Nurii had always known he was different, not that it mattered much, but he’d always known. His dad said he was a gift from the gods and that was why he looked different, his mom just said it was so the girls would always know who the best looking boy in town was. Either way, neither of them knew who left him in their tavern as a babe. Not that it mattered now.
His first pang of guilt and sorrow was he hadn’t told them goodbye or that he loved them, being in such a hurry to chase after Yari and the two strangers from the caravan. He should have, he usually did, but that day…
Nurii had only recently learned from a traveling sage what he was, or rather, what race he was. A race prone to wanderlust and obsessed with learning secrets, something called ‘listening to the wind’, meant sooner or later he would leave. His mom told him she hoped maybe working in the tavern would satisfy those urges with out him ever needing to leave home. He had assured her it would and that he was happy there. Now, though, they’d never know.
The day he went with Yari and the other two to the Carnival Arcane changed everything. The Ringmaster knew exactly what he and the others were and what he could do with them. When they were caught and witnessed the death of the aasimar lady, it seemed a nightmare. Nurii had no idea how bad it would get that night as the Ringmaster magically put them all to sleep.
The next few months were spent in ‘training’ as the show went to its next stop. Nurii had no idea where they were because he was kept busy as the attendants were taught how to torture him for the shows. He was put on display as a bleeding ghost, transformed by the Ringmaster, silenced via a spell and made to ‘perform every day. The act had him chained, arms and legs outstretched and ‘wards’ placed on the bindings so he couldn’t ‘escape’. He’d wail and strain and try to get free, not because he thought he could but because he was told if he didn’t then it would be Yari in his place.
Then the ‘priest’ would come up, give a speech about this unique type of undead, this living ghost. Thenproceed to whip him till blood ran freely and pooled on the ground beneath him. The ‘priest’ would assure the onlookers the ghost felt no real pain, it was more in anguish from being bound. He was always placed so he could see Yari, to help remind him what would happen if he disobeyed. He could also see the crowds around her, how they grabbed at her feathers, her wings…other places. It made him sick and even more wracked with guilt. He could tell she didn’t know it was him and he kept quiet, not wanting her to feel realize what they were doing to him.
Every night after they healed him and restored his form he got to see the others. Yari refused to talk to him for the first few weeks. Refused to talk to anyone. Once meals were over, Nurii would return to his bedroll and cry himself to sleep, wracked with guilt over not having said goodbye and for letting Yari get taken too. He had promised her folks…promised them. Did they blame his folks? Blame him? Did they even know what happened? Were they still searching for them?
Weeks passed, then months. Another move, another place he didn’t know. Sometimes the people were more or less human, sometimes not. At some of the stops, his attendant would let members of the crowd wield the whip (for a few coins at least). Sometimes they got to use their own tools (for a few gold). Nurii lost track of time. All he knew anymore was pain and guilt and sorrow. He quit socializing with the others after the shows. Withdrew into himself and just stayed in his area.
One day, after a particularly brutal crowd, where the attendant pockets a goodly amount of coins and Nurii saw Yari all but attacked, he was shocked out of his stupor when he wasn’t taken down and healed. Instead, he was restored to his natural form before a group of robed figures came in. The attendant took a large bag of coins and left him with them. The silence spell was removed and the whole camp probably heard his screams. He was returned to his tent much later, unhealed and broken.
When Nurii came to, a small ghostly scorpion was perched on his chest, almost studying him. Too weak to shoo it away, he just watched it as it scampered over him, as if it was inspecting his wounds. He figured he was as good as dead now, that this the end of the nightmare. No more guilt, no more hope. His use to the carnival was over and this was how they discarded him, a magic scorpion delivering one last fatal strike. He wished he could have saved Yari, even the other two.
The scorpion sat there, tail held high and pincers raised, as if waiting. He regarded it again and just nodded, closing his eyes. He felt the sting, then…relief? Was this how death felt? A voice came, soft, wispy, but with an almost cracking tone to it. It asked if he was ready to accept the Spirit that called to him. Confused, Nurii opened his eyes and saw the scorpion there still. Waiting on the answer.
When they came for him the next morning, he was healed and restored, yet still looked the part. Figuring a change had been made for the next stop, the attendant merely hung him up and proceeded with the show. Never realizing things had changed, not knowing yet that the Spirit of the Bones now was with Nurii. From the corner, a small ghostly scorpion watched…..