Fan fiction:A Moldy Tome/Chapter Three: Snails
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• Chapter Three: Snails
Chapter One: Snails
“Do snails have souls?”
The boy stood in the doorway, his fingers white-knuckled around an upside-down boot as he studied something crushed against its muddy bottom.
The old man put aside the blanket he was patching. “You've been reading Karuna. I was starting to wonder what was eating at you.”
He shoved a second chair out from under the table and poured another cup of tea. The boy gingerly laid the boot outside on the garden path and almost forgot to take off the other one before coming inside to join him at the table.
For a long time they were both silent, and finally the old man said, “She was just one old mage, you know, so take her with a grain of salt – she wrote down ideas that she got from what she'd read, and those fellows who wrote before her did the same, all the way back to Rathma.”
“But some of it's true. We can see it for ourselves.”
The old man sipped his tea. “Yes.”
“Then – why – should we live, if we cause death?” His voice wavered, challenging the forced composure in his face.
“Don't think I haven't asked myself that. Do you want to die?”
The boy pulled his folded arms close to his body, his shoulders hunched forward. He shook his head.
“Good. Me neither. Some do. I'd rather live and try to do as little harm as possible.”
The boy thought about that for a long moment. “You think you can help more than you hurt?” he said finally.
“That's the general idea.” The old man reached out and ruffled the boy's hair, and got up to retrieve elevenses from the breadbox.
By the time he came back to the table, the boy had not moved, but some of the tension was gone from around his eyes. The boy watched solemnly as the old man sliced radishes and peeled a few boiled eggs.
“Do eggs have souls?” he asked, with a sudden twitch of a smile that made him look less like a student of the black arts and more like a boy having irreverent thoughts.
“Not these eggs! The wards were meant to keep out foxes, but they seem to be just as good at keeping gentleman callers away from the ducks.”
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• Chapter Three: Snails