HUMAN/SUPER Higher Learning 160

“She… works at her family’s tavern?” he said. “I’m not sure what you want me to say.”

“Come on, I don’t have to read your mind to know that you’re in love with that woman.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said, crossing his arms and turning away. “Our relationship is strictly professional. I have no more affection for her than I do for anyone else who passes through our doors.”

“You’re going to have to be a lot more convincing than that if you want me to believe you,” Frederica said.

“I don’t care what you believe,” he said. “I have work to do.”

He grabbed the spear and marched into the workshop without looking back. Frederica hesitated a moment, then followed him. She found him hunched over the forge in the corner, trying to get it lit.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have given you a hard time. It was just… sweet, is all.”

Teth sighed.

“I know you mean well,” he said, “but Illuyanka is customer. I can’t risk offending her. Losing her family’s business would be a blow to my sister’s reputation. I have to think about more than just what I want.”

“But you do want it, right?” Frederica asked.

“Of course I do!” he replied. “You saw her, didn’t you? She’s… incredible.”

“She’s certainly something,” Frederica said. “Here, let me help you with that.”

Teth stepped away from the forge and Frederica snapped her fingers. An arc of flame leapt into the forge, igniting the embers. Teth placed the spear into the forge.

Frederica stepped back and watched him work, heating the bent section of the metal and deftly hammering it back into shape. Steam filled the room as he thrust the spear into a trough of water. While the spear was cooling, he finished modifying the cuirass and held it up to the light to inspect his handiwork.

“Looks pretty good to me,” Frederica said.