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a manor in a suburb

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He’s a fuck up. He’s known it his whole life. His older brother was the golden child, shining as bright as Sol, so he had no choice but to live in the shadows. This is the lot of life he was allowed, so he might as well be the best goddamn fuck up ever.  He’s nothing if not dedicated to a cause.

He drops out of adventuring school, because academia is for suckers and losers, and he’s never been a smart guy, anyway. He gets into trouble, and is thrown out by his parents until he can get his shit together. He contracts lycanthropy at sixteen by some guy he was getting railed by in exchange for Dream Flake and who lost control. His parents just straight up stop talking to him after that. He guesses he’s too much of a lost cause for his parents to dedicate any energy to him. 

At first, he’s filled with shame. He got a sickness from a junkie, like his parents warned him would happen. In the scant few times he’d seen a werewolf in his youth, his parents always looked down on them, which meant a lot, because his family wasn’t exactly high status. But when he stumbles across the books about Galicaea, he finds a little comfort, reading about a goddess with his same affliction. He’s more spiritual than religious, and he never really fucked with Sol or any sort of organized religion, but learning about the goddess soothes parts of his soul. 

He detaches himself from his old life, the one his parents wanted for him. He gives himself a new name, and embraces his condition, and does what he wants. He travels the lands, and makes friends in strange places. He gets into scrapes to get others out of even worse scrapes. He parties, really fucking hard. He tries everything and everyone he possibly can. He lives in his half-shifted, wolf-man form, and watches as shitty assholes squirm uncomfortably. Or, y’know, it could be all the Powdered Power he does in the open. 

His brother writes him letters every once in a while, and he receives them less frequently, in the once a year he finds himself back at his shitty apartment in Highcourt. He thinks the letters are nice, if not a little condescending. He hears about getting a nephew, and another, and a third, and then a niece. He reads about his brother’s promotions at work, and their father retiring, and all of Mom’s prayers that, someday, he’ll get better and come back to the light. 

Jawbone’s life is in the shadows. It’s how he was born, it’s how he lives, and it’s probably how he’ll die. He doesn’t mind. There are a lot more secrets in the shadows, and that’s something he likes. 

Not a lot of Jawbone’s time is spent in his home country of Highcourt anymore. He prefers just about anywhere else in Spyre. Everyone in his home country is so uptight and obsessed with their prudish, intense god. When he does come home, his brother talks down at him and his parents ignore him. He’s deemed a bad influence on the kids, so he’s not exactly invited to family dinners. He barely knows his niece and nephews. 

Which makes seeing his little niece, shaking and afraid at his doorstep, all the more surprising. She’s just a kid, a thirteen year old kid with the same sickness as him and the softest, sweetest heart he’s ever known. She got bitten doing homeless outreach for the Church of Sol. Her parents didn’t care how she got it, they were just horrified at the sight of her wound. With no hesitation, Jawbone takes her in, patches her up, and gives her a home. His brother doesn’t even pretend to think twice about signing over legal guardianship of his only daughter to the brother he’s always thought so little of. Jawbone is absolute in his mission to care for her. She picks a badass name for herself and becomes his little sidekick. 

He takes Tracker away from Highcourt, from their family that can’t understand that their condition isn’t something to be ashamed of. He takes her to a place where he knows anyone can be anything, where all the races live together. The apartment in Solace is a dump, but it’s home. At first, they moved to Bastion City, then eventually to a little town called Elmville. 

As he learns her, he understands that Tracker becoming a werewolf isn’t the real reason she was given up. He knows that his parents distaste for anything not in the Book of Sol, like, say, being queer, was passed along to their favored son. It doesn’t take long to notice that Tracker doesn’t care about boys. Jawbone starts asking her about girls, and she blossoms. She cries when she realizes that Jawbone will always accept her, and that fucking concept breaks his heart. How could he not accept her? He loves her so much. 

After a couple of years, her parents stop sending her birthday cards. When he realizes, Jawbone decides to go all out for her birthday this year, because she deserves to be celebrated by someone who loves her. His plan backfires, and she gets mixed up in all the same stuff he is. She’s fifteen and he sees her snorting Dragon Dust with his friends. A real low point for Ol’ Jawbone. So, he gets clean.

It’s really fucking hard, too. He gets no support from professionals, because even the clinics that accept cash won’t accept a werewolf into a program. He’s too unstable, he’s too much of a threat to the other patients. It truly does not matter to the clinics that he’s never attacked anyone before. Just because the easy route is out before he can even stand at the starting line, doesn’t mean he’s giving up. He never lets “too hard” be an excuse for himself. He’s got a kid he needs to look out for. She deserves a parent who both loves her and isn’t tweaked out on Vladri. It’s the hardest thing Jawbone has ever done, but he gets clean, aside from the occasional toke of Halfling Weed. 

Even with clean piss-tests and no rap sheet, it’s nearly impossible for him to get a decent job. Nobody wants to hire a werewolf, especially the kind that’s visibly in touch with their more primal side. He finds the only job that makes enough money to pay rent and take care of Tracker is dealing. It tests his strength every day, but he’s resistant. Every day, he feels a little stronger. Even when he stumbles, he picks himself back up and keeps going. 

What should have been the worst day ends up being the best.

While Jawbone is making the rounds at the Black Pit during a big show, he and so many of his kind lose control. Out of the corner of his eye, with his last shred of sanity, he sees Tracker across the venue with a pretty redhead losing it harder than she ever has, and his emotions overwhelm him. A young Elven wizard girl gets in between him and Tracker. His fangs do damage, but, mercifully, she isn’t infected. 

Jawbone has never bitten anyone. It’s kind of a turn-off for him in the bedroom, and he always makes sure to be careful and extremely restrained for full moons. It’s a difficult condition to live with, one he’s not exactly keen on passing along. Almost giving someone else lycanthropy really should be rock bottom. And, maybe it is. After all, he’s selling drugs at a club he came to with his seventeen year old niece. 

But this wizard girl, Adaine, and all of her friends, tell him that their school has jobs available and good healthcare. Maybe a bad judgement call to tell a stranger where they go to school, but he appreciates the sentiment. They’re kind to him, even though he’s a beast that just did the worst thing of his entire sober life. That means more to him than almost anything. 

He gets the job. It’s fuckin’ guidance time. This Adventuring Academy, maybe the best one on the continent, is in dire straits, and is, apparently, pretty unhinged on a good day. He missed the first few weeks, but he’s heard they were pretty eventful. The students need a lot of guidance, and Jawbone is happy to provide.

Jawbone builds a healthy life for himself. Helping the kids has him hearing words of encouragement all day, and, even if the words are from his own mouth, it really helps his self-esteem. He makes friends with the staff and helps the kids when they ask. He’s able to have a stable home. He even has the ability to sign Tracker up for Aguefort, but she says she doesn’t want to be a part of a government scheme that uses child labor in extreme circumstances, and he has mad respect for that. 

Even when he has to fight a dragon he thought he was friends with, Jawbone’s life is awesome. Being stuck in a dragon’s mouth for twelve hours is definitely in his top ten stories, so he’s grateful for the opportunity. That night, the Bad Kids, yet again, change his life. He takes Adaine in, and, by some varying  extensions, Kristen. They both have parents who never learned that love should be unconditional, too. They fit right in at his place. He starts dating Fig’s amazing, badass mom, Sandra Lynn, and settles into a domestic little life with his growing family. 

Sandra Lynn is amazing. She sparks something inside him that he’s never felt, something he wants to hold onto. He’s had fiery affairs, and sweet trysts, and everything in between, but never had he felt so much for someone. She’s fun, and smart, and can hold her own, and likes to mud wrestle as much as Jawbone does. He’d do anything to keep her in his life, so when she asks him to close up their relationship, he does. He doesn’t even think about it, he just jumps straight into monogamy, because she’s worth it. 

They stumble, but every relationship has hurdles. They’re both strong and confident enough to get through their boundary issues, even from a distance. Communication and unconditional love are great conductors for working through problems. 

(Truthfully, he gets it. He knows Garthy, pretty intimately. He’s spent many a night at the Gold Gardens. To say he gets it is an understatement. Hearing about this encounter has Jawbone up at night and thankful for an empty house.)

Jawbone adopts Adaine. She’s a tough kid, and he adores her. Watching her grow in confidence and strength is the most amazing thing. In adopting Adaine, he adopts the rest of the Bad Kids, too, though he expected that. He cheers on Fig and Gorgug at concerts, and goes to every Bloodrush game, and helps nail plywood for the First Church of Cassandra, and hooks Riz up with old criminal contacts. He loves those kids, no matter how rowdy and danger-prone they are. He loves that his life isn’t too crazy to help his kids out. 

Throughout Spyre, Jawbone is known for his outrageous stories. He figured settling into domestic living would slow down the story-making. He was wrong. Being the adoptive parent of reality-shifting teens, and the guidance councilor at Arthur Aguefort’s school is unsurprisingly a great conduit of wild stories. A river boat going a hundred and twelve miles an hour in the Swamps of Ruin has exactly dick on cutoff shorts and a balcony on a manor house in a suburb. He wouldn’t change it for the world. 

The kids are all grown when Jawbone and Sandra Lynn get married. For a long time, they didn’t really see a need to. Sandra Lynn is a divorcee, and Jawbone has always kind of seen marriage as an archaic relic of the past, so it’s never been a priority for either of them. It’s not until they go to refinance the manor to get a lower mortgage that they realize there are one or two benefits to getting married. 

Gilear politely declines being Jawbone’s best man, but sits happily in the seats to witness. Sometimes, Jawbone forgets that Sandra Lynn and Gilear used to be married. Gorthalax, on the other hand, jumps at the opportunity and plans an absolutely insane Bachelor Party. Fig is her mom’s maid of honor, with Tracker and Adaine filling out the rest of her bridal party. Kristen performs the ceremony, and goes a little off the rails in the middle, but gets back on track. 

The ceremony is small and intimate, deep in the woods. The reception immediately after is the kind of party that the Bad Kids go viral for. It’s a brilliant start to the rest of their lives. 

(At point, in the middle of the dance floor, Fig hugs Jawbone tightly, laughing, “I’m absolutely swimming in dads these days!” It brings a tear to Jawbone’s eye.)

The kids grow up, and the nest empties. Of course they come back all the time, and the door is always open for them, but sooner than Jawbone even realizes, the kids are grown. They’re not teen adventurers anymore, they’re adult adventurers. They get called on by the Council of Chosen to go on missions. They lead exciting lives that Jawbone loves to hear about. They move into their own houses and their own lives. Jawbone couldn’t be prouder. While he’s sad to see them go, he’s happy to know that they’re ready for whatever life throws at him because he had at least a little influence on their lives. 

When the kids start having kids, Jawbone feels fucking old. He loves babysitting Gorgug’s kids. He hasn’t spent a lot of time with little, little kids, but he thinks they’re so much fun. The oldest of Gorgug’s kids is four when Tracker and Kristen have a daughter. Jawbone gets to be in the delivery room, much to the dismay of many attending doctors, but Tracker intimidates all of them into allowing it. She’s partially wolfed-out during the birthing process, which actually makes things go a lot smoother. Kristen manages to get through the most chaotic Inspiring Speech she’s ever given before fainting. 

Their daughter’s name is Hespera, and Jawbone has never loved someone so much so quickly. She’s a little spitfire, crawling early enough that he’s sure she’s going to be a superstar athlete. She tugs at his graying fur and he chases her around the manor. Tracker and Kristen teach her to call him ‘Grandpa’, and he cries when she first says it to him.

Life starts to move faster and faster as Jawbone gets older. Sandra Lynn looks amazing, and not just because wood elves age extremely slowly. She loves his salt and pepper fur and his reading glasses. He loves that it’s getting easier and easier for her to tackle him. Soon enough, the babies he swaddled are enrolled at Aguefort, and then graduating, and planning lives of their own. 

Eventually, Jawbone gets to be an old man. There was a point in his life, before Elmville, before Tracker, that he was sure he’d never live this long. Now, he’s slow-moving and scatter-brained, and happier than could’ve ever hoped. He retires from Aguefort, and spends his time doing all the things he thought he was too cool for. He learns to fly-fish and make pottery. He reads a lot of poetry and can’t figure out whether or not it’s good. He goes for drives instead of runs. 

Sometimes, he still feels like that young kid who was discarded when he was bitten. Some days, the shame creeps in, and the Imposter Syndrome kicks him straight in the ‘nads. He looks around at his life, at the pictures on the walls of his manor with the family he’s built for himself, and and wonders what he did to deserve this great life. Adaine always catches him before particularly bad spirals with her Oracular gifts and reminds him of what he told her when she was a kid: it’s not about deserving. 

At the end, he’s old as hell. Everyone comes home for him. He’s not sure the manor has ever been so packed. In the last days, he tells all his stories, and his kids mouth along, smirking. He eats yogurt with Gilear, and plays checkers with Gorthalax, and reads stories to Hespera’s toddler. Kristen makes him some overly healthy smoothie that tastes like swamp water, and Fig shaves off a patch on his leg and gives him a tattoo, and Ragh brings him lemons from his trees. 

He doesn’t let anyone cry. He had a kickass life that was better and better every day. As long as they remember him, he’s with them. He promises to help from the other side whenever he can. 

Sandra Lynn holds his left hand, and Adaine holds his right. Hespera and her son sit at the end of his bed. Tracker lingers by the door, trying not to get emotional. Jawbone can hear everyone’s heartbeats downstairs, and is comforted by the familiar beats of his family. Every so often, someone downstairs starts up quiet conversation. The instinct to be joyful in this long-standing home is overrun by the foreboding nature of everyone’s visit. 

In the distance Fig says something, and everyone laughs. Fabian and Ragh join in on the joke, swiftly and boisterously. Gilear mumbles something insufferably and charmingly sad, and there’s another round of snickering.

Jawbone smiles and closes his eyes.