Proud dad, slippery salesman
Diego has always been the black sheep of the Firefern clan. Though he was born into a relatively reclusive tribe, he’s been gripped by wanderlust since he was very young, and has spent most of his life out exploring the Greenwall, far from the relative safety of the Groves. The appeal is equal parts history and mystery: uncovering what’s been lost to time, cleaning it up, puzzling it out, and trying to understand who it might be worth something to and why.
As it turns out, it’s not a bad way to make a living when you have a couple hundred years to burn, and spending a couple hundred years selling scraps you scavenged from old ruins is a pretty damn good way to turn yourself into a very, very good salesman. Establishing trade routes between multiple Groves was easy, the relatively isolated clans grateful to have someone else moving goods through the Greenwall for them. Trading with the humans in Oldtown and Brightwater was harder. While getting through the gates was no problem and wandering the marketplace earned him only a few raised eyebrows, for an elf that had spent his entire life in the wilds, it took time to learn how humans themselves worked – what they wanted, what they needed, what their merchants lacked, what they valued, and what words to say to make himself seem like a purveyor of the exotic rather than a peddler of cast-off second-hand items. It took trial and error, and even so it was hardly worth the effort, because moving goods in quantity between the Grove and the city was slow and dangerous, and setting up shop with only what he could carry made him look more like a beggar than a merchant.
He found the solution to his problem wandering around in the picked-over ruins of an old satyr village. Her name was Joanna Price, a human woman who was fierce and direct in a way few elves remained after they came of age, and who just happened to have the ability to escort him and a cartload of his finest wares to and from the human cities. Most humans he thought of as a curiosity – bright-burning and short-lived – but the more time he spent around her, the more Joanna captivated him on a deeper level with her honesty, passion, and keen protective instinct. She had been born with what he had cultivated over centuries: the ability to tell people exactly what they wanted to hear… but she never said anything she didn’t mean, and watched over nearly everyone she met as though they were her own brood. Diego was the last person to notice that he’d fallen in love with her, and the only one surprised to realize she cared for him as well.
Their child was not his first, nor would she likely be his last, nor would he admit, aloud, that she was his favorite, but in all his years, Riley was the only child he ever allowed to inherit his clan name, and giving her back to her mother after her right of passage was one of the most unexpectedly difficult things Diego had ever done. Riley made a fine elf (better, in his opinion, than many of his pureblooded tribe), but she bore the mark of her mother’s humanity like a beacon – curious and open and ever impatient and hungry for new experiences. The first time they visited Oldtown together, Riley took to the city as easy as breathing, and he knew it would have been a crime to keep her hidden away in the wilderness.
And if, after she’d settled in with her mother, he took up with the caravan somewhat more often than he had in the past, or if he spent somewhat more time trading in one town or another during the caravan’s layovers, well… it was all new enough to Riley that she didn’t notice the difference, even if her mother teased him mercilessly for his doting behind closed doors.