I was tempted to quote Yoda on the “try” part, but while I think of Star Wars as a universal kind of thing, I had to realize it was another bigoted mindset.  Not everyone on the planet knows Han shot first.

“I am interested,” I said.  I looked at Viktor.  “Do you need some references?”

He waved at Doloise. “That will not be necessary.  Come, listen to our stories, and we will be in contact, yes?”

They pulled the chairs closer, and even Artur sat down.  I understood when Viktor gestured to him.

“Have you seen such a boy?  I am very proud.  Ours is a learned art.  It takes much dedication.”  Viktor glanced at Doloise.  I wouldn’t want to say too much in front of her, also, but he couldn’t well ignore her.  “We do much in the way of the folklore, the words, `And sometimes it happens so.'”

Andrei smiled.  “Do you know our poetry?” he asked.

I gave a kind of gesture I hoped show that I’d at least heard something of it.  “I looked some up,” I admitted.

“It is not so different,” he said.  “Hard work, hard life, and then we make tales of riches gained and lost with ease.  We do not spend so much time on love, because love is like everything else, something that requires a great deal of work.”

Nellie tried to hide a smile at that, which I knew because she suddenly looked down.  Artur, on the other hand, snorted.

“Andrei is a romantic,” Viktor said, taking back the reins of the conversation.  “Artur has a girlfriend, but she is not so knowledgeable about his,” he waved his hand, “responsibilities.”

I sympathised again with Sullen Boy.  Maybe I should call him something else if I was going to feel for him a bit.  Of course, that would mean he’d have to lose a little bit of the glower.

“That is the same all over, I think,” I said.  Hey, I was being diplomatic, not insular with that.  Well, so much as the practitioner’s enclave was pretty insular.  While some talents are only a matter of teaching, others are in-born, and others require sacrifices, and, well, it was kind of the wizardry conundrum.  Do you spend your time learning the spells or getting girls?  When it was put that way, I was glad I wasn’t the spellslinging type.

Of course, I wasn’t spending much time getting girls, either, but at least right now I could blame that on Doloise.

“I do not understand,” she said.  “You speak of responsibility and time, and mortality is such a fleeting breath, why not use what small powers you have to indulge in the best of your short lives?”

Fey were not known for their open minds.

Nellie opened her mouth, then closed it again.  I smiled.

“It is not just a matter of breathing,” I said.

Andrei nodded at me.  “We do not count the breaths, because we know they are numbered.”

I tried again.  “We have to work at things.  Your kind has crafters, right?  Beings that take time to further the beauty and design of their craft?”

The Realm nodded, slowly.  “You suggest that you are all crafters.”  Another nod.  “I see.  It is a clumsy description of a clumsy skill, but it will make sense to some of my family.”

I turned back.  “And sometimes it happens so.  Most of the stories I’d read had multiple parts, like having to find the three special ingredients, and often, one was raised from the dead.”

Artur flinched.  “Not necromancy,” he said.

Nellie put out a hand.  “No, but there are those who speak with ghosts.”  She looked at Andrei.  “Let me tell the tale.”

Andrei nodded.  Viktor scooted back in his chair, as Nellie looked up at me.  “It is about my husband, who is not here.”

“But he would be?” I asked.

“Yes, if it were not, well.”  She smiled.  “Ivan the son of the merchant spent three days with the King of the Birds, learning the speech of those who had feathers.  In that listening he had his fortune told, and his parents, jealous of the consequences unknowingly set him on the path to his destiny.”

“The King of the Birds,” Doloise muttered.  I wondered momentarily if it was someone her ‘family’ knew.

“My husband, Ivan, spent three days in the place of the dead, learning the speech of those who would still speak to the living.  He has spent another ten times that recovering, but something of that place will not leave him.”  She looked at me, and I was drawn in to her eyes for a moment, to the sorrow.  “We believe you may be able to close that door.”

Dirty words.  Well, that *is* what I do.