I wasn’t fully on board with Ren and Antonia before, but after the finale I super-duper am. Madame Ren, Deputy Head Teacher of one of the continent’s foremost magic schools. She’s going to be all over the place, and I firmly believe Antonia stuck around with Sterling for a while, if only because the boy needed some support and also Antonia just got pretty beaten up by Wonderland.
They meet for the first time at a conference about rebuilding efforts. Ren is just trying to get some funding out of people so she can extend her campus (lots of new students). Antonia is a “Wildlife Conservation Advisor” which means she hangs around, tracks mud indoors, and argues with people trying to build on delicate eco-systems. Ren’s building plans really tick her off. Woven Gulch is a breeding site for Purple Worms and it’s bad enough that this new mining is upsetting their nesting.
Ren is smitten the second Antonia starts trying to fight with her, not in the least because she’s been surrounded by delicate city folk all day and finally her is someone wearing sensible clothing and talking about clay striations.
Antonia takes a little longer to catch on, she’s blind, she doesn’t get caught off guard by pretty ladies as easily anymore, but Ren’s accent is a breath of fresh air. Ren says something is “about as useful as a steering wheel on a mule” and it’s total nonsense but it’s rural nonsense. This is Antonia’s territory. She shoots back with “a forest is quiet if only the best birds sing” and soon they’re in a country wisdom showdown. They get off topic really quickly.
Ren brings Antonia baked goods the next day as an apology and an excuse to see her again, and her eclairs are enough to make Antonia fall in love.
She finds a lot of excuses to make her way down to Taako’s School of Magic. They need more druid guest lecturers! Artemis asked her to deliver a message to Taako! They really are worryingly close to those poor purple worms. She needs to keep an eye on things.
Ren’s students think they’re adorable, and so does everyone else in nearby Refuge. Ren’s whole adopted family is nearby, snooping away. Taako actually bans them from being too sweet in his vicinity because he gets enough couple mush from his sister, but also sends them flowers.
Antonia brings Rowan to meet Ren as soon as possible, because he’s her best friend and he should, but also because she’s desperate to have him describe what her girlfriend actually looks like. The consensus is that she’s cute. Also, the food she makes? Amazing. A plus choice, Ton.
I want a really close bond to form between all of the random incidentals who made it out of Wonderland and got left in the woods while Our Boys went off to save the world. Because chances are? Most of them are not in the greatest state of health after an extended dose of Lydia-and-Edward.
Last we saw them, Antonia was recently blind, Sterling was a hot mess, and Rowan was apparently missing patches of beard and not looking great which doesn’t bode well for him long term. I imagine people who were there for longer were even worse off, missing limbs and years and big chunks of memory. They were in a forest full of dangerous animals, they probably had to rely on each other to get out.
And then.. well Neverwinter is close and Sterling is the lord of it, even if he comes back ten years older and seriously traumatized. He can get everyone the best of care, just in time for the world to start ending around them. It’s a struggle to get out of the woods- carrying some people and leaning on others, regular breaks for healing and reassurances that everything will be fine once they get to the city- but they make it and manage to convince Lord Sterling’s that yes, this is the same boy who left a week ago. After that things are easier, but still not easy. They’re not a good state.