Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fiction: Coda -- Roy Raven

[This is the third of three shorties I wrote about Roy Raven, my Pathfinder character of a year or so. This was written after the campaign's close, when the playing was done and our group had drifted to different corners of the country. 

Kendra was an NPC that I decided Roy might wind up traveling with. I wrote this on the plane as Kate and I were flying to San Diego to look for an apartment after a rather all-of-a-sudden decision to move to California. I didn't look at, or share, this story with the rest of my group until just last week -- I didn't even realize, when I was writing it, that I was writing about Kate and myself moving and leaving the Diplomancers, just like Roy and Kendra were leaving the Bugbears.] 

The fires burned low as the sun rose. Kendra came back -- Roy hadn't noticed her go -- and softly cleared her throat.

"Right," said Roy. "Probably time to get."

"You promised to catch up with them before Caliphas," she said.

"I did say that," said Roy. "That is a thing that I said."

"You lingered awfully long as you said it too. Like someone who was stalling."

"I have been known to stall, it's true. From time to time." Roy Raven kicked at the dirt of the reconsecrated temple grounds. After the fight with the scholar -- after the Gallowspire had been sealed again and for all time -- the rest of the Bugbears had wanted to rest and recount their win and their spoils. Roy had felt antsy. He'd laid awake as the others slept, and he'd parted ways with them, only for a day, he promised, to wrap up any burials or loose spirits at Renchurch. Kendra had gone with him.

We're bonded now, she had said. We might should spend some time together.

Mostly the Bugbears didn't care. Fitzy had tried to tag along -- more and more toward the end he had been right there behind Roy -- but Roy shrugged off the goblin's assistance. It'll be boring, Roy explained. Spirit exorcisms, corpse re-burial. That kind of thing.

We never fully explored those stables, Fitzy had reasoned. There might be something--

Definitely not, Roy said. But if there is -- you've got dibs.
That had been enough to appease the little alchemist.

Kendra hadn't said anything, but Roy could tell she knew he was thinking of taking the opportunity to head in another direction.

"They'll be disappointed," she said now, like she could read his mind. Maybe she could? Who knew what almost-bonding with a lich godling could do to someone.

"They'll be fine," he said. "They know the songs. I was never that good of a banjo player. You heard us back in Ravengro."

"You did more than just banjo for them."

"Got them into trouble," offered Roy. "'What my friend here means to say...'" Roy had been quietly perfecting his Ganlow impression, but that was before the change. He'd somehow, incongrously, seemed to have lost some of that skill.

"They're fond of you for it," said Kendra.

Roy shrugged. "They are. All the same. I think I need to try something new. Honestly, when I think of going back on the road ... there's like a white border around that way of thinking. It's a vision of the past. It gives me a headache. I don't mean like a metaphor. It hurts, physically. Here." Roy tapped his temple.

"Pharasma touched you," said Kendra. "It's difficult to avoid destiny."

"You managed it," said Roy. "Destiny-wise, you should be the vessel for a lich-king right about now, yeah?"

"I avoided one destiny. I seem to have gotten mixed up with another. This bond we seem to have--"

"Ahh," Roy said, waving off her words. "I mean yeah, I get it. I'd just rather not -- let's not talk about it quite yet."

Kendra settled into an amused silence.

"Besides," said Roy, "I've been dodging destinies my whole life. I was raised by people, did you know that?"

"I didn't," said Kendra.

"It's true. Fisherman's family. For the first few years, anyway. So by most accounts, I should be inheriting a fishing boat or something."

"What happened?"

Roy pretended to have trouble remembering. "Nothing unusual. Brigand-related. Me and Sur -- he was my foster-brother, I suppose -- we headed to the city afterward. Got caught up in pickpocketing. So, by that destiny, I should have been a street rat forever, or else strung up in a jail somewhere in the Shackles. Or conscripted onto a pirate ship or something."

"I could see you as a pirate. A bird on your shoulder." She smirked.

"That Moesul, I swear. If I never see that particular weirdo again..."

"Aw, come on. Kaisen wasn't so bad."

"He had a pretty great belt," Roy conceded. " And his dancing was really improving, though I wouldn't tell him so to his face."

"Anyway," said Kendra. "What happened to pickpocket Roy? How was that destiny avoided?"

"Sur joined the army, believe it or not. Decided to fight for some lord or other, maybe earn his knighthood. I even thought about joining, for the sake of family togetherness. But it clearly wasn't for me. Bird bones, you know?"

"I do."

"So. I wound up learning a trade."

"Which one?"

Roy glanced at the graveyard, where not too many days previous he had buried his friend.

"One not far removed from what we're doing now. So maybe that particular destiny was just sidestepped for a few years. I picked up the banjo, and I just-so-happened to be enough of a weirdo for the freakshow that Deltaen was putting together at the time. Fitzy was already there, and then Myrtle joined shortly thereafter. And then Ganlow joined and stole all of my good ideas. We toured and we gigged, and then we met Muzzgash in the cemetery the day we -- well, you know. The day we buried your dad."

"And now here we are," said Kendra, smiling sadly, remembering the times before. "But where to next?"

"We could ask the planchette!" said Roy, perking up. He liked asking the planchette. "Follow the unquiet spirits about, help put them to rest."

"I'm a little tired of talking to ghosts," Kendra said. "The truth is -- I can hear them anyway."

"Yow. Really? That's creepy, Kendra."

"They're like whispers," she said, staring at something far away.

"Well, I can respect that. Taking a break from ghosts and all. It's just that -- well, I kind of have this deal. With Pharasma, I mean. I think it's kind of my job now."

"There's a lot of unquiet dead," said Kendra. "I don't know if we need to ask them anything. We could just -- travel. Follow our noses for a bit, instead of racing off to the next thing."

"I like to travel," agreed Roy. "It's been a long time since I've been down to the Shackles. Have you ever been?"

"Never," she said. "I hear it's -- well, actually I hear it's not very nice."

"Oh, it's not," Roy agreed. "But it is where I'm from."

"Let's go then," said Kendra. "Should we stop in Ravengro? I have some things that--"

"Aw, things," said Roy. "Things have never gotten anyone anywhere. You know what gets people places?"



Kendra smiled. "Then let's get going."

"Yeah," said Roy, as if it hadn't been his own idea. He took one more look around Renchurch in the rising sun, and it didn't look nearly as abandoned or as dreadful as it had when he'd first seen it. "And hey, maybe we'll catch up with those Bugbears someday anyway. That wouldn't be so bad."

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