The spider scuttled around its vast web, clicking irritably at the stick. The floor boards squealed under Otho’s feet as he shifted his weight, putting together what he thought about this answer. “I don’t think the spider will like being in a box.”
This, finally, got Violet to stop her harassment campaign. Her mouth was sloped to one side in bemusement when she looked back over her shoulder at him. “Ain’t going to hurt it, now am I? Just want to look.”
“Would you like it if a giant spider picked you up and put you in a box?”
Here he let the thoughts bolt. Here he could try and fail to keep up with them, managing only to pick up the things they left behind: scraps of realizations, new meanings pieced together out of old sights seen, salvaged memories he’d rather forget anyway intermixed with the dozens of new and alarming things he had to get used to here on the other side of the world. Here he could let the stress melt out of him, ebbing down his face, two rivulets of misplaced ocean that clung to his jaw and soaked his shirt.
Not for the first time. Not for the last, either.
Bloom was big up close. Bigger, it seemed, the closer in he leaned to Piksel to investigate him, so big Piksel had no idea where to even look. He was covered in dusty brown fur and darker brown spots, a crazed mane of black hair running down the back of his thick neck, and one of his ears was halfway shredded. Again Piksel noticed his eyes were two different colors: one brown, one blue. “Extraordinary capacity, huh?” he said with a wolfish smile, putting a huge hand on Piksel’s thigh. “Guess we’ll see.”
“Honestly, stop squirming. It’s not going to start up any faster.”
“Not squirm? Now what sort of fun would that be?”
Stars shone outside his window. They peeked in over his shoulder, glancing off the clock face. If he closed one eye he could only see the stars’ reflection in the glass. If he closed the other, it was merely the clock again.
He had realized quickly he did not like either option.
Piksel did not know how to handle this knowledge. He did not know how to handle most of the knowledge that seemed to be coming to him, lately. He hated the idea that his tail would look wrong now. Was he really this vain? He’d never thought he’d put that much stock in his appearance. His tail itched. He hated this.
Rooka Delmirev was an accomplished adventurer. She could wield three kinds of weapons effectively, had slain monsters that threatened to encroach upon her village, and could sing bawdy songs with the best of them. She had her scars and her cracked horn and her mutilated tail, all of which she was terribly proud of. She knew how to track and hunt and bargain, and how to convince just about anyone that her small size had nothing to do with how capable she was. Rooka Delmirev, adventurer! Rooka Delmirev, the Sparrowhawk!
But right now she was just Rooka, little sister, and she was tired.
“What’s up, Piksel?”
Rooka had her big spear again today. She had it slung over her shoulder like it didn’t weigh as much as she did and that was something Piksel always liked seeing, because it was cool, and he liked that Rooka was cool.
But today he didn’t really pay attention, a little bit because he had most of his face buried in a blanket and a little bit because he had been getting upset again. Now he was upset and Rooka was going to know. “Nothing,” he mumbled, twisting the blanket in his claws. “Nothing is up, Rooka.”
He didn’t consider it for very long before trotting across the lane, dodging wagons and entirely too-large foot traffic, until he had made it to the alley. A kobold’s sense of hearing wasn’t particularly impressive, but Piksel was sharp enough to hear the quiet crying from the girl.
“You,” he said briskly, pulling up short beside her. By his estimation, had she been standing she would have had perhaps six inches on him, but currently he could actually look down at her. It was nice not to strain his neck. By his estimation the child was perhaps ten or eleven, but you never really could tell with mammals. “Come on now, don’t cry. You’ll get a headache and then you’ll be of no use to anyone. What’s the matter?”