June 3, 2020 Flashback

Seasons passed, days to months to a full year and father never returned to take him home. A year became two then four. While he had no longer any idea what month or day it was he was sure by now he was 10. The few scraps of clothing he had been wearing had long since been torn apart to be used to bundle his meager supplies in his little cave. The wilderness had slowly hardened him, he remembered how hard it had been to kill an animal to have food and fur the first few times. He looked at himself in the water of the stream, his face masked with dirt as bathing wasn’t something he did on a regular basis until spring came back around and the water wasn’t frozen over. He sliced at his hair, long handfuls drifting down into the slowly running water. He gingerly used the icy water to wash his face a little and stood up. Gathering a bundle of wolf and bear pelts, he strapped the heavy load onto his back…painful as it pressed into his wings. He knew there was a small village about a day away but he had never dared go near it as his only encounter with humans had ended with the hunters raining arrows and insults down upon him. But he needed things he could not make or fashion for himself…perhaps they might trade with him. He knew if he waited till spring this would be an easier journey, but the larger animals of the mountains had been growing scarce and he hoped the village would be in sore need of warm furs. As the walls of the village came into view, he drew his hood over his head to hide his horns and asked any merciful deity that would listen to help him. At the gates, he was halted by a man in leather and chain with a long wicked looking spear. “Halt there, boy, what business have you here?” Rhom bit his lip nervously trying to remember the common tongue. “Furs, sir.. I have furs to trade.” He looked down and away, hoping to hide that he wasn’t human. The guard stepped around him, casually inspecting the bundle. The fact the child had a tail and what looked like a massive set of bat like wings folded across his back did not seem to provoke a reaction. The guard came back around, “Look at me. Look up.” Rhom looked up, afraid he was about to be turned away. “The general store is in the town center, the sign outside looks like a trout leaping from the water. I’ve seen tieflings before so I know what you are, but many here have not. Do not cause any trouble, just do your business and be gone quickly.” Rhom nodded and thanked him, hurrying through the gates before the man changed his mind. Inside the town he moved quietly and did his best to not make eye contact with anyone. Reaching the shop, he stepped inside, grateful for the warmth of an iron stove radiating heat. The old man behind the counter looked at him with a puzzled look. “You don’t look like one of old Quinn’s boys. Who might you be?” Rhom unshouldered his load, “I am Rhom, sir. I live on the mountain to the west. Please, I have furs to trade if you’ll have them.” The man had Rhom hand over the bundle, “These are a little rough, I take it you’ve not had proper training in skinning?” Rhom shook his head. “And I also take it you’ve been using a rather dull blade as well?” He nodded affirmative. The old man taps his fingers on the counter. “We do need furs, the winter is harsh this year. What were you asking for them?” Rhom looked up a little, and rattled off a few small cheap items like a water skin, a whetstone, a decent backpack and one item slightly more expensive, namely a pair of boots. The old man smiled a nearly toothless grin, “Is that all you wanted for these? I feel I would be cheating you if that’s all I gave you for this. Let me see what I can do to make it a little more fair.” The man started to put items into a sturdy backpack, things the boy looked like he badly needed since it was quite apparent he was living alone…including a small wrapped bundle of candy. “This is a little more even I think. I can’t do the boots though, the cobbler across the square can. Take this to him, tell him you did a trade with me and I’ll be along before dusk to square up with him.” Rhom smiled, thanking the man multiple times before running out to see about getting some boots. The old man shook his head, “You were right, he seems like a good lad.” Another man stepped out of the back of the shop. There was very little about him that stood out except his eyes. They were such a deep blue that they bordered on purple. “He is. He has a hard life ahead of him and it means a lot to me that you showed him kindness.” The shopkeeper made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “Pssh, how long have you known me old man? You know I’d never turn away someone in need, especially not a kid. But what was that axe you wanted me to stick in there?” The other man watched the boy from the window, “It used to be mine…years and years ago. He’ll need it soon enough I fear.”