“Look, you’re going to need to go to sleep at some point.”
Tiasal smiled up at her amused aunt from her bed, crossing her arms and sticking her lower lip out.
“Doesn’t work on you, Tia. Your teeth are too pointy to pull a good pouty lip.” Haley smiled fondly and ruffled her hair, eyes glazing over just a little. A sign that she was seeing Vaarsuvius in her again.
Tiasal ducked a little, squirming under the covers, and pulled a book from under her bed, presenting it to her aunt proudly.
“The Little Psion That Could?”
Haley arched an eyebrow, smiled, then took the book. “If I read this to you, will you go to sleep?”
Tiasal put her fingers to her lips, then to her forehead, smiling.
“If I read to you then me and Uncle Elan kiss you goodnight?”
She nodded, still smiling.
“Fine, you little Oompa Loompa.” Haley chuckled softly and ruffled her hair again. “I swear you’re worse than Abram.”
Tiasal giggled and settled down in her bed, waiting for her aunt to begin the story.
Tiasal stared at the rotting carcass put in front of her before poking its fur gently. It was a rat. It had a big gash on its side—looked like it was from scraping against a nail or something.
She was going to learn necromancy? She had to admit that she was curious, but the way Aarindarius had treated that school of magic had embedded a deep distrust of it in her. Until now, Xykon mostly taught her evocation, transmutation, and conjuration with only a little illusion, enchantment, and minimal abjuration (for some reason, Xykon had been reluctant to go into divination). He had said that necromancy was something he wanted to save.
She guessed that he wasn’t saving it anymore.
“I don’t suggest touching it too much. You’re little fleshy parts may get an infection or something.”
She took her hand away from the corpse and shifted uncomfortably on her knees, unable to sit down properly because the crazy cleric (she refused to call him ‘Master’) didn’t deem her cleaning satisfactory.
Xykon smirked at her, sitting across from her on the ground. “The first time I brought something back it life? It was my dog. I went on to people a few years later. It’ll probably be the same for you, only you don’t have a dead dog. You now have a rat. Bring it to life.”
Tiasal looked back down at the rat. “How?”
“How does a spider know how to spin a web? How does a bird know how to fly?” Xykon shrugged and held out his phalanges. “This is a way for me to tell you to BS your way through it. You’ll figure it out.”
Tiasal blinked and stared at the corpse. She tentatively picked it up, holding it close to her face, frowning. If it were alive, it’d be squirming and squeaking desperately in her hand. What had this rat seen in its life?
Pretty little jewels on a white thing smelling of death. Danger. Danger. Death smell.
Had it had any children?
Offspring nursing from mate. Good. Love.
Did anyone miss it?
Offspring still nursing.
Did its family love it?
Mate rubbing fur against mine.
Her eyes glowed softly and it felt like ice had been released into her bloodstream. Her temples pounded. Deep at the back of her head, she heard someone scream. Her throat started to close up, something cold reaching out, flipping a switch, dragging something that should be asleep up to the surface. It felt like nature herself was shrieking in pain and fury.
Yellow light shocked through her hand into the rodent, jolting its empty eyes open.
It hung in her hand, unnaturally still, gaze fixed on her. It let out a dull squeak, body just as cold as it was before its revival.
She put it on the ground gently. It shifted so that it was standing on its paws but did nothing else.
“You see? That was easy.” Xykon leaned forward and picked up the rat by its tail. It started moving around, trying to bite at his fingers, letting out pitiful squeaking sounds. Tiasal grimaced, eyes fixed on the creature’s face.
Xykon caught a glance of her expression. He swung the rat gently, a sense of frowning radiating off his face. “Hey, if you want to get anywhere in life, knock off the ‘oh, I’m supposed to be on the good/neutral spectrum so I’m going to feel bad about the rodent’ crap. You’re no better than I am.”
Tiasal looked up at him curiously, frowning in confusion.
“Seriously, letting me use you against your own dad? Teaming up with the undead abomination that killed and soul-bound your parents?” Xykon let out a hollow laugh, bouncing the rat between his fingers like a deranged yo-yo. “You’re not good. And you’re not neutral.”
He held out the squealing undead rat. “Guess which option is left, princess?”
Tiasal stared at him silently, slowly holding her cupped palms out under the rat. The lich dropped the rat in her hands. “Destroy it before we get an undead infestation.”
She looked down at it silently. It was her creation. Her gift and curse bestowed on that tiny little animal.
“Are you going to make me tell you twice?”
There was a pause.
She let the rat drop to the ground before standing up and crushing it under her feet.
Xykon stood up, sauntering out of the room. For want of anything else to do, Tiasal followed him.
The woman with the skeleton dragon tattoo was standing in the hall outside, smiling. “You wanted to see me, my lord?”
“Yeah.” Xykon gestured Tiasal forward, provoking a scowl from the tattooed woman. “Go and… I dunno. Make her pretty.”
Tiasal looked up at him curiously and the woman’s scowl deepened. “Why?”
“Because it’s hard to hang the safety of a kiddy damsel in distress over a Lawful goblin if said damsel looked like she just won a wrestling match with a tree.”
Tiasal arched an eyebrow. Xykon reached down and pulled a leaf from her hair that had gotten tangled in last week and held it up for emphasis.
The woman looked ready to kill.
“Go grab some servant kids and make her look like she’s worth saving.”
Lovely to know that she needed to look clean and pretty to be worth saving for her father.
The woman hesitated, then after staring at Xykon for a moment, she let out a huff and grabbed Tiasal by her hair. “I should have killed the bastard child while I had the chance.”
Tiasal jerked a little in the woman’s grip but was dragged down the hall to another room. This one had a four-poster bed and a beauty table, along with two servant kids dusting it and making the bed. Both children looked up in panic and ducked their heads, making for the door.
“You two stay here.”
The children froze. Tiasal recognized them as Swift and Leaves. She didn’t really know them beyond the fact that Swift was a halfling boy with brown hair and gray eyes and Leaves was an female elf with dark green hair and brown-green eyes with prominent yellow, orange, and red flecks in them.
The woman ushered Tiasal into a big bathroom with a luxurious bath. “You can take a bath on your own.”
Tiasal nodded slowly, suspicious about whether or not the woman would try to drown her, but no such thing happened and the woman simply left the room.
Tiasal, reluctant to try the woman’s patience and see if she really would drown her, immediately took her clothes off and filled the tub. She washed herself quickly, trying to scrub off as much filth as possible, and did her best to clean her tangled hair.
Before she knew it, she was draining the water and scrambling out, wrapping herself up in a towel before scampering outside again.
The woman gave her a cursory glance, scowling, before pointing to the nervous Swift. “Go and find something pretty that will fit her. I’m sure that crazy Master of yours has something—maybe a dress or skirt and shirt. Make sure it’s not too over the top.”
Swift nodded quickly and ran out. The woman turned to Leaves, still scowling. “You go and get a brush and some hair-ties.” Leaves quickly scampered off and the woman turned to Tiasal. “Dry yourself off. You’re lucky I hate Reddy so much—I actually want to twist his heart around, so I’m going to help you look good.”
Tiasal nodded slowly, eyes slipping down to the woman’s forearm. There was a vicious semi-circle scar ripping through her flesh. The green girl had a private moment of triumph before drying herself off and dropping the towel aside. The scar was a mark of her power. The woman before her didn’t have as much control as she would have liked to say.
Swift came back in, head ducked, and presented a pile of clothes. “Master said that any of these would do.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sure he knows what looks nice on little girls.” The woman lay the clothes on the bed, frowning at an array of dresses, shirts, and skirts. “Too flashy… too gothic… too old fashioned…” She made a disgusted face and picked up what Tiasal assumed was supposed to be a shirt which happened to lack anything but covering for the chest area. (What kind of shirt was that?) “Too skanky. I didn’t know that they made stuff like that for kids. Oh, here we go.”
She pulled out an ankle-length cream-colored skirt with a lavender T-shirt. “Feminine. That’ll work.”
She handed the child the clothes. “Put these on. We’re going to make you look like a girl your daddy wants to take care of.”
Tiasal scowled, hardening herself against the consciously hurtful comments, and slipped the clothes on. She felt like she would take several levels of girlishness by the time this was done.
“Hey, you,” the woman pointed at Leaves, “brush her hair. You,” the woman pointed at Swift, “go find a file and fix up her nails. They’re looking all sharp and… goblin-y. You don’t look cute and modest when you have frickin’ claws.”
Leaves wordlessly started trying to work a brush through Tiasal’s tangled hair, but a telling thing about it was the fact that she actually tried to make it painless, quite a feat with the way the child had left it. Swift quickly ran off, coming back with a nail file and starting on the green girl’s claws.
Tiasal kept herself from wincing in pain when the brush was carefully dragged through her hair. She felt uncomfortable with these strange people working with her body. Her Aunt Haley was the one who filed down her claws so she wouldn’t cut herself. Aarindarius was the one who would brush her when she didn’t, a slightly exasperated yet amused smile on his lips. Aunt Celia was the one who would make her look pretty and let her dress up and feel like a girl.
But then again, they had probably only done those things to make her look less goblin. Less monstrous. Less like the father they hated.
The woman with the dragon tattoo smirked, slowly running a tendril of purple hair through her fingers. Tiasal stifled a shiver.
“You know, it’s like a copy of your mother’s hair.” The woman twisted the lock around her finger, pulling it just enough to force Tiasal to keep back a wince. Leaves and Swift both glanced up curiously before ducking their heads, Leaves continuing to brush. “Sometimes, when they thought I wasn’t looking, I saw Reddy running his fingers through her hair. He liked it a lot. Could barely keep his hands away. He’d do other stuff, too. Nuzzling her neck. Stroking her hand. All that disgustingly mushy stuff.”
The woman smirked, leaning in far enough so that her breath tickled the side of Tiasal’s face, sending jolts through her sensitive ears and making them try to swivel away. She squirmed uncomfortably. “He liked her ears a lot too. I would always see him fondling them like they were one of his religious artifacts when they didn’t know I was there. I didn’t get it, but considering the way she reacted, nothing PG was going on.”
Tiasal wasn’t sure how she should react to this. Something deep within told her that she was being told about something that was personal and intimate between her parents, something that should only belong to them.
Leaves and Swift seemed to know more about it than she did. Both of them exchanged meaningful glances, Swift’s cheeks getting a little red and Leaves’ ears twitching.
The woman gave a dramatic sigh, running her fingers through the royal purple hair. “I think I see why he liked her hair so much, now. If she took better care of it, I bet she would have actually looked attractive. Maybe even like a woman.” She pulled the last of the leaves and twigs out of it. “The strands are fine, the hair is thick, and it’s soft. A perfect combination. Hell to brush, but a wonderful attraction for men.” She smirked slowly. “Men love good hair. They like something to stroke when the clothes are on.”
She untangled her fingers from the strands. “Keep that crazy cleric’s hands away from there. He’s excited enough as it is.”
Leaves finished off with the hair, putting the brush aside and picking up the hair-ties. “Would you like me to give her hair a specific style, Ms. Tsukiko?”
“I don’t care as long as she looks innocent and vulnerable.”
Leaves nodded and ran her fingers through the royal purple hair, parting it in the middle and starting to work slowly at it.
“Your dad had to be fricken’ desperate to go for your mom, nice hair aside.”
Tiasal repressed a sigh and got ready for more insults towards her parents.
“She was just sleeping with him because he could keep her safe. He just stuck with her because she put out. Then you came along so they were stuck with each other. Be happy that Xykon and I killed them. They would have made you and each other miserable anyway.”
Leaves and Swift exchanged quick glances. Tiasal ignored them all. The woman was malicious. The children were inconsequential. The dead goblin and elf did not matter anymore.
She spaced out until the whole ‘makeover’ was over.
“My lord, I must ask why you wish so much for this goblin to return to life.”
The cleric’s back was stooped as he shambled into the dim basement room, slowly hanging his swinging lantern to a hook fixed in the wall. The firelight brightened the area enough to see a lich lounging in a comfortable armchair, pausing a wide-screen crystal ball with Teevo, and a red bed shoved against the wall, a disturbingly still body lying under the covers. “He did betray you, after all.”
“Yeah, well, he knows a few things I don’t. Namely, the rituals to control a certain god-killing abomination. And he’s able to deal with strategy without bothering me too much about it. And he’s amusing.” The lich distractedly stared at his finger bones, picking out bits of debris that got stuck in his joints. “Oh, and he’s a higher level than you. That doesn’t hurt.”
The cleric hobbled to the bed slowly, firelight throwing his aged face in relief. “But he still betrayed you.”
“That’s easy to deal with. It’s practically a requirement to have the main lackey be a traitorous bitch. I just need something to hang over his head.” Xykon let his hand drop, the gems replacing his eyes glowing bright. “His love-child will do the trick. He’s Lawful and he has issues about failing to protect family. He’ll do whatever he can to make sure she’s safe.”
“She’s a… lovely girl.”
“Keep your hands off of her, crazy.” Xykon stood up, smirking. “She’s useful. I don’t care what you do with all those other little ankle-biters, but I don’t want you creeping on her unless Reddy really messes up.”
The cleric stooped a little further, frowning darkly. “What makes you believe that I can resurrect him, my lord? The soul needs to be willing to return to the body.”
“Reddy’s not going to want to hang too much around the afterlife. Probably worried about getting gang-beaten by his family. And he’s still got things to do, deicidal abominations to enslave, and stillborn children to take care of. Oh, and he also needs to figure out how to release his whore’s soul.”
The cleric hobbled slowly to the bed, peeling the covers back to reveal a fully-clothed skeleton, bony hand resting on top of a holy symbol to the Dark One. The other arm was missing.
“My lord, what happened to his arm?”
Xykon stood up and slowly walked up next to the cleric, shrugging. “I think that those adventurers needed it incase they ever managed to break my little baubles.”
The cleric frowned.
“I did the same to the whore, so we’re even.”
The cleric sighed softly, opening his robe a little to pull out the bag of diamonds Tsukiko had collected.
“Hey, crazy cleric, how long have we had Reddy’s bastard child here?”
He looked up at the lich, eyes dark and calculating and voice husky and deep. “A month and a half, my lord.”
“Huh. And it’s taken this long to resurrect Redcloak?”
Xykon shrugged, making a quick gesture towards the skeleton in the bed. “I’m not getting any deader. Better bring him to life before we wait another month.” He pulled one of the sapphires from his necklace, electricity of despair, longing, and anger shooting down his fingers, and without a word, he crushed it into dust.
The cleric nodded and slowly rested his hand on the inanimate skeleton’s. “Resurrection. Resurrection. Resurrection…”