#2144

“Therefore, the ecocatastrophe caused by the second Witch Queen War has a much farther-reaching impact on–” As Professor Nbat’shi stood at the front of the lecture hall scribbling indecipherable notes on the chalkboard the side door flew open and a halfling in a pirate hat popped her head in. “PSST!” she stage-whispered to the tiefling. “Remr! REMR!”

“Oh, hello friends!” Remr threw down her chalk and hurried over to where Tarcella and Never stood just outside the room. Her students, used to Professor Nbat’shi’s wandering attention and abrupt pauses, merely waited. “What’s up?”

“We’re gonna go save the world again,” Tarcella waved one hand vaguely and explained, “Something about stopping an evil god or a cult or something on Clairavoya. Should be pretty cool. You in?”

“Totally! Just a sec,” Remr leaned through the doorway and shouted back to her students,”Hey everyone, I guess the world’s in danger again, class is cancelled until whenever I get back.” She turned to her companions. “Okay, I’m good.”

“That’s it?” Never glanced skeptically into the lecture hall where a hundred students stared back at them in confusion. Remr smacked her palm to her forehead. “Oh! Of course, you’re right.” She leaned into the room again and added, “Read chapters five through thirty-six in Clemmings’ Compendium and someone tell the dean I’m leaving; okay, have fun, bye!”

As she and her friends hurried down the hallway Remr pulled out her Quall’s feather token. “Should we take Bao’ru to get there faster?” she asked, indicating the giant blue budgie which had flown them to and from so many other exploits. Tarcella shrugged carelessly. “Nah, it’ll be fine, my ship’s plenty fast. I’m sure we won’t miss anything.”

– – –

Several days and several hundreds of miles later, the three hurried up the steep path to the summit on the island of Clairavoya where it was rumored the dread god Bezos would appear. Tarcella, sitting on Never’s broad shoulders, first spotted the familiar group of adventurers standing in front of the cave mouth up ahead and jumped down. “Ah man,” she kicked angrily at the ground as she eyed Ro, Ilkan, and Dhashi’s expressions of stunned, exhausted triumph, as well as their battered armor and various bruises. “Did we miss all the fun?” She jumped so that she could elbow Never in the side. “Why’d you make us take my ship, huh?”

They merely sighed.

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#2141

Coins rain down amid bursts of shocked laughter and startled, delighted gasps. The crowd has long forgotten the other market vendors at this chance to flirt with danger, to see something so rare and vicious here in their tiny provincial town. Humans love to feel a little fear when they know there is no actual risk and the townsfolk have thus blindly put their faith in the greasy man who gathers up their coins with one greedy hand while the other prods through the cage with a stick.

The creature in the cage can technically speak Common and should therefore be able to plead with her captor, or at least for sympathy from the crowd, but rage clouds her mind too much for her to do anything other than howl and launch herself at the bars. No one stands close enough to grab with her long claws yet still she tries, lashing her arm back and forth in the hopes of drawing blood. Her blue-gray skin bleeds where she has rubbed herself raw on the metal.

“Yep, wrestled this little bitch right out of the sea itself!” the man brags, jabbing her side with the stick. “She almost had me, too, but I was too strong for her! Not a man alive has ever caught one of these!” His words are lies; this oaf wasn’t even the one who cursed her into a human form, only a lucky idiot who stumbled across her while she was still dazed from the transformation. A feminine creature with long black hair and shark-like skin and teeth? He’d known exactly what she was and how much people would pay to see a monster like her up close.

“A real siren, incredible!” someone cries, while another asks with obvious concern, “Can’t they put a spell on you with their singing? Are we in danger?” The man scoffs at the question and, despite not actually knowing why she no longer has that trademark ability, uses it to his advantage. Kicking the cage, he laughs, “Yeah, but she won’t try anything funny on me. She knows who’s the boss here. Besides, I’ve been starving her down, she’s no match for me.”

Amid the tumult of voices and the siren’s furious snarling, someone whispers an unlocking spell. Even through her frenzy the siren senses this burst of magic and her keen ears catch the sound of the lock slowly turning. This time when she hurls herself against the cage the door bursts open and with a predator’s speed she leaps for her oblivious captor, howling in triumph. The impact sends him crashing to the ground and by the time he lands she’s already tearing at his throat with rows of serrated teeth. The humans who just moments ago had laughed and stared at her flee in terror, not a single one brave enough to attempt to contain her again.

Hunger partially sated, the siren tears off one of the man’s arms for further snacking and climbs to her feet. While she’s still unsteady on these strange human legs, used as she is to gliding through the water with her long, sinuous tail, she’ll adapt. With a little food in her belly she can finally think clearly for the first time since the awful spell that took her from her home was cast. Her thoughts burn hard and bright in their brute simplicity: Find the wizard. Make him reverse the curse. Eat him. Go home. Chewing on a meaty finger bone, the siren picks a direction and starts walking. She has no idea who this wizard is, where to find him, or how she’ll get him to lift the curse, but she’s not a creature of any particularly deep or complex thoughts and so this doesn’t much concern her. She can hunt and she can kill, and that’s good enough for her.

#2103

Our current DnD campaign isn’t over yet but I’m already working on my next character because ideas! Her name is Selene and she is a siren (ie killer mermaid) cursed to remain trapped in a human-shaped body, thus preventing her from being with her kin in the ocean. She has none of her siren powers, but she makes up for that by basically being an anthropomorphic shark. I LOVE HER ALREADY.

Name: Selene (in Common)
Race: Siren (homebrew based on water genasi stats)
Age: Sub-adult
Gender: Female
Orientation: Hella gay, just so so gay for pretty ladies
Class: Barbarian
Primal Path: Berserker
Alignment: Chaotic neutral
Intelligence: Mid-low
General physical description: About 5’4″, very slim but well muscled, body somewhat “androgynous” (not very curvy, kinda flat-chested), blueish-gray skin similar to shark skin, completely black eyes, long straight black hair, teeth shaped and in rows like a shark’s, pointed ears
Dress style: Selene is used to being naked and therefore doesn’t like to feel confined by clothing, so she wears as little as possible and what she does wear is very open and flowing; she doesn’t wear shoes or anything else restricting, nor does she need to given her tough skin; she does bear lots of gold and silver piercings in her ears/lips/nose/eyebrows/etc because sirens like shiny things
Weapons: Teeth, claws, shark tooth club that slings across her back, barnuckles (brass knuckles made out of barnacles)
Hobbies: Sinking ships, eating people, playing with her sisters and other sea creatures, sunning on rocks, exploring shipwrecks
Positive personality traits: Curious, brave, headstrong, physically affectionate, easily attached to people or things, open-minded and accepting in a semi-oblivious way
Negative personality traits: Petulant, vengeful, short-sighted, self-centered, spicy but short-lived temper
Sense of humor: Dark; siren humor is like “haha, look, you thought we were pretty ladies but we’re actually scary monsters who are gonna drown you!”
How other people see her: Like a literal monster most of the time since she doesn’t have very good manners and is basically a land shark, or maybe as just a particularly weird water jenasi; she doesn’t easily endear herself to others since she’s more wild creature than human being
Opinion of herself: Generally high; sirens aren’t big on self-reflection
Religion: None – though sirens do respect the sea goddess Umberleigh (aka The Bitch Queen), as it was she who first created them in her bitchy likeness
Background: Selene was just a typical young siren, singing songs and sinking ships, until she sank the wrong ship and the brother of one of the dead sailors cursed her to remain trapped in a semi-human form; until she breaks the curse she can’t return to her home and has none of her siren powers, hence why she has to depend on her body’s physical attributes (strength, dexterity, sharp teeth, etc) when fighting
Reason for adventuring: To find the wizard who cursed her and eat him make him remove the curse, then eat him
Philosophy of life: Eat or be eaten; also, finder’s keepers, losers weepers
Most important thing to know about this character: Although she’s a chaotic monster who literally eats humans, she’s also a young creature away from her home and family in a totally unfamiliar world
Other random facts: She’s good at mimicking sounds; she has little fear of creatures larger than herself; she’s basically always hungry, and will eat almost anything; she’s very distrustful of men; when she gets really worked up she has a harder time speaking Common; she has absolutely no qualms about lying
Other belongings: Her only real belongings of value are all of her piercings, since most of those are gold or silver; she did steal a pack from someone who tried to capture her and therefore also has a waterproof pipe tobacco set, a whittling set, a guilded dragon tooth, something called “the captain’s ring”, a jar of breathe fire, ever-ready tinder, a mini machinists chest, a lake iron hunting knife, an ironwood club, and something called “kindred crow call”

20180408_154011

#2077

I can’t believe I haven’t talked about all the fun (ie terrible) things Mage has done in our recent DnD sessions! As you may recall, our DM and I killed off my magical girl warlock Dhashi and resurrected my psychopathic villain Mage into her body. Mage is theoretically there to help the others complete their quest to defeat the evil god Bezos, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have some fun (and irritate her party members workplace associates) on the way. For example…

  • While fighting a horde of zombies, she ripped the arm off of one and used it to beat its head into a pulp
  • She has used Shatter and Eldritch Blast several times to make enemies explode
  • When the group found themselves trapped by a thieves guild, she used Misty Step to teleport behind their leader and cut her throat (specifically in such a manner as to incapacitate the woman but ensure she died a slow and extremely painful death, which my wife was happy to describe in great medical detail*)
  • She beguiled two guards into leading the group to a secret catacomb entrance, then forced the guards to come along in case they needed someone to “test” the traps and wards
  • After one of the guards burned to death doing just this, she cut his arm off and used it to continue safely triggering traps
  • She also might have looted a locket from him with pictures of his kids inside; too bad, so sad
  • She tried to fight another PC who is waaaay above her level and immediately lost, but got a sick sidecut in the bargain so no hard feelings there
  • She convinced the goddess of the ocean to defeat some enemies for them and in return told the goddess she could destroy a town full of innocent people
  • She bought a jug that can produce anything; she used it to produce BEES and then set them free in a tavern for funzies (and before you ask, it wasn’t even that many bees, thirty is not a lot of bees, please tell my DnD group that)

*Yes, I asked my wife the best way to cut someone’s throat and she answered immediately because she’s AMAZING

#2074

“You wanted to see us, ma’am?” Mage and Mercer stood before the Raven Queen’s throne, the gunslinger with his hands clasped respectfully behind his back and the witch using one of her smaller throwing knives to pick something from her teeth. The goddess nodded and gestured to the nearby scrying bowl. Its surface rippled and revealed three travelers: a goliath, a fire jenasi,and an aasimar in a hideously frilly dress. “Yes. I have assignments for you both. Bezos grows far too bold and I find his antics distasteful. I have seen that he will slay one of the cursed ones, the girl, and while I cannot stop this action I can at least counter it with one of my own. Mage, once the deed is done I shall place you temporarily in her body to act as my Champion on the mortal plane until Mercer has finished training her to take your place.”

“NICE,” Mage pumped the air with her knife and grinned triumphantly at Mercer. “Suck it, I get a body again.” Mercer rolled his eyes and retorted, “I didn’t say nothin’, did I?” and then more softly under his breath, “Be nice to have a little peace ‘n quiet ’round here anyhow.”

“Mercer,” the Raven Queen interrupted before the conversation completely derailed, “are you prepared to guide another through the training? And quickly?” The gunslinger touched the brim of his hat. “Yes ma’am.”

“Good. And Mage…” The goddess hesitated, considered the fact that Mage wouldn’t follow 99% of the rules and precautions given her anyway, then said only, “Just keep them alive until she’s ready. And try not to murder too many people while you do it, please. The paperwork is horrendous.”

“Murder everyone,” The witch flashed double fingerguns and a wicked smile. “Can do, boss lady.”

“You’re dismissed,” The Raven Queen waved them away and as her two Champions disappeared down the twisting corridor beyond her throne room, their bickering voices growing fainter, she rested her chin on her hand with a weary sigh. “Sometimes I wonder at the souls I choose to surround myself with,” she muttered under her breath. “This is a gamble, to be sure.”

.

T̷̗̪͈̻̈́̎͛́̀͆̇̚h̵̘͕́̓̔͝e̸̡̲͎̪͇̹̖͂ņ̸̼̠̦̣͚͂̐̎͗͒̔̾̋̀̆͂͑ ̶̛͈̣̙̱̦̘̩͚̺͚̒̾͆ͅw̴̢͍̮̜̞̖͙̦̠̦͚͓͗͋̈́̂̏͝͠h̸̢̧̥̫̣͈̪̦̝͉̘͈͙͂́̃̍̉̌̔̑y̴̛͎̬̬͌̀̔͛̾̂͑̑͊͐̎͑̕ ̵̢̧̘̪͇͋̏̊͒̕͝͝n̸̩͓͎̮͙͕̩̮̤͖͉̱̓ȍ̷̬͕͇̖̮͉͍̜̊͑̾́͌͑̔͐͗͋̑̍͘͝ẗ̴̟̻̹̳̝̩͉̖̩̤̽̂́̍͜ ̸̱̣̺͉̖̣͓͉͝͠s̴̠̟̝͗̈́̿̈͐̌̓̌̿̉̕̕͠͠͝e̴̛̼̲̔͆̃͊̕̕n̸͔̤͔̣̭͂͊̃̾̏͛̌̌͑̎͝d̸̤̝͔͍̲̯͒ ̵̡̨̪͕̯̠̹͕̘͙̰̲͙̲̻̿͊̒̉̈́̂̅͗͘͠m̴̠̈͊̈̀́̌͑͗ę̵̛̱̜̫̦̟̹̞̦̯̩́͑̌̽̂̄̊͒̈́̈͛͘͠?̶̡̛̛̥͙̖͚̙̭͇͖͓̺̈́͒͑̀̕͘͜͠ ̶͚̲̙͎͙̦͚̓̋I̸̗̣̣̖̺̙̣͚̤̙̱͒̔̍̓̋͐̈ͅ ̶̜̫̀̽͗̃͌͛̄̎̍̒̚c̸̡͖͓̙͖̱̺͇̳̯̩̰̈̃̌̓͐́̈́̆͘̚̚͝o̶̺͉̬̞͕͠ṵ̴̺͇͌̏̄͌͒̏̀͘͝͠l̸̪̋d̶̡̡͍͖̲͔̱̘͍̣̹̣̗̗̊̐̓͆̈̀̉̓́̈́̚ ̷̘̍̽̃͌͑̈́̏͝h̴̛̫̥͖̙̤͙̲̪̣͊͌̒̊̔̄a̷̯̮͙̪͋́̏̾̌̋͌͒̋͂͛̆̈́̕͠v̵̨̡̲̪̩͚̲̥̩͉͈͊̍̔̍͋͊͆̏͐̕͘͝ẽ̶̡̧̡̢̨̜̰̝̯̝͓͎͓͐͠ͅͅ ̷͇̝̺͎͚͇̫͔̻̱̥̯̾̿̍ͅţ̶̧̨͍͔͉̼͇͚̟̞̥͛h̸̨̨͍̟͍͇͔̥͚̳͖̙̳̬̖̃̃̌̐̎̂̈́̉͝͠e̸̻̮̙̗͓̥͉̣̿̒ͅ ̸̡̢̭̫̥͓̯͚̘̱̰̞̦̩̊͂̋̈̔̄͜t̸̨̫̲̙̼̼̜̮͈̓̈́̅͌͒̎̍̐̂͆͠h̵̡͓̜̳̞̹͐̀̊̐̂͑̽͛͘͜į̵̞̯̙̝̰̮̬͓̦̄̽̓͌ņ̴̢̡̛̪̜̠̥͖͉̬́͝ǧ̶̡̢̧̛̣͕̪͉͔͈̰̞̝̳̾̔̑̐ ̷͔̲̻́̒̑̄͝d̵̰̠̦̱̼̟͈͔̯̃͐͘ö̸̳̻͎͖͙͍͖́͋̀̑̾̐̂͂̅͌̾̔͠͝͝ņ̶̛͙͉͍̟̭̲̱͚̖̜̯̀̋̿͊̓́́̒̕͜͝ë̶̢͉̮̱̝̬͖̹̥͎̣̈̔̓̍̓̓̆̏̓̅̔̕͠ ̷̛̳̬͉͚͕̼̰̘͕̑̿́͊̐̄̉̚ͅį̴̘͗̍̽ń̷̠̪̖͚̮̆̔̒̊̃͑̒̿̿̀͘̚͝ ̸̡̩̼̖͓͎̞̣̠͒̐́̂̽̈́͗͘a̵̡͕̗͛͜ ̵̨̞͕͙͔̰̫̺͖̥̮̞̃͐͂̄̂̌͗̓̋̊̚̕͝h̶̢̞̬̫̘̪̙̙͑͗͂̋̂̒̍̐͜e̶͚͉͎͕̠̱̟̪̣̰̘͓̐͐͒͒̓̀̑̂͊͛́͗̍͝͝ͅä̵̮̞̦̥̖̗̻̭̼̣̞̮́̈́̔͑̊͗̽͋r̶̢̛͕̦̝̽̔̃͒̊̈́̃̍̚̕̚t̵̡̢̛̹̱̬̥̞̖̱͇̬̜̽̿͐̓̂͌͂̕͠b̵̡̨̗̠̦̥͇̞̬̥̹̮̮͛͐͌͛͊ͅͅḝ̶̦̲̙̠̱̰̹̇̓͋͊̌̏̇̉̏͘̚͘ͅa̷̟̰̮̺̓̆̊̍̓͒͠t̶̢̛̮̖͓̳̪̜̙͕̱͓̭̠̄̽̌̉̄̏̔̕͝ͅ.̸͙̖̟̱̪͙͈͖̲͉͗̈́̀͒̊̒́͆̔́̑͂̎͒̈͜
.

The voice isn’t audible in the chamber, nor is it spoken into the Raven Queen’s mind; she hears it on some other, deeper level, and it makes her go cold. Her eyes flicker to the sealed door beyond which rests the locked, warded, and thrice-blessed coffin. “You know I’m not fool enough to set you free for such a simple task,” she replies to the empty air, feigning the same casual manner in which she spoke with the other Champions. “If they fail and Bezos is victorious… perhaps. Until then, you stay put.”

.

F̴̯̟̗̼̻͇̄̋͑̏͆̐̌̑̒͘̚͠͝ơ̸͔͙͉̖̦̅́͐̏̀̓͝r̵͓̤̱͎̺̥͎̘͙̲͚̪͔̹̈́̐̑̌̿̂̕ ̷̛͙͓͈̮͇͓̿̈́̀̾͆͐̐̆̾́̈́̀͜͠ņ̵͈̳̣̻̫̺͖̎̀̚͝ơ̷̡̡͖̼͚̗̈͛͛́̽̽̃̓͝w̵̖͋͆.̴̧͔͎̫̥̺̌͗̓
.

#2072

[ This follows the scene with Dhashi and the scrying bowl ]

“Hey there, little one. Yer Dhashi, right?”

“Oh!” Dhashi, kneeling on the cold stone floor, lifted her head from her hands and wiped at the steadily falling tears. In the doorway stood a tall man wearing the usual uniform of a gunslinger, complete with brimmed hat and sarape. If Overwatch existed in this universe, Dhashi would have noticed he looked extremely similar to McCree; but it doesn’t, so she didn’t. “Y-yes,” she replied, getting unsteadily to her feet. “Who are you? Where’s the Raven Queen?”

“The name’s Mercer. She sent me to show you around, get you settled and stuff,” He took a step into the room, figuring the girl had had enough scares for one day and not wanting to alarm or overwhelm her. “That okay?” Dhashi glanced back at the basin, her only link to the world she had just been ripped from. “But… my friends…” Mercer came a few steps closer and laid a hand lightly on her shoulder. “It’s okay, you can come back here any time you want.” The touch calmed her a little, and Dhashi managed a braver smile than she felt. She nodded for him to lead on and he steered her back out into the long, columned hallway, an arm resting around her shoulders.

“So this is the Raven Queen’s home?” Dhashi glanced up as they walked, eyeing the dark stone arches and the weak light filtering in from windows set high in the walls. “It’s so… spooky.” She shivered as a spider skittered across the marble floor. “And dark.” Beside her, Mercer shrugged. “It ain’t so bad once you get used to it. And you won’t be here often once you become a Champion.”

“Oh,” Dhashi’s feet seemed to stop of their own accord as her stomach flip-flopped. “Right. That.” Mercer stopped as well and knelt down so they could talk on level, his hand never leaving her shoulder. “Don’t worry, kid, you’ll do great.” He gave the aasimar a conspiratorial wink. “You have the best in the business to teach you.”

“You’re one of the Raven Queen’s Champions?” Dhashi’s look of surprise changed to one of suspicion and she eyed him as if he would transform into a monster at any moment. “But you’re not all scary and mean like the other one.” Her comment made Mercer throw back his head and laugh, and the atmosphere between them relaxed once more. “I assume you mean Mage. Yeah, she’s… intense, that’s fer sure. We’re not all like her, though. Think of us like special tools – you need the right tool fer the job, whether that’s somethin’ small and delicate,” he pointed at Dhashi, “or big and strong,” he pointed at himself, “or utterly terrifyin’ and almost certainly insane.” He laughed again, not noticing how wide Dhashi’s eyes had gone. “Are my friends going to be okay with her?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, they’ll prob’ly be fine,” Mercer climbed to his feet, then finally noticed the tears welling in the girl’s eyes. “Oh jeeze, wait, don’t start cryin’ again,” he pleaded, but it was too late. The tears fell in waterfalls. “Dangit,” he muttered, “I’m terrible at this mentorin’ thing. Uhh,” he glanced around desperately for a distraction, “look, birds! Look at the nice birds.” He steered Dhashi toward the nearby rookery, pointing up at the ravens of all sizes and ages that roosted or hopped from perch to perch in the airy room. He had no way of knowing how much Dhashi missed her own animal companion, Charlie, but either way he breathed a sigh of infinite relief as her tears ceased and her smile reappeared.

– – –

“Going well?” The Raven Queen appeared at Mercer’s side as he leaned against the open doorway. He nodded to where Dhashi sat on the rookery floor, birds already nestled among the folds of her dress, perched on her arms, and grooming her long, golden hair with their sharp beaks. She murmured to them as she smoothed their glossy feathers, and the ravens burbled and croaked in reply. “She’s got a big heart,” Mercer conceded. “And she’s braver than she realizes. Dunno if that’ll be enough, though.”

“It will have to be,” The goddess clapped him on the shoulder, then disappeared. Mercer stood watching Dhashi for a moment more, then went to join her. She smiled up at him as if they were old friends and began telling him the birds’ names.

#2071

“You can talk to her, if you want.”

This was it; they had finally arrived. After traveling south from the ruins of Lunanoff,sailing across the Bay of Pitch, laboring their way through the mountains beyond Dull, and fighting their way through the undead keepers of the Raven Queen’s temple, Ro and Ilkan and their new companion workplace associate Mage finally stood before the infamous goddess herself. However, their hope to be reunited with Dhashi, and subsequently rid of Mage, was not to be fulfilled; the goddess explained that Dhashi wasn’t yet ready to return to the mortal world, that she needed more time to train before she could act as the Raven Queen’s champion. They would all be together again soon, she promised, but not yet. Disappointment weighed on Ro and Ilkan, two battle-hardened warriors who would never have guessed the absence of one irritating, hyper-optimistic teenager could hurt them so. The Raven Queen understood, of course. The Raven Queen had dealt in death and loss since the beginning of time.

“You can talk to her, if you want,” The Raven Queen, who towered over the three cursed companions as she sat on her throne, motioned toward the scrying bowl at her feet. Mage, bored now that the killing was over, picked her nails with a knife. Ro resolutely shook her head, eschewing anything the goddess of death might offer and holding fast to her raging grief. But Ilkan nodded and moved toward the bowl. “I’d like to,” he said, voice uncharacteristically thin. The Raven Queen held her hand over the bowl and the mirror-clear surface shimmered, then stilled again. Instead of Ilkan’s reflection, the water showed a man garbed in the brimmed hat and sarape of a gunslinger. “Mercer,” she said, “put Dhashi on.”

“Got it,” The gunslinger tipped his hat to the goddess and then turned to someone beyond the mirror’s edge. “Dhashi!” he yelled. “Dhashi, the boss wants you! …Dhashi, c’mere! Stop paintin’ the ravens’ claws and–” Behind him, a mass of black wings and pink glitter shot past. “DHASHI GET YER BUTT OVER HERE.” Mercer disappeared, replaced by a Dhashi who looked fairly unchanged, albeit paler and a little diminished in some essential way. She waved hesitantly and managed a fairly good approximation of her usual smile. “Hi Ilkan…”

“Hey,” The goliath waved one giant hand in return. He was already fighting back tears. “How are you?”

“I’m okay,” Dhashi shrugged a little, suddenly shy for all that she had been longing to speak with her friends again. “It’s not so bad here. Mercer’s nice. How are you?”

“I’m.. we’re…” Ilkan glanced over to Ro’s stiff back and shrugged as well. “You know.”

“Yeah,” Dhashi wiped at her eyes, then managed a truer smile. “You guys are doing really well, though. I’ve been watching.” A moment of silence passed, strained with all the things that could be, but were not, said, and then Dhashi brightened a little. “Can I say hi to Charlie?” Ilkan managed an honest chuckle at the eagerness on the aasimar’s face and nodded. “I was just about to get him out,” he said, pulling the little glass bowl out from where he had stored it in his pack before the battles in the temple. He held it over the scrying bowl and the little fish inside swam around in its usual unhurried manner. “He misses you.”

“Hi Charlie!” Dhashi wiggled her fingers at the fish, who didn’t seem to notice at all, and wiped away more tears as they continued to fall. “Thank you for taking care of him, Ilkan. I miss you guys so much. I’m trying really hard so I can come back soon.” She turned her head to look at something or someone beyond the scrying bowl’s surface, then looked back at Ilkan with a bittersweet smile. “I should go. Say hi to Ro for me, okay?” Ilkan nodded. “Okay.”

The mirror’s surface shivered and cleared, once again reflecting only the Raven Queen’s temple and Ilkan’s tear-streaked face as he turned away. As he carefully returned Charlie to the relative safety of his pack, he caught the sound of a surreptitious sniff from Ro’s direction. When the party gathered back together, though, she had her emotions under their usual tight rein.