Nethrali was staring into the tree above her and thinking about all the things she wanted to tell O’su Nyx. She’d seen a strange new bird and the last tavern she and Va had stopped at had been owned by a half orc. The half orc had been very kind to her and snuck her an extra cookie when Va had been up playing for the patrons. They’d even found a place that had cinnamon caramels and Va had let her get three.
The tree was tall and it looked incredibly old to her. It was also a peach tree, which she remembered O’su enjoyed almost as much as she liked the candies he always seemed to have. The ones closer to the ground looked bad or not quite ripe yet. There was one, that she could just barely see that looked perfect though.
Looking back to make sure Va wasn’t watching from the tavern window, she nodded to herself and started to climb. She could hear the music coming from inside and knew she had to get the peach before he was done playing. He’d told her before not to climb the tree, and normally she’d have listened but today was special and she wanted to give O’su something because she knew he’d have candy for her. It was her birthday after all.
She was paying very close attention to her task while still listening for the music. It stopped for just a second and then picked back up so Va had probably started a new song. Biting her lip she pushed herself to climb just a little faster. The branches were getting thinner and she realized the peach was probably close to the top of the tree. When she finally got close enough to reach it, she gently snapped the twig it was on and put the stick between her teeth so she could concentrate on climbing down without dropping it.
It really was the perfect one so it had been worth the risk of making Va mad. She slowly started climbing down, still listening for the music. She was almost down when the music stopped entirely. The sudden silence let her know that Va was probably done and would come to look for her, so she started to climb down faster. It was a mistake because she lost her grip on one branch and tried to catch herself on another only to break it and fall to the ground.
When she landed, she fell on her arm and felt a horrible snap. She couldn’t breathe and everything hurt but her arm felt like it was on fire. It hurt more than anything she’d ever felt before and she still remembered when a man had kicked her so hard she’d coughed up blood for days. A traveler had seen her and taken care of her for a few days. That had been before Va had taken her with him.
She didn’t like to think about those times though. She wouldn’t tell Va about it because the one time she had brought up having her food stolen by one of the older children he’d looked really upset. It took her a bit to get her breath back and in that time, she heard the music start back up. It had made her breathe easier and she slowly sat up. Her arm her as she moved and she pulled the peach twig out of her mouth to be sick in the grass.
Tears were streaming down her face but she kept quiet like she used to when she was hurt and hiding from some of the adults in the city. She pulled crawled over on one arm to the tree and then grabbed O’su’s present. When she leaned forward it made her gag again because of the pain that shot up her arm.
Her head was spinning and her vision was a little blurry too. She knew that feeling and it scared her. The last time she’d had that feeling was when one of the older kids had chased her for her blanket and she’d fallen. They’d caught her as she was trying to get up and slammed her head into the wall. She’d fallen to the ground again but that time her vision had grown black she didn’t remember how long she’d laid there. They’d run off with the blanket she’d found on the docks two weeks before. Her hair had been sticky and wet when she’d started to be able to focus again.
Pushing the memories away she leaned back against the tree with O’su’s peach and just listened to Va play. She set the peach in her lap and wiped at her eyes with her arm that didn’t hurt. She was just starting to drift off when she heard a familiar voice singing as they got closer. It sounded like O’su, but she was too tired to move. She knew she wasn’t supposed to sleep when her head had that spinny feeling.
She could hear O’su getting closer because his singing was getting louder. She loved the sound of his voice and it always made her smile when he and Va would sing together while Va played. O’su had a prettier voice but Va could play so well it would make you cry so when they performed together it was special.
She was getting ready to try to stand when she heard O’su shout her name. He sounded scared so she looked around to see where the danger was coming from. It didn’t look like anything was nearby so she was very confused.
“What’s wrong O’su?” She looked up at him as she spoke but he was already leaning down to pick her up. She struggled a little because she didn’t want to drop the peach. It hadn’t been easy to get.
“What happened to you little one? Where is your father?”
She held the peach carefully as he picked her up and settled her close. “He’s inside playing. I was bored and came out here to wait for you. I got you a present.”
At that she showed him the peach but he held her a little tighter and it pressed her sore arm to his chest. She gasped in pain and felt tears slide down her cheeks. He jostled her a little and moved her around so that her good arm was pressed against him instead. It hurt and she almost threw up again.
“Nethrali, what happened?”
She looked down at the ground because she knew he wouldn’t be happy. “I wanted to get you a present, so I climbed the tree. You like peaches.”
She held it up again. “This was the only one that I saw that wasn’t gross. But Va always tells me not to climb it when we pass by. I was trying to get down before he stopped playing and I went too fast. I fell.”
She started crying harder and pressed her face to his chest because she knew she’d be in trouble and all she wanted to do was something nice. She heard him sigh but he didn’t say anything which made her cry harder. O’su was never mad with her and she felt like he was right now. She didn’t like it at all and her arm was hurting worse. The dizzy feeling was getting worse too.
He rubbed the top of her head and she flinched because it made her head hurt worse. There was another sigh and she felt them move. “Did you hit your head too?”
She nodded slowly and he swore. “Bad word O’su.”
He snorted and laughed weakly and that made her smile. She laid her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat. “Yes and you aren’t going to tell your father I said it.”
She shook her head to let him know she wouldn’t because talking was starting to make her sleepier. “He’ll be mad at me.”
“I think he’ll be more upset that you’re hurt little one.” He started humming softly.
“I climbed the tree though. He told me not to.” Tears started falling down her face again. “What if he decides he doesn’t want me anymore because I was bad?”
She felt O’su freeze and opened her eyes to look up at his face, still crying, and whispered quietly the thing she’d been most afraid of when she fell. “Do you think he’ll send me back O’su?”
“He would never get rid of you Nethrali, not ever, and certainly not for something like this. He might not let you go play where he can’t see again though. Now, you and I are going to go tell your father that we’re going to the healer and then we’ll get you patched up. We can’t have the birthday girl sick on her birthday, can we?”
She closed her eyes and shook her head, but asked quietly, “Do you like your pesent O’su?”
He laughed but it didn’t sound happy. “Spending time with you is a better present but yes I like it little one.”
She fell asleep with a smile on her face snuggled close to him. When she woke up she was wrapped in a blanket and O’su and Va had been talking by the fireplace in their room. She’d laid there for a while just watching them and enjoying her arm not hurting anymore.
Eventually she’d gone and apologized to them both and promised not to do it again. Va had been understandably upset with her and wouldn’t let her out of his sight for a while. She hadn’t been upset about it though, because it meant she got to spend more time with him. O’su had stayed for a week and by the second day he’d been sneaking her caramels again.
They’d shared a few stories about their adventures since the last time they’d seen each other and she’d been sad when he’d had to leave but he promised to come see her again, like always. O’su and Va always kept their promises and she’d decided to do the same. She’d stayed away from trees after that because she’d promised she would.
She also tended to stay away from any sort of heights, not because she was afraid of them but because she was afraid of falling again. It always made her freeze up a little at first