Actions

Work Header

Wildflowers and Roots

Work Text:

Keyleth dies first and the world stops like it knows the course of the universe is permanently changed. Around her body, so small and crumpled on the ground, the air chills and the grass greys, as if attempting to pour her lifeforce back into her bones. She does not stir.

Vax lands the final blow upon Thordak, finally getting his poetic justice. He doesn’t notice Keyleth, unmoving, until his sister calls his name. Vex is curled next to Keyleth, her fingers combing through Keyleth’s hair as she cries. She’s hoisted Keyleth mostly into her lap and is whispering softly to her.

“Please come back. Please, I need you here. We need you here.”

Keyleth remains still, her skin slowly turning pallid and white. Vax falls beside Vex only moments after his name has been called. He has tears streaming steadily down his face. He grabs Keyleth’s hand and whispers incantations under his breath. Several healing spells later there is sweat glistening along his brow and still no breath in Keyleth’s lungs.

Scanlan is trying to calm Grog, who has taken to smashing Thordak’s skull repeatedly with his hammer. By the time he stops, Thordak is unrecognisable.

And Percy…

The ground is solid and cold beneath his knees. There are stones that bite at his skin through his trousers. He digs his nails into his temples, clawing at his face as he tries to curl himself in the smallest ball he can manage.

He knows Keyleth will not wake up. The nearest functioning civilisation is two days travel east and Pike is all the way back in Whitestone, assuring that everyone there remains safe. They figured that she would be safer there and they would be fine taking on Thordak alone. After all, they had the Vestiges in their hands.

But here they are. Percy knows Keyleth will not wake up but he doesn’t want to believe it.

Percy always figured he would die first. He was soft and human and not expected to live beyond eighty in the first place. He, at least, had expected Keyleth to outlive him. She would have been the one he asked to watch over Whitestone. She would have made sure that his legacy lived on throughout the city.

But he’s still alive and she is lying dead less than ten feet away. The gods are laughing in his face and he’s going over scenarios in his head. He’s sure he could have stopped it. He could have prevented this all from happening if he’d been smarter, quicker, better. But he didn’t. Of course he didn’t.

You can’t save them all.

Percy thinks he feels a cold, bodiless finger trace along the back of his neck. A swill of black smoke drifts from his collar. Despite the beckoning call and the shiver down his back, he pushes thoughts of revenge far away.

Thordak is already dead.

***

They bring her body back to Whitestone.

Pike greets them when they get up to the castle. She is still unsteady on her feet, leaning against Cassandra’s hip, but she is smiling wide as she watches them enter. Her grin quickly melts into a look of devastation when she sees Keyleth’s body hanging limp in Grog’s arms.

She tries to bring Keyleth back. Kashaw tries, Gilmore tries, Allura tries. It is far too late.

Keyleth is dead.

Percy nearly suggests they lay her to rest in the catacombs beneath the castle. He thinks it reasonable, burying his new family where his old one was supposed to reside. But he realises his mistake before he even vocalises it to the rest of the group. The De Rolo tombs stay empty.

Keyleth is buried between the roots of the Sun Tree, wrapped in dirt and life, just as she would have liked. A small, monumental headstone is placed to mark the spot where she rests. Percy lays wildflowers upon the grave each day and sometimes, late into the night, he will curl against the trunk of the tree and talk to Keyleth. He tells her how much he misses her, how much he wishes it had been him.

***

Nothing is quite the same without her.

Percy stays locked away in his workshop. It becomes commonplace for him to wake up with an aching back, slumped over whatever his most recent project is. Cassandra has, on several occasions, wiped grease away from his nose when she comes in to make sure he’s still alive.

Pike stays in Whitestone as a member of the Whitestone council and a trusted advisor to Cassandra. In another universe, where Keyleth still lives, Percy is his sister’s right hand, but Pike is far more steady and far more kind. He is happy to see her here.

Because Pike stays, Grog does as well. He keeps vigilant watch over the city, taking a self-appointed job of Whitestone security. When asked about the guards already residing in the castle, Grog admits that he doesn't trust him with his family. Every so often, he will visit Percy with Pike in tow. They will sit and have tea, talking about anything other than what will eventually become of Vox Machina.

The visits get fewer and farther between until they mostly stop. They all have busy lives, after all.

Scanlan wanders the way of Westruun, hoping to cross paths with his daughter. He isn’t sure if she’ll still be in the city, but he’ll wander until he finds her again. He tells Percy that it’s high time he take some responsibility as a father, but that he’ll come back soon.

“Don’t be gone too long. We’ll miss you here.” Percy is trying not to think of all the things that could happen to Scanlan without the rest of his friends to protect him.

“I’m a grown man, Percy, I can certainly take care of myself. But I’ll come home soon, don’t worry.”

Scanlan has always been good at reading people, and for that, Percy is grateful.

Vex and Vax slip away in the middle of the night. Vex leaves a note stuck to the door of Percy’s workshop, Vax leaves a note tucked right into Percy’s hand. They both read nearly the same, but it doesn’t stop Percy from tracing the words several times over.

Percy finds himself at Keyleth’s grave.

“Vex and Vax have decided to go and find the Air Ashari. They’re going to tell your father what happened. That you’ve died and been buried here.” He twists the pieces of metal in his hands. “I hope he forgives us. For letting you die, for not bringing you back to him. You never even finished your Aramente.”

He finishes twisting the shards of metal. The result is a slightly mangled looking flower that gleams silver in the dying light of the sun.

“I should have been faster.” He lays the metal flower on her grave, next to the wildflowers he’d placed earlier in the day. “It should have been me.”

***

Vax and Vex come home. Scanlan is quick to follow, arriving in Whitestone a month after the twins’ return.

It’s hard, but Vox Machina becomes a family once more, even if it’s slightly duller without Keyleth.

Vax wanders into the library one evening, finding Percy tucked neatly into an arm chair, an old, well loved book in his lap.

“What are you reading?” Vax settles in the chair next to Percy.

“A fairytale. One I used to love dearly as a child.”

Silence presses on their eardrums as Percy continues flipping the pages of his book.

“Look, Percival, I want to speak to you. Seriously. About things.”

“Then speak, Vax.”

And he does.

“I know we never talked properly, after all the shit with Vex and the Champion’s tomb. That shit in the crypt doesn't count. I was still upset, it was all still raw. And I know that was ages ago, but it never made anything better and we both know that. I forgive you. I forgave you a long time ago, but I don’t like talking about feelings and shit so I just sat in my silence.”

Percy looks up, taken aback.

“I miss when we spoke. Properly. Like friends. Like family.” Vax breathes. “I just want to say that, with Keyleth gone, I don’t want to lose you without you knowing I still love you dearly.”

“Well, Vax, I know now.”

Percy closes his book and stands to put it back on the shelf. He goes to leave the room but pauses in the doorway, turning back to Vax, looking sullen and sad on his chair.

“Know that I love you too, Vax.”

Percy turns to leave, but not before catching the slightest smile on Vax’s lips.

***

They start taking up mercenary work where they can find it. Spiralling outward from Whitestone, they find jobs taking out pests and criminals and threats to cities. It’s easy, but it keeps them happily occupied. They need easy at this point.

Eventually, they start to feel invincible again. Every strike lands with a flourish and every step holds a slight skip. They’ve missed this: the adrenaline, the fight, the bloody honesty. They’ve missed feeling like a unit, like they’re doing something good.

At least, Percy has missed it.

It would be nice to go back to having a proper destination in mind, one beyond killing things and getting paid, but this is a compromise he can deal with. It’s nice to not have to think.

A year into mindless adventuring, Vax proposes an idea to the group. He had a dream in which the Raven Queen spoke to him, asking him to find a temple that was lost to a lake. He says he’d like to restore it, if they can. They agree to help without a second thought and the next morning they are starting the half day’s journey north.

Vax leads the way until they come to a large, crystal surfaced lake in a deep valley. A spire juts out near the centre, weathered and green with growing algae. They assume that’s the temple and begin devising a way to reach it.

Several control water spells later, the surrounding forest is flooded and drowning, but the temple sits in no more than a foot of water. The group makes their way in and they are faced with arched ceilings and intricately carved furniture.

Celestial script is engraved carefully along the backs of pews and the base of statues. Percy rushes forward, eager to examine the words, and realises too late that he’s made a mistake.

No sooner has he stepped into the open entrance does he feel a shooting pain up his left side. Someone, Vax it’s Vax’s voice, calls out his name, but he as already hit the ground, writhing against the stone. His fingers press around the shaft of an arrow lodged under his ribs and he tries to staunch the blood flow as well as he can. He groans as he feels the telltale pulsating sear of poison leaching into his veins.

Another arrow slings toward Vax, who dodges it with practised swiftness. The group becomes a flurry of movement, barely visible through Percy’s blurring vision. He tries to get up, tries to pull out a gun to help, but he’s hit hard with two more arrows. He falls again, head foggy with toxins and pain now shooting through his collar and his right leg.

He watches the entities, humanoid though his brain can’t process their shapes enough to supply a name (demons, angels, spirits, he isn’t sure). One dissipates as Vax plunges a dagger into its throat, another when Vex impales it through the torso with an arrow. Percy’s eyes drift open and closed, trying to trace all the hectic movement. Two people fall to their knees, but he can’t focus enough to see who.

The next time his eyes open, he’s staring at the ceiling. Scanlan is tipping a potion into his mouth, hovering above Percy with a crease between his eyebrows. Percy gives himself a moment for his vision to clear up. The wounds on his body don’t seem to seal completely, the poison that flooded his system not allowing him to heal.

“Did we win?”

Scanlan’s hesitation is enough for Percy to bolt upright, ignoring the ringing pain of blood pumping its way back into his brain.

Across the room, Pike is spluttering and hacking on the stone floor. Vax and Vex are beside her. It mirrors Keyleth’s death enough that Percy feels bile rise in his throat.

“Why aren’t you doing anything?! Why aren’t you healing her?!” Percy is yelling as he gets to his feet. He drags his body, heavy as it feels, until he is kneeling next to Pike as well. He’s got his only healing potion in his hand.

“We’re all tapped out, Percival, don’t you think we’ve tried?” Vax whispers. His breath is hitching in his throat.

Percy pushes past the twins to pour the potion down Pike’s throat. He tries desperately to ignore the blood seeping around the arrows lodged in every gap of her armour. The wounds he can see stitch together only to tear right back open, the same way Percy’s did. But he didn’t have so many.

Oh, gods, he can’t do this again. There are tears running down Percy’s cheeks.

“C’mon, Pike, stay awake a little longer. We just have to get you some help.” Vex is trying to sooth Pike as she coughs up blood, tinging her lips bright red. Vex brushes Pike’s bangs away from her eyes.

“It’s no use, Vex, but I’ll be alright,” Pike says, earnest even as she fades away, “I always am, right?”

Percy’s got a mantra of no no no no repeating in his head. He isn’t comforted by Pike’s small smile and vacant, glazed eyes. He wants her to get back up, to be okay like she was only minutes before.

“I love you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m gonna see Keyleth soon.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

Her voice trails away and she is still smiling, even as her lungs heave her final breath.

The remaining members of Vox Machina cry, loud and unapologetic, and hope that she knows they love her too.

It is Grog, once again, who brings a dead friend back home to Whitestone.

***

They aren’t sure what to do after Pike dies. In a similar fashion to what happened after Keyleth, they’re left floating with no direction.

She is buried under the Sun Tree as well, her gravestone placed right next to Keyleth’s. Percy still sits against the trunk of the tree when he can, but now he leaves wildflowers on two graves and talks to two old friends instead of one. He wonders, briefly, if the other townspeople think him odd, but he doesn’t dwell on it.

“You know, Vox Machina doesn’t amount to much without the two of you with us. Always the trusted voices of reason, you were. We’re far too chaotic to continue on our own.”

Percy is trying to set a spring trapped net to a arrow. Vox Machina no longer adventures, and he doesn’t think he’s seen Vex so much as look in the direction of her bow in weeks, but he likes the monotony that tinkering brings.

“Grog still isn’t back home. We thought he’d leave, take some anger out on the world, and then return. Vax reckons he’s returned to his old stomping ground over near Westruun. I just worry he’s done something reckless. I don’t think I could take another death in the family so soon.

The spring trap snaps and one of the metal clasps cuts along the palm of his hand. He hisses in pain, but keeps trying to set the trap correctly.

“Maybe he’s just gone to see you grandfather, Pike. Imagine what we’d be doing, though, if you were still here. Do you think there are bigger things to conquer than dragons? Maybe we would have to take on the gods next. I’ve always wanted to fight deities.”

The sun had set hours ago, the cold settling in soft on the streets. Percy doesn’t mind the dark and doesn’t mind the film of frost forming on every surface. He lights an oil lamp though, if only because Keyleth and Pike would have wanted him to. He grew up in the harsh winters and only slightly less harsh summers of Whitestone, but he knows that wouldn’t have stopped them from nagging him to take care of himself.

The flame in the lamp flickers, letting warm light filter over the wildflowers that now bloom around the graves. Percy hold his hand above the flame and lets himself feel the heat it gives.

***

Grog comes back a year and a half later. He’s got even more scars littered across his skin, his eyes are sunken and tired, his face seems to have aged far beyond his years. Percy greets him with open arms and Grog returns the favour, giving a hug that could crack ribs.

When they ask where Grog has been all this time, he doesn’t provide an answer beyond “around”. Percy reckons Vax may have been right, that Grog had gone back to the other goliaths to release any anger via violence.

Grog doesn’t sleep in his old room anymore, instead taking one on the opposite side of the castle. Percy realises after the fact that this puts him as far away from Pike’s old room as possible. Grog doesn’t leave his room much, and when he does it’s too hide away in a tavern instead, drinking himself to sleep. His boisterous nature died with Pike. It’s jarring to see him so subdued.

They try to pretend that they’re still the old Vox Machina. They go out drinking with Grog when they can, but he never speaks when they’re out. In fact, he barely speaks at all. Percy is taken aback when, in a moment of calm in a tavern, Grog speaks softly to him.

“You know, Percy, I don’t think we’ll ever go back to like, our old lives. Like, I know I won’t, at least.” Grog takes a swig of his ale.

“I reckon we won’t either.”

“How’d you do it after Keyleth died? You guys were just as close as Pike and I are,” He pauses, “Were.”

Percy thinks the question over for only a moment before he answers.

“I don’t think I ever did go back to normal, Grog. I think I just like pretending I did.”

“I miss her, more than anything in my life.” Grog’s voice is cracking. Percy doesn’t acknowledge it.

“I miss her too,” Percy says, “I miss them both.”

***

They find Grog on the outskirts of the forest, torn to shreds. The wounds on his flesh are ragged and sharp, as if dragged out by something blunt. Vex reckons that’s exactly what happened.

“They’re animal bites. You can see the shape from the jaw around his shoulders and legs. It looks like it was massive.” She shudders as they stare at his body, laid out cold, “It looks like he didn’t fight back.”

There is a somber moment where no one dares speak. Vax is the one to break it.

“Do you think whatever did it is still around?"

“Probably.”

They push the thought aside for a little while.

Grog is buried under the Sun Tree as well, right beside Pike. The collection of headstones make Percy sick to the stomach and weak in the knees, but he still visits the graves everyday. He tries not to think of how much it’s starting to look like a memorial for Vox Machina.

“We’re off to find the thing that killed you, Grog. Or the things. We’re leaving first thing in the morning.” Percy sighs. “I would love to tell you we’re doing it on the sole basis of revenge but it wouldn’t be wholly true. Certainly we want to bring you justice, but we’re also concerned about the people of Whitestone. I wish we had more to lend to your legacy.”

Percy has finally stopped thinking it should have been me , but only because he’s sure his luck is due to run out soon.

***

Four dead dire wolves later and they’ve seemingly rid the forest of the violent scourge that plagued it. They leave the wolves’ bodies where they lay amidst the trees.

Scanlan bids farewell only days later. He says he’s received a letter from his daughter asking for him to visit. He’s not one to say no to a good thing, especially if that good thing is Kaylie willingly welcoming him. They have a dinner for him the night before he leaves.

Whitestone seems quieter than ever. Snow drifts soft onto the streets as the winter brings cold days and colder nights. Vax complains loudly about the chill in his bones. He’s taken to curling on the carpet in front of the fireplace, much like a cat would. Percy keeps him company with conversation and tea. Sometimes, when there seems to be nothing to talk about, Percy will read a book aloud until Vax falls asleep. He’s okay with the silence that follows.

This is the only reason that Percy notices all of Vax’s absences. He’ll slip away, mostly unnoticed, and then return two or three days later. Percy is sure Vex has been aware of it, and because she is okay with it, he assumes it all has something to do with the Raven Queen.

He pins Vax down to having a conversation on an evening when he’s wandered in after one of these disappearing acts. Percy leans against the door frame of the library, blocking the exit in case Vax feels the need to play up the dramatics and walk away from the discussion.

Vax is lying on his stomach, spread out on the carpet. He’s leaning his head on one hand and flipping through a book with the other. His arms seem to be trembling slightly but Percy can’t tell if it’s from strain or from exhaustion. Vax looks up when Percy leans into the door. He looks as though he’s about to keel over, eyes rimmed red.

“Well, you look like shit.”

“Thank you for your kind words, Percival. And to think, I almost thought I liked you.” He smiles. It’s stretched thin but not forced.

“I was wondering how you were doing though. Sincerely. I know you’ve been going off about on your missions for the Raven Queen. You look like you haven’t slept a solid night in weeks, I just want to make sure you’re not working yourself to the bone.”

“And what would you do if I were, Percy? It’d be a little hypocritical don’t you think? I can’t count the times I’ve found you barely awake, tucked away in your workshop.”

Vax has a point. Percy doesn’t want to deal with that, though.

“I will admit, I am a raging hypocrite. It’s one of my many talents,” Percy says, “But I do want to let you know, you’re allowed to slow down every once in awhile”

“I’ll keep it in mind, Percy.”

“Good.”

Percy sits in his usual chair. Vax hands him the book he was flipping through and looks at Percy expectantly. Percy begins to read aloud, obedient as ever. A sentence in he realises it’s his favourite, childhood fairytale. He smiles as he reads.

Vax falls asleep minutes later.

***

It turns out that Vax doesn’t know how to slow down.

He stumbles into the entrance hall of Whitestone castle, bursting through the door with blood gushing from several wounds along his torso and left arm. A particularly nasty slash above his eyebrow is dribbling blood into his mouth.

He makes it to Percy, who is standing shell shocked at the sight. Percy had been planning on venturing out into the city, possibly visiting Allura and Kima’s house. It’d been awhile since he’d seen them. Instead, Vax spits a hello, blood splattering from his mouth to Percy’s face, before crumpling face first onto the floor.

Percy’s heart stops. It’s far too soon for this. He can’t lose more of his family, he can’t bury more of his friends. He screams for help, and for Vex, while he falls to his knees beside Vax. He tears his shirt off and uses it to try and slow the blood oozing from Vax’s body.

The white of the shirt is quickly sopping and stained vibrant red, but Vax’s eyelids are still fluttering as he dips in and out of consciousness. Percy assures himself that Vax’s is still alive each time he sees his eyelids flutter or his lips part for a breath.

Kashaw is the first to come to Vax’s aid, Vex in close tow. Percy is near hysterical as Kash lays one hand of Vax’s chest and the other on the symbol around his neck. A soft glow of light and the most lethal of Vax’s wounds have sealed.

Vex has taken to hugging Percy to her chest, whispering in his ear to calm him down. Percy still clings to Vax’s cloak, his bloodied shirt mostly tossed aside. He doesn’t know if he’s ever felt more relief before this moment. Vax opens his eyes and they are bright with life.

“As nice as you look without a shirt, Percival, I don’t put out on the first date.”

“Oh, shut up, you scared me to death,” Percy scolds him, but he’s laughing. It sounds a little strained, even to his own ears, but it feels good. Vex hugs him closer to her chest.

Vax is just fine.

***

Time doesn’t pass very quick in Whitestone. It’s a quiet city, most people working long hours on the farms outside the walls, or staying warm inside the many buildings. The winding roads are busy with life, but the kind of life that is soft and unassuming. The only days that are loud are those dedicated to festivals, which always bring about music and good company.

It’s the first day of the Winter’s Crest festival. The streets are lively with bright decorations and people bustling to the town square. Percy is not as young as he used to be, pushing into his mid-forties, and Vax and Vex have to slow their pace for him to keep up. He endures the old man jokes all the way from the castle to the Sun Tree.

When they arrive, the festival is already in full swing. They order drinks from one of the tavern kiosks before settling down at a table tucked right beside the tree. Despite the winter inching its way into every crevice of Whitestone, there are hundreds of wildflowers thriving around the base of the Sun Tree, bringing a natural brightness to the area.

They drink enough that they begin regaling tales of Vox Machina in their golden years. Somewhere along the way, Cassandra, Allura, Kima and Gilmore join the fray. Vax is voraciously telling an embellished version of them taking down the Briarwoods and the festival that was thrown soon after.

Halfway through the story, Percy catches sight of a familiar face amongst the crowd. Kaylie stands on the outskirts, leaning against a building drinking from a tankard that looks comically large in her hands. Percy waves to her, and though she waves back, she doesn’t come any closer.

“I’ll be right back,” Percy says to the group.

He leaves the table and moves through the crowd until he’s next to Kaylie. She looks worn down, with mud caked on her boots and the hems of her clothes. She doesn’t make eye contact with Percy, instead opting to stare outward into the swells of people milling around the square.

“What brings you around to Whitestone? If you’re looking for Scanlan, I can tell you now that he’s not here. I haven’t seen him in about a year now.” Percy smiles, remembering the fond farewell dinner they had for Scanlan, as per tradition.

“I know. I’ve, uh— I have bad news” Her voice is barely audible over the roaring of the crowd’s conversations.

Percy knows what’s coming. He feels it in his gut, in a chill down his spine that gives him a frightening feeling of deja vu.

“You should join us at the table. I’m sure you won’t want to tell us twice.”

Kaylie nods and moves toward the group still talking happily about their travels.

Percy makes sure to grab another round of drinks.

***

“I wouldn’t be here if not for him, you know. I got mixed up with the wrong people. And it’s dumb because I know it’s my own fault, but I needed money and they were willing to give it to me. I’d have—

“Anyway, long story short, he got me out of a shitty spot. He bargained a trade, him for me, as long as he included the 2000 gold I owed them as well. He agreed without hesitation, of course he did. I wish he hadn’t.

Kaylie chugs the rest of her drink before starting in immediately on another.

“I guess he tried to get away and only got so far.”

There is silence around the table.

“We brought his body back with us. The gang that— that killed him, they let me take him home. I thought he might want to be buried with his friends.”

“We?” Percy is the one to ask for clarification.

“The rest of the troupe. We got a carriage just to come over here.”

Percy swirls the dregs of his drink around in the bottom of his cup.

“We do have a place to bury him, yes. He’ll be alongside the rest of his family.”

Kaylie looks relieved.

***

Scanlan gets a proper funeral, however small it may be. Kaylie and the rest of her troupe insisted on it, saying that it would be better to celebrate Scanlan’s life than to sit quietly to mourn his death.

Percy realises, once they’ve lowered Scanlan into the dirt beneath the Sun Tree, that he never actually got to know how old Scanlan was. It should bother him, but instead he feels comforted in the fact that he could have lived a full life in the time that he was alive.

It should feel like a sombre occasion but instead, it’s something of a party. They eat a lavish dinner, drink the wine cellar dry, and take to telling tales of Scanlan’s shenanigans.

Vex likes to tell the story of Scanlan taking down the lord’s house in Whitestone. Kaylie likes to tell the story of him trying to seduce her before he knew she was his daughter. Percy leans back in his chair, watching his friends laugh and yell, all red in the cheeks from drinking.

This, by far, is not the worst case scenario.

Percy manages to slip out mostly unnoticed. Vax gives him a knowing glance as he moves from the table, but a soft smile assures that he doesn’t follow. Inevitably, Percy finds himself at the Sun Tree, having picked flowers on the way there.

He knows it isn’t necessary to lay down any more flowers on the graves, especially with the blooming flowers all around them, but the dirt of Scanlan’s grave is still freshly upturned, as are the flowers that had resided there. Percy drapes the ones in his hands over the mound of dirt and ignores the lump in his throat.

He sits between Keyleth and Pike’s graves, head leaned back against the bark of the tree. It’s rough and irritating, but it’s a comforting presence that keeps him grounded. He closes his eyes against the setting sun.

He talks softly to his friends, for a little while, indulging in his own nostalgia. He speaks of finding Kima in the underdark, of joining the Slayers’ Take, of the Feywild. Halfway through reminiscing about their battles with the conclave dragons, his voice hitches and he has to stop.

He’s so tired.

***

Percy is pressing fifty when Vax invites him along on one of his journeys for the Raven Queen. It’s one he’s been leading up to for weeks, having to do a fair share of research before he could even think of diving in.

A necromancer, known only by the alias of the Crow, is wreaking havoc upon a town near Emon. Vax is sure he can’t take him on alone. Vex picks up her bow for the first time in months, and Percy picks up his guns for the first time in years. They set off for the town at dusk on a summer’s day.

Vax had been right in thinking that he couldn’t take the necromancer on alone. The man they came across was powerful beyond nearly anything they’d seen. The three of them gave all that they had into the fight.

They gave too much.

Vex learned Keyleth’s trick to let them travel through trees. It’s the only reason they make it back to Whitestone. She mustered enough energy to cast the spell and stumble through the portal, Percy heaving Vax on his shoulders behind her as he put a final bullet between the necromancer’s eyes.

When they emerge from the Sun Tree, they are met with pouring rain and freezing air that bites like knives through their clothes. Percy thinks that the world has a cruel sense of poetry.

He is too old to be fighting and maybe that is why he doesn’t move from under the Sun Tree. He knows he will be unable to get them help in time. Instead, he’s simply collapsed to his knees beside the twins, watching helplessly as they die.

He takes one of their hands into each of his, clasping them tightly to his chest. His tears are mixing with the rain, but it doesn’t stop him from tasting salt when his mouth opens. He lets out a sob, brutal and honest. Even while he cries, he makes sure he is in the line of sight of both of them.

“Do you— Do you think we’ll get to see them all again?” Vax is staring at Percy, his cheeks flushed bright red as the rest of him pales to grey.

“No need to talk, focus on staying awake. Focus on breathing, in and out. In and out.” Percy doesn’t know who he’s trying to help at this point. His voice is cracking and he can’t stop crying. “Just you wait, okay?”

“Is Vex’ahlia okay? Is my sister alright?”

“She’s just fine, don’t worry.”

Percy glances at Vex. Her eyes are dim, but still flickering around.

“Okay.” Vax’s eyes close and they do not open again.

Vex sputters out a “brother”, blood splattering up from her mouth and down her chin. She turns her head to the side, looking toward Vax, motionless and breathless, his skin nearly translucent.

“Where’s he gone. Percy, what’s my brother doing.”

“He’s just gone to sleep.

“He can’t do that. He’s not allowed to leave me alone. Vax’ildan, you open your eyes and you come back! You can’t leave me alone.”

***

In the end, Percy is left alone.

***

Percy sits beside the Sun Tree. His friends are buried in a perfect circle around the roots of it, a gap between Keyleth and Vax that will be filled by him in due time. He has come to lay flowers upon the graves, to sit down for a little while.

“I’ve decided to tie up all our loose ends. And I mean all of them. There’s a lot of good that we did in this world, but there’s also a lot of people we left behind. I don’t want them to think that we ever forgot about them.” Percy lays down the wildflowers. He’s come to fidget and fiddle with the dagger he took from Vax’s body. It’s warm with the energy that waits within it.

“I’ll be home soon.”

He goes to Syngorn first. He knocks upon Syldor’s door and Devana opens it. Percy is welcomed into their home, offered tea, told to wait in the sitting room while Devana goes to find Syldor. He feels as if it’s an identical repeat of the last time he was here, all the way back in the Feywild. If only he had the rest of his family with him.

When Syldor enters only to find Percy, alone, his face turns grave.

“It’s been a long time, Lord Percival.”

“So it has. Though I still think you’re an utterly terrible father, I figure you have the right to know that Vax’ildan and Vex’ahlia have died. They fell in battle against a necromancer by the name of Seneca Creevey.”

There is silence. Percy sips at his tea.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” Syldor says.

“With all due respect, it’s your loss too.”

“They were more your family than they were ever mine. I may have only met you once before but I could see how much they loved you. How much you loved them. So, I’m sorry.”

Percy nods. He finishes his tea.

“I should be off. Where can I find your daughter? Velora, correct? Last Vex and Vax heard, she was in Emon.”

“She’s still in Emon, has been for a while. She moved there not long after Vox Machina took down Thordak.”

“Well, unless you have any objections, I am going to go visit her.” Percy goes to leave.

No one stops him.

***

When he reaches Emon, his bones are telling him to stop. For a city that used to be home, it feels more like hell. Most of the city was rebuilt after Thordak’s death, though some structures remained in ruin as monuments. The skyline is similar but missing Allura’s tower. What used to loom over the city streets still lies in the rubble, Allura having opted to stay in Whitestone rather than return to Emon.

Greystone Keep is abandoned, ivy snaking its way up the walls. Percy knows that Vex gave leave to all the staff, and he knows that it was the obvious choice, but his heart breaks seeing their old home go to waste.

He breaks into the keep. Every room is exactly as they left it. He drags his fingers through the thick dust. There’s sentimentality in a house with no one living there.

He continues his tour around the city, stopping at all his previous haunts. A pub here, a shop there. He enters Serenrae’s temple, lets himself pray.

The last thing he does is find Velora. Her house is just outside the Cloudtop District, small and modest, crafted of stone. Percy straightens his coat and knocks on her door. When she answers, her face lights up.

“Percival! I haven’t seen you in ages, what brings you all the way out here?”

“I’ve come bearing news. Do you mind if I come it?”

“Certainly. I’ll make us some tea, just give me a minute. Feel free to make yourself at home.” She bustles through an archway into the kitchen and begins to boil water.

Percy sinks into one of the couches in her sitting room, easing his aching muscles. He wonders when it will be acceptable to attribute all of his shortcomings to his old age.

Velora reenters with two mugs of tea. She hands one to Percy and sits opposite him in a large armchair. She’s smiling widely, clearly pleased that he’s there.

“It’s been ages since I saw you last. How are the twins doing?” She asks.

Percy swallows. Right into it, then.

“Well, that’s actually what I’m here about. I have some bad news.”

Velora cries when she hears. Percy leaves Emon that night, not sure if he can stand another minute within the city walls.

***

Percy finds his way to Draconia. He sits, cross-legged and silent, in the library that was never quite built back to its previous glory. There is no grave to mark where Tiberius lies beneath the cracked foundation, and so Percy is the sole survivor who knows to mourn him.

Vox Machina had returned to bring him home to Whitestone, to be buried alongside Keyleth, but the citizens refused to let them unearth his body. They had put funds and labour into rebuilding the library and they were not about to ruin it for a Stormwind.

Before Percy leaves, he decides to sink to the level of teenage vandalism. He carves Tibs’ name and age into the bookshelf closest to where he lies. He carves, deep and gouging into the dark wood, that he died a hero.

He tucks the dagger back into his pocket.  

***

He goes to Vasselheim, to the walls that have yet to crumble. He visits the temple to Sarenrae that Pike restored. The stone echoes back his every footstep. The high ceilings and stained glass makes his chest ache.

He makes it to the temple of the Raven Queen. He doesn't find the red pool, too afraid to speak to a god right now. Instead, he finds a quiet room and bows his head, praying that his friends were guided safe along to the afterlife, that they are waiting for him wherever they lie.

Percy has never been a religious man but he has always loved his family dearly. Any sliver of opportunity to see them again is one he will risk.

He goes to the Slayers’ Take, talks briefly to Vanessa. She is sad to hear the news of Vex and Vax, but it had been a long time since Vox Machina had taken a contract. She tells Percy that she assumes the worst when people disappear.

Percy tells her that he has no intention of returning to Vasselheim. He gives his farewells.

***

Percy locates the Air Ashari. Keyleth’s father greets him warmly, though they haven’t met in decades.

“I’m sorry I never showed my face, after Keyleth died. I was— I was rather stricken with grief. I loved her dearly.” Percy says over a small cup of fruity tea.

Korhen gives Percy something of a look of pity, shakes his head and places his hand upon Percy’s.

Percy smiles softly. They do not say any more.

***

Kaylie is happy to see Percy again. They drink and laugh, Percy watches Kaylie perform. She has a new troupe, but Percy only meets them briefly, hardly even remembering their names.

Kaylie has a vibrant, exciting life. She never seems to stop moving. Percy follows her through three different cities, each one coupled with two or three shows. He sees the appeal of never settling down.

Kaylie admits that it’s lonely.

***

In Westruun, Percy discovers that Wilhelm had passed away. He is unsure if the news of Pike’s passing was ever passed along to him. He lays flowers on Wilhelm’s tiny, shabby grave and apologises for letting Pike die so young.

The underground tunnels that were fashioned as protection from the Chroma Conclave have been turned into a museum. One can wander through the shabby, eroding halls and see the story of Vox Machina conquering the dragons one by one. At the end is a chalk mural done by a child so many years ago, lovingly preserved upon the stone.

Percy does not stay in Westruun for very long.

***

Percy considers finding Grog’s old herd but he eventually settles against it. He is nervous that, were he to find them, no one would remember who he was. Even worse, he worries that all of Grog’s previous family could have very well died. There may not even be anyone who remembers the name Strongjaw.

Percy goes home instead, welcoming himself into the familiar streets of Whitestone.

It is lonely now. Cassandra tries to keep him occupied but she is working hard with the city to establish a democracy. Her hair has fully turned grey and she doesn’t want any part in ruling Whitestone anymore. With her lack of an heir, she figures an election process is the next best thing.

He tries to find something to do but it is far from easy.

He can no longer build intricate contraptions, his fingers cramped and shaking and clumsy compared to what they used to be. Even if he were able to, he’s not sure who he would gift his inventions to.

The library is also out of the equation. His favourite chair in front of the fire reminds him too much of Vax, stretched out on the carpet. He cannot go any of the towers of the castle as his mind always draws him to Vex. She was fond of flying her broom between them.

The halls remind him of Pike, the taverns remind him of Grog, the parks remind him of Scanlan. He feels surrounded by the ghosts of his friends at every turn.

He always ends up back at the Sun Tree.

***

“I’m getting old. You would be making jokes about it if you were still here, Keyleth. I miss that, you’re senseless teasing,” Percy whispers, sat beside Keyleth’s grave, “Gods, I miss you all so much.”

He is tracing patterns in the dirt, making small rifts around the base of every flower in his reach.

The wildflowers never die here. Percy thinks it is a blessing from Keyleth, or Pellor, or someone else who looked upon Percy’s dwindling family and took pity. The blossoms are vibrant and ever-beautiful. If Percy could paint he would capture them in pinks and purples and blues.

Instead, he silently thanks the soul who let them bloom.

“I fear that my health is rapidly diminishing. Every cold leaves me bedridden and weak, I’m aching and tired. The years have caught up to me. I wish I was once again spry and young, that I was still able to conquer the world, but I am not.

“I’ll see you all so soon.”

***

“Surely there is more for you to do, Percy. There’s a whole world out there,” Cassandra says. Despite her age she is still lively and bustling, energy still thrumming through her veins, “Certainly there is more you wish to do, more for you to see.”

“I have seen enough of the world, and I think that the world has seen enough of me, too.”

Percy is only ever seen in the castle and at the Sun Tree.

***

It is a warm, summer’s evening when Cassandra wanders toward the Sun Tree, looking for her brother. He hadn’t been at the castle all day. She worried, she always worried, when he didn’t return even two hours past sundown.

She sees him leaned against the tree, wildflowers strewn across his lap. His glasses are tucked in his breast pocket, his eyes are closed.

“Percy, we waited for you at dinner but you never showed! Get up, it’s getting late.”

Cassandra moves to shake his shoulder, to jostle him to consciousness.

“Percy?”

***

 

Percy is buried between the roots of the Sun Tree, wrapped in home and family, just as he would have liked. A small, monumental headstone is placed to mark the spot where he rests. Wildflowers bloom over his grave and every year a festival is held in the square.

People come from miles away, bringing flowers and candles and light and love and celebration.

There’s a legacy that lies in Whitestone, they say, a history that sits beneath the dirt. They were strong and kind, benevolent and courageous. They sit beneath the wildflowers, in the roots of the Sun Tree. They were called Vox Machina.