Simon stops just outside the doors to the Smithy.
The tops of the smithy's wide double doors are open to the crisp autumn morning, letting in light and the intermittent breeze. In one corner of the interior, the smith himself lounges in a large, weatherbeaten Adirondack chair, reading. The tiny book looks almost comical in the smith's huge hands.
Simon pokes his head in through the open double doors. "Mr. Lucas?" The youth sounds uncertain. Could the Smith really be here when it's so quiet?
From the sunlit interior: "Yep?" Followed by a "Oh, 'Mornin', Simon, let yourself in."
Simon does as instructed, letting himself in, and closing the door behind him. "Thanks, Mr. Lucas." He takes note of what the Smith is doing. His eyes light at the sight of a book. Maybe it's one he hasn't read yet. "What are you reading?"
Lucas regards the book critically. "It's the journal of a feller was supposed to be a companion of the Smith that made some pieces Ah'm hopin' to get some use out of," he says. "Not quite as usefaul as Ah was hopin' he'd be, though." He sets the book aside. "What can Ah do for you?"
Simon ohs, looking vaguely disappointed. Maybe he'd been hoping it was a book of tales. "Well, I was wondering if I could ask you some questions..."
"Sure," the smith replies, rising from his own chair while gesturing Simon to another. He moves to the forge, where he sets a battered tin coffee pot over the coals to heat. "What's on your mind?"
Simon sits crosslegged on the chair, rather than lounging the way the Smith had been. He watches Lucas for a moment before asking his question. "Do you believe in unicorns?"
Lucas, in the middle of pulling a pair of mismatched mugs from one of the myriad cupboards, turns to raise an eyebrow in the youth's direction. "Reckon so," he replies. "Don't you?"
Simon shrugs. "I dunno. I've never seen one, and, till the other day, no one I knew had, either." He pauses, then amends, "That they'd told me, at least."
"Ever see a vampire?" the smith challenges, with perhaps a glimmer of amusement in his warm baritone. He tosses some loose tea into each of the mugs and sets them near the forge to wait for the water in the coffee pot to come to boil.
"No," counters Simon, "but Grandma did. And I think Miz Sunshine did, too."
"Mmm," says the smith, leaning casually against a workbench. "How come the unicorn is such a surprise?" he asks, plainly curious.
Simon rests his chin on his hands, elbows on his knees. "Well... because no one here talks about unicorns as real. I mean, they're in stories, and sometimes people've mentioned spirit unicorns, but, well, not ones you'd just meet walking around..."
"Ah," says the smith, understanding. "Well, the difference between Spirit and Flesh can get a might blurry sometimes. 'Specially in powerful places like Katahdin." He checks the water, and apparently satisfied, pours some into each mug. "Are you maybe talking about the unicorn Miss Kelsey ran into last year?"
Simon shrugs, straightening slightly. "Maybe. Miki saw a unicorn a couple days ago." He pauses for a moment. "The unicorns in stories don't change into people..."
Surprise again. "Did he now?" Lucas swirls the tea around in one of the mugs and hands it to Simon, before repeating the procedure on his own. He resumes his occupation of the Adirondack chair. "And you're right, they don't -- though maybe just not in the stories you and Ah are used to. Can't say Ah recall if Miss Kelsey said hers did -- Ah'll have to ask her." He blows on his tea, but does not sip. "What else did this critter do, 'side change its skin?"
Simon shifts slightly. "He kissed Miki, and then stole Miki's hair ribbon, and left. And Rowan said that Kelsey's unicorn did the same thing. Well, maybe not steal a hair ribbon..."
"Hmm," Lucas looks thoughtful. "Ah *know* Ah've never heard of a kissing unicorn," he shakes his head with bemused smile. "Though they *do* supposedly like virgins... Ah never really understood why that should be." He shrugs philosophically.
Simon shifts again. It's less as if he can't get physically comfortable, and more as if he's worried. "Could it be not-really-a-unicorn? I mean, unicorns in stories are always pure and good and stuff, and the unicorn spirits I've heard about are all on Gaia's side, but..."
Lucas appears momentarily caught between reassuring a worried child and respecting the capabilities of a youth on the way to adulthood. "Ah reckon that's a possibility we ought to keep in mind," he allows at last, his voice even. "Ah have to say Ah figured Miss Kelsey's encounter was just one more of Zelda's leavings -- wasn't expecting the critter to turn up again once the... turbulence after the storm settled down." He takes a thoughtful sip of his tea. "Kelsey was a bit shook up after her meetin', but didn't report any other troubles from it. Is Miki okay? Other than short a ribbon?"
Simon rubs his upper lip, then nods. "I think so, yeah. I mean, he was real embarrassed, which I didn't really understand, but I don't think he was hurt or anything." He changes the subject. "Did you know that his brother can make people disappear?"
Lucas follows the change of subject with no demure. "Can he? Disappear how?"
Simon shrugs. "I dunno! Miki just disappeared, right after telling me the first bit about the unicorn. Not the kissing, just that he'd seen one. Then later, he said that his brother'd done it, and that he'd felt a tugging." The dark youth shivers noticeably. "Do you think he's a Mage?"
"He might be," Lucas allows, guardedly. There's a sternness to his face that wasn't there a moment ago. "Ah've heard Miki's brother isn't much liked by folks around here." It's a statement, but one that invites an answer.
Simon shivers again. "Lots of folks don't like Mages. I know Miz Sunshine doesn't, and Ma and Da don't. And I think he's mean to Miki."
"What's wrong with Mages?" Lucas chides gently. "They come in Good and Bad kinds just like other people. If Miki's brother is mean, it ain't 'cause he happens to be a Mage. If he is. Which maybe he is and maybe he's not."
Simon shrugs vaguely. It's clear that his distrust of Mages is inherited, not based on his own experiences. "Mages can do all sorts of things, and pretend to be what they're not. Da always says 'Absolute power corrupts absolutely.'"
Lucas pours a little more hot water into his mug, and gestures with the pot in Simon's direction. "Need a warm-up?" He continues the conversation. "Anybody can pretend to be something they're not," Lucas observes, amiably enough. "Just like everybody's got stuff they know and can do that other folks don't and can't." After a moment he adds. "And it ain't power that corrupts. You can use fire to cook your food, or burn down your neighbor's house. Like you can use an axe to clear farmland or split your best friend's skull. Ain't the fire that made that choice, or the axe. You see?"
Simon's cup has been mostly ignored, so it's cool, but still full. He takes a sip. "I guess, but if you've got real power, maybe you'd be tempted to use it, when you shouldn't. I mean, if I could've held on to Miki when he started to disappear, I might've, but that might've gotten Miki hurt, even if I didn't want it to."
A look of consternation flits briefly across the smith's face. "What do you mean by 'real' power, Simon?"
Simon waves a hand. "I dunno. Like what Mages have. The ability to change reality without really working for it." That sounds like a quote from someone older.
Lucas smiles. "What makes you think it's not work?"
Simon shrugs. "It's a lot less work than it'd take anybody else."
"Maybe it's just that you don't *see* the work," Lucas suggests. "Ah had a Mage once tell me it took her 40 years to learn how to turn herself into a wolf. Her Garou friends used to tease her about it something fierce." He chuckles at the memory. "Same gal could make a fire burn in the palm of her hand just by thinking about it -- she told me *that* only to a year of practice and twelve years of doing her master's washing."
Simon shrugs, not impressed. "Yeah, but I do washing and stuff just for living here, and I could practice the rest of my life and still not be able to do things like that."
Lucas smiles, the skin around his eyes crinkling in amusement. "Reckon Ah could stomp on grapes until mah feet got blue and shriveled and Ah'd never get a decent glass of wine out of 'em," he says. "And Ah reckon Majlath Anderja could hammer at a steel bar until his skinny white arms fell off and not get a sword out of it." He regards Simon quietly. "Nothing that looks easy ever is -- fact, the opposite is usually true. You want to know why power seems to corrupt people? It's cause by the time someone's gotten powerful, they've shed so much blood, sweat, and tears, they figure now they're *owed* something. That they've got the *right* to hurt people to get what they want, on account of how much hurt they had to go through to get where they are." The smith seems for a moment to be speaking from the depths of some bitter memory. He shakes himself out of it with a small smile. "Sorry. Anyways, what would *you* do, if you had 'power'?"
Simon looks thoughtful, resting his chin in his hands again. "I dunno. Learn stuff. Keep my home safe." A faint grin edges across his face. "Get Da to stop bugging me about spending too much time lollygagging. No chance of that happening, though."
Lucas shakes his head. "You gotta find some way to make a profession out of lollygagging," he teases. "Speaking of which, did you just come here to ask me about unicorns, or is there something you're supposed to be gettin' done?"
Simon grins impudently. "Yeah, that'd be nice. Nah, I just came to ask you about unicorns and Mages, really. Do you have something that needs doing?"
The smith raises his palms toward the ceiling theatrically. "Augh! The day comes when Simon *volunteers* to do work! And all Ah've got on my to-do list today is to slog through this boring journal!" He shakes his head ruefully. "You couldn't've come by *yesterday*, when Ah had all that scrap that needed the rust sanded off?" He fixes Simon with a baleful eye, though the start of a grin plays at the corner of his mouth. "Nah," he says. "If Ah come up with something later, though, Ah'll be sure to send for you."
Simon's grin grows, showing off his white teeth. "Yesterday, Miz Sunshine took me into Town to the Library. I didn't have time to get a book for myself, though, because Rex and Miki were there."
"Ah imagine they'd be distracting," the smith smiles indulgently. "Maybe Sunny or Ah can take you back sometime to look at the *books*." Is he teasing? I think he may be teasing! So hard to be sure...
Simon might blush, if his skin weren't so dark. "They are! I'd really like that, Mr. Lucas. Miz Sunshine said they've got lots of books we don't have."
"Well, speaking of books and all, Ah ought to get back to mah studyin'," Lucas sighs, with a glance at the journal. "Ah did appreciate this particular distraction, though." He rises from the chair and sets his mug on the workbench. "You hear any more about this unicorn, or if Miki's brother starts making trouble, you let me know about it, okay?"
Simon nods, getting to his feet to set his still-mostly-full mug next to Lucas's. "I will, sir!" He grins impudently, "If you find anything interesting in your book, will you tell me about it?"
The smith returns the grin. "That Ah will!"
Simon postively beams. "Thanks!" With that, he heads towards the doors.