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World's Worst

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So look, alright, Scanlan knows he’s not exactly in the running for World’s Greatest Dad. He’s pretty new to the whole Dad thing, really, and so far all he’s gotten down is that he loves Kaylee more than anything on this stupid planet and an overwhelming sense of panic that accompanies almost every single thought he has of her. Maybe Kaylee still plans on killing him and has chosen “heart attack” as her means of assassination. If so, it’s fucking working.

Sarenrae, Pelor, Bahamut, anybody, please help this child because the gods must know that Scanlan isn’t nearly prepared enough to handle a relatively normal fatherhood, much less a version of fatherhood where he has to rescue his daughter from a city conquered by goliaths and an ancient black dragon.

After the whole Westruun debacle is done with and Grog is wearing a few new scars and a nice set of Titanstone Knuckles (and it’s hard to say what he’s more proud of), they ship Dr. Dranzel’s troupe off to Whitestone. They initially intend to send everyone there but Percy’s become increasingly concerned that Whitestone can’t actually handle the load they’re placing on it. Whitestone hasn’t had a decent harvest for the past five years and while the land is starting to recover, they don’t exactly have a stockpile of food. More hands to till the land might make the work easier, but it won’t magically make the ground any more fertile after years of being poisoned.

It’s about to turn into a pretty big row between Percy and Vax (who, bless his stupid golden heart, just wants everyone to be safe and damn the logistics of it) when Scanlan points out that if they turn Whitestone into a one-stop-shop for dragon attack refugees then what’s to stop one or more dragons from reducing it to rubble?

With only one or two exceptions like Wilhand and Kohren, literally everyone that Vox Machina cares about is in Whitestone. Gilmore, Kima, Kashaw, Zahra, Cassandra, Allura sometimes, the Greyskull Keep employees, the fucking Empress and her children, and now Kaylee and Dr. Dranzel. Even Gern got an invitation to Whitestone when he was bored with collecting dragon scales outside Pyrah. Scanlan doesn’t want to see any place get attacked by dragons but if he had to put a city at the top of his do-not-attack list, it’d currently be Whitestone.

Vox Machina silently mulls this over for about thirty seconds before they send the Westruun refugees to Vasselheim.

What are the refugees going to do in Vasselheim? Scanlan doesn’t know or care because the most important thing they’re doing is not being in Whitestone. They’re going to be as far away as possible from his daughter which is exactly where Scanlan prefers people to be.

Vex gets sent along with the refugees and one of the gate stones in order to explain the situation to the Bastions (or more realistically, to the various temples that might be willing to help) and more importantly, to restock their potion supply because between the sphinx and the city full of goliaths, the team has definitely been going through them. She comes back with probably as many healing potions as existed in Vasselheim at all (less than Scanlan would have liked), a promise from the various temples to lend their aid, blackpowder for Percy (who looks flustered, probably because he forgot to ask for any), and a message from the temple of the Raven Queen to her brother. Scanlan has no idea what the message is because Vex switches to Thieves Cant to deliver it and only the twins speak that, but Vax spends the rest of the evening sulking.

They set out the next morning for the Feywild because they’re in the area and they might as well check it off their list. They know where a portal to the Feywild is and they have potential contacts in the Feywild since Syngorn is currently there – it’s the single most convenient Vestige they can get. Scanlan doesn’t think that means it’ll be easy to get, but it at least removes the “how do we even find this” step.

Syngorn’s easy enough to find once they’re in the Feywild. Vex just hops on her broom, flies straight up, nearly takes herself out on a tree branch because she’s too excited to be on the hunt for the bow, and spots the towers in the distance. They hoof it and Vex isn’t allowed to ride the broom again until Pike confirms that she doesn’t have a concussion. It’s a small miracle that in the several hours it takes them to get to Syngorn, they don’t encounter much of anything other than a handful of small animals that scatter at their approach.

Nothing worries Vox Machina more than things going well, so by the time they reach Syngorn all of them are on edge, just waiting to be jumped by some Fey monstrosity. Scanlan half expects Syngorn to be in ruins or overrun by pixies or something but no, it’s fine. Syngorn’s only problem is that it’s full of assholes, but all the assholes are elves and that’s pretty much exactly how Scanlan remembers it.

The twins know enough people in Syngorn to smooth their way in and ask around to see if anyone knows anything about a big corrupted tree somewhere. Peoples reaction to them tend towards the surprisingly positive – as much as the twins don’t have a lot of friends here, the elves are familiar enough with them that they get approached by a lot of people eager for news on what’s going on back home. Syngorn picked up and left at the first sign of trouble and it turns out that many of the elves don’t even fully know what happened. Fewer of them are in a position to be helpful once they do know, but the twins are clearly flummoxed by the support and well wishes they get.

Scanlan gets the impression that this is the first time anyone in Syngorn has treated the twins with any level of respect beyond “you’re the Ambassador’s bastards.”

Asking around leads them to a scouting party that confirms for them the location of a very large banyan tree emanating dark energy that they found a few weeks back, and even draws them a crude map to it. They also ask Vox Machina to keep an eye out for their leader, a ranger named Akaade who had taken to roaming the Feywild alone with her pet stag, Syrion, and they hadn’t been seen in over a week. All in all, it’s a perfectly typical start to one of their adventures – here’s what we know and hey by the way can you do this thing for us on the way, we’ll pay you for it. And Vox Machina always agrees because they are both good people and greedy people. The life of an adventurer.

All in all, being in Syngorn goes about a million times better than the group expected it to and Scanlan is just waiting for it all to go to shit. It does, of course, right as they’re leaving.

“How is it,” an irritated voice says behind them and the twins both freeze, “that I can travel to another plane of existence and still run into the pair of you?”

Scanlan only vaguely remembers the twins’ father, Sil'dore. He’s an elf, and he looks a bit like them but pointier, and he has a perpetual look on his face like he just smelled dog shit. Vox Machina did a job for them once, the twins spent the entire time looking physically pained by it, he paid them, and Scanlan sort of forgot about it.

But the thing is -

Scanlan never -

Sil'dore isn’t different from the last time Scanlan saw him. He’s still exactly the way he was before.

It’s Scanlan who has changed.

Scanlan never noticed before the way the twins look so small next to their father.

They aren’t shorter than him, is the thing. Their human blood makes both Vex and Vax taller and stockier than their elven father. But they shrink in on themselves in his presence, pressed shoulder to shoulder like scared rabbits. And it’s not that Scanlan thinks Sil'dore ever beat them, but as a bard he knows better than most that words can cut like knives and leave much deeper scars. And it’s not that Scanlan didn’t know before this that the twins’ dad was kind of shitty. He knew that.

Scanlan truly, honestly, in all his experience with lying and pretending to be different people from a cheerfully abused little boy to a handsome mustachio’d lawyer, cannot understand the person who is disappointed to run into his children, safe and sound. The idea of being disappointed in Kaylee is so foreign to him that it simply doesn’t fit in his head. It’s a square peg in a round hole and it will not go through. He can’t process it.

There’s a million things he wants to say to the man. Do you know that your daughter hoards gold like a dragon not because she wants to have it for herself but because she wants it to be available to help people when they need it? Do you know how many times your son has almost died rushing into a situation to try and help people he didn’t have to help? Do you know that your daughter did die, on a quest to save the world, and that your son sold himself to the goddess of death to bring her back? Do you know that when your son was scared of what might happen to him once he’d done it, your daughter read and researched and went to temples to try and find anything that would soothe his fears?

Sil'dore is irritated to run into his twin children, as though they aren’t two of the most amazing people Scanlan has ever met, and Scanlan isn’t even their father.

Well. Okay then.

Scanlan forces himself to tune back into the conversation just in time to hear Percy trying to salvage the situation. “We were actually just about to leave. We’ve business elsewhere in the Feywild that is of great importance and once that is concluded, we’ll be leaving the Feywild entirely. So if you’ll excuse us, we’d be only too happy to be on our way.”

Percy’s got his mask on – not his actual beaked demon mask but his ‘I’m a pompous asshole’ nobility mask that he uses to speak to other pompous assholes so that everyone can get what they want and go back to killing monsters and/or daydrinking. Scanlan’s seen better masks though and he’s not sure what he missed in the conversation so far but he can see the clench in Percy’s jaw that says he’s gritting his teeth.

Sil'dore eyes him for a moment, notes his obvious nobility, then acknowledges him with a very slight nod. He turns back towards the twins and says, “Before you go, I should note that I’m pleased to see that you two managed to avoid being killed by a dragon,” he doesn’t sound pleased and maybe that’s just how he always sounds but Scanlan can’t give him the benefit of the doubt when both of the twins jerk like they’ve been struck.

He starts to leave, then pauses and turns back to them. He says, and he actually does sound just slightly pleased about this so clearly he’s capable of it, “I’m also pleased to see that you’re finally starting to learn your lesson about keeping strays.”

What?

Everyone in Vox Machina stares at him in total confusion. Strays? What strays? Is he talking about them? If he’s seeking to offend then he must realize that nobody in Vox Machina is bothered by being called a stray. They’ve all called themselves that before because that’s exactly what they are, a family of strays who found each other.

After a beat of puzzled silence, Sil'dore rolls his eyes and clarifies, “You finally lost that ridiculous bear.”

And all of them realize, Trinket’s in the crystal necklace.

He thinks Trinket is dead.

He thinks Trinket, who Vex loves like her own son, who she treats like an eight hundred pound toddler, who Vax refers to as his nephew with no trace of sarcasm, is dead. And it’s the first time since running into his children that he actually sounds anything other than annoyed.

Keyleth and Pike suck in sharp breaths, Grog audibly snarls, and Percy hisses through his teeth, mask immediately forgotten. And while Scanlan is sure that Vex and Vax will rally to defend Trinket where they didn’t defend themselves, for the moment the twins are thunderstruck.

Look, Scanlan doesn’t like Trinket but this is some shit.

“You know that bear ripped a vampire’s head off once?”

Sil'dore startles and turns to Scanlan like he didn’t even realize he was there. Lots of people don’t notice Scanlan - it’s great for moments like this.

“Just wrapped his whole mouth around the guy’s head and -” Scanlan wasn’t actually there when Trinket killed Tylieri but Grog staged an enthusiastic reenactment for him later so the violent ripping motion he makes is fairly accurate, “off it went. It was pretty great.”

Sil'dore wrinkles his nose. “Charming,” and starts to turn away from Scanlan, already disinterested.

“He’s not dead, just for the record. I mean, the vampire, yes. The vampire is definitely dead, like more dead than a vampire usually is, but Trinket isn’t. Since that’s what you were implying. In fact, he might be a little closer than you think, so maybe keep the vampire thing in mind?”

His eyes narrow and his tone turns icy, “Is that a threat?”

Scanlan spreads his arms wide and smiles innocently, “Of course not! That’d be ridiculous! I’m just saying you should be prouder of your grandson, who can fit an entire human head in his mouth and pop it off like a wine cork.”

It’s hard to say what Sil'dore looks more offended by, the poorly concealed threat or that Scanlan just referred to a bear as his grandson.

“Anyway, like Percy said, we’re very busy so we’ll just be on our way now but if you want I’m sure we can stop back into Syngorn when we’re done and you can see your kids and your grandson.” They won’t and in fact Scanlan personally hopes that the twins never have to interact with their father ever again. “You seem like such a family man and as a father myself, I’d hate to deprive anyone of the opportunity to see their kids, you know? Maybe later!”

Sil'dore looks like he swallowed an entire lemon as Scanlan quickly ushers the rest of the party away from him.

They get about fifty feet away and around a corner before Vex stops with a shuddered breath and whirls around to hug Scanlan so hard she lifts him off the ground entirely (not actually that difficult, Scanlan is very little). Scanlan pats her back gently and then, because he is Scanlan and he isn't going to have a serious moment if he can possibly avoid it, asks, “Aww, Vex, is that concussion back? I told you, you should have let Pike heal you.”

“I hate you,” Vex chokes out, but she’s smiling when she says it and she sets him back down rather than just dropping him. She reaches up to her necklace, pauses, wipes her face with her arm first, then releases Trinket from the crystal. The big lumbering idiot of an animal gets as far as shaking himself out before Vex and Vax are on either side of him, hands buried in his fur.

They leave Syngorn for the Feywild with Trinket between them. Vex makes no motion towards her flying broom and Vax doesn’t disappear into the shadows, both of them content to walk with their family for now.

So maybe Scanlan isn’t in the running for World’s Greatest Dad. But at least he can safely say he isn’t anywhere close to being in the running for World’s Worst Dad either. Looking around at his strange family of strays and walking tragedies, he thinks that it’ll be okay. He’s trying, and it seems like that might be enough.