When her sister turned 16, her sister was married off to a lumberjack’s son from a nearby village. Adalina had delusions of one day leaving home and marrying a handsome merchant who she would travel the seven continents with. Alas, such fancies were not to be and even before she was old enough to marry, she had caught the eyes of a local innkeeper. When asked for, her parents refused her to him due to the fact that the village knew he was not a decent man, with two prior wives who already left him.
One day as she was gathering water from the river, bandits had attempted to kidnap her. A young soldier that was passing by had seen the incident and made a ruckus and interfered, resulting in the kidnappers running away. Seeing that the kidnappers were actually people affiliated with the innkeeper, she begged for the young man to take her with him.
That was how she met Troyle.
On their travels, she disclosed to him why she wanted to run away, and what he had saved her from. The young soldier also told her of how he was one of the few mercenaries that were hired by her village to solve the amber fox infestation in the nearby forest. He had finished talking to the village elder and was on his way back to report to his company head when he saw the kidnapping. After the rendezvous with the mercenary band, she decided to stay with them, learning various things from the older females there.
The mercenary band did a lot of traveling due to the nature of their work, and she would follow them. Helping to cook, cleaning, and washing dirty laundry. When she has time, using what little knowledge that was taught to her by her father and various trials and errors; she would scavenge for edible plants, berries, nuts, and roots during the travel. Adalina had only planned to follow the band to the nearest highly populated town where she could find work and try to live on her own, but after getting to know the people in the mercenary company, and Troyle, she decided to stay with them.
She eventually fell in love with Troyle, and after four years with the mercenary band, they got married. During a job, Troyle injured his left shoulder and was not able to able to work as a mercenary anymore, so they bought a small house with the money they had saved up, and settled down in the village of Hilthu on the southern edge of the Darsus continent.
Being outsiders, the villagers were indifferent to them which was just fine. After recovering to an extent, Troyle was conscripted to join the village guards and sent to the outskirts of the village. Only to come home once every five days.
As the days went by, and Adalina became pregnant, she felt the weight of loneliness disappear. She spent her days doing what little work she could in her pregnant state, and talking to the life that was growing inside her.
It was a horrible birth and even though she thought she would never make it, the child was birthed safely. As if stillborn, the baby made no sound after entering the world. The midwife slowly lower her ears to his chest and mouth to listen for any indication of breathing. Upon closer examination, the child had ash gray hair, and two birth marks on his chest that looked like scars.
The midwife, seeing his hair and birthmarks started shouting “Demon! It’s a demon!” And as per the religious doctrine of the Holy Hainl Order pertaining to those with silver hair. She was about to crush his tiny neck with her hands.
“Remove your hands, before I remove your head from your neck!”
Yet before she could, a sword was leveled on her neck. Luckily that day, a replacement had been sent to call Troyle back when she had gone into labor. Seeing the fury in his eyes, the midwife relented and gave him the newborn then briskly left the room and the house altogether. Troyle looked at the newborn inquisitively with a face full of confusion and doubt then at Adalina. Troyle had dull red hair, and Adalina had sleek black hair, yet the color of the child’s hair was gray. Doubt and confusion were the only things occupying his mind.
‘Could she have been fooling around while I was out there putting my life on the line to defend this village?!’
In anger, Troyle lashed out at his wife.
“IS THIS WHAT YOU DO WHEN I’M OUT THERE PROTECTING THE VILLAGE?!”
In his anger, he had forgotten her faithfulness, and mistrust had clouded his mind. Adalina tried to convince him that she would never do that, and that the child was truly his, but Troyle would not listen. Seeing the murderous eyes of his mercenary days, Adalina slowly rose up from the bed. Strengthened by willpower alone, she attempted to fight for her child’s life. With a speed unlike that of one who had just given birth, she quickly snatched the baby from Troyle. Clutching him to her breast, she begged and pleaded Troyle to believe her.
Outraged and perplexed, Troyle promptly exited the room before he could do anything unforgivable.
Left in the dim lights of flickering candles, Adalina gently caressed the newborn in her arms. Fearing the worst, she silently waited while holding onto the child. Bringing his tiny body up to her ears, she could hear a low breathing sound, she could see his tiny little chest rise up and down with each subsequent breath. Her relief was short-lived, as the breath started slowing. Not sure what to do and with what looked like impending doom hovering over her child, Adalina cried. All the happiness when she found out that she would be a mother came crashing down, and nothing but grief remained. Clinging onto the baby, she let out her despair.
“NGHGAAAAAAAAAA! NGHAAAAA!” As if telling her he was there, the child started crying with all his might.
Like a ray of light piercing the darkness, her sorrows disappeared. As if a child’s adorable trick had gotten the best of her, a light laughter could be heard mixed with her diminishing sobs. As she watched the tiny bundle of life in front of her quiet down and fall asleep, she decided to name him Kaidus, with Reilt as his middle name meaning ‘Silent one’.
After that night, rumors of Adalina giving birth to a demon spread across the village.
After calming down and thinking things through, Troyle did not go back into the house that day. Instead he went around the village asking for information and looking for clues on anyone who came through the village with gray or white hair. No one had any information, and those who did, were old people telling him of legends with people with gray silver and white hair. No one in the town had white hair; most of the villagers hair color was predominantly brown, there were only three people with blue hair, seven families with blonde, a few of those with red like him, and two other families with black like Adalina.
No one had ever seen anyone with anything close to gray hair not to even mention white, ever since times immemorial.
Looking at the evidence before him, Troyle had no choice but to accept the facts that his wife was faithful, and that he was out of line.
With the midwife’s incessant spread, and Troyle inquiries, the rumor of Adalina giving birth to a white-haired demon quickly became known throughout the village.
With the rumors going around that her child was a demon, Adalina could do nothing but take their jeers while bringing up her child. The indifferent attitude towards their family when they first moved in was now full of contempt. After much investigation and deliberation, Troyle had apologized to her and believed that Kaidus was his child, but when he is off on patrol, he could not protect her from the glares of the villagers nor their scorn. Her previous abundant jobs of helping out around the village slowly declined, and the previous payments drastically dropped to barely a fraction of their prior pay. Always having to bring her child along when she is working, she can feel the disdain from those she passes, yet the majority of the gazes were not even focused on her, but at the child whose sin was being born into this world. She hated herself for this. She hated how; due to her love, she had brought him into this world, and because of that love, unable to set him free from a fate of hate and loneliness.
The only ones whom she did not feel such gazes from were: her husband, children too young to understand, and those who have known such scrutiny and contempt.
Then there was the child. As if sticking to his middle name, Kaidus grew up in silence. There were times when she feared that his eerie silence helped to reinforce the rumors, but such thoughts are quickly extinguished by her maternal instincts. Kaidus always remained quiet, but whenever hungry, he would cry at the top of his lungs just like when he was born. As he grew and his vision became apparent, she would sometimes notice eyes filled with intelligence; observing and examining his surroundings. Occasionally when looking at him, she would notice him staring back at her. Love and fear would war inside her. Upon staring at such a small and inquisitive face, she remembers how happy she felt when she gave birth to him, but adversely how unfortunate he is to have been born with such traits. This regret would overwhelm her often causing her to break down in tears.
By the beginning of Grunei, Kaidus had already started to crawl, and the silence became more prevalent. Instead of crying, he just tugged on her for her milk whenever he was hungry. At home, setting him down while she cooks, he would often disappear but would always be found in the backyard sitting in the grass, just staring into the distance.
As his curiosity grew, and as if he can understand what she says, Adalina would often talk to her son and tell him stories. She would spend hours just talking to him while she worked. she talked about insignificant things such as; having pets, what she liked to eat, who wanted what to be washed, how sharp her kitchen knife was, etc… other times, about life, how to farm, how she grew up, what kind of plants she used to pick in the forest when she still lived with her parents, and other useful tips of life. Catching him looking at something, she would pick him up and name it for him while pointing it out.
Towards the end of Grunei, Kaidus had already started toddling around, and had started to refuse her milk whenever she tries to feed him.
As usual he would tug on her signifying his hunger, but instead of drinking her breast milk, he push towards her own meal. Knowing that a few of his baby teeth had already came out, she spooned him a small piece of mashed derilt root from her bowl, and he had eaten it.
Ever since then, he only ate solid food and would refused her milk.
After a hard day’s work on the field helping to weed the newly planted furuce, Adalina’s pay was 5 erns. The usual pay was 15 erns per day, but since less and less people had started employing her, she had begged for the job to help with the farm, and was reluctantly accepted at the measly pay of 5 erns.
Walking home from the field, Adalina would take detours along paths less traveled and used her talents from her old life to scavenge and scrounge for edible herbs roots and plants to supplement the need to shop for such things. She met a hunter on the way back to the village and had procured a small piece of a scaly hare for 2 erns. Meat was expensive, but since today was a special day, she decided to surrender the money.
Kaidus watched her patiently as she cooked the piece of scaly hare into a stew—with plenty of derilt root and dry ciscut leaves chopped into fine pieces. Dried herbs were also added with salt to season the stew. After the stew was ready, Adalina scooped most of the nutritious scaly hare into a bowl, and blew on it to cool it down before giving it to Kaidus.
Meat was not a rare treat in the house due to the fact that Troyle would bring some home whenever he comes back, but scaly hares were extremely rare within the village. They were also very delicious and rich in fat while the meat were filled with unfathomable flavors, coupled with the fact that they spent their lives underground only appeared nearing the end of Alivai to breed, she was quite lucky to have procured some. A whole hare would have cost about 30 erns, so getting a small chunk of it for 2 erns was definitely worth it.
As she finished what little scaly hare she got in her stew, and began to eat the roots and sip the broth. She lifted her head up to watch Kaidus eat, only to see him staring back at her. With his cute adorable face looking at her curiously, she smile at him and said “happy birthday”.
Kaidus has never troubled her ever since he was born. He never makes a sound even when people are yelling around him, he never cried out besides when hungry, even when the pressure of life and the village has gotten too much to bear and she would cry, he would just stare at her as if unsure of what to do. He was quiet most of time and she could never figure him out. Yet his actions never bothered her or caused her to worry, instead she would talk to him about various subjects even if he never made a sound back.
‘Such a wonderful child is regarded as a demon, and all I can do for him is to try and shield him from the hate. Even for his birthday, I could do nothing but give him something to eat. How I wish I had more to give him.’
With such thoughts, tears began to swell out of her eyes.
Staring at her, Kaidus slowly opened his mouth and asked her -
“Why do you cry?.” With crisp clarity.
“!!” Surprised, Adalina was at a loss for words.