Jaheira's quarterstaff swatted aside Ertof Dand's hurriedly raised short sword with a contemptuous ease, and slammed with full force into the bandit's left arm. His cry of pain drowned out the sound of breaking bone, and she smiled...if wolves could be said to smile. The bandit lacked any sort of skill when it came to the dance of battle...both a blessing and a curse for her. Time for introspection was hardly a desired luxury, given recent events...
The chaotic battle swirled around them, the desperation of the bandits, now realising just how overmatched they were, against the rage of the party...suddenly, it seemed, deprived of its binding force by the cruel bite of an arrow.
Dallan. She dared not look back at the hill where he had stood, arms outspread, like a sacrifice, as the arrow and the red bloom appeared at his shoulder, as he crumpled to the ground. It had taxed her reserves of control to look upon it as it happened, to see it now, empty as it no doubt would be, would burst the dam of self-control and send grief flooding out over the plains of her being.
She could not afford that now, not now, could not afford the dousing of the fires of vengeance. Grief for love lost, grief for...what might have been, all were consumed by her need for vengeance. Vengeance for Khalid, for Dynaheir, for Imoen...for Dallan. She hated to add him to that list of the lost, so soon after what had been said the previous eve...had been said. She took a semblance of solace in the fact that the newest to be added would be the first to be achieved, as she lazily parried another of Dand's desperate slashes.
But when the fires burned down, what would be left of her heart? There seemed lately to be some malign, godly force preventing her from knowing anything resembling joy, happiness...love. Both of them, dead now, dead pointlessly, dead for her.
What would be left for her but grief, guilt, and duty, always duty? What kind of life would that be? She had always prided herself on holding the balance of nature within herself, but events had thrown her aside, replaced cleansing rain with punishing lightning. She wasn't even moved to pity by the man in front of her, frantically trying to stave off the death he so richly deserved, merely moved to anger that he would only die, instead of suffer as she would for the rest of her life. She grimly put aside reflection and moved to finish the job. A wind rose off the lake, as if Nature itself saluted her, in farewell.
And then, a voice rang out across the battlefield. Cold and clear, like a death knell. "Ertof Dand, or whoever you are." It was his voice. Even altered, she recognized it. But that was impossible. He was dead. Even if he wasn't, he would be terribly wounded, and far from speaking for quite some time. Yet there was his voice, ringing, resonating, echoing across the battlefield, filled with hatred, menace, and above all, mockery.
The words were not heard. The words were not important. The tone carried all she needed to hear. She was struck by how his voice conjured up memories of Irenicus, atop a hill on Waukeen's Promenade in Athkatla, casually obliterating the Shadow Thieves and Cowled Wizards that stood against him. How is he doing this? I worried that he was dead, but would his being alive be worse?
She saw, out of the corner of her eye, a light. A sound, and her opponent's eyes went wide. She realised he had been immobilized, and lifted her staff for the killing blow. Then, she saw it. A grayness coming over the bandit's features. Not the grayness of death. The grayness of stone.
She heard the clatter of falling weapons, the jubilant cheers of victory, the swirling winds. But above all, she heard laughter. Cackling, echoing laughter. His laughter, as he turned a man to stone.
By Silvanus, what has happened to him? Has his struggle finally ended, with him on the losing side?
She turned to look at him, standing triumphant atop the hill, silver-blue hair swirling around him in the wind, normally sky-blue eyes rendered as dark flames, arms upraised in triumph. Like an awakening god, she thought, then stopped herself. That was the last parallel she wanted to draw right now.
Suddenly, the flames went out of the elf's eyes. His arms fell, and pain replaced triumph on his face. He fell to his knees. He beckoned to her, and she rushed towards him, arriving just in time to hear him speak, in a choked voice.
"Know...that I have done this for you." He smiled, then...and then, he collapsed. Her eyes closed, to hold back the flood of grieved tears.
No! Not now! Not when I had begun to hope again! No... Only the last of that escaped the seal of her thoughts, as a strangled whisper.
A minute passed like a lifetime before she dared to open her eyes and look upon his body. His body...
A memory, of a battle beneath Baldur's Gate. Of a sword sliding through the heart of Sarevok. Of the Bhaalspawn collapsing into a heap. Of his body...dissolving into red dust and blowing into the ether.
"He lives yet! Hurry, aid me! He can still be saved!" She tried and failed to keep jubilation out of her voice.
It is said by cynics that there is no true altruism, only enlightened self-interest. How then to explain this, the ultimate act of self-sacrifice? Born of love, mortalkind's greatest folly? Born of a misguided desire for the escape of death? Born, perhaps, of a childhood in a library and overexposure to the fanciful tales of ages past?
-excerpt, Of the Children of Murder
A tent had been pitched where Dallan lay, and Jaheira had angrily shooed everyone else out of it. The arrow had been removed, and the wounds it left had been magically healed, yet still he did not awaken.
The final events of the battle troubled her, now that her normal sobriety had, to some degree, restored itself. Save for the spell itself, which she had seen him use before, though not to the same chilling effect as exhibited here...the rest of it could only be his Father's blood manifesting. He normally struggled, successfully, to control that blood and channel its power to his chosen ends, just as she struggled for balance within herself.
Today, it seemed, the blood had won. Whether it was only a temporary loss of control due to...strong emotion, as her own had been, or something more permanent, was a matter for great concern. She feared the latter, as was only sensible. What was not sensible in the slightest, what she was afraid to even admit to herself, was how she hoped, prayed for the former, in the deepest, hidden part of her heart.
And Khalid? What of him? her mind replied, as the mental argument that had been running since that disastrous dinner in Athkatla a tenday ago began anew.
I grieve for him every day. Must I grieve forever, or might I seek joy again, as the flowers that die in fall are reborn in the spring?
Aerie was right. What a hateful woman you are. Husband merely a month dead, and already you pine after another man. And rob the cradle, to boot?
He is hardly a child, with all he has lived through and done...and is nearly my equal in years.
Meaningless...both of those are merely results of his blood, both moon-elven and divine. He is Bhaalspawn, his passing, his mere existence, upset the balance. Even today, you saw a hint of what his blood could do, unleashed. And only a hint. Far worse awaits him.
His passing upsets it, so he attempts through his actions to restore it. What is more admirable than that? And as for today...he did that for me, fool that he is.
Have you ever known anyone to lie on their deathbed?
And the future?
I will take what comes.
The doubting voice retreated, hardly satisfied. She needed more time, more observation, to settle the argument. Of course, if he died here, the argument was moot. Don't you dare die on me, Dallan. I still have words for you about this morning's...Idiocy. Sheer idiocy. Luckily surpassed by that of that statue down there, or else you wouldn't even have a body by now...
Her rehearsal of the chastising speech for if..when...he woke up was interrupted by the rustling of the tent flap.
"I said I was not to be disturbed!", she shouted angrily, still looking down at Dallan's prone body. "Whoever that is had better have a good excuse, or I will have their skin for a blanket!"
"''Ware her temper', they told me,
But account pales ere reality.
Come, you're bid to follow me." A woman's voice, musical as an elf's, sounded from the outside.
"Who are you, to order me so! Can't you see I have a patient? Away with you!" Jaheira replied, still testy.
"Foolish woman, I need not play your game,
You and I, are one and the same,
Now look on this trinket that bears our name.", the elf replied, lifting the necklace bound around her neck.
"Apparently the Harpers in this region have more to answer for than their taste in decor.", muttered Jaheira.
"Charming. Nonetheless, you will follow. Say your goodbyes quickly, you will not be gone long. Your other...friends are outside and unharmed." said the elf, slipping out of rhyme in her irritation. She turned to leave.
Jaheira looked on Dallan one last time, as if fixing him in her memory, and followed the Harper out.
It's no surprise to me
I am my own worst enemy.
-Lit, "My Own Worst Enemy"