If someone had asked Vex’ahlia for her thoughts on the matter, she would have advised seizing life by the throat and not letting go. Time was short for all of them, and could be made shorter still in an instant. She who was so briefly dead should understand that better than anyone.
When it came to baring the heart though– fear still ruled her, more often than she liked to admit.
Fear of– gods, what exactly? Of her own feelings? Of such a paltry thing as her heart? Of honesty with the man she trusted everything but herself to?
It all seemed so stupid, facing down the gigantic red beast, the essence of fire himself. The world had turned to fire and ash and seemingly endless waves of lizardfolk come to their lord’s aid. Lava bubbled up from the underground volcano, called up to the surface by Thordak’s might.
A gout of flame engulfed the battlefield. Vex ducked, rolled away from it. She smelled burning air and sizzling flesh but felt no flames. Pike waded into battle beside Vax, harrying their foes from both sides. Somewhere across the battlefield Grog bellowed, and the dragon replied with an earshattering roar. A crack formed near Vex’s feet, forcing her to another vantage point.
Keyleth called ice out of the air. It swirled in gales of freezing cold, harrying the dragon and cooling the lava around him.
Lizardfolk crowded around the druid. Vex shot one and then another, Fenthras flexing eagerly in her grasp, thinning the crowd so that Keyleth could focus on the real target. Quickly enough Vex was also harried on both sides by lizardfolk eager to get at the ranger and her bear. Trinket ripped through flesh and armor with powerful claws, tearing into the creature with his teeth.
A crack rang out beside Vex’s ear. She turned to see a lizardman fall, a clean bullet hole in its skull.
“Are you alright darling?” Percy asked, coming up beside her. He slashed out with the dragonslayer longsword which bit into the flesh of the lizardfolk, eager for their blood.
“Fine,” Vex called. She pulled back Fenthras, her arrow finding its place in a lizardman’s eye. They’d thinned out the crowd a little bit, enough that Vex had room to gulp in a few short breaths of sulfurous air.
Percy braced himself beside her. With Bad News at his shoulder he lined up a shot at Thordak, pulled the trigger. The air beside him thundered, and the dragon screamed fury and flame.
The dragon stalked forward, turning his mad eyes on the two of them standing side by side. Thordak stared them down, malevolent and furious. He opened his great mouth to reveal gleaming teeth.
Something powerful hauled on the back of Vex’s tunic moments before the flame passed by. Heat blistered the air. Vex smiled up at Trinket, who let her go with a growl of concern.
“Thanks buddy,” she breathed, through a blisteringly dry heat. The dragonfire could have cooked her alive. Her and–
He was wedged behind a piece of rubble, soot streaked and sweat drenched but mercifully alive. The fear that had seized Vex fell away in the face of her relief.
Too many people she loved had been taken by dragonfire.
So maybe it was stupid. Vex didn’t want to live with that regret.
“Percy,” she said over the roar of battle, before she could think better of it. “Marry me?”
Percy stared, faltering for a moment in battle. Vex pulled back on Fenthras and shot a lizardfolk before it could brain him, and that seemed to spur Percy back into the fight. He skewered another lizardman with his longsword.
“Now?” he asked, gesturing around at the chaos of the battlefield with his blade.
“Now might be all we get!” Vex reminded him. Thordak had turned to strike at Scanlan on the other side of the field. Vex took her shot, striking right below the dragon’s eye, before wading through the fray to Percy’s side. “I love you,” she said, breathless with fire on her tongue. If there was one thing in her entire life that she was sure of, it was that at this moment she loved Percy. “I know what I want– now what do you say?”
Percy took another shot with Bad News. He dropped the gun from his shoulder to reload, and as he did he looked sidelong at Vex with a look of heartbreaking fondness. A breath as he chambered the next bullet and then–
“Pike!” he called across the battlefield to the tiny gnome wading through lizardfolk beside Vax. “Marry us!”
Pike whirled, smashing her mace into a lizardman’s side. “Little busy right now, guys!” she called back. Vax beside her darted in under another lizardman’s defenses, stabbing three times in succession.
“Vex’ahlia!” he called. “What in the hell are you thinking?”
In response Vex smiled at her brother and gave him a wink. Trinket loped over to the two of them, roaring fury at the lizardfolk all around. He barreled through, a rolling boulder of muscle and fur and armor, knocking foes aside as he passed.
Percy raised Ripley’s gun and fired on one of the lizardfolk closing in on Pike. It dropped to the ground, dead.
“Any better?” Percy called. “We might not get another chance!”
“Go ahead Pike,” Vax said, quiet enough that Vex could only read his lips. Her brother rolled his eyes at her, mouthed, “I’m happy for you.”
Vex’s chest swelled, even as she turned and shot again and again, clearing the field around Keyleth and Scanlan.
“Okay, okay, okay,” Pike said. She called divine fire to her hand, hurled it at the dragon. Vax stood above her with his knives, guarding her from harm, Trinket on her other side savaging any who dared come too near. “By the grace of Sarenrae and the Gods we are gathered here today–”
An echoing blast from Bad News drowned out Pike. Percy stood shoulder to shoulder with Vex as they both picked out targets and shot.
“–these two joined in matrimony,” Pike finished. She swung her mace in an arc, cleaving through two lizardfolk.
Percy turned so that he was facing Vex, though he kept his eyes on the battlefield behind her. “Vex’ahlia,” he said. “Do you take me to be your wedded husband?”
Vex nodded. “I do,” she said, sure that she would cry, sure that crying would ruin her aim. Two words that felt like the simplest and most profound things in the world.
“Excellent,” Percy said. Over her shoulder he raised Animus and shot.
Vex whirled, aimed at Thordak and released an arrow before turning back to Percy. “And do you,” she asked. “Percival Fredrickstein–”
A crack, as Thordak’s tail crashed down into the ground right beside them, forcing them both to roll away to avoid being squished. When Vex came up from the ground there was dust and cinders in the air, and lizardfolk had surrounded Percy.
She picked one out, took a shot. Vax appeared from nowhere to take another one, and Percy finished the last with his longsword. Vex dashed back to his side, determined to see this through.
“–von Mussel–” another crack of air as Animus fired again. “–Klossowski de Rolo–”
Thordak whirled his great bulk with amazing speed, spat fire across the battlefield. Again Vex had to duck to avoid being singed.
“–the Third take me to be your wife?” Vex finished, in a rush of giddy breathlessness.
From above a bolt of lightning slammed down on top of the dragon, as Keyleth stood eyes glowing and hair blowing in the superheated wind. Bigby’s hand danced around the dragon, annoying it as a schoolyard bully might.
In the fiery chaos, Percy’s hand settled on Vex’s shoulder. “I do,” he murmured, quiet and low and sure in her ear. Vex could not have imagined a better sound.
“Good!” Pike said. “By the grace of Sarenrae you are now married. Go ahead and–” Thordak’s tail slammed down again, this time right where Pike was. Vex felt her heart seize before the tiny gnome rolled out of the dust cloud kicked up by the impact. “Kiss, kiss, go ahead and kiss!”
Percy slashed out with his longsword just as Vex drew back her bow and shot. They turned as one, Vex grinning saucily up at Percy before she pulled him down by his ascot. There on the battlefield they sealed themselves in marriage.
The kiss could have lasted forever or only a second. It didn’t matter to Vex. It was the sweetest thing in the world, his lips against hers with fire all around.
They broke apart, only to find themselves harried again. Trinket roared, charged into the fray with his great paws. Vex pulled back on her bowstring, feeling renewed energy coursing through her. At her shoulder she could feel Percy as he shot and his gun recoiled.
They would get through this alive and together.
They had to.
They– both of them– had so much to look forward to.