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punish. reward.

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Fjord gets his powers back.

They’re fighting the white dragon when it happens. He’s mostly keeping out of everyone’s way. Sure, he’ll attempt a shot with the Glove of Blasting here or there, but, for the most part, his role in this battle is Distraction. Nuisance. Keeping the damned thing busy while the others do the real damage.

That is, until his hand erupts in searing pain as a blast of Eldritch energy is ripped from it, more powerful than he’s ever been able to muster on his own. It streaks past the group, narrowly missing Jester, and impacts the dragon, sinking into the wound that Caleb and Beau had managed to open up and detonating within. The dragon dies in a very dramatic fashion, and everyone turns to stare at him.

Jester is beaming. “Fjord, that was amazing,” she enthuses, running to him and wrapping him in a bone crushing hug. He wonders if she’d be quite so eager to touch him if she knew how close that blast came to destroying her instead of the beast.

Beau punches him on the shoulder. “Told ya you didn’t need all that magic shit to be fuckin’ dope.”

“That was an impressive display,” Caleb agrees, but he’s frowning. “Though, I do not recall that glove being quite so powerful.”

“That wasn’t me,” he confesses softly. He feels ill; his head is swimming, his vision blurring. “And that wasn’t the glove.”

“What do you mean?” Caduceus asks, though from the tone of his voice, Fjord has a feeling he already knows.

He looks down at his right hand, which has gone entirely numb, then back up to his friends. “I believe you were right, Caduceus,” he says. “I don’t think Uk’otoa is ready to give me up quite yet.”

The firbolg’s face settles into an expression more grim than Fjord has ever seen. “Oh dear.”


 

Despite his powers being returned to him, Fjord finds that he has no more control over them than he had before. Less so, actually. Uk’otoa decides when he uses them, not Fjord, and often at the most inopportune times.

It hurts him to use them, too, each Eldritch Blast sapping more and more of his energy. The first time he’s forced to summon the Barlgura, he very nearly passes out on the spot. And that doesn’t even account for the psychological warfare waged upon him with the Mask of Many Faces.

He stops looking in the mirror in the mornings when he wakes, tired of seeing any face but his reflected back at him, each one worse than the last. Vandren. Sabien. Avantika, the mad gleam in her eyes not dimmed by the unnatural bend to her neck. Caleb, half of his face marred by burn scars. Beau, her skin ashen, eyes dull and lifeless. Caduceus, more skull than flesh, algae growing over bone. Jester, blood trickling from her nose, her ears, the corner of her mouth, dripping from her tear ducts. Mollymauk.

Sleep is elusive, or plagued with nightmares. His friends watch him closely, their concern evident on their faces, in the tone of their voices. They’re worried for him. Quite frankly, he’s worried for him, too.

Jester messages Vandren out of sheer desperation one night, demanding to know how he escaped Uk’otoa’s grasp. From the long silence followed by a string of curses in Infernal, Fjord gathers that his answer was less than helpful, and more than likely an outright lie.

They get the sword reforged, and Caduceus hands it to Fjord expectantly. Nothing happens, nothing changes. Caduceus frowns. Then he goes off to pray in seclusion for a while. He comes back with a serene smile on his face. “Would any of you mind if we took a little detour?”


 

The Blooming Grove might be the most calming place Fjord has ever visited on the mainland. Maybe it’s the seclusion. Maybe it’s the temporary keeper, Nila, with her soft voice and gentle smiles. Maybe it’s that Fjord can feel the Wildmother’s presence surrounding him here, keeping Uk’otoa and his influence at bay.

Fjord dreams of Melora their third night in the Grove. They walk through the forest together in companionable silence until the treeline breaks and they’re on a beach, looking out over the Lucidian Ocean.

She steps into the water, and Fjord follows until he’s chest deep, feet barely touching the floor. The water is warm, gentle, with hints of a powerful current underneath. Uk’otoa and his icy grip do not exist here.

“What do you want, Fjord?” Melora asks, her voice the breeze blowing in off the sea.

“I want to protect them,” he replies without thinking. “My fr-my family. Even if the one I have to protect them from is myself.” He sighs, voices the thought that’s been in the back of his mind for weeks now. “If I must leave them in order to keep them safe from Uk’otoa, I will.”

He feels her smile in the sun shining down on them. “That won’t be necessary.” She considers him for a long moment. “”Do you trust me, Fjord?”

He answers without hesitation. “Yes.”

“Good.” She becomes the waves surrounding him, and he feels no fear when she drags him below the surface.


 

Fjord wakes with a gasp in the early morning mist. He feels the thrum of magic coursing through him, and it is both familiar and foreign. He looks around at his companions, all still sleeping. There’s a scrape on Jester’s cheek from some adventure the day before, and he reaches out on instinct, runs his thumb across it. Soft green magic tinged with gold sparks from his thumb, heals the mark completely.

He stares at his hand in awe for a moment as a sense of peace washes over him. “Thank you,” he murmurs, a calm breeze ruffling his hair.

He lays back down to sleep, excited for what the next day will bring.