“She’s beautiful, Selena.”
He held the child very gently, almost as if she would break. A father. The thought still hadn’t sunk in. He never imagined he would ever settle down, let alone have a baby. A beautiful, little baby girl. He had spent his entire life wandering, collecting gems and treasure— but there was nothing in all the land that could compare to what was resting in his arms.
She stared up at him with her curious eyes and her chubby face, and she smiled.
And he smiled back.
She had never met anyone quite like him before.
Nor did she ever expect to grow so attached.
He was unlike everyone else she surrounded herself with. Stern. Intelligent. Admirable, to say the least. If you were to see them walking together, you’d surely stare.
A mage, and a thief.
A scholar, and a scoundrel.
Certainly two of the least likely friends to ever be.
But to her, it was more than a friendship. More than a couple of fond memories and a few exchanged letters. It was a bond— a bond unlike any she had ever experienced in her life.
When he smiled, she smiled.
When he hurt, she hurt even more.
And sometimes she just wish he knew that.
She saw the sadness in his eyes. She saw his struggle. She didn’t say a word.
She knew, deep down, he was afraid.
And so was she.
The little elf stumbled through the dark, tears leaving wet trails through the dirt that was smeared across her face. The trees that loomed around her seemed to be closing in, trapping her. She had been through this forest so many times before, and she always knew her way. She always knew where she was. Why was tonight any different?
She tripped over a root that stuck up from the ground and fell onto her stomach. For a moment, she laid there- crying quietly. If she got up, she’d just keep running. She’d run forever and she’d never find him.
Eventually, she climbed back to her feet and stumbled forward.
“Papa? Where are you, papa?”
She sniffled, clutching the fabric of her clothing. The forest was so dark. There were noises in every direction. She turned in a small circle. Which way had she even come from? It all looked the same.
“Papa, please! I don’t want to be alone!”
The child looked up to the canopy of the trees. Beyond the branches, the stars twinkled in the sky.
My little star, she heard his voice in her head. My little fallen star.
Collapsing against the trunk of the tree, she began to sob. Why had she wandered away— at night, of all times? Why hadn’t father found her yet?
What if he wasn’t looking?
“Father? Why is my hair white?”
The young elf glanced back over her shoulder. Her father was there, sitting behind her on the branch, leaning back against the trunk of the tree. His eyes were closed, but she knew he wasn’t sleeping. Father never slept before she did.
He tilted his head and cracked open his eyes, smiling at his daughter.
“Because, you’re special.”
“That doesn’t answer it!”
The Bosmer laughed and snatched his daughter up in his arms, holding her tight against her chest. She kicked and protested, but she giggled too— and eventually settled on his lap. With her head resting against his chest, she mimicked his pose. His arms stayed around her, keeping her safe.
“Fine, I’ll tell you.” He placed a gentle kiss to the top of her head. “Your mother and I tried very hard to have a baby, but we had no luck. We were beginning to lose hope, and she was so very upset. She spent many nights crying, and praying to the Divines. It hurt me to see her that way.”
The child was listening, her little hands resting atop her father’s arm. “And?”
“Well, one night, I decided to go out for a walk. As I was walking, I looked up to the sky— and I saw a shooting star. So I made a wish. I wished for a darling little girl to call my daughter.” Smiling down at her, he ruffled her hair. “And soon after that, your mother conceived. We were overjoyed. And when you were born, your hair was white, just like the stars.”
The little elf stared up at the night sky, her eyes twinkling. A little smile had spread across her lips.
“So, I’m a star?”
“My darling little fallen star.”
It was something she was used to.
Awakening suddenly drenched in cold sweat, frail body shaking. Sometimes there was sorrow. Other times, there was anger. Fear. Self-loathing. No matter what, there were always tears. Memories. Tonight was no different.
Her eyes shot open and the night sky faded into focus above her, stars shimmering bright. Chest heaving, she gasped for air. It felt like she was suffocating. Drowning under that endless black expanse. There was a weight on her chest that just wouldn’t go away. Then the tears came. A sob forced its way from her throat.
The Bosmer glanced to her side. Across the dying embers of the campfire, Vadril was sitting up, rubbing sleep from his eyes. She must have woken him.
They stared at each other for a moment in silence, then Kaeshira scrambled to her feet and ran to his side, where she collapsed to her knees. She grabbed at his robes and pressed her face to his chest, crying so hard she began to cough.
“It was all my fault,” she sobbed, sounding absolutely hysterical. “It was all my fault!”
Very hesitantly, Vadril wrapped his arms around her shoulders. He could feel her trembling, could feel her fingers clenching his clothing— he could feel her tears seeping through to his skin. Unable to think of anything to say, he gave her a gentle squeeze. He rest his head on top of hers, and he let her cry. It was all he could do.