Absent Friends

King’s Tower was the tallest tower in Castle Crimson.  The first floor of the tower contained the king’s official offices.  The second story was a more casual meeting area and study.  The third story consisted mainly of a large conference room with an equally large oaken table surrounded by numerous chairs.  War councils and other official meetings would be held here.  The fourth and fifth floors were informal living quarters for the king and guests, should the hour become late.  The sixth floor was called the Crow’s Nest, and was the king’s sanctuary and private space.  A large telescope, a gift from Baron Stonehill, was aimed out the large bay windows to study the night sky.


Vax stood at the bar in the second story study.  He poured himself and his guest a glass of rum.  I should probably ration this, he considered solemnly.  I don’t know if we’ll find any more out here in the Astral Plane.  He shrugged and handed a glass to his guest, Roland Thibodeau. That’s the least of my concerns, he mused.  Roland had dark hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. He was classically handsome, and a had a swagger to his stride that suggested a man of confidence and grace.  He was also one of Vax’s best friends.  On any plane.  Vax motioned for him to sit and took a chair himself.




Roland took a long sip before answering.  Finally, he glowered and shook his head.  “They’re not here, my friend.  I’m sorry.  They didn’t make the transition with us,” he explained.  “They are not in Eldermont.  I’ve scouted the entire perimeter and interrogated anyone who could have seen them return.”  He gave a shrug. 


“Damn” Vax replied, his voice solemn.  “I was afraid of that, but it’s not surprising. Sure, T’Na can be sneaky.”  He gave a grim chuckle.  “The little bastard could be under the table in the corner right now, and we wouldn’t know it.  But there’s no way that Stonejaw would go unnoticed this long.  They’re back on Kempin, in the middle of that madness.”


“Do not give up hope my friend,” Roland said.  “I am living proof that anything is possible.”


Vax nodded.  “If anyone could survive the apocalypse, it would be those two.”  He shook his head and began to curse.  “Stubborn, hard-headed damned heroes!  There was no way we could have defeated the Carrion King!  It took all the Godly Boons gathered in one place just to shut down the portals at the Nameless Battle!  We stood no chance with but two Boons.  I understand wanting to try, believe me.  But the risk was too great.  And if we fell, Eldermont would have fallen with us.  I couldn’t risk any more of our people’s lives.  I had to use the Seed.”  He stood up quickly, almost violently.  He shook his head to clear it, and gave a sad smile.  “Damned, heroic bastards.  We’re going to miss their bravery in the days to come.”


The young king stood and crossed back to the bar.  He poured himself another helping of rum and drank it in one gulp.  When he spoke he again, he dared not look at his friend.  “And the other matter?  Any word about my brother Kor?”


“I – I – asked around.  He was not in Eldermont when the Carrion King unleashed the hordes of undead.  He had gone to visit his stepfather Kirken in the Azure Kingdom, to help him,” Roland explained.  “It’s shearing season, apparently.”


Roland watched his friend’s head sink, and his shoulders sag.  He could feel the grief emanating from Vax.  Roland knew that Vax had thought himself an orphan and an only child his whole life, only to find his mother alive, and with a brother Vax had never even known existed.  Finding his family alive after all those years was one of the greatest moments in the young king’s life.  It nearly broke Roland’s heart to have to give his friend this news.


“We don’t know that the Azure Kingdom was attacked by the undead, Vax,” he said, reassuringly.  He stood and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder.  “And from what I’ve heard, Kirken’s ranch was a ways out from the nearest town.  There’s no reason to believe that anything happened there.”


“I didn’t speak to him much,” Vax said, his voice thick with emotion. He still hadn’t turned to face Roland.  “I didn’t give him much attention.  There was always one crisis after another, it seemed.  I was always off on one mission or another.  I was not a good brother to him.  He deserved better.”


Roland grabbed Vax by the shoulders and spun him around to face him.  “Don’t!” he exclaimed.  “Don’t do this to yourself!  If I’ve learned one thing in this world, it is don’t mourn someone until you know they’re dead.”  He gave Vax a wry smile.  “Look at me.  I was worse than dead.  I was forgotten; erased from the minds of men!  Unknown to even those that loved me.  But then, a miracle happened.  I am a part of the world again, I am by your side again, against all odds.”


He looked down at the sword hilt hanging from Vax’s belt.  “What does your godly boon, Daybreak, always tell you?  There is always hope!”


Vax gave a reluctant nod.  Your friend is not wrong, Vax, the sword said in his mind.  Your brother is a strong, cunning warrior in his own right.  He knows that you have allies in the Azure Kingdom, as well as the Duchy of Grey.  And I’ve seen firsthand how hard it is to kill an Eldermont!


Vax nodded again, more firmly, and smiled.  “Thank you, my friend.  You pulled me back from the edge of despair, I think.”


Roland gave a shrug and smile.  “That’s one way to put it.  I would say that you just need a swift kick in the ass at times.”  He grabbed the bottle of rum and poured them both a refill.  He raised his glass.


“In Swanluke, we do not like to say goodbye when we part,” Roland said.  “That is too final.  We always have hope, you see.  Hope that that particular parting will not be the last.” 


He raised his glass high.  “No, in Swanluke we have a saying.  ‘May the Gods guide your feet back home.’”


Vax raised his glass as well.  “Kor.  T’na.  Magnus Stonejaw Magnusson.  May the Gods guide your feet back home.”


    • Bert Godding

      I'm sure T'Na would have known.  Kor lived at the keep, and it was well known that he had lived in the Azure Kingdom previously.  The Heroes are known as the Harbingers of Spring in the Azure Kingdom for shutting the Storm Gates and ending their perpetual winter.  We're kind of a big deal.  LOL .  The king is Javair the Bard, who is an ally of Eldermont. 

      • Marcus Auerilius

        T'na is headed towards the Azure Kingdom. I didn't know Vax had connections there...would T'na know about them?



        • Chris Snevets

          It was the best of times. It was the end of times. It makes for memorable stories when the heroes are on their own at the end.