"So she is a shaper," Raina said, watching Aislynn pick her way through a tray of sweet cakes. It was obvious that she had gone without, as every time Raina and her brother both looked away, one of the pastries would disappear entirely. The red-headed young woman had to give credit; there were no crumbs to give away the only possible culprit. It was just Aislynn had the most convincing blank expression.
"Undoubtedly." Zalgus was taking stock of their quarters, pacing the rug and gazing at the view they had from the bay windows. They were surrounded in earthy tones, the siblings seeming to fit right in with the color scheme comfortably.
Another pastry was gone; this time a sweet berry tart.
Raina simply waited for her brother to announce his grand breadth of knowledge of the situation. He was itching to. She could tell by how he kept glancing in her direction with that expectant gaze. Already she had decided she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of asking him about her.
"So your name is Aislynn?" she asked the girl, smiling.
A creme filled cake had vanished from the plate.
No cake dust fell from the girl's lips. Raina began to wonder if she was swallowing them whole. The look of irritation on her brother's face was quite hilarious, but she pretended to not notice.
"Please, call me Raina," she said, taking a seat in a cushy armchair across from Aislynn. Around the tray were several books, some left open and others shut with a marker holding the place of the reader. "Supper is soon," she continued, failing to hide a smile as Zalgus' impatience grew.
Aislynn placed a hand on her stomach, thinking it might be better to hold off on the sweets then. They were so delicious though! It was like putting clouds on her tongue. Clouds that tasted like flowers looked - vibrant and lovely.
"So can you tell me what happened?"
"I can," Zalgus said a bit more eager than he would have liked. He was relieved that his sister had finally given him an opening to seize hold of the conversation. One had to do it correctly, of course. He held his hand out to his side, stopping Aislynn even as her mouth opened to answer.
He wove the entire tale. Blue streams of light surrounded and trailed behind his movements, casting light against his angular features. There was a peculiar cheer in his tone as he elaborated minor details that would have been no interest to anyone but himself. Namely, how he knew the toy would have been beyond Aislynn's pocket.
"Zalgus," Raina snapped.
"Let us not dwell on Aislynn's fortunes--"
"Well it is more of a lack thereof--"
"-but the trinket-"
"Move on with your story or I will punch you in the mouth and let Aislynn tell it."
A heavy sigh. "Very well."
Aislynn covered her mouth, and her giggles, with both her hands.
The tale progressed, punctuated with several more minor sibling squabbles that got Aislynn giggling all over again. Zalgus paced behind the couch that the girl was perched on, pausing once to pick a slender, crescent shaped crystal from Aislynn's hair. It wasn't woven into the heavy locks, but looked as if it had gotten caught in there at some point. He palmed it, gave a baffled expression to his sister's withering glare, and resumed his stride.
"And now you are worried - excuse me - intrigued because you wonder how some thugs were able to hone in on such an expensive trinket so quickly." Raina had figured it out pretty reasonably; she had grown up with her brother after all.
Zalgus raised one finger and tilted his nose into the air.
"No, I found it suspicious how three illiterate goons could know--" He stopped, and slowly lowered his finger while giving his sister a disappointed huff. She just smiled. "Why must you ruin my fun?"
"Why must you make petty judgements?"
"They are not petty! They are true and insightful!"
"Pithy?" Aislynn offered.
"Yes, thank you--" Zalgus turned sharply to Aislynn, surprised. Not that he considered her stupid, but one living on the streets did not typically have a very broad vocabulary.
"I think I will like having you around if you can make him go silent with one word," Raina said, not bothering to hide her laughter. The look of astonishment on Zalgus' face was too much for her.
"Did I say the word wrong?" Aislynn asked, bewildered. Her cheeks swiftly filled with red, and she fidgeted in her spot. Embarrassed, she turned her head away and focused her gaze on the dark wood table that was stationed next to the door to the hall. It had a clay pot filled with greenery, but no flowers.
"No, you did not... you even used it correctly..."
"Zalgus..." Raina warned. She knew what was coming out of her brother's mouth next.
He opened his mouth as if to retort to his sister's tone, but then seemed to reconsider. He took a moment to ponder his next word choice carefully, not so keen as to have his features marred by a chipped tooth or broken nose.
"Where did you learn that?" Zalgus moved to the front of the couch. The question couldn't be considered insulting, not even by his sister. The hem of his coat fluttered dramatically as the lights of the room caught the lenses of his glasses.
"Oh. I have this." Aislynn rummaged through her satchel sitting at her feet. It was full of random odds and ends, bits of cloth and interestingly shaped stones of broken pottery. From the depths she produced a very worn journal, bound in sheep leather and salvaged bits of twine. It looked like any bit of scrap paper she had got her hands on, she had bleached and patched together.
Zalgus took the book into his hands gingerly. It wasn't so much the dirt as it was the apparent fragility of the item that made him cautious. Claiming the seat next to Aislynn - who scooted to accommodate - the well read young man began to turn the pages.
Each page had sketches, circles around words that had not been bleached out. Little drawings that looked like mouths were connected to each syllable in the words. Each mouth had a different shape, as if demonstrating proper pronunciation. It only took a moment for him to decipher all the strange signs.
"Were you teaching yourself to read like this?" he asked, turning an impressed gaze to the girl.
"Very slowly," she admitted. "It is hard to memorize sounds of each symbol. So I might know a word when I say it, but not when I see it."
"Most children begin that way," Raina said cheerfully. "It is amazing you could teach yourself this. If you would like--"
"I can teach you more," Zalgus interrupted, catching his sister by the blindside. "I have a number of proper books available, and you might learn at a faster rate." She seemed clever enough to pick it up.
"R-really?" Aislynn's eyes widened in delight, and the smile that appeared on her face looked like it might be painful.
"I do not see why not," he answered, thumbing through the journal. "It seems a good way to pass the time as any other, and much more worthy use of my time as well." Reading was one of the most noble pursuits of time, and since she would be travelling with them for some time...
Judging from her manner she was not well traveled at all. It would do to give her some comfort or means to not be a complete liability as they traveled to places with different etiquette and history.
He was consciously ignoring his sister now; it was taking all Raina's will power to not make some type of snide remark. No doubt more for Aislynn's sake than his own. Certainly, for the shaper who could see everything coming, Aislynn was one surprise after another.