I thought it’d be funny to share this disaster with you all–partly to illustrate WHY I didn’t update on Friday, and partly to show you that I wasn’t fibbing about my numbers. By the by, this is TERRIBLE. But the ending is sorta funny-terrible. Bad as in good. (Also, bad as in what the FUCK was I thinking!?)
THE FOLLOWING IS NOT CANON. (It’s not even edited!) These are deleted scenes from the bonus update Tooth and Nail, available now! Have fun reading…
By the second week, the girl felt her role in the house trampled upon. She was used to being the one to help her mother with Atalo and matters of the kitchen. She was used to her mother smiling at her in thanks, of her mother asking for her opinion for dinner, of her mother trusting her with important errands.
“I got it, Nyx,” Her older brother told her as he took the sack of vegetables from her and lugged it into the daikut one cool and windy afternoon.
The girl slouched in after him. She’d carried the bag all by herself from the market–had even found the best ears of corn at a good price. But even for all her efforts, who was her mother turning to with those grateful smiles?
“I can do it myself, y’know…” she mumbled. “I’ve been doing it all by myself since you were gone!”
But these words went unnoticed. Nyx sat at the table as she glared at Thaddeus’ back. The teenager was busy talking with her mother about esoteric adult things. Her mother, meanwhile, was working on a cake for the evening. She’d just gotten started.
Atalo looked up at Thaddeus from the kitchen table. Gripped in his grubby hand was a pencil and a sheet of paper scrawled with messy sentences. His Navi had assigned the five-year-old extra practice in penmanship as the boy was terrible at it. “Koen, how do you spell ‘Tosmai’?” he asked. Thaddeus didn’t seem to hear him–his conversation with his mother seemed to touch onto a sensitive note that had both frowning.
Nyx looked at Atalo. He used to ask her for help. The ire in her heart created a mischievous idea. Before Atalo could press for Thad’s attention, the girl began to spell out a word. “C-a-j-e-c-k.”
Atalo rushed to copy the letters down. He finished writing the word before he stopped and rolled his eyes upward in thought. The girl forgot her sullenness long enough to smirk at her brother as he sounded the word out in his head. His face grew pink and he twisted around in his chair. “A-maaa!”
The girl hopped off her chair and ran out the door. “Atalo is a cajeck! Atalo is a cajeck!” her amusement was lukewarm, and mingled with a desperation for release. Teasing her little brother made her feel better, but not much.
The boy chased after her, brandishing the pencil lividly. “No, you!” He stopped in the doorway and threw his pencil at her, but it fell yards short.
Nyx stopped running and turned around to stick her tongue out at the boy.
Shouting came from within the daikut. In the next instant, her mother appeared in the doorway, flour on her chin and her beautiful face drawn up in a hard frown. She brandished a wooden spoon at Nyx. “Get back in this house!”
Now the girl’s face went blank as her mind debated what to do. Her ear started to hurt just at the thought of her mother’s punitive hands. Then Thaddeus appeared behind Fotini. He frowned at her.
“Nyx, listen to A-ma!” he snapped.
This settled it for her.
“No!” She screamed, tiny fists clenching at her sides. “You’re not my father! A-pa is gone!”
Fotini came outside, her face red. “Child, you are shaming us. Stop making a scene in front of all these good people!”
Nyx looked around, suddenly conscious of the eyes that followed her. Some of their neighbors were even poking their heads out of their homes to see what the commotion was. The girl swallowed and stared down at the ground, her eyes tearing up.
Thaddeus had come out too, but whereas her mother seemed only angry–he looked livid.
“She won’t listen A-ma, she’s a stubborn brat,” he seethed as he stalked toward her. “It’s all those stupid books you let her read!”
Nyx started to tremble and backpedaled away. Thaddeus sprinted forward. The girl squealed and turned into a sprint of her own.
“I may not be A-pa, but I can damn well beat you like he would!” he shouted, hands snatching.
…What the teenager didn’t know, however, was that Nyx had become the fastest runner in her age group while he was away–mostly because the local children had taken to beating her up whenever the desire struck them. She’d learned all she needed from them on how to effectively slip away from an oncoming threat, and her mind immediately saw her chance in the form of an ox-pulled cabbage cart. The driver had stopped on the side of the road to watch the exchange, and his eyes widened as he realized the girl’s intention.
Nyx dropped into a slide, zipping beneath the cart. Thaddeus had expected the girl to slow down, and he shouted in surprise as he skidded to a halt before it. His sister, meanwhile, resumed her sprint with little pause or stop in motion.
She ran until Tosmai was behind her. She ran until all she saw was forest…
Nyx wandered, her stomach grumbling beneath her shirt as the wind nipped at her. The trees rustled. She traveled to the west, and slowly she recognized the make of the forest. The oaks and buckeyes shaded the suns from her, so she wasn’t sure of the time. She knew there to be a lake nearby, however, and followed the unmarked path until the forest thinned.
The seven-year-old turned her eyes skyward. It was late afternoon. Evening would be upon her in an hour or two. The girl kicked at a rock, squinting at the glittering lake. She didn’t want to go home, for fear of what would happen.
“I must be a bad person,” the girl thought glumly. “I’m always causing trouble for A-ma. Why can’t I be good?”
The girl walked around the edge of the lake slowly. She thought about going for a swim, but it was windy and chilly, and she hadn’t brought anything to dry herself with. It wasn’t until she’d walked a fourth of the way around that she saw a figure on the other side. The girl squinted trying to get a better look at them, but the suns made the lake bright and the person was drawn up in the shade of the trees. Nyx continued walking, her eyes trained on the stranger until she could make them out.
Then her face brightened with a smile.
Emerging from the shade was a tall elven man with short lilac hair dressed in a worn out poncho, beige canvas pants, and leather shoes. He had a cleft chin, slashes for eyebrows, and a pinched nose. He grinned lopsidedly.
“Ah, the kitten finds me!” he exclaimed in Ailuran, extending both arms.
Nyx giggled and crashed into him, hugging around the waist. He smelled like wine and dust. “You’re back!” she cried, speaking in Common instead.
“Yes, yes, or we wouldn’t be able to achieve this incredible reunion!” he returned similarly. “I suppose you won’t let me practice my Ailuran, eh?”
“Me first!” she said, pulling back. Arranging the Common in her head, Nyx cleared her throat and folded her hands behind her back–a habit from her lessons. “‘Hark, hark, the Stars that streak the dark! The gods have cast them down in rage, these Stars have lived on past their age, the night turns grave and stark!’”
Marq smiled at her bemusedly. “Very good, kitten, but isn’t that a bit…depressing?”
Nyx frowned at him. “What does it mean? I found it in the last book you gave me.”
The elf tugged on his ear. He looked embarrassed. “Oh,” he waved it away. “Never you mind. It was just…that rhyme was of the fall of Legends…but you weren’t born yet.” He smiled and rubbed her shoulder. “That’s a good thing. Those were sad times.”
The girl blinked, but nodded. “Oh. Okay.”
Marq pointed toward the trees, where his large back of merchandise sat waiting. “Would you like to see what I’ve got today?”
Nyx looked down at the ground sadly. “I have no money…”
“That’s alright. This one time, I can let you have something for free. You’re one of my best customers!” The elf gently guided the girl to his bag as Nyx squealed happily.
“By the by, your accent is getting better.” Marq pulled his bag to him as they both knelt in the shade of the oak tree.
“I’ve been practicing!” Nyx said, preening.
Marq chuckled as he set out a number of books onto the grass.
Nyx frowned as she appraised the titles.
The Erminian Continent, The Life and Times of Edmund the Eerie, Alchemy in Daily Life, So You Want To Be A Demon Hunter, etc….
The girl picked up Alchemy in Daily Life. It was a small book with barely over a hundred pages. Each page seemed to consist of a short recipe for various potions. It would be easy to hide, as she didn’t have a bag to put the book in–and she was certain her mother wouldn’t approve of her having it. Thaddeus even less.
“Can I have this one?” Nyx asked, looking up.
Marq seemed to think about it. “You won’t use it for anything bad will you?”
The girl glanced off to the side. Then she looked back at the elf. “Ah…No?”
The man seemed to think about it. Then he shrugged. “Alright! So long as no one loses a limb, you can have it.”
Nyx beamed and hugged the man again. “Thank you, Marq!”
Marq patted her head. “You’re welcome, little one.”
The girl stood. Her smile faded as she glanced up at the sky again. “I think I should get home now.” She stuck the book down her shirt and hugged it to her chest. She looked down at how she carried herself. It looked like she was just covering from the wind.
“Would you like a little company? I’m not going to Tosmai, but a girl could run into trouble in these woods. Even a tough one like yourself.” Marq winked.
Nyx shrugged. “If you want to.”
The girl helped the elf gather his things, and together they walked along the lakeside.
“How’s your mother?” Marq asked.
Nyx glanced at him, still holding the book to her chest. “Fine,” she mumbled.
The man quirked an eyebrow. He adjusted the strap of his bag. “And your brother Atalo?”
“Do you think I’m a bad person?”
Marq paused and frowned at her. “Why do you ask that?”
Nyx shrugged and stared out toward the lake.
The man patted her shoulder. “You’re a good girl.”
But the girl’s eyes darkened. “Nobody else seems to think so…”
“Why do you think they feel this way?” Nyx sighed and stared up at the sky. Marq nudged her with his hand. “Hmm?”
“Because,” the girl started haltingly. “Because…I wanted things…to be the way I saw it…in my head.”
Here the man looked at her in confusion. “How do you mean?”
“I want things to be the right way,” Nyx said, scowling as she looked for the words in Common. After a minute, she gave up and resumed her explanation in Ailuran. “Did you know I have a mane when I Change? Girls aren’t supposed to have manes. Only boys do. The other kids in the village pick on me because of it.”
Marq frowned at her. “And this means that…things aren’t right?” he said this in Ailuran too.
Nyx sighed impatiently. “My brother Thad came home a week ago. He’s been gone a whole year! I wanted to look right. I wanted to be good. I’ve been helping A-ma as best I can, and even though the whole village thinks I’m trouble, I wanted to look right.”
Marq thought on this for a moment. Then he nodded slowly. “Ahh…you wanted your brother to believe in the good in you. You thought he wouldn’t see this if you looked differently?” The man smiled kindly. “Didn’t you know that sometimes a therian’s animal form carries over traits?”
The girl looked at him funny. “…Traits?”
Marq patiently explained. “Traits are things that define how you look. You have dark hair, I have light hair. Like that. Sometimes, there are therians who carry sapien traits over into their animal forms. It doesn’t mean anything bad, kitten. Just that you’re sapien side is very strong.”
Nyx had learned about the difference between her sapien self and her bestial self, but what Marq was trying to say just confused her further. “That doesn’t sound normal!” she cried, face screwing up in anxiety.
The man held up his hands in alarm, as though that could stave off any sudden tears. “Ah! I’m sorry, little one!” He tugged at his ear. “Um…perhaps this will change later? I don’t think that sort of thing is permanent.”
But Nyx wasn’t put at ease. She dropped into a fetal position. “I really am a freak!” she wailed at the ground.
Marq gazed at her in discomfort. He looked around as though hoping someone else would deal with the child, then he sighed heavily and sat down next to her. A stream murmured as it filtered into the lake, and a bee buzzed somewhere close by. The trees swayed as the wind came and whistled through the branches.
The elf put his arm around the girl’s shoulders. Nyx meanwhile had ducked her face and was now crying silent tears, where they fell and dampened her knees and lap.
“Kitten…” Marq started. “You seem to be quite torn up about this… I’m sorry to have upset you. Would…would you like another book from my bag? I’ll give it to you absolutely free!” He smiled weakly.
Nyx shook her head. “No,” she mumbled. “It’ll be…be harder to hide two books.”
The girl’s face crumpled as she raised her head and looked at the man. “I have to hide this book so that Thaddeus won’t destroy it. He doesn’t like that I buy things from you.” The girl wiped her nose on her sleeve, sniffling. She scowled at the water. “I wish I could hide too. Forever. I cause too much trouble. I just make everybody angry, but I don’t know how not to…”
Marq’s brows pressed together. He squeezed the girl’s shoulder, and neither said a word for a long time.
Marq parted ways with her when they were almost to Tosmai.
“Chin up, kitten,” he said as he waved goodbye. “No matter what, your family loves you.”
The girl watched him go before resuming the rest of the way herself. She paused briefly on the outskirts of the village to tuck her book away beneath an old crate. She meant to come back for it later.
Nyx cut through the village square, hurrying as the suns neared the tips of the northern mountains. Shadows grew longer, swallowing her up to the waist. The girl wondered how severe her punishment would be once she was home. As the girl went, she saw Taila carrying a large bag in her arms.
“Nyx!” the girl called, “Hey, Nyx!”
Nyx reluctantly slowed as Taila jogged to her. She smiled at her, pushing her bag up with her knee. “Hey, y’know Thad was looking for you?”
“I bet,” Nyx said with a sigh.
Taila tilted her head to the side. “Trouble, huh?”
Nyx didn’t answer, just gazed down at her shoes.
The other girl set her bag down onto the ground with a sigh. “Here, take this home with you.”
Nyx frowned as Taila handed her a small drawstring bag from her larger bag. “Do you have alot of these in there?” she asked.
“No, silly. Those are expensive herbs. I have another one for my A-ma. It’s her birthday this week.”
“Are you sure?” Nyx said anxiously. The bag smelled oddly, like smoke, but there was something seeping through the weave…
“Of course!” Taila straightened, grunting as she lifted her bag again. It clinked and jingled as it moved. “That is certain to take the edge off. If not for your family, then for yourself!” The girl chuckled.
Nyx frowned. “…What is this?”
“Like I said. Herbs,” the girl’s look turned serious. “But don’t go stuffing that up your nose willy-nilly. It could make you sick!”
“Taila, I don’t know about this…”
“Gotta go, Nyx. We should go swimming one of these days. Sound good?”
“Uh, sure–I mean–wait! This bag–”
“Great!” Taila was off already, all smiles. “Bye!”
Nyx stared after her, the bag of herbs gripped uncertainly in her hand. “Um…okay, bye.”
She stood outside her home, the bag of herbs gripped behind her back, and her shoulders hunched around her ears. She felt like a criminal facing death. Inside, she heard voices. More arguing…Nyx looked at the ground sadly. Just because things hadn’t gone her way, she’d made a fuss, and now there was fighting in her house. The girl hated it when her family didn’t get along.
Trembling, she went to the door and opened it.
The voices stopped as she appeared in the doorway, eyes wide like saucers. Thaddeus and Fotini appeared to have been in the middle of another one of their arguments. Atalo sat watching, blank-faced from the hallway, his knees drawn up to his chest.
Nyx stepped into the house all the way and shut the door. She held up the bag and swallowed loudly.
Thaddeus started after her, and chaos broke loose. The daikut was small, but so was Nyx, and she dodged her brother’s first lunge with fast reflexes. Fotini shouted for order, but Thaddeus seemed set on punishing Nyx just for his own satisfaction. The girl dove first beneath the table, but her brother tossed aside the chairs to get at her. Next, she tried to keep the table between them, but Thaddeus just vaulted over it. They seemed to go around in circles, Fotini crying shrilly for them both to stop. Nyx’s only solution seemed to be running to her room and locking herself in, but a spill on the floor–likely from her mother’s cooking–sent her crashing onto her back. Thaddeus finally caught her, grabbing the front of her robes, his broad face crimson.
Nyx stared at him wildly when she remembered the bag of herbs in her hand. Quickly, she pulled the bag open with her teeth and tossed the contents of the bag into the air. Herbs and fine dust fell about them in a cloud. One inhale of the stuff sent the seven-year-old into a coughing fit. Her mind flickered briefly to a page she had scanned from her new alchemy book, back when she’d been looking at Marq’s books.
“Catnip – a plant that has a strong affect on cats–both domestic and wild. Also said to affect Ailurans.”
Thaddeus dropped her. Her entire family was sent into a coughing fit. As the girl fell over onto the ground, her eyes rolling, she started to giggle.
Thaddeus growled and punched the floor. “You…what did you…!?” he snorted, as though trying to contain a laugh.
“Catnip!” Nyx chirped. “A girl gave me a bag, and—ha! Ha, ha! I didn’t know, I swear!”
Atalo also started to giggle, and soon Fotini joined in the laughter. The night became a haze, but Nyx recalled her family playing catch with something they weren’t supposed to, then using the kitchen table to make a fort with their pillows and blankets.
Morning came. Nyx groaned and sat up, holding her head. “I don’t feel good!” she whined.
“None of us do!” Her mother’s voice. The woman was hugging the girl from behind. Nyx stared around in confusion. Were they under the kitchen table? And was that her blanket they had draped over it…?
“…Are you mad at me?”
The woman raised her head to glare at her daughter with bloodshot eyes. Thaddeus appeared behind her, looking similarly disheveled and ill. “In a word, yes,” her mother stated dryly. “You covered the entire house in catnip.”
“And there’s cake on the ceiling,” Atalo announced happily outside of the makeshift fort.