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The Adopted Daughter of Ree

Written by J. L. Gryphon

Ambient sounds courtesy of tosha73 and EminYILDIRIM

Greetings to those below. I am Death, though Azrael is the name that makes me smile. Today we will focus on something I mentioned in brief during my guided tour. Do you remember what I said about the Blood Lily Province, about Middle House Deegh and its penchant for hunting Tressians, humans, for sport? Well, Cali is the result of one such hunt. I should know.
I was there that day, hovering over her. She was just a baby. She couldn’t see me. I was there just in case. But to my everlasting relief, I did not collect Cali that day, after all. She should have died. By all odds, she was already dead. But thanks to an unlikely meeting that happened two years prior—and the meddling that resulted from that meeting—Cali survived. I’ll explain as best I can.
Cali: “Oh! We can play Assassins and Tressians. I’ll be the human—well, because I am one—and you be the assassin. I’ll hide, and you have to catch me and drag me to the Veldriss, because I’m a runaway slave like Fred.”   Litzana: “This is a game kids play? You know, if a real assassin was chasing you it would not be so fun.”   Cali: “Yeah. But this is just pretend.”   Litzana: “Yes . . . just pretend.”  
—Cali asking Litzana Riel to play a child’s game with her

The Meeting

“Stupid green cloud thing. Tricked me. It lied.”

by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay

  Cali’s history, if I am going to be thorough, began two years before Cali was even born. Remember I said there was a meeting. This meeting happened between Ree and . . . ahem. Anyway, I will discuss Ree in more detail at a later time, but for now, all you need to know is he is the adopted father of Cali and a three-foot-tall green misanthrope. I believe the most accurate description of his features would be to compare him to a goblin, but I’m borrowing from the land of elsewhere in order to say this, the so-called “real world,” because of course there are no such things as goblins in the world of Orosta—not even in myths—so I hope you can understand my limited ability in describing him.   Back then, though, he had a different appearance. Being a mimic, he can do that. I will discuss mimicry in the near future, but no, it is not the same thing as shadowstealing, at least not entirely. In fact, it is quite a bit more . . . unstable. But I digress. This meeting was not overly kind to Ree, and despite how Ree dreads remembering it these days, it at least resulted in one good thing. It placed Ree in the wrong place at the right time.  

The Problem With Humans

“Like blatta roaches, humans are. Squish them under your boot all you want. Pop off their head. They will still just run around without it.”
—Vekk Luzell, a Zurrinaih elf

by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

  It is at this point I must explain something. In the world of Orosta, specifically on the island of Rhye, all humans are slaves. If you have round ears and your entire lifespan exists “within the space of a yawn,” that is enough. No distinction is made other than this. That is what “yag” means, by the way. A “yawn and gone.”   It didn’t use to be this way, but according to history, 150 years ago, the humans decided they didn’t like being beneath the Sithuwaye elves who ruled the kingdom of Rhyastil. The humans wanted control, power for themselves, and so they hired the dragons to murder everyone in the kingdom over the age of fifteen. Why the dragons agreed to such a genocidal proposition is a longer story; but, regardless of the reason, the slaughter became known as The Battle of the Royals Dead because during the attack, the pharota and her wedded royal consort, Xanära and Ethäes Anastil, were also killed.   The plan was to take the throne for themselves after that, so the history books tell; however, the humans made a mistake. They missed the royal elven children. Anäriel, Seeré, and Vänima the Veldriss all survived. Vänima especially survived. As the eldest, she assumed the throne as was her birthright and retaliated. In revenge for her parents and all the countless souls lost in the brutal attack, she enslaved the humans for their crimes. If they wanted to complain about their lot in life, then she would place them beneath not only the elves, but everyone else, too—even the abominations. And so she did. Fast forward to the present day 150 years later, and you have the world of Orosta as it is today.   Perhaps, by now, the humans have been punished enough. Certainly little Cali is innocent of everything that came before. But for humans, life is short. They view The Battle of the Royals Dead as having happened generations ago, and for them, that is completely true. So surely what came before has long past now, yes? We can move forward?  
  You see, no one else views it this way because no one else lives for as short a time, not even the jeenta. To Vänima—who is immortal, still very much alive, and still very much the ruler of the kingdom—what happened still seems only yesterday, so you can understand her anger even if, by this point, it is misplaced. Perhaps it was always misplaced. But in that regard, perhaps I’m saying too much.   In any case, Cali’s parents, both born well after The Battle of the Royals Dead, were slaves like all the rest of their kind. Of course being owned is never good, and having a “master” or “mistress” within that context will forever be terrible, but if you must have a master or mistress, then having a kind one over a cruel one is at least preferred. Unfortunately for Cali’s parents, they were owned by Middle House Deegh, some of the cruelest masters and mistresses you could ever have in the kingdom. Bad luck doesn’t care whom it strikes, I suppose.   This, of course, meant that, even in her mother’s womb, Cali was also a slave, already the property of House Deegh. Her parents, though, were determined to change that. They wanted a better life for their daughter, as all good parents do, and so they devised a plan. There were rumors among some of the other slaves of a secret Tressian sanctuary, a Zurrinaih elf who was sympathetic to their plight—one Onnissah Loperian, the lady nomarch of Sixth Chosen House Loperian. Middle House Deegh was close to the border of Onnissah’s territories. All they had to do was cross the border, make it to her castle, and beg her protection for at least their newborn daughter if not themselves. That was their hope. Cali’s parents planned to run.  

The Chase

“Why do they call humans Tressians? Tressian means ‘alien’, but we come from Orosta just like everyone else. Tres isn’t even a real world.”

by J. L. Gryphon via Artbreeder

  It is important to remember now the warning I gave in my guide about running from assassins. Stories like these are the reasons I said it. Cali’s parents did succeed in escaping the castle, and they ran with their infant daughter into the thick surrounding jungles. They did their best to avoid being seen, but Vänima’s mirrors are always watching. The sons and daughters of House Deegh sat back and watched them through a mirror, deciding a chase would be more fun than apprehending them immediately. So they let them run. They let them think they were safe until they were a breath away from the border that would have saved them. Then they attacked. Except the word “attack” might be overstating things.   You must understand that Tressians are labeled aliens for more than just their uncommon round ears. Life is meant to be balanced, you see. A Sithuwaye elf battling a Zurrinaih elf is mostly fair. The Sithuwaye can heal and has psionics while the Zurrinaih is quick enough to dodge incoming telekinetic attacks. Fairies and pixies can fly; the jeenta, if powerful enough, can defend themselves with the storms they can create; and though the merrow and sirens have battled each other since the beginning, they both are fearsome swimmers and tacticians. As for the dragons, well . . . nothing can kill a dragon, but among the so-called Lessers—non-dragons—even the dragons are restrained by means with which I am not yet at liberty to reveal.   Tressians, though, are different. They, unlike the rest of Orostian life, fall outside its balance. So glaring is this truth that even a child could tell you. So when I say the assassins “attacked” Cali’s parents, I mean they flashed in front of them with speed faster than the human eye can see, and they stomped on them as easily as you might crush an anthill. Except it was worse than that because at least some ants have stingers. Cali’s parents had nothing. They were not designed for the world that hunted them, so is it any wonder they died? That is why I said by all odds Cali was already dead.   How fortunate, then, that two years ago, Ree met someone who meddled. Ree encountered something that broke the rules, and because of that, Ree was also in a place he was never meant to be.  

An Adopted Father

“Litzana hid her mouth with her hand, trying not to laugh as Cali fussed over her father. They were sweet together, the best thing about the last five years. Time didn’t matter to them. They lived for the day . . . and the shiny things.“
—Litzana Riel observing Ree and Cali

  In the chaos of the slaughter, Cali was dropped in the undergrowth. Ree, hearing the commotion, crept close and witnessed the death of Cali’s parents. Now I must say, Ree is not and has never been the brave sort, but even if he had been, he still would have been powerless to help Cali’s parents, so please don’t judge him too harshly for hiding. Pale and shaken as you might expect, he was about to slip away when he heard the assassins discussing something they had lost. At that moment, something rustled next to Ree, and in an act that I think surprised even himself, Ree jerked his hand over the baby’s mouth just as she was about to cry.   The assassins searched for the child but couldn’t find her, eventually deciding to simply leave her to the elements. A practical choice, really, because what hope would a newborn have of surviving alone in the jungle? Especially a human infant, as I have explained. But Ree saved the child, and though he swore for years he would take her to an orphanage, I suppose he just never got around to it.  
“Goodnight, Cali. Sleep well. I’ll most likely drop you off in the morning.”
  I imagine he said something of that sort, at least. He still sometimes threatens to do it in that cantankerous way of his. He is a misanthrope, after all, and of course has to keep up appearances. But Cali is twelve now, and Ree is definitely her father in every way that counts. He didn’t have to raise her, much less love her as his daughter, but he did.  

Coming to Jersæg

“Five years ago, she had crawled out of the rainforest with Kieran and passed inside the red castle without sparing it a second glance. She had not wanted to remember, so she had kept her eyes down, stuck to practical things—busied herself with the schemes of a little green man.“
—Litzana Riel reflecting on meeting Ree and arriving at Jersæg

by David Mark from Pixabay

  Little Cali spent her first two or three years of her life in the jungles with Ree. I can’t say exactly how long since I wasn’t around the odd pair all that much after that first meeting. I doubt she remembers it being as young as she was. I do know Ree moved them to the town of Thane at some point, though.   It was also around this time I think he started living as a Zurrinaih elf. This was perhaps a wise choice, but also perhaps it wasn’t. I think the people who witnessed Ree in his shade-elf guise with a little human girl believed Cali to simply be a slave he had purchased to cook and clean, and so at least for a little while no one said anything. But people soon began expecting Ree to give her a tattoo once they noticed she didn’t have one. Tattoos are used as brands of ownership for human slaves, and Cali would be turning seven that summer, the age when she would be due for her first. When he dodged the responsibility, suspicion arose, until people began doubting even Ree’s disguise. Ree was forced to flee with Cali, to protect both himself and her. Funny how quickly one’s neighbors can turn on you if you step outside what is considered “appropriate.”   Determined to keep Cali safe, Ree took her back to the jungles. This time, though, he took her east. It is also around this time he shrank a couple feet, turned green, and became . . . goblin-like for lack of a better word. For Cali’s part, she has always been understanding and accepting of her adopted father’s shifting appearance, but it was definitely a change. So, too, was living in the east. It was the safest place to be since hardly anyone lives in the east—a thing that suited Ree fine—but Cali was forced to leave the few friends she had made. Once again, it was just her and Ree. I think that’s why, for her sake, Ree claimed that old ruin, Jersæg, as the base for his new, uh, “thieving gang.” It was at least a building like Cali had grown accustomed to living in. And I think, a year later, it’s why Ree allowed Litzana Riel and Kieran Quinn, two wandering travelers, to join his little thieving enterprise, as well. Four years after that, a runaway human slave named Fredegar Dalequest joined, too.   These days, as far as I know, Cali is happy with her little patchwork family. She’s twelve years old now if I’m counting right, and I expect she has become quite a skilled thief. That said, I am a bit worried for her. My master’s plan has begun, things are brewing in the west, and Vänima has begun sending assassins into the east in search of none other than Anäriel Anastil the Black Unicorn. We can only hope the assassins don’t visit Jersæg during their hunt. For Cali’s sake. For the rest of the world, though, perhaps we should hope for it. The reasons why present a . . . difficult conflict of interest, and I admit I’m torn. Once again, I think, Ree and Cali are going to find themselves in the wrong place at the right time. Except this time, I don’t think it will be such a lucky thing.

Signed your undecided narrator,   Azrael the Star of Death


Book Information

  To learn more, hop on over to the books page OR hop on over to the teaser and get a sneak peek of Chapter 1! For more articles like this one, have a peek at my Worldbuilding Journal and explore Orosta.  

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Image by J. L. Gryphon via Artbreeder
Chaotic Neutral
Current Location
Date of Birth
The Month of Asmodos, Day 32, 14989 NS
Year of Birth
14989 12 Years old
Castle Ratsbane
Parents (Adopting)
Current Residence
Dark brown
Skin Tone/Pigmentation
Dark brown
Aligned Organization
Related Myths
Known Languages
  • Orostian (1st - fluent)

Family Tree

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