It was late, the moon casting a spotlight on the roof of the inn. Nerje, running his thick, black fingernails through his hair, sat down and pulled his stolen treasure out of his pocket—a roll, leftover from dinner. His mother, the owner of the inn, would have been cross if she’d known he was eating this late at night. But Nerje always got hungry right before he went to bed. He was growing, by leaps and bounds these days.
He was glad to be growing. He’d always been the scrawny kid, the one everyone made fun of; the kid no one wanted to touch, for fear they might break him. But now that he was finally gaining some height, perhaps they’d listen to him more. Maybe they’d bully him a little less.
Biting into the roll, Nerje, with his other hand, ran his fingers through his hair again, feeling his scalp. Daerys—another Tiefling—had told him that his cousin had grown horns during his growth spurt. Horns made you a badass, Daerys had insisted, and maybe Nerje would grow some too. No one would mess with you if you had horns.
Nothing seemed to be developing yet, but Nerje wasn’t about to lose hope. He wanted the whole nine yards of his demonic heritage—the scales, the wings, a tail, hooves. It was too bad that that stuff never came in later. You were born with it, or you didn’t have it. With wings, or hooves and a tail, none of the neighborhood bullies would feel like picking on him, surely. He could just look at them, and they’d run as fast as their legs could carry them.
He groaned. His mother? This late? “I’m on the roof!”
“Get in bed! Now! I won’t say it again!”
Something had woken her. A nightmare, maybe. She’d had more and more of those, lately. Probably about when his father had been taken out and beaten to death—when the town had been convinced of his guilt in a murder case. Law had never seemed right to him, after that. It was just a bunch of idiots trying to control you for their own purposes. Or trying to kill you, like father.
“Okay!” he called down, stuffing the last of the roll in his mouth.
He was going to make a name for himself. He was going to make those stupid guards cower in their boots, one day. They’d beg him not to hurt their families, or to mess up their reputation with the leader of the guard—or, worse, the king himself. He’d take tea with the king, someday, and the king would look forward to his visits. One day.
But first, he needed to get tall.