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Those Artless Eyes
by Gray Brangwin

Glistening laughter across the snow, unabashed eyes that yet shine with the light of guilelessness. Such you are, in this town of strangers. You, and your artless eyes..

Perhaps it is innocence. I wonder how, through what you have seen, experienced, fought, destroyed -- what you have gained and lost -- you remain as a child, eyes unshadowed by the darkness of time. Eyes deceptionless, bright and clear, inviting the observed into your presence, open and self-disclosing. I wonder at the joy you take in all things, even after the trials of a shadowed age. I wonder at your naivete, I wonder at your bright, clear laughter. I wonder.

Those artless eyes, which know so much let know so little...

We walk through this town of another race -- a time was once when we would have been met with naught but distrust, and another with swords and upraised guns. But hardship can bring anyone together -- as can profitable business. The prices some of these merchants charge the people of Tyler could comfortably feed a Dezolisian family for months. So things have mellowed, but still the old distrust remains in some, peeking out from under hooded eyelids. And others bear the predatory gleam of the merchant, and some merely guarded curiosity. The eyes of a race not our own... but to you, is any race your race? You seem not to care, your artless eyes... is that for better or worse? I do not know.

The youth who walks beside you, smiling indulgently, chuckling at some jest -- even his eyes are not unmarked. His mentor taught him well; even here, he keeps a hand near his sword, just in case. And his eyes reflect his guarded facade, the eyes of someone who does not dare to trust any more. His mentor's death has hit him hard, but his eyes, I think, grew cold long before.

A murmur from the old priest, and you giggle uncontrollably, though the youth beside you merely sighs. So easily amused.. have we lost what made us delight in the simple dawning of a new day, a tree's new growing, some simple joke? Even the old priest's eyes above his merry face carry the weight of years, the cunning of an agile mind... and the bitterness from the scorn of his peers. No wonder that he chooses to travel with us, to prove to himself his worth, to be where he is wanted. It is all too common a thing these days... even the young scholar, behind his morals, feels the same.

Do we mourn for what we lose, or what we gain in the process? Your artless eyes hold no answer for me..

Even your mentor, the mechanical man who holds Algo's life in his hands.. he is programmed to calculate the most efficient solution, and execute it. No regrets, no remorse. His face is friendly, but his eyes are empty.

But sometimes, when the light is just right, the studied emotionlessness cracks enough to let the accumulated centuries of sorrow show through -- then it is whole once more. Like the secrets we all guard.

And even I...

Even I...

Even a child in Esper Mansion does not retain his innocence long.

And I, with the essences of four others within my head, their experiences and emotions spilling into my own... innocence is not an option.

In times to come, those artless eyes of yours will cloud and darken, grow somber and shield themselves, to protect the person within. Life is such, to Palman or Motavian or Dezolisian or Numan, to esper, to hunter, to scholar, to priest. To live is to feel pain, some people say; perhaps it is. Perhaps your artlessness may fade -- yet I wish it not.

Perhaps it is your heritage, the feral joy of your animal half, that allows you to be thus through pain and through hatred; perhaps it is just you, and the uncertainty of one not long past her first year of life. Do you hide something behind those guileless eyes?

I doubt if that is so, and that is all too rare.

You ask an artless question, the intent behind it the same as the words, expecting no real answer. You stare, fascinated, at the bird, as the youth turns, mild puzzlement on his face, and addresses me.

"Rune, do you think it's cute?" The puzzlement is still on his face; he does not fully understand your guilelessness, the curse and the blessing. Then again, do any of us really understand?

At length, I reply. "..not really." The answer to both his question and mine.

Those artless eyes, who have seen so much and let see so, so little --- I know not whether to pity or to envy them. How much, then, does a Lutz really know?

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