Vox Machina had not been gone two hours when Gilmore felt the Teleportation Circle flare up in the library below. In spite of his earlier bravado with Vax’ildan, Gilmore wasn’t sure he could make it all the way down to see them on his own. But he had to try.
He did manage to pull himself up using the bedpost, and once on his feet, began to slowly make his way to the door. If only he had a staff or cane of some sort… But it turned out to be unnecessary-, as he looked up to find Cassandra in the doorway. “Master Gilmore! Come quickly.”
“I’m doing my best, my dear,” he told her.
“Captain Howarth!” Cassandra called down the hall. “Go and fetch the captain of the guard,” she told one of the waiting servants.
“Oh no, don’t do that,” Gilmore said. “He’s probably just gotten to sleep.”
Cassandra came and tucked herself under one of Gilmore’s arms to support him. “You may be surprised to hear this,” she said, helping him out into the hall. “But he gave explicit instructions that we should summon him if ever you needed help again.”
“That does not, in fact, surprise me,” Gilmore said, amused.
“You speak very easily with one another,” she said. “Forgive my asking, but have you been together for very long?”
“Nnnnnno?” Gilmore replied, having some reservations about what she was implying.
“I’m sorry; you must think me so rude,” she said. “You just--perhaps it was the way you spoke to one another.”
“You speak Marquesian,” he guessed.
Cassandra turned her head, embarrassed. “I was raised to represent Whitestone in trade and political negotiations. I apologise, I should not have eavesdropped on your conversation.”
“No, no,” Gilmore said. “Don’t apologize. It’s rare to meet a Tal’Doreian who speaks my language. I pleasant surprise.” They’d reached the first flight of stairs, and Gilmore glanced around, nervously.
“It’s alright,” Cassandra reassured him. “I have you.” She was much stronger than she looked. They managed to make it all the way to the second floor before Gilmore heard footsteps pelting down the hall from the direction of the servants’ quarters.
“Go,” he told Cassandra, catching a glimpse of the library up ahead where a large group of refugees awaited them. She left to give instructions, and Gilmore felt Jarett’s hand at his waist before strong arms wrapped around him.
“We should be more careful,” Gilmore told him, gripping Jarett’s shoulder for support and starting after Cassandra. “Apparently our conversations are not as private as I would have thought.”
“No?” Jarett asked, holding Gilmore in a less than platonic--but nevertheless comforting--way. Gilmore glanced up and noticed Jarett’s hair was straight-off-the-pillow-disheveled, reminiscent of a baby bird.
“No, there may be damage control to do. But nevermind about that. Vax won’t be back until tomorrow, and there are people to help in the meantime.”
“Will he be?” Jarett asked. “The little one was bragging about a new devilment he’d learned so that they could camp away for longer periods.” When Gilmore looked worried, Jarett pressed on, “But nevermind. If the unworthy dog promised you, then I’m certain he’ll be back tomorrow.”
Gilmore didn’t have time to argue with Jarett right now, or dress him down for his presumptiveness. Sherri was just emerging from the library, and had spotted him. “Master Gilmore!”
“Well, you seem to be intact--” Behind her, an ash-covered apparition drifted through the doors. “Arcanist Vysoren!”
“Gilmore?” She looked as though she’d been through hell. Allura was leaning on a middle-aged dwarf, who helped her out into the hall. “I’m so pleased to see you!” she said to Gilmore. “I’d feared the worst.”
“I didn’t realise you’d been caught in Westruun,” Gilmore began, but he was interrupted by a scream at the other end of the hall.
“Allie!” A halfling with warm terracotta skin sprinted down the hall and hit the Arcanist like a freight train, sweeping Allura up in a crushing hug and spinning her around.
It made Gilmore nostalgic for the times he and Vax had greeted one another in similar fashion. “Well. Perhaps we should leave them to it,” he told Jarett and Sherri. They moved inside the library, where Pike was tending to the injured while Cassandra gave instructions to the servants and gathered the rest of the refugees off to one side. Gilmore scanned the crowd, but he saw no one he recognized, which was upsetting. “Was there no one from Emon?” he asked Sherri.
“No, Master Gilmore,” she shook her head. “But we heard the bookbinder led a large group out of the city shortly before the dragon came.”
“He did? He must have got my message.”
“I think so,” Sherri said, looking with disapproval at Jarett, who currently had one arm around Gilmore’s waist and the other holding Gilmore’s hand over his shoulders.
“Why don’t we find somewhere more comfortable, and you can tell me everything?” Gilmore suggested. They left Cassandra and Pike to sort everyone out. Back in the hall, Allura and her companion had already disappeared upstairs.
In the first floor study, once he’d settled Gilmore in one of the large, wing-backed reading chairs, Jarett moved away to feed the fire. “I don’t like how familiar he is with you, Master,” Sherri said, watching him go, disapprovingly.
Gilmore was really getting tired of this. He was still annoyed with the assumptions Cassandra had made, and concerned whom she might have shared them with. “My dear, you know I love you,” he told Sherri. “Mind your damned business.” He saw Jarett smirk before the captain turned back to the hearth.
“Understood, Master Gilmore.” Sherri looked like she’d just been slapped, so Gilmore reached out to cover her fingers with his own.
“Go on,” he urged. “You’re back late. I was just about to send a message to the bard--”
“Master, the entire city’s been overrun by barbarian hordes! The things they’ve been doing to the cityfolk!” She was clearly shaken.
“Alright, my dear, calm down.” He gestured for one of the servants to bring them drink. “I have no doubt things must have been serious. Take your time, tell me everything.” And so she did. How it had taken them hours just to move a few blocks through Westruun. The harrowing stories the survivors had told them of not just the dragon’s initial attack, but the invasion of murderers and rapists that followed. That they had searched for Pike’s great grandfather but been unable to find him. The more she told, the more upset Sherri became. Finally, Gilmore moved to stand behind her, unbinding her hair and then re-braiding it, knowing it would help calm her. Unfortunately, braiding required both his hands, so he was unable to brace himself. Jarett solved the problem, wrapping arms around Gilmore from behind. Fortunately, Sherri could not see it from where she sat.
“Finally we came to the Cobalt Reserve,” Sherri was saying. “The brutes had no use for the library, of course. If not for that, I’m not sure we would have found Allura and Drake alive. They’d managed to hide, slowly gathering survivors, until we came.”
“You’ve completely drained all of your reserves,” Gilmore said. “Why don’t you go rest? You’ve earned that much.”
“But Master,” she turned to look up at him. “There are still so many people left in the city. How can we leave them there, knowing what will happen to them?”
“You have the heart of a hero, and it does you credit, my dear,” Gilmore told her, kissing Sherri on the head. “But one of the hard lessons every hero must learn is that you can’t save everyone.”
“Master, please,” she begged. “I can go back tomorrow. Even if I could only save a few more--”
“For now, you must look after yourself,” he told her firmly. “You can’t save anyone if you run yourself to death.”
Sherri hung her head in disappointment. “Yes, master.”
“You did well, Sherri.” Gilmore hugged her before sending her off to bed. She was just leaving the room when he called out again. “Oh, and apprentice?”
She stopped, turning back just as she was passing through the door. “Yes, Sir?”
“Your mother would be proud.”
Sherri smiled, a half-grimace. “Mother would be disgusted to know I’d risked my life saving filthy humans.”
“Well I’m proud of you,” Gilmore said.
She looked up, grateful. “Thank you, Sir.”
With Sherri gone to her room in town, that left Gilmore alone with Jarett. “Are you quite comfortable back there?” Though there was no longer a need for Gilmore to be standing, Jarett remained behind him with his arms wrapped around Gilmore’s waist.
“I could fall asleep like this. You’re very comfortable.” He rested his cheek against Gilmore’s back, using him as a pillow.
“And you are a terrible liar.” Gilmore turned to grip his shoulder. “But I must trouble you to help me back to my room once more.”
“It would be my honor,” Jarett said.
“I think we know each other well enough now you can dispense with the needless flattery,” Gilmore said. “Besides, I know your arms must be tired.”
“It grieves me I only have two arms to hold you, Gilt D’amour,” Jarett said, refusing to drop the act just yet.
“You are going to get me into trouble,” Gilmore said, as Jarett swept him up into his arms and carried Gilmore upstairs.
“In a good way, I hope, my lord.”
“No, not entirely,” Gilmore said. But this whole business had worn him out, and he had no energy left to worry what impression Cassandra might or might not have of their relationship right now. When Jarett deposited him back in his room, Gilmore went straight back to bed, needing to rest.
“Good night, glorious rose.” Jarett bowed.
“Go back to bed, you silver-tongued devil,” Gilmore said, getting comfortable on his pillows. Hearing no reply, Gilmore assumed Jarett was gone, and shut his eyes.