Thomas followed Adalric in silence for a little under a minute, trying to pick apart what the old master had said before finally giving up. “ ‘The original master: Nature?’ ‘Don’t learn well from my fellow men and women?’ What do you mean?”
“Not much. Just that how compatible a master is with their student is far more important than how skilled the master is, and the only master you really pair well with is Erline.” Adalric glanced back toward Thomas. “It’s probably because you don’t get along with humans – or any of their close relatives.”
Thomas briefly debated between whether he ought to sate his curiosity first, or pursue the fact that he may have just been accused of misanthropy first. Curiosity won. “What do you mean ‘close relatives,’ aren’t humans one of a kind?”
Adalric froze, looking slightly downcast. “Well, they are now, but that wasn’t always so. There used to be others, many others. Like my people. We called ourselves… Well, you might have trouble pronouncing what we called ourselves, and none of the things humans called us in the past were… polite. So I’ll tell you what we’re called in the future: Neanderthal.”
“Oh! What happened? Why aren’t there any more more neanderthals?” Thomas’s yes twinkled with curiosity, innocently oblivious to the nature of his question.
“Humans murdered us all. All that remains is me, and what little of our bloodline persists in humans.”
Thomas fell completely silent for a while.
“Don’t worry, little one.” Adalric slowed down to let Thomas catch up, then patted him on the head. “I hold no grudge. I blame your kind for their past actions no more than I blame a wolf for hunting deer. It was survival, and the strongest species won. Still, even if it was a crime, you would not be to blame for the actions of your ancestors.” He glanced toward a nearby forest. “Why don’t you go meet the local wildlife and spirits, there are types of both you won’t be able to find in any other time or place. That should cheer you up a little.”
Thomas halfheartedly nodded, then sheepishly sprinted off with Pallo.
“Hm…” Adalric stroked his sizable beard as he watched the young magician disappear into the forest brush. “I hope I didn’t just plant the seed for the boy’s disdain of his own kind. Even if it doesn’t cause any real harm in the long run, I’d still feel bad about it.” He paused. “It would also mean that all of my prophecies about his antipathy were self-fulfilling. I hate self-fulfilling shit.”
A note from the
Now, I know what most of you are thinking: “How the hell does someone sprint sheepishly!?”
Well, let me paint a picture for you. Just picture this in your mind:
You’re in the middle of a conversation when you say something mildly awkward, you try to smooth it over but only call attention to it. (Turns out nobody noticed you’d done anything awkward until you tried to hide it, whoops.) Now you’re trying to explain yourself and recover, but just keep digging yourself into a deeper and deeper hole. Finally, you shut up, and now there’s nothing but awkward silence. Agonizing, slow, awkward silence. You can’t take it anymore, but if you open your mouth you’ll only make it worse. After what feels like hours, you give up entirely on escaping from your situation metaphorically and attempt to do so literally instead. You make a break for the exit, moving as quickly and as subtly as you can – which is very quick and not at all subtle.
You are now debating moving to the next state over just so you never have to face these people again.