Mile five on the road to Fidapolis. Weather: humid. Ground: swampy. Oat cakes: delicious.
Inara is a moon elf rogue, aspiring assassin and cool teen. She is played by Amanda McLoughlin. See Inara's character sheet here.
She’d forgotten about the flies.
Back in the glen, the late spring breeze made the morning brisk enough to keep your sleeves rolled down. But these lowland marshes are sheltered from the mountain winds, and as the shadows of the tall grasses grew shorter throughout the morning, it was feeling like high summer already.
And the flies. They are already nipping at Inara’s wrists and neck, more aggressive than she thought insects could be. The moon elf had spent last autumn camped in these marshes with her family, but by then the cold nights had been keeping the flies at bay.
Inara stops to dig a scarf out of her pack. She wraps it around her caramel neck and short silvery-white hair, hoping it will keep the biters away. She feels giddily light without the weight of the pack pulling her shoulders down; she bends forward to touch her toes, then tilts up into a handstand. She hangs there for a minute, then lets her legs fall forward, landing back on her feet with a hop. It’s the kind of trick clan members would roll their eyes at as her older cousins called her Runt-thorn.
But now, Inara feels worlds away from her clan and their settlement. The first day of journeying after a season or two in one place is always an exciting one, but this is her first day alone on the trail! No cousins racing ahead of her, no aunts chattering behind her, no uncles nagging at her to eat supper.
She crouches back down to find some of the oatcakes her father had made her. Under her thieves’ tools, purchased from a metalworker in the city they’d passed through last summer, she finds the woven basket her father had pressed into her hands that morning. She opens it, and says, “What?”
Nestled among the oatcakes is the palm-sized pouch that her mother kept the family sigil in. Inara had always wanted to play with the thornbush seal when she was younger, and seeing the poppy-red pouch locked away in her mother’s secretary or tucked high up in the rafters of their hut had led to some long afternoons of lockpicking attempts and acrobatic stunts.
Inara picks up the pouch, tensing up despite herself, as if her mother could reach down at any minute to snatch it away again, laughing even as she scolded precocious little Yara.
She unknots it; sure enough, there is a sigil inside. It’s thumb-sized with a flat end inscribed with her family’s seal. Unlike the tarnished and well-worn sigil she remembers coveting, this one has a bright shine to it. It’s been freshly cast.
She turns it over to look at the seal itself, and Inara’s breath catches. On top of the usual looping knot of thorns, this seal has a small, intricate letter I inset in the middle. It’s a new family sigil, or, a new variation, just for her.
A fly nips at her exposed wrist, and Inara hastens to stand. She puts the new sigil in the old pouch, and tucks it into her toolkit. She sticks an oatcake between her teeth, hikes her pack up onto her shoulders, and adjusts the rapier hanging at her side.
The day is sliding closer to noon, with the heat not far behind. If she hurries she can reach the main road by nightfall, leaving the flies and the marshes and her old world behind.
Then, it’s on to Fidapolis.
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