"Mudder! She's fine! She's been on her feet four days, now!"
"She ain't made outta glass, mudder! She killed a bear wit' dat bow, I'll has ya know!"
"Course she did! Told me so herself!"
Oriana had casually asked about her bow (which she hadn't seen since she passed out trying to get the attention of Wrench's family caravan) and found out that Piper was holding onto it until Oriana was 'better'. Oriana hadn't particularly minded, but Wrench had made it her mission to get the bow back and was now having a row with her mother about it in another section of the caravan, while Oriana sat with Wrench's cousin.
"They'll be at it awhile," said Wrench's cousin, Jonathan. Unlike the rest of the family, Jonathan spoke in a way that was very similar to Oriana. He said it was because he was a singer, and he had to be able to appeal to a wide range of audiences, but that the people where he was from didn't speak like the rest of his family anyway. For example, his wife spoke 'normally' as well, though her voice had an interesting sound to it.
"I told her I don't really care; I'm just glad you picked it up when you rescued me."
"She's quite stubborn."
"So what happened that day, anyway?" Oriana asked. She hadn't really thought to ask before her bow reminded her of it. "I guess you saw my arrow and looked around for me?"
Jonathan looked confused. "Your arrow? No. We were on our way back from Owvry, having been turned away due to some trouble within the gates, and we heard you yell. We turned around and found you passed out beside the road."
"But I... shot an arrow at your caravan to get your attention..." Oriana muttered, realizing that it may not have been the smartest idea.
"From that distance? It's no wonder you missed. And a good thing, too."
"I'm sorry... I wasn't really thinking." Oriana was ashamed. What if she'd hurt someone, or damaged their caravan?
"I wouldn't worry too much about it. Delirious as you were, I doubt an arrow would have made it more than ten paces, let alone in the right direction. And you were in no position to be making logical decisions anyway." Jonathan smiled warmly at her, and her shame faded.
"A pleasure. Though, may I offer a somewhat-related piece of wisdom?"
Oriana wasn't sure what to make of the queer smile on his face. "...sure?"
"That story about killing a bear? Romantics are rather trusting as a rule, but we're not all as naive as my cousin. It is perhaps unwise to get into the habit of lying to us simply because we're more likely to believe it. That sort of thing doesn't reflect well upon your character."
Although Jonathan sounded more like he was giving her friendly advice than telling her off, Oriana flushed a deep red. She hadn't meant to lie to Wrench—it had just been a joke—but she had to admit she had taken some amusement from it.
But her embarrassment didn't even have time to fully manifest, as it dawned upon her then that Jonathan was speaking to her in a very strange manner. Or perhaps more accurately, in a perfectly normal manner when he shouldn't have been. As though this was all news to her.
Which it was.
As though he was teaching her about his people.
Which he was.
Understanding blossomed across her face, though it looked rather similar to confusion. "...how did you know??"
"As I said, we are not all so naive," Jonathan answered, his smile expanding as he spoke. "And we as a people did not invent things like this caravan without a little cleverness."
He settled down into a more comfortable position and looked upwards, as though the memories he was trying to recall were hidden somewhere in his brow.
"When you showed up so soon after the trouble in Owvry—a lone 'Romantic' leaving town half-dead—it was apparent something was amiss. When the guards came up the road searching for someone not long thereafter, speaking of 'two eyes' in hushed tones, everything fit together quite neatly."
"The guards came after me?" Oriana was positive they would have given up by then. Why did they want to capture her so badly?
"Yes, though we were lucky that the rest of my family is fairly poor at that sort of reasoning, because they are worse still at lying—you would have been given away in an instant. As it transpired, I was able to convince the guards you were simply our sick companion while conveniently neglecting to mention that you were neither with us when we'd first arrived nor even a Romantic."
Jonathan looked pleased with himself, and Oriana couldn't see why he shouldn't be. She had no idea how he'd put all of that together and managed to convince a bunch of suspicious Cynics she was a Romantic without even lying. It was starting to seem to her like every member of Wrench's family was a genius in one way or another.
"Well... if you know what I am, why aren't you afraid or something?" While she was relieved that he seemed not to care, she was also apprehensive.
"Because I'm not a Cynic, I suppose. I have no more reason to fear someone with two eyes than someone with one. In fact, you seem more like a victim in this chain of events, except for that explosion in the city, perhaps."
Jonathan was giving her a look that, while not mistrustful, suggested he was very interested in her explanation for this.
"That... was my mother," Oriana explained, feeling an odd twinge of bashfulness.
"There are more like you?"
"No, she's like them. Kind of. Well, not like them at all, really, but she was a 'Cynic', one eye. Now she's got none."
"Why was she attacking their village? To protect you?"
"She wasn't attacking them!" Oriana was offended by the implication, but deep down she had to admit it would have seemed that way. "They found out about me and came after me and she was just trying to help me escape! She didn't hurt anyone..."
The pain in her eyes suggested little conviction in her last assertion.
"Surprisingly, you're right," Jonathan reassured her. "A good deal of people with 'lights in their eyes and ringing in their ears', from what we heard at the gate, but no one seriously injured."
"What about my mother? Is she okay?" Oriana hadn't thought to ask Wrench's family about this earlier; she hadn't known they knew a thing about what had happened in town.
“Well, seeing as the guards thought it was you causing the explosions, I’m sure she’ll be fine if she’s clever.”
“She’ll be fine then," Oriana said, relieved. "She’s very clever.”
“She must be, to pull off such powerful alchemy with only what she’d found in the area, and blind. I thought it was some kind of two-eyed magic until now.”
“There’s no such thing as two-eyed magic," Oriana protested. She found the comment annoying, but her self-consciousness was stronger and left her rather morose.
“Seeing with two eyes is enough magic for me," Jonathan said with a slight shrug. “There’s certainly something special about you.”
“I’m just normal…” Oriana quietly protested.
“If you really believed that, I doubt you’d be throwing your old life away so easily.”
Oriana continued looking upset. For all his intelligence, it took Jonathan a moment to realize what he'd done.
“But! There’s nothing wrong with being special, you know, and I'm sure the people back home will be much more accepting of you. Though they may want to run some tests.”
Jonathan managed to displace Oriana's sad face with an uneasy one. “Tests?”
He laughed. “Don’t you worry, nothing invasive I'm sure. But you needn't even tell them you have two eyes, if you so desire.”
“Maybe that’s a good idea...” Oriana's smile was uncertain, but it was a vast improvement over her previous demeanour and it gained strength as she stared into the sky, imagining her life in the land of the Romantics. Jonathan mirrored her gaze, his own mind occupied with different thoughts.
Assuming nothing else of interest would happen in the immediate future, a pair of eavesdropping figures hiding in the forest at the road's edge turned and went their separate ways.
* * *
Since the incident in the square, the guard outside each of the two gates of Owvry Village had been doubled, tripled instead, been put to a village-wide vote, and doubled on top of that. This had the advantage of making the citizens of the village feel somewhat secure (and thus less restless), and the disadvantage of leaving a dozen antsy guards at each road nothing to do but get more antsy.
The gates stood closed and barred, guards congregated outside with nothing to do. That is, until one of the eavesdroppers that had lost interest in Oriana strolled down the road.
All twelve guards perked up and drew their swords, their minds going to work deciding just how this intruder would bring doom upon their village and what they could do to stop it.
“I'm here to see the mayor, you idiots," shouted the intruder, whose eyes matched their show of arms by shooting daggers back. "I was just here the other day, in case you've forgotten already. I have news.”
Despite his tone, the man seemed to feel he didn't have very much control over the guards, as he stopped short of them and presented a contract from his register. The guards sent a reluctant junior member forward to retrieve it, then scrutinized its content in between leery glances at its owner.
“I don’t have all day. That lousy brat slowed me down enough already! I need to make my report and catch back up before I lose the trail. The abomination—”
The intruder, glaring at the guards as they took their time looking over the contract, exhaled explosively and rolled his eye back into his head.
“All right, all right, just following procedure," one of the guards said. "No need to get all huffy. We'll open the gates.”
Despite their offer, the intruder didn't budge or offer any acknowledgement, and simply stood there with his eye still rolled.
“My mum said if you roll your eye like that it might get stuck” said another guard.
The intruder didn't seem to care, though his eye did seem stuck. His only reaction was to fall forward onto his face.
Two minutes later, after they had finished hollering and hiding behind things, the guards sent their junior member out again to examine the intruder, who seemed unharmed but was quite clearly dead.