The Urge Daedalic

<< Revenant Faith and Foreign Pilgrimage

“Build it, young boy; build it high / drop it, old man; drop the sky. / Paper magic in your head / makes you wise or strong or dead.”

-Shear Boot, Witchlights in the Sun, An Album of Our Crying Simulations

“So… here is where most of us – ‘us’ being those interested in thaumaturgy, or the science behind the Hiek machine, or the mysteries of the psyche and ensouled things – start our journey.”

They no longer shared a shed; instead, what had been a giant cabinet of a room was cleaned out of crates and sleeves and sacks, and now contained the sleeping commodities for its two seated occupants. A ring sconce equally well suited to either torches or tapers sat cold against the interior wall. Starlight from early early morning scythed indoors through the window slats, lightly crocheting vegetative residents of plantpots and dirt-filled bowls with silver.

Ktsn saw with perfect clarity, though, thanks to a bright orb atop Eihks’s palm.

“Now,” he continued, poking at the light with his other hand.

His “lecturing mode” voice had commandeered the balcony of his throat, and he managed to perfectly divide his attention between his karkshesh pupil and his ball of light.

“The witchlight is part of the Troolitan genre of magic. Troolitan arts are curious for several reasons. They are usually quite efficient. They are easily enough accessed that even those with barely any thaumaturgical talent can often conjure them. And – barring some very odd universe compositions, like localities where magical stability shrinks as gravitational influence grows, or where glueballs automatically transition into simple hadrons and back – an adequately capable person can produce them effectively anywhere. No need for your skein to extend its field of effect; the magic just works.”

Eihks tossed the orb in a lazy battery of loop-the-loops. Its path bobbed and weaved with insect suddenness, falling up in occasional spurts before continuing on its way to his other hand. Ktsn couldn’t tear herself from the sight. The few tools that the previous proprietor left behind in the room had their shadows violently boxed about by the infant sun.

“It’s the sort of thing that a lot of parents do with their children in the extrafacetary climes,” Eihks told her. “Families sometimes see it like the moment they first manage to read a sentence aloud, or the first time the kid manages to get in touch with a practice eidolon. A bonding moment.”

He swiped his forehead.

“I’m from a bit of an odd family, so my upbringing’s high bonding moments were more along the lines of fishing, and the good times of ostracizing one of our own.”

A very long sigh.

“Yes, nothing like a clan member eloping to unite the rest of the family unit. But that’s old and unhappy business.”

Ktsn’s mind’s eye went back to the scene she’d left behind at the Daephod farm, and the expectant face of Cursog. Her family would be fine. Happiness and well-being weren’t identical, after all. Before she could started forming questions about Eihks’s family history, she forged ahead with a more immediate topic of inquiry.

“A person would require no magical talent to make one of these, then?”

She poked at the witchlight, watching its surface depress with increasing resistance, then allow her digit entry. It was a bit like… viscous honey? Retracting the finger didn’t provide the sensation of it adhering to her nail and fur, but she was certain it had real weight. It was like thought-stuff had suddenly leapt from its creator’s skull and donned the vestments of mass and volume.

“Almost no magical talent,” Eihks corrected.

“But you would need to have the understanding of…”

She waved, vague and untethered.

“… however it is that you… do what you are doing, to achieve that end.”

“You need to get a grasp, intuitive or otherwise, of the conjuration process. Yes.”

Eihks up-signed with his free arm.

“I could – if you let me – impart the psychic maneuvering you’d need for this. There are more packages for your cerv-mesh than I could count out there that imprint you with the thought-sense or thaumaturgical energy manipulations involved in almost any kind of magic, including a hundred hundred variants of these little will-o-wisps.”

His arms spread, and his thin smile softened.

“However, you’re interested in doing this the traditional way. That’s fine, but we’re going to have to go through some exercises to get you to a point of competence. It’s not likely to be a quick journey. On the positive side of the equation, thanks to my affliction, I’m a bit more challenged by this particular working than most people, so I’m more aware of your difficulties.”

His free hand rose and pointed ceilingward.

“I still can do it, but it’s actually slightly easier for me to use a chandlery Hiek machine than it is for me to call up a witchlight.”

Ktsn didn’t flinch when his hand became a calmly burning torch for a few seconds. She remembered the way he’d done the same in the sensory he’d shown her back at his Rhaagm residence. The fire shrank and died, and he shook his hand a bit.

“Basically, you steal a miniscule amount of your own flesh and convert its mass to heat very slowly. It’s more complicated than that, and it’s dangerous when you’re starting out because you might just light yourself on fire. One part of your focus needs to be on not cooking, another on performing the conversion, and a third on controlling various processes that determine the where and how much as far as the amount of source material used.”

He frowned at her as though she’d suddenly demanded he set the building alight.

“I will NOT be teaching you chandlery, by the way. Not now, maybe not ever. There are easier and more efficient methods of achieving fire, with less risk of you baking a limb or flash-burning your clothes off. In my case, I generally gravitate toward fireproof and unmeltable clothing to help mitigate some of those factors. Also, it normally hurts like being actually burned alive, which is another thing that doesn’t affect me. Completely disregarding how difficult it is for a newcomer.”

He brushed his palm off against a knee, and frowned more deeply.

“I have three tools that constitute my frontline bag of magic tricks; namely, timorurgy, chandlery, and gyrokinesis. It will probably be best to teach you the theory behind each, at least.”

He reached down along his shirt, and straightened it.

“But let’s cover that another time.”

The witchlight made its way to his now-cooled hand. She noticed that it floated toward him in a long curve, rather than a straight line.

“You can see this thing, obviously. You also can tell that it’s not ordinary matter, based on your expression. It’s a magical construct partially given life by will and focus and (in this case) the self’s exposure to the proper skein elements.”

“That does not tell me how to make one.”

“We’re getting to that! You recall, when you had that visitation from Xelat, that you… ‘shouted’ about wanting your head to yourself, correct?”

Recall? Not something she could forget without brain surgery and some really strong drugs.

“I have a recollection. It was an odd presence in my head, like…”

Memory came swimming to the surface as a monstrous shadow, more realistic than expected. She convulsed.

He leaned forward, blinked, made as though to rest a palm on his leg, then stopped.

“Ktsn. I realize that what Xelat did was scary. I realize that event probably made you more… paranoid. That’s completely understandable.”

A dim cast fell over him, and the karkshesh suspected she was seeing the Eihks who was his parents’ child, rather than whatever he normally was.

“I promise you, though, that – even had I never taken an oath – nothing of that kind will befall you. No matter what’s necessary to prevent it.”

Her eye refocused.

He smiled, sourly sweet.

“Take your time.”

She up-signed, a little bit shaky.

Her mind’s hands grasped at words hanging from her vocabulary’s pantry ceiling, bringing them close to sift and choose.

“It reminded me of that sensation where a dream ends, but you cannot yet tell if you are actually awake.”

Something scratched at her eye, and she tended it with a thumb.

“Like that, but in reverse. I was awake, then dreaming, and could not tell where they joined – or even recognize the difference at first.”

“That’s not a bad comparison.”

Eihks recovered his composure. The hand tossed the witchlight and caught it, then put it on the floor between them. It made as though to roll a centimeter or two, but an immeasurable ridge or rut on the floor’s surface prevented it.

“There are technical terms for it. The first part, when you were brought into your own mindscape, was an epistemic hook-drag. That’s actually a marketing term, essentially, but it fits. When you started chatting with your eidolon friend, though – and had-”

He stopped, and his eyes closed while his tone abruptly slowed.

“You were able to look over the features of your cerv-mesh at one point. You checked out the major mechanisms and had the opportunity to poke and prod at a few of them. Do you recall finding the central skein control, and how it felt in your head when it was pointed out to you?”

She up-signed.

“THAT was what’s called a Rujab de-indexing, which is related to a magical adaptor for the brain. It touches on the same fundamental activities you would use to craft a witchlight. You need to do four things. It’s tricky, so don’t worry about whether you see anything happening – I have methods of monitoring that give me an idea of your success rate. First, recall that central skein control part of your experience as best you can.”

Ktsn gave it her best shot.

“Second, picture this little ball right here in your head. Same color, same size, same texture. If you can, try to convince yourself its other properties are identical. Substrate, heft, friction.”

He held up the sphere and dropped it into her hand. The thing’s weight suggested that the orb itself weighed nothing, but there was a solid kernel inside it that had to be… lighter than her sling when it held a rock, but heavier than her sling alone.

“Don’t worry so much about the precise weight. I determined that, along with many of its other properties, when I made it. Focus on how the weight is distributed.”

Ktsn gave that her best shot as well.

“Third part. This is where it starts getting tricky. Think about yourself thinking about these things. You’re consciously holding this witchlight in your mind, and you’ve got a kind of recollective miasma holding onto a part of your cerv-mesh experience. Now try to abstract yourself away without breaking that balance, like you’re hearing a detailed transcript of your actions.”

Ktsn, with a wobbly mental gyroscope, managed to keep roughly on track with these instructions. Perhaps it was more accurate that she failed as gracefully and gradually as she could.

“Okay, got it? Don’t answer, just making sure you’re listening. Now the fourth part’s that you need to-”

With zero warning, he smashed his open palm onto the floor right between them, an instant before the light in her grip fractured and suffocated. A split second of only skylight, before an unexpected flash blinded Ktsn.

Half mad with terror, unnerved by her disability, Ktsn clawed the air. One keratin point found purchase. A grunt penetrated her perception. Moments later, it also soaked into her conscious awareness.

Her sudden mortified realization came at the exact moment Eihks muttered, “Well, I can’t say I didn’t ask for that.”

Eyes slowly adjusting to the cozy-cold lightlessness of the room found themselves aided by a soft glow. Shielded behind one of Eihks’s hands, another witchlight gradually chiseled the shadows back. His lips were smiling.

One of his cheeks had a fissure through which some of his small teeth glinted.

“You got the beginning stage, there,” he said, slitted flesh simultaneously taut and loose-hanging. His expression changed.

“Here, give me a moment.”

Putting the witchlight down, he covered the gash with a palm. After holding his hand there for a number of VERY fast karkshesh breaths, he removed it. The spot had a thin grooved scar, rather than a gap. Within seconds, the depression vanished, leaving smooth skin.

“That right there is a practical but slightly touchy use of chandlery; specifically, as a means of healing,” he said, tapping the cheek. “Convert flesh you don’t need just now into energy, then – without letting the energy loose as heat – reallocate it to build new cells. I have other methods of healing, though chandlery is the preferred approach when I can use it.”

His lips scrolled back, and one of his nails tapped a quadragonal front tooth.

“I don’t need food to sustain myself, but chandlery means consuming meat puts raw material inside me. A bit MORE cleverness, and I can incorporate it to replace the bits of mass lost from medical repair jobs. Keeping a wannabe revolutionary that I stab from bleeding to death, for example.”

A thumb jabbed out at the now-empty square in front of the shop.

“Yes, chandlery has all sorts of applications, if the pain of using it doesn’t dissuade you… things like killing creatures and people with little more than a touch.”

His eye glinted.

She felt her pelt rising, thinking about a vanquished gpsl nuson bull.

“What does that have to do…?” she began.

“Witchlights!” he boomed.

A foot stomped down where the first vanishing light had been.

“The beginning of experience is picking up the smallest pieces of knowledge.”

He suddenly grinned broadly. It was a “things are fine” look, and the swirl of shame and self-anger at her lapse in control faded to an off-color spiral.

“You have lost me,” she almost said, but stopped herself. In actuality, she knew what he was going to tell her – if not necessarily the precise verbiage.

“The humble Troolitan witchlight is a significantly representative working, as far as introducing people to the art and science of magic goes.”

He conjured another hard-edged orb. Immediately, he clenched his fist around it. A familiar flash, though more gentle. Another softer witchlight replaced it.

“See? That light right there is what you did: a manifestation. Very short-lived, but you managed to nail all the components perfectly for a very brief moment. If you were practicing Ast thaumaturgy, it’d be contingent on your ability to single-mindedly focus on maintaining your Hiek machine. That’s just a more concentrated, slightly changed form of part of what you just achieved.”

The thumb-adjacent digit rose.

“Your mind moved in a Hiek-machine-inclined direction. Magical and generative thought.”

The next digit rose.

“Your mind applied itself to recollection. Experiential thought.”

Another long finger.

“Your mind gathered in multiple contexts and compartmentalized them. Abstract thought, as well as touching on recursive thought.”

Four wiggling worms stood at attention.

“Your mind reacted to sudden stimulus. Input-centric thought.”

His lips pushed out, as his head tilted and his expression slammed shut. He briefly turned into an automaton, watcher her watching his cheek.

“Also, don’t worry about it. The hope was you’d jump or something, but taking a swing is fine as well. Just don’t do it every time.”

He glanced at the windows.

“In any case, those four quadrants of the mind are how the Troolitan genre divides it. Not especially biologically sound to split it up like that, but they’re elements applicable to almost any sentient brain. You don’t need to hold onto all the parts at once with significant strength; that’s nigh impossible for a lot of species and people. Those bits and pieces are fundamentals for any number of other magical pursuits.”

A long finger tapped his head.

“There’s a proverb in my faith that says while you have free will, there’s the responsibility that you carve that free will into the right sculpture. This is… a cousin to that precept, I suppose.”

In quick succession, he created and dismissed six more witchlights.

“You eventually get a knack to magic that’s like…”

He fell back onto his posterior.

“Ah! Like moving onto fastlegs or highlegs. You don’t really think about how you roll over and keep your balance, you just do it.”

Ktsn’s claws rattled.

“Well, I am going to be thinking about it a very great deal, now.”

“I know! Psychology is just wonderful.”

Two looks of mischief sparked off of each other.

“In all seriousness,” Eihks said, holding the flat of an empty palm up, “it’s an enormously useful skill, the ability to create light. Close your eyes.”

The last part came so casually that Ktsn almost didn’t comply in time. Within a heartbeat, the raw-flesh color of skinless eyelid printed on her brain. It didn’t fully fade for quite a while.

None of the night insects fell silent, and nobody was outside the shop to suddenly stop talking. Even so, and despite the fact that the light’s creation didn’t produce any new noise in and of itself, its death was the death of something audible.

It took about a minute to blink away the weird leftover haze. When she did, and the world stopped being a textured blotched image of itself, Eihks sat there giving her his full attention.

“That right there is exactly what you just did, only scaled up to greater effect. It’s a nasty little trick in a pinch. Doesn’t work on things without some kind of visual pickup, of course.”

He chuckled. Without words, she heard “We’re even” in his tone of voice, when she couldn’t help scrutinizing his face again.

“But if you can pull it off, you’ll discover there are a lot of creatures weak to the good old look-this-way.”

Another orb bobbed up and down on his palm, smaller than the others and giving off a dim, pleasant glow. He pointed at it with his other hand, flicking it off so that rolled across the floor. It came to rest next to her leg.

“Obviously you shouldn’t be practicing this outside. In a worst-case scenario, though – as in, myself or someone else who is flatly indisposable will die otherwise – I’ve found that bluffing with overstated thaumaturgical skill can get you a lot of places. Dangerous, but people who know ‘magic’ is just a fancy fiction word – to either describe things that can’t be understood or serve as a synonym for ‘mythical’ in daily life – are susceptible to surprise.”

She reached down and picked up the orb, putting a claw through it again.

“If you decide you don’t want to pursue it any longer, at any time, just say so and we’ll not cover the subject any more.”

Ktsn turned the thing over. It gave off no warmth, and as she stared beyond the object she got the sense that what illuminated the room didn’t count as normal light.

“Very well,” she huffed. “Let us do it again.”

Over the next hour, she managed to create a lot of almost-successes, one or two things that could have been tentatively called an actual witchlight, and an excess of sullen frustration.

“I find this… offensive!” she grumbled after three progressively dimmer squibs. Her mind had gone feverish and unfocused, and she needed to turn it in a different direction.

“Ah?” Eihks noted, reservation questing out without words as he threaded an incandescent orb between his fingers. To look at him, she would never believe he lacked somatosensory perception; many years of practice could overcome even the weirdest obstacles, she concluded.

“I have only gathered the barest idea of conservation of mass-energy or causality from your education, but even so this seems wrong. This light is coming from nothing and doing something.”

Eihks balanced a little bright ball on the back of his hand. He was looking past it.

“You continue to impress me with that memory. And you’re correct. Generating a Hiek machine from the mind often seems wrong, or twisted, as judged by the rules of permissible mechanics in many places. It’s even weirder than that, actually – witchlight physics appears hardwired, even deliberately sculpted, to generate illumination without passing on kinetic or thermal energy. Generally disobeys laws that try to forbid overloads on enthalpy and perpetual motion, that kind of thing.”

“But you told me about… There were…”

Ktsn had to get up and tromp across the room to sap a little of her tension, then tromp back.

“I have come to expect that you will tell me the truth without any sort of deception or misleading! Very distinctly, as I recall it, you emphasized that I should never expect to get something from nothing, or to turn something into nothing, outside of applied tuning field mechanics.

Whatever that meant.

“That implies either a contradiction or an overtly flawed simplification.”

She scratched the inside of an ear, then rolled over onto fastlegs, and stretched.

“It is not a very nice feeling to ask for a flower, and be told that none are at hand, when three hills over lies a field of blossoms. What was that phrase you used? ‘Lying by omission,’ I believe.”

She wiped an arm across one eye, two nostrils.

Eihks’s witchlight went out, and a second or two later another one lit up. He wasn’t looking at her. The set of his mouth and the angle of his eyes didn’t match his usual lecturing composure.

“I think I see what you’re saying, though your metaphor’s a bit awkward. ‘Details omitted, see source for further reading,’ as academic circles have put it throughout history. I think this is one of those essential worldview differences between your culture and place of origin and mine – let’s try to clarify.”

He folded an elbow over a knee, before his legs both extended to their fullest length and his back pressed flat against the wall.

“Explain what I am,” he instructed her.

“You are an explorer, a native of Bequast, a residing citizen of Rhaagm, and a person who likes making odd requests from time to time.”

He chuckled, and though it died quickly, the sound was real and natural.

“Sorry. What species am I?”

“You are human. Unless you have lied, in which case Ripper take me,” she grunted, Eihks’s hands clenching as she tried the idiom out for size, “I should give up and say I know positively nothing.”

“Yes… uh. Be leery of where you let that phrase slip, by the by.”

A few shakes of one of his hands punctuated a thousand-meter stare.

“Didn’t think I was that crude so often.”

He rolled his neck a bit.

“So: I am human. In more detail, I have a very slight degree of conjugation-based hybridization from about twenty generations back. That’s true of just about everybody at some time or other. In respect to my humanness, though, I’m a bit of a mutt. Several recent ancestors from as many different instances of the place called the British Empire, a little Cambrian, a lot of Southerner. Many others that don’t fit into easy categories. Then you factor in the aspect that I’m a thirty one chromosome human, which is a very different breed from the locals on this planet.”

He shot her a look.

“I’d say you either got distracted partway through that explanation, or didn’t remember all of it… but if you did, please prove me wrong.”

She eyeballed the captivating jarful of pretty flowering herbs under one of the windows.

“I did not. Your point is made, I admit it. However, I am happier to have been given the chance to digest knowledge, even to the point of waste, than to have someone else truncate what they think I ought to know.”

Eihks’s response was faster than normal, and it felt like it had teeth in it.

“You know, I DID offer you access to essentially the whole of civilized knowledge with a few module tweaks to your mesh. Still on offer, by the way. That wasn’t something you were keen on accepting earlier, though – or unlocking your eidetics, or-”

Ktsn’s hands clapped over her eyes. The points of her claws were almost a relief.

Gegaunli uplift my bones, protect me from Taralngegeshet’s intercession, and see me well tomorrow.

I am so tired and confused and… I do not know what I am thinking anymore, it seems.”

She slumped down, arms dying like cudgeled fish. She looked herself straight in the mind.

“Perhaps I AM a hypocrite. Or maybe I am not, and maybe that feeling is rooted in something else I have missed, or simply internalized badly.”

The breath that followed ought to have burst her midsection open.

Outside, small sounds peppered the cool air.

“It has been like every day is a small death and resurrection,” she mumbled. “Every day, forced to forget a few more certainties, grafting new replacement ideas in their stead. Everything is starting to get teased apart, including me. Even as I learn about the rules in this new life, there are yet more unknowns in your lessons and my learning, coming faster and faster with time. It is exciting. It is terrifying. When everything is mutable around you, how do you know what qualities are yours and which ones are projections?”

She flexed the huge muscles behind her jaws, and at her hips.

The silence of insects and gentling darkness resumed. After a moment, Eihks called up a dim witchlight. He tossed it and caught it overhand. Ktsn recalled the dream where she’d been crowned with the sun, and – contemplating that dream star – concluded that it and the witchlight had many similarities.

“It reminds me of… torches. Some traveling acting troupes used special torches that lasted a whole three days without extinguishing, and my family went to see them sometimes, back when I was little more than an egg.”

A clearing of the throat that lasted for about half a thought.

“So, an interesting question,” her partner mulled. The mode of his address changed. Diminished.

“I am listening,” she said, in a self-pitying mood and revelling in it.

“You’ve never stated it in words outright, unless it was without me being around. Where do you think the line lies between deception and failure to be adequately informative?”

Ktsn’s cough leapt out of her throat and tried to terrify her. Her recovery wasn’t quick.

“I would say you distinguish the two when…”

She had to think about it. The subject lay squarely in intuitive but unexplored territory. It had the mental equivalence of a place in the back of the throat, where her tongues COULD probe but beyond the limit at which she did anything practically useful with her mouth’s parts.

“The determination of ‘deception’ is when the matter in question becomes simplified by omitting detail that the speaker believes the hearer would consider significant,” she eventually voiced. She forced herself to sound more enthusiastic, and by adopting the likeness of such confident ardor, she actually became some small bit more ardent.


Eihks very specifically gazed into the soul of the witchlight, and not at her. His face shone with that weird pale beige she’d seen occasionally in Rhaagm, though none shared that skin tone in Dōdielnan.

“But what about introducing more and unnecessary information, rather than omitting things that might be unhelpful?” he asked.

When her ears craned back, he held up his empty palm.

“I’ll give you that you may have perfectly legitimate reasons for distinguishing learning like you have been. Separating knowledge on the basis of possessing information from knowledge that is experiencing a particular phenomenon yourself. It’s a fundamental philosophical line. I daresay it makes sense that you care about how you come by understanding.”

He chuckled, then he brushed a scurrying insect from his clothing.

“I’ve long produced an entertaining little program founded on that concept, after all. Though if pressed, I admit the Journals emphasize a particular METHOD of learning rather than a particular MEDIUM of metabolizing knowledge. But humor me.”

He pointed out the window.

“Suppose I describe this place. You are given a very strong implication that the sky has many more heavenly bodies to provide daylight. I use the phrase ‘any and all suns’ quite frequently. I never definitively admit that there are two suns. Is that not deception?”

“It is perhaps an effort to mislead, but it is not the same thing.”

Ktsn felt like she had already made a point on this score, but she couldn’t pin down its merit thoroughly enough to truly dissect it.

“It is a failure to admit something, a refusal to narrow down. You are providing an excess of information. In that case, I have partial responsibility to winnow out the truth from your excesses.”

But wait – isn’t that failure to admit just another omission? Just as he claimed? There WAS a difference, she was sure. Emotionally fatigued, shaky-minded, that difference eluded her.


Eihks’s fingers pranced over the stage of the witchlight in forbidden ritual dances, as though resonating with Taralngegeshet’s call to bury and profane.

“I see things ever so slightly differently, but in time perhaps you’ll change my mind,” he said.

It was a dusty statement, something attached to thoughts long since removed from the limelight.

He rose, pensive and stilt-lean, and waited for something that never came. The caul of dimmest morning seeped through the window, and started to brush him with a hint of chalky warmth.

Those two front-facing oculi, over many days, had slowly become, well, not natural exactly. They’d started to fit a whole new category of person, though. A weird perverse expectation had settled into Ktsn’s skull. If “human” then “forward eyes” – yet, there was a twist here. As he brushed some small particulates from his lower-body clothing, those eyes – that whole face – became… less whole.

She thought of a play she’d seen with her family long ago: Dangerous Love. She thought of how Hronref, the main character of the play, assures his betrothed that he has no feelings for any person besides her.

She thought of how the mirror in the back of the stage made it so the audience could see his facing-away eye was closed. The mirror, showing the watcher this dramatic shorthand for falsehood, alluded to the fisherwoman for whom he actually pined.

If they were in a play, and Eihks a karkshesh, would the mirror show his facing-away eye closed as well?

She didn’t know, but she suspected.

“Think on the matter a bit, see if anything else occurs to you,” Eihks told her. Then, with a complex weaving of fingers, he beckoned her to follow.

“Since we’re up, let’s go downstairs.”

The witchlight bumped into a foot flagellum, and dimmed slowly before succumbing.

“We’ve got a lot to do today, and Fonlat probably wants her helpers active and helping relatively quickly. Time to get some food.”

“Did you not say earlier that you do not require food intake?” Ktsn asked. Her tongues weren’t quite licking each other. Her nostrils all dilated as she pushed forge-hot air out.

She’d acclimated to the environment oh so slowly, but enough stress could still make her overheat far too easily.

The tall man’s shoulders spread a little as he turned on a heel. Just before he hunched under the doorway, he braced himself on the wall with an arm.

“Yes, but you do… and I need to keep up appearances.”

His steps on the stairs had a more regular cadence than his normally allegrissimo descent.

Ktsn flexed her fingers. After a few squeezes of thick air she managed to summon a lancet-sharp flash, which died quickly.

Broken bones.

She rose, exited to the hall, and gingerly positioned herself at the top of the staircase, planning how to place her feet. Go anywhere but here, yes, but with caution. Her long foot flagella did not make walking down such risers an easy proposition.

After reaching the bottom floor, Ktsn didn’t quite enjoy the savory-spiced bowl of cooked oats and meat. She was much too hungry, and for the moment she was simply happy to be eating food.

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