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Mischief at the Grey Hunt

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Vax:
Vax hovers in the balconies overlooking the courtyard of Castle Whitestone, surveying the cleaning and readying of the castle for their guests, arriving for the Annual Grey Hunt. The flagstones were cleaned of the first falling leaves, and the many glass windows were polished to a gleam.
Since the Briarwoods’ rise to power five years ago, the Grey Hunt descended to a callous event, where Sylas and his guests ran through the woods at night, killing anything that moved, and getting incredibly drunk. His sister, Vex was determined to make this year a more distinguished event- although the drinking was probably going to stay, hostessing was exhausting.
“Vax,” Vex somehow spots him as she walks swiftly through the castle. “There you are. Come check the guest list, I wanted to see what you thought.”
Vax takes the parchment, reviewing the list of names. “I’m sure you have fine taste, sister…” He hesitates at the name twelfth from the top. “You’re inviting Gilmore?”
“Yes, I am.” She says, wryly. “He’s looking to expand, and Whitestone could certainly use a Gilmore’s Glorious Goods. Don’t sleep with him, brother. At least, not again.”
“I won’t,” Vax says, giving her back the paper, “Do you need any help setting up?”
“The Howl should be coming back today, could you help unload?” Vex asks, “Normally Percy or I would go, but he’s in council meetings all day today, and Keeper Yennen wanted to see me about something.”
“Sure,” Vax runs a hand through his long black hair absentmindedly. “I’ll save you some booze, assuming Grog and Scanlan didn’t drink it all.” He walks quietly along the flagstones, toward the docks of Whitestone. Shaun Gilmore. That was a name he hadn’t heard in a while, back since his days in Syngorn. It wasn’t an ugly breakup, but that didn’t make him any less nervous.
He made it to the docks as the Broken Howl dropped anchor, the salt of the ocean spraying against his boots. Pike, standing on the prow, gave him a hearty wave, and Grog flipped him off, as usual.
“Vax, it’s good to see you!” Scanlan shouts, the first to get off the boat, “And not just because you’re on solid ground.” Scanlan wasn’t too fond of ships, but he’d follow Pike to the ends of the earth.
The rest of the crew disembarked, carrying off various crates of something or another. Vax stands somewhat awkwardly in the flood of people until someone hugs him from behind.
“Hi Vax,” Keyleth says, coming around to greet him properly. She tucks a lock of her red hair behind a delicately pointed ear, and Vax notices the addition of another bunch of flowers to her circlet, red poppies growing among what looks to be mushrooms and other greenery.
“New flowers, Keyleth?” He asks, “They look nice.”
“Thanks. They’re from my Aramenté,” Keyleth beams, and Vax feels what is practically a living ray of sunshine bouncing next to him. “The flowers bloom as I complete it. I went to my first two stops with the Howl, but I’m going to go alone to this last one, it’s too dangerous for me to justify endangering the crew to get there.”
“Keyleth, you know we’d be happy to bring you,” Pike says. “It’s no trouble, we frequent the Ozmit sea. Could’a taken you there on our way back here.”
“I wouldn’t have wanted to delay you,” Keyleth says quickly, “Besides, we’re needed here for the Grey Hunt. How’s Vex doing, Vax?”
“She and Percival are doing well,” Vax says, coldness in his voice. Despite his sister’s infatuation with the young de Rolo, he didn’t trust him, especially not after the exploding arrows took off Vex’s leg in the battle with the Briarwoods. “And you all have guest chambers ready at Whitestone Castle. The rest of Vex’s guests will start arriving tomorrow morning, and the hunt will begin in a few days.”
Vax listens absentmindedly to Pike and Scanlan bicker, with the occasional deep chuckle from Grog. He’s fixated on Keyleth, really. Walking in front of him, she’s taken off her sandals and crinkles her toes through the soft, dark earth. With a graceful shake of her head, her long red hair falls around her waist.
“Keyleth, I never asked. What’s your Aramente’s purpose?” Vax asks, taking long strides to catch up with her. She turns and looks surprised at the question.
“Oh, I suppose I didn’t tell you.” She smiles. “Every druid leader-to-be must embark on a journey to seek out the sister tribes in order to introduce and establish respect amongst the fellow headmasters. They call this the Aramenté, or Noble Odyssey. There are four stops, and I’ve made two: the Earth Ashari in Terrah and recently the Fire Ashari in Pyrah. I’ll go to the Water Ashari next, in Vesrah, and then go home to my people in Zephrah.”
“That’s impressive,” Vax says, not sure what else to say. The castle comes into view, and Keyleth smiles.
“It’s always good to see this place,” She says, and Vax is reminded of the time she spent in its very dungeons, as a prisoner of the Briarwoods. “And it’s inhabitants… Is that Trinket?”
Vex’s bear, whom she christened Trinket not long after the Briarwood fight, is currently making a somewhat-displeased yowl. Vex, wearing a ratty shirt of Percy’s, is attempting to give the now-juvenile bear a bath, and Vax isn’t sure if she’s succeeding.
“Trinket, we have guests.” Vex admonishes the bear, “And you were the one who decided to play in mud puddles all day. You aren’t helping.”
“Vex!” Keyleth runs over to her, and gives her a hug, ignoring the wet bear fur covering Vex. “It’s so good to see you, and Trinket too! Here, Trinket.” Keyleth casts a burst of air, and Trinket’s fur puffs out, floating gracefully and free of tangles. Vex’s hair blows back from the gust, removing a good deal of the wet bear fur.
“It’s good to have you back, Keyleth,” Vex says, brushing the remaining hairs off. “And the rest of you lot! Glad you could make it, the Hunt this year is going to be particularly fantastic. Although Keeper Yennen just gave me a lot to read, he found an entire history of the Hunt in Whitestone, isn’t that wonderful?”
Vex’s voice suggested she thought it was less than wonderful, as much as she liked a good book every now and then, she wasn’t a fan of historical texts when she had an event to plan.
“I’m sure it will be wonderful,” Pike says, encouraging as always. “Scanlan, do me a favor and get the supplies to the cellars? I’d lug them down, but Bigby’s Hand should last for a bit longer, yeah?”
“Only for you, baby.” Scanlan moves the giant floating purple hand down to the cellars, carrying off the contents of the Broken Howl.
“Any idea where my brother might be?” Cassandra asks. She looks different from when the crew left a few months ago- she’s ditched most of her all-black attire in favor for some more usual clothes, but her long satin gloves still cover the length of her hands scarred from poisons.
“He should be in the kitchens, arranging food.” Vex gives Trinket a loving stroke.
“I’ll help you find him!” Keyleth takes her hand, and Cassandra and Pike wander into Whitestone.
“You’re a veritable master of stealth, brother,” Vex says, watching his eyes follow the druid. “Especially in matters of the heart. When was your last tryst, I forget.”
“Please, Stubby.” Vax scoffs. “I am always stealthy, 100 percent of the time.”
“You still haven’t closed your jaw, Vax.” Vex smiles. “Keyleth probably thinks you just have a gaping maw on your face, like all the time.”

Chapter Text

Vax:
As their little ragtag group sat together for dinner, Vax thought ahead to the next few days, to Gilmore and the Hunt. He looked to his sister and uncorked another wine bottle. Getting shitfaced amongst friends was good for team building.
“How are the arraignments going, Vex?” Pike asks.
Vex just groans, taking a sip. “The more I get finished the more I’m disappointed. The Hunt is so much more than an opportunity to get drunk and kill shit. But that’s all it is now, and I don’t know if I can change it.”
“Vex, you’re doing wonderfully.” Percy rubs his thumb along the back of her hand. “The council is very impressed, darling.”
“Yeah, but they’re used to me doing crazy shit.” Vex rubs her temples. “I have to be a proper lady and everything for the guests.”
“Gilmore knows how you act,” Vax murmurs into his drink.
“I KNEW you weren’t okay with him coming!” Vex accuses.
“I never said that, just that-“
“You didn’t have to pretend you wanted him here, Vax.” Vex interrupts. “You could have told me.”
“No, I couldn’t have, you showed me the guest list SIX HOURS AGO. And you let him bring a plus one? We all know that’s going to be another date.”
They continue to bicker until Keyleth pipes up.
“Who’s Gilmore?”
“Gilmore is…” Vax’s voice trails off.
“His ex.” Vex finishes for him. “He swears it was an amicable breakup, but who even knows with the way he’s acting.”
“He’s bringing a date?” Keyleth says, red-faced from the heat of the room and a half bottle of wine, “Fine. I’ll be your date, Vax.”
Vax coughs. “What?”
“I’ll be your fake girlfriend,” Keyleth says in an authoritative tone. “So you can make Gilmore jealous, should you want to.”
“Well, that was a lovely dinner,” Vex says loudly, in an attempt to distract from Keyleth’s offer and Vax’s burning face. Vax sends his sister a silent thanks. “Shall we retire, Percival?”
“Yes, That sounds like a good idea, Vex.” He offers her his arm, and they walk down the hall, her head resting on his shoulder.
With a murmur and a varied bunch of excuses, the rest of the party goes to leave, until there’s just Vax and Keyleth.
“You need more time to think about my offer?” Keyleth breaks the silence.
“Ah.. yes?” He says, taking another drink. “I don’t know. I haven’t even seen Gilmore for a while now, going on a year.”
“Tell me about him,” Keyleth rests her head on her hands.
“It wasn’t a bad split, I swear. We just… Vex and I were trying to scrape by in Emon, where we met. He offered to help, but I didn’t want to take his sympathy. So when we had no more means, we went back to Syngorn, and I broke it off.”
“I think you should have a fake date,” Keyleth says, blunt with alcohol. “Because one: it’s fun and we could have fun, two: it doesn’t have to be me, and three: it might help you win him back, or maybe get over it.”
“What the hell,” Vax says, drunk and brave. “Yes. Sure. Let’s do it.”
Keyleth’s eyes flutter a little, and she falls asleep on her hands, bolting upright after a moment. “What? Yes, let’s do it. I’m going to bed.”

Chapter Text

Vex:
Vex finds herself unable to sleep. Phantom pains haunt where her leg once was, and she rubs it absentmindedly. After a little tossing and turning, she lights a candle, letting the soft light fill the room. From her nightstand, she pulls out one of Keeper Yennen’s tomes on the Grey Hunt.
“Maybe this will let me sleep,” she whispers, opening it to where she quit last. As she reads over the passage over and over again, she feels Percy stir next to her, adjusting the arm he keeps around her.
“Vex?” He asks, blinking sleepily. “What are you doing up?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” She lets the book fall open onto her lap. “Sorry I woke you.”
“The leg bothering you?” He fumbles on his nightstand for his glasses, only to knock them to the ground. Vex giggles softly as he picks them up from the ground.
“No more than usual.” Vex says, “No, I was just thinking about the Hunt.”
“Give it a rest, Vex,” Percy says, stepping out of bed. “I have an idea, busy yourself with other things. Your brother and Keyleth, perhaps?”
“Mhm, sure. They’d be a good pair, don’t you think… what are you doing?” Percy looks up at this last comment from his writing desk, where he’s rummaging through the drawers.
“Allura gave me a salve for the phantom pains you’ve been having,” he shuts the drawer, frustrated. “Question is where I put it.”
“Check your jacket?” Vex asks, “How would we even do it? Get them together, I mean.”
“Ha!” Percy pulls a small tin from his jacket pocket. “Found it. Proximity, I would say. Worked for us.”
“Please, you think proximity was the one thing that got us together?” Vex pulls back the sheets and moves the book from her lap, letting Percy rub her leg with the salve. “Oh that does feel nice. Thank you, darling.”
“All I’m saying is that it certainly didn’t harm.” Percy says.
“Well, what do you suggest?” Vex laughs a little. “Flooding their rooms?”
“Perhaps something that doesn’t damage our home, Vex?” Finished, he seals the balm, and kisses her as he places it to the side.
“Thank you, Darling.” Vex looks back to her book. “Something that protects Whitestone…. That’s it! Percy, I got it!”
“Hm?” He asks, looking down at the pages she frantically flips through. “What is it Vex?”
“Here.” She hands him the book. “The Hunt, it’s not about killing just anything, not about festivities or drinking.”
“That’s unfortunate,” Percy mutters, and Vex slaps his arm.
“It’s about protecting Whitestone. Gods, I feel so stupid for not realizing it.”
“You found something nobody has found for the past four generations, Vex. You’re far from stupid.”
“Well, now that I know what I have to do, I’m going to do it.” Vex scans through the passage. “I have to go to the sun tree, and I can get a vision of the thing I have to kill to protect Whitestone. Seems easy.”
“Vex, you aren’t going now?” Percy looks to the clock on the wall. “It’s nearly one in the morning.”
“Got no time to sleep.” Vex pulls her prosthetic from under the bed, this one made of oak and steel. “I’ve been getting it wrong. If I start praying now, maybe Pelor will tell me what the quarry has to be and I know how to start before anyone else wakes up.”
“Vex, really?” Percy asks, yawning. “I know you haven’t been sleeping. Come back to bed.”
Vex reluctantly puts her leg back on the ground, pulling the blankets up to her chin. “Okay, but just because you asked nicely. And only for a few… hours.” She rests her head on his shoulder. Vex always loved how well they fit together.
Vex awoke later to a knock at the door.
“Percy, can you get that?” She presses her face into the pillows. Her husband groans, and she pokes him. “Come on, you have two legs.”
Percy rubs his eyes, lighting the candle once again.
“What’s going on?”
Keyleth, soaking wet and somehow smoking, is standing outside, in an equally wet bathrobe and slippers.
“Sorry to bother you, but my room flooded? And a lot of the guest wing too, I think. Cass and Pike too.”
“Vex, the guest wing is flooded.” Percy rubs at his eyes and turns back to the bed.
“What?” Vex lifts her head sleepily. “Oh hi Keyleth.”
“Hi,” Keyleth waves. “So what should we do?”
“I’ll move people places.” Vex fumbles for her prosthetic. “Other than you and Cass, who got flooded?”
“Ah,” Keyleth makes a mental tally. “Vax, Grog, and Scanlan’s rooms seemed fine, and I didn’t see any of the other guests- I think it’s just Cass, Pike, and me? Maybe Kima and Allura.”
“I can handle this,” Vex mutters.
“What was that?” Keyleth wrings out some of her limp hair.
“Nothing.” Vex pulls on a long dressing gown, giving Percy a kiss on the cheek as she walks out.
“Do you need help Vex?” He asks.
“No, I’ll be back soon.” She starts to shut the door. “Won’t take too long.”
Vex and Keyleth walk along the hall, and Vex takes note of the sodden carpeting around the far side of the hall. Keyleth’s room, along with most on the far wall, have about a full inch of water pooling in parts, seemingly coming from the large windows.
“What happened?” Vex looks around. Cass is toweling off and wringing out her clothes. “And how was it just you three?”
“I woke up because my window was open.” Cass says, yawning. “Which is weird, I shut them before I went to bed. Storming pretty bad out there.”
“Anyway,” Pike rubs her eyes. “I figured we could just bunk with the guys for tonight while everything dries out.”
“What’s going on, baby?” Scanlan pokes his head out of his room, lifting his purple silk eye mask off his face. “Smells like wet strawberries.”
“Ha ha.” Pike looks at him. “My room flooded so we’re going to bunk up.”
“Pike can sleep in my room!” Scanlan jumps at the opportunity. “You can have the bed, Pikey.”
“I’m going to bunk with Grog.” Pike opens his door, lugging a pillow under her arm. “Goodnight Scanlan.”
“Think I’ll join you, Pike.” Cass follows Pike. “Goodnight, everyone.”
“Well you can’t all sleep in Grog’s room.” Vex looks at Keyleth. “I’ll see if Vax is awake. My brother doesn’t snore.”
“Vax, Come on, Shitbird. I know you sleep light.” Vex knocks, and a thud hits the door. “Oh, I KNOW you did not just throw a knife at my door.”
“What.” Vax opens the door a crack, squinting in the dim candlelight.
“The far rooms flooded.” Vex gestures to Keyleth. “You mind sharing? I told Keyleth her best chances are bunking with you, seeing as you’re pretty quiet.”
“Yeah, un, okay,” Vax opens the door even more. “They flooded?”
“It’s raining really hard.” Keyleth pipes up.
“Great,” Vex adjusts her dressing gown. “Rooms can dry out tomorrow, and now I can go back to bed. Goodnight.”
The door shuts, and Vex walks back down the hall to her own room.
“You fix everything?” Percy’s still awake, doing some sketching.
“Of course,” She slides back into bed. “Cass, Pike, and Keyleth’s rooms are drenched, so they’re bunking other places. Everyone else is fine.”
“That’s good… Wait– flooded?” Percy asks.
“Yeah, something about the windows staying open,” Vex unlaces her prosthetic. “Why do you ask?”
“Vex, flooding.” Percy starts laughing, and Vex is confused. “Not a few hours ago, you asked if we should flood their rooms,”
“To push them to proximity,” Vex starts laughing, “Percy, you didn’t, did you?”
“Open the windows before a storm?” Percy gets out between chuckles, “No, I didn’t. However it happened, they certainly did get proximity.”
“I love you,” Vex gives him a kiss. “And I’m going to go to sleep. Let’s save the matchmaking for the morning, darling.”

Keyleth:
Keyleth was on the prow of the Broken Howl, the wind tossing her hair. Her fingers burned on the ropes as she tried to navigate, alone on the deck with gale-force winds. Pike shouted commands across the deck, and the crew ran this way and that.
“Keyleth!” Cassandra grabbed her shoulders. “Control it, you can stop the storm.”
“I can’t,” She shouted. “I can’t.”
Keyleth tried to cast something, anything to get it to stop, but she was helpless as the ship careened to the series of rocks jettisoning out of the crashing waves.
She hit the foam, and watched the ship break apart.
Keyleth woke with a start, bolting upright to revive a slap in the face with wet cloth. After peeling it from her face, she determined it was not, in fact, wet canvas from the shipwreck, but a portion of her drapes that had gotten loose. She dropped it, and looked around, taking calming breaths. She was home, she was safe, her crew was safe.
Now, the question remained how the drapes were soaked, and for that matter, the rest of her room. She stepped out of bed into a solid inch of water, and the problem became clear- her window was open. Keyleth ran to it, shutting her window as fast as she could, successfully drenching herself. She took a cursory glance around the room, checking what was wet. Her closet was somewhat protected, so she had dry clothes and towels. But her books- her books were under the window, and are now completely drenched.
Keyleth ran her fingertips along the damp pages, fanning the books out as best she could. Her bed was also soaked, which was unfortunate.
“Keyleth?” Pike knocked on her ajar door. “Did you get flooded too?”
“Yeah,” she sets down the books with a wet squish. “Anyone else, or just us?”
“Me too,” Cass pokes her head into the room. “Though mines nowhere near this bed. Yikes, Kiki.”
“What should we do?” Keyleth pulls on her bathrobe.
“Go get Vex,” Pike advised. “She should know.”
Leisurely, Keyleth squishes down the hall, her feet causing more dampness to come up from the rug with every step. She knocks softly, a little embarrassed by waking up Vex at such an early hour.
Percy came to the door first, as Vex buried her head in her bedding.
“What’s going on?”
“Sorry to bother you, but my room flooded?” Keyleth moves her wet hair out of her face, “And a lot of the guest wing too, I think. Cass and Pike too.”
“Vex, the guest wing is flooded.” Percy rubs at his eyes and turns back to the bed.
“What?” Vex lifts her head sleepily. “Oh hi Keyleth.”
“Hi,” Keyleth waves. “So what should we do?”
“I’ll move people places.” Vex fumbles for her prosthetic. “Other than you and Cass, who got flooded?”
“Ah,” Keyleth makes a mental tally. “Vax, Grog, and Scanlan’s rooms seemed fine, and I didn’t see any of the other guests- I think it’s just Cass, Pike, and me? Maybe Kima and Allura.”
Vex mutters into her pillow, then sits up, moving a strand of her hair out from her mouth.
“What was that?” Keyleth wrings out some of her limp hair.
“Nothing.” Vex pulls on a long dressing gown, giving Percy a kiss on the cheek as she walks out.
“Do you need help Vex?” He asks.
“No, I’ll be back soon.” She starts to shut the door. “Won’t take too long.”
Vex stumbles slightly, and Keyleth wraps her robe tighter around her, cold from drafts.
“What happened?” Vex looks around. Cass is toweling off and wringing out her clothes. “And how was it just you three?”
“I woke up because my window was open.” Cass says, yawning. “Which is weird, I shut them before I went to bed. Storming pretty bad out there.”
“Anyway,” Pike rubs her eyes. “I figured we could just bunk with the guys for tonight while everything dries out.”
“What’s going on, baby?” Scanlan pokes his head out of his room, strutting his stuff and smoothing out deep purple silk pyjamas, “Smells like wet strawberries.”
“Ha ha.” Pike looks at him. “My room flooded so we’re going to bunk up.”
“Pike can sleep in my room!” Scanlan jumps at the opportunity. “You can have the bed, Pikey.”
“I’m going to bunk with Grog.” Pike opens his door, lugging a pillow under her arm. “Goodnight Scanlan.”
Keyleth bites her lip, wondering if she was going to bunk with a rather horny gnome for the night.
“Think I’ll join you, Pike.” Cass follows Pike. “Goodnight, everyone.”
“Well you can’t all sleep in Grog’s room.” Vex says. “I’ll see if Vax is awake. My brother doesn’t snore.”
“Vax, Come on, Shitbird. I know you sleep light.” Vex knocks, and a thud hits the door. “Oh, I KNOW you did not just throw a knife at my door.”
“What.” Vax opens the door a crack, squinting in the dim candlelight.
“The far rooms flooded.” Vex gestures to Keyleth. “You mind sharing? I told Keyleth her best chances are bunking with you, seeing as you’re pretty quiet.”
“Yeah, un, okay,” Vax opens the door even more. “They flooded?”
“It’s raining really hard.” Keyleth pipes up.
“Great,” Vex adjusts her dressing gown. “Rooms can dry out tomorrow, and now I can go back to bed. Goodnight.”
Keyleth walks into the completely dark room and proceeds to walk into a dresser.
“Ow.”
“Here, I’ll light a candle.” Vax finds a match somewhere in the dark chaos and the room comes into a soft light. Like hers, Vax’s room has a variety of small tables, a rug, an adjacent closet, and a double bed, with the hangings that smacked her in the face earlier. Vax grabs a pillow and throw blanket, laying it on the ground. “You can take the bed.”
“No, no I couldn’t..” Keyleth pushes back more of her wet hair. “I’ll take the floor.”
“Take the bed, I’ll sleep over the sheets.” Vax picks the pillow back up. “You prefer a side? Keyleth shakes her head. After Vax flops back down on the bed, she crawls under the blankets, and blows out the candle, plunging the room into the dark.

Chapter Text

Vax
Keyleth was a quiet sleeper. Vax listened closely to try and hear her breath. It came in and out gently, like the tides. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t like having her next to him.
“Damn, Vex.” He cursed under his breath, “Why’d you have to screw me over even more?”
He rolled over to his side, resolved to ignore Keyleth as best he could. It didn’t help seeing Gilmore again, he thought as his stomach turned in knots. It was almost as if Vex was doing everything she could to confuse him. He’d thought Gilmore would bring a date, a pseudo-Vax, skinny and dark haired. But he hadn’t.
Keyleth’s breaths began to speed up, suddenly. As if a storm began to disturb the calm tides. She began to toss in her sleep, and Vax looked back over to her. She was whispering something under her breath, a soft no.
“Keyleth,” Vax doesn’t think, just rolls over and gently touches her shoulder. He did this so many times for Vex, stroked her back, held her close, lit a candle, told her to take calm breaths: the monsters were gone. “Keyleth.”
Keyleth bolts upright, taking shaky breaths in. Her hair falls back over her face as she presses her hands to her face, dipping her head low. She trembles as Vax cautiously keeps his hand on her shoulder.
“Keyleth, are you alright?” Vax asks. She shakes her head, trying to stop the pounding in her chest. “Look at me, Kiki. Everything is okay, you’re okay. Deep breaths.” He does the same for her that he did for Vex, rubbing her back, looking into her hazel eyes and breathing deep.
“I’m sorry.” Keyleth hiccups. “I woke you.”
“No, not at all,” Vax says. “You want to talk about it?”
Keyleth shakes her head a little. “No, I’m fine. Really.”
Vax nods a little. “Vex used to have nightmares. Well, I say used to, but I don’t know. For her, it helped to walk through the dream, helped her remember it was a dream the next time.”
“Okay,” Keyleth takes a deep breath in, out. “I’ll walk through it. I was on the deck of the Howl… We were going to my last Aramente stop, even though I told them not to come… and then there was a storm…” Keyleth’s voice fades out.
“It’s okay,” Vax says softly. Keyleth lies back down, curling towards Vax in a fetal position.
“Do you want me to leave the candle lit?” He asks. She shakes her head, and Vax lies down as well.
Slowly, she falls back asleep, and the waves of her breath return. It is at that moment that he realizes his arm is still around her.

Keyleth:
Vax’s arm stayed around her, and his smell, almost like smoke, permeated the sheets. When she awoke again, pounding heart and wide eyes, he pressed her closer, stroking the back of her head, letting her feel his heartbeat.
She slept in for the first time in a while next to Vax, finally waking up to the sun streaming in through the window as Vax pulled apart the curtains.
“Breakfast is happening in a few minutes, so I thought I should wake you.” He looks out to the courtyard.
“Okay,” Keyleth gets up, walking with a little sway. Her hand rests on the doorknob as she looks back to Vax. “Thank you for last night. It… it gets a little easier with someone else there.”
“Yeah?” Vax looks at her, sun dappling across his strong facial features, warmth across his chest. “You know, you don’t have to go it alone.”
“I know.” Keyleth pushes back a clump of her hair, which has dried strange and clumpy. She closes the door behind her, exhaling softly.
“You’re up late, Keyleth.” Pike walks through the hall, twisting her wild white hair into a neat bun at the nape of her neck.
“Yeah, slept in a bit.” Keyleth escapes to the security of her room, cheeks flushed. “Be down in a few moments.”
She shuts her door quickly, leaning against the hard oak and exhaling. It was a long night, but it was easier with Vax there. She felt the bed underneath her: it was almost completely dried out. Keyleth groaned, flopping against it. She was already dreading the night, being on her own again.
An idea hit her, fast as lightning. She needed water… Keyleth rushed to the window, flinging it open. She’d rigged up a little system with Percy’s help the last time she was here, a slow trickling gutter so she could keep her plants watered. With a little cantrip, she formed it into a bubble and gently hovered it over to her bed.
“What am I doing?” She groans. “All this to try and get into the same room as Vax… this is a massively bad idea-”
Her train of thought is interrupted by the bubble of water falling, soaking the bed and spraying her. Damn concentration spells. She feels the covers- soaked once again.
“Damn it.”
A knock comes from the other side of her door.
“Keyleth,” Vax’s voice comes through, muffled by the wood. “Do you want me to wait for you, or meet you down there?”
“I’ll be out in a moment.” She walks over to her closet and pulls the first dress she can find over her head. Running her hands through her errant hair, she manages to get it out of her eyes. As she opens the door, Vax lets loose a small smirk.
“Turn around, Kiki.” She does, looking at him oddly. “You have a snag.”
His hands weave through her hair, unsnagging and detangling her hair. She exhales, taking in his presence. All too soon, her hair falls back over her shoulders in a braid.
“Thank you,” she smiles. “Shall we?” Arm in arm, they walk downstairs.

Chapter Text

Vax:
Breakfast was an affair: enough wonderful smells and champagne to almost forgive his sister for bringing Gilmore. Looking for her, however, was difficult. After 15 minutes, he couldn’t see their illustrious hostess, or her husband, for that matter.
“Vax,” Keyleth whispers. “Where’s your sister?”
Vax shrugs, looking around the room nonchalantly. From the far door, Percy makes a quiet entrance, shutting it closed beside him. Vax nudges Keyleth, and the pair shuffles quietly past the mingling and dining group of guests.
“Where’s Vex?” Vax asks, body language shut off. He still doesn’t trust Percy, not with Vex’s heart.
“She’s going to arrange some things for the Hunt today.” Percy adjusts his four-lensed glasses. “And she says she’s going to go alone.”
“What?!” Keyleth shouts. Immediately, she claps her hand over her mouth.
“What?” Vax whispers.
“I am going to tell everyone now.” Percy picks up a glass and taps it lightly.
“Good morning everyone! I am very pleased to welcome you all to Castle Whitestone for our annual Grey Hunt. Our festivities will be beginning in a manner of hours. Unfortunately, Lady Vex’ahlia will not be joining you today, she has other matters she must attend to. Fortunately, I am a much worse hunter.”
There is a laugh from the crowd, and Percy smiles. As much as Vax distrusts him, he has to admit: he is good at running Whitestone, even more so with Vex by his side.
“We will meet those of you interested in the Hunt at the east gate in two hours. Make yourselves comfortable, and enjoy the Hunt!” Percy sets the flute down and turns back to Keyleth and Vax.
“Last night, Vex read through the volumes Keeper Yennen found.” His eyes turn slightly more worried, though the smile remains on his lips. “There is an initial purpose to the Hunt, to protect Whitestone. I went with her to the Sun Tree early this morning, and Whitestone is indeed in danger. She left with Trinket almost two hours ago and insisted that she wasn’t followed. I contacted her on the earring five minutes ago, and she’s fine. Still adamant that she isn’t followed.”
“Percy.” Vax feels something close to rage brewing in his chest, and he takes a step closer to his brother-in-law. His hand tightens around the champagne flute in his left hand. “How could you let her go alone?”
“I’m not letting her go alone.” Percy keeps his head aloft. “We have the earring, Allura is close by, keeping watch. We cannot interfere with the trial, but I will pull her out at the first sign of danger, gods be damned. You two, please stay away. Vax, I know it’s hard for you to be far from her, but she needs to do this alone.”
“Vax,” Keyleth slides between the two, sensing the animosity building. “Vex will be fine, she can handle herself. Just stay calm.”
With a pop and a shatter, the crystal glass breaks in Vax’s hand, and he sets the now broken shards on the table, flicking his hand to get rid of the champagne staining his sleeve.
“Oh, I’ll stay calm.” Vax begins to walk away. “Once my sister is back.”

 

Keyleth:
She starts to follow him out, but she doesn’t know why. Percy grabs her arm before she walks away.
“Keyleth, are you doing alright?” He asks.
“I’m fine,” She smiles. “Right as rain. Why do you ask?”
He shakes his head. “Lately, it seems you’re off rhythm. You sleeping okay?”
Keyleth freezes for a moment. “Well, not last night. Floods have a tendency to do that.” Percy smiles, and Keyleth relaxes. “I should… I should go see if he needs healing or anything. For the hand.”
She walks off, smiling at the various guests.
“I know, I know... “ Vax is leaning against a door, hand against his ear. “You’re a big girl. Take care of yourself Stubby. And let me know when you’re in trouble, not your asshole husband.” He smiles a touch.
Keyleth coughs lightly, and Vax looks up.
“Talked with Vex.” He takes a look at his hand. “She wants me to stay here.”
“Let me see that,” Keyleth takes his hand, looking at the semi-deep cuts from the crystal along it. She tuts softly as she casts a healing spell. “Are you going to do what she wants?”
“Don’t know if I can,” Vax looks away. “Don’t really want to.”
Keyleth finishes with his hand, holding it for a moment longer than she needed to.
“Well, if it helps distract you,” Keyleth says, “Let’s go do something. In the woods, so you can be there quicker.”
“Didn’t take you as much of a hunter, Keyleth,” Vax says, surprised.
“No, no I don’t think we should go to the hunt,” Keyleth says. “I figured we should go somewhere else- if you needed to go help Vex, you wouldn’t want the guests to worry.”
“I know somewhere we can try.”

Chapter Text

“Here,” Vax stops, setting down the torch that he’s been using to lead their way. “It’s an offshoot of some of the abandoned mined out areas.”
“Wow.” Keyleth crosses her arms, feeling the chill of the caves. She leaned against a wall, only to find it wet. “You sure know how to show a girl a good time, Vax.”
Sheepishly, he looks back at her. “It’s really weird… yeah, sorry Kiki.”
“It’s fine, Vax,” Keyleth laughs. “It’s a good weird. You come here a lot?”
“Sometimes,” Vax takes a seat on the ground, feeding little dead leaves and twigs that made their way into the cave to the torchlight. “More so when Vex is busy. Been a few months now, and I still don’t trust Percy.”
“He’s a good man,” Keyleth sits down next to him. “He’s a little closed off, though. But he loves Vex.”
“Somehow, that doesn’t quite put my mind at ease.” Vax holds his hands over the torch, warming them somewhat. “How did you know him, Keyleth?”
“Met him passing through Whitestone.” She says. Her mind thinks through the time she spent in Whitestone, the months underneath it. “I came through looking for a boat to Pyrah, and I found Percy and the Briarwoods. He asked for help, which I gave, and he got me a fake job working in the gardens, in hopes that I could fix the Sun Tree. Then we had the first revolt, which failed, and I didn’t see him for a while.”
“Is that when..?”
“Yeah, that’s when I was arrested.” Keyleth stretches. “But I met Trinket, which was nice.”
Vax laughs and it rings through the cavern.
“What?” Keyleth smiles.
“You are the most unabashedly positive person I know,” Vax smiles, looking at her with his dark eyes, a glint of mischief or possibly humor flashing through his mind. “Spent however long in prisons under Whitestone, but you met a very smelly bear, so that evens things out.”
“It’s nice to look on the bright side of things,” Keyleth grins. Her ears prick up as she hears something from the back of the cavern. “Vax, did you hear that?”
“We have to hide,” With a quick motion, Vax stomps on the torch, and takes Keyleth’s hand. “In here.”
The two press into a small alcove and Vax takes a peek. From just over his shoulder, Keyleth can see the source of a sound: a startled rat, scurrying along the ground. She sighs with relief and then looks again at the small space they’ve cramped into. Keyleth giggles, looking at Vax.
“Thank gods, just a rat.” She whispers. Vax shakes his head, and Keyleth takes a second look as the rat is squished by a rather large orc foot. Her eyes go wide.
Three rather large orcs file into the cavern, setting down worn and chipped battle axes and greatswords on the dusty ground. The three begin to grunt and speak orcish, and Vax idly tries to listen in.
“Do you speak orcish?” Keyleth whispers, trying to shift her shoulder to a more comfortable position.
“No,” Vax looks at her struggling. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m fine.” Keyleth’s arm goes numb. “So, do we run, or something?”
With a grunt, the orcs pull a soft-eyed doe from one of their bags and begin to prod it with their swords, making tiny cuts along it’s shaking body. Keyleth takes a shaking breath inward, looking away. From his belt, Vax takes one of his daggers, feeling the weight and the balance he knows so well.
“Wasn’t my plan.” He turns to look at Keyleth. “How many do you think you can handle?”
Keyleth grins. “Why ruin the surprise?” She vanishes into the dirt, leaving a puff of dust in her wake.
“That…” Vax sighs. “That wasn’t a rhetorical question, Kiki. I kinda need to know. Where are you?” He looks all around their little alcove. She’s hidden better than him, which isn’t an easy feat.
Without any warning, a hulking earth elemental bursts out of the dirt, knocking two of the orcs on their backs. The third breaks his ax against the elemental’s earth crusted back, and what Vax assumes to be Keyleth swings a large fist, knocking him back against the cavern wall where Vax waits. With a flick of his wrist, the orc is dead, and dark almost black blood drips from Vax’s knife as he throws into another orc, this one clattering against the orc’s mismatched hide armor. With a puff of smoke, the dagger finds its way back home to his belt.
He charges at Vax, throwing his hand axes with unbridled rage. One misses his head by an inch, but the other buries itself in his gut, knocking the air out of his lungs. Coughing a little, Vax throws his daggers again, these ones hitting the orc: two in the chest, and one directly in the soft part of his neck.
Keyleth takes another battering blow, this one finishing the orc with a spray of blood. Vax turns around, looking for more orcs, but finds none.
With a graceful shake, Keyleth drops her earth elemental form, wiping a few drops of blood from her face. She reaches down to touch the frightened deer and strokes it gently. Vax sees it relax as she casts a healing spell.
“That was cool, Kiki.” Vax stealthily tries to remove the ax from his stomach but gives a little grunt of pain as he walks over to Keyleth. “Didn’t know you could do that.”
“Well, it’s a little new…” she turns around. “Vax! You’re hurt!” Keyleth hurries over to him.
“It’s fine.” Vax stumbles forward, falling into Keyleth. She catches him, and the two untangle themselves rather clumsily. Carefully, they both sit, and Keyleth begins to heal the large gash wound.
As scattered spots form around the corners of his vision, Vax smiles at Keyleth. “You’re beautiful, you know that?”
“I’m covered in orc blood and brain matter, Vax,” she laughs. “But thank you.”
“I mean it.” He starts to sit up, and Keyleth looks at him like he might topple over at any moment. (Which wasn’t entirely out of the question.)
“I think you’re kind. And brave. And smart. And you can turn into a fucking earth elemental, which is super cool. And I think… Keyleth, I think I’m in love with you.”
Vax barely gets to see the stunned look on her face before he passes out, thinking of how dumb that just was.

Chapter Text

Keyleth
She didn’t know why she was still blushing, frankly, it was rather embarrassing. She’d gotten Vax conscious again with a quick healing spell. The walk back to Whitestone was silent and just as awkward, Vax was trying to contact Vex throughout most of the forest. Evidently, she wasn’t answering.
“Any luck?” Keyleth breaks the silence.
“She’s ignoring me.” Vax jumps on the opportunity to have a conversation, hopefully, a less tense one.
“She’s probably done everything and is waiting for us,” Keyleth says, kicking up dirt with her sandal. “We should have kept an orc head.”
“What, as our quarry?” Vax laughs. “Watch. Vex will be back with the head of something like a fucking dragon, and our orc tusks won’t look like anything at all.”
Whitestone emerges in front of them, the trees breaking for the town and castle.
“I’m going to go find some lunch,” Keyleth says, stomach grumbling.
“Ah, I’ll go find Pike.” Vax winces a little. Keyleth only had so many healing spells. “Thanks for the patch-up, Kiki.”
“See you around, then.” Keyleth wanders around, looking for food.
“Keyleth!” Cassandra surprises her from behind, “Hey, I was looking for you. I know you aren’t much for a hunt, so I thought you might want to try your hand at some of the apothecary stuff.”
“I was, just out for a stroll.” Keyleth smiles. “Lunch? I’m starved.”
Cassandra, despite not living at Whitestone full-time, was an expert at knowing where to find food. From a kitchen cabinet, she pulls a veritable heroes’ feast of dried fruits and cheese. Cass, arms full of food, dumps their cloth-covered bounty onto the grass in the courtyard, and their backs resting against the Sun Tree.
“So, Keyleth.” Cassandra eats a dried fig, “If you weren’t in the castle, who were you walking with?”
“Vax.” Keyleth focuses on the bread in her hand.
“Ah, okay.” Cass nods. “He confessed that mega crush yet or you still in the dark?”
Keyleth coughs.
“What? I mean, yes, but what? Did he tell you?”
“He’s been more than a little obvious, Keyleth.” Cassandra smiles. “Glad he finally just told you. I had a running bet with Kima.”
“You had a-” Keyleth doesn’t know what to think. “How much?”
“Quite a lot. I thought he’d say it in the next week, she thought it would be more of a slow burn. Now, the question is what are you going to do about it?”
“I have to do something?” Keyleth sputters. “I was thinking... More… I’ll just not come back to Whitestone maybe ever.”
“You don’t like him?”
“I don’t know. I’d just rather not, you know?”
“Tell you what,” Cassandra pushes back the dark tendrils of hair from her forehead. “I went to your room, and your mattress is still wet. You, me, Pike, we all have a sleepover in my room, my bed has dried off. We’ll have a good chat. Maybe better than just leaving Whitestone forever, hm?”
“Yeah, that sounds better.”

Vax
“You did not do that.” Vex was indeed waiting for him at the steps of Whitestone, beast head by her boot. It only took a moment for him to confess everything to her- including the embarrassing faint after telling Keyleth. “You idiot.” She flicks his ear with a long finger.
“To be fair,” Vax rubbed his ear, “That was not how I planned it going. At all.”
“That doesn’t fucking matter,” Vex groans. “I’ll give you credit, you had a good setup. But now she’s going to leave, and it’ll be another six months before you have the chance. Although maybe that’ll be enough time for you to recover from the biggest fuckup ever.”
“Thank you for your vote of confidence.” Vax sighs.
“Vex!” Percy, seeing his wife, runs to her. Vax feels a childish ‘ew’ resonate with him as his sister proceeds to plant one on Percy. “Don’t fucking do that, I love you but your brother was going to kill me if you died, and frankly I wouldn’t have stopped him.”
“You’re sweet. It was nothing I couldn’t handle. You, on the other hand,” She turns to Vax. “Stop intimidating him, brother. You don’t need to.”
“Okay, if it makes you feel better.” Vax, with no intentions of ceasing his threats against Percy, starts to walk away.
“Go find Keyleth, Shitbird,” Vex calls back. “Fix your mistakes!”