“Right,” said the Spectre. He looked side to side again; Victor followed his gaze and saw nothing but the columns and the suits of armour. The Spectre leaned forward until he almost slid off the throne, bending his head down toward Victor. “My first question,” said the Spectre, “is about…”
“Well, it has to do with…” The Spectre’s voice shrank to a whisper.
“I’m sorry,” said Victor, leaning forward and shaking his head slightly. “I can’t hear you. Could you speak up, please?”
The Spectre paused, and cleared his throat. “Uh, yes. I was saying that…” His voice trailed off again.
“No, sorry, still can’t hear you. You’ll have to speak louder. Or I could come up there.”
“No,” said the Spectre, shaking his hooded head. “That is not permitted. You must answer—” he coughed and cleared his throat. “You must answer from the Seat of Ancient Secrets.”
“Is this the Seat of Ancient Secrets?” asked Victor, looking at the stone stool beneath him.
The Spectre nodded. He sighed. “I want to ask you about my…”
“Speak up,” said Victor.
“It’s my voice!” yelled the Spectre. He sunk back in his throne. “It’s my voice, all right?” He seemed to glance to the side, before looking back at Victor. “You’ve heard it—dropping out and squeaking like a girl—ah, damn it! There it goes again.”
“Yes, I did notice,” said Victor, displaying a look of empathy dramatic enough to been seen clearly from the throne. “So, you’re having problems with your voice, is that it?”
The Spectre sat up and leaned forward. “No—well, I mean yeah, but that’s not it. I want to know if… if it’s normal. And is it ever going—ahem—going to get better?”
Victor nodded and thought. “Do you mind if I ask how old you are?” he said.
The Spectre looked down and flattened his cloak. “I’m fourteen,” he mumbled.
“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you again.”
The Spectre raised his head and declared, “I’m fourteen.”
Victor leaned back and gave a reassuring nod. “Well that makes sense then,” he said. “At that age, for your voice to be jumping up randomly like that—that’s totally normal.”
“It is?” asked the Spectre, eagerly.
“Oh yeah. It happens to every young man. It’s your voice breaking. It’s not actually breaking—that’s just what it’s called. Yeah, it can be a bit embarrassing sometimes, but we all have to go through it.”
The Spectre sighed and chuckled. “Oh wow, I thought something was wrong with me.”
“No, no,” said Victor. “Nothing’s wrong with you. You’re just” —he raised the pitch of his voice— “losing your boy voice,” —he dropped to a macho baritone— “and getting your man voice.”
The Spectre laughed. “What a relief.” He took a long pause and then nodded. “Well, that’s not so bad then.”
“No, not so bad,” said Victor.
The two sat in silence for a minute, then Victor asked, “Did you have any more questions?”
“Yes, actually,” said the Spectre. “There are a few more things.”
“Well, uh… I heard… Is it true—ahem— true that if… Oh, never mind.”
“No, go on,” said Victor. “Don’t be embarrassed.”
The Spectre nodded. “Okay. Um… is it true that if you, uh… if a girl lets you feel her boobs, then you have to marry her?”
Victor rubbed his hand across his mouth in a thoughtful manner (and one that hid an irrepressible grin). After regaining a serious expression, he cleared his throat and answered, “No, that’s not true. I don’t know what the custom was back in the day, but these days marriage is not compulsory where there has been touching of boobs.”
“Okay,” said the Spectre, nodding.
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