“Hey, Silver-Singer,” Black-Wind said with a grin. “This is my friend, Blue-Flame.”
“Your… friend?” I said with a little uncertainty. With their hair…. “friend” was not really the first idea that jumped into my mind.
“Is there something wrong with that?” Blue-Flame said with a sneer.
“No,” I said hastily. “I just didn’t… I was expecting Black-Wind to say something else, that’s all.”
“Like what?” Blue-Flame pressed.
“Best friend,” I said, sitting down. “That’s what he said earlier today. What are we playing?”
“Oware Mancala,” Black-Wind said, motioning to a board filled with twelve depressions.
“I’ve heard of Mancala,” I said. “That african game. Is it a special version?”
“It’s more complicated,” Black-Wind told me before explaining the rules. Black-Wind set me up against Blue-Flame, while Black-Wind started up a game with Healing-Tears.
“Winners go onto to a final showdown,” Black-Wind said dramatically. I smirked and began to play.
“So,” I said, beginning the game with Blue-Flame, “Why did you and Black-Wind decide to dye your hair?”
“Me and Black-Wind are like brothers,” Blue-Flame replied. “It was a way to show our kinship to one another–our loyalty.”
“How did you become so close–if you don’t mind my asking,” I was quick to add.
“It’s fine,” he said somewhat distantly. “Black-Wind was willing to spend time with me at a time when a lot of the other ætt members were keeping their distance.”
I paused for a moment, focusing on my next move. “It bothers me,” I said at length. “In some ways, the ætt acts all accepting, like a big family. But sometimes it seems like we’re accepting the unacceptable.”
“Things aren’t always that simple,” Healing-Tears interjected. “Is it righteous to shun those who disagree with us?”
“It is when they’re doing something you know is wrong,” I replied. “Something that it’s obvious is wrong.”
“Iron-Will believes that it is obvious that accepting Vandals into the ætt is wrong. Should we follow her lead in refusing to accept the unacceptable?” Healing-Tears replied.
“Dammit, Healing-Tears,” Blue-Flame said, annoyed. “What she believes–that’s different.”
“Blue-Flame is right,” Black-Wind agreed. “What she believes is all about excluding people–about being distrustful. Pretty nasty philosophy.”
“But surely you can agree that it’s not always wise to trust everyone,” Healing-Tears replied.
“It’s also cold-hearted not to trust anyone,” I countered.
“Is it, now?” Healing-Tears said, glancing toward Blue-Flame. He scowled and seemed to contemplate a retort, but turned toward me instead.
“I heard they found out your dad wasn’t killed by the fae,” Blue-Flame said, changing the subject.
“Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that,” I said. “At the very least, he wasn’t killed by who they thought he was. I want to look into it with Moon-Singer–we have a lead on a fairy named Ghost–but I can’t go with him unless I find someone to, well… Moon-Singer called it ‘babysitting.’”
“You should go,” Black-Wind said to Blue-Flame. “This could be Silver-Singer’s chance to learn what it’s really all about.”
Somehow, everything I had experienced of being a werewolf so far didn’t make me eager to find to find out what ‘it’s really all about.’ “I guess,” I said unenthusiastically.
“The lead-up investigation on Ghost will take awhile,” Healing-Tears replied. “You’ll have plenty of time to practice, and probably at least a few more novice missions to get some experience. Otherwise, Moon-Singer never would have considered letting you go at all.”
“To be honest,” I replied. “I don’t feel like I’ll ever be ready.”
“You’ve just got to work harder to catch up, that’s all,” Blue-Flame replied. What he said reminded me of Iron-Will, but I was damned if I was going to tell him that. It sounded like a good way to get punched in the face.
“So,” Blue-Flame said, capturing more of my pieces, “You think I should go help find Silver-Dancer’s killer. I don’t really see how it affects me…”
“I think Silver-Singer could learn a lot from you,” Black-Wind replied.
“But would I learn anything from Silver-Singer?” Blue-Flame asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Probably not,” Black-Wind admitted. “Unless you’re interested in learning the bagpipes.” Blue-Flame rolled his eyes and Black-Wind leaned toward him. “But if you don’t go, Iron-Will probably will. And I can’t bring myself to stand by and let that happen to poor Silver-Singer.”
Blue-Flame chuckled. “You make a compelling argument.”
“And maybe I can come along too,” Black-Wind added.
“I see what this is really about,” Blue-Flame replied. “Getting some glory for yourself.”
“Mostly curiosity,” Black-Wind replied. “It’s a mystery. You know how I love mysteries.”
“Well,” Blue-Flame said, capturing the last of my pieces, “I don’t want to be responsible for depriving you of a mystery. I suppose I can keep an eye on you two.”
“Thanks,” I said with a grin. Definitely better than Iron-Will. “I really appreciate it.”
“Don’t worry,” he replied. “I’ll make sure you repay the favor someday.”