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this is not your destiny
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Loholt blinked as the boy floundered. He raised his eyebrow like he'd seen his Papa do when one of the guards was being difficult, and waited for him to stop stuttering, his arms folded across his chest. Mortimer held his position between them. He didn't growl, he just watched, sorrowful eyes looking reproachfully down the length of his long muzzle. The stranger had an odd scent, not bad, nor dangerous, just...unusual. He communicated as much to his fairy, who nodded.

Odd was about right.

"This is my Papa's castle," Loholt informed the strange boy, lifting his chin, "he's the king of Shaman..." He broke off, exchanging a look with Mort and sighing. "That's the world you're on, just in case you didn't know."

Loholt snorted, failing to hold back a laugh. "Haven't you ever been to a castle before?" he asked incredulously, "or seen one in a story book?" He grinned, shaking his head.

"My Papa is very important and does a very special job," Loholt explained, gesturing around the courtyard. "Lots of people live and work here, and we own lots of things, so there has to be space to put everything and for everyone to live."

He paused, frowning again. "Do you live in a cottage?" he demanded, tipping his head to one side. "With a thatched roof?" His mobile mouth shifted easily into an excited smile. "It'd be great if you did. I always think they look nice...you know...in the stories."

Rolling his eyes again, Loholt sighed. "You really don't know anything, do you?" he asked. "Trespassing means going into a place owned by someone else without their permission." He unfolded his arms. "And Mort is a dog," he scratched behind the borzoi's ear affectionately, "not a dooog."

There was barely a beat before the strange boy introduced himself and thrust a glass jar a few inches from Loholt's face. For a moment he gaped back at the fish, then baffled, he looked back at Tapir.

"You're very strange," Loholt concluded, retreating a step to try and put some space between the jar and the tip of his nose. "Isn't a tapir an animal with a funny little trunk?" He did his best to imitate one with his hand, lifting it up and down to demonstrate. "And...is that fish...your familiar?"
Jyrki Salmi






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