It had been a long year since we’d fought that dragon. I used to think we were invincible. Now I know that’s not true. At least not for all of us. Traci and I have been together now for three years. She has been great during all of this, she was always great at taking care of people. This has brought us closer, but I don’t know how I feel about it. I don’t want to get close to these people if it means I could lose them at any moment. I convinced myself it was o.k. Because Traci is not just “these people.” She is someone that I will do whatever it takes to protect.
We continued adventuring, taking two-person jobs for a while because that was the life we lived. We didn’t really have the resume to do much else. The problem was that when you’d been doing this as long as we have, people start expecting you to do more. The regular clients didn’t want to keep throwing up the easy jobs because they couldn’t afford to not meet the new players. Which meant they wanted to give us more dangerous jobs because they knew we could handle them. That meant we had to start finding people to add to our team again. That meant we had to spend lots of time with people I knew we would inevitably lose.
Our recruits are friendly enough. Duri is a halfling from Yokuatsu. She risked it all to come to Anglachel on a makeshift raft with a handful of others like her. After finding homes and jobs for all of her compatriots, she had built up an impressive network of the city’s criminal underground. She leveraged that to find jobs stealing very specific things for wealthy patrons. When she met us, she was happy to put a bit of distance between herself and the city’s crime lords.
Pegutsai is an orc that lives in the Jungle. She knew The Scourge from way back, and we started to become fond of her after she helped us plan a tribal funeral for him. The Scourge always identified more with the natives than his family in the slums. It was what he would have wanted. When she heard that we’d been hired to harvest the pollen from a Luminescent Green Peony, she knew we’d need her help. It is a delicate process, which Duri or I could handle, but Pegutsai told us it was in a dangerous part of the Jungle. She said she could help us minimize the number of nasties we ran into.
I hated the idea of bringing someone I cared about on a job other than Traci. It’s not so hard to protect one person, it gets much harder when you’re trying to protect everyone. I knew I’d end up having to choose, and I was going to choose Traci. It didn’t seem fair to bring Pegutsai along without her knowing that. But she was always really perceptive. There’s a good chance she already had an idea of what she was walking into.
In the Fey Realm, whenever my mother would lose someone from her side of the family, she would have a painting of them commissioned. She knew it wasn’t really possible for her to abandon her position on the Autumn Court to go home to mourn, but she did what she could from the castle. She would display the painting prominently in the family room and hang a wreath of flowers around it. She would leave it up for ten days, placing a fresh wreath of flowers each day. My grandmother hated it because it constantly reminded her that her son had married a River Elf. My mother would do it for relatives she had never met. I think it was her way of silently protesting the blatant racism of my grandmother.
I picked up a bouquet of fresh flowers from the market. Traci and I couldn’t afford to have a painting commissioned of The Scourge, but luckily I have always been pretty artistic. I had sketched a number of drawings of him whenever he was alive. I removed the old flowers from around the sketch and fashioned a new wreath with the flowers from the market. Ever since The Scourge died, I’d begun a tradition of thinking about him before every job. I couldn’t let myself forget the danger these jobs put my companions into. I hung the wreath around the sketch and said, “I’ll always remember you, friend,” under my breath.
These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released in Fall 2023. You can get a $1 preview now!