I’ll be the first to say that Fjord is guilty of many things, many failures. But there is at least on instance I can point to where it’s Caduceus — Fjord’s self-appointed spiritual guide — who fails him in a pretty big way.
From the start of Fjord’s journey to escape Uk’otoa, he’s been highly dependent on Caduceus for guidance. Especially once the Wildmother extended her power to protect him once, he clung to that connection as tightly as he could. But Fjord had no prior experience with faith, minimal knowledge of the Goddess herself, and absolutely no clue how to server her or please her — which he obviously expected would be part of the exchange. Fjord was starting from scratch.
Caduceus on the other hand, had spent nearly a century steeped in his family’s particular flavor of worship. He is an expert in worshiping the Wildmother his way, and has virtually no knowledge of how others might do it.
During and after their visit to Kravaraad, Fjord stuck to Caduceus, emulated him when he meditated or communed with the Wildmother. He asked for guidance, asked what he should be looking for, but Caduceus seemed to believe he would simply know whenever he needed to know and gave little guidance. Eventually Fjord stopped asking, and just waited, trusting Caduceus.
Then they went looking for the Menagerie. Fjord insisted on it, as a thank you to Caduceus for his guidance so far. Caduceus told the story of the three families again, and this time Fjord admitted the coincidence of his throwaway last name. Caduceus laughed and told Fjord that perhaps there would be something more waiting for him at the Menagerie.
And there was. Coincidence or Fate, Fjord is a Stone. The trip to Kravaraad was rushed because they wanted to chase after Yasha, but now there was little rush. The visit to the Menagerie would have been the perfect time for him to learn more about the Wildmother, about ways of serving her, and about the family of Stone — a family seemingly adopted instead of blood-related. It was the prefect timing for him to grow closer to Her, and decide on his Paladin’s Oath.
Except the visit was cut incredibly short by none other than Caduceus himself.
It’s hard to say how prepared Caduceus was to actually find his family (alive). He always seemed afraid to know the truth about their whereabouts, about why they never returned. He certainly wasn’t prepared to find that while he had waited nearly a decade and gone on a life-altering journey with the Mighty Nein for the past year, for his family, almost no time had passed.
He was not prepared for that clash of past and present, of stasis and change. So he moved through the steps quickly. He gave the germinated gems to his family, putting an end to their decade-long quest, and put them on the road back to the Blooming Grove immediately. He did not spend time with them. He did not allow them to linger. He did not allow for his family and the Mighty Nein to get to know each other, much less — the Wildmother forbid — get to talking about him.
The unfortunate result of that, was that Fjord (and Caduceus’) time at the Menagerie was cut to almost nothing. Fjord didn’t get a chance to talk to the Stones, to find out what it might mean to them for him to share their name, to find out what it means for him to be a new follower of the Wildmother. He didn’t get a chance to see another example of what that worship can look like.
Even now, weeks later on the island of Rumblecusp, I’m not sure Caduceus is aware of his failure. And given that Taliesin always intended for him to be unchanging in the face of the world, I’m not sure what it would look like for Caduceus to become aware of it.
My hope is that they’ll have a chance to return. To the Menagerie, to the Underforge, and to the Blooming Grove, this time with no time-constraints. And Fjord will finally take his Oath.