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your becoming

media: dungeons & dragons (personal campaign)
originally published: february 2020
word count: 3181
notes: grappling with homesickness, reides finds himself changing as his life progresses on the surface.

the surface changes you.

it’s a slow process, really, but it’s not as slow as one might think. 

with each passing day, the tension in your shoulders lessens. memories of your life under ocean waters slowly sink into the deep recesses of your mind. your visits to that locked room - courtesy of nightmares bred out of paranoia (they’re coming for you, they’re coming for you) - become less and less frequent. 

the sun shines above you, and it is so close, and it feels so good

you consider wearing a hood, or perhaps a mask. you consider changing your name. but it feels like you’ve spent your whole life hiding. why should you hide more, now? the clothes you wear on your back now are, technically, stolen. and yet they belong to you more than your armor ever did. 

oh, your armor; cast into the maw of the sea. you wonder where it is now. perhaps it’s in pieces. broken like the waves that crash upon the shore that you now find solace in. or perhaps it sits there, at the bottom of the ocean… collecting muck and grime like the shipwrecks you once explored. abandoned regalia for an abandoned title. you couldn’t find it, not even if you wanted to. 

you suppose it doesn’t matter. not anymore. 

your hair grows wilder. you don’t bother with cutting it until you absolutely must (it gets in the way, after all). you like how the sea-breeze runs through it. you keep it long and free; waves of green. 

the people of port valor are a boisterous sort. there’s no time for empty platitudes with this lot. whispers of the storm prince end at the ocean’s surface. no one bows their head to you as you go by, no one sneers at you for being unbecoming. the feeling of a stranger’s confused gaze upon you never really goes away, but you get used to it quickly. you can’t really blame them. most have never even heard of your people. 

they can look all they want. there’s no need to hide anything. 

at least, that’s what you keep telling yourself. 

you know you’ll need gold if you want to survive on the surface. luckily for you, there’s no shortage of work in port valor. 

at first, you stick as close to the docks as possible - because, despite it all, you still love the sea. with all your heart. but it turns out that lugging around crates for ships is certainly not your calling. one of the more experienced dockhands goes red in the face yelling at you for dropping something that’s supposedly fragile, and that incident brings your crate-carrying career to a screeching halt. it’s no big loss, you decide, and you flit away to the next task. 

fishing reminds you of your friend (that half-elf with the scar on his cheek who you’ve yet to see again, who you still don’t even know the name of - but who you think of every time firewhiskey burns the back of your throat, every time the salty-sweetness of taffy spreads on your tongue); you decide to try it out. it’s a lot more tricky than you thought it’d be, that’s for sure. generally speaking, surfacers deal with the sea in cumbersome ways that leave you rather incredulous. even the ones who sing seemingly-constant praise of eadro hold it at arm’s length. you suppose the whole not-being-able-to-breathe-underwater thing is the reason why.  and so you resort to rather unconventional means of helping the local fishers. forsaking their rods and hooks, you leap off the side of their boats, net in hand as you vanish into the ocean’s waters. needless to say, the fishers are always delighted to see you asking around for something to do at the docks… even if fish outswim you more often than you’d like to admit.  

however, if you wanted to limit yourself to catching fish, you would’ve just stayed in aquos. there’s a lot to do in port valor and you don’t intend to get stuck doing one thing every day. 

the first time you walk into the library in the mercantile district, you feel so overwhelmed that you need to go back outside and simply sit for a while. all of those books, all about the surface… you don’t have to settle for scraps of knowledge sent back from a handful of triton scholars or the gossip of seafarers. not anymore. 

you spend hours upon hours reading tome after tome, and are pleased to learn that you’re very well-suited to work that puts your mind to use. scribe work appeals to you greatly, and you find much delight in covering the subjects that most surfacers would regard as dull. subjects like varieties of paper, or regional tax forms… you’re eager to learn about it all - much to the librarians’ amusement. you spend so much time in that library that you may as well be living in it. 

there’s another library, apparently - over in the upper district. unfortunately, you don’t particularly want to go to the upper district. you take to nobility like water to oil, and the thought of hiding certain books away to the public disgusts you beyond words. (your father was like that, too. hiding things away. always hiding things away. you should know. you were one of those things, were you not?) someday, you’ll read those books, but you’ll do so on your own terms. terms that don’t involve grovelling under some magistrate. you don’t want to be poked and prodded. 

when all else fails, you turn your attention to random odd jobs. the people looking this sort of help don’t poke, nor do they prod. they don’t care where you’ve come from. many don’t even care what your name is, or that you’re distinctly unlike anyone else in the city. all they want is someone to get their work done, and you’re happy to oblige, for the most part. 

some of these jobs are a bit more suspicious than others. drop off a package in this alleyway; don’t let anyone see its contents. hand a cloaked woman a vial filled with a bright green liquid. knock five times on a door and receive a sealed letter, which you then deliver to someone else. others are very simple, though curiously specific. pick up thirteen pink dresses from a specific tailor. feed a pet bat for its owner while he’s away. and then there are some people who just want some help with their day-to-day life; their run-of-the-mill errands. 

you try to stay away from the jobs that involve bloodshed, but you often don’t have much of a say in the matter. the words of your friend echo in your head, time and time again: there’s bad people out there. and so, if an innocent is being targeted, or if one of their cherished possessions has been stolen, you have no qualms with stepping in, spellbook in hand. you’d rather not kill, but you soon learn that, sometimes, people don’t particularly value their lives. sometimes, they want to rob you of your life. sometimes, things can’t be as nice as you’d like them to be. sometimes, you can’t be as nice as you’d like to be.

you get by.

you spend your more quiet hours on the shoreline - collecting various shells that found their way to it. a woman sees you plucking them out of the sand one day and offhandedly tells you that you should try selling them - or even making jewelry out of them. you string a necklace together and dream of your mother all night long. 

staying put in one place unnerves you - turns out you can’t shake off the impulse to keep moving - so you don’t really have a set residence. you drift between inns that’ll have you - beds that’ll have you - and always, always pack light. 

you have a lot of books, though.

books and quills and ink. so much ink. you write and you draw and you can’t stop thinking about how vast the world is. how limitless. you always knew that the world beyond laverathia was a wonderful place, and port valor has proven that - even with its many, many less-than-savory aspects. you’ll need to leave, someday. you know that. but weeks pass by and - while the sights around you become relatively familiar - you’re still busy; still finding new things to do. so you decide to see where time will take you. to coast along rather than force a current.

you make many friends, though these encounters are serendipitous and fleeting. names are rarely exchanged and, when they are, they’re often forgotten. lost upon the sea-breeze; floating off to distant ports in the blink of an eye. still - you share drinks with sailors, you laugh along with merchants, you play games with the children who hang around the docks. you learn so much about people. so much more than you ever did when you lived in the deep.

and yet, you wonder. perhaps you could have learnt about them. perhaps you could have learned more about people. not about those of the surface, but, rather, your people. perhaps - if your crown didn’t weigh so heavily upon your shoulders. if you were stronger; strong enough to not crack under the weight of it all. your interest in the surface was something akin to a fixation. 

it meant freedom from everything that held you under.

you know that your people are a proud sort. intelligent and caring and strong; strong beyond words. you love them, even if they see you as the storm prince. even if they will never understand why you needed to leave laverathia. even if they hate you. 

you love them.

you sit in a tavern and you watch the surfacers dance and laugh and sing, and you know that you’re not the only triton who would enjoy this. what’s the point of hiding an entire kingdom away? of keeping all you know to yourself? of limiting yourself to the sea and only the sea? the surfacers don’t even know the god that your people pray to. but it’s not like your people know the gods whom the surfacers pray to. 

it’s all so confusing. the politics of it. the fear of it. the way so much of it is shrouded in secrecy. none of it makes sense. if you think about it for too long, you feel sick. like you’ll crack all over again. and you can’t - not again. you don’t have an escape if you do. this is the freedom you wanted. you’re on the surface, now, and you’re making the most of it. just like you promised lotlyn. 

you miss her. 

you miss the way she’d laugh along with you and how she’d listen to your stories about all the things you scavenged from shipwrecks. you miss the way she’d pester you - how she’d nag at you endlessly, demanding that you hand over some of your treasures. they’re all hers, now, you think to yourself, and it brings a wry little smile to your face. 

you miss your sister so much. 

truth be told, you miss them all.

your mother. your father. despite the distance. despite the disapproval. despite the cruelty. it’s not that you’ve forgiven them for what they put you through. you just… miss them. the nightmares wash away, leaving an odd fragility behind. it’s a fragility you don’t want to acknowledge. 

you miss your brothers, too. 

you never really understood dhudus - your younger brother. you remember the sight of him training for hours on end, whacking away at dummies with his sword. he’d skip lessons as often as you would, though you couldn’t possibly be any more different from each other. should you have tried harder to reach him? does he even care that you’re gone? he certainly dealt with being royalty far better than you ever did, though his blunt personality earned him a reputation for being distant. (maybe you’re not as different as you thought.) 

and then there’s viglis. 

if viglis ever felt pressured by his lineage, he certainly never showed it. the best of the best. everyone’s favorite warrior-prince. if anyone is to drag you back into the sea, it’s him. with his shining armor and terrible attitude. always too harsh. always too dismissive. always too… honorable. but, by persana, does he love laverathia. he’ll be a good king. that much is obvious. you miss him as much as you want him to leave you alone. 

you don’t know why you’re thinking about your family. 

maybe all of this is just the firewhiskey’s influence. 

maybe you need to go. 

you stumble out of the tavern and into the night, head spinning with thoughts of a place you don’t want to think about. eyes drifting to the sky, you feel like you can reach out and pluck the stars right out of it. you try. you fail. and someone laughs.

“oh? an appreciator of the stars, are you?” there’s a certain gruffness to their voice. a frequenter of the docks, no doubt.  “not that i blame you. it’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?”

you turn to them, and - you’ve never seen anyone like them before. very tall and decidedly draconic, metal rings are pierced into the pronounced ridge of their brow. more rings loop around their horns, as well, and their bronze scales have swirling patterns of dark ink imprinted upon them. 

just when you thought you had this place relatively figured out, it surprises you all over again.

“what, never seen a dragonborn before?”

still overtly astonished, you nod. is this how most surfacers feel when they see you for the first time? it’s a good thing you never really took offense to their stares.

luckily, the dragonborn doesn’t seem to take offense to your stare, either. “ha! i know your kind. you’re a triton, aye?”

you nod again.

“well, it probably pales in comparison to that sky, but i think i have something you’d like, triton.”

they pull something from the pocket of their cloak. in the palm of their taloned hand is… a small star.

you blink. “how did you - ?!”

the dragonborn laughs again. “gods, it’s not a real one! please tell me you’re not that drunk!”

oh. of course it’s not real. it’s an accessory of some sort. you laugh, too. perhaps too hard, but it feels good to laugh. especially after the sort of night you were beginning to have. 

“not sure if you’d find much use for it, though. it’s meant for your navel.” 

“my navel?” 

the dragonborn nods. “aye. and if you’re wondering why someone’s lurking around in the dead of night with navel piercings stashed away in their cloak - i’d like you to know that i was just heading back to my shop.” 

the dragonborn is still holding the star out, so you take it as to get a better look at it. it’s bright gold in colour and sparkling away just like the real thing. no wonder you thought it was real.  “you sell them, then?” 

“i do more than just sell them,” the dragonborn says, smirking. “the name’s needlepoint. needle for short. the best piercer and tattooist you’ll ever find in port valor. or, dare i say, in the entirety of alethustria.” 

“would you pierce me, then?” you blurt out. “so i can wear the star.”

needle’s (pierced) brow rises. “now? as in… tonight?” 


they look you up and down. “i could. though, speaking as an artisan, it’d reflect poorly on me, seeing as you’re very much out of your skull at the moment.” 

you stare at them, confused. 

they sigh. “drunk, triton. you’re drunk.” 

“i’m not,” you say, though you know that you are and, apparently, look the part, too. “i want this. i do.” 

“if i got a piece of gold every time some poor drunk sod told me they wanted some work done then regretted it the day after, i’d…” they pause, a thoughtful look passing over their features. “...have no extra gold, actually. because i’ve never listened to the demands of poor drunk sods.” 

you frown, looking down at the star. you’re attached to it now. it’s a shame to have it and not be able to wear it. especially since it was a gift from someone so very interesting. 

perhaps needle can tell just how disappointed you are, as their hands suddenly clamp down on your shoulders. “listen, triton,” they say. “keep the star. when you wake tomorrow, if you still want that work done - and you’re not too hung over - i’d be happy to pierce you. deal?” 

they tell you about their shop - the inked anchor. it’s close to the docks that you frequent; one of the many establishments that you hadn’t found your way to just yet. you commit it to memory despite the haze that the firewhiskey has left you in.

when you finally make your way back to your bed, when you finally sleep, you dream of the sea. of its surface, reflecting the light of the stars above. and when you open your eyes, the first thing you see is that little star resting on your pillow. 

before you’re even fully awake, you’re out the door, star in hand - making your way to the docks.

this is another way in which you’re changing, isn’t it? there are piercers and tattooists in laverathia, too. body modification isn’t frowned upon in triton society - not at all. still, you wonder what your family would think about you wearing accessories crafted by the hands of surfacers. you wonder if they even know of the dragonborn. if you didn’t, they probably don’t. 

needle pierces you as promised, laughing all the while. “not many can say they’ve pierced a triton,” they muse. when you tell them of all the ways your people work with shells, they’re intrigued. the next time you pay a visit to the inked anchor, you walk in with two shells and leave with two shell earrings. 

you visit them infrequently but often enough. not to get any more work done, however, as you can’t quite settle on a tattoo design. perhaps you simply find comfort in how different the two of you are from everyone else. you tell them your name - reides - and they still call you triton. you don’t mind. 

the surface has changed you, that much is true. you’ve changed a great deal during your time in port valor - in the ways you think and in the ways you look. but you’re still a triton. you’re still reides. storm prince or not, you’re you. and you’re proud of that.

you will always be proud of that.

you sit at the water’s edge, watching the tide come in. you hope that you’ll continue to change in all of the right ways. that you’ll continue to learn. to heal and to grow. and you hope that you’ll live your life the way you’ve always wanted to. 

to its fullest. 

and maybe, someday, the people you love will, in turn, love the person that you have become.