It was many years after the defeat of The Hunger and even longer still since they had been on any sort of adventure, and Magnus Burnsides was dying.
Not how everyone thought he would mind you. He didn’t find his end at the pointy bit of a sword or rushing in somewhere he wasn’t supposed to. He was dying peacefully of old age in bed, surrounded constantly by his family. They all knew that he would be the first to die, what with his human lifespan and all that, but none of them had expected it to come so soon- or so late, for that matter.
So, now, many years older, Taako and Merle were on the hunt for things to make their friends passing and his final moments more comfortable.
Their arms were already loaded fully with things that Magnus probably wouldn’t be needing when they decided to slide into the closest loud, inviting tavern for a quick drink to congratulate themselves on the job well done.
But that’s when they saw him.
He was sitting at the bar, nursing a tankard of strong-smelling alcohol, chatting with the bartender. They didn’t recognise him specifically, but he looked vaguely like the brief description they had been given, and the conversation he was having with the bartender was specifically jarring. They occupied a table closer to the bar so they could hear better.
“Former Governor?” The bartender was asking as he wiped out a tankard. “How do you become a former Governor?”
Kalen had his head down, shoulders hunched over his drink. “A revolt. Lead by a damn carpenter and his lover. How embarrassing.”
“A carpenter?” the barkeep snorted. “Must have been some carpenter. Where did you say this was again?”
“A crummy little town called Raven’s Roost. Not worth the time, really, but I ruled the place so it wasn’t too bad.” Kalen shifted in his seat. “Floating rocks and bridges and weak people to push around.” He chuckled darkly. “Don’t worry though. The carpenter got what was coming to him. He shouldn’t have spared me. I made him pay.”
The bartender frowned, pausing his cleaning. Merle had to throw an arm out across Taako to keep him in his seat. “What’d you do?”
Kalen was beginning to laugh gleefully. “I blew up the support beams that kept up the Craftsman’s Corridor. 76 people died, including the carpenter’s new wife and mentor. The whole place burned, his shop along with it. He probably died from his grief and suffered the remainder of the time he was alive. I got my revenge. If I couldn’t have that town, then I wasn’t about to let anyone else have it, either. They didn’t deserve it.
“Holy fuck, man,” The barkeep said as he began to back away. “You’re nuts.”
When the barkeep was gone, Kalen was alone at the bar, holding on tightly to his tankard, mumbling under his breath. “They used to call me Mad Governor Kalen,” he muttered to himself. “I showed them how mad I really was, didn’t I? They haven’t seen the last of me yet. ”
He knocked back the rest of his drink and slammed his tankard down on the bar before standing from his seat and exiting the tavern through the back door.
Merle and Taako exchanged a look. “Uh…” Merle began. “We’re going after him, right?”
“You bet your sweet ass we are,” Taako said as he stood and followed Kalen out of the bar, Merle close behind him.
They followed quietly behind Kalen, hiding behind corners and padding carefully across the cobbled stone floor. Kalen seemed too deep in his own thoughts to notice that he was being followed, and hardly noticed that it was getting dark, or that bright magic was beginning to spark on the edges of Taako’s fingers. Merle didn’t even bother to hold him back. “We’re going to kill him, aren’t we?” Merle asked, but at this point, it wasn’t really a question.
“We’re going to do more than kill him,” Taako hadn’t been this angry in a very long time. He felt it bubbling up inside him, burning him from the inside out, and he did everything he could to rein in it. The very thought what he did to Magnus and his family made Taako’s blood boil, and now that man was finally in front of him, and he could finally give Magnus the revenge he no longer remembered but deserved. He knew Merle felt the same way. “We’re going to ruin him for all that he’s worth.”
Before Kalen turned the final corner back onto the street, Merle finally broke the silence that had fallen over them. “Hey, former governor Kalen!”
Kalen turned around, a little surprised and no less confused, and Taako didn’t miss a beat. “This is for Julia Burnsides.”
The look on his face was worth it. Fear was etched into his every feature as recognition of Magnus’s name shot through Kalen’s mind and he remembered all the horror he had inflicted on the family. They hoped that he saw Magnus’s face, fierce and angry and determined, in his last moments, so he could die with Magnus’s name on his lips.
They tore him asunder.
For the first time since his days of Cooking with Taako, the wizard didn’t bother about spell slots. Evards Black Tentacles erupted from the ground and ripped Kalen apart limb from limb, his blood gushing out to splatter on the floor and his scream cut off as the last breath of air left his now ruined body. The separate pieces of him fell to the floor as Taako banished the tentacles, and as he clutched his Extreme Teen Bible, Merle sent a radiant bolt of fire into the still-warm remains and they watched as the body burnt away until it was nothing but ash, blowing away harmlessly in the wind.
“Well,” Taako said as he kicked at the pile of ash, sending it scattering into the air. “That was a little anti-climactic, I’m not going to lie.”
Merle was watching the still wet blood twist its way through the grit between the cobblestones, staining the concrete red. “Yeah, I know,” he agreed. “I wish we could have said something more to him, made his last moments an actual living hell, but Magnus told us what to say, and made us promise not to say anything else.”
“I wish that had felt better,” Taako said, hunching his shoulders and shoving his hands in his pockets. “But I suppose it wasn’t our revenge, so we just did it out of honour, right? Anyway. Doesn’t matter. Let’s get out of here before someone finds all this or whatever.”
Taako walked off, but Merle stayed where he was for a moment longer, listening to the sirens ring in the distance and the blood slowly dry in the grit. “Pan,” he said softly to himself. “If you can hear me, and have the time, could you make sure this one suffers? He needs to suffer more than anyone else in the world. Please? For me?”
As he walked away, following Taako, Merle felt a warmth in his chest to tell him that his prayers had been heard and that Pan was on board with his plan.
They walked back in silence, and Merle broke it when it started to get uncomfortable. “Are we going to tell him?”
“Tell who what?”
“Tell Magnus that we killed Governor Kalen for him.”
Taako snorted. It wasn’t a happy sound in any means of the word. It actually made Merle flinch- it had been a long while since Taako had been this angry. “Why bother? Why tell him about the revenge he doesn’t remember and a man he’s never heard of?”
“We can still tell him,” Merle tried, kicking at the dirt underneath his boots. “He won’t understand what we’re talking about, but he’ll be happy for us and support all our killing endeavours. And if we explain to him who Kalen was again, maybe he’ll get some closure about the whole thing.”
“Closure about what?” Taako snapped, but Merle took comfort in the knowledge that his anger wasn’t directed at him. “All he knows is that he went away on a trip for a couple of days and when he came back his town burned down and the people he loved were killed in the fire, and you want us to tell him that someone was involved in that? That, someone, killed his wife? He’s dying, Merle, do you really want him to pass on with the knowledge that the man who killed his love was out there the whole time and he didn’t even know it?”
Merle sighed. “I guess not. But… I feel wrong, taking Magnus’s revenge. It didn’t belong to us, we had no right to kill Kalen.”
Hunching his shoulders, Taako sped up. “Of course we did. Magnus asked us too, back in the Suffering Game. It was our revenge too- he ruined out friend’s life.” He spat. “He should have suffered more than he did, the piece of shit.”
Nodding, Merle tried to keep up with Taako’s long-legged stride. “I hate those stupid elves,” he muttered. “I wish we could have made them pay for taking Magnus’s memories. That’s worse than anything else they did to us.”
“They were lucky that Lup got to them before I did,” Taako growled. “I would have fucked them up much worse so much worse than she ever could have."
Merle was quiet. “You’re sure we can’t tell him?”
“Absolutely not,” Taako said sternly. “Soon, he’s going to die, and when he does, he’s going to forget all about Kalen and revenge and all the shit he’s been through, and Kravits will take him to his wife, and they’re going to live out their days and make up for the lost time. We’re going to let him pass on in peace, and not bring up any dirty laundry, and let him live a new life with his love.”
It took a moment for that to sink in, but when it did, Merle’s eyes widened. “You really think Kravits will take him to see Julia?” Taako nodded. “Well then, of course, we’re not going to tell him! No way we’re going to rain on that parade!”
“And maybe when he gets back there, he’ll remember the revenge, and it won’t matter to him anymore, because he has Julia,” Taako pointed out. “Like a reset button.”
“Oh yeah!” Merle agreed. “When you say it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe he’ll finally be happy?”
Taako nodded. “I’m sure he will be. I know he would be.”
“Then I guess we should let him die happy, then,” Merle said, a little sadly, but still a little hopeful, as if the thought of the happiness his friend would have in the next life had filled him with new vigour. “It’s the least he deserves. And maybe, he’ll find Kalen on his own, and kill his ghost in the afterlife?”
“He doesn’t know who Kalen is, numb-nuts.”
Merle was finally able to catch up to Taako as he paused in the street, a glint in his eye, a small grin at the corners of his lips. “You’re absolutely right, my dude. And when she sees him, she’ll remember, and Magnus will kill him just because she told him to, no questions asked.”
“That sounds a lot more like our Magnus,” Merle grinned as he and Taako began walking back towards the BoB headquarters where their dying friend was waiting.