The Tiefling’s Tail


"Sixty years ago, my sister’s house burnt down! Sixty years ago they chased our family out of town with torches and swords! Sixty years ago our family was virtually destroyed! It was then my husband brought us here to raise our family in safety and anonymity. Now, my own granddaughter repeats the sins of her ancestors! How could you, Carmella?"

The girl just stood there, before her grandmother and mother, her hands laying protectively over her barely rounded stomach. She was ashamed, tears flowing down her blushing cheeks, red hair covering her swollen eyes. She remained silent. What could she say?

"Why won’t you tell us who the father is?"

She simply shook her head, refusing.

"Well, you can stay here until this bastard is born. Then we shall see."

Nine months later.

"No!" She screamed, clutching her newborn infant to her breast, backing away weakly from the birth-bed.

"We must kill it! Do you think we took on the virtues to allow this to happen again?" Her mother screamed at her, trying to force the child from her arms, almost knocking her over as the blood flowed from her abused region. Her grandfather stood behind her mother, the knife in his hand shining with a bloody glow from the lamps.

"No! You will not take her from me! She’s mine! I don’t care!"

"Look at that tail! Look at those teeth! Look at those ears! She can’t live!"

"No! You won’t take her!"

Her grandfather pushed her mother aside as the girl continued to back around the bed, making her way towards the door, "Child, it’s the best thing for this abomination, and for our family. You must see this!"

"No!" She screamed again, as the newborn infant wailed. Quickly she grabbed a blanket and flung it about her shoulders, dodging out the doorway and down the stairwell, followed by her family. She darted out into the darkness of the night, and the last thing she saw of them was the shadowed forms in the doorway.

"Don’t you ever return! You are dead to us!"

The infant continued wailing as she ran, barefoot, in her bloody birthing gown, down the cobbled stones and out towards the furthest end of town, into the moonlit forest.

Three years later.

It was a hovel. A small, one room shack with a broken hearth that she had found deep within the woods. A hunter’s abandoned lodge. She had fled through a moongate to a new land. No one would find her here. She was dead to them. As she watched her daughter playing innocently at the creek as she washed the child’s clothing, she didn’t regret her decision. Who would want to kill such a precious child? Astra’s small tail had grown out, and her pointed ears betrayed the blood of demons. She turned her golden eyes to her mother and smiled, sharp baby teeth glistening white.

Her mother gathered the wrung out clothing into her arms. "Time to put these up to dry, Astra," she informed her. The child stood, naked, and dropped the frog carefully back into the water. It swam off from her sharp little claws. Her mother smiled, thinking how gentle her daughter was, even at this age, when most children were busy terrorizing their parents and siblings, and anything else that got in their way. Astra never threw tantrums. She trotted behind her mother towards the ropes tied into the trees.

Carmella dropped the clothing into a basket, then began lifting piece by piece of the stolen wares, and flung them softly over the line. She’d have to go out, soon, and procure more bread. Her garden was doing well, and the traps she had set for small animals would be filled by the time she returned from town. "Astra, you’re going to have to stay here while Mommy goes out for a bit. Remember what I said, no leaving the house!"

It would be hard for the child to leave the house, she knew. She would lock the door carefully behind her, and leave their boar hounds on guard, inside and out. The dogs would keep Astra company for the three hours she would be gone. Perhaps she was even tired enough for a nap, Carmella mused.

Four years later.

"You have to be cautious with me, when we go in. Keep your hair covered, and mind your skirts! Here, let me help you with your gloves," Carmella fussed over the growing child, who rolled her eyes as she replied, "Yes, mother!"

They were heading into town. Astra knew what that meant. While her mother worked in the tavern, she would be free to run amok on the docks. "Don’t let any one come near you! You run if they do!" Carmella continued the same warning she had, every dark morning when they awoke for the hour long trek to the seaside village. "You hide as quickly as you can! There are bad people out there, Astra, who would do bad things to you. They would kill you." Carmella continued the comment in her head; They would kill me.

"But why do they want to kill us, Mommy? I don’t understand…" The seven year old child frowned.

Her mother knelt before her, taking one of her hands and working the glove on it, "Because you are different. Because they are not capable of seeing the lovely girl before me. Because in their blind beliefs, they hate everything that is different from them."

"But you’re not different from them, Mommy…"

Carmella shook her head sadly, "Yes, I am."

Five years later.

Astra had nabbed the bread and apples lithely from the market stall, and sneaked off into the shadows. There were so many people around, this early in the morning, that no one noticed one wayward waif. She was good at hiding. She was good at walking in the forest and even the animals wouldn’t hear her footfall. She tucked the small bag of stolen articles away, and adjusted the cowl around her face. Her tail tried to sneak out of her skirts, but she quickly pulled it back in, again. Then she dodged towards the ally behind where her mother worked. There, she settled herself into a large wooden crate, hidden from both the sun and the view of others, but still able to hear the water thrashing softly at the piers. The bread and apples had joined the dried fish that she had wrapped in an oily cloth. It would be a good lunch, and even dinner. Her mother would be proud of her.

She thought about the things her mother told her at the fire in the evenings. Virtues, whatever they were, were what others believed in. They made you ignorant, and blind. They made you violent and hurt people. She bit into one of the apples and smiled at the sweetness. As she chewed the meat of the fruit, she heard a sound. She froze, listening, her pointed ears sensitive to the least noise about. She heard snuffling and relaxed; just one of the rogue dogs that ran about the town, much like she did, looking for scraps. She peeked out of the safety of the crate to see. She liked the dogs. She liked animals better than humans. At twelve years old she was quite aware she wasn’t human, at least not much. She surely had nothing in common with them. Perhaps she was part animal…

As her face rounded the edge of the box, a hand came down upon the back of her neck and pulled her up, screaming at the top of her lungs. "Look what we got here, boys!" A voice exclaimed, as the girl fought and kicked, looking about into the faces of a small group of swarthy men. "It’s a toy!" One of them exclaimed, "Let’s play with it! See what it does!"

Terror flew through Astra’s heart, as she continued crying out, and suddenly there was a knife at her throat. "Now then, lassy, you’d best quit fighting, it’s for the best of all of us, you know." The smell of sour whiskey and fetid sweat assaulted her nostrils, but her fear was stronger. She let out one more blood curdling wail as she heard more footsteps racing along the alley.

As she screamed, something happened. It was as if someone had opened up a blocked dam inside of her, and she felt as if she would burst from the release. Now, the men around her were screaming, instead, and she found herself suddenly on the ground. Her tail hurt from the fall, and her hood fell back, revealing the small nubs of horns which had begun recently to emerge above her forehead, through her hair. Now the men were fleeing, some of them with their cloaks and coat-tails aflame. One of them had knocked himself out on the wall on the other side of the path, and was being consumed by the sudden fire that had ripped through the alleyway, catching everything it could consume aflame. People were yelling, and the back door of the tavern flew wide as people emerged with buckets of water. In all the kerfluffle, Astra was able to run off, terrified and unseen, pulling her cowl about her face again.

Two years later.

"All right, you practice your fire while I’m gone. Stay by the water, like I showed you. I’ll be back when I’m able to find what we need," Carmella was leery of leaving Astra alone any longer. Since she began her physical womanhood, she had lost all control. She flew into rages, which sometimes left things frying, melted or simply ash. The rages were over as soon as they had begun, but Carmella had never been able to take her into town again, after the first fiasco. She had not lost her job, but had quit, afraid of what might happen to her daughter if she were left alone in this tenuous time. So, now she was back to having to steal again in order for them to survive.

Astra was aware of all of this, and the guilt she felt was sometimes overwhelming. She didn’t know what made her get angry, or what set her off. It had just been a bad patch of years. But she was utterly certain she could learn to control this, whatever it was. Magic, her mother had told her. Magic. "I will, Momma!" She replied as she traipsed, barefoot, towards the path to the river, carefully holding her skirts up so as not to get them muddy, the tip of her pointed tail swishing softly at her ankles. Carmella shook her head and smiled. She adored her daughter and never regretted one moment of leaving, fourteen years ago.

Four years later.

She thought it very strange that Astra still had no interest, or questions about boys. In so many ways her daughter was smarter than she was. She caught onto things quickly enough, and was able to read and write, and even do math, which boggled Carmella sometimes. The stolen books were worth a world to Astra, and she devoured them like cake. She was growing into a beautiful young woman. But where were the questions? In some ways it seemed her daughter’s mind remained that of a child, as if she were growing slower than most young women her age. Astra was often dreamy, now that she had passed the hard times of starting her womanhood. She didn’t care about things that were going on around her. She rather would laze by the river with books than head into town, which she only did when she needed help Carmella procure things. Astra was quick to hide when she heard men about, stomping through the woods on a hunt, or traveling on horseback. She understood perfectly the dangers of being seen. No, Carmella had no worries that her daughter was dull witted, like some children, she just seemed to not care. She’d rather play with the dogs, or go out hunting for rabbit. It puzzled Carmella greatly, but on the other hand she was relieved – one less concern about her daughter. One less concern about ever being alone.

"If I don’t come back, you know what has happened. If I don’t return, you run, Astra. Get out of here, as far as you can go, and don’t let them catch you," She warned her for the millionth time as she set off into town once more.

A year later, Carmella never returned.

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