Innu had never been a fan of towns. He had grown up in the country with only a few other houses within walking distance. The concept of a store was foreign to him, the concept of a market ridiculous. What need did people have for so many things? If you could make your own clothes, feed yourself, and keep your own fire stocked with peat, why would you need to go and buy anything?
Even when he became Garnet’s apprentice, when he spent a lot of time visiting other people, lots of time in some of the biggest cities in the Moors and Highlands, he never really adapted. He stopped ogling at every store, and he knew how to purchase things, but he never grew a need. He liked visiting the tattooists, but he didn’t feel the need that city people seemed to feel for these stalls and shops.
Garnet was the height of society when Innu knew her. She lived in a tall, ornate, moss-free tower in Palcaun, right in the middle of the city, rather than on the outskirts like most necromancers. She had direct access to the queen at all times. Innu spent more time under the Palcaun Palace’s painted ceilings than anywhere else except in Garnet’s own tower. He liked the palace. It was large and had many alcoves that didn’t see living people for months at a time. Because of that, there were lots of spirits and ghosts that gathered there for shelter.
They had formed a community, undisturbed by royalty or necromancers. Innu tried to sneak away to those alcoves whenever he could and come to them not as a necromancer but as a curious and lonely boy looking to make friends.
The spirits were scared of him at first, scared that he had come to exterminate them, but eventually, as he kept coming back without capturing them or forcing them to do anything, they began to relax and even greet him.
Even then, Innu couldn’t get the hang of an indoor-centered culture. When he left Garnet, he had avoided towns as much as possible, in small part because he couldn’t lay wherever he wanted in towns, in larger part because it reminded him of the old days.
And yet here he was: willingly in a town at night of all times, and he wasn’t even low on food. Well, he was, technically, because he had forgotten to pack up camp, so everything except the robe on his back had been left somewhere in the woods.
He found it hard to think of anything these days other than the gnawing hunger in his heart and the nervously destructive energy in his stomach. He didn’t know why he had come to a town of all places. A town wouldn’t help him sort this out, in fact, the crowded atmosphere would make this even harder. Even so, he had ended up in a town. He craved people. He needed to feel a warm body in his hands, between his teeth.
He didn’t plan on acting out any of these fantasies, but they still drove him to watch the occasional passing citizen with unwanted interest. He didn’t plan on actually eating anyone, but he still found himself pretending his tongue was a piece of meat and swallowing to get ahold of himself.
Even as he swallowed, he continued forward, eyes trained on the back of a man’s cloak. He had been following him for a good ten minutes or so, from a distance, of course. He didn’t want to get caught. He didn’t really want to catch him, either, because the moment the man realized Innu was following him, Innu would have to decide once and for all whether he was actually going to attack him or not. And Innu liked not knowing. He liked floating in the uncertain void of possibility, where he could fantasize about eating the man, fantasize that it might happen, but without the consequences of actually going through with it.
Nevertheless, he moved forward. Nevertheless, he gained ground.
The man didn’t seem to be going anywhere in particular. Innu should have guessed that, since all the shops were already closed for the night. He was simply out walking, looking up at the few stars that twinkled wherever there was a gap in the clouds. He was a lot like Innu. The man stopped, his back to Innu, rubbing his hands together against the cold and staring up at the sky.
Innu was close enough to hear him breathing. The man didn’t notice Innu and started walking again. Innu reached out to grab him, but managed to stop himself.
He had wanted to stop him so badly. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, he was so hungry. He had even considered begging the man to let him eat just a little bit, but he knew that all these compromises he was making in his head at top speeds were based on nonsense and they only came up because he was harboring a parasitic spirit. Normal people didn’t eat other people. It wasn’t something that needed compromise. It only needed common sense and decency.
Is there anything we can do, Innu? The first ghost asked quietly.
Innu’s heart lurched and tears sprang to his eyes. It was the first time he had heard any of the spirits within him since he and Cyril had separated. He leaned against the side of the building and slid to the ground.
“Just keep talking, please,” he whispered to them, “my dearest friends.”
A/N: “Sir? A-are you smelling my arm?” “Oh, I’m sorry! No, no, I was, um–wow, is that dawn already? How time flies! Well, I’d better be going. Nice to meet you.”