The library was in a hidden corner of the city, and she found him in a hidden corner of the library, nested in a concrete alcove above the loveseats and armchairs, decently far from the books but still close enough to make her worry.
She wasn’t worried enough not to be curious, though. She’d heard about Fiotiri. She’d heard how they’d burned themselves out, one by one, fighting a war of attrition against the Nueven.
And now, she was looking at one – the last one.
“I thought you were all dead.”
The flame flared, and the two shocks of black inside its center turned to stare at her. “Well, that’s polite. Usually you lot start with something a little nicer.”
She sat down on the armchair directly below him. “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry for what? Us all being dead, or you being a rude little flip?”
She didn’t clarify, mostly because it was kind of both. “So why are you here? Why not somewhere a little less…” She paused. He was flickering against the glass lamp that held him, but she could still see the little scorch marks on the wall behind him. “Flammable?”
“…Huh. Well, that’s an actual question, I suppose.” The Fiotiri glanced down at her. “What’s a little morsel like you doing here, anyway. This is where they put all the heavy books with boring stuff in them.”
“They aren’t boring! They’re maps, and encyclopedias, and history-”
“I know they’re maps. I’m just saying. You Nueven have got those fancy guidelights now. What do you need maps for?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. They’re pretty. They’re important. You don’t learn anything from a guidelight.” Then she cocked her head, folding her legs under her and staring up at the alcove. “You didn’t answer my question.”
The Fiotiri smoldered. If she’d thought a little floating ball of fire could have a facial expression, she would have thought he looked nervous. “…I can choose what I burn. And they were smart when they put me here.”
“They know I’d rather die than kill something like me. Something made to shed light.” The Fiotiri flared against the glass – whether from rage, passion or both she couldn’t quite tell. “I’ve lost enough of my own kind. These books aren’t the same, but I’d still rather let them be.”
She nodded, then got to her feet, walking carefully over to the shelf. She ran her fingers over the dusty old books. “How long has it been since somebody read one to you?”
“They never do.”
“Want me to?”
The Fiotiri blinked, then sizzled down into a pile of embers, sparks dancing over his form inside the bronze lamp. “…I’d like that.”
She pulled the book from the shelf and carried it over to the loveseat, resting it over her crossed legs. Then she opened the covers, the white pages bursting up at her with the glare of unsmeared, barely-touched paper, and she began to read.