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"What of our guards?"

The Magistrate must be aware that the guards won't let them leave.


"They are welcome in Kef and may seek employment. I do not require them.

In my town, all disputes come to me. Your hiring decisions are your own. Your guards might want you to continue to employ them, but they cannot insist on that, and any disruptive impulses they act on in their disappointment will be fully punished."


It's not like she actually expected the Magistrate to say 'oh the slavers, they're being arrested as we speak' but she's still disappointed. The words ring especially hollow since the Magistrate herself is keeping them captive in Kef.


(He's sewing, and listening to rumors a lot, and learns to spin, and tries another [enchanting] experiment and manages a fireplate that he says will last a long time, it's fixing itself by eating a little bit of the fire! Merta gets better really quickly, compared to what burns like that ought to be like. Four applications of his healing in total and her burns are about a third gone, though she is very hungry throughout this. Her fur's even growing back in no problems.)

Two days pass. 22 days since the strange child arrived in Kef. And then it's probably pretty obvious who the child is if you're not actively avoiding finding out. He only skips two days of illusion practice in the square, and then is back at it. Circles and triangles dancing around in a rainbow of colors. Bouncy ball games and spinning lights twisting off each other in orbit-like, clockwork-like dances for about half an hour.

He's a lot more subdued though. People can watch, but he mostly doesn't talk to them. He doesn't really talk to his newfound family either.


"Ahhh, thank you."

The new fireplate is very cool. Especially if, as she suspects, color magic remains much more expensive than catfire. And time to train individual kaleids for specialized skills will be limited too...


“If the Magistrate was trying to set a precedent, why didn’t she announce it?”

    “Maybe she had a reason to be quiet now, but when the next accident happens, she can say, as I ruled then, it’s not disiniuria if you’re supposed to be using your magic without supervising it.”

“She’s a twisty one alright. Why burn only Loud Pavel, though? If the fire crew didn’t commit disiniuria, that means the gang did. I get being merciful when they thought they were avenging disiniuria, but she hasn’t even sentenced them for murder. But... if the catfolk are in the Magistrate’s dungeon for something, what did Loud Pavel do wrong at all?”

    “Easy, one of them fought back, without using fire, and he suffocated them. The rest of the gang didn’t do any disiniuria. Honestly, good riddance. He was a big guy, he should have easily grabbed a catfolk without magic.

“Hm. I don’t believe that a precedent needed to be set, though. Fallia dropped a disk on a cat’s tail like three deci-years ago, by accident, obviously not disiniuria. And also, the steam burned a catfolk. Maybe he thought the fire had gotten all the way up into the access corridors… but it didn’t.”

    “If you slash at a gnomunk and hit a werewolf on the way, it’s still disiniuria because gnomunks don’t have claws.”

“Maybe Loud Pavel did something worse than disiniuria, but the Magistrate wanted to keep it quiet...”

    “Ooh... Maybe he tortured the cats. Like, he thought, there’s already one wolf doing an elph’s job, why not two?”

“So then the crew is alive, but they aren’t going about in public to avoid scaring everyone even worse, until they heal more... That explains why their families aren’t pushing for the search to continue.”


Once, the large black birds circle Nico and watch him silently for a few minutes.


" not torture. I know that it would suck to work in the fire crew without a lector, but there's other, quieter kinds of entertainment. One of my best friends back in Argolake, a kappa, lost most of his family to the Lei squeezes. Yeah, no one's invented a squeeze for catfolk yet, but that's just because there wasn't a use - yet - for lots of unskilled fire. None of us are safe until the idea is unconscionable, and I don't appreciate..."


A human woman walks across the square, gives him a curious look, and continues on to buy a burger from Paulo.


('Disinuria' seems to be reckless use of magic... Probably a tengu. He looks back curiously.)

(And the catfolk kind of has a point... If they can run a turbine, you could just... Keep them in a basement and let it fill up with water whenever the turbine isn't running. Or something. Like the cloudplant farm does with Dalites the pirates capture and "punish" with a couple years of hard labor. It's not even something where you have to give people an out or they'll burn you... Catfolk can't burn magic for revenge. The same thing he's afraid of. Kappas make food and water...? The possibilities are chilling. It's not just him who could get cornered. He's actually a lot safer than some people...)

(He double-takes at a non-eared face, but goes right back to trying to figure out how to make a clock out of light. Maybe something that bounces the same way every time? And another circle can rotate a bit when it hits the top, like in the watch? White ought to be able to do this...)


Neat. That must be the kid. Illusions, but he's not a whisshopper, and must be able to something incredibly useful. Maybe the things he's conjuring are solid?

She's not going to linger, though. Munch munch...


"...and the clerk is going to be back at work this deci-year, which is not possible if she really was burnt that badly. I think the whole thing was staged."

    "Then why not just keep pretending to be injured?"

"The clerk isn't an elph, she's a werewolf. I bet she knows something, or has a special skill, and can't be replaced by just anyone. And the Magistrate suddenly needs her."

    "For what?"

"I don't know, but things are changing. All these immigrants... we have plenty of air and plenty of water, why on Ansaf is a kappa here."

    "Oh, obviously, for mining really deep. Easier than digging ventilation..."


"...says that the bottom lever for the fire control had a line of tiny holes where it broke."

    "That's got to be sabotage."

"Yeah, and either it wasn't a werewolf, or it was a werewolf trying to make it look like it wasn't a werewolf. They're going over every bit of debris from the sluice gates..."


(Maybe he should not quite fully heal Merta, so people can see that she was really hurt after all? He'll mention the idea, at least.)

(Merta's pretty quiet. But she works for the Magistrate. And Calsa is close to Merta. And Lin showed up at the same time as he did......)

(It could all be nothing. Most adults don't really bother to lie to kids, and just tell them what to do. He doesn't like this sinking, suspicious feeling. He ran away from his trouble, from his parents who always told him what to do, and only found sneakier trouble. Kef is being nice. He's learning things. He's being fed and paid for. He owes Kef some magic, at the very least.)

(But they want more magic. They want magic babies of their very own. And so would any other magistrate. So would any other town. And that means he's not normal or quiet. People are going to keep bothering him, openly or quietly. Forever. Unless he figures out a way to make them stop. And he doesn't want to just let them do what they want. That doesn't stop them.)


He pays more attention as he wanders around, after expending all his white for the day. Looking for any more humans. He tries to subtly ask a few people he knows a bit - Quiet Pavel and Paulo maybe, or some of the wolves he chatters with after the shows sometimes - about Lin and Merta.


(He has been diligently cleaning the mouse enclosure and tries damping the fine sand with water to keep down dust. Petting the mice is nice. They don't really care that they're trapped. They're not smart enough to... But he's not a mouse. He can just pretend to be like one, so they think he's going along with it. But he's paying attention.

Mouse goes squeak squeak.

Nico plays with little baubles of light.

Harmless. Safely contained.)


"Do drakes know things about life?" He asks Calsa later. "I want to learn about plants and people and animals. I need to know so many more things if I want to have the best ideas for magic."


There are several other humans:

- a woman who weaves big pieces of cloth from cat fur.

- a woman who studies the rocks in Kef.

- a man who works for the tanner.

- a boy (girl with short hair?) who runs errands for the mill.

- the woman he saw earlier, who sings for the fire crews.

- a mother with two children who lives at the far end of water town and sharpens knives.

If he wanders to water town and passes by the courthouse, there is a metal cage in front of it surrounded by a fine dusting of ash on the ground.


Quiet Pavel likes Merta. "She's a funny one, for sure, but I like knowing there's a wolf like me looking out for us. I mean, I'm not a Democrat! I support the Allheart compromise, and our Magistrate is decent. Just, you know, it's nice."

"I don't know any more about your sister than you do, haha! Brought here by thieves to steal stuff, the thieves got cought, poor Calsa got to have another kid. Just like with that pup Siki. Long before your time, thieves brought him to Kef, same thing happened."


Paulo sighs. "It's always hard for the misfits. I'm hoping that, since Kef doesn't have dons, we might break tradition further and allow more variety in how we choose who gets a litter, or even just a kit. But I'm glad Calsa and Merta found each other, and found a place for themselves taking in miscellaneous strays.

I'm not sure if I want to help you spy on your sister. I will say that she's an honorable person, from what I've observed. Frogolds might not be exactly like us or wolves or you, but they're fine people."


The mice like that it's not as dusty.


"Sure, you don't have to heal me all the way. I'm glad you did this much. What makes you worry people might doubt the truth of my injury?"


"I think drakes do know about life, at least what kinds there are? ...Do you want me to come with you, or do you want to go alone, but then you might not be able to talk without a catfolk to operate the ventilator?"


"I heard someone say you're faking it by getting better so fast. And most of my magic is super secret."


...It's not that she's a frogold, it's that she conveniently showed up right when he did, and rumors are saying suspicious things about her, like how she might sneak out and sabotage things. Maybe they're just being mean? Still, if a lost thief child shows up once every few years, it doesn't make sense that the same day he arrives, so does Lin.

...Well, whatever. He doesn't feel like arguing about it and showing everyone that he's suspicious. Even though he totally is.


"I think you should come with me? It feels rude not to... I don't want to talk to someone if they don't want to talk to me."



The drake's house is a tall tower with small windows at the bottom and a doorway with a solid door. It's surrounded by a field with small misshapen plants, and poles for holding catfire but no farmer currently lighting them.

"Oh, you might not need me after all, if he's home. I think this building is supposed to draw air in and up just using his body warmth.

Approaching! Social visit, not urgent! I'm Calsa and this is Nico, may we continue?"


There's a faint clatter, and then a shout. "I'm upstairs, with company on the first- You may! Larian, please get the door?"


A tall turtle-woman opens the door. She nods - oddly, not actually tilting her head and ducking it down and forward instead, in order to prevent splashing - looking somewhat bored. There's a small depression on the top of her head. She turns around and goes back in, wordlessly.


"Shut the door behind you!"

Inside the house there's several levels with a clear column of open space in the middle and steep stairs going up the side. The first floor is mostly empty, but for a couple of stone worktables and planters, and a sand table. Second appears to be some sort of library? There's some books on shelves.

"Hello! You're the one with the lights I saw on the way in. I hear you can do geometry with it!"

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