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Tales from Tabletop

Session 1: The First Step

By D.T. BrennanPublished 2 years ago 27 min read

The capital of the Izan Imperium, Izan’Larai, was often considered a crowning jewel of commerce, trade, and beauty, beyond compare. It was also rife with people of all races, be they elf, dwarf, or any other, and all walks of life. It was summer, but the land was largely unaffected by the changing of the seasons. Every day, save days when the sea brought cool mists to shore, was a creeping heat from dawn to dusk. During midday, the market was full to bursting, filled to the brim with merchants, craftsmen, and customers. Rare was a desired item missing from the market. Anything one could want, whether it be rare linens, fine alchemical compounds, or even rare beasts from across the world. Anything worth anything could be found here. 

The flow of trade by land and sea brought a great deal of wealth to the city. A double-edged sword, as profit always attracted those that prefer brute force or guile to honest trade. Those who preferred the latter were the most common, but it was not for everyone. The trade required speed, a sharp eye, and fast hands, lest theft be cut short, in more ways than one. Life in the Imperium was cruel. No one batted an eye should a guard draw their rusted blade against a criminal. In the eyes of respectable society, they deserved no better than an insect crushed under heel. A thief, in particular, was considered a most egregious parasite. Many felt they were worth only the time required for swift excision of sticky fingers from thieving palms.

Rieta was but one of countless parasites, if more experienced than most. She clung to the shadows of an alcove not far from the center square. Her posture was lax, but guarded. The cloak she wore covered any distinctive features, with a hood pulled down over her face. Her eyes were downcast as she studied the waists of passerby, discerning the value kept in each coin purse. 

A familiar voice echoed through her mind, Clothes don’t make the mark. Ignore the fancy clothes and jewels. Focus on the size and weight of the coin purse. Do that, and I promise you’ll never go hungry. At that, she’d always chuckle, then add, Unless you’re too slow, of course.

Those lessons kept her alive. Now it was all that remained.

Targets chosen, route calculated: Rieta made her move. With trained grace, she slid from her spot against the wall and merged into the crowd unnoticed. She shifted through the tides, striking with speed and careful precision. Things were going smoothly.

But Arveene had always cautioned against greed. Only grab what you can. Halfway home is the best place to be when folks start looking for their coins.

Finding an opening, she made her exit through the alley way opposite her original position. No screams followed. A good sign. Still, she remained on guard as she slid through alleyways. There were always those happy to take from fellow filth, leaving nothing but your corpse to rot. Fortune was on her side this day, and she made it back with little trouble. She quickly eyed the alley both ways one last time. Once certain no one followed or saw her, she quickly pulled back a false section in the wall, slipping inside before covering it up again behind her in a single deft motion.

Inside was a small hovel, filled with assorted items and some old cloth for bedding. The building around it had long since fallen into disrepair. There was little space untouched by rubble or collapsed roofing. The gap created by the collapsed roof made a small area for small bodies to find shelter from cold and nightly danger. It had been a while since Rieta last found herself inside. The place was far too cramped for comfort, but it was one of the few places left in this city that felt truly safe anymore.

Even if it stood as a painful testament to all she lost.

Now safely away from all prying eyes, Rieta finally relaxed. She pulled her cloak back to reveal her ill gotten gains. Her tail, wrapped tightly around her waist and the stolen purses, loosened and uncoiled. It fell to her side as Rieta counted out the take. Her tail tapped lightly against the ground as she poured out the coins before counting, with increasing enthusiasm whenever gold was found. The habit once earned countless scornful stares from Arveene, but Rieta found it hard to contain herself when counting out so much money. 

As always, the goal in theft emphasized quantity over quality. The purses held mostly silver, and little, if any, gold. Guard patrols were too frequent and far too nosy in the wealthier districts to be worth the risk. Markets near the port meant leaner pockets, but frequent refills in coin when ships docked made up the difference. These places also meant travellers fresh off the boat. Struck dumb by the city’s delights and wonder, they were easy pickings for clever pickpockets.

Finally satisfied, she looked to the pile before her. Not a bad haul, she thought to herself. There were times in her life when such an amount could be called a fortune.

Today she just hoped it would be enough.

She pulled out her own coin purse and added it to the pile, double checking she counted correctly. It took a little longer than she liked, if only due to the mild cramp forming in the knot of her back as she blocked the entryway with her back. As an added measure, her tail circled the now sizable pile protectively. It had taken months of effort to create so large a hoard, and like a dragon defending its treasure, she had no intention to share.

Finally satisfied, she finished counting and began returning the coins to her main purse. Math was not her strong suit, but she figured this was enough to pay for everything she needed. Still, there was time left before dark. Once she left town, it was hard to say when she would again find coin so easily. Better take the time now before meeting that merchant tonight, she concluded. The coins were swiftly returned to her purse then secured to her tail, pulled taut round her waist once more. Ready to depart, she glanced round the hovel one more time before she shuffled out the exit, back towards the market.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

With time to spare before nightfall, Rieta returned to the hideaway.  She laid claim to some extra coinage; even managed to pilfer some goods from stands to satisfy the growling in her stomach.  Back inside, she quickly stuffed her face full of fruit and bread until the growling was satisfied.  She crawled over to the cushioned side of the shelter, laying down on the makeshift bed to relax for a moment.

Hard to believe I’m leaving.  Rieta mused.

Everything she ever knew was in this city, for better or worse, but after months of preparation, she was finally ready.  A part of her felt excited at the thought of finally beginning.  It was her very own chance at adventure, like a heroine from legend.  Another part felt guilt, leaving everything and everyone she knew behind. 

No, I shouldn’t feel that way. 

Pushing those feelings aside, Rieta, without thinking, reached for the dagger hidden in her boot.  She drew the blade and gripped it tightly, afraid it would disappear from her grasp at the slightest provocation. 

Once again, she could not help but marvel at the design of the strange blade.  Its hilt cast from some kind of blackened bone, with a blade that seemed to shine even in the dimly lit shelter.  On the blade was a strange insignia.  It seemed to be lines jutting through lines in strange angles, forming a kind of hexagonal shape, with a shining silver sphere at its center, gleaming.

Staring at it brought forth memories unbidden.  They were hazy as if seen through a dream, or a nightmare. 

Figures in black, Arveene yelling to run, a horrid site of blood and bodies...Arveene, body cold and limp, chest pierced by this very blade, screams of anguish that echo through empty alleyways, into an unfeeling void.

Rieta, tears forming in her eyes, violently shook herself free.  Her breathing suddenly ragged and a cold sweat formed on her brow.  Slowly she regained control and managed to calm herself.  Ghosts, nothing but ghosts and bad dreams.

Dagger still gripped tightly in her hand, she forced herself to focus instead on the path ahead.  Her journey was not an easy road, and she could not falter, neither from trauma or bad dreams.

She closed her eyes for a moment as Drey’s words once again echoed in her mind.

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“Yeah, no doubt about it,” Drey said, eyes studying the dagger from every angle, “this here dagger can’t be from round here.”

Drey was a shifty sort of dwarf, more at home in a den of thieves than the smithies and battlefields she knew from stories.  His hairline was receding with age, and silver whiskers now speckled his brown beard.  His shop, if you could call it that, was a haphazard mess, with odd baubles and papers strewn about in one of the seedier parts in town.

It had taken her months of searching high and low to find this place.  Drey was an odd one and rarely mentioned outside a few circles, specializing in information and smuggling the strange and exotic throughout the Imperium.  Considering all other avenues had led to dead ends, he seemed the best shot Rieta had for finding where this dagger came from, and maybe some clue about who once owned it.

After several minutes of deliberation and thinking, Drey finally muttered vaguely, “Think it must come from...somewhere north?”

Rieta pursed her lips, she was afraid this would be all that she got from Drey.  It was all she ever got from these “supposed” professionals scattered throughout the city’s underworld.

We live in “the beating heart of trade and commerce this side of the continent,” and this is all I get from you people?!? Rieta fumed internally.  She took a moment to calm herself, then asked coldly, “Can I get a name?  Place?  Anything?”

Drey scratched his balding scalp nervously and avoided eye contact, “Well, I may have an educated guess, but it’s not necessarily right, see?  This kinda blade don’t get circulated round here much so-”

Rieta, tired of his rambling, pulled some more coins from her purse and laid them on the table.  Drey snatched them without a word, but that seemed to do the trick.  Rieta rolled her eyes as he quickly counted the amount.

“Ah yes, of course.”  Drey said finally, with a new bout of confidence, “Syndramire, only place I know where you might find a blade like this, also...” He then pointed to the symbol on the blade, “Think I’ve seen this here symbol before on coins from there sometimes.  Might be a symbol for a noble or somethin’ up there.”

“Syndramire.”  She muttered, less for confirmation and more stunned to finally have an answer, if a confusing one.  Syndramire was about as backwater a place as you could get.  It was on the edge of the map, situated at the northern end of the Amber Sea.  It was shrouded in mystery, and gained a particular reputation as news trickled out over generations.

“Yyyuuup, Syndramire.” Drey responded. “Land of Mists and Monsters, way I hear it.”

She mulled the words in her mind for a second, before strengthening her resolve.  She knew there was always a possibility this would lead down dangerous paths, but she had to see it to the end. “Do you know any sailors who travel out that far?”

Drey chuckled at that, “Listen, lady.  Not sure where you got this knife or why your thinkin’ to ask me these questions, but take a little word of advice, don’t even think about it.  Nothing comes out of there except strange tales, ancient magics, and nightmares.” 

Her response was a cold, unnatural stare, causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. 

Visibly unsettled, he raised his hands as if in surrender, “Alright, lady.  I get it, you want what you want.  Gimme a second.”  He got up and went over to the right of his shop, searching through a pile of papers.  Finally, he found what he was looking for and turned back around, “Well, I got one guy who goes out that far, but nobody goes straight from here to Syndramire.  I expect it’ll cost a pretty penny, no matter how you slice it.”

Without a moment’s hesitation, she reached again for her coin purse, “I’ll pay whatever it takes.  How much?”

Drey scratched his head again, “Best guess? About five hundred gold pieces for the whole trip, give or take.”

She flinched, at best she had a fraction of the amount.  Uncertain, she cleared her throat, “W-when does he leave?”

He sighed, “Well, he ain’t here right now, usually makes his way up and down the coasts, selling and trading ‘long the way.  Usually see him make landfall here about once a year.  He left about a month ago, so I say you got some time.”  He paused, meeting her gaze.  “...’slong as you really want it.”

Rieta swallowed.  Her thoughts cacophonous as a battle raged within.

It’s too much.  There’s no way I-

There isn’t anything keeping me here anymore.  I can find the people who killed her, get some answers and...

I’m not strong enough-

-but I have to do this!

I’m just a no name thief- 

-the only one who can do something!

There’s just too much…Me.

Then we have to become something more.

The last thought silenced the others as it echoed in her mind.  A plan began to take form. Confidence renewed, she smiled then said before leaving, “I do, tell him to expect me the next time he comes to port.”

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The plan was now well underway and finally nearing completion.  It required more money than she ever knew.  So Rieta got by on scraps, and did whatever it took to earn the money.  It took almost the whole year, but she had earned enough for travel and equipment.  Everything was falling into place.  There was now only one thing left to retrieve, but it was perhaps the most crucial, as far as Rieta was concerned.  As sunset fast approached, she returned the dagger to its place and made preparations to leave for the rendezvous.

Part of those preparations included a brief opportunity to freshen up.  All that really meant was she had time to fix up her hair with some help from Arveene’s old comb.  Rieta always thought she had the most beautiful hair, golden like the sun that always came together perfectly no matter what she did with it.  Rieta’s hair, on the other hand, was black as midnight, and prone to rebellion at the slightest provocation.  Still, she did her best to maintain it when feasible.  It had grown out since she last combed it, falling past her shoulders to the small of her back.  The process to tame it was difficult.  She spent the majority of the time pulling through gnarled clumps with gritted teeth. 

An eternity passed before she finally got it under control.  She then used what little time remained for a simple braid to keep her hair out of her eyes.  The rest was left to fall as it may across her shoulders and back.  No time left to lose, she quickly pocketed the comb and returned to the alleys once more.

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The tailor’s tent was not large, tucked comfortably in the corner next to other craftsman in the market.  There were a few tables in front holding an assortment of clothes, and even some leatherwork.  There were also some finer pieces hung up outside the tent, used as proof of his handiwork to passersby.  The tailor, Morin, was packing up for the night, removing clothes from the table and returning them to storage until the morning glut of customers. 

As Rieta approached, she pulled back her hood.   These people knew what she was, so there was no reason to hide it.  Besides, people found it easier to talk when they could look you in the eye.  Although I doubt my eyes make anyone feel more at ease.  She mused, before clearing her throat to let him know she was there.

Morin glanced back and gave a brief smile, “One moment, miss, I am just about finished here.  You are welcome to sit inside while you wait.”  

Rieta nodded and Morin returned to his nightly duties.  Upon entering the tent, she noted that little had changed in the month or two since she last came for measurements.  A spot in the corner was arranged for privacy, both for changing and acquiring body measurements, including a cloth that could be pulled to close the entrance.  Scanning the room in search of a seat, her eyes briefly met with the standing mirror kept near the changing room.  Instinctively, she flinched and averted her gaze, but not before catching a quick glimpse of her face. 

A glimpse of eyes preternatural, untarnished pools of silver gleaming in the faint light, two black horns sprouting from her temples, and skin stained a murky red. 

Finally her eyes fell on the chair off to the side and she rushed to sit down.  Soon after, Morin returned with the last of the clothes.  “Sorry for the delay, miss.  I was not expecting you so...promptly.”

Rieta raised an eyebrow, “You told me to return in two months by nightfall, so here I am.”

Morin nodded, giving an embarrassed smile, “Of course, miss.  I just expected it to be...darker before your arrival.”

Rieta nodded in understanding, “Of course.  You don’t want folks to see you dealing with one of the Malenai, right?”

The old man froze for a moment.  The name of her people was rarely spoken, often replaced with a more derogatory term, like hornfolk, darkblood...devil.  Many still believed the old stories.  Speaking the name only invited ill fortune, or worse.

The shopkeep did not deny the allegation, but sighed, dropping the cheery facade, “Listen, it’s nothing personal, kid.  You folks have a nasty reputation, and that fire a few years ago did nothing to help matters ‘round here.”  He then eyed her current outfit and added, “Besides, I imagine you don’t enjoy the prying eyes either.”

Looking down at her attire, it was hard to disagree.  A hood to hide her face and horns, the cloak concealed her tail from behind, thought it was wrapped firmly around her waist every morning to disguise it as a belt.  The attempt to hide her non human characteristics was obvious.  So much of Rieta’s life was spent hiding nowadays, she scarcely knew her own face.

Regardless, she didn’t feel the need to deign his comment with a response.  “Do you have the clothes or not?”

His posture relaxed as the topic returned to business, “Of course, little lady, do you have the last payment?”

Wordlessly, she rose from her seat to hand him the bag with his payment.  It took a moment to count out the coins, but he seemed satisfied.  Grabbing some folded garments from the table, he handed her the clothes with a practiced smile, “Here you go, should be your exact size, my wife never makes a mistake, after all.”

The mention of his wife sent a shudder down her back.  The woman in question had been quite enthusiastic during the whole process.  She seemed quite excited getting measurements for “one of her kind.”  The wife even took measurements that Rieta could not begin to understand, like measuring the length of her tail or the diameter of her horns. Most of her life had been spent hiding those things, so having someone fuss over them was...uncomfortable.  She was, however, promised that she would not regret it. 

That remained to be seen.

“I’m...surprised she’s not here.” Rieta said in what she hoped was a measured tone.

The tailor shrugged, “She had some garments that needed mending.  If not for that, I might not have been able to keep her home.”  He smiled, staring off wistfully.

While he was distracted, Rieta felt this was a good time to make her exit.  The transaction was finished, she had what she wanted, no need to stick around.

Before she could turn to leave, she suddenly heard a voice cry out from behind the tent, “Miss, wait!”

A moment later, the tailor’s wife rounded the corner and stopped at the entrance to the tent, chest heaving as if out of breath.  Her graying hair, once tied neatly in a bun, now hung about her aged face in disarray, wrinkled eyes squinting in the candlelight.  In her hands was a wide brimmed hat.  It was made of fine, blackened leather, with two large holes in the bottom near the center.  Stitched to the side, near the top of the hat, was a feather, midnight blue, wrapped round by a silver ribbon.

“Don’t leave without this, miss.  I made it special for you.”

Rieta, confused, came closer to take it, but instead of handing it to her the tailor’s wife began placing it on her head.

“You wear it like this, miss.”  Placing the hat gently on the back of Rieta’s head, she angled the holes to catch the part of her horns that curved upward ever so slightly.   As if an artist, drawing the horns along the curvature of her scalp, ended them in a slight flourish, so all could see his handiwork.  No matter how Rieta tried to hide them in her messy hair.  The woman then pulled the hat so the horns came out the top through the holes, giving a slight tug at the end to make sure it stayed in place.

“I made this as an apology for upsetting you when I took your measurements, miss.  I had just never seen such beautiful horns before.  And I knew they would add the perfect touch to your clothes.  But you should see for yourself, miss.”  Without an invitation or hesitation, the woman pulled Rieta back into the tent towards the mirror she had tried so hard to avoid.  Wincing initially at the sight, Rieta slowly came to meet her gaze, but then her eyes fell on this hat.  On a subconscious level she noted that her hair almost appeared to merge with the hat under the faint candlelight, but the focus was on her horns.  An ebony crown that seemed almost stitched to the side like the ribbon and feather.  It masked her horned visage, but also displayed it proudly for all to see.

Rieta was speechless.  It looked...perfect, in a way she never thought possible. 

Without a second thought, Rieta rushed back to the section for changing, while murmuring a quiet “ ‘scuse me,” as she did so.  She closed the drapes slowly, delicately, then practically tore through both the old and new clothes in an almost blind rush to change outfits.

As soon as she finished changing, she rushed back to the mirror, to take it all in.

The clothes themselves were not of particularly special make outside of the hat, but they were made for travel, fitted to be worn only by her.  The foundation for her outfit was a simple, woolen long sleeved shirt, designed for comfort on long journeys.  The leather cuirass, made up of chestguard and shoulder pads, accompanied by gauntlets, were less practical at first glance.  They were stylized, designed to capture her feminine physique and create a more striking image, should the need arise.  Form was chosen over function, but it was still made of sturdy leather.  Plus there were countless pockets for weapons or tools of her trade, hidden from sight but always within reach.

Legwear was far simpler.  Dark brown trousers, allowing for complete freedom of movement and a degree of comfort on cold winter nights, paired with leather shoes padded for silent steps, but given enough grip to climb up walls and rooftops. 

Finally, to complete the ensemble, a dark green traveler's cloak draped over her shoulders allowed for both concealment and protection from the elements.

After carefully examining the outfit, she couldn’t help but concede the tailor and wife had outdone themselves.  It was all she had envisioned and more.

Rieta finally had it.  It was here, before her very eyes.  The vision she always could see in the back of her mind.  The ideal hero and adventurer she always hoped to be was here.

For the first time in ages, Rieta met her gaze in the mirror, and smiled a toothy grin.  Looking closer, for the first time in a long time, she noted her face was no longer that of a child.  Her face bore all the marks of adolescence, the transition from girl to woman, from child to adult.  The precipice of change made manifest in her complexion.

One thought kept coursing through her mind as she thanked them both before picking up her old attire and vanishing into the night.

She’s no longer a childhood dream.  She’s finally a reality.  I can leave all the pain behind.  I am finally ready...

Selene Bryseis.

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Racing off into the night, Rieta could not help but notice a lightness in her step. Her coin purse, now safely tucked into a hidden compartment in her new clothes, gave her tail the freedom to uncoil and flow behind her freely as she ran.  She felt braver, stronger.  As if she could take on the world and laugh at its futile attempts to tame her.  For that brief moment, she was the wind. 

She was Selene Bryseis. 

But, upon remembering what came next, her pace slowed.  There were still matters requiring her attention.  Selene Bryseis could wait another day.  Rieta Andolin still had one thing left to do. 

The sun had set beyond the horizon, leaving only the hues of orange and red as night quickly overtook the sky.  She moved with purpose, away from the market, towards the slums, where the world had already fallen into the blackness of night.  Her eyes were well suited to the dark, and she had no trouble moving without light through darkened alleys and city streets. 

She passed by the hovel she and Arveene once called home, past the burnt district she once knew with her mother and father, until she reached her destination: a tall, almost tower-like structure standing above all else in the district.  Without stopping, she leapt onto the wall, quickly scaling the side with an ease and practiced grace.  Reaching the top, she crawled onto the roof, rolling over to her usual spot as the stars began dotting the night sky.  Chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath, Rieta felt relief.  She was home, and not a moment too soon.

The relief was short lived, already dissipating as her pounding chest and heavy breathing subsided.  The joy and thrill she felt before, now gone from her thoughts.  She was not here to stargaze, the twinkling lights and waning moon rising in the night sky held little interest to her anymore.  And she was far too old to find any value in things beyond her reach.  It did hold some comfort for her, however.  Perched atop this decrepit tower, the night sky seemed to engulf her vision.  Leaving her alone with the cosmos.  Here, she felt as if she could say what needed to be said. 

And on this, her last night, she had a lot to say.

She gave herself a moment.  A moment more to catch her breath, to find the words she needed to say.  Finally she shifted her weight, moving into a seated position.  Her tail flickered about nervously.  Rieta leaned forward, looking out towards the horizon as she crossed her legs.  Taking a deep breath, she looked to the night sky, and tried calling out.

“M…mo…”

How long had it been since she last spoke their names?  They seemed caught at the back of her throat, unwilling to be uttered.  Feelings of loss and pain welled up in her chest, long buried by need, exhaustion, and struggle, now bubbling to the surface for the first time in years.

Her hand, subconsciously, reached for the pendant around her neck.

Their final gift...before they… She clenched her teeth.

Pain coursed through her chest as old wounds bled anew from the strain, but she forced herself to continue as her eyes began to water.

“M…mom.”

Her vision began to blur as a tear rolled down her cheek.  The first was the hardest.  The second came easier, only suffering a brief hesitation.

“D-dad.”

Calling for her parents for the first time in years, possibly since their passing, was too much.  She fell into a fit of sobs, curling herself into a ball as if ashamed to still feel their loss so strongly.

She was only a child when they died in the fires, but the ache never seemed to fade.  She still remembered them vividly.  Her mother, a beauty despite her Malenai heritage, voice warm and radiant.  Her father, tall and slim, but his stature belied a voice that was deep, strong, melodic.  Memories flashed through her mind.  She remembered falling asleep in her mom’s arms as she hummed a sweet tune after a nightmare. 

She remembered sitting on her mother’s lap as her father retold stories in animated fashion, leaping from his seat to act out the scene and using different voices for the characters, occasionally the whole family was brought into the act, giving out roles and telling them what to say.  Those nights round the fireplace in their meager home were her favorite memories.  Memories whose warmth she kept close on the darkest nights since their passing.

I was only nine when I lost you.  It’s been eight years...but...I...

Gripping her mother’s pendant so tightly her fist began to hurt, she regained control of herself.  The sobs subsided, but the tears continued to blur her vision.  She wiped her eyes with her free hand until she could once again see the stars.

The next name was so much harder.  Time had yet to take the pain, the loss still fresh as the day it happened.

“A...Arveene.”

She bit her lip to stop herself from falling into another fit of sobs. 

Another orphan on the street, but older and far more experienced.  Arveene was everything to Rieta after her parents passed.  She would be dead a thousand times over if not for her.  True, it was rough at the start.  She often grew frustrated at Rieta’s slow progress, especially when it meant they both went hungry.  But on nights when the pain grew too much to bear, Arveene would hold her close, stroke her hair gently.  Softly she whispered that everything would be okay. 

On better nights they would sit up until late in the evening, sharing tales from travellers passing through or old stories from Rieta’s father, giggling late into the night until sleep took them.

Two years, I can’t believe it’s been two years since…

Rieta stopped herself.  She still could not bring herself to say it.  The night itself was a blur, but the result, Arveene’s limp body in the alley…surrounded by so much blood. 

She allowed herself a moment to cry again. 

The hardest part, in a way, was already over.  While she had come up here countless times, retelling stories, sharing new ones to the blackened sky, she never admitted she did it in the hopes that they might hear her, somehow.  That in some way, she might find a brief connection with them once again from beyond.  She knew some did this with a loved one’s gravesite, but they were all buried in shallow, unmarked plots beyond the city limits.

No devilblood or parasite warrants much sympathy, I guess.

Besides, this was close enough for her tastes.  Close enough they might hear her, but far enough she could pretend she was just talking to herself on her lonesome perch, if only to maintain her own self-deception and the paltry comfort it brought since their loss.  Now, on this last night, there was no sense pretending anymore.

Tears finally stopped rolling down her cheeks and her breathing normalized.  As she calmed down, her eyes turned upwards, and she continued.

“I…I don’t know if you hear me.  I don’t know if you’re listening or…if it’s all been in my head the entire time.  But…I need to tell you something.”  She paused a moment to dry her eyes again, “I’m leaving.  I…finally have enough money.  I can leave this place, and start my life as an adventurer, just like in all those stories we used to share…”

She choked out another sob as little details, almost forgotten, now returned to her.  Father’s booming voice when he retold ancient battles or when he danced around the room laughing wholeheartedly.  Mother’s artful mimicry, her voice shifting from cackling witches to mighty barbarians at the drop of a hat, all the while her eyes brimmed with mirth.  Arveene, smiling from ear to ear, as she shared a slice of pie stolen from a stall during a festival Rieta couldn’t recall.

With greater effort than before, Rieta managed to shove those memories aside.  She still had more to say, and needed to see it through to the end.

“…I just want you to know I haven’t forgotten you.  And…I’ll come back one day, even if I’m not the me you know, and tell you all about it.  And Arveene…” 

She paused for a moment, catching her breath.  She continued, “I just want you to know…I’m not going to forget you either.  I…you…you were my best friend, and I’ll always think of you as...the sister I never had.”

Rieta clenched both fists tightly now, fingernails digging into her palms.  This was the part she knew was the hardest, as the words still escaped her, “What happened to you was-”

She swallowed, “I don’t-”

Tears rolled anew down dampened cheeks, “I...I can’t-”

Choking back another sob, “...I won’t let it happen again.” 

“I finally found…” It was getting easier, slowly, “Well, I mean...I think I know where I need to go...I’ll...stop them.  I don’t know what I can do, but…I’ll try.”

A pang of guilt ran through her.  While there was no lie in what she said, she intentionally left out a few key details.

If they really were listening, she refused to give them reason to worry. 

She had no idea what she was going to do once she made it to Syndramire.  All she knew was she had to go.  The rest would fall into place, one way or another. 

Still, the hardest part was over, now she just needed to finish.  “I’m leaving tomorrow, but not as Rieta.  I’ll have to be someone else.  Someone strong and brave enough...to leave you.”

She huddled up again, arms and tail wrapped around her legs, sobbing, as she added, “...love you all…I miss you so much...”

A familiar warmth spread over Rieta as she continued sobbing in the night, until everything subsided and she finally fell to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Time waits for no one, tomorrow came swiftly, but she was ready.  Two years in the making, and it was finally here.

She was at the docks by the time the sun had fully risen, drained from the night’s events, but she refused to let any of that fear, sorrow, or pain show today, of all days.  With bags in tow, wearing the clothes and hat so meticulously crafted for this journey.  Her tail flickered nervously under her cloak.

She approached the ship, The Admare, with confidence.  It was a fine vessel, by her estimation. At the very least, she hoped it would be retold in years to come as:

 “A mighty vessel, stretching end to end across the horizon.  Piloted by captain and crew, veterans of their craft, braver than all save Selene Bryseis herself, who dared enter the maw of Syndramire.”

Or something like that.  No need to note that it was smaller than most vessels and the crew were about as loud, obnoxious, or putrid as any other.  The captain, Renik, was large, likely due to being half-orc, though the only indicators were his greenish skin and toothy underbite.  He turned as he heard her approach, “Ah, you must be that girl Drey mentioned the other day.  Still looking fer passage to Syndramire?”

She nodded, puffing her chest slightly before loudly proclaiming, “Yes I am.  You may call me Selene Bryseis, or just Selene.”

He scratched his head, “Whatever you want, so long as you can pay.”

“Of course, good captain.  I, Selene Bryseis, always pay my debts.”  With a flourish, a coin purse flew from her hand and hit the captain in the stomach, before falling to the floor.

Captain Renik, visibly annoyed, quickly snatched the purse from the ground before anyone noticed and counted out the amount.  “Yer about half short, horngirl.”

Horngirl? Really? Selene suppressed her annoyance at the chosen nickname before explaining, “No, that’s the first half of the payment, you will receive the rest once we dock at Lendrig’s Hollow.  Fair?”

The captain shrugged, “Fine.”  He placed the payment into his coat pocket, “Don’t expect much comfort this trip, horngirl.  It’s a long voyage and we ain’t got the time to deal with luxuries.  You get fed twice a day on this ship.  And it’s first come, first serve.  Cots are for those who work, so if you expect an easy ride, sleep on the floor.”

He turned away, heading back over to the sailors packing supplies and items onboard, while adding, “We leave in under an hour, with or without you.” 

Selene suppressed a minor grimace, but this was to be expected.  She was used to slumming it and could handle whatever came of this.  She did, however, hope moods would improve after they set sail, or this would be a long, long ride.  She stepped toward the gangplank leading to the ship, then stopped upon reaching it. 

This was it. 

This was the first step of thousands on her journey.  Not as Rieta.  Not a thief, a parasite, or a devil.  From henceforth, she would be Selene Bryseis, in all ways, at all times.

Rieta turned, towards the sky, towards her home.  Perhaps for the last time.

Goodbye, mom.  Goodbye, dad.  Goodbye, Arveene.

She then turned, climbed the gangplank, and Selene landed on deck with a dull thud as her boots met the wood.

Goodbye, Rieta Andolin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hope you all enjoyed this first chapter of the series! If you want to check out what happens next, you can check out my site, writerserrant.com, for the rest of the story!

FantasyAdventure

About the Creator

D.T. Brennan

I've been an avid reader and lover of all forms of storytelling as far back as I can remember. I mostly write genre fiction, ranging from Sci-fi and Fantasy to Historical Fiction and Horror. Check out my other works at writerserrant.com!

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    D.T. BrennanWritten by D.T. Brennan

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