Caleb thought that the "glorious" life of adventurers was, as Beauregard would say, complete fucking bullshit.
The only glory came after. When they all survived to the end of whatever road they had to travel. When the only danger came in the form of nightmares and phantom pains. It was only then that the stories could be told with any sort of flourish and flair, and at the end of the night everyone could retire to their homes and beds in peace and good cheer.
The problem was that no one really dwelled on everything that didn't fit into a good "Hero's Journey" story. All the little details that didn't draw in a crowd at a tavern table, or lend themselves to good lines in a bard's song. The nights spent huddled under a tree trying to avoid the worst of the rain. The weeks and weeks of travel where the most notable event was an oddly shaped cloud.
The long line of casualties that was left in their wake. The unnamed bodies that only served as practice. The minor obstacles that barely served as a footnote. There were the ones that became lessons, that became reasons for the heroes to continue to go forth.
The allies, the friends, that were around long enough that their names were at least remembered among the few that cared to. The people that were memorialized in passing, and their legacy lived entirely in the past tense.
It was bullshit that Caleb would get so far only to become one of those names.
He wasn't going down because he took a spell or an arrow for one of his friend. There was no vindication that he landed the killing blow on some foe as he took that last bit of damage.
It wouldn't be the heroic death that would martyr him in the stories of The Mighty Nein.
Instead it was the blade of a rogue that had managed to slip from sight just long enough in the middle of a fight. The blade, shiny with some substance, was plunged into his side without enough reaction time to deflect it.
The rest of that battle, out in the middle of the Xhorhasian wild, drained the party of everything. The rolls of the fates were not on their side, and it was an uphill battle until the very end. The Blood Moon Tarvines that Waccoh had requested only barely acquired, and in the aftermath everyone was worse for wear.
It took more than a few minutes for the rest of the party to realize that Caleb was slumped against a tree wounded and barely lucid.
A point had to be reached where they all realized there would be no saving him.
The clerics' healing spells fizzled out on their fingers, and no god seemed to offer up any sort of divine intervention. The closest city was still too far away, and the only diamond they had was used earlier in the fight. Even if they pushed the moorbounders through the night Caleb was not going to last that long.
His skin had long since gone past clammy, and moved into a cold almost ashen color. Whatever poison had been on the rough blade caused the veins to stand out after taking on a dark, almost black, hue spidered out from the wound on his side.
They eventually had to stop when movement got unbearable. Someone said something about making him comfortable, but by that point everything was hard to keep track of. While the pain was still there Caleb felt like he was floating.
Then he was on the ground (he thought), and it all seemed to focus a little bit. The edges of his vision was going grey, but Caleb could see his friends... his family around him.
Fjord in particular was clutching at one hand, and for a moment Caleb could feel the dull throb of cut skin against cut skin mixed with the sharp sting of seawater. It looked like this would be one pact that Fjord would be free from.
Even though Caleb had long since abandoned any pretense that he needed that to stay close to Fjord. They had barely stopped dancing around each other, finally, and whatever fledgling little thing that they had was only just starting.
There was a certain sort of irony in this situation, but Caleb couldn't quite figure out what it was. For a moment he thought he had it, but it slipped through his fingers before he could recognize it.
What he was sure of was that he was an idiot.
Caleb once thought that he was destined to die alone.
A year ago he was sure of the fact that, save for Nott, he would leave this plane with no one behind.
It was probably closer to two decades than not that he had ever thought that his last moments would be surrounded by the people he held dearest to him, and that his only regrets would be that he didn't have more time.
The act of opening his eyes after each blink was getting harder, and each breath was slightly more shallow than the last.
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard," Caleb said in a voice that could only just barely be called a whisper, "I am honored to have called you my family."
No one says a word.
No one can.
Since with that last word Caleb Widogast lets out a final shaky breath, and stills.
Then, like always, The Mighty Nein gets to work to fix everything.