“Ah don’ think tha’ I’ve ever met two people more reluctant t’ see their family! An’ tha’s sayin’ somethin’!” Durkon ushered Redcloak forward, grumbling softly, obviously completely comfortable with his former enemy after living so many years in close quarters with him. “We all ‘ave t’ do it! Ye’ve been married fer three years now—time t’ meet yer in-laws an’ face yer parents aboot th’ one ye love.”
“There’s the little issue of my family and in-laws being dead…”
Durkon scowled, pulling out a sack of materials no one cared to name and letting it down on the table. “Yer an epic-level cleric ‘oo lives next t’ another epic-level cleric. Tha’s nah an excuse! ‘Specially wit’ all those visits ye make t’ yer family alone…”
He rolled his eyes, pulling small artifacts of magical or religious importance from the bag. “It’s bad enough tha’ ye dinnae ev’n try t’ git yer parents’ blessin’s fer th’ marriage… If ye dinnae git it, ye coulda always eloped… Maybe nah th’ most honorable thin’, but at least it’d be appropriate fer th’ situation…”
Vaarsuvius rolled violet eyes before picking Tiasal up and hugging the silent girl close, glancing over at her dryly. “Do you believe we have an excuse for not seeing your grandparents?”
Tiasal frowned, looping her arms around her mother’s neck and snuggling close, Vaarsuvius’s belly not yet so swollen that it would be difficult, and Blackwing shifted a little on the elf’s shoulder to allow the little girl’s arms better access. “Wouldn’t they hate you and me for being elven?”
“Oh, they’ll love you, Tia.” Redcloak kissed the top of her head lightly. “Me and your mother, on the other hand…”
“You do wonders for my confidence in this endeavor, my love,” Vaarsuvius said dryly.
“I’m sure your parents will have a bad reaction too. Don’t worry; it usually happens to inter-species couples.”
“On the contrary, Redcloak, in regards to my parents, I am more concerned about your reaction.” Vaarsuvius looked down at Tiasal, a smile playing over pink lips. “Even if they were alive, I doubt that I would have wanted them too close to us. They were loving people to be sure, but their attention had the tendency to drift.”
Tiasal arched an eyebrow.
“I am sure you will understand soon enough, child.” Vaarsuvius kissed her forehead. “Oh, and if they wish to demonstrate ‘the beauty of love’, do not let them.”
Durkon and Redcloak exchanged confused glances, then shrugged, returning to preparing the spell. Tiasal smiled, giggling softly and nuzzling her mother’s neck, nodding her assent.
Durkon laid out two candles and small idol to the Dark One. Redcloak glanced at the other cleric in surprise, recognizing the favor done. It was difficult for any devout cleric to carry around, let alone provide the idol to another god, especially one of the opposite alignment. “Thank you, Durkon.”
“Yer callin’ yer family t’ introduce yer wife an’ yer firstborn t’ them. No thanks needed.” Durkon dipped his head. “Ye c’n do the spell on yer own?”
“Of course. Thank you again.”
Durkon smiled, taking a moment to affectionately ruffle Tiasal’s hair before leaving.
Redcloak glanced over at Vaarsuvius, smirking and one eyebrow raised. “They can’t show her ‘the beauty of love’? Dare I ask what that means?”
“I shall explain it at some later date, my love. Preferably when I am appropriately intoxicated.” Vaarsuvius knelt down, putting Tiasal on the ground and kissing her cheek. Blackwing let out and approving warble, giving Tiasal an affectionate nip on the ear before his master straightened. “Rest assured, Little Tiasal, you shall be acquainted with your blood grandparents, aunts, and uncles soon enough, but I believe that we must make them go through degrees of gaining this knowledge.”
Redcloak tousled her wild hair gently, running his fingers lovingly through the soft strands. “I’ll talk to the goblin side of the family first before I introduce you or your mother, okay? They’ll love you as much as we do, I promise, but I’ve never lied to you about the racial rift between goblins and elves, so you know that it may be a little difficult.”
Tiasal shook her head. No, he had never lied about it. Neither had her mother.
Quite frankly, she was a little surprised that they would be meeting the family so soon. Redcloak had only been trying to mend the broken bridges for three years—long enough to start the healing, but not quite long enough to completely reconcile with everyone, his little brother especially.
Though maybe she was wrong about that. After all, whenever Tiasal’s youngest uncle came to visit her alone in the field, he had taken to calling Redcloak ‘Big Brother’ again.
“Well, Tiasal and I shall depart from now. We will only be outside the room—come and tell me when you feel that they are ready to meet me, then Tiasal, we shall introduce you.” Vaarsuvius straightened, looping one arm around Redcloak’s neck and kissing him tenderly. “Perhaps, if we are lucky, no racial slurs will be thrown.”
“Hey, I’m sure that they’ll keep it clean. Mostly.” He smiled down at his wife, kissing back gently. “I love you. Whoever can’t accept that now will come around eventually.” He patted the small of his wife’s thin back. “I should hurry and do this spell. My mother’s nothing if not enthusiastic about the possibility of grandkids, and she won’t appreciate me putting off the summoning anymore.”
“We shall leave, then.” Vaarsuvius wrapped her robes tighter around herself, and Redcloak noted that her robes seemed to show off her femininity a little more. They weren’t revealing by any stretch of the imagination but… even if he hadn’t seen her naked, he would have known she was a woman. Her pregnant belly was actually visible.
Vaarsuvius placed a hand gently on the back of Tiasal’s head, leading her out of the room. Redcloak turned to the task at hand.
Vaarsuvius closed the door behind them, turning a pale face a little to see Blackwing.
“Blackwing, would you please keep watch at the stairs and ward off anyone who may intrude at an inopportune time? Most are aware of what is happening, but our friends are not always the most attentive…” The elf touched that raven’s feathery head affectionately. “And I believe that you would be most content if you were not present for the meeting.”
The raven bobbed his head, giving Vaarsuvius’s ear a soft nip. “Thanks, V. I’ll make sure that Belkar or Elan doesn’t drop in or something.”
He hopped off of his master’s shoulder and flew down the hall out of sight. Vaarsuvius watched until he disappeared, lightly running delicate fingers through the little girl’s hair.
“Daughter, this may take a while. Your father has much to sort out with his family in regards to my species. They have reason to be wary of elves.”
Tiasal took a moment to decipher the Elven. The language was frustratingly complicated, though she had to admit that what it lacked in simplicity it made up for in precision. Though, precision be damned, she was having a much easier time of it conversing with her father in Goblin. (Apparently, her parents thought it was good if she learned her species’ languages. She preferred Common.) “…Yes, I know. We are not—”
Vaarsuvius lightly nudged her shoulder, a gentle reminder to speak Elven. She wouldn’t learn if she didn’t practice.
“We are not pure goblins. You are not goblin at all.” Tiasal hesitated. She had no doubt that her mother and father would be completely honest with her—that was the main reason she was actually making an effort to communicate more—but she had to take her time to work past the pain her disused throat put her through and gather up the words in Elven. (She had a feeling that her parents were actively trying to make her speak more. That was okay. How was she supposed to get to know them if she didn’t provoke their speech?) “Why did Daddy fall in love with you if he hated elves?”
Her mother paused, frowning thoughtfully. “He has changed exponentially since we met, Daughter. He was always a charming and clever man, but his self-proclaimed ‘species-ism’ held a much stronger grip on him then than it does now.” Vaarsuvius subconsciously traced little white lines on her cheeks, so small and unnoticeable that, even with knowing where they were, Tiasal couldn’t pick them out without proper lighting. They were scars. Presumably from her father’s claws.
She wondered how many times her father had stroked those same cheeks and apologized.
“He had difficulties with my being an elf, yes. I do believe he held a deep resentment against me for it. However, you must remember, Daughter, that prejudice does not make a monster out of everyone. He treated me civilly and as a person despite his anger. He treated me better than I believe I would have treated a goblin in the same situation.” The elf lovingly ran a hand through the girl’s hair. “Make no mistake: sometimes, one does have a choice in love. It may be difficult to control, but you can.”
Vaarsuvius kissed her forehead softly and sat down in a chair, letting the little girl climb into her lap. “It was not so with your father and me. The only way, I believe, that we could have curbed our feelings for one another would have been if your father had forced himself to drop any semblance of compassion, and though he was a villain, he was not a sociopath.” The elf got that vague rosy look in her eyes, that odd look that made Tiasal feel warm and reassured her of how much her parents loved each other. “At a certain point, I believe that he forgot that I was an elf and I forgot that he was a goblin. We both were what the other needed. Had it not been for your father, I would have perished a thousand times over. Had it not been for me, he would still be a slave to Xykon and working to control a deicidal abomination.”
The mage leaned back, letting the little girl snuggle up against the pregnant belly. “I do not know why he was able to look past my species. I do not think he knows either. I am glad that we were able to, however.”
“Do you or Dad regret me?”
Vaarsuvius glanced at the little girl, lightly resting a hand on the small of her back. “No.”
The mother and daughter stayed up against each other, sharing the warmth.
Redcloak tentatively opened the door. “Vaarsuvius, I think you should meet someone.”
Tiasal immediately climbed off of her mother’s lap. Vaarsuvius absently patted her head and walked to Redcloak, completely composed and immaculate despite the nervousness that was felt. Redcloak grasped her hand tightly, lacing their fingers together, and they exchanged reassuring squeezes before he pulled the elf inside.
“Vaarsuvius, this is my mother, my father, my uncle, my big brother, my sister, and my little brother. Guys, this is Vaarsuvius, my wife.”
Vaarsuvius looked around the room, committing all the faces of the ghosts to memory. The elf took care to pay extra attention to the goblin Redcloak had indicated to be his little brother. He looked young, around Redcloak’s biological age if not a little older, and an eye patch was covering up his left eye, a mirror to Redcloak.
He was smiling.
There was an awkward pause. The eldest brother hovered next to the window in front of Redcloak’s uncle, both goblin men studying Vaarsuvius, trying to figure out what to make of her. The youngest sister sat on the table, swinging her semi-transparent legs and holding a little doll on her lap. The two goblins that Redcloak had indicated to be his mother and father were silent in the shadows, bodies obscured. The youngest brother glanced around the room, realizing that no one was going to speak.
He clapped his hands together, the sound muted as though a blanket had been thrown over them. “I, for one, am glad to finally meet you. It gets annoying to only be able to watch and listen from the afterlife—I’d like to talk.” Redcloak’s little brother—Vaarsuvius hesitated to call him ‘Right-Eye’—floated closer, looking her up and down. “I have to say, I never saw Big Brother as a family man. I figured that he’d just marry his job and be done with it.” He smirked, winking at Vaarsuvius in a friendly manner. “Nice job whipping him into shape. Thanks.”
Vaarsuvius smiled. The elf understood the double-meaning. “Well, he was ready to change.”
Redcloak blushed a little, fidgeting awkwardly, but he relaxed when Vaarsuvius went on tip-toes and kissed his cheek.
The youngest brother’s acceptance seemed to bridge the gap between the living and the dead, if only tentatively. The ghost of the eldest brother was the next to float forward, his hesitance mostly hidden.
“Hmm.” He floated around Vaarsuvius and Redcloak, waiting a moment before giving his little sibling an incorporeal whack on the head. “Loosen up, Little Brother. We’re your family, not your employers.”
Redcloak looped his arm around his wife’s hips, able to give a small smile. “It’s a little nerve-wracking, Big Brother.” Nonetheless, he was relaxing.
“It’s not that bad. I mean, sure, I’d be nervous too, but you’re acting like you’re made of tin.” The eldest brother slipped back in front of them. “I gotta say—I can’t believe that you’re only just settling down. It’s been seventy years. Goblins aren’t even supposed to live that long.”
Redcloak shrugged, smile growing a little with his comfort level. “Well, better late than never, right?”
“Yeah, I guess, but you should seriously let us meet your wife and kid more often. You know how close-knit our family is.” The eldest brother crossed his legs in the air, leaning down, a smile playing over his face. “I want to be able to get to know my new sister and niece, you know?” His eyes drifted down to Vaarsuvius’s swollen belly, his expression getting softer. “And our new niece-or-nephew.”
Redcloak’s mother, staying in the shadows where it was hard to see her expression, made a jerking motion. Vaarsuvius wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.
“Uh, yeah.” Redcloak’s grip tightened reassuringly around his wife’s waist. “We’re expecting another kid.” Wasn’t exactly planned, but it’s coming anyway. “We think that we’ll try to do it right this time. Without being dead for fifteen years.”
“Tiasal is excited about the prospect.” Vaarsuvius subconsciously rested a hand on the swollen belly. “And Octavius and Terentius are eager for more siblings. We have a rather small family by elven and goblin standards.”
The youngest brother nodded his approval, keen on the idea of expanding the family. “Speaking of which, are we going to meet those two? Terentius and Octavius? I figure that if we’re trying to build up familial relations, we might as well include the stepfamily too…”
“Maybe next time, Little Brother. One thing at a time.” Redcloak smiled and nodded his thanks to his brother. It was nice to know that at least one family member was completely behind all the elven additions, including Inkyrius and the boys. Redcloak himself wanted to include his stepsons more, though he had no idea how.
The youngest sister hopped off of the table, floating around Redcloak and Vaarsuvius in circles. “So does this mean that you won’t be doing what the skeleton man says anymore, Big Brother?”
Redcloak took a moment to smile at her. She hadn’t changed at all since the day their home was attacked. He had once thought that he would be the same way, that the cloak would forbid any mental or physical change with him, but he knew from his missing eye and the hand he held tightly in his own that he had been wrong. “Yeah. I’m not doing what he says anymore.”
“And that’s what we’ve all been praying for.”
The ghost of the goblin that Redcloak had introduced as his uncle glided forward, smiling and crossing his arms. “Vaarsuvius. That’s your name, isn’t it?”
The elf nodded slowly. The older goblin took a moment, gathering his thoughts, and took an unnecessary breath to speak.
“Vaarsuvius, we all have wanted nothing less than for that bag of bones to be out of our family’s lives and that wretched Plan forgotten.” Every dead goblin in the room nodded in agreement. Redcloak shifted in embarrassment, but he knew the truth as well as any of them. “Anyone who can convince my nephew to do that—without even trying, no less!—has my wholehearted approval, no matter the species.” He crossed his legs, looking at Redcloak and arching an eyebrow. “Take good care of your family, kid. Your wife’s a catch and your daughter’s a blessing. Don’t lose them.”
Vaarsuvius chuckled softly. “I assure you, you give me too much credit.”
“Not enough.” Redcloak smiled lovingly at his wife, glancing over at his uncle with gratitude in his eye. “You don’t need to tell me that, Uncle. I know. I’m lucky I have her and Tia.”
“Speaking of Tiasal, I think that we’d like to meet her.” Redcloak’s uncle sighed softly and looked down, slightly shamefaced. “I’m afraid that we didn’t leave the best of first impressions on her.”
Vaarsuvius glanced over at the shadows where Redcloak’s parents still sat silently, noting the tension and put on edge by it. Everyone else obviously noticed it too.
Redcloak gave his wife a reassuring squeeze before letting her go. “Tia’s just outside. Do you think you can introduce everyone, V? I’ll catch up in a moment.”
“Of course, Red.”
Vaarsuvius slipped out, holding the door open unnecessarily for the ghosts to come through. The youngest sister, oblivious to the tension, happily floated through. The two dead brothers exchanged glances with each other before looking over at their parents, then followed their sister. The uncle gave his brother a meaningful look before he followed the children. Vaarsuvius closed the door behind them and was gone.
Redcloak fidgeted. “Mom, Dad, could you please come out where I can see you?”
The two ghosts slipped out of the shadows, his mother looking deeply distressed and his father stern.
His dad hadn’t changed at all since his death. He was still tall and foreboding. He still had a black goatee and molten eyes. He still made Redcloak want to slink away in shame for some undefined wrongdoing.
“Was that elf woman really married when you two started sleeping together?” was the first thing his father said.
There was a pause. “They were going through divorce proceedings…” Redcloak looked away, frowning at the wall. “But yes, she was.”
“She’s not worth you.” His mother let out a pained sound from the back of her throat, shaking her head and closing her eyes. “She’s just another round-tooth tramp and she’s carrying my baby’s child!”
“Mom, please don’t talk about her that way.” Redcloak crossed his arms, looking down and sighing. “Look, I know that you’re not happy that she’s an elf, or that she used to be married, or that she used to be an adventurer and enemy… but I’m happy. I wouldn’t change a thing.” He touched his cheek where the ghost of Vaarsuvius’s kiss lingered. “I’m not going to pretend that she’s flawless. She’s not, I’m not, and Tia’s not. But she’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“Then go grab a sweet single goblin girl and make her the best thing that ever happened to you! It’s not hard!” His mother floated forward, cupping his face in incorporeal hands. “Oh, my little boy… I can’t stand the idea of an elf in bed with my son…”
“Mom!” Redcloak jerked away, red flaring up in his face. “That part of our relationship is no one’s business but our own!”
“You should have thought of that before you got her pregnant the first time! Now everyone knows what you’ve been doing!”
She spat the words, making it sound like it was something dirty. Like it was something to be ashamed of. For the briefest moment, Redcloak could understand why it was shameful. He had defied the parents who loved him. He had done something unclean with someone he knew they would hate, and he continued doing it after the initial impetus wore off. Vaarsuvius’s swollen belly was the proof.
He then thought of the feeling of wholeness and pure, unadulterated love he got when he held his wife’s naked body in his arms. That wasn’t dirty. That wasn’t shameful.
Even if he inwardly winced at the utter cheesiness love had made him stoop to, it was true.
He could feel his mother’s power over him lessen. She had always been able to control him through guilt and shame when she wanted to. She couldn’t this time.
“We’re married, Mom.” Redcloak shook his head, wondering if he would be able to make his mother see what he saw in Vaarsuvius. “It’s not wrong to… you know… do things sometimes.”
His mother covered her ears, unaware of the revelation within her son. “I don’t want to hear this.”
“Son, beyond the elf thing, she has a record of betraying loved ones. She abandoned her last spouse and children for six years. Six years. Then she had an affair. An affair that ended with her pregnant while she was still married. Don’t be foolish and think that she’ll be different for you,” his father said, his arms firmly crossed.
“Affairs aren’t her. It’s not something she’s ever made a habit of. She was vulnerable and I was there for her.” He pulled at his ear gently before looking up at his parents square in their eyes. “Listen. I love you both and I know that you’re only looking out for my best interest. Please try to put her species and last marriage aside for now and let her prove herself. I don’t want anyone in our family to not like her, and I know that you won’t like her if you never give her a chance.”
His mother still looked distressed at the thought of anyone with pointy ears and round teeth being married to him, but his father looked like he was considering what was being said.
“Trust me when I say that marrying her was the one good decision I made after a series of bad ones. I don’t expect you to accept her or me for a while. I’ve done too much, and she’s too different. But for the sake of Tiasal… hey, you remember when you were always going on about grandchildren, Mom?”
This made his mother perk.
“Tia and our unborn child are your grandchildren, elven blood notwithstanding. For their sake, try to give it a chance.” She was quiet. “Please?”
There was a long silence.
“…My baby’s all grown up. Already has a wife and kids…” His mother sighed and slumped slightly in defeat. “You’re right. I don’t like it, but I’ll give your elf a shot. But only because you’re so heads-over-heels for her and, like it or not, she’s the mother of my grandchildren.” She looked over at her husband. “What do you think?”
“…I think that you should speak with our new daughter-in-law. And I should speak with our son.”
Redcloak winced in preparation. “Mom, please don’t intimidate her. She’s pregnant.”
His mother crossed her arms. “I’d say I know a fair amount more about pregnancy than you do, if the looks of you and your siblings have anything to say about it. She won’t be scared into a miscarriage.”
She floated through the wall, leaving Redcloak nervous for his wife.
Though, to be fair, Vaarsuvius had proven time and time again that she could handle herself. Maybe he should be more afraid for his mother.
“Son, we need to talk about something. Something that I died before being able to discuss with you years ago.”
Redcloak spun around, giving his father a flat look. “Dad, if you’re about to give me The Talk, it’s a little late. Uncle got it covered when I was ten if it makes you feel better.”
“Do you make love with this elf?”
Redcloak stared, face rendered expressionless. “…Dad, I have a kid with her. And a second one on the way.”
His father made a dismissive motion with his hand. “Son, you can get kids with sex. I’m talking about making love.”
The younger goblin took another long moment. “You have got to be kidding me.”
“I’m completely serious.” He crossed his arms. “I may be dead, Son, but I haven’t changed. Does it mean something when you touch her?”
“Dad, that’s not your business!” Redcloak face took an interesting pink-green color and he instinctively glanced around the room to make sure they were alone, holding his hands up. “Look, I know that you and Mom are going to be a little more concerned with details because she’s an elf, but can we keep the sex talk to a minimum? It’s bad enough that I have to deal with my brothers and Uncle…”
“I asked your little brother the same question about Ali. I made him answer, so I’m making you answer too.”
“Dad, I don’t want to—”
“Is she just a cheap tramp you married to take care of your child?”
Redcloak couldn’t keep from bristling. “Dad, don’t talk about her li—”
“Are you with her because you feel responsible for Tiasal and her mother’s death?”
“Of course I’m—”
“Does the fact that she betrayed her former spouse mean nothing to you?”
“Would you have cared about her at all if she hadn’t gotten pregnant?”
“Does it mean anything to you when you spend time in bed with her?”
“Of course it does!” Redcloak snapped, glaring at his father. “It does! It always has! I love her!” The younger goblin narrowed his eyes, quickly reining in his emotions and calming himself down, taking a deep breath and lowering his voice. “I know you want me to say that I just married her for Tiasal’s sake. You want me to say that the only reason I’ve married someone so ‘unacceptable’ is because my sense of honor and morality demands that I do. I’m not going to say that. I love my wife and my daughter, and after everything I’ve done, they’re the only ones who I don’t regret a thing about.”
He crossed his arms defiantly. “You’ve always been good at making me feel guilty and ashamed, Dad, but I’m not going to feel ashamed of the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
His father was silent for a while.
“…You didn’t need to add a speech, Son. I only wanted to know that you weren’t marrying a woman for her body and the child you created together. No happy marriage is made that way.”
He floated to the door, one eyebrow quirked. “But it’s nice to know that you’re so passionate about your love for her. I think that I’d like to meet this new daughter and granddaughter of mine.”
Redcloak stared quietly in shock.
“Are you going to come with me or not?”
Redcloak jumped and quickly followed his father out the door.
Vaarsuvius suppressed a grimace when she found herself cornered by the white-haired goblin woman, privately glad that Tiasal was across the room, wrapped up with talking with her uncles. At least she wouldn’t witness her grandmother’s animosity towards her mother firsthand.
“You know that, if you weren’t already married and had a child and a second on the way, I would have told you to stay the hell away from my son, right?” she said in complete deadpan, though thankfully quietly enough to not alert any potential eavesdroppers.
“Ma’am, I have no doubt in my mind.” Vaarsuvius subconsciously rested a hand on a swollen belly. “The fact remains that it is not so easy.”
“It’s good to know that we’re on the same page, then.” The woman crossed her arms, frowning. “I can’t control my son. He’s lived without me and any other parental figure much too long for that. But you’d better treat him right. If I hear of you cheating on him or setting your murderous elf friends on him, I’ll make sure you regret being born.”
Vaarsuvius coolly raised an eyebrow. “I assure you that I do not make a habit of hurting those I love.” The elf smoothed her robe. “For my family’s sake, I wish to get along well with you and your husband. Perhaps this is too hopeful of me. Racial barriers run deep, and if they were an obstacle between me and Redcloak, then they shall be extremely difficult for me and his family to overcome. For his sake, I shall do my best.” The mage rested pale hands on a swollen belly. “Are we going to attempt to be friends, ma’am?”
The goblin woman stared, her eyes narrow. “You bore my grandchild.”
Vaarsuvius dipped a delicate head. “If my memory serves, yes.”
Redcloak’s mother paused, then slowly nodded. “You married my son. You gave birth to my grandchild. I’ll accept that you’re here to stay.” She held up one finger. “But remember…” her eyes narrowed, “you’re never going to be my daughter. And you’re never going to be family.”
Vaarsuvius raised an eyebrow, sighing softly. “I take this as a ‘no’ to the ‘attempt to be friends’ proposition.”
“Sister, enough.” Redcloak’s uncle floated beside his mother, frowning. Vaarsuvius jerked slightly, surprised that he had been paying attention to their conversation, and Redcloak’s mother frowned. “This is one of the few times we all can get to know our new family and reconnect with your son. Let’s not waste it on prejudice and hate.”
The goblin woman nodded, giving one last scowl at Vaarsuvius. “I think that I will become better acquainted with my grandchild.” She picked herself up and floated away towards her sons and granddaughter.
The uncle sighed, rubbing his head. “I’m really sorry about her, Vaarsuvius.” He turned so he was face-to-face with the elf, frowning. “The species difference is going to be harder for some people to get over than others.”
“I am willing to accept that.” Vaarsuvius shrugged. “To be quite honest, this has gone better than I expected. If my mother-in-law dislikes me, well, it could have always been the entire family.” The elf glanced over at her child, smiling to see Tiasal in happy animate conversation with her uncles. “And my daughter is bonding with her relatives. That is all I really wanted.” The mage looked back at Redcloak’s uncle, arching an eyebrow. “She needs the reassurance that she is loved by her family.”
He fidgeted, looking away ashamedly, but Vaarsuvius didn’t push.
“And she needs more good goblin role models.” Vaarsuvius smiled, eyes studying the ghost. “Redcloak was rather concerned about that. He doesn’t want her to go out into the world and hate what she is.” The smile faded for a moment. “I cannot say that I do not share in his worries.”
“Neither can I, or anyone else in our family, really.” The ghost goblin averted his gaze, frowning. “Life for a goblin isn’t easy. Life for a hybrid goblin is harder.”
Vaarsuvius took a moment to tighten her robe around herself. “I am confident that she will be capable of handling it. She is a strong girl.”
“I hope so.”
He started to flicker in place. He looked down in confusion, staring at his hands, before looking back up. “I think that time’s run out.”
“Yes, it has.” Vaarsuvius jumped a little in surprise at Redcloak’s voice, but was perfectly receptive when he wrapped an arm around slender hips. “I thought we had more time, but the spell’s going to stop in a few seconds.”
“Well, in that case, summon us again soon. It was nice to see family.”
The goblin smiled, waved, and disappeared with the rest of the ghosts.
Redcloak closed Tiasal’s door softly, feeling warm inside. A smile played across Vaarsuvius’s face, a pale hand reaching up and affectionately stroking the goblin’s face. “You always seem to glow when you say goodnight to her.”
“Well, I’ve got fifteen years to make up for.” He slipped his arm around the elf’s waist, leading her down the hall. “I never thought I’d have a kid, V. I don’t want to miss anything.”
“Red, do not be fearful of that anymore.” Vaarsuvius smiled, taking Redcloak’s hand and gently placing it on her swollen belly. “Neither of us is involved in something dangerous this time. We will be alive and present.” Vaarsuvius kissed Redcloak’s cheek lovingly. “And Tiasal will age slowly. We have much more than fifteen years to spend with her. We have time to be a family.”
Redcloak’s expression shifted for a moment, his fingers drifting back and fingering the cloak that, even when he didn’t wear armor anymore, he never took off.
Redcloak smiled again, opening the door to their room. “You know, I didn’t think I’d have a life after I put on this cloak.” He let his wife go, kissing her softly. “I’m glad that I have one with you and Tia.”
“My love, if you continue this, I will be sharing my bed with a starry-eyed romantic that seems to have stolen and replaced my mate.” Vaarsuvius smiled dryly, kissing Redcloak back. “Surely marriage has not made you so soft?”
“You do that to me.” Redcloak nipped Vaarsuvius’s ear playfully, provoking a cry.
“Redcloak! You know what that does to me!” Vaarsuvius squirmed, face flushing and ears twitching.
The goblin smirked, kissing his wife’s cheek and walking to the drawer, pulling out nightclothes for both of them. “Of course I do. I’ve been married to you for three years.”
“You are a manipulative tease. I hope you are aware of that.” Vaarsuvius took a loose-fitting nightgown, smiling amusedly.
“I love you too, V.” Redcloak chuckled softly before turning away, pulling off his shirt and rolling his tattered cloak into a loose belt around his hips.
Violet eyes rolled and Vaarsuvius pulled off her robe, letting it rest on a bed post, before the elf pulled on the nightgown.
“Am I going to meet your parents, Vaarsuvius? I don’t think that you’ve said much about them.” Redcloak pulled on a pair of sleep pants.
“My love, I am not even sure if my parents are alive or dead.” Vaarsuvius climbed into the bed, gesturing for Redcloak to join. “They disappeared into the woods nearly ten years before I married Inkyrius.”
“And you didn’t try using a divination spell?” Redcloak frowned in confusion and slipped under the covers, sitting up and cocking his head.
“My parents and I…” Vaarsuvius shifted awkwardly, still reluctant to open up after so many years. Redcloak recognized his wife’s reluctance, lightly running his fingers through her hair as a silent reassurance. “I am unsure if they were aware of it, but I am not on the best terms with them. Besides: they would approve of anyone I marry so long as they think I am happy. Believe me.”
“Were you fighting with them or something?”
“No. They simply had a bad grasp of how to raise someone like me.” Vaarsuvius hesitated, tentative about sharing anything more. “They… were too intimate with me. They had no sense of what was appropriate and what was not.”
Redcloak’s expression darkened and his posture tensed microscopically.
“No, no, not that way.” Vaarsuvius put a calming hand on the goblin’s shoulder. “No. They invited me to participate in less than child-friendly activities multiple times, but they never victimized me. They saw it as a way to be open, not as a means for gratification.”
“Wait, you’re telling me that they would invite you to…”
“…Join in their copulation, yes. It was a way to demonstrate ‘the beauty of love.’ I never accepted their offer.” Vaarsuvius sighed softly. “It did not stop them from copulating in front of me, however.”
“Vaarsuvius, that’s sexual abuse.”
The elf arched an eyebrow, frowning at the goblin, trying to think of a way to turn him away from this train of thought. “You are too tense.” Vaarsuvius sat up, lightly rubbing the goblin’s shoulder. “Red, they did the same thing to Aarindarius. And nearly anyone else who they considered ‘friend.’ You do not need to be upset on my behalf.”
His expression was still dark.
The mage kissed him softly. “Do not think too much about them, my love. I doubt that we shall encounter them anyway.” She kissed his neck. “If anything, I should be fearful of your parents. They did not seem fond of me.”
He grunted softly, wrapping his arm around his wife’s waist. “My uncle and siblings took to you fast, and my father is willing to give you a chance. My mother will come around.” His eye was still glazed with angry thoughts. Vaarsuvius straddled his hips, kissing his neck again.
“Well, your uncle was charming.”
“Mmm.” Redcloak was still frowning distractedly. “Did your parents—”
“Shush.” Vaarsuvius lightly brushed a finger against the goblin’s lips, silencing him. “What is past is past. Tiasal is asleep. Xykon is not near. We have not been enemies for nearly twenty years.” The elf pressed their lips together. “Let us enjoy it.”
Redcloak softened slowly, wrapping his arms tightly around his wife and reciprocating the kiss. Clothes were soon discarded.
They took every advantage time allowed.
“When do you think we should drop in on Suvie and her hubby?” Aula asked, grinning at the scrying pool and lying with her head in her mate’s lap.
“I don’t want to interrupt her intimacy. You know how embarrassed she gets about her body.” Tiberius glanced around the alpine forest they were lying in, the souls of increasingly bestial dead mortals flitting through every now and again. “Besides, it’s nice to know that she’s finally having healthy lovemaking. Her relationship with Kyrie was lacking.”
“It only took nearly a century and a half. Do you think we did something wrong?”
“Well I don’t see what we could have done. We showed her the beautiful side of lovemaking. We didn’t tell her to be ashamed of it.”
The couple stayed in happy silence while watching the scrying pool. “Do you think we should meet our new grandchild? It seems as though she can see dead souls if she wishes.”
“We should. We will find Suvie and her hubby when they are done.”
“And maybe suggest something new. As beautiful as it is, I find that their alone time is uncreative. I’m sure we showed Suvie more tricks than that.”
“We’ll suggest it.”
Both elves grinned at each other, ears twitching mischievously before they dived into the mortal plane.
The scrying pool rippled and cleared away in their wake.