Vaarsuvius woke up very suddenly. Durkon was gently examining the bruises around its neck and then the elf snapped up, violet eyes wide, and choked something out—possibly a name—that didn’t sound quite lucid.
The elf jerked back fearfully, looking wildly at the dwarf. Durkon firmly put his hands on the mage’s shoulders, staring into confused purple eyes. “Vaarsuvius, calm down. Yer safe now. Yer wit’ yer friends.”
Vaarsuvius remained tense for a moment, then its gaze cleared, coming to terms with its surroundings, and muscles relaxed under Durkon’s hands. “There ye go, Vaarsuvius.”
The dwarf smiled a little at the unusual but obviously heartfelt use of his first name, certain that the elf would quickly go back to its regular formalness but glad for the small lapse. “I’m here. We all are, Vaarsuvius.”
Vaarsuvius blinked, glancing away, eyes clouding up again with thought. “So we escaped.”
“Ye did. We’re not outta th’ woods yet—we’re still in th’ city—but yer outta th’ castle. Lean forward so I c’n heal up yer neck.”
The elf did as requested, permitting the dwarf to lightly put his hands on a thin but blackened neck. “Cure Moderate Wounds.”
Vaarsuvius took a grateful breath of air, suddenly realizing how difficult it had been a moment before. “Surely not that serious? It was only a bruise.”
“More than tha’, Vaarsuvius. Say what ye will aboot Xykon: th’ lich is strong an’ was jus’ a bit o’ pressure away from snappin’ yer neck completely.”
“I believe he did that on purpose. He has a certain disliking for me and a broken neck would have been a faster way to die.” Vaarsuvius looked down, something deep within aching without reason despite the healing. “Did the paladin debrief you?”
“Aye. We’re all impressed wit’ what ye’ve done on yer own.”
“I have done many things on my own.”
Vaarsuvius didn’t exactly sound proud.
Durkon frowned, taking note of his comrade’s shadowed expression and the barely-visible healed cuts streaking across an otherwise beautiful face. A dark thought entered his mind, one that he couldn’t shake.
“Did somethin’ ‘appen in tha’ castle tha’ ye’d like t’ talk aboot, Vaarsuvius?”
Vaarsuvius looked at Durkon’s face, searching it, gaze creepily hard to read.
“Maybe I will tell you one day, Durkon. If nothing else, you have been much wiser than I and I would trust you with my life. But I do not believe I am ready to share anything yet.”
Durkon frowned, caught off guard by the openness and sincerity, but he instead sat across the elf. “I c’n live with that.”
Vaarsuvius slowly took out a familiar gold band and put wild purple hair into a ponytail. “Mr. Thundershield, I must say something to you while I can.”
“I do too.”
Vaarsuvius laced delicate fingers together. “I must apologize for my behavior before I left the ship, and again for before I was captured.”
“What’re ye talkin’ aboot? Ye were right. Yer magic saved us.”
“I was a fool. So much power… I allowed it to cloud my mind and get the better of me. I have done so many things… I used it so poorly…”
“Ye saved th’ Azure refugees, tossed Xykon’s phylactery int’ th’ sewer, an’ saved O-Chul while we sat an’ twiddled our thumbs.” Durkon allowed himself to touch the elf’s shoulder gently, and was moderately encouraged when he wasn’t shrugged off. “Don’t beat yerself up o’er what ye could ‘ave done. Tha’ way lies madness.”
Vaarsuvius stared for a while, slowly shutting violet eyes and looking down. “Yes. I know that. Now.”
“Rest up fer now. Ye’ll be mobbed by ev’ryone else once they get back from talkin’ wit’ Thahn. I’ll be outside if ye need anythin’.” Durkon smiled. “It’s good t’ ‘ave ye back, Vaarsuvius.”
“It is good to be back.”
The dwarf gave the elf’s shoulder a gentle pat before he left, leaving the door shut behind him.
Vaarsuvius slowly lay on the bed, curling up, and ached for a familiar scaled hand to touch.
It was time to move on.
Redcloak groaned softly in pain, sitting up with the gentle hand of Jirix to steady him, and rubbed the back of his head, wincing when he touched a tender swollen area. He shook his head slowly, trying to dispel the stars in his eyes. “I didn’t know that Vaarsuvius was that strong…”
“The prisoner did quite a number, sir. She must have been in a hurry, though—it doesn’t look like she tried to kill you.”
That was odd. Vaarsuvius was well-aware of every area on his body that wasn’t protected by scales.
Considering recent events, he had an idea of what that meant.
“I forgot about the raven.” Redcloak put his hand lightly over his wound. “Cure Light Wounds. The prisoner had a familiar that distracted me.”
“That would explain it, sir.” Jirix helped Redcloak stand. “We won the battle, but suffered casualties.”
“Well, we’ll be prepared next time.” Redcloak brushed himself off. “I want a full debriefing.”
“Sir, the lich has asked that you speak with him when you wake.”
“In that case, I’m going to be a while. Make sure medical attention goes to the people who need it, and tell Tsukiko to check out what slaves we have left. We’ll need to make examples if we want to discourage any more rebellion.” Redcloak sighed softly, readying himself for what would inevitably come when he saw Xykon. “And where’s Xykon?”
“The throne room, sir.”
“Alright, then. Dismissed. Thank you, Jirix.”
The hobgoblin nodded and left, thinking the whole way. If his leader’s lover had actually been his lover, she would have known how to kill him and that just a bash to the neck wouldn’t have done it. And his leader had a Soul Bind scroll, so it wouldn’t have been difficult to make sure he wouldn’t be revived.
Either the elf was foolish and actually felt something for his leader or they had all been wrong about them sleeping together. Jirix found himself leaning towards the latter.
He decided to stop thinking about his leader’s love life and focused on finding Tsukiko.
Redcloak rubbed his hands together, getting a little feeling into them, and glanced up at the window of the prison room. Vaarsuvius wouldn’t be here anymore. No more nightly talks. No more warmth. No more fiery violet eyes. No more…
He sighed softly. By the Dark One, he had fallen in love.
He clasped his hands and bowed his head, murmuring very softly, “Great Dark One, please help me find the strength to continue to do what is best for all goblinoid kind, no matter who stands in my way.” Because I’m not sure I can strike down another one I love for your sake.
Redcloak’s holy symbol warmed against his chest. He let his hands drop and he turned to go to Xykon.