Taako didn’t sign up for this shit.
(Although, to be fair, none of them did. They didn’t sign up for anything, come to think of it - and, okay, he’s pretty sure that’s illegal. Job negotiations aren’t, from what little he knows, supposed to come down to a handshake and the vague threat of obliteration from the spacetime continuum upon poor quarterly reviews. That’s definitely illegal. Like, ‘sue the shit out of your Moon Boss’ illegal.
He asks Kravitz, who says he’ll get back to him as soon as he finishes up his JD in interdimensional lunar labor law. Taako thanks him.)
The point is, this wasn’t in any contract he may or may not have signed. ‘This’, of course, being the Neverwinter Tri-County Fair, Featuring (the lady at the front gate gushes) Thrills, Excitement, and Three Types of Pig Prizes. Taako does not know what a pig prize is, and does not deign to ask.
“I get it,” he says. Predictably, nobody is listening to him. That’s never stopped him before: “The Director’s birthday is important. I get it. She does a lot. She usually keeps us from being murdered.”
“Usually,” Merle agrees absently, pinning a ‘FIRST TIME AT THE FAIR’ badge to his chest.
“The thing is, we’re better than this. We’re bigger than this. And we’re - I have to be honest, you know that about me - buying a birthday present? Us?” He holds out his hands. “I don’t think we’re qualified. Don’t you dare, short man.” He swats Merle’s hand away; Merle, looking affronted, pins the offending badge on his own damn chest.
Magnus wrenches his eyes away from the cotton candy cart. “You heard Killian. Everybody else was busy. It’s us, or it’s nothing.” He looks into Taako’s eyes. “Do you want that, Taako? Do you want that for Lucretia?”
Taako narrows his eyes. He doesn’t voice his suspicions - that Magnus has spent the last month and a half begging Killian to let them buy the Bureau’s collective birthday present at ‘THE GREATEST FAIR THE WORLD WILL EVER SEE’ - but he thinks them, very pointedly. Magnus appears unmoved.
“Besides,” Magnus continues, “somebody’s gotta protect the kid.”
“Thank you, sir, but I very much doubt that I’ll need your protection! I am both a very capable detective and, thanks to Mr. Taaco’s dedicated tutelage, a competent wizard!”
Angus gives Taako a smile so guileless it can only be filled with hidden guile. Taako feels a headache coming on. Not that he doesn’t like the kid. He does, in the same way you like a distant cousin or that cat, that gross one that lives in the alley and likes to burrow head-first into your trash cans but goddammit if its spots aren't cute. And he definitely understands why Killian sent Angus with them - they need a pair of eyes making sure they don’t blow their whole operations budget on deep-fried fantasy Oreos. Besides, he guesses, who better to have along on a Mystery Present Hunt than the world’s most annoying Mystery Kid.
It’s just - fairs. They set him on edge. They have for a while now.
“Alright,” Magnus, who has somehow acquired cotton candy in the last twenty seconds, says, “what’s the plan?”
“We get in,” Merle growls, “we get the present, we buy the present, and we get some funnel cake.”
“Sirs,” Angus says, clenching his jaw in a way Taako is sure he thinks looks authoritative, “I think before we make any impulsive decisions, we should carefully appraise our choices! After all, it wouldn’t be good-” he says, trailing off slowly under Merle’s funnel cake-fevered gaze, “to hurt the Director’s- feelings-”
Merle shakes his head, sighing. “Kids these days.”
Taako puts a hand to his forehead. “Ango is right, although god help me if I ever say those words again.” Angus’s face is an intriguing mix of crushed and delighted. “We get the wrong present and we’re on the Director and Killian’s very literal Kill Lists for the next eight hundred years.” Merle eyes Angus thoughtfully. Taako hesitates, but - no. Fucking morals. “Listen, as much as I want to, we are not letting a five year old take the fall for us.”
“I’m ten,” Angus says, just quiet enough to ignore.
Magnus finishes licking the rest of the cotton candy off of his fingers. The aesthetics induced headache Taako has been nursing for the last year grows worse. “Alright,” he says in his ‘leader’ voice, “we do this the smart way. The Angus way. We look at everything. We think. We buy the best present possible.”
“And then,” Merle says, sounding a little mollified, “we get funnel cake.”
“A great plan, sir!” Angus says cheerfully. He raises his hand for a high five; Magnus enthusiastically returns it.
Magnus hefts Railsplitter over his shoulder. “We got this!” he grins, earnest, and big, and too honest to face head-on. Taako has to turn away, just for a moment. Magnus doesn't notice.
Taako feels something tug on his skirt. “Sir,” Angus says, his eyes sparkling with suspiciously genuine innocence, “I promise you, this mission will be a success!”
“Too late, kid,” Taako says, ruffling Angus’s curls. “Too late.”
Merle is bored in thirty seconds flat, which is a new record.
“Alright,” the kid is saying, scribbling something down in that tiny notebook Taako got him for half-birthday, “let’s be smart about this! There are five rows in merchant stalls, with sixty stalls between them. There are ten leatherworking stalls, four carpentry stalls - I thought you might like that, sir! - and about ten people selling Outerwear for the Mature Woman, which I thought Madame Director might appreciate, as long as we don’t tell her where we got it from-”
It looks like Angus is just getting warmed up. Merle snorts (too soft for the kid to hear) and wanders over to the nearest stalls. He doesn’t get why they can’t just get something like - like this carved dolphin. It’s cute, and small, and only costs two gold; won’t take up much space in Lucretia’s office, and won’t keep them looking for the whole afternoon. He’d love a wooden dolphin, if anyone ever bothered to ask.
Merle doesn’t really get detective work. Not that he’s stupid - he’s got above mediocre wisdom stats, he was the top of his seminary, he knows all the verses in his Extreme Teen Bible by heart - sure, he uses the hard part of his skull a lot more than the squishy gray stuff, but put him up against any dwarf off the beach and he’ll come out ahead nine times out of ten.
It’s just - the investigative stuff. The twisty clues and the cryptic notes and the Victorian pastiche - it makes him go all cold. He’d take good old intuition over any of Angus’s carefully plotted out metrics any day of the week. Luck, and faith - they haven't let him down yet, and he doubt they will today.
Merle looks up.
And, slowly, he smiles.
Maybe especially today.
Magnus and Taako are bent over Angus’s notebook, nodding with unusually thoughtful expressions as Angus explains why he thinks that the silk merchants are much more likely to have durable scarves than those dealing in cashmere. Merle sidles back to the group, keeping his expression as neutral as he can manage. He’s buzzing with the idea, though, and can’t keep the smirk from curling up the corners of his mouth.
It takes a little charade work to detach Magnus from the group - he motions to the side with his head, Magnus blinks at him, he gestures to the spot next to him, Magnus points at Taako, he mimes it in Dwarvish Sign and Magnus looks incredibly offended - but after an excruciating amount of work Magnus is, as casual as an elephant, at Merle’s side.
“Listen, Magus,” he says, and right now he would be wrapping an arm around Magnus’s broad shoulders if he could reach that high, “we were built for bigger stuff than this. We’re doers, not thinkers. We get down to it. We’re in the action.”
Magnus peers at a stack of stuffed animals. “I’d like to think that I have a certain amount of emotional intelligence.” He raises his voice, yelling so that Angus and Taako can hear him a few stalls down: “Do you think Lucretia would want a giant stuffed dog?” Angus gives him a thumbs down.
“What I’m saying,” Merle says, pulling Magnus away from the display case, “is that we can let Angus and Taako and the rest of those Bureau eggheads deal with their ‘clues’ and their ‘evidence’. Me and you, we’ve got better ways of handling things.”
The look of horror dawns slowly but surely across Magnus’s face, like a befuddled sunset. “You want - you want us to kill Lucretia?”
“What? No,” Merle says. “I mean, we gotta think bigger than clues. Bigger than what Madame Director says she would want. We gotta get her what she really wants.”
The horror only gets more horrified. “You want us to seduce Lucretia?”
Merle pauses for what he’s sure is an uncomfortably long moment, but manages to steer it back. “No, Magnus. I want to get her something money can’t buy. Something- something the woman who has everything would never be able to get. Still not seduction!”
Magnus looks thoughtful. “Her lost youth? The rest of the Relics? The-” If Magnus hesitates, Merle doesn’t catch it. “The Red Robes?”
Merle shakes his head. He points, slowly, towards the signpost. At the very top, above the cheery directions to the Fudge Spectacular, the ‘Catch the Halfling’ games, to the ‘Miss Half-Orc” competition, is the prize. The beauty. The one thing the Director - the one thing no living, thinking being would ever think to have.
“The- the Butter Wyvern?”
Merle smiles in grim satisfaction. “The Butter Wyvern.”
“Why in the world,” asks Magnus, High King of Not Getting the Picture, “would Lucretia want a wyvern that has been carved out of butter?”
Merle gives Magnus a knowing look. “You know the Director. She’s a classy lady. She’s got art. She’s got clothes. Everybody’s gonna look at her and go ‘I know what to get that dame - a jewel, or a golden scepter’. Nobody’s gonna think outside the box. Nobody’s gonna let her know they know who she is inside.”
“You think there’s a butter wyvern inside of Lucretia?” Magnus doesn’t sound entirely convinced.
“It’s a metaphor,” Merle says gravely.
“No,” says Magnus.
“Yes,” says Merle.
“No,” says Magnus, but he’s slipping.
“For Lucretia,” Merle implores, and Magnus crumbles. They’re gone before the other two even think to look.
On the whole, Magnus tries pretty hard not to fuck up.
That’s not to say that he always succeeds. Magnus isn’t the type of person to put on airs about himself: the balance sheet of his life will show a long, long list of good deeds, but more than few bad ones, too. He’s not sure whether or not the Raven Queen will take ‘it was in the name of good’ as an excuse - from the little mythology he’s read, stuff like that usually doesn’t fly - but he doesn’t let it keep him up at night. Instead, every morning he wakes up, and decides that whatever happened that day he’s going to try as hard as he can to make the world a little better, today.
He’s really not sure how he’s going to to justify this one, though.
The Butter Wyvern isn’t the fair’s most popular attraction, despite its primo real estate atop the golden signposts. The bored attendant, a pimpled kender teenager who shrugs off the tickets they try to give her, tells them that the artist does the same thing every year, “and it’s like, the first time it was cool, the second time, great, you’ve got a niche, but now it’s like, it’s been seven years, Aunt Tilda, get a new hobby!”
They see what she means, though. Clearly, the people of Neverwinter have seen more than enough tributes to fermented dairy to last a lifetime. The tent looks as though nobody has set foot in it the entire fair. Aunt Tilda doesn’t seem to be bothered - she’s snoring happily away in the corner, the brim of her straw hat fluttering in time with her raucous snores. It reminds Magnus of Steven, and then his heart hurts, and then he looks away.
And then he sees the wyvern.
The wyvern is. Well. It is certainly a wyvern. Magnus has fought one or two in his day (he - thinks? The thought blinks in and out of his head in half a second, but slips away when he tries to touch on it, and in a heartbeat, it’s gone). The artist has rendered it in loving detail, her devotion to the buttery craft evident in every pointed scale, every pointed tooth, every curve of its tail swishing across the pedestal. Magnus doesn’t know much about art, but he knows without a doubt that this is a masterpiece: it belongs in a museum, or a gallery, or stretched out and screeching through the sky.
It’s just very made out of butter.
“She’ll love it,” Merle says dreamily.
“She’ll certainly feel something,” Magnus says.
Tilda snorts in her sleep.
“Well,” Merle says, looking at Magnus expectantly, as though this was all of his idea and Merle is just along for the ride, “how are we doing this?”
It’s kind of been worrying him that neither of them had paused before now to think, well, maybe it’s not the best idea to steal a semi-beloved salute to milkfat, especially not when their job titles are very technically protecting the citizens enjoying this beloved festival from all forms of nefarious activities, up to and especially including dairy-related crimes. Still, it’s the best bet they have (Magnus thinks? Merle’s logic is worryingly infectious): there’s no way in hell Lucretia is going to like any of the other trinkets Angus and Taako are bickering over, and besides, go big or go home, right? Right.
“We could store it in the pocket workshop?” Magnus says, but can’t keep the creeping (well, at this point, more tapping frantically on his shoulder and waving its arms) doubt out of his voice. “Although - I do keep it at a steady 70 degrees - what? The cold makes my joints sore.”
Merle doesn’t grace that with a response. “What we have to do,” he says, rubbing a hand over his chin, “is figure out how to get the cow - dragon - dragon cow out of here without noticing.” He eyes Magnus’s chest. “How attached are you to that fish, anyway?”
Magnus clutches the fishbowl to his chest, affronted. “No.”
Merle rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine. Coward.” He puts his hands on his hips. “Alright. The way I see it, there’s only one logical way to do this.”
Magnus nods, happy to be on the same page. It’s great to be part of such an in-sync team. “We wake up Aunt Tilda, we offer to pay her an equitable sum for her work, and we give her extra to get it gift wrapped!”
Merle smiles. “Close!”
His solution is as far from close as it’s possible to be.
Three minutes later finds Magnus tentatively creeping up upon the statue, trying to figure out the best way one might throw a butter wyvern over one’s shoulder without breaking it in two. Merle’s logic is the only way to do it is just go for it - that is, cast Blindness on the acne-laden halfling, grab the wyvern, and run as fast as humanly/dwarvenly possible out of the carnival and back to the moon. It isn’t the most elegant plan, he concedes, but it’s what the job calls for.
“Nobody will remember,” he argues, “we can convince that octopus - thing to do its magic erasing trick and they’ll forget that this dumb dragon was here in the first place!”
Magnus eyes the dwarf. “For a magic priest you don’t really get magic, do you.”
Merle ignores him. “Okay, grab the thing and let’s get out of here.”
Magnus, after studying it for a moment, decides that the best solution is to just tackle it from the middle. The classic ‘grab and go’, no bells and whistles, not for Magnus Burnsides. He ducks down, avoiding the wings, and wraps his arms around the wyvern’s base. It stays solidly whole between his arms, and he takes that as a good enough sign to keep going. “Alright,” he says, squatting down and getting ready to lift from the hips, “you ready?”
Merle nods. “Born ready.”
“On three,”Magnus says, “get ready to run- Two-”
He hoists the statue up in the air, and, for a moment, it all seems to be working. Butter is lighter than he’d ever imagined, not that he’s spent a lot of time imagining, and as they dart from the tent and Merle casts a quick, efficient Blindness on the halfling girl, it almost seems like they’re home free. They’ve escaped from worse, much worse than this, they’ll have no trouble avoiding carnies and sundry fairgoers. Grab Taako, grab the kid, they’re back in a cannonball and back to the Bureau in under ten minutes. He’ll make sure to send some money down later to compensate Great Aunt Tilda, and Lucretia will have the best birthday ever, and it will all be perfect, maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after al-
“THIEF,” someone hisses in his ear.
Something hisses in his ear.
“THIEFFFFFFFFFF,” it screeches, and something hard, and big, and - greasy? - knocks him down straight to the ground.
“What the-” he yelps, and, hand immediately going to Railsplitter, looks up.
Above him, the Butter Wyvern towers, its milk chocolate eyes narrowed with the fury of a thousand scorned dairy farmers. “THIEFFFFFF,” it shrieks, its fatty wings snapping back and forth, back and forth. It throws its head back, screaming its scorn to the sky and raking its pale yellow claws - too pointed to be funny - towards the clouds.
The rest of the fairgoers are screaming, frantic; those who haven’t run have drawn back into the stalls, staring between him and the butter monster with expressions of abject horror. Magnus jumps to his feet, moving so that his body blocks the wyvern from the crowd.
“Creature,” he says, keeping his voice calm and rustically hospitable, “my name is Magnus Burnsides. I am very sorry for disturbing you, but I promise, we mean you no harm.”
The wyvern crouches low, and slams its tail into the ground. Its stinger, swishing towards the crowd, lets loose the pungent scent of rotten butter. There’s the distinct sound of someone retching. It might be Merle.
“Punish the thieffffffff,” it hisses, sizzling globs of fat sputtering from its maw. The droplets burn the ground, leaving fist-sized patches of blackened earth. Behind him, Magnus can hear the sound of sobbing, and the distinct scent of fear.
Something is burning inside of him, a familiar, heavy weight that sets his spine straight, his shoulders back, his breathing steady. He draws himself up, and stares head-on into the wyvern’s eyes. He may have caused this, yes - but Gods help him if he’s going to let it continue.
Behind him, he can hear a still-shaky Merle readying a spell. He smiles grimly, clutching his hands around Railsplitter. “Let’s churn some butter.”
“Shut up, Merle, just attack it.”
Merle, to his credit, doesn’t hesitate.
It’s been a pretty good day so far! Most of Angus’s days have been pretty good lately (great, even!) but this one takes the cake, so to speak. He was honored when Mr. Taaco asked him to join in on their birthday quest (even if, from what Angus could tell, Taako was being compelled to under threat of violence by Miss Killian). And Angus has had a great time so far. From seeing the fair to searching for Birthday Clues to getting to spend some quality time with three seasoned heroes, it’s just been a really, really wonderful day.
“Alright, kid,” Taako says, fondling a collection of hand-woven spidersilk scarves disinterestedly, “I don’t need your whole backstory.”
Angus smiles. He knows that, while Mr. Taaco can be abrasive on the surface, even what some might consider rude, or unfeeling, or mean to the point of cruelty, he cherishes and loves Angus! Somewhere! Somewhere deep down! So deep down it might take years to unearth! Angus is looking forward to the journey. “Great joke, sir!” he says encouragingly.
Taako doesn’t appear to hear him. “Hey,” he says, eyeing the shopkeeper - a gnome, currently buried under an avalanche of his own wares which Taako will later claim he had absolutely nothing to do with, “Ango. Hold out your hands.”
Angus instinctively puts his hands in his pockets. He’s fallen for this trick a lot during his tenure at the Bureau of Balance, and while he appreciates a good joke now and then, he doesn’t particularly want to experience whatever fun and new and possibly scarring thing Mr. Taako has cooked up, pardon the pun.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Taako says, rolling his eyes. “I just want you to steal them.”
Angus looks at him, aghast. “Sir, we were sent here on a mission - a mission of truth, of good, and I know you and Mr. Highchurch and Mr. Magnus occasionally play ‘fast and loose’ with basic morality but- on Fair Day-”
Taako has already dumped the scarves around his neck. “Hey, don’t talk to me about morality. You’re the one parading around, wearing your contraband. You’re crazy, Angus. You’re a madman.”
Angus is ready to tear the scarves off and spend the next ten minutes apologizing fervently to the gnome shopkeeper, when something stops him. Something loud. Something furiously. Something - something that sounds like a scream.
“Oh no!” He cranes his neck, turning around and around in an attempt to pinpoint the source of the noise. “Sir, I think there may be trouble afoot!”
Someone screams louder. A short distance away, tents have begun to crumple; there’s the sound of stampeding feet, and a low, furious growl.
Taako is also looking around frantically, but he doesn’t appear to be searching for the noise. “Where did they- Magnus!” he yells into the Stone of Farspeech. “Dwarfman! Where are you?”
Merle’s voice is drowned in static. “We’re - we’re kind of busy right now, can you leave a message?” The growl cuts through the crackle, low, and dark, and menacing, and sounding a lot closer to Merle than to them.
“Sir!” Angus yells into his own Stone. “This is Angus! Angus Mcdonald, from the Bureau! Can you please describe your location and the nature of the creature attacking you! Over!”
There’s a pause. “- Who?”
“Taako! Angus!” Magnus’s voice is a lot more ragged, a lot more pained. “We’re- we’re three rows away - right past the mime tent- Come quick- It’s getting stronger-”
Taako, in what Angus thinks is probably the biggest burst of energy he’s ever seen from him, grabs Angus’s hand (his are so soft!) and starts running through the tents. “What’s getting stronger? What did you two jagweeds do?”
“Listen,” Merle says, sounding as patient as one can when they are apparently being crushed under a ton of something - sloppy? goopy? Angus’s mind races with possibilities, not all of them great- “This isn’t really the time to be placing blame-”
People are streaming past them, shrieking in terror. Taako and Angus rush in the opposite direction, dodging past the kind-hearted, terror-struck people of Neverwinter. Angus vaguely recalls the oath he took upon becoming a detective - I will do good! I will protect! I will not terrify the living daylights out of anybody ever again! and thinks, well, I gave it a good effort!
“Ango,” Taako says softly, “do they all smell- Like popcorn to you?”
Angus sniffs the air. “- Yes! Yes they do!” He looks up at Taako approvingly. “Good observation, sir!”
Taako, silently, points up to the signpost in front of them. The sign at the very top is obscured by some strange, yellow-ish liquid, but Angus can still barely make it out: Butter Wyvern, 200 feet ahead.
In sync, the two of them look up.
There is, in fact, a butter wyvern, two hundred feet ahead.
If one was placing bets on the outcome of the current fight, one would almost invariably want to put their money on ‘giant animated pile of butter’. Magnus is lying in the destroyed aftermath of what used to be a tent, rubbing his bleeding temple. Merle is crouching down low to the ground, trying to keep out of the wyvern’s line of eyesight. It’s swishing its tail, eyes narrowed, a hissing, bubbling sound gurgling low in its throat. One of its wings, at least, is missing - a Magnus production, judging by the thick layer of film clinging to Railsplitter’s blade. That doesn’t seem to deter the creature: if anything, it just looks more furious, more motivated to kill. And kill, and kill, and kill.
“THIEVESSSSSSSSSSSSSS,” it screeches.
“Of fucking course,” Taako says.
The wyvern’s head snaps their way. Taako says a word Angus is pretty sure he isn’t supposed to know.
They dart behind an overturned cart. Taako crushes Angus under his body; Angus, his head pressed against Taako’s chest, feels a beat fluttering against his cheek, fear, fear, fear, fear. Taako is muttering something that sounds like hates this stupid fair hate this stupid Bureau hate that stupid dwarf hate this stupid kid under his breath, although Angus knows he must have misheard that last one.
“Alright,” Taako mumbles, shutting his eyes tight, “can’t explode it, can’t shrink it, can’t dispel it- God, what did you two do?”
“Listen,” Magnus says over the Stone, “Lucretia’s a fancy woman, she needs fancy gifts-”
“Butter is very in this year,” Merle says matter-of-factly.
“THIEVVVVVVVVVVVVVES,” screams the wyvern.
“Oh my god.” Taako puts his head in his hands.
Angus pulls on Taako’s blouse. “Sir,” Angus whispers, “perhaps I can assist-”
“No, kid, you’re staying here,” Taako says, glaring down at Angus. “I have enough babies to take care of, can’t have you to worry about, too.” Something in Angus’s expression makes him stop, and he forces a smile, small, fake-looking: “It’s gonna be fine. Alright? It’s gonna be fine, Ango.” He pushes Angus’s head back down, and whispers into his ear, “I promise. Now, stay down.”
Taako stands up, and hoists the Umbrastaff into the air. Pointing it directly at the wyvern, he yells, as loud as he can: “Hey! Lizard!” The wyvern’s head snaps towards Taako. Its eyes narrow. “Eat this!”
In another life, the Magic Missile he fires at the wyvern’s forehead would have been impressive - heroic, even. It splits the wyvern’s head straight in two, and bubbling hot oil spills from where its brain should be, popping and sputtering across its buttery scales.
For a moment, victory and pride washes over Angus. They’ve done it! They’ve saved the day - not that he ever doubted they could, of course, it’s just that usually victory comes with a lot more screaming and corpses. But not this time!
The ‘great job, sir, I’m very, very proud of you!’ dies, however, in his throat as quickly as it comes.
Because the wyvern is still moving.
Because the wyvern looks angry.
Because the wyvern’s split head has reconstituted itself into two heads, and now four pairs of beady, really angry eyes are staring directly in their direction.
“Well, fuck,” Taako says, and throws them both to the ground.
The wyvern lets out a roar, and smashes its body full-force against the side of the cart. It manages to withstand most of the wyvern’s flailing attack, but a few drops of oil splatter Angus’s wrist, sizzling the skin red and raw. He winces, but bites the inside of his cheek to stop himself from crying out: they’ve all dealt with worse! He can’t let them down! Mr. Taaco certainly wouldn’t let a little thing like this stop him!
He’s surprised, then, to feel something press against his wrist, a cool, silky sensation which numbs the burn. He looks up, eyes wide: Taako finishes tying off the stolen scarf, and gives Angus a wan smile. “So you don’t start crying,” he says, and grips his staff once more. “Merle, Magnus,” he says into his Stone, “you fucknuts ready?”
The other two Reclaimers sound worse for the wear, but give their assent. “Wait here, kid,” Taako repeats. He lets out a long breath, and, without another glance back, races towards the wyvern.
Angus clutches his legs to his chest, and closes his eyes tight. That doesn’t stop the noise, though - he can hear them, the three of them, Magnus, grunting in pain as something rakes across his chest; Merle, calling up a shield to block the three of them and cursing when the wyvern knocks it out of existence; Taako, shooting spell after spell after desperate spell at the creature, his voice getting higher and higher as the wyvern manages to deflect each one.
“What the fuck did you do,” Taako screeches; neither of the other two Reclaimers condescend to answer.
He has to do what Mr. Taaco says, he knows that. Stay here, stay quiet, stay out of the way. It’s not that difficult. His legs are paralyzed, and his heart is frozen over in fear. He wants to be brave - he really does, that’s why he asked Taako to teach him, that’s why he came down with them, that’s why he joined the Bureau - but as the wyvern roars he can’t seem to make his body move.
Taako curses in real, furious pain. Merle yells in frustration, his voice going hoarse. Magnus is quiet.
Angus wants to be brave.
He’s so scared.
Angus has to be brave.
His fingers brush against the stolen scarf.
He stands up.
“Hey!” he yells. His voice is trembling, but he doesn’t notice, and nobody will mention it, later on. “M- Mr. Wyvern! Or- or Miss Wyvern! Or - Hey, wyvern!”
The butter wyvern’s eyes snap towards him. It hisses, lowering dual heads towards the ground, like a bull gone to charge. Its prey is tiny, but that doesn’t matter. It was built to destroy, and it doesn’t matter whether giant or gnome - anything will do.
“Y-yeah!” Angus shouts, planting his feet directly in the ground. “You heard me! You want to get me? Well, c-come on!” Behind the wyvern, a bloodied Taako is making frantic hand gestures, a mixture of ‘YOU FUCKING IDIOT’ and ‘GET OUT OF THE WAY’. Angus, shoving down a feeling of profound guilt, ignores him. He has to do this. He has to.
The wyvern rears its head back. Angus closes his eyes, and tries, as hard as he can, to remember everything Taako has taught him over the last year.
Keep your feet planted. Keep your voice loud. Don’t hesitate, not for a second. You got that, kid?
Angus opens his eyes, and casts Charmed Person.
“Holy shit,” breathes Magnus.
“What the fuck,” says Taako.
“Uh,” says Merle.
“Master,” cooes the dragon.
Angus grins, confused and triumphant.
“I asked you to buy, like, a hand-carved figurine, or a cross-stitch of wildflowers,” Killian says, looking as though she doesn’t quite believe - or desperately doesn’t want to believe - what she’s seeing. “I just- I just wanted wildflowers.”
The Butter Wyvern crouches on the ground, hissing as Avi helps Angus out of the cannonball. Taako looks unbelievably proud. Killian looks like she’s about to quit.
When the Director takes one look at it and breathes, eyes wide with wonder, “It’s beautiful”, she does quit, for about thirty minutes. She doesn’t regret it.