The Bright Children, Chapter 5-3 “Thief”

After fitful sleep, Aphella came up the stairs from her chamber into the main floor of home to find the whole of it well lit, the crystal lamps growing bright and colorless. Her father reclined at the table across from Hamon, who caught her eye as she emerged from her darkened room. Aphella expected him to say something, either about the night before or his hints of apprenticeship. Instead he met her eyes calmly, smiled, then turned back to Dolmar.

“That’s the problem with traders like that,” Dolmar said, sipping at a hot cup of moss tea. “If you’ve got no home, no ties, then you’ve got nothing real at stake. I’m not the best friend of Zyteus, but he’s got a home, and a family. Things to lose from hiring men like that.”

“I recall you being better friends than you are,” Hamon said. He pursed his lips. “Maybe I’ll have a cup of tea after all.”

Dolmar nodded and stood up with his mug. He walked briskly over to a stove, heated by a mass of volcanic rocks in a steel chamber, and breathed fresh light and heat into it. An iron kettle atop the stove began to release wisps of steam.

“How about you, Aphella?” Dolmar said as he rummaged in the cupboard for another mug. “I’d be interested in hearing your own account of last turn.”

“And I wouldn’t mind hearing again,” Hamon said.

“I think I might like that,” she said, and then pulled up a chair near to Hamon. Looking past the old warder, she watched her father pull out two fresh mugs, and was seized by a sudden itch. Her mind raced backwards to the previous turning, when Shaenyll had cast a spell on her. It wasn’t invisibility, though remembering Frey’s appearance there might be something to the old myth of an invisibility spell, but a sort of distraction spell. It made a viewer not notice something, and not noticing was just as good as not seeing. She tried in her memory to catch again the flows her teacher had weaved about each of them, the soft language-less words she had incanted to seal the spell.

The kettle began to whistle, and Aphella decided not to waste any more time. She wasn’t carrying a focus, but she wagered she could breathe out enough magic to cast a small version of Shaenyll’s spell.

“Master Hamon,” she said. “Do you know anything about swords?”

“Hmn?” Hamon said, tilting his head. “A bit. Why? What use do you have for one?”

“Just curious. The thief was carrying one. Most of the other dim-men seem to as well.”

Hamon nodded. “They’re killing implements, and not like a bow or a spear. They’re only used to kill other people.”

“Father? We have a sword, don’t we? Over there with the books?” Aphella pointed to the other end of the long room. Hamon’s head followed her hand to where a leather scabbarded blade stood leaning against a set of stone shelves packed with old parchment books.

Dolmar looked up from where he was pouring fresh tea. “You mean my great uncle’s blade? That thing was for cutting tubeworms in the shallows. It’s not a sword.”

“Is there a difference?” Aphella said. She breathed out quickly and with force, directing all her energy and thought forward. Without a focus to aid her, the spell seemed wild and out of control.

“You can kill with lots of things,” Hamon said. “A true sword is good for little else. Truthfully, a bow or a spear is still better for the killing of men, and a sword is but a sidearm, but nobody who wears a sword means to do anything with it besides kill.”

“Why wear it openly, then?” Aphella said.

Hamon rubbed his hands. “Sends a message. The man wearing it is a killer.”

“Good then that Frey bound the thief when he did.

Dolmar grunted. “Could have sworn I poured another cup of tea.” He opened up the cupboard again and pulled down another mug.

Aphella covered her mouth, unable to hold back her smile.

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