Author's Notes: As I have said many times, I don't take requests. I write what I feel like writing with no apologies, and I don't let the readers dictate what I write. However, there are special circumstances that change that policy. Quite some time ago (longer than I would like to admit), I was on a forum that had a "Why Doesn't This Story Exist" thread, where people share ideas that they've always wanted to see in a fanfic, and one person put out a request that actually struck a chord and caused plot bunnies to reproduce.
This story is meant to be a semi-realistic idea on the topic of adoption (though don't get mad if it's not perfect because I don't have the experience and context to know everything about it) while at the same time exploring the character of the planeswalker (who of all Magic characters, I relate to the most), Tamiyo. Despite her popularity among fans and how many times she has popped in and out of stories throughout Magic's history, we still know so very little about her, and I wanted to see what I could do with that little bit of information. I do not officially know how many chapters this fic will be, but I'm estimating in the ballpark of between 3 and 5.
So, for TolkienScholar, thank you for the idea.
As always, I do not own Magic: The Gathering or any other products of Wizards of the Coast.
Nashi scratched at the place on his side where the fur was just starting to grow back. It was patchy and rough, and the skin underneath that would never quite heal the way it was supposed to itched fiercely. He wanted to gnaw at it, but they had told him not to. He knew it was for his own good, but that still did not change the fact that he thought the stern-faced nezumi woman watching him was being unfair.
He knew everyone was still bitter about what had happened to the village, but he wished someone would say something to him other than "no," or "Adults need to speak now. This is no place for children."
Nashi did not understand why. He had been there too. It was not as if they said anything he did not already know. He did not understand why they all had to speak in hushed whispers. Their village had burned down. Fire had walked on two legs and devoured friends and family indiscriminately. Mama and papa were gone.
He could not think about that right now. Every time he closed his eyes at night, he still saw the walking fire as it grabbed his mother.
Right now was one of those times where he had been told to go to another room while adults were speaking. He had only briefly glimpsed at the tall stranger before being shooed away. This was certainly different from the other times. They never got visitors from outside the village, not anymore anyway.
He could hear the voices on the other side of the wall. HE heard the muffled voice of Onayo, the woman who watched him until they could find a place for him. It had not worked the first couple of times. The shamans who had survived did not know the first thing about taking care of a child, and most of the other survivors were too busy taking care of their own broken homes to take in another mouth to feed, let alone one who was small and weepy like him.
The stranger's voice intrigued him. From the soft tones, he could tell it was a woman. She was not trying to purposefully stay quiet to avoid him overhearing, but her voice was soft, steady, and even. It was a stark contrast to the exasperated tones of Onayo. Despite her hostile words, it seemed the stranger was firm in her own decisions.
The wooden door slid open as the stranger entered the room, Onayo holding the door behind her. "Don't know what you think you're going to get out of him," she grunted. "Boy can't even tell you what he saw without falling apart. But go ahead and try."
The door slid shut, leaving him alone with the woman he had never seen before. Nashi had never seen anyone quite so tall before. Of course, the nezumi were a shorter people, so everyone looked tall. So, to Nashi, who was still very small, she seemed like a giant. But after a few seconds, he realized that part of the reason she was so tall was because her feet never touched the floor. She could hover several inches above the ground.
Her skin was as white as porcelain. It only made the deep purple of her eyes and the marking son her skin show that much more visibly. Her ears where what fascinated him most. They were long, and wound over her hair to hang low beside her head. They were like a rabbit's.
Nashi sat up straight, unsure what he was supposed to do. She regarded him with a pleasant smile. "Hello," she said, bowing her head. "May I sit with you?"
He did not know what to say. She asked as though she were a guest. Usually, the adults always just did without asking him what he thought. He nodded his head slowly.
She lowered herself to the floor. He was half-expecting her to hover there, sitting cross-legged in front of him. But she had joined him there. He saw out of the corner of his eye some odd devices attached to the belt around her waist. "What are those for?" he asked, pointing to one in particular.
She followed his gaze. With her delicate but deft hands, she removed it and held it out. "It is a surveying tool," she said. "I use it to mark distances on maps."
She held it out to him and he took it carefully, looking it over. "Aren't ya afraid I might breaks it?" he asked.
The stranger shook her head. "No, you seem like a careful sort."
He handed it back to her, unsure about what to think of her. "You said you have maps. Are you an ex…explo-er?" he asked, trying hard to enunciate. Nashi always felt embarrassed about the way he spoke.
"Yes," she said. "I travel to many faraway places, and I learn as much as I can about the places I go. I like to learn stories about these places. That is why I am here, Nashi. I wish to hear your story."
He suddenly looked down at the floor, not wanting to meet her eyes. "M-my story?" he said. He had a feeling he knew what part of his story she wanted to know. "I…can't."
She clasped her hands in her lap. He could tell she was thinking about something. "What if I told you my story?" she asked.
He stayed quiet.
"Is it because I am a stranger to you?"
He gave her a slow nod. It was not a total lie. It did make him feel uneasy. There was still so much he was uncertain about.
"My name is Tamiyo," she said. "I was told your name is Nashi."
He smiled. She was nice, he had to admit. He was still a little puzzled, though. "You's one of them moonfolks, aren't ya?" he said, but then pausing as he wondered if he had been rude. "I never seen one before."
She nodded with a laugh. "A soratami, yes," she answered. "But I like that name: moonfolk. It's rather charming." She then regarded him with curiosity, followed by a smile, as if she knew some kind of secret. "If you have never seen one before, how did you know that is what I am?"
"The shamans," he said. "They tell stories about moonfolk sometimes. I seen the ears, and it made sense."
"Yes, I suppose that is hard to miss."
Something felt off, though. "How comes you are here? Don't moonfolk live in the clouds, in big castles?" The last time he knew, moonfolk rarely left their large libraries in the sky.
"Indeed, the soratami love their libraries and studies," she said. She leaned forward. "I love them too, but sometimes, it is better to go out and find new stories. Perhaps that is where I should begin my own."
For the next hour or more, Tamiyo told him wonderful tales about the places she had been. Nashi had never heard of these places. Myr? Tarkir? These were places that sounded so foreign. Yet, he had never really been outside his village. How would he know what was out there? Despite not knowing anything about these places, Nashi could almost picture himself being there, the way that Tamiyo told her stories.
She had just finished telling him about a powerful dragon who had his own school high in the icy mountains: Ojutai. "The Great Teacher has given me audience to listen to him speak a couple of times," she said. "Dragontongue is not a very easy language to understand, even more difficult to speak. Their wings convey so much nuance."
"It sounds scary," Nashi said.
Tamiyo shrugged. "Sometimes. By far, Ojutai is the most welcoming of the dragonlords on Tarkir. Still a bit haughty, as dragons usually are."
"Where is Tarkir?"
She seemed more than happy to tell him, as if this was the most important part of her story. She shook her head. "Tarkir cannot be found on a map, at least not a map of Kamigawa anyway. I have to walk behind the clouds to get there."
Nashi's eyes widened. Could such a thing be possible? Then again, he did not know all that much about moonfolk. Who knew what they could and could not do?
He had a set of fresh questions on his lips, but Tamiyo stopped him. "I admire your curiosity," she said. "But for another time. Nashi, I want to hear some of your own story."
He sighed. He thought he had gotten out of that. "But what part?" He was afraid of that answer. "And I don't think mine's as in…in-tres-ting as yours."
He watched her reach for a satchel by her feet that contained a good many scrolls. She pulled one out, along with a brush and ink. "You may start whenever you wish. That is the wonderful thing about stories. One beginning may be another's end. And I believe all stories are important," she said, beginning to write in a delicate calligraphy. "Perhaps tell me about your village. I have a limited knowledge of nezumi culture."
At first, it was slow-going. Nashi struggled to find the right words, and he felt foolish because he could not speak with such eloquence as his guest. Still, she listened intently, writing quietly with quick and efficient brushstrokes, and saying not a word as he spoke.
He told her everything he could remember about his old village. He told her about the shamans who were not officially in charge but who everyone turned to for advice on political matters. He told her about how small it was, but how big it felt because everyone usually pitched in to help keep the village going. He told her about the swift and stealthy warriors who protected their village. Nashi only paused a moment when he started to talk about his papa, who had been one of those proud warriors.
"I think I want to stop here now," he said, knowing if he continued to talk about his papa, he would surely break down in tears.
Tamiyo raised her eyebrows, and Nashi feared she would press further. But she looked out the window at the setting sun. "It is late," she said. She stood, or rather returned to her hovering. "I hope you do not mind if I return again soon? I would be more than happy to share stories again."
"Maybe," he said. He liked Tamiyo. He liked the way she told stories, and he wanted to know more about how she could walk behind the clouds. But he was not so sure he would enjoy telling his story.
Her feet touched the ground, and she knelt in front of him. She reached out a hand and gently held his arm. He could feel the smooth silk of her turquoise robe as it brushed against his fur. "Thank you," she said.
For several weeks after that, Tamiyo came back. Every time, she had new stories to tell. She spoke with such energy and grace, he was always enraptured. He could easily see the mechanical figures and animals that roamed Myr, the gigantic ogres of Shandalar, and the whimsical horned elves of Lorewyn. He did not even know what half of these creatures were, but her descriptions of them made him feel as if he could stand right next to them.
"Have you ever seen peoples like me on these other places?" he asked. "Like nezumi?"
She shook her head. "No, I have not. Nor have I seen people like moonfolk on these worlds. I like to think that makes our home special. Now, Nashi, what would you like to tell me today?"
Nashi always hated that part, when Tamiyo listened to his story. He was never sure about what to tell her. Sometimes he shared stories about his friends or mama and papa before the walking fire came.
And always, Tamiyo would sit and write down what he said. After several days, Nashi became curious about her writings. She would let him sit in her lap while she wrote. He could not quite understand what she was writing. Nezumi did not write down their stories, but he liked watching her hands work away with each careful brushstroke.
"How comes you write down all these stories?" he had asked one day, looking over at her satchel filled with scrolls.
She had hardly looked up from her writing as she finished a magnificent looking character with a great flourish. "Stories are powerful, Nashi," she answered. "They contain the things most important to a person or a group of people. They preserve an entire way of life. They help us see other people as they truly are. And…" She gave him the hint of a knowing smile. "They contain a great and powerful magic."
"Can you show me?"
She shook her head. "I am afraid not. Whenever I use the magic of these stories, it feels like stealing. I only use them when I have to."
"What kind of magic does my story have?"
Tamiyo shrugged. "I am not sure yet. Perhaps I will know when it is done."
Nashi looked at the scrolls in her bag again. He noticed that three were sealed with iron bands. "Are these special stories?"
He noticed her tense slightly. "Yes. They are very powerful, and very dangerous. They are never to be opened."
Nashi's hands quickly pulled away from the bag. He sat close to her again. "Why do you have them if they are so dangerous?"
"I keep them because I know I will never use them. I cannot be certain what would happen if someone else had them, especially if they had bad intentions."
Another thought occurred to him. "Did you writes them?" Nashi trusted Tamiyo. He wanted to trust her. How would she have it in herself to do something like that?
Her eyes met his. "Yes, I did. I did not know how dangerous they would be until I had written them down. I…I was not as careful about the consequences back then as I am now."
Eventually, there was no way around it. He would have to tell her the whole story. He would have to tell her everything. He began by telling her about the man with the metal arm who came to their village, how he tried to force the nezumi to bend to his will. Even then, that man had frightened him. Whatever his one arm was made of, it was not natural, did not belong on this world.
"He was one of them that walks behind the clouds," he said, pausing his story, "wasn't he?"
As time had passed, he had asked her more about her ability to travel. As Tamiyo had told him, it was not something that just any moonfolk could do. It was something only certain, special people could do. Even Tamiyo did not know why she had been chosen to be one of these such people. She had met many others, and did not see a pattern.
She stopped writing, placing her hands on her lap. A bird chirped in a tree above them. Today, Tamiyo had suggested being outside, thinking the cool air and the calm setting would put him at ease. She answered, "Yes, I believe he might have been. I do not know for sure, but there was enough evidence to suggest that."
Something about that seemed to bother him in particular. He sighed, letting his tail dip in the water of the small pond they sat beside.
Tamiyo moved closer, sitting beside him. "Let me show you something," she said. One of her pale hands reached out and gently touched the water. He watched carefully as her finger made the water ripple. "What happened?" she asked.
"You made the water ripple," he said, unsure where this was going.
"You touched the water."
Tamiyo nodded. "For every action we take, there are consequences. And those consequences will affect everything from now throughout the future." She picked up a stone. "People like me, who walk behind the clouds, we go to other worlds, places we were not to be on and…" She threw the stone into the water. He watched the water rock and ripple wildly. "We make bigger ripples. Even the tiniest actions cause consequences that can hurt so many people."
His brow furrowed as he thought about it. "But not all of those people are bad. You're good."
She smiled. "Even those with the best intentions can still cause great destruction. When we are on other worlds, we are messing with the balance of nature."
"So, what do you do about it?"
She shook her head. "Nothing. It is better for me to be a silent observer. I only write down what I learn from these other worlds."
That still did not satisfy him. "What about people who are in trouble? Don't you saves them?"
She breathed deeply, purple eyes regarding him intensely, trying to decide what to say. "If you pulled the small fish from the water to save them from being eaten from the bigger fish, would that save them?"
"No, cause they can't breathe air."
She nodded. "The natural order isn't always nice or fair, but it is balanced. It is not my place to disturb that balance. Nashi, what that man did to your village…he greatly upset that balance. Your story is a lesson in that."
Tears started to form in his eyes. "It wasn't fair," he said. "He took away mama and papa, and so many others. Why did he have to come here?"
Silk-covered arms wrapped him in an embrace and he felt Tamiyo's chin touch his head. "I know," she murmured. "It is not fair."
It took time, lots of time to Nashi, he thought, to tell her his whole story. Many times, just thinking about it would make him so upset he could not continue. But Tamiyo was patient. She never pushed for more details than he could manage. And when it hurt so much he could not take it, she sat with him until he ran out of tears. It was how the heart bleeds, she had told him, and it was the only way to heal from that kind of pain. Sometimes Nashi knew that she cried with him.
But after he had told her his story, she did not leave. She still visited him every so often and would tell him more of her story. Sometimes she told him of these faraway places he liked so much. Other times, she told him about her own family: her husband Genku, and her four children. Nashi was surprised to learn that. "But don't they miss you when you walk behind the clouds?" he had asked.
"Yes, quite a bit, but I always return, and they know I come back with more stories to tell."
"Tamiyo, does your story sometimes hurt, like mine?" he asked suddenly, not sure where the thought had come from.
"Yes," she said, but nothing more.
"Is it hard to tell it?"
"Sometimes, but I would share it with you Nashi. Maybe some other time, when you have had time to heal from your own story." She got very quiet then. Nashi wondered if she was thinking about those times.
But Nashi knew he would not have to wait long for her to explain what she was thinking. Tamiyo was often very forthright with him. "Nashi, I do not think I will be able to visit here anymore."
This was not at all what he was expecting. He felt his heart skink. "What? No! Why?" he asked all at once. "Is something wrong?"
She shook her head, a knowing smile on her face. "No, nothing is wrong at all. It is just…I intend to be busy. Genku and I have decided to have another child."
"Oh…" he said, letting it sink in. "Oh! You're going to have another baby! But, I mean…are you…already?"
It was only then that she seemed to realize what that must have sounded like. She chuckled. "No. No, nothing like that. We've decided to try something different." He gave her a confused look. "I suppose this is harder to say than I had planned. Nashi, what I mean is that I have spoken to Genku and…we would like to make you a part of our family."
"Stay with you?"
She nodded. "Yes. I know it may be a little overwhelming at first, and I know that you have been with other families since you lost your parents, and those did not go as well, but I wanted to ask you. I do not know how or why. Maybe we were meant to meet each other, but I think our family would feel…whole with you a part of it."
It was not because she felt sorry for him, he realized. It was not because she felt obligated to, like the others had. She wanted him there because of him. He curled up in her lap and hugged her as tight as he could. "I would likes that a lot," he said.