Friday, July 23, 2021

Duendewood: Memories

"You're looking thoughtful there, Ruin," said Geddy, taking a seat on the back of the wagon beside him and handing him an unlabeled bottle. 

Ruin accepted the bottle, took a swig, and then forced himself to swallow without reacting; he'd been expecting beer or ale, but this was some sort of very nice whisky. Gnomish? He had no idea. "You're good," he told Geddy. "Most people can't tell the difference between me looking thoughtful and me looking homicidal." 

Geddy shrugged. "It got easier after I realized you have a bad case of Resting Murder Face." 

Ruin chuckled. "I was thinking about the temple of Amun, and the paladin and the priest -- Anica and Aesa." 

"It did look like you were having a wild couple of days," Geddy said cheerfully. "So you really were with both of them?"

Ruin nodded. 

"At the same time?" 

Ruin took another swig from the bottle, then shook his head and handed it back. "I hadn't expected to be with anybody," he admitted. "Not there. Part of that was your fault... not that I'm complaining." 

"I thought you needed the help," said Geddy. "In retrospect, I might have been mistaken."

Ruin shrugged. "I wouldn't have predicted it, either."

"So you're thinking about them. Are you missing them?" 

"I am." Ruin paused, then added: "I know, it surprised me too." 

Geddy chuckled. "One of them in particular, or...?"

Ruin shook his head. "Both. Each in different ways. I keep telling myself that it's good that we left when we did, but... I liked that place, Geddy."

Geddy smiled and shrugged. "You could always go back there. Become a paladin, maybe." 

Ruin, who had taken the bottle back again and just filled his mouth, sprayed whiskey over the back gate of the carriage and onto the ground. He paused to get himself back under control, wiped his mouth, then took another sip and actually managed to swallow it. "It would almost be worth it," he admitted, "just to see the look on Werendril's face when he found out. But that's if I could get one of the gods to accept me. And... if I could deal with that."

"You could go back, though," Geddy repeated, more seriously this time. 

"What would I say?" Ruin asked. "'Oops' doesn't quite seem to cover it, somehow."

"They've probably found out by now," Geddy pointed out. "It was a small place, and it sounds like they knew each other pretty well. I don't know if that would make it worse or better, though. The paladin seemed pretty level-headed when I spoke to her."

"She was," said Ruin. "I don't think she had any illusions about how this was going to play out. The priest, though... I don't think she really had any illusions either, but I think she might have had hopes. And I don't know how to answer her optimism-- at all, but especially given that we're all very likely going to die horribly while attempting to serve the King and defeat the Order of Secrets." He considered that. "I'd like to find out how things might have gone, with either or both of them, but I don't think I'll be allowed that opportunity. Does that make sense?"

Geddy nodded slowly. "Yeah... yes, it does." 

Ruin nodded back. "So that's what I was thinking about."

Geddy could have taken that as a dismissal, but he didn't. Instead he asked: "So what if you don't die horribly? What if you do get the chance?"

There was a long moment of comfortable silence, before Geddy handed the bottle back over and Ruin poured three large swallows down his throat. Then he handed the bottle back, and after moment he answered. 

"I have no idea." He leaned back, looked up at the trees overhead. "I thought I was ready for a war with the humans, but it turns out the important part of the war isn't with the humans. I thought I would become the sort of warrior who turned his rage and ferocity to tear through their ranks, but instead I've become this... hunter, this explorer. Traveler. Whatever."

"The old name is Horizon Walker," said Geddy. "There are stories. Not many, but some."

Ruin nodded. Then he added, "I'm increasingly convinced that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, and not only that but I never did. What do I actually want from my life if we somehow come through this alive? I have no idea."

Geddy chuckled. "That's not so uncommon as you seem to think. At least you're thinking about it now. So what would you do if we vanquished the Order of Secrets, disrupted Vecna's plan, and were still alive after that?" 

"...I'd go back and see them," Ruin said. "See how they felt. See if they were still interested in me. See if any of it could lead anywhere, and then see where that went."

"There's your answer," said Geddy. "If we live, you want to see what could be -- with the human, or the thinblood, or whatever worked out. You'd want to follow up on the opportunities you're afraid you missed."

Ruin nodded very slowly, then turned to look at Geddy. "Yes, I suppose I would." He swallowed. "Thanks, Geddy. That... actually helps."

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