Beau was gone. She was gone. And not banished gone. Not gone somewhere they could go and rescue her. Gone, gone.
She knew of a spell. One that didn’t need a body. One that she had read about in that library – of course it was a library, it was Beau that needed it – but it was so far beyond what she was capable of. So far beyond what practically anyone had ever been capable of.
The first person she called was the Traveller. He had promised – promised – but he was busy. Busy.
And that was a betrayal that she would deal with later. But for now she needed to do something, anything. For one insane moment, she thought about sending a message to the Bright Queen, but she didn’t even know if they had Clerics in the Dynasty. Has she even seen one? She couldn’t remember.
So she called the one person that she could think of with ‘arch’ in their title. A person who had dropped whatever they had been doing to help a friend on the word of a stranger so maybe… just maybe…
“H-hello. You may not remember me, but I am part of the Mighty Nein and one of us just got – got – disintegrated or something and-”
Her voice had started strong – calm, almost – but as the message had gone on she had heard herself devolve into hysterics as the spell cut her off far too soon.
Before she could panickily cast it again, Allura’s voice came through strong and clear and calm.
“I have a friend who can help. Get somewhere safe and stay there. We’re coming.”
It was Yasha, as pale as Jester had ever seen her, who picked up Beau’s bracers and circlet and carried them out of the chamber. Fjord took her by the hand and led her out through the tunnels, Caleb in the lead. Somewhere along the way, he lost consciousness, then Jester a moment later, but Caduceus somehow kept them all up. Kept them alive until they broke the surface in the boat cave and swam as fast as they could to the beach.
When they reached the sand, they could see the lava flowing like red, angry veins down the side of the volcano but mercifully not in their direction. They were safe. For now.
Now they just had to wait.
It was in that moment of quiet that true, overwhelming panic set in. She looked around wildly for help as the same sentence repeated over and over in her mind.
You failed her. You failed her. You-
“It was YOU!” she screamed, launching herself at Caleb as the motions and infernal words to Inflict Wounds flowed from her like bubbling, boiling water.
Yasha grabbed her before she could reach him and took the spell herself, her veins bulging black with enough necrotic energy to knock Caleb to the floor. Jester raged and raged in her arms, trying and failing to break free and she shouted and screamed her anger at the world. At him.
It was anger like she had never felt before. Pure, helpless anger that overtook every logical part of her brain until even her thoughts were in infernal. That demonic part of her heritage that she always knew must be there but had never truly understood was now all that there was left. Unrestrained and furious, pure and violent and hot.
So much so, that she didn’t even notice when three figures bamfed onto the sands beside them. Not until a gracefully aging face and long, silver-blonde hair filled up her vision and suddenly she was calm again. Almost, but not quite magically. Though hope at that moment felt like the most magical thing of all.
“I brought help. Everything is going to be fine, I promise,” Allura said, her voice as soothing and calm as ever.
The only one of them that was a mom was Veth and that was definitely not Luc’s voice.
She turned just in time to see Vilya wrapped around a woman with long, red hair and antlers. Allura’s attention shifted to them and Jester saw her eyes widen and her mouth fall open a little.
“Holy Bahamut, is that?”
Another woman, halfling and jacked, is stood a little ways off. Allura turned to her and nodded.
“I think it must be. See the leg? That’s what Vex said, isn’t it? All they found was a leg.”
This whole thing was confusing and so far removed from what should be happening right now that all of Jester’s rage tumbled over into tears because why don’t they care? How could everyone just be standing about when Beau was gone.
She thought of marching over and slapping this ‘Keyleth’ in the face to get her to pay attention but Yasha was still holding her tight and Jester was far too battle-worn to escape right now.
“Just give them a moment,” Yasha whispered, her breath warm and ticklish at Jester’s ear. “I think that is the daughter that Vilya mentioned.”
What Jester does have enough energy for is to turn around and look up into Yasha’s red, tear-damp eyes.
“They will bring her back,” Yasha said, her tone clipped and disjointed as she focused somewhere off into the distance, over the water. “They have to. She can’t just… I can’t do this again.”
Jester reached up to wrap her arms around Yasha’s neck and pull her into the biggest, tightest hug she could given her current state and Yasha’s height. Yasha’s arms tightened around her, pulling her feet up off the ground and she felt safe. Terrified still, but safe. Like Yasha’s strength could hold her together now that her own had clearly failed her.
“It’ll be okay, Yasha,” Jester whispered into the much, much taller woman’s chest. She didn’t believe it, but she said a lot of reassuring things to other people when she was sad or hurting. It helped. Or maybe it didn’t, but it helped other people and that was okay. At least it was better than nothing. Perhaps.
It was Caduceus’ voice, as calm and chilled as ever, that eventually got them moving again.
“Can we – uh – maybe get back to this reunion later? We have a friend whose body has been disintegrated and it’d be real great if you could bring her back.”
The mood on the beach turned ice cold.
“Allura, what did he just say?”
Allura stepped forwards, arms out placatingly.
“Keyleth, I swear I was going to tell you. I just…”
The antler-wearing woman shook her head.
“It’s fine,” she said tightly. Clearly it wasn’t. “What was her name?”
It was Fjord who spoke up.
“Beauregard Lionette. Do you need something of hers or diamonds or something or…”
Jester turned around fully and saw this woman – Keyleth – watching her carefully. Her eyes were full of sorrow and understanding. Like she could possibly understand what it felt like to watch the person… to watch them disintegrate in front of your eyes. Their whole being turn to dust and be carried away on the current.
“I need her help,” Keyleth said, nodding in their direction.
“Who?” Yasha asked, holding Jester tighter, as if this Keyleth was a threat.
There was beat whilst Keyleth watched them and then, “Both of you. She needs to want to come back. She hasn’t made any deals with any Gods has she?”
“She’s a monk of the Cobolt Soul, so she follows Ioun, I guess,” Fjord interjected. “But no. No deals. Definitely no one stupid enough here to do that here…”
He laughed awkwardly and Veth shot him a look.
Keyleth’s gaze turned sharp on him for a moment, then she nodded and sat down on the ground.
“Allura, help me set up? Kima, can you explain to them what they need to do?”
The stern looking halfling woman stomped over the sands towards them, a giant greatsword dragging behind her. Clearly they didn’t know what they would be facing when they arrived.
“You’re the two that’ll be helping?”
“I-” Jester began but Yasha cut her off with a firm yes.
“Right, right. Okay so there’s going to be a ritual. You’ll each have to offer something to try to persuade her soul to come back.”
“Why would her soul not want to come back?” Jester sobbed, terrified that this might rest on something other than this woman’s ability to perform magic. “Is something keeping her there?”
“Ah, shit. Why didn’t she have Ally do this? It’s not that they don’t want to come back. They just have to try real hard to come back so anything you can do to help that is important, okay?”
“Like what?” Yasha asked.
“Could be an item or a spell or just words. Something you’re good at.”
“I’m good at hitting things,” Yasha said blankly.
“Just hitting things?”
“That’s not true, Yasha,” Jester interrupted. “You’re really good with your harp too.”
Yasha’s shoulders sagged a little, her face softening from stoic to quietly, achingly sad.
Jester thought for a moment, then pulled out her sketchbook and squirmed out of Yasha’s hold. She sat down heavily in the sand and began to draw.
The lines and shading came easy. Strong, lithe arms wrapped around her. Blue eyes. A smirk. Her own face upturned… waiting. And below it the words that she had said before, but never with this much meaning.
After that it was a bit of a blur. Keyleth made a circle of symbols so far away from the runes that Caleb usually drew that it seemed almost like some kind of con. But when Jester sat down inside it, she could feel the magic pounding and she knew that this kind of magic was the no-joke, God-level shit.
“Okay. One of you needs to make your offering. Then the other. I’ll do the rest.”
Yasha went first. She took out her harp and played the saddest, most beautiful refrain. And this time, sat right beside her, Jester could hear the quietest of words too. A slow, pleading song that lived just below the harp song. An undertone of meaning meant only for Beau and, perhaps, her as well.
As the last notes of the song died away, Jester tore out the page from her book and laid it out in front of her, right in the spot that Beau might – would – appear in. She rocked forwards on her knees, her forehead pressing down onto the crisp cream-coloured paper.
“I’m grovelling, okay? You hear me? I love you and I’m grovelling, so you have to come back. You have to!”
She didn’t know what else to say. No words seemed good enough and she was crying so much now that she could barely think, never mind speak.
The silence that slunk back into the space that Yasha’s harp had filled was punctuated with Yasha’s soft utterance of her name, then arms around her waist, pulling her back into Yasha’s arms. The page she left behind was tear-stained and the words that she had written were smudged and probably smeared on her own skin. And that was maybe a little like something in one of her books.
It was the woman, Keyleth, who offered the final plea.
A long black feather fluttered unfurled from Keyleth’s clasped palms and she placed it down unto the drawing in the sand. Keyleth’s eyes closed as first one then another tear ran down each cheek.
“I know you have her. I’m asking you to bring her back because you owe me. This… This specific death… You owe me bringing her back.”
She sounded almost angry in her grief and for a single, absurd moment, Jester wondered if Keyleth loved Beau.
But then the feather turned to dust, taking the sketch along with it, and then… nothing.
Jester sagged into Yasha’s arms, her stomach heaving as she screamed. And then.
She turned so quickly that she was pretty sure that her horns caught Yasha in the chin, but she didn’t care because there, pulling herself up from the sand, was Beau. A very tired, very naked Beau.
She wasn’t sure if it was her or Yasha that moved first, but suddenly all three of them were hugging, tumbled down in the sand with Jester squished in the middle and Beau’s sand-dusted skin pressed tight against her, warm and trembling and alive.
And despite her having just seen it turn to dust, clutched in Beau’s hand was a single long black feather.