“Wait up!” Lady Allura called after them. “Everyone – “
“Oh, hey, we were just talking about you,” Keylith said as Allura closed the distance between them and stopped to catch her breath.
“Yeah,” Scanlan said, thoroughly unimpressed. “What was that in there? You knew what happened with the Briarwoods last night, weren’t you going to back us up in front of Uriel?”
Allura straightened, one hand still on her chest. “To be fair, I don’t actually know everything that happened last night, just some of what – “ And she looked to Tiberius, memory of his feeble-minded state still fresh, but the weight of what she’d learned about the rest of their night twisting up her forehead. “But you didn’t kill that old woman, did you? You didn’t… didn’t kill her while she was asleep?” she asked, hoping he would deny it.
“Oh, I absolutely did!” he confirmed instead, bobbing his head and looking none too bothered by the confession.
Allura’s face fell.
“But she,” Vex cut in as she saw this, “she was attacking us.”
“Look, I know that sounds really bad to kill an old woman, but she was a threat,” Scanlan looked up to assure her.
“She and another fellow were with this other fellow named the, um, The Broker, yes, and they attacked us. And that’s why I killed her,” Tiberius explained.
This new layer of information seemed to do little to diminish Allura’s concerns. She clasped her hands in front of her and turned to Tiberius. “Arbiter Brom’s divination was very clear,” she said slowly. “He said that she was filled with fear and tried to flee. And that she was killed while she was unconscious.”
She glanced around at each of them in turn, her expression pained. “It is… difficult to reconcile this with what you have said and, I want to believe you, I do, but -”
“If I may, Lady Allura, if I may,” Vax said, stretching out a hand. “Seeing facts, however true they may be, does not always give one the picture of truth. And the truth is this: after our fight against the Briarwoods last night, we went to the Temple of Sarenrae in order to cleanse the vampiric bite they left on me,” one hand glanced the side of his neck over the still-visible mark. “And for Tiberius to be restored to his right mind. As you, apparently, counseled last night, although I was a bit out of it at the time.”
“Oh, um, yes, thank you for that,” Tiberius shouldered his way forward. “And for all of your help last night while I was, hmm, not quite myself. It was very unpleasant not being-“
“Yes, yes, Tiberius,” Vex patted his shoulder and pulled him back since it appeared that his heartfelt but ill-timed gratitude only seemed to rub salt into the wound.
Allura smiled tightly in acknowledgement of his thanks, but it did not reach her eyes.
“Lady Allura,” Vax continued with an apologetic smile of his own, “We- when we were returning from the Temple last night, we were also entrusted with getting a young lady to safety. She felt herself to be in immediate danger and this was proven to be true when we were accosted by a band of three armed figures. They were tasked with spiriting her back to people who wished to do her…” he broke off with a distant shake of his head, “wished to do unspeakably horrible things to her.
“They had hoped to take her on the streets at night, while she was alone. But once it was made known that she was under our protection, they made it very clear that they were willing to fight their way through all of us to get to her.
“The fight was… short,” he finally settled on, “but intense. We killed two of their number. And the body of their leader was to be presented to those looking to come after this girl, in the hopes that it would dissuade them from sending anyone else to do the same.
“Now it is true,” he admitted, “that the third member of their party, this older woman, was kept from fleeing with a sleep spell and that Tiberius then landed a killing blow, but…”
“But?” Allura asked pointedly, still not sounding like any explanation could absolve him of this deed.
“But the things that were going to be done to this girl,” Vax said, voice dropping. “She told us about the people she had escaped from, who were trying to get her back. That they cut people open and removed their guts from the inside while carrying on casual conversation.”
Allura’s face grew grim.
“Lady Allura,” Vex said, “Several members of Vox Machina worked alongside a relative of this young lady during our time in Vasselheim. She was a very capable fighter and, during our time together, attested to the brutality of these people.”
“Going back to them… it was not… a fate that we would wish upon anyone,” Keylith added.
“Indeed,” Vex nodded, “and we were not about to let her be taken from us in this city.”
“Not while she was under our protection.”
“Because to us, being under the protection of Vox Machina means something,” Scanlan said solemnly.
“After… after everything that happened last night,” Vax said, “after the sudden discovery of who, of what, the Briarwoods are, and the whole nearly dying thing,” he gestured to the side of his neck again, “and then this fight on our return from the Temple and ensuring we got this young lady to safety, we’ll admit that, in the moment, it didn’t cross out minds to report the incident or its circumstances to the proper authorities. And this has, I suppose, made things…” he exhaled sharply.
“Muddier than they should have been,” Vex supplied for him with a smile that turned into a grimace.
Allura opened her mouth, but before she could say anything, Vax continued, “But also! But also… this morning, after we’d had a chance to breathe, we… we discussed this amongst ourselves and we agreed, while we would not change our resolve to protect this young lady, that some of the methods used last night were, shall we say, overzealous.”
“And not to be used in such a way again,” Vex added.
“It’s true,” Keylith said, looking earnest.
Allura turned toward Tiberius.
He nodded. “Yes, there was quite a thorough discussion this morning-“
“There was a lot of talking,” Grog agreed. “I mean a lot of talking. About not butchering people.”
“And that was what we agreed upon, yes,” Tiberius said. “Although-“ he held up a single clawed finger.
Vex elbowed him sharply in the side before he could continue, with a tight smile at Allura that did not falter.
“Ow!” he exclaimed, glancing down and rubbing at his side. “What ever did you do that for?”
“We understand,” Vax said, trying to regain control of the conversation and of Allura’s attention, “we do understand that this has made things more difficult for you. And for that, we are sorry.”
“It’s… hmm.” Allura’s gaze momentarily dropped back to her interlocking fingers as she chose her next words. “It’s more than making things more difficult for me,” she replied seriously, watching them all in turn. “Although… it sounds like you may understand that, as well.”
“It’s...” she sighed, voice softening. “Your name. It means something here, to this city.”
“It does to us, as well,” Scanlan said.
“There are people who look up to you.”
Vax could feel his sister’s sharp gaze on the back of his neck, the memory of the young man who had camped in front of Greyskull Keep for two weeks waiting for the chance to meet them still fresh in all of their minds.
“We understand,” he said. “But still. You are our friend and our ally and, well, we trust you. And that’s -” he sighed. “Given everything we’ve seen and heard with the Briarwoods, we’re not sure who else we can necessarily say that about at this point.”
Allura hummed, her face pained. She took a deep breath and changed the subject with visible effort. “And where is she now? This young woman you were protecting?”
“She spent the night with us in The Keep,” Vex said. “And left early this morning. She said that she was going to seek out the relative of whom we spoke.”
“Well,” Allura nodded after a moment. “I wish her well.”
“As do we,” Keylith said, the other members of Vox Machina murmuring their assent.
“And as do I for you,” Allura added, much more somberly now. “I do hope this can be resolved quickly and your names cleared.”
“As do we,” Vax said, with a tight expression. “As do we.”