Short Story: "The Day I Helped"
I wrote this short story for the Storm Sorcerer I am currently playing in a Waterdeep: Dragon Heist campaign. His name is Ro'en Veerwind, but he goes by R.V.
This story describes a key aspect of his personality: he just wants to do good. He's not all that smart or bright (7 Int, 12 Wis), but he has such compassion to do good.
It just doesn't always turn out the way he wants it to.
Ro’en dug his fingers into the desk. “That’s not fair, and you know it.” He felt the air shift in the office. Calm down.
“You rushed in and got three people injured. Again.”
“But we saved them. That’s what matters most, right?”
“I’m sorry, Ro’en. I have to let’cha go,” he said with a heavy sigh.
“Sergeant! That’s not fair!” He slammed a fist down. A small spark sprang forth and dissipated into the air, and a sudden gust of wind blew scraps of paper around harmlessly. Ro’en reminded himself once again to remain calm; he was only proving Sergeant Runehorn right. “I helped.”
“You did, and we cannot deny that.” Runehorn stood and walked to the other side of the desk, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. Ro’en missed the shoulder rubs the Dwarf used to give him, back when Ro’en was the smaller one. They had grown up together at Starry Cradles and he had always looked up to him like a big brother. He admired his calmness in the face of a challenge, something Ro’en lacked. He’d joined the City Watch to prove to everyone – and to himself – that he could do it.
And now the person he looked up to the most was ripping it all away from him.
“I can do better,” Ro’en pleaded. “I-I can control myself, I promise.”
“In all the years I’ve known you, that has never been true.” He smiled softly. Runehorn was blunt and truthful, and Ro’en valued his words above most others. It still stung. “There are other things you can do to help this city, Ro’en.”
Ro’en wasn’t sure about that. This city needed his help. He could feel it in his bones. Deep inside, he knew he was made to protect Waterdeep from whatever dangers lurked. All of the hurt and pain he'd endured up to this point… It wasn’t for nothing.
Ro’en replayed the entire incident over and over in his head as he traveled back home. Crook Street was filled with all the kids from the orphanage that still hadn't been chosen. He could still protect them, he thought, whether he was paid to or not. And he was more than ready to put his life on the line. Ro’en felt like he owed Starry Cradles that much. They had taken him in as a baby so long ago and raised him despite all of the trouble he brought them, whether it was his fault or not. Always breaking things. All the yelling and screaming at all hours of the night. Ignoring the rules – his personal favorite. He’d been taken in by “loving families" only to be returned for having “too much energy.”
And then there was the random manifestation of his storm magic.
Lucky him, right?
In an attempt to lift his spirits, he made his way to a little human girl playing outside with her dolls. She was small, with long raven-black hair and a slight crook to her nose. “Knock knock.”
She perked up instantly. “Who’s there!?”
“Tag who?” She raised a brow in anticipation.
He lightly tapped her on the shoulder and began running away. “Tag! You’re it!”
Ro’en smiled as he “just barely" avoided the girl tapping him back. If he could do nothing else, he could protect their smiles and joy. Knockknock just needed someone to give her a joke and play with her, and as her nickname implied, a quick knock knock joke would do the trick every time.
A few more of the young kids joined them in their game until it was too dark to play. Out of breath, but back in better spirits, he helped usher them back into the Starry Cradle.
“Where’s Xora?” one of the caretakers said. It took Ro’en a moment to remember that was Knockknock’s real name, and then panic set in. Waterdeep wasn’t too bad, but it still had its troubles. It’s why it needed a City Watch. It’s why it needed him.
“I’ll find her! Knockknock!” He dashed around Crook Street, then Dretch Lane, Knife’s Edge, and any nearby road looking for her. Was she hiding? Oftentimes she would find a dark hiding spot and never leave. She caused almost as much trouble as he did, and the realization of that set him into a further panic. She was too kind and sweet of a child to not be adopted because she liked to hide in the dark. She would get adopted. He just had to find her first.
She needed his help, he was sure of it.
Ro’en searched for almost an hour. He needed backup. The Selûnite clergy ran the orphanage and were familiar with most of the kids there to some degree. Their numbers were large and they could cover a lot more ground than he could by himself. Maybe they could help.
To his surprise, he found one rather quickly. “Excuse me!”
She was clearly bothered by his presence. He ran to her and stopped a few feet away, suddenly recognizing the elf before him. “Miss Astoria. Knockknock is missing. Have you seen her?”
"’Knockknock’? Like… the joke?”
Miss Astoria was not one of the friendly clergy and she didn’t remember any of their names. She simply did her duty and went on with her day. “Xora. Her name is Xora.”
“Rowen,” she said, making Ro’en cringe slightly. “I have luckily not seen any of you brats all day, until now.”
“Ro’en, and I’m technically not one of the brats anymore, thank you.”
She raised an eyebrow, silently questioning his statement. “Lucky me.”
“Can you please have the rest of the clergy keep an eye out for her, please? I’ve been searching for–" She raised a hand to stop him.
“I’m assuming you were watching her.” Her tone shifted. “Always causing trouble. Even when you try to do the right thing you make it worse.”
“I’m just trying to help–"
“Stop trying to ‘help,’ Rowan.” He cringed again. “I’ve gotten word of your ‘help’ with the City Watch.” Her emphasis on ‘help’ beat him down each time. “Your ‘help’ landed three of your colleagues in the infirmary. I will look for Zora. You…" She paused and rolled her eyes, then dismissed him. “Go away.”
He stood there for a moment, long after she walked away. He ruined everything he touched, and the truth of it all was sinking in. All he did was make things worse. It was best for him to pack it up and go home, let the City Watch and the clergy find Knockknock.
I’m assuming you were watching her.
Something sparked in him, literally and figuratively. He clenched his fists as a shower of sparks harmlessly danced off his skin. “She was– is my responsibility. I can help!”
He took off.
They would hate him, but he had a job to do. He could help. He knocked on every door at Starry Cradles, shouting and banging, asking each and every half-woken orphan for their assistance as well. A few of the kids shouted their annoyances at him, slamming their doors behind him. Why did no one else feel as strongly about this as he did? She was missing! He sent Messages to the caretakers on staff for the night and then proceeded to check out Knockknock’s room. Maybe there was a clue there to her whereabouts.
He summoned an electric current and used it to light the room. Knockknock had various drawings on the wall, depicting herself flying and using magic and fighting off demons. One drawing, in particular, showed her and her twin, Xozu, fighting off a vampire, Xozu holding a glowing sword in the moonlight. Toys were sprawled all over the floor. He did his best to step over the plastic sword, a porcelain raven, and the many crayons.
And Xora’s blanket was missing from her bed.
Panic set in and he tried to gather a location from her drawings. “Maybe, the lighthouse? What if she was kidnapped? Oh no, a pirate who sells kids into slavery!”
“Ro’en, what are you doing?” He spun around to see Xozu rubbing his eyes. Ro’en had completely missed him in bed.
“I’m looking for Xora. Have you seen her? Wewereplayingtagearlierand—"
Xozu rolled his eyes and pointed under her bed.
Ro’en cocked his head to the side and knelt down. Xora was there, sleeping, curled up in her blanket. “She came in here earlier to hide.”
Before he could fully process what Xozu said, someone at the door cleared their throat. “So you woke all of us up for nothing?” An older boy groaned and the crowd that had gathered began to disperse.
“I was just… trying to… help.” He looked to Xozu and was met with another groan as he pulled the covers up over his face to block the magical light emanating from one of Xora’s toys.
“You’re so annoying,” the little boy said before attempting to return to sleep.
Ro’en dismissed the magical light and then dismissed himself from the premises.
That night he had a nightmare.
He was outside of a crumbling lighthouse in a horrible storm. He had caused it. Behind him, Sergeant Runehorn lay on the ground covered in blood. Next to him, Miss Astoria. Not too far off, the lifeless bodies of Xora and Xozu.
In front of a battered, bruised, and soaking Ro’en was a crudely drawn cartoonish vampire like the one Xora had drawn. When he would think of this nightmare later, he would have trouble remembering why he was so scared of it.
But the dream him knew.
“Child,” said the vampire. His voice was a haunting condescending amalgamation of the four people behind him. “You did all of this. You hurt them. Not I.”
“I did it to stop you!”
“And yet I am still here. Pity.” The vampire held out his hand.
Ro’en awoke screaming. He was alone in bed and unharmed, though drenched in his own sweat. It had felt so terrifyingly real. It seemed as if despite his best intentions, all he ever did was hurt and annoy the ones he was trying to help.
“No,” he said, more to convince himself than anything else. It was just a dream. “I can help.”
An owl hooted.
It was unsettling. He wasn’t sure why.