Mildred’s Revengers, now also known as the Knights of Grudgewood, have returned from a near-death mission in Cano City. As the alliance of humans threatens to break, as the keys are being assembled, as the forces of law and chaos wage unending war, they find themselves back in their makeshift home. With time to recover from their wounds — and unable to sleep due to the potions of vitality still coursing through their bodies — they are able to reflect on what has come to pass and what is still to come…
Bea wants only to adventure – have fun, experience danger, build relationships in the party and become more powerful as she experiments with magic.
Bea is disappointed to find that there is conflict back in Grudgewood – she had hoped that the efforts of the party and her carefully-worded wish would create a place of peace there where people could go on living and growing stronger in all areas of human and human-friendly endeavor. It’s maybe the first crack in her inherently naive outlook, that things will ‘work out in the end,’ that grandiose and selfless efforts necessarily bear beautiful fruit. It hasn’t overwhelmed her youthful sense of invincibility, adventure and wanderlust, however. Even horrors are still thought of subconsciously as part of a big interesting celestial clockwork of interrelated destinies.
While Bea cherishes the growing relationships with the party, and thinks of them as the family who understands her, she’s gregarious by nature and is beginning to look outward. She wants to meet new and interesting people, to collect friends and acquaintances across the world – she’s much more likely to feel that a new place has enriched her life if it contains a person worth thinking about later.
Bea doesn’t quite realize the extent to which the other party members are looking out for her – while she’s recognized and appreciated it from time to time, she tends to think of herself as generally pretty bad ass. Taking most of the credit for her successes – from surviving near misses to dramatic takedowns – she’s possibly a bit more arrogant and cavalier than she should be. She feels like is on a path that will find her extremely powerful one day, which scares her to the extent that it would mean she would lose herself, change into another person than she is now. It also gives her a sort of superiority complex, which she recognizes but hopes is tempered by what she sees as her commitment to selflessness and humanity.
Bertram wants to resolve the conflict in Grudgewood, he hopes in can become that shining light on the hill for all that it was supposed to be, and feels partly responsible for the mess that has occurred.
The loss of Shadow Ryder was very painful for Bertram, and sometimes he wakes himself believing he left the gate open for Scraps to escape. All of Prinzfeld is upset with him about it. He doesn’t know if it is the universe trying to tell him something, or perhaps he really shouldn’t try to care for animals with his current lifestyle, but he longs for companionship in whatever form it may take. Of all things to be worried about, a little doggie! He had watched Canicus get eaten whole by a wyvern, zombies, demons, fields of corpses…
Walking through the cloud in the Halls of Torment made Bertram reflect on his life up to that moment. He was surrounded by friends, yet somehow still alone. He loved that little wizard girl, he didn’t know why. Whatever had happened to Khalid, he was still a low-down and dirty thief, and Jongle: a constant thorn in his side, a foil, a fop. Ervendio: a pompous elf, who treated Bertram as a child. Proteus: he wondered to what ends the human’s thirst for violence would take him. Did all men carry this capacity? Bertram reviled it in himself, yet Proteus seemed to ride it effortlessly.
The world is at war, but protecting innocents— that’s what should matter! Can that be done until all our enemies have been defeated and the keys collected? How many must die for that to happen? Will Grudgewood be enough, one last breakwater against the storm?
Bertram felt something change inside him in the dungeons under Cano City. Those moments when he saw his friends dying around him, covered in blood, he at times felt himself willing to kill anything and everything. He was filled with bloodlust. It was a terrible feeling, one brought out of instinct and desperation no doubt. Gnomes are known to fight viciously when backed into a corner. Bertram hated himself for it, and wondered if anyone had seen the madness in his eyes, he hoped they had not. He didn’t want to be remembered like that. Not like Volo,
He wondered if that’s what that girl wanted. To be feared? Well, then she had succeeded! Bertram has never been more terrified in his life. Such power for such a young girl! How much of it was real? He couldn’t be sure. It was a mad, terrible place. He hoped a meteor struck those Halls from existence forever. Maybe if he gets a crack at a wish he will make it so.
But wasn’t that the problem here? Law and Chaos want all or nothing it seems, it was silly really. These keys— they toys of wizards, demons, gods and politicians, fighting amongst themselves like petulant children. What they needed was a little diplomacy. There were only a few people alive that could get that deal done, and he knew one of them…
Ervendio wants to search for the keys in hopes that they will also lead to other magical artifacts that can be used for the Elven war against the mind flayers. He actually enjoys the Revengers and is pleased his search for magical items can coincide with their involvement with finding the keys.
Things are going quite well with Ervendio right now. He’s allied with strong friends that are on a magical quest too. He can help them succeed while succeeding at his own goal. He’s concerned for Bea, she’s young and fragile and war isn’t the place for a young girl. She needs Bertram’s tutelage again and the rest of the groups protection.
Jongle wants to rid the world of the Pope, Nemo, and Goblin society as it is right now, and he supposes gathering the keys is the best way to actually do that.
You’d have to be a fool to believe things are going well! It’s lucky that Jongle never gets depressed for long, after seeing the heinous things they’ve encountered, and the state of Skullcap and Cano City. He thinks Proteus and Khalid are doing just fine, but he’s always slightly worried for Bea, and he often wonders what is motivating Bertram with all his grumblings and protestations.
Khalid wants to gather the keys and lock away the Wolf forever.
Khalid is so changed, and he sees the party now as his people. He thinks Psilofyr must have taken him for a purpose, and he sees the keys as that purpose, and the party as his fellows in that purpose (also, this purpose is a close fit to what he was raised to do, and so it makes sense to him). He respects Jongle, is slightly frightened of but also grateful to Proteus, looks up to Ervendio (who is better at being a cleric than he is), feels protective of Bea, (although he is sometimes frustrated by her chaotic ways, being so much more lawful), and thinks of Bertram as a friend, and as the most honest of the group.
He thinks the world is in too much flux, and that it needs stability and room to grow. He thinks people are fundamentally good, but that power and need create evil in the world, and that the law should balance those things. Violence is a last resort to him, but he finds himself needing last resort quite often.
He is also worried that the past will catch up with him. He keeps telling himself that he died and is free of his old vows, but he worries that his former masters will disagree. He pretends to want to go home, but he is terrified of going back to Amara.
Proteus wants peace; he’s tired of war and fighting and is torn apart by the actions of his once brother and friend Aloysius.
Proteus feels that the party has come together in a grand fashion; people’s thoughts and hearts beat more as one rather than disparate with an unfocused goal. While he has only known them for a short while, each has had an impact. Khalid’s desire to find another way to overcome obstacles – one that doesn’t generally involve combat – is a welcome counterpoint to Proteus’ own thoughts (though he feels that Khalid somehow has a knack for finding random encounters with monsters). Ervendio is a stalwart ally and his healing arts have kept Proteus in the fight more times than he can count already. Bea has matured and grown as a person, shedding her former timid nature in favor of a more bold and engaging one that is still tempered by her feminine sensibilities. Bertram’s innocence and overwhelming desire to do the right then remind Proteus of a time in his life where things were uncomplicated and joyful, and perhaps instills a small glimmer of hope that there is a chance to return to such a life. Lastly, Jongle the Lothario, whose ability to turn a phrase just as soon as put a dart (or three) in your eye has earned Proteus’ respect; he still cannot believe one who seems so flippant has the heart of a fighter and the mind of a spy.
The only thing Proteus is worried about at this time is the way Aloysius is flying against all that the Barrows and the Risen King stood for. It’s a foolish battle and one that he would rather not fight, but the idea of these people who worked so hard to create their frontier kingdom of Grudgewood just unceremoniously turning it over to him is unconscionable, as are the rest of his demands. This is no longer the Knight Commander he once knew; gone is the altruism and justice that he stood for, likely fallen along with the walls of the Barrows.