For the fifth time that night, Vaarsuvius woke up to the voice of one of her children. Admittedly, it was the first time her daughter had awoken her, but still.
"Tiasal? It's three in the morning."
The elf sat up, pinching the bridge of her nose to alleviate the roaring headache that was beginning in her temples. Tiasal stood timidly next to the bed, hugging her stitched-up doll to her chest. It was dark, but it was easy for one with low light vision to see how nervous the little girl seemed, though that wasn't unusual. It hadn't escaped Vaarsuvius's notice that her daughter was usually much more at ease with her husband—a fact that stung sometimes, but she wasn't sure how to go about fixing it.
"…Sorry to wake you up, Mommy."
"Do not apologize. Simply tell me why."
It didn't occur to Vaarsuvius how clinically detached she sounded, but it did to Tiasal. Luckily, the little girl knew enough about her mother to tell that she didn't mean to be brusque.
"I…" She fiddled with the arm of her doll. "I had a nightmare. Or… trance. Trance memory, I think. It scared me."
"You are too old to run to your parents after nightmares." The elf raised a disapproving eyebrow, crossing her arms. She didn't really hold it against the girl—she knew how bad those memories could be sometimes—but she had to be taught to deal with her emotions without the support of her parents. Redcloak coddled her in that regard.
"Sorry, Mommy." Tiasal winced, shuffling backwards. "I'll go back to bed."
"Come now. I am already awake and your father is in Gobbotopia. There is room in the bed."
Well, Vaarsuvius had to admit that she caved into the temptation to spoil the child too.
Tiasal's ears perked tentatively, then she crept to the bed, crawling on top and snuggling against her mother after a moment's hesitation. Vaarsuvius softened, though she didn't allow the child to see it. Perhaps she was too hard on her sometimes. Gods knew that the girl would face enough pain as she grew. The mage wasn't deaf to the sneers of the people outside of their safe haven—the howls that she had married an animal and her daughter was a freak of nature, the vicious barbs calling Tiasal worthless and disgusting—but she couldn't see what they saw in her child. Every time she looked at those sparkling violet eyes, she felt that soft green skin under her hand, she saw one of the most beautiful creatures she had ever encountered.
She would be the first to admit that she had difficulty with affection and intimacy with her children, but by the elven gods, she would fight to the death to protect them.
She didn't see a need to point that out, however. No need to coddle the kids any more than Redcloak, Inkyrius, and the Order already did.
"What was the nightmare about? They usually are not nearly as frightening as they feel in the moment."
There was silence, and for a second, Vaarsuvius thought that the girl wouldn't answer.
"How does sex feel, Mommy?"
Vaarsuvius's eyebrows shot up.
"You told me the biological facts. Not the emotional ones."
The wizard silently swore to kill her husband when he came back home.
"It…" Vaarsuvius paused again, struggling to figure out how to phrase it while her daughter sat patiently, waiting for an answer. The elf briefly entertained the idea of evading the question long enough for Tiasal to fall asleep—it was much too late (early?) to be dealing with this—but she tossed the concept fast. If she knew anything about her daughter, it was that withholding information was the surest way to alienate her.
"…It depends on one's partner. It usually feels… pleasant." Vaarsuvius cleared her throat, trying to regain her composure. "What brought this on?"
"Why are you embarrassed?"
"It's a very… how should I put it?… It is a very personal and intimate topic."
Tiasal tucked her knees under her chin, cocking her head. "Was it wrong to ask you?"
"No, of course not." Vaarsuvius ran a hand through her hair, averting her eyes. "You are a growing young adult and you are curious. If anything, I would rather you ask your father and I about these sorts of matters than anyone else." I'd much prefer you to ask your father, but this works too… "It's important that you find out before you have to."
"I already had to, Mommy."
The elf froze, blood draining from her face.
"The powdery white stuff on my skin and clothes, the soreness, the saltiness… the cleric did things to me, didn't he?"
"…" Vaarsuvius reached out and wrapped her arms around the girl, pulling her close. "Sweet, is that what your nightmare was about?"
Tiasal shrugged, resting her head on her mother's bosom and staring at the wall. "I don't know. It was really fuzzy. It felt like I was on a cloud…"
She scratched the inside of her arm, unconsciously bringing attention to the dark scars peppering it.
"I just know that he did something. That was why you and Daddy never wanted him near me, wasn't it? Why so many girls were pregnant and all the kids were scared…"
Vaarsuvius tightened her grip, kissing the girl's hairline. "I do not know what he did, my darling. I only know what he wanted to do. Your father and I did our best to make sure you were safe, but it may not have been enough…"
Tiasal rested her ear against her mother's breast, listening to her heartbeat. "Does this mean that I can't have sex right when I'm older?"
The elf immediately started shaking her head. "No, Sweet. A bad first experience doesn't have to be debilitating." Vaarsuvius paused, something dark passing over her expression.
After a moment of silence, Tiasal looked up at her curiously.
"I… I had an… unpleasant initial experience myself. You do not forget it, but you can move past it."
"Unpleasant?" Tiasal's ears twitched in wonder. "But you and Daddy are so happy together."
"It took a long time for me to finally put it to rest. Your father helped me more than he knows." Vaarsuvius ran her fingers through the child's hair, the pain of the topic registering in her gestures, but she refused to allow her own discomfort to stop her from easing her daughter's. "It was difficult, Beloved, as it will be for you, but I learned something very important from the experience."
She cupped the girl's chin and tilted her head up so that their eyes met, the burning love and passion in her gaze holding her child with unwavering courage and warmth.
"I learned that one should take nothing but pride in the fact that it happened."
Confusion registered on the girl's face.
"We have survived and moved on with life. Those who have harmed us haven't been able to turn us into victims, even after they did things that can destroy people. Just because he preyed on you when you were vulnerable does not give you reason to be ashamed; you have only proven that you are strong, my dear."
The intensity of her eyes was so forceful that it felt like Tiasal was facing a wildfire deep in the woods, the heat searing her but impressing its awe-inspiring power on all who watched like a stamp on wax seals, but instead of fear, she felt a rush in her head and the start of her own fire in her chest at the sight.
The spell broke and Tiasal snapped back to reality, the fervor in her mother's eyes receding again until it was a gentle, nurturing love that she rarely allowed her children to see.
Vaarsuvius kissed the girl's cheek, resting their foreheads together so their noses rubbed gently.
"I know that does not negate the magnitude of your experience. Speak with me anytime you need to, regardless of night, day, or what I am doing. You do not have to be alone."
Tiasal nodded, wiping her eyes, and smiled.
"Thanks. I love you, Mommy."
"And I love you."
Vaarsuvius pulled a blanket over them and lay down on the bed, cradling her daughter close to her bosom. "Sleep, my darling. I will keep the monsters away."
Tiasal smiled, yawning softly, and nuzzled her mother's chest. She fell asleep soon after.
There were no nightmares.
A/N: I tried to be careful about this story because, however deceptively simple it is to write out trauma being sustained, it's a thousand times more difficult to pay proper respect to the effect it has on people, and as an author who uses some of the worst things one person can do to another as plot points and character development, it's my responsibility to write it in a way that still treats these things as they are: atrocities of grave seriousness that happen to more people than we want to think about, more frequently than we want to admit to. If I don't put in the effort to be sensitive to this, then I am doing nothing but exploiting the darkest part of human pain and depravity on a public forum were hundreds of victims can see and be sickened by it. So yeah. I did my best to put in the research and thought it all deserves. I could have probably made that speech a lot more brief, but meh. I'm verbose. :P I hope you enjoyed it.