Last time, the group had joined on as mercenaries to an empire amid a massive war, selling their swords for easy coin. This is the continuation of that story.
The next morning was upon the team, and they came across their biggest challenge that next morning. A fortress hidden in the mountains that hadn't been properly scouted. The party knew that this place would stop the thousands marching just a days ride behind them, and if they left now they'd never find work like this again. It needed to be cleared. But Echo was nervous, constantly scratching at his collar and muttering to himself the closer they got.
"Echo, you ok?" Mira asked as she lagged behind with him while the group tried to sneak in the back. She noticed the more he scratched his neck the more his collar moved, and saw the burn scars wrapped around his neck in the shape of an animal collar.
"Bad . . . Bad. . . Burned down, afraid. Echo not like, place bad be is. No no, no no no no." He muttered.
"Sigurd, something is wrong with Echo." Mira called out.
"Well that's such a shame, he better not lag behind or I will leave him. This might be the biggest paycheck of our lives, I'm not missing out. We never shy from a challenge, am I right Hell Hounds?!"
"Uh Rah." The rest of the team said before searching for and finding a cave tunnel they could use to sneak into the mountain. Mira stayed with Echo and helped him forward.
"Bad tethers. . . Bad thoughts. Memories. Bad. . . " Echo grumbled.
The team made their way through a pretty difficult dungeon, disabling traps, fighting off soldiers, and trying their best to remain quiet.
Finally after taking this to a multi-session encounter, the party discovered just who was here. A General from one of the kingdoms we were at war with, and a pretty notorious one at that who was well known for setting up successful ambushes. So more sneaking and more stealth things, and eventually the group gets through the network of tunnels into the fortress itself. Unforuntely the party found themselves in the torture room, and immediately Echo began slapping his head and scratching at his neck till it bled. "Bad . . . bad."
"Hey Chuckles, need a pick me up?" Wicker asked as he held out more narcotics.
"Not here, Echo calm that shit down or I will hit you." Sigurd ordered. They got through the fortress and into the great hall, where the General was waiting for us amid his personal guard. It was a trap.
"Sigurd, Wicker….. Didn't think you'd show up. And here I had set it up so nicely to catch the poster children for the Sun Emperor. You know you've . . . You've," the General sat up straight as he saw the tiefling hiding in the back.
"Sigurd, Wicker, you two know this clown?" Mira inquired.
"You're damn right I do, he's the asshole that put me where I am now." Sigurd growled.
"Man threw away my unit to cover his own damn failures," Wicker growled.
"Echo?" The General raised his brow.
"Bad, very bad, tethers red and black, gripping, tighting, tearing, gnawing, hurt head brain fire no, no no no no no," he started muttering.
"Well isn't this a surprise. I get to sweep away some dirty laundry and get rid of a runaway, a broken veteran, and even another chapter I'd like to forget." The General laughed.
"The hell are you on about?" Sigured pipped up as Mira went to hold Echo who was scratching at his head so much it started bleeding.
"Oh? Well now isn't that a story. Go on boy, speak, I trained you to do that didn't I? Come on, I didn't knock your skull around that bad did I?" The General laughed.
Echo screamed violently and readied his thunder cannon. With the cracking of gunfire the battle had begun. It was long, bloody, and by the end of it Wren had lost an arm while Wicker was stopping the bleeding, Sigurd was on death's door, Onyx was holding his guts in just barely and applying his last healing spell, and all that was left standing were Mira, Echo, and the General. It came down to the last attack, as everyone was on their last hit points, no spells, nothing.
Sigurd was up and drank the last health potion he had before charging in, only to get a near fatal wound and knocked to the ground once more. The General held up his crossbow, Mira brought up the dagger Echo gave her, and in the blink of an eye it was chaos.
Mira flung the dagger, activating the spell that was inside. She discovered as a character it was true strike, and with that advantage got a solid nat twenty. But the General also hit a critical success. Then the words left Echo's mouth.
"Benign Transposition!" He shouted, the argument being Mira consented due to her willingness to wear none other than the neckless Echo gave to her. She swapped spots just as the bolt nearly punctures her, and instead struck Echo and threw him to the ground.
The general lay dead with a knife in his head, and the rest quickly moved to Echo. Mira quickly held him up and tried to stop the bleeding. But the bold had definitly been the last of the hit points. "Echo! Echo! No, no, come on stay with me, stay with me. Medic! Wicker! Someone!"
"I can't!" Wicker shouted. "I used everything keeping Tweedle Dee and tweddle dickless alive." Wicker said while gesturing to Onyx and Wren. "I can't take my hands off Wren now, she'll bleed out too!"
"Someone!" Mira shouted. "Scrolls! Healing kits! Loot the damn stores! Loot something! Anything!" She shouted before Echo gurgled something. "Echo? Echo," She said while holding his head. "Echo stay with me, stay with me please."
"Echo . . . Echo . . . See . . . See," He gurgled. "Good tethers, soul person . . . Soul . . . Good person . . . Friend, yes. Bad person . . . Care . . . No . . . You . . . Yes care, that . . . Is good." He smiled while reaching up and touching the neckless that slowly cracked and fell apart near Mira's neck. "Keep safe. . . . Keep safe." He nodded. "G-Good."
"You're ok, you're ok. Rags! Get me rags!" Wicker shouted as he got down on his knees and applied pressure. "Wren keep squeezing your damn arm I'll be back with you!" He shouted to the Goliath. Wicker turned back to Echo, and with a 17 on his medical check his face sunk when the DM handed him a note. "Oh fuck . . ." Wicker looked up at the rest as he saw where the bolt was piercing. "It's his liver . . . I . . . I can't fix this here, I don't have the magic. I don't have healing anything."
"Friend good . . . Friend good, care yes. Friend care good. Echo . . .Echo . . . Go . . . Go see other friend now . . . Wait for . . . Wait for best friend" He smiled up at Mira, gently grabbing her arm. "I . . . I . . . I miss . . . Stay good tether . . . Friend . . . Stay go . . . Go . . ." Echo's eyes glassed over from the blood loss, and he was gone.
The day was won . . . But at the funeral pyre even Sigurd shed a tear. He remained in silence for the trip back to the army to report on what happened. Before that though, the group found at their camp that Echo had kept a secret journal.
In it they learned a lot about the tiefling. He'd been a slave most of his life, and tried to save a lot of his fellow slaves. Kept in an iron collar he was eventually broken, beaten, and then forced to use his talents to build weapons. To ensure quality, he was forced to use them on other slaves, or the weapons would be used on him. He was scared and wrote deeply about his regrets with having done such things. It turned out he had been a slave to the now dead General for the longest time, and so the party hoped this had brought him some peace.
As time passed he took over some long lost ruins and dreamed of turning it into a library for others to learn how to make things, but he vowed to never make a weapon again. He'd maintain and enhance, but he refused to craft new weapons. He had met a human woman and they became fast friends. He wanted to create a library, and she wanted to create a hub for trade, so they agreed to help each other and began to restore the old ruins. But bandit raids, monsters, and even the odd soldier patrol soon took his friend from him, and he was left in despair.
That's when Sigurd found him, and Echo began to write about the good he saw in him. Echo would write about how he could see people's souls, these strings of magic that made them who they were, and their history. Honestly he wrote about the good in everyone, it was heart breaking, but they treated him like family much like they treated anyone else.
One of the entries was about how happy he was to get insulted for the first time by the party, because he knew it meant he was seen as family, since the rest of the chaotic neutrals insulted each other and had a good time.
But. . . After that . . . Mira put down her daggers. She went to go and finish restoring the ruins. Sigurd agreed to start a new order and pledge his protection to the future city that would come from it. Wren and what few of her tribe she could find she brought to the ruins to act as muscle and find a home for themselves. Wicker decided to open the settlement's first apothacary, and Onyx loving the idea of a library made it his mission to scour the world for books and magic items to store.
It would take years, but eventually a thriving town came from it. The group didn't all do it just for Echo, they had end goals to create something, and this gave them the best chance. It wasn't the best ending for Echo, but the party would like to think that maybe he's happy having seen his friends make something, and act on the good he saw in them.
And that's the story of Echo. The man who saw souls and saw the good inside people, and even in death his dream of building a great library would come true.