Obann The Punished looks fucking gross and there’s no way in hell they’re going to kill him. They need to run. Beau is about to say as much, but as always, Fjord is exactly on the same page as her. Maybe he's even a few steps ahead.
“Caleb!” the half-orc screams. “Can you get us out of here?”
“I need 10 minutes!”
Beau watches as the wizard sits down on the floor, painting with his chalk that weird circle he always does, as quickly as he can.
“We need to protect Caleb,” Beau says. Next to her, Yasha nods.
Beau feels like shit, feels like she has so many open wounds that she’s gonna run out of blood soon. She takes a deep breath and punches whatever the thing that is in front of her is. Yasha slices him with her blade, and she sees the energy of Fjord’s Eldritch Blasts pierce him as well. It feels like they’re not doing any damage at all.
“Caleb!”, she says after a while, clutching the wound in her stomach. She is going to pass out. “How many more minutes?”
“It’ll be ready soon,” he screams, and she can hear the anguish in his voice.
“Fuck,” she mutters under her breath.
From the corner of her eye, she sees Yasha trying to hit one of Obann’s tentacles unsuccessfully. She realises suddenly that the tentacle is going straight for Caleb, who’s flanked by both clerics.
Beau hears herself scream out a warning. She plunges herself towards the tentacle, trying to catch it or do something. She manages to sway its direction enough that Jester can deflect it with her shield. But she’s still attached to it. She tries to let go, but she can’t. Her limbs feel numb, her eyes are closing, and she’s flown across the room with such force she can feel a few bones break. The air leaves her lungs for a moment.
She can’t open her eyes. She barely hears her friends screaming. There’s still something constricting her entire body and–
Let them be okay, she thinks before she is swallowed by total and complete darkness.
Fjord screams at the top of his lungs. He observes with horror how Obann’s tentacle pushes Beau around like a rag doll, until finally she goes flying across the room, landing on the floor with a loud sound. She isn’t moving, and the tentacle is still around her, applying pressure.
“NO!” Jester shouts from her place next to Caleb. She attempts to run towards her but Yasha manages to hold onto her.
Fjord is the one closest and he’s already started running. He hits the tentacle twice with the Star Razor, which seems to be enough for it to let go of Beau. He crouches down next to her. He doesn’t know where the fuck he gets the strength from, but he manages to pick her up in his arms. She’s not breathing but he ignores that for now.
“IT’S DONE!”, Caleb yells.
Fjord runs towards his friends, slower than usual, and he sees Obann trying to catch him, but Yasha’s blade stops him for a moment; it gives him enough time to get to them.
Caleb draws the last line and there’s a flash, the circle lighting up with magic on the floor. They’re all familiar with how it works now so they all stumble forward quickly. Fjord closes his eyes, clutching onto the lifeless body in his arms. When he opens them, he makes sure Beau is still there, and she is, but she’s still not breathing.
Fuck. She’s not breathing.
He vaguely looks around and realises they’re at the Cobalt Soul in Zadash.
“Let me help her!”
Jester tries to take her out of his arms, but her hands are shaking. Yasha puts her hand on her shoulder and gently pushes her off Fjord. He nods in thanks and puts Beau down on the floor carefully. Jester crouches down next to her and Fjord notices there are tears running down her face. He has to swallow the lump in his throat to stop his own.
Caleb, Nott and Yasha all gather around the body, concern shown in all their faces.
Jester’s hands are glowing but there is no response on Beau’s part.
“Come on,” she chokes out, sobs wrecking her body. “Please, please, please, wake up. Wake up.”
Fjord rubs a hand over his face. He sends a silent prayer to the Wildmother.
Don’t take her away. Not yet.
“Please,” he whispers outloud to himself.
Jester was sure seeing Beau get flown across the room and laying completely still, was the scariest she’s ever felt. But now her healing spells aren't working and it's terrifying. She's powerless. She can barely see; her own tears are obscuring her view but she's doing everything right. Beau should be awake by now, she should be directing one of her confident, barely there smirks to Jester. She should be saying ‘thank you, Jes’, with the soft voice she seems to reserve for Jester only.
I can’t. It’s been too long.
It’s the Traveler’s voice. She feels his presence but for the first time in as long as she can remember, it’s not comforting.
“NO!” She yells.
There’s a hand on her shoulder and then there are hands over her own. It’s Caduceus. She turns to look at him.
“We need something stronger, to take her to some sort of sacred place,” he tells her, calm as always. His eyes don’t bright quite the same, though, and she knows he’s scared, too.
Jester musters all the strength she is able to at the moment and nods. She attempts to pick Beau up, but her hands are shaking still. The hand on her shoulder squeezes and she looks up to see Yasha looking down at her. Jester begrudgingly gets up and lets the aasimar pick Beau up.
The door to the room opens loudly and there’s a surprised Zeenoth looking at them.
“What- ” he starts, until his gaze falls upon Beau’s body.
“You venerate Ioun, don’t you?” asks Caleb. He’d been so quiet that his voice startles Jester. “You must have some sort of altar, or sacred place, or I don’t know.” He sounds as scared as Jester feels.
“I – yeah, of course. Follow me,” says Zeenoth, deciding that the questions are best left for after.
Jester follows in some sort of trance. Her eyes never leave Beau’s form in Yasha’s arms. She’s not aware of her surroundings, only of Fjord’s presence next to her. He’s leaning lightly on her shoulder. His jaw is clenched tightly. He’s looking ahead, not at her. But she can tell he is scared, too.
There’s a lot of blue. It’s like she's back at the Cathedral, when she used Stillness of Mind, except there’s no feeling of peace.
She gasps, the air filling her lungs all at once. She opens her eyes and oh – she is back at the beach in Nicodranas. Beau looks towards the ocean: the rocks she mediated so long ago on are still there, laying on the endless blue of the sea.
She’s alone. She tries to speak, but nothing comes out. She clears her throat. It burns.
“Hello?” She finally manages to say.
Her voice comes out hoarse and she coughs up into her hands. When she looks down at them, they’re bloody.
“Oh, fuck,” she mutters under her breath.
What the fuck is going on? Is she dead? Did she die? Wait–
A sense of dread overwhelms her. If she’s dead, are they okay? Are they dead too? If they were, wouldn’t they be here with her? What if –
Her train of thought is interrupted by a sudden, fuzzy, warm feeling inside her chest, so unlike the fear that was threatening to swallow her whole. She puts her hands on her stomach, and is surprised to see the wound from Yasha’s blade (that feels so long ago now) is slowly closing.
“What the fuck?”
She looks around again. There is still nobody there, but the blue of the sea seems to shine brighter. She watches in awe as the water turns a shade of green. It reminds her of Fjord’s skin tone.
She doesn’t have time to process it because she suddenly hears a voice echo through the empty beach.
The voice sounds incredibly familiar, and of course it does, because it’s Jester. She sounds sad. Beau looks around once more, anxious.
Clearly, the tiefling doesn’t hear her, because she keeps speaking. It’s weird – she cannot quite catch what she’s saying. She’s sure Jester is crying and she hears her name a few times but she doesn’t understand many of the words.
She grows more and more nervous by the minute.
When she’s sure she can’t take it anymore, a piece of paper falls on her hands. It’s folded. She unfolds it.
It’s a drawing. She recognises it immediately as Jester’s handiwork. She sees the three eyes that represent the Knowing Mistress but something’s different. The eyes are sort of guarding a door: it has an arch and there’s an inviting path to the other side. It’s the Traveler’s symbol.
Beau is not sure what it means, but the gesture itself, along with the still fuzzy feeling from before brings her to tears. She thinks of giving up, going into the ocean and drowning. Perhaps joining Mollymauk.
The drawing weighs heavy in her hands. She thinks of Caleb pushing down his fears to help them fight in a city that brings so many bad memories. She thinks of Caduceus, saving Yasha, saving all of them at one point, so unselfishly. She thinks of Nott, leaving her family behind, of her listening to Beau ramble about her crush. She thinks of Yasha’s grief ridden face when she mentioned her wife, thinks of the guilt eating her alive that they have to help push out.
She thinks of Fjord’s constant presence beside her, of his growth. She’s so proud of him. She thinks of when he told her she would be his first mate – she thinks of how much it meant to her that he would trust her with that. She thinks of the journey he still has to take on. They promised to keep each other in check, didn’t they? A first mate never abandons her captain.
Then she thinks of Jester. Sweet, kind, mischievous Jester. She thinks back to the night at the ship, when she said I love you and it felt as easy as using her fists. She thinks of feeling low only for Jester to shut that down. I like your hair. That’s not true, Beau. You’re beautiful. You’ll be fine, you’re super strong. She thinks of how good Jester makes her feel, and fuck it, she doesn’t want to miss out on her. She wants to be selfish.
She closes her eyes.
Jester finishes her drawing and she folds the paper, saves it in one of Beau’s coat's pockets.
She closes her still teary eyes and concentrates. There’s a heavy presence in the room now, many 'what ifs' that don't need to be told outloud. It’s quiet, apart from Caleb’s heavy breathing. When she touches Beau’s stomach to cast Revivify, she can still feel the Wildmother’s magic from the Lay on Hands Fjord had cast just before. The spell definitely feels stronger now.
And then -
Beau suddenly gasps. Jester startles and looks at the monk’s face. She seems confused until her gaze falls upon the tiefling.
“Jester,” she says. There’s that softness to her voice that she reserves for her, of course, even though she had just fucking died. The monk sits up slowly.
Jester tries to say something, anything, but for the first time in forever she is speechless. She breaks down crying and simply wraps her arms around Beau. She immediately returns the hug.
“Don’t do that again!”
“I’m sorry,” says Beau into her hair.
When they break apart, Jester helps Beau into her feet. Nott immediately comes up and hugs her around the legs. Beau chuckles weakly and pats her back. Caleb puts a hand on her shoulder and squeezes and Yasha does the same. Caduceus smiles calmly at her and Beau returns it. He offers to make her some tea, because of course he does, and Beau understand it as his way of saying ‘I’m glad you’re okay’.
Fjord actually tackles her into a hug. Jester cannot remember ever seeing them hug; they’ve always showed their affection through other means. Beau seems surprised too, but she hugs him back just as fiercely. He whispers something into her ear that the tiefling can’t hear, but she doesn’t mind.
She’s still holding onto Beau, clutching her hand tightly. She’s not planning on letting go anytime soon.