Silver, Tin, or Steel?

Clang! Clang! Clang!

Gerard pushes open the door and trudges in, heavily laden, his face rather more pink than usual.

Lucas glances up from the anvil and registers Gerard's entrance with a grunt. "By the bench there, ifn ya please," the smith says, jerking his square chin toward the scrap pile.

Gerard nods, for once wordless, and drops the pans and coil of wire with a clatter that would be deafening in another context. "Madame de le cafe' sends 'er regards."

The big smith winces at the clash of metal anyway, frowning at his young erstwhile charge. "Please don't ding those up any more'n they already are," he sighs. "Or Ah'll make *you* hammer 'em back out." He resumes his work, swinging the huge steel-headed hammer as though it weighed nothing at all.

"I am sorry," Gerard mutters. It is a phrase he has had much practice with the past few weeks. He stretches his back one direction and then another. "Oof, but it is a longer road than I 'ad remembered."

The corner of Lucas' broad mouth twitches up a bit. "In 24 hours you forget? It's a good thing I gotta yell for you s'dang much or you'd forget your own name." He takes the piece off the anvil and buries it back in the glowing coals of the forge. "Give them bellows a twist or two, would ya?"

Gerard darts Lucas a look, as though debating offense, but in the end simply complies. After a moment, he says, "Monsieur...ees there something--" He breaks off, and asks instead, "Ees there no one in zis town who is human?"

Lucas blinks at the young man in surprise. "What're you talkin' about? You run inta some kinda trouble in town?"

A hasty innocence blooms in Gerard's eyes. "Me? No, m'sieur!"

The smith's own eyes narrow, but he lets it pass. "Then why do you ask?"

Gerard shrugs casually. "In ze city, I meet maybe this person, maybe that person - in a whole city! - who is loupe-garou. Or perhaps there is a house of mages. Maybe zere are ozzers, bien sur, but I do not meet zem, because so many are not. But here, I am here a day, two days, and already zis person changes and zat person changes...And no one is surprise."

"Ah!" Understanding eases the hard lines of the smith's square face. "That's enough on those bellows, thanks." He takes the iron out of the fire, hammers it carefully over the horn of the anvil, and returns it to the forge before speaking again. "Ah guess that is kinda funny," he allows. "Ah mean, it's supposed to be the city where all the weird stuff is, and the country that's all conservative, right?" He pauses to shift the quenching bucket to a better position. "Ah reckon most shifters are for Gaia, though, right? An' you feel closer to Gaia if you're out here with the ground under yer feet. So, more shifters in the country."

Gerard's thin brows twitch closer together for a moment, beset by his perrennial trouble understanding why anyone would prefer to live where their feet can get muddy. Then he shrugs again. A sidelong glance at Lucas assesses his mood before the young Frenchman asks, diffidently, "Monsieur is...also...a shifter?"

"Ayup," Lucas responds, intent on his work for a moment and he switches to a smaller hammer. Then his blue eyes pin Gerard's. "'Zere a problem with that, Monsieur?"

Gerard's eyes widen. "No! No, pas de tout. Not at all."

"Good t'know," Lucas replies, with no particular inflection. After a moment's work he continues, "Reckon you're not exactly ordinary folks yerself."

Gerard, who had been fiddling idly with Lucas's tongs, comes within an ace of dropping them on his foot. "Me?" he demands incredulously. "Why?"

"C'mere and hit those bellows again," the smith orders, and inserts, as he often does, a bit a casual instruction: "See there? Cherry red is too cool to do more'n mold it a bit. You want it bright yellow for this. There, like that." Then without preamble, he returns to the previous conversation. "Why not? You're here, ain't ya?" Clang! Clang! "And y'got them swords stuck to ya like burrs." Clang! Clang! "And Ah reckon some a your tricks are a little too slick to be luck and quick fingers." Clang! Clang! "You ever think about what you wanna do with your life? Apart from offload those blades?"

Relieved from one conversational point only to be skewered with another, Gerard just stares at Lucas for a moment over the bellows. Then his mouth thins. "Oui, monsieur. I wish to /stay/ alive. And I wish to be rich, and to become ze best in my art, and to stop dreaming about zis damnable leetle hole in ze ground for good. Zat is what I wish."

The hot iron makes a satisfying cloud of hissing steam as the smith plunges it into the quenching bucket. Lucas leaves it there and sets about carefully banking the coals in the forge. "Your art?" He looks genuinely curious, and perhaps a little puzzled. "What is your art?" To his credit, the smith refrains from snide remarks.

Gerard's brows lift in surprise. "Ze magic, m'sieur. Ze clever tricks wiss ze fingers you speak of." And he produces a small, red handkerchief in a hand which was a moment ago empty. "Eet is all tricks, whatever you sink. I have seen a real mage and zat is--beyond imagination, m'sieur. I have no ambition to zat. But ze tricks...zey are an art. Did you sink ze were somesing anyone can do? I have been performer since I am four years old." The hand closes, opens, and the handkerchief is nowhere to be seen."

Lucas' broad face splits into a grin -- it is a friendly expression, made unfortunately somewhat threatening by the red underlight from the forge. "You forget: Ah work with magic all the time -- real stuff like what that mage did you saw, and the steel-witching and the warding charms, too. Some of it I can do myself, and some of it I can just kinda pick at the edges of." He pauses to see if Gerard is paying attention. "You smell of the stuff."

Gerard takes a small step backward. "It is ze swords," he suggests.

Lucas shakes his head. "No," he says, and thinking of the swords and their magic makes him scowl. "That's different. It's a different smell. Sorta. It's hard to explain." He shakes his head again. "But you should learn to tell the difference yourself. Ah've no doubt you could if you tried, and it could save yer life one day."

"What do you mean?" Gerard asks, half suspicious, half intrigued. "'Learn to tell ze difference'?"

The smith pauses his tidying and thinks for a moment. "You can tell the difference between gold, bronze, and brass, right? Or between silver, tin, and steel?"

Gerard frowns. "Bien sur. Zey are different colors."

Lucas nods encouragingly. "And different weights, and different tastes, and different hardnesses, and different uses." Apparently finished closing down the forge for the day, Lucas pulls off his heavy, much-abused leather apron and folds it into a thick pad. "Magic's just the same," he concludes, slapping the wad of folded leather down on the workbench by way of emphasis.

Gerard's frown deepens for a moment, then his expression relaxes, and his eyes lift to the smith's face almost as though acknowledging a subtly scored point in a conversational joust. "Oui. So it is." He shifts the bag which still hangs across his shoulders. "I sink I should put my sings away, m'sieur," he says, looking away again. "And I have not yet done ze dishes."

"Yep," the smith acknowledges. "There's some cold venison and leftover stewed pears, if you didn't stuff yourself at the diner," he informs the young magician's retreating back.