Journey's Own: Prologue
Long ago, there was a tribe of warrior tieflings called the Sun tribe. From the tribe came three fighters named Vengeance, Sorrow, and… well, the third fighter had yet to choose their name, so they were simply called Alone. One day these warriors set out on a mission to kill a crafty hag named Malice. Malice had cursed many of the Sun tribe, turning them all sickly. Vengeance’s own brother had died from this illness, causing them to change their name to Vengeance; It was a commitment to make the hag pay. Sorrow’s entire family, too, had passed as a result of the hag’s curse and had changed their name to Sorrow to reflect the pain they felt. Alone had always been without family and had not suffered in such a way from the hag’s curse, but they could feel the pain in their fellow fighters’ hearts. So when the day came, Alone accompanied Vengeance and Sorrow to aid them in their journey.
As they traveled through the mushroom forest, Alone asked of Vengeance, “My sword-sibling, why is it you’ve dedicated your life to killing this hag?” And Vengeance replied, “The fury in my heart will never be quelled until the hag lies dead. For stealing my brother from me, the hag must die and it must be by my hand!”
“But what will you do when Malice is dead? Surely her death will bring you peace.”
And to that, Vengeance had no answer but marched ahead with a sword tightly gripped in their hand.
Later on, they passed through a gloomy glowing grotto where rain fell from the water-moss on the cavern ceiling. Sorrow cried, being reminded of tears, so Alone asked, “My sword-sibling, why have you dedicated your life to the hurt inside your heart?” And Sorrow replied, “Sadness is all I know now and I am certain it is all I will ever know.”
“But what will you do when Malice is dead? Surely her death will bring you peace.”
And to that Sorrow had no answer, but pushed themself along with tears never ceasing.
At last they reached the lair of the hag. Her magic was strong, but the three fighters from the Sun tribe were a worthy match. As they fought, Alone asked of the hag, “Malice, enemy of my friends, why have you caused so much fury and sorrow? What joy could your curses possibly bring you?” Malice cackled and replied, “I am the last of the Moon tribe. The Sun tribe razed my village and killed all my friends and family long ago. I will never be satisfied until all of you lie dead!”
“But what will you do when all of us are dead? You will be alone and you will have no purpose!”
But Malice would never answer, for Vengeance slashed her head from her shoulders. The curse was lifted. Alone asked what they would do now. Vengeance replied, “Vengeance has left me empty. The fury in my heart has gone cold. My own tribe created Malice who killed my beloved brother. Now I must become Malice so that all know my pain. But because you have been there at my side, I will spare you both.”
To Alone’s query, Sorrow replied, “The hag’s death did not return my family to me. Though sorrow may live forever in my heart, I wish to preserve the lives of those I held dear. My name will become Memory, so that when all lie dead they may still live on through my recollection.”
As the two left behind their sword-sibling, Memory asked of Alone, “My friend, why did you commit yourself to loneliness when you stood beside your friends through their darkest hour?” And to this, Alone chuckled, saying, “I suppose I did not foresee that I would not always be as I was before. But now I see that loneliness is not all there is for me. Rather than Alone, I wish instead to be known as Friend. Maybe one day another purpose will find me, but I am certain that I no longer wish to be lonely.” And so, Friend and Memory left Malice behind and ventured out into a new world, never to return to the Sun tribe.
The golden light of sunset spilled onto the secluded mountainside campsite. Here, nestled between ancient stone, sparse pines, and mountain flowers was the temporary home of a small family of tieflings. Their small canvas tent was intended for one but housed three. A single dun dappled workhorse grazed in the flowery brush in search of clover. It was free for now of the rickety cart that carried the family and their belongings, the former of which was parked a short distance from the campfire. And it was here that ancient tales of the underground tieflings were being passed onto the next generation.
The dusky gray tiefling child beamed as their mother finished the story. Their sky-blue eyes, free of iris and pupil, sparkled with excitement as they hopped up from rocky ground and scrambled for a stick. Their short, coal-skinned mother watched with humor, saying, “One day, my little cave-star, you may find your own purpose and name, just like Friend.”
“I want to be a warrior like Vengeance--before they became Malice!”
“You could be a warrior without being called Vengeance, Tamashini,” ne chuckled.
“What happens when I take a new name, mama-ne? What happens to yours? I never want to be lost to family!”
“Come here, Tamashini.”
The small, gray child approached their mother with pale blue eyes full of curiosity. Mizuki took nir child into nir lap and stroked their messy white hair. “Finding a name is a wonderful moment in a tiefling’s life. In times before the Grand Migration, our people would celebrate the day we chose our name. Favorite foods would be prepared, songs would be sung in honor of the change, and everyone in the tribe would dance and sing! Family too. Letting go of your family’s name isn’t a sign of leaving your family, just an act of becoming your own person.”
“But I’m a person now!” Tamashini protested, pouting.
“Of course, little one,” Mama-ne smiled. “You have a long time to think about it and if you never want to change your name from Tenacity, that’s okay too. But me and mama-she will always be beside you no matter what.”
“Or you could just do what I did!” called a husky third voice.
From the creek came a larger rust-colored tiefling named Seiko. Cast over her shoulder was a net containing a sizeable fish. Seiko rummaged through her things to begin preparing dinner and continued: “Marry a beautiful woman and take up nir surname.” Seiko grinned as she sat down across the fire from her wife and child.
“Mama-she!” Tamashini called, leaving mama-ne’s embrace to watch the fish gutting. “What was your name before?”
“Axerust,” she said, laughing as her child wrinkled their nose. “Don’t look at me like that! My family weren’t traditional tieflings like mama-ne’s. We’ve been on the surface for generations, so it's been a looooong time since we were connected with the old way.”
Tamashini frowned with disappointment before slumping down onto their rear and dragging their finger through the warm, ashy dirt near the fire. Mama-she's way of speaking the tiefling language was notably different from mama-ne's. Seiko, mama-she, spoke the language sloppily and slowly, sometimes mixing up her words or forgetting them completely. Mizuki, mama-ne, spoke nir native language like a clear flowing stream. However, when it came to the commonly spoken surface language of Exius, the roles reversed.
"Is that why you and mama-ne talk so different?" Tamashini asked.
"Mm-hm," mama-she nodded. "Mama-ne knows a lot about how ancient tieflings were. Ne taught me a lot about my own people that I never knew before!"
"When we find home, will I have more tieflings to play with?"
"Maybe!" Mama-ne said hopefully, glancing over at nir rusty-colored wife.
"Maybe," Mama-she stated in a more diplomatic tone. "There's likely to be a lot of dwarves and some humans. Our kind aren't quite as numerous in Ustil… or the other countries."
"Then…" Tamashini thought hard before standing up straight and beaming. "Then I'll teach them about the old way!"
Seiko opened her mouth to lower her child’s expectations, but Tamashini had bolted off before she could say anything. The six-year-old found a sizable stick and began swinging it around like a sword at the grass that nearly concealed them. Mizuki quietly scooted over to nir wife’s side and put a pitch-black hand on her back.
“What is wrong?” ne asked in a thick accent.
“I’m afraid of how other kids’ll treat them,” she said quietly, nodding nervously to their oblivious child.
“Tamashini will surprise you. They are strong.”
“It’s foolish to think they’re going to be accepted without question.”
“They will adapt.”
Seiko looked pleadingly at her wife, but said no more. There was no point debating it further. Seiko shared her wife’s confidence in their child’s ability to adapt, but nothing could quell the uneasiness she felt when she imagined the first time Tamashini would recognize they were being treated differently by their peers. It was one thing to be an elf or a human amongst dwarves, but a tiefling? All a human or elf had to worry about was their height, ears, and potential lack of facial hair making them stand out. Tieflings were demonic in appearance--horns, pointed ears and pointier canines, glowing eyes, tails, and exaggerated skin colors. Seiko knew all too well the jests and jeers a tiefling child would endure when growing up around the different races.
Seeing nir wife’s expression, Mizuki offered to finish preparing the dinner. Seiko accepted and handed off the messy knife and cutting board before rinsing her slimy hands in a bucket of mountain creek water. For a few moments she watched Tamashini burn off their energy by swinging around their wooden “sword”, making sure they didn’t get too feisty and risk hitting Yeffir, their loyal horse. But, of course, Tamashini knew better and dubbed Yeffir “Friend” rather than “Malice”.
Seiko paced away from their small campsite and to the edge of their mountainside perch. Looking straight out, to the south, just above the numerous lines of mountaintops was the sprawling green land of the country Viridi. She gazed longingly at it, wishing her past could allow them to reside in that emerald sea of grass. Even if not for the forces that pushed them to flee in the first place, traveling south would have meant climbing up and down several mountain ranges; it was far more treacherous and time-consuming than traversing along one single range. Still, the sight of infinite gold-green hills and valleys filled Seiko with a pining sigh.
The setting sun to the west cast their destination in light and shrouded where they’d come from in shadow. In the darkening east was Caelium, or most of Caelium at least; There was still a little ways left before they crossed its border. Caelium was mostly cold, unforgiving mountains, save for rare small, flowery oases like these. The mountains to the east were far crueler and awesome. To the west, the range continued to make a jagged but gradual descent until finally melding in with the hazy green landscape of the country called Ustil.
Though the fading glow of the sunset to the west offered less and less insight into the features of the neighboring country, Seiko had studied the map enough times by now to know of the crevice of fire that they would eventually have to pass: the border between the ever-warring nations. It would be dangerous, but not impossible. Beyond that checkpoint were hot and humid lands that were sure to shock their senses. Caelium had not braced them for such heat, even if their flesh was adapted to endure it. Even further west were more mountains, but not the snow-capped mounds of shaggy, sharp rock they were familiar with; Ustil’s mountains were green and rumored to stick out of the ground like towering warpicks. No treacherous paths to brave like those in the Stormspine Mountains, only impossibly long and narrow bridges over the gaps between them.
Still, despite the intimidating landscapes they had yet to journey through, what Seiko feared most was the home that awaited them. Whichever village or remote farmland they eventually settled in, they would be foreigners in a proud nation of dwarves. Mizuki may have believed that what awaited them in this new land could never compare to the hardships they’d already endured, but Seiko knew all hardships were not created equal and this time they had a child in their midst who was blissfully unaware of any. On their own, Seiko and Mizuki could survive, but with a child and a dream of settling down… they needed better than survival.
Journey's Own: Chapter 1
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Here’s the beginning of a new short (hopefully) series taking place in a fantasy setting I originally created for D&D. The world as it’s known is called Exius and hopefully I can flesh out a small bit of the world through this story. I’ll give a little extra context here, but I’ll hopefully alleviate any potential confusion about the lore through future chapters.
This story focuses on a small family of tieflings. Two mothers, Seiko Tenacity a.k.a. Mama-she (she/her/hers) and Mizuki Tenacity a.k.a. Mama-ne (ne/nem/nir and she/her/hers), and their child Tamashini Tenacity (they/them/theirs). Neo-pronouns and less strictly binary characters are going to be recurring in this story, so I’ll include character pronouns in the descriptions of future chapters to help with the reading.
All that said, if you’ve read all this, thanks! I’m not sure how often I’ll update this story, but I will.
So, yeah, hey everyone. Long time no post lol. Hope y'all are well.