Her child, one of several otherwise unwanted waifs within the village that she'd adopted, brought him to Ma. An older woman who was scarred and, yet, quite strong. She never gave up hope. He was old, he was poor, and he spent a great deal of time hungry. She'd seen him begging before, but had never had a chance to speak to him. When he was lead to her by one of her children during the Sunshine Festival, she had the chance to do so. No pay for a meal, only spend time with the children. As the sun rose, an invitation came to stay with her and her family in their home. For some work, and helping her with the family, he would have a roof over his head and food in his belly.
[AN: Bless you with benevolent synchronicity for adding the link into this prompt]
The sun rose. Enough smiles had brought springtime forth. The people thought it was their festival and the sweets, but it was truly won by the ugliest, the unhappiest, and the unwanted. Smiles can be performative. They can be a mask. They can, very obviously, be a lie.
The town had forgotten that it was true, sunny feeling that caused the sun to rise and end the winter. It was true warmth that helped summer along and made it prosper. Now that Neg had found a smile at the bottom of a bowl, the people of Brightherald were about to experience some very interesting times.
It began as all things do, with small things. Neg woke in a warm bed inside a comfortable home, with three other people and at least one animal using him as a personal heater. He woke to the smell of a stew in progress and the rumbling of a kettle. There was a pock-marked child perilously close to his face. Someone was singing - badly.