The thing is, Scanlan doesn’t let this go. The Raven Queen takes Vax, sure. And right then there’s nothing he can do about it– he’s too exhausted, they’re all too physically and emotionally tired to do anything but watch as Vax walks off into the beyond with his goddess– but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give up. He looks at Vex, at the tears streaming down her face, and Keyleth, who is holding herself and trying not to break apart, and Grog and Pike and Percy, all in various stages of disbelief and grief and he cannot let it end like this.
So he forces himself to get his 8 hours of sleep, forces himself to rest, and as soon as he gets up in the morning, he reaches deep down into himself and casts.
“I wish Vax’ildan was alive.”
And he gets nothing back. Not even a whisper. Not even a ruffle of wings.
He wants to scream, or cry, or ask Keyleth to drop him off at the Raven Queen’s temple so he can go demand his friend back, but he doesn’t. He holds it all in, and goes out to his friends.
And he tries again the next day. And the next. And the next.
“I wish Vax’ildan was back with us.”
“I wish Vax’ildan hadn’t been disintegrated.”
“I wish Vax’ildan returned to life.”
Even as Vox Machina drifts apart; as Vex and Percy go back to Whitestone– little Velora, alive, so blessedly alive– with them, Keyleth back to the Ashari, Pike to rebuild her temple and Grog at her side, and Scanlan back with his daughter in Ank’harel, he keeps trying. Every morning, when his power has returned to him, he breathes, concentrates and wishes as hard as he can.
And one day, he gets a response.
The room gets cold and dark, and there’s the taste of blood in his mouth, and the sound of feathers rustling fills his ears. And the Raven Queen, it can’t be anyone else, speaks to him: And you try yet again, Ioun’s Chosen? Vax’ildan gave himself to me, so that he might save you all. Why do you fight his choice?
And Scanlan looks up at the ceiling, and he says, simply, “Because he wouldn’t stop if it were any of us. Because he’s my friend. And because Burt Reynolds didn’t say he could leave.”
There’s no response, but the silence seems thoughtful. And finally, the room gets warmer, and he swallows the taste of blood from his mouth. But the room is still empty except for him. So Scanlan bites his lip until the scream in his throat goes away, and he goes out to find his daughter.
But still he doesn’t stop.
It takes a while. Weeks, months, years, but every morning he does it. He gets up, washes his face, and Wishes with everything inside of him. He’s a gnome. He has plenty of time. If it’s the last thing he does, he will bring his friend safe home.
And some day, it clicks. And the room gets cold, and the blood returns to his mouth, and the sound of wingbeats makes his heart race, and he prepares to try and charm a goddess. Or beg or plead or argue if he has to, but he doesn’t feel Death at his shoulder.
He hears a deep sigh. And then he hears Vax: “You’re such a stubborn little gnome.”
“Yeah, well. Like I told your Lady, you didn’t ask me you could leave, and you know-”
And Vax laughs, and something inside Scanlan eases, and when the coldness and the darkness vanishes, his friend is standing before him, naked as the last time he returned. “It’s good to see you, old friend.”
“Well?” Scanlan says, standing up to his full height. Which really comes up to mid-thigh on his old friend. “Are you back? Is this it? Or is the Big RQ going to take you away again.”
Vax cants his head, as if listening really hard, then smiles. “I think I’m back. You are very, very persuasive.” He smiles wider. “And very annoying.”
“Yeah, let’s just tell the others it’s the persuasive part. And that I’m very charming– I’ve been told I’m very charming.”
“You are. The most charming. Now come on, let’s find me some clothes.”
Scanlan sighs playfully, even as he heads towards the trunk where he kept a spare set of black, half-elf sized clothes. “Do we have to? ‘Cause I gotta tell you, buddy, I’m kind of enjoying the view.”
“Well, there’s plenty of time for that later. But I think there’s some people we need to say hello to first.”
Scanlan sighs again. “If you insist.” He opened the trunk, threw the clothes in Vax’s direction. “Now come on. Breakfast is going to be ready soon, and there’s going to be all kinds of salad~”
“Yeah, yeah. Alright. Come on, little man. Let’s go greet the sun.”