The Lupine Saga 103

“Ha, indeed. Though I wouldn’t be able to speak like that of many. Even my own children, just look at them! Wonderful kids, but terrible in their own ways. I suppose I’ll have to work on that trust another time. I don’t suppose that means you’re speaking to me without doubt now as well,” the baron said, his focus on Ruby intent for a brief moment that passed.

Va’il felt the fur on his ears stiffen. A small scent made him stop what he was doing and look up at Ruby. She was staring at him. The baron glanced at Ruby, and then at Va’il. He gave a half-smile that felt strange to Va’il. The baron’s lips moved slightly, but his eyes did not.

“No, Mr. Laloo, I cannot claim that trust. If I cannot even trust my own parent like that, how could I a stranger? But there are a few, strangers though they were at once, that now have my complete confidence. I couldn’t remove my trust from them even if I tried,” Ruby said without looking at the baron. She sighed slightly, and then moved her chair back. She excused herself and then left the room.

Va’il watched Ruby walk off. He glanced down at his plate, quickly gulped down another ounce of beef and lobster, and then drank a cup of cider.

“Thank you for the meal!” Va’il said, and then stood up and quickly walked in the direction Ruby had gone. She had walked through the halls and into a washroom closet.

“Va’il what are you doing!” Ruby said when she opened the door.

“Waiting for you,” Va’il said.

“Not outside this! It’s embarrassing!”

“I don’t care about that. You just need to stay in my sight.”

“Fine,” Ruby said, the only word she could force out. She felt her breathing quicken, but calmed herself after a moment.

“Let’s sit around the fire. It’s starting to get late now anyways,” Va’il said. He smiled and turned. Ruby followed after him, and soon afterwards the Laloo family was done with their meals as well. They all sat in the glow of the fire enjoying ciders and chocolates and conversations.

“So Ruby, talk about humans more! Do they all have golden hair?” Francine asked. The other bearans all wanted to know as well, but they feared they would show their ignorance by agreeing with Francine’s question.

“Everyone’s different. Va’il may be part lupus, but even he looks more like a human in most ways. Well, I guess not his hair. Or eyes. Or teeth. But the basics are all there. See, we’re different,” Ruby said.

“Oh, that’s even more confusing,” Va’il said with a chuckle. “But have you never seen a human before?”

“We have, but they have always been dressed in large black cloaks, I’ve never had a good look,” Boris said.

“Black cloaks?” Va’il asked.

“Oh, it’s just the traders,” Baron Laloo said hastily. He and Link glared at Boris, while the two bearan girls smiled nervously. Va’il felt strange for a moment, as though the air around him had changed. It was soon gone, and so Va’il didn’t pay any further attention to his instincts. “They aren’t used to being around so many bearans, after all. Actually, that reminds me. I’ve been wondering why neither of you exhibit any fear. At the least, we’d have smelled it on you. But none, not from what I’ve heard. It’s curious.”

“Should I have reason to be afraid?” Ruby asked.

“Not especially, but that doesn’t change the fact of the matter. Miss, you are fully human. And humans don’t have many sensitivities like we do. But we all know that because of that, humans have honed their sense of fear. A reasonable fear, unlike our instinctual one. But all reason states that you should be a little fearful, even if confident in the individuals of another species that surround you,” the baron said.

“And I’m not confident in the individuals,” Ruby said.

“Then why the lack of fear?”

“I wouldn’t call it a lack. But I have confidence. I have a chevalier. And that’s all I need. As long as I have confidence in my chevalier, then I need fear nothing. As long as he doesn’t fear, neither do I,” Ruby said.

“A chevalier! A fitting word. I see, I understand now. You’ve instructed me a few times already, tonight! Miss Ruby, I must say, I’m in admiration! Never would I have thought a child so young would prove to be a fitting mental rival. I suppose, here I’m too isolated. And unimportant. A baron, yes, but still in the lower ranks of nobles. And to think, someone such as yourself has come with a stirring amount of wisdom. We are in awe,” the baron said.

“What’s a chevalier?” Va’il asked.

“It’s a fitting word and description,” the baron said.

“Don’t bother explaining it!” Ruby said. “It’s fine that you don’t know, Va’il. It’s just one of those descriptions I use. It’d take a while to explain.”

“Fine. I don’t really care about that kind of stuff anyways,” Va’il said. He then yawned and patted his stomach. He stood up and walked to the dining area. He drank a large glass of water to settle his full stomach. Never once did he let Ruby’s visage leave his field of vision. He didn’t know why, but he couldn’t bear to let her out of his sight. He questioned himself, wondering it if was paranoia born from their previous capture. He felt anxious at the thought of being unable to see her, though he couldn’t explain why. Her long, wavy hair captured his interest and captivated his eyes.

Va’il wondered if Ruby’s charm was the reason he couldn’t look away, but he laughed at himself, a lowly commoner and a half, for even thinking that. He wasn’t allowed to be captivated by Ruby. He was concerned for her, and he had an idea why. He never felt like this around Derlik’s family. They had a warm, cozy feeling. The same as his own mother. There was an honest homeliness in their ways, and it gave Va’il ease. He could let Ruby spend days away from him, as long as she was with Derlik’s incredible mother.

But even a moment out of his sight with the Laloos around was too much for him to accept. As he downed another glass of water, he realized it was distrust that fueled his obsession. Though he didn’t have a reason to distrust them, the family that seemed at odds with each other due to the inheritance issue was bothersome to Va’il. At first he told himself it was an issue that he couldn’t understand, but after a few additional encounters with the Laloo children, he wasn’t sure. Their distrust of one another spilled into Va’il, and thus he couldn’t trust any of them at all. To add to it all, he couldn’t make heads or tails of what their scents told him about themselves. It wasn’t something he could identify.

Va’il returned to his warm seat soon after finishing his drinks. The large meal wasn’t planning on settling well, but that didn’t really matter. It was delicious, and a boon to the boy who was still in the midst of growing. And the conversation had turned down another path that Va’il didn’t care to contemplate. Ruby seemed engaged and even happy at the exchange, so Va’il only looked on and smiled. She was a friend he had to look after, and making sure she was happy was part of that. That’s what he told himself.

About James Ashman

I write books of the fantasy, heroic, and adventure types. So far. I'm an author who loves fantastic stories.
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