Chapter 1: Bright Purple Glitter
Kravitz has never considered himself a particularly adventurous guy. Even at the relatively young age of 18, he knows his path in life - worshiping the Raven Queen though his music as a traveling bard and cleric. He’s not sure what he wants in a partner, but knows he’ll find them when the time comes. He does know that they’ll be younger than him, since he’s pushing drinking age and his soulmate’s first words to him haven’t appeared. In his dreams, he can never tell if his faceless companion is a woman or a man. Not knowing what that means, he decides to wait. Whoever his soulmate will be, he trusts in the Queen and her partner Istus that they’ll be perfect for him.
The day his words finally do show up is also the first time Kravitz gets drunk, and the last day he wears short sleeves in public for... a long time. He’s midway through a performance at a church of the Raven Queen, dressed impeccably in black pants and a dark grey button-down shirt rolled up to his elbows, as he plays for an audience of fellow devotees. Hearing a gasp from the audience and feeling a tingle on his right forearm, he looks down - nearly dropping his lute in shock.
Standing out starkly from his monochromatic attire and dark skin, a soulmate tattoo spirals up his forearm in a vibrant, shimmery shade of purple. As he stares, entranced, the tattoo seems to glitter, scrawling out a phrase in a large, flamboyantly loopy scrawl and covering his entire forearm from wrist to elbow. A moment later, his eyes widen. Dropping the lute, he scrambles to roll down his sleeve before anyone else can read the words. Thanking the Raven Queen that his skin is too dark to show the blush creeping up his face, the young bard picks up his lute, apologizing to his goddess and audience as he finishes the performance.
After the music ends, Kravitz hides in the back of the church and slowly rolls his sleeve back up, praying to Istus and his Queen that he’d somehow misread the words before. As the tattoo comes back into the light, it sparkles again, standing out sharply against his dark skin - whoever his soulmate was, they certainly like to stand out. Then again… He reads the words on his arm, and feels heat rise to his cheeks again as he traces the words with a finger:
“ Hey thug, what’s your name? I’m about to tentacle your dick!”
In another planar system, a pair of twin elves are born. Seeing one soulmark already formed, their exhausted mother giggles as she reads. One child’s skin is clear, but on the other… Written along the inside of his left forearm, a shimmery black ink in an elegant hand spells out the phrase:
“ Oh, thank the Queen it’s not a sex thing.”
The exhausted elf gives one last laugh, knowing that whatever else her sons do in life, it’ll definitely be interesting. Content in this knowledge, she gives a tired sigh and passes away, leaving them in her father’s care.
14 years later, Kravitz still hasn’t met his soulmate. He’s not terribly surprised, some people met their soulmates while one was still a child but considering his words, he figured he wouldn’t be one of them. The only problem, he thinks, laying in the street as his blood forms a widening pool around him, is that he never expected that he’d never get to meet them at all.
(In two separate planar systems, Istus giggles into her hand, pulling a string from her knitting and setting it aside for a special weave.)
Chapter 2: Eight Losses
Kravitz cries, Raven Queen rants, and Istus giggles in the background.
Oh my god! I was not expecting such a great reaction, thank you all so much! I can't keep up one chapter a day forever, but after the super sweet comments I got last night... I couldn't wait. :)
The first time it happens, Kravitz bursts into his Queen’s throne room in a panic, tears rolling down his cheeks. He’d only been a Reaper in his Queen’s service for a little over a century, and while normally he’s uncomfortable with her familiarity towards him, today he needs her help.
“Kravitz, dear, what’s wrong?”
“Who?” The Raven Queen seems more curious than surprised,as Istus had warned her that Kravitz’s fate was about to get interesting - though she refused to clarify.
Kravitz rolls up the sleeve of his robe, holding his arm out for the Queen’s inspection. Where before was a vibrant, sparkling purple tattoo, now the words are a dark, dull grey. “My soulmate. But… I visited the new arrivals, they’re not there. I don’t…” In this moment, he’s grateful that he doesn’t strictly NEED to breathe, as he begins to hyperventilate. “How can they not be there?”
The Raven Queen furrows her brow. “Istus should have warned me about this… you know how much she likes you. There’s something strange going on, but she knows what she’s doing… I hope.” Leaning back in her throne, she makes a face. Her wife is playing tricks on her favorite servant, and she’s not entirely sure she likes it.
Ten months later, after a fruitless search for his soulmate’s missing spirit, Kravitz wakes up one morning with bright, glittery purple winking up at him from his forearm. There’s nothing in his book about a spirit come back to life, and his Queen is none the wiser. That doesn’t make it any easier when a few years later, it happens again.
The second time it happens, Kravitz just stares at his arm, uncomprehending, as his Queen’s lips tighten in a moue of disapproval. By two deaths and returns, there should be some evidence of this person’s spirit, in the bounty book if nothing else. Tight-lipped as always, Istus smiles as her wife complains, only promising that “It’ll be worth it, in the end,” before returning to her knitting.
Kravitz tries to be patient, tries not to let it affect him when the colors change, but it never gets easier. Over the course of a century, the tattoo fades eight times, always coming back within a year. Each death of his unknown soulmate feels like a knife to the gut, reminding him of his own lonely passing… Until one year, he’s too busy to worry about his soulmate as a massive magical war devastates the land of Faerun. In the chaos, Kravitz and his Queen both fail to notice the quiet appearance of seven new entries in his book.
Chapter 3: Sizzle It Up With Taako
Okay I swear the angst is almost over. Jokes and fluff and flailing ahead! Also, this one's super short, so I'm posting two chapters today :)
Taako Taaco has led an interesting life. From their humble beginnings as the best damned beggar-chef that caravan ever saw, to their current position as the beloved host of “Sizzle it up with Taako!”, this is an elf with style, with panache. They’ve picked themself up by the bedazzled bootstraps and become more than just an elf - they’re a Brand, homie! The success is real! ...maybe they haven’t met their soulmate yet, but who cares? They’ve got time, and the dude sounds like a tight-ass, anyway.
…while normally these would be the thoughts in Taako’s head, at this moment it’s the last thing on the chef’s mind. Shocked, the elven cook stares at their audience, not quite understanding what they’re seeing. The whole crowd, shortly after tasting their famous Thirty Clove Garlic Chicken, had suddenly started getting sick, dropping like flies one after the other. Taako slumped in shock, catching themself on the counter of their portable kitchen. What could have gone wrong? How could this have possibly happened?
As their audience lay dying before them, Taako feels a tug on their arm. Their assistant Sazed pulls them off the stage, Taako stumbling silently after him in their shock before climbing into the stagecoach and fleeing.
Standing in the back of the crowd, Kravitz watches the scene play out, invisible to the mortal eye. Pulling a piece of chicken off of an abandoned plate, he takes a bite, murmuring to himself. “Arsenic? That’s odd.” The androgynous elf on stage didn’t look like a murderer to him, and he’d seen a few in his line of work. Shrugging, he decides that it’s not his problem and settles in to wait. With as much arsenic as there was in that dish… this shouldn’t take long.
As the first people pass, confused and angry, he settles back into the comfort of the job, rubbing his forearm idly as he chivvies new spirits gently towards the astral plane. Something about that elf seemed off, not counting the fact that… Kravitz blushes, muttering to himself again as he guides the last spirit to the Astral “damn, but they were cute.”
Chapter 4: A Candlenights, uh, miracle?
Taako's Candlenights...could be going better.
Taako perspective! Now with 100% more Angus fluff, for reasons.
Note: Taako identifies as nonbinary in this, but does still refer to themself as "cha'boi" which I consider to be less of a gender thing, and more about the Taako Brand (tm). If I missed a pronoun anywhere else... sorry! I think I caught them all.
Can I just say - WOW. I'm shocked and amazed at all of the kudos and the nice comments I've got on this fic. I'm so glad people are enjoying it! It's been hard for me to work up the motivation to write and share my work, but you guys just... *happy tears*
Also, many thanks to @sakinthra for encouraging me to write and post this in the first place, and the McElroys for providing the sandbox to play in. (I'm still screaming over the new art and the latest episode of Amnesty, guys. It's just SO good)
Last thing - I updated twice this morning, so make sure you read chapter 3 as well!
“Hot diggity shit, this is a baller cookie!”
As Taako watches the Director take a bite of her Candlenights macaron, they suppress a shudder of dread. ‘It’s fine, homie. Nothing happened, didn’t use any magic, she’s not gonna die…’ Their thoughts began to run away with them, only settling when, just like all the other members of the Bureau of Balance that they’d shared their macarons with so far… Nothing happened to Madame Director.
Shaking out of their funk, Taako looks over at her again. Well, nothing happened with the macaron, anyway. Judging by the intense conversation going on over that stone of farspeech, shit’s about to go sideways… again. Groaning over the inevitable end of their candlenights party, Taako turns away, trying to catch another minute of festivity before they go fight, fuckin, who the fuck even knows. After shitty train wizards and mad max Nascar bird ladies - what’s cha’boi gonna have to fight next? As they turn, their eye catches on Angus MacDonald, alone in the corner of the room, practicing with the wand Taako had given him earlier - along with threats of death, should the brat tell anyone and ruin their reputation.
They’re not sure why they’re so drawn to the brat. After that mess on the Rockport Limited, Magnus had insisted on getting the kid back to his grandfather’s house. Taako probably should have been more surprised to find out that Old MacDonald was d-e-a-d dead, and Angie-boy was trying to hide it from child services. They’d dragged the tiny detective up to the moon, shoving him at Madame Dee with the rushed explanation that “Fuckin’ bookworm, he’ll fit right in with the rest of your moon nerds.”
…that still didn’t explain why Taako started teaching the little shit magic, and gave him a wand, but… what-the-fuck-ever, kids are cute. It’s not like Ango reminded them of themself, or anything. Dammit.
Distracted in their minor spat of, *shudder* sentimentality, Taako looks back at Angus. Playing in the corner with a wand they hadn’t shown him how to use yet. “Agnes, no!”
Taako sprints over towards the kid, snatching the wand just as Angus manages to push at *least* a spell slot’s worth of random magical energy into the wood. One bright flash later, and the elf starts to pat themself down frantically, patting their face in particular to make sure they hadn’t been magically disfigured or transfigured from that burst of random magic. Turning back to the wide-eyed detective, Taako begins to berate the kid. “Holy shitnuggets, Ango, you gotta be more careful!”
…Or at least they try. Angus’s eyes grow wider as the elf desperately continues to silently shout, his lip-reading skills leaving him reluctantly impressed at the sheer number of expletives Taako’s, uh, not saying.
As all of this goes down, Madame Director, who Magnus keeps calling “Lucretia” for some reason, drags the other dos Horny Bois over towards Taako and Angus. Taako attempts to explain the situation, waving their hands at her to slow down, but Lucretia wants none of it, spouting out something about crystals and a lab and that jackass Lucas.
...So apparently it’s a mad scientist this time. While Taako’s silenced for who-knows how long. Abra-ca-fuck this noise.
Chapter 5: Crystals and Bounties
Taako's not having a great Candlenights so far... but Kravitz's just keeps getting better!
There’s some canon dialogue in the next few chapters from Episode 36-38 of TAZ. I used tazscripts.tumblr.com for the transcript, so many thanks to them for their hard work! And the McElroys, obvi.
Also - I love Merle. Any opinions expressed by characters within... still aren't necessarily wrong :P
“Holy shit.” Kravitz blinks, and suppresses the urge to rub his eyes before looking back at the bounty book. He’d opened it to check on that necromancer and his escapee mother, and stumbled on a goldmine when he checked on the other occupants of the lab. Fifty-seven deaths and no check-in? Not only is that the richest bounty he’s ever come across, but from what he’s seen of this dwarf… he’s a bungling idiot. The Queen only knows how he managed this long, but Kravitz will barely have to try - Merle Highchurch will practically kill himself. Excited over the prospect of the richest bounty he’s ever seen, Kravitz glances over the names of the old cleric’s companions, absently noting that they all have high bounties, albeit smaller than his. He’ll try for them if he gets a chance, though Maureen has to be his top priority. Distractedly, Kravitz closes the book, looking thoughtfully at the tourmaline deathtrap the group is entering. If he’s going to do this… he’s gonna do it with some style. Smirking to himself, he abandons his normal form, zipping through a rift into a pile of crystals.
Stomping angrily after the other two in the hideous abomination they call a null-suit (neon green is NOT Taako’s color, thank-you-very-much), Taako grumbles silently to themself. Luckily, whatever happened, Magic can still hear them even if their companions can’t. Still being able to cast spells is great, and that thunder wave felt BALLER - cha’boi’s a badass, you know it - but it’s just not the same when they can’t properly banter. Bantering is part of the Taako brand, y’know? They’s not really that mad at Ango, but damn if it’s not miserable that they can’t talk. Can’t talk, can’t use transmutation spells because of the stupid pink crystals and the ugly green null-suit… It’s just not Taako’s day. Glaring up at the crystal golem they’ve decided to call Salt for lack of a better name, Taako gives up on yelling and starts making rude hand gestures, throwing rocks and low-level spells in an attempt to distract the big rock from its single-minded attempts to murderkill the fuck out of Merle. The old perv might be a shitty healer, but at least he can summon a sick-ass Della Reese, and friends don’t let friends get smooshed.
“Well, this is hardly fair.” Kravitz laughs to himself, watching the antics of the adventurers he’s caught up to and found frozen to the floor. He’s not sure what’s going on with the elf - though, they do look familiar under the fishbowl. It’s clear that someone silenced the poor bastard…which is a shame, because whatever they’ve been saying? Kravitz bets it’s thoroughly entertaining. Returning his attention to Merle, he winces a bit. He wasn’t intending for Merle to be in that much pain, though chopping the arm off WAS a rather clever solution on the big guy’s part. Looking around, there’s some new figures, and considering nobody’s going anywhere? He pulls out his book and starts to read.
“Well, you two are okay, but the rest of you? It’s time for a one-way trip back to the astral, kids. Happy Candlenights to me, this lab is a veritable buffet of bounties.”
“Uh, Mr. - Mr. Cockney Golem? I feel like maybe you have us mistaken for somebody else. Maybe you have us mistaken for s- we’re from this plane. Um...” Magnus trails off as Kravitz gives him a Look. Merle is squirming inside what’s left of his suit, and Taako is just glaring at him. Apparently without gestures, they’ve given up on banter entirely. Kravitz feels a bit disappointed at this, turning back to the other two.
“Oh, oh, is that right? Have I got- have I got it twisted? Well then. You look like a fine, upstanding gentleman, obviously you’re free to go.” He kind of wishes this crystal body had eyes, just so they could see the epic eye-roll accompanying that statement.
Turning to Merle, he continues in a genuinely curious tone - “I have to know, how in the Queen’s name did you manage to die 57 times without even checking in? I mean, you weren’t even in my book until… holy shit.” Kravitz trails off, looking closely at the elf on the floor as his eyes flick to the number 8 next to the name Taako in the book. While he’s staring at the entry, wondering why he’d never seen it before, Merle wiggles in place - and casts Dispel Magic on the silently fuming elf.
“Fina-fucking-ly, my man Merle! Holy shitnuggets, but Taako does NOT like being silenced!” The elf jumps jubilantly to their feet, snatching the sparkly umbrella from the ground next to them and taking a spellcasting stance. Kravitz grins internally. The elf’s voice is just as cute as the rest of them.
“Wait up? You were silenced? I just thought you were like, you know, angry that we had to stop the party earlier.” Magnus’s voice rings out from his still frozen form… though the glare Taako turns on their companion should be able to melt glass, let alone Magnus.
“Yeah, sure. Obviously cha’boi was just sulking the whole time. Are you shitting me? No. Dammit.” Taako keeps glaring at their friend, then speaks, seemingly to the ceiling. “That was a free action, for the record! Now, though? I’m gonna- I’m gonna cast a spell at this guy. See how he deals with a little magic!”
Turning back towards Kravitz, who’s honestly too amused to mind the delay, Taako points the ridiculous umbrella at his feet and shouts, “Hey, thug, what’s your name? I’m about to tentacle your dick!”
Chapter 6: Death dies laughing
Words are said. Misunderstandings happen. Taako's day... isn't getting better yet.
...whoops. Did I say I was done with the angst? *evil laughter*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Hey, thug, what’s your name? I’m about to tentacle your dick!”
After Taako says this, giggling a bit at their own joke, the room is silent for a few seconds. Pretty quickly, Magnus and Merle start to snicker from their positions on the floor. Carey and Killian also start to giggle, but stop when an ominous silence fills the room, the golem shaking where it stands.
“Uhh, Taako. I think you maybe made him mad?” Carey sounds a little nervous, still frozen to the floor as she is. The silence breaks, chimes filling the air as the golem shakes in place, not saying a word. Soon, though, it becomes apparent that the golem is… laughing? The chiming stops as helpless laughter emerges from the mountain of pink tourmaline in front of Taako. A smooth, cultured voice - no ridiculous cockney to be found - comes from the monster, still shaking with suppressed laughter. “Oh, thank the Queen it’s not a sex thing. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been terrified of this conversation? 240 years of living with tentacle dick-threats, oh my Queen…”
Taako panics and casts Evard’s Black Tentacles as planned, but it only makes the golem - their SOULMATE IS A GOLEM??? That can't be right... - laugh harder, stuck in place as conjured tentacles wrap around its legs and the smooth space between them, attempting to follow up on Taako’s threat. After a minute, a ball of light zips out of the laughing golem and through a rift in the air, leaving the tentacle-wrapped crystal to crash to the ground. Taako stands dumbly in place, umbra-staff hanging limply from their hand as they stare at the pile of crystal.
Grumbling at the elf’s unhelpfulness, Merle dispels the magic on himself, then helps Magnus and the girls, muttering about spell slots. Magnus immediately bounds up to Taako, giving them a massive bear-hug as he grins in excitement. “So, buddy! You met your soulmate! He’s, uh, cute - for a giant rock monster. Didn’t know you swung that way, but I won’t judge.”
Merle smacks Magnus on the leg, as high up as he can reach. “He wants me dead! It’s great that Taako gets a boyfriend and all, but can we do something about him before I become an… an ex-dwarf?” Throughout this exchange, Taako stands silently, still staring at the pile of rocks with an odd, crumpled look on their face.
“Nah, that can’t be right. Naked-ass golem didn’t have a tat, and besides… I’m only 125? …ish? No way I could be that cat’s soulmate even if he wasn’t a funky crystal thing.” Taako shakes their head, shrugging off Magnus’s hug and Merle’s concerned look. Offering a hand up to Carey and Killian, Taako starts stomping toward the airlock Lucas had gone out of. Their next words are harsh, uncharacteristically angry. “Whatever. Cha’boi’s not gonna worry about it. Just a coincidence, got it? Let’s just go take care of that dumbass Lucas so we can go home.” Magnus and Merle exchange worried glances, following along after Taako as the elf rushes in to the next room.
A/N: Taako’s age is confusing even to me… The idea here is that they’ve lost more time than just the century, since they spent so much of their life with Lup. So they’re estimating based on their physical age, and assuming they’re unsure because they spent so much time on the streets and traveling around.
Chapter 7: A chat with Bird Mom
Istus is pleased as punch, as Kravitz takes a page from his Queen's book and preens a bit.
Kravitz re-forms in the Astral plane, absently smoothing his dreadlocks and straightening his waistcoat under the Reaper’s robe. Crystal monsters are fun for a bounty retrieval, but if he’s meeting his soulmate - he’s gotta make a better second impression.
“Eight times… How did I not see that? How did it not show up in the book, before?” Kravitz mutters to himself, then stops. If his soul mate is one of his bounties… He’s not going to kill his soulmate, not after having been through that pain so many times already. Making a face, he turns away from watching the group in the lab. Lucas isn’t going anywhere for at least a few minutes… and Kravitz needs to talk to his Queen.
The Raven Queen sits in her throne room, Istus perched on the arm of her throne as Kravitz walks in. The Queen looks surprised to see him, but Istus greets Kravitz with a grin. “Sooo, they're cute, right? I’m so excited for you two!”
Kravitz gives Istus a panicked look, then turns back to his goddess. “So, I met my soulmate. They’re, uh, they’re in the book now. I don’t know when, but. They’ve got a bounty. What… what do I do?” The Raven Queen gives her wife an annoyed look as Istus giggles beside her, gesturing for Kravitz to hand her the book. He flips it open to the page with Taako, Merle and Magnus, as well as a few others.
“Died without checking into the Astral realm. Multiple times, this matches with what we saw of your mark, but…” she lays a finger on Taako’s entry in the book, reaching out to feel their spirit, then repeats the process with Magnus and Merle. “They’re not necromancers…. You say they acted like they didn’t know, when you confronted them?”
Kravitz nods. “The big one, Magnus was defensive, but… the confusion in his voice was genuine. There’s something weird going on with those three.”
The Queen looks back at Kravitz with one eyebrow raised, but a kind smile on her face. “You just don’t want to have to reap your soulmate, do you? That’s fair. I need to have a,” She turns her gaze on Istus with a glare “long conversation with my wife before I make any final decisions. I’m giving you full leeway on what happens in that lab. Just make sure there’s no more necromancy and get Maureen Miller back in the Stockade before any more spirits get out. I’ll… let you know about those three later.” She hands the book back and waves her Reaper out with a smile, turning to speak to Istus as he shuts the door behind him.
Smirking, Kravitz finishes changing into his best clothes - black on black of course, with a deep amethyst cravat to set it off - and heads towards the portal set up in Lucas's lab. If the group isn’t there already, they will be soon - and while he’s perfectly capable of making his own portal… That mirror certainly makes things easy. (Far too easy, really, but he won't complain about the opportunity for a bit of extra flash this time.)
As Kravitz waits, preparing to make his grand entrance, he glances down at his arm. He rolls up his sleeves with a grin, publicly baring his forearm for the first time in centuries. Taako’s words glitter as always, seeming to light up the room as soon as they’re uncovered. Thinking about the elf they belong to, he tilts his head - Taako hasn’t seemed very glittery so far, the times Kravitz has seen them. “I’ll have to fix that. They’re too cute to stay unhappy.”
Chapter 8: Smash Therapy
Taako works out their frustration on some convenient assholes. Magnus worries about his friend.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Taako… doesn’t know how they feel about the events of the night. On the one hand, they’ve been waiting to meet their soulmate for their entire life. On the other, they finally heard their words and it’s from a goddamned rock monster that’s been trying to kill them and their friends. Like, what the shit? Taako likes to think they’re pretty open-minded, but literal rock doesn’t exactly do it for them, ya dig? Moving towards the airlock, party in tow, Taako opens the door and prepares for whatever bullshit this Candlenights has to throw at them next.
Seeing the robot forms of Magic Brian and Jenkins? Is almost a relief.
Magnus inches back and forth, not entirely sure if he wants to give Taako a hug or back away slowly. Even after the silencing spell (whoops, he really should have noticed that sooner) was lifted, Taako’s been uncharacteristically quiet - ever since the crystal golem said their words, then flew away as a laughing ball of light. Now, Magnus isn’t known for his arcane knowledge, but it seems pretty clear that Taako’s soulmate isn’t *actually* a rock monster. Maybe another wizard? He’s not sure what spell would let a guy turn into a ball of light and possess things but that’s obviously what’s going on. Now, if Taako could just chill out long enough to realize that…
In the meantime? Magnus ducks out of the way of an insanely overpowered Magic Missile, then watches - half horrified, half impressed - as it slams the robot form of Magic Brian THROUGH the nearest wall. The robot body lies twitching on the ground as Taako turns to Jenkins with a manic grin.
“Heyy shitty wizard! It’s good to see you. Taako’s having a REALLY BAD DAY, y’know? But homie, lemme tell you something? This right here is JUST what cha’boi needed.” It’s at that point that the ghost of Magic Brian flies into Jenkins, and as they watch the robot bicker with itself, Taako finally breaks, laughing until there’s tears in their eyes. Carey and Magnus take the opportunity to rip robo-Jenkins apart, then turn towards N03ll3, who’s kind of shaking in the corner. After a much needed conversation about N03ll3’s ghosty origins, Taako is almost back to their normal self.
“Um, Taako - you okay?” Magnus pauses before the last door, turning to his friend. “I know that was possibly the worst ever time to hear your words, but… Istus isn’t cruel. It’ll work out, buddy.” Even as Magnus says this, he pauses, remembering the death of his own soulmate Julia. Even so, he had eight good years with her, and the memory of their time together is what gets him up in the morning. Sometimes soulmates don’t get forever - but it’s always worth it for the time they do have.
Poking his head through the last airlock, Magnus sees Lucas chipping away at a crystal stalactite, a pile of robots and a blue, circular mirror like the ones they’d seen earlier. Glaring at Lucas, he jumps down and over the robots, heading towards the little shit who’d caused most of their problems tonight. It’s time to end this.
....why yes, I might be teasing a Magnus/Julia story at some point in the future. Twist my arm, but I'm really enjoying this 'verse. No promises that it'll be immediate, though.
Chapter 9: Jailbreak
Motherfuckin ghosts, y'all.
Taako reaches the end of their soulmate-related grief cycle - denial, anger... and thirst ;)
Whee! Nice happy chapter, and it's twice as long as any of the others, too!
I'll be out of town this weekend with no internet, so there won't be anything else until Monday. Don't worry though - this fic isn't nearly over. I'm planning to take it through the rest of Balance, albeit more quickly than the show did. I'm running out of backlog though, so I may have to slow down my posts...
As always, thank you guys for the wonderful comments! You keep me motivated, and I love you all.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kravitz peeks out from the mirror, listening to the three interrogate Lucas about what exactly he’s been doing with this portal to the Astral. He already knew the nerd was guilty, but it’s nice to hear a confession. Taako, who had clearly not been listening to a word spoken in the last ten minutes, eventually wanders over from where they’d been carefully inspecting the crystal with the Maureen-bot in it. “Okay, listen, let’s start from page one, okay? Who’s in the stalactite?”
Kravitz smacks his face with his hand, shaking his head with a grin as he decides it’s as good a time as any for a dramatic entry. Letting his human form become visible in the mirror, he grins at Taako. “You guys really aren't that sharp, are you? Still having some trouble figuring this one out, huh?” He throws a flirty wink at the elf to soften the teasing words, watching the three chuckleheads flail as they notice him in the mirror. Oh, by Istus, this was worth the wait after all. He sends her a quick prayer to that effect, and feels a warm, happy presence in the back of his mind in return.
Once they get over their initial surprise, the three react in, by now, predictable ways. Taako gives Kravitz an appreciative once-over, though their eyes stutter and widen as they glance over his exposed soulmark. Merle sticks to one-liners and grumbles about rock monsters, but it’s Magnus who’s the first to really speak up. “Oi! At least one of us knows what’s going on… I think…” He pauses, then continues. “So… You’re Death, aren’t you?”
Kravitz smirks. “Some call me that. Or the Grim Reaper, I’m fond of that one. But my name is Kravitz. I’m a bounty hunter for the Raven Queen. I came to retrieve Maureen after her nerd necromancer of a son broke her out of the Eternal Stockade, but honestly? There’s more people in this lab WITH bounties than without.”
Taako frowns at that, looking confused. “Yeah, you said something about that earlier? When you were, uh, a rock monster. But homie, Taako’s a transmutation wizard. The best transmutation wizard ever, maybe - but cha’boi’s not a necromancer. Neither are Mags or Merle, so… why the bounties?”
Kravitz gives a frustrated sigh, gesturing at three adventurers closest to the mirror. “You’ve all died and come back without checking into the astral plane. You’re supposed to die, go the the astral, have your afterlife. But Taako, you’ve died eight times. It’s in my book, and I…” he winces, putting a hand to his forearm, “I remember when it happened. As for the others? 19, Magnus. And Merle! You’re the richest bounty I’ve ever seen, you died 57 times and never once came to the afterlife. What in the Queen’s name were you three doing for all those years?! For that matter - Magnus are you even human? You look barely thirty!”
As Kravitz works himself into a rant - confusing the hell out of everyone else in the room as he continues - Taako glances behind him. Magnus still has Lucas gripped securely by the scruff of the neck, a dark stain marring the nerd’s pants. Lucas wasn’t causing it, then.. but out of the shining sea of souls behind him, a massive spectral hand was closing in on the oblivious grim reaper. “Hey! Bone daddy, watch your six homie!” Taako makes their decision. Even if tall, dark and spooky isn’t their soul mate (And honestly? They’re kind of hoping he is, because DAMN. All those buttons that the golem didn’t hit? Mashed.), he’s still too attractive to get ghosted by ghosts. Kravitz dodges, but takes a glancing blow and comes flying through the mirror, landing on the ground at Taako’s feet as a stream of ghosts pours in after him and forms into a giant skeleton, encasing the mirror.
The battle goes quickly. Surrounded by robots suddenly come to ‘life,’ the regulators and N03ll3 fight the smaller foes. Merle’s Della Reese cuts deeply into the monster-ghost-thing calling itself Legion as Magnus sneaks around and begins chipping at the mirror. Taako and Kravitz cast spell after spell at Legion, falling quickly into an easy, natural harmony as the pair alternates between wizard and death-cleric spells. Somewhere inside Taako, this feels… familiar. Like they’ve had this before, someone who just… clicked. But they know it can’t be - they’ve always been alone.
(As they have this thought, someone else makes a similar observation. Taako’s too busy casting spells to notice the umbrastaff’s handle warm up as its inhabitant shouts joyful congratulations to her oblivious sibling, and eventually the red-shrouded figure slumps, floating cross-legged above the ‘ground’ of her prison.)
After a few minutes of fruitlessly chipping away at the mass of ghosts, Maureen wakes up and cleans house. Magnus talks her out of the Stone before… eating it? Laughing at Magnus, Taako turns to Kravitz with a complicated, but friendly expression on their face. “So… bounties. You gonna reap me? Cuz I have to say, homie, that might take the record for shortest time between, uh, meeting and parting I’ve ever heard of. For, you know.” Taako gestures awkwardly at Kravitz’s forearm. With the crystals gone, they pull of the glove of their null-suit, rolling the sleeve up to display their own softly shimmering black tattoo.
Kravitz grins, shaking his head. “My Queen gave me some leeway, here. Besides, even She doesn’t know how you died and came back, only that it wasn’t necromancy. I’m here for Maureen, mainly.” Kravitz turns to N03ll3, a complicated look on his face. “You should come with me, too. You’re not supposed to be here either, though I can tell it wasn’t by choice.”
Magnus jumps in front of N03ll3, attempting to shield the massive robot body from Kravitz’s sight. “You said it, though. She didn’t choose this, she didn’t do anything wrong. Could you maybe just… take her back later? 20 years?”
Kravitz smirks. “Please, you haven’t lived twenty years in a stretch in your life, Magnus.” His face softening, he looks at N03ll3. Even as a robot, her body language is nervous, but not combative. “Let’s say… five. Five years to wrap up your loose ends, and then I’ll come get you. More than that and I’ll get in trouble, but you helped me out, here.” With that, Kravitz turns to Lucas, who's sitting on the floor in a puddle of his own piss. “You, nerd. I hate killing living people, and I don’t want to kill you now. But if I find out you’re practicing necromancy again you’re going in the Stockade before you can shit yourself. Got it?” Lucas frantically nods, wide-eyed.
Taako watches the negotiation, smirking at Kravitz’s intimidation of the shaking Lucas. Laughing softly, they nod. “What the hell, might as well get something good out of this shitty Candlenights. Hey, Bone daddy!” Kravitz turns towards Taako, a hopeful look on his face. “I’m… not sure I’m ready to be soulmates. And your timing is a bit wack, so I’m a little… But I’m willing to give it a shot. Gimme your frequency for Stone of Farspeech, and I’ll call you?”
Kravitz’s answering smile is soft and full of joy. “Take all the time you need.”
(Both of them pointedly ignore the quiet cheering of Magnus and Merle in the background, and Merle’s declaration of “I’m gonna call you two Taakitz!” Magnus mutters confusedly about “Twenty years at a stretch? What does that even mean?” But decides not to interrupt the potential lovebirds to ask.)
...Kravitz obliviously spoiling the Stolen Century and confusing the shit out of Tres Horny Bois is my favorite guilty pleasure of this fic. Everyone is so confused, Lucretia you bitch :P
Chapter 10: Late night stone calls
Taako and Kravitz get to know each other, but the road isn't without its bumps.
I'd love to apologize for bringing the angst back... but I'm not actually sorry XD. I was originally planning on having a fluffy end after Crystal Kingdom, but since I'm taking this through the end of Balance now... Well.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Yoooo. You awake, goth boy? Taako’s booooored!”
“Oh my goddess, you would not believe the day I’ve had at work. Why do people keep insisting on becoming Liches? It’s not like anyone can manage it without going insane, anyway!”
“Okay so Ango - he’s the bratling I’ve been graciously sharing my baller magic skills with - managed to cast a level 2 today! Cha’boi’s the best teacher ever, damn right!”
“So, you guys live on the moon. Like, the moon? Why? Not that I’m not glad someone’s getting those relics out of the way. Those wars were… bad. Busy couple of years on my end. But… The moon.”
“With a giant space jellyfish that eats people’s memories, yeah. It’s at least as weird as you think, but at least I have friends here. Mags, and Merle. It’s how I met you… I’ve been alone a long time, you know? Fuck, even that brat Agnes… it’s better than where cha’boi was at before this mess. At least here someone’ll have me.”
“You know… you died too, once. I was just a sprout, but I remember my s…” Taako shakes their head, static ringing in their ears painfully. “Well, someone pointed it out when it went grey for a bit, but then it came back all shimmery. That cuz you’re a Reaper, homie?”
There’s a pause, before Kravitz’s voice comes back over the Stone. “Yeah. It’s.. Yeah. Hey, Taako? I know that we said we’d take it slow, but we’ve been talking for a few weeks now… Can I take you to dinner sometime soon?” The reaper’s smooth voice is hesitant, nervous, and Taako blushes. It’s… probably been long enough, they really should give this a real shot. Smiling, glad that Kravitz can’t see their blush, they answer.
“Yeah, alright bone daddy. Be warned though, cha’boi’s picky about my food. Master chef, yanno?” Looking at the sheet of paper on their bedside table, travel pack by the door, they wince. “Also… Madam Dee’s sending us out again tomorrow. They found another relic, magic time cup or some shit. Usually this doesn’t take long, but… I’ll tell you when we’re back and we can make a date?”
Kravitz’s voice only sounds a little disappointed when he responds. “Yeah, of course. It just means I have more time to find the perfect place, right?”
The next day, Kravitz is in the middle of reaping a soul in Neverwinter, cheerfully interrogating the high-society ghost about the best local restaurants, when he feels a tingling in his forearm. Shoving the surprised ghost through a portal into the astral, Kravitz teleports to his home, blood draining out of his face as he pulls up the sleeve of his uniform. His soulmate tattoo, Taako’s words, are… flickering. There’s no better phrase for it. As he watches, they seem to half grey out again, half of the tattoo staying vibrant. The colors shift from grey to purple and back for a solid hour, seemingly unable to decide whether his soulmate is alive or dead at any given moment.
Kravitz spends that hour on the floor of his living room, staring fixedly at the shifting colors until he's staring past them, seeing only the grey of his arm as it was all those times before. He thinks idly that he should probably show this to his goddess, but he’s not sure his feet would hold him if he tried to stand. Settling into the shock, he doesn’t notice when the tattoo finally settles, bright purple winking up at him solidly. He doesn’t hear his stone of farspeech ring with the special chime he set for Taako, over and over again. He’s still sitting on the floor, staring blankly at his arm as his Stone rings ceaselessly, when Istus rushes into the house and kneels next to the reaper with a worried expression on her face.
The ***** represents time-skips, these are intended to be little snippets of conversation taking place over a month or two after Crystal Kingdom, just to show that they've been talking and getting to know each other.
Chapter 11: The Eleventh Hour
Taako's having a better time than Kravitz - though considering how many times they've died today, that's a low bar. Istus finally stops giggling and starts to participate in the plot.
It makes me so happy that this is the eleventh chapter, it's so great. Dare I say.... fate?
On a less awesome note - I have no backlog left for this fic, so the every-day posting is officially a thing of the past. I will promise to post every Wednesday, and if I build up more chapters I might go back to a faster schedule. I'm guessing this fic has about six more chapters. I do have ideas for more fics in this universe, but it might be a little while. I'm getting ready to start my last semester of grad school, and my group's starting up a new DND campaign, and I'm in the wedding party for my dad's wedding next month - so there's a lot going on right now, haha. I'm writing as much as I can, but it's going to have to slow down so I have time to sleep.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Taako groans, waking up again to stare at the gates of Refuge. Sitting up, they try to reach their boyfriend again on the Stone of Farspeech.
“You know it’s not going to work - it didn’t work the first six times you tried it, why would this be any different?” Merle grouses, picking himself up off the ground to glare at the elf.
“Yeah, well. I’ve got to try, don’t I?” Taako snaps back, frustrated at the Stone’s continued failure to get through. “Krav must be full-on panicking by now!” (At this point in the hour, Kravitz is, in fact, panicking - and trying just as hard as Taako to reach his soulmate on his stone of farspeech.)
Magnus reaches out to give his friend a quick squeeze, before turning towards Roswell to begin the cycle again. Weirdly, this dying and resetting… doesn’t feel as weird as he thinks it should. Like, it’s not *fun* but it’s almost like he’s taking it in stride. Merle, too - and he thinks Taako would be doing better if they weren’t so worried about their soulmate.
Rushing into the hastily-rebuilt temple, the three look around, glancing out the door to see the frozen explosion outside. Sitting on the altar, a lovely woman with flowing white hair sits knitting. As they approach, Istus looks up with a smile. “Well, the three of you are just in time.” She looks first at Magnus, who blushes a bit. Then to Merle… who gives her an appraising once-over. Making a face at the pervy dwarf, she turns at last to Taako, a look of apology in her eyes.
“It’s good to see the three of you. I’ve been waiting for this meeting for… a long time.”
Merle grins, “Let me handle this, guys! Merry Christmas, mighty Ismus!”
Istus grins, shaking her head as she watches Magnus swat Merle upside the back of the head, then interrupt whatever her had planned to say next with “Hail and well-met, milady Fate. But… why did you want to meet us?”
“Well, boys, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, but this town is… sick. The rules of fate aren’t being obeyed so much as being made a mockery of, thanks to the one using that Chalice. The people of this town… They’re being forced to live, and die, the same horrible hour - over and over. And you’re dying too, each time. It’s not just resetting. It’s breaking my rules and those of the Raven Queen and it needs to end. But… since whatever’s wielding the Chalice is letting you remember the loops, we have a chance to fix this.”
“We’re dying for real?” Magnus asks worriedly, glancing at Taako. The elf looks miserable, ears drooping as they grip the Stone of Farspeech around their neck. “That’s, uh, not great. We’ve kind of been asked to stop doing that…”
Istus gives a slight laugh and aims a reassuring smile at the three. “You’ll be alright, as long as you get out on a loop where you survive. I’ll make sure you’re not punished for the additional deaths, and try to help you fix this - but I need something from you in return.”
Magnus covers Merle’s mouth with a hand before the dwarf can protest and bows lightly to the goddess. “What is it you could need from us, my lady? We’re just adventurers.” As he speaks, Taako finally shakes off their funk and speaks up as well.
“Yeah, what do you need, homie? Taako’ll do whatever, I gotta get out of here ASAP.”
Istus pauses, watching the three for a second before she starts to explain. “You three aren’t just adventurers. You’ve been helping fix the fate of this world by collecting the Relics, and you’ve been serving as my agents for… so much longer than you could remember or believe - fighting against those who would defy the rules of Fate. You’re all so special, more than you know - each one of a kind, with the kind of destiny that transverses whole universes.”
Taako stares blankly at the goddess. “Uh, what? You know what, whatever. Seriously, what do you want us to do?” The goddess shakes her head. She knows exactly what’s wrong with the elf, and doesn’t hold their bluntness against them.
“I want you three to make it official. Become my emissaries. Keep pursuing Fate’s work, protecting the Relics from people who would cause problems like,” she gestures towards the town beyond her temple doors, “this. Or… Phandalin. And after that… you’ll know what to do. If you agree, I will help you - I cannot act directly here on the Material Plane, but I can provide you with tools to aid your way.”
Taako nods as Magnus gives another bow. Merle, having glared the big human into submission, bows as well. “I mean, I would like to - sounds like a sweet gig, but I’m kind of a taken man, if you know what I mean?” He waves his soulwood arm at the goddess.
“What, Pan? He’s cool with it, I promise. We’re friends - I wouldn’t just snipe his follower without asking, but that’s not a problem anyway. We’re big gods, we can share.” Istus gives Merle a wink, and the soulwood arm grows a flower in a silvery blue just a shade darker than her hair. Shrugging, the dwarf picks it and hands it to her and the goddess tucks it behind her ear with a grin.
“Well, that’s settled then.” With that, Istus pulls out a new color of thread, adding it into the weave of the scarf she’s been knitting. As she works, three pendants appear - symbols of Istus. “These will place my blessing upon you - and indicate to any other celestial powers that you’re working under my auspices”
Continuing to knit, she materializes a glass ball for Merle, explaining that it will send him back in time by 9 seconds when smashed. A Bag of necessity for Taako (they immediately start trying to pick the lock), and finally a Chance Lance, made from the long hand of her temple’s clocktower, which she gifts to Magnus. “Alright, you three. We’re out of time now… but I’ll see you all again. And in the future - when a terrible decision stands before you, I will give you the time to make your choices. Now, go! I’m so happy for all of you, you’re going to be amazing!”
As Istus begins to fade out before them, Taako suddenly shouts out, stopping her. “Istus! You… can you tell me if my soulmate is going to be alright after this? I’m really worried about him.”
At Taako’s words, Istus’s eyes widen slightly, and a chagrined expression crosses her face. “Oh, damn. Kravitz… I’ll take care of him Taako, he’ll be alright. Just fix this town!”
With those semi-comforting words, she fades out the rest of the way, and the last thing the three see before returning to the white space between loops, is the temple of Istus crumbling around them.
...Istus may be sleeping on the couch for a while after this one. She doesn't *want* to be mean to Krav and Taako, it's just... the way things have to be. Doesn't mean RQ's going to be pleased that Istus basically broke her favorite Reaper. XD
Istus gets cried on a lot. The rest of the Eleventh Hour is conveniently skipped. Kravitz isn't okay, but elf snuggles help a lot.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Istus watches as the Tres Horny Bois are swallowed by the firestorm of Refuge. As soon as she sees them disappear in the flash of light that signifies the time loop, she carefully puts her needles down, tucking the scarf of fate into a pocket dimension before cursing a blue streak, teleporting to her wife’s throne room.
“Heey, honey. How’s, uh, how’s Kravitz?”
The Raven Queen’s glare hits Istus like a physical force, as she turns away from a floor-length mirror mounted behind her throne. Gesturing sharply at the mirror, she bites out “See for yourself, *darling*. You broke him. You fucking…” Istus hurries over, catching her wife as the queen silently shakes, sobbing in sympathy with the reaper she thinks of as a son. Glancing at the mirror, Istus winces. This… this is a bit worse than even she was expecting - Kravitz sits on the floor of his own living room, staring blankly at his arm in a clear state of dissociation. Deepening the scrying spell on the mirror, she can hear his Stone of Farspeech ringing - but it’s obvious that he can’t. Giving her wife a squeeze, Istus guides her to sit on the throne.
“I’m sorry, baby. I’ll fix this. I… I knew they had a hard road ahead, but this is too much. What kind of goddess am I if I can’t ease the path of Fate a bit, for my favorites?” With an apologetic smile for her wife, she teleports into Kravitz’s living room, kneeling next to the reaper in an elegant puddle of white fabric. Leaning over Kravitz, she cups his face in her hands, raising his head to look at her.
“Kravitz! Krav. Oh baby, oh child, Taako’s okay. You’re okay. You’re both going to be fine. They’re calling you, see?” Kravitz’s eyes are glazed over, but he slowly begins to focus on the sound of her voice, blinking up at the goddess’s panicked face.
“Milady Istus? What…” Kravitz swims slowly back to normal consciousness, looking confusedly up at her before suddenly mirroring her panicked expression. “Taako! They… It was like before, but… Just. Constant. How could they be alive and dead at the same time? How could they…” Kravitz stares down at his arm, breathing a sigh of relief at the bright, steady purple twinkling up at him. “Taako’s okay? Really?”
Istus smiles at Kravitz, pulling him into a hug not unlike the one she’d just given her wife. “They’re okay. They’ve been trying to call you since they figured out what was going on. As soon as they met me, they wanted to make sure you were okay. It was… Well. Taako and their friends were taking care of something I needed help with. They saved the fate of an entire town today, and all your elf cared about was getting back to you.”
Kravitz blinks, a hint of a smile crossing his face as his eyes light up. “Really? Taako… Taako cares that much? I mean, we haven’t even managed a real date yet. I thought they didn’t… didn’t want me.”
Istus grimaces. “Okay, no. This has gone too far.” Grabbing Kravitz’s Stone of Farspeech from the floor next to him, she uses it to call Taako. Before the elf can do more than pick up, she interrupts them. “Taako, sweetie? This is Istus. Go through the portal, okay?”
Taako’s voice can be heard faintly from the other side - “What? Why, where’s Kravitz, Fate Lady? - “ before it’s cut off with a noise of understanding, as the godddess gestures at the opposite wall of Kravitz’s living room, opening a rift right in front of the startled elf and his friends.
“Oh god.” Taako sounds stunned, seeing their mess of a boyfriend next to Istus on the floor. Rushing through the portal, they call out over their shoulder - “Take the stupid time cup back to Madame Dee, homies! Taako’s got a grim reaper to cuddle!” As the portal snaps shut behind them, Magnus and Merle can be seen staring dumbfounded at the divine portal that their third member just jumped through.
Kravitz looks up as Taako - blessedly alive, thank the Queen - bursts through Istus’s portal. The elf is clearly coming straight from a mission - their black denim shorts and purple crop top are smudged with reddish dirt, the massive pointed wizard’s hat and manta ray cloak slightly singed and showing more signs of the same red dirt. Taako doesn’t seem to care about their appearance for onece though, practically flying across the room to tuck themself into Kravitz’s side.
Taako glares up at Istus, pulling Kravitz into their side as they look at the goddess. “Do you have to keep hurting him? Hasn’t he - haven’t we been through enough?”
There’s tears in her eyes as Istus responds. “Yes, Taako. This is… Things have to play out a certain way, but I do have wiggle room. You two have hurt enough, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure you can be happy from now on. It’s the least I can do, for all you’ve done for me.” Giving one last smile at the two, she leaves the room. She has her own significant other to comfort, now that Taako has Kravitz well in hand… as well as some grovelling to do.
...I promise, the next chapter will be full of deep and meaningful conversations. Probably.
Chapter 13: Worth it
Taako and Kravitz get drunk, snuggle a lot, and say the thing. Kravitz has his first real kiss.
Aaaah I'm so sorry I missed updating last week! I had a nasty cold that had me knocked out for most of last week, and I started classes for my last semester of my master's degree, and then my Dad got married on Saturday so... things have been kind of nuts. But I'm here, and alive, and I promise it's not abandoned, lol.
I don't know if I can promise another chapter by this Wednesday, but I didn't want to make you wait the extra couple of days this time :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For a long time, they don’t say anything. Taako glances down at the man in their arms, Kravitz looking back with tears in his eyes. He’s still shaken, though the color is slowly returning to his cheeks as he drinks in the sight of the elf, whole and unharmed. After a few minutes of this, Taako grins.
“Gee, Bone Daddy - if you wanted to see me that badly, you could have just asked!” Their tone is joking, but it’s ruined by the wet shine in their eyes and the slightly watery thickness of their voice. Smiling softly, they continue in a more serious tone: “I tried to call you, let you know what was happening. I know you worry about me dying, even though I PROMISE I never have before. But… This time was real, and I know it must have hurt you. I’m sorry.”
Kravitz clutches the elf tighter, silent for a long moment before he responds. “It was… worse than the other times. The tattoo just kept flashing grey, it was like… I felt you dead and alive at the same time, so many times. I don’t… How is that even possible? I don’t know how long it went on for, before… Did Istus bring you here or was I dreaming that?”
“Istus brought me, babe. And it was an hour - we were stuck in a loop, redoing the same hour until we could break it without dying. Istus couldn’t do it herself, it was another of those stupid damned Relics. But she helped us get out, and she came to check on you, so I guess I’m not quite as mad as I could be. Awesome as I am, even Taako can’t tell the gods how to do their business, yanno?” Taako’s voice perks up at the end of their explanation, returning to something resembling their normal inflection. Looking down at Kravitz’s face, they decide not to explain more than that, at least not now. He doesn’t need to know about cave-ins and explosions and everything else that’s happened today.
“Okay, bone boy. Off the floor! I don’t care if you are a skeleton, it’s bad for your joints.” Taako hops to their feet, grabbing their boyfriend by the hands and pulling Kravitz up with them. The Reaper is still quiet, pliable, but there’s a small smile on his face as Taako sets him down on the couch properly and bounces off in the direction of the kitchen. “You better have some good booze in here, babe! Cuz what we need right now is to get shit-faaaaced!” Taako grins triumphantly as they lift a bottle of wine out of Kravitz’s cupboard, hearing a small laugh from the living room as they fill the Reaper’s house with as much life and color as they can.
“I’m not literally a skeleton, Taako!”
A few hours later, the pair sits snuggled on Kravitz’s couch. There’s empty wine bottles on the table in front of it, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. Kravitz glances down at his lap, where Taako’s curled up around yet another bottle, half asleep and literally purring. The constant reassurance that his elf is here, safe, settles something in Kravitz’s chest. His head is floating from the copious amounts of alcohol, and the knot in his heart that tightened when he saw his mark change, loosens once again. It’s not gone - it’s been there since the first time his tattoo greyed out, but… it’s looser than it ever has been. He smiles down at Taako, smoothing the elf’s golden hair and planting a kiss to the top of their head.
As he kisses Taako’s hair, Kravitz feels a movement from his soulmate as Taako smiles into his stomach. Less asleep than Kravitz had thought, then. Taako shifts, sitting up to smile properly at their boyfriend. “That’s not a kiss, silly. Let Taako show you how it’s done.”
With an impish smile, the elf leans up, wrapping their arms around Kravitz’s neck as they draw him into a deep, slow kiss. As their lips move against one another’s, Taako’s soft and pouty while Kravitz’s are slightly chapped, it doesn’t feel like what he expected. He’d always heard that kisses were passionate, and wild. Tongues battling for dominance, or… something. This feels comfortable. Taako’s normal wild energy is transformed into focus, soft, purposeful movements as the elf smiles against his mouth. The kiss feels - comfortable, sweet. Like coming home, and Kravitz drowns in its reassurance.
Taako pulls back, looking Kravitz in the eyes with a soft smile. There’s something like fear in their eyes, but they wave off his look of concern. “You know… Cha’boi Taako’s always been alone. I haven’t really… The last person I thought I cared about left me in the end, so it’s… not easy to say this. But you’re special. I think… I think I…” Taako begins to stutter, the words they struggle to speak shining through their eyes in a clear declaration. Kravitz pulls them closer for another kiss.
“I’m glad. But you don’t have to say it yet. We’ve got all the time in the world, now. I love you. No strings, I don’t need to hear it until you want to say it, but it’s been true for as long as I can remember. I loved the idea of you, I mourned you all those times - but now you’re here and I love you more than ever. I won’t ever leave you, not if I can help it.”
Taako stares, tears streaming down their cheeks at Kravitz’s words. “That’s… I’ve never… Oh gods, I love you too.” Burying their face in the reaper’s chest, Taako clings to their boyfriend, joyful and nervous at the same time as they realize the truth of what they just said. Kravitz just smiles down at his soulmate, feeling Taako’s heart beat faster against his chest as he plays with the elf’s braid. Today was… bad, but if this is his reward? The pain was worth it.
I've never tried to write a kissing scene, and my romantic history is... sparse. Apologies if this is really terrible.
Chapter 14: Date Night
Date night on the moon
Ahhh sorry this is late! Have some fluff!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I’m sorry… the what and what?” Kravitz’s voice is incredulous as he raises an eyebrow at his partner.
“Chug N’ Squeeze! It’s this fun little joint on the moon, like, you drink wine and make pottery. Come on, homie! It’ll be fun!” Taako’s practically bouncing with anticipation. They know this is outside of Kravitz’s comfort zone, but they also know he’ll have fun letting loose a bit. ….and if maybe it’s fun to see him flustered, too? Win-win!
“I was going to take you somewhere a bit more…. Well, more than that. For a date.” Kravitz mourns the plans he had for opera and five-star restaurants. All that time interrogating rich ghosts, and for what? The… chug and squeeze. He can’t say it doesn’t sound a bit fun, though.
Taako bounces up to their boyfriend, looping their arms around Kravitz’s neck and drawing him into a kiss. “You wanna go fancy? That’s okay too… but I thought maybe we could use a chance to unwind after the stress we’ve had. We’ll have all the time in the world for glamour and romance. What cha’boi needs now is something fun. Maybe afterwards you can meet the boys without all that crystal bullshit.”
Lips twitching, Kravitz tugs his partner in closer, ending the kiss as he holds Taako close. It’s reassuring, to see them, feel their heartbeat. He’s lost them so many times that he can’t help but want to keep them near forever. “Alright. Let’s go get drunk and make a pot, then. But next time, I get to pick the date - and you’d better have something fancy in that never-ending wardrobe of yours.”
Taako grins. “It’s a deal, Bone Daddy!” They grabs Kravitz by the wrist, dragging him to a large, open courtyard as they activate their bracer. As the round capsule crashes to the ground in front of them, Taako glances over at their boyfriend. As they’d hoped, Kravitz looks disturbed as all hell.
“We have to get in that? You know I can get us up there with a rift, right?”
“Yeah, and cha’boi can teleport. But what’s the fun in that? It’s all part of the” Taako waggles their fingers with a grin “experience.”
The ride is just as absurd as Kravitz had feared, but soon enough, they’re landing in a hangar on Taako’s moonbase. He stifles a grin and tries to look innocent and nonthreatening as Taako charms them both past the mildly drunk capsule operator (and wow, does that explain a lot about the ride), and soon enough, they’re crossing a grassy courtyard towards a violently neon building. Apparently Taako wasn’t just yanking his chain - someone really did decide to name their business the “Chug N’ Squeeze.”
A couple of hours later, they’re both thoroughly tipsy - though not as drunk as they’d been a few days before in Kravitz’s apartment. Taako is clinging to Kravitz’s arm with one hand, gesticulating wildly with their umbrella as they give Kravitz “the grand tour! I mean, it’s not every day you get to visit the moon! Unless you work here.” Kravitz adjusts the slightly wonky pots in the crook of his other arm and grins indulgently at the elf.
There aren’t too many other people out and about, but those they pass smile and laugh as Taako passes by. They’re stopped once by an orc woman, but Taako manages to convince her that Kravitz is allowed to be here. “It’s fiiiine, Killian. Not like he’s a dog, yeah?” For some reason, this makes both of them laugh, before Killian shakes her head and allows her dragonborn girlfriend to drag her off.
Eventually, the two make it down to the very bottom of the moon base, where Taako throws off their cloak and hat, which land… not neatly, exactly, but they make it onto the stand by the door. There’s a multitude of throw rugs in the middle of the room. “There’s a window there, yeah? But like… It’s REALLY far down and Mags wasn’t taking it too well, so rugs it is.” Glancing around, it’s clear that the other two aren’t home, so Taako pulls Kravitz down onto the couch, umbrella leaning up against their legs as they snuggle. “You showed my your home, it’s only fair you see mine, yeah? Dunno where the other two are at, but they’ll be back eventually.”
But by the time Magnus stumbles in, covered in sweat and dressed like a small child’s idea of what a ninja should look like, Taako and Kravitz are both fast asleep, curled up next to each other on the couch. The big fighter take a moment to ‘aww’ at the scene, then quietly lays a blanket over the sleeping couple.
So, in canon this date was actually super profound and really important to their relationship, and to Taako's character development. But my taakitz is a but further along - they've been talking via stone of farspeech like, every night since they met. So I'm saying that that conversation has already happened, and this date was just Taako trying to get Kravitz to unwind.
Chapter 15: The Suffering NOPE (Part 1)
Taako and the boys head to Wonderland, with one overbearing boyfriend in tow.
*slinks in sheepishly with a new chapter*
Ughhh guys I'm so sorry. I have literally no good excuse for this delay, just writer's block and a busy month. Thank you to @Sakinthra for lighting a fire under my ass to get back to writing. I have the rest of this story sketched out in summary, so it definitely won't be another wait this long again. Fairly short chapter, but I wanted to get SOMETHING published. Y'all have waited long enough.
Kravitz is in the middle of a job when Taako calls. Hand wrapped around the arm of a fat, stubborn ghost, he’s tugging the reluctant man towards a portal to the Astral when suddenly the ghost pauses, a confused look on his face. “Is that… the theme song from that old cooking show? I used to love that show!”
Kravitz thanks the Queen he’s currently in his skeletal form, so the annoying soul can’t see him roll his eyes. “Yeah, me too. Now get.” He takes advantage of the distraction to kick the guy through the portal, fading back into his normal form as he answers the stone with a smile. “Taako, I’m at work. What’s up?”
“Yeah, bone daddy, me too. But I know you wanted me to let you know when we go after another of these stupid relics. This one’s actually like, right up your alley - some kind of wacky necromancy bell. Cool, right?” Taako sounds cheerful, but the reaper is pretty good at understanding his partner’s tone of voice by now, and the elf sounds a little bit worried.
“Necromancy? Taako, that’s not a joking matter. Are you saying there’s a necromantic Grand Relic that’s just been… out there? Where anyone can get to it??” Kravitz’s eyes widen and he snaps back to ‘work mode’ immediately.
“Nah, babe, it’s not jut laying around. Some jokers sent us a flyer, we have to play through their game to get it. Madame Dee sounds pretty freaked, but cha’boi’s not too worried. We’re kind of badasses, you know?”
“Taako, I know you don’t know how to feel about the Director, but she seems kind of unflappable. If she’s worried, I’m worried - especially since necromancy’s involved. Where are you going?” Kravitz glares at the stone of farspeech, willing his partner to be serious, for once.
“What? Babe I can’t hear you, we’re getting in the bubble now. I’ll call you when we finish up at Wonderland, yeah?” Taako’s voice sounds kind of far-off, other voices in the background as they load into the travel ball. Shortly after that, the call cuts out. Kravitz stares at the stone in his hand, blinking for a second.
“Did they say.. Fucking Wonderland?!” Kravitz groans. He considers heading back to the Astral to check in, but his worry for Taako overrides it. Wonderland’s been on his radar for a few years now as a suspected lich nest, and there’s no way in hell he’s letting his soulmate go in there unprepared. Casting an illusion over himself so that he’s not recognizable as a reaper, Kravitz collapses his scythe into a full-finger ring and uses the point to tear a portal to the Felicity Wilds. He won’t be sitting at home worrying this time - he’s got a soulmate to save.
Taako sighs, glancing down at their stone of farspeech. There’s not really enough time to call Kravitz back, but they didn’t like leaving their short conversation where they did. Shrugging, they look around. The path they’re walking down, following Little Lord Tootles or whatever his name is, is lined in billboards. Mostly of the bell, but out of the corner of their eye they see a couple further back, in a bright purple with the logo for Sizzle it Up with Taako. Taako grimaces, pointedly ignoring those and focusing on the stupid bell as Magnus dashes ahead of them down the path.
Reaching the building, Taako looks up at the door. It’s labeled with the names of the little noble brat and his two bodyguards, and as the friendly mercs walk through the door, they disappear into blackness. As soon as they go through, a new door starts to appear, but before it can fully form it seems to shudder, the three names above the door wavering as a fourth appears.
“Babe?” Taako spins around, looking behind them to the path. They see a dark figure, stepping off the path into the clearing behind them. Kravitz lowers his hood, glaring at the building for a second before he smiles at Taako.
“Taako, I love you and respect your skills, but if you think I’m letting you go in there without me you’re nuts.” Glancing at the other two, he continues, “You guys know this is a massive trap, right?”
All three of them nod, and Magnus shrugs. “Yeah, but we gotta get that bell. You’re welcome to join us, as long as you’re not… you know… trying to kill us this time.” Merle rubs his arm, glaring lightly at Kravitz as Magnus speaks.
“Yeah, I did apologize for that. Don’t worry, that’s taken care of, I don’t need to collect any time soon.”
As the four of them stand around, Taako notices a flashing light in the corner of their eye. The panel above that black door, now with all four of their names, is flashing in a rainbow of colors. Floating next to the door, there’s a new sign with the phrase, ‘Get on with it!’ written in Fantasy Comic Sans.
“Oh look homies! The blatant trap is getting impatient, isn’t that fun. Are we sure we need this stupid bell?” Kravitz nods his agreement with Taako’s outburst, but Magnus squares his shoulders, grabbing Merle by the collar and Taako by the sleeve, and dragging the rest of the group through the portal as he rushes in.
Chapter 16: The Suffering NOPE, Part 2
Kravitz is sick and damn tired of these motherfucking liches on his motherfucking material plane.
Wheee I'm not dead!
The room beyond the door is pitch black, as dark as the door inside had been. Magnus drags Taako and Merle in behind him, Kravitz still holding onto Taako’s other arm as he’s pulled in as well. Taako, hissing like a wet cat, smacks Magnus’s hand away as they move closer to their boyfriend. “This place looks pretty…”
As Taako starts to talk, bright lights suddenly appear, a rainbow of colors and glitter filling the room as a stage rises from the center of the room. Two elves, dressed in bright gold couture, begin to vogue down the runway as music fills the room.
“…awesome!” Taako’s voice rises excitedly as the show begins, pulling Kravitz closer to the stage as they clap excitedly. “Oh, I wasn’t looking forward to this but I kind of am now!”
The two elves laugh, standing at the end of the podium closest to the group.Alternating between the two, they begin to speak: “Oh, wonderful! We’re SO glad you’re having fun. Welcome to Wonderland!” “Oh, yes, this will be an unforgettable adventure, we promise you!” “Now, the rules of the game are simple - you’ll be put through a series of games and tests, to determine how much you want your prize!” “If you make it through to the end, you’ll leave happy!” “But if you cheat, or try to break the rules, you won’t leave… happy.” “Well, if you have any questions, that’s just too bad. Let’s go!” After the barrage of cheerful instructions, both elves raise their hands in the air, and with a snap, they disappear. The podium is replaced with a large wheel, a door next to it with four red lights above it.
As the ‘elves’ explain the game, Kravitz narrows his eyes, looking around the room. He can tell that this whole place is an illusion made from necrotic energy. The hosts are, as he suspected, a pair of liches - but he can feel four in the area. It’s the other two that worry him, if they haven’t shown themselves yet.
Kravitz watches the three play the wheel, Magnus losing a finger and Merle’s eyes losing some of their sharpness. When Taako draws ‘bad luck,’ Kravitz’s eyes narrow. As the game continues, he watches the flow of necrotic energy around them, judging that it’s definitely the two hosts causing the damage. As the three adventurers complain, more necrotic energy is produced, feeding back into the surrounding area. With a sigh, he moves to take his own turn at the wheel. As much as he’d like to just shut this down before Taako’s spin comes back to bite them, he needs more information before he goes up against four liches at once.
Spinning the wheel, Kravitz lands on the clock. As the mocking voices of the liches explain that they’re taking away twenty years of his ‘life,’ he carefully adjusts his glamour to match what the two would expect. Even in a human form, it’s not as if he actually ages anymore - in twenty years he’ll look exactly the same as he does now.
As the game continues, Merle chooses “trust” in the decision game, despite Kravitz’s explanation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma and why they need to always choose “forsake.” The fight is going surprisingly well, magically conjured slimes and electric bears doing less damage than they might have with Kravitz helping to buff and shield the party.
When a chunk of the ceiling falls on Taako, causing the elf to blink into the ethereal plane to escape, Kravitz loses his patience. With a scream of rage, he emits a wave of radiant energy, channeling both his own powers and those of the Raven Queen. It’s enough to kill the monsters, but he looks nervously at his hand afterwards. “Merle, cast a spell.”
Merle looks oddly at the Reaper, but attempts a healing spell on the battered Taako. Not only does it get them yelled at, but… “Well, shit. Is this a Wonderland thing?”
Kravitz shakes his head. “I know what’s going on with these two. They’re strong for what they are, but not enough to block a celestial connection. This is something else - we need to get out of here and find out what’s happening.”
As Kravitz and Merle attempt to reach their respective deities, the liches reappear. “Ooh, got a little Death cleric, do we? Thinks he knows what we are, what we’re doing? Well then… I suppose we should up the difficulty!” The male lich glares at Kravitz, then blows a kiss to the group. As his disappears, a door fades into the wall behind him.
As the group moves towards the next door, a voice comes out from beneath the Monster Factory. “Oh shit, guys. You’re gonna get your asses kicked!”
“Five of you! Well, isn’t that interesting!” As the ‘hosts’ of Wonderland appear again, the room shifts from the unfortunately familiar wheel, to what looks like some sort of game show. The four… and a quarter adventurers are strapped to chairs, trapped in place as the sadistic hosts put on some sort of dramatic dating game.
Now in a more open area than the wheel room, Kravitz takes another look around, ignoring the rules for whatever the new torture is. Partially hidden behind a curtain, there! A flash of red, and Kravitz catches a glimpse of what must be the third lich. Unlike the other two, this Lich seems to be in its base form, a vaguely pudgy male figure floating a few inches above the ground. As the lich looks back at Kravitz, the glowing hollows that form its eyes widen, and it holds a finger to its lips. Kravitz glares at the lich, and the red robed figure floats a little closer, hiding behind Magnus’s bulk to keep out of the eyes of the main two.
“What…?” The reaper whispers to himself in confusion, but just as he’s about to speak up and ask about this third lich, the red robed figure starts tapping desperately on Magnus’s hand in thieves’ cant. Magnus shifts his eyes towards Kravitz and… gives a tiny nod? Kravitz shakes his head at Magnus, and the lich seems to slump, looking pleadingly back at Kravitz. Rolling his eyes, Kravitz opens a hand and presents it flat to the lich, tracing the sign for “TALK” on his leg.
“FRIEND NO HARM TRAP” Kravitz feels the lich into his hand. Rolling his eyes in time with one of Taako’s jokes, he returns:
“ENEMY UNDEAD” The lich looks almost pleadingly at him.
“NO HARM NOT ENEMY. MUTUAL ENEMY TRAP.” With this, the lich pulls a little bit of necrotic energy away from Taako’s latest complaints, diverting it from the two on stage. Sending a small shot of necrotic energy towards Kravitz,the reaper flinches a bit, then realizes the bonds holding him to his chair are gone. Kravitz sighs.
“TRUCE. MUTUAL ENEMY.” All of his training tells him this is a terrible idea, but something in his gut is telling him to trust the lich, at least for now. Magnus, watching their conversation from the corner of his eye, gives Kravitz an encouraging nod.
Chapter 17: A/N
Not a chapter! Just a quick heads-up that I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, and my other project is stealing all of my inspiration from this for the time being. I'll be back in December. Sorry! I love you all and I promise it's not abandoned. Just.. on hiatus for a few more weeks.
Chapter 18: A/N: Coming soon: more words!
Coming soon to "Oh, thank the Queen it's not a sex thing!" -
The Author rises out of the muck to throw a chapter at y'all and hopes it's okay
This isn't a chapter just yet, I just wanted to apologize for this hiatus going Much Longer Than Expected. After NaNo ended, I got caught up in finals and graduation (whee, I'm a broke-ass adult instead of a broke-ass grad student now), and then I had some family and work drama that's kind of pushed fanfic to the back-burner.
I love this fic and I hate it when a story I like gets abandoned - even when it's my own. So, now that things are settled down a bit I'm re-reading my own fic a few times, loading up TAZ on my phone, and getting back on this horse.
Expect a new chapter by the end of the month, and I'll try to work on getting back on a posting schedule after that. Once this fic is done, I have ideas for the rest of the crew but they'll be one-shots like the Blupjeans one was :)
Thanks for your patience!!
Chapter 19: Too Many Liches, Not Enough Time
Kravitz does a thing.
I'm baaa~ack! Thank you all for being so patient!
Short chapter, but more on the way soon, I promise. Mostly just Kravitz being an introspective baby.
Plot is... even more out the window than it was before.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
At this point, Kravitz can definitively say that things have gone to shit. Three liches are running around free, but apparently the red one is trying to… help? Looking around the room, he honestly has no idea what’s going on. Magnus is bitching to give the red lich more to work with, the two “elves” are attempting to salvage the situation by monologuing about their dead brother and - Taako’s a t-rex for some reason? Despite himself, the reaper huffs a laugh, looking at the absolute shit-show unfolding before him.
His laughter stops immediately as one of the twins pulls out a bell - this must be the Grand Relic the other three are after - and ejects Magnus from his body. Kravitz notices the male lich possess the fighter almost absentmindedly, too focused on the planar rip opening up behind him. Magnus’s spirit seems mildly panicked, attempting to swim his way through the air to get away from the Astral - and for once? Kravitz can’t blame him. The sliver of his home that’s visible through the portal is almost completely unrecognizable, a sea of black…tar swallowing the entire plane. Horrified, Kravitz drops his disguise, going back to his reaper form in order to pull Magnus back towards the Prime Material plane. Kravitz looks towards Magnus’s unavailable body, shoving him in a wooden dummy for the time being before heading towards the liches.
He’s feeling shaken by what he saw through the portal, and nothing seems to be going right. Everything in this room, in this whole cursed place, is an affront to his Queen - but… when he reaches out, the Queen just… isn’t there. He can feel it, something blocking his requests - an oily, sticky feeling... like black tar. His chest hitches - he may not need to breathe, but it certainly makes talking easier. But… without the Queen, how long will that be true? How long can it be true?
As Taako (”My name’s Dupree now! Dupree the Trex, woo!”) rampages, Kravitz manages to pull himself together. The scythe takes its power from his Queen, but… Kravitz was always a spellcaster, and Tak- uh, Dupree, had dropped the Umbrastaff. Kravitz is a tiny bit apprehensive, considering the thing had tried to kill him in the past, but… Well, it’s not like things could get much worse at this point, is it? He bends down, picking up the Umbrastaff with one hand.
Okay, he was wrong. Things could, in fact, get worse. As soon as his fingers touch the handle of the staff, there’s a burst of white-hot pain. He feels… well, it feels like a lich - and there’s certainly enough of them in the room for him to compare to. Almost as soon as the pain hits, however, it disappears, replaced by a feeling of… curiosity? Protectiveness?
“What the fuck are you?” He feels vaguely silly addressing the thing, but he’s so… scared? Confused? He’s never had a chance to touch the Umbrastaff before - Taako’s always been so protective of it… but he’s had enough bad experiences with sentient items that he barely thinks before he acts. “I’m sorry, Taako, but you’ll thank me for this later. I hope.”
With the last dregs of the Queen’s magic left in him, Kravitz blasts the umbrella in his other hand, snapping it cleanly in two.
...gee, I wonder what's gonna happen next? (Spoiler - there may be dabbing involved.)
Chapter 20: Deus Ex Lup-ina
She's phantasmal, resplendent... and PISSED.
I'm just... so sick of Wonderland you guys. And I was too excited about this chapter to wait. What even is a posting schedule, anyway?
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After Kravitz blasts the phylactery in his hands, he spares a second to pray to his Queen - maybe he’ll get lucky, and it’ll belong to one of the three here? Even so… He feels bad about breaking Taako’s spell focus, but the thought of what casting with a phylactery might be doing to his soulmate…
Kravitz doesn’t have time to shudder at the implications, because it’s barely a second after the UmbraStaff snaps, that the room seems to freeze. The broken halves of the UmbraStaff dissolve into ash, and where they once stood is a red-robed figure, phantasmal and resplendent. “Not a phylactery… a prison.”
The lich hovers in midair, and Kravitz’s first thought is that she looks like Taako - if Taako was sculpted entirely from living flame. The rest of the room stops, turning to face the sudden blossom of heat and light in the corner, and Kravitz thinks he hears Lydia mutter “ooh, nice entrance.”
From where she’s hovering between him and the rest of the battle, Lup huffs a laugh, then twists to face Kravitz. “Hey bone-boy. Consider this my shovel talk, kay?”
Before the reaper can process that statement, the room explodes in flames.
When Taako wakes up, they’re half-expecting to be ash - the heat of that blast reminded them of nothing so much as… they hold back a twitch. It almost reminds them of the gauntlet, in a way - only so much more controlled, beautiful. Blinking, they stare up at the - sky? The room they were in is gone, fragments of mannequins and what looks like the walls floating through the air. They sit up, trying to figure out what happened.
As they sit, ears slightly ringing from the blast, what they see…. Doesn’t make much more sense, really.
“Hey homies? Are, we, uh. Are we cool with the Red Robes now, because it looks like they’re multiplying and cha’boi’s really not in the mood to fight that right now.”
As soon as Taako calls, out, Kravitz rushes over, and Taako realizes that their head had been pillowed on his coat. “Hey, bone daddy. Everyone alright?”
Kravitz doesn’t answer immediately, instead grabbing Taako in a fierce hug. Clinging to the elf, Kravitz murmurs in their ear, “I’m glad you’re okay. You hit your head, L̩̖̝̹̣͓̍̊͆̃ͣ͢͢͜ų̞̩̗̑̌ͬ͐͆p̓ͪ̄͌̎͏̧̤ was so worried that you might have been hurt in the blast.”
Taako startles. “Maybe I was, babe - what did you say? Who was worried?”
Kravitz sighs. “They said that was going to happen. L̩̖̝̹̣͓̍̊͆̃ͣ͢͢͜ų̞̩̗̑̌ͬ͐͆p̓ͪ̄͌̎͏̧̤. She’s your s̘̱͕͑̑ͩ̏̂̃i̸̩̗͖̜͂̀ͥͭ͒̓s̨̥͍̺̦͋ͫ̉ͥͅt̞͚ͬ͆ę̪̣̦̜͈͖̌̇ͨ̇ͤr̶͍̜͔̤̜̃͗̚͜͜. She was trapped in the umbra-staff, but.. It broke during the battle.”
Taako shakes their head to clear it, still hearing that static noise… that familiar static. “Voidfish? I know I’m dumb, but I didn’t think I was dumb enough to get caught by it twice.” They look over towards the rest of the group, pulling themselves to their feet with Kravtiz’s help. Merle is standing next to another mannequin - they’re pretty sure it’s the same one that Magnus was trapped in, while the two red robed liches hover a few feet away. Between them is a circle of flames, trapping - that other lich, the one in Mags’s body. He looks murderous - which is a really weird look on Magnus’s face. Based on the body-language, Wooden Magnus agrees.
As the two head towards the group, Kravitz dusting off his jacket, Taako can see that the first red-robe, the one that they’ve been running into, is holding - “Hang on Krav, why do they have the bell? Are we all… Shit, cha’boi’s not dead again, am I?”
Kravitz grimaces, but the new red-robe - a girl, maybe? - clearly hears Taako, and turns with a laugh. “Hey, b̗͍̹̆̉̂͆̍͗̿͛͒a̟̙̪̘͔̹͙̤ͫ̉̏ͬb̡̥̺̞̠̰̳̉ͪͣ̔͛̈́͠y̴̦͎̳͚ͣ̍̅ ̰͕̤̭̲ͧ͛̊ͧ̃͋s̟̭͔̩̥̘̾̇̾ͩ̌̿ͨ͗i͓̱̠̟̹̮̣̰͗̑̄́̓͋ͥ̕͠͞b̡͖̠͓̼͎̪̮̼̜ͩͬ̚͝!͍̰͚̟̱̑̏̈̓̌̌̂̋̉ Don’t worry, B̴̟̼̬͚ͣͧ̐̆̉̒͗ͅa̛͔͖̯̝̼ͮ̆̀̓̓̏͟r̡̢̗̞̠͐͌̐͆ͅr̷̼̯͓͉̮͉̳ͫ̍y̷̨̡͙͓̱̟̱͊̾̀ knows what he’s doing. Nobody’s gonna die. Not now.” The lich grins, the smile crossing her face… ̡w͡e͞irdly͢ f̕am̢i̵lia͝r.͠. Taako’s not sure… what? They shake their head, trying to clear it, but the longer they stare at the lich - her face now falling in despair as she starts to get fuzzy around the edges - the more it hu͝r͢ts. Staţi̴c͢ sta҉r̶t͢͝s̸̷ ͏t̴̴o̶̶͟ f̨͟il̴l̡͟ ͘͡th͡e͟ir͜ ̷̨e̕͜a̡͞rs̷̡, ͘͢a̴n̡҉d͘ ̶t̶̨̧heį͡҉r̡̛ ̶̴̡k̸̴͢n̵͞e͠e̸s ̸̷g͘̕o̕͠ ̸̧͘we̢a̸k a͞s ̧͘͡t̴h͟͟e҉̨y̵̸̡ ̕͠f͠a̧͘l͜l̨͢ ̧̢to ͢t͠ḩe̕ ̷g̸r̢̛͠ou̢͞n̶͠d.҉̵̵
Lup looks devastated as Taako falls to the ground. Ten years alone, another year within reach of her sibling but unable to touch… And the first time they come face-to-face, Taako can’t handle the sight of her. She closes her eyes, pulling herself together at the ragged edges. “Barold! We need constructs, now. And fix Mags, would you?”
Barry looks over from where he’s been holding Edward!Magnus in the circle. He takes in Taako, clutching their head as tears run down their face. Lup, barely holding herself together at the sight of her sibling in pain, and Kravitz trying desperately to help Taako in any way he can. He… He’d originally planned to take them back to the cave and his real body, but there’s no time for that, now. He lifts the Animus Bell in his hands - dangerous, but if there’s anyone who can control it? It’s him. He made it, after all.
As Magnus and Merle start towards him shouting warnings, Barry takes the bell in a two-handed hold, swinging it in a careful figure-eight. The bell rings once, twice, three times, and many things happen in rapid succession. Magnus’s body falls to the ground, the shadowed light of Edward’s soul shooting out and landing in a heap at Kravitz’s feet. The reaper bends down to scoop the tattered soul into a trap at his belt, and by the time he stands back up, Magnus is in his own body. The two liches are wearing unnervingly realistic constructs, and Lup is bent over her brother, who’d seen her real face and fallen unconscious from the pain. Lup pats frantically at Taako’s chest, ripping the Stone of Farspeech off its cord and activating it with a growl.
“Taako? Are you alright? Do you have the Relic?” Madame Director’s voice comes through, sounding worried but not panicked.
Lup’s face darkens, and her voice is stone-cold as she speaks. “Long time no speak, Lucretia. Thanks for erasing me, but we’ll talk about that later. Taako’s falling apart - I’m bringing him up, and you had damn well better have some shotglasses ready when we get there.”
The Stone of Farspeech crumbles into ash in Lup’s hand, and she stands, looking around at the rest.
“Alright, bitches. Let’s go to the moon.”
Lucretia's in tro~uble....
Chapter 21: Moon Landing, Part 1
Magnus wakes up. He's got his body back but can't help but think he's missing something. Ah well, he made a new friend and got to carry Merle like a football, so it can't be *too* bad a day.
Short chapter, back to the real action soon!
Magnus is… confused. He knows… basically what just happened? But he just can’t shake the feeling that he’s missing something. Something important. Wonderland had been hellish - looking down at his hands he can see the difference - not a lot, he wasn’t that old to begin with, but there’s wrinkles around his knuckles that hadn’t been there before. Carding his fingers through his hair, it feels just a bit less full than it was, before the liches had taken that decade from him. Well… it would have been worse if Taako’s soulmate hadn’t been there. Kravitz… and the Red Robes.
Magnus’s memories of the battle get a bit fuzzy, after he’d been knocked out of his body. He remembers Kravitz catching him, pulling him back from the tarry hellscape of the Astral Plane, and then tossing him into a mannequin. He remembers this… this feeling, when he was outside of his body and in the mannequin. Like everything made sense all of a sudden, but… whatever it was, he’s lost it. Shaking out of his introspection - it’s a bit out of character for him, after all, he steps out of the magic circle and turns to the first red-robe with a grin.
“Thank you, my friend! It’s nice to have my body back, I was afraid I’d be stuck as a mannequin forever." The Red Robed figure… hadn't the other one called him Barold? Weird name, but he’s not one to judge. “Hail and well-officially met, Barold! You really helped us out in there. You and… Taako’s umbrella-woman. Whose name I feel like I should know. But I don’t.”
Barry laughs at Magnus’s somewhat confused return to the world of the flesh-bodied. “Ahh. Yeah, You probably can’t hear her name yet. Lucretia has b̵̗̆o̶͈͊̈́ͅt̸̖̝̓̀h̵͇̤̏̍ ̵͔͂͌v̴͚̤̀o̶̯͘ͅi̵̢̒̿d̶̞̅f̷̲͗̋i̴̦͂s̵̻͘h̵̪̊ͅ, after all. So, she had a backup to keep you forgetting the important bits, which apparently included my wife's entire existence. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to try and convince her to… too late.” Barry slumps in place. It’s an odd bit of body language from a vaguely menacing floating lich, but he manages it.
Magnus turns in the direction Barry’s looking, where Ļ̵̧͙̘͍͓̤̈̇̊͑̑̚̕ͅȗ̴̝͍̺͂͆̎̏p̸͈͔͙̹̪̣̈́͝ ̴̨̩̺̙̎̄ the other red-robed figure has one spectral hand slapped over Taako’s bracer, calling the cannonball to take them back. Next to her, looking determined, Kravitz has his scythe back at full-size, ripping a portal through to the grassy quad of the moon base.
“Well, deadboy, you’re just full of tricks, aren’t you?” The female lich’s smoky voice drifts towards Magnus, amusement tinging her words despite the dire situation. “Alright, nerds. Everybody through the space-time death rip. NOW!” Even as she speaks, Lup has grabbed Taako, slinging one arm over her shoulder as she drags his dead-weight through the rift. Kravitz is looking pretty antsy to follow, so Magnus takes the hint and sprints towards the portal, waving a hand ineffectually through Barry’s wrist as he tries to drag the lich behind him. With one brief pause to scoop up a protesting Merle under one arm, Magnus rushes in once again.
Chapter 22: Moon Landing, Part 2
Lup and Lucretia have a Talk.
The group rushes through Kravitz’s portal, stumbling out onto th grass of the Moon Base’s quad. Just as Lup starts to drag Taako through, however, something pushes back - a celestial power working to keep undead off of the moon base. Meant to keep her off of the moon base. Her and Barry.
She stops, edges of her form flickering as she visibly works to contain her rage. “Well, looks like Luce isn’t feeling up to having me visit, just about now. Grim Creeper? Do your new sis-in-law a solid and get rid of whatever that is?”
Kravitz blinks, filing the ‘sis-in-law’ comment in a box deep, deep down. No time to unpack all of that right now. Reaching out, he can feel a holy presence - it’s a relic of all gods, a powerful one. No lich would be able to reach this place on their own - though apparently inside the umbrella, it didn’t count? He shakes his head. No time for that.
“I can feel it, but I can’t get to it myself without closing the portal.” He turns to Merle, who’s still looking a bit silly hanging from Magnus’s arm, tucked into the massive fighter’s armpit. “You’re a cleric, right? Can you feel where the relic is and go get it?”
Merle gives him a blank look. “God lied, man. He lied, and now he’s gone. I can’t feel anything. I can’t even feel Pan - what do you want me to do?”
Kravitz sighs, reaching a tendril of his remaining power to his off-hand and ripping another small hole in the fabric of reality. Keeping one hand held through the door to where Lup stands, he manages to open another portal - through which the offending relic is clearly visible. “Go get it! Pull it off the stand and the field should dissipate.” Merle grumbles half-heartedly, which quickly turns into a yelp as Magnus literally tosses the dwarf through the smaller portal, jumping in behind him as he sees Kravitz start to waver.
“Go ahead! We’ll catch up.” Magnus grins as Kravitz loses his grip on the second portal, and a few seconds later Lup stumbles through the first, Barry close behind her.
During all of this, only about 30 seconds had passed since they arrived on the moon base, so Kravitz is reluctantly impressed when he turns around, only to find the welcoming party already waiting. Carey and Killian stand side-by-side, looking confused and betrayed by the sight of Tres Horny Bois seemingly working with the Red Robes. Lucretia, Davenport at her heels as always, approaches slowly from behind them, her face a mask of regret and sorrow.
“Hello, Lup. I didn’t think I’d ever see you again. I’m… sorry.”
Lup looks fantastically unimpressed. “Really? You thought you’d never see me again, and that’s supposed to… what? Justify all of this? Sorry, Luce-my-dear, but I’m gonna need a lot more than ‘I’m sorry’ to fix this. In fact, let’s start with those shotglasses Cap’n’port’s carrying, shall we?”
Lucretia winces, but waves off Killian’s indignant retort. “No. It’s okay.. I deserve this. I deserve… more than this, really. You don’t understand - the Relics, what they were doing to the world… hiding them, making people forget them - it worked, Lup. It worked for so long, kept the Hunger away.” Even as she tries to justify her actions over the last ten years, she’s waving Davenport forward with a defeated look on her face. Her shoulders slump, and she leans heavily on the Bulwark Staff, as though the Relic’s the only thing holding her up in the face of Lup’s presence. The lich doesn’t even need to shout, doesn’t need to rage - the two had known each other for a century, and the crease of betrayal and pain, the disappointment and anger in Lup’s eyes are all Lucretia needs to know exactly what Lup’s thinking. The only two women in their ship’s family, they’d been close. Until… until Lup left to try to fix things, and Lucretia… Lucretia erased her.
Madame Director looks at the group. Magnus and Merle are missing - probably the reason her field of Turn Undead came down. Lup is looking her directly in the face, eyes like balls of fire in the shadows of her red hood. Barry’s hovering barely a foot behind his wife, and keeps reaching out with a skeletal hand to touch her, as through to prove to himself that she’s real. On Lup’s other side, Kravitz is holding Taako, the elf no longer unconscious but looking so confused, wincing every time they glance at Lup - but they can’t stop themself from doing it, the call of their twin too powerful.
With every details she takes in, the weight on Lucretia’s shoulders gets a little heavier. The guilt, seeing her family so broken… But then she glances at the Bulwark Staff and straightens a little. The Relics caused so much pain, so much death. There’s no going back now - only one way to save them all. She has to finish the plan. As she opens her mouth to explain this to the group in front of her, she realizes… she can’t.
“You have to trust me, just a little while longer. I’m doing this to save us, to save this plane. It’s the only way!” Lup looks unmoved, but before she can reply, there’s a small shuffling noise from behind Lucretia, the faint tinkling of glasses.
“Davenport? Davenport!” The gnome shuffles up to the rest of the group, dressed in his butler’s uniform, a silver tea-tray covered in voidfish juice in his hands. He smiles up at Lucretia, and deep within his gaze, behind the fog of confusion and amnesia, she can see her old Captain, telling her that everything will be okay.
As Davenport speaks, the rest stop. The pain on Lup’s and Barry’s faces at their captain’s condition is palpable, and the two liches begin to waver slightly at the edges again. Seeing this, and looking back down into Taako’s and Davenport’s faces, she cracks.
“It’s still too late to go back, but… Davenport, you and Taako first, please. Have a drink.” Lucretia pulls herself upright, the cloak of authority settling back around her shoulders with the ease of practice. “It’s time we stopped hiding things.”