The child was blissfully unaware of her adorable nature, but seemed quite preoccupied with being... soaked. "I'm kay, but I'm all wet now. Fuh, I hate water..." And with that, she shuffled out onto the dry sand, wrapping her arms around herself, shivering slightly. "Stupid... oceans... humph!" And with that little lesson learned, she pouted slightly, looking away from Grayell for a few moments before turning toward him with a huff. "I hate it when that happens... can't blink."
She took a moment to try wringing out what little she could from her hoodie, but to no avail. "Hey, mister, can you come with me back home? I wanna show my mom that, but I'm all wet, and mom doesn't want me playing in the water when she's not around. So, can ya, huh?" The girl avoided his gaze, but brought her hands together in a pleading gesture.
Grayell was on the brink of asking her how the heck she got by without blinking... but was asked to escort her home. As a matter of fact, he had no intention of doing otherwise as he wasn't in the habit of letting children wander alone in the wilderness. He smiled and removed the sash from about his waist, offering it to his new friend to dry off with.
"There ya go. If I'm walking you home, I guess I should know your name then. My name is Grayell."
The little girl took the sash, examining it for a moment before wrapping it around her neck like a scarf. "I'm Enda! Nice ta meet'cha Grayhell!" With that, she took his hand and started pulling him off toward the docks of Wistvale. "There's a tunnel we can use to get home. Mom says we don't stay in the city above because people don't really understand us, but I think it's because she thinks they're all ugly and smelly. See, sometimes all this smelly water comes down certain passages, and mom tells me to stay away from that stuff because I might catch something bad..." She ceased talking, almost in mid-thought, but in truth, she really just didn't think to continue that statement further. Enda was not exactly a wellspring of discussion.
Not long after, they had reached the tunnel she had spoken of before, just underneath a dock. It was a runoff for excess rainwater, and it was only about four feet high at the arch. Thankfully, it seemed the water was fairly low in the tunnel: Only a few inches deep, leaving the walkways at the sides fairly dry. Without thinking, she simply walked into the tunnel, without concern for Grayell's issue of height.
Studied the storm drained and groaned, but their was something appreciative about his tone. He'd been largely influential in the design and build of the sewer system and the fact that it didn't dump human waste into the sea was, to him; something to be most proud of. Instead, it was treated organically and used to fertilize the fields of the farms that surrounded the town.
That, at least; left him assured that the water was clean enough.
But why would anyone live down here? He'd known his share of urchins and beggars, poor folk and recluses and gave it little thought. Still, that tunnel was not large.
"Nothing for it old mate. Damsel in distress and all that..."
And so, he crouched low and shimmied into the tunnel, hands leading his way along the walls.
"Hey, you coming?" Enda called out ahead, her voice echoing far more than it should have. Up ahead, the sound of running water could just barely be heard. As Grayell's eyes adjusted to the darkness, he'd see the ceiling steadily arching higher, passages going off in all directions. Farther ahead, Enda's faintly glowing eyes could be seen, though never looking quite at Grayell. "Come on!" She whined, setting down a passage farther in. As they progressed deeper and deeper, the ceilings got higher, until they became veritable cathedrals for the aqueous fluids that passed through them. Enda had to double back several times, seemingly unsure of her path, but eventually, they had come to a large iron grate in a wall, the bars of which had been bent outward by something inhuman. "Kay! We're home!"
As she led him through it, the smell of burning wood reached his nose, and before long, the subtle glow of fire could be seen. Through a few twists and turns they went, before coming to a fairly wide chamber, in which a small firepit had been built. In one corner, a collection of cushions, sheets, blankets and quilts lay in a pile, upon which Enda immediately leaped on with glee. Along another wall, a series of cupboards, wardrobes, chests, and shelves were arranged in odd, but not haphazard, configurations. Within these were some varied curiosities, mixtures, potions, drinks, dried meats, a few fish wrapped in paper, and, in one, trinkets and baubles of truly alien origins.
Enda stopped bouncing on the assortment of bedding and looked over at Grayell. "I guess mom's gone, but she'll be back soon. Probably out catchin' fish again. I like fish. It's tasty and slick and sometimes even goopy! But I hate when she makes me eat seaweed. Yeck! It's all crunchy and icky 'n stuff. So... what do you like to eat? Got a favorite food? Or color?" Her head rocked from side to side, the girl apparently quite happy with her circumstances.
Grayell looked about with something between confusion and approval plastered on his face. He wasn't entirely sure he was going to be welcome in someone's home without invitation and he was also left wondering whether this girl and her mother wouldn't be better served in a house. That, he could arrange with ease.
But what some considered squalor, someone had taken the time to make this a home. A true home, a small home with enough comfort and sentimentality to mean something. He knew that well, he lived in a ramshackle tree house and had spent many years with no home, and more years dwelling in caves.
No, this was a strange thing to come upon but one thing seemed to settle his concerns. The child was happy and safe.
"Huh. You should eat seaweed, it's very good for you. Most people don't believe that but really; you can grow up to be big and strong if you do."
"Aww but I dun wanna! It's gross!" Enda pouted, facing the wall in defiance. However, within a few moments she seemed to be past this injustice of seaweed and instead seemed content to roll around in the blankets for awhile.
Whilst this was occurring, the soft, careful steps of bare feet against stone could just barely be heard above the noise of running water that was ever-persistent in this underground metropolis. A sound far more interesting punctuated the quiet rhythm of this world: a wet sucking noise, followed closely by the clatter of some hollow, hard object hitting the stonework, or a hollow splash as it hit water.
Closer these noises came until Celephai rounded the corner into the space Enda called home. She was in mid-slurp, turtle-in-mouth, kicking furiously to escape its inevitable doom as she entered, stopping dead in her tracks as she saw Grayell. In one hand, a bag made from some netting contained several different shellfish, in the other, a small variety of cave fish (as well as an eel) wriggled in her grasp. Her two tentacles held a small turtle in each, one of which she immediately dropped upon seeing a man she'd not seen in seven years.
With a twitch, and without looking away from Grayell, she sucked the turtle in her mouth clean out of its shell and into her gullet, spitting out the now empty shell into a nearby bucket, full of fish bones. She was silent for several seconds, her gaze never leaving him. Cel had never prepared for this moment; she thought he was pretty much gone for good, maybe even dead, this was... jarring.
"Enda... dear... go fill some jars with water, would you?"
The answer was a carefree "'Kay!" as the girl grabbed a small, empty bucket and went back out into the sewers proper.
"So..." Cel spoke uncertainly. "You've... ah... met- Well, that is... Gray, I did not know." She took a deep breath, finally breaking her stare, her breaths were shaky for a few moments. "I suppose, we... need to talk for a bit about... things." She swallowed hard, uncertain how to continue.
Last Edit: Jun 12, 2012 4:25:33 GMT -5 by Celephai
Gray looks at Cel sideways and studies her for a time... then smiles wide and chuckles, crossing the gap to grab in a hug, turtles and all. He lifted her from her feet and spun her in a half circle before putting her down, then stepped back to look her over.
"Celephai. I had a hunch. Damn but you look well and Enda - wow is she cute. Absolutely adorable."
Cel was... nonplussed by his seeming acceptance of this situation. She still seemed to be somewhere between upset and shocked, but was able enough to begin putting things in their places. Enda, meanwhile, was busy ferrying water from the aqueducts into large glass bowls.
"So, ah... yes, she is... a wonderful child. Unique one, as well. Yes, I suppose that applies to us doesn't it?" Cel spoke as she began pulling out a small cooking pot, stuffing the larger shellfish into it. "Seven years it has been... And you haven't changed at all. Well, I guess it is hard to change men like you. I've been away, as you know. Got to see the world at large... even a few from where I used to be. Good help, they are, especially when... I found out I was carrying something with me." She looked at the little girl as she continued her dutiful work hauling water to and fro. "Ah, but we'll discuss this later, listen, you hungry? It's crab and lobster tonite, with some turtle soup-" She leaned in to whisper to him, "And some ground-up seaweed thrown in, but don't tell the little one."
Grayell caught the deliberate exaggeration of that one word, but continued to listen to her as she spoke. His eyes wafted from Cel to Enda and back again, him smiling as the little one bumbled about quite dutifully.
"I would be honoured Cel, I don't believe I have ever had the pleasure of your cooking before. Tell you what though - you wanted chaos, you certainly have it now. She's very well behaved though, I must say."
Celephai took a deep breath, as if trying not to explode. She could feel the flurry of emotions bubbling up within her, but they were kept in check for now. "Well, I hope you enjoy crab, because they've been nesting in some of the seaside wells, and some fish merchant decided it'd be a great place to drop his crab cages. Well, he'll have to buy replacements now..." She dropped the fish in some of the partially-filled jars, separating some of the fish by species (the eel, notably, got a jar all to itself).
"Yes, she's pretty well behaved. Generally I leave her to do what she will. Enda can get away with walking the streets in daylight, provided she doesn't make eye contact- Come to think of it, did she tell you about that? Ah, interesting trick she's got... But yes, most people just think she's too adorable to bring to harm, and she's generally pretty sensible about what to do and what not to do. I will say this, though: She absolutely cannot swim. Sinks like a rock, every time, no matter what I try or teach her to do, so keep her away from deep water."
Soon, the bag of shellfish hung inside a pot, just over the fire. Steaming crab and shellfish was easy, and the turtle stew was bubbling in a smaller pot right next to it. Enda had finished filling the bowls of water, and napped contentedly on the pile of cushions and blankets. A few chipped plates were set aside, along with a couple small forks. "You'd be surprised what people throw out, and how much of it is still very much usable. Found an entire set of brass ornamental armor once. I liked it, but Enda hated the thing, said it looked too much like a golem, so we sold it for some spending money." Cel chuckled, gesturing to a small chest set to one side. "That's our other little nest egg. Could get her through some pretty hard times if anything ever happens to me. She has no concept of what money is worth, though. So don't go letting her splurge. Someone could live out the end of their days in comfort with what much..." Cel sprinkled some cleverly hidden dried seaweed into turtle stew, setting it aside to cool off of the bonfire.
Grayell registered everything she said and noted the peculiarity of her instructions as far as Enda was concerned. He had no stake in the child of course, though he was more than willing to help Cel out if she needed it, but her words were just a hair strange.
He put it off as Cel being her usual unusual self and shrugged.
Ah, can't complain. Things have changed a great deal since you left as you can well see, it has very little to do with me these days. I'm happy enough, my home has been swallowed up by the forest and it keeps the curious types at bay. The town is doing well without being a pox on the land...
Yeah. I suppose things are going swimmingly.
I've been well Cel. No little ones to speak of, but happy nonetheless."
Cel twitched a bit at his last statement. Now he wasn't even being fair. "Look, Gray, I'm not saying for sure that she's... yours, but I can't say you aren't exactly innocent in the big picture. I wasn't with anyone after our encounter those many years ago... If you don't want a big part in her life, or maybe you don't want to be her father... I don't care, just- If something should happen to me, and she isn't able to take care of herself, all I ask is you be there for her."
It was clear she wasn't doing this out of spite, or malice, or trying to pass some blame of parentage off on Grayell. Her voice was almost desperate, pleading for some form of security.
"I know you're... involved with someone else. I can't hold that against you, not after how I was when I first came here. I don't expect you to even want her as a child, simply because of what she is, under that human exterior. I just want to know, if, or when, everything goes to hell, she has someone to care for her. That is all I'm looking for here."
Grayell studied Cel's face as though she'd said something entirely incredulous... then remains silent. He crosses the room to where Enda now napped and with a slight smile on his face, crouches to pull a blanket over her shoulder. He watches the tiny little girl sleeping, eyes lit up and his hand gentle as it brushes over her cheek.
"Cel. We can talk about it later if you like. I'm likely as clueless as you are. But you know me better than that. You don't even have to ask."
Cel simply stared into the fire, or, more accurately, into a non-space in-between. This was not an easy thing for her to come to terms with. "I don't know... I guess I just wanted to hear it for myself. These last few years have not been easy for me, Gray. I've had friends from the outer worlds to help me along, but a child..."
She sighed. "I know this isn't why you're here, you're here because- Why are you here? Like, now? I find it a little odd you just came to the sewers to chase a strange little girl." Celephai regarded Grayell curiously a moment, before going to check on the steamed shellfish.