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Sleepless Knights

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All of Riz’s friends are complex, multifaceted, have things that are important to them besides adventuring. Kristen has her frequent religious crises, Fig and Gorgug have their music, Adaine has her drama with her family, Fabian has the Owlbears (and whatever nonsense his father is involved with any given week). But Riz isn’t like them. Riz has one goal, one purpose, one thing driving him: he has to find Penny. Anything less than that is unacceptable, is a failure.

His mom says he’s too hard on himself, that he needs to relax and learn to live like a normal teenager. Riz loves his mom, but he knows he’ll never really fit in with other teenagers; even at Aguefort, where everyone is a bit weird, he feels out of place. Even setting aside his briefcase and personalized business cards, which, yes, he finally recognizes are a bit odd, Riz’s single-minded focus is outside the norm. But how is he supposed to think about team sports or test scores or ice cream when Penny is still missing? He has one job, and if he fails - well, he just won’t fail.

In the months following the party’s confrontation with Coach Daybreak and the Owlbears, Riz is haunted by images of the Coach, laying on the ground with his head - laying on the ground dead. (Not murdered. Self-defense isn’t murder.) Riz truly believes he did the right thing (he was trying to destroy the world, for gods’ sakes!), but that doesn’t stop the nightmares. And Riz is tormented not just by his gory memories of Daybreak’s last moments, but also by the thought that he could have missed something. Daybreak may not have been the one responsible for Penny’s disappearance, but he probably knew who was. Riz can’t bring himself to regret eliminating such an unstable threat, but he does wonder how things might have gone differently if Daybreak had been alive to interrogate instead of just Ragh.

So many people have been hurt this year. Penny, Katya, Antiope, Danielle, Sam, Zelda, Ostentatia - hell, even Zayne didn’t really deserve to die for what he did. Riz lays in bed during long, sleepless nights, gentling stroking Edgar and thinking about what he could have done differently. If he had just been able to find Penny back when this had all started, so many people could have been spared so much pain. Night after night, Riz chokes back his nausea and forces himself to focus on the facts. Surely, if he just goes over everything one more time, he’ll realize what he’s missing. He has to. Otherwise, he’ll be a failure, and that just isn’t an option.