I do believe the beggar Kelkyag was referring to was this guy. It fits, at least.
Aston had learned years ago that there were some things magic couldn’t cure.
He’d learned even earlier that modern medicine couldn’t fix everything; he’d learned that when his mother got sick, when Mrs. Newmann next door got sick, when Randy from school got sick and never came back.
He’d been eight, then, and the doctors had told him things that he hadn’t really understood, and his father had told him things that hadn’t helped much, and Mr. Newmann had cried for hours and wouldn’t talk to him.
But eight was old enough to know that Granny Paolo was not actually his granny, no matter that she babysat him and gave him sweets he wasn’t supposed to have. And eight was old enough to learn that magic had a cost.
So Aston had told Granny “I’ll pay it. Whatever. Just bring mommy and Mrs. Newmann back.”
And she had asked him, “you, who are a child-boy, you, when their husbands could not?”
Which was when Aston learned that love had limits. The first time Aston learned love had limits.
“Me,” he’d agreed.
“You are young, son, and have your life in front of you. Would you risk that, for the sake of those that are old?”
“My mother’s not old!”
“Older than you, child.”
“Not old at all!”
“Come back tomorrow. I will give you this – they will get no worse between now and then. Think about it. Ask your father, if you would. Ask your friends.”
Aston had already learned that his father would not pay the price, whatever it was.
But he did ask his friends: the goblin in the park, the faerie in the fountain, the lion in the bar.
“It will be hard. But it will be worth it.” Three voices, three phrasings, but Aston understood the meaning.
And he had paid the price.
Years later, frustrated and angry and losing the last of his sight, hungry and depressed and with all his human friends having left him, he’d confronted Granny Paolo.
“You saved my mother. You saved Mrs. Newmann. There has to be a way to save my sight.”
She had shaken her head – it was only a blur, then, but he could see the movement. “No, so. The price of magic is its price, and cannot be wished away.”
And he had cried like a babe, the way he hadn’t when his mother was sick, and Granny Paolo had comforted him, patted his back, and fed him cookies like he was eight again.
“You have borne up under this burden well, so I will tell you this: when you give of yourself like you did, selflessly and wholly, the magic always gives something back.”
It had taken Aston four more years to find it, the voice like an angel that poured from him mouth, and by then, his sight was gone altogether. Magic gave, and magic took. For everything there was a price.
He sat in his spot by the curb and sang, his hat out. Sometimes the good people left money, and sometimes the bad people took it. Aston didn’t mind. Life, like magic, gave and took. He sang them all a song and let the fates sort it out.
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