A nervous energy has filled Vex since they entered Syngorn, and it shows no signs of stopping. There's plenty to be distracted by, but her mind keeps going back to her father, what he will say, how she will react to it. No amount of preparation will be enough; there is no scenario where this will be easy.
She thinks of the last time she saw him; it was in Whitestone, not Syngorn. At the time, it infuriated her that no one else but Vax seemed to realize how important it was. Percy kept forgetting he was even visiting, thought it should have mattered to him most of all. No one seemed to care that he was coming, and she didn't know quite enough then to realize why they weren't in a panic.
"Vex, sweetheart," Julius said when she finally went off about it, in that way he had where he could make a pet name sound charming and not demeaning. "No one gives half a shit about what your father thinks, because we're de Rolos. We're better than him."
At the time it hadn't sunk in, just made her angrier. But when she thinks of Julius, that's how she remembers him, so self-assured and kind to her, even when that meant being kind of a jackass.
Still, that doesn't mean she shouldn't make an attempt at preparing the rest of Vox Machina, as they sit strategizing in their lodgings in Syngorn.
"I haven't seen him since I was a teenager," Vex says. "He came to Whitestone once after he sent me there, and that was it."
"All that planning, and it never really took," Percy muses.
"I don't know if I'd have felt better if it did," Vex says.
"I'm lost," Grog says.
"You're usually lost, darling," Vex replies.
"I'm not so clear myself," Scanlan says.
"Syngorn was trying to open relations with Whitestone," Percy says. "A political marriage seemed like a natural fit given how many children my parents had."
"My father's wife was pregnant, and we were in the way," Vex says. "He saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, and he took it."
"So he shoved you off on Percy's family and then the Briarwoods murdered everyone?" Scanlan says.
"Pretty much," she replies.
"Sometimes I think I'm the shittiest parent ever, and then something like this happens," he says. "And you were okay with this?" he asks Percy. "Not the vampire part, the arranged marriage part."
"I always knew my parents would pick my spouse," Percy says, like it's obvious. "If we didn't get along, I'd do the honorable thing and ignore their affairs. Loving them was neither guaranteed nor required."
"It sucks to have money," Vax translates.
Vex is staring at Percy, and Percy notices. "Of course, I am deeply in love with Vex'ahlia, who is superlative in every respect and whom I would marry again at the slightest provocation," he adds, and Vex stops staring at him, "but that was sheer luck."
"So what's the best plan for these people?" Scanlan asks.
"I figured you would be charming and inappropriate by turns," Percy says.
"Aw, you think I'm charming," Scanlan says.
Vex almost can't hear anything else over what's going on in her head, but things progress anyway; her one comfort is Percy beside her, the one thing she'll always keep. Her sense of dread upon entering her father's house is exactly as she expected it, and she knows Percy can tell, the way he puts a hand on the small of her back to steady her. And his expression on meeting Vox Machina is just what she knew it would be, regardless of what she hoped, because no amount of accomplishment was ever going to impress him.
As they talk, Syldor's eyes linger over Vax, the stripe of white hair that he's stopped dyeing out, the way he fiddles with his mage hand incessantly. Devana is noticeably uncomfortable with Vax, but Velora throws her arms around him, playing with the feathers on his armor and talking excitedly about her collection, angling unsubtly to add raven feathers to it.
Syldor deals much better with Vex, but that's always been the case. At Percy's prompting, he calls her Lady de Rolo, and Vex can't tell if the mockery in it is real or put there by her own paranoia. He gets to her like that, and he always has; he probably always will.
There's a break in the conversation that stretches out uncomfortably, and Syldor stands. "Will you walk with me, Vex'ahlia?"
"Why not?" Vex says, though she wants to tell him to go fuck himself.
Syldor leads her outside; they don't go far, just around the house and out of earshot. It's fine by Vex, who doesn't really care to go anywhere with him.
"What happened to Vax'ildan?" he asks, which is not actually what she expected.
"I don't know all of it," Vex says; in truth she knows too much, but Syldor hasn't earned that information. "But it wasn't good."
"Clearly," Syldor says.
They stand in silence for a long moment, long enough that Vex considers going back inside.
"I am not a man of apologies, but I owe one to you," Syldor says. Vex almost says something sarcastic, but she's too curious to stop him. "For years I thought I had sent you to your death. For that, I am truly sorry."
"You couldn't have known," Vex says, though the words taste bitter in her mouth. "What you did was wrong, but it should have made me unhappy, not dead."
"And are you unhappy now?" Syldor asks, and Vex hates everything about his tone.
"You will not take credit for my happiness," she says fiercely. "You did what was expedient, not what was best for me."
"Would you have preferred to be an outcast in Syngorn, or perhaps living in poverty in Byroden?" he says. "You and Vax were my mistake, but I owed you a better life. You should have had that in Whitestone."
"You didn't even send Vax with me," Vex says, and she feels like screaming. "He had to sneak out of your fucking city in the middle of the night to come to Whitestone at all."
"Do you really think I could have kept Vax from going to you?" Syldor says, sounding faintly amused. "It was too much to ask of the de Rolos to take him, but it was obvious he'd find a way."
"You're such a miserable son of a bitch," Vex spits.
"You can think that if you need to," he says placidly. "I only did what I could."
She takes a half-step closer. "You could have cared about us for even a second. You didn't."
"If I didn't care, I wouldn't have tried," he says. "It's not my fault if-"
"Vex?" Percy calls from the doorway.
Vex swallows hard. "Over here, darling," she says. "Just catching up with my beloved father."
Percy comes over, walking faster when he sees the expression on her face. "Vex, are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Vex says, and she hates the way her voice wavers.
Percy cups her cheek, blocking her from Syldor with his body. "You don't have to pretend to be fine to satisfy a middling bureaucrat like him."
"Lord de Rolo, you'll have to pardon us," he says, with an edge of annoyance. "This is between me and my daughter."
Percy draws himself up to his full height, displaying every single ounce of fuck you that he has within him, and turns to face Syldor. "She's not your daughter. She's my wife. I'm sorry if you regret that bargain, but you made it freely."
Vex kind of wants to slap Percy for talking about her like property, but she's too touched by his standing up to Syldor to do it. "Let's go, Lord de Rolo," she says, slipping her hand into Percy's.
"Certainly, my lady," he says, leading her away. She's certain he doesn't know where he's going, so she steers him, ending in a little-used alcove she used to hide in. She knew it would still be there; nothing changes in Syngorn.
"I hate him so much," Vex says when they stop, angrily wiping at her tears. "He keeps finding ways to fool me into thinking this time is different, then proving yet again what an asshole he is."
"It's okay if you don't give him any more chances," Percy says, and he wraps his arms around her. "Vex, you are one of the best people I have ever known. Anyone who makes you feel like you aren't astounding is not worth your time."
She rests her cheek against his chest. "I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been you."
"You would have found a way," he says, kissing her hair. "You're too strong not to."
Vex laughs weakly. "Strong, or headstrong?"
"That is in itself a kind of strength," Percy says. "Don't mistake it for weakness just because it inconveniences your father."
"Sometimes I wonder what kind of daughter he thought he was going to get," she says. "Maybe one who was so impressed with Syngorn that she'd apologize for having the wrong mother."
He holds her tighter. "I regret I never met your mother," he says, resting his chin on the top of her head, "but anyone who could give the world someone like you is worthy of the highest praise."
"Careful," she says. "She also gave it Vax."
"They can't all be winners," Percy says. Vex laughs, but halfway through it turns into a sob. He just holds her and holds her, rubbing soothing circles on her back as she lets it out.
"We'll leave Syngorn, and we'll get you a beautiful new bow, and we'll never come back here again," he promises.
"I'm afraid I ruined Syngorn for you," Vex says. "I know how much you wanted to see it."
"The architecture is astounding," he says. "The people are a mess. The rest of the Feywild is much more interesting."
Vex tries to pull herself back together, though it's hard with how overwhelmed she feels. She thinks of Julius all those years ago, and how he would stand right beside her and not give two fucks about what Syldor wanted. The de Rolos are better than Syldor Vessar, and it was only after Julius was gone that she realized he always included her in their ranks.
That thought gives her the strength to pull herself up and stop the tears, though she still feels shaky. She takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly and pulling away from Percy. He lets her go, not pushing it, and she takes his hand, needing the connection. "Let's go back," she says.
"If only so that we can rescue our party and escape these people," Percy says.
"My thoughts exactly," Vex says.
"Lead on, my lady," he says.
"Are you going to keep saying that the entire time we're here?" she asks.
"I'm going to shove it down your father's throat until he chokes on it," he says, his tone light.
"You say the sweetest things," Vex tells him, and together they return.