“A Candlenights celebration? We have to go! Please please please?” In the tavern common room, Dhashi turned her wide blue eyes back and forth between Ilkan and Ro, bouncing eagerly on the balls of her feet as she did. Candlenights was her favorite holiday and she absolutely couldn’t miss a chance to celebrate it in the big city. She was sad that she couldn’t spend the holiday with her fathers, of course, but this would totally make up for it.

“Will there be food?” Ilkan asked, and Dhashi knew she had him. “Lots!” she replied. “And most of it fried.” The goliath shrugged. “I’m in.” They turned their attention to Ro, who scowled over her tankard and jerked her head in her version of an eye-roll. “Fine,” she muttered. “I suppose we could use a break from saving the world anyway.”

“Ohmygosh yay!” Dhashi dashed up to their rooms in a blur of ribbons and glitter to change into a more holiday-appropriate outfit.

– – –

“Oh my gosh, everything’s so beautiful!” Dhashi’s eyes glimmered with the reflection of the colorful lanterns bobbing in the air above the festival. Her outfit, a monstrosity of red and green ribbons, white lace, and little bells that tinkled every time she moved, blended in so well with the festival’s decorations that several passersby assumed she was one of the performers. As Ro and Ilkan stared dubiously into the packed crowd, the assimar danced back and forth to a tune only she could hear, apparently, and tried to catch snowflakes on her tongue. But then a chance gap in the crowd revealed the rows and rows of game booths, the giant prizes caught Dhashi’s attention, and she went bolting into the crowd with a trailing, “Ooh, games!”

“Aaaaaand there she goes,” Ro sighed, wondering how they would ever track Dhashi down in the chaos. “Bloody hell.” She turned to her companion, who already had his nose in the air sniffing out the direction of the food vendors. “Shall we hunt down some of that promised fried food first?” she suggested, and would have lost Ilkan in the crowd as well as he ran off, had he not stood several heads above everyone else. Ro followed after at a more sedate pace, using her swinging cane to clear a decent path through the crowd and begrudgingly admiring how fast Ilkan could move when food was involved.

– – –

Stuffed animals, lanterns, charms, dolls, there were so many prizes to choose from that Dhashi couldn’t pick which game to play first – until she reached the last stall and stopped short, staring up at its rows and rows of glass bowls, each with a goldfish or betta fish swimming lazy circles inside. Her eyes somehow managed to get even wider and she hurried up to the counter. “Oh my gosh,” she asked the bored teenager running the booth, “how do I win one of those fish?”

“You gotta knock three statues down,” The teenager mumbled around her mouthful of gum, raising one lazy finger to point at the setup. “It’s five gold for three balls.”

“Okay, I’ll play!” Dhashi threw down her gold, collected the balls, and tossed them with zero skill at the wood statues stationed in rows. One of the balls managed to hit, knocking one statue down, but the other two flew too wide. The teenager yawned and tossed a floppy lock of dyed black hair out of her eyes. “Too bad,” she said woodenly. “Want to go again?” Dhashi pursed her lips and slammed down another five gold. “Yes!”

Miss. Miss. Hit? No, miss. Miss. Miss. Dhashi exhaled furiously, glaring at the traitorous, clearly rigged game. Still, she set down another five gold, and then another, and then yet another after that. As before, she missed most of the time and failed to knock down three statues even when she did hit. After each attempt the teenager would repeat in the same disaffected tone, “So close. Want to try again?” and Dhashi would throw down her next five gold. She went to do this a final time… and found her wallet empty. Her eyes filled with disappointed tears. Her bottom lip trembled entirely of its own accord. All she wanted was one little fish… She’d never had a pet before…

“Oh good lord,” Ro, fried dough in hand, had been watching this pitiful display for some time. The tears were too much even for her, though, and she dug out five gold. “Here, take it, just… don’t cry.” She set the gold on the booth’s counter and Dhashi wiped away her tears, gazing up at the jenasi with awe. “Really?” she asked, sure this must be a trick of some kind; Dhashi knew she wasn’t exactly Ro’s favorite person, and certainly not high enough in her esteem to warrant such a gesture. But Ro waved at the proffered gold and went back to eating her fried dough. “Yes, really.” Dhashi stared at the game uncertainly, then shook her head. “I’m too nervous!” She grabbed Ro’s free arm and tugged her forward. “Will you do it? I keep missing.”

“What? Oh, bloody hell,” Ro transferred her dough to her other hand, picked up one of the balls, and tossed it at the game in one fluid, careless motion. She hit one of the statues dead on, and as it tumbled down it took two others with it. Dhashi squeaked in triumph; the teenager clapped slowly, snapping her gum. “Congrats,” she sighed. “Which one do you want?”

“Um…” Dhashi stared up at all the bowls, unable to decide which fish she liked most. Then she knew. “The saddest one, please,” she requested, knowing the prettier, flashier fish would all find homes before the end of the festival. The teenager rolled her eyes but did bend down to pull out a dusty bowl. Inside a betta fish swam in idle circles, its scales a dull brownish-green that matched the algae growing on the inside of the glass. It was, admittedly, not a very lovely or lively fish; yet Dhashi accepted the proffered bowl like it was filled with gold, hugging it to her chest. “I’ll name you… Charlie!” She beamed up at Ro. “Thank you thank you thank you thank you!”

And that is the story of how Dhashi the magical girl warlock aasimar found her familiar, Charlie the depressingly bland betta fish.

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