Every lover is in his heart a minstrel, and in his head a madman.
- Neil Gaiman, "Stardust".
I could almost feel the shadow over us as I stood watch, gazing out over the dark water of the lake we had camped beside in the Windspear Hills, moonlight and firelight reflecting off the dark water as I looked across at the graves we had dug ourselves not three days earlier.
Milei winged back over the water, carrying a carcass in her jaws. I saw the heat, red, red as Firkraag, rising from it. It appeared to have been a squirrel, once.
Want some?, she called to my mind as she landed to my right.
No thanks, Milei. I prefer my meat only slightly burnt.
Suit yourself, kid. And she dug in with gusto while I brooded in silence. Noticing the lack of snide remarks, she brought her head up from her meal.
What's with you?, she asked.
Firkraag. He planned all this, just for me?
He's just old. You try living for centuries, and see what you end up doing to pass the time.
When I get the chance.
Ah, yes, you're of the long-lived. Hard to tell, sometimes, with the acts of sheer insanity you commit on such a regular basis.
In any event, it's good to see you obsessing over something besides Jaheira for a change. "What should I do?". "What should I say?". "Does she know how I feel?". It gets tiresome.
I do not obsess over her.
Sure. Then you won't care that she's right behind you?
I darted my head around and looked behind me. No one. I fixed an angry glare on the pseudodragon. She almost seemed to be snickering.
Made you look. And she flitted away to her little bed in my pack.
I idly wondered whether the Find Familiar spell automatically sought out the most annoying familiars in Mystra's service. Momentarily diverted, I only peripherally noticed the footfalls slightly behind me.
"Having second thoughts, fearless leader?" I'd know that voice anywhere. If nothing else, no one else of our group, not even me, could so easily carry that sarcastic tone.
"Always, Jaheira. And please don't call me that." I answered as the druid slowed to walk in step with me along the lakeshore.
"As you wish, fearless leader." she replied, grinning like a cat. I smiled in spite of myself, watching her face. She continued. "So, then, what troubles you?"
"Firkraag. I'm starting to regret leaving him alive down there; he poses a significant threat."
She stopped, and turned, looking at me oddly. "Have you somehow become a paladin while I wasn't looking? That statement is more what I had come to expect from Anomen before we left him, or perhaps Lilacror before I threw it into your furnace."
"I'm not nearly so foolish as either of them." We shared a laugh, then, and she visibly relaxed.
"Your words belie you, then. He did not attack you down there because he knew you posed no threat. In time you may, perhaps, but certainly not now."
I thought on that. "I suppose. What about Garren, and Iltha?"
"Two can play that game. What about Imoen, or Dynaheir?" Her voice rose, almost angry, and then it broke, as she continued. "What about...about Khalid? What of them, if you die on some fool's crusade? You cannot rid the world of evil, Dallan! Nor should you wish to!"
Now I've done it. Gone and brought up the missing...or the dead. Neither of us will rest well tonight. Remembring those we'd lost, temporarily or permanently, brought unshed tears to my eyes, and I spoke only haltingly.
"I know that...by the Seldarine, I know that. But I can't help but feel I should do something about all those I affect. My passing throws lives out of balance, just as the prophecy says. Should I not try and restore them?"
She seemed to calm down, and soberly said "Restore it, yes, but not overbalance them. You freed Garren's child, freed the dryads. Have you not done enough without risking your life for a distraction?"
I looked at her, abashed, and smiled ruefully, saying only, "You are right."
"Of course." She smiled again, and the storm passed.
"I wonder, sometimes, where I would be, without you to keep me focused."
"A pile of dust somewhere, most likely.", she replied, in her typical deadpan fashion. The words were chilling, but the sparkle in her eyes was anything but.
She continued, more seriously, "But on that score, Dallan, you have nothing to fear. I honestly cannot see our parting by any force save death." She looked at me then, surprisingly gently for her, and spoke on. "I...would not wish it."
A joy rose in my heart, which I quickly covered. Don't get your hopes up. She could mean...anything. I thought to myself. Still, there was no hiding the way my eyes shone as I looked on her, or the relief in my voice as I replied. "Neither would I."
Dallan and Jaheira, sitting in a tree... Milei's mental voice chanted mockingly.
Our eyes met, and I felt...something...pass between us. Longing suppressed? Understanding reached? I had only the slightest notion, and enough presence of mind to know that speaking would be useless, if not actively detrimental. The moment passed.
"I suppose that we should go to bed-er, to sleep." I corrected, cursing my careless tongue.
Jaheira showed no sign of catching the slip, but only touched my left cheek wordlessly and turned to walk away. A touch so light I was unsure whether I was daydreaming.
I turned to watch her walking back towards the camp, her lovely hair glowing in the twinned lights of the fire and the moon. Out from under her eyes, I let the depth of my feeling show on my face...for a moment only.
She isn't ready. She can't be. All I can do is wait. Time, at least, is something I have plenty of. Especially if I listen to her. I grinned inwardly.
Hearing the chuckles of my replacement on the watch awakening to his post, I turned to salute Yoshimo as he jogged towards me.
"Go to your rest, friend.", he said. A grin came over his face. "And worry not over our harpy. She will fly into your arms in time."
"Good night, Yoshimo. And I haven't a clue what you're talking about." And I walked back to my bedroll, knowing I hadn't fooled myself, let alone him. Or Milei, for that matter, who was still awake when I slipped under my blankets.
So, do I get to name the firstborn?
Aren't you supposed to be sleeping?
Please. Having to listen to you playing 'she loves me, she loves me not' in your head is enough to keep anyone awake. Besides, Milei's a great name for a little elven girl.
If I stop thinking about her tonight, will you stop taunting me? So we can both sleep?
I thought you'd never ask.
With silence in my mind at last, sleep took me quickly.
To die, to sleep
Perchance to dream, ay, there's the rub.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
-William Shakespeare, "Hamlet"