#1959

“Mama, look!” Dia’deferde’t’mana’nbat’shi glanced down from where she stood arranging flowers for the night’s celebration – and right into the wide, emotionless eyes of a small garden snake. Its head bobbed up and down as her youngest daughter bounced on the balls of her feet to compensate for her toddler stature. “He’s like us!” she crowed, wiggling her red tail as evidence. “See?”

“Rem’r!” Dia drew back in disgust, both relieved and further repulsed to see the snake was alive, its tongue flicking in and out while it most likely plotted the invasion of her villa. “How many times have I told you not to bring anything that is alive, or was once alive, or that could become alive into the house?” She made as if to push her daughter back out the door, but hesitated before coming within striking distance of the snake. “Honey, just…” she gestured toward the door, “go put that thing back where you found it… or farther away than that. And wash your hands.” From beyond the snake’s questing head, Rem’r’s chubby face crumpled. “But he’s like us!” she repeated, trying with upstretched arms and tippy-toes to show her mother the snake. “He has a tail and we have tails! He’s family!”

“Guh!” Dia shuddered involuntarily. “We are not like that… thing!” She circled around her daughter, then gently pushed her toward the door. “Snakes aren’t related to tieflings. Snakes are scaly and slimy and… and creepy crawly little monsters!” At the threshold to the patio she stopped and gave her daughter a final stern nudge. “Do go put that gross thing back, Rem’r. It’s time to come inside anyway. The guests will be here soon.”

“Okay, Mama…” Rem’r cast her a last pouting look, then turned away. Dia watched her daughter trudge down to one of the far gardens, ensuring the snake was good and truly released, then turned back to her preparations. How Rem’r had turned out so odd, and so unlike her three older daughters, she had no idea.

– – –

“A basilisk! How wonderful!” While the rest of her party backed away in understandable caution, Rem’r moved toward the beast emerging lithely from the forest. It wore a hood much like a hunting bird’s, the better to protect them all from its stony stare – though chances were great that Rem’r would have approached the creature anyway without it. She let it sniff her hands, then walked in a circle to take it in from all angles.

“His name is Eli,” the sorceress explained, clearly pleased that at least one in the party didn’t fear a creature of the Fae Wilds. “He’ll come with you, as long as you are sure to feed him. Basilisks require quite a lot of food.” Nodding in agreement, Rem’r scratched the basilisk under the chin and cooed, “Eli, you’re such a sweetie. Who’s a good boy? You are! Do you wanna come with us to kill the big bad witch?”

“Are you actually petting him?” From a safe vantage point, Never attempted rationality. “You know what basilisks are, don’t you? And what they can do? We are not taking that monster with us; it’ll probably eat us before we’re halfway there!”

“HEY!” Rem’r turned an indignant and furious look upon the dragonborn, her tail lashing back and forth. “He’s not a monster! He’s a basilisk, and a very nice one at that. Basilisks are important apex predators and a crucial link in the food chain of–” She kept lecturing but the others had, as usual, already tuned her out and were settling the details of the agreement with the sorceress. She gave the general gathering a final glare and turned back to Eli. “You’re not a monster,” she reassured him. “You’re a very good boy and I bet without you the whole local ecosystem would collapse.”

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