sea babe

“Hey, Barold?” 

“Yes, dear?”

“Are you dead?”

Barry’s head pokes into the dining room table, the Neverwinter Times folded into his hands. He looks down at himself, pokes his own nose. “I don’t think so? I don’t look dead.”

Lup looks him up and down, then says, “Yep, you really don’t.”

“Why?”

In response, Lup takes the package she’s been holding, grabs it by the ends, and turns it on its head. Letters - bundled into packs bound with black ropes, spare ones scratched on torn napkins, envelopes-within-envelopes written in deep dark ink - spill all over the table.

“What are these?”

“Consolation letters,” Lup says, grinning. She plucks the first one off the table, slits it with a brightly-painted red nail, and begins to read. “‘Dear Lup Taaco, my cult and I would like to express our condolences for your loss.’ Aww, that’s so sweet, they’re cult-bonding.”

Barry narrows his eyes. “Is that a necromantic cult or a religious one?”

“Dunno.” She tosses it aside, picks up another one. “‘Dear IPRE, sorry for your loss. We hope Barry feels better soon. We know most people don’t feel better after being dead but he’s done it before.’”

Barry drifts forward, looking at the stack in apprehension and slight awe. He picks one up at random, skims it, and turns white. “Why do these people think I’m dead?”

“Don’t know, but there’s definitely a consensus, babe,” Lup says. “Aww, someone sent a bunch of dead flowers! I’ll pass them onto Merle.”

“Lup, no, this is weird. This - this is weird.”

“Yeah, for sure,” she says, leafing through the next letters. The mound grows intimidatingly the more Barry looks at it. “What did you do?”

“I - I don’t know.”

“Huh. Maybe someone started a dumb rumor. You never know the kinda shit floating around Faerun these days.”

True? Okay. Okay, no, this is just another mystery. Maybe there are clues in the truly preposterous number of letters sitting on the table. Carefully, Barry picks the first one up, a letter wrapped in a satin ribbon and addressed in dark ink so black it almost looks tar. He tears it open gently and sets the envelope aside, then begins to read.

Dear Miss Lup,

I’m really really sorry your husband is dead. I want you to know that my mom and my dad love him too and that if you ever need someone to talk to because death is a really really bad thing then you can send us a letter any time. I’d give you my mom’s frequency but I don’t know it.

Love,

Carnila

Below is an address. It’s from the far east, a remote village that Barry only knows because he passed through there while hunting for Lup a couple of years into his search.

He’s not freaking out so much as very, very confused. He’s certain he’s alive. Pulse beating in his throat and everything. So why does everyone think he’s dead?

He goes through a couple more without finding any clues. Most are of the same vein - sorry for your loss, hope you’re doing better. A couple recommend Lup some therapists in Neverwinter. Two cite him as his inspiration for practicing necromancy. He’s gonna need to pay those fans a personal visit. Probably with his scythe.

“Barry?” Lup says after a little while. She’s set the letters down and is now looking at him strangely.

He opens another one. This one’s written in blue ink. All the others have been black. Really goes to show what kind of person picked Barold J. Bluejeans, lich and necromancer-turned-reaper extraordinaire, as their favorite of the seven birds. “Yes, dear?”

“When you died, you picked up your bodies, right?”

Barry freezes. He thinks back to those ten years on his own, dying repeatedly. He’d had a process - he’d freak out, flicker a little bit, and pull himself together - with admirable speed and courage, of course. Then he’d grab his jeans (can’t leave those behind), a couple hairs, a bunch of blood (which wasn’t typically too hard to collect), the coin, some supplies, and take off for Wave Echo Cave.

He’d leave the body, though. He didn’t need it.

“Barold J. Bluejeans,” she snaps, setting down her letter with a thwack on the table. “Did you leave your corpses strewn all around this continent?”

“I only needed a little blood to make a new body!” he yelps. “I was a lich, it wasn’t like I could pick up my body and carry it with me!”

“You managed to keep the same clothes for ten years!”

“I’ve had these jeans for a hundred years, they’re precious to me!”

“That’s fair,” Lup says, grinning too widely to be angry. “So you’re telling me, these people stumbled across your dead body and thought it was you?”

“Probably,” he replies sheepishly. “I mean, in my defense, I didn’t think anyone would find it. I kinda fell off a mountain range.”

“And you didn’t go collect them when you got an actual body?” she asks, gesturing toward him.

“I was a little busy creating your body.”

Lup sighs, exasperated. She throws an envelope at him. It drifts unimpressively down to the table. “This is it, Barold. This is what you get when you don’t show up at press conferences ever. People start to think you’re literally dead.”

“I hate them,” he mumbles. “Too many spotlights and reporters and questions. I get all sweaty.”

“You’re one of the seven birds, babe. People want to know your story.”

“They already do, sweetheart.”

“Yeah, but they want to hear it from you.” She glances over her shoulder at the Taako Time™ calendar hanging on their wall and grins. “Babe, there’s one tomorrow and you’re going.”

“I don’t wanna,” he whines. “Lup, they…they suck. All the reporters and the microphones and the spotlights….”

“No arguments, dear,” Lup says, standing and crossing her arms over his head to rest her cheek on his hair. “Lucretia hates them too and she goes.”

“She was the Director of the Bureau of Balance, she’s good at that shit now,” Barry grumbles. “Besides, Davenport doesn’t have to answer questions.”

“Davenport’s at sea, babe. Getting to interview him is like finding a Shiny.”

Barry groans, tugs on a strand of Lup’s hair. It’s dyed red toward the ends. “If you loved me you wouldn’t make me go.”

“I love you,” Lup affirms, “so I’m making you go.”

“Can I at least - ”

“No, you can’t wear your tuxedo T-shirt. You have to wear the sweater vest I bought you.”

Barry slumps his head toward the table. Lup slides down his neck to rest her chin on his shoulder. “Cycle forty or sixty-eight,” he asks, words muffled by the table.

“Forty,” she decides. “I won’t make you do sequins.”

“Thank the Queen.” He straightens. There’s ink on his forehead. Lup laughs, then licks a thumb and wipes it away. “Gross.”

The letters flare in the corner of his vision. Sighing, Barry tugs Lup onto his lap. She sits with a laugh, gleeful and teasing, and reaches reaching for a letter of her own. Leaning her temple against his, she slices open another letter, and begins to read.

“Wow, babe,” she says after a couple minutes. “You’re really an inspiration for some up-and-coming dark magic babies.”

“I know,” he sighs. She chuckles and ruffles his hair affectionately. “I’m gonna have to go talk to them.”

Lup’s counterproposal is cut off by her Stone of Farspeech buzzing against her collarbone. She picks up without looking and says “Heyo, Blupjeans household, whaddya want?”

Barold J. Bluejeans!” screeches her brother’s voice through the receiver. Barry jumps. “You wanna explain to me why my dining table is fuckin’ swamped with condolence letters?!

Lup and Barry turn to stare at each other in horror. Then, right on cue, Barry’s Stone rings. He checks it. It’s Magnus’s signal. They stare at it.

“Oh Gods,” Lup groans, and picks up.

Barry? Barry, are you okay?” comes Magnus’s voice. There are a couple of dogs barking in the background, as there always are when Magnus calls. “I heard you were dead, I know it sucks, like, serious ass to be without a body, I wanted to check in, and also tell you that I’ve got a ticket for Neverwinter on hold if you need me down there - ” he says.

Lup and Barry exchange glances. Barry begins to laugh.