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Part Four

Of Parents and Probabilities

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I drank, neither knowing or caring what I had in the glass. I was too busy with my own thoughts. I knew that Brainard's experiments were dangerous. He'd told me so often enough. I knew that the experiments were to duplicate the 'lightning bolt' spells. And I knew those were dangerous. I should have been there. I should have stopped him. I killed him.

I must have spoken out loud, for Karien said quietly, "He's not dead, you know. I heard one of the Masters say so. He's badly hurt, yes, but they won't let him die." His voice had a curious intonation that I didn't understand. Not then.

I took another drink and was surprised to find the glass empty. Karien refilled it and I sank back into my thoughts. I don't know how long we sat there, not saying anything. The landlord came in and made up a fire at one point, and brought another bottle with him.

I stared at the bottles already lining the table. When did they get emptied? "I kill't him," I said out loud, finally. "He's t' only reason I stayed, you know. He was my fren, an' I kill't him."

Karien nodded, slowly. "S'right, you know. You kill't him. 'N tha' makes you a hommy-, a hommy-maniac," his hand flapped about in the air, much like the wing of an angry hen. "A whatever you call it. A killer," he finally added with a hiccup, straightening himself.

"I s'pose I'll be hung," I remarked mildly. "Hung like a chitten. Gibbettetted." A pause. "Didja know that chittens have gibbets?" I asked.

Karien giggled. "Chittens have gibbets, I mean, gib-bull-ets," he said carefully.

"Gibbets, gib-bull-ets, doan matter, do it? They always get hung, anyway."

"Or get t' heads wha't off, and go runnin' 'round t' couryar'," Karien added with another hiccup. "Ter glass is gone," he noticed.

"Not gone, juss emp'y," I said sadly.

"Emp'y. Juss li' life. Emp'y." He leaned his chin on his hands

"Life ain't emp'y," I had to tell him. "Juss not fair. Li' it's not fair tha' I have to be Sithi'n's son. Ev'ryone spects me to be li' him. I'm not, you know. I'm a chitten an' now I'll be hung li' one. It juss ain't fair."

Karien sighed deeply. "Li' bein' the mayor's son." His voice became bitter and very sarcastic. " Gotta be good. Gotta be nice. Iss a pain inna butt. How come we can't juss be ornery? " he complained.

He lay his head down on his arms, folded across the edge of the table, his drink in one hand.

I sighed. My thoughts were getting very fuzzy and it was hard to remember what I'd been going to say. I knew I had something important to tell Karien. I just couldn't remember. The thoughts kept running away from me, and my eyes kept wanting to close. I sighed again.

"You said it, fren," Karien's voice came from a distance. "Life ain't fair. Here we are, the mayor shun an' a prieshts shun an' we're gonna get hung li' chittens."

"We?" I vaguely remember asking. "You dint kill no one."

He shook his head. The motion made his whole body sway dangerously. "No. Dint kill no one, but I hepped a felon 'scape. An' you tole me about it, so that makes me a axory after the fac', doncha know?"

My head snapped up, and came to rest somewhere around my knees. "I know, fren, less go away an' come juddlers or sumpfin. We're old enuff. We're men. We c'n change our names an' become whirl famous juddlers or sumpfin. An' we woan ever haf to come back here. No more fathers tellin' us how to behave, or..."

"Or to grow up, or honour t' family name," Karien sneered. He thumped the table with his fist. Or at least, that's what he tried to do. It came out more like a weak pat. "Thass it! We'll run away an' never come back. Right now!"

I thought that was an excellent idea, and said as much. I think. I stood up and the floor met my face. That's the last thing I remembered for a long while.

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