Tiasal stretched, sitting down on the shore of a lake she found in the forest edging her field. Her legs dangled lazily in the water, her black pants hiked up to her knees and her shirt thrown carelessly to the side. It was a warm day and she disliked wearing clothes at all in her wide-open and empty home. When she was younger, she had run around without any clothes at all. (A gentle lecture from Aarindarius along with a horrible case of poison ivy in an awkward place took care of that quickly.) But, even then, she could really only be convinced to keep her undergarments on, and maybe her pants if she doesn’t feel like getting that ‘raised eyebrow’ look from Aarindarius, Haley, or any of the rest of her family (minus Elan, of course. Half the time, he was running around naked too, only he shouted something about invisibility. Tiasal never really understood that).
Tiasal let out a happy whoop, sprinting towards a pond and diving in, coming up to make a big splash in a mere moment. The water and various creatures within it brushed against her bare skin, and she couldn’t help but savor the feeling.
She laughed and climbed out of the water again, loving the feel of sunlight on her completely naked body, and she ran back a few feet, turning to run and jump again.
Roy and Belkar both leaned on a tree and watched, each with one eyebrow raised.
“Well, at least we know for sure what her sex is,” Belkar muttered. “The jury’s still out on Aarindarius, and even after the whole ‘giving birth’ thing, I’m still wondering about the elf. And the elf’s ex-wife-or-husband. And the elf’s other kids.”
“Belkar, let it go.” The girl jumped into the water again, making as big a splash she could. “You know, we should probably make her put some clothes on before she catches a cold or something.”
Belkar shrugged, holding up his hands. “Hey, I’m only here because Haley told me to make sure she doesn’t drown and she’d put me through hell if I wasn’t around and something happened.” He crossed his arms again. “I’m not here to get her dressed. Besides, she’d just take it all off again anyway.”
“You’re probably right.”
Tiasal crawled out of the water and jumped in again.
The girl giggled softly at the memory, leaning back and lounging on the grass. Her skin was definitely getting darker. It now was the color of grass—not the dark emerald of the only other goblin she had ever seen, but darker than mint. The two spots on her chest were emerald green. Haley and Durkon had told her that the spots had a name, but she kept on forgetting what it was. She didn’t care too much—they had never told her that the spots were important, so she figured that they were birthmarks. She just liked their color.
She giggled softly, remembering her teacher’s reaction when she first went to his tower missing clothing. Aarindarius used to be shocked when he saw her without her shirt or pants, especially when she came to her lessons like that, but now he simply rolled his eyes and gave her a spare robe he’d taken to keeping magically tucked away in a pouch he had at his hip. Aunt Haley was even more resigned to it. She usually just told her that she’d get sick and that she should put on a robe, yet never made sure she did. Whenever Uncle Belkar saw this, he always laughed and said that her real parents would be way stricter about that.
Would they be? Haley seemed to agree with Belkar.
“Tiasal! Is it too much to ask for you to put on at least a shirt when your uncles or teacher are around?”
The little girl shrugged her bare shoulders, ruffling the loose beige skirt that she had been convinced to wear and jumping up on the couch, snuggling up against the halfling slouched there. Belkar stiffened a little at the contact, something he always did, then he gave a nonchalant shrug and lightly rested a hand on a green arm.
Haley sighed, running a hand through her hair. “I hate being the strict one.”
Belkar glanced up at the rogue, smirking and laughter growing in his stomach. “You call shouting at her and then letting her cuddle up to a Chaotic Evil halfling ‘strict’?” He patted the child’s shoulder. “Vaarsuvius would’ve dragged her upstairs and forced her into three layers by now. I dunno about Reddy, but he would’ve probably done the same thing.” He looked down at Tiasal and smirked. “Face it, kid: you’ve lucked out.”
“I wouldn’t call not having her parents ‘lucking out.’”
“But will you admit to the fact that the elf would have snapped her into shape?”
Tiasal absently ran a lock of soft purple hair through her fingers. The person she had gotten this from was the person that she may never meet. Vaarsuvius had probably taken care of her hair better than her daughter. The child’s hair was long, down to the waist, ragged, and tangled with various sticks and leaves constantly. It was a frightfully painful ordeal to brush it. The strands were too fine, the hair too thick—how was anyone supposed to live life and be able to keep it neat at the same time?
Maybe, when she became a powerful mage, Tiasal could make a spell that would keep her hair from tangling. That would be useful.
She let her hand drop from her hair. If she thought really hard, she could almost imagine (remember? But that was impossible) what her mother smelled like. Flowers. Honey. Wine. Mother. She could sometimes imagine what it was like to be held to her father’s chest. Cold skin. Hard chain mail. Warmth and a sense of safety.
Her stomach got a small hollow feeling.
Tiasal thought of her family and the feeling faded. She didn’t have too much to complain about. Her aunt and uncles weren’t perfect, but they loved and cared about her. Aarindarius was always there, and he loved and cared about her too. Blackwing was always around, clucking like a hen over her health habits and telling her to take better care of herself, and generally acting like the personification of common sense. Abram loved her like a little sister and was much more consistent than her real brothers. Octavius and Terentius, when they loved her, were wonderfully loving and kind. When they hated her, well, at least she learned how to fight better. And Inkyrius was always treating her kindly despite her origins.
And she was happy like this. She was happy with her life. She was a happy little girl.
She slowly drifted off to sleep under the warm sun.
“Little one, you are distracted.”
Tiasal looked up, blinking in surprise, and Aarindarius cocked his head, slowly closing the book of cantrips he was going over with the child. He sidled close, gently wrapping his arm around the girl’s shoulders and allowing her to lean against his side and snuggle close. He had noticed that she was much more tactile than her mother had been at that age, and it was his way of getting her to respond. It was difficult to communicate well with one who spoke so little, so he really needed every trick he could get.
“Is there something bothering you?”
The little girl shrugged.
“Now you know that is not being forthcoming.” Aarindarius gently ran his fingers through the girl’s tangled hair, smiling fondly. “Are you troubled by something?”
She remained silent for a while. “Did you ever meet my father?”
The wizard jerked slightly in surprise, but he quickly tried to reign in his reaction. He had been trying to coax the girl to speak for years with varied results. He wasn’t going to discourage it now.
“I never did, I fear. I hope to meet him one day—you and your mother mean very much to me and I would like to see who has grown so attached to the people I care for.”
The girl was quiet again, one eyebrow up slightly in skepticism. “You think that Mommy and Daddy will come back?”
Aarindarius looked down at the girl, noting that this was probably the longest conversation she had carried in years and tenderly running his fingers through her hair again. Her voice made its lack of use noticeable. It was raspy and quiet, though it could be pretty to listen to if it were only worked a little more.
“Yes, I do.” He hugged her a little closer with one arm, noting that a purr was rising in the little girl’s throat. An instinctive response to something? He would need to research goblin biology a little more. “The Order is nothing if not persistent, and your mother is nothing if not stubborn, and I cannot imagine her ever choosing a mate that is not every bit as stubborn as her. Perhaps it shall not be soon—the lich seems rather elusive and persistent as well—but I have every belief that it will happen.”
Tiasal nodded, tentatively snuggling even closer to the wizard. “Do you know if Daddy had any brothers?”
Aarindarius cocked his head, then slowly shook it. “I am afraid I do not know. Goblins traditionally have large families, so I suppose that he would.”
The girl nodded slowly.
“Why do you ask, dear one?”
She just smiled vaguely. “I’ve got an uncle.” And she left it at that.
“Wake up! Hurry!”
Tiasal snapped awake with a surprised shout, quickly scrambling to get on her knees and pulling her pruned feet out of the water. It was cold. The sun was gone. The moon was out. Why hadn’t anyone come to get her? She knew that Elan and Aarindarius were the only adults not on the adventure to find her mommy and daddy, but Aarindarius was usually so strict about bedtimes…
“Tiasal, you have to be alert right now!”
She looked up in confusion to see the goblin she only knew as Uncle. One gold eye glowed in the night, his face tight with worry. The girl swallowed, nodding quickly. The last time she had seen him, he had saved her life. She didn’t doubt his word now.
“Someone who will hurt you is nearby. You need to get back home and warn your family.”
Tiasal frowned blankly. The mere idea of someone trying to hurt her was incomprehensible. Only people in the past or in stories tried to hurt other people. She was always safe in the field.
The adult goblin made hurried gestures with his hands, muttering softly under his breath. “Of all the times to not be able to touch anyone… Run!” He looked over her, eye widening. “NOW!”
Tiasal jerked and turned to do as the goblin said, but a hand on her arms stopped her in her tracks.
Uncle was gone.
“What is this?”
Tiasal was roughly spun around, cold hands clutching her shoulders, and she was suddenly staring at a tall woman, younger than her Aunt Haley but obviously an adult, with lank and loose black hair and pale skin. Her eyes were disturbing to look at. One was dark blue and the other was light blue. “A half-breed?”
The girl cocked her head curiously, wondering at the language. Inkyrius had admonished Octavius for calling her a half-breed once. She had been told that it was insulting. Why was this woman insulting her? And why had Uncle told her to run away?
“Purple hair? Half-elf, half-goblin? Next to the Order’s commune?” The woman smirked, the look ugly on her black lips, and she gently stroked the girl’s cheek. The girl twitched a little to avoid the contact. Instinct was niggling in the back of Tiasal’s mind. There was something odd with this woman. “Now where have I seen a goblin/purple-haired elf couple before?”
Tiasal swallowed, violet eyes wide.
The woman slowly started to hitch, rickety laughter beginning in her stomach and rising to her chest, her mouth curled up on the ends.
Was this how most humans were? Tiasal had to admit that she didn’t have a lot of experience with this. The only person she had met outside of her ‘family’ that wasn’t a friend of someone she knew was Uncle. This woman was a complete stranger from Outside. She had to admit to being curious.
Maybe her behavior was normal Outside?
“I always thought that that soft fool was lying through his teeth.” The woman slowly stroked the girl’s face, hand latched firmly on her shoulder. Her eyes flashed out of sync with each other, creating a weird lighting effect, and her hands glowed softly. “The dead girl who should have never been born is alive after all.”
Tiasal’s instinct had been tripped. For the first time in her life, she was afraid of another living, breathing being.
What was she supposed to do? What was she supposed to do when she was afraid of a person? She knew how to fight someone who would pick her up and bring her to a cleric afterwards. She didn’t know how to fight or flee a dangerous stranger.
“I think that you should come with me.”
“Aarindarius… Elan… Abram…”
Tiasal’s small voice was just a croak. A quiet murmur to people who couldn’t possibly hear her. The woman smirked, the strokes on the little girl’s face becoming harder. “They can’t help you now. I made sure of it.”
What? How could she…
No no no no no no no no no!
No! Aarindarius! Uncle Elan! Abram! They couldn’t be dead! NO!
Tiasal let out a shriek and jerked back, turning to run to the forest. “AARINDARIUS! UNCLE ELAN! ABRAM!”
The woman grabbed her waist-length hair, fingers finding purchase in the tangles, and ripped her back. The girl shouted in pain, fear exploding inside and ricocheting off of the steady wall of anger that she had coated herself with. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Something inside of her was screaming. She had to get back. She had to get back.
She twisted and bit the woman’s arm, sinking her sharpened and elongated tusks deep in the human’s flesh.
The taste of blood erupted in her mouth. The woman let out a shrill scream.
“YOU LITTLE BRAT!”
Something exploded from the woman’s hands and pain ripped through the girl’s very being, darkness coming over and destroying everything.
Sometimes, if she prayed really hard, Uncle would come to see her even if she wasn’t dying.
She never really had a lot of piety for the Dark One or the elven gods, but she supposed that the Dark One was willing to overlook that in regards to her prayers because of her father.
Uncle was really the only other goblin she had met. She wanted to meet more. Everyone was rather vague about why she was never taken out of their safe field, usually saying something along the lines of ‘people are stupid about species.’ She didn’t understand it and suspected them of lying.
But Uncle was sometimes just slightly more specific. He would say that humanoids and goblinoids didn’t get along very well and people might be mean to her because of her ancestry. She also suspected him of lying, but it was less of a lie than the ones the others told, so she just stopped asking questions.
He didn’t seem to disapprove of her existence, though. She had never seen him look at her with disappointment and regret when he thought she wasn’t looking. He had never has whispered conversations with others when he thought she couldn’t hear about how foolish her parents had been. The only odd thing about him was that he never touched her. That was a little sad, and he seemed to want to numerous times, so she supposed that he simply couldn’t do it.
For some odd reason, he never talked about her father. He talked a little about her mother—he often said that she had been good for her father and had helped him ‘get his priorities straight’ and ‘smooth out the edges’—but he never talked about his brother.
She always filed that fact under things that implied ill of her father.