I am not exactly sure when I was born. I always just figured it was pretty evident that it had happened and that was what mattered after all. My parents, mommy and daddy respectively, named me Niobis. I was born, I am told, by the sea. And I do not mean in a city by the sea or a house by the sea I mean right by the sea. Mommy had been gathering seashells to polish and give to Daddy to make jewelry, his stock and trade. Then I showed up. I am told that such things are not the same as walking up and saying hello good day to your mother, but I don't think I really want to know much more about it than that. I actually have no idea why I am writing this as if I am talking to someone, maybe it is because I know someday my illegible scrawl I call handwriting will make someone so curious that they have to read this or maybe it is because I know I am writing this at someone's behest. I can't really be sure. But I am completely off subject now. We emigrated to Piet when I was around the age of three. I was sad leaving the ocean. Piet was very pretty as I remember. I was just there recently but I am not talking about now, which is not to say it is not pretty now, but my first impression of Piet was that it was very pretty. Mommy said we moved there so I wouldn't drown. I have no idea why she said that, Mommy as I remember was somewhat odd.
I used to wander around Piet a lot. I felt forlorn and I missed the ocean, but they were nice there in Piet. It is really pleasant when people are nice. Daddy did great business there; he had a way with stones and metal, flowing thin and fluid like the sea. I think he missed the sea too, but I am off my subject again. I was an overly active and playful child, and I still like to laugh. I am told that it is because I am nervous sometimes but I think it is just because laughing is so much better than crying. Although laughing does sometimes make you cry doesn't it? And so Piet became my home and I became known about it by the shopkeepers and the other locals, simply because I was always about. One day, I was off wandering in the town and I happened to pass by the seamstress' shop, which if I can remember also doubled as her house. She lived there with her son, Ashram, her husband having had something happen to him. I could hear distinctly her calling to Ashram, who was my age give or take some months I have never been sure, asking him to run over to the baker to fetch some bread for their dinner. I remember the feel of the smile spreading across my face, the smirk that usually got me a pretty decent ear pulling from my mother because she knew full well what that meant. I quietly slid around the side of the house and the smirk widened. I waited until I heard him nearing where I hid then I sent my entire handful of colored marbles my father had made me right under his feet. The loud cry and the louder thud of impact set me to giggling. I can only say that I was a child. Immature and stupid. Okay so maybe I still giggle about it today but you truly had to be there. I peeked around the corner; it was irresistible, more so than any sweet or trinket since, to peek at him sprawled in a field of marbles. He looked right at me. I still think Ashram is somewhat uncanny, but that faded as he rolled his eyes and got up, brushing the dirt from these clothes.
"You're going to kill someone someday pulling stupid pranks like that Niobis." Ashram said.
He was always so dignified. Like he knew something you didn't. It honestly brought out the worst in me.
"Maybe. Maybe not. If I rolled a bomb or three out here then you could say that." I answered back snippily.
He started to walk off, I could not let my prey escape me so I followed along and we tossed jibes and other such childlike slander at each other. I knew even then that I really enjoyed his company. I think he enjoyed mine as well, in spite of my intensely annoying nature. I think it is just a part of who I am, to either annoy or enchant people. Luckily I do both for Ashram. He didn't have friends, so in time I became his friend.
Being Ashram's friend was perhaps the best thing in my life. My mother never thought much of me just having just one friend but I think my father understood. He never used to say a word when I would come home with a bloody nose from standing up for what I thought, that being in most instances, that Ashram was a nice person. My mother of course was less than happy. She had high views of propriety and the proper deportment of a young lady. I heard that lecture a lot. Time passes; things blur away as the moment passes for me. I have always been accused of being less than attentive to what happens around me. Ashram usually made that accusation as he taught me to read or write and I continually persisted in untying his bootlaces or picking the hem loose in my skirt. Have I mentioned that I hate skirts? Another of my mother's ideas. I was forced to wear a skirt in spite of the fact that when once climbs a tree, or runs, or does anything at all besides sit or walk demurely, becomes a hindrance beyond bearing. At age twelve I began to help my father, polishing gems and shells and learning the rudiments of the jeweler's trade. Ashram would come by when he could and he would teach me more of writing and so on. I still to this day can not comprehend the math he tried to teach me. It is gibberish. I can count only because he pointed out to me that then I could count money or items, or pretty stones in my possession.
I lived an idyllic life really. Such a happy childhood filled with equal parts joy and sadness. I was nineteen. One day stands out in all my life and it was to come that year. I had been helping father all morning with the chores of polishing, his hands not being quite what they used to. Mother was sewing another hem on my much-abused skirts and I was free to go see what Ashram was up to. It was mid-summer. I could smell dust and the heady scent of flowers and distantly rain that would come later in the afternoon. I knocked on the door to the seamstress' hut and called out Ashram's name. His mother appeared looking quite upset and flustered.
"Good morning Seamstress Sief, is Ashram about?" I asked.
"He's gone, just like his father. He's gone." She replied and waved her hands at me, shooing me outside again.
"Gone where?" I asked. My mind ran in circles, Ashram gone? My heart ached.
"I don't know. I... Your eyes accuse me. You have no right! I..." She slammed her door in my face and I could only stand there, in shock, blinking every now and again.
Ashram was gone, to gods know where. My heart ached. I walked toward home, my steps felt distant, my whole body felt so distant from me. It is like nothing was real. He had not even said goodbye. My heart ached and I missed him like I missed the sea. Sometime just before I reached the step of my home I became resolved to my plan. He could not have gotten very far. And I could always run faster than he could. Quietly I slipped into my home and gathered my things, taking just one or two unfinished necklaces and rings I had been working on and leaving a note for my parents. I think now, looking back over the years they knew this was bound to happen, my Daddy used to set me on his knee and tell me I had the whole sea for a soul, that someday I would not be able to keep it so settled. I slid down the outside wall of our house and pelted off down the only road that led out of town. I was sure I would overtake him in an hour or so.
An hour or so later I was bent over heaving my breakfast into a bush that took the whole ordeal quietly. I had run the whole way and had kept running in spite of being worn beyond continuing to move. I sat down then and took stock. I could see in the distance a sign; I knew what it said - Loures and an arrow pointing up the road. I will to this day never understand signs like that. And it would take too long to explain why and I have left you wondering what happened to me as I sat there gasping for breath and wondering just when exactly Ashram had left anyways.
I arrived in Loures in style. Alive that is. Travelling in mid-summer was definitely not the cleverest thing in the world, which is how I knew Ashram had just left in a fit of anger. Panting and sweaty, I set my rucksack down and sat on it. Other travelers walked past me, looking slightly bemused as I shaded my eyes and looked back over the way I had come. My stomach growled, noisily clamoring for some food, and now. I stood up and hiked my things over my shoulder, heading on into Loures proper. I could see the large home of the King and it was about that time as I stood there, taking in its vastness, that sweat got in my eye. If you have never had sweat in your eye let me describe it a little for you. It is like someone has taken your eye, set it on fire, and then dumped sand on it to put it out. You literally want to pull your eye out and remove it from your person so you don't hurt any more. As I bent over in mortal agony someone, and I say someone because I was blinded at the time and making owie owie owie noises, came along and took off with everything I owned. I barely managed to yell out Hey! before going back to dancing from foot to foot chanting owie owie. So there I was, like an idiot, penniless, hungry, and with only the clothes on my back, also my eye hurt and was so bloodshot people kept making the sign of the evil eye against me.
I sat down and eyed an apple cart hungrily for what must have been all of three seconds before I could stand it no longer. At a dead run I ran past and snatched an apple, pelting away leaving the proprietor of said cart yelling after me. Ha ha, I thought, a clean get away. Of course I had absolutely no way of knowing that the reason why I had no pursuers was because in taking one apple, all the other apples fell out of the cart tripping up shoppers and the apple seller as well. I crouched down in an alley and ate my apple, satisfying my hunger for the moment. Surely, I thought, Ashram must be here. A swell of missing and something else filled me. I didn't even know I had stood up but I found myself walking slowly along the waterfront, looking into the sea. I came to the end of the pier and stopped, leaning against a piling and sighing, salt air only fueling my melancholy. I hate to say that I fell asleep standing there, I only woke up when a seagull, mistook my curly black hair for its nest in the dark and came to roost atop my head. Needless to say screaming and flailing was the least of what I did, I bolted as well, right off the pier and into the water. Ker-sploosh! Gasping at the tepid water I swam as best I could in my skirts, luckily for me I am a terribly good swimmer. I clambered out onto a small beach that the fishermen used to mend their nets and sat down. Now I was bedraggled, wet, salty, tired, poor, lost, sad and on top of it all I was now bootless and hungry again from my exertions. I shivered in the dark, the distant call of the still quite surprised seagull making me glower.
I must have fallen asleep because I awoke, still and sore, the hot noon sun beating down on me from above and I regarded several bemused fishermen with all the dignity a raggamuffin like myself could. I stood up and brushed the sand from my skirts and padded off into town. The cobblestones felt cold to my bare feet and I nonchalantly made my way through the mid-day crush of shoppers in the market. Okay, what I did next surprised even me; I very smoothly slipped my hand out and as I walked pulled loose the purse of a man who was deeply involved with haggling with a jeweler. Okay stealing is BAD. I know that but one day without food and my stomach was ready to crawl out and devour all of Loures. I was doing a public service, truly! I was no more than three steps away when the man finally settled on a price and found his purse gone. The holler he sent up was astounding; he was as shrill as a woman was. I turned and glanced back just before I turned a corner and saw it WAS A WOMAN! My eyes widened and I hurried around the corner. As I huddled behind a crate of vegetables I counted my money and wondered about the woman who was dressed like a man. In my mind I could still see her as I last saw her. Armor and a sword as well as her pants. I blinked at that. Armor... On a woman. Goodness mother would lose her mind! I chewed on my cheek as I hid the purse in a crate. I knew I was being extremely lucky. I also knew the path I had started down. A Rogue's path was not an easy one, but it was the one that suited my needs best. I needed money and I needed it as fast as I could get it.
Two months later with selective gambling and an incredible winning streak (not to mention my rigged dice), I had turned that one bit of thievery into new clothes and a weapon, a snow secret, that resembled the old twig hoops I used to throw at spider webs to knock them from the rafters of our house. I was leaned over a group as I watched the dicing game, when I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned and regarded a tallish man, not nearly as tall as myself for I am tall for a woman at 5' 11", his dark hair held out of his face by a bandana and a slight smirk on his face.
"Do I know you?" I asked him.
"Not yet, but I have an offer you might want to take me up on." The stranger said with a grin.
"Right, I'm not that kind of a girl."
"No but you are a rogue, or at least you are posing as one." His smile widened.
"Indeed, I have come to see if you would like to become a true rogue, and follow our dangerous, and many times, frowned upon, path. I am Tribe and I have been looking for someone to pass my knowledge on to."
"Right..." I regarded him steadily, "You are probably looking for a sucker to bankroll a scheme."
Tribe's jaw dropped. I smiled, mainly because it was no brilliant deductive reasoning or watchfulness on my part, I just knew I was one of the few less desirable people in the back alleys of Loures who had enough money to live a very fine life indeed.
"Well so much for that." Tribe said and shrugged.
"Wait!" I called after him as he started to leave, "I do have a great need to learn what you offered, and I am willing to pay for it."
Tribe tilted his head to the side and regarded me steadily. I looked back with my seemingly guileless eyes, I knew full well that I needed what he knew to achieve what I needed to. I had not been idly gambling myself to riches those past two months, I knew Ashram was not in Loures I also knew that my money and my luck would both run out and I needed to make the most of them while I had the chance and while Fioscahd still smiled on me.
"I agree to it." Tribe replied.
The knot in my stomach loosened and I was almost giddy. Now I would learn the traps and ways of my trade, and I had other things besides my money to offer. Gem polishing and appraising not being the least of them.
Years passed and I grew to be a fairly decent rogue. Tribe taught me well about many sorts of traps and how to not throw up when poisoned. We had parted ways after two years of a very fruitful partnership and I wandered about on my own, seeking any news of Ashram. I had arrived in Mileth at the news that their crypt there was as overrun with nasty things as the one in Piet had been. I was a much better hunter than I had been in my early days (I still suffer from extreme spider-phobia), but as any decent rogue knows, set a bolt trap and taunt a monster right into it and you can make some seriously easy gold. I was in town, hocking my wares to the local wizards, the molds and rotten fruits brought me a small but pretty penny or twenty and I had moved on to selling my more worthy items.
I stood haggling with a dark old wizard who seemed to want to hide under his hat every time he offered a lower price for the spider's eye I idly played with on his desk. It made a pleasing squishy noise to my ears, my spider-phobia making killing the giant bugs all the more satisfying.
"Seven hundred gold old man, if you get it for less you're cheating me!" I smirked as I rolled it about, I knew full well he could always use any eye or gland I came across.
"Five hundred Niobis, my... a pretty girl like you shouldn't fight in those crypts." He hid under his hat again.
"Fine five, and I am not pretty." I slid the eye to him as he handed me the coin.
"I beg to differ with that."
It was a different voice. Familiar, heartbreakingly familiar to me, yet changed, sadder somehow. I looked up and my hazel eyes met Ashram's deep violet once more. All the words had gone out of me; I could only stare, drinking in the sight of him. His hair had turned silvery; his clothes were those of a wizard yet seemed strange on him to me. I shook my head slightly from side to side, blinking. I knew I was blushing from the red hot flashes along my neck and face, my ears felt sunburned. I suddenly felt incredibly self-conscious about my clothing. It was the same as any well off female rogue's. I crossed my arms anyways and tried to find my tongue.
"I never thought to see you again Niobis," Ashram said smiling, his head tilted just slightly to the side.
My heart ached and the words seemed to come like molasses. "You do. I've been looking so...so long. I"
I hugged him, I didn't care that he went rigid as a board in surprise and didn't hug back, I hugged him. Then he hugged back.
"You've been looking for me all this time? Oh gods you poor thing..."
I buried my face in his chest and my heart needed to be ready to knock a hole in my ribcage, I hugged him all the tighter at the sound of concern in his voice because I knew I loved him. I had loved him since the early days of pranks and stupid games. But I could never tell him that. Where would I ever find the words to tell him I would have looked for him till the day I died? And how would I ever survive it if he didn't care.
He smiled at me, moving back the curly mass of hair from my face and shook his head.
"Some how Niobis, my little rogue, I am not surprised at all that you found me." Ashram said bemusedly.
I smiled, deciding to sit on the intense feeling I had for him until I knew if he felt the same.
"Even in hell you would not escape me Ashram." I grinned my mischievous grin and he laughed.
"I don't doubt it in the least." was his reply.
Much happened after that, we have traveled together, inseparable since, but I am sleepy and I can hear the siren call of soft pillows and warm sheets. I think that is enough of my life for one night.