It starts like this

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They’d stopped at a new tavern tonight and Nethrali was nervous. New places were always hard because she could never be sure if someone was going to be mean to her or not. She didn’t worry about someone getting violent with her as much, now that she was with Va but there were ways to hurt someone without being physical.

She’d noticed that Va had relaxed as soon as they’d walked through the door, which meant it was probably a place he’d played in before he’d adopted her. It was clean and the people didn’t really pay too much attention to them as they walked through the door. She watched as he nodded to someone and turned to look at them.

Her eyes landed on a man in a cloak with the hood up. She could just make out his eyes though, they were a pretty hazel color, not quite gold but not quite green either. He was smiling at her and she couldn’t help but smile back. It was comforting and she leaned into Va’s side and gave the man a timid little wave as Va helped her out of her own cloak.

He walked her over to the bar area and put her on a stool, as he talked with the owner. She looked away from the man and stared at the tavern owner. They were a pretty half orc with pale greenish skin and dark blue eyes filled with laughter. Va had called them Kasameir and they’d talked a bit about Va playing to pay for their room and a meal. Kasameir had agreed instantly, looking excited to hear Va play, so Va had patted her on the head and told her to stay close while he went to play.

She got up from her stool and went to the washroom when the owner told her they were going to bring her some food. Va told her she always had to wash her hands before she ate so she hurried to do that. When she came back, she caught sight of the man from earlier with his hood down. He was pretty with shiny reddish-brown hair so she was a bit distracted and bumped into someone.

She turned and started to apologize when she saw the look of anger in the woman’s eyes. Nethrali shrunk back a little and stammered as she whispered a quiet apology.

“I-I’m sorry. I did-didn’t mean to bump into you. I’ll be more careful.”

The woman spat at her feet and hissed. “Get away from me before you curse me, you filthy demon spawn.”

Nethrali whimpered but didn’t let herself cry. She just nodded once and hurried away from the woman back over to the counter. She climbed up onto the stool and whispered a quiet thank you when the owner brought her a bowl of stew, a glass of milk and a piece of buttered bread. She took a few bites, but she wasn’t really hungry anymore.

Instead, she ignored the food and watched Va play, even though her vision was blurry. She mentally berated herself for crying and wiped at her face hoping no one noticed. Nethrali could feel the woman’s angry eyes on her still and it made her hands shake so she hid them in her lap. She stayed quiet and when the tavern owner came over to ask her if there was something wrong with the food, she shook her head.

“No xir, I’m just letting it cool a little, so I don’t burn my mouth again. Thank you.”

She tried to force a smile, but the woman glared harder at her and she couldn’t help the slight flinch. She ate as much of the food as she could force herself to, but she still couldn’t eat a lot without getting sick. She’d only been with Fomher for eight months and while she didn’t understand that she wasn’t eating enough Fomher was very strict with her about making sure she ate often. Something the cleric he’d taken her to had mentioned.

Nethrali hadn’t heard it all because she’d been tired from the healing on her tail. It had been crooked before and made it hard to walk so Fomher had taken her to get it fixed. It had been a leftover from the time the couple that owned the teahouse caught her looking for scraps in their trash. They’d left her for dead by the docks. She didn’t drink tea unless she had too anymore. Even the smell could give her nightmares sometimes.

Va had only ordered tea for her once and she’d burst into tears and knocked the glass over as she’d run from the table. It had smelled exactly like the tea that the couple’s teahouse had been known for. He’d asked her to tell him why she’d reacted that way. At first, she’d refused but he’d looked scared, so she’d finally told him. It had been one of the few times she’d ever seen Va look angry, so she’d mentally promised herself she’d never tell him what it was like living on the streets of Echrin again.

She shuddered at the memory and slipped from the stool to head outside. The woman was looking at her the same way the couple had before they’d crushed her tail and bent it in three places. She wrapped it around her waist to keep it safe and curled up on a bench wrapping her arms around her knees just under one of the tavern windows so she could still hear Va playing. She hid her face and hummed along to the songs as he played. It was a mistake to let herself get distracted though.

The woman snatched her arm and pulled her off the bench. “Get out of here you little demon. You’ll curse us all and we’ve had enough bad omens around here.”

She had Nethrali at an odd angle and her arm felt strange. Not like it was broken but it felt like she didn’t have full control of it anymore and it hurt badly. Just as she was about to speak to ask the women to please let her go so she could leave another voice spoke.

“Let the child go Bratha.”

Bun
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