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Vex sits in her office in Whitestone, desk scattered with paper and ink and notes as she sits, writing a few important letters for nobles and scholars and friends and one for personal reference, because adventuring tends to knock on your doors last minute and she wants her children to remember just how much their mother loved them, just in case. It was Percy's idea to write the letters, to remind their children that sometimes the world needs adventurers, and sometimes those adventurers are their parents, even if their battlegrounds are usually council meetings and involve hypothetical swords, save that one time that is only referred to as the Great Pumpkin Debate. The window is open, letting a cool breeze in through the window, carrying the odd bit of birdsong as summer begins to rear its head. The candle on her desk flickers with it, and she’s just about to begin heating cobalt blue sealing wax over the flame when she hears a noise.

It’s not a thump, or a whistle, or a thunk or a thud or a squawk. It’s an odd sort of pop, like somebody is opening champagne in the next room. She turns, and draws her dagger on instinct at the flash of red. The blade is in position in her hand long before her brain registers that it’s Artagan, half-tangled in the bookshelves like he is growing out of it, and she only adjusts her stance and glares at him. 

His hands raise to head height, palms open and empty, no wisps of magic to be seen. “I am here to talk, and talk alone, Lady Vex’ahlia.” He struggles his way around her title, like he wants to call her something else but is being cordial so he can make it out of here with his absurdly long ears attached.

“Fuck off, Artagan.” She snarls, both of them very aware that if it came down to a fight there is a clear victor. This castle is meant to be enchanted, for Pelor’s sake, how the hell did he get in?

Artagan sighs, lifting his hands higher. “I am just here to inform you that our deal is complete. It took a good long while to find something to repay everything that was associated with that little portal you made for me, but it has been done and is complete. You won’t have to worry about me ever again.”

Vex frowns. “What do you mean by ‘repay everything’, the portal was payment.”

Artagan makes a face. “Well, we never actually considered the repercussions of my asking. It ended up very much being in your own favour, and you remember what happened last time I owed your little… brood something.”

“You came with us over the river.” Vex deadpans.

Artagan bristles with shock. “I was manhandled and treated like a, like a decorative puppet, or a half-empty haversack! And I refuse to be put in that situation ever again, so because you gave me something that I consider very important to me I thought I’d simply repay the favour before you realised and asked for a trade.”

Vex scoffs. “I hardly believe someone like you can find something here worth caring for.”

Artagan’s expression softens a little. “Not something, Lady Vex’ahlia, someone. A little girl who, for the first time in my entire existence, actually believes in me.” The dagger is raised a little higher, but Artagan is clearly too hyper focused on reminiscing to notice. “She’s all grown up now, and I never quite got the idea behind having children but I guess this must be what it’s like, and oh I know I’ve done a terrible job at being a good influence for the girl but she is so important to me.”

Vex scowls. “That’s weird. Gods you’re so weird.”

“I haven’t done anything weird, Gods above and below.” He exclaims, his tone and his hair showing how affronted he is. “All I’ve done is tell her stories of the Feywild and, well, somehow give her the ability to heal, amongst other things. Much like what Sarenrae does for that Gnome friend of yours, what’s her name, Staff? Spear? The little one who scares me.”

Vex doesn’t bother informing Artagan that he’s terrified of a baker named Pike and instead loudly says, “We made you a God !?”

Artagan shakes his head. “Oh no, you did nothing of the sort. It was all her. Belief is a very powerful tool, Lady Vex’ahlia, best be watching those bards in this city of your’s.” She tilts her head at him, confused. “So, to repay the debt, a trade. You inadvertently gave me someone I so clearly needed in my life, so I’ve brought someone back.”

Vex’s dagger almost falls from her hands. She catches it at the last second, and lifts it. If she just flicked her wrist back a little, it would go sailing into his heart. Or, rather, where his heart is meant to be. Might not even have one after all. “Explain yourself. What the hell do you mean by brought someone back?”

His expression softens. “I can’t bring people back from the dead, trust me, it never works. The Matron hates me.”

Vex shrugs. “Maybe for strangling my brother.”

Artagan shrugs. “She hated me before that. What I can do, however, is go looking in those corners of the universe you may have forgotten to check.” There’s the sound of footsteps, someone tripping and falling against the wall. It’s Percy, and he’s calling for Vex and he’ll know what to do about the maybe-God in her office who’s attempting to blend in with her bookshelf.

Vex itches to throw the dagger right into his giant forehead. “What the hell did you do?”

He smiles, and for a second he appears as ancient and eternal as he actually is, leaves and flowers and Fey magic so pungent it makes Vex want to sneeze. He fills the room and the space, hundreds of thousands of pieces of power scattered around the room like shattered glass. Vex blinks. He’s just an eccentric elf in her bookshelf again. “You only did find her leg.”

The door slams open, and Vex turns to see Percy, out of breath and terribly harried. "Vex- holy shit, Vex, someone found Kiki's mother."

Vex looks back at where Artagan was. There's a leaf where he stood, red-orange-gold in the way autumn is and spring isn’t. "I think I know the someone." She puts the dagger back in it’s holster, and walks to the door. “Let’s go meet Vilya.” She takes his arm, not addressing the fact that she was armed and furious and glowing.

The door closes behind them as they leave. The bookshelf laughs.