For the bingo challenge at the myrrh tree forums. The prompt was 'scars'. I went all out with the tittle, too.
A bit of a follow up for my other fic, Letters. It's not necessary to read that beforehand, however; I tried my best to make it stand alone.
"And this one?" The little girl poked the corner of his lip, a curious smile on her face as she inquired about her father's scar.
"That," Thomas said, grabbing his five-years-old daughter's hand and pulling her close to then lift her up. "Was the giant crab in River Belle. It was the first year of my journey. I'd barely even left Tipa, and…"
As they made their way back from up the river to their home on that warm summer day, he told her about the mighty swing of a pincer that'd made his shield bounce and hit him in the face, leaving the mark he still had to this day. It was dubious she understood much of it, but he sure made it sound like an adventure.
And the truth was: it had been. It did not matter how vividly he remembered the pain of the hit and the fright he had felt as he crawled away from the Giant Crab, trying to fight off the disorientation that could mean his death; standing up, gripping sword and shield, dodging and then lunging forward. Because he also remembered sitting at the edge of the waterfall's pond, trembling all over and taking short breaths through the pain on his chest and with a smile on his bleeding lips that went from ear to ear.
He had just won his first fight, on his own. His moogle companion stared, a little worried, as Thomas laughed in the exhilaration of knowing he could survive.
Of course he didn't tell Deirdre all that. It was too complicated, and with miasma gone, it belonged to a world that she would never have to know. But she was enthralled nonetheless. "Awesome," she whispered, looking up at him with wide eyes.
This was all a story to her, of monsters and heroes she could only imagine. The hero was himself, and that was a strange thought. That there was someone who was amazed by him, not only because of his stories but because he was her father— for a small child, one amazing thing on top of another. It was something he would have to live up to. But he felt that as long as she looked up at him with such pride, he would not falter.
"And this one?" She asked again, hungry for more stories.
Oftentimes, he wondered.
About what would become of her. Even though there was no more need for caravanners, people still took sword and shield to explore. The age of adventuring, some said. Deirdre, too, had grown surrounded by talk of weapons and spells, and her eagerness for them was telling. She looked eagerly over the bridge of Tipa to the land on the other side, the same way he had done long ago, though the only thing stopping her was her youth. When he had sat at that bridge, looking at that road, he had decided to become a caravanner to be able to explore it. If she decided to take off and run down that same road without much a glance back, he wouldn't be surprised.
But he also wondered about how much to tell her about the past. After all, he had been the one who ended it.
Another strange thought. It was the heaviest memory he carried, and no matter how much time passed, or how much he tried to unload it, compartmentalize it in written words, the weight never shifted. Only a few people knew about what he'd done, whom he'd fought. Even the Selkie man who he had allowed to write the tale down, while content enough to take every little detail of the story and all the other ones that intertwined with it, had developed deep shadows under his eyes as evidence of how tiring it was to write the whole tale.
Originally he had thought it'd be easy not to tell his daughter, but the weight had settled. It was a part of him, part of that world she admired from afar. So, he wondered, because not telling her meant distance between them.
Another summer, seven years later, by the sea as the family of three waited for a ship to arrive.
The scar on his back was the one that scared her the most. Or the only one that did, he wasn't quite sure. That particular scar was the only one that managed to diminish her enthusiasm, make her ask in a serious voice not for a story, but advice.
As they sat on the edge of the water, the waves washing on their feet, Deirdre poked at the taut skin between his shoulder and flank, a serious expression on her face. He and his wife exchanged a knowing look.
She seemed to be set on becoming a treasure hunter, so there was not much they could do but prepare her the best they could. The scars, the stories, kept her grounded to the reality of what traveling was, and through them she knew it was not a game. Though they'd never let her go at the age Caravanners usually had; 14 years felt too young when there was no rush anymore.
"Never underestimate a monster," He reminded the girl.
"Yeah, I know," she said. "Tell me about this one again?"
Sighing, he complied. "It was one of my last years of caravanning, and the very last drop of myrrh I needed to collect before coming back home. I'd decided, I'd go to the desert." He paused then, and those pauses always seemed to make her wonder. There was a lot he had to leave out of the story; in the tilt of her head and the glimmer in her eyes, she noticed.
The facts were: he had been following an old legend and some lies about a fifth element hidden in the desert. What drove him was the exhilaration—that vice grip on a heart that was beating twice as fast—of the possibility of finding a clue to the answer of what miasma was, and maybe even getting rid of it.
After a long day in which he managed to wake some ancient magic all throughout the desert, he had found it.
But what remained was: "I reached the Antlion's pit without much incident. In fact, I was well rested. I guess I was over-eager, thinking that, one last fight and I'd be able to…" Do something about the world, solve an ancient mystery. End the cycle. "Go home. So the fight starts…"
This time she understood much more about what the story entailed, but every ex-caravanner who had become a parent had come to realize that the curiosity their stories sparked in their children was different from what they might have felt if they'd lived those times.
"I don't use the word caravanning as much. It's become 'travels', now." Sol Ratch had said to Thomas once, bewilderment on his voice. His son had been born three years before the end of the era of miasma, and Sol Ratch had not been absent from his life a single moment. The stalwart leader of the Alfitaria Caravan had barely hesitated to retire in order to be with his son, and now he found himself changing details of his life in order to better communicate with him.
Caravanning was a loaded word. Traveling sent the message across, but it couldn't convey what it had really meant. And that…was ok. Sol didn't mind. He spoke of the great tradition of Liltian warriors, and the camaraderie and the perils of the road, but he had found, he confessed, that leaving out the burden of guarding other people's life was alright. Why would the world have changed if he was going to worry his son with the past?
Although they had remained friends through their caravanning years, Sol Ratch and Thomas had disagreed on a lot. Sol's words calmed him and worried him at the same time. Of course Sol was right; Thomas did not want to burden his own daughter with things from the past- but not understanding what caravanning had been? When it had meant everything (for him, for everyone else) for centuries? Those were worries he had thought he had let go years ago, and they reminded him how human and inconsistent he could be.
"So ice burns…" Deirdre contemplated as she looked at the bandage covering her hand. An ice spell had gone wrong during practice. The pain had been more immediate than what normal frost burn could do, quickly grabbing at her skin and sinking deep down to the bone. It had completely paralyzed her arm movements.
Now she had been healed and taken a rest, but she still seemed to be a little shaken. She looked over to her father, sitting at the kitchen table a ways from her. He nodded shortly at her comment.
He supposed –but hoped it wasn't– that her anxiety was due to the ever-present memory of the scars he had on his legs. Deirdre was not usually distressed about practice gone wrong, and at age 15 she had already accompanied him or others out in small expeditions, but he guessed that only now she thought she understood the gravity of those scars.
She now knew it was not a normal ice spell what did it. The dark swirl and blotches on his skin would not have lasted so long and so clear if it had been a Blizzard or Blizzara. Perhaps a Blizzaga, but the logistics were off. And she had never gotten a satisfying answer from him.
He didn't intend to give her one. "It was just a monster, I don't even remember which," he would say, and try to smile reassuringly but it was painfully obvious it was a lie. It wasn't a stretch to think that if he usually remembered the stories each scar represented, there was no reason for him to forget what had inflicted such a big mark on him. But the first time she had asked—truly asked, at an age in which it wasn't childish curiosity what prompted her, he had decided…he would not tell her anything.
That scar had come from a fight he could never describe and that she would never experience, a once-in-many lifetimes thing that only he had lived to remember. A fight against a demon that took place in the realm of memories and beyond.
He was her father; she was meant to trust him, so how could he make her understand? And he would have to, he absolutely had to if he ever tried to tell her because he could not just dump something like it on her and not haver it feel true. It would sound like a prank, mean-spirited and unnecessary. Upholding that trust, which he had felt he must since she was so little, was more important than the gap that secrets created. He hoped it was not that large a distance—miasma did not weight on her the same way it weighed on everyone else.
The circumstances of her departure were slightly different from the send-off they had expected, but it had its advantages. There was safety in numbers, after all; Thomas just wished it was a regular partnership, not marriage.
Deh Tiy was a good kid. The younger brother of his Selkie friend, he and Deirdre had known each other since little, and despite the slight age difference had stayed friends for long. In a way—in the basic recklessness of their personalities, in their easiness around each other—it was to be expected. They had talked for a long time about partnering up and becoming treasure hunters together. And really, he was a level-headed, honest guy. Thomas still wanted to wring his neck sometimes, just on principle.
He'd never really been able to say no to his daughter, and his wife, who got the situation much better than him (to be expected; there was a closeness between her and her daughter that for many reasons he'd never had) was more than ok with it. She reassured him it would be fine. What could they do? Not let go? No matter how much doubt he still managed to have despite everything, at the very least he held fast to his original resolution: let the past be the past, and let Deirdre and the rest make the best of what they inherited.
I hope you like the world you were born into, he had told his daughter the day she was born, for once being selfish in regard to his past deeds. He did not think they entitled him to anything, that at any poing the world had been his to shape—but it could be hers. Thinking it that way he made peace with her departure.
Still, shortly before it, he took the boy aside, and gripping him by the shoulder he looked him in the eye and said, "Don't you ever hurt her, because I will hurt you back. And believe me when I say, I've done much worse for far less."
I've wanted to write this for a while now, though I'm still not sure if it's unnecessarily self-indulgent of me. tbh I'm a bit conflicted about it, but it sort of hit me that I won't know what people think of it if I don't post it. So lay it on me.
There'll be another chapter, following the same theme but from a different perspective.