Dad’s Nice Lantern

“Atta nice lantern you got there.”

An elderly woman looked up from her snail-slow crawl to wherever it was she needed to be. Her eyes narrowed, looking the speaker up and down. At first glance, he was some urchin. A half-elf boy whose skin would probably still be kissed brown as dirt without a wink of sun. He didn’t look like much, and people who didn’t look like much usually didn’t take much off the table to get a little more.

“How much fer it?” he drawled.

“Take it,” the elderly woman bit out, shoving it toward him. “Just… take it and go.”

The half-elf grasped her shaking, withered hand as it tried to hoist the lantern into his. He reached to his belt, undoing his coin purse with his free hand.

“Then here.” He took the lantern, and pressed the coin purse to her hand.

It was a fair amount of mixed coins, totaling in the hundreds… as well as a can of sardines. His ‘earnings’ for the day.

It was a simple, humble lantern: the kind provisioners’ shops just kept hanging around ‘til they crumbled into rust.


He had grown up with his mother, though the process was slow. While she watched her friends’ full-blooded human children grow like weeds… Brevardo stumbled, crawled, gurgled and cried at a longer rate than his peers.

“Rudi,” his mother’s friends would say, usually accompanied by a hand on the hip or adjusting of spectacles, “is yer son okay? He’s still crawlin’,” or “he’s so small,” or “what a daft kid!”

Slow though it was, Brevardo grew up as fast as he could.

Granted, he was still egging the guard towers well into his twenties.

There was one question his mother was certain he’d never grow out of: who his father was.

“One a the Mages on that, uh, council,” she’d say one night. “You know the one.

“Musta been that dashin’ head paladin back in Trinsic,” she’d say another one, and then make a face. “Yeaaah… Trinsic.

“Ya know that duke of… uh, ya know. Ya know?”

Some of the men she mentioned weren’t even elven.

Her love life did not seem nearly as extensive as her tales seemed to suggest. There had been two different men of hers in his life growing up: the first, an older cattle herder who seemed nice enough to an eight year old half-elf. At least he did until it turned out he had a “real” family, which upon its discovery caused great grief for his mother. Mostly what he remembered about him was that he smelled bad and couldn’t eat solids. The second, an angry (but unmarried) man of the market who lavished his mother with the ends she struggled to meet.

She came home with a swollen, bruised cheek one summer night, trying to cover it with her hand to no avail.

“Sure, he ain’t the nicest man,” she said. “But I can make it with him.”

That was when Brevardo started stealing.

On the day before his fifteenth birthday, he noticed a high elf at the market. He had pale blond hair and eyes of amethyst, and was surrounded by magic baubles. When Brevardo looked at him, the elf stared back. Come to think of it, he’d done that before: he saw that elf every now and then at the market, usually in the spring.

That night, he would see a light hovering at his window.

It was a beautiful lantern with an unusual glow to it, wires forming stars in the shadows it tossed aside. It was the kind of bauble that could easily catch a thousand gold at the market. Whoever had crafted it was a person of great accomplishment – and a person of greater means.

Such as… a traveling elven merchant who happened to be in town.

Fifteen torturous years of wondering who his father was, whether he was alive, and if he meant anything to him. After all this time, he’d been there all along. He’d been there all along, paying him but a passing glance. It was as though he were a monster at the zoo that failed to catch his attention.

Brevardo took the floating lantern gingerly into his hands, tracing fingers over the fine, silver-woven craftmanship. He leaned out the window to see if his father was still there. Not a sign of him: he must have gotten a running start with that magic of his.

He rifled through his mother’s rickety tool shelf that morning, finding the hammer she used to try and patch up their ever-leaky roof. His feet seemed to do the thinking for him, carrying him to the inn before he realized what he’d already decided to do.

When he asked the innkeeper about a blond high elf artificer, shame flooded him. Instantly, realization had dawned on the stranger’s face. Perhaps he wasn’t the first result of a dalliance. Perhaps there were hundreds of starving kids through the ages thanks to this rich bastard!

He knocked on the elf’s door, to which a bleary voice responded:

“Who is it?”

“Your son,” he deadpanned, young voice cracking despite his calmness.

There was silence, and then the slow trudge of a man dressing. He opened the door, and Brevardo barged in past him.

On the nightstand, he placed his father’s belated present.

“Did you like the-…” his father started, surprisingly alert for having just woken. His eyes widened as Brevardo’s hammer crashed down.

“The… the present?”

His father stood there, stunned, as Brevardo smashed the lantern down to the most compact shape he could manage. He resorted to jumping on it once he’d done what he could with the hammer.

“Better luck next bastard, Pops.”

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