"The choice is difficult, but these are your two options, Bhaalspawn. This is where your destiny is realized, and your future begins."
"I... I do not want the essence of Bhaal," the man's voice shook slightly, but he continued the speech he had repeated in his head every night. Ever since... "I want to remain mortal. Do what you will with the essence, Solar... but grant me my last wish."
The golden orbs of the celestial sparkled with amazement. "Your wish shall be granted, godchild. But even the gods cannot accomplish the impossible."
"I believe it is possible," now his voice was clear and strong. "My friend Jaheira had suffered much more than I. She had lost her husband, her allegiance and her home. She had rejected my feelings, and I do not blame her for that." The woman next to him visibly stiffened. The man went on as if he hadn't noticed, "but I would repeat myself once again: there may be a way to get Khalid returned to life. That is my only and final wish. Should you not try, with Bhaal's power at your disposal?"
Now the light of Solar's eyes focused on him alone, and under her gaze the man felt all his goals laid bare. "As you wish, godchild, so it is done," she said after a long silence. "Ao the Overfather grants me permission to call his spirit back. Now both acts must be carried out... prepare yourself!"
The sounds of hammering echoed through the trees, now and then interrupting the bluebirds' unceasing chatter. It was harder to find dead wood in the Grove these days, Khalid decided. After the Shadow Druids had retreated, the place became the object of tender care both from the druids and local townsfolk, and it got almost impossible to cut a single living tree there. And the dead wood, the only firewood available, was being picked up by various travellers, pilgrims and woodcutters.
The warrior gathered the already cut and dried wood into a bundle and tucked the axe behind his belt, chuckling quietly. Using the battleaxe for chopping firewood... I wonder what Jaheira will say when she finds out. That we are lucky not to have other uses for our weapons, perhaps.
Jaheira. After all these years, the name still brought shivers down his spine. Jaheira the beautiful, Jaheira the scowling, Jaheira the nagging, Jaheira the sceptical. His heart gave a painful lurch. Sceptical, yes... how many months had passed before she finally accepted he was truly alive? Not an undead abomination, not a spectre, but a man of flesh and blood, much like herself. He passed his hand over his eyes. Sometimes I do not believe it, either.
Khalid did not remember anything that happened after their departure from Baldur's Gate. Later on, he had read the full account in Volo's chronicles, for his wife refused to describe these horrors. Only recently, less than a year ago, had she started to confide to him, sometimes not being able to hold back sobs and curses. And she had told him things that made his hair stand on end.
He had done the best he could, holding her in the night and whispering the sweetest nothings in her ear, but that wasn't enough to drive the nightmares away. With all his heart, he wanted to spare her the ache of these memories, but he couldn't, and the helplessness ate away at him. The warrior knew that time would heal Jaheira's wounds, but it happened too slow, painfully slow, and in the meantime, she suffered.
He also had his own demons to battle. The heavy, piercing feeling of guilt would not leave him, not even in his sleep. I had to die and leave you alone! Alone, with nobody to support you... and only I know how insecure and defenseless you can be. Jaheira, the sweetest flower, I abandoned you on the icy plains of despair and betrayal, and the fault is only mine. Should you have taken another man, I wouldn't blame you for a moment, but you remained true to me. How can a man be worthy of that?
The warrior was approaching their cabin now. They had chosen a small spot on the edge of the Grove, away from beaten paths and prying eyes. Jaheira sometimes had visitors, mostly of Harper origin. Khalid was always glad to see them, but lately he began to notice that his wife was looking troubled after the guests' departure, and it was easy for him to guess the cause of her frowns and angry muttering. His tireless champion of balance was not the person to sit idle, and she probably yearned to set out against the injustices she had undoubtedly been told about.
He longed to join her in arms, but alas, that was impossible. The years his wife had spent alone were dark and demanding, and she had mastered her skills accordingly. Now his Jaheira was one of the most dangerous opponents on Faerun, and he had fallen behind beyond hope. Another motive for a wall to be erected between them.
So far, they had been close, intimately close. The initial reluctance and disbelief had faded, and for a while their relationship had been smooth. But hidden pains ran deep, and Khalid was aware that something had to change soon, or the past would snowball in his face, and their visibly unshakable union would be buried under the upcoming avalanche.
Still deep in thought, he reached for the doorknob. It was blissfully quiet around the cabin, he noticed. Probably Jaheira was having a nap while he was away, which was a good thing. It would be a pleasure to look at her features being calm and relaxed. Though sometimes... sometimes her face would cringe, she would suddenly shout and grasp his hand. Even the memories of these moments brought tears to his eyes, so defenceless his brave Jaheira had seemed. With a jolt, the warrior realised that she would find him wanting this time. He hastened to open the door, scattering the wood bricks all across the porch. Now I have gone and woken her up!
"Are you hurrying somewhere?"
Khalid turned at the sound of the familiar resonant voice that adressed him with some amusement. His wife was sitting on the banisters, basking in the sun. A small pine sapling they planted together a few years ago had now expanded and covered the left side of the house. Jaheira's slim figure easily disappeared in the thicket of its branches, which explained why he had missed her in the shadows.
"Oh. I gather you were n-not sleeping then?"
"No," the woman sprang from the banisters, leaving only her hands on the handrail. As she stepped out of the shadow, shafts of sunlight started to mingle among her hair, making them go the colour of the pine bark, rich and full. So beautiful... "I have been waiting for you, my husband."
"Why s-so formal, Jaheira?" he asked gently, suddenly feeling a leaden weight drop into his stomach. She had never called him that; what was she going to tell him?
"I was asked to travel once again," she said. There were glimpses of different emotions on her face: relief, sadness and quiet contentment at the same time. "The Harpers requested my help in some affairs far South. They would summon you, too, but as you're not one of them..."
One of them. One of us. He would fail where she would pass with ease, that was the real reason, and they both knew that. But Khalid was not a Harper any longer, that much was true. After he had learned about the events at Galvarey's estate, and Dermin's true face, he renounced his membership at once, and even a long and tedious discourse with the local Herald could not change that.
"If you feel a need to help them, d-dearest, of course you must go," he stroke her hair fondly. "You wouldn't be you otherwise. After all, we had literally b-been-"
"To the hells and back, either of us," Jaheira finished. "I know. I would always return to you, these miles and months matter not to me. But that was not what I wanted to talk about."
"N-no? What is it t-then?" He was aware that his stuttering became worse, as it always did when he was nervous, and now his hands began to tremble, as well. The half-elf longed to soothe the agitation by embracing his wife, but something held him back. Instead, he hid his hands in his pockets.
"Our life together has to change, and soon," the woman was looking uneasy, and her normally deep, melodious voice was sounding harsh. "I cannot abide by my promises any longer, so I told Elminster-"
Jaheira, NO! Say not that you are going! The words were bursting from his mouth, burning his tongue, but Khalid held himself back. Speaking the words aloud made her decision absolute, irrevocable. And the very thought of her leaving permanently... no. The pine branches spun before his eyes, and he fainted.
When he came to, the first thing he saw there was a pair of very round, very pleasant-looking breasts just above his face. Then the a hand shifted the pillow under his head, and Jaheira's worried face came into view. "You thought I was leaving," she said, matter-of-factly.
He opened his mouth, but the woman pressed a cool palm to his lips. "No. Listen." She paused, and Khalid was stunned to see that his wife was very red, and she deliberately avoided his gaze. "I should not have scared you, I should have told you in a different way, but I was so... so..."
Jaheira, lost for words?
"I'm with your child," she whispered. "And I did not know how to tell you. Will you forgive me?"
The light. The radiance in her eyes... how could he overlook it before? The woman was shining with happiness, every cell of her body was emanating piece and joy.
He wanted to say something, to express the hundredth part of feelings that overwhelmed him, but it was too much. The tension of the day, the sense of loss, the great relief and the sudden ecstasy caught up with him, and Khalid could only squeeze his wife's hand as his eyes filled with tears. She understood.
"Sleep. We both need rest, I think," the woman in front of him smiled. Jaheira... my Jaheira... and now there're two of them. Three of us. "I shall pray to Silvanus and join you later. I have told Elminster I'm leaving the Harpers... we have much to talk about."
As the sound of his wife's light steps died down in the corridor, the warrior fell back to the pillows and closed his eyes. Our child. Home. Their house was small and cozy, but it was not the cabin itself he was thinking about. It seemed that he did not understand before what the word 'home' truly meant. Home. I'm home at last.