Tengu hadn’t meant to do it.
Her dad would be mad, but what choice did she have?
The village elders stood around the young goblin. The oldest of them, so old everyone just called him Elder, stood at the forefront. His wrinkled green skin had lost most of its color. He was gray with small faint green patches here and there.
“Tell us again what happened,” he said.
She did. It was all very ordinary until she got to the trolls. It’d been ages since anyone had seen one. She had always assumed they were imaginary, made up to scare young goblins. But these trolls, tall and spindly with sharp teeth and wicked spears, had been very real.
“They were going to kill Plum Blossom,” Tengu said. “I couldn’t let them do it.”
“You couldn’t?” said Elder. “And how did you know you could stop them?”
She couldn’t admit to this secret she’d been carrying. She’d have to admit Dad knew, and she didn’t want to get him in trouble.
Elder held up the broken troll spear, shattered against Tengu’s skin when she’d jumped between Plum Blossom and the troll.
“The others say you drove away three trolls with your bare hands. How did you do it?”
“I’m stronger than I look,” she replied.
Elder cracked a slight smile. “Obviously, and with flesh like armor from what we gather.”
She didn’t deny it. There wasn’t any point.
“Have you been dabbling in magic?” asked Elder.
Magic was another one of those things she thought mostly made up by the elders. She’d never seen it, aside from her own unique nature, and that had never felt like magic, but just like who she was.
“You’re not going to banish me, are you?” she asked.
The older goblins murmured among themselves until Elder silenced them with a snort.
The cottage door opened, and Dad stepped inside. He pushed his way through the crowd and took Tengu’s hand. “My daughter’s done nothing wrong. What is the meaning of this?”
“That’s what we’re trying to decide,” said Elder.
Dad pulled Tengu out the door. The leaders grumbled, but Elder gave Tengu and Dad permission to go in as much as he did not give the order to detain them. As Tengu and her Dad walked through the village, she could feel others watching her.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Nothing to be sorry about,” Dad replied. “You did what you had to do.”
“But you said—”
“I said keep it a secret as long as you could. And you did. But we always knew it would come out eventually. This is too big a thing to hide forever. In the end, they’ll see you the way I see you, the way everyone has always seen you up until now.”
She wanted to believe him, but she did worry. She’d killed one of the trolls with a single punch, and she hadn’t even meant to. She’d always been strong, but she’d never tested that strength to its limit. It’d been so easy. Too easy.
“Why am I like this?” she wondered aloud.
She knew why. Tucked in their storage shed, two halves of a fallen star lay hidden. She’d been found inside as a baby. Her parents always told everyone she’d been a gift from the heavens. They’d just never explained how literally they meant it.
He sat her at the table and dropped a bowl of soup in front of her. “Now eat. You’ve had a long day.”
She always hated his soup. Mom had been the cook in the family. But Dad got by as best he could.
“It doesn’t matter why,” he said. “It only matters what you do with it, and what you did with it today tells everyone everything they need to know.”
She smiled, took a small sip of his awful soup.
He winked and gently pinched her ear. The way Mom always did.