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Daggers and Downtime

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Vax wasn’t entirely sure how it had started. One day he’d been aiming his daggers at apples he’d set up on trees, taking them out with trick shots while a couple onlookers glanced his way, and the next he was surrounded by a semicircle of children who were all watching him expectantly, a small wooden dagger in each of their hands.

“Okay, so first we’re going to learn some rules about fighting with daggers,” he began, flicking his own dagger (wooden as well, for demonstration purposes) into the air and catching it in his offhand.

He grinned as every single pair of eyes followed the stick.

“Rule number one - don’t do what I do,” he said with a chuckle, changing his grip on the dagger. “I started learning how to fight when I was a bit older than all of you, but I’ve also been using them for years now, so I know how to handle them, got that?”
e younger girl, a violet-skinned Tiefling with flowers in her hair, had a skeptical look on her face.

He received several quiet nods, but noticed on
“Did you have a question, Reverence?”

“How long have you been practicing with your daggers, Mister Vax?” she asked, squinting up at him.

Vax grinned as he briefly entertained the thought of what his sister would say if she heard his “title”, then answered “A little over twelve years now, I think.”

“That’s older than me!” a young boy exclaimed, his eyes wide and his hands gripping the dagger even tighter between them.

“It certainly is, Vicwin,” Vax agreed, biting back a chuckle at the boy’s awed expression. “But anyway, how to properly wield a dagger…”

“You’re doing a great job with them,” Keyleth said, standing beside Vax as they watched the kids move slowly through the form he’d demonstrated before leaving them to practice and find their questions for him. The Ashari children were a bright bunch, if a little sheltered, and they’d already started to hone their skills, even after only a few lessons.

She was so proud of him - he’d been sitting around Zephrah for too many weeks with little or nothing to do, but of late he was over the moon about the short classes he was giving every other day. She’d heard about nothing but his students’ continued progress during her downtime over the past week, and she couldn’t be happier about his newfound passion.

Honestly, she’d been concerned about his wanderlust combined with the seclusion of Zephrah. From experience he was never one to sit still and relax - he was almost always the first to run into battles or make a risky move - and, to be frank, there wasn’t much to do in the village of the Air Ashari. They weren’t some tourist spot - they just lived their lives, and usually only ventured out to the wider world if absolutely necessary.

“You think so?” Vax asked, glancing over at her, his face illuminated by the setting sun and the small magical lights that hung in the trees.

“Well, much better than you did with Kynan at least.”

Vax smirked and nodded, looking back at the small grove they were practicing in. “Yeah, I didn’t think that knocking them out would make a good impression on their parents.”

“Yeah, probably not,” Keyleth agreed, scrunching up her nose as she shook her head. While Vax was a guest of the Voice of the Tempest, she doubted the rest of the Ashari would take kindly to that sort of “tough love”.

“Still, they’re the ones doing all the work,” Vax pointed out, “I only show them how to do it, and they make it happen.”

“And do you think any of them will become teachers of their own?” she asked, even as Alyn turned a little too fast to her left and hit her younger brother, Ferial, in the shoulder.

“Hey!” the young elf exclaimed, breaking form as well and facing her off.

“Aaaand I should take care of that,” Vax said, already sliding down from their vantage point. “Ferial, are you alright?”

Keyleth covered her smile with a hand across her mouth, watching as Vax checked both of them over, sorted out the issue, set them straight again, and used a bit of the Raven Queen’s power to heal Ferial’s bruised shoulder (if she wasn’t mistaken).

She hadn’t felt entirely comfortable with children since everything had happened with the Dread Emperor, but watching Vax interact with them carefully and with full confidence gave her a strange sort of peace.

“Okay, that’s all for tonight!” he said after answering their questions, correcting a few stances, and praising them for a job well done. “I’ll see you all day after next, and if you guys master this form well enough we might move on to something more difficult - does that sound good?”

There was a chorus of affirmation from the gathered children, and then they started to head back to their homes, sprinting down the sloped hill and yelling farewells as they did so. The last boy, a blonde half-elf named Julian, lingered to whisper a shy “Thank you”, then ran off, and Keyleth finally came down from where she’d been watching, grinning at the pleased look on Vax’s face.

“They adore you,” she said, taking a hold of his hand and squeezing it tightly.

“They do, don’t they?” Vax murmured, and it sounded like he could hardly believe it.

“Do you- never mind,” Keyleth said, not wanting to dampen the mood.


“I was just thinking… But it’s not important.”

“And if I want to know what you were thinking?”

Keyleth bit her lip, then sighed, knowing she wouldn’t be able to keep her worries from him for long.

“Do you think you’ll be able to finish teaching them before we’re called away for some reason or another?”

Keyleth felt more than saw a slight tension settle over Vax as his smile morphed into a thoughtful expression.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said, pulling her hand up between them and kissing her knuckles. “I mean, to some extent I can’t finish teaching them. Here I am, twelve years along, and even I haven’t got everything figured out.”

Keyleth looked out over the rest of the Ashari Village, the long shadows cast by the setting sun stretching over vibrantly green grass and spectacularly colored flowers. “I suppose you’re right,” she admitted.

“But until the Raven Queen decides we need to make good on Vex’ahlia’s bargain, I’m gonna make sure they’re the best in all of Exandria,” Vax said, making Keyleth chuckle despite herself. “I’ll do the best I can in the time I’m given.”

Not entirely sure what to say to that, Keyleth merely hummed her assent and leaned her head against his shoulder.

“But let’s not think about that until we need to, yeah?” Vax asked, even as he laid his head on top of hers.

“Sounds like a plan,” Keyleth agreed, letting her shoulders relax, the comforting weight of her mantle and Vax’s presence at her side warding off the chill from Zephrah’s constant breezes.