey, said, “Very well. You are an adult. You may do what you wish with your own property. Or debts, such as they are.” She looked back at Frey. “Carry on, then.”

Frey smiled and nodded. He rubbed his hands and then ran them over the spear, so close to the ancient bone as to be a hair’s breath away from touching it. Softly, he began to incant unfamiliar words, and a glow apart from the lamps began to spread over the leather tarp.

“Where is your focus?” Shaenyll said aloud, almost harshly.

“He don’t need one for every little thing,” Graft said from the side of the wagon, no longer content to be a mere witness.

“The bone is all the focus we shall need,” Frey said aloud, though it seemed that the quiet incantation continued under the sound of his voice speaking aloud. He ran his hands from the head along the haft, and finally down to the butt end of the spear.

Aphella gasped, and Beside her Shaenyll stammered. The spear, once shattered, was whole, though none of them saw it mend, or saw Frey even touch the bone. The mend looked perfect, with no line or crack to show how it had broken. Aphella bent over and looked closely for the lines of binding, of damage, but could find none. More than that she found, like an itch in the back of her mind, that she could not recall just how the spear had been broken, or what it looked like moments before.

Slowly, the spear gained a soft glow.

“And so it is done,” Frey said. He looked at Shaenyll. “Perhaps I should have used a focus. That took nearly all my reserves.” Shaenyll, for the first time Aphella could recall, was speechless.

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