Darkness….an endless sea of stars and bright threads spinning in infinity. Vax came to himself with the last echoes of his final goodbyes fresh on his lips. It was over. Vecna sealed away beyond the divine gate, banished and broken. Exandria, his home, his family. Safe. He was so tired. It was pleasant to float here, among the stars, weightless and unbound.
“You have done well, my champion.” As always, her voice came from everywhere and nowhere. The porcelain face came forward through the darkness, parting the bright threads that flowed through the Matron’s impossibly large fingers.
“I made a vow”, he replied. “Keeping it was always my intention. And I will stay by your side as I promised, but I need something from you, a favor. If it can’t be done, then I will go on, and take my chances on the Astral Sea.”
The porcelain face remained unmoving, but a chuckle echoed out in the starry darkness. Which, if Vax was being honest, was a little unnerving, even now.
“A favor? What is it that you wish, Vax’ildan?”
“My family, they will not understand, they will not believe. They need to know that this is what I chose, that I have kept my promise, and cannot be called back. Or they will stay stuck, stuck in that moment of wishing they could save me, forever, trying to think their way out of it. I would ask that you show them, tell them, make them see that this was my fate, that this was the right price to pay. Help them, and I will stay in your company gladly.”
“It is done, my champion.” As she spoke Vax could see several threads brighten and then dim, as they spun in the hands of the Matron of Ravens. “Come,” she said, “you have earned your rest.”
The celebrations seemed endless, a continuous, cacophonous outpouring of relief. It was impossible to find so much as an alleyway that was quiet and empty. Scanlan was exhausted. Not even the Hat of Disguise could shield him from the endless wave of cheering commoners, so excited to see another day. He walked and walked through the streets of Vasselheim, desperate. Vox Machina had succeeded, but he had failed. Vax was gone. The others had given themselves over to sleep, aided by wine and ale, but Scanlan could not. He had failed. He was not ready to face that truth, the look on Vex’s face. And so he walked, deeper into the hidden alleys and corners of the ancient city, looking for an absolution he knew he would never find.
He didn’t know how long he’d been walking, but suddenly everything was silent and still. Scanlan was in some blackened, forgotten corner of Vasselheim, or maybe he wasn’t. When was the last time he’d slept? A voice. From everywhere, surrounding him. Low and powerful, with just a hint of laughter behind it. A voice he knew so well.
“Go home to your family and sleep you lucky motherfucker.” The words burned in his skull. “Everything is exactly as it should be, and Kaylie is waiting for you.”
Tears fell to the deserted alley floor, and Scanlan looked down sighing. “I’m sorry friend, I’m so sorry. I wanted….I wan-I-I tried.”
And there, on the ground where his tears had fallen were 7 raven feathers.
In the newly destroyed Temple of the Everlight, Pike was praying. Praying for the living, and the dead, and for all those who mourned. For her family and for the strength to help them carry on in hope. Praying for bravery because the aftermath was always harder than the war. For forgiveness for not having done enough. To save him. But most of all, she prayed for Keyleth, who more than any of them, felt so terribly alone. Pike felt more than heard the young acolytes and worshipers coming in and out of the heavily damaged sanctuary. They were clearing and cleaning, focused anew on rebuilding. Pike made sure not to let them see her tears. This had been a victory, and it was not for them to know the cost she bore for that victory.
“Oh, Vax”, she whispered. “I’m sorry, it wasn’t enough.”
The sanctuary was suddenly warm, and filled with the golden beauty of the Everlight. Pike looked up and she was there, reaching out her hand to Pike’s tear-stained face.
“Pike, my daughter, my staunchest warrior. Do not worry. He is at peace, let him rest. I will watch over him.” And she was gone, the light fading, taking the heaviest weight of Pike’s grief with it.
Grog’s ale kept disappearing. He didn’t understand it. The other people at the inn weren’t stealing it, who would steal from Grog Strongjaw? But he kept picking up his mug and there was nothing in it. Seemed like magic stuff. He didn’t really understand magic stuff, that was the kind of thing his buddy Pike was so good at. But not always. She said she couldn’t fix Vax, even though she always fixed everyone else before. Grog didn’t understand. Why couldn’t they fix him? Percy had said a whole bunch of long words at him that didn’t make any sense at all, and Grog had stopped listening. If Pike couldn’t fix it, that was that he supposed. So, he went to the inn for ale. But now it kept disappearing. Grog was frustrated! This inn was no good at all if they served vanishing ale. What was the point of that? He had an idea! He knew where he could get non-vanishing ale! Upstairs in his room, he found his fancy jug they’d gotten from the black dragon and he picked it up.
“ALE!” he said into the jug. And waited. This always worked. He looked in the jug for his ale and it wasn’t there! Instead, the jug was full to the top with raven feathers and Grog was sure he heard Vax’s laughter coming from the jug too, which must be more magic stuff because Vax was dead, not in a jug. Grog was pretty sure about that. He shook the jug again and feathers went everywhere on the floor.
“ALE!!” he said again. And it worked! The jug filled with ale, and Grog drank it and for some reason, it was better than it usually was.
Keyleth was falling, tumbling, her wings torn asunder. Wait, did she have wings? She was sure there had been wings, once. But she couldn’t fly. Her fist clenched around the ash and bone that had once been Vax. Falling, falling, falling. Why couldn’t she fly? She commanded herself to think, to focus, to find her way back to the sky. But she was falling. The wind was screaming and she was so lost. This wasn’t right, they had won. She had read that damned book and sent Vecna away beyond the divine gate. Hadn’t everyone cheered and shouted their names? She was sure they had. Why was she falling? Her free hand clawed at the empty sky, desperate for purchase, but catching nothing. She closed her eyes and called on nature to guide her, to help her right herself and find the path. Nothing. She shouted into the wind, calling for Pike, for Vex to help her. But she could not hear them. All she could hear was the wind, and all she could feel was the weight. The weight sending her off-center, pulling her down.
“Kiki.” His voice came from the shrieking winds, low and full of love. “Kiki, you have to fly. Let go and fly.” And then she remembered what she had to do. Her fist opened, ash and bone fell away, and she flew up through a sky filled with raven feathers, bursting through the storm into the sun above. Keyleth’s eyes opened in her borrowed room in Vasselheim, just in time to spy the raven in her window take flight, wheeling high up into the sky, weightless and free.
Vex was dreaming.
An endless dream, memories strung together along a never-ending arc towards something she couldn’t see.
The first time she shot a bow. Dragon scales piled around her feet. A tree sprouting from the chest of Vorugal, dead in the snow.
Vax sneaking tarts from the bakery in Byroden. Her father touching her cheek the last time she visited Syngorn, the beginnings of affection. Velora with her stuffed owlbear, blue feathers in her hair. Vax holding those same blue feathers out to her, a little piece of beauty in a moment of utter darkness.
Her mother’s smile, her mother folding linens, her mother braiding her hair. Trinket covered in chocolate and bows. Trinket asleep, Grog using him as a pillow. Vax teaching her to pick a lock, Vax wrapping his cloak around her shoulders in Whitestone, Vax holding her hand as Emon burned.
Keyleth delighting the children of Vesrah, giving them rides on dragon back. Keyleth’s eyes flaming in rage as she battled Raishan. Percy’s face, calm and unflustered at his work table, making beautiful and deadly things. Percy screaming in a lava filled cavern. Pike’s hands, glowing. Pike flying on golden wings, showering everything in light. Over it all, Scanlan singing. Sad songs and silly songs, witty and brilliant. All of them beautiful.
Vex moved through these memories like water, they swirled and layered on each other, comforting, but she was lost in them all the same. Where was she going? What on earth was she doing here? After a long time she found herself climbing a mountain, impossibly tall, yet she eventually reached the summit, high in the clouds. There, laid out on a flat stone, a set of black leather armor chased with silver scrollwork and covered in feathers waited for her.
“My dear sister, I told you before…take these wings and fly.” His voice came from all around her, quiet and calm. “It’s time.” She woke up, tears she didn’t even know were falling already drying on her cheeks.
Whitestone, Years Later
The Lord of Whitestone was dying. Though, truth be told, he’d never been comfortable with that title. He much preferred just being Percy. Percy the builder. Inventor. Cleverest man alive. It was much better than being a killer, consumed by vengeance. On balance, life had been good to him, in spite of the world being so utterly terrible at times. The chance to say goodbye to his friends, his family, was his last wish, and he had gotten it. He felt Vex’s hand on his cheek as he closed his eyes closed one last time.
Darkness….an endless sea of stars and bright threads spinning in infinity. Percy had been here once before, at least this time it hadn’t required bathing in blood. Death was cleaner, if nothing else. As he came to himself, he prepared for another frustratingly vague conversation with a goddess he’d never quite found the time to forgive. He had thoughts for her, though.
“Percival,” came a voice out of the starry blackness. “Brother, I have been waiting for you.”
Vax stepped out of nothingness, his face unchanged by the decades, a cloak of blue-black raven feathers trailing out behind him. Immortality had made him impossibly beautiful, and Percy felt a distant pang in his chest for Vex, left behind. She was his heart and he was going to miss her terribly.
“Well Vax, if I’d known it was you who would be waiting I’d have prepared something indignant and irritated to say. All these clever words for your Lady, wasted. Ah well…” and he trailed off, momentarily overwhelmed as he had always been by unexpected things.
“She’ll be alright Percival,” Vax said. “She has the others, and the children. Your name will never fade from Exandria and the good work you have done will echo down the ages. I promise you, they’ll be alright. Now come, Elysium awaits.” And with that, Vax held out his hand to Percival’s cheek, and touched his face. Percy felt a blazing warmth, and a golden light blinded him as he passed through the realm of the champion of the goddess of death and on to his rest.
Vex let her hand linger on Percy’s cool cheek as his eyes closed one last time. “Darling,” she whispered, “I will miss you so.” In silence she prayed to the Dawnfather to protect him and to the Matron of Ravens to shepherd him from life to death, knowing that a piece of her heart went with him on his last adventure. She could not bear to have him go alone.
“I will see you later darling”, she said feeling his chest still. But for one brief moment, she felt a searing heat blaze through her hand, still held on Percy’s lined face, and then it faded and he was gone. There in her hand, perfect and unburned, was a single raven feather.
“Oh, Vax” came a whisper. “Thank you.”
Critical Role airs every Thursday on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel. You can also find it over on Project Alpha. It’s a beautiful show and if you love intricate characters, great acting and tabletop RPGs you should really be watching it. Seriously. I haven’t come anywhere close to doing it justice in this little love letter.