This is a new segment – I don’t know how far it’ll go but I intend to post a fiction story once a fortnight on Fridays.
I play D&D about once a fortnight and basically I have a back up character that has a much cooler back story than my current character 😛 The DM said that if she ever gets to join the main party she can join at the same level as the rest of the group so these little bits are the adventures she has before she joins the group
They will tend to be more rough and ready than my “real” writing, as I like to focus the bulk of my creative energies into the book I’m writing. However, that book is now in the editing stage, so I’m writing these to try outlet some of my creative energies occasionally.
“Hey, pretty lady, want to tell us your name?” The tiefling paused and glanced at the trio of men who had appeared behind her. Thin, scrawny, maybe two dull knives between them – hardly worth my time, she thought impatiently.
“Aw, come on, don’t be like that,” one of the men said, moving to block her retreat with far less subtlety than he imagined himself to be doing. “We just want to chat! Where are you going in such a hurry? It’s a lovely night.”
“Home,” she snapped irritably, “Move, please.”
“Just as soon as you give us your purse,” one of his friends said. Looking at the new speaker, she was surprised to see tiny horns peeking out from under greasy locks. He was also a tiefling – though judging by his stunted tail and pinky-beige skin, human blood ran a lot stronger in him than it did in her. She turned to face him and removed her hood, deliberately showing off the curling rams horns and ruby-red skin that signalled the purity of her blood.
“What’s your name?” She asked, sharp white teeth glinting in the light of a single torch. They’d probably extinguished the others on this street themselves.
“Glory,” the tiefling said after a moment. She managed to suppress an eye roll – it seemed like every third tiefling from the poorer districts was called Glory. They want better than what they’ve got it – and they think naming themselves something impressive will make it so, she thought to herself.
“My name’s Orianna.” It was meant to be an opening line so that she could try to charm them into letting her go, but the tiefling paled and took a step back.
“Orianna? The wizard’s daughter?”
“…Yes. Why, have you heard rumours?” She grinned and raised one eyebrow. “Do they talk about me?”
“You… and your dad.” The tiefling took another step back as Orianna frowned. “I’m out. This is too risky – I’m out, guys,” he said to his friends, vanishing into the shadowy darkness of the night. Strange.
“Anyone else want to leave? I’m really getting quite impatient now. My mum’s got my favourite meal on the stove and I just want to get home.” One of the two remaining thugs hesitated, glancing at where the tiefling had disappeared and back at the third man, who growled a curse and lunged at her, knife first. She easily sidestepped the lunge and grabbed his outstretched arm. There was a glorious moment when he looked at her and she could see panic – but no understanding – rising his eyes, and then she bent his elbow 90º in the wrong direction.
The snapping of bone and the screams of his companion proved too much for the indecisive thug and he finally fled. Orianna dropped the man’s arm and let him stumble off after his friends, sobbing loudly. With a flick of her wrist the single torch blazed unnaturally bright – not that she needed it with her darkvision, but it might discourage other thieves.
When she arrived home a black bird was cloaked in shadow on the windowsill. It seemed to have no defined form, a blurry suggestion of body and wings and glinting eyes. Orianna’s eyes refused to focus on it, constantly skittering to one side or another, and ice was starting to form under where it sat.
A letter had arrived.
When she stepped inside the house hear and the smell of beef stew enveloped her like a blanket. It was as if the air itself was hugging her. Orianna sighed happily, her mum appearing just as she hung up her cloak.
“You’re back! It’s very late, I was starting to get worried.” She was a short, chubby woman with brown hair that was just starting to go grey. She was wearing her “practical” robes – the heavy-duty, heavily stained, don’t-mind-if-I-wreck-them, robes that she always wore when experimenting – and had tied a flowery pink kitchen apron over the top.
“Oh, three guys tried to start a fight on the way home. I handled it.”
“My way or your fathers way?”
“Eh, a little of both. I mean, no-one died, but there may have been one broken elbow.”
“Did anyone see it happen?” Orianna shook her head. “Well, go get washed up. Dinner won’t be long. Oh! Did you see? You have a letter.”
“Do you know who it’s from?”
“I stopped reading your letters when they started cursing them,” her mum laughed. They both knew that the curses were no real barrier for someone as powerful as her, but the rituals were just bothersome enough to discourage her. When Orianna went into her room the letter was waiting on her pillow, as always. She never saw the letters – or the bird – arrive, they just appeared. To her surprise, it had the red seal of her father on it. He wrote to me only yesterday. As she picked it up, a flash of heat washed harmlessly over her hands as the curse checked she was the intended recipient and dissipated. When she cracked the seal, the blood-ink handwriting was only a few sentences long.
Orianna – Sara informs me she will be visiting you shortly. Tell Miri. I believe it will be for a fortnight, for your birthday, but I am uncertain. I look forward to seeing you again soon – Dad.
Miri and Sara were her mothers. Miri was the wizard who raised her, whilst her birth mother Sara would visit infrequently and erratically. When Orianna was born Sara had handed her over to Miri without informing Orianna’s Dad – in the end they had to work out how to share custody despite the distance. Luckily Miri was good at portals.
Orianna reread the letter, trying to figure out what it might mean. Two weeks was an unusually long time for her mother to visit, even it was for her eighteenth. And why make a point of telling her mum? When Orianna glanced up the bird was waiting outside her window for a reply. She scribbled a quick ‘thank you’ note in blood-ink and sealed it with gold wax – the colour of her hair and eyes – and placed it on her pillow. When she return it would be gone.
“So what did he want?” Her mum – Miri – asked as Orianna entered the dining room.
“I thought you didn’t read it?”
“Well, the wax seal was facing upwards, and we all use different colors, so I did sort of know it was from your father,” Miri admitted. “I thought he wrote to you yesterday, though – and he’s seeing you again soon. What was so urgent?”
“Sara is visiting. He wanted you to know.” She had to be careful not to call Sara ‘mother’ in front of Miri. “That was pretty much it. ‘Sara will visit for a fortnight. Tell Miri. Love, Dad.'”
“Well now I know you’re lying.”
“Your father would never use the word ‘love’.” Orianna laughed along at Miri’s joke, but her laughter had a slightly bitter edge to it. Never ever, she agreed silently. As the laughter died down a thought occurred to her.
“Do you ever talk about me to other people?” Miri paused halfway through ladling out a bowl of stew.
“As much as any other mother does I suppose,” she shrugged.
“Do you talk about how we – this arrangement – came to be?”
“Not in great detail. People already assume that you’re adopted, given that you’re a foot taller, blonde, and an entirely different species to me.”
“Do you ever talk about my father?”
“You know why, Orianna.” Miri scowled as she handed Orianna the bowl of stew. “Why all the questions?”
“One of the men who attacked me was a tiefling. He said he’d heard rumours about me and my dad but he ran away before I could ask.” Orianna met Miri’s gaze. “He seemed afraid.” She didn’t need to say the rest – that if he really did know who her father was, fear was entirely the correct reaction.
“It’s market day tomorrow,” Miri said thoughtfully, “If you go to the Mordai district you’ll be able to pick up supplies and keep an ear out for any rumours. Maybe even see your friend again.”
The Mordai district, once Mordai village, was founded by a tiefling named Mordai hundreds of years ago. Once it had been the only place tieflings could live safely, but eventually the wave of expansion from the capital swept over and past them. Refusing to leave their family homes, Mordai village was absorbed into the capital. Luckily, in these more tolerant times, tieflings could – and did – live anywhere in the city, but the highest concentration of tieflings was still found there. Especially on market day.
Orianna scanned the crowds, trying to spot the tiefling that had approached her the night before. It’s impossible to find anyone in this mess. Instead she turned to one of the quieter stalls and pulled out a handful of coppers. Just as the apathetic merchant turned to face her.
“Hey,” Orianna said, doing her best imitation of her mother’s Nesran accent, “I wonder if you can help me. My cousin lives in this city and I’m trying to track her down. Have you heard of Orianna?”
“The Wizard’s daughter?”
“Is that all she’s known for?”
“Well there are plenty of rumours about her father – but you’ll know all about him, of course.”
“Well you don’t look like you’re from her mother’s side of the family!” The merchant laughed.
“Right.” Orianna was growing impatient again. “So what do they say about her father?”
“Oh, just that he must be pretty rich or powerful or something. They refuse to tell anyone about him and he never shows up around here.”
“That’s it? That’s all they say?”
“Well… yes. What were you expecting?” The merchant frowned at her. Orianna opened her mouth to argue, but stopped and shook her head. She held out the coppers and picked up one of the sweet buns.
“Never mind.” She turned to go, hesitating when she saw a familar face on the edge of the crowd. She began to push her way through the people, stumbling over the occasional stray tail. Finally she arrived in front of the woman.
“Orianna,” the woman greeted her warmly.