Fandom: Critical Role
Riassunto: Vex has a hellhound at her side, a ghost (boy)friend and a brother with a curse. What's a witch to do.
Note: Scritta per la M2 della 4° settimana del COWT9 per "Mettersi a ridere all’improvviso"
Vex lets the sack fall to the floor and looks at their house. They haven't been here in weeks and the dust has started to take over most of the room.
Vex surpasses her to go towards the couch, launching himself on it face first. He's tired, Vex knows that very well, but the more she looks at him the more this well known anxiety overcomes her.
It's an old friend, it sticks to her every day.
They don't have much time, they should be doing something.
The truth is that they've barely stopped at all in the past year and they don't know where else to look. The truth is that they're starting to lose hope.
Vex looks at the old wooden walls and that one chair that's pushed to the corner, too broken to be used. She used to love this house, once - she still might under the exhaustion and the fear - but now every corner of it reminds her of what's going to happen.
It's a small house for two, but it look unbereably huge for just one.
Trinket nudges her hand, a feather touch, and she knows she has to move. If she remains still for a moment longer, she thinks that the world would collapse upon her and she wouldn't be able to hold it.
"I'm going out," she tells Vax, and she goes to her on room to take the haversack she left there when they traveled, and then rushes outside.
"Say hello to Whitey for me!" Vax yells after her, but she doesn't answer before closing the door behind her.
Once upon a time she would have answered with: Give Gilmore a kiss for me or Tell Keyleth she has terrible taste, but she knows very well why Vax prefers to stay holed up in their house alone.
Trinket is, as always, beside her, and she smiles down at him.
His fur is cold to the touch, but soothing all the same. Vex crouches down beside him and whispers a couple of words in his ears.
Trinket moves forward then, his body getting bigger with every step, and she follows behind him.
If she looked around now, she would see the spirits creeping up from the corners of the shadows, looking in on them. She hasn't worried about them in a long time. After all, having a hellhound at your beck and call was useful for something.
Vex and her twin have found this little house in the woods when they were younger, in a little village that was as ordinary as a little village could be. It was the forest, and everything around Whitestone, that was everything but ordinary.
Not many people in Whitestone knew about magic, or at least the powerful kind. They lived everyday without looking too long at the forest around them and enjoyed a life of peaceful ignorance.
But the forest outside of Whitestone was full of spirits of any kind. Vex had once met a wolf, a protector of the forest, and her and Trinket had earned its favor.
Of course, not all of Whitestone's inhabitants are ignorant of what happens outside of the little paved streets of the city, and Vax and Vex have found good friends inside the village.
And they talked. They talked about the forest and the many spirits that inhabit it. They talk about how it was before the village was cut off from the rest of the world, before the villagers started to ignore the supernatural way beyond what was normal.
It didn't matter if you performed magic in front of one of Whitestone's residents, it seemed like they weren't able to understand it.
No one really believed that magic wasn't at work there.
It was why, in the beginning, they decided to move here. On the run from their father and penniless, this had seemed like an interesting enough place with the lowest prices one could find.
That had been years ago and Vex almost smiles between herself: they were so young then. Stupid and naive, so reckless with their lives.
Time punished them enough.
At the edge of the city, just at the border with the forest, is Whitestone's Villa. A manor that once used to belong to the ruling family of the city and was now abandoned.
The villagers believes it to be haunted by the spirit of the old family, murdered years ago in a terribly violent crime, and who now cling to their old life desperately. Many swear they could hear the voice of one of the children, at night, or the terrible sound of flesh being ripped apart.
It's a popular spot for kids, especially at night. They test each other to spend a night inside the haunted manor and survive an encounter with its many ghosts.
No one has ever succeeded. No one of the kids, anyway.
Vex knows the haunted manor very well. At the beginning she and her brother had gone there many times to see if there was really something supernatural about it, and if that something was the cause of the strange curse placed upon the city.
Vex steps out of the forest and looks at the old manor in front of her. She can hear the hushed voice of children's talking between themselves and smiles. Trinket sniffs the air and then looks back towards the forest, growling.
There are probably a couple of spirits that are trying to follow them inside the city, but recede the moment Trinket growls in their direction. Vex steps beside him and pets his fur approvingly.
"You're a very good boy," she says with a smile, and Trinket melts into her touch. It's difficult to remember that Trinket is a beast from the nine hells when he acts so sweetly for her.
But well, Vex isn't an innocent girl either.
They both rise their heads when they hear screams and seven kids running away from the house. They don't look exactly scared, more amused by the situation, but they're still running away and laughing between themselves.
Trinket looks at them and wags his tail for a second and Vex looks at him. "If you ask nicely I'm sure he'll let you scare them next time," she tells him before grinning and moving forward inside the house.
Most people whisper of the ghost inhabiting the house, but they don't really think he exists. It's like a game, stupid silly rumor. The haunted house just at the edge of the forest, but no one really believes in ghosts. Or in the spirits that live in the forest.
It's just a silly story the kids tell to amuse themselves over a campfire.
Vex knows very well that's not the case.
She enters the villa, Trinket now in his wolf form, and she marvels at how well kept the house is. Even after years without a single living inhabitant, it's like the house was dusted off yesterday.
Certain floorboards creaks with her steps, but he has been reassured that it happened before as well.
It really looks like it was frozen in time.
She walks until she's in the middle of the entrance and then looks around. A gust of wind makes one of the curtains move slightly and a cold breeze caresses her hand. The chandelier above her ways slightly with a squeaking sound.
Vex can't help but smile.
"It's all very spooky, darling, but why don't you show yourself?" she asks, while Trinket walks beside her and sits at her feet.
No one replies to her for a second, until Trinket's eyes flash an icy-blue and all the candles in the room light up at the same time. Vex remains still, smiling a little bit at the flare.
"Good show, darling, very dramatic," she says, amused, and after a second a chuckle comes from the other side of the room.
She turns in time to see a figure appears at the end of the stairs.
"Usually you appreciate a little bit of flair," Percy tells her, with a smile, "I was just trying to deliver."
Percival Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski De Rolo III is the last remaining inhabitants of the De Rolo Mansion, even if no one would exactly call him the last live inhabitant.
With a little bow he levitates towards Vex and, at his passage, the house gets a little warmer. Vex has never seen another ghost capable of that.
"I'm glad to see you're back," he tells her with a smile. "I've started the fire in the fireplace, would you do me the honor of accompanying me to the other room?" He extends and arm to her, like a proper gentleman, and waits with a little glint in his eyes.
Vex laughs and extends her own arms, as if she was taking his. It's a strange position, considering that Percy's body is incorporeal, but they make it work.
"You know you don't need to treat me like a lady, right? We're not in the 1800 anymore," she reminds him, but she would lie if she said she doesn't enjoy it.
"Of course I have to, dear," Percy says immediately, almost offended. "Who do you think I am?"
Vex doesn't say anything anymore. They've had this discussion many times before, and she doesn't care to repeat it.
Percy doesn't know about her past, nothing in details anyway, of the father that never loved them, or the mother that loved them too much but died too early to protect them.
They're all things that they've tried to leave in their past and Vex doesn't enjoy thinking about them, even if her mind betrays her way too often.
Percy leads them to the living room, where the fireplace is indeed already lit. There's also a teaset on the table and even if empty, it helps in giving the room a lived in feeling. Trinket immediately sprints forward and sits down in front of the fire.
Vex lets Percy lead her to one of the couch and she sits down, putting the haversack on the table.
"I've found a couple of interesting books this time," Vex tells him, opening her bag, "they talked about a couple of rituals we haven't really tried. I thought it might be a good time as any."
Percy looks at her and then he sits down beside her. It's a strange sight since he can't really sit and yet he still manages to look more elegant than her.
"How long have you been back?" he asks her, looking placid.
Vex might lie, of course, but it seems improper when they're alone. She knows that he can already see the cracked edges on her, what's one more?
"I'd say it has been two hours now? Maybe less. I always lose track of time in this forest of yours," she replies, smiling at him. "But I'm not really that tired. And we've been away longer than we wanted to anyway, I promised you some news a week ago."
Percy doesn't interrupt her, he lets her talk and watches as she takes out a couple of potions and herbs from her bag. She's glad that Keyleth managed to perfect the spell to make sure all her supplies didn't rot in her absence, really.
"If you want to talk," Percy immediately says, looking at her, "you know I'll always listen."
She knows, of course she knows. How many times have they done this already? Vex arrives here to try and exorcise Percy, give him the rest he deserves, but they end up talking until morning.
He listens to her every complaints and never tires. There's nothing he can do to help her, they both know it, but he's a neutral listener and Vex really needs one.
She can't talk to Vax, of course she can't, because her brother feels guilty enough even though it's her fault. She can't talk to Keyleth, because she's hurting as much as Vex is, and it feels wrong to not be hopeful in her company. She can't talk to Gilmore, because he doesn't know and how fucked up is that?
She can't talk to Pike, because the priestess would try to absolve her conscience and that's not what Vex wants, even if it's probably what she needs.
And so Vex sneaks into an haunted house to talk to a ghost.
"We didn't find anything," she says, looking at the golden liquid in one of the flasks. "I mean there were demons, of course, we always find plenty of those. But there was nothing big enough to break the curse."
"You'll find something," Percy promises her, but she laughs and shakes her head.
"When? What? We've been doing it for years. We've been to every corner of the world, Percy. I've studied every curse breaking books I could find and..." she stops, lets the words fester in her mouth.
It feels like she's rotting on the inside, like all the terrible things they've done and seen are killing her silently, away from indiscreet eyes.
She feels like an hollow image of what was once Vex'ahlia.
"You'll find something, darling, I know you will. I believe in you," he whispers it to her, like it's a secret or, maybe, like he doesn't want anyone else to spoil it. It's a gift he gives to her freely, expecting nothing in return.
Percy always does that.
He gives and gives and gives to her, and doesn't want anything back. It's why this all started, why Vex decided she would help Percy and try to get him to finally pass away and reach his family.
She has failed at that too.
"My brother will die, Percy," she says, her words echoing in the empty room. "And it's my fault."
Percy doesn't tell her it's not her fault, and that's why she comes to him. It might be true that it wasn't her fault, that their job has dangers that they've all accepted and that's not her fault.
But that doesn't mean that she'll ever believe it.
She could have been faster. She could have been smarter. She could have not died.
Vex laughs, out of the blue, and she can see Percy look at her strangely.
"Not that I don't enjoy your laugh, dear, but can I ask what's funny?" Always so proper her Percy.
"Nothing," she says, honestly, "there's nothing funny about this. But what else can I do? I can't cry, Percy, or I will never stop. I can't afford to cry."
Percy remains silent for a moment and then Vex hears something cold touch her hand. She looks down and sees his hand hover over hers. They can't touch, of course, but the cold sensation is enough to make her feel better.
"Vax doesn't want you to cry for him, Vex'ahlia," he tells her, letting go of their stupid nicknames. "Whatever sacrifice he has done, he did it gladly for you."
"Then why can't I do it for him?" she says, desperately. "Why can't this Raven Bitch take me? I was the one that died in her stupid temple in the first place!"
There's sadness in Percy's eyes now. It might be distasteful to talk about death in front of a ghost, but Vex can't help herself.
"You must understand," Percy says, his voice as low as a caress, "me and your brother don't see eye to eye in many things, but we're both very glad about your existence."
Vex laughs again, incredulous. "Why? I can't help anyone. I can't help Vax and I can't help you. I'm supposed to be a curse breaker, and yet I can't do anything."
Percy's hand moves and Vex turns towards the ghost, missing him almost immediately. Percy isn't going too far, however, he simply moves in front of Vex, kneeling down.
Half of his body passes through the little table where the tea set and Vex's potions are situated, but he doesn't seem to notice.
"You know why you can't help me, Vex, it's not your fault," Percy's voice doesn't waver when he says that. It's acceptance, simple as that, and it breaks Vex's heart.
"You can't stay here forever, darling," she tells him, tries to convince him in any way. She knows it's useless. Just like she doesn't want anyone to tell her that Vax's curse isn't her fault, Percy will never accept that he doesn't deserve to punish himself by remaining in his family's abandoned house.
The real reason why Percy hasn't gone to the other side isn't related to Orthax, the demon that Vex and the other slaid long ago, nor because of the myst of the forest. Percy simply doesn't want to go.
There's nothing anyone can do about that.
"You don't deserve to punish yourself for the fate of your brother," Percy tells her, with the same kind voice.
It hurts even more.
Vex returns to their house early in the morning and she finds Vax seated on the porch. He's looking at the sky, but the moment he hears their footsteps he looks down and smiles at them.
"How was Whitey?" he asks Vex, while he beckons Trinket closer. Vax treats Trinket like a god, plays with him like a normal pup and Trinket allows him to.
He might be bonded with Vex, but Vax shares half of her soul.
"Still dead," she answers, shrugging. "Still very proper."
Vax laughs, and he smushes half of his face on Trinket's fur. He doesn't react to the cold sensation and keeps looking at Vex with a gentle smile.
Her stupid and loving brother.
"Another feather?" she guesses, sitting down beside him.
"Yeah, this makes seventy of them," he tells her, as if Vex had lost count. As if she ever could.
Her dreams are full of Vax''s feathers, of his back completely covered by one hundred black feathers that will one day take him away from her.
She's not ready to let him go. She never will be, or so it feels like.
"I'll search something else," Vex promises him, feeling a burning sensation grow inside her. It's fear, she's familiar enough with it to recognise it like an old friend. But it's mixed with something else. Rage.
"I know you will," Vax says, closing his eyes. "But what if you didn't?"
Everything stops. Vex doesn't move, Vax doesn't move and even Trinket stills.
"No." Rage, so strong that it might consume her if she's not careful. Rage so strong that she might even kill something on accident.
She's gotten stronger in the last years, ever since she started dealing with curses. It's not an easy strain of magic to study not only because of the complexity of the spells, but also because curses, even curse breaking, changes a person. It makes the something they were not before, something a little darker, a little less alive.
Vex has a hellhound as her companion, now. It wasn't the case, once.
"I want to spend time with them, sister," Vax says. His voice is guilty, sad not for himself but for her. He knows what he's asking her to do, knows how much of a sacrifice it is. Knows that she will never be able to do it.
"Don't ask me to watch you die," she whispers to the wind, a prayer to a god that has forsaken them long ago. Or maybe one to the God that's stealing her brother away.
One hundred feathers will grow on his back, and when the last of them will be formed, Vax's soul will belong to the Raven Queen.
She has repeated the curse in her mind so many times it's become almost a comfort. She thinks about it at night, when she wakes up, and every moment of every day.
And Vax is asking her to let him go?
"I'm asking you to watch me live," he tells her, looking ahead. "This... I don't think we can stop it and I don't regret it. But we've been trying for so long... and I don't want to spend the last few years like this."
It's true, she thinks, he deserves better than travelling from one city to another without pause. But she can't stop.
"I'll go. You'll stay here," she tells him, looking him in the eyes.
"You know I can't let you go alone." He's serious, of course. They've spent all their lives protecting each others, and they don't know how else to live.
But, she thinks, this is what they have to do.
"I won't be alone," she promises him, looking at him. "I have a plan. You get to stay here with Keyleth and Gilmore and your weird thing. And I'll save your life."
"Vex..." he tries, but she looks at him and shakes her head.
"Shut up, brother," she tells him, but she's smiling. "You can't ask me to live here while this happens. You can't ask me to stand by and watch. I understand why you have to, but I can't."
Vax nods after a couple of seconds and then smiles. "I know. If the situation was reversed..."
She nods, and cups her brother's face in her hands. Trinket circles them, like a guarding dog. "I'll get you out of this, brother, and then we'll get old together. I'll annoy you until we're two hundred years old."
Vax laughs at that, smiling. "And I'll keep making fun of your ghost boyfriend."
Yeah, that's fair.
That night, Vex follows Trinket into the woods and towards De Rolo manor. The kids are outside of the front door, whispering between themselves, and they turn when they see Vex exit the forest.
They stare at Trinket and they don't really say anything. Vex tries to think about how he must look to them in his hellhound form, a wolf as tall as a person, with red eyes and a snout made half of ur and half of bones. His tail brushes against Vex's side languidly, almost as if he was a cat.
His fur is black, but some of it shines red every couple of minutes, almost as if it was burning. Vex loves him very much.
"You having fun, kids?" she asks them, petting Trinket's throat.
The smaller of the group smiles at her and nods. Vex doesn't know her name, she's been away too long and she'll depart again soon enough.
"That's a cool dog you have there," one of the other kids tells her and Vex smiles.
Just like the rest of the city, they're unable to see the supernatural form of Trinket. Or maybe they see it, but they rationalize it away in some way, she really doesn't know.
"I know," she replies anyway, "he's dead."
The kids don't reply to that, looking at each other with a little bit of apprehension. She's having too much fun. "Run along, kids, haven't you heard that there's a ghost that lives here?"
Before they can say anything, she stirs Trinket over the house and slides inside, closing the door behind her. Percy immediately appears in front of her.
"Now, why would you do that? I enjoy scaring them," Percy says, with what would look like a pout on anyone else.
It's true that Percy doesn't have that many other entertainments in his after life, but Vex is here to change something.
"I'm going to leave soon," she tells him, while Trinket sits at her side.
Percy looks surprised before nodding. "You've found something then? It's... I was looking forward to having you here for a while, but that's more important." He smiles at her, a lonely thing. "I will be waiting for your return."
He always promises her that. She's starting to think that half the reason he hasn't moved on already it's because he keeps waiting for her.
"I count on it," she tells him, before taking a step forward, "or you can come with me."
Percy looks surprised for a second before he shakes his head. "That sounds wonderful, dear, but you know I'm bound to this place... I..."
"I found a ritual, darling," she tells him, "to transfer a ghost's bound to something else. It won't be enough to release you from this mortal realm, of course, but I can bind you to my necklace."
Her necklace is what bounds her to Trinket, a portal to the nine hells where he comes from. It allows Trinket to stay by her side even in the mortal world with minimal repercussions to the outside world.
And most of those repercussions were on Vex herself.
Percy looks at her and at her necklace. He doesn't say that, if he bound his soul to that, he would be trapped in the nine hells in case it got destroyed. Percy already believes he's going to hell when he dies.
Vex knows what will be harder. It's not the physical bond that Vex needs to destroy, it's the mental one that keeps Percy locked into this mansion.
"Do you think your family would be happy to know you here? Alone?" She asks him, pushes a little more than she usually would.
Percy's eyes turn deadly. He's angry, but not at Vex. The only person Percy is ever angry at is himself. "I was the one that allowed Orthax to control me," he says, low, angry, hurt. "They're dead because of me."
Vex knows the story already of how little Percy was tricked into making a deal with a demon and how the demon had possessed him and killed his family. How Percy had managed to trap orthax inside the mansion before he could go and kill the rest of the village.
He saves many lives, but he will never forgive himself for those that he couldn't save.
"We killed Orthax," she reminds him, gently, "and staying here will do nothing but make you miserable. Help me save my brother, Percy."
"You don't need me," he whispers, looking at her.
"Of course I don't," Vex confirms, standing tall, "but I want you with me."
It's like the fight leaves Percy, his body becoming see through. Vex takes a step forward, afraid that he's moving forward ight in front of her.
"I don't understand," he tells her, his voice wrecked with guild and terror, "I always thought I remained here because I needed to be punished. Even after my death. But then... ever since you appeared... I don't think it's a punishment anymore if I don't want to leave."
"Then stop and just come with me, Percy," she tells him, extending an hand towards him.
He hesitates just a second before reaching forward. Once again their hands don't meet, but the freezing sensation of Percy's body makes her smile.
"A hellhound and a ghost," Percy whispers, amused, "what a strange creature you are, Vex'ahlia."
"I only want the best, darling."