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Rising From the Ashes

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Anakis stared at the unconscious man slumped over the kitchen table, his horns scraping a groove into the wood as he shifted slightly, and she clenched her hands into fists at her side. Less than a day earlier, her uncle had looked her in the eye and sworn on his blood that they wouldn't be going out that night, that they'd learned their lesson and would play it safe.

Except he'd apparently lied to her face.

She could feel a myriad of emotions welling up inside her, anger and frustration and pity all mixing together into something that felt very similar to disgust. Enough was enough. She was done.

Her tail lashing angrily behind her, Anakis turned and stormed out of the main room of their hovel, heading in the direction of the small room she used as a bedroom. It was more like a closet, if she was honest, but it was hers. That was the important thing. It had been her sanctuary ever since she was nothing more than a small child, and it had remained so as she had grown.

It took mere moments for her to shove the scant handful of belongings that she could actually call hers into a satchel.

She'd been considering leaving for months now, ever since she had reached her coming of age. The only thing that had been holding her back was a vague sense of guilt, the idea that it wouldn't be fair for her to simply walk out and turn her back on her entire life. Father and Uncle had kept her fed, after all, for all those years. They'd kept a roof over her head and clothes on her back, and if their means of accomplishing that had been less than savory, it had still been to her benefit.

But gods damn it, she wasn't going to become them. She was Anakis, daughter of Kallista, and even if she had nothing else, she had her pride. She was going to be more than just another petty thief in a line of even pettier ones.

Hissing out a curse in Infernal, Anakis stormed out of her room, leaving the door open behind her. She almost headed straight back in the direction of the communal room and right out the front door, but she paused at the last moment in front of the doorway to the room that her father and uncle shared. It was cracked open, and inside the room someone was snoring.

Considering her uncle was passed out in the kitchen, that meant it was probably her father who was asleep in there. Unless one of them had brought a guest home for the night. It wouldn't have been the first time they'd spent their coin on picking up someone who was willing to go home with anyone as long as they got a drink or two out of it, after all.

Anakis hesitated, just for a moment. Then she took a deep breath and pushed the door open.

Her father was sprawled out on one of the small, dirty beds in the room. Alone, thankfully. His tail was hanging over the side, and he was clearly still drunk from the night before. Not that it was much of a surprise, considering the two of them had come stumbling in shortly after dawn. He'd probably be in bed until mid-afternoon, unless his hangover woke up him first. And then he'd head out again as soon as the sun went down to try to scam and cheat and steal his way through the taverns until their doors were closed to him.

He looked older than she remembered.

Anakis stared at him, her hand clenching tightly around the strap of her thin satchel. She'd loved him once upon a time, before Mother had left and everything changed. She'd been young, just a little girl, but she remembered the look of his smile and the sound of his laugh. Even if neither of them was something she'd seen or heard in a long time.

If she stayed, she'd end up the same as him. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow... but someday. Because that's what happened when you lived in Undertown. You stayed and forgot who you were, doing whatever was needed to survive, or you left and never came back. Like Mother had.

Those were the only two options for people like them. Nobody liked devils. At least not in the part of the world that they lived in.

Anakis stood there for a long moment, staring down at him and trying to memorize his face. The grey streaks in his dark hair, the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, the sharp curve of his horns, the slightly darker spots in his light red skin where scar tissue was raised up...

She couldn't stay, but she didn't want to forget where she came from. Who she came from. Even if it was only because she wanted a reminder to do better.

"Goodbye Papa," she said softly, her whisper disappearing into the stillness of the room. She hadn't called him that in years, not since the first time he'd shoved her into a crowded tavern and told her if she wanted to eat, then she needed to get better at stealing coin without getting caught. Still, it seemed fitting.

The figure on the bed didn't stir.

Anakis let out a breath she hadn't even realized she was holding. She wasn't quite certain what she would have done if he'd woken up, if her resolve would have been strong enough for her to turn and leave when he was looking right at her. It was better this way.

Or, at least, it was easier.

With one last look at him, Anakis turned and made her way towards the door that led outside. She had no idea where she was going or what the future held, but she couldn't stay. She wasn't like them, willing to let her life slip away like grains of sand through her fingertips. For better or for worse, she had too much of her mother in her.

Anakis slipped through the door and, without a backwards glance, walked away from the ashes of her previous life. Her future was out there. She just had to find it.