“Tiasal, I told you not to use magic to decorate the egg.”
The other teenagers around the table jumped in surprise, nearly dropping or messing up their eggs, but they recovered and looked down to see Tiasal sheepishly holding a broken egg, her green face streaked with blues, pinks, reds, and oranges. “…Oops.”
Redcloak looked up from the book he was reading on the couch, putting it down and going to his daughter, trying to stifle an amused smile. “Maybe you’ll start listening to me more often. Come on, I’ll help you clean up and get you a new egg.”
Octavius started to laugh while Terentius rolled his eyes and returned to carefully dipping the eggs in dye. Abram watched Redcloak interact with Tiasal with curious fascination—even after the past few years, he still found his cousin’s father to be a novelty. The goblin had been a little nervous and uncomfortable at first, but when he realized that the young man’s interest was purely inquisitive and in no way a sign of prejudice, he had gotten used to it.
“I told you that your meds makes your focus fuzzy. You shouldn’t try to do delicate things with magic when you can’t focus,” Redcloak chided gently, letting his daughter go on a stepping stool in front of the sink and helping her wash the yolk and the color off her hands and face.
“Yeah, Tia. You might just blow the table up next!” Octavius shot, still laughing.
Tiasal pouted, letting her father gently scrub her skin clean.
“Why are we doing this again, Stepparent?” Terentius asked, tips of his ears going slightly pink while he concentrated resolutely on the egg in his hand.
Redcloak’s hands jerked slightly in surprise, but that was the only acknowledgment the tiny show of budding affection got. “It’s a goblin tradition. I think that some humans do it too.” He finished washing the girl’s face and he gently dried it off. “Your Parent suggested that I show Tiasal the holiday and thought that it would be a good idea for you all to be introduced to a little bit of goblin culture.”
Tiasal squirmed, eager to get back to decorating the eggs, and Redcloak smiled, letting her go. “No more using magic, Tia.”
She grinned and scampered to the table, settling back in her seat and grabbing another egg.
“But why eggs?”
“Consider it a celebration of the harvest.”
Redcloak sat down at the round table, turning his head slightly to make up for his lost eye. Vaarsuvius always insisted that he could regenerate it any time he liked now that he didn’t work for Xykon anymore, but he always resisted.
He needed a reminder to keep his priorities straight.
Octavius seem to withdraw, frowning and hunching over his egg to avoid looking at Redcloak, while Terentius turned his body a little so he could face his stepfather and Abram just listened while he turned his face down to concentrate on his egg.
“None of the goblin tribes live on fertile land, so we depend on animals for food—usually animals we hunt, since we can barely feed ourselves, let alone livestock, but there are a couple exceptions, chickens being one of them. Hence the eggs.”
Tiasal carefully used a paintbrush to put purple stars on her blue egg.
“Why this time of year, then?” Terentius asked, dipping an egg in yellow dye and staining his chocolate-colored fingers.
“It’s spring. It’s the time where things start growing again, even what little grows in the goblin lands.” Redcloak smiled a little, glancing out the window wistfully. “It’s around now where the wild fruits start growing and the famine and pestilence eases, so to celebrate, the kids get to decorate the eggs and the adults hide them to find. It’s only during the spring where using food like that doesn’t lead to hunger.”
“So… does that mean we’re going to be hiding these?”
Redcloak nodded, smiling a little. “That’s how the game goes.”
“Did you do this as a kid?” Tiasal asked, swinging her legs gently over the edge of her chair and working diligently on her egg.
“Of course.” Redcloak watched to make sure that she wasn’t going to try using magic again. “I used to play it with my brothers and sister. We used to find eggs then leave them there so we could let our little sister win. It was always fun to compare how many eggs we actually found together and see who won. Once or twice, Little Sister won even without help.”
“It’s true. She was a lot more clever than we gave her credit for.”
Tiasal looked up at her uncle sitting on the counter, then smiled, cheerful that she was starting to get used to her medication. She had been worried that it would block her ability to see Uncle forever. He gave her a cheerful wink, pressing his finger to his lips. “Big Brother doesn’t know I’m here.”
She smiled secretly and turned back to her egg, putting it down carefully to dry and picking up another one.
“Don’t try that. I want to win fair.”
Abram smirked, putting bands of color across his egg. “You know these woods and the valley better than any of us, Tia. We’d have to team up to be any match.”
“Try.” Her grin was downright Puckish.
“Do not be so competitive, young ones.”
Everyone looked up to see Vaarsuvius coming in, lightly touching her children’s shoulders as she walked past. “There will be time for that when Tiasal is older.”
“So you decided to finally grace us with your presence?” Redcloak smiled playfully, gently grasping his wife’s hand and kissing it. “I swear, you spend so much time with your study, I start thinking that you’re sneaking someone in.”
“You are one to talk. Perhaps you are meeting another woman during your visits to Gobbotopia?” Vaarsuvius smiled, then leaned down and kissed her husband’s cheek. “I shall leave you to your affair if you leave me to mine.”
Octavius scowled darkly, concentrating on his egg, and Terentius averted his eyes and started mixing more dye. Tiasal noticed.
Vaarsuvius looked up at her sons and took a breath to speak.
“Tia! I said to not use magic!”
Abram grinned, sensing the bubbling tension dissipate as both Terentius and Octavius burst out laughing this time. Vaarsuvius stared bemusedly at the little girl, arching an eyebrow at the cartoonish ash on Tiasal’s face streaked with color.
Despite her misfortune, Tiasal was smiling.
Abram was the only one who knew why it looked self-satisfied. Well, the only living one.
Uncle covered his mouth, stifling chuckles, and smiled. “You’re a lot more clever than your brothers give you credit for too, by the way.”
Redcloak got up again, sighing in exasperation but smirking in amusement. “Come on, Tia. I’ll get you cleaned up again.”
She stood up, purple eyes sparkling, and skipped to the sink in the wake of her brothers’ bubbly laughter.