Wet grass stuck to Nepenthe's bare feet as he trucked through the wilderness. Just ahead of him led Kiggu and his horse; The two clearing the path ahead for the ill-tempered prince. It was cold, dark, and, despite the company, lonely. Nepenthe couldn't be more miserable if he tried. His once beautiful, luxurious robe was now burnt, ripped, and soaked. His shoes, thin and brittle to begin with, had been turned to tatters and were far from wearable. The only article of clothing that had survived the elements were surprisingly his shorts. Good thing, too. This walk was awkward enough as is. Regardless of its condition, Nepenthe still wore his robe and still held tightly to the remnants of his shoes. He wasn't one to stomp his feet and demand fate treat him better; He would play the cards life had dealt him.
It had been one full day now that his carriage had crashed, leaving the prince stranded, and a bit less since he met Kiggu. Nepenthe still wasn't sure what to make of him. Considering his attitude when they first met he decided to keep a fair distance away from the man, both figuratively and literally. He was glad Kiggu made no mention of how far behind he walked while he led. It was most likely because he simply didn't care. After all, he was paid to guide him home in advance. Nothing was stopping him from just fleeing now, leaving Nepenthe to fend for himself while he sold off all his gold jewelry. While that was a good sign of his character, there were still many questions about him that have been left unanswered. He was a tiefling travelling through tiefling ruled territory all while unaware Nepenthe was of royal blood. Something didn't add up there. Even if he was just travelling through the area, he thought, he ought to know at least something about a country so large.
Nepenthe narrowed his eyes at Kiggu's silhouette. Judging by his belongings it was clear he was not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his speaking patterns also implying a more humble upbringing. That, however, was really all he could gather from the time they spent together. The man was either a thief or an assassin Nepenthe decided. Even if he was neither he knew this man was not to be messed with. But, for now, he was on his side and he would soon be returned home thanks to that. That was all that mattered for now.
They hadn't seen rain but the earth beneath them was soaked, leaving the assumption that it had rained before they arrived. How inconvenient. Up ahead it appeared that Kiggu had slowed his pace and stopped just beneath a small gathering of trees. By the time Nepenthe caught up to the other tiefling he had already tied up his horse and began setting up camp. There was a small hole dug into the ground with a few wet sticks thrown inside.
“I thought a fire was a good idea but... everything is wet.” Kiggu explained with a chuckle as Nepenthe approached. The two shared a glance for a brief moment before Nepenthe averted his gaze.
The prince huffed as he glanced down at the failed attempt of a fire pit, not at all amused. Warmth would be much welcome during such a dark night but he’d just have to settle with a cold dirt bed tonight.
Kiggu seemed to have noticed the other’s silence and frowned to himself, causing Nepenthe's own frown to deepen. He found himself a spot on the dirt floor just beside the traveller and reluctantly sat down. His knees were brought up to his chest and held tightly in hopes of securing his own body heat. There was a thick silence between the two as the man insisted on starting a fire. The twigs, soaked as they were, would not even catch a flame. Kiggu's flint and steel was simply no match. He would not let up, however, and kept trying until Nepenthe raised his hand. The man looked over with a raised brow.
“We are fine without it.” His tone was calm and composed but firm.
With a slight huff, Kiggu relented and dropped his flint just in front of what was to be their fire pit. If they had arrived sooner they might've had a better chance at collecting dry wood before the rain. At least they had not gotten wet themselves.
Kiggu sat back, resting on his elbows and staring up at the sky. This gave Nepenthe the opportunity to further analyze the tiefling without being caught blatantly staring. He wore studded leather armor that looked like it had been worn for far too long: through thick and thin. His hair was a greasy matted mess and his face looked no less dirty. What fascinated Nepenthe, though, were his ears. He had met many tieflings in his life but those with animalistic features always seemed to capture his attention the most; Kiggu was no different.
“Your ears-” he blurted out, “-they are that of a goat’s.” There hadn’t been a moment prior where Nepenthe could comfortably mention the feature and so he had been holding onto the topic for quite a while.
Kiggu glanced back down from the sky to see the other eyeing him. He lifted both ears and turned them slightly before letting them droop back down. “Yes.” He replied plainly.
“Are they your father's?” Nepenthe looked them over curiously, eyes slightly widened as he leaned forward to get a better sight. He hadn't expected him to be able to move them on command like that. Ear twitching was normal between tieflings, elves, and all other creatures with long ears, sure, but Nepenthe had met only a few with nearly prehensile ears. They caught him off-guard every time.
The man furrowed his brows at the question, a confused grin on his face. “Why is that your first guess?”
Nepenthe scoffed. “One of your parents must have the trait. Unless.. both do?” It was not impossible but improbable at the very least. Kiggu's grin grew as he could see the confusion on Nepenthe's face.
“Still a strange question to ask someone you hardly know. Where are your manners, prince?” The boy narrowed his eyes, bringing a laugh out of Kiggu. He raised a hand defensively and spoke; “Sorry.” He cleared his throat. “ The truth is I do not know.”
“You... do not know?” He repeated, still just as confused as before. Kiggu nodded. “How do you not know...? Have you never met your parents?” Another nod. Nepenthe opened his mouth to speak out but clampsed it shut instead. He hadn't considered the possibility that he might not have a family. It would explain why he travels alone, at least.
Kiggu seemed unbothered by the other's reaction. It wasn't too outlandish to not have met one's parents in such a violent time. Nepenthe seemed to be relatively sheltered, though, so Kiggu reserved judgement. His gaze returned up to the sky while silence settled amongst them once again.
“Are they deceased?” The prince suddenly asked. He answered with a simple shrug, angering the other. “You don't know that either?!” Kiggu had to stop himself from snickering. There was something so satisfying about getting Nepenthe so riled up over something so small.
He looked back down at the other tiefling with a small smile. “No. I do not. I've never met my parents and have no clue what might have became of them. I know nothing.”
The smile seemed to throw Nepenthe off; He couldn't tell whether or not the man was being truthful or if he was mocking him. After all, how could anyone say such a thing with a smile? Perhaps he had adopted parents, he thought, and he was simply referring to his birth parents. Still, Nepenthe wasn't satisfied.
“And you have no desire to learn? To find your true family?” The man shook his head. “Why not?!” Nepenthe just couldn't fathom it. The boy was raised to value family and reputation above all else; As a prince he had to hold his fellow royals in the highest regard as though they were one of his main priorities in life, only second to his country. After all, a prince has to serve his people just as they serve him. To live so blissfully unaware of one's past as Kiggu has was absurd to him.
Unfortunately, this conversation had begun to lose it's original appeal and was quickly exhausting Kiggu. Seeing the prince lose his composure over something that won’t ever affect his livelihood was entertaining but only at first. Kiggu loved to tease but this is just wasn't something he enjoyed discussing. If anything, he was a bit disappointed the conversation had gotten this far.
“I have lived 20 something odd years without them. Never have I felt the loss and I'm sure they haven't either.” That was assuming they were alive.
Nepenthe was just full of questions. Are you not curious? How can you live your life knowing they could be out there and do nothing? What if you have siblings out in the world? They could be rich- you wouldn't have to live the poor life you do! Out of all the thoughts swarming his mind, none cut as deep as he'd like them to. He was angry, frustrated, and confused. As a prince he had to be driven and determined. Those were values he held dear to him, alongside his family. Kiggu seemed to be the antithesis to all Nepenthe strived for in life.
He inhaled sharply. “And what if they have? What if they've spent their lives looking for you, crying over you, but haven't been able to find you?” The other tiefling simply averted his gaze. He had contemplated those points before but his conclusion was always the same: it didn't matter. His family was nowhere to be found, intentionally so or not.
“I travel far too much to have not been found by now.” He finally replied after a moment of silence. “If they do not know where I am they should at the very least know I live.”
Kiggu had hoped his honest answer would finally quell Nepenthe's curiosity but it soon became clear that wasn't the case. The boy had sat up, now resting his hands on his knees while sitting on his heels. He had leaned forward slightly as well, just barely hovering over what was supposed their fire pit. His tail, still safely secured by the gold plated armor he had showed Kiggu just the day before, swayed slowly behind him making occasional clinking sounds as the plates hit each other.
“What do you do then?” Yellow eyes narrowed at Kiggu. His determination was evident in his features. “You travel. You hunt. Why?”
He could tell the prince was trying to phish an answer out of him but couldn't help but oblige. He'll lose interest and stop prying eventually, he told himself, that’s always how this plays out. His expression was one of discomfort and disinterest as he turned to look back to Nepenthe. It was the first time he had seen the relatively aloof stranger look genuinely frustrated.
“It doesn’t concern you.”