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But Nobody Can Hear

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The Bureau's moon base, floating silently over Faerun, is a puzzle box.  Its halls echo with secrets, and its employees trade gossip like coin, swapping mysteries and rumors and speculation over shared meals and training sessions.  But there is one perennial topic of conversation that everyone is intrigued by and nobody can agree on:

A gnome named Davenport.

 

#

 

Killian learns that Davenport loves heights.  She learns this because he keeps trying to climb the BOB's two trees and she has to get him down somehow.

She's new to the base, one of the first employees.  But she quickly learns that Davenport is the Director's ward and that he cannot take care of himself, which means everyone looks out for him.  Nobody wants to risk having to explain to the cold and mysterious Director why her ward has a scraped knee or even a hair out of place.

So Killian finds herself swearing and trying to climb a skinny tree whose branches creak under her weight, while an oblivious gnome scurries ever higher out of her reach.  A rogue would be useful right now; her last teammate with acrobatic skills was pulled in by Thrall and had to be put down, and she hasn't gotten a replacement yet.  So right now it's just her.

(Later, Carey will be assigned to her team, and things will change.  Everything will change.  Killian's life will never be the same.  But she doesn't know that yet.)

"Come on, Davenport," she says, trying to keep her voice calm and soothing.  "Stay still, so I can get you out of here."

"Davenport?" he asks pleasantly, as if nothing at all is the matter as he teeters on a branch above her, gaze fixed on the puffy clouds above him.

She reaches out a hand.  "Come on, little guy.  I really don't need this today."

He finally turns to look at her, blinking.  Then he chirps "Davenport!" and leaps heedlessly down onto a lower branch and Killian, for an instant, thinks she's going to have a heart attack.  But then he's on her shoulders, arms thrown around her neck, and laughing. 

She'll take that as a win.  She carefully climbs back down the tree, but when she reaches the quad lawn, Davenport doesn't get down off of her.  Instead he climbs up higher on her back, setting his legs over her shoulders and giving her a tap on the head.

So she grips his legs and gives him a piggie-back ride.  Davenport is ecstatic.  She runs faster and faster over the lawn, and he spreads his arms out, laughing, his balance impeccable.

Not the strangest thing she's done for a paycheck.  It certainly beats climbing trees.

 

#

 

Brad Bradson has all the HR files, so he knows quite a bit about Davenport, relatively speaking.  He knows the gnome is listed as the Director's ward, and she is his only known family and emergency contact.  He knows the two have been together since before the Bureau was founded.  He knows the Director gives him top marks on all his performance reviews.

Brad suggests implementing an Employee of the Month program.  The Director tells him that would be unfair, since Davenport would win every month.  He laughs, thinking it's a joke.  Davenport is a cheerful and tireless worker, definitely worthy of the award.  But every month?  That would just be unfair to all the other excellent employees of the Bureau.

But the Director's face is a blank mask as she coolly sips her wine, and he realizes she isn't joking at all.

Brad learns, also, that Davenport loves music.  He gets the Director's blessing to host a Karaoke night at the BOB (a rousing success, by the way) and is a little surprised to find the gnome sitting in the front row, cheering and clapping like every act is the greatest act he's ever seen.  Brad has never seen the gnome so absolutely delighted.

When Brad's own turn comes around, however, and he cuts loose with a roaring power ballad, he looks over to see a glassy-eyed Davenport being led out by the Director.  Brad inquires after him the next day, feeling horribly guilty over the whole thing, but the Director assures him it's nothing to be concerned about.  Overstimulation, she says.  She'd honestly been surprised Davenport held out as long as he had.

"He must really love music," he says.

The Director says nothing.

 

#

 

Avi learns that Davenport has a tattoo on his inner right wrist.  He's on his back underneath one of the cannons, working on the motor, when Davenport comes by to drop off his monthly salary.  He asks Davenport if he could hand him that wrench he'd left on the other side of the room.  The gnome, ever helpful, grabs it and hands it to him.  And that is when Avi notices the crude image of a gear poking out from beneath his sleeve.

It reminds Avi of the logo of the Rockport Engineering School where he'd gone as a student.  "Hey, you went to RES too?" he asks automatically.

"Davenport?"

"Your tattoo?"  He points.  He realizes it could just be an ordinary gear and not his Alma Mater's logo, but all the same, it isn't something he expected to find on Davenport.  "You, uh, you're an engineer?  You like mechanical things?"

Davenport blinks at him.  "Davenport?"  He looks down at the tattoo, running a thumb over it, surprise and confusion furrowing his brow.  As if he'd never seen it before, or as if it was something that had always been there and nobody had ever called it to his attention. 

"Where'd you get it?" Avi tries again.

Davenport stares at him, mouth working silently.  He shakes his head.  "Davenport, davenport!" he says, a faint note of rising panic in his voice.  

Avi raises his hands in a gesture of calm.  "Hey man, it's okay—"  

Davenport turns and flees.

 

#

 

Leon is the first person on the moon base, besides the Director, that Davenport actually speaks to.  He learns this is a rare occasion, that Davenport can speak but it's hard and he usually isn't lucid enough to manage it.

But in that first halting conversation, over a shared bottle of wine on the gnomish Feast of the Great Hearthstone, he learns quite a bit.  He learns that Davenport enjoys stargazing, that he likes working at the Bureau, that he and Lucretia are family and they've always been together.

He learns that Davenport doesn't know what warren he comes from.  He learns that Davenport grows quickly upset when asked questions he cannot answer.  So Leon keeps his inquiries simple, straightforward, focused on the present.

Davenport is a pleasant fellow when you get to know him.  Troubled, prone to the occasional sudden mood swing, but pleasant.

 

#

 

Lucas has known Davenport for years.  The gnome has been a regular feature of his life since he was a boy and Lucretia first started collaborating with his mother.  Davenport is just Davenport to him:  simple-minded, skittish, prone to getting lost in his own head.

Lucas has occasionally wondered what his deal is, and whether he's always been like that or if there's more to his story.  But as the years pass, there are more interesting puzzles to solve, and Davenport fades into the background.

 

#

 

Maureen has known Davenport just as long as her son has, but she notices more.

Davenport is kind.  He loves Lucretia deeply.  He's a little shy in new situations but quickly warms up when people engage with him.

He is helpful, prone to restlessness if he isn't doing something.  He wants—needs—to know that he is being useful, that he's contributing something, even if it's just to fetch tea.

She learns that there is some deep pain Lucretia feels about him.  She's made a few cautious inquiries about their relationship, but Lucretia is evasive, feeding her a vague line about the Red Robes that Maureen doesn't believe for a second.  But she doesn't press the issue.

Still…she suspects Davenport hasn't always been like this.

 

#

 

Angus learns that Davenport is resistant to the Thrall.  He is the only one who notices.  The Director has already gone on record stating that Taako, Magnus and Merle are the only ones she knows who are resistant, but she has to know about Davenport.  Why else would he be in the role he is?

It is the first time he catches the Director in a lie.

He doesn't have time to pursue this thread for a while.  The Director keeps Davenport close; aside from the occasional errand to deliver salaries, he stays mostly in the central dome with her, behind layers of guards and security checks.

It occurs to Angus that, as the personal ward of the powerful Director of a secret moon base, Davenport is arguably the most well-protected person on Faerun.

He learns more about Davenport through a stroke of luck, actually.  He's sitting beneath one of the two Bureau trees, nose-deep in his latest Caleb Cleveland novel, when Davenport sits down next to him and gestures at him to read.  So Angus begins to read aloud to him, and Davenport seems to enjoy this. 

It becomes a regular thing.

The Director finds out, and actually encourages it.  She asks if any Caleb Cleveland novels are set at sea.  "He enjoys nautical tales," she tells him.

So he pulls out a mystery set on a cruise ship and Davenport is thrilled.  Angus wonders if Davenport used to be a sailor, or lived by the sea.

One day, he leads Davenport to a disused office, and there he tries to have a conversation.  He sets out four cards on the table: YES, NO, MAYBE, I DON'T KNOW.  Davenport seems to think it's a game.

"Is your name Davenport, sir?"

He smiles and taps the YES card.

"Are you a gnome?"

YES.

"Do you work for the Goldcliff Bank?"

He grins, shakes his head.  NO.

Angus looks at his long list of questions, written out in his notebook.  "Are the relics actually being destroyed?"

Davenport's brow furrows.  He looks at Angus, and at the cards, his hand hesitating.  Slowly, he reaches over and taps I DON'T KNOW and MAYBE.

He looks like he isn't enjoying this game anymore.  Angus tries a different tack.  "The Director—she's a good person, isn't she, sir?"

YES.  Emphatic.

"She's not trying to hurt anyone or—or take over the world or anything like that?"

NO.

"You like working for her?"

YES.

"She takes good care of you?"

YES.

He hesitates on this next one.  "Have you…always been like this?  Unable to speak?"

Davenport's eyebrows pull together.  He rubs his hand down his face, squeezes his eyes shut. 

"Davenport, sir?  Are you okay?  We can stop if you're upset—"

He reaches for the I DON'T KNOW card.  But then his hand comes down on NO instead.

They both stare at his hand on the NO card.  Davenport seems just as surprised as Angus is.  He makes a strange, strangled noise in the back of his throat and switches his hand to the I DON'T KNOW card.  He taps it several times, wide-eyed and emphatic.

Angus still has so many questions, but he likes Davenport and doesn't want him to be upset.  So he puts the cards away and they go back out to the tree and he reads until the gnome is calm and happy again, the incident seemingly forgotten.

 

#

 

Johann learns that Davenport has perfect pitch, and carries a sadness as deep as his own.  The gnome often comes down to the Voidfish's chamber to stare into the Voidfish's swirling starry body and listen to Johann's playing.  Usually he's cheerful, but there are times when there's a heavy weight to him, when he's sullen and distant and he looks like he's trying to swallow a stone.  They commisserate in their own way:  Johann plays a song fitting to their sadness and Davenport hums along, always hitting the notes perfectly.  Once or twice, he even manages a simple harmony.

Johann gets a feeling—call it bardic intuition—that they're both miserable for the same reason.  They're both forgotten, restless, living lives too small for them.  The work here is good, sure, it's important, the pay is nice and the people mostly pleasant, he supposes.  But the moon base is also a cage, and they're both meant for a bigger stage.

 

#

 

Carey learns that you don't fuck with Davenport.

She learns this less than a month after she starts working at the Bureau, when some asshole Seeker tries taking Davenport hostage to force the Director to spill information about the relics.  The Director calls out the entire B.O.B.—Code Red, all hands on deck—and they surround him before he can get to the Cannon. 

He holds a dagger to Davenport's throat.  Davenport squirms in his arms, eyes wide and tail lashing, whimpering his name in fragments.  The Director holds up a hand, and everyone else steps back, nobody making a move, everybody at the ready.

"He's got nothing to do with this," she says, perfectly calm.  "Put him down, and we can talk about this like reasonable adults."

"You think I'm fucking stupid?" he snarls.  "Let me out to the Cannon or this little shit's blood is gonna be all over the quad!"

Davenport is crying.

"This isn't going to go well for you," the Director says.  "But it will go much better if you put him down."

Carey's eyes are sharp enough to detect the slight tremble in the Director's hand as it grips her staff.

Davenport is thrashing now.  The Seeker shifts his attention, trying to readjust his grip.  "Stay still, you little shit—"

A bubble of magic encases his knife-wielding hand and yanks it back.  He screams, drops Davenport.

"Davenport, to me!" the Director shouts, and the gnome scrambles to get to her, ducks behind her, crying his name over and over.

"Davenport," she says, "cover your ears and don't look."    

Carey doesn't remember that asshole's name.  But she does remember what the Director did to him.  She hadn't even known shields could be used like that.  She and everyone in the BOB watch as the Director lifts him up into the air and slams him back down like a rag doll, throws him back and forth, and finally grips his neck with a bubble of magic and dangles him over the edge of the moon base, Faerun spinning silently below.

Carey realizes, in that moment, that the Director didn't call everyone out to help her.  She called them out because she wanted everyone to see what happens when you fuck with Davenport.  She wanted to make this man an example.

The Director is about to drop him over the side of the base, but Davenport stops her.  He tugs on her sleeve, face red and tear-stained, and shakes his head.  The Director sighs and drops the former Seeker on the quad.

"Okay, Davenport," she says, her face and voice suddenly gentle.  "Let's get you back to your rooms and cleaned up, okay?"

He nods.  "Davenport," he mumbles, and lets the Director guide him away, one hand firmly on his shoulder.

As they head back to the main dome, the Director glances over at Carey and Killian and the rest of the Regulators, and tilts her head in the direction of the would-be kidnapper.

They wait till Davenport is well out of sight before they finish him off.

 

#

 

Garfield the Deals Warlock learns that you don't fuck with Davenport.

The gnome doesn't often come into the store, but today he does.  Garfield notices when the foolish creature accidentally sets off a pack of magical fireworks, which triggers a chain reaction of crashes and minor explosions in the party supplies aisle.

Garfield restores it with a wave of his hand, and when the smoke and sparkles fade, he finds a panicked Davenport trying to hide in the floor-level air duct.  But the duct is a little too narrow even for him, and he's gotten himself wedged halfway in.

Garfield sighs.  The gods put way too much rodent into the gnome race when creating the silly little things.

Well.  They might also have put the perfect amount of cat in him.

"There, there," he purrs, pulling the gnome free with a wave of magic.  Davenport stares at him, glassy-eyed with fear.  Garfield grins, showing off his sharp white teeth.  "Mess with my merchandise again, and I might just have to eat you."

Davenport whimpers.  Garfield lets him go, confident that the gnome will be very careful with the merch in the future.  He scurries off down another aisle, keeping his hands to himself.

Garfield watches him.  He'd never been this close to the gnome before but he has gotten a whiff of an extraordinary amount of magical power radiating from him.  As much power as the Director, even.  But there's something…off about it, like it's magic held in potentia.  A seed that hasn't bloomed yet.  Curious.

A half-hour later, Davenport comes up to the register holding an enchanted ship in a bottle, which drifts and bobs on miniature magical waves.  He sets it on the counter along with a small bag of coins.

"This one," he says.  Or, that's what his name translates to.  Garfield had surreptitiously slipped a Ring of Translation over one finger (how had nobody else at the base thought to do this?  The silly creatures…).  The translation was crude, because Davenport wasn't speaking a true language, but the Ring captured his intent well enough.

Garfield smiles, and pushes the coin purse back towards him.  "Oh, your money's no good here, I'm afraid," he purrs.  "For this gorgeous and rare little display piece, I'll require something a little more valuable.  How about…a secret?"

Davenport blinks, brow furrowing.  "Don't understand."

"Oh, the Bureau is just full of mysteries and secrets!  You must know so many, working so closely with the Director.  You must know what's really going on here.  Because I know for a fact that the Director's little light show couldn't destroy a pocket spa, let alone a Grand Relic."  He leans over the counter, baring his teeth a little, resting one clawed hand over the enchanted bottle.  "Now, I might be tempted to part with this unique art piece you're so drawn to, if you tell me what's really going on."

Davenport takes a step back, eyes wide, tail lashing in fear.  "Don't understand," he repeats.  "Don't know.  Please stop."

Garfield knows Davenport is simple-minded, fearful, malleable.  A mouse in a cat's world.  "Oh, I think you do know a great deal," he says, letting a wave of Fear roll off him, shaping an illusion to make himself grow larger as he looms over the counter.  "So what'll it be?  Care to make a deal?"

"Please stop!  Stop stop stop I don't know please stop—!"

"Oh, I can stop.  I'll even give you this delightful ship!  All you have to do is tell me what I want to know.  Otherwise, I might just eat you up…"  And he opens his jaws.  "And maybe after I'm done, I'll eat the Director too!"

It's an empty threat.  But Garfield realizes instantly that he's miscalculated.

Davenport's posture shifts immediately, like a switch being flipped.  He glares at Garfield, throwing aside the Fear and seeing through the Illusion with a will save that surprises even the Deals Warlock.  "NO," he says, very clearly.

Garfield learns that Davenport is unbreakably loyal.  He learns that the seed of power inside him is an acorn containing an oak tree massive enough to hold the whole world in its branches.

He realizes he has lost this deal.  He knows that tone of voice, the tone of a customer who has set their heart against any deal on principle, no matter how beneficial.

He settles back in his seat.  "Well, then," he says, "I see the offer doesn't interest you.  Perhaps another time, then."

Davenport says nothing.  He leaves the ship in a bottle on the counter, and turns to leave.  "Davenport," he says, and the Ring doesn't translate it.  As if he's just reminding Garfield who he is as he walks away.

"Do come again!" Garfield calls after him with a smile.  So the deal didn't go through.  But he's learned plenty to sate him, for now.

 

#

 

Davenport learns he is a puzzle, to others and to himself.  His days are hazy, and he only retains moments here and there, fragments of time scattered through the fog inside his head.  Fragments of a self he is never able to put together into a coherent whole.

He has friends on the base, sure.  He has Lucretia, who is always there for him.  But he lives in the background, waiting for Lucretia to call him to her side.  And when she isn't calling him, when he isn't needed, does he even exist?  Sometimes he's not sure; sometimes he feels like he's drifting loose from the world, making no noise, leaving no impact.  Just a shadow on the wall, a whisper in the Bureau halls.  Puzzle pieces scattered throughout the moon, a scavenger hunt nobody bothers to complete.

At the end of things, he is just this: a name, a few fragmented memories, and Lucretia.  He hopes that's enough.