“Why do you come out here?” Tarris asked. “Aren’t you afraid of the serpents?”

Elos kept a light grip on his fishing pole. “Not a bit. They’re only real if you think they’re real.”

Tarris glanced uneasily at a tree-girth flash of undulating scales beneath the oily, moonspeckled surface of the water. “I think you might have that backwards,” he said. “They’re only real if they think they’re real. And they do. Just look at what happened to poor Kwen last year.”

“If you’re worried about the serpents, you’re missing the point,” said Elos. He paused. “Besides, what reasonable man would believe in them and believe that they can walk on land?”

That seemed to satisfy Tarris, though he moved a few feet upland to the roots of the great tree that dominated their tiny islet. “So what is the point, then? The biting and stinging insects swarming around your lantern? The pile of fish you haven’t caught?”

Elos turned the lantern down, as dim as it would get without completely extinguishing. “Look out over the water.”

Tarris squinted. A light mist, the last remnant of the day’s heat, lay low over much of the water. Near the opposite shore, firebugs glistened eerily in the air. The half-moon above lit it all with just enough silver to make the mist, the shore, the points of light, stand out beautifully. The only noise was the lapping of water, the bussing of insects, and the bobbing of Elos’ lure.

“You see it?” Elos leaned back into the soft sand of the islet.

“Can’t say that I do, no,” said Tarris. “Can we go now?”

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