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A Birthday Gone Bad [Closed]

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((A friend of mine and I have a habit of pairing our characters somehow in every setting we play them in. In FFXIV, they met as children, so we have been writing a good number of stories about their early lives together, taking place fourteen or so years before the "present day" of the game. This story will be followed by the rollicking Adventures of Young Garaf and Crawa, which will likely be posted here soon and updated with a new episode every week until launch, when our characters are all growed up. :D ))


âIsn't it morning yet?" Crawa lay in her bed, staring anxiously at the stubbornly dark window above. Grandpa had told her that she couldn't get up until sunrise, but that certainly hadn't stopped her from staying awake nearly all night regardless. âHurry up...,â she grumbled at the window. By the time a tiny sliver of amber light finally shuddered through the thin curtains, she was nearly out of her mind with anticipation. âThere!â She bounced out of bed, throwing off her sheets and careening across the room with her arms stretched out like a bird and all the energy of a six-year-old at the beginning of a special day. She stopped only to admire the outfit that her grandfather had laid out for her the night before, brand new for this occasion. Esslar had brought it all the way from the city just for her. It was white, but had green and gold vines twisting all around it, with a small brown bird on the left shoulder. She picked it up and held it up to her chest, spinning around in the center of the room until she was dizzy. âGranpa!â she yelled, her shrill voice piercing the thin walls of the temple lodge. With no response, she impatiently put the clothes down on her mattress, slid open her door, and stuck her head out into the hallway. âGranpaAAAAAAAA!! WAKE UP!â


A minute or two elapsed before the door just down from hers creaked open and a figure sleepily emerged. He looked like the friendliest gnarled old tree anyone could ever find; with a stiff grey beard and ears that had begun to droop with age. He clutched his bedrobes about himself and rubbed the left side of his face lethargically.


âGranpa! Hurry up!â


The old man looked down at her, bleary-eyed. âOh, dear, it's only-â




The old man leaned back at the auditory assault. He began shuffling across the hallway towards her. â... yes, yes it is. You're quite right. Here, let me in.â Crawa moved away from the door and spun into the middle of the room; making way as he hobbled through. She wasn't about to let her grandpa waste any time this morning â it was her birthday, after all, and that meant a day that she wanted to begin as soon as possible. It meant attention, sweets, and perhaps most importantly of all, her parents finally returning from their year-long wandering. âCrawa, be still a moment.â


âYou aren't the boss of me! It's my birthday!!â


The old man raised an eyebrow that could have been made from grey moss and sat down on the edge of the bed. Crawa ran to him, engulfing his knees in an enthusiastic hug. âYes, it's your birthday, and you're a whole six years old today. But you know what else happens today, right?â


Crawa grinned toothily up at him. âI'm going to be SPECIAL!â


Her grandfather chuckled hoarsely and ruffled her hair. âYou're special every day, sweet heart, but today you're inheriting your heritage; that makes you very special.â


âLike mama?â


âOne day, if you work very, very hard.â


Crawa nodded enthusiastically. âI wanna fight monsters too!â She spun away, punching at the invisible monsters of her fantasies. âBegone, foul demon! BOOM!!â


Her grandfather gently pulled her back to him. âYour mama and papa have a really important duty, Crawa, and it's a lot more complicated than 'fighting monsters'. It is about restoring balance to the world, sweet heart, and that is rarely easy. Nonetheless, our family has seen to this duty throughout Eorzea for... well... longer than anyone knows, dear.â


The girl pouted as only those her age could. âBut I wanna get the bad guys!â


âThings are very rarely divided into clear good and bad, love. You're old enough to learn that soon. Our family has kept this temple for generations, and one day it will be all yours to look after, and you will need to be as smart and as kind as you can possibly be.â


Crawa looked sobered for a brief moment, then burst into activity again. âCan I put my pretty dress on now, Grandpa?!â


âOh, fine. Come on, let's get you out of that nightie.â


In a few minutes the girl stood before her mirror, twirling and posing in ecstasy. The dress fit her perfectly, and in her mind the bird embroidered on the shoulder looked like it was flying as she spun about. âI'm a princess, Granpa!â


âYou are to me, sweetheart â now let me brush your hair out, come here.â


She chattered gaily while he combed and plaited her pale mass of hair. Afterwards they went back out into the hallway, where she had little choice but to wait as her Grandpa dressed in his own formal wear, though she made sure he was aware of her urgency through the wooden door. As soon as he emerged again she spouted âAre mama and papa here yet?â


âThey arrived last night, love. They would have seen you then but didn't want to wake you. They'll be waiting downstairs in the Hall for you.â


âI wanna see them now!â


âPatience, my girl.â Crawa huffed and crossed her arms impatiently anyway. âAlright, let's go. Don't mess yourself now-!â the old man cried after her, but she was gone like the wind, racing down the hall to the stairs. Her mother and father waited for her beyond the walkway at the bottom, and all of her cousins, and everyone in the temple, they would all be there... for her. Because she was going to be important, like mama and papa, one day.


She hurtled down the stairway, losing no momentum as she flew across the walkway and heaved open the sliding door that led to the Hall. Her parents were both there, but not in the honored places they were supposed to be. Her parents stood, along with many of the others there, in their formal wear huddled around something by the front entrance. âMAMA!â Crawa shrieked, skittering across the smooth, polished floor and launching herself at her mother's knees. Her mother hugged her tightly, but after an all-too-brief moment she was gently pushed away. âCrawa, please wait a moment. Something's happened.â


The girl backed up in confusion, looking up at her parents â but only her father was looking at her, the birthday girl. They, and everyone else, were fussing over a small figure who lay still on the floor. She looked at it for a moment, but only saw a dirty boy, covered in soil and some red sticky stuff, sleeping in the middle of her ceremony. âMama? Papa? Esslar?â She called for her parents and for the temple attendants, but they were too busy lifting the boy and carrying him up the stairs, and she followed them helplessly. Nobody was paying attention to her. It was all wrong! She looked up at all the adults in front of her, and started to cry loudly, a wail of six-year-old rage and unfairness boiling over. She stomped her feet on the stairs; she yelled and kicked at the wall. It was only a moment later that her grandfather appeared at the top of the stairs, hobbling past the others and coming down to where she



âCrawa,...â he said sternly, kneeling down in front of her and wiping the tears off her face. âYou're a big girl now â and big girls don't throw tantrums when things go wrong, okay?â


âIt's MY birthday! He's nobody! Mama and papa are supposed to-â


âSweet heart, sometimes we have to give things up for the greater good. That's what being like mama and papa is all about. You want to be like them, don't you?â


She nodded tearfully. âAlright then, love. Let's go see your parents, eh?â He half-carried, half-led her up the rest of the stairs and into her room. Her parents were there, and in her bed â in HER bed!! - was the dirty little boy. He was just about the same size as her, but he was getting her bed dirty as well. Crawa wrinkled her nose and pouted, but at a glance from her grandfather held back her cries of dismay. âThey have to look after him, love. He's been hurt very badly.â


She stared at the boy, with his blue skin and dark hair, propped up on her pillows, then looked up at her Grandpa. âBut he's not special like me! And he's a... a duskie!â


âThe Duskwight are of our people just like you and me. Your mama and papa help everyone, not only those with long ears and pale skin.â


Crawa screwed up her mouth and inquired, âAm I still gonna get my birthday?â


âIt will be your birthday whatever happens, sweet heart. We might have to wait on the pomp and circumstance for a bit, though.â


The girl was about to retort, but her mother beckoned her over to the side of the bed. She ran to her, hugging her legs. âMama! Do I get my birthday now?â


Her mother looked down at her, smiling. âSoon, sunshine. Soon. Right now I need you to help Grandpa take care of this boy. Can you do that for me, Crawa?â


She looked at her mother, then back at the sleeping boy. âOkay...â she finally muttered reluctantly, scuffing her toes along the floor.


"Esslar?" Her father called in the Lalafell that served as the attendant of the Temple grounds. "Would you excuse our guests, with our apologies? I'm afraid we won't be able to continue the ceremony today. We'll be departing in the morning as well. Can you see to the preparations? But first, fetch the bandages."


The bearded Lalafell bowed gracefully and adjusted his spectacles as he stood back up. "Right away, sirrah."


"Mama? What does Papa mean? You're staying, right?"


Crawa's mother knelt down and gave her a warm hug and a tender kiss on her forehead. "Just for tonight dear, and then we'll have to leave again. Oh, we want to stay, dear, and we would if we could." Her parents exchanged one of those looks that adults sometimes do. "Just know that we love you and we wouldn't go if it wasn't very important.â


The little girl simply couldn't keep the tears from streaming down her face. âAre you coming back soon?â


Her father looked up at her grandfather grimly for a moment, then turned back smiling to his daughter. âI promise, Sunshine. We need to see to this boy for now, but as soon as we're able we'll join you and celebrate your birthday. Okay?â


Crawa nodded, not because she understood but simply because she didn't know how else to respond. Her Grandpa took her by the hand, leading her out of her room and into the library across the hallway to wait for her parents.




It was a much of a day before Crawa's parents returned, and to anyone Crawa's age it seemed a lifetime. Lunch and dinner had been consumed quietly and simply, with only the company of her grandfather and Esslar. When the door to the library finally did open, Crawa lept to her feet while Esslar forced himself out of a light snooze to attend them.


âMama! Papa! You're back! Can we have my birthday now? Did you get me a present?â


Esslar shuffled up behind her as she prattled. âMissus Crawa, I believe there was something you wished to deliver to your parents. This would seem to be an appropriate time to do so.â


The child's eyes lit up, and she dashed across the hallway to her room before the lalafell had even finished speaking. âOh! Okay!â Sparing only a few seconds to shoot a withering glare at the dirty boy who occupied her bed, she rummaged under her wardrobe until she pulled out a series of crude drawings. To anyone else they would have appeared as nothing more than the random, unpracticed scrawlings of a child with bits of chalk and charcoal and parchment, but to Crawa they were the perfect expressions of her precious world. Grinning in satisfaction, she tottered back across the hall and shoved the gift of papers under her mother's nose. âSee, mama! I drew them for you and papa! See â there's you, and papa, and me, and that's Granpa and Esslar!â


As Crawa's mother accepted the papers she held them low so that Crawa could better point out the finer details of each piece. The Lalafell drew nearer and blinked at an uneven mass of lines and circles sporting a greyish smattering across its top and something vaguely resembling spectacles as it gallivanted across the paper. âHow very... splendid.â


âCrawa, these are lovely,â her mother laughed, sitting down at the table. âWe will keep them with us all year when we're away, won't we?â Her father nodded in assent. âAnd we'll be looking forward to seeing more of what you've done when we come for your birthday next year!â


The child pouted up at them as she clambered into her own chair. âWhy can't you stay forever?â


âLove, we would always prefer to stay with you. But we couldn't do our duty if we did, you see?â


âI don't care.â Crawa uttered the phrase with all the disdain and petulance a six-year-old could muster.


âCrawa, you're a big girl now, and you're going to learn all sorts of wonderful things with your Grandpa and Esslar this year. The time will go by like that!â Her mother snapped her fingers with a smile. âNow, I do believe we have a birthday to celebrate, don't we?â


Crawa's face lit up, and she jumped from her chair. âCan I have my present now?â


Her mother laughed. âLater, love. Right now, I think someone has made you a cake!â


Esslar had disappeared from the room, returning with a large, delicious-looking round cake, which he deposited squarely in front of the birthday girl. The icing was green on the sides and blue on top, with various bird-shapes formed by nuts and berries and neatly placed bits of mint twig. Crawa looked on it in awe.


âWhat do we say, sweet heart?â Her mother nudged her gently with her elbow.




The lalafell Sage cut her a slice (rather smaller than she had hoped), and distributed the rest of the cake around the table. The young girl giggled as she ate the first bite and found it tasted of strawberries. Despite admonitions not to gobble, Crawa still found herself with an empty plate well before anyone else. She busied herself with asking her parents about their year abroad: How many bad guys had they gotten? How many people had they saved? Where had they gone? Did they see any monsters?


Each of them answered her gently, but always unsatisfactorily. They seemed more inclined to press upon her that their duty was not behaving like heroes in some legendary tale told to children as they're tucked into bed. They pointed out that it was their ancient heritage to travel the land and keep the spirits and the elements in balance wherever they could. For her part, Crawa couldn't see the difference.


Far too soon, and despite the birthday girl's protestations to the contrary, it was time for sleep. Crawa yawned, slumping down in her chair despite her insistence that she wasn't the least bit tired. She thought vaguely of being tucked into bed by her parents and then remembered how filthy her bed would be with that boy sleeping in it. As if reading her thoughts, her grandfather reached down as if to pick her up and said, âYou can sleep in my room tonight, sweet heart.â


"One moment, Guthlac," Crawa's father put a hand on the old man's arm to pause him, "we still have one thing left." Kneeling down beside her chair, her father pulled a small blue box from inside his jacket. "I know this wasn't quite the birthday you'd envisioned, Crawa, but I want you to know that it was very important to us to be here for you. We had hoped to stay for awhile longer, but something has come up and we'll have to leave in the morning. Before we go though, we'd like you to have this..."


Strong hands gently put the box in Crawa's lap and she studied it with a sense of awe. Whether from sorrow that the day was drawing to a close, or the knowledge that her parents would soon be gone again, or simple exhaustion, her mirth of earlier hours had been drained from her; but she still had her anticipation. She put her hands on the top of the box and slowly lifted the lid as if it were a tender, living thing. Inside, sitting on a bed of cherry-colored satin, sat a silver bangle. Worked into the metal were weaving vines of emerald enamel that wound their way to a centerpiece featuring an earth-colored spring leaf, the emblem of Nophica the Matron, encompassed in a ring of trees.


She recognized it instantly, of course. Her mother had always worn an identical bangle around her left wrist and her grandfather had a brooch with the same emblem. It was supposed to represent the family's heritage, but Crawa understood it best as a priceless heirloom. Her mother reached into her lap and, taking the bracelet from its box, slid it over Crawa's hand and up her arm. At her size it could go all the way up to her shoulder without fitting snugly, but Crawa held the bangle to her forearm and hugged it to her chest.


Her father scooped her up out of the chair and carried her into her grandfather's room. She would always remember the feeling of being carried by her father, and her mother's smile, but she would never recall being tucked in. She was asleep before she made it to the bed.




In the days following Crawa's birthday, life began to return to normal around the Temple.  She resumed her chores and began taking lessons from her grandfather in the ways of the elements.  At the same time, she begrudgingly took care of the injured boy as a personal responsibility.  Esslar had soon made up a new room for the stranger, and it became her duty to check on him regularly and to change the bandages around his head, chest, and left arm every day.


As time went on, she began to wonder where the boy had come from in the first place, and why he was in this condition.  Esslar had told her how he had found the boy on the ground just inside the gate in front of the Temple.  Where he had come from, and why he was covered in cuts and bruises, was a mystery.  Crawa only knew that she didn't like this boy, whoever he was, but she would take care of him anyway because her mother had asked her to.


After twelve days of this routine, she went to the boy's room one morning and found the bed empty.  Bandages were strewn about the floor in a haphazard manner and the window curtains were left flapping in the light morning breeze.  'Where IS he?!' she thought, annoyed. "And who's going to clean up this mess??"




The first thing he'd noticed on waking was the dull ache that perforated his body and made his head feel like stuffing.  The second thing was that he was somewhere unfamiliar:  In the dim light from the window he could see a room made of wood and strangely carved furnishings.  He lay there for a few moments, listening to all the sounds around him.  He thought he could hear people sleeping nearby, but nothing that sounded imminently threatening. He noticed the bandages when he sat up, but didn't waste any time in tearing them off and tossing them on the floor.  He felt well enough, despite the aching, so he didn't see any need for such things. Standing up on the bed, he looked out the window and saw a couple of raised wooden buildings surrounded by a tall hedge.  Wherever he was, it didn't seem like a place that Duskwight would live. The horizon was starting to turn orange, and he realized that soon whoever was sleeping would be waking.  He forced the window open as wide as he could and slipped through it, catching himself on an awning before dropping the rest of the way to the ground below.  His legs stung and began to tingle painfully when he hit the ground, but he bent down and scurried into the space between the building and the earth.


It was dark underneath, and cool, like the caves in his earliest memories, and he had no trouble finding a spot far from the edge of the building where he could sit against a post undisturbed.  It wasn't long after that he began to hear feet above him, small and light like those of a child or one of those little people.  He didn't think he'd ever met the little people yet, but he'd heard stories.  Even in the caves there were always stories about places and people, even if they weren't always in the best of lights.  'And if those stories about goblins capturing kids is true... Maybe this is that kind of place?' he thought.  He decided to sit quietly and wait for the sun to go down again.  When it was dark he didn't think he would have any problem finding a hole in that hedge to slip through. Eventually he heard other feet above, and various sounds that didn't seem so ominous.  Dishes clinking.  Water pouring.  Fabric rustling.  Another pair or two of light feet.  Still, he'd heard plenty stories of goblins and beastmen who would trick travelers into bad situations.  From the shadows he could tell that the sun had finished its journey into the sky, and he began wondering if there was something he could play with while the day went by.  Watching a bunch of dirt wasn't very fun, so he closed his eyes and let his mind wander.


He had become so distracted by his imaginings that he didn't notice he'd been found until he heard the rustling of the soil just a little ways away.  His eyes opened and his head whipped around towards the sound, but all he could really make out was a vague Elezen-shaped shadow in a yellow dress.  It certainly didn't look like a goblin anyway, not that he knew what a goblin would look like.  The shadow twitched, as if surprised, and its head smacked into the wooden floor above it. The boy chuckled, 'Definitely not a goblin.  I bet I could take her!'


"Ow... HEY!  That's not nice!" The shadow shouted at him, "That hurt!  You shouldn't laugh.  Or jump out at people in the dark.  Or interrupt birthdays.  Or run away and make messes!"  The voice sounded young and not very happy.


He shrugged and tossed back, "Says who?"


He could just barely make out the girl blinking in the dark as if the question had never occurred to her. "Parents!  If you do those things your parents will get angry.  And then you get in trouble and they send you to your room!"


"They'd have ta catch me first."


"Parents can do that!  They always catch you."


"...Not always...  Hey, where are we?"


"Under the house," the girl stated bluntly and then followed with "...stupid" a moment later.


"Nah, I mean where is the house?  How far's it from the Caves?"


"The what? Oh, I don't know. We could ask Esslar.  He knows lots of that sort of stuff.  He's smart and reads lots of books.  I could take you to him, but you have to promise not to be stupid or make any more messes!"  


The girl didn't wait for a reply and he didn't bother giving one, but he did follow her out from under the building; all thoughts of goblins and traps forgotten now.  Once in the sunlight, he saw the pale skin and honey-colored hair of a Greenie. He'd seen them at least once before, though he couldn't remember where.  The girl also had a fancy looking bangle fitting loosely on her upper arm, which she kept having to adjust.  "Esslar's probably making breakfast now so we'll see him in the kitchen.  And maybe Granpa will be there! Oh, and my name's Crawa.  What's yours?"


The boy thought for a moment on that question before finally answering "Eh, jess call me Garaf."



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