This is an unsanctioned continuation of the Reliquary Series as heard on the Loreseekers podcast.
Jiana Muse slowly opened another tome. Study was important to her. It was the one thing she could count on to help her escape the harshness of the world. Perhaps this one would be able to hold her attention. She slumped over the desk and peered through the strands of black hair that fell in front of her eyes like a defiant curtain. With her recent adventuring, she no longer bothered to keep it neatly pulled away from her face. A few lines into the volume, the words began to blur together as her mind returned, once again, to the recent showdown with Elkar Bazram and his army of cronies. She picked up a quill that was sitting on the desk and started to scratch a pattern into the surface. As she replayed the events of the battle in her head, she applied more and more pressure to the quill until the tip snapped. In a short fit of anger, Jiana sent a pulse of electricity through her right hand, causing the quill to burst into fire. She quickly dropped it to the floor and stomped at the flame with her sandals.
A heavy but familiar knock sounded on her thick wooden door. Before she could answer, Braxwolf burst through with a huge smile.
“Brax, why do you even knock if you’re just going to barge in here? What if I’d been changing?” Jiana scolded.
The mighty redguard looked sheepish as he stammered out an apology. He was still not used to having a female apprentice. He smelled slightly of ale, and was wearing the brightest gold armor Jiana had ever seen. She rushed to turn down the magical illumination in the room, lest her senses be overwhelmed by its sharp reflection. He stretched out his arms to either side and looked down proudly at his new attire.
“What do you think?” he asked, somewhat rhetorically.
Jiana avoided the question. In truth, she thought it was hideously gaudy and wondered how he could stand to walk around in it. “Where did you get that?”
“Ah, I can’t tell you that!” he chuckled. “We can’t have everybody wearing it, it wouldn’t be special, then, would it?”
Jiana sank back down into her chair with a sigh. Braxwolf’s expression changed to one of concern. He sat down on the bedding across from her. “What’s this, now?”
She averted his gaze. “I’ve been thinking about the battle.” She began, “with Bazram. Did we really win that fight? I mean, we saved a Reliquary member, but we lost two. Mathematically speaking, that would be considered a net loss!” Braxwolf gave a puzzled look and Jiana guessed that numbers may not have been his strong suit. She continued “And the Nord who was killed by the flesh atronach…..the brutality…..the finality…..he was unconscious, he didn’t even have a chance to fight back!” Her voice trailed off as tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
“Did you know him?” Braxwolf asked solemnly.
Jiana nodded. “Yes. Well, kind of. I met him on the trip to save Wulvan. In the boat. I was feeling ill, and he gave me a Nord concoction. He was kind. I never even knew his name.” she added in guilty tone.
“Have you seen death before?” Braxwolf persisted.
As an orphan in Davon’s Watch, Jiana had witnessed her share of street dwellers dying of starvation or exposure. It was a difficult life. “Yes. But strangers, mostly. Nothing like this. I thought that since I had found a family, my days of sadness would be over. The Reliquary has been so good to me up to this point. How could we have taken that kind of risk for the sake of one person?”
Braxwolf, who had been listening intently, gave a slight smile. He took Jiana’s dainty hands into his massive paws. Jiana was surprised by the calloused warmth.
“Oh, child!” He said kindly, “there is no reward without risk, just as there is no happiness without sadness. Being a part of a family does not preclude us from these feelings. On the contrary! It usually makes them more real, more intense. That’s a good thing! It means we are more alive. Well…” he added, noticing her vampiric bleached skin “as alive as is possible, at least!”
Jiana’s tears were interrupted by a quick chuckle at the unexpected joke.
“Your Nord friend knew the risks of this mission. He accepted them, and do you know why?”
She looked up quizzically.
“Because that’s why we’re here! For the other members of The Reliquary! Why do you think Jibbs and Kash built this business? For the money? The money is a means to an end. It keeps the business running and….” He pounded on the golden chest piece with his fist “does provide some nice side benefits. But the Reliquary is not about the money. It’s about the people. Do you think you’re the only orphan who’s found your way into our ranks? We are full of orphans and drunks and thieves, those who have fallen out of favor with the local nobility and those who never had it to begin with. We’re all misfits. The Reliquary gives us a place to belong. It brings us a purpose. That’s why we gladly take these risks.”
Jiana was stunned. She had never considered the greater purpose of the Reliquary before, nor had she had enough experience with families to understand the depth of loss that came along with being a part of one. She stared at Braxwolf, the emerging crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes betrayed a warm heart within. They sat in silence.
Finally, Jiana spoke. “What do you think happens to them? After they die?”
She never would have asked such a vulnerable question a day ago. But something told her she could trust Braxwolf. The wisdom and caring he’d shown in this exchange had taken her somewhat off guard, but it had also opened her up to more serious conversation. Jiana had never had a father before. She wondered if this is what it would be like.
Braxwolf sat up as if peering into the distance. “Well,” he started, “my people believe that our spirits go to a place called the Far Shores, where there is no hunger nor thirst. It is a place where our skills in battle are continuously challenged and sharpened until the end of time! But other traditions disagree. You’ll have to decide what you believe for yourself.”
Jiana smiled. “Maybe there’s a place where the souls of all of the families of the world are reunited. Where they no longer fear the separation of death.”
Braxwolf raised his eyebrows at the thoughtful suggestion. “Perhaps, child, perhaps!”
He looked at her for several more minutes as Jiana tried to compose herself. Finally, he stood up.
“Now, I was supposed to come in here and fetch you. Jibbs and Kash have specifically requested you for a special new mission. That’s pretty unusual, they must see a lot of promise in you!” He beamed proudly at his apprentice. “If so, then I don’t know why they stuck you with an old muscle head like me!”
Jiana stood up and wiped a final tear from her face. “I think I do.”