It had taken them two weeks to get the diamonds.
For two weeks, Matt’s body had sat in the back of the cart. Liz had been making sure his body didn’t start to rot with preservation magic, but it was nevertheless a distressing sight for Colbie. He had never seen Matt so pale and cold before. Sometimes, when he was looking at Matt, he would think he saw him breathing, but it was only ever the motion of the cart jostling the body or the movement created by Colbie’s own breathing tricking him.
Normally, Radio Silence never went anywhere without diamonds. Brent insisted on it, of course. He made sure they never left town without at least 1000 gold worth of diamonds stockpiled. But the last time they had been in town, Brent’s brain had been blasted out his ears by that wizard’s spell.
So, when the party had taken on a job to clear some dangerous monsters out of an underground city that had recently had a hostile takeover conducted by an army of goliaths led by a fire giant, they had only had a single small diamond available. Enough for a simple Revivify, probably, but not for anything larger.
And of course, of course! When one of them had died, they had been separated from Liz for just long enough that she hadn’t been able to Revivify them. And it was Colbie’s fault. Stupid stupid stupid.
It’s just, there had been this room that they hadn’t been able to get into before, and everyone was pretty sure that was where the fire giant they killed earlier had stashed her magic weapons. So while Liz, Shy, and Wren were picking their way through a small library in hopes of finding some maps of this place, Colbie, Matt, and Brent had trekked back to the locked door. It wasn’t even that far away! The two group were within earshot of each other, if they yelled, and it was maybe 90 seconds of running to get between one location and the other.
It should have been fine.
But once Matt had picked the lock, Colbie had been excited and just swung open the door without checking it for magic first. And, of course, that was where it all went wrong.
Now, either this fire giant was secretly a wizard but hadn’t used any spells while fighting or someone in her army secretly was a wizard but hadn’t used any spells while fighting. In a way, it was kind of reasonable for him to not expect any magical defenses. But he had been wrong. And Matt had payed the price.
As soon as the door had clicked open, a previously unseen arcane symbol on the door had come to life, glowing, and sending out a pulse of energy. Colbie and Brent had been unaffected, but the magic had locked Matt in place, making him unable to react to the second fire giant who appeared behind the door to attack the adventurers disturbing him.
It had been a long day for the party, and they had all taken quite the beating throughout it. Colbie was low on magic, and all of Radio Silence had at least minor injuries. They hadn’t stood a chance. Colbie and Matt had both gone down easily in the face of the giant. When Colbie came to, roused by Liz’s gentle magic washing through him, the first thing he had done was roll over and try to look for Matt and Brent.
Brent was looking the worse for wear, but was still standing, quietly bandaging his wounds with help from Wren. Matt… Matt was laying on the ground next to Colbie.
“There’s nothing I can do for him right now,” Liz had told him, a guilty expression on her face. “We don’t have the diamonds to raise him.”
“No no no. Don’t we still have that little one?” Colbie had said, frantically reaching for his bag. It was Shy who intervened, putting his hand over Colbie’s.
“It, um. It’s been too long for that. Liz is going to cast Gentle Repose and we’re going to make our way back to the city.” Shy looked pretty shaken, but Colbie barely even noticed at the time. He let go of Colbie’s hand and stepped back.
Colbie pulled himself up into a seated position and bit his lip. There were any number of things that could wrong. The city was weeks away. They could lose the body. Someone else could die or get seriously injured because they were a man down. The city could be completely out of diamonds. Matt’s soul could get eaten in the afterlife. Who knows! “Well, what are we waiting for, let's go!”
The trip back had been uneventful, but tense. Wren and Colbie snapped at each other so constantly for the first three days that Brent had physically kept them apart for the rest of the trip. Matt’s body in the back made Shy so skittish he only ever sat up on the front bench, while Colbie basically refused to leave the body unattended in case something happened to it. Everyone was tired, and upset, and cranky.
When they finally made it back to the city, Colbie and Liz had gone to get the diamonds while the rest of Radio Silence made their way to Ashley’s tavern to get a room. They were used to Radio Silence’s strange ways, and probably wouldn’t question them carrying in Matt’s corpse.
Liz made some light small talk on the way over, mulling over plans for the next job while Colbie replied only halfheartedly. Abruptly, he had cut her off midsentence and said, “I want to be the one to do it.”
Liz had looked at him like he had two heads. “What?”
“The resurrection,” Colbie said quietly, looking away. “I want to be the one to do it.” Liz nodded slowly, and Colbie sighed in relief. “It’s just – I feel bad. Shouldn’t I be –“ Colbie’s breath caught in his throat, and suddenly he was tearing up.
“Oh! Colbie, no, it’s OK,” Liz hurried to assure him, patting him on the shoulder and guiding him to sit on a nearby bench.
She awkwardly continued to pat his shoulder, not knowing what else to do as Colbie kept crying.
This was all his fault. He had been stupid, and Matt had died. Colbie and Matt had been travelling together for longer than anyone else in Radio Silence. As soon as they could, they left their homes to find bigger and better prospects. They played music together, they fought bandits together, they spent literally all their time together. Colbie literally hadn’t been away from Matt for longer than two days for nearly six years now.
He missed his best friend. He missed their shared jokes. He missed the way that Matt always knew what he was thinking. Most of all, he missed the little ways that Matt looked out for him, whether it was in battle or in social situations, or even in those small little gifts that Matt bought him whenever Colbie was sulking because his dad was still sending him letters. It sounded terrible to say, but Colbie could bear the death of any of his party members but Matt. Even if it wasn’t permanent, he felt as though half of his heart had been scooped out with a spoon and trampled on.
“You know, I don’t think Matt would blame you,” Liz said, breaking Colbie’s train of thought. He wiped the tears from his eyes and blinked up at her. She was looking up at the sky with a wistful expression on her face. “I think he might scold you for not checking for traps, but I don’t think he’s going to be… mad or anything. You two are so close.”
Sighing, Colbie stood. “Let’s hurry.”
It was easy enough to get the diamonds to resurrect Matt and completely replenish their supply, and the pair hurried back to the tavern. The Long Wagon was something of a home base for Radio Silence now. Not only did Colbie actually kind of own the building, they had a standing offer to play there whenever they were in town, and the business owner, Ashley, was a good friend of theirs. When Liz and Colbie got in, the tavern was mostly empty, save for a few regulars in the back corner. From behind the bar, Ashley waved.
“They took Matt upstairs, to your usual room,” Ashley called out. Colbie was already rushing for the stairs, though Liz took a moment to stop and thank Ashley before following.
Colbie burst into the room, where Matt had been laid out on the bed. Radio Silence was clustered around the bed, Wren sitting in a chair next to Matt’s head, while Shy and Brent were standing by the end. Colbie held the diamond above his head. “I’ve got it!” He exclaimed. Wren immediately vacated the chair and gestured for Colbie to take it.
“No time to waste, then. Better get started,” she told him, and headed for the door. “We’ll head out, don’t wanna distract you, right?”
Colbie nodded. “Thanks, Wren. It’ll be an hour.”
Shy and Brent filed out after Wren, though Brent pushed his waterskin into Colbie’s hands before he left.
A resurrection ritual is a complicated thing, Colbie mused. All magic was, of course, but to traverse the planes and wrest a soul back from the grips of death was a feat above all others. Shy had explained the theory about it once.
When a person dies, their soul is sent to another plane of existence. People who worship a specific god are likely to go to a plane associated with that god, but if otherwise, its based mostly on what kind of person they were. In a resurrection, you basically have to reach through the Weave and try to find that person's soul.
Colbie laid the diamond on Matt’s chest, and began to chant.
When a person has recently died, their soul remains close to the body. That’s why lesser resurrection spells, like Revivify, are so quick to cast and have so few side effects. And a spell like Gentle Repose helps to tether the soul to the body, if it’s cast quickly enough. It’s not strong enough to hold up against other magical intervention against the soul, because the spell does so many other things – like prevent the body from becoming undead – but it slows the natural process of separation.
With a piece of charcoal in hand, Colbie drew arcane patterns on Matt’s skin, inscribing runes along his veins and a runic circle on his chest.
Resurrection is actually traumatic for the soul, which is why there are so many side effects. Souls quickly find peace in the afterlife, which is specifically designed to bring pleasure and contentment to the dead. So to bring it back to its body is very jarring.
Colbie’s throat was growing sore, and his hands were cramping from drawing the symbolic components over and over again.
The caster who is resurrecting someone basically has to have a stronger force of will than the soul and exert it precisely. Studies have indicated that resurrection rituals are easier and more successful when the caster and the dead person have a strong emotional connection, probably because the caster is highly motivated and the familiarity between the two helps the soul settle better in the body.
The diamond on Matt’s chest started to softly glow, along with the arcane marks Colbie had drawn on. As Colbie continued to chant, the glow intensified until, all of a sudden, the diamond and the runes flashed bright enough to blind Colbie for a moment.
Once the caster manages to extract the soul from its plane of rest, it still has to be guided home. Luckily, this last part is very simple, and it actually uses very similar syntax to a summoning spell, because that’s basically what it is.
In surprise, Colbie almost fumbled his chanting, but clenched his fist at his side and continued to finish the spell. He was so close! He couldn’t lose concentration now.
As Colbie’s voice rang out the last line of the spell, Matt gasped to life beside him. Reaching out, Colbie grasped Matt’s still cold hands. “Matt,” he said tenderly. “You’re back!” With a confused expression, Matt absent-mindedly ran his thumb along the side of Colbie’s hand.
“Fuck, what happened?”
It was the expected question, of course. Matt had to be confused, but… Colbie’s face still fell. “I’m sorry… It’s my fault…”
There was a long moment of silence. Colbie’s pulse was pounding in his ears, a mix of elation and anxiety. “The fire giant?” Matt pieced together, pushing himself up on his elbows. Colbie just nodded glumly. Matt’s grip on Colbie’s hand tightened. “It’s not your fault.”
The pounding of Colbie’s pulse eased a little, but his guilt didn’t. “I’m glad you’re OK,” he says softly instead of rebutting Matt’s assertion. “It took us two weeks to get the diamonds, we had to come back to the city. We’re at the Long Wagon right now.” Colbie snatched up the waterskin Brent had left him from the floor and handed it to Matt. Gratefully, Matt took several long gulps. Colbie’s heart hurt looking at Matt. He squeezed Matt’s hands and sighed.
“I was so scared,” Colbie blurts out before Matt is even finished drinking. “I don’t know what I would have done if I couldn’t get you back. I – I’ll be more careful in the future, I promise, I don’t ever want to lose you again!”
Matt looks surprised, but he’s just staring at Colbie. Colbie’s gut twists. “Matt. Say something.”
Obligingly, Matt smiles and sits up. “I’m glad it was you who resurrected me.” He leans in towards Colbie and –
And Colbie and Matt are kissing and –
The kiss is long, and sweet, and Colbie thinks he might be crying a bit, but they’re happy tears.
Matt pulls away, but brings his hand up and rests it on Colbie’s cheek. “Now, that doesn’t mean what you did wasn’t stupid." Despite the chiding tone, his thumb is brushing away the few tears that have spilled onto Colbie’s face.
In spite of everything, Colbie laughs loudly. He threads his fingers through Matt’s hair and pulls him in for another kiss.