The night was reaching its peak at the old tavern on Conjuror's Row. Inviting orange light spilled out of the windows and onto the street. The air inside was mildly opaque, both in the sense that smoke billowed from the pipes of relaxing adventurers and that the atmosphere of the place was one that begged for anonymity. It was for this reason that the nymph lounging in one corner frequented the place. Her gaze shifted continually around the room as she nursed her drink: an amber-colored brew that never seemed to empty.
Between muscled adventurers locked in performative competitions of strength and the boisterous laughter of patrons getting too relaxed, a slender figure entering the tavern managed to catch the nymph’s eye. It seemed familiar to her. The nymph’s orange eyes narrowed, trying to place the wispy figure. It was drifting in her direction, weaving through the bawdy and raucous crowd. Familiarity was not something that she was used to in her line of work. After all, the whole point was to help people disappear. She worked alone and had no repeat customers, either. Who was there to feel familiar? Troubled, she pursed her lips into a thin green line as the human took the seat across from her. This accursed alcohol, she thought. Obscuring my immortal memories.
“And to whom,” she said, her voice sounding something like a hiss and a spring breeze, “do I owe this pleasure?”
“Icashi Goodmatron of Matrdon, novice adventurer,” the human said, offering their hand in greeting.
“You ought to be more careful giving your name out around these parts, traveler,” the nymph warned, though the name pricked at the borders of her mind.
Icashi blinked, their hand falling. “And why’s that?”
“Do you not know that Fae abound in these parts? Or, more specifically, what they can do with a name?” the nymph frowned. ”Maybe you do not,” she added, seeing Icashi’s face grow blank in ignorance.
“I don’t suppose you mean to enlighten me?”
“The Fae can get up to all manner of mischief with a person,” the nymph explained, “if they should only possess their true name. Goddesses only know what purposes an ill-intending Fae might have for a...” she scanned the human’s delicate-looking body. “A person such as yourself.”
“Aren’t nymphs such as yourself Fae as well?” Icashi asked.
“Lucky for you, I did not ask for your name in a way that required you to give it to me.”
“But you now know my name, don’t you?”
“Ah, yes.” She smiled, a smile with pointed teeth. “But a Fae must possess your name, must own it. Had I asked ‘May I have your name?’ it would be a different story.”
“I see.” Icashi frowned.
In that instant, the nymph realized why the sight of this human pricked at her mind. Her long, tapered ears flattened towards her head, her pupils constricting at this new feeling of foreboding. But she continued with their conversation as though she thought nothing of it.
“I will not pretend I do not own some names, at least for a time. How do you presume I do the things that I do?” She removed her hood and leaned forward. “I assume you have sought me out because you have heard of my… services.” At this, she took a long drink, keeping her eyes on the young adventurer. Whoever this person was, they’d evidently not recognized her. As it should be.
Icashi, whose posture had deteriorated over the conversation, perked up. “Oh, yes! Your reputation intrigues me so,” they began, eyes shining. “The idea that people would leave their whole lives behind! I mean, I know it’s probably not a good thing for these people. But all those stories, oh, it must be fascinating.”
The nymph pondered on this. She had never been sentimental about the reasons her clients decided to come to her. The only reason she’d learned about them at all was to do an adequate job. Of course, she was never cold about it. Compassion was one feeling she shared with humans, and she shared it with those who needed it. But she’d never found the kind of allure in it that Icashi seemed to.
“You are right, young adventurer. I have erased people from tragic stories, given repentant criminals second chances at life. I have helped fallen despots escape the consequences of their cruelty,” the nymph said, without theatrics.
Icashi gave a dour frown. Naive child, the nymph thought, though Icashi was several years into adulthood.
“I am not here to pass moral judgments on my clients,” the nymph stated matter-of-factly. “Though I have found the last category to be my least favorite.”
“I’ll try to understand,” Icashi said, shifting in their seat.
“Truthfully, your time is of the essence. I will tell you one story,” the nymph said, her gaze piercing Icashi, “but you must promise to believe me once all is said.”
“Of course. I promise” Icashi cocked their head to the side slightly, questioning this request.
“I once had a child, one in their adolescence, approach me—a bedraggled little thing dressed in rags. They were perhaps my youngest client in all the time I have been doing this. I was tempted to turn down their request based on their youth, something I do not do lightly. As I said, I have helped those I find unseemly. But what does a child know of the world? What does a child know of how life progresses? They are, so often, shortsighted. The choice to leave a life behind is not one that should be taken on a whim. Yet, I had a duty to hear out their request.
“This child had come far, from the country outskirts all the way here, to the Capitol city. They had had a tragic childhood, as it happens all too often out in those areas that the Emperor feels no need to patrol. Although, the Empire’s military presence comes with its own evils, so perhaps this country is not one suited for children.” The nymph pursed her lips once again.
“You must forgive my digression. The child’s parents were sorcerers who had traveled out to the countryside to study illegal magics and in a desperate bid to avoid the Emperor’s conscription of magic users. They possessed a stash of magical items—powerful, and unstable. One day, a band of raiders happened upon the couple’s cottage, and, well… the magical explosion was such that word got back to the Emperor himself within days. The parents were either vaporized in the blast or transported somewhere else entirely.
“The military patrol sent out to investigate the commotion found the child comatose in the wreckage and brought them back here to be… looked into. They were woken up with the help of the Emperor’s court sorcerers and questioned about what had happened. The traumatized child was under such stress, when suddenly magical lightning shot uncontrollably around the room, striking and maiming, even killing, many of the people near them. Apparently, being near the explosion of the magical artifacts had imbued the child with extreme magical potential. Of course, the Emperor has reason to replicate such an event and intended to experiment on the child to extract how to do so. Fortunately, the child found out, and in a moment of panic, was able to teleport out of the castle altogether and eventually found their way here, to me. They begged me to find a way to hide them from the Emperor. Not only that, but traumatized as they were, they wished to be rid of the memories of their past. Indeed, many who come to me wish for their memories to be erased.
“I obliged the child, of course. Although I detach myself from your human affairs, I have no love for the Emperor, especially in his quest for magical dominance. I sent them away, to a quaint town far enough to be unsuspicious but close enough that the business of the area allowed some anonymity.” The nymph paused, gazing at Icashi. “What do you think, adventurer?”
“I think that’s one hell of a story,” Icashi said, eyebrows raised at the intrigue of it. They hadn’t been expecting the scale of the story.
“It is. Unfortunately, it appears this child has somehow made their way back to the Capitol. I feel some responsibility to get them out once again.”
“How do you know that?”
“I know because they are sitting in front of me now. I gave you that name, Icashi Goodmatron, and I will take it away again.”