Rokag’s Departure, pt. 2

And the second part to Rokag’s leave. You know, despite this being like, 10k words long, it felt ridiculously quick to write. I had a lot of fun with it.

Read part one here.

Originally Posted: November 2, 2016
Word Count: ~5700 (out of ~10,200 total)
Rating: G
Warnings: None

It took a few hours, but Rokag eventually calmed down and went to work at her daily duties. Finn and Agrat also went to their own chores, and the three mostly stayed apart from each other until that evening. When she returned home for the night, Agrat and Finn were already sitting in the living room, next to each other on the couch. She sat across from them in a chair.

“So?” she said. Agrat scratched his head and Finn opened his palms.

“So y’ know—”

“Things haven’t—”

They glanced at each other and Agrat motioned for Finn to continue.

“Things haven’t always been easy for us,” he said. “I’m guessing you already know that we’ve done our fair share of wandering.”

“Right,” Rokag said. “Of course you did, since you traveled all th’ way here.”

“And it goes without saying that things get dangerous when you don’t really have a permanent home,” Finn said. “You know we moved here for a better life, since that wasn’t possible in Ettinsmoor. We didn’t get to actually settle down and stop for some time, and during that time we had some… difficult encounters.” She leaned sideways in the chair and rested her cheek against her knuckles.

“Well, just how difficult?” she said.

“Yer dad died,” Agrat said. Rokag raised her eyebrows and looked between them. She pointed at Finn.

“You mean…?” she said, and Finn nodded. She knew people came back to life—rarely, since the magic required was difficult to master, but it happened sometimes. But her own father? A hunter by trade? “How?” she said.

“Mauled by wolves,” Finn said. She paused and nodded—it made sense. Wolves competed for the same sport as hunters, anyway.

“Alright, so… you died once. That doesn’t really answer anything,” Rokag said. “What’s that got to do with uncle Tabris?” Agrat sighed and glanced at Finn, who slumped a bit in his seat. Agrat cleared his throat.

“Your dad used t’ be Tabris. Or, uh, Tabris became Finn,” he said. “In a way.” She squinted at them and sat up straight again.

“So, Tabris raised me first?” she said. She supposed her memories made sense, then. “Then why’d he give me t’ you two? So he could keep adventuring?” Finn held his head and Agrat rubbed his forehead.

“It’s not… quite that complicated, it’s just strange,” Finn said and folded his hands. “Alright, so—from the start. I haven’t always looked like this.” He gestured at himself. “Tabris’ body used to belong to me. When you look at Tabris, that’s what I used to look like. When I died, Tabris took that body from me, and—”

“Wait, stop,” Rokag said and held up a hand. She looked between them again. “Tabris did what?”

“Tabris isn’t what he looks like,” Agrat said. “He—”

“Right, right—dad told me he’s part-orc,” Rokag said.

“No, no,” Agrat said with a sigh. “He’s not even from this plane. He was—is from the celestial plane. He’s one of th’ azata, and he’s, oh… a few hundred years old? How old did he say he was?” He looked at Finn.

“Like, seven- or eight-hundred, at least,” Finn said. “He’s never given me a number.” Rokag’s jaw dropped.

“So, wait—Tabris was… not even from this world?” she said. They nodded.

“Yeah, and he had no body,” Agrat said. “So when yer dad died, his soul kinda jumped into th’ corpse.”

“So he was just some wandering spirit and he straight-up stole your body?” Rokag said.

“No, he was trapped in my old quiver—the same one he still uses,” Finn said. “I found him—the quiver—by accident.” Agrat shot a look at him and rolled his eyes. “Neither Tabris nor I know how it worked, but he just leapt straight into my old body.”

Tabris saw the wolves surrounding Finn. Their snarling, drooling maws bit into his flesh. They shook their big, hairy heads to rip chunks of his body away. He saw it all through the eyes painted on the quiver’s strap. Finn’s blood spilled onto some of them, partially blinding him. Finn’s heartbeat reverberated against the same material. It weakened with every bite, each time he spilled blood.

“Finn, you must get up!” Tabris shouted in the most forceful tone he could muster. “You are about to die. Get up, get away!” He felt Finn take in a shuddering, ragged breath. His eyelids fluttered. A wolf clamped down on his neck. He widened his eyes and with the last of his strength, Finn whispered something incoherent, but Tabris heard his last thought: “That hurts.”

His heart stopped. He no longer breathed. The ring around Finn’s finger shattered with a high-pitched pop. The wolves winced at the sound, backed away a bit—and disappeared. A few moments later, Tabris felt a tug. A yank. Like water into a canteen, Tabris’ consciousness flowed into the vacuum. For the first time in five-hundred years, he breathed. His chest ached as Finn’s heart twitched and beat again with newfound strength. Everything hurt and blood flowed, but he stood.

An instinctive remnant from his former life told him to immediately pray, so he did. The deadliest of Finn’s wounds sealed like melting wax. Tabris shuddered and sweat trickled down his forehead. He blinked the salty, stinging water away and looked at his hands. Tan skin, calluses on the right hand’s fingers. This was not his body. His—no, Finn’s stomach churned when he realized what happened.

In his mind, he called out. Searched for any sign that Finn still existed in this realm. There was none. The shattered ring confirmed it. Finn was long gone.

Rokag stared down into the teacup in her hands. Normally her mind processed things quickly, and she had little difficulty learning most things, but all this—it was almost too much. Once Finn finished telling her of his own death, and what he knew about Tabris taking over, she sat in stunned silence. She wished she could accuse him of lying, but the way he recounted the events, his and Agrat’s faces as he spoke—there was no way it was anything but the truth. Agrat excused himself to refill his tea. Out of the corner of her eye, Rokag caught him slipping something else into his cup.

“You don’t remember any of this?” Finn said. “You were young when it happened—when Tabris came back in his new body. But you weren’t terribly young.” She shook her head slowly.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I remember him—well, you, no—whatever. I remember him being different, and it scared me. He didn’t smile like you did—I mean, he wasn’t you. His face was like a mask.” Finn nodded.

“It took him a little while to get used to having a face again,” he said. “An entire body, for that matter.”

“You aren’t… angry at him? For taking your body when you died?” she said. Finn sighed through his nose and scratched his chin. He shrugged.

“I used t’ be,” he said. “Tabris and I usually got along when he was just a quiver, but he acted like a gatekeeper. If I was going to do something he didn’t like with my bow, he wouldn’t give me the right arrow—or an arrow at all.” Rokag wondered how Tabris could do such a thing, if he was just a quiver, but she focused on more important issues. “Anyway, when I learned that I died, I was told that he’d stolen my body, my life. You and Agrat. I didn’t know it was him, but anyway—it bothered me. It’d bother anyone.” Agrat returned and set mugs down again for everyone. He sat next to Finn once more and rubbed his shoulder with his free hand.

“So why did you…”

“Why are we friends?” Finn said. “Because I can’t blame him. Whether he took my body intentionally or by accident, it was probably best for him. He was an undying object for five hundred years. Can you imagine how miserable that would be? Stuck with nowhere to go, without even the comfort of sleep or death itself? I would’ve done the same.” He clasped his hands and rested his chin on his fingers. The metal on his left arm made clicking noises. Rokag hesitated, and nodded. She supposed she could understand why Tabris did what he did.

“Besides that, Tabris and I both would’ve risked it all t’ bring you back,” Agrat said. “He’s a good person.” Finn nodded.

“He was also so good with you, Rokag—I’m sure you remember at least some of that,” he said.

Tabris sat on a stool by the well with Finn, a few yards from Agrat, who snored away while Rokag slept in his arms. Her entire body fit on his chest, and his hands were big enough to cover her sufficiently. The sun warmed their bare backs and legs. Tabris’ arm still wouldn’t respond, though his fingertips tingled sometimes. He shivered when Finn poured water over his head to wet his hair.

“You know, Finnegan,” he said, his teeth chattering, “you do not have to bathe me. It is… uncomfortable.” Finn scowled and lathered up some soap for his hair, anyway. On his left hand, he wore a leather glove that just covered his palm. Otherwise, only his waist was covered.

“You can’t use your arm—how do you expect to stay clean?” he said.

“But is it not awkward for you?” Tabris said and glanced over his shoulder.

“It’s weird, sure,” Finn said, “but I know that body far better than you do. So it’s not that awkward. Close your eyes.” He rubbed suds into Tabris’ hair.

“It does not matter that much, does it?” Tabris said. He squeezed his eyes shut as soap dripped into his face.

“It might be your body now, but I’m not gonna allow you to neglect your hygiene,” Finn said. Tabris hunched and leaned away from his touch, but Finn just pulled him back by his good shoulder. He sighed and gave up.

“I did not have to bathe so often back home,” he said. “Nobody was around to care, and even if they were, they did not.”

“Yeah, and I’m sure that azata sweat smells like lilacs and honeysuckle,” Finn grumbled. “Here on the material plane, people stink. You’ve got to keep fresh.” He lifted the bucket.

“I do not recall ever sweating, actually,” Tabris said. Finn dumped the water over his head and he cringed. “C-cold!” While Finn rinsed soap from his hair, Tabris shivered wildly. Finn dried him off and helped him get dressed again, then walked over to Agrat and Rokag. They woke almost immediately and Agrat yawned.

“Alright, Rokag’s turn,” Finn said. He reached for his daughter, and she moved away from him to hide behind Agrat. Finn hesitated. His face fell and he stepped back a little. “Rokag?” he said in a soft voice and knelt. “C’mon, it’s alright.” She stared at him with wide, frightful eyes.

“Gods, she’s terrified of you,” Agrat said. He sat up straight and petted her hair. “Girlie, it’s jus’ your dad. He just looks a bit different now, but it’s still him!” She buried her face in Agrat’s chest and Finn’s entire body slumped. Tabris walked over, huddling the best he could with one usable arm, and Rokag squirmed away from Agrat to his side instead. She clutched his pant leg and peered at Finn. Tabris looked at her, then back at Finn with a guilty frown. He reached down and touched her shoulder.

“Rokag, you have nothing to fear,” he said. “That is your father.” Rokag ignored him. “I am sorry, Finnegan,” Tabris said. “I do not mean to—”

“It’s fine,” Finn said. “I’m gonna… I’m gonna head inside.” He rubbed his arms and hunched his shoulders. “It’s a little chilly. Agrat, uh, don’t forget to wash behind her ears. Or yours, for that matter.” He gathered up his clothes and hurried away before either Agrat or Tabris could respond. Agrat sighed and looked down at Rokag.

“I’ve no idea how this’s going t’ work,” he said softly. “She hardly understands anythin’, and nothin’s improved about how she interacts with Finn.”

“It has been not three days since Finnegan came back,” Tabris said and knelt down to her level. “Give them both time to adjust.”

“You think she’s at least pickin’ up language?” Agrat said. Tabris shrugged.

“I cannot say. I speak directly to her, and she should be able to understand, but she has been through terrible trauma that I think none of us want to imagine,” he said and petted her hair. Rokag looked up at him with a frown. “It may be some time. She also may understand perfectly, but refuse to listen.” Agrat sat on the grass next to her and took one of her hands in his own.

“Well, missy, yer one stubborn kiddo if that’s th’ case,” he said and poked her stomach with a finger. She smiled. “I like that. ‘S why I married yer father.” Tabris would have smiled, had he remembered that he could.

“I ought to speak to Finnegan,” he said. “Perhaps he needs some further guidance for how to be patient with children.”

“He sure does,” Agrat said. “Thanks, Tabris—I appreciate th’ help.” Tabris walked off, and Agrat got back to taking care of Rokag.

Rokag sat and stared into her still-full cup while it waited for her on the table. Finn and Agrat had already finished theirs while they spoke. She leaned forward, fisted her hands, and glared at them.

“You two—you both have lied so, so much to me,” she said. “Just what sort of… of adventurers were you? Dealin’ with trapped souls, and you dying, and you with all those scars and th’ missing finger—and your arm, dad! These things don’t just happen!”

“Like we said,” Finn said sternly, “there are things that we want to move on from. We came here around six years ago for a new life, and it was stalled. A lot of things happened during that time, and we’ve worked very hard to get as close to a normal—a peaceful life as possible.” She stared at him and relaxed her hands.

“So you’re not gonna tell me anything else,” she said. Finn nodded.

“We told you about Tabris, and what you needed to know to understand his circumstance,” he said. “Whether Agrat tells you about his scars, or whether I tell you about my arm, is either of our prerogatives.”

“I’m your daughter! I should know these things!” she said.

“And we love you dearly. Us having secrets will never, ever change that. But your being our daughter has nothing to do with it,” Finn said. Rokag tightened her lips and made fists again. She sighed and slapped her knees with her palms and stood up.

“Fine,” she spat. “Just leave me out of everything that matters, like you always do. I’m—I’m leaving soon enough, anyway.” Finn raised an eyebrow and Agrat lurched to his feet.

“You’re what?” Agrat demanded, his jaw hanging open. Rokag nodded.

“You heard me,” she said. “I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of sittin’ around here, taking care of horses and farming. You both know I’m capable—Tabris says I have incredible abilities, too! I’m wasting away here, when the things I can do could be put to better use!” Finn rubbed his face and Agrat glowered.

“Better use—what better use?” Agrat said through bared teeth. “Are you a complete fool?! You’ve got no good reason t’ leave here and throw yerself to th’ mercy of people with no sense of morality, or who can’t see th’ value of life! They’d only use you like a goddamn tool! Besides—you’re fifteen! You’re still a child!” Rokag narrowed her eyes.

“Maybe by human standards, but I’m a full-blooded orc woman!” she yelled. “I’m an adult and I can do what I want!”

“Well, yer father and I are half-orcs, and we’ll raise you as we see fit—you’re not an adult until you turn eighteen, so yer still under our care!” Agrat yelled back and jabbed his finger at her.

“That makes no goddamn sense, and I don’t have t’ listen to you, anyway!” Rokag said, and stormed out of the room. “I’m leaving and you can’t stop me!”

“You leave, and we’re disowning you! If you get yerself dismembered, don’t you dare assume you can come back home and rely on us!” Agrat said and followed her to the base of the stairs. “You—you get back here, an’ listen t’ what we’ve got t’ say!” Rokag ignored him and stomped up the staircase. Agrat glared and looked back at Finn, who sat with his mouth cupped in his hands. Rokag slammed her bedroom door. “Finn, back me up here! She can’t—she can’t jus’—!”

“Let it be,” Finn said without looking up. “We can talk about it later when everyone’s calm.” Agrat helplessly looked from him to the upstairs, and finally hung his head and covered his face with his hands. He took in a deep breath, sighed, and slumped down to the second stair. Finn moved to stand next to him with his hand on Agrat’s shoulder. He led him back to the living room. They sat together in silence a moment, Finn keeping one arm around Agrat’s back, and the other hand on his thigh. Finally, Agrat looked up at the other side of the room.

“She’s gonna throw her life away,” he whispered. “I don’t—I don’t want her to go through anythin’ like we went through.”

“I know,” Finn said softly.

“Nothin’ good comes outta wanderin’ and fightin’, Finn. Just scars, death, and sleepless nights,” Agrat continued, shaking his head.

“I know,” Finn said again.

“What is she thinking? Is she thinkin’ at all?” Agrat looked at him. Finn just sighed.

“Listen—let me speak to her,” he said. “I know she’s still your girl, and she’s still mine, too, but I think I can speak to her level a little better. Like she’s an equal, and not just our daughter.” Agrat looked over his face, and nodded once. He rubbed his forehead and sighed.

“You’re right,” he said and nodded. “Yeah, yer right. I do respect her… her independence, but I just don’t want t’ let her go. Not yet. Not ever, if I had it my way.”

“I understand,” Finn said. He looked at the floor. “She grew up far too fast.” Agrat nodded.

“It ain’t fair,” he said. “I jus’ wish she’d stayed little for a bit longer.” Finn led him upstairs to their bedroom. Agrat fretted for a while longer, and Finn did his best to comfort him without enabling his worries too much. He saw this day coming long before she actually grew up. Wanderlust, it seemed, could be inherited without even sharing the same blood. Once Agrat finally dozed off, Finn lied with his hands under his head and stared at the ceiling. He wondered about his upcoming chat with Rokag, and wondered just how much he was willing to share with her that he hadn’t yet divulged to Agrat.

A couple days passed before Rokag had any interest in speaking to either Finn or Agrat. Agrat tried to talk to her through generic conversations, but she ignored him completely. He regretted much of what he said during their argument, and tried to apologize, but she always left the room as soon as he brought it up. Finn simply waited for her to approach him first, and only spoke to her when he needed to.

One day he went into the woods with his longbow and took some far shots at the sandbag target several hundred feet away. Most of them hit, but a number missed completely or bounced off at an odd angle. While he tested himself to see if he couldn’t curve the arrow’s path a bit more, Rokag approached him with her face down. Finn glanced up at her and waved her over. She stood next to him and squinted to see the target in the distance.

“There’s a big tree right between you and the bag,” she said.

“Think I can hit it from here anyway?” he said. She shook her head.

“Of course not,” she said. Finn drew back his arrow and launched it. During the split second it flew through the air, its path curved just enough to get around the tree trunk. It continued and curved back before lodging itself into the sandbag, on one of the outer circles. Rokag blinked and Finn smiled to himself.

“First time I’ve done that,” he said. “Seems you’re a lucky witness.”

“How?” she said.

“I wanted it to go around the tree and hit the bag, so it did,” Finn said. “Same as how I always shoot.” He put his bow over his shoulder and started walking towards the target to clean up his arrows and see if any could be salvaged. Rokag followed him while they walked through the undergrowth and stones.

“So,” she said after a bit of awkward silence, “you know how our eyes are different from other people?” Finn looked over his shoulder at her.

“You mean because we can see in the dark?” he said. She nodded.

“Right, but we can’t see certain colors so well,” Rokag said.

“Sure,” he said.

“When you were… well, before you died, what did they look like?” she said. Finn paused and thought back. He remembered the first time he opened his new eyes. His first thought was how dull everything looked compared to before. At first, he’d wondered if he was in a different world, or if the land he awoke in was eons away from home, or if something went wrong. But no, anyone who could see in the dark also saw the world like this. At least he still remembered what red, purple, and orange actually looked like. He wondered how long it would take for him to forget, or if he ever would. Finn looked up at the sky and searched for words to describe them. He found none.

“Telling you what colors look like is like… trying to grasp fog,” he said. “You kind of have to see them for yourself.”

“Then, what was it like?” she said. “In general. Not just what they looked like.”

“More contrast,” Finn said. “The world was a lot brighter. Not just because of light and shadows, but… more vibrant.” He looked around and pointed to a plant with berries on it. “See those little berries? They look the same as the leaves, but they’re really a completely different color—red. They’re supposed to stand out, and you can discern them really easily.” Rokag stopped in front of the plant and plucked a berry from its twig. She brought it close to her face, and saw only the slightest hint of yellowy orange. She tossed it over her shoulder and kept following him.

“Do you miss them?” she said. “Colors, I mean.” Finn paused and shrugged.

“Sometimes,” he said. “My dreams still have colors, though, and I can see them again that way. At least I can still see my favorite color.”

“Green, right?” Rokag said.

“That’s right.”

They arrived at the sandbag target, and Finn pulled arrows from it. A few were stuck too deeply into the tree’s trunk to retrieve, so he left them. The others he inspected to see if they were worth keeping, or if their parts could be reused. While he picked some up and put them back in his quiver, he tossed others into a pile of broken ones.

“So when you died, what was that like?” Rokag said. Finn looked up. There it was.

“Painful,” he said. “Disorienting. Lonely, terrifying. I could go on. Agrat told me it was the same for him.” Rokag blinked.

“Papa’s died before, too?” she said. Finn nodded.

“You’ve seen that scar on his chest,” he said, and pointed to the spot over his heart to refer to it. “That was a killing blow.” She thought back to it and shivered.

“What… what did that?” she said. A great eye with a slit pupil blinked into Finn’s mind. It stared him down, and ten, smaller eyes appeared—one after the other—and did the same. As they inched closer to him, he felt smaller and smaller, weaker and weaker. Something like that, taking down Agrat with such ease… the weight of Agrat’s body when he lifted his corpse into their cart lingered on his shoulders. The lukewarm, rubbery feeling of Agrat’s skin once they returned to town tainted his hands. And the realization that things would never, ever be the same for either of them loomed in the back of his mind. The hair on Finn’s arms stood on end and his gut shivered.

“A monster,” he said, and left it at that. Rokag read his face clearly, and didn’t press him further about it.

“Something you encountered before you settled,” she said. He nodded. Finn sat beneath the tree and got to work removing arrowheads that still looked like they could be used. She joined him and drew in the dirt with a stick.

“Please understand that Agrat loves you dearly,” Finn said. “He didn’t mean anything insulting he said, and if anything ever happened to you, we’d both be happy t’ take care of you if you returned home.” Rokag nodded.

“I know,” she said.

“But you need to know how dangerous it is,” Finn said. “Nobody goes off on an adventure and comes back the same person—for better or for worse.” He made a grip with his left hand and the gauntlet clicked. “We both know you’re capable, and that you have a good head on your shoulders. But it won’t stop us from worrying.” Rokag looked at him.

“It’s not like I’ll do anything stupid,” she said. Finn rested his chin in his hand and did not say that he believed the same thing before he left home. “Besides, I need to go,” she continued.

“Why’s that?” Finn said. Rokag tore up some grass between her fingers and pulled her knees up.

“You rescued me when I was eleven,” she said. “My memories from before then are so… foggy. I don’t remember anything before then. And I really, really want to know more about where I came from.” Finn hung his head.

“I see,” he said.

“I still see you’n papa as my true parents,” she said quickly. “But I want to know about the orcs I came from. What were their lives like? What were their traditions? I need that… that history, dad.” He closed his eyes and nodded.

“I understand,” he said. “I grew up apart from the orc tribe I was related to—the Ironclad, from Ettinsmoor. But they’re gone now. I’ll never know what sort of lives they lived and it bothers me.” He leaned back against the tree and sighed through his nose. “I suppose I’d do the same if I was in your position, if I had the chance.” Rokag looked up through the tree branches. A leaf fluttered down and landed between her feet.

“I’ll be careful,” she said. Finn nodded.

“I know you will,” he said. “But I need to be very clear—putting yourself out there, putting yourself in danger, it has its costs. And your papa and I are both still paying for it.”

“I know, I know—” Rokag said dismissively, but he glared at her. She stopped speaking.

“Your papa pays for it in pain. That scar on his chest hurts the worst, of course, and a few others on his body never seem to go away. They even get worse with the years. But besides that, he never has good dreams anymore,” Finn said. He looked away and closed his eyes. “And I—I’ll pay for my actions as long as I live, if I’m to keep living.” Rokag raised an eyebrow at him.

“What do you mean?” she said. Finn’s throat tightened and he gripped a fistful of grass in his left hand.

“All you need to know is that there are some decisions that you can make, that you should never make,” he said. “I made a terrible, terrible mistake years ago. Rokag, I’m going to be very blunt, and please don’t misunderstand this as anything but concern and love for you. Gods forbid, but if you ever, ever die, sometimes it’s best to stay that way.”

She raised her eyebrows for a split second before frowning.

“I don’t understand,” she said. “Both you and Agrat came back.”

“Agrat will be fine,” Finn said and folded his hands. He fiddled with his fingers. “We brought him back in a way that wouldn’t have certain… costs. Me, I got impatient and greedy. And I will carry that debt forever.”

Rokag knew that was all he was going to say about it. The way he tapped his left fingers against his right hand, though—she knew it had something to do with that arm of his. Whatever it was, she could not imagine. She tightened her lips, looked away a moment, and looked at his face again.

“You—you and papa worked hard t’ move on from the past,” she said. “You… that secret is yours, and not mine to know.” He looked at her and nodded once.

“Thank you,” he said.

A lonesome bird chirped at them, as if to ask them why they looked so down. It cocked its head and fluttered away when neither responded.

“You know, I don’t know where t’ start,” Rokag said while she stared off at the sky. Finn looked up at her again.

“With what?” he said.

“With finding my heritage,” she said. “There are so many different orc tribes out there—how can I find the one I came from?”

“Right, and you were enslaved when I found you. Gods know how long they dragged you around, and from where,” Finn said and leaned back against the tree trunk with his arms crossed.

“Could they still be alive?” Rokag said. Finn clicked his tongue and laughed a little.

“Of course not,” he said and smirked. Thinking back on it, those were some of the most beautiful kills in his portfolio. Rokag wasn’t sure what to make of his proud expression, and just let it go.

“Then I guess I’ve got no leads,” she said. Finn stopped smirking. He rubbed his chin and thought about it. He gestured for her to lean over, and he sifted through her hair. On the left side of her head, Rokag had an old scar, as if someone gave her a solid thwack. He touched it with his fingertip and she rubbed it with her own.

“You’ve got a scar,” he said. “Maybe you lost your memories when you got injured there.”

“But it’s healed,” Rokag said.

“Sure, but you were a child. It was still probably traumatizing, and you might’ve repressed memories as a result,” Finn said. “It’s not much, but it’s a start. I lost memories about the orc tribe my ancestors were from, but getting this gauntlet brought them back. Sometimes you need wounds and scars to trigger the connections in your mind.” Rokag nodded and kept feeling the scar. She memorized its shape and size, tried to figure out what sort of weapon or object could have done it. “You should keep something in mind, though,” Finn continued.

“What’s that?”

“Will it be worth it?” Finn said. Rokag looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “I mean, you might figure out more about your parents and your tribe if you do this. But Rokag—I don’t know what you went through while you were enslaved, or how long you were like that, either. It’s not a happy life—Agrat can attest to that. You might remember… awful things, and everyone—everyone has things they want to forget.” He gave her a look bordering on grief. “Do you want to go through with that?”

Rokag hesitated and felt that familiar prickling at the back of her head. Like something knocking on a door without a handle. She considered it, and nodded.

“I feel incomplete sometimes,” she said. “I don’t remember anything about growing up. That’s… that’s a long time. That’s the majority of my life, dad. Even if there’s pain, it’ll make me stronger, right? And besides—there must be happy memories somewhere in here.” She tapped her head. “Getting those back will make it worth it.”

“Then I hope you succeed,” Finn said. They stood and made their way back home for the day.

By the time Rokag left home a month later, Agrat grew to accept that she was grown-up. As much as he resisted it, he knew that he couldn’t force her to stay. And he had to admit it—for Rokag to live here would be a waste of her abilities. He openly wept as Rokag rode away on her horse, Rupi, with a messenger raven sitting on her shoulder. Finn gave her as much advice and suggestions about traveling as she could tolerate, interrupting her frequently to ask if she did, indeed, remember her rations. Agrat gave her orders—“Don’t you ever jus’ stick yer nose in a cave, and if you have to, look up at th’ ceiling. You never know what manner of creatures live there. And fer every single god-damned gods’ sake, write us th’ minute you get to a tavern or somethin’!” She laughed, waved, and promised to visit when she could, and write as often as possible. It was a chilly morning, and she trotted off rapidly towards her first destination.

Finn and Agrat returned home when they could no longer see her. It was quiet, even with the calls of migrating birds flying overhead. Even with the cozy size of the house, everything felt a little larger, a little emptier. Their neighbors joked that they’d finally get some time to themselves—as crass as their comments were, Agrat and Finn both had to admit that they heard opportunity knocking—but more often than not, they found themselves missing their rather crowded situation. Now, their home was perfectly-sized for the two of them, and everything felt just slightly off.


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