Summary: She was his hope. But he was her life, and without life, death is certain. Some spoilers.
Disclaimer: I own a copy of BG2. I do not own the series itself, not the Forgotten Realms.
Queen's Quornor: Eventually I'm going to continue Natasha's story. However, of late I've been a bit preoccupied with one of the many mods for BG2. Since my father owes me a new copy of ToB (it got broken while I was lending him the discs), I haven't been able to play through that portion of the mod yet. Haven't been able to play the first part in BG1, either, since my father owns those discs and I do not. But I think I can guess what happens on my own. Some spoilers in this fic, as you can probably guess.
In Death There is Life
We are all doomed.
It is futile.
Such a dismal existence.
The words echoed through her head, forcing her to lean forward and hunch over her hands, her silver-streaked hair falling to conceal the brimming tears.
I will continue to travel with you, though it will surely lead to our doom.
The remembered sigh that accompanied the words constricted her throat and squeezed her heart, heightening her misery.
What is there to despise when you stand before me? I see only beauty in you. Hair to rival the clear, starry skies... Eyes of the violet that fills the heavens at sunset, at the sun's last gasp before darkness overtakes it and proves that it is useless to resist the inevitable... I see nothing of your sire when I look at you, Syldanae.
She scrubbed furiously at her eyes, a habit that stubbornly remained from her early life among humans. A century and more among her people could not remove such remnants from her personal behaviors.
I have long since relinquished any hope in the continued struggle, Syldanae. But in these past weeks, I almost feel that it is not so useless to dream, to hope... No, this started because of you. You are more than just my lover, my leader, my friend. You are Estel'amin, my hope.
Her head lowered further, her hands rising to cradle her face. The tears fell quickly, silently, as she fought to hide her eternal pain. These memories were as much a curse as they were a treasure, for the agony they carried in their sweetness.
It is frightening to die, knowing that I will not return. I can see Arvandor, almost see the beautiful trees. It is painful to know that you cannot join me. We will not be reunited in death.
One who has hope has everything, do they not? Do not allow my death to detain you, Estel'amin.
I can barely hear you now. But your memory stays with me, and I am grateful to retain that much, if I cannot hold you forever in my arms. I leave you now with one thought, bittersweet and ironic though it is.
I love you.
The words broke her resistance as always, his final whisper shattering the seal she had placed upon her voice. Sobs bubbled up from her throat, struggling against the muffle of her hands to echo softly from the walls. Few had ever seen her like this. Even fewer now lived to tell of it. She had been so careful to mask the wound in her heart since that terrible night, so very long ago.
A century and half had passed, and her life had continued onward. She was Syldanae Starfall, the former Child of Bhaal. A two-handed fighter with few equals, instructor to so many of Evereska and Evermeet's talented youths. One of Evereska's most eligable unwed females.
But in moments such as these, she was nothing more than a woman with a broken heart.
When she had first arrived at the secluded city, the guards had, understandably, refused her entry. But all she needed was to unsheathe and display a certain lifeless sword before the gates were opened and she was taken before the mysterious Greycloaks. She had woodenly answered their many inquiries about how she had gotten the sword, what had happened to its wielder, and what the nature of her relationship with him had been. She had explained everything, even given details of her fight against Amelyssan in the Throne of Blood and her subsequent rebirth as a mortal. In the end, they had allowed her to remain in the city.
Syldanae had traveled to Evereska for two reasons. First, she had wanted to be as close to his former life as possible, to see the wonderous city he had shown her in his memories and report to his superiors the fate of their melancholy Greycloak. But on a more personal level, she had wanted their child to be born and grow up in an elven homeland, not among humans as she had been. She cherished fond memories of Candlekeep, and would always love Gorion as her father, but she had long recognized that her upbringing had denied her many things other elves experienced all their lives.
She owed this to their her child, as well as its father.
Her son was the sole joy in her life these days. Aramil had taken on the roles of both his parents, combining masterful swordplay with devastating magicks and controlling both with a keen, strategic mind. From a tender age he had refused to allow his mother her melancholy, ever interrupting her brooding with some youthful antic or humorous comment. Aramil had never once attempted to pressure her into marriage with one of her many would-be suitors, instantly recognizing the depth of her love for his father. He knew she wished no union with another.
At the moment, Aramil was out of the house, attending a theatrical performance with Elurielle Silversun, the daughter of a high-ranking noble. He had long been smitten with the silver-haired maiden, and she readily returned his interest. Syldanae had watched them depart with tired violet eyes, noting how the innocent girl slipped her hand into that of her tall suitor, walking so close that their shadows became one. The sight painfully reminded her of another young couple, the girl shyly snuggling into her lover's side as he wrapped his arm around her, the sword at his side failing to disturb them as they walked...
Syldanae wiped her eyes once more, gloomily wondering at cruel life could be. It was so unfair, to have found something so rare and precious even among her own people only to have it torn away just months later. To continue on her life alone after having loved so deeply seemed the worst of curses. Aramil was grown, his future assured. Why did she continue onward each day, knowing that she would do so alone? It was useless to fight, as she had nothing to fight for.
A humorless laugh bubbled up from her lips, even as more tears leaked from the corners of her eyes. How ironic that she, the one constantly striving to brighten his moods, had become so dark in her thoughts. Her inner fire had been doused when his moonblade reverted to cold, lifeless steel.
There was nothing left for her here.
Syldanae rose from her bed in search of her journal. The worn, yellowed record of her long-ago travels throughout the Sword Coast, Amn, and Tethyr had not seen use since Aramil's birth, but it had remained atop her desk, awaiting her pen and words. Now she took up the quill anew, opening the creaking tome to scribble a final message.
Forgive me, my son, but I cannot find the strength to continue any longer. I pray that you bear me no hatred, nor suffer any guilt. This is not your fault. I think I have been on this path ever since your father died, but only continued this long for your sake. You may ask why I have done this, and to that I can only give one reply.
I was his hope, but he was my life.
Always remember that you have my love, Aramil. Whatever you may think when you find me, when you read this, always remember that.
Her last words written, Syldanae crossed the room to the ornate case sitting across from her bed. A flick of her wrist released the lock, and she reached inside to retrieve the case's sole occupant. Her hand touched the pommel hesitantly, almost expecting the slight contact to result in a fate more violent than she planned, but the metal remained cold and unresponsive, lifeless.
Her long fingers wrapped around the worn grip and tugged the sword free of its prison, lifting it high and turning it so the tip pointed to the ceiling rather than the floor. The polished blade caught the moonlight streaming through the window, a pale imitation of the cool blue fires that once danced along its length.
Such a terrible irony. The elf woman who was once a Bhaalspawn, dying on the sword that was once a moonblade. But Syldanae was unwilling to defile the dead weapon that way, as it had given its life to save her love. So rather than pierce her heart with the deadly tip, she merely touched the cold hilt to her breast and released the bonds that anchored her to this body, this life, this world. As the ties fell away and she left her mortal shell behind, she held one image in her mind, one thought in her heart.
I'm coming, Xan...
He sat beneath an ancient, sprawling oak, alone as always. The other elves always left him alone, recognizing his desire for solitude. He would grieve forever, brood without end, since he could not be with her.
How long had it been since he arrived? A week? A century? Millenia? Time moved differently in Arvandor than it had on Toril. Was she still alive or had her body blown away in the storm of golden dust he had so often seen in his dreams?
It didn't matter. In the end, her soul would be caught up in the departure of her sire's essences, dragged along to whatever sort of hell awaited the Children of Bhaal and obliterated. He would never see her again. It was useless to dream of such things.
In the beginning he had tried to forget about her, to put her out of his memories and enjoy his afterlife. But she had refused to be forgotten. He had found himself recalling the discussions they had, the merry twinkle in her deep purple eyes as she teased a smile out of him. The steel-and-lily scent of her silver-streaked hair, the warmth of her hand in his. The slide of her silken skin against his own, her arms around him as he trembled. The way she had tried to reassure him, despite her own hopeless situation. Denying his memories was to deny his own heart; it was far too painful even for him.
So he kept to himself, alone save for his memories. Life, love, the gods, everything... All of it was so very cruel.
"Don't you ever wish to go and talk to somebody, instead of moping by yourself like this?"
His head jerked up, dark eyes widening at the musical lilt of spoken words. That voice...
"It couldn't possibly be healthy. Nobody really deserves to be alone, you know. Don't you think you suffered enough in life? Don't you ever yearn for someone to talk to, or at least to sit beside you?"
It was impossible. She couldn't be here! His lonely, grief-stricken mind had to be playing tricks on him.
She stepped out from behind the tree, looking exactly as he remembered. Her hands nervously smoothed down her sleeveless tunic, and her black-and-silver mane fell just so, covering her left eye to give her that mysterious aura he had always found irresistable. He just stared at her, afraid that he had fallen into a dream.
She smiled at him shyly, her purple eyes glittering with affectionate mischief. "Did you forget all about me, Xan?"
"Syldanae..." He lurched up and wrapped her in his arms, burying his face in her hair. "You came... You found a way..."
"Becoming a goddess was nothing compared to spending eternity without you," she murmured, squeezing him tightly. For once, he didn't protest the too-tight embrace. He was just happy that she was with him, that she had made it to Arvandor against all the odds, and returned to him.
"I had given you up for lost," he breathed, drawing back to look into her eyes and brush her hair behind her ears. "But how, Estel'amin? How are you here?"
Her smile turned sad. "I surrendered my portion of the essences into the care of the gods. Imoen and I both did. The only reason it took me so long to join you was that I had to raise our son."
He stared at her, astounded. "Son?" he finally stammered. "Our son?"
"Yes. You left me with a son. His name is Aramil, and he is one of Evereska's finest youths. A handsome, skilled warrior with powerful spells at his fingertips, and an outlook as cheerful as his father's was gloomy." She smiled, her eyes filled with her heart. "He never wished for a father. He was proud of you, and never wished for another."
"You never...wed?" The idea had crossed his mind once, but he had forced himself to kill it. She was bonded with him; the thought of her in another's arms was unbearable.
"The one I wished to wed was already in Arvandor."
"And so in death we have what we never attained in life." He laid his head atop hers, pulling her close once more. "So ironic, as everything in our lives. Perhaps beings such as we were never to have been born in the first place, Estel'amin. The joys of the living are denied you and I."
Her shoulders shook with laughter. "Same old Xan. But there you are wrong, my love. I was born to stop the other Bhaalspawn from fulfilling Alaundo's prophecy, which I did."
His heart sank. "Then I was never to have existed."
"Wrong again." She raised her head to press a soft kiss to his mouth. "You were born to give me a reason to live beyond my vengeance. I wish you could have raised our son with me, but in giving me a child you gave me a purpose. After all, I couldn't exactly come to Arvandor if I had to be a mother."
He averted his eyes, guilt clouding his mind. "But you still ended your life because of me."
She grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her, her eyes gentle. "That was my choice. Aramil has grown, and no longer needs me. I have passed on all of my knowledge and skills to him, as well as to my many students. The world no longer has need of me, and I no longer wished to live." She sighed and rested her head against his chest. "Being with you again has been my only dream since you died."
"So the bond held," he whispered, slightly dazed. "You were always in my thoughts, Syldanae. I was sure that you would find another to comfort you if you survived the battle with Irenicus, somebody who could make you forget about me."
"Why would I have done that? I was extremely young, but I bonded with you." She smiled against his shoulder. "I think everybody was surprised I lasted as long as I did. When one half of a bonded pair dies, the other is usually not far behind."
He shrugged, knowing he was simply making excuses at this point. "Youthful hearts often confuse love with physical attraction. By all rights, you should have still been toddling around after Gorion at that age, not hunting down some of the most powerful fighters and mages known to the Realms."
"A rapport is a rapport, Xan, and not to be confused with marriage. A spouse can be replaced, but you only have one soul-mate." She squeezed him lightly, but relaxed her hold before he could find reason to complain. "Beside, I hit adulthood in a fifth of the time. My mind aged as quickly as my body, just as with all of the first-generation Bhaalspawn."
He felt a wry smile twist his lips as she pulled back to look at him again. "I believe I can attest to that, though your mental maturity was somewhat in question."
"Only because you were unused to teasing. But that part of me died with you, I'm afraid. Even Imoen couldn't get me to smile after that night."
"Yet here you are, smiling once more." He reached one hand up to caress her cheek, his fingers trailing over the upturned corner of her lips. "Your immaturity and lack of experience with the ways of our people did bother me sometimes, I admit. But your smile was always enough to make me forget whatever irritation you caused."
The smile broadened, and she stretched up to kiss him. "I've had more than a century to learn everything Gorion couldn't teach me. I was little more than a child when we met, and so human. You should have told me what annoyed you; I would have corrected myself."
"I would never have done such a thing. Your human mannerisms were part of your charm, Syldanae. I wished to educate you in the ways of our people, but I couldn't take them away from you. Why would I remove and remake the very things that attracted me to you in the first place?" His hand moved to trace the delicate point of her ear, and he smirked at her shiver. "Still, you have changed. I thought you a woman before, but now I see that I was half-right. Experience has finished you, and smoothed away the rough edges I remember."
"So I'm art now?" she inquired, her violet eyes twinkling.
"A masterpiece," he confirmed.
She laughed, and the sound warmed his heart. "I'm flattered, but I am hardly a great masterpiece. I'm not exactly the same woman you knew anymore."
"Then I will enjoy discovering what has changed about you. We have an eternity to make up for the time we could not spend together in life."
"So hopeful for once." She met his eyes with a tender smile, looping her arms loosely about his neck. "It seems that I am not the only one who has changed, love."
"This change should not have come as a surprise to you, estel'amin," he murmured, bending his head to hers. "Now that you are here, there is nothing to be gloomy about anymore."