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Shade's Daughter [Complete]

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          If there were only one thing about me that drew a gaze, it was like to be the tone of my skin and eyes. I’m dark, a Shroud Shade as my mother used to call me, both fondly and not so fondly. She was dark too, but not nearly so. 



           If there were only two things that drew eyes to me, it would be my tones and that I’m a Miqo’te man, but truth is there’s plenty of us about Eorzea now. People say you never saw us before Menphina’s Hound came and set the world to blazing. Mayhap that’s what all the fuss was really about. Ridiculous to think, I know.



           Mind’s wandering though, I was on about what draws attention to me, and right now I’m thinking it’s my eyes. Purple. I like my eyes most, good number of my sisters are colored the same way, or were. 



           The woman what stands before me must like them too, she’s sort of gawking. Either because she finds me fetching or because I have something on my face. I prefer to think it’s the former. She’s a midlander girl, mayhap my age or something older, with bright brown eyes and a face you wouldn’t mind to be close to. I tell her again what I’m here for; willow bark, belladonna, things for my work. I’m not a true botanist, but being a good Hearer and steward of the Wood means having certain things on hand for the folk what inhabit it. I grin when I’m done, in a way that shows off my fangs. 



           She looks down, realizing she’d been staring, and gets back on task. Nearly a thousand gil for the lot of it. It’s an amount I would have been outraged to spend a few years ago, but it seems the more you have the more you have to spend. Funny that.



           I pay her, smile, a murmured thanks, then I’m gone. That’s the best way to leave them, before they figure you out, before they know if they really like you or just want a longer look, before they can decide what you’re worth to them. It’s the mystery about you what drives them mad, and they hate unsettled mysteries.



           Only when I’m out of sight do I finally open my satchel and set what I bought inside. Around me the bustle of the stalls presses on. I like Gridania more than the other cities. Less folk, more room to breathe. No stink of rotting fish and stale whoring like in Limsa Lominsa, or unwashed-poverty and sickening-wealth fighting for the same space like you smell in Ul’dah. Never could figure out how other Miqo’te stand to live there. Mayhap they just got used to it, I never did.



           I’m ready to head home when I see her. A Keeper, not too rare a sight, but I recognize her as she turns and spots me. Qhon. She’s got a brown tone to her, though not dark, like coffee with plenty of cream in it. Golden eyes, wide. Shorter tail than most, though the fur what covers it a fluffy soft-black - same as the fluffy short hair what graces her head. It’s been nearly three years since I saw her last, but you don’t forget a good morning of lovemaking so easy, or who it was with.



           She pauses, recognizing me, then turns and walks out of the market. Not the reaction I was expecting. Did I leave her angry at me? No, I didn’t leave her at all, I just never saw her again after our encounter. Shame.



           I follow, angry suddenly. Mayhap it was my own fault for doing something I forgot, but I ain’t remember us parting in anger, and it makes me angry. At least wave to me. 



           Qhon’s in an awful hurry, almost like she’s running away. It’s surprising, I’ve run into old lovers before, and I’ve never seen them try to run so quick-like. In fact most are kind enough. The way she’s moving is making me wonder, did I do something? Did we fight? No, nothing like that. I suppose I also hate unsettled mysteries. 



           She’s set on me not catching up. I’m not set to run after her, if she wants so terribly not to speak to me then I’d be wrong to force it on her. I slow as we near Mih Khetto’s amphitheater, giving up, and that’s when I see her.


           A spindly thing, two or three at most. She’s skinny in that way small children are without being unhealthy. Slate-grey skin and soft black hair, but her eyes are a vibrant purple. They’re mine. She’s mine. It hits me like the Ixal what stabbed me as a boy, and I almost stagger the same way. The girl runs right up to Qhon smiling, fanged baby-teeth glinting a perfect white, arms raised like she expects to be scooped up. She is.



           Qhon and I meet gazes again over the little girl’s - my little girl’s - shoulder. In that moment there’s no hiding it. She knows, I know, and the look on her face tells the rest of the story; “I didn’t want you to know about her”.

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           Too late to run now, Qhon doesn’t bother trying. She coo’s something to her daughter and eyes me balefully as I walk over, the look on my face must be right fierce, as she actually steps back when I stop in front of her.


           I can’t say anything, even though I want too, the little one is looking at me. Vibrant purple eyes assessing, she’s not shy at all. Reminds me of myself, makes me feel like my guts just spilled out onto the ground between us. She looks away a moment later, says something in that small-child talk only a mother will understand. Before Qhon can respond a tall Wildwood man is beside her, arm protectively around her. My expression must be something scary. I try to relax my face.


           It’s impossible to tell how old he is. Elezen live longer than most and he doesn’t look old. His hazel eyes are just short of glaring daggers at me. We’re both wandering who the Hells the other person is. It’s almost funny to me, but I can’t laugh.


           “Qon”, he butchers her name. It’s Qhon, not Qon, but I try not to focus on that, only Miqo’te can say a name like hers right. Not his fault. “Someone you know?” He asks softly. I hear, I hope this is someone you don’t know.


           Mayhap I’m just imagining that. I am.


           Qhon turns and hands over her - our - girl to the Wildwood. She takes to him easily, happily. What she calls him is unmistakable; pa. He’s father to her, even though it’s all wrong and my heart just skipped a beat and burst. The little one’s tail swishes happily, she babbles.


           “Take her Jeand, I will not be long,” Qhon’s voice is stoic, even. They look at each other a moment, then they share some understanding that only long familiarity can bring. Daughter-I-ain’t-know-about reaches for her as he turns to go. She says something, he says no. She cries. It fades as she moves further away. Funny how it can seem like the world is ending when you’re that small, just because you’re being moved away from your ma for a short time.


           “Why ain’t ye-” is all I can get out before she cuts me off.


           “You ain’t need to know,” she replies, curt.


           “Why fer not?”


           “Easier for everyone.”


           The makes me angry again. Easier on who? Was this how it was meant to be? I was a boy when my clan was smote to nothing by the Greenwrath, the Wood set to raging by what was freed from Dalamud. I ain’t get to see how it was supposed to be. My own pa dead before I was old enough to even wonder about him. Am I supposed to provide a seed for the fertile soil and then set off? Was I the wrong one here?


           Old pains. I almost cry right there, but I’m a man now, not the screaming boy what wailed at the loss with his twin for hours. I swallow hard.


           “She’s beautiful,” is what I choose to say. It takes Qhon by surprise, her stoic mean-mask falls off, one very near to guilt replaces it.


           “Mm, she is and we love her.” We. Her and Jeand, the Wildwood.


           “You’re married,” see, I’m not so dumb. I can sum two things together to see the whole.


           She nods, expressionless again. “Five years.” Her ears are quirked on guard, tail anxious. Mine are the same. Our kind is easy to read, even though her face is placid her body betrays her.


           Five years? But the morning we shared fell definitely within her marriage. It baffles me a moment. Most married folk ain’t keen on sharing. So that’s why I ain’t ever see her after, why she stumbled upon me in the Wood and were so quick to get to bed, why she ain’t want to talk much during or after. Just before, to see what sort of man I was. Though I was barely a man when it happened.


           I suck in a breath to ask, and she cuts me off, guessing rightly about what I’m about to say.


           “We tried on our own, it just ain’t meant to be. He were born seedless, or the Gods ain’t see to bless our union. Who knows.”


           I frown, but I’m not sure why. So that were it, I was a stud. It occurred to me I was like to have a kitten or two about, but considering the abstraction and seeing the reality ain’t the same. I saw her for moments and already I loved her. There was that sick feeling again.


           “What’s ‘er name?”


           Qhon frowns, brow knitting, deciding. She doesn’t want to tell me. If I know that’s less distance, makes her even more real to me, not that I could see her as less than real. Sorry Qhon, I just saw her and I’m in too deep already. Can’t muck it up any more than we already have.


           She seems to come to the same conclusion, “Nia,” she says finally, voice low, like it’s a secret.


           “Nia”, I repeat, testing it. Sounds wonderful.


           “Please just go,” Qhon says, voice taking on a hard edge, “we’re happy. She’s happy. I’m sorry to not have told you, but I were thinking of Jeand and mine’s happiness. You weren’t supposed to find out.”


           I turn away, looking for Nia, she’s some distance away, and done crying. Jeand’s got her busy with what looks like a little toy. My eyes are sharp but I can’t tell what it is from this far. They look happy, though Jeand has got an eye on me. I think he’s figured it out.


           Had a lover once I was right fond of, she had a bad heart. Kaahi was her name. She was brown too, like Qhon. Told me all about how she was raised by a kind Elezen man, how much she missed him after he was gone. She’d tell me stories about how she grew up as we lay together after lovemaking. Things weren’t always perfect between us, but it hurt a lot after her heart finally gave up on her. She knew it were coming, asked me to bury her next to her Elezen father when the time came. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.


           Nia would have a better life with Qhon and Jeand. His clothes marked him for a man that wasn’t poor, and though he looked at me sternly he had nothing but softness in his gaze for Nia. It was painful to watch.


           Bet the arsehole could read too.


           What was my being around worth next to something like that? True, I’m a Hearer, and not a bad one. But that meant being far afield betimes, and the money were never as good as what a man dresses as he does might have. I hadn’t noticed in my shock, but Nia was wearing finery herself, an adorable Miqo’te Doll-Girl. All that and they loved each other too. Nothing could come from poor, dumb Rakka’li but confusion.


           Too clear to me, crystal. I blink rapid-like as I look back to Qhon. Dirt in my eyes.


           Qhon’s got the barest hint of sympathy on her face. She really was sorry for it, even if she were prepared to double-down on how mean she’d need to be. I swallowed again. There’d be no need, I’m not that dumb.


           “I’m glad I know,” I say, even though my mouth feels like I’ve been dining on ash.


           She looks doubtful, so I press on, “I won’t get in yer way ‘er nothin’, but if there’s anythin’ ye need d-”


           “We won’t,” ouch, did she have to be so short about it?


           “-even so, if there’s anythin’ ye need. M’ a Conjurer true an-”


           “There’s other Conjurers about.”


           I grit my teeth. She’s right of course, I’m reaching for wet twigs and trying to build a fire with it. Could I blame her? She used me to get everything she wanted, and I never spared that morning a second thought until today, was I any better? In for an onze, in for a ponze. She’d be stupid to not stay mean enough to keep it as it was.


           “Rakka’li,” oh, she did remember my name, somehow that makes me feel slightly better, “don’t feel like you’re responsible. It was my doing, the lot of it. You’ve grown into an adventurer anyroad.”


           An adventurer? Is that what I was? I suppose it was half true. In my mind I’m just me, but I’ve had my share of adventures ain’t I? Still, seems like a bad fit.


           “Good bye,” she says, in a way that means ‘don’t talk to me again’. I struggle to say something else, my ears flattening in a way that says I’m really, really unhappy, she notes them silently, but says nothing more, only sparing me a mournful look before hurrying after her husband and Nia. I watch them go, eyes fixed on the spot where they finally vanish from sight completely. Jeand shoots me one look before he’s gone, it’s not friendly.


           Ain’t this what I wanted? To fuck as I please and forget about it? Slake my pleasure and get gone.


           I already know I’m lying to myself, it’s a bitter truth. Most truths are. Truth is I’m a sad sort, though I grin a lot. Mayhap grin too much. I think of my twin Rakka’sae, and how far he is, I wonder if he’s safe. I can’t keep no one in my life no more, Kaahi died, and Lhei left me for her clan-home. Who could think to blame her? Only folk that seek me out are looking to fuck or have a problem with Elementals, and Elementals ain’t really count as folk.


           All I can think of is Nia looking at me, curious for a moment, fearless. Eyes all the same as mine.


           I stand there so long that a passing Lalafell, a friendly one, tugs on my robe and asks me if I’m alright. I lie and tell her I’m fine. She frowns at me, so I turn tail and set off.

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