The Difference A Year Makes

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Fomhar stared at the little shock of blue green hair peeking out from under the covers. He hadn’t known what to expect when Nyx had told him he’d found another Ascendant. Normally he’d just peek in on them to make sure they weren’t in immediate danger of discovery but the tiny tiefling had been terrified. He couldn’t help himself, he’d always felt a draw to the more unique beings he’d come across.

Her hair had been a mess of tangles and dirt when she’d stumbled into him and he’d thought for a bit that her skin was brown so the stark whiteness after she’d had a bath was shocking. She was too thin by far and he was certain she wasn’t supposed to be that small.

She’d reverted to infernal a few times when she had been relaxed enough to talk to him at all though for the most part she’d just stayed quiet. It was unnatural to see a child so quiet but he understood. The little girl had an air of kindness about her that was unusual for urchins, most of the time you could only see the fear in them. She’d told him her name was Nethrali but she’d given no surname and he wasn’t even sure she knew what hers had been.

With a sigh he laid out a pair of pants and a shirt for her then noticed that tiny silver eyes where watching him unobtrusively. She was probably used to sleeping lightly  and though he’d made no noise his presence must have woken her.

“Did you want something to eat Nethrali?”

She shook her head no so he ruffled her hair and went to leave the room. He’d left some fruit on the table earlier and noticed that a few pieces were missing so he assumed she just didn’t want to ask for things, even when they were offered.

He made note that today was the 5th of Autumnfest and planned to celebrate her birthday on the day every year after this. That thought gave him pause because he realized then that he planned to keep her with him. He wasn’t sure what drew him to this tiny girl but he doubted it was her ability to ascend. None of the other children Nyx had found even came close to drawing him to them. He’d checked on them from a distance and that had been more than enough.

There was something more to it and he’d find that out later. Maybe he’d have Nyx research it. He did know he wasn’t going to tell her about his own divine status. She deserved something like a normal life, even if it wouldn’t stay that way. There were things moving in the world that he couldn’t control and wouldn’t try.

He heard a very light creaking of a floorboard and smiled to himself. She’d gotten out of the bed, though if he hadn’t been listening for it he doubted he’d have heard it. Eventually he’d get her out of her shell, and he couldn’t wait to find out more about her, he realized.

A year to the day later they were at an Inn and he was watching the tiny quiet child he’d come to think of as his own running around outside playing with flowers and petting one of the stray cats. She rarely interacted with other children but was very polite to any adults that spoke with her. He’d tried to get her to make friends a few times over the year they’d spent together but it always seemed to upset her so he’d stopped pushing.

He’d ordered two slices of cake and as soon as he called for her Nethrali had come running. “Is it time for you to play Va?”

She was looking for his instruments and  he couldn’t help but smile at her. “No ni ama. I won’t be playing anything today. It’s a special day after all.”

She tilted her head to the side the way a bird might and scrunched up her face in thought. “But it’s not a holiday today Va. What’s so special about it?”

He smiled and pushed one of the plates of cake towards her. When she huffed at it and picked up her fork he couldn’t help but laugh. “Well, we’ve been together a year now and since I don’t know when your actual birthday is I figured today was the best day to celebrate it.”

Her little eyes grew wide and tears spilled down her face as she stared at the cake. She brushed them aside angrily but didn’t say anything. He sighed and walked around the table to pick her up, something she didn’t let him do often. She buried her face in his shirt and wept quietly. “What is it ni ama? Why are you so upset about your birthday?”

She just shook her head and hiccupped softly then quieted down again. When she finally had control of herself he gently pushed her back so he could look her in the eyes. “Tell me Nethrali.”

His tone was gentle but he left no room for argument or deflection. She looked down and away as her shoulders slumped. “Birthdays are for other people, not things left out like unwanted rubbish.”

Fomhar’s heart broke a little at her words. Most days she played like a normal child and got into mischief if left alone to long, got frustrated with learning and it wasn’t always obvious the effects living on the streets had on her. Then something would cause her to withdraw into herself or she’d say something like this and it was obvious.

He’d never asked her about her parents, mostly because he was certain she couldn’t have answered him if she’d wanted to. She’d had the clothes on her back and those few pennies, he’d asked if she needed to collect anything before they left Echrin and she had.

All that she had brought back, because she’d refused to take him with her, had been a scrap of blanket, a small bracelet that she never wore and kept hidden in the bottom of her pack and a very small notebook that he wasn’t certain she could even read.

He didn’t bother trying to look at it. He’d only seen it the one time anyway. She never left it out and he had no idea what it was but he respected her privacy. This was the only thing she’d ever refused to share with him after all and it was hers.

“Ni ama, you’ve been with me for a year. You know you are welcome to stay with me always. You won’t be tossed out again, and of course you have a birthday. You just don’t remember what it is and I don’t know for certain. Now eat your cake. We’ll go get you a new sketchbook afterwards, alright?”

When he’d found out she liked to draw he’s encouraged it because she needed something to do other than play by herself all the time and learn. She seemed to be curious about cooking as well but she’d yet to ask him if he’d teach her.

He was preparing to introduce her to Nyx at some point because he could tell she had some kind of magic and he figured Nyx would be better at helping her with that than he would. His abilities outside of bardic magic wouldn’t be easily explained and when she was curious his little flower could ask too many intuitive questions and he’d made an effort to never lie to her directly.

Bun
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